[00:00] Mike: In this episode of “Startups for the Rest of Us”, Rob and I are going to be talking about updates for Drip, HitTail, AuditShark and more. This is Startups for the Rest of Us, Episode 221.
[00:16] Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, entrepreneurs and designers be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve already launched your product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
[00:24] Rob: And I’m Rob.
[00:25] Mike: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s going on this week, Rob?
[00:29] Rob: You know, Mike, there’s nothing like that feeling of having an email queued up to send to a few thousand people at a very specific time that you’ve publicly committed to, only to have your email provider disable your account overnight, almost mistakenly. Then email them to re-enable it but you missed the window.
[00:45] Mike: Yeah
[00:48] Rob: This is the story of our MicroConf early bird launch today. I had emailed, you know, our list was a few thousand people now. I’d queued up an email, but I’d let everybody know yesterday that we’d be notifying them, and were using MailChimp to do that, because we haven’t moved everything over to Drip yet. Sure enough, when I emailed folks yesterday, I said, “If you’ve already bought your ticket, just click here to unsubscribe. Otherwise, you’ll be notified tomorrow.” We had a lot of people unsubscribe because they had already heard about it. So the MailChimp filter just clicked and in the middle of the night, disabled our account. So the big launch at noon Eastern time today winds up being, when I got it out – actually, I had to export and import into Drip. So, in essence, Drip did save the day on this one. But it happened maybe a half hour later than it should have.
[01:34] Mike: You’re probably going to catch hell from people because everything wasn’t in Drip. But we talked about that. It just wasn’t really worth the time or effort because everything’s already set up in MailChimp. It’s not like Drip costs us anything extra to use, so it wasn’t really that big a deal.
[01:47] Rob: Yes, so I think I’ll be moving it. It’s about time to move this. This is my last MailChimp account that I have. I used to have four of them. At this point, I only have this one. It’s the MicroConf/Micropreneur academy account. But it seems like it’s probably time to get everything out of there and over into Drip. But seems like everybody got the email out of Drip and it sold out. I think it sold out within 10 minutes of the email going out.
[02:09] Mike: Oh, was it?
[02:10] Rob: I think it was about 10 minutes from the time it landed in inboxes until it said “Sold Out” on EventBright, even though at that point I think there were still like eight tickets left. You had to go through and divvy those out to folks.
[02:22] Mike: Yeah, the same thing, kind of, happened last year, and that was about 20 minutes before it started locking those tickets.
[02:28] Rob: Right. This year we did more of a layered launch through, right? We went to previous attendees that kind of got a second grab at it. It was Micropreneur academy members, then it was previous attendees/last year’s attendees and then it was the early bird list. So we had fewer tickets left for the early bird list this year than we did last year. How about you? What’s going on?
[02:47] Mike: Well, you know how I’ve explained that I’ve had a couple of hard drive issues? I believe that a couple hard drives in my office are all possessed. I’ve now lost three drives in three consecutive weeks. I don’t know what’s going on.
[02:58] Rob: This is someone trying to tell you something and it’s, “Stop screwing around with hard drives, and just go to the Cloud. Don’t have a local backup. That’s crazy. Three drives.”
[03:06] Mike: I don’t have a local backup. Yes, because that’s a good idea.
[03:09] Rob: Exactly.
[03:10] Mike: I’m getting tired of it but at the same time, it’s like I wonder if this stems back to me reading the “Back Blaze Hard Drive Report” where it basically spells out and says that Seagate drives have the worst longevity among all the different manufacturers. In all of my drives, with the exception of the SSDs are Seagate drives. So I don’t know whether they took that as a hint that they need to roll over and die, but it seems to be happening.
[03:36] Rob: Yes, well you’ve heard that term “mean time between failure.” MTBF? I think it’s supposed to be an average, but maybe it’s like an exact countdown.
[03:46] Mike: Yes, it could be a countdown. Yes.
[03:48] Rob: So I’ve been reading quite a few books lately. I’ve had a little extra time in the car and such, so I’ve been listening to audiobooks. One book that I want to recommend to folks, if they haven’t already listened to it or read it, it’s called “On Writing” and it’s written by Stephen King. Whether you like his writing or not is irrelevant, the brilliant part about this book is that it’s someone who is, in essence, a genius at something, right?. He is a phenomenal writer in terms of being prolific, and getting up and shipping every day. He’s written 35 books. He’s one of the best selling authors of all time, if not purely because of the volume that he’s put out. So again, whether you like his writing or not is beside the point. But it’s listening to — the first half of the book is a memoir, and it’s interesting to hear how that influences his story. The really interesting part is the second half, and you hear his process for staying creative and for delivering, for crafting story – which of course, I use to help write MicroConf talks, and podcast episodes and blog posts. It helps kind of shift and make you think about how to create content. Then, I like his rituals and the ways that he’s kind of set things up in terms of just being able to get up every day and deliver, which most people can’t. So it’s nice because it’s a pretty quick read and it’s not super dense. So I’d recommend it if you haven’t checked it out.
[05:07] The other book I wanted to bring to people’s attention is called “Smart Cuts”. This one is good. It’s basically a list of things of kind of, how to pack your process and get things done quicker. I wanted it to be more specific, and I wanted it to be a little more new information, but it was good, better than some other business books I’ve been listening to. So they have advice like, “Here’s how to hack the ladder. Don’t go through the entire process everyone else has to do. Train with masters. Basically find a mentor. Get rapid feedback. So it’s like, iterate quickly.” These aren’t just – what’s funny is all these things come out of our world, the startup space. With growth hacking, getting mentors and iterating quickly but they’re trying to apply it more to life in general. Like, if you want to become whatever, a politician, or you want to rise through the ranks of your business, or anything like that. There’s other advice like, “Ride waves of things,” so find a wave that’s getting big, like mobile or wearables. Find people who super connect, who know a lot of other folks. Maintain momentum, that kind of stuff. So it was good advice and I took a few notes. Nothing that really rocked my world but, you know, I think it’s always a good reminder to kind of hear this kind of thing. The writing was done well. I have to kind of revisit those thoughts and think like, “Am I not doing any of these?” I’ve heard this so much, but have I really embraced the simplicity and the 10X thinking they talk about in the book?
[06:26] Mike: Yes, I think some of those things just come down to – not that they’re not good ideas – but just actually following through and implementing them. I mean, there’s so much tactical advice that you can read about and just go online and search really quickly, and probably find 50 different ways to save time or to do things more efficiently. But at the end of the day, you actually have to implement something to do it. If you don’t do it, then you’re not going to get any sort of benefit out of it. At that point, you’re just reading more for entertainment or “entre-porn” than anything else.
[06:54] I guess since we’re diving right into our updates on the different products and stuff that we’re working on. This year, what I’ve started doing is I’ve started translating some of my over reaching year-end goals into quarterly and monthly milestones, so that they’re all a little bit more front and center. We talked about this a little bit briefly, back in December, I think. Where you have these over-arching goals at the end of the year. Let’s say, for example, one of them is to add a thousand people to your mailing list. Well, if you don’t have that front and center in front of you every month or every couple of weeks, then it’s very easy for it to get pushed to the side. Then you forget about it for long periods of time and then not come back to it. Suddenly, it’s September, October, November and you’re like, “Oh, shoot, I’ve got – one of my goals was to add a thousand people to my mailing list.” What I’ve actually started doing is, I’ve taken a look at some of my – I’ll call them more numerical goals? Starting to divide them up so that I have these concrete milestones that I’m attempting to hit along the way as opposed to, “I want to do “X” by the end of the year.” It’s, “I want to do “X divided by four” within the first three months of the year,” and then continue doing that so I’m not rushing at the end of the year to try to get everything done.
[08:01] Rob: Yeah, I think that’s a really good way to do it. I think it keeps those of us who are kind of task or goal-oriented, it keeps you having more shorter term goals so you can live up to them. One challenge is if your goals are not linear, it makes it a challenge, right? Because if you say, “I want to add four thousand people to my mailing list this year,” that may not happen linearly. So, I mean, may not be a thousand per quarter. As you get toward the end of the year and your list gets bigger and you have success, you’ll start building it faster. But I still think having that goal of a thousand for that first quarter is at least something to shoot for. If you only hit 500, you know that you’re probably a little bit behind schedule and you need to maybe kick up the effort unless you see that the curve is already pointing upward for that second quarter.
[08:41] Mike: Yes, that is something that came to mind when I was putting them together. But the other side of the coin that I thought about was the fact that if you have the strategy for –- let’s say that you’re trying to get 250 people signed up in the first three months, and you’re not able to do that, you come short by a significant margin. Then what you can do is look at that and say, “Well, what I’m doing so far is not working. I need to switch strategies.” And something else may work exponentially better. So it gives you that feedback loop and those milestones to essentially take that step back to say – evaluating what it is what you’re doing right now, and is it working or not? And if it’s not working then you need to switch tactics.
[09:20] Rob: Yes, and that’s why I like the monthly breakdown, because it helps you know really quickly if you’re off course. I’ve gone, so far, with app growth. I did this with HitTail and Drip. I set a goal – like for Drip, I said I wanted it to be 2.5x – what it was in December – by the end of this year. And I know exactly — assuming all my numbers through all the peak conversion and all the numbers stay where they are — I know exactly how many trials I need every month. If I’m at or above that, it’s very likely that I will meet or exceed that goal by the end of the year. I can even back that up to unique visitors to the website as long as they’re reasonably targeted. So I know an exact number, or a pretty close to exact number, of how many need to come through, and then how many convert to trial, and then how many convert to paid, and how long they stick around, all that stuff. So I’m a big fan of having those numbers around, even if you’re not a number person and you’re not super into the analytics side of things, having a general concept of whether you’re on track – even if you’re off by 20-30%, at least you have an idea of where you are, and you have an idea that you’re off.
[10:28] Mike: You know, a question for you – I’ve started asking this of people that I’ve been talking to recently just because, you know, I’m still kind of working out what my monthly goals are for the rest of the year. When you’re putting together things like that and you’re doing goal planning and you say, “Okay, I’ve got this goal out in the future that I want to hit.” Do you work from today’s date out towards that goal? Or do you basically start at that goal and then work backwards to today to figure out the different milestones that you need to hit? I’ve heard people do it both ways. I’m curious to know how you do it.
[10:57] Rob: I do it from today and work out. The reason I do that is, to me, it’s more realistic. I know what’s going on today and I can look at numbers and then just multiply, and see where I think it will be at the end. And to be honest, that 2.5x – as a goal for Drip, as an example – is a little higher than my current growth rate. So I need to increase my growth rate, not just stay linear. But if I stay linear, it’s still a nice number by the end of the year. I find if I shoot out towards the end of the year, I might name a number that’s just really big. “I’m going to be at $100 thousand, monthly recurring revenue by the end of the year.” Then it’s like, “Whoa! you could do that.” I know some people who do it. Then when you work backwards, it’s like Holy Toledo. You really need a lot of trials. I guess that could be a really good motivator, right? You could be aspirational for that.
[11:49] Mike: I guess what I was thinking more was, you take that 2.5x and then you start backtracking from – let’s say you made out this goal of 2.5x in 12 months. You say, “Okay, that’s what my goal is.” Then you say, “Well, what is that going to look like in month 11? I’ve got four weeks to do it, where can I go from here?” You backtrack. Then you start planning October, then September and backtrack from there as opposed to just pulling a number out of the hat and saying, “That’s where I want to be.” Because that is not necessarily realistic. That’s more what I was wondering.
[12:20] Rob: Yes, that makes sense. No, so that’s the thing. I didn’t start and say, “I want to be 2.5x by the end of the year,” and then work backwards. What I said is, “Where am I now and how fast is Drip growing currently? How many trials do I think I can start driving as of January,” right? Because I was making this goal in December. I put that number in a spreadsheet and calculated it out. When I dragged everything down, by December it was at like 2x. So I said, “Okay, that’s if I continue to grow as it is now, given the traffic sources that I have. I think I can add more to that, and I’m going to shoot for 2.5x.” But by the time I get to that goal, it’s already mapped out, right? It’s in that spreadsheet of how many trials I need per month in order to get there. So I arrived at the goal by calculating forwards.
[13:05] Mike: Yes, and that’s what I was wondering, was whether you were calculating forwards or backwards. Obviously, you calculate forwards.
[13:10] Rob: Yes, and to be honest, it’s a bit more of a conservative approach, right? I mean, if you were really going after heavy growth, you probably would go out and say, “How can I 5x this thing?” You know? Or, “How can I beat 100k per month by the end of the year?” and then working backwards? That’s an interesting way to do it too, right? Then to say, “What would it take? How would I have to change the company? How many people would I need to hire? What huge marketing approaches would I need to basically triple, quadruple, the number of trials that I have by the time I get to March or April in order to hit that goal?” That’s an interesting thought experiment. I actually think it’s worth doing even if you’re not going to make that a goal. It’s definitely an interesting thought experiment. It’s kind of like asking yourself that question. “What, right now, is keeping me from 10x’ing my business? What would my business look like if I had 10 times the revenue?”
[13:58] That’s a really interesting question to think about because it will your whole mind set. It’ll shift, kind of, the marketing approaches you consider. It’ll make you realize, “Wow, I may have to hire a lot of people,” or, “I may be able to do it without hiring.” It’s just that whole thought experiment of spending a few hours of thinking like that. I think it’s a helpful thing. That’s kind of thinking backwards from the goal, like you’re saying. I think that’s helpful too. It’s just not how I tend to do my individual goals, because I want to make my end-of-year goals really achievable. But again, some might call that too conservative as well.
[14:27] Mike: I asked the question just because, typically, I’ve always done kind of the same thing that you have. Lately, I’ve started reading and doing some research on this and kind of realizing that’s not the only way to do the goal setting and goal planning. If I’m working backwards, as you said, it’s a little bit more aspirational. But what I find is that it allows you to take a look at some of the different approaches that you probably would have considered in the past, and just rule them out. Because you can look at it and say, “I’m in August or September, and I need to get here in two months. I know that this particular approach is not going to work at that point, so I’m not even going to consider that in my list of strategies. I need to do something radically different.” Maybe it doesn’t work at all, but you still need to be able to consider other options. It helps rule things out, I guess, is really what it comes down to.
[15:15] Rob: Yes, that makes sense. So I have a productivity strategy that I’ve been kind of honing over the past several months. I’ve started pushing all of my calls to one day during the week. I don’t tend to do that many calls in general but I found that it’s that maker’s schedule versus manager’s schedule thing. If you haven’t read that Paul Graham post, go to paulgraham.com and he has an article called “Maker’s Schedule vs. Manager Schedule.” It’s about being interrupted and how it’s hard to be creative when you’re getting interrupted. So I don’t have a ton of calls during the week, but I’ve started pushing all of them to Wednesdays.
[15:47] And so like, today as an example, this is my sixth call that I’ve done today. Several of them were sales calls and there were some other things mixed in there, but I’ve found that it’s really helpful to get into a flow of talking on the phone. Because I don’t like talking on the phone in particular. But I find that on these Wednesdays, I kind of gear up for it. I drink a little coffee in the morning and then the further I get in, the more I’m like, “Hey, I actually am kind of digging this whole call thing.” I get into the groove of it. But any other time during the week – like if the calls interrupt my day – I’m totally never getting into the flow of it. So if you’re able to control your schedule a bit, and are able to keep your calls to a single day, it might be something for you to try, especially if you don’t particularly enjoy being interrupted or talking on the phone.
[16:29] Mike: Yeah, I find that grouping similar tasks like that together is a lot easier. It’s almost like, you know, when doing sales calls and things like that. If you just put it all into one block of time, it makes it easier to – I’ll say, be flexible during that time and not have to worry about, “Oh, I have to go back over here and tweak this marketing copy.” Then you’re kind of mentally context-switching between doing a phone call and then have to go back to marketing copy. Then you switch over to something else, some sort of management responsibility. It can be kind of a pain in the neck to do that and not to mention, it’s just not terribly productive. So just aggregating those similar tasks, I find that’s helpful. I don’t think I’ve ever dedicated a full day to like, meetings and calls, stuff like that. Mainly because they just kind of come up sometimes.
[17:13] Rob: I think the lesson is just that batching in general tends to get you into the flow and keep you more productive.
[17:20] Mike: So one of the things that I’ve done recently, also, is I mentioned a few weeks ago that I shut down my Moon River Consulting business. But one of the things that it’s doing is it’s making me take a really hard look at some of the different products that I’ve been, I’ll say, more or less neglecting. One of them which is the Alteristraining.com website which I had previously had under Moon River Consulting. I still own it, because I still have the domain name and everything. I basically just took everything from Moon River Consulting and kind of shoved it over under Moon River software so I could cancel a bunch of subscription services.
[17:52] I mean, I’ve already saved several thousand dollars a year just by not having that business any more. But I still have some of these products and stuff that I just don’t touch any more. Some of them are making money, some of them are not making hardly any money, but they serve as more of a distraction than anything else. So I’m trying to figure out what to do with some of them. You know, I’m looking at either selling them off or either just completely shutting them down. I haven’t really come to any solid conclusions about any of them yet.
[18:16] Rob: I think doing this pruning, especially for folks like us who start a lot of efforts, start a lot of products or own a lot of products, just doing some pruning now and again is a good way to do it, especially if something is continuing to make money and you really back burnered it, I feel those things don’t continue forever. So if you can kind of step away from it and hand it off to someone who’s willing to grow it while it’s still somewhat profitable, it’s a better time to do it than once the thing gets completely hosed and isn’t worth selling.
[18:45] Mike: Yes. I look at it from a financial perspective and I say, “Yes, this has absolutely made me money.” But at the same time, it’s like, do I hang on to it for a month, three months, eight months, whatever? It’s just kind of hard to take a look at those and, as you said, prune them off and just get rid of them. Especially when they’re making money but, you know, there’s this mental overhead that you have that is associated with it. I’ve already noticed that there’s a dramatic level of difference between what my focus is today versus what it was even four weeks ago when I still had both companies. Now I’m much more focused than back then and I don’t think that it’s just due to the fact that four weeks have passed. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not switching back and forth between two different companies and thinking about two entirely different businesses.
[19:32] Rob: Yes, I can see that. I think any time you can get stuff off your plate, doubling down on what’s working for you. So for me, with Drip, definitely starting to find some fly wheels. There’s been nothing – there’s been no single massive marketing approach that I’ve found. It’s like all my past experience, you just get a bunch of different things that work. But at this point, I have more trials in the Drip queue than we’ve ever had. So it feels good. Things are working. I had a bunch of stuff kind of ready in December, and didn’t launch that until the first week of January. Every time I do that and launch a bunch of different efforts, it just seems like the stuff kind of compounds and turns into even more that you hadn’t planned for.
[20:12] So, you know, in addition to the email mini-course that we run through Drip and basic re-targeting through Perfect Audience, I’m churning out blog content – well, I say, “I am.” I have an agency who’s doing content marketing. There’s some really good writers that are managed by an editor, and I have them creating the blog content for Drip. That’s starting to pick up some steam. Then all the integration marketing I did last year, with the integrations through Kickoff Labs, and Unbounce and Gumrow. Those things kind of just build over time and send a little more link juice your way. They send a few more customers your way.
[20:45] Then I actually did – I really wanted to get webinars going. I’ve been meaning to do that for a year. But I did the first webinar last week. After we integrated with Kickoff Labs, they suggested that we do kind of a joint webinar. That went really well. It was fun, and it was a nice entryway into it. So I think I’m going to start doing those. I want to do them just with Drip and Drip’s audience to continue to educate about this whole marketing automation stuff. Then a bunch of other stuff. Been on podcasts, interviews, done a couple guest posts. Then I’m quoted in some articles here and there about email marketing and marketing automation. Along with SEO and word of mouth, it just sort of all combines.
[21:21] The bummer is that I look in Google Analytics and it’s just so hard to tell what’s really working. It used to be so much easier when you could actually see your keywords and figure out what people were searching on. If branded search terms increased then you knew it was something like, “Oh, it’s ‘podcast’ or it’s ‘word of mouth’,” it’s something that people are hearing about and then typing “Drip” or “Get Drip” into Google. But now I’m not being able to see the keywords, you don’t know if people are actually searching for generic things, like “email marketing software” and you just rank high enough for that, and that’s what driving traffic. Or, if it’s actual you banging the drum that’s really driving it. So it’s a bit of a bummer that it’s a lot hazier than it used to be in order to be able to track your efforts to specific rises. But I do know that, basically, everything I’m doing right now seems to be compounding into sending more traffic and more trials through the funnel than it has been in the past. So it’s starting to feel good. I’m just getting to the point where I’m feeling like, “Ah.” This is where I wanted to be six months or a year ago, you know? We’re finally there.
[22:24] Mike: You know, it’s funny that you bring up the difficulties involved in finding information from Google Analytics about where your traffic is coming from, and what sorts of things are going on in there. Because we got an email from Will Gant, who said the fact that there’s this new spamming strategy with Google Analytics where people are essentially showing up in your Google Analytics. It’s basically just spam links. The idea is to, essentially, target people who are using Google Analytics and, you know, if you’re using Google Analytics then chances are good that you’re probably, at least, paying attention to who’s coming to your website, where they’re coming from and, you know, what the sources of traffic are. They basically – somehow they inject the data in there in such that it shows up in your Google Analytics account. Then you click on them and you go back to their site. So it’s kind of weird that not only is Google Analytics becoming less relevant over time, but you’re also starting to see spam inside of your Analytics itself.
[23:23] Rob: Whoa, that is – I have not heard about that. That’s crazy. I can’t imagine that would pay off. That seems so bizarre. That’s such a bizarre marketing approach.
[23:31] Mike: I’m sure that there’s a lot of other subtleties to it that I don’t entirely understand. But it’s interesting that people are doing that. It’s just because people are wanting to get these clicks. And maybe they’re selling something from their website, or are trying to get traffic back to their site. Whatever it takes at that point. It doesn’t take much to set up a bot that’s just going to go around to ten thousand or a hundred thousand websites and inject those. Then suddenly, you’ve got traffic coming back to the site. And if it’s an advertising-driven site, now you’ve got eyeballs on it. So they’re getting paid for it. So at some point, it could be worth it for them.
[24:06] Rob: You have to have such a volume on you, though. Even just ten thousand sites, that’s just not enough. That’s pretty crazy. I haven’t – it’s been a long time before I’ve gotten something actionable out of Google Analytics. It’s not the tool that it used to be. It’s getting harder to use, it’s more complicated. They’re changing terminology and without giving you keywords, it just makes it even worse. I actually, when I went to do keyword research, I literally logged into HitTail instead of Google Analytics because I wanted to see how people finding me. HitTail pulls from Google webmaster tools, which actually gives you the keywords people are using to find you. So it was helpful. I did go into webmaster tools as well, but it’s a harder marketing landscape than it used to be, for sure.
[24:43] Mike: So speaking of inbound links and paid traffic, I’ve been testing paid ads on Twitter and Facebook lately. It’s interesting because my ads between the two of them are very, very similar. But I’m getting five times the conversions on Twitter than I am on Facebook.
[24:58] Rob: Wow, is that for the same money?
[25:00] Mike: The same money. So basically, I have two identical landing pages set up. This is the thing I don’t like, is that, you know, with the conversion pixels for Twitter and Facebook, they tend to trigger regardless of how somebody comes through. No matter how you try and match up the numbers between what they tell you they sent traffic – like how many people they sent for traffic, versus what your numbers say on your site, they are always different. So I don’t necessarily trust if I go into my Facebook Dashboard and look at all my ad campaigns and see, “Oh, we sent 200 people.” And it’s like, “I’m looking at my site and my analytics are telling me they did not send 200 people. I certainly did not get the 80 conversions, or whatever it is, that they’re telling me that I got.” For whatever reason, sometimes people are just counted twice or they’re not counted at all. It depends on which one it is. But the bottom line is, I set up two completely different landing pages and I injected the tracking code differently, for Twitter on one page and Facebook on the other. Then I mapped everything and Twitter is just converting at five times what Facebook is.
[26:03] Rob: And the clicks are the same price?
[26:05] Mike: Well, the clicks turn out to be substantially more expensive on Facebook.
[26:09] Rob: Okay, so you’re probably getting more people through from Facebook, but it’s converting at a lower rate, but it’s super clicks?
[26:16] Mike: It is. I’m trying to think. It’s between $7 and $8 per click on Facebook. On Twitter, I think it’s like $1.50 or $2, or something like that. It’s pretty low.
[26:27] Rob: $7 to $8 a click, huh? Yes, that’s high. You should be able to get, using Facebook right-hand side ads, you should be able to get clicks between – it depends on your niche – but between 50 and 80 cents.
[26:39] Mike: There’s a difference between the clicks themselves. The cost per conversion is about $7 or $8.
[26:43] Rob: Oh, there we go. Okay, cost per conversion not click.
[26:46] Mike: Yes. The clicks themselves are about 50 cents or something along those lines. That is the price of them, but they’re converting it like 10%. It’s ridiculously low.
[26:58] Rob: That’s to email, they opt into something?
[27:00] Mike: Yes, yes.
[27:01] Rob: Okay. Yeah, that’s lower than I would like. I’d like to see it up around 20-25%.
[27:07] Mike: That’s what Twitter is converting at. And like I said, it’s an identical landing page and the advertising, the images and stuff are almost identical.
[27:15] Rob: So it’s the targeting. Yes, it sounds like you want to mess with your Facebook targeting, figuring out which niche. That’s interesting. I want to take a peek at your Twitter ad. I have it on my list to run some Twitter ads. I ran one, maybe four or five months ago and wasn’t pleased with it. Then I just bailed on it, which is not how you’re going to learn to optimize it, right? You’ve got to spend time in there doing it. But I’d like to see what you did, because I’ll probably try something similar.
[27:38] Mike: Right, yes. It was funny because very early on, before, I think I had only gotten a couple of conversions and I’d already gotten a complaint, on Twitter. Like, somebody tweeted to me and said something along the lines of, “You shouldn’t be using Twitter to be advertising.” I was like, “Are you serious? Really?”
[27:51] Rob: Wow. So speaking of that, I’m actually – in terms of a HitTail update, HitTail’s kind of been running in the background and, over time, I originally had hired Derek to help me, to basically be the product manager. Then I pulled him off of that to help with Drip, and he’s full time under for a long time. So over time, I’ve neglected to run more ads and to kind of keep the marketing fly wheels going with HitTail. So I need to hire someone, definitely part-time, to help out with a couple of very specific marketing approaches, mostly advertising. Maybe I’ll announce on the podcast.
[28:26] I need to get like a – kind of a landing page or an application form like a Google form set up to find out exactly which questions I want to ask. But in essence, I don’t really want – I don’t particularly want to hire an agency. I was considering that for a while, but the cost and the – I have some very specific ways that I want it done. I don’t think most agencies are going to work with me on that. So I really already have the process down and I know what works. So I just kind of want to hire somebody who’s hungry to do it and learn it. Just make it so that HitTail’s a bit more self-sustaining than it is now. Because without me doing some type of ongoing stuff with sending some traffic, it still has several fly wheel choices, but they’re smaller than if I were dropping the money to do pay per click. With pay per click, it definitely – the ROI is there. So it’s kind of a no-brainer to do it.
[29:14] Mike: Hey, by the way, did you – have you gotten any results from the emails that you sent out for people to essentially restart their trials from back in December?
[29:21] Rob: Yes. We did get a handful of folks who wanted to extend their trial. So it was definitely worth sending the email. It took me five minutes, maybe, to do it. I’m trying to think, it was maybe 10% of people responded and said yes? So it wasn’t a huge number but even getting one is worth it, right? If they continue through and become a paying customer.
[29:40] Mike: Yeah, you know, that one email is probably worth, you calculate the lifetime value –
[29:44] Rob: Several thousand bucks.
[29:44] Mike: Sure.
[29:45] Rob: For sure.
[29:46] Mike: So five minutes of work for several thousand dollars. Don’t you wish you could do that five minutes of work every five minutes?
[29:50] Rob: Every day?
[29:53] Mike: It’s funny that works so well for you, because with AuditShark, because of November and December essentially being holidays, I’ve essentially had to start over with most of my sales prospects from November/December. Just because the sales cycles are so long that people, you know, get involved with stuff and then they get distracted. They’re like, “Oh, we need to come back to this after the New Year, because all these things are in flux right now. And we need to make sure that we don’t introduce any new variables into our network because we don’t want things to change during the holidays.” It’s like a very sensitive time, nobody wants anything to break and they don’t want to try anything new. So they put everything off and then it’s just like, “Okay, now we have to restart the conversations over again.” You know, there’s still that – some level of familiarity, but it just kind of sucks.
[30:37] Rob: Yes, long sales cycles are a bummer and December is a bummer. It always is, man, unless you can run a special or unless they have budget that they’re trying to get rid of. Everything just kind of comes to a grinding halt.
[30:48] Mike: Yes. The only other thing is I’ve actually been looking at restructuring AuditShark a little bit. I’m still putting feelers out there for this. One of the things that I’ve kind of come to realize lately is that what I’ve traditionally tried to do with AuditShark is sell it as kind of a standalone software package. And I think that fits extremely well for certain types of businesses where they have a dedicated auditing department, or people who that’s their sole job. But I think there’s a lot of businesses out there that they want a system or piece of software like that but they don’t necessarily know how to use it. They’re not going to use it full time or even really, part time. They might use it once in a while. So it doesn’t have quite the same impact or the same draw for those kinds of people.
[31:32] So I’m looking at kind of exploring the possibility of offering it, instead of like a classical model where it’s like, “Sell the software and then you’re hands-off at that point.” A much more involved model where it’s, I come in – or we come in – we do like a software audit and analyze their network, give them reports, talk to them a little bit more and then, at that point, we basically walk away. So it becomes much more of a services engagement, I’ll say, which is – I don’t think it’s like the classic model of what we think is a successful SAAS or recurring revenue model, but at the same time, it really is a recurring revenue model. Especially if you’re going to them every six months or every year where you go in there, you do the audit and you give them the reports and say, “This is where you’re at. This is where I think you should be. These are the things that I think you should do.” Then you leave. Then you come back in three months, or six months or maybe you put together a plan to help them get to where they need to be. Then you come back and do that again.
[32:26] Rob: Sounds like it could be recurring or not, right? Depending on their preference. But it seems like the price point could be so much higher that you’d need so many fewer of those, right? If you’re going to do the enterprise sales anyways, it’s like you want to get that price point as high as possible. I would wonder, you know, you said you’d basically find the issues and then walk away, but it seems like they’re going to want remediation help, right? That seems like the biggest paying point of this whole deal. It’s not just finding the things but actually fixing them.
[32:52] Mike: Yes, and that’s actually something I’ve talked to Manage Services Providers about. Because Manage Services Providers can use it to identify issues but they want to use it as like a punch list, where they go into a customer and they say, “We found these 250 issues. We can fix these things for you, but it’s going to cost you this much money, because we’re going to need to go touch all these things. Here’s the billable hours that the MSP is basically generating from my tool.” So that’s one mechanism for them to use it, and then, of course, there’s the other one where I’m working directly with kind of the end customer. It kind of depends on who you’re talking to. So – but I don’t have remediation built into the product yet, so –
[33:28] Rob: Right, I wasn’t thinking build it in. I was thinking, add that as an add-on consulting service from AuditShark itself, that it finds issues and then – I mean, that requires manual work from you guys, obviously.
[33:38] Mike: That’s okay, because that might very well lead towards the idea of building that into the product. Because if I’m going to charge them for, say, two or three weeks worth of remediation services, then it would be in my best interest to say, “Okay, well, here’s a flat fee and we can fix all of these things for you. And instead of charging you for three weeks of manual effort, we’ll do it through the tool, and fix everything through there.” So in a way, it’s almost like backtracking from solving the problem for them and then building the software after the need is there. I mean, the software’s there. I’ve kind of gone about it backwards in some respects. I very well could have offered this exact same service without having AuditShark at all.
[34:16] Rob: That’s right, yeah.
[34:17] Mike: I could go in and do everything manually, but obviously, the tool makes it a lot easier to gather all that data from, you know, numerous machines. That’s what people do now, though, is they do it manually, but they don’t do all the machines in the environment. They’ll just do a small handful of them and they’ll say, “This is our sample.” That’s a big problem because then you get this sample bias where you’ve got three, four or five machines but it’s not those machines that are going to hurt you if your network is compromised. It’s the ones that slip through the cracks that you didn’t audit, because those are the low hanging fruit that a script is going to come out and take over. A script is going to take over. It’s not these ones you’ve already audited, it’s the ones that you haven’t.
[34:54] Rob: Right. If you can make this work, this makes sense. Because if you’re going to do this enterprise sales anyways, you’re going to have long sales cycles, you want that price point to be as high as you can make it in order to make this worth your while. Just selling software they’re never going to have at a higher price point is an actual consulting engagement. So I think, you know, whether you call a concierge, or you just call it add-on consulting services, whatever it is. I think it’s worth a shot. You know, it’s worth exploring. It’s like you said, you’re putting feelers out for it and I don’t see any reason not to do that.
[35:24] Mike: There’s consulting on one end, which is completely customized, and then the middle, you’ve got the SAAS offering where the customer’s kind of doing the work and then the low end, obviously, is like everything’s being done manual. There’s no automation whatsoever. But there’s this tier, I think, in between SAAS and completely custom consulting work where that type of services arrangement can – it’s essentially augmented consulting services. So it’s not quite a SAAS offering where you’re just giving them the software. It’s they’re doing the work themselves. And it’s not completely done for them like consulting services. It’s kind of this hybrid approach.
[35:58] So I think we have one last thing. Back in December, we had asked a lot of people for information and ideas on podcasts episodes that they could – if they could send it to us, we’d greatly appreciate it. But one of the things that we found is there’s a lot of episode ideas that are heavily tech-related. What we want to know is, we want to know if people want to hear some more technical discussions. What I mean by that is, there’s people who have asked us to provide discussions on things like engineering a SAAS for availability, doing backups, security testing, testing your code, optimizing your applications for database, your CPU, and memory to reduce hosting costs, server hardening techniques and other, I’ll say, much more technically oriented stuff. So if you’re interested in hearing about those things, I’d appreciate it if you could write into us, email@example.com. Let us know what your thoughts are, or send us tweets, emails, actually, probably just the firstname.lastname@example.org, or the tweets. Those are probably a little bit easier for us to manage. Just let us know what your thoughts are on that and whether we should kind of shift gears a little bit and delve into those topics, or just kind of reply to those people directly on what our thoughts are.
[37:05] Rob: If you have a question for us, you can call our voicemail number at (888)801-9690 or email us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Out of Control by Moot, used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next time.
Rob & Mike,
I’ve been listening to your podcast since the very beginning, including the first episodes. Your podcast is my Tuesday entertainment walking to and from my office, here in Philadelphia.
I’m going to cut to the chase… In my opinion, the show is getting stale. This episode was the tipping point for me to push SFTROU to a secondary list of what I listen to instead of the must listen to list.
Here’s why: Mike.
Let me preface this by saying, I’ve never met Mike in person and my only “interaction” with him is listening to him on the podcast. This is also constructive criticism and not bullying or picking on Mike.
I was excited to listen to this episode as I appreciate the updates on where Rob & Mike’s projects stand. Per usual, Rob talks about progress with his and I appreciate that he is open with growth rates, challenges he faces, etc. Rob consistently shows great progress.
On the contrary, we hear little in the way of a AuditShark update, other than, once again, Mike is considering changing strategies with it. This is on top of hearing for like the 3rd week in a row about RAID HDD failures. I mean I’m imagining him in a basement that looks like a computer chop shop from the late 90s… but I digress.
If you go back 3 years or more and listen to an AuditShark update, you’ll ‘essentially’ hear an identical update.
I was hoping to hear about sales progress, or at least number of customers to rebuild the lost confidence I have with Mike and AuditShark. I understand his numbers are really none of my business; however, when I invest my time listening to someone, I want to be able to trust their opinion and authority on the subject for which they are speaking on.
I think everyone can agree that SFTROU is mainly geared toward solo founders or small teams building SAAS or maybe ecommerce businesses. Mike provides little insight or value on this subject. He’s been an IT consultant and is still trying to develop what most likely is an enterprise product with a very long, high touch sales cycle with possibly an ongoing, hands-on service component.
As a former IT professional myself (MCSE, CCNE, etc), I feel like he is wasting his time (and has been) on AuditShark and he has been beat to a market with a ton of competing, solid offerings, but that is all beside the point. Episodes have turned into Rob continually providing actionable advice with Mike simply reiterating Rob’s advice, in many cases in a long-winded way.
I know I’ll catch flack for it, and again, I’m really not trying to attack Mike personally, but in my opinion Mike lessens the quality of the show for me and possibly others.
Perhaps a refresh of the show’s format or maybe bringing guests in more often will get SFTROU back on my primary playlist.
Thank you for listening.
I truly wish both of you the best of luck.
CEO & Founder of Municibid
Very well written Greg.
It’s time for Mike to step up. If AuditShark still isn’t a success after so many years, it might be time to shelf it?
What about an ACTUAL update on AuditShark? What is the number of customers, revenue etc. Are you even living off this thing?
Could be a new cool angle to the show if Mike started something new (and much less technical). Preferable a SAAS business since he obvious has the skills to develop it.
Pick something that is usable by other small companies like Rob did with Drip. All your listeners would love to help you on the way.
I don’t think the show is getting stale. I still enjoy it as much as I ever did. I have learnt so much from the show and other sources the show has inspired me to look at. As a result the ideas aren’t all as new as they used to be.
But I still learn new stuff from the show (some episodes more than others) and even when it’s not new it’s reinforcing good practice and the things I should be doing.
Also, the show does not depend on Audit Shark being a huge and fast growing success. Seeing the slow growth of an ambitious project is interesting and also a good lesson for those of us at level one on the startup scale who are not ready to take on such a big project.
Yeah, I agree that it’s hard to take any kind of startup advice from Mike because he’s been treading water for the past 3+ years. It’s sort of the anti-pattern.
I have no idea how he survives having shuttered his consulting business if AuditShark has ostensibly 0 paying customers and is his full-time gig now.
I’m sorry, but I have to agree with this 100%. I consider you guys “friends” because I tune in every week, so take this as constructive criticism. Sometimes your friends need help when they fall and I’m reaching my hand out to you Mike. It’s hard to let go of something that you’ve put so much time towards, but it might be time to take your own advice…
Maybe AuditShark is progressing and Mike is just not a good communicator. If that’s the case, let us know how many users you have and the plan to get more. What’s your goal for the end of 2015 for user count? How do you plan to achieve it? We care and some of us can probably help you if you ask. I would work for free if you have some small tasks (I code C# very well) 🙂
Looking forward to the next episode as always. Take care!
In the show you talked about using your growth rate to calculate your growth goals. I was wondering how you calculated your growth rate.
Do you do it simply using this month’s growth and last month’s growth? Or do you try to average it out over a few months? Or do you do it using figures for the whole year?
I’ve tried doing it comparing each month to the previous month with my numbers but I’m finding that using this method my growth rate is not very consistent and not a very useful number.