Episode 81 | An Outsourcing Success Story, HitTail and AuditShark Updates

Show Notes


[00:00] Rob: This is Startups For The Rest of Us: Episode 81.

[00:03] [music]

[00:11] Rob: 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.

[00:21] Mike: And I’m Mike.

[00:22] 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?

[00:27] Mike: I am reorganizing a billion things. [Laughter]

[00:30] Rob: Yeah.

[00:31] Mike: Mostly my to-do list and how I’m kind of managing things and how I’m assigning myself tasks and things like that. I started using and I’ll say I started playing around with Trello from Fog Creek a little bit.

[00:41] Rob: Yeah, I’ve heard — I’ve heard a lot about it. I’ve even heard it in like some non-techie podcast and such. People talking about the reason and when they said I’m like “Hey, wait a minute. That’s — that’s for us nerds, right?” Like normal people aren’t supposed to use that that kind of stuff. Some people are saying it’s pretty cool for like task management or to-do list management or how does it work?

[00:57] Mike: Yeah, it’s really good for list management of any kind. I mean they have — if you have like an organization that wants to manage a set of tasks or you have a project going on and you can do, I don’t want to say everything that you can do with and something like Basecamp because there’s obviously things that you can’t do but I think that it would be really good as either a supplement or you know, a compliment for Basecamp or possibly even a replacement. I’m not sure. I haven’t really taken to that extreme yet. You know, you can create this little card, basically a virtual card and you can move the cards around in the screen, you create all these different lists and you can put in votings or if you have something that you’re working on — and there’s a kind of goes in to like KanBan where you put things, if you have like a case for a new feature or something like that, you can have people voting on them. And you can make some of these things public, some of them private, et cetera. And then you can create organizations where, you know, you have your organization and then you can invite outside people to view the things that you’re working on.

[01:55] It’s really cool but it’s very much a horizontal application not so much for a cool application like FogBugz is a vertical and this could be use, you know, as you said not just by nerds but by pretty much anyone.

[02:06] Rob: Right. And when it first came out, you know, it was on Hacker News eight months ago like the day it launched and —

[02:12] Mike: Right.

[02:13] Rob: … it looked to me or it was either be just with the way it was discussed or the way it was positioned it looked like an agile development tool and I thought it was a project management thing for software projects. And so I kind of poked around it a little bit and then just bailed on it but the fact that people are now using it more as task management or to-do list management is actually intriguing to me because aside from pen and paper, I have never found a better way to manage my ongoing to-do list and I’ve tried pretty much everything. I mean I’ve tried GTD and Excel spreadsheets and I have a lot of stuff in FogBugz but that doesn’t work that great for me either. So if you actually get in and start using it, I may take a crack out of.

[02:50] Mike: One of the things that you can do in it is like you can take a FogBugz URL and paste it in to a card and then it will put like the little kiwi logo as a little button on top of that card and you could take the cards and you can drag them around and so you can — essentially reorder things so you know how if you’re looking at a project within FogBugz, like if everything has the same priority, you can’t really organize them within that priority for example but you could do that here.

[03:16] Rob: Yeah, you can in FogBugz but it’s not easy. You have to add —

[03:20] Mike: It’s kind of [Indiscernible].

[03:20] Rob: … you have to add another column that’s caught in it. It’s called like burn down or order of. It’s for agile development and they — I just added that in the last couple of years that wasn’t there for years. And then you add numbers. Yeah, it’s not a visual way to do it at all. So —

[03:32] Mike: Uh huh.

[03:33] Rob: That’s — that’s a nice touch then.

[03:34] Mike: Yup.

[03:35] Rob: I forgot to give something away at MicroConf.

[03:38] Mike: [Laughter]

[03:38] Rob: [Laughter] I e-mailed you this week and I was like “Why I just get this e-mail from Amazon that I’m getting a copy of Diablo III like [Laughter] I didn’t order this. I haven’t played video games in years and we were just going to give away the, you know, obviously there was no box or anything because Diablo III just came out yesterday. So we’re going to give it away in spirit and then send it to someone later. We forgot to do that. So we’re going to run a contest on the podcast here. [04:00] I should have this box in my hand I think today actually. So we are seeking topic suggestions for future podcasts, topics that we haven’t already covered and the 15th topic. We’re going to randomly choose that topic. The 15th topic suggestion we get is going to get this copy of Diablo III assuming you actually want it.

[04:17] Mike: It sounds good. And I think we’ll —

[04:19] Rob: We’re having this to send us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Hey, did you meet Glen Germaine at MicroConf?

[04:25] Mike: Yeah, I did.

[04:26] Rob: Yeah. So he had e-mailed in and he runs mypractice.net.au but he asked a pretty detailed questions. You know what? He did e-mail in and it was a long e-mail that basically outlined our entire episode on the outsourcing, on outsourcing to developers. So you never recorded that episode and he took that information, that advice and he actually went and put it in to play. And so he flies in from New Zealand to the Vegas for MicroConf which was just awesome. So he took like 25 hours of time. And then he introduced himself to me and told me the whole story of like how he had used our advice and how it worked out pretty well for him.

[05:01] And so I was going to talk about it today anyways but then I noticed it looks like you already have him in the list like he wrote us an e-mail and kind of summarized his outsourcing experience.

[05:10] Mike: Yeah, he did. I verify it for as a lot of what he said. Basically looked at everything that we laid out in episode 64 and then first step that he went through is he placed the job on oDesk for a Dot Net Developer. And since it was his first hire, he decided to keep tight range on the entire process. So he created it as private instead of doing it publicly so only the people who he wanted to invite would have be able to apply. And he sent invitations to about 20 candidates and then received 12 applications out of those. And I think that I had talked about it before and the last time I went through this process for Dot Net Developer, I got something like 80 or 90 applications in the first 24 hours. I had considered making it private and just inviting people but then I decided to just go ahead and make it public just based on, you know, what people’s availability might be.

[05:54] But what he did was he went and he limited the search for the people who were in the Eastern Asia region because he wanted somebody who’s close to his time zone because, obviously, he lives in New Zealand. And he also limited the search to people who rated themselves a four or five in English proficiency it’s because he wanted somebody who had really good communication skills and then he set up a Google calendar with a range of times over the course for about a week and invited all twelve of the applicants to a Skype interview. And of those twelve people, two of them didn’t have microphones so he just kind of rolled them out. And then in going to this process, what he found was that the radium for the English proficiency was basically pointless because until he actually talk to somebody, you know, looking at their e-mails is one thing but talking to them is a completely different story.

[06:42] So, he spent about ten or twenty minutes doing each of the Skype interviews. And it wasn’t really technical interview he was doing. It was just kind of get a feel for them and their ability to communicate and he judged their technical ability based on some of the previous projects they did. And he said that it only took him three or four minutes on Skype to be able to rule out a lot of the applicants and identify those who really stood out. And at the end, he had two of them who stood out and he, you know, he offered the job to the first who’s his first choice and that first choice took the job. And then he just set up a time and said, “Look, we’ll try this out for four weeks and then we’ll kind of review how things are going.” And so far he said he’s been really pleased with the quality of work and everything else has been a complete success and you know, the rate that they agreed on was $12 an hour.

[07:25] Rob: And that’s awesome, right? It’s like an article success story —

[07:27] Mike: I know, I know.

[07:27] Rob: … that he actually took all of these and put it in to play because when he wrote, he had concern — I mean tons of concerns about the process, understand and please so. It’s not super simple and he handled it really well. But he also had concerns because his — his app is complex. He can’t afford to hire someone full time to work on it and he was concerned that it would take him as much time to explain the task as it would for him to do it but he basically said no, all like all that’s behind him and everything is — everything is working out great. So, awesome. Nice job, Glen. I’m really and — and you know what? It makes me feel really good because it’s like we invest time and effort in doing this podcast and it’s like no one is actually — I know people are listening to but if no one is actually implementing it, then there really isn’t a huge point. So to hear success stories like this is really encouraging.

[08:08] Mike: Yeah, definitely.

[08:09] [music]

[08:12] Rob: I’ve been spending the past it’s been about a week and a half. It’s pretty much since I got back from MicroConf making HitTail support Chinese characters. I had a bunch of cancellations or handful of cancelations several months ago when I re-launched it. And people were canceling because it wouldn’t support like even basic Eastern Europe or Western Europe like Umlaut and you know, it’s pretty simple unicode stuff. And so I got that dialed in fairly quickly but to get to support Chinese characters and Chinese search engines is a lot of work. Let me just say it’s way more work than I thought it would be.

[08:45] It’s basically trial and error and you know twelve hours into something I finally figured it out. And I also figured out that like Java script and DB script, Classic ASP, they cannot handle certain types of encodings. They just aren’t completely not built to support it whereas Dot Net can with one liner code can basically translate between every encoding anyone is using in the search engines. So I actually had to resort to some crazy Hackage and I have Classic ASP Calling .NET at one point.

[09:14] Mike: Are you serious?

[09:16] Rob: Yeah.

[09:16] Mike: Really?

[09:16] Rob: And COM Interop, yeah.

[09:17] Mike: Oh.

[09:17] Rob: I know it’s brutal. It’s not actually that complicated to do but it was just the last resort because you know, there’s that barriers that’s going to be performance ahead on it. I tried to do Ajax and just have Java script call in to an ASPX page but there was cross domain issues there because there’s security implication. So all that to say I genuinely was like Chinese characters, all I need to do is get an nvarchar, you know, unicode column in my database and I’m all set. And that was completely, completely wrong. So it took me about two twelve-hour days. So I’m almost 24 hours of work and then there’s still some little like little bugs, maybe 1 out of 10, 1 out of 15 are coming through which is weird encoding. So luckily, I’m able to knock those out now but it’s such a monumental effort, dude. Not only just to support all the characters but to like to deal with, you know, search engine query strings and it feels good to almost be done.

[10:06] Mike: That’s kind of crazy. I can’t imagine, you know, having to support Chinese characters. I mean it’s do you get a lot of requests to your site from Chinese websites?

[10:15] Rob: Yeah, well that’s the thing is, I mean I would not have spent a time on this if I hadn’t. I actually had a couple of people cancelled because it wouldn’t support it and then I have a site on deck who’s basically going to be, you know, if he comes on board there — probably my first and “enterprise customer” that just have a huge website. It’s a consumer web facing website but it’s China and it gets, oh to say gets millions of hits per month and since my pricing is cured based on the number of visits you get, it’s, you know, several thousand dollars in monthly revenue if I’m able to get him onboard.

[10:47] Mike: Wow.

[10:47] Rob: So that was almost exclusively, the reason I spent so much time getting this done. And now I’ll see if he actually, you know, comes through and gives it a shot and everything but I had originally hope, oh, I’m going to bang this on for hours and then you know, get him using it but obviously it took longer than that. So hopefully, it still comes through.

[11:05] Mike: Uh huh. Cool. Earlier, I started using Trello a little bit and one of the other things that I did to kind of reorganize some of the things that I’ve been doing is I created a virtual users in FogBugz. Have you ever done that?

[11:18] Rob: I haven’t. Are they users that you don’t get charge for?

[11:22] Mike: Yes. You basically —

[11:23] Rob: When’s that –

[11:24] Mike: You create these virtual users and they don’t have a log-in. They can’t actually get in. It’s typically use for assigning cases to like a group or to this queue that is unassigned that hasn’t been kind of taken by anybody and people can just kind of pop them off and start working on them as they get time or whatever. What I did was I actually took a bunch of cases that were in there and created virtual accounts for several, the different things that I’m working on and took all the things that were assigned to me and assigned them off to these virtual users and the idea being that once I get to the point where I’ve hired somebody to actually performed these tasks, then I’ll just basically take them and reassigned them to that user and set up to this virtual user.

[12:04] Rob: Yeah, that’s a nice way to do it just to get things off your plate and kind of clear it up. Now is one of your tasks that you’ve added to your task list to hire someone to do that.

[12:12] Mike: Yeah, it was three of four different virtual users that I added and in exchange for adding those three of four new cases to my queue I got to offload like 250 things.

[12:22] Rob: Now, that’s nice. Are they development tasks or should they more VA like admin staff or is it a mix and you actually need to create an admin user and a development user and …

[12:31] Mike: No, most of it is development task to be honest.

[12:34] Rob: Got it.

[12:34] Mike: I’ve been considering adding an account for the VA that I use but I don’t know. I have reservations about paying an extra 25 or $30 a month for a VA to use FogBugz if they’re not doing like support task, you know.

[12:46] Rob: Right. If it’s just simple one off step, you can e-mail it anyways it might…

[12:49] Mike: Right, yeah.

[12:51] Rob: I think this is a really good exercise that if someone is using any type of project management software, they start assigning stuff to a non-existent person and it — it’s like future VA. That’s actually a pretty good exercise to see what you think you could outsource. I have to do this about every 30 to 60 days, I have a calendar reminder that pops up and it says, “Go to your task list and take off everything that you don’t want to do, you’ve been procrastinating on. It’s been on there longer than a few weeks and try to assign that to someone.” And so it’s an exercise I go through because I always fall back in to the trap of wanting to do everything myself. This is an intriguing way to do it and if you’re managing or introducing with FogBugz anyways, it’s certainly would work.

[13:29] Mike: Yeah, we’ll — I think the problem that I ran in to was just that there were so many cases assigned to me that I’m looking at and I’m trying to figure out, “Okay. What should I be working on next?” And there’s just this massive pile of things that need to get done and it’s almost back to that and mountain of stuff that you’ve got no idea where to start. And I just look at the number of cases assigned to myself and it’s just like this is way too much. I’ve got to figure out some way to whittle this down the things that are, the important things that I need to be working on versus the things that I could presumably there outsource or have somebody else do. And it actually gave me a much better perspective on the things that I’m able to outsource. So in doing this, I created these other virtual users and it gives me this basis to be able to say, yes, I have enough work to be able to keep somebody busy doing these things for the next three weeks or three months or whatever.

[14:19] Rob: I set up a HitTail affiliate program and it’s through Ambassador, getambassador.com. And I wanted to find out what your thoughts are on the percentage, a fair percentage of recurring revenue. So HitTail, you know, it’s like 10 bucks a month or 20 bucks a month for kind of the bottom two plans and it goes up from there based on traffic. But I’ve seen, you know, you see web host where they give the big payment upfront it’s the $50 or $100 bounty to sign up but I’d almost prefer to do, you know, just a percentage of the recurring revenue because I think it’s a nice thing to be able to offer to people. Most affiliate programs don’t do that. So I’m bouncing around. I feel like 15% is probably as low as it can go and still be reasonable, you know, still want make people want to — want to promote it at all. And I feel like going over 30% is probably tough. It’s, you know, just tougher for the margin right to give right off the top to just someone. So I’m — I think — I’m thinking I’m going to start it around 25% and move it based on feedback I get and …

[15:21] Mike: I don’t know to me, you know, 30% seems low but at the same time it is recurring revenue so it’s not really just 30% and that lifetime value could theoretically be fairly high. So —

[15:32] Rob: Right. That’s — that’s the thing when you’re selling an eBook, you know, it’s typically between 30 and 50% that — that you’d see on commission but this is obviously, you know, a much higher lifetime value. But I don’t know if everyone will understand that or not. I’d just I feel like giving away 40 or 50% of our top line revenue.

[15:49] Mike: Yeah.

[15:49] Rob: It is a top sell for me to do it.

[15:51] Mike: That seems — yeah, I think 40 or 50% seems high for a SAS app, you know, on that recurring model. You know, it’s I would think that 20 or 25% would be reasonable.

[15:59] Rob: Uh huh. Yeah. And that’s what I think. I think a webber and lot of like MailChimp and those or in that range as well. So, you know, the lucky thing is that since I’m small, I can still make adjustments pretty quickly. Obviously grandfather and people and who get sales but it’s like and it seems like it’s too much or too little. It is enough to make adjustments. So, I think I’m going to start at 25.

[16:19] Now, this is mostly, I mean, so Ambassadors mostly they’re trying to give affiliate marketing a good name. It’s essential with their doing. It’s mostly for like your customers to market your app. It’s actually pretty cool idea. And so if you go to, to getambassador.com, I know the guys who owns it but I really like the tool and the thing is that it makes it feel not like someone is slapping your product but like they’re genuinely excited about it. Although I do have a public facing there’s, you know, if you go to HitTail.com there’s an affiliates link in the very bottom footer but more than that I’m going to be promoting it inside, you know, once you’ve signed up and you’ve actually become a paying customer.

[16:53] It’s those people who really do have a good testimonial to give. And so Ambassador allows me to just kind of pop something up to those folks that says “Hey, you know, here’s – your link is or you’re already signed up because you are customer and if you put this Facebook link, then, you know, it’ll just post it on your wall. If you click this Twitter thing, it’ll post it to your Twitter feed or whatever.” So the people do want to promote it, they don’t really have to. It’s not like they’re true affiliate marketers when they have this big list. They really just want to kind of talk about it to their friends and that’s more of the – of the goal that Ambassador facilitate. So …

[17:22] Mike: Right.

[17:23] Rob: It also serves as a public facing affiliate program too. So it’s – it’s an interesting – interesting experiment. I have it had good luck in the past with – with affiliate programs like with DotNetInvoice and there was one other product that I – that I tried it on and it was just kind of – it was kind of to me, you know, just the results for were so-so and it was more work that it was worth.

[17:41] Mike: Yeah. I think that was definitely a good potential for this as opposed to some other things that maybe get lower traffic or that you don’t necessarily have people involved a lot more with the products.

[17:52] Rob: Yeah. Like it’s too tight of a niche other products or if you really tightly niche it that almost a question if it works as well as something like this where a lot of more people could use it.

[18:01] Mike: Like for example, one thing that I think would not work well is something like QuickBooks, you know, it’s –

[18:06] Rob: Got it.

[18:06] Mike: … a horrible  application and everyone uses it but it’s not like anybody is really invested in the success of the product, I mean, nobody cares, you know –

[18:16] Rob: Right.

[18:17] Mike: … it’s in to it, you know, who cares about how they do.

[18:21] Rob: Right. Right.

[18:22] Mike: So you’ll definitely have to let us know how that goes.

[18:23] Rob: Yeah, I will. I will. I’ve already – it’s already all implemented. It just a matter of fitting it in to my marketing queue because I want to, you know, let the customers know about it and kind of do a little campaign around it. So, should be here in the next month or so.

[18:35] Mike: Cool.

[18:36] Rob: Do you have an AuditShark update?

[18:38] Mike: So, one of the things that I did at MicroConf was I walked around and I had these little business cards that I had created that I printed out, you know, they just basically had a space for a name and e-mail address and it just said “Yes, I would pay X dollars a month for that.” And one of the things that I’ve been looking at over the past couple of months was whether I’m really going in the direction that I want to go with my – with AuditShark and to – I guess to give you a better idea of what I was looking at was I was actually considering going after funding for it. And, you know, I talked to different people, you know, whether the idea was fundable or not, it was told that basically, you know, it is a fundable idea. I knew people who could introduce me to the right people but it wasn’t something I really wanted to do.

[19:21] What I was trying to figure out whether or not going in the direction of banks was even, you know, something that was going to be ultimately viable and more for my goals and anything else. I mean I know that I could get to them and talk to them but it would almost require that I have money. And it’s just – it’s gotten to the point over the past six or six months or so that I just – I don’t really want to go in that direction anymore. And part of it came about because of looking it, talking to some of the different banks and getting some of their feedback and, you know, figuring out who it is that they deal with.

[19:50] So, what I’ve been trying to figure out is, you know, what do I want to do with AuditShark? I’ve got this great utility that can go out and gather information, is there a way that I could essentially turn it into SAS model where I’m going after I guess smaller dollar sizes versus smaller number of customers we have but with large dollar amounts because, you know, the examples I’ve used in the past were if you have, you know, 80 or 50 or 100 machines then it’s $5 a month per machine and, you know, you’ll look at that and you’re talking to 400, $500 price tag which almost requires that you go talk to these people in person.

[20:26] So, what I’ve been looking at is well, okay, cool. How can I turn this around a little bit and maybe charge $25 a month for a single machine and go after a much larger audience, you know, because obviously HitTail is kind of in the same ballpark in terms of pricing. I mean, you charge anywhere from –

[20:44] Rob: 10 bucks. $9.95 and it goes up, up in to —

[20:46] Mike: Yeah.

[20:47] Rob: … in to the hundreds.

[20:48] Mike: Okay. So, I was looking at doing possibly the same sort of thing and I’m like well, how can I kind of twist this around and then I went to talk to some people at MicroConf and I actually got commitments from people to pay me $350 a month for it, the total.

[21:02] Rob: With total, right. Not each.

[21:04] Mike: So, but basically the idea would be that, you know, they were concerned about the security of the web servers, you know, are things configured correctly, are there ways that people could get in? Are there vulnerabilities on my web server? And Adii had actually talked about getting hacked at MicroConf, I mean, that was one of the – I don’t want to say it was the – the whole theme of his talk but, you know, it seriously affected his business. I mean, and getting hacked like that can completely put you out of business. And the people I talked to were kind of worried about that and one of them had actually said “Oh, when I heard you were taking AuditShark to bank, I was a little disappointed because it sounded like it was something that I could use.”

[21:41] So, just in discussing it with them, you know, I got three different people to basically put down “Yes, I would be willing to pay for that if you came out with it and, you know, ended at me as a target customer.” And so I’m looking at possibly shifting things over and going after the market of people who have web servers  that they want to make sure it locks down.

[22:02] Rob: Okay. Cool. So, you’re talking about doing a pivot then. You’re talking about taking the same code base. You obviously need to make some changes but it’s not like some completely, right?

[22:10] Mike: Right.

[22:11] Rob: And doing a market, essentially market pivot, you’re solving a different problem

[22:16] Mike: Uh huh.

[22:17] Rob: Right? A related problem but it’s a different problem for different market. How many people combined into that 350? Is that three people or four people?

[22:25] Mike: Just three.

[22:26] Rob: Okay. So, are you going to, yeah, so I guess the next step in my head would be to talk to more people, right?

[22:32] Mike: Right.

[22:32] Rob: It’s like three people is great but –

[22:33] Mike: Yup.

[22:34] Rob: … are you going to talk to more people and how do you find those people? Because when you’re at the conference, that’s awesome, but, you know, you’re only going to be at conference once or twice a year but, you know, kind of what’s — what’s the marketing channel that you would look at finding more of these people?

[22:46] Mike: What I’ve done in the past was – and I was looking for something a while back when I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go with this. One of the questions I’d asked on my blog was about WordPress security because I was considering at that point going and, you know, auditing machine specifically for a WordPress vulnerabilities or examining the files and stuff that were on those machines for permissions error, some things like that. And I got a fairly reasonable response from just my blog, so I think that’s probably the first thing that I’m going to do is I’m going to put it on, on my blog and say “Hey, is this something that you’d be interested in and just go to Wufoo.com and just create a very quick little survey and just post it there.” And see what kind of response I get from people and see if there’s a genuine interest there because what I’d really like to do is get commitments from at least ten people before I actually decide to go in that direction.

[23:33] Rob: Right. And obviously the podcast if there are any listeners out there, I could announce it on the next episode and Twitter and all that. Yeah, so that’d be – that’s probably a pretty good first step for getting that customer development started. So you want ten commitments, is that what you’re saying?

[23:45] Mike: So, looking – definitely looking for ten. Obviously if I can get more than, that’s great. It’s just more of a testimonial that I’m on the right track with that idea and that it’s something that people are genuinely interested in doing.

[23:54] Rob: Right. How do you know that what you’re describing to each of these people is what they are imagining?

[24:01] Mike: One of the issues with the banks was just that “Oh, well. It kind of was what they needed but they still wanted that third party person to come in and whereas I was looking to replace them. I think that the people that who would be reading my blog and, you know, listening to this podcast quite frankly or probably a bit more technical than managers of banks, you know, the other thing that I’d be looking at is the target market is probably people who don’t, not necessarily spend a time and effort but they’re concern enough that they want to spend the time but they don’t want to spend the time. You know what I’m saying?

[24:30] Rob: Sure. Yeah. They’re concern if that they want it done but they don’t have the time. They want to outsource that time to hopefully an app.

[24:36] Mike: Right.

[24:36] Rob: Because they had gear  rather outsourced it to you through the app.

[24:39] Mike: Right.

[24:40] Rob: That make sense. Are these enterprise folks that you’re talking to –

[24:43] Mike: No.

[24:43] Rob: Let’s say that you talked to twenty people and you get ten commitments or however many people you talked to, you get these ten commitments that you want and so out of the gate hopefully most of them come through so you have a nice, you know, small chunk of recurring revenue when you launch. From there, you know, you’ll want obviously a scalable marketing channel of some kind and you have plenty of time to figure that out but I’m wondering if these guys aren’t enterprise kind of what is the marketing channel beyond the blog and the podcast and Twitter because that was – that was going to run out pretty quick where you think you might be able to go from there.

[25:14] Mike: I’m still kind of working that out because I mean I really want to see if it’s something that people are interested in and if so, then trying to figure out how to reach them.

[25:21] Rob: So, it’s more of a build something people want. If they want it, they’re willing to pay for then you’ll – and if it’s – if the price point is enough, frankly you can afford to do even do some outbound stuff and more medium and, I don’t know, hi-tech sales but yeah, at least medium to higher tech sales.

[25:36] Mike: Right. I can still go to outside consulting companies who do manage services for example for some of their customers and one that comes to mind is the company down in Providence where I’ve talked to them a little bit about AuditShark kind of early on and they have this established customer based where they’re bringing in, I forget what it was. It was like six or eight million dollars a year where all they’re doing is manage services for all these different companies that are in that area.

[26:02] And, you know, one of the things that they don’t really do or do well is checking the machines for security. So, like people’s web servers and things like that and they would definitely be able to leverage that in to their customers. Something else that somebody had mentioned to me was they’re like “Hey, if this was like an add on from my hosting provider and for an extra 20 or $30 a month or something like that, you could check my server to make sure that it’s not configured in a manner that it’s, you know, terrible for security then, you know, that’s almost seems like a no brainer to me to just say, oh yeah, I’ll take this option for an extra 49.95 a month.”

[26:41] So that really there’s a lot of different ways it could go. It’s just kind of getting to the point where I have people who say “Yes, this is something I’m definitely interested in.” And then kind of going after it. But I want to make sure that that demand is there first.

[26:53] Rob: Right. So, right now, you have the blog and the podcast, you have your consulting work, your – you’re still working on the form software AuditShark, anything else?

[27:05] Mike: The AltirisTraining.com site.

[27:06] Rob: AltirisTraining.com. Okay. [Laughter] Remember when Hiten Shah — [Laughter]

[27:10] Mike: Yes.

[27:11] Rob: Remember when he said focus? Now, I’m the pot calling the kettle black here because I work on too many things.

[27:15] Mike: I know. It’s funny that you mentioned focus because literally just last night, I printed out in, I forget if it was 160 or 260 point fund. The word focus with an exclamation point and I’ve got two of them hung up in my office right now that I can see from here. [Laughter]

[27:29] Rob: Got it. Okay. So, is Altiris Training still going to happen or you’re going to move forward with that or you’re going to put it in the form on hold while you do the AuditShark stuff.

[27:39] Mike: I’m not doing much of anything for the form software right now and then with the Altiris Training’s website, most of the legwork for that has been done. I have to post some videos, I have to sign up for, you know, a Wistia account. I actually had somebody go sign up for it and they couldn’t complete the process of signing up for it because I didn’t have everything configured right. So I have to go back to that person and see if they’re still willing to sign up but, you know, that stuff is I think still going to move forward. I don’t see any issues there. I mean, I think I’ll spend maybe an hour or two a week building out some of the content but other than that, I’ll be able to outsource a lot of having that posted to the site and basically integrating all the content. My sole responsibility will basically be to record it and then kind of maintain the SEO progress.

[28:24] Rob: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. It’s the marketing I’m more concern about because I know you can automate almost everything except for this green cast but getting enough people there to make it, you know, worth your time and to kind of grow the business.

[28:34] Mike: But I also have somebody who’s the company I do consulting for or through, they’re willing to put it out to their customers. I already have somebody lined up to pay for as soon as it’s done. So I’ve got a $500 sale basically sitting there waiting for me just as soon as I’m done.

[28:48] Rob: Nice.

[28:49] Mike: I am juggling a lot. I’m trying to figure out, you know, and that was part of the things that I’ve been doing over the past week to try and figure out how I’m going to get better organized and kind of get more things done with less effort.

[29:01] Rob: Right. You know, I have this rule that I go back to people say, you know, “Rob, you’re totally unfocused because you work on all these things at the same time.” But the secret that I have is that I never build two apps at once like if I buy an app, I stop pretty much everything else I’m doing except for the blog and the podcast. And I work on that app. And I work and work and work and then once I’m done, like once I feel like it’s in a good place, I find some good people to do the development, to do the support and, you know, sometimes the marketing and then boom, you kind of pass it off and then I watch it and then as fires come up I’ll have to deal with the stuff. But I never tried to build two businesses at once or two products at once because I find it just – it’s just too hard.

[29:41] Mike: I’ll be honest, I’m kind of in a position right now where I – I know that building the things that I’m building right now is going to be too difficult to manage building all of them at the same time. So I’m trying to pipeline them a little bit where I’ve got AuditShark in a position where I’ve got a developer who’s working on some back end utilities and code for it and I’m doing more the upfront customer development to make sure that when, let’s say down the road in a month or so, I get to the point where I say “Yeah, I want to go in this direction and this is something I’ve at least proved out the concept, the people are willing to pay for it then I can switch over to working on that a little bit more and hit it more on the marketing side.

[30:021] But for the time being I’m spending probably more time doing marketing for the form software for Altiris Training. Because the Altiris Training stuff, I don’t feel like I have to do a lot of marketing because there are such little search engine traffic for it, I think that a lot of it is going to be driven by either word of mouth or by direct sales which that stuff is essentially being handed off for me, anyway. I don’t have to necessarily worry about that stuff. So I’m in this weird situation where everything is kind of bit a different stage and right now it’s manageable and my concern is that things catch up to one another.

[30:54] Rob: Yeah. If everything ramps up at one and then you’re like you’re in over your head

[30:58: Mike: Yeah, that’s my biggest worry right now, is that when something catches up with something else.

[31:02] Rob: Right. So are you planning by next week show then or do you think you’ll have done more of this customer development research for AuditShark?

[31:10] Mike: I will definitely have created the survey and put it out there. I don’t know how many of the results I’ll have by then. What I’m actually thinking of doing is not putting the survey out to my site until this episode goes live so that when people listen to the episode, if they have some thoughts on it or if they actually want to come check out the survey and take the survey then they can go to the survey and check it out. I’m sure that I’ll just launch it straight from my blog and I can put in just a note in the show notes this episode that’d be pretty quick and painless to do.

[31:37] Rob: Yeah. Sounds good.

[31:38] [music]

[31:40] Rob: So I know we intended to answer listener questions.

[31:43] Mike: [Laughter]

[31:44] Rob: But we basically have just given some updates. I think we wrap up this episode and then maybe next week we have – looks like we had four questions queued up and we usually have 20 something in the pipeline.

[31:56] Mike: Yeah, we’ll definitely do listener questions next time. If you have a question or comment, you can call it on our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. If you enjoyed this podcast, you can subscribe in iTunes by searching Startups or via our RSS at StartupsfortheRestofUs.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of this episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time. 

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6 Responses to “Episode 81 | An Outsourcing Success Story, HitTail and AuditShark Updates”

  1. hi Rob,

    I am from China and have done programming to handle Chinese characters. Normally, you would use UTF-8 to store them, or, you could use GB18030 standard.

    Anyhow, if you have any question regarding Chinese characters, I can help on that.

    Also, if you need translation from English to Chinese, let me know and I could help for sure also.

  2. By the way, if you want to look into SEO effort for Chinese search engines like Baidu etc, I can help on that too 😉

  3. Hi Rob,

    I am curious to find out how you see HitTail holding up to Google’s usage of an interstitial to hide keywords from (non-Adwords, non-Analytics Premium) websites.


    • It’s reduced the number of suggestion we can provide by around 10%. That’s a bummer, but not a business killer. Obviously if they eliminate them altogether then HitTail (and a whole slew of other keyword tools) would be out of business overnight. But I don’t foresee that happening soon. For now I bet we’ll lose another few percentage points of suggestions in the coming months.

  4. Was listening in to this podcast, and heard the pain points about the varios task management options and thought I’d chime in with an alternative called [Asana](http://asana.com/). I found it after trying a rather exhaustive collection of task/project management apps, and it fits my workflow rather well. It has four tiers of categorization, including delegation and task sharing. Workspaces allow me to bin activities by business area: TechGame, Household, Consulting Customers. Within each workspace you can categorize by project, tags, or by assigned person. See if it works for you!

  5. Mike,

    You mention your discussion with Adii and the thought of how AuditShark might be useful to outside consulting companies who do managed services for their customers. I think this is a great idea and potentially a good market for you. The prevailing management system for IT consulting companies in the US is a product Connectwise. They have a pretty robust parnter program. We’ve used Connectwise for years and I have a good relationship with them. I’ll send you a more detailed email on the subject. Best!