Launched in 2009, PulseCMS is a one-stop-shop for designers, freelancers, and agencies who make sites for their clients offering a full suite of intuitive website creation and design tools. Users get a downloadable tool as the main product complemented by additional online tools.
In the past 12 months, the gross revenue has been $46k+ with an average subscription value of $300. The average customer lifetime value is $416 and the customer annual churn rate is 4.05%.
This is a B2B SaaS business with a recurring revenue stream from yearly subscriptions. Currently, there are ~200 subscribers and the software has been delivered to thousands of clients over the years. They have a worldwide foothold with the strongest markets being the US, the UK, and Germany
Pulse CMS works with an outsourced team (working on a part-time basis) that includes a developer who has been on board for over 3 years and a support agent who is fluent in the subject matter. If needed, introductions to this team can be made to the new owner.
Included in the sale are:
- 4 Domains and sub-domains: pulsecms.com & forum.pulsecms.com, pulsebuilder.com, pulsecms.com.br, pulse-japan.com
- Mailing list of 10.6k+ subscribers split into different categories
A transcription of the interview is below for your convenience.
– Hey everybody, this is Ben with Flippa, bringing you today Micheal, who’s talking about his company, Pulse CMS. They are an eleven year old SaaS based B to B business that’s based around website design and development. Who task themselves as a less complex WordPress. That’s definitely something I can understand, it’s a sentence that makes a lot of sense to me, WordPress certainly has some fantastic functionality, there’s a reason it’s become so popular. But it can be pretty complicated if you’re more of a business or marketing type person like I am and less of an engineer. So it sounds really interesting to learn about what he’s created. That might be something more for myself or some of you. But as I don’t know a lot about it, I would love to introduce Micheal here, and let him tell us a little bit about his background. How he started Pulse CMS over a decade ago. And maybe if you just have an elevator pitch on how exactly your software works, that’d be fantastic. So, hello.
– Hi yeah hi, how are you doing? Yeah, so Pulse CMS, it’s kind of, it’s a lightweight flat CMS alternative to WordPress as you excellently described. It’s actually, it’s aimed, we aim it at designers and developers at the moment. Who are having a lot of pain with their clients, say they’ve delivered a project, and the clients might be calling them saying things like, my website’s broken, this plugin hasn’t updated, which is WordPress can happen. And they’re in that catch 22 situation where they’re, well, I have to keep updating it for them. Do I charge them? What’s my relationship? Whereas with something like Pulse, it’s more if they can create it, hand it off to the customer. The customer can edit it simply and then they don’t have to keep calling and then coming back for things. That’s kinda how it started. Because I was a freelance web designer for a long time, about 12, 15 years ago. So I had a lot of pains with this myself. Having to constantly update clients’ sites that have been broken, by them. And then not having, shall we say not having the business mind to charge them for it or they weren’t the right clients where I could do that. They were kind of like small businesses, so this kind of solution fits nicely in there.
– Yeah, that’s cool, it makes a lot of sense. I mean it’s something neat on the market. I’m just curious, has it changed a lot? I mean you’ve been doing this for a while now.
– Yeah, I mean Pulse, I actually took it over from somebody else who started it at that time.
– [Micheal] I took it over about three and a half years ago, so we can talk about how it’s changed since then. But the person who created it, it was the first one of its kind really. It was 2009 that he started it. So WordPress obviously grew up a lot since then.
– [Micheal] But there seems to be a trend of people going back to static sites. People want these simple HTML based websites, cause they’re faster, they’re more secure. And if you look around the design forums and communities there’s a bit more of a focus towards simplifying now. Whereas WordPress is amazing but it is a monolith, and it’s kinda only good for certain projects. But if you got like a simple website a restaurant or I don’t know, like a barbershop or something, it might not be the best solution. So there are people out there thinking well maybe we should give the client a simplified page site or something like that. But they still need to be able to edit it, cause if you just hand code it it’s not, it’s no good for them. So that’s where Pulse can fit in.
– Right, yeah no, that’s, I mean the majority of businesses out there are not the biggest in the world. They need something that they can handle. But you’re saying is your target it’s more designers and firms? Or are you looking at business owners? Who do you take to deal with?
– Well, I mean this is something which can be explored in the future. But the way I pictured this was I was more aiming at people create sites for other people. So designers and developers, I wanted it to be a tool in there kinda kit bag. We do have some self users, should we say? Like people that have there business and make their own website. But for those people I would probably recommend, they go and use Squarespace, or go and use you know, some other kinda thing. It was more for people who, they make websites for the people and, they have their own server. Cause you can download this and put it on your own server, something like Squarespace you can’t. You’re restricted, you have to pay a monthly fee for that, and get locked in. So it was more aiming at people who had bit more flexibility. Or like in house teams as well. Like we have some, couple of bigger clients who want to make it themselves, in house. So we aim it at those people as well.
– Right, ya that’s cool. It’s almost like getting a, it’s literally like secret weapon you can have in your portfolio.
– [Micheal] Exactly
– Your clients, see the final product and think you know, wow what a lot of effort they put into this. [Laughter]
– Exactly, exactly, ya we want them to look good in front of their clients. Right? Well, they’re our clients we want them to look cool. And make more money, in their web design life, that’s the goal as well.
– What are the, on the marketing side how are you getting the name out there?
– So, at the moment I mean we’ve done, we haven’t done any paid, just like, you know 10 dollars a Facebook ad or something. It’s not something we do a lot of paid. We haven’t explored that pacifically. The stuff that worked for us, in terms of success was organic traffic, like SEO because it’s quite an old site. And we have a lot of Bat Links from these kinda, review sites, or blog posts and so on. That works quite well. So the traffic we get, a lot of email marketing works well still so we were collecting emails at the time, we have over about ten thousand people. Some are customers, some were customers some are interested in just trying it so we kept market to them quite a lot when updates come out and so on. And integration, I think it’s called like integration marketing that worked quite well. We, integrated with some other platforms. So you can, there is a couple of Mac apps where you can kinda design a website just by clicking around, and export a passed template. So kinda integrated with them and tried to, piggyback their customer base. That worked pretty well as well.
– That’s fantastic, that is cool and it’s interesting, you know like you say you haven’t done a lot of, well what these days we call traditional marketing. Things like Facebook and whatnot. It’s great to see how you’ve done without it. And is also something that maybe is an opportunity for any buyer who
– There’s a lot of people out there that just know how to, just crush it on those platforms.
– I mean that’s where I was lacking and I think that is an opportunity. Cause that is more just I don’t have the skills the knowledge to. We started to, we did a couple YouTube videos. Like tutorial videos, to hope to get some but I haven’t really touched that area. Which I think is great, it’s just how do we approach that? And if someone has that skill set, ya great opportunity there.
– That what a lot of the buyers on Flippa are looking for, is someone who can take the skills they have combined with businesses essentially already up and running. And how can they can synergies, make it even better. But on probably the most important note. That everyone would like to know revenue. Is this all a subscription based system? Or how is revenue kinda churning?
– Ya, no that whole thing is now subscription. So, as I mentioned a little bit earlier about when I took it over, when acquired this business at the beginning, it wasn’t subscription based, so like a one time fee. One time per the domain business. So, you’d buy it, and then you’d have it on that domain for as long as you wanted. Which was great, so I could quickly grow the revenue cause I said right straight away we’ll change it to a subscription when you get. It’s a yearly subscription as twelve months of cause we do updates, say every six weeks, eight weeks might release something new. To get those updates you have to keep paying. That’s what we thought. And you can install as many domains as you want, but paying for a yearly fee, you get some support and you get these updates. And after the years have gone by if subscribe again you’ll carry on if not then your websites are fine. So, all those customers have been kinda some of them in transition to the subscription, and some of them, deciding not to because they weren’t very happy about that some of them. So now, we’ve got new customs who are happy with that. Ya, it’s subscription based now.
– It must be, I think I read through your listing its actually only like a 4% turn rate.
– Exactly, obviously when you take something over and change it drastically like that, there is a bit of a kick back. But that was, about 3 years ago or 2 and a half years ago. But I was advised to do that by what would you call them? I thinks it’s advisor, sorta said to me, ‘it’s not sustainable to not do that because you are going to be fighting for customers every month’.
– Ya, no subscriptions that’s the hot idea now. That its kinda simple to implement that. I mean, even CPG brands are tying to sell you know, soda, they’re trying to get you to subscribe to getting it every week. That’s the world. And to have a 4% turn rate is massive.
– And I think support too, obviously you want support people and if you got someone who’s paid 30 dollars for a lifetime, you can’t keep updating support team. Because it costs money, to have a developer and a support person on the team. You know, obviously you have to pay for them. So you need revenue to come into that.
– That’s a perfect transition, I was just about to
– I was just about to ask, what kind of time is spent on the business? Is it just you? What your team looks like, if its a team.
– Ya, so there is three of us at the moment. There is a community as well which is the community. You know the forums and some people have kinda got quite active. In terms of the payroll, you know the people that get paying contracts. This is, the developer I don’t develop it myself. I’m a crappy developer, so I had some development skills. But obviously, he’s now taken it to another level. So, I’m happy with him, working together for about three years, and a support person as well. And I’m just kinda, I guess I’m sorta a more bridge in between. I just take some of the support, the ques son give them to the developer, take them back. So I spend probably about ten or twelve hours a week just kinda making sure they’re all okay. And just things churning on and forward. I have plenty of time to do marketing. But it’s something I struggle with so I don’t put much time into that. But obviously I could, or should.
– Are those remote employees, would coming in to the business? Or how does that work?
– Ya, they’re both remote and they are freelance. So they work on other projects that I’m not aware of. So they have all the clients that they work with but they’re happy to continue on the current agreements that we have in place.
– Right, cause if they already have a team
– [Micheal] Oh ya
– And if the need a team they can work with these guys.
– Ya, definitely, definitely and they’re very positive. And very easy to work with and we have quite a relaxed, working way, and ya they’re really nice to work with. So, no I’ll actually miss them the most. [Laughter]
– I wish more business owners would say stuff like that. So it sounds like, on the owners end it’s certainly helpful to kinda understand the back end of what’s going on, but you don’t need to be an expert.
– No, exactly, exactly I guess it’s like if you’ve got some idea about websites or design. If someones explaining a problem and you can’t understand it then in simple English. Oh I’m clicking here and it’s not working or something like that. Then you can rely that to the developer. And he’s like okay, fine I’ll go. Cause the support person is to he’s not a technol support person. But he’s just great at handling people. And you know it’s just, ya you don’t have to be technical to do the owners role.
– You need to know the bases of how a website works
– Ya, ya, and what looks good, or what kind of feature would be. Or that’s not realistic or something like that. Cause you do get, usually requests and things. So you have to make a decision. Of whether you think that’s worth adding to the product or not. So you have to have some sort of sense about, cause you don’t wanna make this Frankenstein monster. [Laughter]
– What other opportunities, I know you mentioned obviously on the marketing side there is some opportunities for new ownership. What other, are there points you might bring up if someone bought this company? Some things they may wanna do to it? To increase revenue or
– Ya, I think that definitely where I’m lacking. I think the new owner had marketing or sales skills I think that would be a great asset straight away. So like you just said, they can pay that. Maybe doing more content marketing those kinda things. Cold sales outreach that kinda stuff. But I think even just like playing with the pricing. Like, maybe increasing the pricing or adding more pricing tears cause we only have one at the moment. There is lots of potential to add on more services. We could add, like I said to you it’s self hosted. But you could do a hosted version. You know, and you could offer some like a hosted version for another monthly fee on top. Which I’ve actually explored, an we sorta had that sorta ready but I hesitated, cause I wasn’t sure if that was the direction I wanted to go in. You know that’s an option. Someone has experience with that. What else I think, maybe doing some more integration, with other apps. There’s a few more out there you can do, to get more traffic in. I think it would be quite easy to pull a few levers, because a lot of the stuff is organic. Like you probably, if someone has a lot of experience well alright I’ll just yank this up, and see what will happen.
– Yep, it sounds like there is a lot of experimentation that could happen.
– Ya defiantly, ya.
– Kinda finally, I’m always just curious why, why you’re interested in exiting a seemingly fun and profitable business?
– Ya, well I think, I that I’ve got two reasons I think they’re both personal. One is a limitation with my skill. I think to be honest, I’ve taken it to the point where I think I can actually take it, I think take it, I’ve always wanted to double or triple the revenue that it’s currently. But I think that requires a bit more marketing skill, that I just don’t have. I mean I could hire for that, but I think it’s, you know I wasn’t sure if I where to do that, or how to do that. I think, you know, to grow it I need a bit more kind of understanding of sales and marketing, I think. And also, wanna just, take the bit of money off the table and invest it in some offline business. Like a brick and mortar business, I quite fancy doing. Something to do around a café, but I know I’m crazy but it’s just this little thing I wanna do. So, ya I just kinda wanna, cause I’ve been doing online stuff for about twelve years, and I said I was a freelancer as well. Ya I just wanna try something a bit more with people. Because I quite like, I said to you I like the people side, and I want to be a bit more around people I think.
– Hey, that’s the least crazy answer I think I’ve ever heard. [Laughter]
– It’s something deep inside me, ya.
– Right that there’s still people out there who like dealing with people and working in customer service and the brick and mortar space.
– Ya, ya I think people are cool [Laughter]
– Me as well [Laughs], point in case right here. Thank you very much Micheal, that was actually quite trilling to understand a bit about what you are doing. We will obviously link to your Flippa listing below this video, wherever it’s posted. So, ya we appreciated your time, thank you for chatting.
– Thanks a lot, I appreciate it thanks a lot.