2020 in Review: The Business Stuff (Pt 2 of 3)

Written by:
Collin Waldoch
January 26, 2021

Hello again! Still Collin from Water Cooler Trivia here. As you've probably guessed, I wrote too much for our year in review, so we've tri-furcated it into three parts. 

The Business Stuff

We love writing trivia questions and making the work week more fun for thousands of teams around the world. But we also need to keep the lights on, so we do charge money for our team-building ritual. 

As I don’t write the code for WCT, The business side of Water Cooler Trivia takes up most of my brain juices, and there were four key chapters in 2020.

  1. More Customers and More Quiz Submissions
  2. Teams of All Shapes and Sizes Makes Sales Tricky
  3. Expanding the Band (we needed help!)
  4. Marketing Swings and Misses

1. More Customers and More Quiz Submissions

We grew the business: woo! Did we benefit from the massive paradigm shift to computer work being done from home? Sure did. Did we also benefit from our team’s amazing work throughout the year? Definitely. Will we ever know which one mattered more? No, thank goodness. 

Ryan, Nick, and I started Water Cooler Trivia back in 2017. For context, here’s our growth in quiz submissions per year since then. 

*Technically* our 2018 growth was the most impressive, I guess?

And here’s the change just in 2020. We grew every month, except when holidays (rightfully) kept folks away from their computers. 

December Brain looking down on the others, glad there's no November brain.

2. Teams of All Shapes and Sizes Makes Sales Tricky

I first started the prototype of Water Cooler Trivia while working as a consultant at Bain & Company. Then I repeated the process while working at Citi Bike. So it’s not too surprising that we considered our target markets as professional services and technology companies. 

2020 showed us the customer profile isn’t so simple. On one hand, we have expanded in professional services (specifically, law offices) and tech companies.

On the other hand, we see many new types of customer: schools, government agencies, groups of friends. We no longer have a single “type” of customer. This heterogeneity creates benefits and challenges. It’s harder to “speak” to a single customer when writing our website or email copy. It’s harder to determine pricing. 

We went through many iterations of designs for our new product page -- it's hard when you have such a diverse set of customers!

It’s also energizing. We initially thought that teams of all shapes and sizes would love having a low-stakes weekly trivia contest. It has been delightful to see this come true, and we now offer a 50% lifetime discount for all schools and non-profits. 

3. Expanding the Band (we needed help!)

Ryan, Nick, and I only have so many eyes and ears and hands. I’ve spent ~90% of my Sunday nights writing trivia questions since 2017. I miss Sunday nights. As of July 2020, Ryan had written 100% of our code, and Nick had managed every single customer relationship. 

Sensing growing pains without extra help, we searched for the best possible contractors to help us build and grow, grow and build. A data analyst, two software engineers, a few designers, a copywriter, a sales consultant. We weren’t spending big bucks, but we wanted to learn quickly from folks smarter than us.

They mostly look like this except their brains are hidden by skulls.

Plus, at the end of the day, working with people is more fun than working alone. Usually. However, we did have one contractor who…. Just kidding. No horror stories here. 

4. Marketing Swings and Misses

We’re a B2B product (we sell to businesses) with B2C price points (WCT is cheap). Most sign-ups come from individual contributors rather than team managers. As a result, we’ve often found it challenging to identify the right marketing opportunities. 

One 2020 learning: social ads have not worked for us (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter). Does this mean we were doing it wrong? Possibly, but we brought in smarter people than us to work on these ads and we still weren’t seeing results.

These ads did a horrible, no good, very bad job. Alas.

Instead, our most successful partnerships have come when the brand or content is perfectly aligned with WCT. Look no further than Alyssa Bereznak’s fantastic podcast mini-series Boom/Bust: HQ Trivia exploring the rise and fall of everyone’s second-favorite 2017-founded trivia startup.

Our ROI (Return on Investment = cash in divided by cash out) on sponsoring that podcast was ~5x whereas our other podcast sponsorships have been <1x cumulatively. Turns out folks listening to a podcast about a trivia app are willing to give another trivia app a whirl. Who woulda thunk.

Not paying dividends (yet?) is our blog, that we’ve had a blast putting together. Here’s a favorite pieces from the year: 

Up next: The Technical Stuff