Episode 393 | Marketing and Growth Questions Answered

Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike answer marketing and growth questions as well as give advice on starting a new venture.

Items mentioned in this episode:


Mike: In this episode of the Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and I are going to be answering marketing and growth questions. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us episode 393.

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 built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.

Rob: I’m Rob.

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?

Rob: You know man, I appreciated that you and Zander pulled the joke on me and put unemployed on my badge at MicroConf. It was hilarious. Everybody was commenting about it. It was super fun.

The big question people were asking me was like, “How’s unemployment/retirement treating you?” Now that I’m a couple weeks into it, it’s everything you imagine it would be in a good way. I haven’t felt this relaxed and focused almost, it sounds like an odd thing but for me, it’s like having the headspace to dive deep into topics that I just have the time to do.

It’s the freedom to not need to generate a result next day or next week based on what I do today but realizing that long term, yeah, probably we’re going to do something again, something interesting, but to have the freedom to just float from one thing to the next and do it, I haven’t felt like this since before HitTail, which was the 2010-2011 timeframe, we had our second son and I spent about 10 months where I worked 10-15 hours a week and it felt amazing.

It wasn’t until I got 4-6 months into that before I really started getting bored and anxious and wanting to do the next thing. That’s my first report of how it’s going, it’s I’m definitely not bored yet and I will, at a time when I think I will get bored, but I’m certainly feeling my days at this point.

One example of this, man, is, since we have a live in nanny a year or two ago and she was here for about six or eight months then her mom had a health issue and she moved away. Ever since then we’ve just struggled to have stable child care. It’s been a real problem because Sherry is trying to work, I was going to the office a few days a week and it was always a struggle.

Today, Sherry’s out of town speaking at a conference and one of our kids is sick, one of our 7 year olds. She stayed here at the house, but it wasn’t a big deal.

Obviously, I’d prefer during the day to do my stuff, but I don’t have to. It wasn’t this big scramble of, “Oh no! I need to tell my team that I can’t make these meetings,” or, “I had deliverable that now I can’t get done because I’m hanging out with a kid.” It’s that kind of flexibility that I hope that I relish and enjoy in the coming months.

Mike: I can definitely see that. When I’m out of town, my wife owns her own business, it’s
a fitness studio. She’s got things going on at the studio pretty much all week, so when I’m out of town for MicroConf for example, it’s makes it a lot more difficult for her to manage things and then there’s always stuff that comes up where somebody’s going to have to deal with it.

The other day, one of our kids fell in the driveway, literally just before school. That’s going to be dealt with as well. You can’t just say, “Oh well. I’ll deal with it this afternoon.” You’ve got to deal with it at that point and push other things around in order to work through whatever the issue is.

Two people having their own business in the same household is actually really, really hard.

Rob: Totally. Two businesses and kids. All of that. There’s just too many unknowns and there are too many surprises and there’s too many–schools get cancelled because of snow or some other thing, they have problem with busses, or one kid gets sick, or parent-teacher conference–there’s always something going on that is screwing with your schedule and your focus.

Mike: That’s why the general advice on kids is to get a fish instead.

Rob: A fish instead, indeed. How about you, what’s going on this week?

Mike: Now that MicroConf is winding down, I’m starting ramp up the marketing efforts for BlueTick again and I don’t have to worry about things from MicroConf interjecting in into that. Although, things with MicroConf Europe are going to probably interfere a little bit moving forward, but I don’t think that it’s going to be nearly as bad as with MicroConf in Vegas just because there were the two conferences and the sheer number of speakers that we had to work with but there’s just a lot less going on just because it’s only one conference.

But with the marketing efforts like I’m starting to get into the point where I’m focusing on doing things like webinars and the onboarding emails are getting better, there’s a few product updates that are going to go out there, are going to make things a lot easier for customers to do what they need to do in the app and guide them through it a little bit better because right now, I typically do on-boarding for people manually, which is helpful, but it’s not necessarily scalable.

There’s all these low hanging fruit that I still have not done yet because there were pieces of the app that I knew had issues and most of those have been cleared up, but I was waiting until after MicroConf was over in order to do the big marketing push again.

There’s been a couple of times in the past where I felt like things were ready to start pushing on the marketing and then I started to go down that path and then find something wrong. I’m hoping that that doesn’t happen again, but we’ll see how that works out. Nothing goes as planned but I feel reasonably confident again.

Rob: On my end, I found a couple of new podcasts I wanted to mention that are in the bootstrap
software space or the product space, because I have a Google alert for MicroConf, so if you review MicroConf on your podcast, I will tend to listen to at least that episode. It just so happened that there were a handful of podcast that mentioned it. One of which, I already listened to, but I wanted to call them out here and announce them for folks who were looking for other folks like us. It’s the Micropreneur, Startups For The Rest Of Us, MicroConf Crowd, and who are talking about the things that we’re doing.

First one is called Hooked On Products and this is from Phil Derksen and John Turner. Phil and I have known each other from Fresno for years and then John Turner is the co-founder of SeedProd. He’s been on the podcast.

The next one is Build Your SaaS. It’s Justin Jackson’s podcast. He co-host with his co-founder of transistor.fm, and then of course The Art of Product which is Derrick Reimer, my co-founder’s podcast with Ben Orenstein.

We will link those up in the show notes: Hooked On Products, Build Your SaaS and The Art of
Product, but definitely, if you’re looking for some new podcasts along these lines, those are the early 2018 winners at this point.

We have listener questions. First set of questions, it looks like three questions in the same email. It’s from Michael Palteon, and he says, “I have a couple questions. The first is, I’m working on a SaaS app in a server management/scaling. I have a large LinkedIn network and I’ve started posted the progress of the development on a weekly basis. I know Rob did something once with Derrick when he was building Drip, but I feels like the post or the content only stay on LinkedIn. What’s your view on posting the same content on possibly multiple channels? Like Medium, a blog, or maybe even a podcast versus focusing on LinkedIn.

Mike: I think the danger of focusing on just one place to post them like LinkedIn is that that stuff doesn’t tend to work it’s way out into other areas. By posting it on your blog and on Medium and on LinkedIn, then you start to cast a wider net, but I think that I would also be careful of posting them all on the exact same day, you space them out, so let’s say that you post an article on LinkedIn and then the next week, you post the same article on Medium, and then the next week after that, you post the same article on your blog. That’s going to cast a bit of a wider net because then you’re not only reaching more people in different channels, but you’re spacing it out such that you’re probably going to catch the people who would have caught it on LinkedIn on your blog, or on Medium in other ways.

There’s got to be some overlap between them, but by spacing them out a little bit, you get the advantage of getting it in front of people more than once, but you’re going to have to look into what’s going to be an appropriate schedule for that, and I don’t know off the top of my head what that would be. Obviously, it depends on a lot of different factors.

That’s how I would think about it. I don’t think I would just say, “Oh, just post it here.” Unless you have a newsletter or something like that where you’re telling them flat out, “We’re going to be posting exclusive stuff and it’s only going to be in our blog,” for example, and “You’re only going to get it if you’re on this newsletter.”

If you’re going to do that, do not also post it in other places because then you’re essentially lying to the people who are signing up for your mailing list, they’re not going to appreciate it.

Rob: This is a tough one. I think syndicating to multiple platforms tends to be a good idea. Back in the day, it was the duplicate content penalty from Google. I know that kind of exists these days and Google will pick a canonical version, but it’s this balance of trying to digital share crop on other people’s land which is the LinkedIn or Medium, or build your own following on a blog.

These days, it’s just so hard to do it on your own and to try to get people to come read it because you have to get those traffic sources and it’s harder to share on all these things.

I would probably lean towards doing both that if you do have something long form to put it on your blog, post it on LinkedIn and link back. You can say, “This was originally published on blank,” and link back to your blog. You could do the same thing on Medium.

The thing that I wonder is whether it’s going to help at all, whether you’re going to notice it. That’s something to test. When we did this with Drip, at a certain point, we were building the blog up, then we switched to where we were posting first on Medium just to try to see if we could gain critical mass there. We never did.

We switched back to doing both and it was fine. Posting to both was not a big time investment and so we kept doing it and it had a nominal return, but it was not some mind blowing growth engine or anything like that.

I think you’d either reeling to discover a clever hack or perhaps that time has passed for things like the Medium and the LinkedIn. You’ve got to get in early and get traction and be an early person and get a lot of followers, then you can do it.

You should try it for 60 days and just see what happens, but I have question if it’s going to move the needle at all, and then in terms of maybe doing a podcast, to me that’s a different question altogether, because if you’re going to write it and put it out, that’s one thing.

If you’re planning on just reading them on a podcast, you could certainly try it. Hopefully it’d be interesting, but like podcasting is such a different game than blogging. I think there’s a whole
different question you want to ask yourself is, “Can I make this entertaining? Will people want to listen to it?” That kind of thing versus writing one of articles, people will just stumble upon it.

Michael’s second question is, “I’ve been thinking about starting my own podcast for some time. But I like shows with two hosts. My question is how would you go about finding a co-host for a podcast? I don’t think I’ve heard you guys met and decided to start the podcast. It would also be interesting to hear that as well.”

Mike: Do you want me to take that one?

Rob: Yeah. I think we both know the story. Take it up.

Mike: The way Rob and I met was back in 2005. I had left the startup company that I was working for, went off on my own. I think Rob, you’ve talked a little bit about how you were doing independent consulting around that time.

Working from home alone is isolating and back at those days, there were not very many blogs and there were no communities for people who were a single founder working out of their living room or their kitchen or the basement. I looked around and the closest I ever found was the Joel on Software Blog.

Obviously, a lot of people were reading that, but I looked at that and said, “Well, I would like to blog about my own experiences.” I started doing that and I was looking around for people who are doing the same thing and I came across Rob’s blog.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Rob was also doing the same exact thing and had come across my blog. We were peripherally aware of each other, but didn’t know each other, knew who we were. I think fast forward a little bit, Rob had ran through a bunch of different products and one of them he sold, he was selling from his blog. I looked at it and said, “Hey. I’d be interested in buying that.” We got in a conversation, I bought it from Rob.

I think it was for the next year or so, you and I traded blogpost back and forth before we posted them just because we weren’t real comfortable blogging on our own yet and just went through it like an iterative editing process and then once we got comfortable, we just went on our separate ways and that was around 2007, I think.
Fast forward a couple of years, you had started the MicroConf Academy and that was based on building a course around all the stuff that you had learned and you are just basically busy or too busy to turn out all the content with it and you looked through your Rolodex and I showed up
on the shortlist somehow and we got to talk and worked something out, and I basically joined you as you the co-founder of the MicroConf Academy. That was 2009; 2010, we started the podcast. Is that right?

Rob: I think so. 2010 podcast and 2011 MicroConf.

Mike: That’s how things worked out. I don’t if there’s a good lesson there in terms of finding a co-host for the podcast, but there was at least some level of familiarity there between us from editing each other’s blogpost and stuff before we got on to the podcast.

I don’t think that you need that. I don’t think you need to go into a business relationship with somebody before that part, but you have to at least be able to get along and know that I think that your general values and ethos are aligned. That’s our story. Rob, are there specific lessons that you can think of for that?

Rob: He’s asking how would you go about finding a co-host and I’m wondering, do you really want to start your own or do you want to find a podcast for the single host and try to get on an existing one.

Jordan Gal and Brian Casel did this. Brian had the podcast Bootstrapped Web first and then Jordan joined him later and made the podcast a lot better. I think you could consider doing that. If someone else is already doing it and they’re delivering and you get a little bit of an advantage of coming on late. That’s probably the first thing I would consider.

The other thing is if you’re starting it to talk about fun stuff like entrepreneurship or hobbies or whatever, then just go ahead and do it and start it and you’ll find people. If you’re starting around your business and you really wanted to be this super professional thing up front, then yeah, I do think you need to spend more time thinking about the concept and looking around.

There are podcasting forums, there are podcasts about podcasting and those that have communities. I think probably getting that intersection of people who listen to those podcast and listen to Startups For The Rest Of Us or go to MicroConf, if you’re going to talk about bootstrapping, then that’s going to be it.

You have to find that Venn Diagram, an intersection of someone who is interested in the topic and able to talk about it and also wanting to do it in a podcast form because it is no small commitment to do this. Ask anybody who podcasts. There’s an amount of time that you have to set aside and an amount of time that you have to that you have to have.

Podcasting is different than blogging where if you blog once a month, nobody really cares. It’s fine. Hey, it’s a good article and I got up on Hacker News or Product Hunt or whatever. If you podcast once a month, you might as well not. Unless you’re Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History which is a four hour thing. That’s an exemption. But for the most part, you need to ship fairly frequently, it is a commitment from that start that I would say if you don’t think you can keep that up, do not waste your time.

Mike: I think that commitment is something that people overlook and you really have to have an episode at least every week in order to start building an audience. I remember back when we started Startups For The Rest Of Us, we were doing it every week and then we decided, “Let’s change this up and let’s do every other week.” We did every other week for three or four months. It was very obvious that the growth slowed down. Once we went back to every week, it went right back up again. You have to be mindful of that.

I know that there’s articles all over the place that say, “How many times you should post? How many times you should create a new podcast and how long they should be?” And all these different things. It really boils down to the function of how much time and effort you have, and what it is that you’re going to do with it, what’s your goal for that? There’s just a lot of different factors, that’s all.

Rob: He’s third question. He says, “It’d be great if you guys could do another run down of the podcast you listen to or recommend.” I’m going to table that one for now because maybe in the next few episodes, we’ll do that. I’d like to revisit, it changes so frequently with me that I think it’d be worth doing.

He asks, “What equipment and recording devices do you use? Many other great podcast that
I used to listen to are no longer publishing new episodes as often and I’m also not sure why this happens to most podcasts.” That’s exactly what we were just saying. It’s because it just takes time and if you don’t have some type of something that you get out of it, whether it’s a personal brand or whether you’re selling conference tickets or whether you’re promoting an application where you’re getting some type of feedback loop, it is too much work to justify just doing a podcast for the sake of doing a podcast.

That’s why I’m sure a lot of these fade is they just figured the ROI isn’t there given the amount of work there is. Aside from that, what equipment and recording devices do we use, Mike? What complex, intricate system do we use?

Mike: Are you mocking me? We’re mocking ourselves.

Rob: We use USB headsets that we have for 10 years. I know sometimes now when I listen to podcasts I hear the plastic in the headsets jangling around. I’ve tried the Blue Yeti, and I’ve tried the Snowball and I don’t like the sound quality nearly as much in the finished product as these Plantronics (DSP) Digital Signal Processing headsets. I’m not going to name the exact model because they’re discontinued and whenever they come up on eBay, I buy them.

I have about 8 or 10 in the drawer in my house because I burn through them because they break. The mute button stops working, they get to janky, their cords are broken. I’ve probably gone through five or six in the past 10 years and I have another stock in this drawer here that Sherry and I share.

But what I would say is if you’re going to do this, you can get the Yeti or the Snowball, those are the recommended ones. You just have to have sound baffling, you have to have a very quiet environment. If you have kids five rooms away, it will totally pick that up.

If you want to do the USB headset where you can move your head a lot, definitely go USB and don’t go the audio auxiliary and then test several out. That’s what I did. I bought six or eight of them at the start and tested them all out. It was a noticeable difference in the sound quality.

Mike: Just some general advice when looking for headsets, you probably want something that’s relatively light. You don’t want something that’s massive and bulky. You definitely want something that has a boom or a microphone that is stable and is going to sit in front of your face.

As Rob had just said, the problems with the Blue Yeti and microphones like that is you really have to be speaking directly at them and hold your head at about the same distance the entire time. It can really be uncomfortable, especially if you’re the type of person that fidgets. I know Rob tends to walk around sometimes when he’s podcasting, I sit at my desk, but I also look around the room. I’m not always looking in the same direction. That screws with the sound quality.

I think that’s what most podcasters who are much more visible about what equipment they use, they talk about these things, “Oh, the sound quality for this and that.” The USB headset works fine. It doesn’t matter that much. You don’t have to go all out on all of these equipment.

I think the USB headsets that we use, I think they cost $40 or $50. It’s not very expensive. I have seen versions of the ones that you are not willing to talk about or disclose like $200 or $300 at this point because they are much newer versions. I’m using one right now that I can find for $60 or so and it’s a slightly different version than you use. It works fantastic.

Rob: Again, that’s Plantronics headsets. It’s not the super lightweight one. You want the one with the bigger mic with the pop filter and all that. Several of them will work for you, I don’t think you have to get so detailed and know exactly which models or whatever we’re using.

Mike: We used to just record over Skype and use either call recorder or Pamela. Pamela was on Windows that would hook into Skype and then Call Recorder is on the Mac. It worked reasonably well, but the problem is they record at both sides, so if your connection drops from Skype or it was not a great connection which happens frequently and feels like it happens more and more frequently these days with Skype, then you may end up recording the podcast again.

I’ve had entire podcast where we’ve had to dump it, not with ours, but with other people’s where Skype just dropped everything. There’s nothing you can do at that point.

We use a service called Zencastr right now. zencastr.com. It records the audio on both sides through the browser, there’s no additional software needed. You hop on it, records on both sides, uploads. I have to send it into Dropbox. It works out well.

Rob: I think the switch to Zencastr was definitely a good move for us. A lot less headaches. I don’t go on to Skype at all anymore. I do all my meetings through Zoom and then recordings through Zencastr. When someone asks to Skype me now, I’ll groan, I get figure out how to make a call because they redo the interface every four months and you don’t even know how to do it. It’s kind of a mess.

Mike: Your response should be, “Do you still have a yellow corded phone?”

Rob: Thanks for the questions Michael. I hope our answers were helpful. Next question is from Alex and he says, “Hello. I am interested in creating my own ecommerce website that will host new entrepreneurs’ products on my site for a subscription fee. Ideally, this will be for those who want cheaper advertising and not at the level of having their products on Amazon yet. My niche is American businesses and my goal is the support of small business. I’m still working out all the details. This is a new business platform but I’d love to hear some feedback.”

What do you think Mike?

Mike: I’m not sure what he’s selling.

Rob: I think this is a tough one. He’s trying to setup a website that can host ecommerce like physical products for people who don’t want to put their products on Amazon yet or on at the level. I just don’t know of any product that’s like that. It’s a theoretical of like they want cheaper advertising, but have you run into anyone in your life who fits this bill?

Mike: No.

Rob: Yeah, and I haven’t either. That’s the first thing I would do, Alex. I think it’s good that you asked. First thing I would do is you need to go out and find 10, 20, 30 people who have this exact need because I don’t believe that there are that many people. If there are, and if they’re not at the level where they want to have their product on Amazon, which is not a very high bar. I’m guessing that they’re not going to have enough money to want to pay a subscription fee to host it on your site.

Mike: Yeah. This is a classic case of saying, “It’s too expensive for me. So it must be too expensive for other people,” and you’re trying to squeeze blood from a stone at that point. It’s not a good business model.

I recognize and empathize with the desire to help the people who have no money, but you can’t do it by charging them, like you have to go up market, charge people who do have money and then turn around and use that to invest in products and services and things like that that can help that people at the bottom.

Honestly, that’s one of the things that we’ve done with the scholarship program this year with MicroConf. We got MicroConf to a certain point and it was growing and scaled up and we got enough people there now that it’s like, “How can we help those people at the bottom who could use that help to get up to our level? How do you bring other people up?” To do that, you need money. You can’t charge the people who don’t have any money. It’s not going to work.

Rob: I’m glad you asked the question because I’m guessing that if you don’t go out and validate this, you can spend a lot time either building it or hiring someone to build it or whatever. The first step that I would do is just figure out if this is viable at all because I think red flyers are going out for both you and I about the idea at least the way that he’s described it here.

All right, our next set of questions are from Linton Ye and he is with jimulabs.com. He says, “Thanks for another tremendously useful MicroConf. As I mentioned to Mike, I started building a course right after last year, 2017 MicroConf. I’ve been trying to follow the formulas I learned at the conference and I’m seeing some good signs. I’d really appreciate it if you could help me with some questions. Background: The product is a video course built for UI designers teaching them React, which is a JavaScript framework. The goal is not to convert them into developers but to help them work with developers more efficiently. As of now, I have 1300 subscribers in my list.” Assuming that’s an email list. “I’m still building the course, but there are around 30 people who have bought the first module for $79 or preordered the entire bundle at $169. About two-thirds preordered the whole thing, about one-tenth of all subscribers replied to my quick question email.”

He has a decent amount of engagement. “The majority of my subscribers came from a few post on Designer News, which is like Hacker News for designers. The post brought almost 800 subscribers last May and June, but the growth of the list has slowed down since then. I’m also doing blogging and guest blogging. I didn’t do much SEO intentionally, but many told me that they found the site by Googling. I have attached a chart of the history of my list with explanation of key events. Let me know if you need more data.” And he has a bar graph for us.

He has questions for us. It looks like maybe three or four. He says, “Does this product feel like something that will work?” That’s an interesting way to phrase that. I’m not sure what work means. It just depends on your goals. Do I think you’re going to sell copies of it? Absolutely. Do I think you’re going to make six figures from it? No. The list is too small. It’s not too small. The list is too small to make six figures from is what I’m going to say. You’ve got to start somewhere.

If you haven’t engaged with these subscribers and that’s the part I don’t know. I would be keeping them warm and then I would be taking other approaches that are probably free marketing at this point. If you watch the talk this year from Adam, that we talked about Adam Wathan. We talked about in the last episode, that was the blueprint of how to do this. It’s a lot of social media stuff and it’s a lot of getting into that community and having a reach in there.

Mike: I was going to mention as well. He talked to me about this product because he attended Growth edition and Adam spoken as Starter edition and Adam’s talk, go over to the MicroConf recap website and look up Adam Wathan’s talk, there’s all the notes there from the Christian Genco took and there’s a lot of detail there that you won’t get the full context of the talk but there’s a lot of stuff there that you’ll be able to take away.

I think that that will really help you figure out how to make certain things work and how to scale them up. But obviously, with your questions, there’s a lot of–it depends in there. How far do you want to take this? How much time do you have to dedicate to it? Do you want to grow into this massive business or do you just want to keep it small and put something out there that you can use a resume builder, but something to point at and say, “Hey, I’ve done this, so I have experience in this area.” It depends on what the purpose of it is.

If it’s a build a business, then yeah, you’re probably making into a business but as Rob said, not with just 1300 subscribers. That’s a great start, but you need to find other channels and I think, as he had mentioned in this email that most of those came from a Hacker News post. You need to find what those other channels are and whether that’s Twitter or Facebook or doing paid ads.

I think the difficult position you’re in is one, the product is not finished and two, you’ve already presold some of it. Preselling an unfinished product, especially with tiers is something that Adam had actually advised against.

Rob: What’s interesting is we’re talking about this list of 1300 people and that’s a great start, and can you make $5000 from this or $6000 or $7000 from that list? Yeah, I think so, if they’re engaged. I don’t think that’s an issue at all. But this is not anything that’s going to replace your income so it does depend on your goals.

His next questions is, “That is priority right now is to finish the course or should I work on growing the list at the same time? Most people have told me that it would be better to spend half of my time on both.” I agree with that. If you are just hammering the course out and not doing any list growth, I feel like you should be partitioning your time. Because keeping that list warm and keeping it going is how you’re going to build this business.

If you go through fits and starts where you’re going to try to grow the list for six months and then you’re going to build a course for four months, and you’re going to stop building a list, unless you’re at critical mass where you do have that 10,000; 20,000; 30,000-person list, that’s when you can start thinking about backing off growing it.

Do you agree with that Mike or what do you think?

Mike: I totally agree, but I think that there’s a little tactic that you can throw in there whereas you’re building the course, as you’re finishing it, you can take little snippets of that and post it on social media in order to help augment your existing list. Whether that is specific post on Twitter or on Facebook or you put something out on Medium that says, “Hey, I’m working on
this and this is what I’ve learned so far.”

Educating people about how to do something and talking about the struggles that you’re going through as you’re going through that process, that has a tendency to resonate with a lot of people. It’s not to say that everyone who joins your list is going to become a customer, but if they’re interested in the stuff that you’re teaching, not just the process but the content itself, those people will eventually turn into customers.

It also gives you the ability to take those things and email them out to your existing list and say, “Hey, just an inside view of what this looks like and where it’s at.” That will help keep the list warm as well, because the last thing you want to do is spend 80%, 90%, or even 100% of your time just finishing the product and then four months from now, you haven’t send a single email to your list and you drop an email on them that says, “Hey, this thing is now available, please buy it.” You and I have seen people do that for SaaS applications and software and it doesn’t work.

The reason it doesn’t work is because they’re like, “Oh, I totally forgotten you even existed.” They’re not excited about it.

Rob: Right. His next question is, “What else could I do to grow my list. Blogging and a free email course seems to work okay, but it takes a lot of time to create the content. I have seen others using ads. What you recommend?” My thoughts on this are the way that you typically do this is through social media, through blogging, through podcasting, through getting out there and doing a bunch of free marketing. That’s because most people don’t have a ton of money to spend
in the early days.

If you have money and you’re interested in running ads and that’s something that excites you then go run ads. Go run ads on Facebook or buy ads on Designer News, he talked about sponsor email newsletters and test that stuff. That stuff is always fun for me.

I’m some type of twisted individual that I enjoyed paying to see if I could get a sustainable flywheel. Other people hate that. If that is their business, they don’t want to do it. You look at how Rob and Mike built their list? How has Justin Jackson built his list? Through being out there and recording a podcast every week. Justin Jackson, he’s got a bunch. That’s how he built his list. It took him a few years, but it’s figuring out what it is that interests you that you think you can do long term and that you’re actually going to double down on.

Do I think ads could work? I absolutely do. But you have to ask yourself, is that something that you’re interested in doing? I know Brennan Dunn started with ebooks and courses and blogging and tweeting. It’s was a big social media thing, and then he got it to the point where it’s making enough money and he knew that for every person that gets on his list he gets X dollars back. Then he started running ads.

He doesn’t even need to be that good at running the ads because he had such a high LTV on list subscribers. You could take that approach, too. You build up the social following, you build up the brand, and then later you run the ads, you could do ads from the start. I think any of these will work, it’s a question of what am I really excited to do and to get up every morning and do. If it’s like, “I love the blogging and the rush of trying to get to the top of Hacker News, Product Hunt, and Designer News,” then go all in on that and blog three times a week.

If you prefer to podcast, then go all in on that. If you prefer to do ads like I was saying, which some people get more excitement out of, certainly, I think you could invest time in that.

Mike: His next question is, “Is it realistic to have a goal of 10,000 subscribers in the next year?” He says he spoken to some people who have 5000 subscribers, all of them have been writing and building their list for 3-5 years. “Have you see anyone who was able to grow a high quality list quickly?”

This is a hard question because it depends so much on what you do. Is it possible? Absolutely. It depends so much on the things that you do. These people who’ve been writing and building their list for 3-5 years, what tactics and techniques have they done? Have they systemized it? Have they created processes that are things that are repeatable and scalable and can be done without their input and toggling the different switches? Because if you’re relying out of process that depends on you doing something every single week, it’s less likely that you’re going do it.

It’s not to say that it is impossible and there’s definitely people who do it. We pump up this podcast every single week, almost without fail at this point. But it takes time and commitment and do you have the commitment to do whatever to toggle that switch or pull that lever every single week? If you don’t, it’s not going to happen, therefore it’s going to be pushed out.

Honestly, in a way, it ties back to email follow ups, that’s why I built Bluetick. I don’t have the mental capacity to sit there and write all of those follow up emails every single time because it’s hard to do, it’s hard to make yourself do it if you don’t want to. You need to find those things that you’re going to be able to do on a repeated basis or to automate in such a way that you don’t need to be directly involved in it. It’s still going to create Rob’s flywheel effect.

Rob: Yes. 10,000 subscribers in a year, absolutely possible. I have known many people
that do this. It’s not easy and it’s not just going to happen just by throwing things out, you have to be deliberate about it, you’ve got to be focused, you’ve got to ship either some type of content or some type of thing on a really recurring basis.

Product launches also help. If you do a big product launch, it will help you build the list, joint ventures would be a huge one. If you find anyone else that you could promote their product, they could promote your product, that is going to build the list because even if people don’t buy your product, they will sign up to hear from you about future stuff that you’re doing. Doing a podcast tour, there are a lot of ways to do this and if you really focus, yes, I think you can do it.

I think building a 5000 subscribers in 3-5 years sounds like a nice even keel side business pays where it’s like, “Yeah, I’m going to blog about this this week.” Which is fine, but it’s not. If you’re really aggressive about this and you want to get to 10K, I think you can absolutely do it.

Thanks for the question Linton, I hope our answers are helpful.

If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or email at us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control, it’s 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.


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One Response to “Episode 393 | Marketing and Growth Questions Answered”

  1. Thanks so much for mentioning the Build Your SaaS podcast!