[00:00] Rob: This is startups for the rest of us episode 62
[00:13]Rob: Welcome to startups for the rest of us podcasts to help developers, designers and entrepreneurs to be awesome at launching software products whether you have built your first product or you are just thinking about it, I’m Rob.
[0:00:20] Mike: And I’m Mike.
[0:00:22] Rob: And we are here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we made. What’s going on this first week of the year Mike?
[00:28] Mike: I am sitting next to a barrel of beer.
[00:31] Rob: Is that right?
[00:32] Mike: I’m sitting in my in my home office my wife got me a home beer making kit for Christmas.
[0:00:38] Rob: Oh that’s cool awesome. How long does it take to ferment and all that?
[0:00:41] Mike: The marketing on the box says two weeks but the reality is its four plus. It depends on you know how much time you want to give it, it recommends a minimum of seven weeks for like the first stage and then another, sorry seven days for the first stage and then another seven days for the second stage. And then after that you can condition the beer for however long you want.
[0:01:03] But you know you make multiple bottles of it kind of all the time, all at the same time in a single barrel. So obviously you put them in different bottles when you start bottling. But it’s kind of unclear ass to how long that conditioning process should actually take and I think it’s more of a trial and error sort of thing than anything else. As I said the marketing says 14 days but it’s really month plus.
[01:24] Rob: Right 14 days if you want to make really crappy unconditioned beer and if you want it to taste good it’s…
[01:29] Mike: Yeah.
[01:30] Rob: Well it’s just some…
[01:31] Mike: I think so.
[01:32] Rob: Well cool I am just coming off of vacation. I have been off for oh yeah I’m trying to figure out exactly probably a week and a half. I was going to be off for and I will be off later this week as well. But I am kind of coming back to work because I wanted to record the podcast, I had a mastermind meeting this morning and then I need to get I have like four between four and six hours of Hit Tail work left and then new side will be ready to go. And my goal is you know it’s to have it done by the second week of January until they launch it to the customer.
[02:03] So I just have such a tiny amount. I worked many 2:00 in the morning nights before vacation and in an effort to get this done because I really didn’t want to have this six hours work right I wanted to get it all done at once but just couldn’t swing it. So I’m very excited I finally I got the new design integrated into the back end which was it was definitely more difficult than I had anticipated. I don’t regret doing it I look at my other options which would hire someone to do it or to have it rewritten in another language and both of those would have taken five to ten times as long. In the end it took me little over a week and since I am on a pretty hard you know hard timeframe now I am glad that I did it. But it was a big man I put everything else on hold, I have tons of emails to answer and all that kind of stuff so.
[02:46] Mike: Yeah I remember we talked about the possibility of porting that completely to a different language and you know you pointed out that it’s really just not worth it to go to a completely different language.
[02:58] Rob: Yeah and even you know I started specing it out before I started integrating the design into the app itself I started writing a spec because I was going to hire a developer to do it, to basically rewrite it in ASP.Net or ASP.MVC. And sure enough the deeper I got into that spec the more I realized how complicated these pages actually are. Even though they seem to be simple grids with sorting and paging and you know hey you can do that in three lines of jQuery I mean that’s totally what I was thinking. But as I got deeper I was like wow there are some really complex stuff.
[03:27] I still have a spec that’s probably 60, 70% all the way done so if I ever you know need to revisit it but it gave me a good idea. I mean I guess this is where that whole you know there is the specs argument should you write specs should you not. What’s nice for me I write really lightweight specs for outsourced labor. I have developers work for me and they’re solid developers but I can write really lightweight specs but it allows me to fully think through the problem. And if I had not done that and I had just gone with the no spec approach you know I know 37 signals talks about that and a lot of other people.
[03:56] And I had just sort of moving forward with it it would have been I would have probably gotten a couple days in and then realized that this was way more difficult than I thought. I don’t know when I do stuff myself I don’t tend to write specs but in this case it actually helped me out quite a bit. So I was glad I did.
[04:10] Mike: Yeah and honestly I think that that’s exactly the problem that I run into with Audit Shark over the past few years so because I didn’t write a spec for most of it. I kind of had mentally had it in my head all this has got to get done that’s got to get done. And I never really dug far enough into write a full blown spec to really figure out exactly how long most of the stuff was going to take. So a lot of it I just said, oh it will take me you know three or four days to get through that or a week to do that. And the reality was it took me significantly longer just because I really wasn’t thinking through the full problem the way that I should have been.
[04:46] Rob: No exactly and even lately you know as I was writing code and trying to figure out how I am going to make all this work and trying to plan out the timeline my spec for myself at least consisted of a couple of sheets of paper and bullet points of task items. It could have been in Excel as well but I just happened to do it on paper. And then writing you know I will estimate next to it and break them down into tasks that are less than a day. And it will give me a much better idea of I mean I know people who don’t even do that right its all in their head. And I don’t know if that’s how you did it or not but I feel like that’s really cruising without anything if you don’t even have a bullet list of tasks left to go. You know you are burned down type of thing
[05:22] Mike: Right yeah what I did was I put everything into FogBugz as individual cases. And some things were really high level that I just kind of left as place holders and I knew that’s there was more of a major undertaking. So I just kind of left it as it is and just said implement X. And then there were other things where I went a lot further in and I implemented maybe 10 or 15 different cases for an individual feature that I wanted to accomplish. So I dug a little bit deeper on some of it but other things were just kind of a one high level case that I would kind of stay. And then as I started working on it then I would start generating more cases out of that.
[06:01] Rob: Right. Hey I had this tip I wanted to give listeners. With this Hit Tail migration there is the upside which is the backend reporting once you log in that’s what you see. But then there is the front side which is all the marketing stuff and normally when you know these days when I build a SaaS marketing site it’s a handful of pages right. It’s like five pages homepage, tour page, pricing page, maybe features, contact, about and maybe an FAQ you know it’s really a short list.
[06:26] Since hit tail already had a couple 100 pages of content the tip is if you acquiring a website and you are going to migrate the pages to a new design go onto Google and type in site colon and then your domain name so site colon and then hittail.com. And it will show you all the pages that Google has indexed for your domain.
In essence it’s how like 1000 or 2000 pages indexed so when I first ran that, ran a query I was like oh lord I have so many you know so many pages to migrate. But it turns out the bulk of those are form posts and blog entries which is cool because since those are blog and form engines you can kind of just change a theme and you are golden
[07:05] It turns out there is somewhere between 150 and 200 actual physical HTML pages HTML and ASP pages. So what I did next is I hired a developer he went through and migrated all these pages to the new design. But he is not a design expert and he definitely not a marketing guy. And so what I then did is I went into Google Analytics and got maximum use of my time since I didn’t want to go through all 150 of those pages. I looked at the pages, the content that gets the most hits. And so I took the top 20 to 30 pages and those got at least ten views a month from search engines. So I know people just kind of wander into them.
[07:40] And what I did is I took each of them and kind of first of all made sure they all look nice and it did take a little bit of tweaking here and there. Second of all at the bottom or at opportune places I put a like a nice button that says “now try our plants” or “now check out our plants” or “now try 30 day free trial” depending on what the page was and what it was talking about. So the idea is that I am trying to take this wide and this long tail of search traffic that I am getting and I don’t have time right now this week to fix everything.
[08:06] And so what I did is I took the low hanging fruit, the thing that most people see and I am funneling all of those users back into my main funnel that is really hardcore, good information about the project and that is going to encourage people to buy. You know it basically encourages them to do the free trial and such.
[08:22] Mike: Very cool
[08:25] Rob: You talked to a perspective customer last week?
[08:28] Mike: Oh yes I did. I was able to get in and schedule a meeting with somebody who I have been kind of in contact throughout the past year or so. And I came into his office talked him for probably about half hour 45 minutes or so and started walking him through Audit Shark and showing him exactly what it was, what it did and how it could apply to his environment based on one of our previous discussions. And what I found was that what he is really looking for is more or less a vulnerability scanner as opposed to configuration management product.
[09:02] And from that I kind of extrapolated a little bit and I said, well wait a second maybe I am missing the mark a little bit. I walked through the path of what the progression is for people addressing security in their environment and I kind of realized that it really put in perspective when I was talking to him and showing him Audit Shark that progression is essentially IT managers start out with patch management because it’s really the lowest hanging fruit. And then once they have got patch management under control they start looking at vulnerability management.
[09:28] So they start looking at things that aren’t necessarily patches for but they want to be aware of those things so that they can you know address the risk with whatever the vulnerability is. And then once they have got that under control they kind of go to an advanced level where they are doing configuration management. Now Audit Shark can do all of these things but I was really thinking of addressing the configuration management piece not necessary the patch management or the vulnerability management.
[09:56] And based on our conversation it almost seems to be like I might want to I guess it would be shifting gears a little bit to go more towards vulnerability, scanning and patch management scanning versus going for configuration management. Because like I said the product can do all three of those it’s just really a matter of how do I want to market it to people.
[10:13] Rob: Sure that’s true so it’s a positioning more. Now is it setup right now out of the box that you can do vulnerability scanning patch management or would it take actual code different code?
[10:24] Mike: No it can do it. I would probably have to build some specialized reporting I need to enhance the reporting the product anyway so it’s not like that’s really a big deal.
[10:32] Rob: That’s pretty weak right now right?
[10:33] Mike: Yeah so if I wanted to do that kind of stuff it’s not a stretch for it to go after those areas. Because really when you talk about something like patching how do you determine whether or not a specific patch is installed? Well on Windows its fairly straight forward you look at the registry and you figure out whether or not that patch has been installed either through the ‘add remove’ programs. Or you go to where the files are supposed to be located on the operating system, look at those locations and check the versions of the DLLs or the executables.
[11:04] And if they don’t exist at all then chances are you don’t have the software installed that you know requires that patch. If they are installed you check the version numbers and say do they match this and if not are they of the lower version and if so then you have to have to have this patch. So it’s really not that much of a stretch to make the product do that because the product is capable of all of those things. The difference between configuration management and vulnerability management is really just the rules that you are write and what you are looking at. And because the core engine can do pretty much anything on a machine I have the capability to do that.
[11:39] Rob: So the good news is that you have the capability, the other good news is you get to talk to more customers to figure out if they are right because you don’t want to go on one customers recommendations. So you get to go and talk to how many more do you think you are going to talk to five?
[11:51] Mike: I think five on the high end probably three to five I don’t know if it should be more than that.
[11:54] Rob: Right I think it will be interesting to hear how it pans out as you go if one guy says, oh we would totally want it for freaking configuration management you know what you do if you just position it as configuration and go there first or how you handle that so.
[12:06] Mike: Yeah I think it really depends on what foot I want to lead with you know.
[12:10] Rob: Absolutely.
[12:10] Mike: Because I have looked out there at some competitive products and some of them say flat out we do vulnerability management and configuration management. It doesn’t seem like too many of them combine patch management as well but it’s certainly possible.
[12:23] Rob: Sure I would lean towards getting really good at one. I mean especially since you are one person trying to do this and its probably teams doing the other your competitors I imagine it’s larger companies I would consider really focusing on one and positioning it like the best X instead “we do X and Y look at us we are kind of good” but not great.
[12:42] Mike: Right I know what you are saying but as you said I mean its all about market and positioning at that point because its not a technological problem for Audit Shark. It’s a matter of how its viewed by people and how do I want to pitch it to people.
[12:56] Rob: Right
[12:59] Rob: I want to give a shout out to Rudy and higherflow.com that’s higherflow.com. Just want to thank him he send me a really nice email that was you know, I’m very experienced MVC he has his own startup which is higherflow.com he just offered to basically have a conversation with me in terms of if I decide to move to MVC things I need to look out for and things I should keep in mind. So I just appreciate that it’s cool when listeners to do that you know offer their time for basically for nothing just to help us out.
[13:28] I’m stoked men we got 71 ratings in iTunes. And most of them are I think 6, to 7 or 5 stars. And we have a bunch of new comments from November and December and there was some really cool moments. One of them says it’s from Tess Falcon and it says I love this broadcast, I have heard too many stories of 16 year millionaires and they never failed at anything stories. This guy seemed so much more believable since they didn’t get started until they were older, didn’t hit a homerun with everything and actually failed before they were able to put the pieces together.
[13:56] And then the other one, gosh there is about a half a dozen I wont read through them all but this one said its from Wood in wire where and he says, listened to your episode six and updates today after finding you guys in a browse for interesting dev related podcasts,. Episode six was really helpful particularly the ‘when to pay someone to help you’. So I’m surprised that you guys stuck around because from what I recall our first half a dozen episodes were not very good.
[14:17] Mike: You know funny that you have mentioned that because when I ran out of podcasts I started listening to our old episodes and…
[14:25]Rob: Were they?
[14:25] Mike: I thought I would be yeah I really thought I would be completely appalled and I wasn’t.
[14:30] Rob: Oh that’s cool. So that’s the thing I haven’t listened back to them in a long time in well over a year and I remember feeling stiff doing them and feeling kind of ashamed of putting them out.
[14:40] Mike: Right.
[14:41] Rob: But that’s good you know I think I need to go back and listen to them so that’s I stop saying that because if they are not that bad then I need to not brag on them.
[14:45] Mike: Yeah.
[14:46] Rob: Some people might yearn for the glory days or they are like the first ten were the best you guys were terrible though.
[14:51] Mike: Yeah the first one was it seemed a little bit stiff a little bit forced but I think after that things straightened out pretty quick.
[14:58] Rob: Yeah so we got a bunch of new reviews where we encourage folks you know this is what helps us rank in iTunes, which gets us more listeners which encourages us too basically to continue doing the podcast. So if you haven’t been on there we would love a five star rating, a comment all that stuff it’s just awesome. And like I have said before we have such a high number of comments and ratings compared to other podcasts that have many more listeners than us. So we know that that’s you guys out there we appreciate it
[15:24] Basically we are going to be answering as many questions as we have time for. As we talked about last time we still have a big backlog of listener questions from the past several months.
[15:32] Mike: Right.
[15:33] Rob: It’s been cool doing this every week. The first question is questions to ask a web designer prior to hiring. And this was on Twitter and it’s from @ReadTree and he says questions to ask a web designer prior to hiring from the point of view of a consumer wanting a website made. In essence I ask very few questions to web designers. To me hiring a web designer is the easy part because they have a visual experience right, they have a visual display that you can look at and says do I like that or not. Hiring coders, ten times harder even for me who write you know I’m a coder it’s still really hard to evaluate and all that stuff.
[16:09] But for designers the first question is always portfolio like if they don’t have one they are no go. So the first thing I look at is how much I like their designs, the second thing I ask obviously is rate because budget is important. I have four different designers I use depending on the project. Well four different ways I will design a site the lowest end is WordPress and getting the premium theme that’s under a hundred bucks. But it’s a little cookie cuter it’s not nearly as nice as the other three designers that I have you know who go up to ten grand for a website or more depending on how big it is.
[16:40] But with the Hit Tail design I went with my high end guy and I paid the front end design was six grand and the back end was a couple grand. And then it was PSD to HTML was you know probably two to three thousand more because I had to get high end or the low end HTML and I wanted super slim down markup and a lot of stuff. So I have never spent that much on design. But I totally don’t regret it in my opinion it’s a good design.
[17:00] The other question I would asks beyond budget is how long do you take to deliver designs, how many revisions do I get? That’s pretty much it and typically I will have a Skype call with someone even though I don’t do Skype very much I tend to do email. But when I am hiring someone like a designer I really need to know that we can work together. And it’s good to have just a little bit of face to face so that the person understands kind of where you are coming from because you are going to have emails we are going to be critiquing their work and I always want to have a little bit of relationship with them when I am doing that. I don’t tend to spend too much time worrying about what’s to ask when hiring designers because I do find that people who do really good design tend to deliver well for me.
[17:39]Mike: The things that are important to me at least are the number of revisions because some people will hand it over and depending on who the designer is I mean if they are, you want to avoid somebody who is a little bit flaky where they’re just like oh this is my work and its top notch and you get what you get. So you do have to be a little bit careful I mean most designers are not going to do that to you if you have never worked with designers before you just have to be careful you don’t get stuck with that.
[18:01] And then the other things are pretty straight forward, the only other thing I thought about asking on occasion but I have never really dug much into it in conversations is what their workload is like. Because I kind of want to know if I have revisions or changes or if I am under a time crunch for something are they going to be able to respond in the time that I need.
[18:21] Rob: That’s a good point you know there is a difference between turn around time on revisions which you are hoping is like a day or less ideally. The best designer I have worked with he would turn around in a couple of hours which was just sweet. There is a difference between that and the total timeline. You know you can kind of ask a guy what’s your typical timeline for your average five page web design? And they should have an idea right out of their experience they do this all the time, they know that it takes from your first description of it to when he delivers PSDs it could be two weeks it could be four weeks depending on his workload.
[18:54] Mike: So I think it also depends on what their typical timeline is for the mental discovery phase. You can describe something to a designer and they can say okay I have got an idea of what you are looking for at least conceptually let me think about it for a little while. And while they are designing other things maybe they toss around some ideas in their head or you know they are out to dinner one night. And they are just kind of thinking about it not too in depth but you know something just kind of crosses their mind hey that will be a great way to do this particular project.
[19:25] So you know you may get one designer who says three weeks and the other one who will say it will take me five, its not like its actually taking the person an extra two weeks. There is time that they kind of build into that for more of a creative process than anything else. And that’s as you said that’s not necessarily as important as what their actual turn around time is once you get to the revision events.
[19:46] Rob: Right and I think the other thing I will point out is these days I haves found that a lot of designers only go to PSDs. And then there is this whole other subset of folks very specialized who are doing PSD, slicing them and turning them into HTML and five years ago my experience was there were a lot of designers doing all of that, that whole even 10 years ago especially doing that all gourmet. But I found that it’s become more specialized. So I would recommend actually if possible finding a designer who just goes to PSDs and then using someone else who is very good in specialized that PSD to HTML. And we actually have folks we recommend inside the academy for that stuff and if someone has a question they can, you know ,email me directly.
[20:27] Question number two is examples of “coming soon” pages. So this is from Sumit Gulecha and he says thanks a lot for the podcasts and they’ve helped me and inspired me. Based on your advice the first thing I want to do is get the “coming soon” page out and start collecting emails, good move. There was a question about this that you answered on a recent podcast, it was helpful but I have a further question, I am wondering if I need to tell people about myself, my background. I got the gist of your answer that the goal is to tell people just enough for them to be able to decide whether or not to sign up for the notification mailing list. But I expect to figure it out soon as I proceed but it would be helpful if you can provide some examples. So I will answer his question about providing background about yourself, it depends.
[21:09] I would lean towards not, especially if you are selling a product like a SaaS app people care more about what does it do. They don’t so much care about who you are or what you do until you ask them to buy then I would prefer that you have an “about” page with a picture, you know it kind of makes it more personal. At this very early stage I would tend not to do that, the exception, the reason I say it depends is because when Mike and I put on MicroConf, we did mention on that page who we were because if people are going to be interested in the conference they do want to know who is behind it.
[21:39] And the fact that we both have blogs and podcasts and ran the academy and have the start ups, I mean this stuff is important to people. So we actually just linked out to our blogs, and when I did my landing page for my book and if I do future, you know, products like that in the future I always have a down at the bottom you know hosted or written by Rob Walling or something just that kind of mentions, because I do have some name recognition in the sphere and so the name actually is important.
[22:00] Mike: For most products or most applications you are not going to want to bother putting your own personal information on there especially if it’s just a “coming soon” page. But once you get down the road where you have got people on to your mailing list and you start emailing them, talking to them about the product and then when launch day comes a long when you are trying to actually sell to them they are going to want to know who you are. And for MicroConf and even your book I think those situations are a little different in that those are a bit more personal.
[22:32] Rob: Yeah it’s almost like they have something to do with personal branding. We do have some type of name in this space. And so if you somehow had written a bunch of articles for veterinarians and you were known in that space at least a little and you are putting out veterinarian software, then of course you are going to lend your name to it a little bit right?
[22:49] Mike: Right.
[22:50] Rob: It may not be the foremost thing but it’s like if people know you in that niche then yes it’s probably worth something or if you have some specific experience that really relevant. But even then we didn’t put an “about” page, anything like that on MicroConf. It was like one sentence and it said brought to you by, I think it was like brought to you by the guys by startups for the rest of us and the MicroConf Academy, Rob Walling and Mike Taber and it linked out to our about pages, like our you know respective blogs or blog about pages. So I don’t think you want to add a bunch of clutter, landing pages should be pretty darn slim till you get to the full site that I would recommend building out a full “about me” page.
[23:25] Mike: Yup.
[23:26]Rob: And if you are—Sumit also kind of asked about landing page examples, and there are some really good examples on bounce.com and we can link that up in the show. But frankly if you to Google and type in landing page examples you will see some pretty quick. There are also a lot of pretty decent WordPress themes at Theme Forest and Woo Themes that are landing page themes. And so you can kind of filter through them and even if you don’t use WordPress, they still look attractive and they show you, you know, give you an idea about how much text looks good on those pages.
[23:54] Mike: And speaking of WordPress and it’s completely, you know, not relevant to this, I doubled the load speed of some of my WordPress installations.
[24:03] Rob: How did you do that?
[24:04] Mike: I cut out some of the plugins, so for example there is the jet pack analytics that was kind of bargain things down. Then I also used the Contact 7 plugin.
[24:14] Rob: Yeah.
[24:15] Mike: And I found that the Contact 7 plugin loads a lot of CSS and additional files that don’t need to be loaded on every single page of your site.
[24:25] Rob: I see yeah.
[24:27] Mike: Even though you only use the Contact 7 plugin for one page for example like your contact page, it gets loaded on every single page so all those extra files get loaded every single page. So there were several plugins where I found that that was happening so I had to go through them and tweak some things. Then I am actually going in with my, with DreamHost right now and asking them some questions that I just got an email a little while ago saying oh this is potentially why some of your images are loading a little bit slow.
[24:52] Rob: Got it, well I’m going to need to talk to you more about that because my DreamHost virtual server has been eating more and more you know processing power and such and I just keep cranking it up. And I know that it’s got, it has something to do with or imagine it has something to do with my WordPress installs.
[25:07] Mike: Yeah.
[25:08] Rob: And I have gone through and disabled some of the plugins. But I use Contact 7 on a few, I didn’t realize it was hogging so many resources. If you find someone to hire to just handle that stuff for you let me know because I need someone you know good who can just go in and do these kind of stuff and optimize and all that.
[25:25] Mike: I was seriously thinking the exact same thing of just hiring someone to do that but…
[25:30] Rob: Yeah well I started to look on Odesk, I started a post one day and then I got side tracked with Hit Tail stuff. So of like someone who knows DreamHost and knows WordPress and can go in and do stuff without breaking it but they can make recommendations to me of like I think we should do X, Y and Z, Z, Y and Z. And then that person can then go do it, you know what I’m saying? Like the whole deal, I don’t want—I just want you to be a consultant and to take care of everything so.
[25:52] Mike: Right.
[25:55] Rob: Question three is a quick tip, it’s from Sean Murphy, he has written several questions and he has a landing page at hvacpracticetests.com. and HVAC is a it’s like mechanical contracting so there is electrical and then heating, ventilating and air conditioning is what it is. And obviously there is a test that people have to pass in order to become a contractor. He says the primary goal of the page is to collect email addresses and he had a secondary action that he wanted users to take which was to complete their survey.
[26:26] And originally he had just added the link to the survey to the bottom of the page with a bit of a call to action copy. But obviously it wasn’t working because people were entering their emails and going through and never coming back. So he changed the success message after the user submits their email and instead of saying okay we will be in touch, it says okay we will be in touch now go take the survey, and he linked that out. And he said the change worked really well, he now gets…he continues to get the same amount of emails and he now gets a good percentage of people taking the survey. And so he basically he went from trying to do parallel to serial processing right? He is now doing it in series.
[27:01] I love this idea; I’ve done this before with wanting people to take an action and struggling with it. I did the same thing, I put them both on the page and I knew before I lunched, I knew it just wasn’t the right thing to do, you know, to have these two calls to action. There was no…they are going to do one or the other and you are going to lose them. And so changing it up and giving that second call to action after they have already done the first I just think it’s a golden tip.
[27:23] So I want to thank Sean Murphy again and we will get back to him, I think he has another question in our queue somewhere that we will probably answer in the next few shows. Okay our next question is about having a physical address. It’s from Richard Cocovich at segal.org. It says hi guys I have been enjoying the podcast since the beginning and I regularly refer to Rob’s book whenever I can grab some time to work on my start up idea. I’m in the process of getting my mailing list and landing page set up correctly, according to CAN-SPAM I have to have a physical email address to associate with the mailing list or so MailChimp tells me.
[27:58] How do you guys handle this? Earth Class mail is not cheap, its 25 bucks to get started and 20 bucks a month. I am trying to spend as little as I need before I have income especially for thing like this that are not directly related to the product. Thanks for your time and keep up the great work on the podcast.
[28:10] Mike: You know Rob uses Earth Class mail and I use Mailbox forwarding which at the time was only $10 a month. I think their cost, I think the cost for that has gone up to $15 a month. So I am still fortunately on their $10 month plan. But I get virtually zero mail and that address is really just to satisfy those mailing requirements that for the CAN-SPAM laws. The other thing you can use it for is if you get, and I haven’t tried this yet but I’m expecting that it would work for like the extended validation for SSL certificates, but I’m hoping that that will pull through for me.
[28:47] Rob: Got it, yeah so I also use it for domain registrations because I have so many, you know, gazillion domains out there. So I’ve got to be honest…
[28:53] Mike: I used to use a proxy for that.
[28:55] Rob: Oh do you? Okay.
[28:55] Mike: Yeah.
[28:56]Rob: But that’s extra money right? That’s like 70, 80 bucks per domain?
[28:58] Mike: No like if you do it through Dream House it doesn’t cost you anything they do it for free.
[29:02] Rob: Oh how cool, so I’m through Go Daddy which if you’ve heard about the SOPA boycott I’m thinking about hoping from them. But yeah I know I have, I don’t know what is it? 70, 80 domains through Dream…through GoDaddy. So I try to keep them all registered in one place and yeah they charge of course, I don’t even know what it is, seven bucks a year or something for a proxy to keep it private. See I actually like, that’s interesting when its proxy does it show up as being private, because when they see that in the domain registry I get a little bit of a red flag because I’m like huh is that person trying to hide something?
[29:33] Mike: It shows up in the Who Is listing as some sort of proxy, it actually says proxy in it.
[29:40] Rob: Got it, okay so I would then prefer to have just a normal address instead of a proxy because my experience dealing with like affiliate marketing and there are some kind of shadier neighborhoods of affiliate marketing. And people always use those private registrations because they don’t want to give an address. So if I were to search for Who Is and see it, most people probably won’t see it but my inclination would be like ding! Huh a little bit of a red flag there.
[30:03] Mike: Right.
[30:04] Rob: So that’s why I already had, I mean that’s one of the big reasons I got an address is because I wanted to be able to put one there and not have to use a proxy.
[30:10] Mike: I think it’s because you are more technical. Let me ask you a question, I assume you bought Beyond Compare right, we talked about that before?
[30:18] Rob: Yes.
[30:18] Mike: Did you go do Who Is look up on them before you bought the product?
[30:21] Rob: No I totally didn’t. No I don’t typically do that.
[30:25] Mike: Right and that’s my point.
[30:26] Rob: I don’t typically so.
[30:28] Mike: Yeah I don’t think in the vast majority of cases it actually matters.
[30:30] Rob: But Richards’s question, so Mailbox Forwarding is 15 buck a month. You can go down and get a P.O Box for is it a 100 bucks a year for the smallest one?
[30:39] Mike: Something like that.
[30:40] Rob: Yeah at the post office it’s actually quite cheap and if you only use it for domain registrations and or, you know, this, the mail stuff you won’t get mail there and you don’t ever have to check it.
[30:50] Mike: You’ll still get junk mail though I think.
[30:52] Rob: That’s the reason why I went with Earth Class Mail even though its more expensive than the post offices because I never….everything is scanned in and it you know emails me GIFF of the front and I can see if its junk mail and if it is I just recycle it and if it’s not, because a few things have come through based on like state filings I have made that have actually been I wanted. And so then I can them forwarded to me or they will scan them in then I can just print them out at home.
[31:16] Mike: Yeah.
[31:18] Rob: So that’s nice, but I get Richard’s point right? He doesn’t want to pay 240 bucks a year on something he really doesn’t want, you know he doesn’t want to have to use.
[31:28] Rob: Fifth and final question is from Mathew Holmes and it’s about getting started in programming. And it say thanks for the great podcast with its excellent content, your insights have been great. I’m probably somewhat different than most of your listeners in that I am coming from a place of more experience with marketing and zero to little experience with programming. I was wondering if you could do an episode of resources for those getting started in programming.
[31:51] I am teaching myself PHP, MySQL and I am having some success using Tizag.com and W3Plus looking at blogs for specific questions. But I can’t help but feel I am missing the overall big picture basic grounding information. It’s not feasible for me to return to school so any tips would be appreciated, many thanks, Mathew.
[32:08] Okay so I have so many thoughts on this. My first thought is if you know marketing why are you going back to learn programming, like why do you need to do that? Because in my opinion having the marketing experience that’s really the hard part, outsourcing marketing, really hard, outsourcing development not nearly as hard even if you are not a developer yourself. If you get a basic idea of what it takes to do PHP MySQL and you have decent project management skills, I would not learn it myself. I just think it’s a time investment that could be spent doing other things.
[32:40] Mike: Well I wonder if the issue is that and this may very well apply to most people is that you know you want to get started building your own products and marketing them and you’ve got maybe the marketing experience because you’ve got no real background in programming. So how do you get something built? Well you and I would look at it and say well outsource it, pay somebody to do it. What if you don’t have the money to actually pay somebody to go do it? I mean you are kind of in between a rock and a hard place where how do you get started without money to get started because you know…
[33:09] Rob: Yeah so…
[33:10] Mike: You know what I’m getting at?
[33:11] Rob: I do, no totally. And we’ve actually talked specifically about this. So obviously there are two resources that you need. You need one or the other, you need time or you need money to get this thing going. So if you have an exorbitant amount of time, I mean a lot of time maybe 15 to 20 hours a week to teach yourself programming then go do that. But if you are trying to learn programming on five hours a week you are nuts, there is no chance.
[33:33] I remember I went through college and got a computer engineering degree which although it’s more hardware focused I had programming classes. I have been writing code since I was eight and when I got out and tried to build my first web app I had no idea how to do it. It took me weeks and weeks of nights and weekends to figure out how to build the app. Then I got my first job doing it, I was doing it forty hours a week and I learned more in a month than I had in the previous five, ten years of trying to do stuff once I had a real product I was actually trying to build.
[34:02] All that to say it is super time intensive to learn how to program if you’ve never done it, it’s very I mean very time intensive. And so I would encourage that if unless you have a huge amount of time and absolutely no money, I would encourage you not to learn how to do it. If you have even a few thousand bucks and you are a little more strapped for time I would lean towards trying to become more of the entrepreneur, of a project manager and a marketer and finding someone solid on Odesk who can build the product and then keep him around for maintenance and upgrades and stuff.
[34:35] What I am trying to think is the amount of money that you need to get started reasonably well right? And I don’t know what that number is I think it depends a lot on what you are trying to build. I think if you are trying to build iPhone apps you can get them fairly cheap because they are so small and self contained. And if you are trying to build some big SaaS application, I would say that you may be going down a bad path. If this is really your first app that you are going to build yourself and you have an idea for a really big app, I would suggest pairing it down or figuring out a different idea and finding something that can be built for under 5000 though a contractor. What do you think Mike do you think I am too heavy handed here?
[35:08] Mike: I don’t think so I think to become good at programming it takes a while. In your argument you come across very strong on it and I don’t necessarily feel compelled to argue against you because you know I’ve got that computer engineering background just as well as you do. And I think that the marketing side is, I mean I think we both agree on that the marketing side is a lot more important than the code. I mean you look at any enterprise software companies out there and if you look under the covers of the stuff that they’ve got most of it is crap.
[35:38] Rob: No I think you are right yeah.
[35:40] Mike: And the fact is it’s not very good code and it’s not very well written and it’s because those companies understand that they are not selling code, they are selling you know, they are selling a product. And if some things don’t work, okay well the support department can handle that. And I understand that you know when you’ve got your own products you’ve got to deal with everything. But what sells the products is not the product it’s the marketing behind it.
[36:00] Rob: This is our sixty second episode, I feel like we have said that at least once per episode for 62 episodes. That is our theme, I mean it really is and we have nothing, like we are coders, we love to code. If I had a, you know, my dream job it would be like to code half time and do other stuff the other half like I love doing it. The drive to code or the…everyone things they need to learn how to code to start a startup and coders think that all they need to know how to do to starts a startup. And we are basically here to say no it’s kind of the opposite.
[36:30] Mike: It is, I will be honest it’s painful to say that that’s not the case it really is you know because there is a program. I want to say yeah the code is important and the reality is it’s in many ways it’s not. I mean even for Audit Shark. I mean there is—and don’t get me wrong and there is a lot of good engineering and effort that went into it. But at the end of the day it’s not going to sell itself, it’s all the marketing effort that goes around with it.
[36:49] Rob: Right it’s important that you have some code, just getting it done and you having learned to code to write is not the critical part that’s going to make your business succeed okay?
[37:00] Mike: And I think that if you go down the path of validating, you know doing the marketing staff upfront and validating that there is a market for it, it’s a lot easier to plunk down $5000 that you are keeping close for, you know, a rainy day or you really can’t necessarily afford to spend it. But if you’ve got validation of a market and you know that there is a market there for that product then it’s a little bit easier of a pill to swallow to pay somebody to go do it. Even though maybe it’s your last $5000 but if you know that there is a market for it it’s not so bad because you can be relatively confident that you are getting it back. It’s not like you are going to Vegas and putting $5000 on black.
[37:36] Rob: Yeah I totally agree, instead of spending 10 to 20 hours a week for six months, and in fact if you don’t know how to code it’s going to take three months to figure yourself out and then six months to build. So I would put you in nine months of 10 to 20 hours a week to build this thing and its going to be such a hard road. Instead of doing that I fully agree with what Mike said, go out, do some lean startup stuff, cold call some customers, talk to people, get some data, get some demand, get your first five customers lined up.
[38:06] Once you’ve done that you can either be more confident that you can drop the money or with that data that’s the kind of stuff that you need to go to a developer and say look, let’s start a company together. Go to a developer now and ask him to partner with him, him or her, it’s not going to work. I get this question honestly, once a week I get an email through my blog or my book or whatever and someone says I am non-technical, how do I find a co-founder? And I always tell them it is very hard when you are not a technical co-founder, what you need to bring to the table is marketing experience.
[38:34] You need to have proven experience, you need to show people look you brought this years of coding experience, I bring all these valuable marketing stuff. And I validated the idea, I know it’s going to work let’s do it, you know what I’m saying? Like you are such a leg up, like go out and hustle before you want to build the product. Like build the product last, figure all these other stuff out first.
[38:52] Mike: Mhm, it’s all I have to say about that, Mhm.
[38:55] Rob: Yeah seriously. So that we answered five questions this time, we still have a big back log. I don’t know next episode that will be all questions or not but we appreciate everything joining us and we wish everyone a happy New Year. This should be out just a couple of days after the New Year and then we will resume our normal schedule starting next week.
[39:10] Mike: And if you have not gone and done so and you are interested, please go to www.microconf.com and sign up for the mailing list to find out about when MicroConf 2012 will actually be and you will be on the mailing list and get some of the first notifications of when tickets come out. Other than that if you have a question or comment you can call it in at our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email on an MP3 or text format to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[39:38] Our theme music is excerpt from We Are Out Of Control by Moot used under creative commons. A full transcript of this podcast is available at our website startupsfortherestofus.com. If you enjoyed this podcast please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for startups. You can also subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at strartupsfortherestofus.com. Thanks for listening we’ll see you next time.
Mike, I just reread Audit Shark’s website. Given your target market, do you consider it’s a good idea to show the software was made by an individual?
If you get sick or are otherwise unable to keep working on the software, what would happen? Etc..
Rob, just wanted to let you know I really dig the new hittail.com layout.
Keep up the good work, guys! The podcast is great.
Regarding mail receiving and forwarding services: I’ve been using virtualpostmail.com for my personal and business mail for over a year now, and I love it. They are one of the cheapest options available, and they have a very nice user interface.
PO boxes are certainly an option, but they can’t receive non-USPS deliveries (UPS, FedEx, etc). Also, sometimes a site will require a “real street address” and will actually check the address against a database to make sure it isn’t a PO box.
Sandy, I don’t know as it’s a big deal initially since most of my sales in the early stages may be high touch. They’re going to know that I’m the only one working on it. If they’re afraid of a product because it’s backed by one person, then I don’t want them as a customer anyway because they’re likely to be a bit “needy”.
If you’re ok with support taking a few extra hours to reply, then you’re the customer I want. Otherwise, the support time is going to cut into dev time and a given customer will hurt more than they help.
I remember seing virtualpostmail.com recently, but I think when I originally looked around, they either didn’t exist yet or their prices weren’t comparable. They certainly seem that way now though. Great option.