Episode 24 | More Listener Questions
[00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 24.
[00:12] Mike: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or are just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
[00:20] Rob: And I’m Rob.
[00:21] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes that we’ve made. So what’s going on this week, Rob?
[00:25] Rob: Well, I’m kinda celebrating the first month of not having Wedding Toolbox on a dedicated server. And I mentioned this before, but it was like $400 a month. And the previous owner of the site had signed a contract. The contract expired and I moved it onto an $8 a month shared hosting plan.
[00:42] Mike: Wow.
[00:43] Rob: It really feels good. It’s such a low-volume site, no need for it to be on that. So this is a common mistake. I’ve totally seen this with people who aren’t in the startup realm. They start way too big because they are like, “This is going to be a huge site! I totally need all the bells and whistles so that we don’t have to move it later.”
[00:58] This thing was a MySQL database and a bunch of…you know, like one gig worth of files. It’s ColdFusion and some other miscellaneous stuff; images and such. So that was it. I just copied it over and got an SSL cert and it was done. So it was not even like there were a lot of recurring tasks or anything crazy.
[01:13] So anyways, it just feels really good. I looked at my month end and I was like, “Man, there’s another $380 in there!”
[01:19] Mike: That’s very cool. I did the same mistake when I was first starting out and I had my first business. I literally went out and bought a dual Xeon rack-mount machine and sent it to a cold location facility, because I knew that that would be cheaper than actually leasing a dedicated box.
[01:36] And I actually had it there for like three years. And that was probably two years and eleven months longer than it needed to actually be there. But I ran pretty much everything on it at that time. It worked out well for what it was. I still actually have the machine, but I really did not need that much power, because I totally overestimated how much the site was going to get used.
[01:56] And don’t get me wrong, I did put some stress on that server. But I probably could have gotten away with just some other form of hosting.
[02:03] Rob: So how about you? What’s new?
[02:05] Mike: I think I mentioned in a podcast a while back that I was undergoing a Google Chrome experiment. And I just wanted to share my results on that. It seems like it’s gone pretty well. I actually have not touched Firefox in a couple of weeks now. It was actually a very seamless transition.
[02:20] And because of Google Chrome’s ability to import all of my cookies and all of my passwords and things like that, it was pretty flawless. And I actually use a plug-in called Xmarks, which is basically a cross-platform bookmarking utility. I have that installed in both IE and in Firefox, and there is a similar one for Google Chrome.
[02:39] So I just plugged that in and I had all my bookmarks, and they are still synchronizing with everything. And it has been great. I am not looking back. I mean the only thing that I may go back to Firefox for is Firebug. And if they ever come out with a Google Chrome extension, then I will have zero need to ever go back to Firefox.
[02:55] Rob: Yeah, I’ve done the same thing. I haven’t opened Firefox in a few weeks. The only thing that I miss is getting Google PageRank. Because like I said, Google Chrome is not compatible with the Google Toolbar. You can’t install the Google Toolbar, which is the only way to get PageRank…not the only way, but it’s the best way to get it right in your browser. So that’s the only reason that I need Firefox, and Firebug, like you said.
[03:15] So cool, yeah. It just continues to be devastatingly fast. And I love that you can search. They finally got it! I don’t even open the Google homepage anymore. Google launched Google Instant this week, where you type in the textbox and it actually shows the results changing as you are typing, which is just insane the technology that they have implemented there.
[03:34] I never go to Google.com anymore, because I always just open a new tab and start typing a search query, because right in the address bar Google Chrome just does the search.
[03:42] Mike: That’s not browser specific. I mean the Google homepage is like that. I forget what they called it. They launched it earlier this week. And, as you said, you just start typing and it automatically streams the results to the page as you are typing.
[03:55] And actually, I’ve noticed that as you are typing stuff, not only does like a dropdown of suggestions show up, but also, to the right-hand side, if you look close, it has sort of an auto-complete mechanism where it shows the next letter of what you will probably type, but it’s grayed out a little bit. I mean somebody spent some serious time on this particular feature of Google. I was floored when I saw it.
[04:19] Rob: Yeah, the speed of it is amazing. And like you said, when it’s grayed out to the right of you, if you hit the right arrow key, it actually auto completes and sends you to the first result. They are just shaving time off searches if you really know where you are going. You can save so many keystrokes and precious milliseconds.
[04:36] I mean I do hundreds of Google searches a day. I’m sure you do too. So it’s kind of interesting to see this getting a little faster.
[04:42] There is a really cool video on YouTube I’ll link to. It’s Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. And he has this kind of famous music video where it’s him holding these cards that have the words of the song that he’s flipping down. And it starts off with that clip in black and white, and the song plays, and then someone goes onto Google Instant and starts typing the lyrics. And they type like the first three letters of the lyric and it keeps completing it. It completes the phrase with the grayed-out text to the right. So it’s really neat. It’s kind of like the same video but with a new technology.
[05:12] Mike: Something else I did see was the headline that basically said that more people today are spending time on Facebook than they are on Google. [laughs] Maybe it’s coincidence, maybe not. But maybe this is exactly why. Google doesn’t want you to spend time on their site. They want you to find the stuff that is relevant to you and get to where you need to be.
[05:30] Rob: Yeah, that’s right. The goals are different, right? Facebook wants to keep you on for a long time and Google is all about making things faster.
[05:36] Mike: Right.
[05:37] Rob: It will be interesting to see how that pans out. So hey, I finished a consulting project. It was very short last month. And it was my first consulting work that I have done in six months or a year. You know, I don’t take on new clients anymore, but this was a friend of a friend I had mentioned in our previous podcasts.
[05:51] But what I was surprised about is I had forgotten consulting is crazy, because it’s such fast money. It’s almost like easy money. I hate to say it like that, but compared to products…you know, I have some products in development and some websites I’m working on. And I’m looking down the line six months or 12 months, investing time and money now with zero payback.
[06:07] I forgot the kind of addictive quality of consulting. I just worked for these few hours and this check arrives in the mail. And I am like, “Wow! So quickly!” Obviously it’s not recurring or anything; it was a small project. But it was really helpful for going well beyond my August monthly number that I have to hit.
[06:24] Mike: I’ve said this in the past: consulting is totally a double-edged sword. If you get into it and you start seeing that money come in, it can be really hard to get away from it, because as you said, it’s almost easy money. And if you are good at what you do and you are in demand, I mean people will just throw work at you. And it’s not even a question of whether you are going to get more work, it’s: “When do you have availability so that we can send you this work?”
[06:47] Rob: The other thing I wanted to mention, we mentioned this on last week’s show, is the Business of Software conference is coming up in Boston. Mike and I are both going to be there. We’d love to connect with you. Mike on Twitter is Singlefounder and I am RobWalling.
[07:03] Rob: All right, so how about Google Priority Inbox? Have you been using it?
[07:07] Mike: I actually have.
[07:08] Rob: Do you like it?
[07:09] Mike: You know, I didn’t think I would. I really didn’t. I’ve started to get a rather large volume of emails in my inbox. The advantage of using the Priority Inbox is I don’t have to do that mental sort anymore, because Google Priority Inbox does it for me. So all the ones that I need to deal with in the morning are always right there at the top.
[07:27] I’m shocked to admit it. I have to say that it is actually kind of nice.
[07:30] Rob: You sound like a commercial for Google. It’s funny, your sentences are like: “All of my emails are at the top!”
[07:37] Mike: [laughs] Yeah, I’m a flip-flopper at this point. I actually like it. The one thing, I still say that until it becomes something that is implemented in Outlook, I still think that a lot of people are not going to use it. Because unless you have a Gmail account, you are not going to be seeing this. So I still don’t think that it’s going to be taking the world by storm anytime soon. But I can clearly see the advantages now.
[07:56] Rob: Yeah, with 140-150 million users, obviously, a lot of people will use it. But there is a key thing. Like, when I am on my iPad or iPhone, I am not seeing this. You know, you don’t use the web interface, you use the little built-in app.
[08:08] Mike: Yep.
[08:09] Rob: So that is a good point. Here’s the punch line of this whole Google Priority Inbox. Remember I said it was going to be fantastic? I have not used it! I turned it off!
[08:17] Mike: [laughs]
[08:18] Rob: I tried to do it the first day and it was driving me nuts. I didn’t realize I was so engrained in this behavior, but I have not been able to deal with the split inbox. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I am looking down at the emails on the bottom.
[08:31] Really, I was just kind of…not confused in a direct sense, but I scan through things so quickly that just having the interface slightly different was a big deal to me. So I have turned it off, and…
[08:42] Mike: [laughs] It’s funny you say that, because that’s exactly why I said I wouldn’t use it! [laughs]
[08:46] Rob: Yep, exactly. So we’ll see. I keep meaning to turn it back on, but it’s a little bit of a productivity hit for me. And right now, with a new kid, I don’t have a ton of time to work on stuff. So I feel like if I get a longer week where I can actually put more hours in, then I’ll probably turn it back on, crunch through the initial pain of it, so to speak, and trudge through.
[09:02] Mike: Very Nice.
[09:07] Mike: So I have a question for you, and this came up the other day. I was sitting there thinking about something, because I was reading some of the business news. And one of the things that came to mind is should developers be afraid to build software that does basically the same thing as an enterprise level company?
[09:23] And by that, I mean should you, as an entrepreneur, not build a piece of software that you think you could do better than somebody else, but because something like antivirus software or…?
[09:36] Rob: Photoshop, or…?
[09:37] Mike: Something along those lines.
[09:38] Rob: I guess that’s not an enterprise software, but it’s a big company.
[09:41] Mike: Right. You know, stuff that’s not so engrained…I mean because if you are competing against Microsoft with, like, databases or operating systems, stuff like that is just so incredibly large that one person couldn’t build it on their own, at least not in a reasonable timeframe.
[09:55] But there is a lot of other software out there that is made by big companies. Like, for example, QuickBooks, or ACT for Content Relationship Management. Could a developer go out and start building software that does the same sorts of things as those types of products and be able to compete against those enterprises? What do you think?
[10:14] Rob: Well, I think that in terms of technology the answer is yes. Building a product doesn’t tend to be the hard part of building a product. Writing the code is not the hard part. I think it’s all about the marketing challenge.
[10:27] If you are going to compete with Photoshop, how are you going to get customers? How are you going to get in front of a traffic stream, or how are you going to cold call people to sell your Photoshop? That’s the bigger challenge, is really competing with the marketing dollars of Intuit.
[10:44] I mean they big competitors, like with Quicken, which I think is a reasonable example here. It’s a big company. In terms of competing with Quicken, the company Mint.com, they competed with them, right? That was a competitor with Quicken. And they got bought by Intuit. They were doing a really good job of having a freemium model and getting a bunch of non-paying customers, but that’s a whole other podcast, isn’t it?
[11:05] Realistically, I think that taking a new approach to something…you know, like people hate QuickBooks, and taking the new SaaS approach to it is an interesting idea. The danger there, the pitfall, is that it’s so competitive. The marketing is just painful.
[11:19] So I guess what I will say is competing against an enterprise company or a large company selling consumer software like we’re talking about, or small business software, I think you can do it, but it’s tough to market.
[11:31] And then competing against an enterprise company that sells enterprise software I think is really tough, because we’ve talked about the sales cycles of that, the in-person sales. I mean if you are selling something for 100 grand, they are not going to buy it on your website. You are going to have to fly to their location and work with them and sign contracts and stuff.
[11:48] That’s my take. What is yours?
[11:49] Mike: Well, I guess even within the Micropreneur Academy we kind of advise people against competing with those larger companies. I think the primary reason we do that is not because it can’t be done, but more because the people who are trying to do it are not necessarily experienced enough to try it.
[12:09] And as you said, building the code and building the product itself is not the hard part. The hard part is the marketing. And unless you have a lot of experience in that area and know what works and what doesn’t, I think that’s what probably makes it more difficult.
[12:22] But one of the things that you mentioned was that if you have a unique view of the problem space, or you have a different take on it than the entrenched competitors do, I think that you can do a lot of damage. I think that that unique view is going to be very refreshing to people who are trying to use that product, and they are using it, and they are encountering problems, and they are just irritated. They are ticked off. They hate it.
[12:47] You can look at any of these enterprise companies out there, and regardless of what product or what service they offer, I mean you can basically put the word “sucks” at the end of their name and you’ve got a dot com address that will probably take you to a website that explains why they suck. There’s lots of these out there. And any one of those could be turned, probably, into a viable business.
[13:08] But as you said, it’s the marketing challenge that is the issue. If you are solving the same problem in exactly the same way, I think that it’s a much bigger challenge than if you are solving the same problem but solving it a lot differently. Because there is no value in reinventing what somebody else has done, because they are already not doing it correctly. People already don’t like that.
[13:29] So if you can create a new approach to an old problem, I think that you can generate a lot of value, and you can definitely snag some customers from those entrenched competitors.
[13:39] Rob: Cool.
[13:43] Rob: So this week we are going to cover another two listener questions. The first is from Joel Rogencamp [sp]. Sorry if I butchered your name. Joel says:
[13:52] “I really enjoy your podcast and have listened to every episode. I have two topic suggestions for you. First, it would be great to have an entire episode dedicated to getting the most out of Google AdWords. I’ve played around with AdWords but have not had much success.”
[14:06] OK. So Mike and I talked about this. AdWords is one thing that is really hard to describe. So the techniques that we use and the things of actually honing an account and honing your keywords and such is mind numbingly boring unless you can see it.
[14:22] I like the question, I like the idea, but the one podcast I’ve heard that tried to cover AdWords, I turned it off because it was so bad. So we aren’t going to answer this, unfortunately. We have tons of info on this in the Micropreneur Academy. It’s one lesson of many, but we have a bunch of screencasts on the techniques that we use.
[14:40] And there are certainly some good books out there. If you haven’t already gone to Amazon and looked for a guide to Google AdWords, I don’t have a specific book to recommend off the top of my head, but there are certainly going to be some better ways to learn it than to hear me drone on about it for 20 minutes.
[14:53] The second part of Joel’s question…Oh, and by the way, Joel’s URL is bestattendance.com. The second part of his question is about family issues. He says:
[15:02] “What are the dynamics of one spouse being self-employed and the other not having an entrepreneurial mindset working a job? How do you find a proper work/life balance and where do kids fit in the picture?”
[15:14] These are fantastic questions. And I think I’ve actually never really been asked these questions, but I have definitely dealt with all of these issues.
[15:21] Mike: So the kids fit into the picture at the bottom-left or bottom-right. Either one of those is fine. [laughs]
[15:26] Rob: Nice. Yeah.
[15:28] Mike: Seriously, I think you and I have different living situations. I’ll explain a little bit of mine first. I am the person who is employed in my household and my wife stays home and takes care of our two boys. And in terms of the dynamics, I mean my wife used to work. She was a graphic designer at a national magazine. She was the assistant art director there.
[15:48] You know, she had a fulltime job, went there every day. And then after our first child was born, she came home and decided she did not want to leave him at daycare anymore. And I said, “No, you know what? It’s only been a couple of days. You are going back to work. You are going to stay there for a month and we’re going to wait this out, because maybe things will change.”
[16:07] And after a month, things still didn’t change, and we made some adjustments and she’s stayed home with the two kids for the past three and a half years now.
[16:14] So I am the one who basically brings in all the money for our household. But whenever people ask me and they say, “Does your wife work?” My answer to that is, “Yes, my wife does work. She does not have a career.”
[16:28] There is a very big difference between those two things, because I know how much she works, because a lot of times I will work from home when I am not going out and dealing with customers or doing consulting engagements. So I see the things that go on.
[16:40] And it helps me, from an understanding point of view, to know what she has to deal with on a daily basis. And I communicate with her a lot. I mean she always knows where our finances are, and there is always money that gets deposited into a joint checking account that she has access to. And I’ve given her the usernames and passwords, and anytime she wants to see the bank account, she can see it. Or if she just asks me, I’ll tell her.
[17:03] It’s all about openness and understanding and just being able to talk. And as long as you have that type of relationship, I don’t know as it’s a big deal. Now, I know that there’s people who don’t have that type of relationship. And owning your own company can be extremely stressful on a marriage.
[17:18] Whenever finances are involved, you look at something like that, if the business isn’t doing too well, your spouse can always get upset and say, “Well why couldn’t you get a real job? Why can’t you work for another company and just be home 9-5?”
[17:33] There are a lot of times where I’ll be up until one, two, three in the morning working on stuff. But it’s because of that stuff that I am able to do other things. So, for example, we are going on a trip to Disney World this Thanksgiving, taking the entire family. Her mother is coming. My sister is going to be meeting us down there. The whole family is kind of getting a nice weeklong getaway.
[17:53] And on top of that, next spring, next summer we are taking another week to go down to the Bahamas for a week. Could I probably do that if I were not self-employed? Sure, I might be able to swing that. But it seems to me like, for planning purposes, it’s easier for me to be able to plan that.
[18:10] I can’t justify working for another company fulltime. It’s just very difficult for me conceptually, because I see how they operate. I just can’t do it. I don’t know how you feel about it, Rob, but I don’t think that I could go back to being an employee of somebody else at this point.
[18:24] Rob: It’s called “unemployable”. I mean I am the same way. I can’t imagine that I would ever work for anyone again.
[18:31] Yeah, so I am in a similar situation, although my wife works. But we also have two boys. And my wife…we just had our second child. And so before that, things were pretty mellow and pretty easy. And I was working about four days a week, and she was working four days a week, and things were great.
[18:48] And then we had our second child. He’s about two months old now. Things have shifted, because since he’s so little, we don’t want to put him in daycare. And so I am now kind of working two days a week, plus I am watching him and working two days a week, which is winding up not being very many hours. So I’m under 20 hours a week right now. I’m right about 16; between 16-20. And then she is also working part-time and just getting back into her being a professor and such.
[19:14] That’s our situation. And I think at this point, I’ve been an entrepreneur for so long that it’s almost not relevant to the question of how things look now, because my wife has confidence that every month I am going to have enough money to pay the mortgage, because I’ve done it now for nine years or eight years.
[19:31] And so it’s really those early months and early years where, if your spouse is not an entrepreneur at heart, that you have to give them the confidence that you are not just going out on a flier and going to do something that’s going to ruin the family, or ruin the finances, I should say.
[19:46] I think that having a reasonable plan in mind about how much money you are going to need before you quit your job is a big deal. I think coming to your spouse and saying, “Hey, I want to quit my job and launch a startup,” I don’t think that’s a really good way to go. I think that’s a really hard way to go, especially if your spouse is not the entrepreneurial mind.
[20:04] I think a much better way is, let’s say you launch this product and then you’re like, “Hey, look, this product’s bringing in two grand a month, and if I drop down to part-time, we only lose X grand a month, we only lose two grand a month, and so I’m actually going to make it up with revenue. And here’s the last six months.”
[20:19] It’s like once you have that, you’ve given him or her the confidence that you can actually pull this off. Because until then, not only should they not be confident in you, but you really shouldn’t be confident in your product until it’s bringing in money.
[20:32] I would never tell a solo entrepreneur or micropreneur to just quit their job cold-turkey and launch a product. I think that’s a bad idea, because the odds of your product succeeding, even if you seek out a niche and do all the right things, are still not 100%. And the fact that you can do this stuff on the side fairly easily, that’s really my recommendation.
[20:52] I think finding proper work/life balance is a bit more of a challenge. I think you have a lot of flexibility as an entrepreneur and you can work at night, which is great, but it’s also a tough thing to not want to work all the time.
[21:06] And I don’t know that I have any recommendation other than once you do it long enough, you will figure out that work/life balance. And that for me, having a wife and kids has actually been much more beneficial for my work/life balance, because it has forced me not to work all the time, and I actually think I would want to work all the time if they weren’t around.
[21:22] Mike: Yeah, owning your own business is, to be perfectly blunt about it, is a bit of an albatross, especially for somebody who’s in my situation because my wife doesn’t work.
[21:31] All of the responsibility for feeding the family and keeping us clothed and fed and keeping a roof over our heads basically falls on my shoulders. So I have to work. And when I say, “Look, I’ve got to work this weekend,” or “I’ve got to work late this night,” I don’t get any grief for it, which I’m thankful for.
[21:48] But she understands that there’s a reason that I’m doing the things that I’m doing, and it’s not for me. It’s not because I’m being selfish and I just say, “Oh, I want to work.” It’s because I’m either concerned or I want to make sure that we have enough of a cushion at any given time.
[22:03] Rob: Yeah, I agree. Something that’s actually been helpful for me in the past couple years is I showed my wife my business tracking, and I said, “This is my number. This is the number I have to hit every month.” So if we’re at some point during the month and I’m feeling anxious about that, like “Wow, revenue’s down on some products and I don’t know if I’m going to hit it,” I will tell her that I don’t think I’m going to hit my number.
[22:23] Obviously I have money in the business bank account. It’s not that I’m going to go negative right now, but I really don’t like to go under that monthly goal. So I’ll tell her I think I need to work some extra hours over the next few weeks to try shore this up and make something happen. And now that she understands that, it’s a totally different story than when I would just not communicate with her and just come in and try to work.
[22:44] The other thing is, as an entrepreneur, once you’ve started doing it and you have replaced income and you leave your salaried job, you have this killer flexibility. And so, in our situation, we’ve gone to the coast four times in the past couple months. We’ve just taken four-day weekends.
[23:00] And I bring my laptop and I do maybe an hour of work on Friday and maybe an hour of work on Monday after I get home. But it’s very minimal, and we can do it at the drop of a hat because I don’t have a boss.
[23:10] So that perk right there has really convinced my wife that this is a good deal. So I get a lot of leeway in other areas. If I say I really need to work now, it’s like you said, I don’t get pushback because she’s seen the benefits of me not having…
[23:25] I mean, I used to have two weeks vacation. That kind of makes shiver now. I take six weeks of vacation each year, at least. And I do a little bit of work. I’ll do 20, 30 minutes a day while I’m on that vacation. There are a lot of benefits once it’s going. So as long as your spouse understands that, I think you’re good.
[23:39] Mike: Yeah, I think the big point that you made, though, is communication. You have to show them financially where things stand and where you stand and where the business stands. As long as they know, and that you communicate with them, “Hey, I’ve got to work extra time because I haven’t hit my number yet and I’m concerned that I’m not going to,” I think that that alone right there is what will help make or break a marriage, I’ll say.
[24:04] Rob: Our next question is from Joseph Cooney, and Joseph is in beta on his product. It is logenvy.com. It’s a Windows event viewer/IAS log viewer. He said he’s struggling to generate much interest while it’s in beta. I’m not going to read his whole email. It’s pretty long. I’m going to just take some snippets of it.
[24:27] He says, “I have a marketing question for both of you. I’m keen to hear your views on effective ways of promoting your product while it’s in beta. I’ve read some of the techniques that Peldi from Balsamiq espouses on his blog regarding sending free licenses to bloggers and people he thinks will like Balsamiq mock-ups. But I don’t know that many people are overjoyed about getting a free license to a beta product.
[24:49] I’ve watched Wil Shipley’s talk “On the Creation and Maintenance of Hype,” but I feel like these techniques wouldn’t be as effective if you’re not an A-list startup already. Blogging about a product during development has its pros and cons. It’s probably going to be more interesting to fellow developers rather than customers who just want the baby without the labor pains. In short, I’m keen to hear what technique you guys use to build interest and momentum before you release a product.”
[25:12] Mike: I think the comment about customers who just want the baby without the labor pains isn’t necessarily 100% accurate. I think that the bigger issue is, are those customers actually having a pain? If those customers actually have a pain that your product is solving, then it will be interesting to them, because they are going to want to find a product that solves their problem. And if your products can do that for them, they’re going to be interested in reading about it and hearing how things are going. And they’re going to actually get a little bit excited about it.
[25:46] I know that it sounds weird to somebody to hear that the customer might be excited about a product that they’re building, but it actually does happen. People really want to know: “At what stage am I going to be able to get my hands on this, because I’ve got this problem and I need it to be solved.”
[25:59] I don’t know as avoiding blogging about a product actually has too many cons. The only one that I can really think of is that it takes time away from your development efforts. But because marketing is one of those ongoing things that you can’t necessarily solve, it works towards helping your marketing efforts.
[26:16] So I really think that if you blog about your product development and say this is what’s going on, this is what I’m doing, you’ll actually also get feedback from people saying, “Hey, how are things going? What are you implementing?” And if people really are interested in your product, they’re going to find it, they’re going to see it, and they’re going to offer you some of that feedback.
[26:33] Rob: Yeah, that’s good advice. I think the first thing I would recommend, we’ve talked about it before, very first step, get a landing page up with a form to start collecting emails from people who are interested. Because during the four-to-six months you’re building your product, you want to build up an email list so that your launch is good and you make some money and it gives you confidence that this thing actually has legs.
[26:53] But, Joseph, you’re not asking about that. You’re asking about how do we drive traffic to that. The ways that I’ve seen work well… And some of these will work in some niches, and I’ll try to point out which ones will work specifically in your niche, which an event viewer might be developers and IT folks.
[27:09] Obviously, SEO’s going to be a big one, and that is where you start to blog, no doubt. Blogging for SEO is the way to go. You may not get a large audience, but if you’re blogging surrounding the keywords that you want to target, then you’re going to start appearing in Google for these things. Even if you don’t go to number one, you can at least get in the engine for it.
[27:27] The next thing is to find your top two or three keywords, what are the big-volume keywords for your product, and to figure out how to build something. It may not be a blog page, but it may be another page that really does focus on the keywords, and essentially try to build links to that page so you try to raise it in the SEO rankings.
[27:44] The next thing to think about is what can you give away to this target audience that would make them excited about this? So as an example, you’ve heard me talk before about Bidsketch; this is Ruben Gomes’ product. Bidsketch is proposal software made for designers.
[27:59] Before he launched, he had a landing page up and then he had just a couple links at the top of that. One of them was proposal templates, web design proposal templates and design proposal templates.
[28:09] This gave him a pretty big advantage because, A, not only were these things SEO focused because people were searching in Google for web design proposal templates. So they’d search it and they’d find this page and see it and then he’d plug his product and say, “Hey, sign up to hear about the app when it launches.”
[28:23] But secondarily, people would come through other sources, like blog links. They’d come to his home page and they’d see the link. “Oh, proposal templates,” and then they’d go to the page. So it really encourages people to sign up and engage with your site.
[28:35] The other thing is you have to know who your audience is. So in your case like logEnvy, I’m thinking of software developers. Like, ASP.NET developers might want this. If you blog and write some interesting articles, and you send them to dzone.com, a lot of developers read that. ASP.NET, www.asp.net, you can submit articles that I think appear on the homepage there and you just have a little byline at the bottom of there. CodeProject I think still accepts articles. asp.netPRO is a magazine. I’ve written several articles for them, this was a few years ago.
[29:07] But all of these things, if you write articles and you get them submitted, you get a byline. So this is a no-brainer. You start including your URL to your landing page in there. It should be your homepage URL. And you just start pushing traffic. There’s going to be no single source that’s going to do it for you. All of these things are going to add up.
[29:23] The last thing that I’ve seen work pretty successfully is really early on to start casually building relationships with some key bloggers. You post comments, insightful, intelligent comments that have nothing to do with your product and do not mention your product, but you post them on the person’s blog. You post it again.
[29:41] Then maybe you send them an email, and you say, “Hey, I really liked your post.” You know, you have to read their blog to do this. You can’t just go spamming people. You read their blog and you send them an insightful email. It’s like, “Hey, I really enjoy your blog. Here’s something I specifically enjoyed.” And that’s it. The first email, you don’t ask for anything. They’ll probably reply and say thanks.
[29:59] And then maybe you email them a little later and you say, “Hey, I’m working on this product. Would you be interested in checking it out?” And you take a shot. You have so much of a better chance that someone actually takes you up on that than if you just cold email people, because both Mike and I get lots of cold emails for stuff like this. I just delete them. I mean I just don’t have time to view everything.
[30:15] But if I actually feel like the person has been reading, engaging, and benefiting me by commenting on my blog…And frankly, if they mention me. Honestly, like if you mention someone’s blog on your blog and you link over to them, it really does make them feel like, “Oh, this person is actually kind of courting me or they are interested in my stuff. Maybe I should at least throw them a bone and take a look.”
[30:33] Even if the blogger doesn’t try out your product, if they just drop you a link in one of their link posts, you’ll get some traffic from there.
[30:38] Mike: Yeah, one of the things that you mentioned specifically was writing articles and blog posts. And I think specifically for logEnvy, what you should probably do is take a look at what sort of problems logEnvy actually solves and write a blog post or write an article about that particular problem, and say, “Hey, there is a tool out there that you might not know about that can solve that problem, and this is exactly how it can solve that problem.”
[31:04] Because looking at the site itself, I mean there is, I don’t know, maybe two, three pages tops. And I don’t see anything in there that really kind of alludes to the real problems that this addresses. I know this space to some extent because I’ve helped people do this sort of thing and helped them monitor systems and making sure that they are up and everything.
[31:22] But I don’t think that this site really is geared very well towards explaining what the problems are and how this particular product solves them. All it really says is, “This is a way to sort and filter windows and IAS logs.” Well, why would you want to do that? What sort of problems can you detect? Why can’t I just go to the event viewer and see all that information anyway? What is this really actually doing for me?
[31:43] I just don’t see it right now. So those are the sorts of things that you could blog about or you could add additional content to the existing pages, or you could write articles and submit them to some of the different sites that Rob mentioned. That’s how you build the buzz.
[31:57] And as he said, you are not going to get most of your traffic from a single source. You are going to get it from a lot of different places. And, in aggregate, that’s what really counts when you are looking at your traffic.
[32:06] I mean you don’t want all of your traffic from one place, because if that one place ever decides that they are going to stop linking to you, you just lost all your traffic. Make sure that you spread it out. And the way to spread it out is to try and get links back to your site in as many places as you possibly can that are relevant to your product.
[32:21] Rob: Yeah. And just as a note, you are in the, kind of, developer/IT space, and those folks are very easy to reach online compared to, say, the knitting niche or electrical construction workers or something. I mean you are in a very viral market where if you write something…
[32:37] There’s the programming category in Digg that you can submit to. There’s Reddit. There is Hacker News, although there are fewer developers there. But there are a lot of popular…especially .NET focused, which obviously, you know, you are talking about windows viewing. That may apply to their programming languages as well. But I think you are going to want to focus on IAS administrators and kind of ASP.net developers.
[32:58] And there are tons of outlets that are looking for articles. And I do think that this space is actually not that difficult to get some articles published which will drive traffic to your site.
[33:08] Mike: So I think that wraps it up for this question. I just wanted to say thanks, Joseph, and I think that wraps it up for the podcast as well.
[33:17] Rob: If you have a question or comment, you can call it in to our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690. Or you can email it to us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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[33:38] Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. And a full transcript of this podcast is available, along with show notes and links, at startupsfortherestofus.com. We’ll see you next time.