In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike give some updates on Bluetick and Drip. Mike gives some details of overcoming technical challenges and how he plans to shift his focus to a marketing. Rob talks about some of the changes to Drip since the acquisition as well as ways his role has changed.
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Mike [00:00]: In this episode of ‘Startups for the Rest of Us,’ Rob and I are going to be giving updates on Bluetick and Drip. This is ‘Startups for the Rest of Us’ episode 309.
Welcome to ‘Startups for the Rest of Us,’ the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching and growing software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
Rob [00:26]: And I’m Rob.
Mike [00:26]: And we’re here to share experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week Rob?
Rob [00:30]: Well, yes, more than this week. I think we’re talking about stuff that’s been going on for the past few months, right? Because we haven’t done and updates episode in a long time. We used to try to do these once a month or so and then there were certain extents of time where so much was going on that I couldn’t talk about. And I think stuff slowed down for you for a while. And I think it’s really time to get back here and get back at it and give folks an update.
And it would be nice to do these a little more often. I don’t know if we’ll do them monthly. But I always find it fun and interesting to talk about what we’re doing. And the feedback that I’ve heard in general is that folks really like to hear more about what we’re up to.
Mike [01:02]: Cool. So let’s dive right in.
Rob [01:04]: Yes. So for me, you know, I look back. It’s been just over three months since Drip was acquired. For those who haven’t been listening I had a startup called Drip. I co-founded it. It’s email software and it was acquired by Leadpages back in July. And so now I work for Leadpages. I’ve moved with my family to Minneapolis. And it has been quite an adventure.
I think the hardest part of the transition was definitely — well, aside from the acquisition itself — it was very stressful. Once that was done, the hardest part has been the move and the impact it’s had on the family. Moves are always stressful and I think that it’s a bummer when you move and your kids are all disjointed and don’t know what to do. And they’re homesick and then they go to school and they don’t have any friends and then — It’s a transition to a new place.
We’ve tried to fill it with adventure and make it exciting. And now that we have been in Minneapolis just over two months and everybody’s over it. And now it feels like home. And nobody talks about how they liked the Fresno house more or about how rough school is because they’re having fun. So that was a big transition and I feel like we’re past it. It feels really good to be past it and I don’t think I want to move any time soon again.
You’ve done some moves in your time, huh?
Mike [02:09]: I haven’t moved for at least 10 years. And there are good reasons why.
Rob [02:13]: Yes, because you remember how hard it was. We hired movers. Everything was paid for and so, we hired people to pack and move us and unload us. We didn’t do any of the hard work. The unpacking sucks, of course. But even then it was so much time to do all the logistics and then your stuff gets here and then the unpacking is just days and days of chaos. Yes, it’s stressful. It reminded me how stressful this actually is. But it’s good to be past it.
And on the flip side, the work transition to Leadpages has been way, way easier. I don’t want to say it’s been a breeze because that would probably be glossing over some things. But in general, it’s been a very good transition for me and, I think, for the team. I talk to everybody. I try to keep tabs on even our remote folks and it’s kind of business as usual. But we have a lot more money to do things. We just have more resources so it’s like business as usual but better, I think, is kind of how I’ve been talking about it.
There are obviously things I had to give up that weren’t – you know it wasn’t the easiest to give up all of the marketing, essentially. And I can be as involved as I want but, frankly, I don’t have time given the focus on the product and the hiring of engineers and stuff that I’m doing now.
But that was a tough choice because I’ve always marketed my own products and Leadpages is just so good at it in my opinion. And from the outside and now that I’m inside, they’re one of the best SaaS top of the funnel marketers in the world. It’s just an amazing machine that they’ve built. So it makes total sense that they would do this when they have a team of 20 or 30 people, why would I want to slow them down and be a bottleneck, essentially.
But giving up the marketing website was a tough choice. Not even a choice. I knew it had to happen. It was inevitability. It was just when it was going to happen. Then, of course, they cranked on it and rolled out nice new gorgeous marketing site. It’s at Drip.co. If you go there you’ll see it. And they have videos and they have all types of cool stuff that just would have taken me months and/or years and a bunch of contractors and way more money than I had to produce. And then they spit it out after it was three or four weeks that this whole website was up. So it’s pretty cool.
Mike [04:08]: What was the reason behind the domain name transition? It used to be GetDrip.com and now it’s Drip.co.
Rob [04:13]: Yes, it was to get away from people calling the app GetDrip. People on podcasts and all the time, “Hey, how’s your app GetDrip doing?” Well it’s not called GetDrip, it’s called Drip. And so for a long time I wanted, obviously Drip.com, which I think there was a squatter on it and he wanted six figures. And that wasn’t going to happen. But, yes, Leadpages was able to get Drip.co on the secondary market. And it probably – at the price, I don’t know I would have put the money towards it bootstrapped, but it made total sense to do it given the resources they have. So, that was the idea. It’s a four letter domain – six letters including the extension – so it’s nice and short, memorable. And it’s just nice to not be called GetDrip anymore.
Mike [04:51]: Back when you could actually get four letter domains.
Rob [04:54]: Yes, I know.
Mike [04:55]: It’s a thing of the past.
Rob [04:55]: I know. Well, Clay sought it out and bought it on the secondary market.
Mike [04:58]: Very cool. Couple of quick personal updates. My brother’s getting married this weekend so the whole family is leaving tomorrow morning so we’re recording on a Thursday.
Rob [05:05]: Wait. You have a brother?
Mike [05:07]: Yes. You didn’t know that?
Rob [05:08]: How long have you and I known each other?
Mike [05:10]: I don’t know. Like 10 years.
Rob [05:11]: 10 or 11 years. You have a brother? Do you have any – how many brothers do you have?
Mike [05:13]: He’s technically a half-brother. He’s 16 years younger than me so yes.
Rob [05:17]: Got it. Okay. You just don’t ever talk about him.
Mike [05:20]: I almost never see him, you know.
Rob [05:21]: Do you have a sister too?
Mike [05:22]: I do.
Rob [05:23]: You are kidding me. What?
Mike [05:24]: I have a sister.
Rob [05:26]: I just figured you were an only child. You never talk about your siblings. Do you know I have siblings? I talk about them, right, every now and then?
Mike [05:33]: I do know that you have them, I don’t know how many. I think you have a brother but I don’t think you have a sister.
Rob [05:37]: Yes, I do. I’m the youngest of four kids.
Mike [05:39]: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Rob [05:40]: With a sister and two brothers. Dude, how many siblings do you have?
Mike [05:43]: Well, it’s complicated.
Rob [05:46]: Two of mine are half as well, to be honest. I have two siblings and then one full.
Mike [05:51]: Yes, my parents, they got divorced when I was much younger and then they both remarried. And on one side I’ve got a stepsister and three stepbrothers and then there’s also a half-brother there. And then on the other side I’ve got, I think five or six … I think five stepsiblings in some way, shape or form. I think that there’s two boys and three girls. I don’t ever talk to them because I’m just never around.
Rob [06:15]: Right.
Mike [06:15]: But, yes, it’s kind of crazy. So there’s like 10.
Rob [06:18]: Got it. Alright. So you’re going to a wedding.
Mike [06:20]: Yes, so we’re going to a wedding this weekend. We’re leaving tomorrow morning. It’ll be Friday morning. The wedding is on Saturday. We come back on Sunday and then next weeks’ Columbus Day.
And then the other thing is I have to go off on a little bit of a rant here. It’s about Amazon and big data. I went on Amazon and I’m very particular when it comes to notebooks. And I’m sure people have their quirks about that sort of thing. But there’s a very specific type of engineering paper that I like for my notepads. So I went on Amazon and I bought one and next thing I know they’re trying to cram calculus and physics books down my throat. I’m like, dear God, please make it stop.
Rob [06:56]: Yes, that’s brutal.
Mike [06:57]: It’s just the entire line of recommendations from Amazon was nothing but college textbooks and I’m just like, no, I don’t want a $300 calculus book.
Rob [07:06]: It’s such a bummer. Yes. I wish there was a button you could click to be like dismiss these. Because that happens to me. My kids get on and shop. Or Sherry will get on and buy psychology books and it’s like, stop recommending that stuff to me.
Mike [07:16]: Yes. And it even happens if you borrow stuff from Amazon’s library. They’ll say, “Oh, well, you downloaded this thing about Barney the dinosaur. You might be interested in this too.” I’m like please stop.
Rob [07:26]: Yes, no doubt.
Mike [07:28]: But aside from that – and I’ve been talking about this for a while – but I finally finished migrating all the backend mailbox data inside of Bluetick. So everything’s over on a completely new storage mechanism. It’s not even a different storage system. It’s just everything is all indexed now and stored in a different way than it was before which makes it easier to get at the data and then make sure that everything’s synchronized. And I’ve got manual indexes that are built around a bunch of stuff so that I can – given any email address, for example, I can very quickly show you exactly who has emailed you from that email address or all the emails that you’ve sent to that email address. Which you can do inside of Gmail or most email clients. But it’s a lot more difficult when you’re trying to synchronize those things yourself. And the other thing that I’m able to do is I’m actually able to tie multiple email addresses to a single person. So that’s an interesting side effect of doing all this myself is that I can create those additional tie-ins that would probably be very difficult to do outside of something like Gmail or Outlook.
So then I can show you all the different communications that you’ve had with somebody. And the idea down the road is to be able to take that stuff and present it inside of the application so that you can see all of the activity related to somebody regardless of what email address was used to send to them or receive from them. So if you have a team, you’ll be able to see all the emails that have been received by your team from that person. And then you’ll be able to mark things as like, “Hey, this particular email was a private one. I don’t want that shared with the whole team.” And you can set preferences around that stuff.
The other thing it allows us to do is download the contents of those messages and display those as well. So, it’s kind of a first step down that path. It’s all looking good. Several million emails later and a huge WTF moment in the mill where I found that somebody had an email that was 65,000 characters long in the subject line.
Rob [09:14]: Wow. Okay. So, you’re truncating, right? You’re going to truncate it to 56 –
Mike [09:18]: Oh, yes, we’re going to truncate it back but I was not expecting it to go above – I was like maybe I could see somebody putting a few hundred characters in there. But the application just choked on it and it took me the longest time to figure it out. And it’s just like, “Oh. Whoops.” I mean that’s a no-brainer decision to truncate that but that’s what the spec says that there’s rules against it.
Rob [09:40]: Yes. It broke something. I was actually talking with a group of people a couple weeks ago and they started asking me about Bluetick and about the progress you’re making and about the technical issues that you’ve been mired in for the past 30 days, 60 days. And they were asking, “What’s going on with Bluetick? Is Mike going to launch? Is this another AuditShark?” They started peppering me with the questions and I was like, “I don’t know.” People don’t realize you and I don’t talk often. This is our conversation every week, right? We maybe talk about MicroConf but we don’t dig into each other’s apps and progress and that kind of stuff.
So, I think this is an interesting thing to dig into here because if I were to recount what I’ve seen over the past – so it’s October – so, if I thought back about the last six months since MicroConf, I feel like you’ve been working on a bunch of technical stuff, mired in technical detail. And I know you’ve worked with some early access folks and most of them came through, as far as I know, and they’re using the app. But it does feel like it’s been really slow going.
Mike [10:34]: Yes, it has. I don’t discount those thoughts. I’ve had kind of the same thoughts and reservations myself about the fact that certain things are just taking an extraordinary amount of time. And some of it’s the volume of data that I run into. So you do a migration and you’re targeting two million email messages and then it was like a million and a half through it where something went wrong. And I’m like, okay, now I have to figure out not only where exactly did this happen because it’s not always easy to pinpoint that stuff either. And doing a partial migration is a little bit challenging. So, the volume of some of those things is – just in terms of the prototyping. Because I’ve had to go through a lot of issues with trying to figure out how long is it going to take to query this particular thing. And you don’t think about those things when there’s only a 100 or 1000 items. But when you’ve got 150,000, 250,000 of them it makes a big difference about whether it takes a half second to query it or three minutes. Then sometimes it does take a long time. And one of the things I’ve found out is mail servers will time out on you if you don’t issue a command within a second, for example. And it’s like that’s not really going to work if all this stuff on the back end doesn’t respond a lot faster.
It sucks to be mired in those technical details but, at the same time, I feel like a lot of them are kind of past me at this point. So I’m really starting to shift my focus from the engineering side of things into marketing. Which I’m thankful for because it means that I don’t have to deal with a lot of those [?]. I think they’ll still come up but I don’t feel like the rest of the stuff that’s going on or that needs to be done is so critical that I have to not move forward with the app and I have to pay attention to it. I think that they’re little things. They’re little tweaks and little changes here and there as opposed to like, this needs to be fundamentally redesigned in order to make this work. Does that make sense?
Rob [12:22]: It does. It does. Given the conversations we’ve had over the past five years on this podcast about you building AuditShark and then now about Bluetick, you do have a tendency to get stuck in technical stuff. And to spend more time than probably is good for you before you get more people using it. And I’m wondering how can it be different this time?
Mike [12:47]: I think part of it is just making sure that people are using the app. I think early on I made the mistake of trying to go in the opposite direction, where I hired several developers to come on and help build the app and while they were building the app I basically was very hands off. I haven’t really talked about this before but I hired three developers back in January. They built the app, got it to launch or at least got it to the point where it was minimally usable. And then we ran into various UX issues with the front end of the app. Then there was a bunch of stuff that needed to be redesigned on the back end.
As I started digging into it – as I said I tried to do the opposite of what I did with AuditShark. I’m like I won’t touch any of the technical stuff. But then once we got to the point where I started putting it in front of people, we were like this needs to be changed mainly because it just doesn’t do what the customer needed it to do. And we went in to make some of those changes and the structure of many of the things was just fundamentally flawed. So, for example, permissions were all screwed up, the API was a total mess. A lot of the stuff that connected the back end to the front end, the interfacing was terrible. It made it very difficult to make changes. And there was a lot of heavy dependencies between those things.
So if you changed one thing it was very easy to break a bunch of other things. And because we tried to move quickly, we didn’t write very many unit tests. We still don’t have nearly as many tests as I would like which makes it painful and it makes me very hesitant to push that deploy button because I know that don’t exactly have a great strategy for rolling things back if something goes wrong. I’m working with a lot of production data and if something goes wrong I need to be able to have time to fix it and be reasonably confident that I’m not going to just destroy a whole bunch of data that I’m going to have to go back and somehow try to rebuild.
Rob [14:30]: The lack of unit tests, that’s brutal. I mean that’s like a classic mistake people still continue to make. But now you’re kind of hamstrung by it, right, because you -?
Mike [14:40]: Yes.
Rob [14:41]: It’s not good. We see this happen with certain software companies that aren’t built by software developers. They’re heavy marketers and they outsource the development and then they find out six to 12 months in, they’re like, “Oh, we have no unit tests and our code base is terrible. And, although we have customers, we can’t build new features.” Your velocity just completely comes to a halt.
Mike [15:01]: Right.
Rob [15:02]: And it sounds like you hit that already.
Mike [15:04]: I did. Yes. And, like I said, part of it was because the app was not designed with the levels of scale that need to be taken into account when you’re dealing with mailboxes. Like I said, it’s a fundamentally different story when you’re dealing with the expectation there’s going to be 100 items in here. Also, let me give you a very specific example. When you first connect your mailbox to the application, there’s a back end process that goes in and it looks at your emails and says let me find people that you may have emailed within the last X time period. I’m going to show you when the first contact that you ever made with them was; when the last contact was; who made it in each direction. That way you can very quickly and easily go in there and, once you’ve hooked up your mailbox, it will show you a list. You can just sort it and say who have I sent an email to in the last three months that never replied to me; or only replied once or twice; or I’m still waiting for a reply. Those are things that you can query in there. At very low volumes that works fine but when you scale it up and there’s people who have 1000’s and 1000’s of contacts, people that they’ve either sent emails to or received emails from and you go from 100 to 10,000 and suddenly lots of things break. And it’s not like it’s an isolated incident either. Several people have this problem.
So, going back and trying to re-engineer those things so that they actually work has been just very difficult. And, you’re right. I ran into these things much earlier than I anticipated. And the point I was getting at before – as I said, I haven’t really talked about this – I hired the three developers I would say shortly after I got it to the point where I was minimally usable. I ended up letting one of them go because I looked at the stuff he was doing and, as I said, I tried to stay hands-off, I tried to stay out of it. And then I go back and look at it. I left him in charge and I said, “You’re responsible for this.” And then I go back and look at it and it’s just way off base. It was very clear in retrospect this guy probably didn’t know really what he was doing. And I left him in charge of huge pieces of the infrastructure.
Then over the next couple of months, one of my other developers, he was very good at a lot of the front end stuff. But he ended up getting married and moving out of the country and, basically, wasn’t able to do any more work for me. And then then third one, there was a lot of micromanagement that was involved. So, I went from three developers to zero. And now I’m back up to one and it’s more of a senior developer. He’s very good, I’m very pleased with the work so far. He’s been able to get in there and be productive. But that’s only happened within the last month or so. And his time, at the moment, is very limited. I’m trying to transition things over but it’s been a long hard road for the past three or four months.
Rob [17:42]: So you had three hiring mistakes then?
Mike [17:44]: One of them was definitely not a mistake. The other one, she probably would have worked out had I been able to spend more time but I didn’t have the time to sit there and give direction. So, basically, I had to be very specific about everything almost to the point of micromanaging. It wasn’t a good fit ultimately. So, two out of three I would say. The third one, like I said, his life circumstances changed so there’s really not much you can foresee about that.
Rob [18:08]: Yes. It’s a lot of setbacks though. That’s a lot of things to happen in a short period of time.
Mike [18:15]: Yes. But I am very conscious of the fact that I don’t want this to turn into another AuditShark story because that’s certainly not the direction I want to go. At the moment what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to transition myself out of doing more of the coding work and more over into the marketing side of things. Next up for me is to, essentially, start looking at getting the sign up page in place and carving out some more of the onboarding emails. Potentially looking at an onboarding wizard because I think that there’s got to be something there to help onboard people into the app. But whether that’s a combination of videos or tutorials or individually onboarding people with onboarding sessions – I’m okay with that too. It’s a matter of getting people to the point that they’re able to be productive with the app as soon as possible.
Rob [18:55]: Yes. And that’s a big deal. I think you need to start building some momentum here because it feels like you’ve been stalled for a while. And just looking at that shortest line between you and getting more customers using it, that’s what I’d be looking to do right now. I don’t have necessarily advice just because I don’t know all of what needs to be done; what has been done; what your path is. But I think if there’s one piece of advice I could offer it’s figure out how to get more people using it and paying you for it as quickly as possible and then do that. And that may be building a website and that may not be. Maybe just continuing to manually onboard people for the foreseeable future.
Mike [19:33]: Yes, I agree with that. It’s an interesting thought experiment, I think, to consider do I even need to rebuild the website because right now it’s just a one-page site. It really does not do anything. There’s nothing that you can do aside from signup for the email list. And then from there I have an email course that I send people. It’s about 5000 words or so over the course of five emails. And that does pretty well at getting people to take that next step. But it’s also heavily slanted more towards this is a beta, contact to us if you’re interested. It’s not so much a push-the-product and let people know what it can do for them. It’s more of a showing them how to do things as opposed to here’s how the product can really help make things better for you. And part of that is just a result of the fact that when it was written, it was written before the product was launched or even available. So, I’ve got to go back and rework a lot of that – not a lot of the copy, but at least some of the calls to action in the emails.
Rob [20:28]: One thing you could think about – and again, I don’t know your road map, your plan or anything. But just hearing where you’re at and what you’re doing, one thing you could consider is either during that email course or instead of the email course, actually, on the one page just swap that out with a ‘Request a Demo’ button. And the ‘Request a Demo’ could lead directly to your Calendly page where people can just book themselves with a demo, it could lead to a Google form that asks for more information first and then you get back in touch. And the Google form – or type form or whatever – might be better because then you can get more info from them. And you can tell how much they might be paying you. Because I’m assuming your pricing tiers up based on seats or something like that. So, you can ask how many seats they expect; what they expect the product to do. That could be really interesting and it would be super fast.
Then if you just improved that single-page marketing site and didn’t really build everything out, that could save you some time and get you to the point of where you’re just driving people. Because I still think at this point, having automatic signup – no-touch signup – I don’t know that you’re there yet. I don’t know quite where the product is, but my guess is you still have more to build and you still need to figure out exactly what to build next in order to get it to the point where you could just send 100s of new trials, so to speak, through the frontal and actually have them stick. And, so, I feel like doing demos and driving more in-person conversations, that’s probably what I would lean towards at this point.
Mike [21:47]: That’s probably true. I kind of put it in my head these are the things that are on the list of things to do and I naturally surfaced like the website really needs some love and care. So I naturally surfaced that to the front of my brain. But I think you’re right. It’s probably not really, necessarily, the best place to be spending my time right now.
Rob [22:04]: Yes. You take your one-page landing page. It’s a Bluetick.io – by the way, for the listeners out there – and maybe improve the copy a bit just rewrite it based on what you know now. And not even rewrite the whole thing. Just add some bits here and there and then have a big ‘Request a Demo’ button and just gate it for now. And people who are interested in a demo, then at least you can have a conversation with them. You could see what kind of volume you’re getting. And you can have conversations with them both because it’s easier to sell things that way and you’ll be able to figure out how best to explain it. You can split test your message really quick. And then you can start taking notes on what your message is and then use that for when you revamp the page.
And then they’ll also just give you a ton of feedback about someone who comes in and is like, “Oh, there’s another tool I use and it does exactly this.” Or, “If you added this one feature I would use it.” Those conversations are just so valuable in this early stage.
Mike [22:47]: Yes, I agree. I had a demo that I did last Friday, I think, and I took notes before the demo and then I made it a point to take notes right afterwards about specifically what the objections that they had were. And wrote those down so that I could come up with answers that were significantly better than what I had so that I had something that was already written, already concrete as opposed to trying to think something up off the top of my head. I’ve done that before and it works really well when you consciously do it. But it’s very easy to just kind of overlook that.
The other thing I did was I had a VA go out and capture all of the marketing messages from, I think it was a list of about 30 different competitors that I put together. So, I’ve got all their primary calls to action and primary marketing headlines that they’re using. And then all the secondary headlines and then if they had any sort of bulleted lists about topics or pieces of information that they were trying to convey on some of the different pages, I had her capture those as well. And then I also had her build a feature comparison breakdown, which is more for me than for general consumption, but it will help give me an idea of when I get the question about, “I see competitor XYZ does this. How does Bluetick do that? Or how does Bluetick relate to competitor XYZ? What do you do better and what do you do worse?” I’ve been asked that question before and I haven’t been able to answer it for specific competitors. So, I got that information so that I could help answer those questions better.
Rob [24:10]: Whenever anyone says, “Can you compare Drip to XYZ competitor?” I always say, “Yes, we’re better.” People don’t find it very funny. For some reason those questions, they kind of infuriate me because it’s like we in particular have I think it’s like 400 or more email marketing apps. So people just name some app of the top of their head that no one’s ever heard of except for this person. There’s like 10 users. And it’s like I don’t know how we’re different. Major competitors we would say we’re easier to use, we’re easier to get onboarded with, we’re less expensive, we’re more powerful than most of our competitors. But to actually do a feature by feature comparison is really kind of a bit of work there.
Mike [24:41]: It wasn’t so much that I wanted to be able to provide a matrix to somebody but I really wanted to know what specific areas of the space that they operated in. So, are they more geared towards cold outbound emails; or are they more about sales funnel flow; or are they more about a CRM package? There’s very different ways to look at the sales process and different pieces of it that different competitors do better or worse.
For example, if somebody asks, “What’s the difference between this and Highrise?” I’m like well, “Highrise is a CRM. It’s not a mechanism for actually doing anything.” I hate to gloss over some of the difficulties or all the engineering behind something like Highrise but, at the end of the day, a CRM is basically a database. It’s a database of contacts and it doesn’t usually do anything for you, whereas with Bluetick, it’s more about automating a process of moving somebody from one step of your sales funnel to the next and making that visible to everybody. Now you can argue that, OK, that’s a CRM, that’s exactly what that does. But most CRMs don’t necessarily have built in functionality that does a lot more than that. They don’t do a lot of that automation right inside the app. They rely on a lot of external processes, external API’s, webhooks, that kind of stuff. And Bluetick has some of that stuff built right into it.
Rob [25:58]: I think this still points to you probably needing to find out exactly how to describe Bluetick. And before you were saying it was sales automation software and I actually like that. But now I’m realizing it may need to even be more specific and it’s like sales email automation software. Or email based sales automation software. Something like that because that’s really what it does, right? You could say sales automation and someone might think, “Is it going to do cold calls for me?” That could mean a lot of things but you’re really specifically focusing on using email to move people through a funnel. And so I think still seeking that description is something that you should probably do in the next few weeks and months.
Mike [26:31]: Yes and no. The email piece of it is like the v1. It’s just like the version one piece of it. So, I’ve had conversations with people about automating text messages, for example. They get a list of customers that they’ve done business with and they have high volume; and they want to be able to turn around and send text messages to their customers; and hook it up through Twilio, for example, so that they can have those replies go directly into Bluetick. Well, that’s kind of like a secondary – I don’t want to say secondary action – but it’s an additional mechanism for interacting with the customer. You could have email; you could have phone call in theory. That could initially just be like you plug something in and write down what you talked about but I think that Close.io actually goes an extra step beyond that and even records the calls and allows you to make calls through Close.io.
Rob [27:18]: Right.
Mike [27:19]: I’m not saying I want to do that but –
Rob: [27:21]: Yes, but I think you’re getting ahead of yourself.
Mike [27:22]: Oh, I agree.
Rob [27:22]: I think if you called yourself email sales automation at this point and then later on you drop it – You think about Drip we were like epic autoresponders early on. And it was all about the promise of raising conversion rates with the email capture widget. Then it was like now we’re automation software, email automation. And then it’s like now we’re marketing automation. We evolved over time. So don’t feel like because you call it email sales automation and I’m not saying that’s the term to use but if you picked on that had the word email in it you could change that later when you add SMS.
Mike [27:49]: Yes.
Rob [27:49]: You adding SMS, I’m guessing, is six months out so that gives you plenty of time. And maybe more, maybe six to 12 months. I think there’s still a lot of progress to be made with just the email front.
Mike [27:58]: Yes. There’s a boat load of stuff that could be done. It’s more a matter of prioritizing it. And I had a brief discussion with my developer this morning and we were talking about even just like a data import. And we kind of scaled it really far back in terms of what the initial plans were because it was just like we could do everything that we want to do but it’s probably going to take at least a month and it’s really just not worth the time investment at this point. So, we scaled it back. It will probably take a couple of days to do it instead of a month which obviously frees up time to do a lot of other things. But now that the, I’ll say that the bulk of the cleanup work is done, and I really do feel that way. A lot of the technical debt that we assumed early on to get something out the door as quick as possible, a lot of that stuff has gone away at this point and it’s a lot easier to make changes now. And there’s more documentation; everything’s more standardized; the code itself has not got three different standards that the code is adhering to. It’s just a lot more manageable. So hopefully at this point we can move considerably faster than we were before.
Rob [28:59]: Some other things from my side as I was reflecting on the past three months after the acquisition. I talked about a few of these things but a lot has gone on in terms of Drip. We launched a $1 plan, we doubled our affiliate commissions, which is nice to do, up to 30% recurring. We’ve hired three engineers which has been extremely time consuming. I forget how much time it is to start from nothing and to write a job description and to post it, take the incoming clients. The nice part is Leadpages has a recruiter and so she actually goes out and emails people prospects, essentially, which I was doing in the old days. It’s just some much stuff that I used to do that I’m able to hand off to other people. But even then all the interviews. You have the phone interviews and then the in-person interviews and then the decision and then the salary negotiation and just all that stuff. Even though I’m not handling all of it, it still does require a lot of time and energy.
Hired three engineers which has been mostly the bulk of my job, bulk of my time in a week doing that. And then I’m hiring one more new employee here in the next couple weeks. Interviewing people right now. I hope to slow down hiring. I don’t really expect to keep growing at this pace. I’m a big believer in small teams and being super efficient and scrappy and agile. And I think that growing the team too large too quickly is really a mistake that some startups make. And then you see them slow down because if it gets bigger you have to involve process and then the process slows down. I just don’t think that that’s the place we want to go to. Doesn’t sound like a fun way to go to grow the team that quickly. So hoping to slow that down and give myself some time to look at other stuff.
Mike [30:34]: Well, I think that as you grow the team people need to become comfortable – not just with each other but with the things that they’re working on and how they work together. And if you grow too quickly – I saw this at Pedestal Software to some extent because we grew from I think I was the fourth engineer that was hired and within probably a year we were up to 10 or 15 or something like that. And when you have that many people added to a team that quickly, it’s difficult to – get on the same schedule is not quite the right way to phrase it, but get in the same mental mode of working together. Get on the same page in terms of how you’re doing stuff. You know what I mean?
Rob [31:12]: Yes, totally. There’s just an adjustment period when you’re working with a new group of people on a new app.
Mike [31:17]: Yes, that’s it. It’s that adjustment period. It’s hard to do that and scale it up very quickly without having things go sideways very quickly as well.
Rob [31:26]: Yes. And so, other transitional stuff that’s happened that’s been really nice. I’ve been able to basically hand over support. Leadpages has, I don’t even know, 20 people or something. 25 people on their support team and we had one. And so to have trials go up as high as they did as quickly they did, which is where the bulk of support’s going to come, we just never would have been able to hire that quickly. And certainly didn’t have the budget to do it. I’ve handed over the reins of that to their very capable team at HR. Obviously all HR stuff. There was no reason for me to be managing payroll and employee onboarding and insurance plans and just all that stuff. So that was good to hand over to them. Legal, affiliate management.
Mike [32:03]: All the crappy parts of running a business.
Rob [32:04]: Isn’t it funny? Yes. Everything I’m naming is like we are product people. We want to build product and there’s all this other stuff that you have to do to have a company. And it’s really nice when there’s someone else there to do it. So my job has actually been filled with less as Anders called it in his question. You said the crap work. And for me this is crap work for me personally because of how I’m wired and because of my focus and what I’m good at. But it’s actually someone else’s sphere of genius. You know what I’m saying? The HR person, it’s her sphere of genius so she should be doing it. And the legal and the affiliate management, this is what they do fulltime. And so me having it as one of 50 things that I’m managing it’s just not going to be done anywhere near as well.
To be honest, I feel right now we’re getting to the point where we’re starting to ship pretty quickly again. The first 30 to 60 days after the acquisition was like, oh man, we need to add servers; we need to scale; some things are starting to get slow. We had people come in trying to send spam. There’s just all this stuff you’re fighting. And then we got enough code written that we’re out well ahead of that now. And that’s given us a chance to really get back in and dig into features.
And so, we’ve shipped some pretty cool things in the past couple weeks. And there’s some fun changes I won’t talk about yet but that are going to be coming here in the next month or two.
Mike [33:21]: Awesome. Well, I think we’re kind of running out of time here. But I guess to wrap things up a little bit, one of the things you’d asked me earlier was how to make sure that things are moving forward in the way that they need to; and how I’m going to move the app ahead; and put more people into; and actually scale up the customer side of things as opposed to digging in, as you said, and focusing too much on things that are not going to be as important. Or just simply aren’t as important. And I think for that, for me it’s really a matter of putting together some goals. And I think that early on, when I was first doing the customer development for it, I had some very concrete goals and I was highly focused on making sure that I was achieving a certain number of calls per week and having conversations and converting people into the preorders. And I think I need to get back to that. I think I need to pick maybe one or two different KPIs that I’m going to go after and use those as benchmarks moving forward for at least the next month or two. I don’t know off the top of my head what they are. I have some ideas but I think I may need to sit down and first thing is determine exactly what those are and then track those moving forward.
Rob [34:24]: Yes, totally. That sounds like a good thing. I feel like your number one focus right now should be getting more people on and getting them to pay you. And figuring out if there are sticking points between them paying you, what those are. Getting them hammered out moving as quickly as possible.
For me, to wrap up, over the next few weeks I’m going to be going to the Converted conference which is the one Leadpages puts on. I think I’ll have some stage time. I don’t think I’m doing my own talk there but talking about Drip and some other stuff. I’ve been spending a lot of time recruiting speakers for the two MicroConfs we’re putting on in six months. Which is a bit of an effort.
And then on more of a personal note. It’s a trip, I’ve been getting back more into investing. I kind of put that on the back burner a decade ago as I dove headlong into entrepreneurship, but it’s always been an interest of mine since I was a kid. I bought my first share of stock when I was like 14 or 15. I had to do it through my dad’s account because, obviously, you have to be 18 or something to do it. Read a lot of books when I was younger and I thought that was a way to make money. And as I learned it’s like investing is a way to grow money slowly and stay ahead of inflation but almost no one gets rich or makes their millions purely from investing starting with nothing. There’s like two exceptions in the history of mankind or something. But now that I have a little bit of a nest egg from the Drip acquisition, it just makes a lot more sense to be more deliberate about it because with a larger sum of money, it’s like just knowing more and doing 1% or 2% more per year, being a little more deliberate about it, it really is worth a substantial sum. And so that’s actually been a lot of fun. I’ve been listening to audiobooks. Actually, maybe at some point we could do a whole episode on it because that’s what I’m doing what my spare time is really thinking and looking about that and educating myself again and updating my skillset there. So, I have a lot of thoughts on the topic.
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