In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike answer a number of listener questions on topics including how to market a podcast, what to do with business profits, building features vs. integrating and more.
Items mentioned in this episode:
- Big Snow Tiny Conf
- Business of Software Conference
- Brian Casel “Tiny Conferences”
Rob: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike and I talk about when to pull profits out of your business, the balancing act of building features versus integrating, how to market a podcast, and more listener questions. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us episode 417.
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: And I’m Mike.
Rob: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. To where this week, sir?
Mike: Well, I talked a little bit about this at MicroConf Europe, but I am getting used to my CPAP machine which is a device to basically help prevent your airways from closing when you sleep. I had a diagnosis for sleep apnea about three or four weeks ago, and they said, “Yeah, it’s not looking good.” Basically, sleep apnea is your body decides to stop breathing in the middle of the night. Various times I would just wake up and be gasping for air just because my brain would freak out because it’s not getting enough oxygen because I stopped breathing. Anyway, this machine will help prevent that which will improve my sleep presumably. It’s actually going fairly well so far. I’m cautiously optimistic about it, but it’s an ongoing issue for a while, so I’m glad that it seems like it’s headed in the right direction. But it’s probably too early to tell.
Rob: Sure. It like straps on your face, right? It looks like an oxygen mask or scuba thing. I guess, it’s on the front of it.
Mike: Yes, I sound like Darth Vader.
Rob: Do you? That’s interesting.
Mike: Well, a little bit. It’s not that bad like when I breathe, I can hear it because the thing is right on my face but it’s not so bad. But if I talk, obviously, it sounds like Darth Vader.
Rob: Well, it’s got to be tough to get used to because if you roll over in the middle of the night there’s a cord or some type of hose attached to it, right?
Mike: Yup. I don’t know. Like I said, it’s taking some getting used to, but it seems to be helping so far. I don’t know. Like I said, cautiously optimistic.
Rob: It’s always tough with these types of chronic things. You deal with for years until at some point, you realize you’re like the bullfrog in a boiling pot of water where it’s like, “I’ve let this go way too long.” I had that with my shoulders, neck, and back. I got to where the point where every day I was just in pain all day everyday no matter what I did. Eventually, Sherry was like, “This is dumb.” This was when I was 38, “You’re 30 years old. Figure this out.”
She had me start doing yoga and then she’s like, “Go to a deep tissue almost acupressure.” I would say it’s a massage but it’s not like I’m going to the spa and get a massage, it’s a medical intervention massage where it hurts a lot. I started doing those twice a week and then it went down to once a week and eventually, I fixed it. It took me six months, but eventually I fixed and it’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe I let that go on that long.” That seems to be what’s happening is you’ve struggled with this kind of stuff on and off and tried different solutions for years.
Mike: Yeah, that’s exactly right. It has been going on for years and it’s just gotten progressively worse in this past year. I almost can’t even function. I was just not getting enough sleep. The sleep therapist I saw, he’s like, “Hey, I need you to track your sleep for two weeks.” I’m like, “Well, I’ve been writing it down whether I get a goodnight of sleep or not.” And he’s like, “No, here’s an official chart. Fill this out every single day for two weeks. Log how much you actually sleep.” I was looking at it and I’m just like, “I’m only getting 15 or 20 hours of sleep a week.” I was bad. I didn’t think it was that bad, but it was pretty bad.
Rob: That’s weird. You were literally, just to be clear, you were sleeping from midnight to three in the morning or something and then you are up. It’s like insomnia type stuff or you’re just up when you didn’t want to be?
Mike: It was a combination of that and also going to sleep and then waking up and then not being able to get back to sleep. Of course, all of the advice says, “Well, if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t get out of the bed because that’ll disrupt your body.” And then of course, there’s the conflicting advice which says exactly the opposite which is like, “Oh, if you’re not tired, get out of bed, and change your environment.” I’m probably exaggerating a little bit with 15 or 20 hours, but anyway, yeah, it was just awful. I don’t think there was any night where I was getting more than I think five or six hours of sleep.
Rob: That’s tough man. I’m not able to function like that.
Mike: How about you? How are things going with you?
Rob: They’re good. Just got back from Croatia 48 hours ago. I forget every time how much I love flying West and how leaving here, leaving Minneapolis and going to Europe is so hard because it is 10 times harder in terms of getting the sleep and the time change and all that crap especially we had three kids with us, they did great, they’re good travelers but still, it’s just a pain—you’re tired, at the wrong time.
Flying West, it’s like a dream man. We got back here, we just had to stay up a few hours then we got a goodnight’s sleep. We all woke up at four in the morning which is not a bad thing. We got up, we had an early breakfast, and then the next day we all slept ‘till six in the morning. Now, I’m hoping to try keep this schedule because I tend to be tired in the morning and I sleep later than I want to, 7:30, 7:40. But it’s been great getting a jump on the day, and it’s like built in. I need to remember this. I feel like the way is always easier.
Mike: I’ve experienced the same thing. I think I got back at 9:00 or 10:00 o’clock at night because I’ve left at, I think around 1:00 or something like that and then I had three hops. I went through the capital of Croatia, and then over to London Heathrow, and I made the mistake of getting in the wrong line. I apparently missed one of the signs. I’m sitting in this line and it’s going through customs, and I’m just like, “I’m not sure that I’m if the right spot. Shouldn’t I be just transferring from one airplane to another? Why do I have to go through customs here?” and so I asked somebody, and I’m glad I did because I was going to end up in England. I would’ve had to go all the way back through security. It would’ve been bad. I was at the wrong terminal too.
Rob: That makes it tough. Cool. I’m glad you dodged that bullet. Other thing I want to mention is MicroConf Las Vegas. It is March 24th through the 28th of 2019. Growth Edition is the first two and a half days, and Starter the latter two days of that. We’re going to be putting tickets on sale here in the next, I’ll say, three to four weeks. If you’re interested in coming, you’re going to want to go to microconf.com, click on Growth or Starter Edition, and then enter your email. There’s a Drip pop-up widget in the lower right and you will be on the list to get tickets. We’ve been selling out every year, at least with Growth, it got started selling last year, but you’re going to want to be on that list to get tickets early.
Mike: Yeah, there’s also a place, it’s a description on the website if you’re not sure which edition of the conference you should go to, there’s some descriptions there that’ll kind of help you decide. If you have any questions, obviously, just drop an email to us in the very near future and we’ll help you out.
Rob: Today, we are answering some listener questions. We’ve got a nice crop of them in while we were in Europe. First one is a voicemail and he’s asking about what to do with profits once your business is successful.
“Hey Mike and Rob. My name is Joe, I’m a solopreneur, like a lot of your listeners, but unlike them I’m in the free-to-play mobile game industry rather than a B2B SaaS, but a lot of what you guys talk about still applies. I’ve been listening to you for five years now, so thank you for all the episode. My question is about what to do with profits when the business has been very successful. Up to now, I’ve been treating the profits as capital for future runway, for when the business takes a downturn. But the business has been doing well for a few years now and I feel like my family should take part in the success of the business as well rather than use all of the profits just for future runway to pay myself. I was wondering what you guys think about that and if you have any advice. Thanks. Bye.”
In addition, Joe clarified, he said, “I’m wondering if it makes sense to do something like have half the profits go to future runway and the other half go into savings for the family or maybe increase my “salary” every year because the business is doing well, so that I have more money to spend on and save for family things.” I like this question. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a question like this and I like it. I have a lot of thoughts on it actually.
Mike: Well, do you want to go first? I’ve got plenty of thoughts on my own too.
Rob: Okay, let me go first on this one. I think there’s some traditional business thinking. When I first got out of college, I worked for a construction company–electrical construction. The guy who ran that company had been running it since the ‘50s. His philosophy was, “You take the profits at the end of the year, you invest half of them back in the business.” He kept them as retainer earnings—it’s what they’re called on your balance sheet. Then he took the other 50% and he split that in half, so now you’re talking 25% and 25%. He took 25% for the owners of the company. Originally, it was just him but then there were four or five, six different executives who owned pieces, and then the other 25% basically share with the employees. It was either an end-of-the-year bonus or they would buy us—I worked there a couple of years and they bought us brand-new Dell computers. This was in the late ‘90s, it was actually several thousand dollars, or they would sometimes get cash bonuses and that kind of thing.
Now, Joe’s probably not in that situation, it doesn’t sound like he has a bunch of employees but that’s one way to think about it. This half and half idea, I think is interesting. I think that’s one approach you can take. Other approach is more of what I’ve done with my apps and my companies, is have a number that I want in the bank. It’s kind of like your emergency fund. Like in personal finance, first thing you do once you’re out of debt is you save up three to six months of living expenses and you put those in a money market or savings account, you don’t touch them. That’s for when your car breaks down or you have to move quickly or just if anything goes wrong. I believe in the same thing for a business. You’ll have to figure out what the number is. But I remember, with HitTail, I believe I wanted like $30,000 or $40,000 in the bank, and then everything above that, I started putting into a different account. Now, some of it I pulled out for personal stuff and others I put in to invest in other products.
When Drip started getting bigger, that number got a lot more. It was like $100,000 would only cover payroll for a few months. That number then had to go up to $100,000, $150,000, $200,000 and you’re going to have to figure out where that comfort is. That’d be the other things is you don’t need to necessarily split it 50-50, you could just have a threshold where it’s like, “Hey, everything beyond that, I just basically take out for the family.” Those are my thoughts. What do you think, Mike?
Mike: I think there’s my answer to this and there’s also, I’ll say, some subjectiveness that you would have to run past a tax attorney for that . I agree with you that having a number in mind that you want to have in the bank at all times as kind of a cash cushion for the business is a great idea, and depending on how many employees you have and what your regular expenses are in a monthly basis for your family are, that’s going to factor into that.
Whatever that number happens to be, let’s say that it’s $60,000 and you’re paying yourself $10,000 a month—just for sake of simple math—you get that in the bank and then above that, that’s when you have to start looking at, I’ll say, tax advantages. Because one of the things that he had mentioned is paying himself salary and from talking to my CPA, for example, his advice—again, this is not general tax advice for everyone, talk to your own—but he had said, “Take your salary and actually cut it in half and pay yourself half of it as salary, the other half as the owner’s dividend.” Essentially, what that does is it pays all the FICA and all the other stuff on taxes, and it’s a reasonable salary, and then the rest of it comes as owner’s dividends and it’s taxed at a different rate. I would definitely look in like talk to a CPA and see what you should actually do once you get beyond that cash cushion.
Rob: Yes, that’s a great tip. I just want to chime in and say my accountant has told me the same thing, not tax advice, but you want to be able to justify a salary. You don’t want to pay yourself $1 a month because then the IRS is going to come in and say, “Well, you’re the CEO of a small software company, you should be making at least 60K, 70K, 80K depending on where you live. As long as you can justify that though, if you keep it as low as you can, you will maximize on your taxes. I like that. I think increasing salary is probably not what you want to do.
Mike: The other thing you can do is planning for the future in terms of what you can invest that money in in terms either a SEP-IRA or various investments to basically for retirements. I would definitely look at those, I would probably avoid, again not tax or legal advice, I’d probably avoid keeping a lot of cash in the business beyond what your comfortable with because let’s say that the business got sued for example or something happens, if that money is in the business, it’s considered a business asset. It’s not to say that the opposite can happen because if you get in a car crash then they come after you personally then they’re suing you for the money that’s in your bank account.
There’s different ways of looking at that risk profile but those are, I guess, my general thoughts on it. But I would be cautious about just dumping it all directly into “salary”. There’s other ways to, I’ll say, pull money out of the business and ease up any sort of financial burden on your family or just make it a more comfortable life.
Rob: I think that’s good advice. To recap, I think 50-50 is totally reasonable. I think just having a maximum threshold of an emergency fund is another reasonable approach. It sounds like both you and I vote, don’t increase your salary unless that’s just something you want to do because it sounds like you’re going to pay more taxes on it; you pay the FICA and all the other stuff.
You know what, Mike, I like that you brought up personal liability and business liability. I think in general, owning a business is you’re going to have a lot more liability than on the personal side. Because you’re right, you could hit someone with your car, the odds of that are just less than your business screwing someone’s launch up and then they sue you for damages. But on the business side, you should have that LLC or that S Corp or whatever that protects you on the personal side, if you don’t have a personal umbrella policy—this is going a little off on the tangent but I just want to do my little spiel here—a personal umbrella liability policy here for $1 million or $2 million is very, very inexpensive.
As soon as you have means, as soon as you have enough, someone could sue you and you’re worth enough that it’s worth suing you, I think everyone should have one. I believe that I have $1 million umbrella policy by the time we owned a few houses in LA, and I’d say, in my late 20s or early 30s and we have $1 million umbrella policy and I believe it was $300,000 a year.
That was just if someone hurt themselves at our house, so they decided that, we did get in that car accident, but I had enough money at that point where I was like, “Well, I don’t want to lose these several hundred thousand dollars of my net worth.” and it was worth $300 bucks. As you get more money, you need to increase that, you need $2 million or $3 million umbrella policy. But that’s just a little side piece of advice that I think helps me sleep at night.
Mike: I think, at the end of the day, that’s exactly what he’s asking is like, “How do I sleep better at night with the finances that I have and how do I deal with this?”
Rob: Thanks for the question, Joe. It was a good one. Our next question is a response to our response to a question in episode 415. In episode 415, Chris Palmer wrote in and he asked a question about, “How many presales do I need to do to validate an idea?” You and I, in the past, have kind of thrown around 30. That’s the number Jason Cohen used, and so that’s what I kind of latched onto when you and I battered that around. Maybe it’s 20, maybe it’s 40 or whatever, but we kind of said that and Chris said, “Look, I’m selling into the enterprise and so maybe I can get three people to verbally commit but that’s going to be about it.” You and I talked back and forth.
Nick Mair wrote in. He said, “Hi, Rob and Mike. Great show. Regarding the question from Chris Palmer on the number of customers required to validate an enterprise concept. We validated our idea by pitching a deck of five slides to five enterprise customers. Commitment in principle and strong interest from three to five companies was enough for us to move forward. Next, we bootstrapped into it by finding a willing “development” customer […] going to work with him to help us get the product right in exchange for a low, one-time lifetime license fee. We asked for a letter of intent on the condition that we could demonstrate, we could build a working MVP at our expense.” Letter of intent, you and I had talked about that a little bit. “We built the MVP with £15,000 of our own savings from separate consulting income. The MVP’s success and the letter of intent led to an upfront commitment of £30,000 towards funding a full V1, paid in stages to de-risk for both parties. We agreed $10,000 on the start and £10,000 on deliver to user testing and £10,000 on user sign-off. We were live nine months after the MVP. We had a great reference of customer which got us going. We’re not installed at eight and growing subtly. The one- to two-year runway you need to get traction in enterprise is tough, but I’m not sure it’s harder than B2B SaaS, it just needs a different funding approach. I hope this is helpful to Chris and others in the space.
That was Nick Mair’s response. He’s from Atticus Associates Ltd. Totally appreciate that. I think that’s great insight. I want to point out that I love when our community gets involved like this. That you and I had opinions, and we had thoughts about it, and I listened back, and they were totally reasonable, but Nick has actually done it and he has another point of view in something I never even thought of pitching it as a slide deck. I actually think that’s a really good idea.
Mike: I agree. I actually met Nick at MicroConf Europe this year. I had dinner with him. He kind of talked a little bit about what their approach had been. I’m glad he wrote in because he explained a lot of these things to me over at dinner. It was fantastic listening to him and hearing all the different things that they did and the path that they went. You can look at it and say, “Well, you’ve only got eight customers. What happens if one of them leaves?” because that’s probably going to be a huge chunk of money. But at the same time, at the enterprise level, you’re probably going to, at least have some sort of heads-up that they’re not happy or there’s problems.
Unless the business is shutting down or something like that or they’re ripping you out and replacing you with some other vendor, but chances are good that if you got in there to begin with, you’re probably going to have like an internal champion of some kind because that’s how enterprise tend to happen. You’re going to get at least some sort of heads up about what’s going on and why they may be unhappy.
Rob: Yeah. A little secret here is that Nick is a smart guy and Nick has been successful. You and I sit on this podcast and we give our best advice, and we give our best ideas, but sometimes when there’s someone out there who has done this, they just know a little more about it. I appreciate Nick chiming in. He actually offered to connect directly with Chris, so I connected them via email. That’s why we do this, right? That was so stoke. I’m just super excited that Nick may be able to give some advice to Chris that will help his business get off the ground. It doesn’t need to always be us.
That’s what we learned early on with MicroConf is I think the first year you and I had felt like we had to do everything, and we had to have everything in place and if people weren’t having fun, it was our responsibility. What we’ve learned over the years is that no, MicroConf has become an entity unto itself. The speaker show up and they deliver value in that, the attendee show up and they deliver value to one another, and that’s the most important part. You and I, at this point, are facilitators, we’re involved as well but the conference doesn’t hinge on us anymore. I don’t think the podcast, it does a little more because it’s our voices, but it doesn’t have to. We don’t have to have all the answers when smart folks like Nick and others we know can weigh in.
Mike: It’s kind of a, I don’t want to call it a double-edged sword, but I would say it’s certainly not something that we have thought would happen early on, but I’m very glad that it has happened that way. Because I think you’re right, I think that MicroConf could, in theory, go on without us but in terms of the podcast, if either you or I left, or if two new hosts came in or something like that, as long as the content and the tone and everything else, like the general philosophy and ethos where they are, I don’t know it’s going to be that big of a deal. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the listeners will feel very differently, and we’ll hear about it in the comments but you’re right. It’s nice to be part of a community where it’s bigger than just the people who were there early.
Rob: Thanks again for writing in, Nick. Our next question is from a longtime listener. He says, “Hey, Rob and Mike. I’m the founder of zoomadmin.com, it’s cloud management software as a service. We’re still in development but want to start a podcast with other founders and record our journey, sort of like Startups For The Rest Of Us. My question is, how would you go about marketing a podcast in 2018 both paid and free channels?”
Before you dive in on this, Mike, because I know you have thoughts on it, zoomadmin.com, when you get a chance, get an SSL certificate. It’s not giving me the superbad warning but it’s not secure and Google Chrome is kind of having a little bit of a conniption on me about it. It’s just one of those little things that when you get to launch, you’re going to want to have an SSL cert.
What do you think about this, Mike? I think the first question I would say is, I mean, starting a podcast will be fun, but it’ll be a lot of work. Do you think it’s more of a distraction than its worth? Is it going to help their business pound-for-pound, hour-for-hour? Are there other activities they could be doing that will help their business more than starting a podcast?
Mike: It’s a hard question to answer without the context of their business. If they’re still early on in development, who’s the podcast going to speak to? Because it seems to me, if you’re going to try and start a podcast that’s going to target other founders, you can leverage their audience certainly to help increase the number of people who will listen to the podcast. But are the types of people who will end up listening to it and learning about a journey, are they going to be interested in the product?
I do think that there’s definitely some overlap, but I don’t know how much there is. I will say that, I think building a podcast is going to be a long journey, and yes, you can get a lot of listeners but that doesn’t necessarily translate directly to sales. You’re going to spend a lot of time and effort building this podcast and building the community and listeners around it, but at the same time, I feel like there’s probably much less overlap between the people who would listen to it and want to hear the journey versus actually be interested in the product. I do agree with you, I think it’s a very valid question about, “Is this the right marketing strategy that you should try?” I can’t say I have a great answer for that. If you would podcast about serving hosting, for example, that ties directly to the podcast, so it would be, I would say a better fit, but how interesting is that as a topic?
Rob: Yep, I would agree with it too. I think that’s why I threw out the question. I think hour for hour, there are other activities that you can do that are going to help your business more. Let’s put that aside for now because that’s advice we have, but his real question is, “How would you market a podcast in 2018 both paid and free,” which I think is a fun idea because I’ve often thought about paid promotion of a podcast and what that might look like and whether the numbers could work. Free promotion, what are you going to do, right? It’s social media, it’s all the socials, and then it’s trying to do your best to search engine optimize yourself in the iTunes podcast store or Stitcher or whatever—those are the free channels that I can think of. I would start Googling how to do that. I can throw out ideas here. I know that keyword stuffing kind of works reasonably well because these search engines are not Google, the iOS, or the iTunes podcast repository is not very intelligent in terms of how it indexes things.
Rob: Yeah. There’s a lot of search engines that are still easy to game and this is one of them. I would kind of dig into that if I were a new one. When I launched the podcast, I would it with four episodes live because as soon as someone subscribes for the first time, it downloads all the available episodes up to three or four. If you only have one episode, someone listens to it, they don’t like, they’re going to leave. But if they download all four of them, they might give it more of a chance. It’s just a little bit of a hack to get more episodes onto someone’s device so that they might listen through them and see if it gets better because your first one’s probably be kind of rough. Please don’t go back and listen to episode one of this podcast. It is beyond rough.
Mike: I think that’s an understatement. All that’s great advice. Another thing I would say is, you had mentioned SEO, one of the things we do at Startups For The Rest Of Us is we have transcripts of all of our episodes. I would advise doing that, and it does cost money to have them done but it is worth it in terms of just having raw content on your website. You can just go to WordPress and just type in whatever search term you have, and it will go back through and it will search every single podcast that you have ever published. In addition to that, you also have the search engines that are coming in and indexing that content. That is going to be helpful as well.
The one other piece of advice I have is if you’re going to start interviewing founders of other companies, let them know when you publish the podcast and have them invite their own audience to it because that can help you to grow your own audience for the podcast. In terms of paid advertising, I think that you could do newsletters and things like that. Find bloggers who are speaking to an audience that’s very similar to the types of people who you want to be listening to your podcast and the materials aimed at and see if you can put a plug inside their newsletter. I think that’s probably the strategy I would go to.
I don’t know how well a paid advertising on Google or Facebook or something like that would work. I have my doubts about it. I think it’s going to be hard to track through a conversion for that like, “Oh, did this person actually subscribed to the podcast or not?” because you’re kind of doing blanket advertising at that point. It’s going to be hard to measure conversion rate and then pull them out like, “Oh, this person downloaded the podcast.” Well, how do you know that? You really can’t because those things are disconnected at this point. I would say it’s more like billboard advertising where you’re bringing out awareness to it versus somebody signs-up for an email list then you can stop advertising to them. You have no idea whether or not they did.
Rob: Yeah, I like the idea of using paid channels to grow a personal brand. It would be tough to make it work with a podcast for exactly what you said. You don’t know who’s taking what actions. Podcast listeners are also not that valuable compared to say, email subscribers. Podcast as the promotion, it is the thing that brings in the traffic. Driving traffic to a podcast via paid acquisition, I can’t imagine that working. I could imagine in the free channels. That’s the thing, the podcast content is what you share on social and then that brings the folks in and then you try to get them to buy or to sign-up for your email list. Those are your two typical calls to action.
But to pay to drive someone to a podcast then try to drive into your email list or whatever, I just think it’s going to be too long of a funnel—personal opinion, haven’t tried it, but I’m guessing it would be. It’s not something I would dive into especially if you haven’t launched yet, if you’re in early stage product. I think there are more important things for you to be worrying about.
Mike: I think I’d point to Groove as an example of how to do that because they blogged about it. I do think that maybe there’s some value in having a podcast where you talk about the blog article that you just published or the post or something like that, but I would treat that as secondary. I would look at that newsletter article that you publish on a weekly basis as kind of the go-to for like, “Hey, people are following this particular story,” and you have them on the email list. I think the disconnect on the podcast and paying user, subscriber, or like an email address—it’s just too much.
Rob: Thanks for the question. I hope that was helpful. Our next question comes from Greg. He says, “Thanks for the show. I’m a big fan. I have a B2B SaaS that is focused on small businesses. I want to keep focusing on the segment because things have been working out really well. We have $45,000 in MRR.” Congratulations, Greg. “I enjoyed the frictional sales process. Sometimes we get some larger businesses interested in our product. Problem is that we use the system very much the same way as smaller businesses do, so we don’t have an enterprise plan. Additionally, most of them require a more presales work. For example, yesterday, one of the customers had their IT department send us a huge security assessment spreadsheet that would take me hours to complete. It also asked for architectural details I’m not comfortable sharing. For $100 a month, it doesn’t look like this is where I should be spending my time. How should I deal with these requests and how should I avoid wasting time with enterprise types when they are not my target market?”
You and I actually discussed this on stage at MicroConf Europe a little bit. But what are your thoughts here?
Mike: I think that you need to look at your pricing and figure out whether or not this is a market that you want to serve at all. Maybe you’ve looked at it already and decided it’s not worth it or you just don’t want to deal with those types of customers or you look at that and say, “Well, I do want to. How can I justify charging them more in order to make it worth my time?” One trick or hack that I’ve heard in the past is to offer an SLA with your enterprise plans. It probably doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do a heck of a lot more, but it’s just like you increase the cost by $800 a month for having an SLA on it because they’re going to want that. And then you can have all the documentation in order to justify that as the enterprise plan. But I think beyond that, do you really want to have them as a customer or not? That’s the fundamental question that you need to answer before you start going down the road of deciding when to spend your time on that.
Rob: I think that’s a good way to think about it. Can you charge more to make it worth it? This used to happen to me with DotNetInvoice, it was a $300 invoicing tool and it was a one-time fee. We would get approached and someone would say, “Here’s this massive checklist.” the same stuff. I would say, “Look, I’m sorry, we just aren’t equipped to service requests like this. This is just not something we’re able to do.” Some people would be puzzled like, “You don’t want me to give you my money? I want to spend money with you.” I was always like, “It’s $300. It just isn’t worth the time.” Some people would just be like, “Okay, I totally get it.”
Oftentimes I had a, “Look, a larger competitor I would recommend.” I’d be like, “If you want invoicing software for enterprise, go with XYZ, large competitor.” and they’re way more expensive than us. They were 10 or even 100 times frankly more expensive than us but they’re set up to handle that. That’s probably what I’d do is try to figure out someone you can recommend. You could even say, “For liability reasons or legal reasons, we aren’t able to…” […] just too high volume, “…and we aren’t able to do this kind of checklist, architectural stuff is just not something that we’re able to do but go to this competitor and they’re set up to do that.” It ends the conversation.
Our next question comes from Jonathan Sachs. He says, “I know about MicroConf and Big Snow Tiny Conf. What other similar conferences might you recommend checking out?”
Mike: We answered this question on stage at MicroConf Europe because people were asking. A couple of different recommendations that we threw out, one Big Snow Tiny Conf because the way the question was worded was what other conferences aside from MicroConf would you recommend. We also threw out Business of Software which I will say is aimed at a different market. But it’s the type of people who would go to it tend to be part of larger businesses. You’re talking 15 employees and up. There are smaller companies there as well but generally, you do not necessarily get as many founders there, so with MicroConf, it’s like 90% founders whereas with Business of Software it’s somewhere between 10 and 25 or 30.
A couple of others I might recommend is FemtoConf, that is run by Benedikt and Christoph who both have come to MicroConf before. I spoke at FemtoConf this past Spring, so did Dr. Sherry Walling, she spoke there as well. That’s a great one especially if you fit within the Microvenure/Startups For The Rest Of Us/MicroConf-type of community where it’s all small, self-funded, bootstrapped for founders. There’s a couple of others that Brian Casel has a list that he put together. I think we’ll link that up in the show notes of tiny conferences. He listed a couple there which I haven’t heard of or don’t know very much about. The three other he has listed here are TropicalSaaS in Spain, Digital Founders Camp, and then CodeCabin. Do you know of any others, Rob?
Rob: Nope. I think that’s a pretty good roundup. The bottom line there is many have come and go in the kind of software, SaaS, self-funded, bootstrapper space, and most of them have not stuck around. I think that list you’ve given is a pretty good one.
Mike: Some other ones I’ve heard of but don’t know a lot about are things like Rhodium Weekend and Peers Conf and then Release Notes.
Rob: I like Rhodium a lot. I’ve spoken there, and I know the crew there. Chris Yates runs that and he’s one of us. He’s very much about it for the community rather than trying to make a bunch of money out if it or something, so it’s very authentic. He has crafted a community that I respect. It’s a small conference, it’s only about 100-110 people. It’s more about buying and selling websites, and web properties, and marketing them and stuff. It’s tangentially related but it’s definitely different. It’s not about startups and often not about like starting your own thing, and it’s very much not necessarily about software. It’s about websites, web properties, and some people do have web applications, but that’s about it.
Mike: Jonathan, I hope that was helpful.
Rob: I think we should wrap it up for the day.
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