- 3D Virtual Tabletop
- The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
- Constant Contact
- MicroConf Europe
[00:00] Rob: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I are going to be talking about fighting with gorillas, the cost of writing articles, selling to offline customers, and answering more listener’s question. This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 140.
[00:21]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.
[00:29] Mike: And I’m Mike.
[00:30] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Mike?
[00:36] Mike: I am recording totally in the dark, quite literally in the dark. There is no light on. So our dishwasher went out last week, so I had to rip it out and have the guys take it away. Unfortunately, whoever owned the house before us wired the lights from my office in the basement to the dishwasher upstairs.
[00:52] Rob: That’s not good. So they’re out right now, until you replace it?
[00:55] Mike: Yeah. And it’s funny cause all my other outlets and stuff work. It’s just the lights that don’t work right now. Having fun in the dark.
[01:01] Rob: Yes. It sounds like it. I have mentioned a couple of episodes ago I launched my startup VA course, the course on how to hire a VA for your startup. And I finally have a domain name. Its startupvacourse.com and that just go to my Udemy landing page. So, if folks are interested in that, getting more details that I’ve recorded an hour video, packed all the information all the questions that I’ve ever received on this topic into one hour video.
[01:27] It have audio transcript, a job description, sample VA training Screencast, the whole deal. So it’s all DRM free. It’s downloadable. And it’s typically $99 but if you’re a podcast listener and you want to partake, go to startupvacourse.com, and use coupon code podcast and you’d get $20 off. And I’ll leave that coupon code off just probably for the next week and then shut it down.
[01:48] But it feels really good to finally launch that. I mention I had a goal of launching three in 2013. I paired that down since Drip still hasn’t launched and I plan to launch before MicroConf. I’m thinking that I’d probably try to do one more video course towards the end of the year once Drip is out.
[02:05] Mike: Cool. I’ve got AuditShark up to 350 security checkpoints now. So, we’re working some issues we discovered with our signup process. But once those are straighten out which I’m hoping will only be a couple more days, we’ll start rolling out to new costumers. My goal is to put anywhere between one or four customers on each week for the foreseeable future until I feel like all the signup issues and things like that are kind of worked out and go from there.
[02:32] Rob: Wow. Congratulations man. So you’re in early access then. You’re really diving in and getting folks using it.
[02:37] Mike: Yup. Finally at that point.
[02:39] Rob: That feels good. Yeah. Is this Windows or Linux?
[02:42] Mike: All of the security points so far are for Windows, but the system does work for Linux. So if you had Linux machine and you knew what you wanted to run on those, I would say it’s almost in some ways like you’re running cron jobs from remote servers and then pulling back that data to a central location. You know it would be done through SSH from my servers into somebody else’s. It is cross-platform. It’s just that in order to access Linux machine, it’s only through SSH right now. I don’t have a native agent.
[03:09] Rob: Got it. Speaking of early access, Drip now has four early access customers, paying customers using the system. There are five with log-ins but only four have actually installed it. Every person we get on board we learned more and more. And right now, Derek, the developer is just cranking through like mad, cranking through all the feature editions. There are almost no bugs, right. Everything is working. We tested thoroughly. Derek’s code is solid.
[03:36] But it’s just all this little tweaks that you need to get one more thing. You know encourage someone to push this button to activate everything or have an arrow that goes here, a better help video or a better this or a better that. So that’s what we’re doing. It’s really honing, trying to, like you trying to get one and four new people using it a week now. It’s a good learning experience and I look forward to kind of getting it out into more people’s hands.
[03:59] Mike: Yeah. It’s funny that as you’re adding people in, you’re getting in all this feature requests. The person that I hired to build all these control points for me, as he was going through and building them, he would ask me questions about how can you do this or how can you do that. He’s picked it up really really well. But there are some things that he was trying to do that he just couldn’t do it and we have to add features in order to allow him to do those things easily.
[04:23] So that’s been something that’s been holding things up a little bit. We’ve deployed some new code update for him. He’s just downloaded him and run through and implemented with the new set of instructions that I gave him. And so far those things seemed to be working well. But you’re right. There’s all this additional feature requests that come in as you’re putting somebody into the system and having them to use different parts of the products and exercise it and say well, this doesn’t work or – it would be nice if this did something slightly different because the way it does, it now just doesn’t work for me.
[04:51] Rob: That’s where it’s important to have good early access customers and people who you trust their opinion and that you can actually either tell them, you know what, we’re not going to build that and have them not throw a fit or realize that a lot of the suggestions that you get if you do have good early access people you are going to going want to build.
[05:06] And so, I think probably 80% to 90% of what’s been requested of us, we build. And it’s because all of my people who are in there right now are other founders and they all have good products. They have good product knowledge, and they aren’t just asking for kind of ridiculous. You know, you can get some people in there who just want everything custom and everything to totally apply to them. That’s obviously a danger when you only have a handful of customers using it because you don’t know really what to build yet.
[05:28] I wanted to update folks on my inbox zero trials. I did get past that road block. I think I had 29 emails when I came back to it. And with the help of suggestion from Rafael Durda who’s a long time academy member and MicroConf attendee. He pointed me to Zapier and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it. But zapier.com it’s basically if this then that for business. So you can set up this recipe to interact between different apps.
[05:59] So with just an handful of clicks, no code, I was able to take any new thread in Gmail that I label with a certain label and it automatically goes into my to my Trello to-do list, so really cool. So now I’m able to do that automatically as needed. And at this point, I still am. I think I’m about a month into inbox zero. And as of now, I literally have zero emails in my inbox and I’d been able to keep that up really well. So, thanks to Rafael for that suggestion.
[06:26] And the other thing I wanted to mention is that same week Wade from Zapier. He is a co-founder. He emailed me. And he said they’re in need of dot net contractor or two to do a bunch of integration like exchange and Dynamics and BizTalk. So I know there’s a lot of dot net folks listening to the podcast. If you’re interested in doing some contract work for Zapier, they’re a funded startup and they definitely have money to spend if you want to dive in some SDK’s. You can just email at email@example.com and let him know that Mike and I sent you.
[06:57] Mike: One of our other listeners named Tommy wrote in. Remember when I was talking about how I had some signs up around my office that says focus on them.
[07:03] Rob: Yup.
[07:04] Mike: There’s a web app that he pointed me to that was developed by a friend of his called FocusBell, which you go to this site and you can just plug in a number and it will ring a bell after that number of minutes. It’s very similar to something you might find as iPhone app or something like. But you can use it as a web app and it will just ding in the background of your machine whenever that time expires.
[07:25] Rob: How cool. So instead of needing a sign, you just get a web app. Awesome. So I saw on Facebook you’re learning to fly.
[07:31] Mike: Yes. I went to my first day of flight school today.
[07:33] Rob: How cool. Have you been thinking about it for a while?
[07:35] Mike: I’ve actually been thinking about it for, I don’t know, probably 10-12 years at this point. One of my instructors in college was a pilot. And he had like a timeshare for a plane near the college. And he took a couple of students here and there but I never got a chance to actually go with him. It’s really cheap to get your pilot license up in upstate New York.
[07:55] So after I moved away, I was like I don’t really have time and just various things came up. And my wife remembered from years and years ago that I had always kind of wanted to do some flying. So, for Father’s Day, she bought me a groupon to go to a flight school for a day. So I went there today and had my first flight. They let me take off and everything and it was a lot of fun.
[08:16] Rob: Very cool man. Congratulations on getting that started.
[08:21] Mike: So, today we’re going to be answering a bunch of listener’s question. The first one we’re going to answer is from Brendon Duncan. And you might remember Brendon. We talked about him a little bit on a previous podcast. He had that application that it was called 3D Virtual Tabletop. That was basically for Dungeons and Dragons player where it was on your iPad or your Android tablet and it would show a map and you can zoom in and import different images and things like that.
[08:46] He wrote back in to us for some advice and he said he’s released their product in its early stages. So, it’s really more of a demo than a proper product. And he’d like to do some more things with it. But it’s going to cost him some time and money in order to upgrade some of the software tools. And it’s going to cost him really thousand of dollars that he’d really rather not spend if he can help it. He can work around it if he needs to but it’s going to cost him a lot of time to do that. So, right now, he doesn’t havea lot of direct competition in the mobile space, but he knows that some of the bigger players in the industry are going to be heading their soon. So he’s really trying to get the scoop on them before they have a presence there.
[09:19] So what he’s thinking is doing some sort of a crowd funding and he also thinks that that would be some great publicity. And he says my issue is at this stage I don’t know how much each customer is going to cost me for hosting the back end, because he’d like to kind of turn it into a SAS app. And he says I’d like to experiment with a few different ways and or levels to charge them to find out what works. A successful crowd funding campaign could be a disaster if I have thousands of new costumers that I’m making a loss on. On the other hand, if I mention the price in the crowd funding campaign and it’s too high, it will probably fail. I have enough users at the moment to experiment with. But if I just stick with them and don’t try to go big now, I worry about my competitor gaining market leadership in the mobile space like they have in the PC space right now. What sort of things should I consider when I’m making this decision?
[09:58] Rob: My initial thought is that I really like the idea of crowd finding since it is B2C and since it is for gamers, role playing gamers in particular those things tend to do really well on crowd funding sites especially Kickstarter. I’m actually, I’m a closet Kickstarterer. I fund a lot of things. I fund 10 or 12 things in the last six months. I don’t know. I really like what’s going on in that site. So. I’m familiar with what’s there and this would fit in well.
[10:25] The question mark in my head with this question is he says my issue is I don’t know much each customer is going to cost me for hosting, like hosting on the backend. I’m assuming he’s going to build a SAS portion of it. And in my mind like unless you have a super resource intensive app, something that does thing like not only just in real time but is like getting bombarded with incoming analytics data. Every time a page loads on a customer site you get a ping like HitTail does. Unless you have that the cost of hosting each user is almost negligible.
[10:58] So, I’ve read through is email that if you get any indication that it’s going to be anything more than just create, read, update, delete SAS app where you’re putting stuff in and out of the database. I mean if you just tracking some character and tracking some movement and rendering some stuff, I don’t feel like this is going to be any type of extensive expense to host someone.
[11:17] Mike: Yeah. I did not get that sense from him. The only thing I can think of is that maybe he wants to be able to track all the different moves that somebody makes on a map. And I’m just completely speculating here, but he might want to be able to do it such that somebody can network several iPads together through his Cloud application. And then you could basically have like a game master managing all the things, moving all the things like moving the monsters in the PC around and then each of the character he’ll say make your move. You can move up to three spaces or five spaces or whatever. And then they moved and it updates on everybody’s iPad all at once.
[11:51] So that to me says that maybe it’s a little bit more than I might think but those things aren’t going to be used at all time. There might be five or six people connected in a particular game at any given time and I don’t know what the subscription kind of look like. But I can’t imagine that is that resource intensive especially if you’re doing it like with the REST API or something like that, where you just don’t need to worry about maintaining state across all of these different things because it’s just held in the database.
[12:17] Rob: Right. So I think at this point, you and I don’t have enough information to really comment on that piece. And that’s kind of a critical piece to this because my inclination based on what he said is that, yes, he should do crowd funding. And that its not going to high per user cost to host them. Now at the same time, I don’t think you should give people a lifetime access when they do the Kickstarter. It should probably be a one-year subscription at a discounted rate.
[12:40] You know, Brendon, if you’re doubting how much this is going to cost, I would find a web developer and explain to them what you’re trying to do, and they should be able to give you an idea of like “that’s a piece of cake or wow you’re going to need 20 Amazon ec2 instances to handle that.” And that will at least get you one step closer to knowing how much you should try to charge for the different Kickstarter levels.
[12:59] I also wouldn’t be concerned. You know, you say on the other hand, if you mention a price in a crowd funding campaign and it’s too high, it will probably fail. Well, then it fails. It’s a crowd funding campaign. There’s no real downside to doing that. I mean it’s a bummer if it fails but if you need a certain amount of money for people to use your app and to pay for you app for a year then you need that much money. Don’t undersell yourself and don’t sell a bunch of lifetime membership or even annual memberships way under market and then get six months end and not have the funds to do the hosting.
[13:32] So I would definitely be careful there and I would not be afraid to charge what you’re worth. You know what I’m saying. Like software developers in general tend to want to under price their stuff cause they don’t feel as worth as much as it really is. And so that’s just my sentiment based on the five paragraphs you have here. But I think it’d be a great Kickstarter campaign. I’d probably fund it myself even though I’m not playing D&D these days. I don’t see a real red flag or a reason not to do that. You see some of these RPG’s and other related things getting way overfunded and I think you have the potential to do that.
[14:06] Mike: Something else that jumps to mind is that if seems like if you’re building the infrastructure to actually do some of this stuff, you could probably build either an API or something along those lines kind of in the front end of it. And then use that API to build that prototypes for customers. And by prototype, I really mean something that emulates what customer behavior would be. And then essentially what you’re building is a piece of software that’s going to sit out there, and do some load testing on your system to make sure that you know how much its going to cost you and you know how much of a load it can handle.
[14:41] So you’re basically just building a simulator that helps you gauge that type of activity, what it does, how much you should charge for it, etc. I don’t think that’s uncalled for. The question I have in my mind is kind of what order you do that in, because obviously you don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort and money doing that upfront. It seems like you’re in this catch 22 where you need the money in order to be able to do that stuff and that’s where the crowd funding campaign comes in. But until you’ve done the prototype you don’t know how much to ask for in the crowd funding. So maybe you take the risk and you buy the tools and then you do the crowd funding campaign. I guess that piece is a little tricky.
[15:16] Rob: And I do think he has an advantage cause he’d already released what he says is a tech demo but he sold a thousand copies at 99¢. So he does have a user based. Maybe you could cobble together a test over a weekend to try to get a vague idea even if you get within 50% of what the load would be, that would give you a better idea. The tech demo is also really cool because if you do Kickstarter, you can put together a video demo pretty easily. You can point people to download the existing apps. They can see you for real. It builds more confidence. I mean you are a step ahead of 80% of the kickstarters that I see because you actually have a working app that does something. It’s not just kind of some diagrams and drawing at this point.
[15:55] Mike: So, Brendon, thanks for the question. I hope that helps. Our next question comes from Greg. He says, “Hi, Mike and Rob. I’m a huge fan of you guys. I’ve been listening for quite a while now. I’m getting close to launching my SAS app with a partner. We’re trying to line up some writers for long tail article generation. How much should I be expecting to pay per article for some decent but not great writing around the 500 word mark? Thanks for your time. Keep up the awesome work. Greg”
[16:16] Rob: Well this is a pretty subjective question for sure. You said decent but not great writing. I mean I know people who for 500 words who pay $50 or a $100 but I would call that exceptional writing. It’s a viral content. And then on the super low end, you can get articles for $3 to $5 but they’re pretty bad. Cobbled together I’ll say maybe by a non-native speaker. So I think the sweet spot what you’re probably looking at is between $10 and $20 for 500 words article. And yes, I know you can get them for $7 or $8. You may be able to find them there.
[16:53] But it’s just all that balance of how many people can you find that can generate enough content in your timeframe with enough quality, the quality that you don’t have to go through and edit it. You want to make sure that you’re not spending a bunch of time. If you pay $5 but you have to edit all the articles then you just wasted time. I would rather pay $15 and not have to edit a single one.
[17:12] Mike: One of the things I would do is because going through and reading this can be somewhat time consuming, hire a VA who is a native English speaker and have them vet the article. So send the same articles to like three or four different writers and have them put the articles together. And then have your VA go through and read them, and kind of basically have the VA judge them and kind of figure out which one of those three or four writer is the best writer and then continue to use that, and established essentially a relationship with those writers so that you can leverage them going forward.
[17:44] Otherwise, if you go to a website where they’re basically just hiring all these different writers and you don’t necessarily get the same one every time, then you can run into issues where one time you get a fantastic article for $12 or $13 and then the next time its complete garbage and you have to have it rewritten. By establishing those relationships, you help smooth out those fluctuations from one request to the next. So Greg, I hope that helps.
[18:06] Our next question is from Rick. And he says “Hi, Rob and Mike. Avid listener of the show from London and I think you provide tremendous value to the listeners. Keep it up. I’ve had a modest exit from a brick and mortar turned internet play three years. Now, I’m on to the next project full time which will be a SAS play to a specific niche and I expect the market in play to be 90% high touch offline. I have two questions. First is what tactics would you suggest in contacting and selling the SAS product to offline clients? And the second question is, in terms of pricing on value, the ongoing cost to me will be minimal but the value provided is high to the client. When competition enters the market they may use penetration pricing. How would you suggest addressing this so my clients wouldn’t switch? Thanks a lot. Rick.”
[18:44] Rob: The first thing I would do is read The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes, and he covers a bunch of offline marketing techniques that I would use almost to the letter if I were to go with offline marketing. It’s going to be postcards, direct mail and some direct email and some cold calling. Those are probably the three or four that I would use. But I would do them in a sequence like Chet Holmes describes in The Ultimate Sales Machine. And it involves finding a list of your dream customers, putting them together, and targeting them over time with essentially a campaign and not just doing this just one off stuff that most people do.
[19:20] The second question was regarding pricing on value. He said the ongoing cost is minimal. Well, the ongoing cost to almost every SAS app is minimal. I mean it can be a $1 per user or less. So that’s very common. You’re concern about competition entering the marketing so this penetration pricing. You know, I wouldn’t even worry about it now. I wouldn’t address it at this point. I think you need to get in. When competition enters, you can worry about it at that point.
[19:43] But if you’re truly going into a vertical niche and you have a SAS app, if you get a head start with people and you become the brand name in that vertical, and you get people using your app and they’re happy with it, most people don’t want to switch SAS apps. I have a bunch of SAS app. I mean I probably spend a couple of thousands a month on across all the businesses in terms of all the SAS apps that we use. I have never once gone out and change because someone dropped the price, a competitor have a lower price.
[20:13] Because the switching cost it’s too painful. It’s too expensive, right. Because I value my time, I value my people’s time. And it’s not just two hours of signing up for another app. It’s relearning that. It’s knowing that it probably has bugs. It’s why is it so much cheaper. The support probably sucks. The app probably isn’t as good, all these things. So I would be much much less concerned about a competitor coming in and trying to go cheaper at this point. Because by the time that happens, you’re going to be so far ahead of them. And hopefully have tens of thousands of dollars a month in revenue that you’re going to know the space much better than them and you’re going to just be a better marketer. So that’s the attack I would take.
[20:52] Mike: Yeah. What he said. There’s really nothing I can add to that so I’m just not even going to bother. So, Rick, I hope that helps you out. Next one comes from Seth. And he says “First, I wanted to thank you for your inspiration, your resources and the motivation you give to micropreneur community. I had a question about dealing with guilt. Like everyone I’m always surfing the web looking for ideas and getting inspired by things I found. One of the things that I’m always feeling guilty about is copying an idea. I tried to rationalize that I could do I better. But I guess I have a fear of being labeled a knockoff artist. At this point, I’m feeling I shouldn’t surf the web anymore for fear of finding a business idea that I’m thinking of that someone has already done. Am I alone here? Thanks. Seth.”
[21:30] Seth, I don’t always, I wouldn’t worry about it. I mean the fact of the matter is that almost virtually every single idea that you come up with, somebody else will have had it at some point. I can think of any number of ideas that I’ve had in the past where either I didn’t pursue them or I half-heartedly pursued them and then somebody else comes out with something that was either just as good or maybe quite as good but they did a much better job marketing it than I did.
[21:54] So I’ll be honest. I really wouldn’t worry about feeling guilty about copying somebody else’s idea. What I would be concerned about is if you look at somebody’s idea and you literally mimic it. You know complete from copying their entire website, their design, their layout, their marketing plan and then feature for feature their entire product. That’s what I’d probably be a little bit leery of doing.
[22:14] But if you look at somebody’s idea and it looks like a good idea but they’re just not doing very good with the execution, and that could be the marketing execution or that could be product execution. If you feel like you can do better then you shouldn’t feel guilty about providing your customers with a better experience than somebody else’s. I mean that’s what you really need to focus on is: are you proving better value to the customers than this competitor.
[22:39] So what if you are have idea Seth? It doesn’t matter. What matter is: are you are providing value, are you providing good value? I think it really comes down to, are you plagiarizing their site. Are you stealing their intellectual property? And if you’re not doing those things, I don’t see any reason why you should feel guilty about it.
[22:55] Rob: Yeah. Guilt is an interesting way to put it. Because if you’re feeling guilty about it, it either means you’re too hard on yourself or you care a little bit too much about what other people think about you. Would you say that MailChimp copied Constant Contact because Constant Contact was the first email newsletter management system? And MailChimp when it started was very very similar. They didn’t even niche it down. They didn’t really had their unique thing of hey it’s a Mail Chimp and they were going after startups.
[23:22] But really they’re very similar and yet none of us say MailChimps just knocked off all the other email providers, Aweber and Constant Contact that came before them. I agree with Mike. If you take someone’s design or if you a screen by screen knock off that sucks. But if you offer a similar value proposition and either you out market them or your app is better or you just have some unique variation of it, whether that is a niche or just being somehow different, then I don’t see that as being a big deal.
[23:49] Mike: So Seth, we hope that helps you get through that guilt and actually move forward to taking one of your ideas to the next level. Our next question is from Steph. And he says, “Hi, guys. Love the show. I’m taking notes like fiend and I’m doing my best to execute daily on your sage advice. I’m a graphic designer, illustrator and storyteller. And I’d love to know your take on the most compelling arguments to be made for having great design and branding in business. Many small companies don’t see the value in design and choose to cut corners. What problems and pain points does great design solve? Clear communication, consistent messaging and enhance customer experience spring to mind. How many more design specific considerations can add value to a company’s bottom-line. Thanks so much guys. Steph”
[24:27] So Steph, here are my thoughts on it. As a small business great design and branding does very very little for you. And the reason I think that, and you kind of alluded to this in your question, is that a lot of small businesses don’t see the value in it. And I personally don’t see it either. You know you have to focus on what problems you’re solving for the customers. And that’s really to kind of get your foot in the door with the costumers.
[24:49] You’re trying to establish enough of a customer based to just get you through those critical time periods, where you need to figure out whether or not your ideas is going to fly and whether or not you’re going to be able to turn it into a real business. And if you can’t then it could be a couple of different problems. One of which could be okay that niche is just way too small to support a big business.
[25:10] At which point, branding and brand recognition really doesn’t make a difference. Because the people looking for that solution they don’t care what it looks like as long as it works. As long it solves their problem. And it’s not like you’re going to have a lot of competitors in that particular space anyway. On the other side, when you get into a position where you’re starter to get larger costumers, you’re starting to establish yourself in an area.
[25:33] And you’re starting to grow the business to the point that you multiple employees or you’re getting millions, tens and millions of revenue, that’s the point in which branding and messaging starts to provide that extra value. Because then people they’ll see a flyer or they’re see an advertisement on a webpage and then two or three or four months later they’ll see a similar one and they’ll associate it with that company.
[25:55] But until you get to that point till you have a big enough foot print I’ll say it doesn’t really make a difference. And I think that’s probably why you’re seeing this from a lot of small businesses that they don’t care about their branding and messaging because they’re small enough that it actually doesn’t matter. At least that’s my opinion on it.
[26:10] Rob: Yeah. I think there are a couple of components here. There’s design of the product. There’s branding and then the third is messaging. I think messaging is critical. To me, that’s also the same as positioning. It’s if you look at the 10 headlines that I tested when I put up a Drip landing page, I was trying to hone the messaging. And that is figuring out what message resonates with people who are visiting this page. What message resonates with a customers that I want to reach and that I think are going to get the most value out of Drip.
[26:40] I think that is absolutely crucial and probably more important than the other two combined. I think for small startup launching design can be useful. I think it’s helpful when people hit a landing page that is gorgeous or hit a website that’s gorgeous, they instantly think these guys have more funding or these guys are legit or these guys know how to build a product. I bet it’s good. They give you the benefit of a doubt.
[27:01] Now you actually still have to build a good product that provides value to people. But it gives you that instant 3 second test of I kind of have confidence. It starts you up on the right foot that these guys are doing a good job if the design is good. With that said, I also see early stage founders getting caught up, especially first timers, spending months trying to figure out what logo to get. And they go on 99 designs and spend four weeks doing something.
[27:25] But I’ve said it before I don’t even do logos. I literally when I acquired HitTail I told the designer when he was redesigning the site, just pick a good font and put HitTail on the upper left. I literally don’t want to spend anytime thinking about it. I did the same with Drip. Both times the designers couldn’t stand it and they did some little tweak. They put a font and then put a little tail or a little drip of water or something to kind of make it a unique thing, and I actually really like those.
[27:48] But I spend zero time thinking about that. And so there is a balance here. You can go overboard especially if you’re just trying to get something out the door. If you’re in a small niche and its your first one and you’re trying to get it off the ground, you need to pay less attention to design than I think you might think you need to. So pay less attention to fancy logos and hardcore design and don’t blow ten grand on some amazing design and idea you just had.
[28:13] You need to vet it first using the $7 template from ThemeForest. And once you vetted that, maybe consider spending a couple of grand on a nice design. But get that affirmation first, the confirmation I should say, before you just start blowing a bunch of money on a great design. Now there is a caveat. If you’re in the design space then yes you need a great design. Cause designers are going to pick it apart. They’re not going to use crappy design, etc. etc.
[28:37] But the further away from the design space you go, the further away from the technical space you go, the less well designed or the less gorgeous your app needs to get traction. And the thing is once you do get traction, once you do have paying customers, once you have several thousands a month in revenue, it’s so much easier to go back and improve the design and then bring it to the next level. But if you spend all that time and money upfront, and the thing never takes off then you basically wasted a bunch of time.
[28:59] The third point that Steph brought up was branding. And if he means branding like having a logo and having a unified look across all your ads and your website and all that stuff, I’m not really a big proponent of that, especially not with bootstraps startups, especially not people operating in niches. If you can do it, great. But I would never spend a spare moment that I could be spending on actually getting costumers to pay me money. I would never spend that time worrying about having this big unified brand because frankly I never seen a brand to pay the bills. It’s always actually selling to costumer that does that.
[29:32] Mike: Yes. Just to point out the messaging component that Steph had pointed to was great design solves clear communication, consistent messaging and enhance customer experience, which are all things you really can’t measure anyway. But the clear communication, you can get around that with words. Consistent messaging, again words. You don’t need to have as Rob just said a great looking logo. You don’t even need to have a logo. You basically need to make sure that you’re addressing people’s pain point and telling them what the problem are that you solve. But you know as Rob also said, when you’re in the design space, you have to have good design because people aren’t going to trust you as a designer if you’re doing that.
[30:08] Rob: I don’t want someone to write in and say you’re saying design is completely underrated or that you don’t need to do it at all. Because I do get emails with links to landing pages and if they’re crap and people are running away from it or complaining or saying this look unprofessional then yes. You need to rise to a minimum bar that resonates with the people you’re trying to hit. But that minimum can be accomplished again by $7 on ThemeForest landing page rather than trying to cobble something yourself together or using KickOffLabs or LaunchRock.
[30:37] I mean any of these have good enough design to sell ticket to MicroConf Europe as an example, like we didn’t hire a designer to put together a landing page. We use a LaunchRock and just drew one up and put a nice image around it and that’s been good enough and we’ve gotten several hundred emails from that. So think about what’s good enough for your audience.
[30:56] Mike: So Steph, thanks for the question. Our final question comes from Andy at clickity.io. And he says, “I’d been listening to your podcast while driving work over the last few months. I think they’re great and very relevant to us. It’s incredible how apt they are sometimes. Both Drip and AuditShark had released teething problems and so did we. In fact, ours was worst. We pulled our new product completely as we realized they just wasn’t fully featured enough to be able to sell it and providing support might have been too hard.
[31:20] Now, we’re reconsidering our options. You always hear release early and I guess part of the reason for that is so that you can find out quickly how far you are off from having a fully featured product. It can turn out to be very demotivating. I have a few questions. We’re a bootstrap startup on full time jobs. We have a few costumers on our current products but not enough. As it’s a tool that can be used in many different situation, it’s difficult to market it and find costumers. Should we try and find vertical markets or perhaps accept that it’s never going to be the hundreds of costumers we need?
[31:47] Can you see any vertical niches for this product? We’d been on the market for six months. The other options we’d been considering is building something that complements our existing offering more rather than a separate products which our pulled product was. What if there’s new product idea would go up against a major player in the market. Should we fear patents that they might hold? We’re both developers so there’s a tendency to lets build more instead of lets market more. Any inspiration is great appreciated. Andy”
[32:11] Rob: So clickity.io the headlines says easy email delivery testing. And then the subtext says Clickity helps you test the most important part of your site/app outbound email. Protect your business from the embarrassment from a broken email system. I don’t know what this app does. I don’t know if this is SendGrid or if this is something different. So, I think the problem is exactly what Andy said it’s a tool that can be used in many different situations so it’s difficult to market it and find costumers.
[32:37] My advice would be find one of those situations. Pick one, pick the one that’s most dire, pick the one that has the largest audience, pick the one that has the largest audience that you can reach and that is willing to pay for this. And then no matter what your app can do, nobody cares. Just pick that problem and put all your marketing, all of your positioning, all of your branding, all of your messaging around that single problem and start there.
[33:02] And if you dive into that for three months and you run ads or you do SEO or you change your entire whole homepage to focus on that, you get costumer to comes and still nobody buys, then yes I would rethink maybe this whole idea isn’t going to fly. But at this point, this doesn’t show me what pain point this solves at all. And to be honest, I don’t exactly understand though. I haven’t click past the homepage. But I should have an idea on the homepage of the value proposition that you offer.
[33:26] And easy email delivery testing. It makes me think are you testing whether my emails can be delivered. So how does that work? If I’m using MailChimp it will test it or if only I have my SMB server. I mean there are a lot of details here that I think need to be focused on this landing page. And once that happens, I would probably air on the side of not building more cause Andy said they’re developers. They’re going to tend to lean that way. And so I would first look at trying to find an audience for this.
[33:55] Mike: So I thought the exact same thing as you. Is it SendGrid? Is it something else? And when I saw easy email delivery testing my first thought was maybe they’re testing how these emails come up in somebody’s browsers or how they come up in different email clients or something along those lines. And I started clicking around and just based on the homepage alone, I’d probably would just walk away and say I have no idea what this does and is not worth my time and investment if they can’t tell me on the homepage.
[34:23] With that said, I clicked over the API screen and the API screen says integrate emails into your unit test, which to me sounds like a great value proposition. That needs to be on the homepage. I mean that’s perfect. That’s exactly the type of problem that you want to pitch to people and say we do unit testing on emails. So when you send an email to somebody we’re able to go into this fake mailboxes and do all the testing to make sure that your emails are actually getting sent, that they’re showing up, that their right URLs are going into them, those URLs are clickable, etc.
[34:56] This API screen, that’s your tagline. Integrate emails into your unit test. That needs to be on the homepage. I would just take that and run with it. Cause it seems like to me and I’ve gone through this with AuditShark that’s one of the few things that I can’t unit test. I have no idea how to go through and unit test something like that. Could I build something? Sure. Am I going to? Probably not. And the reason I’m not going to is because it’s not worth my time and effort to do it.
[35:18] However, you apparently have a product that can do and I would harp on that and go to your customer base and market to the people who want to do unit testing for emails. None of this stuff is on that homepage. Even looking at the homepage now, after seeing that, it still doesn’t speak to me that it solves that particular problem. Rework your marketing strategy. That would be my advice.
[35:42] Rob: I’m really glad you found that. I haven’t seen it and I agree that’s a great value prop. I also think you should be way developer focused then. I think the headline Mike said could easily go on the homepage and it should say for developers all over this site. Because I didn’t realize that this was a technical tool for developer. Use the jargon that we all use so that people know that wow this is built by developers for developers. And don’t use that phrase cause it’s super cheesy.
[36:05] Even if it say easy email delivery testing for developers then it instantly clues me of like I’m a coder and how is this going to help. So unit test like that’s something that a non-developer is not going to really know what that means. So put that smack that on your homepage, so that when someone comes and they know they’re speaking directly to me and maybe even have that, your code snippet. Don’t be afraid to have code snippets on the homepage.
[36:28] You may want to go and look at stripe.com and see how they’re positioning themselves. Cause they’re basically a payment gateway for developers. And right on the homepage you see for developers. You see some code. You can change the language of the code and rerender it. There’s a lot of stuff there that shows you hat they know how to make things easy for developers. I agree. I think that’s got to be the first market that you hit.
[36:50] Mike: So Andy, I hope that helps. Definitely give us an update and let us know how you do. But I would recommend against folding. You definitely needed more of your marketing to tell people the problem that you’re solving for them.
[37:04] Mike: And if you have question for us, you can call it in to our voice mail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at question 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.