Episode 131 | MicroConf 2013

Show Notes


[00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 131.

[00:02] Music

[00:10] Mike: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.

[00:18] Rob: And I’m Rob.

[00:19] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistake we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Rob?

[00:23] Rob: MicroConf 2013 is done. I still feel like I’m about at 70% after sleeping hours and hours on end. How are you feeling?

[00:32] Mike: You actually got sleep?

[00:33] Rob: I did. Well, after I got home, yeah.

[00:36] Mike: Oh, okay because, you know, you were still there like 4 o’clock in the morning when I left. [Laughter]

[00:40] Rob: I know. Well, that was the thing. So, Tuesday night conference ends and it felt to me the whole time like every conversation you have is just too short. You want to hear more about people’s thoughts and ideas. You want to get their feedback. You want to give your feedback. And so we – yeah, we were hanging out after, you know, the evening event and pretty soon it was 1 o’clock and then last time I looked at my watch is 1 in the morning and then pretty soon we saw people coming out of the elevator, attendees of MicroConf with their bags heading to the airport and they were catching morning flights. Totally worth it but, you know, I’ve been paying the price for that and as well as just stay in the plate and doing so much talking for the past couple of days.

[01:15] Mike: Yeah, there were definitely a number of conversations that just didn’t get finished that I was involved in just because there were other things going on. I got pulled in one direction or another. And it would be great to been able to finish some of those conversation because they were definitely worth while. I mean it was just like everytime you turn around, there’s someone else to talk, someone else with, you know, some unique insight or you know, unique problem that needs your perspective and or needs a different perspective and it’s just nice to be able to talk to those people and help them out or get help on the things that you’re working on.

[01:43] Rob: Yeah, absolutely. So, today I mean we’re going to basically dedicate the whole episode but we’re going to be talking about our takeaways from MicroConf 2013 both from what we got from talks from other attendees and then maybe give a little background on how you and I felt about our talks and you know, kind of get that the personal side as well.

[01:59] Music 

[02:02] Rob: I just listened to a pretty cool podcast recap of MicroConf 2013 from an attendee. His name is Brecht Palombo and he actually did one of the attendee talks and actually one of the attendee talks that was – it was one of my favorites to be honest and he has a podcast called Bootstrapped with Kids. So, you can obviously search for it in iTunes or whatever but we’ll also link that up in the show notes because it was nice to hear – it’s kind of like you get back from MicroConf and your head is spinning and it was just nice to hear someone else talking about it because I could nod and say, “Yes, I felt that way too,” like it wasn’t just this reality distortion field. There’s just kind of an incredible feeling when you go to a conference like that and you’re around, you know, 150, 160 people who were just like you because you spend the rest of your year really not being people like, you know.

[02:44] I mean, obviously, we have friends and such but they’re not in the startup mentality, in the building of business mentality, the way that these people, you know, at a conference like MicroConf are. Anyways, I recommend that episode and then hopefully, you and I can also do MicroConf justice over, you know, the next 30, 40 minutes.

[03:01] Mike: Cool. The other thing that I’ve got is one of the things that you and I had discussed just like very shortly after the conference is over is the fact that there’s all these people out there who have quit their jobs based on either listening to podcast or joining the Academy or coming to MicroConf. And if there’s anyone out there listening to this who has quit their job because of the fact that they were inspired by the podcast or the conference or Micropreneur Academy, definitely drop us a line and let us know. We’d love to, you know, highlight you guys and let other people know about you and kind of share some of the success stories that we’ve kind of come across.

[03:33] Rob: I agree. I have been completely shocked by the number of people who contacted us even within the last six months and are saying, “Oh, yeah, I started this business but, you know, I’m a lifetime Academy member and I started this business and I quit my job like eight months ago.” And it’s like why didn’t you tell me? This – because this is why I do it like this is why you and I sit here every week and record the podcast. I mean that is the biggest pay off.

[03:55] And someone came up at MicroConf. It was Richard Chen [Phonetic]. He has PHP Grid  and he said, “Yeah, I quit my job six months ago.” And I was like, “Man, that is fantastic news.” So, I don’t want it to be, you know, six or eight months from now. We really want to hear about it now and I think we’re thinking about putting together a list of some kind just to kind of – I don’t know, they inspired others and just to kind of keep track of each other. So and like Mike said, you know, send us your info, your URL, your name and all that if you have quit your job.

[04:23] Mike: So, what are your thoughts about the Twitter stream for MicroConf?

[04:26] Rob: Wow, I made the mistake of barely getting on Twitter while I was at the conference and I tried – I figured after the conference, I’d go back through it but it’s thousands and thousands of tweets. And if you go search for the – it’s just #MicroConf, there were patio11 Patrick McKenzie as a lot of you know him. He was just spitting out all types of awesome quotes from the conference. It looked to me like every 5 or 10 minutes, he was just picking up the best thing that was going on, you know, from the speakers and putting it on the Twitter stream.

[04:54] And then I want to give – I think both of us want to give a big shoutout to Christoph Engelhardt. He totally came through. He was doing awesome blog write ups almost in real time. He was basically taking notes from every speaker, putting it in bullet format on to his blog and he’s just hitting publish as the talk ended it seemed and then tweeting those out. And so, he is really has really well documented this MicroConf and he, you know, we’ll link up to him. His Twitter handle is @itengelhardt.

[05:21] But I also – I’m going to register — after we record this, I want to register MicroConfRecap.com and I want to point it, redirect it to his recap of it because he has a link to all the – all his notes as many speakers has put their slides on SlideShare. We don’t have videos at this point but pretty much everything that could be recapped has been recapped by him. So, there’s no reason for you and I to do that as well. So, if you are interested in digging in to it a little more and seeing detailed release at the talks because one I got – obviously, we just don’t have time to talk through all the points, MicroConfRecap.com.

[05:52] Mike: You know, I really like the fact that it was at the Tropicana this year instead of the Hard Rock. I mean I really like the Hard Rock but looking back at the comparison between the two, I really felt like the Tropicana suited the types of people there. I think that was partially because the conference area was far away from all of the action and life, you know, all of the things that the Hard Rock is trying to put on, you know, all the casinos, all the, you know, the gambling areas. And because the different evening events that we had were away from that stuff, it just seemed like it created a much better atmosphere than we got over at Hard Rock.

[06:24] Rob: Yeah, I would agree and I heard that from some attendees as well. It just seemed to be more our age.  And I think the Tropicana is great because it’s – you know, obviously, you can go to the Bellagio and we could have it there but you have to add 3 or 400 bucks to every ticket and it’s like for our audience, I think at the price point we want to be, the Trop is perhaps the best conference hotel in, you know, in Vegas for us. Maybe the MGM Grand would be another one but everything else is either too expensive or too cheap and everything is out perfect, right? And the food choices there are not outstanding. Certainly of the three years we’ve had it, by far, this – I think this was the best venue for us.

[06:57] Mike: I think that in my mind that was probably the biggest detriment was the fact that there were only a couple of places to eat. It did result in a 2 a.m. Del Taco run. [Laughter]

[07:06] Rob: I saw that. Did you go on that?

[07:07] Mike: Oh, yeah. So, Hiten and a couple of – I don’t know, it’s probably seven or eight people went over and then I followed over with Jas. You know, we sat down a little while after they – they were just kind of leaving when we got there but you know, it was still, you know, 1:30, 2 o’clock in the morning.

[07:22] Rob: Only in Vegas, right? It’s like a Tuesday night and it’s 2 in the morning and you’re just walking – I mean on the street. But second, that’s the part – that’s what’s so cool about a conference like this is and maybe it’s specific to MicroConf. I don’t go to a lot of other conferences anymore but it’s like you hang out with – you go to on a Del Taco run with Hiten Shah who runs KISSmetrics, amazing content marketer, venture funded, venture back entrepreneur and you just talked to him. You can ask him questions about your business. You can just ask, you know, about anything and same thing, it’s like Jason Cohen, Patrick McKenzie, Josh Kaufman author of The Personal MBA, just everybody is there and just mingling.

[07:58] And so, whether you’re a speaker or an attendee, it’s just  conversations and we’re all just people and just people at different levels of the game. And that’s what I like most about it. I like that our speakers stick around and they don’t come in for just for their talk and then fly out. It’s just not the vibe that we want to set.

[08:14] Mike: Right. Yeah, I really like that as well and I had saw a number of people who had commented on that. They’re like, “Wow, it’s really awesome to be able to come to an evening event and then just walk up to any of the speakers and just be able to start up a conversation and talk to them because they’re here.”

[08:26] Rob: When we recruit speakers, we specifically ask them to do that. We say, “If you’re going to speak here, we want you to stay all, you know, basically all three nights, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and we want you to come to the evening events and we want you to be approachable because that’s the vibe of the conference.” And so, we’re pretty specific about, you know, by having them do that.

[08:42] Mike: Uh huh.

[08:42] Rob: Did you get the feeling that a lot of the attendees listen to podcast?

[08:46] Mike: You know, there were a ton of people who would mention it to me but it’s hard for me to kind of give a percentage of the people that I talked to who also listen to the podcast because there were a lot of Academy members there as well. So, I didn’t talk a lot about the podcast to people. I definitely recall people saying, “Oh, I listen to you a lot on the podcast,” and you know, “Oh, I feel like I know you already.”

[09:05] Rob: I tend to think that since our audience, you know, on the global scale, our audience is not huge, right? I mean it’s like we don’t really know how big of it is. We need to get better metrics but let’s say it’s 5,000 people or 8,000 people just, you know, in that ballpark but it’s such a self-selecting group that’s going to come to MicroConf that I think a lot more than listen than I think. And so, as we would be in conversation that say, “Oh, yeah, I remember that from the podcast.” And I heard that over and over and over. And so, it was cool that we were able to meet a lot of listeners in one place like that.

[09:31] You know, Justin and Jason just recorded a TechZing episode where they talked about MicroConf and one of the things Jason said was it’s cool to remember that we’re actually having some type of impact. It’s not just you and I here talking every week, you know, with – and we get four or five comments on a podcast episode but when you meet the real people and they’re really building businesses like you are, it brings it home, you know. It makes such a deeper reality. So, how did you feel about your talk?

[09:56] Mike: You know, I spent a lot of time [Laughter] it’s funny because I always spent a lot of time, you know [0:10:00], working on my talk but this year in addition to the time I spent on my talk, I did some research on how to give an effective presentation and what sort of things you should think about when putting it together and I think that really helped with the quality level. I talked to a bunch of people who said that they thought that it was by far one of the better talks that I’ve given at MicroConf and it felt really good afterwards. I mean it was the second day so I was absolutely exhausted. I mean the first day I got there it was Saturday night and I got around 6 or 7 hours of sleep but I was up at 5 o’clock in the morning and then what was it? Sunday night, I only got about 5 hours of sleep and then Monday night I had like 4 hours of sleep. So —

[10:37] Rob: You were really tired.

[10:39] Mike: I was —

[10:39] Rob: Yeah.

[10:40] Mike: …exhausted. So, I was up there on stage. There were certain things that I was forgetting and you know, examples that I intended to use that I just ended up not using. I thought of other things at the time. So, there were certainly some flaws that I recognized but there were a lot of people that said, “Oh, I really like your talk and it was really good. It resonated. You know, I had — got a lot of good information, a lot of good insights.” So, you know, I think it came off really well. I think, you know, obviously, there’s always room for improvement and I think if I hadn’t been as tired as I was, it probably would have been better but I still think it was a pretty good talk.

[11:10] Rob: You and I had talked about this but I don’t think we’re ever going to give our best talks at MicroConf because we’re too busy with other things. You can’t focus on it. I think speaking at another conference that you’re not running, you’re just going to give – even that exact same talk, it’s going to be a better version of it because your mind is so much more present. I also heard from a few people who came up and said, “That was the best talk I’ve seen Mike give.” And I thought I was going to miss the middle 20 minutes I got pulled out to do some stuff.

[11:33] So, your title was How to Sell Anything to Anyone and you did research in to the psychological triggers. You also went in to enterprise sales. That’s the part that I caught up at the end which I thought was cool. So, it was nice that you could speak both from your experience on being, you know, on both sides of the enterprise sale part and then also do some research, you know, and offer some kind of not just storytelling stuff but stuff that was answering a lot of the questions of why do we believe these things. So —

[11:59] Mike: Yeah.  I definitely did research on what sort of emotional triggers people will have and then I got in to what people are actually buying. So, like for example, one of things – the examples that I went in to is the people that aren’t buying software, they’re buying a solution to a problem. You know, they’re buying some sort of end result. They’re not buying KISSmetrics or WooThemes or whatever, they’re actually buying the outcome from that product. So, when you’re talking to people, you have to kind of position it in that way that you’re selling them a solution. You’re not selling them a product. What about you? How was your talk? Did you feel good about it or —

[12:33] Rob: I did. I mean I basically filled in every gap that I could about my HitTail experience. So, you know, we talked about on the podcast and I’ll give some vague notions of where it’s going, if it’s going up or down. I basically laid out every month of revenue from the month that I acquired it including how much I paid for it, how much revenue it had been and I gave an idea of how much money every month through last month and even gave a projection for what I was going to do in April. And then I talked about all the tactics that I used that were both successful and unsuccessful during that time.

[13:05] And so, I went back and forth on whether to be that revealing, you know, because it really – it was pretty much everything I could give about HitTail but I also said, you know, I asked people not to tweet out exact numbers. I don’t really want it to be widely public, you know, make it out at some point but it feels good. It felt like the story doesn’t have as much impact without those exact numbers like you can put up a hockey stick growth curve with no scale. It just doesn’t matter. It’s like, well, did you grow it to $7,000 a month or is that $70,000 a month? You know, it makes a difference and so, that’s when I keep during afterwards was they were really glad that I included numbers because it gave them an idea of what it takes to get to that point, how long it takes to get to that point because I talked a lot about, you know, they’re being the five months of building and the six months of learning where it wasn’t growing.

[13:50] And people keep – were talking about, “Yeah, I remember on the podcast how frustrated you were with it,” and now you can see it on the graph why I was frustrated because the revenue wasn’t growing. And then there’s just this month where I pretty much  started figuring things out and from there, it just – it spikes way up. So, in the end, I felt good for sure. I’d hope it would have value for people and based on the feedback that I got they, you know, people told me that it was going to help them in their journey. So, I was happy with it.

[14:13] Mike: Yeah, I talked to people afterwards and they were a little bit surprised that you were as revealing as you were and I understand that and I’ve done this in the past as well. You start throwing out numbers and you’re always concern about how that’s going to come across and you have to be very careful how you put it out there because you don’t want to come off as braggy but at the same time it’s like these things put those numbers in perspective, you know. Those numbers mean something in a certain context and it’s very revealing to be able to see those things especially if you’re not quite at that point yet.

[14:41] And so, I know that were a lot of people who really look at those and said, “Wow, that’s not just impressive that you did but it’s very helpful for me as an entrepreneur to see that, you know, it takes this long to get to that point or it took somebody else that long. So, I don’t feel nearly as bad about the time that I’ve spent on the stuff that I’ve been doing.”

[14:59] Rob: Yeah, that was a comment I heard was it brought it down to earth because especially in the early days, it was making so little that even, you know, just boosting a few thousand visitors in a month made a difference and someone said, “Well, I can boost my traffic a few thousand visitors in a month.” You know, it totally made it realistic for him.

[15:17] So, let’s talk a little bit about the attendee talk. This year we tried something a little different. I think it was pretty successful because frankly the attendee talks were one of the highlights of the conference for me. What we did is after folks – we sold the conference out and then we e-mailed attendees and we said, “Send us your topics and you can do a 12-minute talk on any topic you want,” and we get 21 or 22 of those submissions and then we put them in a private website and we allowed all the attendees to vote them up. And so the ones that were at the top eight, we did four per day.

[15:48] And we had – we had people like Nathan Barry and Brennan Dunn doing talks which were very cool. We had some kind of I’ll say some sleeper hits of some people that I don’t know that other folks have heard of before [0:16:00]. One, we had my wife, Sherry Walling, did a talk. She’s a psychologist and she did a talk called Don’t Burn up in the Launch: Staying Emotionally and Relationally Healthy While Launching Your Startup. And I figured that it was either going to be really popular because it’s so different or it was going to get kind of a big nothing. You know, like people were just going to I wouldn’t say they would groan but they’ll be like, “Oh, well, this is just basic advice.” From what I gathered, it was – people were saying like, “She needs to do a full talk next year.” I had at least five or ten people come up and tell me that. It seemed to really resonate with a lot of people about how you can’t sacrifice your family on the way to building a business.

[16:37] Mike: Yeah, I had asked one of the guys during one of the evening events, you know, what three things he was going to take away from MicroConf and implement when he got home and one of the things that he said was basically set up a weekly meetings with his wife to discuss not only the business but, you know, how things were with the family to make sure that, you know, just to keep the lines of communication open. And I thought that was really nice and obviously, it came directly from her talk. I mean there’s no other – nobody else who talked about that kind of stuff.

[17:02] Rob: Right. That was the nice thing is she never really showed me her slides but I did tell her have some actions. You know, have something that people can take away and do because that’s a big part of the conference is that we want people to actually act on what they’re hearing and not just kind of sit there for two days. I was glad it resonated and she was certainly excited. There was a long Twitter stream of people, you know, kind of talking about it and I was glad it was – it worked out really well. And I do think that there’s room – I mean we just don’t hear about that, you know, at any of our conferences about like kind of work life balance and how to realistically have a family and launch a startup at the same time.

[17:34] Mike: Yeah, that’s something that’s almost never talk about at conferences. I mean and even in social situations, you don’t generally tend to discuss those types of things and I’m not sure whether it’s because it’s socially taboo or whether it’s just they don’t come up because you’re so focused on other things. But you know, she definitely made a point that you have to concentrate on those things. You have to look at those things and be conscious of what they affecting your business because anything in your home life is going to affect the  work that you’re doing at your business.

[18:02] Rob: Another one of the attendee talks, well, there were couple others. You know, Brennan Dunn has been on the show before. He’s a lifetime Academy member and he and Nathan Barry are kind of big up and comers over the past maybe 12 to 18 months and they both talked about teaching and how, you know, not just trying to say sell software but to actually teach your audience and offer them something of value. And Brennan looked a lot at writing e-books and having an e-mail mini course. And then Nathan talked a lot about teaching. I think those were some noticeable talks. And you know, luckily we videoed everything. It’s going to take a long time for that stuff to get released. I think that those will also be helpful to folks who are interested.

[18:41] Mike: You know, I really like Patrick Thompson’s talk about building when you – essentially bootstrapping I’ll call it a mobile empire but [Laughter] I don’t know if he would —

[18:48] Rob: Yeah.

[18:48] Mike: …describe it that way but, you know, putting together I think from a single codebase building out a series of apps and being able to expand the reach that he’s got. I mean the reach that he has through push notifications and the app sources are absolutely amazing.

[19:02] Rob: I know and you know, Patrick Thompson is basically the resident mobile expert of the Micropreneur Academy. He’s been in the Academy for really since early on and he’s had awesome success with QuickReader was kind of his flagship product which I recommended to teach you how to speed read but then he has a whole slew of other apps that are somehow one way or another related to that. And I agree, his talk was – he has a full version of his talk that he did at Oregon Mobile Users Group. It’s about an hour and he shrunk it down to about 15 or so minutes for this attendee talk but that was the other one actually that people said they wanted to hear a full version of it like they were – when I mentioned there was a video of it, people were like get up their phones and like started writing the URL. So, I think that was also a big success story and could easily be turned in to a full talk in a future MicroConf.

[19:53] The last attendee talk I want to mention is Brecht Palombo and he basically came out of nowhere. He’s – he’s also a lifetime Academy member  who I had no idea, I don’t think either you or I did know that he had left his job but he e-mailed a month or two ago and said, “Hey, I’m a non-technical founder and I built a 6-figure SaaS business using only free public data sources.” And I’m like what a story, you know. And he and I e-mailed back and forth and so, when I saw that he was coming at MicroConf we’re doing attendee talks, I e-mailed him and said, “You should talk about this.” And so, he applied and I’m glad he got voted up because he’s a good speaker like he was a salesperson in a previous job and it shows.

[20:29] His talk was very funny and also, he put things in perspective because he wouldn’t just say, “I got distracted by shiny objects,” but he actually had revenue graphs. And he would show the – how was revenue had grown over a couple of years, he would say, “And here’s where I saw the shiny object and I went off and tried to build like a Twilio app.” And his revenue just flat lines and then he says, “Here’s when I start refocusing and it just shoots up.” It was this visual representation of all the mistakes you can make as an entrepreneur at least the mistakes that he made that he basically set his business back 18 to 24 months. And so, that was also one of the standouts for me. And again, Brecht is the one – he has that podcast called Bootstrapped with Kids that just did a recap of MicroConf as well.

[21:10] Mike: You know, I think one of the single quotes that kind of stock with me was from Jason Cohen. He said, “The predictable acquisition of recurring revenue with annual pre-pay and a good market creates a cash machine.” His talk had a lot of elements in about talking towards creating a business that was a cash machine where you could predictably put money in to one end of it to do marketing or customer development or customer acquisition and then at the other end, you knew exactly how much you were going to get out of it. And I thought that that was really interesting quote and definitely a great way to put things in such a way that, you know, it makes you really think about the types of things that you’re doing, how you can measure them and why you’re measuring them.

[21:46] Rob: Yeah, I agree. For those who don’t know Jason Cohen, he blogs at SmartBear. He started multiple bootstrapped companies. He sold them for cash and then he recently raised funding and is running WP Engine. What I like about that quote and again, I’m going to say it again because it’s so dense, “The predictable acquisition of recurring revenue with annual pre-pay and a good market creates a cash machine.” And each of those points he would talk about. He didn’t start with that sentence. He started and said, “Look, if you’re going to bootstrap a business on the side and you’re a single or maybe two founders and you don’t have employees, you have limitations. And so, let me show you what you can’t do.”

[22:20] And so, he started going through it and he’s basically like, “You can’t do one-time revenue. I’ve done it. It’s too hard with one person. So, we’re going to talk about recurring revenue and then let me show you how annual pre-pay totally gets your cash flow up. And then let’s talk about good markets and bad markets,” and he defined those. And so, by the end he has this epic sentence that describes the ideal bootstrap business. It’s like how to back in to your business model if you have these limitations. And then he was quoted I mean not only all over on Twitter but he was mentioned in other presentations, you know, later that day and the next day. And I think this is going to outlive. I hope he writes a blog post about this because I think this statement here will outlive this talk. It really is it defines what I consider the ideal bootstrap business if you have, you know, limitations on your life and you’re working on the side trying to launch something.

[23:05] So, here’s the thing [Laughter] we got up in front of the crowd on the first day and we say, “You know, we want you to take away three actions from MicroConf that you’re going to implement in the next month and three relationships, three people that you’ve met that you will stay in touch with over the next year and that will – you can either get feedback from, give feedback to, build a relationship, have some kind of mastermind like something to keep you going because just having actions isn’t enough.” And you know, within 3 or 4 hours, you already see tweets of like, “I have 13 action items,” or you know, I have by the second day, it was like someone tweeting and said, “I have 26 action items.”

[23:40] And that’s kind of how MicroConf tends to go. We recruit the speakers that are going to talk about action stuff and then we encourage them to really go over board. I only took notes on a couple of the talks because I was running around and I had about 6 or 7 action items but let’s maybe just talk about 3 or 4 takeaways maybe the biggest ones, the ones we think are going to make the biggest difference to our businesses. What do you have?

[23:59] Mike: So, the first one that I got was from Jason Cohen’s talk which was basically with the annual pre-pay is amazing and there’s a lot of ways to kind of convince people to go for an annual plan and one of which is if you offer a couple of months free if they signed up for a year. If you e-mail existing customers and offer them a month or two months free in order to get on to those plans, something that Patrick McKenzie kind of came up with near the end was that if you have a set of customers who were kind of budding up against the limits — you have the SaaS application and they’re budding up against the limits of whatever their plan offers, you e-mail them like a special offer and say, “Hey, if you upgrade now, I’ll give you 20% off and you’ll get some head room.”

[24:37] And that’s interesting because what he said was that there are people who they don’t look at that as an upsell. They look at it as, “Oh, my god. What do I do? I’m close to the limits of this plan and I don’t want to have to, you know, worry about what’s going to happen if I go over. You know, is it going to cut off? Is it like the phone company where I’m going to get these massive charges?” And they want to be sold to. So, contacting those people who are within 20% of that limit, it can work really well.

[25:03] Rob: So, I took that one away and that’s absolutely something I’m going to implement both I would guess on HitTail and definitely on Drip. The other thing I took away which was kind of brought a big smile to my face because I was already going to do it and already have done it a number of times is to build an e-mail mini course. Basically, some content that educates as highly educational and doesn’t sell to people but that you provide to them via e-mail and this is the entire idea behind Drip which is why it brought a smile to my face because it’s like I’m such a proponent of this approach that the fact that it was mentioned over and over and over was more encouragement to really get Drip out the door and to get it working, get it so people can use it because I believe that it’s actually the best way to deliver an e-mail mini course but since it’s not out today, it’s not actually the best way because it doesn’t exists yet.

[25:48] That’s the one I took away and actually I started making notes already on the components because I have not written – obviously, I’m going to have a little e-mail of mini course for Drip itself when you come to the Drip website and I haven’t written that but I already had some  ideas right away just watching both Patrick and Jason and Hiten all talked about things that they’ve done to e-mail as well as actually Brennan Dunn touched on it as well. And so, I have a bunch of notes for that that I don’t need to go and to hear it, they’re just super detailed based on, you know, what am I going to do with Drip. That is such low hanging fruit. Do it once and you build that course and it impacts your conversion rate forever like it never goes away. That is just – it’s one of those flywheels that you can’t ignore.

[26:27] Mike: Another tactic that I got out of it was switching from using a trial to a 60-day money back guarantee because the rationale behind that makes a lot of sense because if you offer a free trial to somebody, then you also have to answer the questions of oh, well, I’m going to charge them after 14 days or 21 days. You know, how much value are they going to get out of it? And I think that you can, you know, just from the talks, Jason Cohen had said, you know, switching to a 60-day money back guarantee, it gives people a little bit more incentive to give you money earlier, you know. It just kind of moves your cash flow forward. Getting that money now is worth a heck of a lot more than getting it later and if your conversion rate, the people who try out your trial and actually stick around is relatively high, then you don’t necessarily have to do a whole heck of a lot of refunds. So, that really helps in terms of cash flow to be able to get that money now as suppose to later.

[27:17] Rob: Yeah, I’ve struggled with this one because this, you know, Justin Vincent does this with Pluggio and he’s had a lot of success with it. He said it really helped this conversion rates and actually just had more, you know, happy customers. It didn’t impact that at all. The thing I’ve struggled with it specifically with HitTail is that, you know, people don’t get value out of that for a week or two or sometimes three and I feel almost like it’s hard to charge someone on day zero because they’ve used the tool that they don’t get value right after they log in. Whereas with WP Engine, it’s WordPress hosting, you get – as soon as you sign up, you get value because you can move your site over and bam, the hosting works. And so, getting 30 days free in that instance doesn’t actually make that much sense, right? Because why are you getting a free trial of hosting like in either works where it doesn’t, right [0:28:00]?

[28:00] So, I think that there might be instances where this is more applicable. I could see with something like AuditShark that you could potentially get value on day one and I could see you’re charging upfront, you know, and then having the guarantee. But I don’t know. So, Drip is another one of those, right? If someone signs up for Drip and they get the form and they put on their site, you’re not getting value on day zero. You really need a couple of days to get some e-mails on it and to see how the conversion rate impacts you. And so, I certainly think it’s something to test but I’m not sure that I believe that it works in all situations.

[28:31] Mike: I think it depends a lot on how long that cycle is. If it’s a couple of days, I don’t think it’s a big deal but if it’s, you know, if they’re not going to see value for 20 to 30 days, it’s totally a different story.

[28:40] Rob: Well, last takeaway that we’ll talk about again, they were dozens, the next meme that kept coming up was to raise your prices. Developers tend to undercharge. We tend to undercharge for our products think they’re worth less than they are and I guess we think we’re going to get more sales if you’re charging a lower price. And so, the single fastest thing that I’ve seen people do to basically start making more money in their businesses and a lot of them this is the kicker that gets them to the place where they can actually quit their jobs and split their businesses fulltime which is obviously very helpful. That tactic has been to raise prices.

[29:14] Mike: You know, it’s interesting that in talking to a lot of the people there, they felt uncomfortable raising their prices because they’re constantly looking at it through their own eyes, you know, “I wouldn’t pay for that. Why would somebody else?” And they aren’t looking at the value that they’re providing, how much pain they’re saving somebody else with their product because raising your prices and being able to do that and measuring how well it works and whether people respond to it, whether they – are actually found to paying more, that is validation that you have a good idea that you are actually providing something of value to people.

[29:43] Rob: Yeah and I did talked to one person who said that he had basically raised his prices every month and eventually, you obviously do hit a ceiling and he raised it to the point where sales dropped off pretty dramatically. This is certainly another one to be – you can’t just take it to its unnatural extreme. I think as a generality, most people undercharged. I have also increased prices on a number of different products and seen the overall revenue dropped significantly. So, I do feel like, you know, there’s pricing elasticity and then you hit a point where it just – it doesn’t work anymore. So, if you’ve never raised your prices, then this is definitely something to consider doing.

[30:18] Music

[30:21] Mike: So, what about next year, what are we thinking we’re going to do for next year? What are we going to do different? What works great? What are we going to keep around? What are we, you know, that we – because we tried a bunch of things this year but what about the things that we tried. Do they work? Do they not work? What are we going to do different?

[30:34] Rob: I think first thing is unless there’s a reason not to, I think we should do it at the Tropicana again. I thought it was good and I think, you know, working with the same staff would be helpful two years in a row because we bounced around so far. Second thing is I absolutely am going to convince you that we need to hire a coordinator next year. We are not doing this again on our own. There’s just every year we’d say we’re going to and then we don’t find one and I think we need to find a Vegas-based coordinator. We already starting on MicroConf Europe and we have a person on the ground who lives in Prague where the conference is going to be and already, it’s been so much less work that this is the way to go.

[31:10] So, I think that’s a big thing we need to do next year. I think that will also allow us like – let’s take example the attendee talks were one of the highlights for me but they were a lot of work. They were way more work than I thought they’d be and if we can get a coordinator to handle at least some of that work, then I’d be willing to do them again next year. If not, it’s actually not worth doing. It would be, you know, something that I would consider dropping.

[31:34] Mike: Yeah, I definitely agree with you on the coordinator. I don’t think you need to really convince me with that one. [Laughter]

[31:38] Rob: Yeah.

[31:39] Mike: The other thing that I think we definitely keep around is the teardowns. I mean there’s a lot of people who really like the teardowns and kind of what value they bring because even if it’s not your website or your product that’s being torn down, you look at it and you say, “Hah, yeah, I get it. I understand why making some of these changes is going to make sense and I can translate them back to my own websites and to my own businesses that I’m running.”

[32:00] Rob: Yeah and to give folks an idea, if you’ve never heard the term teardown, basically what it is, is you call out a URL and one of the speakers is doing them and they pull it up on their computer and then they give you a feedback like, “Here’s what I would test,” maybe in terms of your headline or in terms of structure, UX stuff to try to convert higher. And so, you know, almost anyone in the room could do that could give feedback on it but what’s nice is that we’ve had Hiten Shah do it, Patrick McKenzie. This year we had a copywriting expert named Joanna Wiebe who is one of our speakers do it and really a lot of unique insights come out of those sessions. And those — I think those maybe the most popular parts with our attendees. A lot of them say it’s the most participatory part even if you’re not participating and you’re thinking to yourself, “What would I do to improve this website?” And so, it’s a lot more thinking it in application than just being told information like when you’re, you know, sitting, listening to speaker. So, I agree.

[32:52] We also did something different this year. We had idea teardowns where Josh Kaufman who wrote The Personal MBA talked about a framework for evaluating and validating ideas like business ideas and he basically called people up and have them do a short pitch of their idea and then would ask them probing questions, you know, like, “Who’s the market,” “What’s the value?” And then they’d answer and he’d say, “Nope, try again,” like, “Get more focus.” But really for who is the value and by the end of it, you had a better – even though it was only, you know, 4 or 5-minute conversation, everyone had a better idea of what that person’s marketing message, what their positioning, perhaps what their headlines should read. They haven’t even built a product, right? It’s just a nascent idea in their mind right now but they had a better idea of how to position it and how to think about the value that it brings to the market.

[33:38] Mike: Yeah and what that does is it allows you to kind of focus on the things that matter and not build things that people just they’re not going to want or not going to actually use.

[33:46] Rob: So, yeah, I agree with you, teardowns have been a staple of the conference now for three years and I think we may want to – we only did two 25-minute sessions. I think we may want to think about doing four over the course of the conference. I think four 30 minutes sessions because it always seems like there’s not enough time to do as many teardowns as we like.

[34:03] Mike: Right, cool.

[34:04] Rob: If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690. Or e-mail us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on 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.

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6 Responses to “Episode 131 | MicroConf 2013”

  1. Glenn Bennett May 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

    There are a few dead (silent) spots toward the end of this episode.

  2. The re-edited audio is up. Thanks for the heads up.

  3. Good job, Marla.

    You are doing great things to keep us entertained every week. Thanks for the work you do!


  4. Jack Colletti May 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Great job guys and nice job linking us up with MicroConfRecap.com. Amazing recap!! Further proves the point that Mike and Rob add big value to their listeners. –Jack C in Pittsburgh

  5. Zulfiqar Syed May 8, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Great Podcast guys.. I am looking forward to the list of Microprenuers who have started SaaS apps and are able to quit their job. Thanks..

  6. I’m so excited to hear that we’ll have MicroConf in Europe!