Episode 175 | Your Product is Not the Hero (with Chase Reeves)

Show Notes


[00:00] Rob: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I have Chase Reeves on the show and we talk about how your product is not the hero of the story. This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 175.

[00:11] Music

[00:19] 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.

[00:27] Mike: And I’m Mike.

[000:28] Rob: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Mike?

[00:33] Mike: I’ve been going through spreadsheets and analytics and all sorts of stuff over the past week and kind of analyzing my conversion funnel for people who are coming into the Audit Shark site and kind of looking to see how many people are doing that versus going to the pricing page and then falling through with a trial for the software and I think I found part of the problem or at least what I believe is the problem. I think that there’s a big disconnect between why people end up on the Audit Shark website because I basically targeted all these keywords around compliance but then when you get there, product and the copy talks a lot about security, not necessarily compliance.

[01:09] So I think there’s a very big disconnect there where people are looking at that and saying oh well, this page maybe applies to me but the product doesn’t necessarily do so. Those are the things that I’m looking at right now and trying to address in the copy and I’m basically rewriting a bunch of the different pages that were out there. I just focus the marketing a little bit more.

[01:27] Rob: Right. And actually in this episode we interview Chase Reeves and we talk about that, about how hard it is to get that language right and to talk about your product in a consistent way you have like a single voice and a single tone and you’re still going after that consistent single message. I’m doing the same with Drip. I don’t have a consistent message because I’m still trying to figure out the right way that resonates with the largest block of folks who are coming to look at it so I feel your pain in that respect.

[01:57] Mike: How about you? What are you up to?

[01:58] Rob: Well I wanted to talk a little bit about the latest speaker we signed up from MicroConf. I’m super stoked. Her name is Annie Cushing. We’re lucky to have her. She’s speaking at Moscon this year and she’s just an analytics guru and this is what she does 24/7 is think about and act on and consult on and talk about analytics. So her talk is about secrets you can pull from Google analytics and she told me a few of the secrets and it will be on the speaker page in a few days because I’m going to be in her abstract.

[02:28] But there’s some crazy stuff that you can pull out of there. I have no idea. I mean I consider myself like an intermediate to lower advanced Google analytics user but there’s no chance like compared to her, she just thrown out all this crazy stuff so I’m excited to hear about it and I think there’s going to be a lot of value there. Then the other thing for me is I talked a little last week about how previous month or maybe two months I was kind of in a slump and what’s crazy is how quickly that’s turned around for me. I got the HitTail revamp live so that HitTail is once again providing all the value it used to, it’s importing keywords for people directly from Google web master tools and providing suggestions and within 48 hours of that, as a new customer started coming in and I’ve started sending emails to the list that are affiliated with HitTail and all the marketing lists and trial users and just kind of getting on boarding all we worked, my motivation has gone through the roof.

[03:19] And so I’m at that high again like manically rushing and helping and implementing new pieces of the support queue and new pieces of on boarding and everything but it feels great and I’m thinking about it at night and waking up every morning stoked to work on the project which is like the antiphysis of where I was 2 or 3 weeks ago. So it feels good to have kind of made it past that dip and back up into the place where I’m just excited to be doing what I’m doing again.

[03:47] Mike: Very cool.

[03:48] Music

[03:50] Rob: So today mike and I did an interview with Chase Reeves. We don’t do a lot of interviews but I wanted to bring him on the show because he just has such unique thoughts about how design impacts every aspect of your product and he made this great quote during the talk that I used as a title and it’s that your product is not the hero of the story. So I think he brings a unique insight. Our pack tends to be pretty left brain like Mike and I think about things in engineering terms. We talk about analytics and split testing and stuff. Chase is the exact opposite. He’s super creative, super smart. He’s just executing on this whole idea of how creativity and brand and tone can really build a business.

[04:26] And so I wanted to bring him on as –both  just to hear his thoughts on it but also to expose our listeners to different points of view. I mean that’s not necessarily be the way that you’re thinking about especially if you’re kind of the engineering mindset. So today Mike and I are chatting with Chase Reeves. I first heard about chase on the Fizzle show which is a solid podcast you should go check out. It’s about online marketing and starting an online business. Chase also works with Corbett Bar and Caleb Wojcik on fizzle.co which is like an online membership website for learning how to launch an online business. What I like about Fizzle, both the show and fizzle.co, Fizzle is one that I consider to be exceptional.

[05:08] Chase: Thanks Rob.

[05:10] Rob: And I’m really glad you gave me a log in so I could actually verify that before I said that on the show. But my impression of it was always that it was solid. It was the same thing with copy blogger Bryan Clark. Everything they do, I respect. Everything that Corbett has done – because I followed him for a few years on think traffic. I’ve always respected so and I heard he and you and Caleb talking on the podcast I’m like man, these guys are doing ending up legit. And that’s really why we wanted to have you on the show. So thanks for coming man.

[05:31] Chase: Thank you guys for having me. I’m thrilled to be here. I’m a fan. I feel like you guys and then also my friend Justin Jackson kind of introduced me to this world of this in-between world because my background is sort of in between like being a blogger and then the other is looking at the big startup world. I’ve always kind of shimmied between those two worlds, things that are on this week in startups like those companies and working in startups and then like looking at my little father apprentice blogs, my little blogs that I startup and try to build an audience right?

[06:02] And then I see this bootstrapper crew kind of develop over the last few years right in the middle of it and it really kind of feels like the home base I never had and just in the last year I’ve gotten so inspired and interested in everything. You know as a designer I’ve always been looking at 37 signal so I’ve heard the term bootstrappers. I know about bootstrap profitable and proud. But that was always still like this in week in startups crowd thing for me.

[06:26] Rob: Right.

[06:27] Chase: And so being able to see the way that you guys have started talking about this sort of world and the products that you make and all that kind of stuff, like I spent a whole like two weeks in the MicroConf videos from the most recent session. I basically cancel all my calls Judith and I just spend forever watching through each one of those videos and I just love them. I felt like I was finding my people. So I’m really excited to be here.

[06:51] Rob: Awesome. There’s a really cool term. There’s a blog post called the third tribe that was written on copy blogger and it talks about that false dichotomy that you’re just talking about where there’s like kind of the startup people over here and they’re all trying to launch these huge B-C funded businesses that never work that 1 in 1,000 actually makes money or 1 in 100. And on the other side there were the internet markets, the affiliate marketers who are just all about money, money, conversions, conversions not really forward with society.

[07:17] And on copy blogger they said there’s this third tribe and it’s the people who want to do stuff legitimately online whether that is starting a blog and building up a real audience or whether that’s launching small software product but they also kind of need to make money because we’re bootstrap. We’re self funded. Right? You can’t just go for three years and giveaway your products. So if you haven’t read that, I recommend it. We’ll link it up in the show notes.

[07:37] Chase: Here’s my question for you guys. What are a handful of entrepreneurs that you guys are paying attention to?

[07:42] Mike: I listen to the bootstrap with kids podcast pretty much every week whenever they come out and do episodes. So I pay attention to Brecht and Scott, pay attention to the things that Ruben Gomez is doing and then I also pay attention to pretty much anything that Patrick McKenzie does. And then there’s kind of a core of I’d probably say 30 or 40 people who I kind of keep tabs on but I don’t necessarily follow absolutely every move that they make but they tend to be the people who show up at MicroConf, just people like Robert Gram, Nathan Barry and Brennan Dunn and various other people who have been to MicroConf and seen what it’s like and are doing things on their own but aren’t necessarily high profile people. They’re people who are in the industry as Rob was saying, kind of that third tribe.

[08:26] Rob: Are you looking for who we look up to or just who we’re in community with?

[08:30] Chase: I guess a little bit of both.

[08:31] Rob: Yeah. All the folks Mike mentioned and several other MicroConf attendees, Dave Rodenbaugh and Patrick Thompson from Inc Stone Software, just folks who are making it happen but they don’t necessarily have the big blog and a big following. The entrepreneurs that I’ve been following the last several years who are really rocking it and I tend to use them in a lot of examples because I respect the hell of what they’ve done in both the bootstrap and the venture space is Jason Cohen and Hiten Shah.

[08:57] Chase: Okay.

[08:56] Rob: And that’s one of the reasons those guys have been at every MicroConf because they just kill it. Anything they do, if they moved into the email marketing space I would be so sad because one of my apps is in that space. They’re the few people like if a venture funded company moves into my space I’m not actually that scared. I think I can kick their ass just based on pure will and just experience. But those are the guys who have it. They have both the knowledge and you have funding at a drop of a hat and all that stuff.

[09:20] Chase: Yeah. Jason’s video in the most recent MicroConf. There’s a point his presentation where he said okay, so hands up if in the next month if you didn’t do anything on your business, it would still make at least $10,000 and that question and realizing that if I was in the audience I would have my hands raised. It was the actual moment I became a big boy in my business because I never had put it together like that before up until that point like Fizzle like you said I’m really enamored by the fact that you would say such kind things about it since you’re someone that I respect. We’ve worked our [Inaudible] to make this thing. I’m really, really proud of it and yet I still was in that mode where like look at this thing I made, it’s incredible. I was still just in like yeah we’ve got a little thing. We’ll see if it’s going to be okay.

[10:05] In my crew of designers it’s not cool to talk about yours successes. That had bled out into its not cool to feel confident about what you’ve made in some ways. So when Jason said that, it’s like the diaper came off. I’m still in pull-ups but it’s not a diaper and I can do it myself now you know what I mean?

[10:22] Rob: Yeah. I definitely think like the thing that the press reinforces kind of this societal vision of entrepreneurship is from Shark tank and  Inc Magazine and Fast Company and all that stuff and that’s one thing that we’ve tried to fight against and mention it often on the podcast is just like that’s kind of the fake reality. That’s the fake entrepreneurship in my opinion. I’m not saying those guys aren’t doing it because there are people on there that are doing it. But if you have to ask for someone’s permission to start your company, I think you’re doing it wrong.

[10:50] Chase: Though there are some businesses that just can’t be bootstrapped. If you want to start a new airline like it’s going to be hard to just try to roll your own in that way and I’ve got a buddy up in Canada who does a lot of big business and he’s always giving me BLEEP he’s like Chase, sometimes there are business where the idea itself in order for that idea to succeed it can’t be done on a bootstrap level just because I’m so one-sided about that, so I’ve learned a little bit from him in that capacity just because I mean to be able to be nimble and quick and live like we are, it’s sexy. It’s creative. It’s adventurous. It feels exciting. I really, really enjoy what it’s like to build businesses like this.

[11:26] Rob: And we do too. That’s why we’re here. I kind of want to guide us into the topic of today and what was cool was Chase you and I were emailing about it and you sent back I said hey would you like to come on the show? What would you like to talk about? And this was your exact quote. You said my honest to god wheelhouse is designed specifically how founders should be thinking about design, not conversion optimization or AB testing. That’s for people with spreadsheets and I don’t have those. I’m the creative director for Fizzle and that runs through a ton of writing, voice, tone, strategy, long term brand story etcetera. I lump all those in with design. And then you attacked on the end you said I also do a lot of teaching on defining audience and customer development.

[12:07] So that’s really what I wanted to get into is both of those things because I think they’re critically important to founders both bootstrapped and funded and I think both starting kind of a blog audience, just an online business that way or a software company. I think we can dig into why those things are important. So that’s what I want to kick it off is like you mentioned voice, tone and strategy so why should a software founder care about those when they’re launching a software product?

[12:32] Chase: There is a cultural momentum around design. I guess the aesthetics of a thing the way it feels in your hand, the message that it gives, the sense of cool or independent. Look at the difference between Apple and android. Android is like I want to be able to put my own apps on my thing. I don’t want to be in the walled garden so to speak and Apple’s like we control everything and that’s why it’s so good isn’t it? It’s never really been a satisfying answer to me. I think like I kind of said in the quote you read, design ends up being like the whole kitten caboodle. It’s like design itself, it’s weird because the design isn’t the thing. Design is nothing. Design is a container so you never would give someone like a piece of Tupperware and be like isn’t it amazing? Nobody’s ever said that about Tupperware ever. Right? So I think design is like Tupperware but what’s inside of the Tupperware, the leftover meatloaf that’s just sensation got better overnight, that’s the content.

[13:31] That’s the business goal in some ways and the whole purpose of design is first and foremost to get out of the way of the business. And then if possible, to amplify this sort of message of the business. What I mean by that is when you land on a site and you’re like this is good. I like this. You’re resonating with that thing. You like it. It’s speaking your language. You feel like it came from people like you or you’re one of the kinds of people who would pick this thing up or who would come across this website or who this thing was built for.

[14:10] Because I think of an intention that the designer or CEO or founder or whoever had to create that experience with you. So there’s an audience, we have pains, we have problems, we’re bored. We’re irritated. We have things we want to achieve, things we want to do. I have a rash on my rectal and I need a cream. And then I do a search on a cream and I land on four sites and these four sites could very clearly cater to very different audiences and it’s that point the catering to different audiences, that’s when I get really excited.

[14:31] Mike: Sounds to me more like a lot of the way you view it is not necessarily what I would term design. It sounds to me more like it’s about giving your company or your product a voice in a persona that resonates with other people because people who follows 37 signals tend to see things in a certain way. People who follow Microsoft tend to see things in a certain way. I think that’s reflected in the choices that they choose but also in kind of the positioning of those companies and the products that they represent.

[15:00] Chase: Yeah, very much so. That isn’t just design. But also you can’t separate design from the voice. So I kind of see three things. There’s the aesthetics. There’s the voice – so the aesthetics is like what color is it? And like just the general sort of look and feel of it, then there’s the voice, the way in which the thing was written, the tone and then there’s the actual content, the thing that it’s actually about. So I could write something about freeing slaves in a sort of happy go lucky way or in a super brute serious like this just has to change way. And then the kind of page that I’m reading that on, what types it sent in, how big the margins are, what the colors are, where I found this thing. Is it pasted up against telephone poll? Is it a website that I was searching for something else and found this? Was it on an advertising on Facebook?

[15:50] All of these things create this moment and my whole dream has always been to sort of engage the visitor in a moment of emotional authenticity. I want them to land here and be like oh my god yes, this is for me because it’s so incredibly hard to do that. There’s so much noise. There’s so much croft and crap on the internet that they try to reach through all these crap even though like any visitor who lands on your site is so well trained to hit the back button right? We come to sites with that posture. My dream, the challenge that I’ve always loved is how do I reach through that crap and that history that they have with websites and with salesman and all these sorts of thing and create sort of an emotionally authentic moment where they’re like oh my god I like these people. I like this person. I like this thing. This feels like it’s for me. I’m starting to trust this because that’s the other big thing about design is it crates trust.

[16:45] I think it’s getting harder and harder to do so but if I land on your site and it’s a typical WordPress theme and your copy is all about some big deal, look at this thing I found out, incredible – just not interested chances are. Unless you really, really, really nail it. And I think the copy is absolutely the most important thing on the site. I want to make sure that I definitely say that. Just like Justin Jackson’s words things, I did a course within Fizzle on the essentials of web design for business builders, so not for designers but for people who are building businesses. It’s the essentials. There’s like five hours of training. It’s crazy. And then we designed nerd fitness and while I was doing it I filmed most of the conversations that me and Steve Kim the founder of that site has.

[17:26] I brought in Justin Jackson’s words thing. I’ve never talked to him before. I just found the thing and I was like hey can I use this? I already made the video I hope that’s okay. And so then I put it out and luckily he was fine with it. Because that’s so powerful. The idea of this is – it’s really about words. It really is about words and words are the things that communicate and if you can tell me about my problem better than I can tell myself about my problem then I’m already trusting you. I’m already interested in the solution that you have to offer. I think that’s still the most powerful thing but now, why stop there? Why make it a black text on a white background when you can make the aesthetics of the page completely get that message across.

[18:06] Rob: I’m totally on board with that. I have my own thoughts of how to accomplish that. I’m curious how you go about it because you are obviously an expert in this. You’ve done it over and over and I’ve seen fizzle.co I’ve seen how coherent and cohesive that brand is that your aesthetic, your voice and your tone of that site, it matches up so well. So how do you do that? How can – again there’s a software developer listening to this right now and they’re thinking boy, I don’t know that I’m able to do that. So do you have a process? Is it just trial and error? Is it you have to do it for 10 years to get good at it?

[18:37] Chase: Yeah. That’s a great question. Here’s some notes that I have on this. First and foremost you got to care. You got to give a damn. If this is just another software product that you hope you don’t have to touch at all throughout the week or month and that it makes you a few thousand dollars a month and things like that, good luck. Kind of like you said earlier Rob, there’s this sleazy douche bag internet marketing folks who aren’t trying to push civilization in humanity forward at all.

[19:03] So if you want to make a little product that does a little thing that’s one of 10 things in you arsenal that you don’t want to have to touch, I find it very hard to try to create – I’ve worked with a lot of clients like that and I find it incredibly hard to try to create that. Not to be like you can’t make it good. Right? That thing is what it is. Like Drip Rob, what you have is what it is and the role of design is to make that thing the most what it is to everybody who lands on that page who’s right for that product.

[19:30] So it’s not necessarily just about making the world a better place but I do for me what’s always the center of what I get into, it’s like I care. I see nerd fitness and he’s got a few million people coming to his site every month and it is selling products but it’s this crazy Frankenstein of a brand and I really like Steve to say come up to my house. We’re going to spend a week. We’re going to redesign your site because this nerd plus fitness thing the way that story is kind of crashing together in my head makes so much sense and that’s not at all what I’m seeing on this page. So let’s try to make this thing what it actually is.

[20:06] That all came because I had a deep sort of intuition about this thing and really wanted to see that vision come to life and that’s kind of like my answer to everything, someone wrote a big post recently on personal branding and they interviewed me and I was like I have four steps. First one is care, second one is look at number 1 again and then do that for 2 and 3 or 3 and 4 as well. When your personality, when your humanity comes to the surface of any website experience, it’s at least interesting. So I always like that.

[20:34] Then, what else could we do? For me there’s this sense of story. There’s sense of a story and my friend Don Miller wrote a book called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. He’s basically asking what would happen if we looked out are life the way that a director looked at a movie? And that’s always stucked with me because – then he gets into what is a story? This is a simple formula for that. A story is a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it. So I always try to get myself in a story mode but here’s the big mistake that all of us founders end up making. It’s like so if the story of our business is like Star Wars. We always think of ourselves as Luke Skywalker but we’re not Luke. The audience is Luke. The person who’s using our software is Luke.

[21:20] Okay, they’re the ones who have to defeat the empire. They’re the ones who have some crazy DNA and back-story that they didn’t have any control or power over and now they’re thrust into this quest they couldn’t have helped it now. Who are we? We’re the Yoda or we’re better yet the Obi-Wan. There’s a scene where Obi-Wan gives Luke his dad’s light saber. I saw that and I was like oh my god this is the move right here. That’s the kernel of the whole freaking movie and that’s the scene that what I’m always encouraging founders inside Fizzle to do.

[21:47] So to take that posture of okay, I need to help look with this mission that he’s on because otherwise the whole universe explodes. It’s going to be horrible. It affects me when they don’t do it. So again kind of coming back to that care – but seeing them in that story, now there’s something at stake. Now it’s not just about how do I get them to use email better? Now it’s about these guys have to make money. They have to make money from the thing that they’ve made and I need to help them on that journey. So I’m going to help them in this little sliver of it just like Obi-Wan just helped one little sliver then there was Yoda and then there was Lea and Hans Solo and everybody plays their own roles.

[22:30] So for me that story, that is always what I get into and obviously there’s not like tactics in there. I find that I can empathize with the people in the otherwise more and that always – that’s what a lot of people would say design is empathy. So tell me what I’ve said so for because I feel like I’m not making any sense over here.

[22:47] Mike: You’ve said to know your audience and know them well enough that you can hear the internal conversation that’s going on inside their head and that you turn that around and make them the hero of the story that it’s a hero’s journey and that your product is not the hero. It’s the user.

[23:03] Chase: Yeah. Exactly. And you’re sort of the Obi-Wan. Your product is a light saber. The user is on this journey and if you care about that journey for them and realize they need to be successful in that thing for your product to be what it was meant to me, to be the light saber that is in the final climactic scenes of that movie that’s the story. But I’m the kind of guy – I just can’t help it. I always start there and from there normally there’s some inspiration that comes from it. There’s some sort of idea. there’s some little gimmick, some little thing so nerd fitness it was the comic book sort of elements that came to play for smart passive income they came just this idea of pat as the answer man. And as like the crash test dummy for trying a lot of things online.

[23:49] For think traffic it was making a huge big bold statement about what it’s like to have a website make it responsive because compared to the rest of the internet marketing world it was really, really bad. And so to put something on this huge massive 70 pixelled font size on the headline big broad sprawling pages, it really made an impression. All of those things serve those stories and so for Fizzle, our story, there’s another thing from Peldi, saw his Business of Software talk.

[24:21] In that he says don’t fall in love with your solution. Fall in love with the problem and you’ll be just fine. And that’s kind of I guess what I’m getting at here is if you fall in love with the problem, realize what’s at stake for the people on the other side who have that problem, it’s going to help you with your copy writing. It’s going to help you realize that you’re going to need to put together a design and test it over time. You need to see what works best. You need to hear back from your audience. There’s no borders between your design and the emails that you send your customer and the feedback that you’re getting from them and all this other stuff, it all shapes the direction of this thing so that in 8 months, 12 months, you’ve got a really, really strong understanding of what’s working extremely well for your audience.

[24:59] Rob: I’m glad you brought up Peldi because I think he’s a really good example of basically taking what you’re saying and he applies that in everything he does whether it’s his app itself, whether it’s the marketing, whether it’s his presentations or his Twitter background, everything. It’s about this design thinking but it’s a creativity and looking at every point of contact with his company or with his brand, he wouldn’t call it a brand but it really is a brand and you fall in love with Peldi and what he’s done with Balsamic because of that creative thinking and he kind of turns you into the Luke Skywalker.

[25:31] Chase: I have this video that I did on Ice To The Brim which is just my little personal blog where I’m talking about – call it the focus factor but I talk about how we all do this digging. This is just thinking personally. We do this digging where like maybe I’ll be this kind of good guy. Maybe I’ll do this for a living. Maybe I’ll do that. Maybe I’ll be a designer. Maybe I’ll be a copy writer. Maybe I’ll develop frontend. Maybe I’ll learn some whatever you crazy people get into, python or boa constrictor or whatever’s the coolest thing right now. And we’re slowly spiraling around, getting closer and closer and closer to our center to find out kind of who we are and what we’re here for.

[26:05] And then when we be it, that’s not actually like our landing pad. That’s not the destination. That’s the launch pad for what I call like the story ark that explodes off of there. And now everything we do falls on that story ark. So if my story ark within Fizzle is to serve the independent entrepreneur. I’ve fallen in love with that problem, the problem of the independent entrepreneur kind of like the word indie because we’re dealing with this identity crisis of if we’re not taking on big money if we don’t have millions of users then who are we? We’re nothing because part of this story is people are telling us that. That’s not true.

[26:40] All this DIY stuff, all these problems that are coming at us, not only do I have to know how to code and think about these sorts of things or know how to find coders but then I got to think about differentiation and I got to think about web design and I got to think about web design and I got to think about an email strategy and I got to think about all this other stuff and it’s just so overwhelming. So there are things that we work out over the course of the 7 years that we get started and try these things out but I’ve fallen in love with that person who wants to build something and support themselves and earn a living something they care about and trying really hard not to burn out on it.

[27:09] That’s the problem I fell in love with according to Peldi’s advice. So that’s the story arc. You can easily spot where the sparkline, the Fizzle glance, it’s the big circle that doesn’t have a whole lot of revenue going on. And then one step further is the Fizzle show which is a much smaller circle but still pretty big. And then just to the right of that is Fizzle which is a really small circle but really high in revenue. And then beyond that, who knows what it will be next right? maybe some sort of small group coaching, maybe some sort of get 15 people together in Cancun for a 3 day intensive, maybe a live event of 300 people or something like that. But everything serves that story of the indie entrepreneur and they have varying degrees of audience members or revenue that thing is capable of. And designing that story was the first place I started in developing the Fizzle brand.

[27:58] Mike: Really what you need to do is you need to figure out what the story is that you’re going to be telling to people and along with that story I mean you have to have kind of an idea of what your audience is. So how do you go about developing or defining what that audience looks like because as you said, your customer is really the hero of the story and you want to make your products as basically the light saber. You’re providing the tool for them but you want them to be great with it and you have to figure out who that audience is. And how do you go about doing that? I mean what’s the hard part about defining what that audience looks like and who the ideal person I guess in it, I don’t want to say customer because in some cases it’s not necessarily customer but who’s the ideal person who kind of fits into that audience. How do you define them?

[28:44] Chase: Yeah. It’s a really good question Mike because really, that is the hardest thing in the whole world. But there are some tools and tricks of the trade. First of all you got to realize do I know this person already or do I not? Half the time we’re all developing for ourselves. We’re creating our product to scratch our own itch and that’s a really good place to be if we have a little bit of taste and a little bit of style especially if we’re the kind of person who thought through this issue a lot, this problem. If we know it really well, chances are we’ll be able to create a pretty good solution for it.

[29:15] Now it’s a question of whether I don’t know, we’ll be able to really market it all that well to other people like me but your chances are better than if you didn’t know anything about those people in some way. But a lot of the times, you might start thinking that to you and then you end up over time learning more and more that you’ve somehow hit some vein of people that you don’t know anything about but they really love your product and they need these three features that you didn’t even think about before. I’m sure you guys have experienced that right? Where you’ve built something and then the audience starts kind of pulling it in a different direction.

[29:44] Mike: Yeah, definitely.

[29:46] Chase: Like being able to listen to them overtime is a big thing. So the first thing I would say is number 1, give yourself some time. Allow yourself to listen for a little while and be okay with not having the answer. You can do sketches. Weirdly your mind thinks different things when you’re doing different stuff. So you can just take a piece of paper, draw like four people’s heads and just their shoulders on just a big weird thumb but then I would put on hair and this one had glasses and he’s carrying a messenger bag and what’s inside a messenger bag? He’s probably got a moleskin and a Nalgene and this lady she was earring some sort of blouse. She had a Blackberry. Why? Because she’s enterprise. Weird. I didn’t know I had any enterprise people on my audience. Okay, that’s interesting.

[30:28] But of course you’re just kind of sketching but it gets you opening up, thinking about who would be in it and which one of these would I really like to cater this thing too? That’s a really good tip is just to be able to sketch and draw. Another thing is finding out where the conferences are that someone like this would go to. Just doing the research on for instance if you’re doing research on web designers, there’s just a million web design conferences out there and there’s a big difference between the event apart audience and the future of web apps audience. And that’s an instructive difference and you can read through some of their marketing materials. You can look at things on their site and hear testimonials that they probably have featured on their site and they’re giving you language that glues you into who these people are, what they really are hungry for.

[31:12] You can find forums where folks are interested in your topic and just get involved, just start paying attention, just start listening, get the email updates. Try answering some questions. Try getting more clarity about what their struggles really are. These are all things and again none of it sounds sexy. Right? It just sounds like work and I would say limit yourself. Give yourself time but limit yourself because you can spend the rest of your days researching before you launch this thing. And what’s important is you do a good preliminary amount of work like 2-3 weeks of research and development on who your people are which is the same thing as saying understanding who your people aren’t.

[31:50] And then you launch with that. You go whole hog with that and you try it out for a while and then you start hearing from people you do the things that don’t scale for a while. You’re reaching out to everyone. You’re getting really – hopefully kind of like what you guys have both done with your products where you’re getting all that big feedback from your small crew of early users. That’s all big stuff. And then with one last bit, just the language that they use is incredibly important. if they say I’m really struggling with or I have a problem with, just the little tweaks on language, if you see any patterns in that or if you get any sort of clues into that, first of all, the only way you’re going to get those clues is if you’re really listening, paying attention is sort of keeping an Evernote list somewhere where you’re keeping notes on that stuff. But the language that they use matters a ton.

[32:39] Even if you don’t use the exact same language on your sales page, using things that are like it, using things that feel like they’re going to interpret as the thing that they mean when they say I struggle X,Y or Z. that ends up being a really big deal.

[32:53] Rob: There was a lot going on there. The piece that I want to touch on is the language point. I’m not sure if you haven’t launched a product that you really understand how different it is to call your product say let’s take Drip for example. That’s the email marketing software that I launched. I could have a headline that says epic auto responders. I could also have a headline that says more leads and more customers. I could have a headline that says easy lead generation. I could have one that says emails that convert. Double digit jumping your conversion rate. I’ve used all of these. The reason I know this, because they’re in front of me, because I have like 19 different headline that I’ve tested and that I’ve talked to people about.

[33:28] And the interesting thing is where Drip is right now, it’s still early but I can already see the different groups using it in a different way and referring to it as a different thing so that is a challenge because all of my customers are not calling it the same thing. They’re calling it different things but it’s as you said, you try to look for trends. You try to slice it and figure out if they’re Saas or a software company. Are they saying a certain thing? Are they talking about leads or conversion rate or ROI?

[33:55] Chase: Yeah.

[33:57] Rob: If they’re more of the email marketer, are they talking about how good the tool is itself and not talking about the results. So that’s to be honest the phase that I’m in right now. I did it with HitTail. We’ve done it with MicroConf, we changed the messaging there. I mean kind of every product that you go through I think at a certain point once you do understand that audience and you’re able to have a dialogue with them you wind up honing that message.

[34:18] Chase: Yeah, absolutely. There’s this great quote from Victor Papanek, one of these old school designers and he says design as a problem solving activity can never by definition yield the one right answer. It will always produce an infinite number of answers, some righter and some wronger. So just like with headline and maximum amount of headline tests. There’s normally mostly a winner. Sometimes you get a really clear winner and sometimes it’s like yeah this is incrementally better let’s just stick with that. But still even there, who’s to say you’re not going to come up with something more right than this current winner. Sort of this organic development over time and that’s why it’s helpful that it’s not like just some little thing that you hope to sort of fart out and just never have to deal with again because these ideas develop over time.

[35:04] So I guess I’m sort of pre-disposed. I dream about making a brand and making something that stands right next to mailchimp and square space in terms of look at this, it’s from the internet. It’s for the internet. It stands for something good. It says let’s make a better internet together the way that square space is saying that. I’ve got a background in advertising and that has always been the most interesting thing about advertising to me is that you have so much money to do something meaningful and everybody [Inaudible] they’re not doing it in an interesting way when they could.

[35:37] And so you should take everything that I say with a grain of salt but that’s like that’s always what I’m hungry for. I’m always hungry for some spec of the sense that maybe we’re not alone or as lonely as we all feel we are. It’s certainly in my DNA to build a brand more like Fizzle like hey let’s do something matterful and meaningful together. Let’s create something of our lives. Let’s harness what we know of independent business of the internet of connection with other people of needs and desires and all these things and let’s earn a living independently doing something that we care about versus just making money.

[36:08] Rob: Right. I’m interested you said that advertisers, they have so much money and most of them are doing it wrong. They’re not doing it in a meaningful way. What does it look like to do it in a meaningful way? What’s an example or what is a way to describe how you envision that?

[36:25] Chase: I mean there’s a lot of examples of people doing it really well. Do you remember the Chrysler commercials that featured Eminem? One of them actually had Eminem in it and the other ones just had that song, that building sort of driving song. What they did is they told a story of the rebirth of Detroit and American Motors. They reframed the story of Chrysler as the story of Detroit, as the story of America as an underdog. And they did it all with this driving, moving Eminem song underneath it. And then they told a bunch of little stories. One of them was a Portland some NFL player something and it was like his homecoming coming back to Portland like driving through the streets, gray, foggy, cloudy outside and he’s driving through Portland and it’s just some really mellow kind of deep, meaningful monologue that he’s having. They told these stories for the underdog and they made the brand represent that. That’s sensational. I loved that.

[37:20] And then here’s this other example that I found recently. There’s an advertiser called Howard Gossage. He’s an older advertiser in the 50’s and 60’s and it was said of Howard Gossage – I can’t remember the exact words but the most well rewarded renegade of the advertising you. But I’m just looking at this ad right now in this book that I have of Howard Gossage. There was a stereo company called KLH and he made this just the silly ad. All his ads were funny. They were like conceptual art and this is what it says, a recent survey sponsored by KLH has proven beyond doubt that when you buy KLH stereo equipment, you will love your wife or your husband more.

[37:56] And then he says admittedly it’s like a lot of copy on this ad by the way. He only did ads in the New Yorker. He said they did a survey where they asked respondents to assume that he was for some reason deprived of his wife or husband and to assume that dollars could somehow prevent a catastrophe, how many dollars would it be worth to keep your wife or husband? Well gentlemen, the findings showed that owners of KLH equipment said on average they’d spend $541,616.23 whereas owners of other equipment said a mere $362,000. The difference is $179,000.64 worth of favor for the average KLH spouse. It’s just a silly idea of saying that he made up some stats that are just outlandish and crazy and said this stereo company is going to make you love your wife more but it’s cheeky.

[38:50] It’s funny. It’s interesting. It’s I think more than anything else, it’s human. That’s what I feel like advertisers are telling us like look at you, you’re the crazy guy who loves Taco Bell at midnight. You’re crazy. We love that about you. Come get a burrito wrapped in a taco with a thick candy shell or whatever.

[39:06] Rob: So that’s what you’re saying. You’re saying there’s an element of humanity. The word human has come up several times when you’ve been talking. It also sounds like there’s an element of humor. There’s an element of creativity and cleverness that goes outside of the way everyone else is doing it.

[39:21] Chase: Yeah and that’s classic good copy writing but there’s just so much room to actually make someone fall in love with your brand, with your product, with what your product represents. Mailchimp or like square space right? They’re a super bowl ad for like here’s to like let’s make a better web together but it’s something like that. Great [Inaudible] really good advertisement. Really good advertisement really good story at least for us internet people, it’s a great story to get behind. That’s what I’ve always been addicted to. I’ve always wanted to create that experience when someone lands on one of my websites or something that I’ve designed for someone else but especially when I land on Fizzle, when they watch the video and they see the little joke, it gets very intentional that we have that little gimmick in the video about 15 seconds into it because that’s right around when you’re probably going to click away.

[40:05] But those kind of little human bits I find that if I landed on Drip Rob and it was cheeky and it said listen of course you have an email problem just look at your fingernails or I don’t know, that’s not a good example but something like that wherein you drew me into the story whereas like people who use Drip love their wives more or I see that you’ve got humor. You’re interested and I got to be clear that’s not always right. Probably rarely right but that’s the kind of experience that I want to have. So I want to give the visitor that kind of experience with the stuff which is why in the training and the courses that we make, there’s always jokes. There’s always little one liners and little sort of things that we pull in with the learning to kind of keep it interesting because these stuff can be tough to learn. We like to really accentuate the humanity.

[40:51] Mike: I think that makes a lot of sense and I don’t know where the line here is. It would seem to me that when you’re doing advertising and promotion you’re your product that you could overdo it. And I don’t know where you would draw the line I mean obviously it depends on exactly what you’re doing kind of what are your thoughts on them? Because it seems like you could only tell the same story so many times or so many different ways before you get to the point where you’re no longer eliciting a positive reaction from people. It can turn negative.

[41:19] Chase: Absolutely. It’s a really good point Mike because first and foremost I just need a cork screw. I think a lot of people who listen to this show, a lot of bootstrappers, we’re trying to build a great cork screw, something that’s useful, it does what it’s supposed to do. Like email Drip, like these sorts of things. We want to create a cork screw and I’m fully willing to pay $10, $15, $30, $90 a month for a corkscrew if it really opens the bottle of wine the way that I need it to.

[41:45] And so at the same time, you’re absolutely right about that. There needs to be a balance because when I buy a corkscrew, I don’t want to hear some cute long whimsical tale. It’d be nice if there’s five corkscrews on the wall. I know they’re all going to do the job. But one of them is shaped like a pipi or something like that, look at these guys. But then they have another one that I would actually want to put my hands on. But you’re absolutely right. Because if you land on something and it’s too cheeky, it’s too cute like I said, whimsical almost, then I’m losing interest because you don’t understand my problem.

[42:14] But if you can understand my problem, tell me about it in a way that makes me go not only yeah, he gets my problem but he does it in a way that feels right, that feels human. That also was actually surprisingly interesting. There was a one liner in there somewhere or there was some little vignette or some interesting story or whatever. And again, it’s not always going to be humor. It could be like the Chrysler ad where it’s actually meaningful, it’s motivational, connects it to my bigger motivation which is not to solve my email problem. It’s to have a life that I care more about that I feel more at home in, that’s more authentically me.

[42:46] Sometimes it’s just connecting it up that level of why or down that level of why depending on how you look at it. And that in it of itself also needs to be done tastefully. So you’re right in that these things can be way out of whack and off balance.

[43:00] Rob: Well Chase, it’s been awesome having you on the show man. I’m wondering folks want to get in touch with you, follow what you’re doing, how would they do that?

[43:08] Chase: If you don’t care about who you follow, if you have low standards for Twitter I’m on there with chase_reeves but probably the best place is the sparkline blog. fizzle.co/sparkline you’ll be able to find it there. we work very hard to keep the quality of stuff that we’re putting out there quite high and I think it’s pretty good stuff that your audience would probably like.

[43:25] Rob: Awesome. Thank again for taking the time man. Really appreciate you coming on the show and I think our listeners would get quite a bit out of this episode

[43:32] Chase: Alright man, I’m glad to be here. I hope there’s something intelligible in there. I kind of feel like I just kind of ranted and raved but that’s no new sensation for me.

[32:41] Rob: Very cool dude.

[43:43] Mike: Thanks Chase.

[43:44] Chase: Thank you guys.

[43:45] Mike: If you have question for us, you can call it in to our voice mail number at 1-888-801-9690 or email it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. 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.

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6 Responses to “Episode 175 | Your Product is Not the Hero (with Chase Reeves)”

  1. Loved this show. What Chase said about MicroConf (“I felt like I was finding my people.”) is exactly how I felt.

    I know you don’t do many interviews, but I would love if you interview Peldi in the future.

  2. Just another thing… Chase’s site is not fizzle.com, it is fizzle.co

  3. Hahahaha… This is one of my first listens and what a freaking joy! I love hearing about this 3rd tier of startups. Mike and Chase were so funny! Please have them back.

  4. Sorry, this was a disappointing episode. I really thought the over enthusiasm came across as contrived. I also don’t think a lot of startups need to invest time and money in learning the things they provide, learn by doing.

    My 2 cents.



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