The Gravity of Local Immersion — Experiment #4 with MilValChal

My name is Adam McGarity and I am the CEO of The Language Finder (Twitter: @languagefinder). The link to my original Trello hypothesis card is here. I am part of an experimental incubator that gives startups and entrepreneurs funding in exchange for testing and sharing Lean Startup hypotheses. adamberk helped me run this experiment with funding and mentorship.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll notice that my LeanStartUp experiments revolve around language. Not long ago, I was bouncing ideas around with Jesse Robbins. I described setting up an “Immersion Day” where intermediate/advanced language learners follow an all-day itinerary interacting with local foreign language speakers in Seattle — doing morning exercises, making bank transactions, getting book recommendations, enjoying lunch, going on a history tour, participating in a cooking class, etc. I told him my initial price point — $80, and he said, “If you run one in Japanese, I’ll definitely sign up.” First customer…check. And, I took this as a signal to run another experiment.

I set it up to test the assumption that advanced Japanese learners in Seattle want opportunities to use their target language in real contexts. Here was my formal hypothesis: “I believe that through a combination of Facebook ads (max $1 per day) and personal networking (cold-calls, emails, and follow-up meetings) I can get 10 people to sign up for email updates about an upcoming “Japanese Immersion Day” in Seattle. I aim to complete this experiment by April 30.” It’s basically the “acquisition” and “activation” stages of my funnel, a la Dave McClures Startup Metrics for Pirates.

Logistics

I took a number of steps to run this experiment:

Online, I created a landing page with a link to sign up for updates. I set up a FB campaign for $1 a day (Apr. 2–16 & Apr. 25 – May 1) for $20 total. I focused on a 50 mile radius around Seattle, targeting adults interested in Japanese language and culture. I posted about the event on my FB page, in 3 relevant FB groups, and on Twitter. I reached out via email to 3 Japanese professors (no response).

Landing Page and FB Ad Image

In person, I met with three Japanese MeetUp organizers to ask advice and get recommendations about promoting the event. I attended one of their MeetUps and talked with ~10 people about the Immersion Day event, then posted in the MeetUp chat afterwards.

Results

I didn’t reach my goal of 10 Japanese learners signing up for updates…only 3 signed up. One was Jesse Robbins…one was referred from the FB ad, and one came from the Middlebury Institute Seattle Alumni Group (my grad school alma mater). So, it wasn’t totally successful, but there’s more to consider.

Commentary

Despite the low numbers of opt-ins, I’m still encouraged from other metrics in my FB campaign. In total, the ad reached 1,164 people at a frequency of 2.2 …and there were 36 clicks on the ad (not to mention a number of likes, follows, and shares, but I prefer to focus on clicks). That’s a 3.1% CTR…I’m definitely an amateur in marketing analytics, but based on this Quora thread, 3.1% seems OK. I interpret that result to mean that there are Seattleites interested in the concept of a “Japanese Immersion Day”. So the question becomes, why didn’t they sign up for updates?

I think the answer is probably money. In order to filter frivolous sign-ups I put a price on my landing page for the event — $100. But I suspect if the actual price was $60 or even $80, I would get a few more sign-ups…and that’s all I need. To run a successful event, I think I only need 6 people to participate. Also, I didn’t set a date on the landing page…I wonder, would people would be more likely to sign up once the date is set?

Of course, there’s more than just the online portion of this experiment to consider. While I didn’t get sign-ups from the MeetUp group I attended…it seems to me that the Japanese MeetUp scene in Seattle is pretty robust, both in membership and participation (~20–25 attended the same one I did). Many of the members seemed quite determined to improve/maintain their language skills…and happy to help me learn a little bit of Japanese myself.

Next Steps

After this experiment, I’ve decided to follow through, set a date, and organize this event. I’ve started meeting with prospective partners, and the reception from them has been positive.

In the spirit of iteration, here’s my next hypothesis: “I believe that through a combination of social media, Facebook ads (max $1 per day) and personal networking (cold-calls, emails, follow-up meetings, and MeetUp groups), at least 6 Japanese learners (intermediate/advanced proficiency) will sign up and participate in a “Japanese Immersion Day” in Seattle at a price of $80. I aim to complete this experiment by July 1.”

“Arigato gozaimas” for reading, and I look forward to sharing my next post.