Episode 89 | Marketing First Steps, To Code or Not To Code, To Cloud or Not To Cloud, and Other Listener Questions


[00:00] Rob: If you stick around to the end of this episode of Startups For The Rest of Us, you’ll hear us talk about whether you should pay someone to build your app or learn how to code, figure out how you find datasets you need for an application and talk about the best ways to leverage cloud offerings. This is Startups For The Rest of Us: Episode 89.

[00:18] [Music]

[0:00:27] 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.

[00:36] Mike: And I’m Mike.

[00:37] 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?

[00:42] Mike: I’m a little disappointed. I think I might have to seriously consider letting go one of my contractors.

[00:47] Rob: Really? Is it a developer?

[00:49] Mike: Yeah, it’s unfortunate. It’s a new relationship. It’s not like he’s been with me for like two or three months or whatever but he started about a week ago. And so far he has yet to actually log any time in oDesk. I mean he keeps telling me about this work he’s doing and is it okay if he comes in some hours offline for offline work or whatever but he’s like, “Oh, I don’t feel comfortable using the oDesk tools that track my time because I feel like it puts pressure on me.” [Laughter] That’s kind of what I used to —

[01:13] Rob: That’s a bad sign.

[01:13] Mike: … make sure. I know.

[01:14] Rob: Yeah.

[01:14] Mike: I know.

[01:15] Rob: Yup. I mean I probably — over the years, I have probably had between twenty and thirty contractors work for me through oDesk. That is a big red flag for me. And I know sure there may be one in twenty people who do that and really aren’t comfortable with it but it just — I don’t know. That is the reason we use oDesk, right? It’s so you — if during those initial weeks you do get some insight in to what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

[01:35] Mike: So I don’t know. If it doesn’t straighten out and resolve itself, probably by Friday, I think I’m probably going to pull the plug if it doesn’t resolve itself rather quickly.

[01:44] Rob: Yeah, I had to something similar just a couple of weeks ago. I had a developer helping me out with some classic ASP work on HitTail and he was a good developer and he was — he picked up the code really quick which is, you know, a fit because the code is not — it’s not well-architected and he was doing a good job but he just wasn’t putting enough time. He was putting in like two to three hours a week or three to four hours a week and I wanted him for ten to fifteen. And there was always something that was coming up, you know, in his other work. “Oh, the servers all crashed. I have to rebuild them.” I was like, “Okay.” And then the second week it was something else and sure enough we were six weeks in and he’s still averaging like, you know, four or five or six hours a week. So I had to pull the plug as well. So luckily my ASP work has slowed down so I may — I may just be able to scrape through with .NET deal we have at this point.

[02:29] Mike: Uh huh, cool.

[02:30] Rob: Hey, so we have a few new iTunes reviews. We have Quentin at Newbie who says, “This is a great podcast for developers or other creative types looking to use their skills to bootstrap a business. It’s great hearing about the ups and downs, successes and challenges with your own projects that you guys discuss. Thanks and keep up the good work.” And then Thomas Benos he said, “Great work. Rob, Mike, I really appreciate what you do, very good content.” So we greatly appreciate iTunes reviews. Mike was just telling me we’re up over 200 reviews globally which is just awesome. So if you haven’t given us some review, you know, we’d really appreciate a five star. Log in to iTunes, search in for Startups and checking us out.

[03:09] [Music]

[03:12] Rob: So today’s episode we’re going to be diving in to some listener questions. We have several on deck and we will see how many we can go through in our time constraint. The first question is how to do marketing for your startup and it’s from Luis Buenaventura. And he says, “Hi, Rob and Mike. I’m not sure if you guys have taken a marketing question recently but I wanted to ask if you could give some specific first steps towards marketing a young startup. My startup Infinite.ly which is Infinite.ly is a tool kit for small business owners. So I’m not sure if we generate the kind of content that would be useful for SEO something that Rob talks about quite a bit on his blog. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Cheers, Luis.” And I went and check out Infinte.ly and it — at least at this point, it’s a landing page and there are super simple way to get a website up. So you can just like kind of type in a domain in to their form and build a web page in 60 seconds or less. I imagine they’re going to have additional things that they’re going to add over the years but they are very horizontal. So it’s a pretty broad market at this point.

[04:17] Mike: I think that my first take on would be that in terms of SEO, everything here is all in one page and I understand that maybe it’s just because it’s in beta right now and there’s not a lot that you want to talk about but I think the biggest red flag to me is that it’s really just a one page. I mean there’s no — almost no way to get any good SEO benefits out of it. The second thing that I would say is that in looking at it says choose a domain name and build a web page in 60 seconds or less and that’s kind of the title at the top. And that doesn’t seem to me like it’s loaded with any sort of keywords that would lands you any traffic. So I think that between the two of those things, it’s really hard to promote the site and get any sort of traction through, you know, some of the classic SEO methods that we talked about. I think that, you know, there is a link to a blog and say hello which I assume is just a contact page but the blog is even on its own sub domain. So that’s going to end going to a completely different page and just kind of reviewing some of the things on the blog. There’s not a lot there that would relay to the product itself.

[05:19] I mean the second post that I’m looking at here is talks about Diablo 3 and the Philippines Startup Community and that has absolutely nothing to do with the product. So that blog isn’t getting any kind of help for the product itself. And you know, those are the kind of things that I would look at first. I would probably take some — build some content around solving the problem itself that your product is trying to address. So for example putting up a landing page, create a couple of articles on how to build a landing page, why you would do it, what are the benefits, what are the down sides, what are the problems that people run in to and set those up. It’s kind of an educational area of the site and link to those from your main page and then use those to drive traffic back to the main page and say, “Hey, if you’re interested in this particular type of product that will solve that problem, sign up here.”

[06:07] Rob: Yeah, I think the first step in to trying to market this app is to figure out who really needs it like very, very specifically who needs it and whether that means you actually niche the app and you say this app, it is for small restaurants who want a website or whether you just realized that small brick-and-mortar businesses are going to be more attracted to this business but you really need to figure out because at this point, I would say  figure out who is already using it, who’s getting value from it and go market to them. But my guess is perhaps no one is using it yet that you haven’t, you know, actually done any marketing or gotten anyone using the app. And so you can look at something simple like just trying to get a few initial users in to it by doing some Facebook ads but I wouldn’t even know where to start with – with doing the demographics because you can’t advertise to the whole world. If you have a bunch of money in the bank and I mean seven figures that you’ve raised from venture capital, you won’t have as much of a challenge as doing a big horizontal market and trying to advertise to every small business in the world like Intuit does or Mint.com does.

[07:08] But you know, when you are bootstrapping and you’re trying to just get a trickle of users in and trying to use revenue to grow from, you really have to know who your customer is and you have to know what websites they frequent and you have to notice — know how to reach them. So beyond the SEO that Mike talked about, obviously, Google is a great source, organic searches are a great — great way to do it but going out and pitching a guest blog post, pitching podcast, interviews where you’re interviewed about, you know, doing your startup or how you can help people and doing some initial Facebook ads to get some initial interest. I mean there’s — there’s a ton of stuff. Obviously, this could be an entire book. Each of these things we’re talking about could be its own podcast episode because there’s so many details to it but realize that until you figure out initially who it is that should be using your app and who you’re trying to market to and where they are, none of this other stuff is really that important or really that helpful because you can’t target your message. You can’t position them.

[08:03] And this is actually something I did quite a bit with HitTail when I first acquired it. It was going after, in my opinion, the wrong audience. So there wasn’t good product market fit and I’ve kind of shifted that and the people who now come, you know, come up on HitTail and discover it, the positioning is quite a bit different. The conversion rates as a result are quite a bit higher. So I think that’d be our, our initial advice for first steps.

[08:25] [Music]

[08:28] Rob: Question number two is from Pierre and he says, “Hi, guys. I love the show since I came across it via Lifestyle Business Podcast. Something I personally would love to hear the show about would be your advice on how to go about starting a web app beyond drawing up interactive diagrams and hiring someone off at Elance. Well, I’m no a coder. I’ve used web apps like Juno, WordPress and Magento for years. Now I have an idea that I believe has a huge potential, a proven demand and should be relatively technically simple.” And he puts a cough in there. “What next? My concerns are that if I hire some guy off Elance that my inexperience in coding will end up either blowing out the budget or producing something with major unforeseen technical problems at the same time, is it really the best using my time to spend six months learning to code PHP and MySQL which seem to be the advice you guys gave on starting a software-based business in the past. I’d also be curious to hear what your thoughts were on using Kickstarter to fund something like this.” I think we have discussed this exact topic before and I think we said the opposite of what he said we said. I think we said before that you shouldn’t learn how to code and that you should hire someone to do it.

[09:33] Mike: I was going to say the exact same thing. I don’t know if we ever said that. We might have said that it’s probably a good idea to learn how to code but not necessarily be the one to implement everything. I could see myself saying you should at least learn how it’s done and the process but I don’t know as I would advice anyone to go out and spend six months learning how to code because I don’t think that coding is the thing that you’re really selling. I mean you’re selling a product and your vision behind the product and how it’s build and how everything is put together as a whole ideally a lot more important than knowing how put the stuff together on the back end. He said, “Now, I have an idea that I believe has huge potential, proven demand and should be relatively technically simple,” and that’s one of those things where I guess he doesn’t provide the details about what the proven demand is but I guess I wonder what type of proof he got. Is it just talking to people? Is it showing them screen mockups or anything like that but I guess to get more to the meat of his question, I don’t know as I’d really worry about hiring somebody off of Elance or oDesk or you know, any other place to spend some time building this up and produce something. I think my bigger concern would be about whether you’re building something that people actually want.

[10:43] Rob: Bingo and that’s it. He says it’s a proven demand. How are you proving that? Because if it really is as good as what – how be — percentage here, then shouldn’t he be able to find a development partner pretty easily. He should be able to prove that to him and come to him and say, “Look, it’s a proven demand. Here are the numbers, right?” If it’s proven, then — then he has some data about that. That means you’ve talked to ten customers who’ve committed to pay a hundred bucks a month for the thing or you have an e-mail list of a thousand of people who are dying to get this thing. And any of those assets are assets that you can use to convince a developer to come onboard with you and say, “Look, let’s do a prototype in three months. You’d take X percent equity and let’s develop together.” That’s actually the one approach that I recommend when a non-technical founder is trying to find a technical founder is to have a — you either need some money or you need some, I don’t typically say proof but I typically say some evidence that this idea is actually going to fly and it’s not just some random idea that you have. So if you have that evidence, then I would say consider looking for a co-founder.

[11:41]  The other avenue you could look at if you don’t want to, you know, give away equity or if you don’t actually have the proof that you need to convince, you know, a developer to come onboard is to go through Code Academy and Code Academy is a free online tutorial but it’s more of like a course that teaches you the basics of coding and there’s been over a hundred thousand people have gone through it and bunch of people are — are just getting in to learn the basics of coding. And so well I don’t think you need to spend six months to learn every element and every class and every aspect of MySQL. I do think that learning how to code so you understand how to hire and how to manage someone is potentially worth your while to spend part time for a month or two to really kind of get a concept of how to build the basic database accessing PHP app.

[12:29] Mike: Yeah, I think the other thing that I would mention is that if you really thinks that it’s relatively technically simple, what he could do is he could hire is he could hire somebody off of, you know, any of those websites we talked about and have them put together something relatively simple and it doesn’t even need to be his application. Just have them put together a very basic website with some very, very basic data access stuff because of it — truly is a technically simple problem. I think that the question that he’s getting in to is what sort of major unforeseen technical problems am I going to end up running in to. Well, I think to work with somebody and trying to manage them, get your feet wet with managing people who are developers and who are technical when you’re not. Putting together just a basic website and it doesn’t need — it doesn’t even need to be your application because it’s just be like the sales website for your application and you say, “I want to capture this data from people when they come to the website,” and that’s it.

[13:21] It doesn’t need to be anything fancy but you’ll get an idea of what that person is like, what is it like to work with them, what is it like to manage them, what, you know, how they do things, and if that doesn’t work out, I — chances are really good that you probably didn’t spend a lot of money to begin with. So you can kind of move on to the next person and try again with either a related site or you know, something else. But again very, very, minimalistic and in terms of technical challenges, somebody who’s good should be able to point some of that stuff to you and you can intentionally make some poor decisions. You go through Code Academy and make some intentional bad decisions and find out if they point them to you and say, “No, you shouldn’t do this because XYZ,” and if they are able to point out those things to you that should be very basic, then you know that you got somebody that you can kind of rely on to help work through those bad times.

[14:10] Rob: Man, I think to what you said maybe have them build the prototype, you know, you said they can do the marketing side or they can do just have you could have somebody do a very simple prototype that you can then show around and show that there is interest. Something else I would say is depending on the niche. If it is something that you’re eventually going to be selling over the web so it’s more of a SaaS play, then think about just going to LaunchRock and getting a landing page or going to Unbounce in getting a landing page or installing WordPress and using John Turner’s coming soon WordPress plugin and try to collect e-mails, you know, because what’s that going to do? It’s going to do a couple of things. One, it’s going to prove to you that it has the value and two, it’s going to prove to a developer whether you, you know, you try to get them onboard for equity or — or whether you’re just trying to convince yourself to actually spend the money, go to the Code Academy and go through the effort of hiring someone on oDesk.

[15:00] It’s just one more point of confidence for you to move forward with. And realistically, it actually if you, you know, we’re going to try to raise some funding, it could also be an asset towards doing that. So Pierre’s second question was that he’d be curious to hear what our thoughts are on using Kickstarter to fund something like this. My gut instinct, I know Kickstarter takes, I think it’s a total of 8% or 10% that includes payment processing plus their cut, so I don’t think losing that 10% is that big of a deal. My inclination though is that Kickstarter is they — they edit heavily like a lot of people submit stuff to them and they don’t tend to want to fund certain types of projects. And from what I’ve heard they don’t tend to want to fund a lot of software projects. It’s more designed and art stuff like music and movie. So my guess is you wouldn’t be able to get this on Kickstarter but frankly, if you are able, I don’t see why you wouldn’t. I don’t know of any drawbacks to it. Kickstarter may be in my future for a project I’m looking to do. It won’t be a web project. It’ll be something else. So…

[16:00] Mike: I’ve looked at Kickstarter before and some of the statistics that I’ve seen basically say kind of the same thing that you just said is that software projects of any kind don’t tend to do very well. I mean anything dealing with technology. The funding rate was definitely less than 50%. It was like 30 or 40%.

[16:17] Rob: Right. There was one called — it was called Light Table. It was like an IDE for Ruby or Python or something and that got funded and that’s a big success story. So yes, there have been those by and large, the — the ones that are really successful that I’ve seen on Kickstarter are physical products, kind of physical manufacturing stuff that actually have larger production class and then there’s kind of the arts and the movies and music and such so, you know, might be worth the try. I know it’s quite a bit of effort to pitch them and my guess is, you know, that your odds of getting in are low.

[16:48] [Music]

[16:51] Rob: Our next question is from Peter Ozoldos He says, “Hi, Mike and Rob. I’ve been listening to your podcast for a while and I enjoy and profit from it despite not having yet made the leap to start my own product. I’m just applying some of the ideas at the firm’s product that I’m working at but I’ve already started tearing around an idea notebook. Some of the ideas that occurred to me would require a comprehensive dataset to be useful at all much like Rob’s College Coach Finder idea described in his book. Well the book glosses over the process, I’ve researched this idea and came across a pristine dataset of the information needed to build the product that could bridge this gap. The problem is that data costs several thousands dollars per year to license. I would love to hear about some of the approaches you tried or would try to discover whether such datasets exist and how it could be obtained. Looking forward to listening to more episodes in the future. Keep up the great work. Cheers, Peter.”

[17:44] Mike: Well the first thing that I’d like to point out is that when you’re looking for pristine data, a pristine data is going to cost you money and there are not a lot of ways around that. One of the things that I can think of that you might want to try, I mean if you’re looking specifically at this dataset, they cost several thousand dollars a year at license, I would try to amass, say kind of a critical mass of people who are interested in the product and you can kind of roll the dice on it and try and get as people on to a mailing list as you can and then actually go out and buy the dataset and plug it in to your engine or your product or whatever and then release it as a product. And hopefully, you’ll get your money back very quickly but it’s something that you’re going to want to prove that the demand is there before you make that investment in the data.

[18:28] Some other ways that I can think of to get what I’ll call less pristine datasets is to, you know, hire some virtual assistants to just go out and start harvesting that for you. I read a book recently. It was from Robert Graham. It was Cold Calling Success Secrets or something like that but basically talks a lot about cold calling and how to harvest data for your cold calling efforts and he’s got some great ideas about how to go about that as well. And you know, one of the things that most people don’t think of is going down to the public library and you can hire VA’s to go do that for you but you know, there are a lot of sources of information at public libraries for different organizations, different state lists that people subscribe to or members or organizations from the government the people are members of because of they’re – they’re in the specific industry or something like that.

[19:18] So there are ways to get that data and you know, just be a little bit creative in terms of where you’re directing people to get it. I mean I don’t think that you need to do all the leg work for getting some of that data but you do have to be a little bit creative about coming up with the ideas of where to get it and then you start directing people to go get that data for you. And hire a couple of people at the same time, make sure that they are both going out and getting the same sets of data or you know, maybe hire three or four people and then just keep the best one or two that you find that who are — who are coming back with the most results and the most unique results and you know, work from there.

[19:54] Rob: Yeah, I agree. There’s no way I’d pay that that licensing fee before I had at least the mailing list or potentially some people committed to paying for the product.  And I think the purchase you named are good. I also think that you could ask for some sample data if there is a pristine dataset that cost three to five grand or ten grand or whatever, ask for a small subset of sample data and they’re going to tend to be willing to do that and then you use that to populate your database and assuming the licensing allows you to do this but allow people to come to your site, do a sample search that you name as a sample search, this is what the data will look like and then at the end say, “Hey, you know, we’re basically putting together the full app right now. We’ll totally ping you and you this is live, give your e-mail.”

[20:37] So it’s no just a simple e-mail landing page. You’re actually giving people a taste of what they might see and that’s actually the — the example that — that he brought up is an app called College Coach Finder that I was considering building. This was before the Micropreneur Academy. So this is like three and a half years ago and I eventually got side track with other projects but I still think that’s actually a decent avenue because there was just so much open space in the SEO area and the dataset did cost, I think it was $3000 to license and that’s why I have all the comps all built out because I was going to have an entire, you know, sale site built and allow people to click through and then basically collect e-mail addresses and it was more of an idea validation at that point than it was trying to amass a list of people to sell to eventually but of course, that would have been a good side effect.

[21:26] So really, unless you have a lot of money, if you’re bootstrapping then, you know, you probably don’t want to drop that three to five grand or ten grand or whatever without first figuring out if there’s demand and kind of faking it until you make it, right? It’s like what can you do? How far can you go with just a sample or small subset of data? So thanks for the question, Peter.

[21:47] [Music]

[21:50] Rob: Our next question is from AJ Bovird and he says, “Hi, guys. Just finished episode 85 on my way home from an Azure dev camp. And I can’t wait to check out some of the new tools you’ve introduced me to. I was wondering if you could talk in the future episodes about your experiences or thoughts on using cloud platforms like Azure and AWS which is Amazon Web Services. Well, I’m having a lot of fun learning about Azure’s intricacies in particular. I’m having a hard time making up my mind on whether some or all of the individual components that make up Azure are really going to be that beneficial to me as oppose to traditional hosting. Thanks very much for taking the time each week to produce a podcast. It’s an invaluable resource and a source of inspiration for me.” Mike, you are the resident expert on this. I’d love — love to hear [Laughter] your thoughts first.

[22:35] Mike: I mean I think that you have to have the right type of product to actually build on, you know, a cloud platform in order to make it worth the time and effort of doing it. For example, Azure does a lot of black holes when you start getting involved with it. There is a wealth of information out there but it is I’ll say poorly organize for somebody who’s just trying to learn it. There’s not a good walk-throughs that I have found. I mean at this point I kind of understand it and how it all fits together and how it works but when you’re first trying to figure it out, it’s not that easy and I think that the learning curve is high enough that in most cases, you shouldn’t be looking at it. That said, there are cases where I think that any sort of a cloud platform would be very beneficial for you.

[23:18] So some of the obvious things are, is if you have a very, very large datasets. So if you’re hosting video files or large files or you plan on scaling out to be hosting a large numbers of them, I could imagine if you were running Dropbox or something like that, you could definitely use, you know, the Azure or Amazon platform for that type of stuff. If you’re doing anything that needs to scale across tens of thousands of user and you know that upfront, then those are types of places. Another one is where you can foresee the upfront cost of that hardware being very, very difficult to swallow and you need to be able to manage your cost associated with it. So those are the different places where I could see going in to those cloud platforms and wanting to use them. But if you’re just hosting a small website where you’re going to be able to host everything all on one server, I would be hard press to say, yeah, you should do that.

[24:11] Rob: Frankly, I have a tough time seeing the real value proposition of things like the Azure and Google App Engine. I see some benefits but to me the fact that your app has to be built differently and that you’re essentially locked in to that platform is a huge negative in my mind. Amazon Web Services is just a generic global umbrella of like ten different web services Amazon offers and I’m assuming that he means EC2 which is their Elastic Computing Cloud, that’s different, EC2 is actual virtual server. It’s like VPS as that you can boot up and if I have a Python or Ruby or pitch the app that run on there or .NET app if use their Windows engines, I should be able to move that app somewhere else. I should be able to move that to my own hosted server to a cloud server or somewhere else. There’s no lock-in. So that’s the big difference I see. Azure and Google Engine and I think there maybe one other or — they’re almost — they’re different. They’re like compiled run time environment where you put code in —

[25:11] Mike: Not all of it though. They’re —

[25:13] Rob: No?

[25:13] Mike: No —

[25:14] Rob: Because — could I — could I just take a basic .NET app and run it in Azure with zero changes and —

[25:20] Mike: Yes.

[25:21] Rob: … put my sequel database?

[25:22] Mike: Yup but —

[25:22] Rob: So it’s just basic hosting. Why has no one told me this? [Laughter]

[25:24] Mike: Because —

[25:25] Rob: I heard .NET MVP and I’ve never heard this before.

[25:27] Mike: Because it’s — it’s brand new like that — that came —

[25:29] Rob: Oh I got it.

[25:29] Mike: … just came out —

[25:31] Rob: Oh, okay.

[25:31] Mike: … this year. So like there’s —

[25:32] Rob: Okay.

[25:33] Mike: So there’s a difference between like Azure kind of covers the whole thing. It’s kind of like Amazon Web Services that encompasses like ten or twenty different — different types of services they have.

[25:43] Rob: Right.

[25:43] Mike: The Azure umbrella right now covers, I don’t know, probably fifteen or twenty different things that Microsoft does hosting for, so like they do actually have the capability to just host the sequels for server for you. They have the capability to just host a web application for you. Basically, just upload the web application bits and they host everything. That said, if you want to get in to something like fault-tolerance or scalability, there are other things that you can do and know that — that they do somewhat involve like a vendor lock-in and no matter which platform you go with whether it’s Amazon or Azure or Rackspace, it doesn’t matter at that point. You really are going to have some sort of vendor lock-in if you start integrating in to certain types of their services.

[26:26] Rob: Right. Yeah, I think, AJ, I think my advice would be unless you have a specific need for something that Azure offers that only Azure offers and that you really can’t get elsewhere, I would lean towards more traditional hosting like VPS shared hosting, dedicated hosting. Obviously, there are specific needs and sometimes you may need to do that but as someone who’s likely bootstrapping and you’re going to want potentially want to find contractors who can work on it. Azure it its own — I mean ask Mike, it its own unique skill set. You need experience in it if you’re actually using their, you know, their tools and not just doing their new hosted version that he’s talking about. I would actually see Azure hosting if you could just plug a .NET app in to it, I would put that with – with other hosting options that are available out there. But the one where you specifically have to compile your app in order for it to work and same thing with Google App Engine, I would personally veer away from those unless there’s a very, very specific reason that you think you’re going to have to scale at that level right away. So I hope that helps, AJ.

[27:24] Looks like we’re one more question on deck and this one is from Oak Norton and the subject is “Outsourcing a Help Desk”. He says, “Hi, guys. Just found your podcast last week and I’m fifteen episodes in and loving it. My commute is great now. I have a question and maybe you’ve answered it in one of your podcasts and I just haven’t reached it yet. I’m still working a full time job and I have a pretty cool niche website. It’s riddleme.com,” and it looks like it helps people build scavenger hunts. So it says, “I’ve been selling a simpler version of the software for ten years at riddleme.net and it was very intuitive. The new website is more robust so there’s a few new complexities and the interface isn’t quite a streamlined. I’ve had a few people request refunds lately and I would like to implement a live chat on my site where someone potentially from the Philippines,” there’s kind of a question mark there, “… could be available 24/7 to help anyone that has a question. Have you ever done this? Do you have any recommendations? Thanks, Oak.”

[28:18] My first question would be why do you think a live chat is going to keep people from requesting refunds? Do they request refunds within three or five minutes or ten minutes of signing up? I have never had a 24/7 live chat for any of apps and I have some apps that have gotten a lot of traffic and where people are signing up pretty much 24 hours a day from all around the world and e-mail support has been sufficient for those. So that’d be my first thing is to question whether you really need a live chat or whether you just need a good VA who can check two or three times a day kind of a good intervals to kind of hit people as they’re getting confuse and provide really good support.

[28:57] Mike: Yeah, I think that my thoughts on it would be, you know, start asking people why they’re cancelling. It kind of get to the root of the issue of why they are cancelling. Is it because they didn’t understand the product? Is it different than what they expected? And if so, how is it different? And start figuring out how to alleviate that pain or alleviate that problem so that those sorts of things don’t happen and I understand that that can be very, very difficult because in looking at the website, there’s a lot of information here. I mean just the first page alone is enormous. I’m not saying that it’s good or bad. I’m just pointing out that there’s a lot of information on there and it may be the people are buying it without reading all that stuff and not really understanding what it is that they’re actually buying. I do see a video there. I don’t know how many people actually watch it so that would be something else that I would look at and start taking measurements and try to figure out, are people actually watching the video?

[29:48] You could use Wistia. It has a free plan now. So you could post your video up to Wistia and you could basically plug it on to your website and use their metrics to figure out are people watching it, are they watching ten seconds in and saying, “This is boring. I’m not going to watch the rest of it,” because you may see traffic from that, actually, it’s hosted on YouTube. So you probably have close to no metrics on, you know, how much people are actually watching and what the bandwidth usage of that is. So those are the places that I probably start. I start looking to see what information you can glean from the people who are returning things and you know, what people are actually looking at on your site. There’s something else that I think of, there were a couple of different tools that we’ve talked about in episode 85, I think it was, for monitoring where people are looking on your site. One of them was Crazy Egg. What was the other one, Rob?

[30:37] Rob: Inspectlet.

[30:38] Mike: You could use either of those to find out where people are looking on your website and see if there are sections of the text that you have on this — on this main page that people are just not looking at and maybe tighten that up a little bit.

[30:51] Rob: So yeah, I think that coming to the conclusion that you need a 24/7 live chat as I said before, I think maybe a premature. I think the first thing that I would do is think about going to a service like UserTesting.com or FeedbackArmy.com, I think they’re a little cheaper right now, and getting a bunch of people to come and hit your site and you know, records a video or screencast of them as they do it, you can specify certain demographics try to get people in your target market and they can talk about what’s confusing them and the try to improve those things because it sounds like you’re already aware. You said that the new website is more robust but there are new complexities and it’s not a streamline. So that maybe the real cause, you know, you may not actually need — need 24/7 support. You may just need to — to improve the app overtime and it’ll go away mostly.

[31:35] But the other thing I’d think about doing, if you are still handling e-mail support yourself is to hire a VA at this point and get them up to speed because that’s going to take a little while, have them handle e-mail support first and the nice part about e-mail support is you can work them up gradually to that, right? So they can — if they run in to an issue, they don’t know how to answer a question, it’s not like they’re on a live chat and the person on the other end doesn’t get an answer or whatever or gets an answer that, “Oh, I don’t know what I’m doing,” if you’ve had someone doing e-mail support for thirty, sixty, ninety days and they’ve bounced issues to you, you’ve given them the solutions, they’ve learned about your app, they’re going to be so much more able to do that live chat support. You’re just going to be in a better position for them to handle it. So I would say if you’re thinking about doing a live chat support at anytime, to think to try to get them doing e-mail support first so they can learn your app on the ropes and then move on to it later.

[32:26] So I haven’t ever done this. I haven’t ever seen the need for live chat support but I would definitely, if I would hit oDesk, I’d find a solid VA for e-mail support and slowly working them up to that if you think you need to do it. I mean worst case, you could get something like Olark. You install the JavaScript on your site and then the little popup in the bottom right where it says, “Hey, click here for help,” and just not have someone manning it or you only man it eight hours a day when you’re working and the other sixteen hours a day, when they click on it, it says, “Hey, no one is online right now but you know, just pop — pop your name and your message here,” and then you guys are going to support e-mail so at least people feel like they’ve sent in their issue and it’s pretty easy to do and it’s easy to do from every page.

[33:08] There are obviously some other services that do as well. Olark is just one that comes to mind because I’ve used it with DotNetInvoice. And the other cool thing about Olark is and with most of these is you can get an app on your iPhone and if someone pings your, you know, your site, you can be out and about, your iPhone beeps and you can actually have a live chat on your iPhone while they’re on your website. So hopefully, those are a few good suggestions for you Oak. Thanks for listening to podcast and for sending in your questions.

[33:33] [Music]

[33:36] Mike:  If you have a question or a comment, you can call it in to our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can e-mail it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes by searching for Startups or via RSS at StartupsfortheRestofUs.com where you’ll find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.







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6 Responses to “Episode 89 | Marketing First Steps, To Code or Not To Code, To Cloud or Not To Cloud, and Other Listener Questions”

  1. Thanks for the shout, Mike. It’s titled ‘Cold Calling Early Customers.’


  2. I am about half way through all of the episodes available in iTunes. All in the last 4 days. Wonderful podcast, you have given me the impetus and inspiration to move my products forward.

    It’s like crack, but healthier.

    Just thought you would like to know that you now have a review in iTunes in the Netherlands (your first one!)

    – Richard

  3. Hi Rob and Mike,

    Long time listener. I love your podcast!

    My accountability partner and I were wondering if you guys could suggest a resource for finding mastermind participants? We’ve established fairly substantial online audiences in the education sector and would love to exchange a few ideas with a knowledgable copywriter or Internet marketer.


    PS – Experienced Internet marketers reading this and also looking for a similar mastermind arrangement please contact me!

  4. A great platform for development and application deployment with no vendor lock-in or modified libraries is http://openshift.redhat.com Bring your code, no special modifications needed. Java, Python, PHP, Ruby, Perl, etc.

  5. Hi Mike, you said that Azure information is poorly organized, why dont you set up a Azure Training site like Altiris’ one? 🙂

  6. I’ve been surfing on-line more than 3 hours as of late, but I never discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is beautiful value sufficient for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made good content material as you did, the web might be much more helpful than ever before.