Episode 144 | The Viability of Inbound Marketing, Challenges for Non-Technical Founders and VOIP Options for Entrepreneurs

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00] Rob: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I are going to be talking about the viability of inbound marketing techniques, hidden challenges and non-technical founder phases and the best service provider for VoIP Line. This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 144.

[00:15] Music

[00:22] Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

[00:31] Mike: And I’m Mike.

[00:32] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Mike?

[00:37] Mike: We’ve got a listener who commented on episode 142 around startup validation. He pointed us to an app called trycelery.com which allows you to accept pre-orders for a product. So instead of just asking people if they would buy it or trying to put them on a mailing list, that allows you to completely accept pre-orders and it will charge them and it integrates with Stripe and everything. So looks like it might be a good way for somebody to do additional startup validation.

[01:03] Rob: That is very interesting. I could see using this as a second step after a landing page where you collect emails based on just a simple value proposition. Then a few months later once you’ve had enough emails, then trying to flush that out more with some comps and some demos and sending out and an email and then saying if you’re really interested in this, if you want to be on the early access list, you have to commit to paying.

[01:27] And then using it as a two-step rather than making this the first thing because I think if someone comes to a landing page and they read a two sentence description and then you ask them to pay, I don’t think it will work as well but I think this could be a really nice piece of that multistep arsenal of trying to find out who your true early adapters are.

[01:45] Mike: The one thing I really like about this is that because its integrated with Stripe and they charge you an additional percentage on what Stripe charges so you don’t have to pay them anything or at least it looks like you don’t have to pay anything until you’re taking those pre-orders.

[01:59] Rob: Yeah. That’s really cool. Even with an extra 2% so Stripe’s like 3% and these guys are another 2% and that’s still way cheaper than all the junk you’ll pay if you get an authorized .net account or a merchant account. Cool, so that’s at what? trycelery.com

[02:13] Mike: Yup.

[02:14] Rob: We have a bunch of iTunes reviews. We haven’t talked about them in a while. This was my favorite. I was dying. It’s by a guy named Bricksky from Australia and his review is much better than Techzing so that’s a shout out to Jason and Justin. He says “love the podcast. You guys are focused and professional but with enough personality to keep it light. Well prepared and will give you actionable info every time. Keep up the good work.”

[02:34] And then from Adam, no9to5callo in the UK, he says not just for geeks. Says I wanted to get the point across with his no9to5 nickname there. This podcast helps everyone. I am non-technical and get so many actionable points from Mike and Rob. Thanks guys. Keep it up.

[02:52] The other one is from DwebOttawa from Canada. He says simply amazing. I listen to this podcast everyday on my ride to work. I don’t think I can articulate the amount of values being provided. Rob and Mike pack a ton of useful advice, information and tips into each podcast. So thank you guys so much for the reviews and if you have not left us a five star review, we really encourage you to log into iTunes. You can search for startups and we will be in the top couple there and give us a review please. Even if you don’t do an entire written out review, a five star rating is very helpful to us. I heard you’re speaking at a conference soon?

[03:25] Mike: Yes, so in a couple of weeks at the end of August I’ll be speaking in Behavior Con that will be the August 23rd and 24th and that’s put on by Ramit Sethi he’s got a lot of interesting speakers there. He’s got BJ Fog and Michael Norton and Michael Fishman, a few others than our audience might have heard. Hiten Shah’sgoing to be there as well as Derek Halperon from socialtriggers.com

[03:48] It’s mostly a conference about how people think and why people buy things, things that make people – psychologically make the decisions that are somewhat marketing related but it will be interesting to get up there and hear what they have to say and contribute my own thoughts on it.

[04:02] Rob: For those who are interested its Behavior Con and it’s Stanford, Connecticut August 23rd and 24th.

[04:08] Mike: I hear you’re looking for an intern.

[04:11] Rob: I am. So I’m looking for like a marketing internet/growth hacker intern and basically you can work from anywhere in the world, learn what I know about growing SAS apps. So I have a job description and an application form at internshipwihtrob.com it’s basically a Google doc that I shared, I made public, linked to a video of me talking about it and give a better idea of the position. I won’t go to all the details here but it’s a pretty unique position so I’m looking for a unique person.

[04:42] I don’t expect to get that many applicants but so far I’ve gotten just a couple applicants and people are bringing their game so it’s very interesting to see the people who are interested in this.

[04:54] I mean the idea here is Drip is launching in the next 4-6 weeks and there’s a lot of marketing work to be done and I realized that I’ve done a lot of it before and I know that I can execute on it but you can learn so much doing this yourself. I can definitely use the extra help. So there is a stipend. It’s not a free internship. I am paying you something. So I feel like everybody can potentially win from an arrangement like this.

[05:21] Mike: Very cool. I have a little bit of AutoShark news and AutoShark is actively auto in about a dozen servers right now in a daily basis. So it’s pretty exciting to see its actually active in production and I’m getting some feedback from people. It’s nice to see that it’s on production servers and as I’m doing updates, everything’s updating properly. Its sending out emails at the right times and letting people know what’s going on.

[05:45] And there’s only been I think a couple of sticky points where things are just not quite running the way that they are supposed to. So those are kind of in the queue right now to be fixed but it’s nice to be able to go fix them and then everything just straightens itself out on the rest of the environment. It’s really cool to see that stuff’s working again.

[06:03] Rob: Yeah, after your two steps back week that you had a couple weeks ago where you’re like everything’s going wrong, it’s good to hear that you’re up and moving forward with this. Would you call this early access?

[06:13] Mike: I would. So right now I’m looking through the email list that I have and trying to do more identification of people who would be able to get value out of it in terms of where it is now. And I’ve also got an email campaign that you were kind enough to let me into early access for Drip and I’m adding all that stuff into Drip right now and hopefully that will be live within – maybe even by the end of the week.

[06:36] Music

[06:42] So today we’re going to be answering a bunch of listener questions. The first question we have is from Dave Ganoe and he writes – I’m going to paraphrase here but he writes this about an application, it’s a SAS app he’s putting together called get tracked.

[06:52] Its essentially for expense reporting and time tracking for companies that are under 100 employees and the employees spend a lot of their time roughly up to an hour a week submitting their expense reports. And having done expense reports I can tell you that submitting expense reports for a contractor is just a real pain in the neck. It takes forever. But it’s nice to see somebody going out and trying to address this.

[07:17] One of the things that Dave asked in his question is what is the viability of inbound marketing techniques and what price point would justify the time involved in doing some outbound or direct sales techniques?

[07:28] One of the challenges that he has is the product is very rarely going to be used by the person who’s responsible for buying it so how does he get in front of those types of people and he also says I know Rob has .net invoice but it seems a little enterprisey. Would you describe your customers as enterprises or is this mostly used by freelances? If enterprises use it, how do you sell to them?

[07:46] Rob: So .net invoice is a little enterprisey. I would describe my customers as the developers who work for those enterprises. Since .net invoice is priced at $300 they don’t need some massive PO approval from a VP somewhere. They can basically put it on a credit card. That’s typically what happens. We don’t charge enough to do enterprise sales whether it’s outbound or even some people want to do Skype chats and all that stuff and we’re not able to support that.

[08:16] If we were to do that, we could have an enterprise version that was $1,000 or $2,000 and that would then justify at least some upfront effort. Selling into enterprises is not something I do or that I really have any desire to do. You know Dave, I might recommend you go back and listen to episode 16 of this podcast. If you come to the website you can find it but it’s called selling to enterprise customers.

[08:36] The other thing I have in looking at your landing page is I’m wondering what your unique value that you offer is because there are a lot of time trackers and they could all claim the same value that you are. His headline, Dave’s headline is time wasted tracking expenses is costing you thousands. Let’s fix that.

[08:52] Mike: Not a time tracker, it’s an expense tracker.

[08:54] Rob: Or an expense tracker, sorry, I misspoke. But there are a lot of expense trackers as well. So I’d want to know – I do agree that time wasted is costing you thousands, let’s fix that. But there are a lot of other apps that could do that as well. So I’m wondering is he going to market it differently than other people are marketing or is he going to have a unique feature set or a unique way of doing it? So that would be something that I’d be interested to know right here on the landing page.

[09:17] Mike: One thing I think I would do is kind of zero in on your specific target customer a little bit more because let’s say you’re a consultant or you run a consultant company and your consultants are out there billing for their time. You don’t necessarily care whether your employee spends an hour doing an expense report on the customer’s time. You also probably don’t care if your employee does that expense report outside of the time.

[09:42] So at that point, it becomes questionable why do I even need this software? So I think you to zero in a little bit more and try and identify the type of customer that this type of software really addresses a problem or a need for because in those types of companies and I’ve worked for them before, they don’t necessarily care when you do the expenses because either the company’s getting reimbursed for the time that their employees spend or the employee is not getting reimbursed for it because they’re independent contractors or they’re employees on salary.

[10:11] So at that point it’s a question. Just why would I even pay for this? And I think that’s a question that you need to answer and identify the type of company a little bit better that would pay for this type of thing. Where is it going to become a problem? When is it that they are actually losing that $1,500 a year for every employee because of all the time wasted?

[10:30] Rob: Yeah. I think selling into the enterprise as a single founder, the product that’s basically competing with existing products that are already selling into the enterprise and already have experience doing that is going to be a real challenge because you can build a better product than them but that’s not what counts in the game. It’s knowing all those rules of enterprise sales.

[10:49] So this is tough marketing going to. I like the idea of making a really nice expense tracker, doing a better job than other people but I’m not sure the enterprise is going to really respect that. If you go in there and say yeah, mine’s much easier to use, they’re not going to care. They’re going to need more than that basically because that’s just one element of a long checklist of things you’re going to have to look at.

[11:09] Mike: The other thing I would point out is when you start looking at customers or the types of customers who would use something like this. It tends to be a feature of functionality that is bundled into like enterprise project management software. I can’t remember the name of the software that we have used but there was a product where what it did was it was intended for arranging consulting engagements and managing them through the process.

[11:32] So you could almost use a kind of like SharePoint where you’re putting documents into it and you’re communicating with the customer almost like Basecamp for consulting companies. And there was also a module in there that did expense tracking. And as a consultant, when you’re on a project, you would go in there and you would enter all your information and stuff.

[11:48] But that was all lumped in as part of that functionality. So I think that there are probably other products out there that you’re going to be competing with indirectly that just already offer this feature and functionality that they won’t even look for this type of software because they don’t need it. Its ready built into whatever their already using. And it’s hard to justify paying for something when you already have access to something for free. And maybe it’s not as good but customers have a hard time justifying buying an additional product that already does something that they have in place already.

[12:18] Rob: You know, the one other thing I noticed is in his email he said his dream customer is an engineering/construction firm with less than 100 employees. Basically, that part, if you’re really building it for engineering and construction firms then that should be on your landing page. Like you should say this is the best engineering/construction firm expense tracker in the market because that’s how you’re going to do it unique is only compete against that small sublet. That’s actually a way to win.

[12:45] Then you niched it. And that was one other suggestion I was going to give but it seems like you’re already thinking about that. You’re just not representing it well on the landing page and I think that’s something I definitely consider doing is calling out – if you are going to pick a niche, then call that niche out specifically because then if I’m in that niche then it makes me feel good like you’re actually going to have some unique features that are going to correspond to my business.

[13:04] Mike: Another question that he has is what price point justifies time involved in doing outbound or direct sales techniques. Is it $5 per employee per month or $10 and I think what’s he’s really asking is in terms of the people using it, let’s say they have 50 employees and I’m charging them $5 an employee then that’s theoretically $250 a month.

[13:25] And I think for you and I, it really depends on what that total number is going to be and you don’t necessarily know until you call them and ask well how many employees do you have? So it’s almost a crap shoot I’d say in terms of calling them and doing that outbound marketing but if you are specifically targeting the engineering or construction companies of less than 100 employees, you have to figure out what your maximum price is going to be.

[13:47] And then understand that there are going to be companies out there that are only going to pay for it for 10 employees or 15 or 20 even though may have 100 or 200 or 300 employees

[13:57] Rob: There’s a difference between outbound and just high touch sales right? High touch is when people come to you and then you nurture them and you do talk to them and you do demos and all that stuff. Outbound is truly outbound like to me, that means making phone calls and cold emails ad really going from cold leads. And with high touch sales I think you will get killed if you’re not charging at least $99 a month per account and I would try to get to $199 per account.

[14:24] And then with true outbound stuff, that’s where you need to be in the $200 to $500 a month range. And that’s why enterprise products are expensive. The stuff is not attributable cost. They’re absolutely enterprise SAS apps that are almost four figures a month. If not into four figures a month then it’s strictly excuse of all the leg work and stuff involved and making these kinds of sales.

[14:47] Mike: So Dave we hope that answers your question. Our next question is from Denny and he says hi guys I love your show and I’m super interested in starting a SAS app myself soon. I was wondering what your thoughts are on non-technical founders. I don’t know anything about coding and I’m a big fan of Dane Maxwell who teaches a method for building SAS apps for non-technical funders.

[15:03] Obviously you guys are super technical so I’d love to hear your thoughts on the challenges people will face, trying to have apps built for them rather than building them yourself. Do you have any advice for finding or working with developers? Keep up the great work. Denny.

[15:15] So I think we’ve given a lot of advice on finding developers over the years and in fact in our last podcast episode with Laura we talked a little bit about it. But in terms of the types of challenges you’re going to run into as a non-technical founder, I think the biggest one is that its going to be very difficult for you to estimate whether or not the times that you’re getting from the technical people who are implementing things for you are accurate enough or they’re reasonable.

[15:40] Something else that you’re going to have an issue with is that if you only hire one developer to work for you, you have to rely on the fact that developer is going to have to be an expert for you. You can’t spread out knowledge between 2 or 3 different people on a team who may all have insight into a particular problem.

[15:58] If you’ve got one person runs into a problem they at least have a couple of people they can ask. Whereas if you’ve only hired one person, they tend to not have other people that they can ask for help on that problem because that’s their job. That’s what they’re working on for you.

[16:09] And if you’re hiring them on an hourly basis, they may not necessarily even care how much time they send solving that problem. You have to stay in constant communication with them and find out when they’re running into problems and figure out whether there are shortcuts you can take or whether there are certain feature implantations that you can just axe from the entire product if they start to become a problem or time sync.

[16:30] Rob: Yeah, finding develops as a non-technical founder is really hard. I think it’s hard as a technical founder because development work, there’s more under the covers. There’s so much complexity that you just can’t see. Like when you hire a designer or a copywriter, we can all judge. We may have our own opinions but you can all judge by just looking at something or reading a couple paragraphs whereas code, there’s so much complexity there.

[16:53] So someone could write a working app but it might not be maintainable or it might use five year old standards or they can just easily stir you wrong. You won’t know. So my advice is try to work your network.

[17:06] To be honest, if you really are a non-technical fonder. Just anytime you’re going with someone cold ad you’ve never worked them before whether they are a designer, copywriter or anything, you’re always going to have more points of failure or potential points of failure that they’re going to be reliable, they’re going to do crappy work. So the more recommendations, that’d probably where I’d start.

[17:23] Right now I’m trying to hire a developer. It’s a challenge. It’s a lot of work and I’m either looking at code or I’m having one on my team do that and so if didn’t have that ability, there’s not really a one word or a single tactic answer to get around this challenge. It’s similar to me trying to hire an accountant or trying to hire a lawyer. You don’t really know how good they are upfront right?

[17:45] I mean all you can do is get a referral and go with them and try them out and then you’re going to know your – or many down the road whether or not they worked out because you can’t really judge – it’s not like they can give you a contract you can read through and say wow that’s a really good contract. You can’t actually judge the value of their work. Because they’re doing something that’s more complex. They’re an expert in the field that you’re not. I guess no issue answers start by trying to find out from people you know who they’ve used.

[18:08] Mike: I think one thing you might be able to do to help you out is figure out how well they explain things because if somebody – if you ask them for a code sample and then ask them to walk you through that code sample then they should be able to explain to you why it is that they made certain decisions and talk about those decisions, talk about the complexity of what it is that they were doing and explain any edge cases that they were encountering and the code that they were writing.

[18:34] Just by working through that with them, figuring out and watching how they explained it to you will give you a good sense of how well they understood what they were doing at the time. And they should be really relatively familiar with their own code sample but even if they’re not, they should be able to at least read it if they wrote the code in a well thought out and easy to understand manner to begin with. And you want to be able to find those people who can explain those things to somebody who is non-technical.

[19:00] And if you could do that, I would think that you’re probably in a much better situation than you get a code sample from somebody and they just say I don’t know what I did here. I just don’t remember. And if they can’t explain it to you well when they’re looking at that code sample then chances are good that down the road when they’re trying to explain something else to you that is more complicated, they’re not going to be able to do it then either and you’re going to run into problems and misunderstandings.

[19:22] Music

[19:26] Andrew: Hey Rob and Mike, my name’s Andrew Erickson. I’m a healthcare company and I’m actually getting into the app space now and the product space really because of you guys. Its sort of – have much employees to manage and constantly fighting for that next skill basically as a bunch of people like me, consultants trying to manage that and it’s been challenging.

[19:46] I’ve had an executive assistant for about a year but paying her about $15 $16 an hour. Recently she’s moved to another role in the company and I watched the training video for hiring a VA. I have a few good candidates now that I found on Odesk.

[20:00] My question is actually what is the best service provider for like a VoIP Line, Skype, or are there some other options that I should look into? Any help will be greatly appreciated and by the way, your wife did an awesome podcast on bootstrap with kids. Huge shout out to you guys. Thanks again.

[20:19] Rob: Okay, so Andrew’s asking about not a VoIP Line like for your house, like a physical line but I think what he’s saying is the new VA he’s going to hire will probably need to answer inbound calls and essentially be like kind of a front desk receptionist type person.

[20:33] The way I’ve heard the most people do this is using Skype because you can get essentially a US telephone number and you pay for it through Skype and you pay a monthly fee and then it rings to your Skype installation. So as long as you have Skype open and you’re online, it will right through and the person will never know that they’re calling to your Skype account. And if you have your headset ready, you can answer calls.

[20:55] That’s the way I’ve heard people do it and that’s what I’d recommend. I don’t know if there are fancier approaches or something more exotic than that but I’ve definitely known a lot of that approach.

[21:05] Mike: I would probably recommend Skype as an option as well. The other one that I can think of that might be useful is if you look at grasshopper.com, what they pitch is the entrepreneur’s phone system and it allows to have a bunch of different phone numbers. They can be local or toll free or do call forwarding and things like that.

[21:20] Essentially it allows you to configure it online and you don’t necessarily have to buy hardware and software to use their website and their tools to redirect calls and have call queues and waiting and things like that.

[21:34] So that’s probably a step up from what Skype offers. I think the only problem I’ve run into Skype on occasion is that if you’re using Skype for extended periods of time for a specific account I think you’re limited to a certain number of hours per day for a non-commercial account. I don’t know whether there’s commercial versus non-commercial accounts within Skype.

[21:52] But they basically say oh well if you use it more than X number of hours per day then essentially with happens is they cut you off for I think it’s a full 24 hours and you’re not able to use your Skype account at all if you go over that timeline.

[22:05] So that’s something I would definitely be a little bit careful of. I’ve tried to use my own Skype account for long conference calls or remote engagements and stuff like that and if you hit that limit, you’re done for the next 24 hours. So then you’re reduced to basically creating a second Skype account and kind of alternating between them.

[22:20] So Andrew I hope that answers your question. Our next one is from Keith James and he says any thoughts on an annual versus monthly pricing for a SAS startup? It seems like a no brainer to charge monthly for a SAS ad versus annual. My target price is $9.95 a month and my annual price is $49.95. There’s a lower barrier of entry and a 240% increase in revenue. What concerns me is return rate. The other concern is initial cash flow.

I bring on 200 initial seat customers at $49.95 a year, our initial users will generate $9,900. Using the monthly model it would generate $1,999 a month. This amount is fine for proof of concept. There’s barely enough to cover infrastructure cost. Thanks a lot. Keith.

[23:00] Rob: So first question is if you charge – he says $9.95, let’s just say $10 a month to make it easy. If you’re charging $10 a month, your annual price shouldn’t be $50 a month. It should be either $100 or $110. That’s kind of the standard is that you do 10 or 11 months for the annual contract. So I think you’re discounting it way, way too heavily to do an annual that’s basically 5 months of payments gets you the whole year.

[23:24] Second thing is when starting out I’ve always done monthly. I focus on monthly recurring revenue. That’s a big metric for me because I want to see that number growing every month. And if you move to annual pricing, you can definitely get a big spike in revenue but that goes away as soon as you stop marketing because you’re kind of killing that flywheel effect that a SAS app gives you that it does bring in the revenue every month.

[23:46] However, there’s a big cavvy up to this. Exactly the reason you’re mentioning it is if you sell annual upfront, you do get that big influx of cash and it will help you fund development and employees and early on you really need that money. And Jason Cohen also talked about this in his Micro Comf talk that if you get to the point where you’re actually collecting annual from everyone, then you have essentially like a negative customer acquisition cost that you can acquire an infinite number of customers because you’re spending…

[24:14] Let’s say send $100 to acquire a customer but you make $400 or $500 from them right when sign up, then you have this infinite bucket of money in with which to acquire them. So all that to say, I’ve always been a fan of monthly but I think that annual definitely has its place.

[24:34] I know some apps are doing annual only. They’re actually SAS apps and you could only do an annual plan. I would definitely consider that. I don’t think that’s out of the question. I have not done that with any of my apps to date but it is on some to-do list essentially when we have time to rewrite the marketing and redo the billing and change all that stuff. Because you have to have different trial sequences. You have to have a lot of changes from monthly to annual.

[24:55] So I would think it through. But if you’re in a position where you can do annual, I would not rule that out. I would think about doing it early on at a minimum as an option and maybe as the preferred option for people because it gets you that cash flow upfront and then it can really help you build your product.

[25:10] And then at some point you could go annual only if it’s really working out or if most people are picking monthly then you know that maybe your audience isn’t resonating with a larger upfront purchase price and they want a smaller price overtime so you can always vary to that but this is it. It really is an interesting question. I actually feel like my thoughts and I think other people’s thoughts on it are changing overtime.

[25:30] Mike: Yeah. I was going to point out the difference or the discrepancy between what he had lifted as the annual price and the fact that only comes out to the five months of revenue. The other thing I would point out is that this question becomes a little bit clearer once you get to the point where you have people coming into your funnel and you know what your customer acquisition cost is when you’re first starting out and you don’t know what those numbers are is really, really difficult to tell whether an annual plan or a monthly plan is going to be better off for you because you don’t know how much it costs you to acquire a customer.

[26:01] So you’re still kind of working out the pricing. And because of that, you may say I’m going to charge $10 a month and then you start charging people $100 for an annual plan let’s say and then you go trough and then you start finding out that its actually costing you $110 or $130 or $150 to acquire a customer.

[26:20] Well if you’re only making $100 a year from that customer and they’re canceling right after that because the service is not valuable to them, then that becomes a very, very big problem because you’re going to essentially stunt the growth of the business. And you’re going to have to increase the price point at some point along the way but you won’t know that until you’re so far in that its actually going to hurt you to do that.

[26:44] So those are the types of things that you need to take into consideration and knowing your cost of customer acquisition is a really, really important metric. And if you don’t know it then doing the annual plans can be risky. So thanks for the question Keith.

[26:57] Our next one comes from Mike Truman and he says hey Mike and rob, I have a question about email courses. I’m having trouble coming up with a subject for a course that is applicable to my business which is an online in and out board at blilo.com how closely should the subject matter of an email course be tied to what a business actually does in order to successful generate leads? Thanks have a great day. Mike.

[27:18] Rob: So what’s interesting is I don’t think your course needs to correspond with your app in order to get people to subscribe. But in order to get them to actually do a trial after they’ve gone through the mini course, there has to be some kind of tie in because as an example, blilo.com is an in-out board and the question it asks on the homepage is who’s going to be in the office today?

[27:44] So this is a very horizontal product which means that it’s kind of a challenge. You don’t really know who your demographic is per say. I guess its small business owners, medium business owners. I guess it is only with offices. So its small businesses only with offices, so maybe you think of a way to provide value like how to run a more efficient office or how to encourage more people to come into the office or why you should study some numbers on the benefits that people get when they work together in an office or maybe there is no benefit.

[28:13] Just do research on that and try to offer something around the concept of coming in versus remote work ad that kind of stuff because now actually at least keep people’s interest and even if you only do with 3 or 4 day course if you don’t have enough content at this point, just giving them some type of education and showing that you are actually an expert in the field even if you’re just researched it but you are more of an expert than they are.

[28:36] I agree with a horizontal product is more challenging than let’s say something that’s catering to dentists or only to tech companies because then you’re going to have a much better idea of what provides value for them.

[28:51] Mike: Thanks for the question Mike. Our last question is from Pralie and he says hi there, I just started listening recently and love the show. I was wondering what your thoughts are on when the right time is for a college graduate to start their own company? I graduated over a year ago and I’m worried that my student loans are going to get in the way of my plans of funding a startup in the future. Should I focus on paying off my student loans before starting my own company or do you think I’d be able to go ahead even with the debt? Thanks for the help.

[29:15] I would say the sooner you start the better. I don’t know as I would wait for paying off your student loans. I mean student loans tend to be pretty hefty and its going to talk you a long time to pay those off but I would probably also kind of caveat this with the underlying assumption that you have some sort of a revenue source and you aren’t just dipping into your savings and living off of credit cards to try and get a business off the ground.

[29:39] If you’re working or have a consulting engagement or something like that where you’re getting revenue of some kind and making a living and starting something on the side, you’re going to be in a much better position and its going to be a lot less stressful than if you try to just do everything solo.

[29:53] And since you’ve been graduated for over a year, I would guess that you’re probably working full time or at least part time at this point. So starting a business now is probably a better bet but I don’t know your full situation. The way I would lean is definitely towards starting sooner rather than later because the best time to start a business was yesterday and the best time before that was the day before and it just keeps going back. So there’s no better time to start a business than there is today.

[30:18] Rob: Yeah, I agree. Most student loan terms are like 10 years. Are you going to wait 10 years to start your business? Because in 10 years you’re probably going to be married with a mortgage. Maybe a car payment, all that kind of other stuff comes up. It only gets worst the older you get.

[30:32] So like Mike said, with showing some restrain and not just throwing it all to the wind and losing all your money or whatever, spending it all on you startup but taking a bit more conservative approach a lot like we talk about that Mike and I followed when we started ours as well as they approach – we kind of – a spouse here on the podcast, there’s no reason I can see to wait on this. I don’t think student lands should be reason to not start a business.

[30:54] Mike: So Pralie for the question.

[30:55] Music

[30:59] If you have question for us, you can call it in to our voice mail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. You can subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

 

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4 Responses to “Episode 144 | The Viability of Inbound Marketing, Challenges for Non-Technical Founders and VOIP Options for Entrepreneurs”

  1. Hi guys, great podcast. Regarding the voip, I use google voice, its free. With google voice you can get a local number, anyone who uses a gmail can use it, call from it. In addition you can purchase obihai, which is hardware that allows u to use Google voice without a computer and you can have up to four lines (phone numbers), including fax ringing to one physical phone. Their no monthly fees, so its free until Google decides to change it.

    P.s. when your v.a.’s call your local number will show on the caller I’d.

  2. Re: Dave Ganoe

    I’d also consider moving away from pricing by $X/Customer. Patrick McKenzie has a great article that dovetails with my reasoning http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/08/13/doubling-saas-revenue/.

    If you’re serious about the engineer/construction niche I’d say a couple additional things. There are a few professional organizations with local meetings for Civil Engineers in particular that are always looking for speakers. Be a speaker.

    Additionally, go talk to some engineers out there. It’s not hard to send out some hand written emails after researching some promising targets. 5-10 in person meetings will change a lot about how you approach the niche. You can get that done in less than 4 weeks without any trouble. I validated an idea for consulting engineering firms and I built a list and did this in the Austin, TX area.

    One thing that was not mentioned on outbound sales, but I think is really important to keep in mind is that you may have to do it to get jump started. Jason Cohen’s MicroConf talk included an anecdote about ‘scratching and clawing’ to get the first 50 customers. You do need a repeatable and affordable channel to build the business, but you shouldn’t quit until scratching and clawing in totally unscalable ways doesn’t work.

    Whew. Longer than I thought. Happy to chat by email, Dave.

  3. How to hire a developer as a non developer?

    I think the only way is to find someone who has developed something at least similar to what you require and ask them how much did that cost.

    While it would be difficult to find someone who has developed one app that does it all – they should have developed a number of apps in the past that when combined should cover most of the features you require. This should increase the chances of a positive outcome.

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  1. Hiring developers - August 8, 2013

    [...] Walling and Mike Taber spoke to the challenges of hiring developers on their podcast: Startups for the Rest of Us (Ep 144). Rob kicks things off (starting at [...]