- MicroConf Europe Tickets Available
- Success story: LogoMaker.com and LogoDesign.com
- Music to get motivated: Noon Pacific
[00:00] Rob: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I discuss SEO across multiple domains charging before product market fit and more listener questions. This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 190.
[00:18] Rob: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
[00:27] Mike: And I’m Mike.
[00:28] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. So, what’s the word this week, sir?
[00:31] Mike: MicroConf Europe is not yet sold out, so if you are interested in acquiring some tickets to that, you can get your tickets over at Microconfeurope.com and sign up for that mailing list, we have some emails going out shortly. There are some advanced emails that have gone out so far, I believe next Tuesday when this episode goes live is when we will start opening up the doors on that list, so definitely head on over if you are interested, hopefully we will see there.
[00:54] Rob: Come hang with us in Prague in late October. So hey, kind of a milestone for me today, Drip email automation that we have been working on since January, we released it to an early access group, I think it was about a month ago, I mentioned it on the podcast when we did, but we launched to all of our customers, new and old, all new sign ups, everyone as of just a few hours ago, everyone has access to it, so it feels pretty good to get that out.
[01:20] Rob: I recorded a bunch of screencasts, because I found email automation is simple enough its bunch of rules where you can move people in and out of lists, you can do stuff based on whether they click a link or whether they make a purchase or whether they do something else. They sign up for a trial or whatever, but there is so much more complexity to this that needs to be explained. That’s what I spent the last several days doing. Before we announce it, I mean the feature has been ready for frankly 3 or 4 weeks. We haven’t made any changes to it since early access except from adding new stuff but I really wanted to get enough, a couple of case studies and I have some blueprints for different rules that we are using internally, on our SaaS apps and that I am seeing other people use it like e-book downloads, that it’s having the idea of how to use this powerful tool rather than just saying here is this powerful tool, go use it, right? So that’s what, I really wanted to help folks get on board with it, so we will see how that pans out.
[02:11] Mike: Neat, well, and news on my end, I have got half a day left of consulting work and then after that I will be on AuditShark full time at that point. Around noon tomorrow I will be a “free man.”
[02:19] Rob: How does that feel?
[02:20] Mike: A little disconcerting to be kind of back in that position, but I am looking forward to it, my schedule has backed off significantly, so I have been working kind of part time and I have been laying out like what my days look like working on it full time so far, so it will be an interesting change, I have definately been splitting up my mornings and afternoons considerably more than I ever did when I was consulting, so.
[02:40] Rob: Right, I remember when I kind of quit consulting that I suddenly had way more time than I knew what to do with but I really had to convince myself to focus and to take that time and put it to good use to move the product forward, because I was no longer forced into this artificial two or three hour a day thing, of evenings and weekends, and so I had to be more mindful of my time but it was fantastic, I remember the day vividly, I hope you celebrate, go to a coffee shop.
[03:07] Mike: I try to coffee shop last Friday and didn’t go so well.
[03:09] Rob: Didn’t go well, yeah.
[03:11] Mike: The issue was that they didn’t have a place for me to plug my laptop in, so at around noon I was almost out of battery power.
[03:20] Rob: Oh! Yeah, that’s, you can’t do that. So we got an email with the subject line of Music To Get Focused and it was from Michael Koper. And he says “Hey, Mike and Rob, love your podcast, I am a new listener, and it helps me a lot with the creation of my first SaaS app and he goes on to reference the, when we talked about music to help getting you focused and he says, “I found this iPhone web app called Noon Pacific and it’s noonpacific.com, every week they release a new playlist with 6 to 8 songs for free, the music is handpicked from different music blogs, the type of music really helps me to focus, it’s very relaxing and nondisturbing. You can loop on the playlist for the week over and over and you can listen to other playlists, hope it helps the others same as it helped me.”
[03:58] Mike: Yeah, speaking of sharing good news and tips, we got an email from Rob Marsh who says “Hi, Rob and Mike, just wanted to drop you guys a line and say thanks for the podcast, it’s definitely the top of my listening list, and as a non-techie I find much of the advice you guys give very useful. I found the podcast about the time I was asked by my corporate boss to downsize my entire division of 40 people. I was the last person on the termination list. Your podcast gave me ideas and information, that made acquiring my first app much easier, that app logomaker.com is an online logo design resource for people looking to start a business or prove a concept with a professional looking but inexpensive logo design, although I didn’t build it, I have learned a lot as I have been trying to grow it over the past two years, this week I am launching my second site logodesign.com which has a different focus. Helping designers connect with potential clients. Just want to say thanks for the ideas, information, and encouragement, you give your listeners each week, you guys have been a great resource.” So that email comes in to us from Rob Marsh. Keep up the good work, Rob and let us know how things go.
[04:50] Rob: So last update before we dive into some listener questions. Drips growth is just starting to pickup to a point like, I have been on that learning phase, remember on my MicroConf talk we talked about building, learning and scaling. We have been in the learning phase trying to figure out what people need, getting email automation out the doors is a big step in that process, probably not coincidentally within the past 1-2 months, growth is just starting to creep up. So I can’t tell yet if it’s a blip, if it’s a coincidence but I have some aspirations, some high hopes that, a, it’s going to continue and, b, now that automation is out, there will be more of a compelling reason to keep people around. Trying to hit product market fit so that people come in, use the product, get a lot of value out of it and then change their behavior, you know, and actually continue to stick with it. So I will obviously update in future episodes as things go with that, but so far so good, last couple of months.
[05:44] Mike: You know, there were some people on Twitter who were asking me about how things were going with Google because of AuditShark’s experience with the panda update and things have actually not only reverted back to normal, but they have actually been better than they were before.
[05:56] Rob: Nice see that typically happens with sites that aren’t doing anything, gray hat, black hat that when these updates come the gray hat, black hat guys get booted, right, or just get downgraded and then the other I say, more legitimate SEO sites are able to move up, so that’s good news.
[06:14] Mike: It is disconcerting in the fact that it happened at all. So it means that I am kind of in that, I am probably in that gray zone, so that means that I need to kind of revisit a lot of those pages and make sure that I move, I guess into more of a legitimate territory in Google’s eyes, which kind of sucks because you don’t necessarily know everything that they are looking at, I have been looking through the moz collateral that they publish every year, basically kind of indicating what they believe, the Google’s algorithms are based on, and how much weight each of those things carry, so I have been going through those, and taking a look at them and trying to match them up with what I am doing on some of those pages to make sure that hopefully this won’t happen again.
[06:49] Rob: Very cool. Well, let’s dive into some listener questions today, we have several backed up and I want to cover them, our first one comes from Jay Adams and he has two questions, he says the first is I received a different amount than what was invoiced to an enterprise customer overseas, it turns out that an intermediary bank charged a wire transfer fee, I have no way to track these fees and wondered how other startups are doing with it.
[07:13] Mike: Banks are just such a black box, I don’t even know how they calculate some of the fees.
[07:18] Rob: To be honest, I have never heard of an intermediary bank charging a fee on it and I would question the legality of that because typically it’s the sending bank and the receiving bank, right? And the sending back will often charge a fee, it’s like a $35, $45 fee for an international wire transfer depending on what country it goes to. The receiving bank sometimes has fees for receiving wires, and that’s a whole other deal. I have never heard of like an in between bank, I would personally call your bank and try to figure out how that happened, why that happened, there has to be a schedule of fees somewhere, that’s how I would look to handle it, the way I have handled this in the past when I have had international contractors that I have had to do wire transfers to, is if the payment is broken up over multiple payments, I will cover the wire transfer on one and then make the contractor cover it on another or just split the fee 50:50, sometimes I ask them to eat it, I mean it kind of all depends. Not knowing the fee in advance is probably the more disconcerting part of this.
[08:15] Rob: Jay’s second question, he said it’s an unrelated question but he says, I currently have two websites, noxigen.com for the main company site and systemfrontier.com for the product landing page. I may offer a few other products in the future but I really want to push my primary product’s brand as well as simplify site management. I plan on relaunching the sites soon with a fresh new look and more content. Am I hurting my marketing and SEO efforts by having multiple sites?
[08:42] Mike: I would say you are probably not hurting your marketing efforts. The thing I would wonder about is how related are these products that you are going to be launching, how much overlap is there between them, could you do any sort of cross sales or up sales to people, because if you are selling into similar markets, there is the potential that you could bundle it and so if there are complimentary features between the two products or any sort of integrations that you could build and especially if you are going to go down the road of offering 3, 4, 5, different products and then bundle them together as a suite, if you look over companies like Red Gate where they have got all these tools around databases so they have got all these SQL server tools, SQL developer tools, dot net development tools, and they start bundling them together, I mean you can buy any of them for their lowest and at one point it was $30 but most of them are anywhere between $100 and $800 or $900, but then they start bundling them, if you were to buy just one of – every single one of the products individually it will cost you $4000, $5000, $6000, but they bundle them together and it will cost you $1500 or $2500 or something along those lines. So I would look at what you are doing and see if it kind of fits that model and if so, then you probably want to have one site for everything where you have this hierarchy on the pages, where you are doing all of your sales and marketing and trying to figure out on that main page, whether people are interested in one thing or another and then kind of pushing them down the tree but it really depends on what your outlook is for those future products and how much integration there is going to be.
[10:08] Mike: Now in terms of being able to maintain them, it depends on whether or not you are going to be the one maintaining them, that might be something that maybe you put together the initial architecture for that site, and then hand that off to somebody to actually implement a lot of those things, because implementing the look and feel can be extremely time consuming on an ongoing basis, especially if you are going to changing all right lot of that stuff.
[10:29] Rob: My take on this would be you should have a product site, you don’t need a company site since you already have one, I would tend to make that a thinner smaller site and not have a bunch of product info on it, because then you are competing with yourself for search terms and you really want the product site to rank for your main terms. So I do think that in terms of SEO, you are going to want to, you know, have more links pointing to your product site because that’s where people are going to go, research it and buy it, whereas if they come to your company site and see a bunch of products, it’s just a much harder path for them to actually get to a purchase. With that said, I think there is some value in having a company site that does list all of your products, if you go to the numagroup.com, you can see an example of that, I think Wildbit has a similar website, where they kind of list all their products and it gives you an idea of who is behind the company and what they are up to. I think there is value there but that’s not something that I would push a lot of traffic to, and I think if you are looking at having multiple products and you want to integrate or have upsells between them and bundle them with Mike was saying, I think you do that on the individual product sites that you still have systemfrontier ranking well when you introduce your second product then you can have like a little side bar in systemfrontier and you can have a checkout option where it’s an easy add on, a check box to also get this other piece and that you educate them on each of the individual product sites, you can also mention this on your company site, and again the company site in my opinion is more about information rather than commerce and each of the product sites are about product information with always a push towards a call to action of buying. So I hope that helps, Jay, thanks for writing in.
[12:12] Rob: Our next question comes from Ben Porov [ph] and he says, “Hey, Rob and Mike, I am just curious to get your thoughts on the test driven approach to development. Is it better to incorporate this principle into your project from an early stage or is it more of a hindrance to progress? It seems there is a lot of pros and cons to consider, if you were starting a new project today, would you test or not test? And for those who aren’t aware of test driven development or don’t know what it is, if you are really going to be strict about it, you would actually write a test first before you write any application code and you always start a new feature by writing a test, having it fail and then writing code. That’s the strict adherence to it. I know a lot of people who do “TDD” and they don’t actually write the test first, they just write a feature and then write a bunch of test to kind of test suite to test that feature before it’s every released into production.
[12:57] Mike: That’s how I do it, I will write the function and then make sure that it’s working and then write a bunch of tests after the fact in order test edge cases and make sure that it’s working and then when you have your build process kick off, it runs through all those tests, and you can make sure that nothing else that you did broke anything core, it’s a hard question to answer. I think it depends a lot on the product and how much you are going to be involved in the development process because I think that as you start outsourcing software development those tests become more and more critical, especially for a lot of the core pieces because you are going to have people in there and making changes that they don’t necessarily understand why the architecture is the way that it is and there maybe some very, very subtle nuances to how it’s put together that they are just not familiar with or they don’t know or maybe it was documented and they just didn’t read that part or it didn’t stick in their head, so there is advantages to that but the downside is that it takes you extra time to put these tests in there. So it kind of depends on what I guess, stage you are in terms of customer development to figure out, are you actually solving right problem because the worst thing in the world would be to go out build the products and have all these unit tests in there that are going to make sure that it’s functioning correctly but then if you are not actually solving problems for the customer, then it doesn’t really matter, you have written all this, not only have a written a product for nothing but you have written all these extra tests for nothing as well. So I think it depends a lot on how sure you are of that market and your ability to sell into it and as time marches on you really want to make sure that you are putting some of those tests in place. I am at a point right now where I am actually looking into potentially hire somebody to just write unit tests because there is a lot of–there are some core libraries that I wrote that I have some unit tests in because I knew that those would not change and then I kind of backed off from unit testing for a while and now I am at the point where I am revisiting it and going back to it, maybe that’s the right answer to my situation but it may not necessarily be the right answer for your situation.
[12:56] Rob: Yeah, I have written a lot of code without tests just because we didn’t used to write tests, right, I mean it wasn’t until 2006-ish that I started really hearing about TDD and started implementing it around 2007. It is a learning curve. Like when you first start it takes a long time just to figure out how to write tests, what to test, you become effective at it, you get faster at it the more you do it, it s a learned skill and so that first uphill learning curve is pretty steep but then you get better at it. I have heard estimates that its around 20% additional development effort. So if a feature is going to take 10 hours, it will probably take around 12 hours if you write tests. For me I will never have another piece of software written without tests, especially not a SaaS app, we have full test suites literally in the thousands for Drip and it has allowed us to make some major changes to the app without too much worry that things were going to go bad and trying to go back now and write the Drip test suite would be an enormous amount of time, it probably would be a developer or two for a month and I don’t think they would do as good a job as Derrick did as he went through the code, because you know, once it’s all fresh in your head, it’s easier to write the test. With that said, I do agree with Mike that it could be viewed as premature optimization by some. If you are building a prototype, you are entering a really uncertain market, yeah, it can be faster to release software without tests, but for my money anything I launch I am going to probably stick with it until it works and if you are going to have multiple developers working on a project over time, if you are going to keep it around for multiple years and if it’s going to be a somewhat complex and critical app that you are going to make your living on, by my vote I will never have another one that does not have a full test suite, and in fact we are in the process, we are almost done, rewriting HitTail in Rails, I am going to moving it to over to Amazon ec2, so I don’t have to deal with classic ASP anymore and that was one of the reasons that I wanted to do that. One of the pros to it is that we have just a massive test suite now.
[17:03] Mike: One of the other benefits of having that test suite as you write it and this is kind of one of the clear benefits of test driven development is that when you start making changes in your own code, you can know whether or not you broke stuff in the core that you may not have tested fully and I will give you a very specific example from AuditShark is when I was writing all of those unit tests because the core of AuditShark uses this essentially a scripting language that I wrote, I test a lot of things in the scripting language to make sure that it still works and there was one point where I was making some what I thought were relatively minor modifications to how the engine was operating essentially make it more efficient and I ran it through the test suite and it broke like 200 different things and it was not obvious that it broke them. This very, very small piece that I thought was just an edge case, I literally didn’t even think too much about it. I was like, Oh! I will get to that and then I forgot about it and it was that edge case that bailed me. And there were couple of hundreds of these things that just failed and I wouldn’t have noticed it unless I had that test suite because I was doing some very small tests and saying, okay, does this work or does it not, and it does but as soon as you start running it through all these edge cases which test suites tend to exercise those edge cases and they will do it a lot more efficiently than you ever will by hand it will catch all those things. So it could have been almost disastrous had I kind of rolled that out, and not really thought about it, I just threw it in here and then 3, 4, 5 months down the road, I found out that there is all this stuff that just doesn’t work, it would have been so much more difficult to find that.
[18:34] Rob: Thanks for the question, Ben. Hope that helps. Our next question is from Jim Monroe and he says “Hi guys, as always fabulous show. I went back and listened to an older episode, I can’t remember which episode, where Rob was talking about a funnel to convert a mailing list to a group of customers who are interested enough to pay for early access.” So I think Jim is talking about as I was going through the Drip process. Jim says “I am not sure I understand this transition process, can you elaborate on, #1, how to identify the best target customers you’re your list? Do they self select? #2. Assuming the product is a minimum viable product are you just having them pay via PayPal, I don’t have any payment methods setup, and #3, how do you go from asking if they would pay for the product to actually agreeing to drop money and get early access to what is probably not a complete product yet.
[19:19] Mike: So I think there is couple of different ways you can do this. If you are using something like MailChimp and I assume that Aweber and Constant Contact have very similar mechanisms. But with MailChimp you can actually see who is opening the emails and who because they rate them with a star system to see kind of how engaged those people are.
[19:37] Rob: You can do that in Drip too I will just note.
[19:39] Mike: So you go in there and you take a look at those and you can essentially eyeball it and that’s how you select those people because if people are skipping over your headlines and not even opening up the rest of the emails that you are sending to them, then chances are really good that those people are not your “best” target customers on your list. In terms of targeting those people and trying to find out more information about them to kind of really see who is and is not a good fit, because if you talk to any of them one on one, they are going to seem like a good fit but what you can do is you can find those people who according to the statistics say, hey, this person is actually opening the emails or interested, send those people a survey of some kind and ask them some very specific questions and you can almost cross-section the people who are on your list to find out what criteria they match. How are these people similar to these other people over here, what are the differences between them? So maybe one person runs Windows, another person runs Linux. Maybe somebody does SaaS development, somebody else does desktop development. There is a lot of different ways you can kind of cross section them and once you figure that out, you map those back to essentially figure out who your ideal customers is, who is going to be the best person and the most likely to pay for your product, those are the people that you want to go after and those are the ones you want to ask, hey, would you pay money for this right here? Whether the product is complete or not, if you are actually solving their problem those are the ones you want to try and get to pay for it.
[20:58] Rob: So when I was working with the launch list for Drip I really had two lists, I had this list of about 17 people who I knew in some form or fashion had committed to at least trying Drip out and they were willing to pay for it and those people I communicated with individually one on one and each one of them I onboarded manually. I told them they would have to pay for it eventually, the price would be X, and I named a specific price, but told them that they could try it as long as they need it without paying until they gotten value out of it. Then I had this launch list of 3500 people by the end and that launch list is more something like Mike said you have to start looking into and start trying to see patterns. Opens is one good metric to be able to see how people are interacting with your stuff. The other thing I did was I emailed a survey that we discussed in an episode, is around the 130s or 140s where I talked, I called it a customer development survey, it essentially asked what their biggest pain points are, what they were hoping Drip is going to solve for them, now anyone who responded to that instantly becomes a much more interested party to me and I think around that time I had somewhere between 1500 and 2000 on the list and I got just under 200 responses, so that was a nice chunk and then from there based on the responses I could sort even further and actually have real data individually and I asked them for the email in the survey email with just a Google spreadsheet with a Google Form over it. So it’s very simple to set up. Now that I had their email again I could then map it to individual people and I started talking to those people one on one as needed and the people with whom Drip was going to have the most resonance based on what we build, those are the folks that I contacted sooner, and by the time I contacted them I was already through 3 or 4 months of early access of these other 17 people and so I did ask for credit card upfront and at that point I did have like 21 or 30 days trial by the time I got down the line with the bigger list. Jim, I appreciate you writing in and I hope that’s helpful.
[23:01] Rob: Our next question is from Margo Kaypax [ph] and she says “Hi, Rob and Mike, I have been a long time listener of your podcast and you have motivated to bootstrap my own businesses. It’s more than motivation, I have been taking little bits and pieces from you every week, thanks for that. I am writing because I have started to work on having someone produce content for my sites and most important an email newsletter. What is your favorite newsletter tool to handle email newsletters from start to finish? Over the last 24 months, I have seen so many businesses that offer this service and I am unclear which is better than another and why. What is your criteria for choosing a tool, is MailChimp still the best? Which is your favorite and why? Thanks for everything, Margo.”
[23:37] Mike: I will tell you what I use. I use a combination of MailChimp and Drip and there are two reasons for that, one is because MailChimp was around long before Drip ever was. So I needed a newsletter tool and essentially MailChimp fit the bill very, very well, they will give you couple of thousand emails subscribers up front for no cost, if you want to get rid of their logos and stuff you have to start paying it around the 500 mark, but even then once you start paying, it’s only, I think their pricing starts at like $10 or $15 a month or something like that, it’s fairly inexpensive. The problem that I see with MailChimp is that they don’t necessarily give you the fancy things to put stuff on your website to drive people into the list and that’s partly why I use a combination of Drip and MailChimp. I will say the line is starting to get blurred but obviously Rob is kind of going in a different direction than MailChimp with his marketing automation. So I think the two of them serve, I will say, different purposes and obviously there is different price points as well.
[24:32] Mike: Some of the stuff that I do in Drip I actually take those and hand them off over into MailChimp and then there is other things where I just leave them in Drip, depends on what I am doing and which is the lists that I am working with but I do use a combination of both. I don’t think that there is a best one out there, there is no best one, it’s really which one meets your needs and which one is simple to use. I mean you may very well start off using one particular product because it’s easy to get into but then as you use it more and more you start to find that there is limitations around it and you just can’t use it for everything. So for example, very early on, one of Drip’s limitations was that you couldn’t really put in any sort of template and then that got added in. So over time, a lot of these the downsides and the cons of going with a particular piece of software can go away, unless you have gone back and reevaluated them, probably not going to see those. So for example, if I were to look at AWeber today there are probably things in there that I didn’t know they could do or they added in there that I never noticed before because I am just not a customer of theirs. So your needs change over time, the tools change over time and what’s best for you today may not be the best for you in 2 or 3 years. That said, you can sort of end up with little bit of vendor lock in just because you get on to a tool and you are there for so long, you have got all these processes and procedures in place for using that tool. It’s integrated in all your different websites and applications and then it can be hard to get out of that because it takes so much engineering effort to walk away and use something else even if it is a better tool for you at that time, I would say especially if you are early on pick one that is easier to get started with and just understand that your needs very well may change and the tool may not do what you want it to do later on and that’s just life, every single tool is like that, whether it’s email newsletter or whether it’s a CRM package or database, doesn’t matter, I mean your needs change, products change.
[26:26] Rob: Yeah, I think if you are just getting started and you are going to be building a list probably fairly slowly and you just want to send a few broadcast emails I would go with MailChimp because it’s free to 2000 subscribers, it’s perfectly fine for sending broadcast emails, it really works for beginners and I think don’t waste time paying for a tool for six months while you kind of figure this out and build your list slowly. I do think that MailChimp it is limited, you may hit a point where you want to do more exotic stuff with your list and if you even get auto responders going it’s kind of a fiasco with MailChimp, the UI is not clear, there are just some issues there, so that’s where you look at a tool like a Drip or AWeber’s UI is not great either, but there is like Vero and customer.io and companies like that that are doing some to there things and help you send auto responders and the UI is much easier to use. We all have more advanced automation stuff but if you never get there then MailChimp could certainly service your needs well for quite some time.
[27:32] Rob: Our next question is from Boris and he says, “I have developed a SaaS app, its skyfeedback.com. It allows businesses and customers to communicate instantly and privately via SMS, I just launched about a month ago, I ran a Google AdWords campaign and so far no customers, expect it was only used during a church conference and it worked great. I have a question, what is the strategy to advertise something that businesses are not searching for? I find that SMS customer feedback is something people do not search for and I feel like this service has to be explained and sold through a sales agent, am I correct in that assumption? Thanks for you advice, Boris.”
[28:10] Mike: It would seem to me that something like a SMS customer feedback mechanism, software service is probably going to be something where you can’t justifiably charge a heck a lot of money for, it seems like it would be a relatively low price point, by low I mean less than $30, $40, $50 a month or possibly a year, it kind of depends on what customer segment you are going after, and why it is that they are using the service, what problem is that they are actually solving. So your example of using it for a church conference and it works great, it seems to me like the price point for something like that maybe either free or something that maybe they pay $10 for it, that’s not something that you are going to be able to use sales agents for. I mean you are not going to have a sales rep come and start making all these cold calls and trying to sell it for $10 a pop or $20 a pop. It’s just not going to work, especially if it’s one time fee. So I think you need to little bit more digging and find out who is actually having these problems and dig a little further than that to figure out what is the value of getting answers to those things, why do they want that feedback? Is this the only way to do it because I think what you will find is that for example on a church conference or any given conference for example, the way to get feedback is one is to send him an email and point them to a Google Form which is great, what is this SMS tools have over that, what are the advantages of using your mechanism versus something like that and really try to position yourself against them and figure out whether this is even viable because from my standpoint I am looking at it and saying, well, if I were to use this at a conference, I don’t know is a SMS message out to people is really the most effective way to get information back from people because you can send it out to a bunch of people, you are not going to get it back in real formatted mechanism and you are going to be limited in the number of characters that people are willing to type on their phones. So those are the things that kind of come to mind and I know that that is not a direct answer on it but it seems to me like customer development around the actual problem itself is really where you need to go with this.
[30:10] Rob: Yeah, I would agree with Mike, this feels a little bit like a solution in search of a problem that’s not ideal now that you have launched but it’s not the end of the world and you have to go find people who are having this problem and niche it down. That’s what I would start with. Because your home page says this is for businesses and customers to communicate and that is just way too broad, so if it’s conferences or conference organizers that are going to put this on or if it’s churches themselves or if it’s meet up groups, or if it’s SaaS apps, you figure out who needs this, where this really is a pain and this really improves their experience find those people. Yeah, you are not going to be able to advertise to them because they are not looking for it, but once you find who they are then you know where they are. You can look in on LinkedIn groups, you can find them on Facebook and post ads there, you can post ads through something like BuySellAds once you find out what types of sites they frequent, you can go directly to trade sites and buy ads there, you can go to trade shows. I mean there is all these ways to do it but you have to know who your customer is. It is a big advantage if your customer is actually searching for the thing you offer in a generic way and you can just do SEO and do AdWords and get to the top of Google and get clicks but in your case, that’s not the case and a lot of business don’t have that and instead they have to target a market rather than targeting the customer as they are searching for it.
[31:32] Mike: Something like this it might be best to kind of figure out who your ideal customer for it would be, and the one that kind of pops into my head would be radio stations and for something like that you could presumably use a sales rep of some kind because it would be easier to track down radio stations and find somebody in there but as people are talking on the radio they have got this giant audience of people that they are talking to and they could ask them stuff. They could poll them for information, so they can run contests like very, very quickly using this type of tool but you would have to explain to them the benefits and maybe put a working prototype in front of them and let them use it for a month or couple of weeks or whatever and teach them, you would have to onboard them but that seems to me that might be a better fit and that kind of goes towards a profile where you have got this one business to many customers relationship, it might also work for companies like Dunkin Donuts where they have got a coffee shop on every corner and they want to send an SMS message to people, maybe to integrate with geo location, maybe not but those are some things to think about. I mean you need to find out who is actually going to use this and what problems you are trying to solve.
[32:37] Rob: So hope that helps you out, Boris. Our last question today comes from Mark Stevens and he says, “Hi! guys, I was interested in your comments on FogBugz. I think I probably signed up for the same business software conference as Rob, I wondered if you could expand on what you think it now lacks and what newer tools are offering.”
[32:55] Mike: I think for me there are a couple of things that I would say FogBugz lacks, and the first one is on the service desk side. So using FogBugzas a customer support mechanism is passable, it does work. I wouldn’t say that it’s the best tool in the world for it, so it’s just not as nice as I would like it to be from a customer perspective. I can’t really integrate a widget onto my website or into my SaaS app and allow people to interact with that and essentially talk directly back to FogBugz. Now they have APIs, I could do it, I could engineer something but I don’t want to have to. I mean I am already paying for their software, I don’t want to have to pay for this add-on and I would have to engineer it probably from scratch. Couple of other things is their Kiln integration I think is pretty good but I would also like to see something where you can get – you can either subscribe to or get notifications of some kind, maybe their web hooks or something along those lines, for when check-ins happen. For example, I mean I have a bunch of people working on things. I actually use BitBucket in some cases because I want an email notification whenever somebody checks something in and I want to see information about that check in who did it, which repository it went into and those kinds of things. So those types of things I think are very, very helpful and I think that they could take those things there, I am not allowed to switch just for the sole reason of getting some of the things because then I lose a lot of history and I lose a lot of other stuff as well.
[34:17] Rob: Yeah, I have several in mind as well. We use FogBugz a lot. I use it for both driving development like product management as well as for customer support and there are few things that I found are like limitations these days. One is there is no mobile app and really the mobile web interface is terrible, and so I often check email on my phone and whenever I have a FogBugz issue, I am kind of screwed because I can click through, I can kind of read the issue but then try to do anything with it is a pain and I know that if someone built a really nice web app I am sure Zendesk or Desk or Snappy or somebody has a good mobile app and makes this actually usable.
[34:55] Rob: Another thing is I would love to be able to and I don’t know if anybody does this one, but I have thought of this a lot. I get the issue in my queue and in my email to be able to reply to it and actually reply have something appended and then assign it to someone would be amazing via email because I can do it all within my gmail app on my phone. That’s something I found just to be a limitation is that when I am on mobile it’s kind of a fiasco. Another thing is it is pricey compared to other solutions. Check out a solution like Snappy, at besnappy.com, that’s from Ian Landsman at UserScape and I think they would be 10 bucks a user, 15 bucks a user, so quite a bit cheaper than FogBugz or half the price and a lot of the other helpdesk systems are similarly less expensive.
[35:41] Rob: I find that not having a knowledge base built in is kind of a pain because I would love to be able to resolve an issue and then just move it into a knowledge based article kind of beef up my response and migrate that in to have a searchable knowledge base but instead I have a third party knowledge base that I am using and I have to migrate stuff manually over there. The UI of FogBugz, I think is out of date. It’s kind of slow, it’s kind of Ajax, but it was built really what? 10 years ago and they added Ajax onto it, so it’s just not as usable, not as fast as like a more modern system would be and there are a couple of other things mostly around CRM stuff. Like we use it for support. I would love to be able to attach notification like attach an email to an issue so that often times five people will request a feature and I am just adding them manually into the issue itself and then I go in manually and email each of them but I know there are systems where they request a feature, you add them into a notification list and when that thing is resolved then they all get emailed and it says, this has been built and it is done per your request. So it’s more of an automated process, it’s more strongly typed. And also really in terms of CRM type stuff and unless I see someone’s name and recognize it, I have no concept when I get a new support request, all I see is an email and a name and so I don’t know like, is this person a customer, what plan are they on, how long have they been a customer? How many campaigns do they have? How long have they been using their app, all of that stuff, and I know that there are apps that will integrate with it. They will give an easy API and I could pipe some of my customer data in to make it just – give me a bit more of an intelligent view of who I am actually supporting, and what they mean to my business. So those are actually 4-5 things mostly off the top of my head. I would guess there are systems out there that are doing most of the things I have said but since we use FogBugz, I don’t really have a recommendation but surely if you have one, it would be good to see it in the comments for this episode, episode 190.
[37:40] Mike: Well, I think that about wraps us up for the day. If you have a question for us you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Out of Control by MoOt, used under creative comments. You can subscribe to us in iTunes, by searching for startups or by RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.
In our other business, if we want to receive a bank transfer from a US bank to our Australian bank, our customer needs to transfer to a partner bank in the US then they forward that to our bank.
PS. We don’t have a proper site yet so feel free to say Konveen but not give the URL away yet!
PPS. I love your podcast!
Like Hambo, I do a lot of international bank transfers in another business. Intermediate bank fees are an unfortunate reality. A lot of businesses dealing internationally will only accept PayPal for transactions under $500 because of them.
Thanks Rich, good to know!
I wanted to chime in on the test driven development discussion around the 15 minute mark. I think it’s a bit of a misconception that testing adds to development time, but I feel that effective testing can actually be a time saver. It’s counter intuitive since you are writing code up front. But when you factor in the time to manually test features, finding bugs, testing to make sure more bugs aren’t introduced, etc. I find that testing tends to reduce the number of hours I put into a project. I will say that I don’t pursue 100% test coverage, I try to test ‘enough’ meaning that I write tests for core features and features that are complex enough to warrant it.