[00:00] Rob: In this week’s episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I are going to be talking about how to choose conferences and other live events, .NET versus Open Source, ideas for low risk businesses and answering more listener questions. This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 113.
[00:25] Rob: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
[00:34] Mike: And I’m Mike.
[00:34] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word for this, Mike?
[00:39] Mike: Well, I found out a short time ago that our good friend and popular MicroConf speaker Patrick McKenzie has an e-book that he published called Sell More Software: Website Conversion Optimization for Software Developers.
[00:51] Rob: Dude, yeah, I bought off of Hyperink.com the other day. I’m digging Hyperink. They turned a lot of blogs in to books.
[00:58] Mike: Uh huh.
[00:59] Rob: Did you see my tweet about it?
[01:00] Mike: Well, I definitely did see it on Amazon’s website.
[01:02] Rob: Oh, it’s on Amazon.
[01:04] Mike: Yup. That’s probably where I saw it. I don’t know exactly how I ended up there though. It might have been recommended to me through their Recommendation Engine. I’m not real sure. But it’s interesting. I mean he’s got…most of the content I think is primarily taken from his blog but there’s also some new articles that he’s written in there exclusively for the book about selling software and conversion optimization and SEO. So, I think for $10, you probably can’t go wrong.
[01:04] Rob: I’ve read most of the articles in the book as they were published in the blog but since I bought the book last week, I’ve only read a couple of them already. It’s like, yeah, no doubt. I am going to take enough ideas away from this that will be worth the ten bucks? Funny thing about Hyperink, did you know they’re YC funded?
[01:43] Mike: No, I didn’t.
[01:44] Rob: Which is weird because it’s such a non-scalable business in my opinion but they basically have done like two or three pivots from where they originally where they kind of just an online publisher and they have seemed to have some success doing this…this…in this niche of turning blogs in to books and they format them well and I think they do some copy editing and stuff. [0:02:00] There’s a number of blogs like startup and VC blogs that had been turned in to books and they’re all between maybe three bucks and ten bucks and they are all electronics. So, it’s a no-brainer if you need something read. I mean you can typically find a lot of the content for free but it’s like why not pay the money to have them in to an easy-to-read format.
[02:15] Mike: Uh huh, yeah.
[02:16] Rob: Yeah, one of my essays actually made in to one of them Dharmesh has his on startups Hyperink book. I wrote a blog post for that a while ago and it made it in to a book. So…
[02:25] Mike: Very cool. Well, what have you been doing this past week?
[02:28] Rob: Yeah, I have…basically, I had two weeks of kind of on again, off again downtime. I just…and I like to take these…these times to do that high-level thinking that I don’t get done much when I’m sitting in front of a computer. You find it when you’re in front of a computer, you always want to be niggling away like e-mail or Twitter or just, you know, kind of your monkey brain runs wild and it doesn’t let you sit there and like brainstorm and think about high-level things that you want to do over the next coming months or the coming year or whatever.
[02:57] Mike: Yeah, I find that being in front of the computer sometimes is distracting if I don’t have something specifically that I want to get done. You know, it’s kind of a time sink at that point I may as well be on Facebook or Hacker News or something like that because I’m not really being productive and I’m there to be there versus there to be productive.
[03:15] Rob: Right and that’s where I find this time where I’m kind of forced to be away from the computer, you know, because I’m typically with family or friends and often we’re, you know, eating, talking or watching movies and such or there’s even downtime where everybody is reading and just chatting. I mean that is like a good time to I think to relax and kind of center your mind and prepare it for, you know, for the deep thinking that’s required about high-level things about where the directions and the strategy that you’re going to take your…your business because again, I think sitting in front of a computer is not the right time to do that.
[03:46] Mike: Yeah, I think that just taking, you know, a couple of days even away from the computer, not touch the computer, not even check your e-mail, those time periods can be highly productible say for thinking about other things.
[03:58] Rob: So, you’re only two weeks away from launching AuditShark. How are things?
[04:02] Mike: Things are pretty good. I don’t have this nagging sense of something is wrong but I’m not sure what it is. So, I think I’m feeling pretty good about where things are at. There’s tons of things that I would love to have implemented. There’s tons of things that are sitting in FogBugz that are just not done and they will not be done and I’m okay with that.
[04:21] Rob: Right. So, the technical side seems to be…to be zipped up. Are you feeling good about the marketing and kind of what your launch about getting people to use it, early access users and stuff?
[04:31] Mike: I feel like I’m going to get people to use it whether it is exactly what they’re looking for or whether there’s going to be tweaks and stuff. I kind of expect that there’s going to be some things that they’re going to look at and say, “I’d really like it if it could do this or it could do that.” And that’s fine. I’m perfectly okay with that. It’s…but I really need to get start getting it in front of people and getting feedback from a general market sense of what people are looking for and what they are really interested in seeing.
[04:58] Rob: This week though we’re going to diving in and answering more listener questions. On our first question is about how to choose which meet-ups and conferences to attend. It’s from Felix Leong who is a long-time listener and Academy member and he sent us a number of questions but the one I really want to focus on today is he’s wondering what criteria we could recommend for which meet-ups and conferences to go to. And he said, “You know, do you use a selective approach like checking up the speakers, whether the topics suit in your interest or do you just go to every single free meet-up and kind of do a taster of buffet approach and see which ones do you like and stick with?” So, I think we kind of have two topics here, meet-ups versus conferences because meet-up is going to be more recurring either weekly or monthly things whereas conference is probably going to be a larger expense. We have to travel.
[05:45] Mike: I think with conferences you definitely have to think about “Are there going to be other people there who are in similar situations to me?” And if you are not thinking that question or you don’t have that question, you definitely needs to ask it and once you’ve asked it, the answer should be yes. And if the answer is not yes, then you’ll have to reevaluate why it is that you’re going. If you’re going with just because you want to hang out with those types of people, that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re looking to increase your business or figure out what source of things other people are doing that you’re not doing that you could be, then you know, you might want to start thinking about going to a different type of conference. That said, for meet-ups I think that with meet-ups, meet-ups tend to be…I think I tend to use the same type of criteria. There’s a lot of meet-ups here in the Boston area that I just don’t go to because I know that the types of people there tend to be the types of people who are focused on solving problems for which they will be using VC funding.
[06:42] And the approaches that they use are not the same approaches that I would use and they are generally not applicable because they have tons of money to throw around on all these different things to try and figure out what’s going to work and I can’t do that. And for me to even try to do those types of things, it’s just not feasible because I don’t have that money to throw around in my return on them just it wouldn’t be there. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t get something from them but it’s such that I feel like the value is just proportionate in terms of what I would get out of it versus what I would get out of going to some place where there are a lot of other people like me.
[07:17] Rob: Yeah, I definitely take different approaches for meet-ups versus conferences. Conferences, it’s fairly easy to just ask people within your networks. So, I would probably go in to the Micropreneur Academy as an example if I’d never heard of a conference and I would go in to the forums there and I’d say, “Who’s been here? What do you guys think?” Because since the conference tends to only happen once or maybe twice a year and they aren’t that many conferences in our space, you’re going to have someone who…who has gone and it’s going to be, you know, a longer process where you’re going to be able to really find out more details about it. And like you said, I think the big question that I ask myself is “Are there going to be other people there in my situation?” Because if you go to a conference and it’s a bunch of people, you know, even if it’s a startup conference, if it’s a bunch of people who are freelancers, client services people and they’re thinking about launching startups and they’re there to learn about it, well, if you’re further along then it’s…it’s going to be a drag because the content is going to fit and the people you meet you just aren’t going to have enough to talk about. You aren’t going to take much away from it. The hallway conversations are not going to be interesting. So, that’s the first approach I take with conferences.
[08:21] And then in terms of…of meet-ups, whenever I move to a new place, I pretty much try to survey all the meet-ups in the area. Now, that wouldn’t be possible if you move to San Francisco because I think there are several hundred startup meet-ups within the 60-mile radius. Most other places around the world, you’re going to be able to check out all of the startup and even remotely tech entrepreneur meet-ups over the course of a couple of months. And since they are free or relatively not expensive, I tend to take that that taster approach that Felix talked about and attend all of them just to start seeing overlaps, seeing who’s involve in the community. I think that’s a great way to…to learn who is there in, you know, in your local area, who’s interested in startups because in general, it tends to be a small tight knit community, starting to meet the people who are in your niche. Like Mike said, you know, bootstrappers may be a niche depending on where you live and so one by one, trying to find those people and potentially even putting together at meet-up of just as bootstrappers would be something that…that I would consider. So, I hope that helps, Felix. Our next question is a voicemail question about the pros and cons of a .NET and Open Source.
[09:27] Voicemail 1: Hey, guys. It’s Jack Colletti from Qula in Pittsburgh. And I love the show and finally got a chance to do a rating for you guys on iTunes. But my question is around .NET. I think it would be great for you guys…you have a pretty expensive .NET expertise. I’d love to hear or maybe a whole show on the topic or maybe .NET versus Open Source platforms, would love to hear more in depth. Thanks again and keep up the great work. Take care, bye-bye.
[09:53] Mike: So, I think that there’s a couple of different thoughts here. The first one is that when you start taking a look at the pros and cons of Open Source versus something like .NET, you know, there…there’s going to be things for both of them. There’s going to be pros for each, there’s going to be cons for each. I think for .NET the pros list for me is relatively short just like it is on the Open Source side. I think on .NET the pros are that it’s very easy to start getting in to the .NET stock. You can sign up for any of the spark, I’ll say the asterisk spark programs for Microsoft. There’s BizSpark, WebSpark. I think they’ve got YouthSpark now and you can sign up for these programs and you get a lot of software for free and after three years, you get to graduate from these programs. And then you get to keep all the software that you’ve been using. In addition to that, you get to keep the production licenses for some of that stuff.
[10:41] So, for example, when you finish with BizSpark, I know that recently I went through the graduation process for AuditShark and they basically give you a Visual Studio ultimate addition for every developer you have working on there who’s registered inside the program and they gave me, I think what was it, four Windows server licenses and two sequel server licenses to use for however long I want. And then in addition to that, they give you upgrade discounts for buying in to their MSDN Premium Subscriptions. On the Open Source side, you know, pretty much everything is free from day one. You don’t have to sign up for anything. You’ve just, you know, go and you download it and you can compile it or not. For me, I think the biggest downside on the Open Source side isn’t so much that everything is free, it’s that you have to kind of pick and choose which immunity stacks that you’re going to be using because not all of them are going to be supported and if you run in to any problems, you will probably have to fix them yourself. Not always, but there are going to be times where you have to get down and dirty in to the code and to some deep-rooted bug that you didn’t want to and you’re going to spend a lot of time doing that stuff.
[11:50] On the Microsoft side, I feel like Microsoft tends to take care of things for you. That said, if there are problems that are deep-rooted, you may not get them fixed in a timely fashion or you may not ever get them fixed. At the end of the day, it almost feels like a judgment call. It’s…it’s…to me it doesn’t necessarily make a lot of difference. When you start talking about cost, I think the one issue that a lot of people will bring up is that on the Open Source side, everything is cheaper and on Microsoft, it costs a lot more to run those things. At the end of the day though, you’re biggest cost of your business is employees and your salary and those are going to be exponentially greater than any of the software costs that are associated with it.
[12:31] And I think that that’s probably the biggest thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating these things and what you’re comfortable with using isn’t so much the getting started cost, it’s the down the road cost. And that down the road cost should not…you shouldn’t be looking at your software for that because you’re going to start comparing, you know, Ruby to a Windows license and oh well, Ruby runs on Linux stack and you know, .NET runs on Windows. Windows is going to be more expensive. Yeah, probably a little bit but at the same time, the incremental cost between the Linux server and Windows server is not that much versus the cost between having no employees and one employee and that is a huge, huge step. So, I would look at those for the cost versus what the cost of the software is.
[13:16] Rob: Yeah, that’s it. That’s a good analysis of it. I think that most people do look at the free cost of Open Source and think to themselves, you know, why would I go with a more expensive platform like .NET and I think you’ve listed a few good reasons. These days if I’m looking at building a new project, I do tend to lean towards Open Source. There are just some really good communities out there that we’ve talked about before the Ruby community, PHP community. I think Python with Django is actually a really good stack to build on. Some of the draw backs I’ve heard of the folks building stuff on Python and then you can’t find developers for it or they’re really expensive and actually Ruby devs, really good startup Ruby devs are expensive. And they’re going to be potentially more expensive than .NET developers who…who tend to be…who tend to get paid well but but I think just Ruby devs are in more demand in the startup circles right now.
[14:04] In terms of finding employees, since you covered a lot of the other elements, I was thinking about finding developers, finding contractors and my…in my experience, finding PHP developers has been easier than finding a good .NET or a good Ruby or a Python developer and so that’s something to think about. PHP developers are going to tend to be less expensive as well. On the flip side, you know, in terms of finding a .NET developer, they’re going to think more like maybe an enterprise consultant. Most people who develop .NET are not working for small startups because most small startups don’t use Microsoft technologies. And so, you’re going to be much more likely to find that kind of like a PHP or Ruby hacker who has potentially, you know, built and launched stuff before whereas in the .NET world, it’s much less likely that people have worked on small startups are going to have a bit of a different mentality there in general. These are all generalities and these are all based on our experience.
[14:57] But I think these days when I look at a new project like what I’m working on now, I lean towards Open Source and as long as I can find people at a reasonable price and the technology is proven and I’m not doing anything that that’s crazy, you know, that specifically requires hitting some Windows system API’s or that it requires a lot of scheduled tasks or any specific technology that, you know, that Microsoft .NET stuff would be more well-designed to handle, then I link…I do link towards PHP and Ruby for…for web technologies.
[15:29] Mike: One of the things that comes to mind in terms of the difficulty of finding .NET developers versus PHP developers whereas the PHP is really meant for web-based products versus .NET which kind of covers both desktop and mobile and web and you kind of have to pick and choose a little bit more because those people who are doing .NET, they may have done mobile but they haven’t done web stuff or vice versa. They’ve done desktop stuff but not web stuff and they can fall in to a number of traps of saying, you know, they’re just trying to get a job and they’re saying, “Yeah, I can do that. I do .NET all the time,” and you run in to somebody’s issues about hiring them because they know .NET but they don’t necessarily know it in the context that you need them to know it.
[16:13] Rob: Right, so there’s added complexity and it’s a multi-used technology. Well, thanks for your question Jack. Our next question is actually a lightning round of questions about starting up and so it’s from Derek and he says, “I’m so glad I found your podcast. I’m going to go back and try to listen to most of them. I have so many business and technology questions on how to get my web app out of the gate. I like how you guys talk details. Many podcasts I listen to are good but I get frosted about the lack of detail. For example, here are some huge things to me that may be little to an existing startup.” And he sent over kind of a long bullet of list. I think we’re going to pick out a handful of this and just give some quick answers on our recommendations for doing these things. So, first thing he said is, “How do I find the right business name?”
[16:38] Mike: I think that the right business name is almost immaterial. The business that you have behind your company is it doesn’t matter to most people. I mean you don’t wanted to be offensive. You don’t wanted to conflict with other people who have trademarks on other names out there. But I don’t think to getting the right business name makes a whole heck of a lot of difference. There are certain things that you want to try and follow as generalities. So, for example, you don’t want to have too many consonants in a business name that’s going to make it hard to pronounce. You don’t want something that has a word in it that matches multiple ways to say in whatever language that you’re…you’re speaking for example. You want to have the domain name, the dot com available if possible. But again, most of these things are immaterial. The business name itself means almost nothing to your customers. It means something to you. So, I think at the end of the day, the business name doesn’t mean the heck of a lot. Now, your product name could mean quite a bit to you based on whether you’re trying to do things with SEO or you’re trying to make it memorable to people. That’s a little bit different but I think that the business name itself just does not matters much.
[18:03] Rob: I wholeheartedly agree and the people who I have talked with lately who are selling multiple software products that you don’t even know what their business name is. It’s very rare that matters to anyone. Terms of finding a good product name I tend to just do domain searches. I spent two or three hours just packing together different parts of words when I was trying to figure out the name for what is now Drip and then I look for all the domain, you know, all the dot coms for those and almost none of them are available. I mean it’s crazy how hard it is to find a good domain. And so I based mine almost solely on being able to find a decent domain and find one that…that suits your fancy.
[18:37] Mike: One that I…website I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this podcast before is leandomainsearch.com which is a good website to go to if you’re trying to find a website name because it will search through…you give it a couple of keywords and it will search and give you a number of different variations on those keywords for what is available.
[18:55] Rob: Yup and nameboy.com is another one that I’ve used. All right, so his next question is. “When should I become official and when should one incorporate or become LLC or something else?”
[19:07] Mike: “When to become official as a business and when to incorporate or become an LLC?” Those depend on your risk tolerance. If you’ve got nothing to protect then it doesn’t really make a whole heck of a lot of sense to incorporate and go through all the processes associated with getting it as corp or in LLC. In terms of your taxes, your CPA may feel completely differently about it but once you have kind of gone past the state of doing your taxes yourself, as soon as you get a business involved, you probably want to get a CPA involve because they’re going to know things that you don’t. They’ll be able to guide you in to what decisions to make for your business, what things can be written off, what things can’t and then an attorney will teach you about how to structure businesses such that they will protect you from being liable to your customers or from other entities who are out there. But if you don’t have anything to protect if you’re still just working on it , it’s probably not a big deal. I don’t even know as I would bother incorporating or filing a DBA or anything like that unless you want to start writing things off or you have something that you want to protect. So, if you already have a product or you’re acquiring a product, that’s probably a good time to start looking at it.
[20:16] Rob: Until you have someone willing to pay you money for something, it’s immaterial what form your business takes. Agreed that it’s a manner of risk tolerance, I also think that you can easily kill thousands of dollars and a lot of time and basically postpone the inevitable of actually asking people for their money. You can postpone the inevitable by worrying about this kind of thing. I just…it’s not nearly as important as the most people think. His next question is, “How and where should I open a merchant account for accepting e-commerce transactions. I got to be honest, these days, I just sent people to Stripe.
[20:52] Mike: I —
[20:52] Rob: I say unless you have a reason not to, go to stripe.com. It takes you 5 minutes to sign up. There you have the whole shebang.
[20:59] Mike: Yeah, my question would be why even bother opening up a merchant account? It just doesn’t seem to make sense to me to even try for a merchant account these days. I mean it’s a lot of paper work. It’s a lot of hassle and the amount of extra money that you’re going to get using a merchant account versus, you know, using Stripe or something like that, it just not worth it and in fact, many times until your volume gets above a certain point, having a merchant account does zero for you.
[21:25] Rob: He has a few others. I think the one other we’ll put out of here, he says, “I plan on releasing an MVP. I know my target market but how do I solicit them? How do I get them to know I exist?”
[21:36] Mike: I think finding people in your target market and soliciting to them and getting them to know that you exist is a massive topic that we probably covered quite a few times in previous podcasts and I know that you said you kind of new to this podcast. There’s a lot more information in the previous 112 episodes. So, definitely go back and listen to those. If you have follow up questions, definitely let us know but there’s…there’s a lot of other information there.
[22:03] Rob: Our next question is from Justin Schemer [Phonetic] who has sent in several questions before. His question is, “I’m looking to venture in to the startup world a recurring theme that I’ve gotten from your episode is ‘Knowledge is power’ especially when building a startup. Being a developer, I obviously lack necessary business skills to maybe start with something big. My question is do you have any suggestions on starting out with a business that’s low risk and low profit just so I can maybe learn and hone skills needed to do something more involved. It doesn’t need to make money either. I was just thinking something like a simple t-shirt or hat business which seems to have a low initial investment but maybe a good arena to practice marketing, managing, et cetera. Thanks, guys and keep up the good work.”
[22:43] Mike: I think my take on this is that activeness and affiliate for any sort of t-shirt or hat business would probably be a good way to get started if you have ideas about what source of things can go on to those types of things. You can set up like a CafePress account or there’s several other companies that had popped up over the years. They’re the ones that I remember using in a while back but you can essentially create your own store and you’ll get a commission on all those things and you can drive people to your own website. Another one that I can think of is building something along the lines of an info product. So, any sort of informational or tutorial-based product where you are conveying information to people that they are going to find valuable whether it’s based on hobby that you have or on something that you’re just interested in learning more about and you want to be able to take that information and relay it to other people.
[23:35] If it…if you’re finding it difficult to find information about a particular topic, it’s probably a good candidate for some sort of an e-book and you don’t have to put a huge amount of time and effort in to it but you can set up a landing page try and get people to that website, see if people are searching for it, do some basic SEO on it, try and evaluate the need for people to purchase that kind of thing. And if there is, then you can go out and actually build the info product. You don’t have to worry about whether or not you can build it or not. The real questions behind it are “Are people interested in buying that?”
[24:10] Rob: Yeah, I think starting a t-shirt or hat business is probably not a good idea. I don’t know what that’s going to teach you that you’re going to then takeaway and apply to as software startup especially if you’re trying to buy equipment and print t-shirts yourself. I have a friend who runs a t-shirt deal a-day site and it’s an enormous amount of time just to fulfill orders and that doesn’t teach you anything. I think you’re going to be much better off with some time of digital product and like Mike said whether that’s an online course of some kind, an e-book or building some type of small app that, you know, you can build in a couple of weeks or building an affiliate for someone else’s software product and that’s something that’s often overlooked. People feel like being an affiliate, it’s not going to actually teach them anything or like it’s not being a real entrepreneur. But learning how to find a channel of traffic and how to get yourself in a way of that whether that is via SEO or whether it’s some paid acquisition or whether it’s using social networks, I mean there’s a number of ways beyond that to do it.
[25:07] And learning how to navigate those and actually having something to make a little bit of money, it will teach you a lot about everything. I mean about the e-mail marketing and dealing with customer support and how to drive traffic and how to optimize and how to monetize it and all that stuff. The entrepreneurs that I see who are starting out and they are doing smaller products that are not code heavy because you already know how to code, right? So, learning to code is not the scary part, it’s all the other stuff. So, if you can build either a very small project and do like a show Hacker News and try to get people to actually sign up for a trial but then figure out a way to get some kind of money out of that, I think you’re way better off than just trying to either give something away for free which is really easy to do or, you know, sitting down for six months and writing a full software product. So, I hope that helps. Our next question is a voicemail question on outsourcing marketing.
[26:01] Voicemail 2: Hey, Mike and Rob. I wanted to call and say that I really enjoy your podcast and I had a question for you. You talked a lot on the show about outsourcing various tasks. One of the things that I thought would be really nice to outsource would be marketing but it seems like it’s such a core activity that I question whether it’s a good idea to outsource it. On the other hand, I read another book recently Masters of Doom and it talks about how much further beyond his peers, John Carmack’s able to progressed as a programmer and developing engines for Doom and Quake and so on by just focusing on programming and not worrying about marketing or some of the business concerns that they pushed off to their distributors. So, I’m just curious what your thoughts on that are and I look forward to hearing your next podcast.”
[26:49] Mike: So, I think my first thought on that is that John Carmack is an extreme outlier. [Laughter]
[26:54] Rob: Yup and so as the video game industry. It’s totally different than the software businesses we’re talking about.
[27:00] Mike: Right, that’s my first thing that I just want to throw out there right away. The second thing is that I don’t believe that you can outsource your entire marketing effort. I think that there are certain things that there are certain things that you can outsource associated with your marketing effort but I think that the core ideas behind it the high-level vision, setting up the processes to do it, I think that that’s something you probably shouldn’t outsource because you’re not going to know what to expect. So, if you’re a developer, outsourcing your marketing is probably a really bad idea because you don’t know what it takes. So, when somebody comes back and says, “Oh, it’s going to take me three weeks to put together this e-mail campaign,” you have zero basis for comparison to say, “No, it doesn’t take three weeks. It shouldn’t take three weeks. It should take you 30 minutes or three hours or something like that.” But if you don’t have any sort of basis for comparison, then you just kind of have to shrug your shoulders and say, “Okay,” versus if you sit down and put together the processes that somebody else needs to follow and…for example, sending out e-mails.
[27:59] If you need to do something within MailChimp or AWeber or whatever e-mail service provider you’re using to send out e-mails on a regular basis to get some of those things set up not necessarily to write all the content for them but to get those things set up, maybe you want to send out a specific e-mail for, you know, end of the year promotion that you’re trying to do. Something like that, you should have a good idea of how it should be done and if those types of promotions or things that you’re going to be doing on a fairly regular basis, then you’re going to want to document those things and you’re probably going to want to be able to outsource them because if it’s going to take you three hours to do it and you know what the process is going to be to have that done, you can outsource that but you have to put in the time and effort upfront to be able to set those processes in place to have somebody else do them. But once you’ve got them in place, that’s something that you can definitely automate. You could definitely outsource that but building that is not something I would advice.
[28:52] And when it comes to all of the strategic things behind your marketing efforts, you want to be able to track from initial customer contact all the way through to the complete life cycle of your customer, how many times your…you have to touch that customer in terms of your support cost, how many times they have to be contacted with your e-mails and you want to have all of that statistical information. And if you’re trying to outsource that to somebody else, I question how well that’s going to work out because they’re not going to be nearly as invested in the business as you are and they’re probably not going to be thinking of the high-level strategic things that you are because there are certain things that as a business owner you’re going to need know and you want to know versus somebody who you just hired to do that and they may know their stuff, they may know how to do that stuff very well but you’re probably better off hiring them on a consulting basis to help advice you about the different things that you can do and then you go off and do those things.
[29:49] Rob: I’d like to start by maybe defining terms because you can outsource tasks and you can outsource projects and it’s very, very different. You find someone on oDesk for 10 or $15 an hour and you write up a process, you can outsource the task to them and that’s one thing, right? So, you can either have them be doing support or just a basic step-by-step process. You can even create some content for an infographic and you can outsource the specific task of designing that to someone for a few hundred dollars. But to go to someone and say, “Here’s a project. I want you to do all the content marketing,” and that’s likely going to include infographics and blogs and articles and all that kind of stuff. That requires an entirely different level of competency on that person and they need initiative. They’re going to be astronomically more expensive. It can literally be the difference between paying someone $15 an hour and paying someone $3,000 a month to handle all of your content marketing. Those are actual numbers that I’ve received and you know, gotten quotes for them but the difference is that if you have enough money and you don’t have enough time, then you go with that project-base thing. I threw out $3,000. That was a cheap quote, by the way. There were many people who quoted 10 grand a month basically handle the whole, you know, content marketing aspect of…of like a startup business.
[31:05] So, you really need to think about the difference between those. I don’t think that outsourcing it to an agency, that’s what I’m saying is like the project-type, that’s actually can work for you and I know startups who’ve done it and I know that it works but those agencies are extremely expensive and I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about. Most bootstrap self-funded companies are not doing it that way and you can only afford to outsource tasks. Second thought is that marketing is absolutely core activity, that’s something I’ve talked about a lot and it’s very hard. In fact, I’ve never outsource my project-based marketing to anyone until I got…I found that product manager who’s now, you know, working with me on HitTail. It took a while for me to have confidence in him to do that kind of stuff but other than that, I only outsource task-based elements of it. If you have an infinite amount of money, then yes, you would hire experts in-house. You’d hire employees or you’d hire some kind of long-term contract and they would do both of your development and marketing, right? You’d hire employees to do it and that’s what big venture funded businesses do and that’s the ideal situation. But when you have $500 a month of revenue or $500 a month from your salary gig and you’re trying to fund this, you just can’t do that and you have to make a decision which of these things am I going to outsource and in that case, I really do think that that the development side is easier to spec out. It’s easier to find someone who can give a product, good enough that people can use until you can build this business up and if you do in fact have product market fit and can market this thing.
[32:30] And I also think that the marketing side is the one that takes the vision and the expertise and if you, the founder and entrepreneur, don’t have that going in to a bootstrap startup, I genuinely do not see a way that you can be successful. I think that has to be your number core competency. Even if you love development, even if you’re going to do all the development yourself, you have to love the marketing too because if you don’t, then the business goes nowhere because no one else is going to drive that engine and that’s the engine that’s going to basically drive your whole business. So, thanks, John for that question.
[33:03] Mike: If you have a question for us, you can call it in to our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can e-mail it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. You can subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.