In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike answer a number of listener questions. The topics include videos vs text, finding mastermind groups, and trials versus demos.
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Rob: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike and I talk about the benefits of using text versus video, how to find a mastermind group, how to start running joint ventures, and more listener questions. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us Episode 374.
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 Rob.
Mike: I’m Mike.
Rob: We’re here to share experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, sir?
Mike: Not much. Just the end of the year has come and gone. It’s the first week of the new year, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working on a website redesign for Bluetick, which is about halfway done. Nothing’s live yet but I’ve been working through website design itself, email copy for the automation emails that are being sent out, and then also the website copy. Coming along pretty well. The next week or so is gonna be involved with finalizing and all that stuff, and then implementing it on the website. Once that’s all done, I’ll start doing a much bigger marketing push, I think.
Rob: That’s cool. You’re gearing up for this because you’re live and you’re trying to drive more traffic and want more of it to convert, is that why you’re focusing on this site right now?
Mike: Yes. The main focus on the site right now is because if you come to the site and you’ve never seen the product before, what I’ve heard from people is that it does not give them a good feeling of trust like, “Oh, this is a legit company,” which I totally get. If you go to the site, there’s not a whole lot there, and there’s not detail. It doesn’t even really, I guess, give you the inclination that you should reach out and contact the company or sign up for a trial account or something like that just because you go to a competitor’s website and there’s tons of information there, there’s articles, testimonials, and things like that. It just looks a lot more professional versus the Bluetick website, which to-date, I’ve relied more on word-of-mouth, and people coming in through after hearing me on a podcast or something like that. It’s just not conducive to more of a hands-off sales funnel, I’ll say.
Rob: Right, that makes sense. Yeah. It does feel, when I come to this site, bluetick.io for listeners out there who haven’t been there, it feels like a WordPress theme or like a bootstrap, kind of a basic template. As you said, I think you have good content here but it’s like you said, you don’t have the articles, and the blog, and all this other stuff that other companies that have been around longer might have, so it does seem like just a smaller operation.
Mike: Yeah. Also, it’s not real specific about exactly what it does or how it works for them. It doesn’t answer really any objections. It doesn’t really tell a story or craft one that would have resonate with whoever’s reading it. There’s a lot of things that need to go on to the site right now that are just not there. I’ve known for a long time that that stuff needs to go there, I just haven’t sat down and focused on that stuff because I really haven’t had time yet.
Rob: Well, yeah. It’s a matter of priority. It’s like you’re trying to get the code read, and then you’re trying to get the bugs fixed in, and you’re trying to scale, and then you try to get people onboarded, you gotta email the list, you gotta write this email. At a certain point, this is where I still struggle quite a bit with unsolicited advice. People used to email and be like, “Hey, the Drip website. It would be so much better if you did this.” It’s like, “I know. I know, of all people, I think about this all the time, like 20-hours a day. Yes, even when I’m sleeping.” Your unsolicited advice is actually not helpful. It makes you feel like you’re smart but people would send screenshots and say, “You should change this. Have you thought about organizing?” I said, “Yes. We have. We thought about that and either we didn’t do it very deliberately, we had a good reason for not doing it that you don’t understand because you don’t work in the business 50-hours a week. Or we have thought of it, we just haven’t had time. We haven’t prioritized it yet, and there are more important things.” That’s where I could understand where the marketing side has maybe fallen to the second or third place on your list.
Mike: It wasn’t even second or third. It was like eighth, or tenth, or something like that. My list of things to do is 10 miles long. It’s not even a mile long, it’s 10-miles long at this point. It’s just going back through and trying to figure out, “Okay. What should I really be working on next?” At this point, it’s the website. Once that stuff’s in place and once more of the marketing emails are in place and do a better job of explaining what the product does, and kind of move people through that educational side of things then I think they’d be in a much better position. How about you?
Rob: Last week, as I mentioned, I was in Florida, which was great. It was nice to get away. There was a big, obviously the polar vortex came through in Minneapolis. There were days where the highs were in the negatives, like -3, -4, and it feels like it was -25 or -30 at one point. It’s a pretty nice time to be in Florida, but I made it back, and kind of getting started again at the new year here. Not much to report on the work front just because ships and features in late December, and we’re gearing up for some new stuff now.
One thing that I just want to throw out unrelated to Startups, except for that it is a startup, is the thing that I’ve discovered in the past like 10 days that has just been life changing, it’s Instacart, do you have it where you live?
Mike: I don’t know. I’ve never used it. I’ve heard of it probably at one point.
Rob: I hadn’t either. Yeah. I don’t particularly like grocery shopping. It always takes time and especially I have to try to do with two or three kids tagging along. The fact that we live in a major city now, in Minneapolis, but really enjoyed like having Bite Squad around where I can order food and it’s delivered. But Instacart, it’s a grocery shopping app, and it’s just well-implemented, super easy to use, 1-2 hour delivery windows depending on the time of day and how busy it is. I can do my entire, what would normally be let’s say, a 75-90 minute drive, and in the snow, it’s like super cold, you don’t want to get out of your car because it’s four degrees and you’re lugging a kid with you, and I can do it from my computer in 10 minutes. It’s just freaking game changing. I’m pretty stoked on it now. I’ve only had maybe two or three deliveries so far. I’m having a tough time seeing going back to doing it the old way. It’s not expensive either. We usually did this subscription where it’s $150 for the entire year, and then, you just get unlimited. You don’t pay any delivery fees.
Mike: Got it. Okay.
Rob: Yeah, it’s a trip. If it comes to a place near you, and I don’t just look at it as a convenience, it’s a time thing. To save that time once, maybe twice a week. We eat a lot of fresh foods. I can’t just shop two weeks out. When I was in college, and I bought all macaroni and cheese, and ramen, we could shop for like three months at a time, and it wouldn’t go bad. The fresh stuff, I literally line up at the grocery store at least once a week, and sometimes twice. I just sent an order through for all fresh fruit, and berries, and bananas, and all that stuff. It’ll be here in the next 120 minutes.
Mike: Oh, really. It’s like you order and then it’s there in like two hours.
Rob: Yeah. You can select a time window, you could select the one-hour time window later in the evening or tomorrow, or whatever, or sometimes, depending on how busy it is, and of course middle of the day on what is it, Thursday, it’ll literally be here within two hours when I click Buy Now.
Mike: That’s interesting. We’ve talked about this a little bit, I think. But I used to work at Wegmans Food Markets. We implemented a system like this back in 2000.
Rob: Yup, you had talked about it.
Mike: Yeah. The difference though was that you would drive to the store and pick it up. You put everything in your cart, you shop, and then you specify like, “Oh, I’m gonna come pick it up at such and such time.” You have these like 10 or 15-minute time slots. You can just pick one and you just show up and they’d have everything ready for you. You just show up at the designated time. They’d ask your name, and that was the end of it. They’d load up your car, you don’t even have to get out of your car.
Mike: It’s a little different though. This is also different than, what was it, Webvan.
Rob: Webvan and Peapod. Where it just tanked horrendously.
Mike: Peapod is newer. It was Webvan that ran out of business back in the day.
Rob: But Peapod did then too. I think someone bought the brand. They revitalized it because both of them raised a lot of money around ‘99-2000. But they were trying to warehouse everyday. They were trying to be like Amazon, or like a big grocery store distributor, whereas Instacart is more like Uber where they don’t own anything, yet drivers go shopping, and put the stuff in a cart, and bring it by. They just knock on the door, hand me a few bags, and it’s like, “thank you.”
Mike: It’s much more like a localized services business. More like running errands for you, although the errand is very specific.
Mike: Productized service.
Rob: I know. That’s what it is. So far, one of the concerns obviously would be like, “Well, are they gonna pick good produce? Are they gonna pick good if you order salmon? Are they gonna pick the crappy salmon?” So far, I haven’t had any issues. You can tell that they have some type of onboarding, they teach people to get the good stuff. I’m sure if you rate them poorly, like, “Yeah, the fruit was bad,” then there’ll be some issues there. I think that’s another difference is back in the day, I don’t know how much recourse you would have had with someone sending you bad fruit.
Mike: Yeah. That would have been a little difficult. The way Wegmans said it was like, they would actually have the butcher over at the butcher shop like pick up the meats and stuff for you. You knew that the people who were doing it were pretty experienced with what they did.
Rob: Right. Cool. Let’s transition into the episode here. We have several listener questions we’re gonna talk about today, and of course, per usual, our voicemails go to the top of the stack, so let’s kick off our first question. It’s about being pre-product market fit.
Harold: Hi. My name is Harold and I’m a co-founder of StackTome, a SaaS product for ecommerce retention advertisement. There are three product-market fit I’m looking for ways to get warm lead customers. I have couple of questions. When it comes to driving traffic to the site, I was wondering if you have seen educational videos instead of text content among sites like YouTube being successful. I find it more [00:10:03] traffic coming from search, mostly through content, while some content I find useful, I can’t find alternative quick videos explaining the marketing concepts. Also, what would you recommend for getting into mastermind groups [00:10:20] marketers that would be post product-market fit [00:10:24] Thanks for your always honest feedback and sharing your knowledge, I’m always learning something new each time I listen. Cheers.
Mike: I guess, to recap, and Rob, correct me if I’m wrong in my understanding to this, but the two questions that he had were essentially how should you approach developing content for the website to drive traffic? Should you focus on video, or should you focus on text, in order to gain more attention when you’re in pre-product market fit? The second one is, how do you find people to join a mastermind group with, is that right?
Rob: Yup, that’s right. To be clear about the video versus text, he wasn’t asking about conversion, he was asking about trying to drive traffic, will it rank, I think it’s will it rank better in search engines, basically.
Mike: Yeah. My understanding is that Google is still ranking video higher than text. But one thing you have to be a little bit careful of is to make sure that you’re providing some sort of transcript for it. That helps Google index the videos because otherwise, it has no way to know what is the actual content of the video, what are they saying. There are ways to provide that information to Google’s crawlers so that it will show up. The searches, that’s one thing I would definitely do.
The other thing that does come to mind though is that if you’re pre-product market fit, I would actually do outbound stuff. I would try to find and identify people who you think would be good customers and go after them, as opposed to trying to attract them and get them to come to you. Because really, that’s the situation that you want to, I guess, double down on once you know who your ideal customer is. But if you’re not at that point yet, you have to choose from outreach, otherwise you’re kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Rob: Yeah. That’d be my sentiment as well. I think you can mess around with the video versus the text thing. I have heard success stories of video working better because it’s not something that everyone does. But you have to get into video, there’s like video site maps, as you said, you want transcripts. May just be better, I don’t even know if you wanna host it on your site at that point, you may just want to have it on YouTube, because YouTube videos rank really well in Google, obviously because Google prefers them over other things.
There’s a whole specialty of learning video SEO and how to rank using video. I would agree with you Mike, I just don’t think that’s necessarily worth diving down that rabbit hole, yet. Because I bet you could kill a month just learning about it and probably two to three months experimenting with it. I think there are more valuable things that you could be doing right now, even outbound stuff like you were saying. I could see running paid acquisition if you have any budget at all because you want instant feedback. You want instant customers or not. Customers or rejections, as they say.
Whereas this video SEO stuff, you’re building for the 3, 6, 9, 12-month timeframe. You wanna get to revenue faster than that. You wanna get to product-market fit faster than that. I would be scratching and clawing at anyone using a app. I just think of SEO and these types of strategies there is it’s just a longer term play. The bad thing to do, but if you limit it on time and budget, which I’m guessing you are, I wouldn’t be focusing on this.
Mike: Yeah. At most, what you just said is about the iteration cycle and being able to adjust quickly versus taking that long term approach which is valid later on. But, right now, it sounds like that’s not the way to go.
Rob: Yup. Then for his second question, it was how to find a mastermind group, and our very own Ken Wallace with mastermindjam.com is kind of our go to recommendation for folks looking to get matched up with fellow masterminders, both in the SaaS space, there are ecommerce entrepreneurs, there’s info marketers, there’s all kinds of stuff. Go to the site, you submit your name and your time zone, and a bit about yourself. I’m sure you categorize yourself in some way like SaaS or info, whatever. Then you get matched up. Ken has written an algorithm, and he also does a lot of manual stuff with it as well. There’s a small fee to getting matched up, but in my opinion, well worth the effort. There’s been a lot of successful groups that have formed out of using Ken’s service.
Mike: What’s next?
Rob: Next question is our second and final voicemail of the episode and then we’ll get to some emails that came in. This one is a question about the moral imperative of business.
Daniel: Hi Mike and Rob. This is Daniel calling in from Charleston, Oregon. Love your podcast, thanks for all the time that you put into it. Keep it up. Definitely in the want-epreneur category, tried a couple of products to myself, haven’t really seen success for me. The challenge is the golden handcuffs consulting business is too good to really make the dive deep in the product. But the question I have for you guys today is around the moral obligation of business and just to be hearing your perspective on income equality, social equality, and kind of the bootstrap startup vision is build a business and sent it to a hyper-competitive space that eventually throws off a bunch of cash. What do you feel is your moral obligation to reinvest that cash back in the community, people around you, your local geographic vicinity, and help address the growing problem of income equality. Thanks so much, bye.
Mike: I think for this question, when you’re talking about bootstrap startup, there’s actually two answers to this question, not just one. There’s an answer that is applicable before you get to the point where your business is making a fair amount of money and throwing off access capital.
There’s the second answer which is after that point. The first one is, I would say, before you get to the point where the business is throwing off that extra money that you can deploy as you see fit to do whatever, above and beyond to paying all the business expenses and paying yourself a reasonable salary and potentially giving you extra money to be able to put away the additional profit from the business at that point.
You don’t have any of that. Before you get to the point where that has happened, you’re not in a position to really do anything. I don’t feel it’s fair to put yourself in a mental state of mind where you feel obligated to do things for other people. Your real focus should be getting the business to that point and until you do, there’s really not a lot else you can do.
I think that if you tried to put other people before you, you’re just gonna run into a problem where everyone is always going to be coming before you. You’re never gonna pay yourself. There’s entire books that are written about this. I think there’s one called Pay Yourself First or something along those lines. That’s the phrase that goes with it. But until you’re there, it is not really justifiable in my opinion to attempt to do those things.
There’s a difference between spending a little bit of time helping people here and there but to make that your main focus is definitely not a route you should go down. Once you’re after that point, then the situation I think changes pretty dramatically. I wouldn’t say that there’s a moral imperative but depending on your own personal judgements and your own personal beliefs, I do feel like it is worthwhile going down that route. There’s actually a lot of benefits for you to, I don’t wanna say share the wealth or anything, but help other people because at one point, you were there where they’re at.
We could probably talk, at great length, about this but that’s the type of people you run into at MicroConf as well. I think that Rob, you probably agree with me on most of that stuff in terms of being able to help other people and the additional benefits that you get from it. It’s not really just about the money at a certain point, as long as your business is providing for you, then you can kind of do whatever you want with the money afterwards especially if you are already putting money aside to save. It feels great to be able to help other people who are further behind you because you were there at one point as well.
Rob: Yeah. I think part of this is a somewhat personal choice and I think part of it is how you view being part of a society in general or a community, maybe a better way to say it. I like the way you framed it, Mike. You can help people without going and volunteering at the local soup kitchen or without volunteering to train people how to learn computers in your local area.
You can help people by educating them on how to start startups. You can start a podcast and give content away for free that helps build this community of bootstrap founders. It helps raise kind of all of our standards of living, all of our quality of life, and it helps create jobs, and all that stuff. This doesn’t really have to come in the form that I think a lot of people think about.
My personal belief, I have always been as generous as I possibly can with my money and with my time. Since I was in college, I’ve given money to charities even when I didn’t have much money. As I started making more money, I still give quite a bit of money away each year. I have always spent a lot of my time helping whether it’s having lunch with an entrepreneur, whether it’s you and I doing the podcast for free for years, whether it’s blogging and giving away knowledge.
Yes, there are outlets, obviously, I wrote a book and I sold that for $20 a copy. You and I do host a conference but the amount of time that we have essentially given to this community far, far, far outweighs the monetary, the per hour cost or whatever that we would make, the wage we would make given all the time we’ve given away, it would not be a wise business decision to do that.
We have done some of it because it’s fun for us and some of it because, I think, you’d agree with me, I truly do enjoy giving back and helping people in the emails that we both get where it’s like, “Boy. There’s something you did,” whether it’s FounderCafe or MicroConf or the podcast, “it has changed my life and here’s how.” I receive dozens of those emails and those have a lot of impact on me. It’s a lot of mental impact. All that to say, I don’t know that I would preach that everyone has to adopt this point of view, but my point of view is that I always wanna be able to give back.
I have invested in a company in Fresno called Bitwise Industries, that is a for-profit but it’s educated thousands of folks in the local Fresno community which has a real wealth disparity. There’s a big digital divide there. They’ve educated thousands of people on how to program and how to use computers. I hired Derek out of Fresno although there wasn’t a digital divide with him. But then we hired three more people, created a bunch of tech jobs. Bitwise itself, I don’t even know how many people it is now. 50, 60 people.
There’s good to be had in a way that everyone wins. I think that’s how I think about it. I so much enjoy more funding a company like Bitwise or doing what we do with MicroConf and FounderCafe and this podcast because I feel like it’s win-win. We’re not just taking money that we earn as entrepreneurs and giving it to somebody. We’re actually starting a sustainable business. That’s what we’ve always wanted to make sure that MicroConf was sustainable, it’s why we brought Xander on so that we could do it year after year. It’s why we’ve really streamlined the podcast production because we wanna be able to continue doing it even when we have other things going on.
I think turning it in, again, I think like an entrepreneur. It’s like a person who turns systems into profit in essence. I want some of that profit to give back to whatever community is, whether it’s the bootstrap startup community, whether it’s the community I live in, but it needs to be a win for me as well in a small way. It doesn’t mean,”Oh, we need to get rich off it.” But I do think that making it into something sustainable, that’s how I’ve always thought about it.
I really like what you said about the kind of the pre-sustainable business. Because when I was scratching and clawing, I was freaked out about money, I was just trying to get whatever it was, Hittail revamped or the real tough financial year I had with Drip. I couldn’t even think about any type of moral imperative of helping other people because I was trying to take care of me and my family.
But once I get past that point, then yes, my mind is freed up. I absolutely give very generously to a lot of things, whether it’s charities or the sustainable businesses that hopefully are kind of doing some good in the world. Thanks for the question, Daniel. I hope that was helpful to hear our thoughts on it.
Our next question is from Stefan Debois from surveyanyplace.com. He says, “Hey Mike and Rob, I listen to your podcast for several years now, not since the beginning, but close to it. I really love it because it has so much actionable stuff. On one of the latest episodes, you guys talked about content marketing at the end of the episode, and I remember Rob saying he would not advice for startups to make it their number one tactic, for example, creating a blog and publishing content. But he would recommend doing something else like joint venturing with players in your field that already have an audience. I assume he’s referring to guest blogging, joint webinars, etcetera.” I’m gonna step out real quick. Two of those, guest blogging and joint webinars, correct. As well as integration marketing which I’ve talked about in the past which is where you integrate and then you both co-promote. Alright, back to his email. “It would be great to dig a bit deeper into this topic such as how exactly would you recommend doing this. If you had to start Drip or another SaaS company right now, how would you apply this given all your learnings? Thanks for your help. Keep up the great work. Stefan.”
Mike: I think one key point to keep in mind is that, as part of his question, he said, “If you had to start Drip or another Saas company right now, how would you apply this given all your learnings?” There is a point at which doing this kind of stuff is too early. You’re not far enough along where it makes sense to go down that road mainly because it’s not gonna make sense for whoever it is that you approach to do a joint webinar or guest blogs.
With guest blogging, you can certainly write articles and as long as they are relevant to the audience of the person that you are guest blogging on their site, and they are receptive to that kind of thing, then sure. You can totally do that. But when it comes to something like a joint webinar, you really can’t do that unless you have something that is tangible and benefit that is going to be given to that person’s audience, whoever it happens to be.
The other thing is what are you offering the owner of that audience? What are they getting out of it? Is it really just educating their people? Are you promoting your products or is it just an educational thing where you’re explaining how to do something or about a particular topic or a technique or something along those lines.
But again, none of this stuff you can do until after you’re at a point where you have a product that is functional and you have people who are onboarded and paying and you kind of know what your ideal audience looks like. Because otherwise, you’re approaching people that their audience may not necessarily overlap with yours.
Those are the things that I will keep in mind when trying to go down this road. Until you’re at that point, none of that stuff applies, you’re just not going to go anywhere.
Rob: Right. The thing to keep in mind is this is where it’s nice to have a nice little email list because if you are gonna do, I’m gonna say mostly stick to joint webinars and integration marketing. If you’re gonna do that and if you have a list of 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 people, for the most part, you’re gonna be able to say, “Look, let’s do a joint webinar. You email your list. I email mine.” Or you do vice-versa where you give a webinar to their audience and they give it to you. You can just trade straight across. You don’t have to mess with affiliate commissions. Just get the benefit of the traffic and so did they.
The same with integration marketing. The bigger the list you have, the better off you are in getting people interested in doing some type of joint promotion with you. If you have 300 people on an email list, it is much, much less likely that someone’s gonna wanna do a joint promotion with you.
With that said, in the early days before you can build up that list, you’re going to want to use affiliate commissions. If you do approach someone to do a joint webinar or to do integration marketing, you can say, “Look, we pay 20%, 30% of affiliate commission and here’s the link.” That’s how you’re gonna get them interested. Because then at that point, they can at least count on some type of revenue stream.
The way I did it back with HitTail, which is 2013-2013, is I looked around in the space and I looked at complimentary products, and so HitTail was a long tail SEO keyword tool. I looked at rank trackers and other keyword tools that didn’t use the same approach that we did. I, at the time, just cold emailed a bunch of them. I remember I made this list of seven or eight SaaS apps that weren’t these big behemoths, I didn’t email SEOMoz or anything.
Once that appeared to be more startupy or bootstrapped or whatever and all of them wrote back and said they wanted to do it. I was overwhelmed by that. I expected to get one out of that. I wasn’t able to do JVs with all of them. I think we were even just doing JV mailings. We were just gonna email each other’s list and kind of recommend a tool. I, of course, tried out any tool recommended, and then they did the same thing. Our lists were about the same size. We did no affiliate commissions at the time.
I’m not saying that’s gonna work in every niche but that’s something that I did. Then with Drip, when we started doing JV webinars, it was much more about relationships. That was in my wheelhouse. I just emailed people who I knew in the MicroConf space, in kind of our community. We did joint webinar I’m pretty sure with Brennan Dunn. I know we did one with Rubin for Bid Sketch. There were several others. But that was a lot easier. It depends on if you have a network in the space or if you’re going cold. But I’ve made either one work. It is something that you can do.
In terms of integrations, we start to build the integration and then create a nice landing page for it and then you email the company and you say, “Hey, can we do co-promotion?” With that, it really is gonna depend on the size. Because Basecamp and Stripe are not gonna co-promote with you. You’ll get lucky to even get listed in their directory at this point. But if you get someone who, it doesn’t have to be a tiny little company, if you get ahold of someone in marketing at even a decent sized startup, they will at least have the question of, “Well, how big is your list?” If you say, “I have 20,000 or 30,000 people on an email list.” It can raise an eyebrow. It can get you a mention. Maybe it’s just a single mention in an email newsletter they send out but they may have 100,000 subscribers. It can get some traffic toward you. That’s how I would think about doing it these days.
Mike: As a general rule, when you’re trying to find people to do these sorts of co-marketing efforts with, try not to go after somebody who has a list that’s more than twice your size or less than half yours. If you stick within that range, whatever that size happens to be, you’re probably gonna have much better results.
Because if somebody is much larger than you, they’re not going to want to do a joint marketing campaign with you unless you know who they are and you have developed a relationship with them. If they’re less than half your size then it’s probably not going to do a lot for you. That’s the thing that I would keep in mind as well when you’re trying to find people.
Rob: That’s a good point. Our last question for today is from Rusty Shackleford and he says, “Can you give me some insights on when to provide a trial versus a demo for apps that rely heavily on user-provided data? I’m developing a medical records SaaS. I’m keenly aware that it’s a waste of time for a prospective client to do a trial of my product when they would need to enter so much of their own data. Most likely, in addition to entering that data into whatever product they’re currently using. Would you suggest providing demos where I lead them through examples versus a trial of my product?”
Mike: I think of this particular case, if you’re dealing medical records and you have the objection or hurdle that somebody needs to overcome to start using your app is that they need to provide the data, I would lean much more heavily on the demos than on trials. I’d push them directly towards a demo whether that’s signing-up directly on the website or getting them onto an email list and then sending them to a sign-up form where they can sign-up for a demo, maybe ask them for information through a survey or something along those lines. Push them through that way. I would not go to trial route.
If you go with the demo route, what you can do is then you can directly address that particular problem during the demo itself and say, “Hey, we understand that in order to get you set-up, this is what you need to do. The next step after this is to decide if you wanna move forward with the product or not, and move to a trial. If so, send us this data and we’ll put it in for you.” Essentially, you’re doing onboarding for them and you eliminate that objection upfront.
You can try pushing that off to them which is really what you’re doing if you send them to a trial without you interacting with them which is going to raise that as an objection and they’re gonna say, “Well, I don’t really wanna do this,” versus if they have other things going on, they’re just not gonna do it is really what the bottomline is. Especially if they have to change whatever their current processes are versus if you talk to them, you have that conversation, get them to buy into the concept and what they can get out of the product after they start using it.
If they buy into that story, they send you that data, you take care of that leg work for them and once that data is in place inside of their app, then it’s ready for them to use. They don’t have to do all of that extra work. It just makes it easier for them to overcome that hurdle. If you don’t have a good import mechanism or good ways to just pipe the data out of other apps, it’s gonna make it really challenging to get people to go from a trial to a paid conversion. Because they’re just not gonna do the work is really the bottomline.
Rob: Yep. In general, I lean towards demos over trials. The problem is it doesn’t scale very well. As you scale up, that’s why you resort to having a trial. But relying on the customer themselves to orient and find their way around inside your app enough to understand the value, whereas you can explain that value in 10-15 minute demo, I bet in the first 5 minutes of your demo you can give more value than someone poking around inside your trial. Aside from the fact that your app sounds not complex, but there’s a lot of kind of onboarding necessary, a lot of work on their part, there’s no way I would consider letting people in for a free trial.
Mike: For some of the medical records, there’s subtle questions that people are gonna have which revolve around trust issues which you’re not gonna be able to really overcome very well with a free trial.
Rob: Right. Then they’re gonna have this account with no data in it. It’s gonna look terrible and you’re gonna have an account full of data that you can demo them. You’re gonna show exactly the value that they’ll receive. In your instance in particular, I’d definitely do demos. In general, when you’re bootstrapping and starting up, all during customer development, I recommend doing demos because you’d get so much more information from them.
If you’re still pre-product market fit, I recommend doing demos because you’re gonna find out why people do or don’t sign-up. They’re going to be more likely to get in touch with you if they decided to cancel or not get onboarded because you already have a relationship with them.
Post-product market fit if you can still do it, I know at certain points it makes sense to go with self-service trial sign-up but the dirty little secret is as much as I don’t like demos, I’d prefer to get in and dig around with an app and try it out, most people want a demo. They would much prefer someone to walk them through an app rather than try to poke around and do it themselves.
We had done a few experiments where we had just trials versus funneling people into demos and we converted the demos into paid accounts. It was like 2X, 2X the rate of just letting people get onboarded themselves even with all the help that we’re giving them via email and apps. You’re gonna convert more. People are gonna get more value out of it.
In general, I think it’s just a better way to go. There are obviously exceptions to this. There are tools like, let’s say, even like HitTail, it was a high-volume, high-return tool. It was an SEO keyword tool and people would come in, try it out here and there, and it was super easy, and at the end, it was a one-click set up. You literally just walk into something and it would pull keywords out.
A demo would be interesting but only for high-value account because some of those accounts are paying $10 a month and at that point, it just doesn’t make sense to do demo. There are exceptions to this but as a rule, I would go demo as the default and then figure out, “Well, is this one of those exceptions where I should really just have a self-service trial available,” or you have both options. That’s what Drip has today. You can still sign-up for trial if you still wanna poke around but there’s a big push of course to get people into demos because of all the reasons that I’ve stated here.
Mike: I think that about wraps us up for today. If you have a question, you can call it in our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for Startups. Visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.