Marketing almost killed Dragon Cloud

Today I have a very serious topic to discuss, and this marketing issue almost caused the death of Dragon Cloud.

Dragon Cloud purchased Excited Dragon, which was a company I started at the end of 2016. Before Excited Dragon even existed, I was a solo contractor on Upwork. While Upwork helped us grow to bringing in tens of thousands of dollars each year, but there was a large flaw in our company’s design.

In business, you can’t afford to stake the success of your company on the success of a third-party!

The Lowdown on the Hoedown

Excited Dragon was dependent on the success of Upwork, and Dragon Cloud sought to change that, and put me in charge of the endeavor. What did I do? I hired one of the best marketing teams I could find, 800Lb Marketing.

Once hired, everything went swimmingly. They reached out, found out about our needs, what type of clients we were looking for, helped us get together a landing page baited with a free hand out, and the list goes on. After about a month or so of work, the gloves were off, and it was game on, as our campaign launched!

Our call center got a number of calls and chat messages to handle, Google reported hundreds of leads going to the landing page, and things looked awesome. As with any campaign, Mike Volkin, our contact at 800Lb Marketing, said early on that we could expect to have to wait a few weeks for the campaign to take root. We also had some hiccups where the bait wasn’t strong enough, so we improved that and in turn our conversion rate went up.

We expected some turbulence, but figured that since we were spending thousands of dollars on this endeavor each month that it’d start to pan out, and it did. Little by little more people found us and shopped with us directly.

What Went Wrong?

Alright, so what’s the problem, you ask? Well, you see, before we even started the marketing issue, Upwork had burned us badly by taking away the one thing that was bringing us in so many clients: our “Top Rated” status! That meant that we were spending thousands of dollars each month on connects, but no one would buy from us because we weren’t top rated!

Why weren’t we top rated anymore? That’s because at one point we had made some bad hiring decisions and clients were furious, and they left us bad reviews on Upwork. Even though we let the people go who were getting such low marks, Upwork’s rating system didn’t remove that part of our track record, and so we lost our “Top Rated” status. (That goes to show you why it’s so important to hire the right people! Remember to watch the video course entitled, “How to Hire Top Software Engineers” which comes included with your Inner Circle membership. If you don’t have or want a membership, you can buy the course on Udemy.)

Alright, so back to the situation at hand. We lost our “Top Rated” status, and our solution was to hire a marketing team. We weren’t ready for that move, but we were able to take the plunge out of necessity. So, we cut the funds we had allocated to buying connects on Upwork, and instead paid that money to Google and Linkedin for ads. We were running on cash reserves until our new marketing took root.

Now for the kicker. Here’s the timeline of events.

The Timeline of Events

July – We lost our “Top Rated” status.

August – Our Business Manager noticed that nobody was shopping with us on Upwork anymore since July, and so we hired a marketing team.

September – Marketing took one month to prepare the campaign, which is typical of any marketing company due to the research involved.

October – The marketing campaign launched right when the existing Upwork contracts were coming to an end. We had to hold the fort for the marketing campaigns to start converting, which on average takes about 6 weeks. (IMPORTANT: Remember that fact!!!)

November – The company was on its deathbed. The funds we had just built up as a contingency fund were almost completely gone, and so mid-November even though were were getting some leads, they weren’t coming fast enough to sustain us yet. So, we had to stop our marketing plan, and I personally started spending the last dollars I had in hiring someone to redo my resume so I could find another job… That hurt bad…

The good news is that Cosmos can make you or break you in a heartbeat. So, a client showed up with a fixed-rate project worth $7,500, half of which was paid up front. This money is what practically saved myself, and the company from a meltdown.

During the process of shutting down parts of the company to put it on hold until more money could be channeled into it, we decided to mark all contractors as non-exclusive agency members on Upwork. That meant that everyone was free to put in proposals on Upwork instead of relying on our Business Manager to do that. (Procurement is one of the biggest reasons people contract with Dragon Cloud in the first place.)

The Cosmic Turn of Events

However, the fact that we’ve always looked out for our clients, and I’ve personally saved other people’s companies from dying many times, and the fact that I marked everyone as non-exclusive so our contractors wouldn’t be hurt, all helped sow good karma. So, Cosmos made it so that when I marked myself as non-exclusive on the company, my personal account had it’s own “Top Rated” status given back!!! I was BEAMING with joy, as now my account had a 99% JSS and “Top Rated” status!

I put away the idea of getting that second job, and asked our Business Manager to start putting in proposals again on Upwork. In doing that, we got a HUGE response from clients once again, and things began looking like our golden era once again! Now we were given a second chance, and could start working towards fixing the issues we’ve faced so we can pay for marketing well before Upwork burns us again.

The moral of the story is never to stake your success on the success of a third-party. Instead of waiting for an opportune moment to branch out, work as quickly as possible to leave that third-party. You never know when they might strike you down at a click of a button.