Episode 90 | How to Shut Down a Product, Raising Capital Without Investors, Generic or Product Domain Name, and Other Listener Questions

Show Notes


[00:00] Mike: This is Startups For The Rest of Us: Episode 90.

[00:02] [Music]

[00:11] Mike: 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 Mike.

[00:19] Rob: And I’m Rob.

[00:21] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s going on this week, Rob?

[00:26] Rob: To tell you what July has been a tough month. Today is my fifth day of work and — in July. It’s the 24th of the month.

[00:33] Mike: Slacker.

[00:34] Rob: You know, it’s the summer, right? So my — my kid that’s, you know, is going to be in first grade is off for the summer. And my wife is off for the summer as well. So we’ve been doing a bunch of traveling, went to Denver, went to — I went to Reno and spoke at ISV Con couple of weeks ago and then —

[00:49] Mike: How did it go?

[00:50] Rob: You know, it’s fine. It was a very — it was a small conference and it was a different crowd that we typically see that. I don’t think anyone from any of the other conferences I go to were there. So it was more of the –more desktop software developers shareware guys because it’s based on the, you know, ASP which is the Association of Software Professionals and they used to be a conference called — was it the SIC? I think —

[01:12] Mike: Yeah.

[01:12] Rob: … Software Industry Conference that was held, you know, in Texas and a couple of other places and that conference kind of died as the — I mean I don’t know why but it seemed like the shareware movement kind of slow down, you know, for obvious reasons to — and I forget how you pronounce her last name but it’s like Sue Pichotta, I think. She resurrected ISV Con and or SIC and renamed it as ISV Con and this was the first year back. So it was — as a result, it’s pretty small because they didn’t have the momentum of, you know, having multiple years of folks knowing but I did get to hang out with some good folks. Patrick Foley was there and he actually spoke on Sunday. Ted Pitts from Moraware was there. Ruben was there from Bidsketch and then I met, you know, Dave Collins’ partner from  Software Promotions. It was good. You know, it’s better for the people. From my perspective it was a better conference because of the people who were there rather than — than the talks, the topics that were covered.

[02:08] Mike: Uh huh, yeah. I think that’s it for most conference so that’s pretty typical. It’s better to talk to the people as oppose to, you know, the conference is just an excuse. Okay. [Laughter]

[02:16] Rob: Right. Although they did have a nice sports bar that was half off all drinks till like 7 p.m. I wound up in like an 8 or 9-hour conversation with a couple other guys just talking about SaaS apps and marketing and different approaches and trading SEO tips and advertising tips and funnel optimization and just throwing out ideas and problem. So that — that was fun. I mean it felt like a 9 or 10 of our mastermind meeting with some pretty sharp people. You know, and that’s got to be the — the highlight of it for me.

[02:39] Mike: Very cool.

[02:40] Rob: How about yourself? Where are you at this time of — of month?

[02:44] Mike: Oh well, I’m in Delaware right now. Having never been here before, I didn’t necessarily have high expectations but those expectations were absolutely shattered. There — there seems to be absolutely nothing, you know. [Laughter]

[02:56] Rob: Yeah. [Laughter]

[02:57] Mike: I had didn’t — the nearest airport to me is Baltimore which is a two and a half hour drive away. So I flew into Baltimore and drove down here. And there was just nothing between the airport and here. I mean there wasn’t even a highway. It was all back roads. I really felt like I was in row upstate New York. I mean nothing but corn fields and cows. I mean [Laughter] it’s just nothing.

[03:20] Rob: Right.

[03:20] Mike: You know, it’s not a bad area. It’s just that there’s nothing here, that’s all.

[03:24] Rob: Right, right. The theme for my month of July is goals and focus. I’ve been kind of honing in on a couple of goals I’ve had with HitTail as well some goals I have in terms of getting back blogging again. I realized, man, it is — it’s hard to stay focus like when you’re doing a lot of things, you know, all the stuff we have on our plates and most entrepreneurs tend to put on our plate. It’s just a challenge to keep moving forward in all of those things until you tend to not move forward in any of them. So I’ve really been making an effort to — to basically like if I get e-mails about things that I’m not focusing on right now, I will literally just send them out with Boomerang and tell them like come back in two weeks. Obviously if something is an emergency, I can’t do that but for the most part, I’ve been just putting off anything that has nothing to do with my key goal for the month and the goal this month is growing HitTail.

[04:13] July is going to be the best month ever for HitTail and in fact, it’s probably going to be the largest single month of growth ever even when I wasn’t working and of course, the reason is that all the seeds for this were sown, you know, a couple of months ago. It’s like delayed. You do a bunch of marketing and then people come the next month or two months later. So I mean there’s 30-day trial that put them even further back. So if I don’t continue the marketing, you know, and pick it up pretty hard now that I’m back from vacation. It will obviously slow down probably in August or September but it is something that I’m keeping in mind. It’s about picking a single goal and trying to get to that goal and monitoring that goal everyday I wake up and the first thing I do is I look at my dashboard. I have a dashboard of a bunch of numbers, lifetime value, churn rate, trial to paid conversion. It’s just a rolling 30-day average and so I now have a very tight pulse on the business and the result it — it keeps my mind focus on it both good and bad. The good part is I’m focused on it so it’s growing. The bad part is I am thinking about it all the time but I’m really mentally kind of thinking about HitTail, what to do with it, how to grow it, tactics I’m going to use and all that stuff even when maybe I should be slowing down and not working.

[05:26] Mike: Cool. What do you use for your dashboard? I think I asked you this before. You use a custom dashboard, don’t you?

[05:31] Rob: Yeah, because — I do. It’s just a single ASP page. I wouldn’t use ASP normally but that’s where the apps written in and it’s just a bunch of hacked queries, very simple. It’s just black text on a white background, you know, login screen in front of it. Yeah, I’ve honed these queries and every, probably a week or two, I realized there’s numbers that I want that aren’t there and also calculating them manually and if I calculated manually a few times, suddenly I realized I really should just add it to the dashboard even if the query is pretty complicated since I’m the only one running it and I don’t run it that often even if it’s slow, it’s still — still worth having. So yeah, I have my real time LTV so I can see how it changes base on how many articles are ordered, how many people were build last night, how many people canceled in the last, you know, 24 hours impacts my, both my lifetime value, my churn rate, my trial to paid conversions, all that stuff.

[06:21] So it’s a very interesting — well, it’s an interesting approach to it. I don’t think it’s something I want to do long term but especially in these early days of the business when things are volatile and they’re still moving around pretty dramatically, I feel like it’s — it’s good to have. I think overtime what I’d like to do is get some grasp so I can actually watch, you know, watch more of a moving average of it because that’s really the more important part of it. And also I think it’s a business mature it is — the stuffs are kind of settle down as more processes are being developed, you know, when the marketing is more stabled, the cost preposition, the LTV, those things all become much more stable as I’m not doing this big kind of experiment which is essentially what I’m learning. I’ve purchased more clicks in the past 30 days for HitTail than I have for all of my other apps combined in the last 12 months. I’m just experimenting like crazy and just throwing money out of my LTV hit the point where I can totally scale this thing. I just need to find a couple scalable marketing approaches.

[07:15] Mike: Very cool. See up — for your dashboard there’s – there’s — really and I was wondering about whether you built it yourself or not was because there’s a couple of different companies out there that offers some dashboarding technologies so to say. One of them is a GoodData which I looked in a couple of years ago but at the time their entry level pricing something like 2000 or $3000 a month and I was just like no. [Laughter]

[07:38] Rob: So it’s an enterprise dashboard then. BI as they call it, right, business intelligence?

[07:42] Mike: Yeah and the other one I saw which I think it just came out of beta back in December or so, it’s called DigMyData which probably actually as an advisor than so they come with all these integration points for a lot of different data sources like –

[07:56] Rob: Yup.

[07:56] Mike: … Google Analytics and PayPal and Gmail and MailChimp, et cetera.

[08:00] Rob: Totally, yeah. So I would actually beta tester DigMyData and I know Adam. He’s a nice guy. He’s one of the founders. We had hooked up at Business Software. Yes, I actually like it a lot. I haven’t been using it because of a certain way they need to track sales and it was just a little more of a pain in the neck than I wanted to do for my particular set up. But I know a lot of people at least a dozen folks who use it, who really like it. And Peldi is not, like not a super data guy and he — he’s totally in to it so I buy it. You know, the other one, KISSmetrics. I actually do have KISSmetrics account. We’ve got a free one for going to MicroConf.

[08:36] Mike: Yup.

[08:36] Rob: And so I do have that all set up on HitTail and I use it for some things but I don’t use it for everything. I tend to use Google Analytics and my costumed dashboard.

[08:45] Mike: Right, right. Oh you know what? I was doing some Math the other day and this is episode 90 and I was thinking, oh well, you know, episode is 100 coming up in the not too distant future and I said, well you know, we should probably do something, you know, kind of special for the 100th episode. And after doing the math on it, I realized that episode 100th is scheduled to go live on October 10th and guess what else is scheduled to live that week?

[09:11] Rob: New season of the Walking Dead?

[09:13] Mike: Not. No, close, very close. AuditShark. [Laughter]

[09:16] Rob: Yes. Well so AuditShark is supposed to go to beta September 10th, right?

[09:21] Mike: Right.

[09:22] Rob: And then you’re figuring you’ll go live one month later?

[09:25] Mike: Right, roughly.

[09:26] Rob: Awesome. You heard it here first.

[09:29] Mike: That’s the — that’s the current plan. We’ll see how that works —

[09:31] Rob: That would be such a milestone for us. [Laughter] Now, the problem is when we record that episode a week earlier.

[09:37] Mike: Right.

[09:38] Rob: So you won’t actually be — be launched but you know what? That would be cool. So episode 100, we do need to take something cool to do for that though.

[09:45] [Music]

[09:48] Mike: So hey today’s episode we’re going to go over bunch of podcast questions because people had been sending us a bunch of e-mails and asking a bunch of different things. So I want to be just to get right in to those. The first question is from Chico and he says, “My name is Chico and I listen to your podcast all the way from Zimbabwe. I think it’s great and it helps me in aspects of managing myself and following my passion. In the midst of building one business, I realized I wasn’t so much in love with it because of other pressures that had built up. In short, I discovered there is a lot more that goes in to design like the customer support, building, et cetera that my initial idea got left interesting. I love the web and developing a lot but I wanted to know what you guys think about a 180 degree pivot. I’ve discovered I’m startup person where I create a product that I run as oppose to creating lots of products that ship out constantly. The pressure is enormous and it gets in to a routine that can be in madness. Given that I want to run a startup I’m developing right now, how can I best bring down the current on my previous business and more importantly, how can I battle with the fear that I might be leaving an opportunity and charging in to uncertainty. Thanks a lot for your feedback. Keep up the good work? What are your thoughts on that?

[10:53] Rob: Well, I mean it’s an interesting question. I feel like there’s some details left out of the question like whether or not he had existing customers on the other one or whether it’s just a work in progress because obviously your approach tends to differ based on those factors. I think if you don’t have any customers and you’ve totally lost passion for your old idea and you don’t want to do it anymore aside from just having to deal with the fact that, you know, you wasted time essentially. I think you just shut it down and you stop working on it. I think if you have existing customers, you can — well, if the thing is just running by itself since it’s a SaaS app, I don’t know that you necessarily need to shut it down unless it don’t have a lot of support. If it is a lot of support you can try to sell it or you can try to offer to the customer so they can install it on their servers. I mean I think there are some fairly simple ways to get out of that if it’s not a SaaS app if it’s downloadable software and people already have it downloaded.

[11:44] I mean I think you just update the site and say, “Look, you know, we stop development on it. We will support bugs and stuff but no new features will be developed and stop selling it.” So I don’t think that’s — that’s too hard. I think the bigger question is second part which is “How can I battle with the fear? I might be leaving an opportunity and charging in to uncertainty.” And I think the best way to essentially appease that fear or get rid of that is not to charge in to uncertainty but it’s you start talking to customers and start building a mailing list then start doing the pre-coding stuff that we talked about, you know. It’s both customer development and talking to customers but it’s also trying to analyze the market using keyword tools built in the landing page, driving traffic, seeing if anyone wants to — to get on the mailing list to hear about it. It’s those things that you should spend time doing before you write a line of code to validate the idea. And the more you’re able to validate, you’re never going to get it to one hundred percent but you can maybe get it to 50 or 60 or 70%. The more e-mails you gathered, the more potential customers you talk to.

[12:45] And to me, that is how you’re going to fight that uncertainty and — and give yourself the — the confidence as well as kind of the staying power with this idea that if you do in fact think it’s going to work, you’re going to be more likely to stick around it and keep working on it.

[12:59] Mike: Yeah, I agree with pretty much everything you said. The other thing that comes to mind is the whether or not the business he’s currently working on is more of a full time income form because I think that that changes things a lot if it is your current full time income versus — if it is your full time income, you can’t just take the thing and shut it down. You can’t just take it and sell it off because there are obvious risks associated with that. But if it’s just something you’re going on the side and as you said if you don’t have a lot of customers, then it doesn’t necessarily matter as much. I think the big question is kind of where existing revenue comes from, is that from a full time job or is it from this business and I think to that right there probably make in my mind a lot of the decisions for me.

[13:40] Rob: Right and if in fact you are making a full time living off of it and that means just probably pretty successful app and I think the opportunities to sell it whether it’s thru, you know, something like Flippa or whether it’s through your blog or becoming — I mean there are people in the Micropreneur Academy who had be more than — more than happy to look at an app that provide a full time income. So I think that’s definitely and that could potentially be a way for this successful to get some revenue out of it or some kind of upfront money that you can then use to fund yourself as you develop the next one.

[14:10] Mike: And then I think it’s probably important to sell it upfront as oppose to kind of string in to things along where the revenue kind of, well probably tank to be perfectly honest if you’re not paying attention to it at all and you just neglect it, my inclination is to believe that the revenue is eventually going to tank. It’s just going to continue going down. And then when you do decide to sell it, it’s just going to be worth that much less. You better off to sell it in upfront and being done with it.

[14:34] Rob: Exactly. If you know you’re done with it, I would agree with that.

[14:37] Mike: So Chico, hopefully, that helps to answer your question. Our next question is from Til and he says, “Hi, Mike and Rob. Thanks a lot for the podcast. It’s been an invaluable source of action and advice and on top of that, I really like the way you guys present it in a down-to-earth manner. Please keep up the good work. My question is I’m working on a SaaS product and I have the opportunity to get some generic product domain name with a .NET or .ORG top-level domain like crmsoftware.net for take example. I’m considering using this generic domain as my sales website for SEO reasons and hosting the app and another domain represented a specific product name like highrise.com, to give another example. Another option would be the use of generic domain plus the top-level domain as a specific product name for, example is prmsoftware.net but from my eclectic perspective I’d prefer a more costumed product name. Please note that the user who likely access the apps via their own sub domains. I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on this. Thanks for your help. Til.”

[15:31] Rob: Obviously, Google give preference or gives a nice boost to generic top-level domain names. So if you get crmsoftware.net, you’re going to naturally rank higher for CRM Software for that phrasing Google. What I’ve been noticing and kind of been hearing ramblings up is that boost may not be as much as it used to be. It’s still really nice. It’s still a really good signal that they use but I don’t know if in the future moving forward, you know, how much that’s going to continue to be there. I think it’ll be always be there, it’s just a matter of how much they dial it up and dial it down, right? So I guess the next thing I’ll say is I don’t feel super comfortable about separating the sales website from the application website. Then I think, one, it’s confusing to have two different top-level domain names between those two and two, if you need any integration between the two of them like when you have a signup form that does something and maybe a need to share JavaScript from one to the other or maybe it needs to share cookies between the two, it’s not going to work because browsers, security settings are a nightmare when it comes to using any client’s sides stuff across top-leveled domains.

[16:37] I’ve ran in to this a number of times. I’ve actually ran in to this with sub domains of the same top-level domain and had to do pretty hacky work around and like do double redirects and all types of fancy stuff that was really hacky in order to make sure that they’ll like cookies held up between the sales website and the SaaS app. So if at all possible, I would lean towards keeping everything on the same TLD, add a minimum, right? Even if you do sub domains that’s fine, but I would lean towards that unless there’s a compelling reason not to. So with that said, you really have a choice, right? You can name your product fancy CRM but you’re going to get crmsoftware.net. I think you’re inclination is that shouldn’t you have fancycrm.com, right? You know, shouldn’t you have the .com for your product name and I think it depends on how much you plan on relying on SEO. If the SEO is going to be a major player in your business and in your marketing approach, then I think buying crmsoftware.net, I know it’s a fake example but, you know, I’m going to keep the example, but I think the buying crmsoftware.net is a good approach.

[17:40] But if you’re going to be marketing this thing doing a lot of social media and press and stuff that means that SEO is actually only going to be a smaller percentage 10 or 20% of your overall picture, then you want to think about using your product name .com as the main website. I would buy both domains definitely but it’s, you know, it all comes down to how you set it up. I think if you do decide that SEO is going to be a big part of your marketing approach and you go with crmsoftware.net, I definitely would buy fancycrm.com and just have a simple, you know, a 301 redirect to crmsoftware.net so that people can, you know, if they type in your product name .com that they — they always get there. It’s not going to give you any SEO benefit but it will just help folks who are looking for your product. With the generic TLD, the crmsoftware.net, you’re still going to rank for your product name. I mean that’s — that’s going to be a foregoing conclusion because you’re going to get a handful of links for your product name and then bam, you’re going to rise right to the top. So that’s not issue I’d be concern about at all.

[18:43] Mike: I — I think that the SEO boost from  having a top-level domain name matching whatever the search term is is great to have but like you said, I mean Google could turn it around at any moment and just completely drop it from the algorithm. I mean the fact is that in any given language, there are only so many words that can be use to describe different things. And using that as a — I’ll call it a biased factor and the algorithm eventually kind of falls over because just as you were there first doesn’t mean that you’re doing the best at it. And Google is from right on said, you know, “We’re rating a lot of updated content much higher than people whose web pages haven’t changed in 10, you know, 10 months or 20 months or whatever.”

[19:29] So if you start following that line of thinking, you might also say, well why should a domain that’s been around for 10 years have more weight than one that is been around for 5 years or 3 years, you know, because you’ll start looking back at those things and just because somebody was there first for CRM Software and they get crmsoftware.com, they’ve had the domain name for 10 or 15 years, does that mean that it’s updated? Does that mean that they know things better than somebody else who’s only been around for 2 or 3 years and I think there’s other things that weigh in to that a lot more.

[20:03] Rob: Right now, Google says yes..

[20:05] Mike: I had said —

[20:06] Rob: Google said —

[20:06] Mike: … they said yes now.

[20:07] Rob: Yup.

[20:08] Mike: But in the future, that’s just one thing that you’re basing this decision off of. That’s kind of my point.

[20:13] Rob: Right, I think the worst case though as I’m thinking about it is if he gets the generic and optimizes for it and starts ranking for it and then Google turns that down, you know, turns down that signal, he could always change later and as long as he gets his, you know, fancycrm.com, you know, his product name .com URL, he could always just move the website there or 301 everything if SEO becomes not as large of a part of his marketing or he loses the rankings because of the TL lead stops being worth it then that’s actually not the end of the world to do that.

[20:45] Mike: Right.

[20:45] Rob: So…

[20:46] Mike: I’m kind of torn on it myself. I think that it’s really nice to have that for the SEO benefit but on the other side customers don’t necessarily relate well to a product name that is generic like that and I wonder if it might be either interesting or a good idea to go in a slightly different direction where you get both domain names and then for the domain name that is the generic one, you basically make it in to a review site and then you obviously will link have to relate it to your own domain. You would review heavily to your own software or maybe you review it favorably or not, favorably or whatever but that’s another option where you could basically give yourself some SEO benefit by linking directly from that domain and you know, you could also use it as an educational site. I mean you could just talk about in general, these are the things you should be looking for if you want this particular type of software.

[21:37] Rob: Yeah, I think building a satellite website like you said or a microsite as some people call them, I think that could be done. I don’t know if I make it a review site. Probably a review site would be decent I guess. I would always have someone else to write it. So that feels a little, you know, a little weird if you’re writing content about your own without disclosing it if you’re writing content about your own app.

[21:52] Mike: Right.

[21:52] Rob: I’d almost want to hire a third party to do it or just not making a review site and make it about, you know, something else just an educational site where you happen to have a banner. That’s obviously going to cut down — I mean that, you know, if you rank number one for that term for CRM Software you’re only going to get a couple of percentage click-through from there. So you really are killing off most of the traffic. It’s not going to make it to your — through your sale website. So it well — different approach you can do. I don’t know that it’s just as good. I agree, I’m torn as well. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here. I just think it’s what you feel comfortable with and kind of how you’re going to be marketing the product if it’s going to be, you know, 90% SEO then it’s an obvious response here. But if it’s going to be mostly a branded product, then I think you go the other route.

[22:33] Mike: Well I think that about wraps it up. And Til, hopefully, that answer your question and thanks for getting in touch. Hopefully, things will work out for you and you come to a decision on that.

[22:41] [Music]

[22:44] Mike: Our next question is from Sean and he said, “Rob, you mentioned using AppSumo to get a boost of capital in the early stages of HitTail and I’m stoked because I love the guys over there and I’m happy that it delivered for you. I’m wondering what other avenues or opportunities you and Mike can suggest to get jumps in revenue or financing in the early stages of a product’s life. I’m a big fan of maintaining control of the product as long as possible and not going the investor route.”

[23:06] Rob: Yeah, I have a few thoughts on this. I guess first I’ll clarify I didn’t do the AppSumo deal for a boost of capital as much as I did because I wanted to get the word out. I don’t actually need the capital right now as much as just, you know, spreading — spreading the word in that respect but — this is a good question. I like — I like this line of thinking. It’s basically you started off, you’ve launched your product to some success but you need some capital for some reason. And I would be hesitant to say that you need a bunch of capital to buy ads and do paid acquisition because if you’re still this early in your startup, then odds are pretty good that you are not going to have — really not going to have the lifetime value and the cost per acquisition where you need it to actually make that a viable thing.

[23:49] So hopefully, you’re not thinking that you’re going to raise the cash just to spend it on ads but to use them in some other strategic way. But a couple of ideas do come to mind AppSumo is definitely one any deal of the day site. I mean there’s like SoftwareDealOfTheDay.com or it might be softwaredod.com. There is BitsDuJour.com. There are several others depending on your niche. There’s a bunch of ones for the Mac too, so any of those can be a quick influx of cash. Another way that I’ve seen used is to do annual plans and to either offer them on the site directly or if you’re dealing — if you’re doing any type of medium touch or high touch sales that you talked to your customers and say, “Hey, you know, if you pay in advance for 12 months, we can cut you a pretty big discount.” And you may have to offer a 2, 3 or 4-month discount depending on how far long your product is and how much people trust it and how much value they’ve already gotten out of it. But you know, if you’re charging a hundred bucks a month and you can suddenly get an influx of 8 or 9 months of capital, you have to support that customer for the next year but that, you know 8 or 900 bucks can be a nice big influx and if you can do that with a handful of customers in any given month, it starts to add pretty quickly.

[24:56] I’ve also seen some apps do it directly on their site where when you go to sign up, it gives you that option and people can just pay in advance. Again, you do have to offer discount but can still be a way to kind of eak some revenue out early. The other way that I would recommend and I’ve done this in the past is to actually do offer customizations. So it’s almost like you’re consulting on your own product but you can almost just consult in the space as well. So to give you examples to this like with DotNetInvoice early on, I would offer customizations for a 125 or a 150 bucks an hour. So I didn’t want to do a lot of them, right? But people didn’t want to pay me to do a lot of them because it wasn’t cheap but if someone came along with 5 or 10 hours, suddenly you’re doing a little bit of consulting work. It is kind of a pain but you can make a little chunk of change that way.

[25:43] The other interesting thing is I’m getting e-mails constantly with HitTail. People want us to offer SEO advice, do link building, just create content, you know, just kind of do SEO services like a consultant will do. So while it’s not a straight customization in my product, it is just affiliated or related consulting gig. It’s something that someone would be interested in if they’re using your product. So I think those are probably three avenues that I would at least entertain. They all have draw backs. I think you can — they’re pretty obvious what the draw backs are but if you’re really trying to put together, you know, a little bucket of cash upfront, I think those are definitely viable.

[26:21] Mike: Yeah, the ones that came to mind for me were, you know, as you mentioned the yearly plan and then other one was doing product integrations with other products. So if you have something that can integrate in to pretty much any major vendor who has a pretty large audience and you can offer any sort on integration between your product and theirs. A lot of times they’re very happy to publicize that there is that integration to their existing customer base. You may very well get a lot of signups as a result to that. It really depends a lot on what the other products are just to kind of you threw out some examples. I know that you can do integrations  with like MailChimp and Google Analytics is one but honestly, they’re — you know, people aren’t paying for that but if they are products that people already paying for, you know, as a subscription then those are the types of people who are already willing to pay for a subscription and then they may very well be willing to pay an additional fee for a subscription to your product.

[27:13] So those are the things that I would probably look at as a good way to boost revenue. And the nice thing about that is that it’s continuing. It’s not just a one shot. I mean obviously you’ll get one shot in SEO benefits and you know, the influx of traffic when, you know, whoever that integration partner is publicizes it but – on an ongoing basis, you’ll get additional revenue based on the fact that those people are using their product and say, “Oh I just found this product.” Maybe it’s Basecamp and they’re using Basecamp and I’ll say, “Oh well there’s just an integration with my — with this other product over here. Maybe I’ll go check that out.” So thanks for the question, Sean.

[27:54] The next one we’re going to go to is from – I know I’m going to butcher this name Loradrius Thomas and he says, “Hello, I’m not a techie individual but I have an idea for an application that will assists entrepreneurs but I don’t have any experience with the code or writing software. What do you recommend I start?” I would say start episode 1 and start with —

[28:11] Rob: Yeah, exactly. [Laughter] This is a big question.

[28:14] Mike: It’s a huge topic as an involved topic and there are so many different things that you need to understand that just having an idea for something is not necessarily good enough. I mean you basically have to prove that there is enough demand for whatever it is that your idea is that people are willing to pay for and until then you’re not going to have anyone who is going to be a developer who’s going to sign on to the department, you know, as we’ve mentioned numerous times that you have to have at least two out of three things to build a business you need to have the time, money or skilled set, two out of those three things. And as long as you have two, then you’re fine and it sounds like — I mean, you know, it wasn’t clear you don’t say that you have money, you don’t say that you have time to do it but if you have time, then you can learn to write software. If you have money, you can pay somebody to write it and if you have the skilled set to either do the marketing or do the development, then that’s at least half of the equation. But if you don’t have those things then you’re kind of a stand so there’s not much you’re going to be able to do.

[29:19] Rob: So I think the first thing to think about is how to prove out this idea, how to get as far as possible without having any code. And he doesn’t give us much of an idea of what the app is. It’s a application that will assist the entrepreneurs but if there’s any way to do this without code or is there any way to do it via e-mail with Excel spreadsheets, with a VA, with your manual time just doing stuff on the back end does it truly have to be software or can you hack it and basically do human automation and get your thing launched and even if I mean even if you don’t have a website at all, if this helps entrepreneurs, then find entrepreneurs and start helping them with this, you know. And if you need to throw up a WordPress website and use the theme and you added some text, then learn how to do that and get people to it and then start helping them.

[30:08] So I mean I think that really would be where I would start. Obviously, we’ve talked in the past, there are several — several times about partnering up with a technical co-founder, how to encourage them to get onboard, how to basically prove to them or at least as much as you can prove to them that that the idea has merit and that you basically remove as much doubt as possible. But those things are all down the line to me because until you’ve taken this first step and validated the idea, you don’t need code to validate a lot of the ideas even something like HitTail. If you think about what HitTail does, it really just analyzes traffic and it takes the best keyword and so, you know, the best keywords from what you target. So the hack way around that is to find people who use Google Analytics or using Analytics package and say, “Okay, I’m going to help you with this.” It can be 10 bucks a month. I’m going to need you to export, an excel export of all your organic keywords from last month and they send it over and you manually go through it and do the checks or you hire a VA to do the checks, you know, figure out where your algorithm is going to be, how you’re going to recommend stuff and then send them back the list manually. It’s totally hokey. It totally doesn’t scale but it’s a way to see if you can provide value to people who’ll pay for it without writing a line of code.

[31:25] And you know, and then from there, if you figure out that you can provide value and that people are liking it, now you actually have a few customers using your — your service which is essentially just a manual service at this point but from there you — you can go approach a developer and say, “Hey, people are actually using this. People are paying me money for this. How can we automate this? What’s our first step to automating this?” Because at that point, you don’t need to go ask and spend a thousand developer hours to build something, you could start really simply by just building a very basic database that, you know, you could manually import to and you can kind of just take the next step, the next minimum viable step instead of trying to build this full-fledged app from scratch. I hope that helps, Loradrius, I think that’s his name. Loradrius Thomas, thanks for the question.

[32:07] [Music]

[32:10] Mike: Our next question is from Steven and he says, “What’s the best way to approach other bloggers about interest in my blog and is that even necessary? Here’s the thing, I can’t stand reading other blogs and the genre I like to write about because I feel like it takes off all my time and has information I already know. So how without liking these blogs do I get interest in my writing? Does this even matter in a marketing and traffic growth sense?” Well to me like this isn’t a question so much about a product as it is about a blog and getting attraction from other bloggers and then niche for this blog. And I would wonder about whether or not these other bloggers feel the same way about it as you do. I mean is all the information that you’re putting out there and that they’re putting out there stuff that is common enough between all the different blogs that you can read one blog and pretty much know all there is to know about that particular niche and you know, this question doesn’t necessarily say what’s the niche is but I think it’s hard to imagine that there is a particular niche out there that, you know, one, you could just go to one blog and it’s kind of a one-stop-shop for everything you could possibly know about that and even if it is, it’s — sometimes it’s very nice to get a different take on it especially for people who aren’t fully in trench in to that particular niche.

[33:23] I mean it sounds like if you’re writing a blog about it, you obviously know a lot about it and if right off on it and you’re willing to share that information but you don’t necessarily want to hear other people talk about it because of the fact that you already know all the stuff that, you know, they’re going to be talking about. So those are kind of my thoughts on it but I don’t think that it’s unwanted to go talk to these people. I mean I think that the thing to do is just drop them the e-mail and you know, whether you do have like chat with them or talk to them, you know, one of the things you don’t necessarily saying here is what is it that did you actually looking for from these blogs. Are you looking for recognition from them? Are you looking for back links? Are you looking for partnerships? Those are some things that kind of entered my mind and if you’re looking for back links, I don’t know if getting on these other blogs is necessarily going to meet a whole lot. It might help you in terms of SEO but in terms of getting their readers to come to your blog and also read your blog when the content is going to be similar, I don’t know if that’s going to help you a lot.

[34:23] For partnerships, if they have products and you have products and you wanted to do some sort of cross selling, then that’s a great way to go. I don’t know if you really need to be a reader for a blog in order to approach them because you can certainly just talk to them about it. I mean if you can work out some sort of a deal where you’re cross promoting their products or bundling them together, for example, then both of you collectively become an authority in the space just by a virtual of — partnering and reselling your products together. So those are kind of the things that enter my head with this particular question. But I don’t think that it necessarily matters whether or not you get them interested in your writing unless of course your goal is to get them to link to you for, you know, whatever reason.

[35:06] Rob: Yeah, I agree. It would help to know more specifically, you know, what he’s looking to get out of this. The other thought I had is that if you already know what’s on these blogs, then you can probably just read the title of the post and scheme through their post and getting an idea what they’re blogging about. And if you already know of the information because it’s so basic then that’s probably all you’re going to need to do to stay familiar with what they’re doing and keep up to date. And if you are in an equal plain with them in terms of readership and notoriety, then it should be pretty easy to reach across the island just dropping them an e-mail. If you are at a lower kind of plain field than them if they’re just have a lot more popularity, a lot more experience, then sending them an e-mail is, you know, it may or may not work but the sure fly way to do — to start getting noticed is to pick the two or three top blogs, you know, that you’re looking at in this niche and start leaving some comments. You don’t have to read the whole post if you already know the information.

[35:59] Again, if they’re commenting on, you know, talking about stuff that you already know then you should be able to add to that pretty intelligently, pretty fast from the top of your head and be able to improve upon their post. And once you do that a few times, these folks will start to recognize you and then when you drop them an e-mail, you can mention “Hey, I’ve been a reader, you know. I’ve been commenting on your blog,” and they will likely notice it. But I think it does come back to what Mike said what exactly you hope to get out of these relationships. If you kind of just want to network and yeah, have them cross on products, then that’s fine. I do also thinking that maybe writing a post about them or even linking to them in a post or two of yours, it’ll show up in their Analytics and they will notice you. You know, they’ll notice that you link to them and they probably have Google Alerts if you’ve mentioned them by name and they’ll come out and check out your blog and that’s another way to kind of extend, you know, a hand shake and maybe get them to — to notice you off the bat. So those are our thoughts. Hope those help, Steven.

[36:51] Mike: The last question for today is from Andrew and he says, “Hi, Rob and Mike. Great job for the podcasts, I’m really enjoying them. I was listening to the how to drive traffic to your site podcast and noticed that it was recorded a few years ago. I’m curious if all the tactics still apply. For example, do you still view Twitter as not being useful for driving qualified traffic? Thanks in advance for your response, Andrew.”

[37:11] Rob: So I think most of the approaches, I think all of the tactics actually that were listed there still apply. I think for his specific question which is probably all we have time to answer on this podcast is “Do you still view Twitter as not being useful for grabbing qualified traffic,” and the answer I have is yes. So I view Twitter as a great networking tool. It’s a great way to keep up relationships. It’s kind of like just up an ongoing chat between a bunch of people. It’s great for partnerships. It’s great for kind of deepening relationships and it’s also really good if you are creating content. So if you’re putting out a blog, a post now and again, whether it’s on your company website or your — an industry blog, something that is interesting to people who are reading your Twitter feed, then Twitter is a great distribution mechanism.

[37:53] But that’s — that’s how I view it as, it can certainly draw people in from your Twitter feed to your app but honestly, you need, I mean literally tens of thousands of qualified followers to get any kind of sales funnel out of that. And I just — I don’t see it as being very viable nor a good way to spend your time. I mean there are much, much more effective ways of driving qualified traffic that we did talked about in this episode — it was episode 6, I’m pretty sure.

[38:22] Mike: Yup.

[38:22] Rob: How to drive traffic to website and you know, there — obviously, there’s paid acquisition and there’s SEO and there is other social media approaches. I mean there’s — there’s a lot of ways to do this that that are going to just be a much better use of your time if you’re actually trying to sell something as the end goal.

[38:38] Mike: Yeah, I would have to agree with that. I mean I still don’t necessarily view Twitter as a great way to drive traffic. Now I do feel like Twitter has value in that if you already have a product that’s established and you’re getting people to follow your product on Twitter, then I think the Twitter is a great way to get additional information out about your product or to get people talking about it but that’s going to be generally for people who are already customers of yours. Or if you’re running a product where people kind of admire your product or in your state they admire what you’re doing, they may follow you just kind of hear what sort of things are being said but I don’t necessarily think that those are going to turn in to qualified leads. All of that said, Twitter does have an advertising platform so you may be able to tap in to that and use it to get paid traffic. It’s not something I’ve tried yet. I actually have like a hundred to a $150 that I got from American Express for some program that they were running. I will be trying that out with AuditShark to see how that goes and I’d be happy to share what I learn from that. But aside from that, I don’t think that just having a Twitter account is going to drive the qualified traffic that is qualified enough to turn those people in sales.

[39:54] Rob: All right, Andrew. Thanks for the question. By the way, he is at videorascal.com.

[39:59] [Music]

[40:03] Rob: If you have a question or a comment, call it in to our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or e-mail us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes by searching for Startups or via 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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2 Responses to “Episode 90 | How to Shut Down a Product, Raising Capital Without Investors, Generic or Product Domain Name, and Other Listener Questions”

  1. Hey guys great show. Just wanted to echo Mike’s thoughts here on integrations. I am in my first week running my web app startup full time and I’m starting with testing a bunch of traffic techniques.

    So far the integrations strategy is by far the biggest converter. Average conversion rate is 2.5% for all traffic (visitor to free signup), the conversion rate from my listing in partner directories (like xero.com) is over 5%. I think part of that is having a dedicated Xero landing page (which Xero enforces) but it’s also just partly this crowd is already paying for a SAAS service and want to get the most out of it.

  2. Thanks for answering my question and validating that I’ve been spending too much time on Twitter trying to drive traffic. Much appreciated!