- Crazy Egg
- Visual Website Optimizer
- Google Priority Inbox
- Hacker Monthly
[00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 22.
[00:12] Mike: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or are just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
[00:20] Rob: And I’m Rob.
[00:21] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. How are things going this week, Rob?
[00:26] Rob: Going pretty good. I’m actually excited. Our podcast numbers are up over the past few weeks. We took a delay of two weeks between episodes, and it’s kind of funny. I think it’s just a happenstance thing, kind of a random occurrence, but we had our biggest jump in the last few months.
[00:42] So I don’t know if it’s, like you said, just people coming off of summer or what the story is, but it’s nice to see a lot of Tweets and people emailing and just getting in touch about the podcast. It makes me excited to come back and record it here.
[00:53] Mike: Yeah. Actually, now that I think about it, we’ve also been getting quite a few more questions emailed to us. Some of them we respond to individually just because they don’t necessarily make sense to answer publicly and on the podcast, usually because they are either very specific or they are things that we just really don’t have any experience with or knowledge about.
[01:12] But there is certainly a bit of a backlog in the questions right now. But certainly keep them coming. We will try and answer as many as we possibly can on the podcast.
[01:23] Mike: So in keeping with our previous format change that we announced on the last podcast, Rob and I are just going to be discussing some of the things that we’ve come across, whether they are links or articles that other people have posted, or just things that we’ve been thinking about that kind of relate to people who are building small software companies.
[01:40] One of the first things I wanted to bring up was a website called AppSumo. And there was a recent deal on there for a website optimizer, and I’m fairly certain that it’s over at this point. But basically, what AppSumo does is it aggregates a number of different deals from different software vendors for a very low price.
[01:58] The one for the website optimizer was, I think, $25. And if you went through the actual list pricing for all of the different things that they offered, it was in excess of $500. It was maybe $528 or something like that.
[02:10] So it was basically a very, very good deal, and you could get it for $25. One of the things I wanted to point out was AppSumo is obviously not the only place that you can go to get these things. If you go to a lot of the different software vendors out there, many of them have what they call either entrepreneur licenses or special startup licenses that they will give to people for either very low cost or for free.
[02:33] And the thought behind that from the vendor is that eventually you will become a paying customer as your software startup grows. And if your software startup kind of fizzles and they are not able to show you value on your time investment in their tool, then obviously it doesn’t really matter; you are never going to end up paying them anyway. But it’s worth it for them, from a marketing standpoint, to try and acquire you as a customer in that way.
[02:56] So if you are looking at different software products, and the MSDN subscriptions are a perfect one to look at, because there is a BizSpark subscription, there is WebSpark subscription. You can get pretty much everything in the MSDN library for free for a couple of years. And then I think we’ve mentioned in a previous podcast there is a very small exit fee of something like $100. But you are getting thousands of dollars of software for $100 over the course of those three years.
[03:21] And then after that, they want you to become a Microsoft certified vendor and join their partner program and put their logo on things and get your software certified through them.
[03:30] But a lot of other vendors have these types of programs. And the best thing to do is just go ask them. If you don’t see it on their website, ask them, because they may very well to be willing to put one in place.
[03:39] Rob: Yeah, that AppSumo deal was pretty cool. I got one myself and I tried out Clicky, which is the real-time analytics package. It’s kind of like Google Analytics except it’s real-time. Essentially, you see users right as they are hitting your site in real-time. That was kind of neat.
[03:54] I have to admit, I don’t know that I’ll wind up paying for it. It’s certainly well built, but it didn’t give me a ton of information that I can’t get 12 hours later through Google Analytics. But it was nice to be able to try it out. I think I have three months free. And maybe during that time I will learn something new about it that I didn’t realize in the first hour or two that I looked at it the other day.
[04:13] Mike: Yeah, I looked at Clicky myself, and I haven’t, obviously, plugged it into any of my sites yet, but one of the things I thought about using that for was for a product launch or to help you figure out whether something is going wrong.
[04:25] I completely see your point about using Google Analytics, because 12 hours later it doesn’t really matter; you can get the same sort of data. But if you are trying to, let’s say, debug some problems in your sales process, maybe that will help you figure out exactly where people are and where people are going on your pages when you are trying to debug those sorts of things.
[04:45] Another possible use case scenario I can think of is that maybe you put a Java chat engine up there or something like that and you integrate it in while you are trying to debug your sales process, and start asking people questions and try and get them engaged, try and get them to click on the chat button to figure out what it is that they are really looking for when they are at your site, because that feedback is kind of hard to get.
[05:07] So I could definitely see some uses for it. But I think long-term I would probably agree with you that, given the data 12 hours later, it’s probably not that big a deal. Or even if its 24 hours or 48 hours later.
[05:18] Rob: That is a good point. You are right about if I was doing a launch. I have had times when I wanted to see stuff in real-time during a launch.
[05:24] Mike: What other tools did you take a look at?
[05:26] Rob: I actually haven’t looked at any of the other ones.
[05:29] Mike: [laughs]
[05:29] Rob: Yeah, I think I’ve used Performable in the past. I already use Crazy Egg. And I did, I looked at Visual Website Optimizer, which looks really cool, actually, for someone who isn’t able to hand code their own HTML, or isn’t able to make some mods to a page.
[05:47] Basically, it allows you to visually create your A/B pages, whereas I’m fine just doing it through Google Website Optimizer, which means you have to hand code your own stuff. I shouldn’t say hand code. You basically copy the page and then make a change to the second page.
[06:01] Visual Website Optimizer, I mean if it was free I would totally use it. But, you know, it’s like 50 bucks a month, I think. And for me, it’s probably not going to save me enough time to really be worth using.
[06:12] Mike: That might be aimed more towards the non-developer crowd, to people who just don’t necessarily know how to do all that stuff but they still need to do it.
[06:21] Rob: Yep. Even watching the video demo I was pretty impressed with it. What I like is that I can now recommend it to people who I know can’t hand code, but who want to do some split testing, which is neat.
[06:31] And then the other one is usertesting.com, which I’ve used several times in the past. And I think you get one free test and then some discounted tests. So I’ll definitely be using that.
[06:39] Mike: Cool.
[06:40] Rob: How about you? Did you try any of them?
[06:42] Mike: No, I really haven’t had time. I’ve definitely got some product launches that are coming up in the next couple of months and I will definitely be using them. I just haven’t really had a chance yet.
[06:51] Rob: OK. Next topic. I met with a local entrepreneur last week and we were talking about his product, which is a niche SaaS app. And one of the things that I realized is that he had mentioned that he had wanted to write the code, launch the app, and then do a bunch of marketing.
[07:09] And it occurred to me that we often think, as developers, that marketing is this step in the process, that one step you do at a certain point to get the word out, and then the app is marketed.
[07:19] And I was thinking to myself, like, wow, SEO and just all of marketing is such an ongoing process. Like, it has to be as ongoing as your product development itself.
[07:30] Mike: I mean that’s an interesting point that you bring up, because a lot of development is solving a particular problem, and you solve that problem and you move on. And marketing is not the same type of issue. I mean it’s always an ongoing problem. It’s not something that you can just solve and move on. I mean it’s never solved.
[07:47] I think that what makes it so challenging for developers, because they want to find an end. You know, they want to find a solution to the problem, implement that solution, and be done with it. And it’s not something that you can do with marketing.
[07:58] I mean it’s one of those things that constantly generates work, and it is not possible to…I don’t want to say it’s not possible to automate parts of it, but it’s certainly difficult to automate the entire thing. I see what you are saying how that’s just a different problem to try and tackle. How do you feel about that? Did that kind of summarize what you had been thinking?
[08:19] Rob: Yeah, definitely. You know, I always learn stuff when I am talking to entrepreneurs. I learn things about my own perceptions. And I’ve realized that something I did about, it was probably about a year ago, was I added a reminder in my calendar. And every month it goes off in the middle of the month and it tells me, “Work on your SEO.”
[08:35] And so it forces me to do it every month; to build links as if they are organic. And obviously, SEO is just one subset of marketing, but it is something that I do every month to all my sites, and I make sure that week I build some links and I do some SEO stuff that needs to happen.
[08:51] So that actually leads into the next topic. There was a report released by Trialpay.com. And the data in the report is…it’s all right. I mean it is presented in kind of an odd way, and I am not vouching for it. But they did interview 184 software companies, and the report talks about customer acquisition strategies for software companies.
[09:12] And they said that the number one customer acquisition strategy is SEO. 29% of software companies cited SEO as their number one acquisition strategy. Which, I don’t know. It was a little surprising. I totally preach this. I preach that hard, and I am a big-time SEO advocate, and I use it a lot in all my apps.
[09:29] But I guess I felt like other things would have crept up by now. And I think social media was like 6% of companies said it was their number one.
[09:37] Mike: Really?
[09:38] Rob: Yeah, isn’t that a trip? So this is kind of weird…What you would really want to know is SEO is X percent of their business. That would be a better thing to know. But they ask what their number one tactic is, their marketing tactic. It’s kind of a hard stat to absorb.
[09:51] Mike: The other thing you have to also kind of keep in mind in any of these studies is that you have to take them with a bit of a grain of salt. And one of the things that would come to mind is how successful are these 184 companies that they asked? Are they large companies? Are they small companies? Have they been around a while? Are they brand new?
[10:07] You may very well find that 6% of the people are relying on social media and all of them are brand new. And the reason is because all the ones that would have been a year old have all gone out of business.
[10:17] And I’m not saying that social media is a bad way to go. It depends entirely on what your product is. But without that kind of information it kind of throws a wrench into what that study actually tells you.
[10:28] Rob: I totally agree. And they don’t say much about the companies. I have no idea if they are new or old. When I was reading it, I was like, “God, this feels a little…”
[10:35] Mike: Not sketchy, but…
[10:36] Rob: It’s not sketchy, yeah…
[10:37] Mike: It’s off.
[10:38] Rob: But I think it’s unprofessional. My wife is a researcher. She’s a psychologist and she did research for a long time. And so she has a super high standard for this stuff. And so I think that’s kind of pulled me up. There’s a lot of rigor involved in research. There’s a right and wrong way to do it.
[10:51] Mike: I know what you are saying, though. You have to have some sort of a standard for any of these statistics or any of the data you are looking at in order to put together a rapport, because you have to base it in facts. There’s got to be facts to back it all up.
[11:02] And the problem with these types of reports is that you can slice and dice the data to make it say just about anything that you want. That’s challenging.
[11:11] Rob: So Gmail announced their new mail filtering. It’s called, like, Priority Mail or something. And so they are basically going to look at your behaviors. I assume they’ve been tracking those for a while. And they are going to put things that you open and click on and reply to a lot, they are going to put those at the top of your screen, kind of in this priority area. And then I think if you star things, they go into the middle. And the lower priority stuff is at the bottom.
[11:35] First of all, if they can pull this off, I think that’s awesome. From a user perspective I think that’s really cool. And my guess is that if they are rolling it out, they are pulling it off. They don’t just roll something out. They are not some Vaporware startup doing it. So hopefully it actually will come to pass.
[11:48] The interesting ramification for us as company owners, as people marketing software, is the rich are going to get richer and the poor are going to get poorer, meaning if people are opening your emails, if you have an engaged list and you are writing good subject lines and people are opening them, then they are going to get bumped into that priority queue and they are going to be more likely to be opened. And if you write crappy emails or you have a crappy list, your stuff is going to get bumped down.
[12:13] I’m assuming it’s on an individual basis and not like a global thing, like if you send a mass email that if 100 people don’t do something with it, I don’t think it’s going to move, for the rest of the people, move it down into their…
[12:24] Mike: No, I agree. I don’t think that it would. Yeah, because I mean what’s important to you is different than what’s important to me.
[12:30] Rob: Right. But anyways, it really is going to be interesting to see how this pans out. What, Gmail has 140 million users or so? So there’s a lot of people on this. So I think this is something that we have to think of, we as software entrepreneurs really have to think of as this rolls out.
[12:43] And I imagine if it works that other companies are going to do it, too—Outlook and stuff. And if everyone does this, it creates an impetus for us to raise the bar of our email newsletters and email marketing efforts.
[12:53] Mike: Well, I’m not sure that it really does, because if people open your stuff…I guess if it’s a new list, would it matter? How is Google going to classify that? Is it going to show up on the second page instead of the first? I mean are they just assuming you are always going to have this one page of emails?
[13:09] Rob: No idea. Well yeah, I guess there would be a second page. Now if you go over 50 and you have your page size set to 50 in your inbox, you will have a second page of email. So yeah, I think that now your top priority section might only be 15 or 20. And so if you don’t make it up there, you are either on the second page on the priority or you are down on the bottom, and then you are really…
[13:30] I mean I can just imagine some people kind of ignoring that lower priority area forever.
[13:35] Mike: Well, not even just forever. I mean there’s emails that come in…And I tend to use my email box as kind of a clearing area. And if something comes in, I try to either act upon it or reply immediately if I need to, or just move it off and put it into a to-do list or something like that, and then get rid of the email.
[13:54] And yeah, my emails stack up and stuff, but I will actually mark things as unread that I haven’t had time to go back and go through. I don’t know how a system like mine would play into the Google mail filter. It just seems like it’s a new paradigm, and because email is kind of so engrained into the way that we currently use it, I think it’s going to be something of a hard sell to a lot of people.
[14:18] There’s going to be some people who jump onto it and say, “I absolutely love this new system. It’s great.” But I think the vast majority of that 140 million people are just going to say, “No, I like the way that I’m doing things.”
[14:28] Rob: Oh, interesting. I imagine there will be an on/off setting. So you think that people will turn it off?
[14:33] Mike: Yeah. There would have to be some sort of an “off” setting. I would think that people would turn it off. I mean I think a lot of people will try it, but I just don’t see people actually using it for an extended period of time. I mean people will try it out and say, “Hey, there’s this new tool from Google. I can use it this way. No, I really don’t like that. That sucks.” [laughs]
[14:52] Rob: Yeah, I guess that’s the thing. I think if they pull it off well, like, I could see using it. Because when I come in in the morning, every morning I have around 50 new emails that have come in overnight. And typically, I scan through and I pick out the high priority emails, essentially. I pick out emails…never from you! No, I’m just kidding.
[15:11] Mike: [laughs]
[15:12] Rob: I pick out emails from you and, you know, from other real people who are asking me stuff. And then I kind of make another pass and go through the other things. So if they can actually pull that off with their AI and kind of separate it out, I personally will like it.
[15:24] Mike: Well, I mean really, all they are doing is they are taking the bayesian filtering to a personal level. Instead of applying it to spam on a global level, they are applying it to each individual user. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a very, very simple problem to solve, but it’s a fairly straightforward problem to solve.
[15:38] And I just think that the social aspects of that problem are going to be much higher than they’ve probably counted on. I think the technical side is probably fairly straightforward. I just don’t think that most people are going to want to change how they currently use their email systems, including myself.
[15:54] And I could be wrong. Maybe they will blow me away with how good it is. But Google is certainly not perfect in all that they do. I mean where is Google Buzz and Google Wave at this point? [laughs]
[16:04] Rob: Doh! OK. So my prediction is thumbs up and your prediction is thumbs down. Let’s revisit this in a month or two. And hopefully in a future episode, once it’s out we’ll come back with some tactics for software entrepreneurs for people trying to get their email through and get read.
[16:21] Mike: Well, one of the other things I wanted to talk about was average developer’s standpoint on security systems. I’m specifically talking about software security, not like the physical security of doors and locks and everything else because people lose their keys and stuff.
[16:34] Rob: I hate security. I really do! I just hate it. I feel like it’s boring code. I think that’s what you are going to say here, but…
[16:40] Mike: When I say security to you, and specifically software security, what do you think of? What comes to mind?
[16:45] Rob: I think of, like, code access security and scouring DLL’s. I guess stuff like cross-browser site scripting. You know, protecting from hacking, stuff like that. And I just don’t enjoy that. I know that it’s a necessity and that we have to be smart about it, but just, to me, it’s not the…Like, business problems and writing code that actually does something is the exciting part. Creating—that’s the cool part. But worrying about this other stuff is just a pain in the butt.
[17:10] Mike: Worrying about how your code can be exploited is not particularly interesting?
[17:15] Rob: Yeah. I imagine it is for some people. But I think, for me, the making is the better part.
[17:20] Mike: I understand that. I guess when I started to talk about it, what I was actually getting at was security that is implemented on, for example, your development box and trying to make sure that you can actually do your job.
[17:33] So, for example, in some cases in a lot of corporate environments, the machines are locked down to the point that developers actually have a very difficult time getting anything done because developers generally need administrative access to their machine. And they need that because their code accesses certain DLLs in order to compile, it hits into certain parts of the system. You are always installing and uninstalling new software and doing different things. And you generally need a higher level of privileges than the standard user.
[18:02] And, in some cases, and in some environments, that’s very difficult to get. It’s hard to get the information security guys to understand that you need advanced access. And in addition to that, the software that you are building has to be able to run in modes where the machine is locked down. And it has to be able to be easily installed into those environments.
[18:23] And it is such a nightmare to have to try and work around some of those issues. And that’s kind of what I was getting at more. I guess what are your thoughts on that side of the security coin?
[18:33] Rob: Well, yeah, I think that’s a similar issue. I mean I think anything that is a pain for a developer that keeps them from being productive or keeps us from writing more code faster, I think anything like that is just more of an irritation than anything.
[18:48] Mike: But do you see the need for it?
[18:50] Rob: I guess it depends. I definitely see the need for having a security policy and for locking certain things down. I have worked at companies where they go too far and they lock down developer boxes like actual desktops to where you can’t install new software. I think that’s too far.
[19:07] I install like two or three new things a week, just whether it’s to play around with it or whether there’s a new development tool. There’s constantly new stuff. We are not people in marketing or in a call center where, A, we are less technical. I would say we are less likely to install viruses and make mistakes and do stupid things.
[19:25] And B, we have a lot more technical needs. Like, we need to install software much more often and get new packages in. So yeah, there definitely needs to be a policy, but I think, man, developers have to have way, way more leeway than other people in a typical business setting.
[19:40] OK, next topic. Did you hear about Hacker Monthly? They reprint the top hacker news stories from the month and they put them together in a really nice, well formatted PDF, or you can order a print version of it. Have you heard about it?
[19:53] Mike: No, I haven’t, actually.
[19:55] Rob: Yeah! It’s kind of a trip!
[19:56] Mike: Is it new, or is it…?
[19:57] Rob: It is. The fourth issue just came out, so I think it’s been around four months. I grabbed the first three. The first three issues are free in PDF. I had put them on my iPad and I read through them.
[20:08] It’s just so nice to have that filtering. It’s a human being who’s filtering it, right? There’s an editor. He picks the top stories based on his opinion. It’s actually, I think he said they have to have more than 100 up votes or something and then he picks from there. Then what he does, he just formats it really nicely like a magazine and puts a nice cover on it and writes and intro and stuff.
[20:29] I enjoyed it. I read the issues on my iPad. Then I think they actually…it was funny. He and I, I emailed the editor and we were chatting about something. This guest post that Reuben did on my blog two weeks ago is going to make it into Hacker Monthly. I’m like, “Reuben! You guest posted and got in!” Because I totally wanted to get something in there, you know?
[20:46] Mike: [laughs]
[20:47] Rob: But he did that post on why free plans don’t work, and it looks like they’re going to include it. They said, “Yeah, it’s timely because we’re going to stop being a free magazine.” So they were doing free PDFs and trying to sell ads, and then they had the print version that you could buy. But he said it just wasn’t working. So I think they’re going to be $3 for the PDF version, and then you still pay for the print version.
[21:06] It’s an interesting commentary that even an online magazine switched off of the free plan. I’m curious to see how it’ll work. Issue four just came out. I skimmed through the table of contents and there just wasn’t enough in there to compel me to buy it, which is interesting. I didn’t buy this issue.
[21:22] Mike: Yeah, I know some people who’ve tried to go down the road of building a magazine. My wife was in the publishing world for several years. Just hearing how the numbers worked out in terms of how much money was spent on actual printing of the magazine, what their timelines and deadlines were, and how far they worked ahead, and what their advertising was like.
[21:45] You flip open any given magazine and, easily, probably 30% to 50% of it, if not more, is advertisements. It kind of sucks to be a reader. You’re flipping page after page because you bought it for the content, not for the advertisements. Unfortunately, for most magazines, the advertisements generally float the entire magazine. So I’m not surprised that they switched over and started charging $3 for the PDF.
[22:09] Rob: I agree. The hard part is when you’re going after such a small niche…You know, you think about Hacker Monthly, how few people are actually going to be interested in that. It’s such a tiny niche that I just don’t think you can do the ad-based stuff. There’s not enough volume.
[22:22] Mike: I wanted to ask your opinion on this. Since you obviously have an iPad now, I can ask you this. [laughs]
[22:30] Rob: Why, yes I do, sir. Thank you for pointing that fact out.
[22:34] Mike: You say you’ve bought a couple of books on there. Did you buy them through the iBooks in iTunes, or did you go with the Kindle?
[22:41] Rob: I went through the Kindle version. The reason I did, well, there were two reasons. One is that is what…if I buy something on the Kindle, I can read it on a Kindle or an iPad or an iPhone. But if I buy something in iBooks, I can’t do that. I can’t read it on a Kindle. And I don’t know, can I read an iBook on my computer, because there’s a Kindle reader for the computer?
[23:03] I just feel like the Kindle has done a better job. They’re further ahead in the race. And I feel like they have software that runs on more platforms, and, like, if there is a new platform that comes out that they’re definitely going to write an app for it, because that’s their business. Whereas I think Apple’s going to stay kind of closed like they are.
[23:18] But, yeah, so that was just my feeling. I don’t know if I’m right. These are always such hard decisions. What do you think? What have you done?
[23:24] Mike: You raised a bunch of interesting points. The one thing that you didn’t mention that I expected you to was about the format, the EPUB format versus, I think it’s Kindle that’s got the proprietary.
[23:36] Rob: PRC, yeah.
[23:38] Mike: Yeah.
[23:38] Rob: It’s like its own markup.
[23:39] Mike: Yeah, and I’m surprised you didn’t mention that, because that’s something that factors into my decision. The other one is price. Things in the iTunes, my understanding is that they tend to be a little bit more expensive than if you buy the exact same thing through the Kindle.
[23:53] I don’t know where I fall on it. I’m probably going to make a decision here in the next couple of weeks as to which one to ultimately go with, because there’s a bunch of books that I’d like to get.
[24:03] I remember telling my wife a long time ago, because I’ve got this massive book collection. I’m just like if I could get these things in electronic format I would, but I can’t for most of them. And it’s not like I can retroactively go back and convert them, because it’s just not cost effective to do so.
[24:19] Rob: Yeah, that’ll be…I’m interested to hear how that pans out. I feel like you might wind up going the Kindle route because of what you said, like price, and I think their selection is quite a bit larger than iBooks. We should confirm that.
[24:34]Mike: The other thing that they have going for them is that you don’t have to actually use iTunes to get the books or anything like that. [laughs]
[24:39] Rob: You mean Amazon?
[24:41] Mike: With Kindle, yeah. [laughs]
[24:42] Rob: Yeah. That’s interesting you brought up the format, because, yeah, PRC for Amazon is a pain in the butt. I had to hire someone to do it for my book. But EPUB, I’m pretty sure that there are some generators that will go right out of a Word doc into EPUB almost seamlessly. Like, it’s just a really easy automated conversion process.
[24:58] So it seems to me like since iBooks does support EPUB, that there should be a no-brainer. They should get a lot more books in that format easier because publishers can just mass convert them. So we’ll see if they catch up soon.
[25:11] The other interesting thing that I ran into with the Kindle version of my book is Amazon just hoses you on the commission. Basically, if you price your Kindle book at $9.99 or below, they give you 70%, which is more than they give you on a print book. But as soon as you go above $9.99, they give you 35%. So you just have to charge an exorbitant amount of money to make anything. If you charge 12 bucks they give you $3.50 in revenue, which isn’t anything.
[25:39] Mike: Yeah, I mean, your price points are basically $9.99 or $20.00. And you’ll make the same amount of money either way, which is kind of odd, to be honest.
[25:49] Rob: Wow, they’re obviously just trying to really push people. I guess they don’t want to forbid pricing over $9.99, but that’s essentially what they’re trying to do here.
[25:57] The weird part about it is you can say, OK, well just price your Kindle book at $9.99. But then that totally undercuts all your other sales channels. If you’re selling a hardback or a paperback, or even a PDF EPUB version like I do, if you’re selling those for 24 bucks direct, then you charge $9.99, you’re going to totally just undercut those sales. So it’s really an interesting paradigm. I can see why publishers are having kind of a conniption over it.
[26:26] Ilya: Hey, guys. My name is Ilya. I’m a student and I’m a software developer who’s trying to launch several products. In one of your podcasts you’ve mentioned that to get your website started from zero to X number of visitors, you said that you need to create a landing page and just basically collect email addresses.
[26:45] This is my main concern. When the product is ready, how do I get people to use it? Can you possibly provide some more tips on the subject? Thank you very much, by the way.
[26:55] Rob: This is actually a pretty common question. It’s a good question. I’m glad it came in.
[27:00] It seems like Ilya’s question was two-fold. One was about how do I get that initial first few hundred visitors/users? How do I start from nothing and get people to come? And part two is how do I do a landing page? And I think he’s implying that the landing page can help you get those first few hundred visitors or users, which, of course, it can.
[27:22] So I think there’s a process here that works. There’s kind of a design pattern. The steps are like this: when you have an idea for a product, you figure out a domain name, you register it, and you get a landing page up as soon as possible.
[27:36] You can get that up by installing WordPress and using the LaunchPad theme. You can go to Template Monster and buy a landing page template. You can go to unbounce.com and you can just get a landing page from them. They have templates. They host it for you starting at 60 bucks a year.
[27:53] So any of those will work. If you’re a developer, I’d probably try to do one of the first two just because you have more control. In addition at that time, you want to start getting some content up for some SEO. Because the longer you have stuff in Google, the more authority it starts to give you.
[28:08] So if you’re marketing towards designers who are looking for a certain thing, then you figure out what keywords they’re going to search for and you get a few articles up or a few resources up for them. You do all the SEO on those pages, and if you’ve picked a niche well, then it’s likely you’ll rank at Google pretty quick for it, as long as it’s not super-competitive.
[28:28] Then, over time, as you’re trying to build buzz for this thing, whether you’re blogging about it or just talking with different people, you’re basically just sending folks to that landing page and you’re trying to build a mailing list.
[28:41] So when your launch date comes, you do email the people on the launch list. You let them know the product’s available. Typically, you give them a deal, a price break or something like that will last for a few days, because you really want to do two things. You want to reward them for being on the list. And two, you want to encourage them to purchase up-front, because you really do want to get people using the product quickly so that you can iterate and make it better.
[29:04] So that’s how you’ll achieve your initial critical mass. You’ll make more sales on that one day than you probably will for many months, assuming you’ve built your list really well. But you’ve also hopefully been doing SEO and potentially, frankly, commenting on blogs and getting to know some bloggers.
[29:22] I mean, I guess you have an agenda. But you have to be real about it. You really are in a startup world now, so you’re going to need to rub shoulders and do a little networking and such. In that case, if you put out a good product and you know a few bloggers, then they’re likely to send you over a link.
[29:37] So then your traffic will start to build through referral traffic and through Google traffic. That’s how you get the sustainable, ongoing stuff. So that’s my answer. What do you think, Mike?
[29:47] Mike: I think it ties in quite well to what we had discussed earlier in the podcast. We didn’t do this intentionally, but if you look at marketing as a problem to be solved as opposed to something that is a process that continuously needs to be, essentially, reapplied, then you are kind of going about it wrong. You can’t just expect that you are going to develop your product, and then as soon as you are done developing your product you can start going out and doing beta testing and trying to get people interested in using it.
[30:16] I mean you really need to start that process well before you launch, or even before you are ready to start doing an alfa or a beta or anything like that. It’s critical to start that process as early as you possibly can and then continue doing it while you are doing the development of your product.
[30:33] Otherwise, you are going to get to the end of your development and your sales are going to be significantly less than what you either projected or what you had hoped for, which is demoralizing at best and business killing at worst.
[30:47] Rob: If you have a question or comment, you can call it in to our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690. Or you can email it in MP3 or text format to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[31:00] If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for “Startups”. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com.
[31:11] Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. A full transcript of this podcast is available at our website: startupsfortherestofus.com. We’ll see you next time.