Episode 439 | 9 Key Takeaways from MicroConf 2019

Episode 439 | 9 Key Takeaways from MicroConf 2019

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Show Note

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike talk about their 9 key takeaways from MicroConf 2019. They give a brief synopsis of some of the talks from both starter and growth edition.

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Rob: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike and I talk about nine key takeaways from MicroConf 2019. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us episode 439.

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 going to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. We’re in this week, man? You sound a little tired.

Mike: It’s mostly the voice, it’s just a little scratchy. I am a little tired, but it could be worse. I mean after seven days in Vegas, that will do it to you.

Rob: That’s the thing, right? Normally, we record this MicroConf recap episode the week after or at least a day or two after MicroConf and this year due to my travel schedule, I’m heading to London in a couple of days. We basically have been in Vegas for six and seven days respectively, and voices are shut, and all the things. Hopefully, it will go well. Aren’t we also both drinking rye whiskey right now?

Mike: Yes, it’s a WhistlePig rye, it’s called WhistlePig, but it’s a rye whiskey. It’s quite nice. They make it up in Vermont.

Rob: It’s very nice. This will be a fun episode. We have some takeaways that I pulled away from Starter and Growth, let’s see how many we can get through. What’s new with you in terms of the past week hanging out here at MicroConf?

Mike: One thing I noticed that was sort of a recurring theme was I saw people increasing their prices all over the place which was kind of interesting there. I was sitting outside while Starter edition was happening, and there’s some group of people around the table and one of them had been convinced to double his prices on the spot. They basically made him open up his laptop, change the pricing on his website, and then shut down his laptop. It was pretty cool.

Rob: There was someone else that did that. Someone 12xd their pricing. They were obviously priced quite a bit too low and they said that sales continued to come in after doing that. I heard a rumor, you may confirm or deny, that Bluetick’s pricing might be rising soon.

Mike: Yes, it will be going up in the very near future. Actually, probably by the time this podcast goes live, prices will be tripling.

Rob: That’s the way to do it.

Mike: We’ll see what happens. It’s an experiment like anything else, but that’s what you want to know is that price too high or is it not.

Rob: For me, obviously, I had a great week here. It’s super inspiring to see up and coming entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs, and have my laptop charger fail in the middle of the conference. Luis run the conference off our laptops and in this case, we did not, but it was a trip. I have a new MacBook and so I needed the USBC charger and not many people have one. The brick died, the cables all worked. I was like begging, stealing, and borrowing […] at the conference to keep my laptop charged.

Mike: I thought that was funny that of all the things that you had more than one of, the one thing you didn’t was the actual brick itself.

Rob: That’s the thing. I literally have extra this cable, extra that cable. I have two things of ChapStick, I have two or three phone, and iPad chargers. I carry multiples of everything, but I don’t bring an extra brick because it’s the heaviest piece, and I’ve never had one go out on me before just at the time when I needed it, it was kind of funny.

Mike: Actually, I love this, I just saw on Twitter that there is a photo proof of you sitting down on the job while I do all the work.

Rob: That’s fast. I’ll go look for that. You have this whole list of things to do at the end of the conference and I didn’t really know. They’re normally passing back and forth and I just kind of hang out. It was like Tom Sawyer in full effect. MicroConf is a conference you and I started in 2011. It’s for self-funded founders and now, even some not so self-funded founders with the kind of rise of folks like CartHook and LeadFuze who take small rounds of funding, but it’s bootstrappers at heart.

We split the conference three years ago. This week, we ran back-to-back conferences. Monday-Tuesday is MicroConf Growth. We had around, I believe 265 on total attendees including speaker sponsors attendees. At Starter which was the three days following Wednesday, Thursday, 180 people, […] at least this year and last year at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. I think a goal that we made while we were here is to do it somewhere other than Las Vegas next year.

Mike: That would be quite nice, I think.

Rob: We have tried to do that many times and every time, it winds up being so expensive to move out of here. That’s kind of the trap of Vegas, is it’s relatively easy to get to, and the hotel, and that the venue, and the rooms, like just everything is not that expensive, and it’s like less than a 10-minute drive from the airport, it’s all these things that make it, I don’t know, it’s seductive. Because if you look at San Diego, for example, it’s more expensive and it’s a 45-minute drive from the airport to a hotel. I think I’m at the point where I’m just kind of ready to pony up and realize it’s not going have all the pros at Vegas, but we will give up the con, which is it in Las Vegas.

Mike: It’s in Vegas, yes.

Rob: It’s like dry here. I don’t know how you feel. You can tell by our voices, they’re not usual perky Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike today.

Mike: Yup.

Rob: We have nine takeaways, give or take. We might want to put eight or ten, but takeaways from MicroConf, we’re going to look at both. Growth and Starter, we obviously don’t have time to go through every talk. I believe we had 19 sessions, 19 speakers, our Q&A folks, not including the 12 attendee talks, so 31 talks. Of course, we couldn’t possibly cover those in a podcast episode. If you’re interested in seeing an awesome recap in writing, written by Christian Genco, it’s microconfrecap.com. You can go there and see his notes of all the sessions.

For now, let’s dive into our first talk of the entire conference. It was Chris Savage, co-founder of Wistia. The takeaway I took away from Chris was, know what you’re getting into when raising funding. It’s interesting because you could have watched his talk and thought about funding is bad, but I don’t think that’s the message. It was that they didn’t think it through when they raised their funding. The talk title was, How an Offer to Sell Inspired Us to Take On $17 Million In Debt. Wistia, they blogged about it as well, is that they raise funding because it just seemed like the right thing to do. They followed the typical venture path, they actually had pretty high expenses because they are video hosting, obviously, and they weren’t really aware bootstrapping what I understand, so they raise multiple rounds.

At certain point, they got an offer to sell Wistia, but they really thought it over, and agonized, and said, “If we sold it, we would probably start another Wistia. This is really the space we want to be in. We don’t necessarily want to exit this.” But once they realized that, they realized they had a responsibility to their investors of, “Look, if we never sell, how do they get a return?” Now, one thing he never thought about pulling dividends out, but I think they’re probably a C-Corp, and frankly, their investors probably didn’t want that. I guess that’s been a thing lately with alternative funding, the Indie.vc and TinySeed is that from the start or set up that if you wanted to just do dividends, and run it, and not sell it, works; if you decide to sell it works. That’s the optionality I don’t feel like Wistia had.

Mike: Yeah, I think you’re take on this is a little different than mine, where you had said that, you know what you’re getting into, when raising funding. I took it more as a revelation on their part that they realized after a while, after they take in the funding, and obviously, well after that because—I think they funded it in 2008 or 2009, well after that, things changed, and they decided that they wanted something different.

Because of that change, because of the way that they view things was different, the original path no longer suited them. They had to look for ways to change that. That’s how I interpreted it, but I can definitely see how there’s probably three or four different ways that his talk could be interpreted. I don’t think any of them are bad, it’s just that whatever lessons you take away from it, I think you’re going to be great. It was a fantastic talk, it was well put together. I do think that the story of what they went through and how they got there is just interesting in and of itself.

Rob: I would agree. I mean, to be honest Chris Savage was kind of a long time aspiration of mine to get to MicroConf, so it was super cool to have him here this year. Our second session, was, it wasn’t a talk, it was Q&A with Jason Fried. I felt like the takeaway from there was know what you’re good at and make sure to double down on that. What’s interesting is already, we have some ratings and reviews and such coming in because we sent a survey out at the end of the conference. Typically, Q&A sessions are ranked in the middle, they’re not at the top, they’re at the bottom, sometimes they’re at the bottom depending, but Jason Fried is probably the highest rated Q&A session we’ve ever had.

I think that his authenticity, and kind of just his honesty really came out. He answered some pretty fascinating questions about Basecamp, about what it was like to get started about why he grew so fast. I mean at one point, I asked him why did it grow so fast and he said, “We don’t know.” That’s awesome, like, “Thank you for saying that, and not acting like it was that you were super smart, and that you knew what you were doing.” He’s just like, “Yeah.” At a certain point, he said, “We got a little lucky, we had some good timing, and we did some things right as well.” I was like, “That is fantastic assessment.”

Mike: I think that’s the position of a lot of successful people are in. One thing that had come up during the Q&A was that the fact that Basecamp, originally it was 37signals and then they launched Basecamp, and Highrise, and Ta-Da List and several other products, they looked at trying to sell Highrise, which was making obviously millions of dollars at the time. They could not find the buyer because of the fact that they didn’t want to let the team that was working on it and go with it. They just wanted to sell the code base, and the revenue stream, and customers, and all that other stuff to somebody else, and nobody was willing to pay for it. I made sure that I had him kind of clarify this like, “This code base was worth nothing without the team behind it.” He was like, “Yeah, it was.”

Rob: Code base plus revenue stream.

Mike: We get a lot of questions to the podcast about, “How much effort should I put in to protecting my code and making sure that people aren’t stealing it? If I hire a contractor, what do I do?” To have Jason Fried come out and say that the code and the revenue stream behind it were worthless without the team behind it. That’s just a big answer, I think to that question, that continues to come up.

Rob: I wouldn’t say it was worthless. He said they got offers, they were just super low without the team. He said, “We didn’t want to give it away.” If you end up doing $1 million a year and if you bought the team with it, you can get $5 million, and if you didn’t bring the team, you can get $1 million. I get the feeling it was that kind of situation where it’s not that it’s worthless, but it’s worth a lot, lot less.

Mike: He did turn down my offer.

Rob: You offered to buy it from the money in your pocket?

Mike: Yes, I did. I had like $100, maybe $200. I don’t know.

Rob: He graciously declined. That was cool.

Mike: Yes.

Rob: Later in MicroConf, we had a speaker who had to cancel last minute. He actually made it to Las Vegas and then had a personal issue come up and had to leave. Big thanks to Patrick McKenzie, also known as Patio11 on the internet, for filling in and talking about things that Silicon Valley Companies do well. He basically wrote a talk in 24 hours. He said, “We can throw stones at Silicon Valley; yes, it does a lot of things wrong, there’s no doubt but there are certain things that they’re pretty good at.

We won’t dig into all the points of his talk. I think the biggest thing that I took away or the one that impacted the most when he was talking was something that a boss said to him at some point at Stripe. The question was, “After a 45-year career, what do you want to be true?” I would rephrase that almost like, “What do you want to feel or have accomplished looking back on your entire working career?” I think this is a great question to think about, is legacy. This is something I have thought about, not in depth, and extensively.

When I think about legacy—it’s interesting—I think much more about this podcast, and MicroConf, and blogs, and books than I do about the actual companies I’ve started. I bet Jason Fried thinks about his legacy is probably Basecamp. Maybe it’s the books that they’ve written as well, but it’s just interesting to think that different people have different answers for this. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong, but figure it out for yourself and then every day, make a bit of progress towards that.

Mike: I definitely think that this is the type of question that should make it onto the list of questions that you’re going to ask yourself at a personal retreat. But one of the other aspects of that was that, “What does it mean after that 45 years?” I think Patrick had said—and you can correct me if I’m misremembering this—but I think he had looked at and said, “Well, what does that mean to me and how would I quantify it?” I think his basic assessment of how he was going to quantify it was how much impact he’s had on other people over the course that 45 years, and what it means kind of collectively to give himself sort of a numeric score so to speak. I thought that was an interesting way of looking at it as well. Everybody can do it in any way that they want, but I just thought it was an interesting way for him to quantify what that meant to him.

Rob: We had a talk from Hanne Vervaeck, she’s the COO of Thrive Themes. The takeaway I had from her was, “Don’t build what your customers ask for.” Really, it’s don’t only build or just build, you can get a mess. We’ve talked about that a little bit on the podcast in the past. Basically, she talked through handling feature requests; they get hundreds and hundreds of them each month. She talked about instead of implementing every feature customers ask for, do one-on-one customer calls on a call. Shut up and listen, ask questions, and she had a cool process for handling that. In our last couple of years at Drip as it kept ramping up, we were getting probably 100-150 a month when we got acquired, and it was at least double that by the time I left. We had to figure out a way to do this as well. I liked hearing her approach and her thoughts on this.

Mike: The cool thing about when she was discussing that was really, it was a nice way of saying that customers don’t always know what should be built. They have an idea of like, “This is how you should solve the problem.” But the reality is that you should dig into that, and find out what problem they’re actually trying to solve. As opposed to listening to them and implementing things that they say, “You should be doing this. I need a feature that does that.” If you start digging in and trying to figure out more of a jobs-to-be-done type of thing, then you’re going to be much better off if you just blindly implement it, which I think is intuitively obvious to most people, but at the same time, your customers don’t know all the other things that are going on. Quite frankly, you may not even agree with them. You may decide, “Well, yes. That sounds great and all, but it’s just not the right direction for the business, or for the company, or the product,” and you may decide to ignore them because of that. Customers absolutely do not have all the information. Sometimes you have to overrule them.

Rob: I wrapped up the first day with my talk that was titled, The City Bootstrapping in 2019. I looked at some trends that have changed over the past 14 years since I’ve started talking about all this stuff, and then a bunch of things that have stayed the same. I think the takeaway I pulled from there is kind of, there’s more competition these days, but there are also more funding options. I definitely still and whole-heartedly a bootstrapper at heart and believe that the bootstrapping and self-funding are totally viable ways to go. Given that there is more competition, some of the scraps I had with just enormous amounts of VC funding reported SaaS in general.

We, as a community like you and I, with the podcast and the conference were kind of early to SaaS. Now, the big money is coming in over the past eight or nine years. Something I’m talking about is like more funding options are available and that funding is no longer binary. You can look at someone, like a lot of the angel investments I’ve done, where they literally plan to raise a single round, they’re not going to raise institutional funding. They don’t have a board, they never plan to go public or have a unicorn exit. They technically raised money, but they’re still very capital efficient, and they’re using this money to reach escape velocity with their start up faster and maybe a little less painful than that two to three years that we often now see it taking for a truly bootstrapped SaaS to do that.

Mike: I think that there definitely has to be a discussion in our circles around what the terminology actually ends up being, because I think that that’s a source of confusion for a lot of people. If you spend all of your own money on it, or you do it on credit cards, is that self-funding? Well, I guess technically, but at the same time, if you build a product up and then sell it outright to somebody else, and you get a pile of money, and then you put it into your next product, is that self-funding, is that bootstrap? Well, I don’t know. What does that actually mean? I think there’s going to be some discussions over the next coming months or years about some subtle changes to how we view some of the terms like bootstrapping, and self-funding, and maybe bootstrapping becomes more of a state of mind than anything else.

Rob: I would agree. Frankly, I wonder if the terms are—how important they actually are. I think they’re helpful to give context to things when you start to talk and you said, “Look, I’m a bootstrapper. This how I think about things.” That’s helpful versus if I sit up there and said, “Look, I’ve raised VC funding,” then take my advice in that context. That’s why I think it’s helpful, but I do think it’s unhelpful, and that people sometimes get dogmatic about this stuff, and I do not think you should never raise funding. “VC is the worst ever.” Or, “Bootstrapping, it’s just terrible. Why would you even do that?” I’ve heard people say this. I don’t think that’s helpful to do the always never should game. It’s like, let’s keep open minds and realize that this is now a continuum. There is bootstrapping where I literally have $50 to start it, and it has to grow on its own revenue. That’s very hard.

Self-funding is the next thing to the right I will say. It’s the next notch over where it’s like, “Yeah, I have $200,000 to pump into this business,” or, “$100,000 of my own money.” It’s a little different, it’s a different situation in bootstrapping. I’ve done both. I know, it’s very different. And then perhaps the next up step over is taking a small amount of funding from TinySeed or any .vc, or funding source that maybe isn’t expecting you to get huge and you can still build a profitable business selling real product to real customers and then maybe the next notch over is venture capital. Maybe there’s even a notch in between. That’s the thing, it’s not binary anymore.

Mike: I feel like maybe some people get too hung up on the terminology because it feels like their identity is being attacked like, “I’m a bootstrapper and you’re not.” As you said, it’s not binary anymore; it used to be, but now it’s not. I think there’s maybe something about identity crisis going on, but I definitely think that there’s going to be talks and discussions about that behind closed doors. Maybe we’ll come out with something new, or maybe it’ll just kind of be a perpetual issue for the next 20 years, I don’t know.

Rob: Another talk, kind of a last one we’ll cover with Growth, Joanna Wiebe who’s been a many time MicroConf speaker. The takeaway I took from her is that words matter as she talked about copywriting. She ran through seven words that work well in copy. […] here because rattling them off isn’t going to help you. It’s probably somewhere you want to watch the talk when it gets there, or look at Christian Genco’s notes at microconfrecap.com just to see what she talked about and how she presented it.

Mike: Next up, we have Starter. I think that we both want to say a big thank you to Ben Orenstein for being the MC. I think he did a fantastic job. It’s interesting because his talk was actually the last of the conference. Usually, in the past two years when we’ve had an MC, the talks that the MC gave, they were the first talk, and then they were the MC for the rest of it. Whereas Ben, he did the entire conference as the MC and then he got up and spoke which, I mean, that’s just a testament to his ability to get up there in front of everybody.

Rob: Yeah and his talk was great. He always brings it; entertaining, witty, charming. It’s almost like Ben’s here in the room and I’m talking to him. Tall, what did I say? The man with the plan. He’s 6’5 with a tan. You know what I like about his talk is it was, he didn’t even try to pull too many actionable bits out of it, although there was advice and such. It was just a really well told story. I know the story, I’ve listened to every episode of their podcast and yet, I sat there and listened just kind of riveted by how he would talk about the learning from this, and how they did this experiment, and he just set it up so well. Honestly, that’s another one where it’s like, we couldn’t do a justice in five bullet points, that’s one where you need to watch the video when it comes out.

Mike: Definitely. I love the story, and the way that he told it, and how some things came together really well and some things were like, “We discovered this along the way and who knew?” Some of the lessons were, I wouldn’t say they were obvious, but they’re obvious in hindsight. It’s like, “Yeah, that was probably going to be an issue and nobody really thought about it.”

Rob: Just to be clear, we didn’t mention his podcast. It’s called, The Art of Product Podcast and his product is called to Tuple which is a pair of programming SaaS. Another talk we had, it was on the first day of Starter was from Abi Noda. The takeaway I got from him was, “Start quickly by building on someone else’s platform.” Now, he also talked about how there’s a risk in doing that. A platform risk where you’re dependent on them and they could potentially implement a feature and put you out of business. I like that he’s at 21K MRR. He’s only been doing it for—how long is it? Eight months, nine months? It’s not that long.

Mike: Yeah, I think it was a little over a year.

Rob: Okay. It’s pretty quick for a solo founder with no employees. I don’t even the he has contractors to be at 21K MRR. That’s life changing man. The other thing is he talked multiple times about how he’s doing things wrong. He’s like, “I’m not sure about my pricing. I don’t actually think it’s optimal,” but enough things are working that he’s at 21K MRR. Maybe if he optimized to keep—that could be 30 or 40, and that’s great, you can do that. But at this point, he’s bought his own freedom and that’s what I liked about that story. He didn’t get up there and say, “I did everything right and look what all I did.” He’s like, “I did some things wrong and it still worked.”

I think the fact that he built on GitHub, he has a GitHub add-on that notifies you when there’s a pool request that need reviews and notifies you via Slack. He’s in the GitHub marketplace and that was kind of his big marketing approach. It was funny because when I when I talk about stair stepping and how there’s step one, two, and three, he combined step one and three. Step one is that one time downloadable product with a single traffic source, and then step three is recurring revenue. He has recurring revenue, but it’s a single traffic source in essence. I know he has some other traffic but most of it is focused in GitHub marketplace.

Mike: I did find it interesting that the way he opened his talk was the fact that he got fired, that was the day before Christmas or something like that. It was kind of a life-changing event for him and he’s like, “Okay, well now what do I do?” It took him a little while before he figured out, “Well, I kind of wanted to do this and launch my own thing,” and then he did it. There were a bunch of mistakes that he made along the way and things changed for him as he made tweaks to the business and as he basically, just improved things. I think that’s something that a lot of people forget is that, just launching is not the end of the story, that’s not even the destination or the goal, that’s the beginning of it; that’s where you start to learn things and where the rubber hits the road and you’re able to start adjusting what it is that you do. You hear from customers and tweak the business.

Rob: Another good talk was from Lianna Patch, a returning MicroConf speaker. The take away I have from her talk was, “Don’t make stupid copywriting mistakes.” She actually talked and covered a lot of topics, but the stupid copywriting mistake section was cool. She talked about having me-centric copy. Instead of having you and your, it has a lot of I’m, and we, and me. She talked about writing like a robot. Sentences that were too complicated, trying to do too much, and then clichés and nonsense phrases, and had a bunch listed there.

Again, microconfrecap.com if you want to see the specifics of that, but Lianna is in the trenches. She runs Punchline Copy and is on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis is writing a lot more copy than you and I frankly. She really is in the weeds on how this stuff should be done. She actually wrote the copy for bluetick.com, didn’t she?

Mike: Yes, she did. She wrote a couple of emails in the email sequence as well. I gave her access to all the notes and stuff that I had taken from all the customer interviews and customer development that I’ve done. She took that and she translated into the copy for the website. She also went through and tweaked all the onboarding emails and the educational emails that I put out there. Basically, overhauled the entire thing. Honestly, it’s doing its job. It’s just doing it really well.

Rob: That’s cool. I realized I just said bluetick.com but you’re bluetick.io. Sorry about that. Your website looks great. I just went to it. It looks really good. I’ve not seen it redesigned. How long ago did that happen?

Mike: That was a while ago. We talked about that on the podcast, that was probably close to a year ago.

Rob: Did we? I don’t remember it.

Mike: I mean there’s been little tweaks and stuff, it depends on what you’ve seen. I don’t know.

Rob: Yeah. The design it’s far superior to my memory of what Bluetick was. My memory must be dated at this point.

Mike: I’ve had it redone I think just before the last MicroConf.

Rob: Mike, do you hear the music in the background? We are on the 21st floor of a hotel in Las Vegas.

Mike: It’s interesting, I almost feel like there should be security coming over and kicking you out because you’re wearing flip flops and you look too old to be here.

Rob: Yeah, exactly. Wait a minute, I’m not doing either of those things. I did not look too old. Alright, I do a little bit.

Mike: Don’t you remember when that happened at the Hard Rock?

Rob: Yeah. Weren’t they filming some type of like an MTV something around the pool? I think what it was—now, they didn’t say it out loud that we were too old, and this was a few years ago, but we were in beach gear. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt with flip flops. They wanted you to be in a full on no shirt, swim trunks, totally ripped abs, the whole deal. I was walking, “Sorry, sir. We’re filming.” “Really, what are you filming?”

Mike: I think you should correct that, it’s not us, it was you.

Rob: It was me. No, I was including you man.

Mike: I wasn’t there.

Rob: Alright, forget it. We didn’t notice. We didn’t go back to the Hard Rock the next year.

Mike: That’s true. Although they didn’t demolish it in later years.

Rob: A little known fact, the hotel that the first MicroConf was at was demolished shortly thereafter because it was so old.

Mike: Our next talk was from Omar Zenhom and he’s from WebinarNinja. I thought this was actually a fascinating talk, mostly because there was one takeaway that I think just kind of tramped all others that you could possibly take it away from that which was, “You should build an audience before building a product. If you don’t have an audience, you just simply do not have a product, and nothing you can do is going to change that.”

Rob: Yeah and I don’t agree with him on that. I think that’s how he did it and I appreciate his perspective of how he built the business using an audience, but I have seen too many founders who have built businesses without an audience. Do I agree that it makes it easier? Yes. Do I agree that maybe it’s a thing you should do? Maybe. But if you’re not that type of person, don’t do that. I have known founders and many founders who have amazingly successful businesses and did not start with an audience.

Mike: Maybe I should qualify that a little bit better. I agree with you that you don’t need the an audience before you start, you don’t have to build the audience before you build the product. But I do think that there is a certain amount of momentum that you kind of need to maintain over time and doing that almost requires an audience. That’s not for every product, but I think for any product of some scale and complexity where it takes time to educate people, and they’re not going to be at the right point in order to purchase your product, it may be three months or eight months out, or maybe even two years.

You need to be able to keep them around and the way you keep them around is through some sort of content marketing, or education, and you’re going to be able to catch them at that moment. If you don’t, it’s going to be hard to scale your business to a much higher level than if you’ve got a product and you’re only catching them at the time where they are experiencing that pain point enough to go look for a solution.

Rob: Yeah, maybe. I think of Salesforce, maybe Salesforce is a bad example, but think of just outbound cold email and companies that have grown doing that. They don’t have audience. I mean, I have talked to TinySeed applicants, they have zero audience. Actually, they have almost no traffic to their website, and yet they’re doing several thousand in MRR and growing, because they’re just using other tactics; using traditional sales tactics. The internet marketer space, or in the SMB space, so to speak, it could be a potential thing. WebinarNinja is definitely going after SMBs. It’s going after some aspirational entrepreneurs. It’s going after a crowd where building an audience is super important. It’s a great thing to leverage, but if you’re not in that space, I guess I would not wholeheartedly agree with that assessment.

Mike: Sure. I guess maybe I said that more because that’s the type of space that I operate in now and that I would want to work with. There’s obviously certain ones where I wouldn’t want to, and that I don’t think it would work there.

Rob: Yeah, totally. The other thing I liked that Omar said there, where had one slide where he said, “Take things that are unique about you and make them your advantage.” We talked about his name, how no one else has Omar Zenhom, and that was a unique thing. He could rank at Google really easily for that. No one else was from Egypt. He just talked a lot about himself, about how he used that as a superpower. I thought that was cool because I think it’s something a lot of us, me included, try to fit in and try to not be unique for some reason because we feel like fitting in is important, but I actually like the sentiment of making your unique thoughts, skills, and abilities your true advantage.

Mike: The last talk we’ll cover in this episode is Asia Matos who runs demandmaven.io. I really liked the fact that because of the split between Starter and Growth edition, she spoke at Starter edition. One of the great things about splitting the conference in two is that speakers can hone their talk to the audience. She really honed it down to basically telling them, “Look, there’s lots of different pieces of your sales funnel, but if you want to get to your first 100 customers, you really need to focus on that bottom of the funnel and try and make sure that you are talking to them directly about your product, and exactly what it can do.” Because the middle of the funnel, and at the top of the funnel, those are much broader areas to tackle and they’re harder to do if you’re not able to convert people at the bottom.

If you can’t convert them at the bottom, adding more people into your sales funnel isn’t going to change that and it’s not going to help. It will get you more customers, assuming you can add enough at scale, but if the bottom of your funnel is so leaky that it doesn’t really move the needle for you, then there’s no point in trying to do that. Really focus on the bottom, optimize that, and that’s really going to help you move forward.

Rob: Yeah. This is really good advice and it’s not talked about enough. I’m glad that this was the point of her talk really, is that people think they just need to send more people onto their website or into a trial, but if churning people out, or if people are not going trial to paid, or if people are not going visitor to trial, you have to start at that bottom and work up. Of course, you need another traffic that you can do some type of testing for the numbers to make sense. Certainly, scaling up and starting at the top of funnel just doesn’t make sense. She was a dense talk in a good way. It was a lot of information. She actually compressed a longer talk down to fit in our speaking slot. I think she did a good job of covering how to get your first 100 customers. 17th and 18th MicroConf are in the bag sir, how do you feel?

Mike: Tired.

Rob: Drunk.

Mike: Not yet.

Rob: I know. We’re like one shot. This is a good whiskey though.

Mike: Actually, I’m on my second or third. Probably second right now.

Rob: I’m in the other room. Mike and I always record across the country rather I guess at this point halfway across the country. It’s so weird when every five years, we happen to be in the same place, and we try to record, and there’s echo and all this stuff. We’re in the same hotel room, but it’s a suite, and we have a door closed between us. It’s just a unique experience.

Mike: For sure. I did realize something. Did you think about the fact that MicroConf Europe is going to be the 19th MicroConf, and then next year, Growth edition will be the 20th?

Rob: What a trip. How fitting.

Mike: Yeah.

Rob: I had not thought about that at all, that’s cool. Speaking of MicroConf Europe, it’s in Croatia again, at that amazing ridiculously cool hotel where every room as an ocean view of the Mediterranean. It is October 21st and 22nd of 2019. Tickets will go on sale. They may already be on sale to the early bird list as your listening with this. But go to microconfeurope.com, enter your email if you’re interested in potentially joining us and around 150 other software founders who are trying to get their stuff done.

Mike: Well, I think that about wraps us up for the day. If you have a question for us, you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. 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 and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.


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