Episode 284 | Key Takeaways from MicroConf 2016

Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike discuss several of their takeaways pulled from talks at MicroConf 2016.

Items mentioned in this episode:


Rob [00:00:00]: In this episode of “Startups for the Rest of Us,” Mike and I discuss our key takeaways from MicroConf 2016. This is “Startups for the Rest of Us”, episode 284.

[Theme Music]

Rob [00:00:18]: Welcome to “Startups for the Rest of Us”, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching and scaling software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob …

Mike [00:00:29]: And I’m Mike.

Rob [00:00:29]: … 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?

Mike [00:00:34]: Well, last Thursday, I added my first customer to Bluetick.

Rob [00:00:38]: Just shortly before MicroConf, huh?

Mike [00:00:39]: Yes, the day before my self-imposed deadline.

Rob [00:00:43]: Nice. So, what does that mean [?], then? They’re in early access, and they’re clicking around and sending emails – that type of stuff?

Mike [00:00:50]: Here’s the issue. I had them create an account, and we were kind of pressed for time because they were traveling on Friday, so I knew that we had to at least get them into the system so that I could take a look at stuff on the back end and make sure – because there’s a bunch of jobs on the back end that do a lot of data processing. I put them on. All of those things worked, but here’s your public service announcement for the day: don’t go in and change a bunch of things that are working perfectly well the day before you do that [laugh].

Rob [00:01:15]: Yeah, I was going to say – as soon as you started saying “…he created his account”, I almost completed your sentence, said, “And then everything broke?” because early access is always like that. All the stuff that worked two days ago totally breaks on them.

Mike [00:01:26]: I went in, and I had a bunch of changes made because I was going through and testing things. I was like, “Oh, this is a little bit clunky. It would be nice to make these changes here to make the flow a little bit easier”, and, unfortunately, we busted a couple of things. Of course, since it’s all based on different routes and stuff inside, the [rest?] API, you break one thing and the whole thing kind of falls down. There were a lot of things that worked, and then there were just certain things where there were core features that we ended up breaking which unintentionally. We got everything back and working within 24 hours; but, of course, I was leaving for MicroConf on Saturday, and he was traveling for the next couple of days. But we’re revisiting it this week or early next week, and we’ll go from there.

Rob [00:02:07]: Very nice.

Speaking of MicroConf, we just spent the last – what – three, four days in Vegas. This is our sixth conference in Vegas and our ninth overall, including the ones we’ve done in Europe. This was the first time we’ve had it at The Palms, and The Palms was – I’d say, cost-wise and décor-wise, it’s maybe a slight step up from the Tropicana, where we’ve traditionally had it. I really enjoyed the time this year. I feel like it was a good mix of – we had a lot of returning attendees, as we usually do. We had quite a few new attendees, and that was neat, a lot of first-year attendees. We even had a lot of first-year speakers. We didn’t have a lot of returning speakers from years past, a lot due to scheduling and other stuff like that, and also just wanting to have a fresh year to kick it off.

How did you feel about it overall?

Mike [00:02:50]: I agree. It was nice. I really liked some of the features that The Palms has versus where we had it at the Tropicana; for example, the food court and the fact that you can walk around a little bit more. It feels like you’re actually getting somewhere rather than just walking down massive hallways that almost have no end and seemingly no purpose [laugh]. Did feel like a slight upgrade. I liked the conference areas better; but, you know, it’s not necessarily all about the conference area either. It’s about the people that you’re meeting, the people that you’re talking to and things you’re learning.

Rob [00:03:20]: Yeah, that was the thing. As always, the hallway track as valuable or more valuable than the notes I took from the talks. It was great to see everybody who came. We had about 220, 230 people, and then we sold some “better half” tickets where folks bring their spouse and significant other, so I got to meet a lot of those. That’s always fun, because MicroConf – it’s not like other startup conferences where you’re there to talk about grinding away 90 hours a week. Our families are intimately involved in the startups that we’re doing, because many of us have significant others and/or kids, and it’s kind of cool to meet that person in a startup founder’s life and be able to have them have some glimpse into this crazy conference that that person goes to and maybe meet a few of the folks from it.

Mike [00:04:01]: Yeah, I had some interesting conversations with a bunch of people’s husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends – that kind of thing. It was definitely interesting talking to the “better halves” and seeing what they thought of not just the conference, but the things that their “better halves” were working on as well.

Rob [00:04:16]: Sure. So, let’s dive in. We have several takeaways that we pulled out from the talks. I think we’ll go kind of in chronological order. There’s not enough time to cover every talk, so we’re just going to pull out some highlights. The speaker that kicked us off was actually Des Traynor. He’s the cofounder of Intercom, and he talked about building and scaling products, his lessons learned from four years and 8,000 customers. He had a lot in there. He’s done a lot of talks for Jason Calacanis, like their launch incubator. You hear it on the TWiST podcast, and he just always has such brilliant insight. He’s such a product guy, right? He knows what to build, how to build it, when to build, how to communicate that. He’s really focused on product and how that ties into, of course, marketing and growth.

I’d say the key thing, probably my number one thing – I took several notes from his talk, but one priority list that I really liked – he said it’s these priorities from the top down. The first thing that you should think about in your development cycle is improving a feature. The second one is getting more people to use that feature. The third thing is getting people to use that feature more. So, first it was more people to use it. Now it’s getting people to use it more, like more often. The fourth one is building new features. It’s in that priority order, which is contrary to what most of us do and how most of us think about product development, right? Most of the time it’s build new features, build new features, and that’s what customers and trial users are requesting when, in fact, Des is saying you need to think about improving existing features, getting more people to use them and more often.

Mike [00:05:38]: I really liked there was a grid that he put up that essentially showed what you should be working on and what has the most impact. There were a couple of different columns that he had there, and it was all based around how many people are using a particular feature and how often. You could see things like, in the top right, if everybody was using it and it was very often used, those are the places that you should be concentrating on.

He also talked a lot about how you are divvying up your team and assigning them to different parts of the project, where most software development teams will say, “Okay, we’ve got these 35 feature requests. Let’s put five people on each of them,” and that’ll take up everybody’s time. The reality was that he talked about bringing a bunch of test customers in, or existing customers, or prospective customers and saying, “Here’s $100 virtual dollars. Please vote on what it is that you would like us to implement.” Inevitably, what you find is that most people will vote for a couple of features, and a lot of the rest of the ones are completely unimportant, and you’re wasting a lot of time and effort and resources building those things that people just, quite frankly, don’t care about. His main point behind that was that you care a lot about implementing certain new features, and your customers don’t care at all.

Rob [00:06:51]: Another talk that I think had an impact on the first day was Claire Lew’s talk. She’s with Know Your Company, which is a spinoff of 37 Signals. Her talk was titled “An Unconventional Business,” and she talked about having a business without recurring sales. It’s a software company that allows other companies to learn more about their employees and what they’re thinking and that kind of stuff. It’s a one-time sale up front. It’s $100 per employee, and then there’s no recurring. She talked about how that is unconventional in today’s model of monthly SaaS charges, or even annual charges. She also looked at the sales process and how there’s only two of them. It’s not this big team of people doing stuff.

What were your thoughts on Claire’s talk?

Mike [00:07:31]: What I thought was interesting was the sheer number of demos they do and their focus and emphasis on gaining customer trust versus optimizing for revenue. Obviously, there’s the idea that you could charge a subscription model, or you could raise your prices, or charge some sort of annual maintenance fee or something along those lines. But when you look at what they’re doing, they’re really optimizing for the trust of the customers, and in some ways that reflects on their future revenue. I think Lars called it “expansion revenue,” because as those businesses grow, they will continue to pay the $100 for new employees. Or, if an employee leaves and they hire a replacement, then they’re essentially responsible for that extra hundred dollars, but it’s because they are so focused on getting the trust and buy-in of the CEO and the company executives and many of the employees that it makes a heck of a lot of business sense for those businesses to continue using their product and their software. So, it’s not necessarily recurring revenue but, as Lars said, it’s that “expansion revenue.”

I think that that’s an interesting take on it. I don’t think that most businesses, especially the ones at MicroConf, certainly don’t focus on, “How can we gain trust?” rather than, “How can we get more money?” More money is typically the focus, because it’s commonly easier to get more customers than it is to gain absolute, 100 percent trust of the existing customers that you have; but I also think that that’s probably true because of the way that their product is sold. You really need to be well-trusted by the company in order to just hand over contact lists and contact information for every employee you have.

Rob [00:09:08]: Yeah, and there was some discussion. There was a question during the Q&A and then that evening of folks questioning that one-time sale and wondering how they can make it a subscription business. I would guess long term that Claire’s got to be thinking about how to do that, because it is just so hard to grow a business when there’s a one-time sale; but all that said, I did like her principled rationale that the reason it’s a one-time sale is because they get that commitment from the company to implement this, and they don’t want them to cancel it in three or six months. She believes that once they do this, she wants them to have it forever. It’s a tough balance; and I think, perhaps, they’re in a bit of an edge-case scenario where – you know, personally, I don’t like one-time-sale businesses. I wouldn’t own one myself, and I think most businesses are moving towards recurring; but I wonder if hers could be in that realm of an acceptable exception.

[00:10:00] Another session we had on the first day that folks enjoyed was our Q&A session with [Stelle?] and Heaton, which turned out pretty good. An hour of Q&A is a bit long, and I think we made a little bit of a mistake in the schedule with that. I think I’d probably cap it at 30 minutes. That’s not saying anything about [Stelle?] and Heaton. It’s just too long to do a full hour of someone answering questions. But it was cool. It was like a live version of their podcast, and I thought that it was pretty valuable for the audience.

You were actually moderating that. You essentially read the questions and asked them the question from the audience and stuff. How did all that feel?

Mike [00:10:32]: As you mentioned, I was asking the questions initially, but we kind of primed the pump by having people submit some questions in advance and asked, I think, five or six different questions and then went out into the audience and started taking questions from there. I absolutely agree with you that it may have been just a little bit too long, but I think there’s good reasons for that. When you have a Q&A session like that, I think what tends to happen is that you get the people who are asking the questions who are the most vested and interested in the questions and the answers, and there’s probably a sizable chunk of the audience that isn’t necessarily as interested in that particular one. If you have too many of those in a row, then it’s difficult to maintain your focus and interest in the discussion. You and I have seen this especially with questions that come into the podcast, or when we’re doing internal, worldwide Founder Café calls where, if you don’t necessarily do any sort of moderation on the questions that are coming in, or filter them in any way, shape or form, then what you end up with is a lot of random things that come up that are difficult to maintain everyone’s interest for a long period of time.

So, I think that that’s probably what we ran into. For the podcast, when we do Q&A episodes, we typically decide which ones to manually respond to and do just one-off answers back to people versus ones that we think that are generally applicable to a wider audience. Those are the types of ones that we end up reading on the air in Q&A episodes.

[00:11:57] The one thing I do think is that, for the people who are asking those questions, they’re hyper-interested in those, so after the day, Heaton and [Stelle?] did an “office hours” after the first day, and they had so many people attend and so many questions, that they actually had to do a second day of them. It was only probably 20 or 30 people or something like that; but, still, that’s enough people with that hyper focus that it worked out really, really well for them.

Rob [00:12:22]: Another talk that had a lot of good takeaways was Patrick Campbell from Price Intelligently. He runs essentially a 20-person consulting firm focused on SaaS pricing. One thing -there were many, many takeaways from his talk, because he’s very tactical and he dove into a lot of stuff. He’s such an expert on the topic that it’s actually a little daunting when he says what you need to do in order to really get a good handle on your pricing. It’s a lot of steps; and I think he said it took him, like, eight hours to do it. There was a case study he did with his mom in a business she was starting, but I think that would take a long time for someone like myself, who hasn’t done the extensive pricing research that he has.

One thing that I really liked about his talk is – we’ve all heard of buyer personas, where you take a certain persona. If you have SaaS users, you might say SaaSsy Sam is your SaaS user persona. Then Billy Blogger is your blog user persona, and then you talk about their feelings and the decisions they use to buy and the factors they think about and if they’re price-conscious and all this kind of stuff. He took it a step further, and I hadn’t seen this. He actually added cost to acquire customer, so CAC values and LTV, lifetime value, to each of the personas. That was a real mental shift for me. I have all this in my head, and we talk about it internally about how we serve these three or four pretty tight verticals. With Drip, really it’s three verticals. Then there’s these other ones floating out there. Actually pulling out the CAC and LTV and all the other metrics by vertical is a pretty interesting idea, right, and it’s going to show you who your most profitable and least profitable are. In addition, he talked about you have to write all this stuff down; and that’s something that, while we have a bulleted list of the verticals, we don’t have the full-on list of all the buyer personas. That was a big takeaway for me was to sit down, draft this up and then do some data mining and figuring out some numbers to put to each of these.

Mike [00:14:14]: Next on our list, you talked a little bit about some different, unfair advantages, specifically, four different unfair advantages for faster SaaS growth. Why don’t you talk a little bit about those four unfair advantages?

Rob [00:14:25]: Sure, yeah. I did a shorter talk this year. It was a little bit a retrospective where I looked back and was trying to figure out at a higher level why has Drip grown faster than any of my other software products, like exponentially faster. Then I started looking around and saying of all the self-funded SaaS I know that has grown quickly, why have those grown faster than just the run-of-the-mill SaaS apps. I made a big list and did an analysis, and I talked to a few people and figured out that there really are four unfair advantages in order to have this 2X, or 5X, or 10X growth that we’re seeing in apps like Edgar, or Basecamp in the early days, or maybe Bytes Kits in the early days, or Drip, or like a SumoMe. There were these examples that were pretty obviously growing faster than everybody else.

I started with a long list of unfair advantages and, one by one, I realized that a lot of them actually didn’t make a difference. The four that I narrowed it down to – and you can have more than one – are, number one, to be early to a space. Second one is who you know, so it’s your network. Third is who knows you, so it’s your audience. The fourth is growth expertise; it’s how much expertise you have growing a company. It was fun. It was a little short, 20-minute talk; and I felt like, hopefully, it gave people ideas of stuff to be working on even if they don’t have a product yet; if they’ve already launched a product, how to try to get one of these in the space they’re in; or, to prepare for a future product that they’re launching.

One thing I meant to say, or I should’ve said, is that growth is not the end-all, be-all. Everyone doesn’t need to want to grow all the time. Of all people, we are the lifestyle startup crowd, right, where it’s like – I don’t build these startups just so they can grow. We build them so that we can have fun lives and we can have these great lifestyles. Even having faster SaaS growth in the title, I debated whether to do that, but that’s really what the talk happened to be about. If you’re out there and you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t really want super-fast SaaS growth,” that’s okay. This is just something that was there to help folks who maybe don’t want to travel a ‘long, slow SaaS ramp of death,’ or at least want to move along a little faster.

Mike [00:16:31]: Our next speaker was Tracy Osborn, and I think Tracy’s story was pretty interesting, because she has run both a funded and a non-funded startup. She ran WeddingLovely, and I think she called it something else earlier on. She had gotten funding from 500 Startups and was working on it then, and then later on – did she say that she took it private, or was it a spinoff of what she was doing based on that?

Rob [00:16:55]: It was the same company, so it was still funded, technically, the whole time; but she basically tried to run it like a bootstrapper, yeah.

Mike [00:17:02]: Right.

Rob [00:17:02]: So, once the funding was gone, she didn’t shut the company down. She was then just trying to make it profitable, which is not what people who give you funding really want.

Mike [00:17:09]: Right, yeah. I got the impression that the people who had given the funding, initially they were just like, “Okay, yeah. We’ve decided this is a failure, and we’re going to write it off at this point,” but she still took it forward. It was really interesting to see the contrast between how she approached it before when she had money versus when she didn’t later on.

Rob [00:17:29]: Yeah, I agree. The real takeaway from her talk wasn’t that funding is bad. It’s that flip-flopping between funding and bootstrapping with the same company is bad, because the priorities and the way you build the business is just so different. To be honest, I liked her talk in terms of the narrative. We go for about an 80-20 breakdown of actionable/tactical versus inspirational and narrative-driven, and hers was definitely in that 20 percent. Maybe we’re 90-10 in MicroConf most years, but hers was definitely in that 10 or 20 percent of a good story and seeing a lot of mistakes that she made. Just her perseverance. She kept calling herself in the talk. She’s like, “I was the cockroach that would not die, and I just have kept the company going.” It was an interesting story to hear and kind of a cautionary tale in terms of figure out if you’re going to be funded or bootstrapped and then go that direction.

One thing that I would add, though, is, again, there’s this in-between of fund strapping, where you can raise a small amount of funding, but it’s from people who understand you’re not going to go for that $50 million idea; because WeddingLovely is a wedding marketplace. In that case, you really do have to get big. You have to hit scale in order to make it work. She had just started, let’s say, a B-to-B SaaS app; and she took some funding, then decided to go bootstrapped. I actually think it could’ve worked a little better, but it’s neither here nor there. I just think it was an interesting story and pretty well told on the stage.

Mike [00:18:53]: Yeah, I think the two, main takeaways that I got out of it was, one, her references to being “the cockroach that just wouldn’t go away,” and saying, “Look. I’m going to buckle down, and I’m going to make this work, and I’m going to make this happen. Even if I get slapped down, I’m going to come back, and I’m going to do something else and try and figure out something to make it work.” I thought that level of sheer tenacity and perseverance was very admirable, because I don’t think that you see that a lot. I think that most people tend to throw the towel in just a little too early. Obviously, there’re times where you can take that too far, but it was interesting to see the level that she went to just to even be able to meet people. That was the other thing, the lengths that she went to in order to meet certain people that she knew would help make a difference in her business.

Rob [00:19:38]: Another session we did on the second day was kind of the surprise session that we had not announced. Patrick Collison, the cofounder of Stripe, showed up. He was just there for about 24 hours. He had said that he’d been following MicroConf for a couple years and that he really wanted to come check it out, which was obviously a big compliment to us, given that Stripe is a $5 billion company. They raised $260, $280 million. He’s just a powerful dude in Silicon Valley, even as young as he is, so it was neat to hear that we were on his radar at all and that he would take the time to come down. He met with a bunch of attendees. He got feature requests, ideas and all that stuff, but he did a 30-minute Q&A up onstage about the early days of Stripe.

I really liked how he talked. They bootstrapped that thing. That’s what probably none of us remember. He said they bootstrapped it until it hurt, and then when they eventually hit the point where they could not go any further, then they raised their first round.

Mike [00:20:30]: Yeah, I really liked the focus of them on their early days about what their customers were doing and how they were using the product. One of the things that he talked about was that, because Stripe is essentially an API that you make calls into, what they had very, very early on was they had it wired up so that whenever somebody made a call to one of their APIs, it would actually email them. Obviously, that is not going to scale long-term. Obviously, it can’t at this point. There’s no possible way that it could do that; but early on they were watching what people were doing, what data they were receiving and what sorts of errors people were getting and what data was being returned to them. It helped them focus in to figure out where people were having problems, so that they could determine, “Is the code bad? Do we need to fix that?” or, “Do we need to go back and update the help documentation?” “Do we need to update some example APIs, or example code that’s on the website?” and things like that. It was really interesting to see some of the technical engineering things that they were doing to essentially help them do that product development.

Rob [00:21:33]: As day two started coming to a close, we had Peter Coppinger from Teamwork.com, and he basically talked about their eight-year journey. It was even more than that, because they were a consulting firm before that, but it was about an eight-year journey of their SaaS app Teamwork, which is project management. They were doing consulting at the same time as they were launching it. Then they made a lot of mistakes. He said that, as a developer, really he still wants to code even though he’s the CEO of a 63-person company, and that he still does write some code for it. He talked about just the mistakes that he’s made over the year and how he thinks that they could’ve gotten to their present level, which is 12 million in ARR – he thinks he could’ve gotten there years earlier if they had started marketing sooner, if they had started sales sooner. He said, basically, if you have your head down for too long and are just pounding away at features and such and not looking outside, that you’re going to hurt the business.

Mike [00:22:25]: Yeah. I think that it was interesting to see the number of mistakes and the types of mistakes that they were making. The fact that they were still able to make it work is a testament to the type of product that they were building. I hesitate to say that everybody can make those types of mistakes and still be able to get to where they are. Obviously, there are different types of products and different markets, and they will naturally break out into varying levels of success, but it’s interesting to see the path and the growth curve. Then looking back at it, they can say in retrospect, “Oh, had we done X, Y or Z sooner, then that would’ve seriously helped us.” I think the one big thing is just the marketing side of things. They just paid so much attention to the code, because they were developers, and that’s what they were comfortable with. It wasn’t until they really started focusing and buckling down on the marketing side of things that things really started to take off for them.

Rob [00:23:17]: Yeah, I agree with you. I think a lot of folks, if they made the same mistake, would probably tank. Teamwork had that advantage of being in a big space, and they were there really early. I think it was like 2007, maybe, when they launched the SaaS app, somewhere around there.

Mike [00:23:32]: Yep.

Rob [00:23:32]: And being a SaaS project management product at that point, there was really – what – Basecamp? That’s the only other one I knew. I’m sure there were more, but I think that they did have the wind at their back, and I think Peter’s right. I think they’d be further along at this point if they had made the right choices, but even making those mistakes, they still survived; and not every business could do that. You’d probably need one of those big four, unfair advantages, if you’re going to make all those mistakes, in order to get to where they are.

Mike [00:23:58]: One thing that I thought was really interesting was the fact that they acquired the teamwork.com domain for – I think it was like $675,000. You look back at their growth curve, and you could see this definitive inflection point at about the time that they got that. I don’t think that a domain name is going to be the turning point for most businesses, but I think that in their specific situation, because of the type of software they were – and the previous domain, I think, was teamworkpm.net obviously, kind of an awful domain. They knew that. That was not even a question, but when they got the teamwork.com domain, it really gave them a level of validity and, I guess, authority that people looked at it and said, “Oh, you have teamwork.com. This must be a legit website and a legit app, so let me give it a shot,” versus previously, you look at teamworkpm.net, and it’s like, “Meh, I’m not so sure about this.”

Rob [00:24:49]: Yeah, I get the feeling – there were a couple questions during the talk, and then someone asked me about it later that evening. There was kind of some folks who I don’t know that they believed that the teamwork.com acquisition was the actual reason that the curve spiked up like that. What made it even muddier was that, like the slide – I think when the slide was converted, something happened where he had an arrow to where teamwork.com was acquired, and it was in the wrong place. So, it was hard to tell exactly the inflection point, if it was before or after the domain acquisition. If it was, that’s pretty crazy. That’s a huge deal, and if just getting the dotcom for your business did that, it really is kind of a vote for maybe ponying up some dollars for a domain name.

Mike [00:25:33]: But I also think that that’s just a matter of looking at the website and being able to explain, “Oh, this is teamwork.com.” If it’s a one- or two-word domain, it gives it that, I’ll say, air of authority –

Rob [00:25:45]: Yeah.

Mike [00:25:45]: – you know what I mean – for the larger enterprises, and you’re able to attract larger customers based on the name alone versus, as I said, teamworkpm.net. You’re not going to get Johnson & Johnson saying, “Hey, let’s dump a lot of money into this and sign up for a ton of accounts.” It’s just not going to happen.

Rob [00:26:00]: Right.

Rounding out our conference, the last speaker was Lars Lofgren. He ran growth for Kissmetrics for many years, and he’s spoken at MicroConf Europe in the past, actually. This year, he was talking about the three SaaS growth levers. I’ve seen parts of his talk before, and I really like it. I took a ton of notes from him. It was definitely one of my favorite talks of the two days, because it just reminded me of so many things that we should be doing at Drip, things that I’ve had in mind, or are on a list somewhere. It reminds me of how important they are.

The levers are: fixing your churn and then getting cohort expansion to work, which means expansion revenue as people are upgrading; and, finally, getting acquisition going. So, a lot of lessons from Lars. One of them that rocked people’s worlds is he talked about if you’re really going to try to grow this fast, have world-class churn before you scale. That means that you have product market fit and that you want your churn in the 2 to 3 percent range. He used this expression if you’re above 10 percent, your business is “on fire.” I’ve always liked that expression when he’s used it.

Mike [00:27:03]: And not in a good way either [laugh].

Rob [00:27:05]: Exactly. Exactly.

Mike [00:27:07]: Yeah. Some of the parts of his that I really liked was the fact that he looked at churn, and he said, “Here are all the different reasons why somebody might churn out.” Or, not all of them, but a bunch of them. Then he listed a bunch of churn reduction ideas. Then he categorized each of those and said, “These are bad. They’re just not going to help you.” Then, “These are marginal wins, and then these are major wins.” The things that fell under the “major wins” category was fixing your product onboarding; improving the value of the product; and then 30-, 60- and 90-day onboarding programs. It was really interesting that he broke those down. Then he said things like removing self-service cancellation. That just does not move the needle for you. But if you fix the product’s ability to onboard people, that’s a major, major win; and you’re going to be able to scale up very, very quickly because of that.

Rob [00:27:53]: Yeah, that’s what I liked, is that he called out these tactics that a lot of us might think to reduce to churn, but he said that basically covers up your churn problem. It doesn’t actually fix it. So, things like down-sells, or forced annual plans, et cetera, are not things that you want to do if you want to grow to this scale; because it just covers up the issue, and it will hurt your credibility long term. It hurts your brand, and people start thinking about you as just more of a fly-by-night company rather than someone who’s building something valuable for the long term.

Mike [00:28:22]: The other thing I really like that he pulled out was the fact that there’s a big difference between marketing and sales, and they can be at real odds with each other if you get to a point the marketing team is able to bring in a lot of people into the top of the funnel, but if sales can’t close those because the product is bad. He called it the “alligator funnel,” because you’ve got that top of the funnel, which is increasing, and then the sales are just flat and they’re not going anywhere. Then the marketing teams and the sales teams are essentially pointing the blame at each other, and you have this internal problem. The root cause is essentially because the product itself is just not able to do what the customers need it to do. That was a very interesting thing. I’d never heard that before.

Rob [00:29:03]: Overall, it was a nice ninth conference. I feel like we’re just starting to get the hang of this thing now.

Mike [00:29:07]: Yes. Only nine or ten more, and we’ll be good.

Rob [00:29:10]: We’ll be [laugh] – exactly. No, so it was good. A big thanks to everybody who attended. Obviously, thanks to our sponsors, and thanks to Zander for all the help in pulling it off. I don’t think we’d really still be doing MicroConf if we hadn’t found someone to help us put it together each year, because that takes a lot of the burden and the time investment off our shoulders.

Mike [00:29:29]: Yes, definitely a big thanks to Zander and everyone else who helped out. It’s very nice to have people like that on the team.

Rob [00:29:34]: And if this sounds interesting, we’re throwing another MicroConf in just a few months, July 31st and August 1st of 2016. We’ll be in Barcelona, Spain. If you’re interested, go to MicroConfEurope.com. There’s a little Drip widget in the lower right where you can enter your email address, and you’ll be one of the first people to hear about it.

Mike [00:29:53]: I think that about wraps us up this week. If you have a question for us, you can call it in to our voicemail number at 1.888.801.9690; or, you can email it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for “startups” and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

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