This week we catch up with Mike Taber, he comes on the show every once in a while to share his progress as he grows his SaaS App, Bluetick. We haven’t checked in with Mike since before the quarantine, and the last time we spoke to him, he had more than doubled his revenue in the past 4-5 months. We will talk about how the COVID-19 crisis has affected Bluetick and other SaaS apps, some new insights that Mike has been learning about his customer base, and decisions he has made about the positioning and marketing of Bluetick.
It is difficult to try and land new customers when we are facing a global pandemic and a possible recession. If you are working on a startup, you might find it helpful to know how someone else is handling this crisis in their business.
The finer points of the episode:
- 5:00 – How Bluetick and other SAS apps have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis
- 8:35 – Mike’s biggest success and biggest defeat in the past 7 weeks
- 11:32 – Where Mike’s customers are finding him?
- 12:53 – What makes Bluetick different from its competitors
- 15:27 – An update on Mike’s email campaign to canceled customers
- 19:08 – Mike’s plans to change the positioning and copy on his website now that he understands how people are using Bluetick
- 25:28 – An update on Mike’s podcast tour
- 29:36 – What Mike is looking forward to over the next month
Items mentioned in this episode:
Rob: Hey, look. It’s Startups for the Rest of Us episode 494. As always, I’m your host, Rob Walling, and this week we catch up with Mike Taber. He comes to the show about once every month or two and updates us with his experience and progress growing his SaaS app, Bluetick.io.
Two things before we dive into that conversation. The first is we released the MicroConf Video Vault. Over 170 hours of talks across 194 different sessions recorded over almost a decade of events. We had previously sold some of these, some were accessible and some were not, but we took all of them.
They are on our YouTube Channel. It’s youtube.com/microconf. We’ve created several playlists for some serial speakers. There’s Patio11, a playlist of his talks. There’s one of mine. We have a playlist of the Top 5 Rated Microconf Talks of All Time as well as a brand new playlist called Building your First SaaS: The Ultimate Crash Course.
It’s ten videos and it’s like a course where it starts at the beginning with idea validation and it runs through most of the aspects of building and growing a SaaS. Check it out, youtube.com/microconf. I hope you enjoy it as most of us are sheltering into place. I think there’s some time to fit in some good marketing, growth, idea validation, and other MicroConf-type talks amid our Netflix binging and HBO watching.
The second thing is I’m trying something new this week. We have our very first sponsor. I do not plan to have ads run every week or anywhere near every week on this show, but intermittently a sponsor who’s particularly a good fit. I will entertain the idea of having an ad on the show. I’m proud to say that through a connection with MicroConf, Basecamp has sponsored Startups for the Rest of Us and they bought a handful of ad spots that will appear over the many coming months. With that let’s hear today from Basecamp.
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Rob: With that, let’s dive in with my conversation with Mike Taber. Mike, thanks for coming back on the show.
Mike: Hey, how’s it going?
Rob: It’s going good, man. Kind of sheltering in place here in Minneapolis. You as well in the Boston area?
Mike: Quarantine Mike here over the Boston area.
Rob: Quarantine Mike, Indeed. Stay safe. We haven’t talked since before all the quarantine stuff happened, really before the COVID stuff.
Mike: Yeah. You know what’s interesting is that you know that you’re mostly an introvert when the vast majority of your life simply doesn’t change when the entire country shuts down.
Rob: Right. It’s like, wait the only thing that’s different is my kids are home all day. You texted me and said, “I’ve been planning for this moment my entire life.” It’s great.
Mike: Honestly, there’s not a lot in my life that has changed other than like I said, the kids being home all the time, and then little things like you go to the store. Now, you wear a mask when you go to the store. We don’t order out pizza on Friday nights anymore because everything’s shut down and my wife’s business is a little different, but by-and-large, the rest of the stuff for me is not a whole lot different.
Rob: Wait, so pizza places are shut down? Because we can get to-go food. We pull up to the curb, we can get stuff delivered from Bite Squad, Uber Eats, DoorDash and all that. Are you not able to do that?
Mike: We technically could, but I wouldn’t say it’s a debate in our household. We want to support local businesses, but at the same time, what precautions were they taking? We don’t really know and we’re trying to cut down on the amount of junk food we eat anyway.
Rob: Fair enough. Cool, man. It’s been almost seven weeks since we last spoke and the prior two calls to that, that covered six or seven weeks each, you were upbeat, things were working, you had more than doubled revenue than that previous about 4–5-month span. I’m curious as we start off—set the stage for us—has that revenue escalation continued or have you—like the other SaaS apps I’m seeing—been kind of hit by the COVID slow down?
Mike: It has not increased at that pace. I’ve had churns like most other businesses have and unfortunately, the churn that I’ve had has offset the gains. I have added customers and I’ve had people come to me and say hey, I can’t let go see people anymore or they want to be able to stay in touch with people so they switch over and use email.
But then, I’ve had a number of customers that have switched and put their accounts on hold. Last year, what I’ve done is I implemented this mechanism for people to put their account on hold instead of charging them $50 in a mailbox, I would charge them $10. What that would do is it will allow me to keep all their data, still synchronize their mailboxes; they just really couldn’t just log in and use the app.
I think the vast majority of my churn has been in the form of downgrades to pause accounts. It’s not that the people are leaving. They are just saying, let’s put things on hold until things settle down and we can come back and do this. I’m trying to remember if I had any outright cancellations. I don’t think that I have.
Rob: Cool. That sounds reasonable and that is one note. If you’re listening, that’s why we look at revenue churn, not customer churn. It’s one of the reasons. The other reason is if you have a customer paying you $10 a month and a customer paying you $1000 a month, then when those customers cancel, if you look at customer churn the numbers look the same but the revenue churn will be vastly different. For those two reasons, you can look at customer churn and it’s interesting, but it’s not nearly as accurate (I’ll say) to your business health as revenue churn is.
I’m bummed to hear. I’m not surprised to hear that you’re plateauing or whatever. Is that what it is? What’s it look like? It’s just a plateau of revenue?
Mike: Yeah. I’ve added customers, but it’s just when I add a customer and then somebody downgrades, it’s only adding a tenth of a customer.
Rob: It’s a net zero.
Mike: Close enough to net zero. The thing is that I haven’t really lost customers, I’ve just lost the revenue that would have been associated with those customers. I have had more people put them at pause than I have added.
Rob: Right, and that’s still churn. It’s not customer churn. It’s revenue churn, but again I’m not surprised by this. How many people right now are doubling down on cold outreach or doing a lot of warm outreach? It’s probably not as many as we were doing two months ago because as we head into a recession, people back off on things and they’re getting a little more concerned about marketing purchases not working right now. There’s a lot to it.
I’m curious to see as with a bunch of businesses. I have insight into direct financials of—it depends on how you count it—about 35–36 companies across TinySeed batches and angel investments I’ve made before TinySeed. The loose pattern I’m seeing is there’s about 20% of SaaS companies are doing really poorly. They are tanking because they are in an industry that’s directly impacted by this, whether it be travel, senior living, something like that. Then, 20% are doing extremely well because they’re for remote workers or they have to do podcasting. They have something that a lot of people now are diving into remote communications.
Then, there’s that 60% in the middle that is slowing down, it’s what it really is. They’re not falling off a cliff, but the growth is either not what it was or they’re plateauing quickly, and I’m curious to see over the next 2–3 months as businesses are reopening here and around the world, you know what happens with those, right? What that means for that 60% in the middle. I feel like you’re probably in that bucket where it’s a wait-and-see type thing. Over the past seven weeks since we last talked, tell me about your high point, the biggest win, and your low point, perhaps the biggest defeat.
Mike: One of the things that we talked about before was there was a fairly large customer that I was trying to get on board and I was trying to get them to go straight to buying Bluetick then they came back and asked if they could do a pilot program.
I’m about probably two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through that right now. They’ve sent me a few questions here and there and they are testing it out. They haven’t come up with anything major. There were two requests that they had. The first one was oh, can you add this font? Because our boss really likes this particular font, Mike? Yeah, I can do that. So that took like very little time to do.
The other thing was they came back and asked and said the email signatures weren’t showing up in the emails that they were sending, even though they had it set to the mailbox. Oh, that’s because you didn’t add in the shortcode and the reason why it’s not added in automatically at the end of the email is because some people like to put a PS at the end of it and they’re like, oh my God, I really love that feature.
Well, it’s nice to be able to explain that. Then I also added another pilot program that is actually a paid pilot program for a small company that could be worth anywhere from $500-$1000 a month.
We’ll see how that goes. They’re paying, I think, $100-$150 a month right now and they’re going to see how it goes. If it goes, well, then they’ll scale it up for other people in their company. But they’re kind of sidelined right now. They can’t go out and visit customers. That’s why they’re looking at Bluetick.
Rob: Cool, that’s exciting, Man. Congratulations. How about your low point?
Mike: I can’t point to anything where I’m like, oh, that was horrible or that was awful. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that comes to mind. I wish that it hadn’t happened or that it was sucky to deal with. So I guess I would take that as a good sign.
Rob: Yeah, not having a low it just kind of like it just was going along. I’m happy to hear that.
Mike: The closest I could come up with if you were to put a gun to my head would be when I was outside trying to do yard work and I was trying to drill out a Rhododendron root in our yard. I have a power drill and I was a little too close to the roots. It caught on something and yanked my hand around and sliced my finger open. That’s the worst. It did hurt really badly for about two weeks. I don’t know if that’s ever gonna be the same, but it’s starting to heal now.
Rob: […] That’s not a business low, but it definitely is. I would qualify that in the low category. It sounds like I have another question here. You mentioned last time you had bigger prospects coming through the $500–$1000 a month.
The one that’s in the pilot was one you already had, but then you have another customer that’s approached you and I had commented like, this is a way to build a business fast. It’s large customers. I’m excited to follow that and I will definitely follow-up with you next time we chat to hear if they came through.
Once again, I’m gonna ask you, do you know where these people are finding you? Is it still word-of-mouth? You said it was one-on-one recommendations, word-of-mouth and there is an entrepreneur’s organization, EO Facebook group. Is that the gist or are there other places where people are finding you? You know why I ask this because if you can’t figure it out then how do you get more from there?
Mike: Yes. So, this one was the other prospect that I’m working on right now. They’re doing a pilot program, so the second one. They were a referral from somebody I know who has a SasS app. They’ve got a bunch of customers and their customers came to them and said, hey, do you know anything that could help us out?
So they essentially had pitched Bluetick to their customers and we worked out an arrangement to help figure out how that was going to play out. But they’ve got a customer base that I could potentially pitch Bluetick to if this works out for this one customer.
We’re trying to figure out how to make it work between that business and my business and if it works out great for this customer, then maybe they’ve got something that they can pitch to their other customers. If not, then, we’ll see how it goes but I might be able to leverage that relationship to help build Bluetick because they do have a customer base that could potentially use Bluetick.
Rob: That’s nice. It’s a good way to keep it moving forward. Let’s see. I’m glad you have stuff in the pipeline still even at times like these. Do you know why Bluetick? Why are these folks coming to you and not to one of your competitors? What’s the differentiation that they say, oh, this is why I need Bluetick rather than XYZ competitor.
Mike: It’s a few different reasons. For a couple of them, it’s the price, which I found odd because I looked around at the competitors that I tend to focus on are the ones that are in the $20-$50 range. I know that Bluetick is priced higher than those, but I have found that there are higher-end competitors that are serving larger companies. They’re looking at Bluetick because those vendors charge a lot more than Bluetick. I hadn’t realized that initially, but some of their prices are much, much higher, like a couple of hundred dollars. They look at it from that perspective, especially if they have like 10, 15, 20 mailboxes. They’re not going to spend $200 mailbox for that kind of stuff.
Rob: It’s nice to position yourself against those folks. I remember with Drip, we were like, oh, everyone’s comparing us to a Mailchimp and AWeber. They have a free plan and $15 a month, then $19. Then the moment where it’s like, wait, why don’t we try to position ourselves against Infusionsoft which starts at $2000 upfront and $300 a month? And we did.
We built enough features that I felt that we could position ourselves against and suddenly we were easier to use, less expensive version of some really expensive software. Infusionsoft was the cheapest. It was like Marketo, […] all these things are thousands a month. If you can tap into that, that’s awesome.
Mike: Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m doing at the moment. For others, it’s word-of-mouth or referrals. The person who came from the Entrepreneur Organization was actually recommended by somebody else who’s in there (at least I believe that). Both of us talked and he thought that he’s the one who recommended it, but we’re not absolutely sure. But that was another one. And then, just general recommendations from existing customers.
Rob: That’s interesting. Obviously, it’s good to have customers recommending you and referral carry such weight when people vouch for you. It means that hey, this good software. I’m going to use it. I’m probably not […] as much of a comparison as I would in other cases, but…
Mike: Well, that’s why they found it. There’s a difference between why they find it and why they choose it.
Rob: Right. That’s what I’m trying to get at because I’m concerned that if all of your new customers come from current referrals, that’s only scale so far and I think for now, as you’re doing things that don’t scale, scraping, and […], I think it’s fine but longer-term, I think in the back of my mind, how are you going to get outside? If you get outside the bubble or this fear of folks that know you and current customers, how can you take hold of traffic and still even win those deals? That’s when you can grow predictably and know that you’re going to grow each month.
Have you gone back at all? Had your warm email campaign that was going out to canceled customers, you had people from Linkedin, and it was connections you had. You had run it for a while, you got so much feedback, and you were only getting really not that many customers from it. I believe you had turned it off last time we spoke. Is that something you revisited? Do you plan to revisit it? Or is it just kind of done at this point?
Mike: I got to a point where I didn’t feel like I was really learning anything from the people that I was talking to.
Rob: Yeah, I remember you said that.
Mike: That is why I turned it off, but then with this whole COVID-19 thing, I would say it’s not a great time. I’ve kind of shelved it for the time being. Will I come back to it? I can definitely see myself coming back to it once things settle down a little bit, but I just don’t think that it’s the right time. One of the things I found was I was spending a lot of time on the phone, so I wasn’t getting nearly as much done on the other things that I wanted to move forward with. Right now, I wouldn’t say that it’s downtime but certainly have the ability to put more dedicated time into the things that need to get done. So I have a hard time justifying doing that now is all is what I’m saying.
Rob: I just don’t know if it would work that well right in this climate because people are just holding their breath, waiting to see what’s gonna happen next, and the fact that you said last time as well, you just stopped learning because at first you can learn or you can try to get prospects, try to get sales, but the learning becomes […] after you’ve had 10, 20, (I think you said you did) 30 calls or something like that. It gets old having the same conversation, so I get it.
Mike: The other thing is, I’d rather spend the time working with these customers who are doing the pilot programs in an effort to help make sure that that money eventually comes in than hold all these calls where I’m not learning something.
Rob: Right, because that’s the thing. You had mentioned that $1200 a month, the big pilot customer that they might need the sealed .NET component replaced. We’ve gone back and forth over the course of 12, that may have been 18 months now when you first brought it up. But last time we talked, it was kind of like, well, just leave it for now. You have the ability to roll it out to one mailbox at a time and if somebody needs it, you’ll bite the bullet, you’ll write the code. But if it’s not going to grow revenue, if it’s not holding back people from signing up, then just leave it over in the corner. Has that changed?
Mike: I did go in and I took the time to rewrite that stuff. I’ve been testing, rolling it out to a couple of mailboxes and I had so many volunteers say, yeah if you want a guinea pig, I’ll do it.
I’m working on making sure that the transition from between the old storage system and the new storage system is functional and doesn’t break anything moving forward. But the sealed .NET component is in the process of being ripped out and I’d say it’s pretty close. I’m not done yet because I still have to resynchronize data for all the existing accounts but it’s getting closer.
Rob: It’s cool, that’s exciting. At least here, you have one-off accounts doing it and kind of in a beta phase because I know that was something that was on your mind for a while and we always talked about it. It’s gonna take a week or two weeks or whatever.
Mike: Two years.
Rob: Two years? Yeah. I took some mind space for a while.
Mike: I was more concerned about the amount of data that I would have to resynchronize. I wrote this script to go out and pull back the data and just say, oh, how big is this? And it was a lot bigger than I thought. There’s a lot more data out there than I had expected.
Rob: Last time we talked, I’ve kind of for a while been saying, what is Bluetick’s positioning? What are people using it for? And you had said it was mostly warm email that originally you thought, cold and warm. You didn’t want it to be cold, but a lot of this stuff is people using for in getting values. Mostly, warm email is moving people through a sales process, but there’s not much prospecting going on. With that in mind, are you going to change your positioning, your copy on your website to lean into that?
Mike: I will. I’m not sure where to start with some of it, to be honest. It’s like I’ve pushed off on prioritizing that as the thing to sit down and dedicate time to and think about, but it is something that I need to do. That’s on my list to do. I just haven’t made that a priority. It is something I have to do, though.
Rob: Right. The priority sounds like onboarding and sales of large customers, writing some code to keep those large customers moving through the pipeline. Is that pretty accurate? What else have you been up to? If you talk about it in a given week?
Mike: Honestly, that’s 90% of it. Just making sure that those things are moving forward and that existing customers have what they need. Some people are moving stuff around inside of Zapier or they have a problem because like, oh, I’ve got a couple of hundred email sequences in here. I’m having issues with this piece or that piece. What do I do? Can you implement a different search mechanism here? The current one just simply doesn’t scale for the data that I have.
Rob: Yeah. So it sounds like support plus plus.
Mike: Yeah, I would say so. Also thinking about how the application itself is going to scale out when somebody has 20, 50, or 100 different users under the same account. Right now, the way it’s designed and set up is you have a subscription and there’s an account associated with it, so a subscription is really just the billing information. Then underneath it, you can have all these different accounts.
That’s the way it was designed initially, but it was never implemented in such a way that you could have multiple users in those accounts and also how they met other accounts outside of your subscription. Does that make sense?
Mike: It’s hard to describe, but the backend storage system was not written to support that. The database and stuff were all designed properly, but there are certain things that I guess I just didn’t think about at the time or just hacked them together and just threw it out there and now I’m in the middle of saying, how do I get these larger customers on? I’m realizing there are certain ways that the data is stored that it fundamentally would break if I were to have multiple accounts for each of those. So, if they have 50 sales reps and each of them has their own account that breaks. It just doesn’t work.
Rob: Yeah. I’ve built so many things like that where you’re trying to get it out the door as an MVP or something that people can use in production. You don’t want to gold plate that from the start. That’s something that I would absolutely imagine needing to rework.
There’s gonna be code to rewrite. There’s gonna be database instances to upgrade. There’s going to be failovers and redundancy with stuff to add. That’s the thing that I don’t think if you’ve ever built or hosted a SaaS that does start to scale at a certain level, or you just start getting some larger customers even. If your use case to date has been 1–4 person teams and then you get somebody with 50 or 100 people in there, it’s bound to break something. So obviously, it’s a bummer to hear that you have to get into the code and constantly do that.
Mike: But honestly I’m pretty close to having those things dealt with as well. Actually the code is deployed to the point where new users are using the new storage system so they presumably would not have this problem. It’s the current existing users where I have to migrate their data and verify that everything’s going to move over properly.
Then there are a few switches I have to toggle in order to pull the lever to make sure to have everybody move over to the new storage system. I’m kind of doing it slowly because I don’t want to break things for existing customers. With new customers, if something’s broken, I’m not as worried about it because their business is not dependent on it yet, whereas old customers, I know that they’re using it and I don’t want to break stuff for them.
Rob: Yeah, and that’s the balance, right? That’s the dance of launching an app, having users, and then meeting. I was going to say having everything is great until pesky customers get involved, but you could feel me.
Mike: I knew you were going to say that. I knew you were going there.
Rob: But yeah, and then you’re trying to keep the train going while you’re changing one of the axles. That’s essentially what it winds up being.
Mike: And in the middle of a pandemic.
Rob: In the middle of a pandemic. Cool. Back to positioning, marketing. It hasn’t been top of your list. Again, it’s like we’re in the middle of this global chaos. I’m guessing your traffic’s not way high and people aren’t coming and leaving because you don’t have the exact right positioning on the home page.
To me, this is something you want to do in the next couple of months. If you do realize that there is a value prop here that really no other tool offers and that these big customers that’s really what they want, it’s not a cold/warm email tool, but it’s an email tool to move people through a sales process, that’s pretty interesting positioning because then, all the features on that home page are what are the actual features that do that, that the other tools that call themselves cold/warm email that they don’t do. You do have those, right? You have those features because you’ve built it to check every 10 minutes. You’ve built it to look in people’s trash folders. There’s a bunch of stuff that rattled off a couple of episodes ago. Everyone knows I don’t listen when you talk.
Mike: Are we married?
Rob: No, but you do have differentiators. I’ve been trying to find out if you just throw a bunch of your differentiators. These are our differences. Then it feels like a feature race or a feature competition. But if you start at the top and you’re like, this is our H1. This is our positioning and why we’re different than everyone in a headline. We move warm prospects through a sales process or whatever, and then follow up with the actual features in it. It feels more like this is similar to XYZ cold competitor.
But these folks are just one step into the process and if they’re designed for that and I need that, then it becomes a no brainer. That that’s all I’m thinking is it should probably change at some point. But again, it probably doesn’t need to happen in the next week or two.
How about the podcast tour? You had scaled that back because you had some emails sending out of BlueTick. You had scaled it, but you did it a little bit. Then you scaled it back because you got busy with sales and some development. Then you had ramped it back up. What’s the status of that?
Mike: I scaled it back down. More because of time than anything else. I more or less just got distracted with some other stuff. I’ve still got the email campaign set up that I could go out and kick those off again. I just haven’t done it.
Rob: I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but this is a time, during this pandemic, the sheltering in place, and the potential of on the precipice of a recession is like I think it’s great to really hand-hold prospects as they come in. I think it’s time to refactor code. It’s time to rewrite email sequences. It’s time to do some things. I’m not sure that right now is the best time to be reaching out to do a bunch of stuff.
Maybe a podcast is probably exceptional because there are a lot of podcasts being recorded. A lot of content being put out. But if it comes down to that balance of I can onboard expensive customers or I can be marketing myself on a podcast, it may be better to do in a month or two.
Mike: We’ve gone through a bunch of stuff where the way I look at it is I’m prioritizing, trying to land those large customers over, trying to go out do outreach and outbound marketing activities and things where it could lead to new customers. I don’t necessarily know if it will, but if I don’t buckle down and land the customers that are currently in the pipeline, then I’m not going to learn anything about that process, nor am I going to be able to put myself in a position where I can add more customers like that because I’ve learned what the problems are with the software, where it breaks down, and where it doesn’t do the things that those larger types of organizations need. Then, I’m back at square one where I’m just going after those small customers that are only one and two people. I don’t think that that’s doing me any favors. I really think that I need to learn the stuff about those large customers because if I can land more of them, it’s exponentially more profitable to land those types of customers than it is to go out and do a podcast for money which may or may not ever show up in the future.
Ron: I hear you and I agree with that. I do have a concern longer term, that if you’re just getting one or two prospects trickling in each month that you’re working with, you need to turn that into something sustainable and that has to be lead gen, it’s demand gen. Whether that’s through just marketing, doing podcast tours, whether it’s through the warm email outreach, whether it’s through all the other things we could rattle off, SEO, content marketing ads, blah-blah-blah, which you don’t want to get into right now.
But I do think that the podcast tour is something you already have set up and it could go on probably earlier than I think you want to because that’s going to take time to pick up. It’s going to take days or weeks for someone to get back to you, then to book it. and then for it to appear. If you push that plan out in 90 days, maybe start getting appearances after 100 days and 120 and 150 days. It just takes a long time. I had never thought the podcast tour was the end all be all and going to be your big lead gen, but if you’re able to land larger customers, then you don’t need that many and podcasts are easy for you, right?
It doesn’t take a lot of time assuming that the email sequence is totally automated. In your shoes, I would not be sending them right now, I think because of this current situation. But I think if we get back to our old normal or at least not back to but start approaching that old normal of the pre-Corona and things start opening up and people start feeling a little normal, I would hit start on that.
The interesting thing is it sounds like you’re doing a pretty good job of landing some of these big accounts. You had landed that $500 a month client who then upgraded to an annual plan. You have one or two pilots going on, in essence, right now. One about to start, one going on with. It’s a lot of revenue in terms of the state or the phase that the Bluetick’s at. Just getting a few more prospects into that pipeline (I think) could really continue to make a difference.
Rob: When we last spoke, I asked you, what are you most looking forward to over the next month? And you said two things. The first was to have you all the IMAP stuff fixed. There was an issue with that IMAP. Second is you were in the process of onboarding the $1200 a month customer and you were looking between our next call. You were hoping that that would be there. Obviously they’re in a pilot now. I’m going to assume one of the things you’re looking forward to is them actually you’re in the same boat with them. Talk to me about the IMAP.
Mike: Actually the step back for that, like I had wanted to get them on board as a customer, and what I think that I learned in going through that process was they said, can we do an unpaid pilot? They wanted to extend the trial, which was basically four weeks instead of two weeks and I said, yeah, just because of the size of it, which totally makes sense.
What I learned was like, if they’re switching from a competitor to use Bluetick instead, then chances are good they’re not just gonna jump in and get married to the products immediately and try switching everything over.
I put together a proposal for him and I said, look, I won’t charge you for four weeks so we can get you everybody moved over while you’re doing this. That way you’re not paying for two products at the same time. I set up this whole big proposal.
They looked at it and they thought it was great. They said, we’d like to do a pilot first and in retrospect, it’s obvious that that’s the next step. But before that, my mind was if I can get them on board as a paid customer, that’ll be great. I’ll have the revenue in about a month. But obviously that didn’t happen and what I learned from that is for these larger customers, they’re going to want to do a pilot first.
I still consider that a win because it’s still moving forward. They didn’t walk away. They didn’t decide to go do something else or say, no, this isn’t going to work for us. It moved forward just not to the level I realized because I didn’t think hard enough about knowing that there were extra steps in the middle there that we’re going to need to be taken.
Rob: Sure. It’s a win for a couple. I wouldn’t say a full win, but it’s an in-process potential win. It’s a win in the sense that they haven’t canceled and backed out. And it’s a plus because you learn something, right?
You learn that you should probably propose a pilot from here on out with these larger customers. Obviously you should pitch to pay and sign up, but if they bocker, if they like, we’ve got to think about it, then you know that next thing, the objection, the anti-objection is like, hey, what do you do? We do pilot. We’ll set it up for this much time. You now have that playbook down. So cool. That sounds good. How about the IMAP stuff?
Mike: As I said, the IMAP stuff is fixed and deployed and it’s not enabled for the current customer base. There’s a couple of accounts that it is enabled for, the other ones that it’s not. But anyone who adds a new mailbox, I believe as of now, actually like a week or two ago. Anyone who adds it at that point uses all of the new stuff as opposed to the old stuff. I’ve mostly ripped that stuff out and it’s just a matter of cleanup activity, to be honest. It’s converting all of the existing customers over onto that new mechanism.
Then I can rip out all that extra code because I basically have duplicated code because it’s like, oh, you’re using the storage version 4. You’re a “’legacy customer.” You’re using this stuff and go through this pathway. If you’re version 5, use this one. Then once I get everybody moved over, I can rip out all that old version code.
Rob: That’s the best feeling. Ripping out like 5000 or 10,000 lines of code. Oh, my gosh. It is like spring cleaning your house or something.
Rob: Actually, not a spring cleaning house. Having someone else spring clean your house. That’s more what it’s like. Then talk to me about this. From now, looking forward, what are you most looking forward to? And I’m going to put one on the list, it’s to land this $1200 a month prospect. Do you have anything else?
Mike: I would say land the other prospect. They’re doing a small pilot with about 10–15 people, something like that. Then if they scale it up, it could be anywhere between like 50 and 100 people that they add. We’ll see how it goes. I want to find out more about what those people are using it for. It was interesting because when I was talking to them, they’re currently using Mailchimp, which…
Rob: It’s such a different tool.
Mike: It is and honestly, if I were to explain all the details of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, you’d look at it and say you’re kind of crazy to be using Mailchimp in that way. You wouldn’t use Drip for that either. Like it’s just not built for what it is that they’re trying to do, but they’re using it for that because somebody found it and they decided to use it. So, learning more about their situation, seeing if there are other companies that are potentially like them in that similar situation would be great. But I really want to get through the process of selling Bluetick to those people. If I could land them as a customer, too, that would be fantastic.
Rob: Got to be honest, man. It’s so fun to hear in full sales form, just building the stuff, getting them in the pipeline, getting them into pilots, having these big deals come through. It’s just such a stark contrast to where you and the business were 8, 10, 12 months ago.
It’s cool. and I know that the percentages of prospects that you’re able to land are not 100%, so I would expect that you’d land one out of these two. I’d be super overjoyed for you if you land both of them. When we catch up again in a month or two, I’m also looking to hear about how this all plays out.
Mike: Yeah, I would consider it a win if I landed one of these two.
Rob: Very cool, man. We’re going to wrap for the day. If folks want to keep up with you, have you been on Twitter at all?
Rob: Ok so we don’t do @SingleFounder. So bluetick.io folks want to see what’s going on and check out the app if they haven’t seen it since the last episode. I’m just in the habit of when I’m talking to people at the end of an episode, I say their website and their Twitter handle. Anyway, man, thanks for coming on. I think hopefully the listeners are enjoying the ongoing story and we’ll catch up with you again in a bit.
Mike: All right, sounds good. Take it easy.
Rob: Talk with you again. As always, thanks to Mike for coming on the show every once in a while and updating us on his story. If you’re listening, but you’re not subscribed to the show, you should head into your podcatcher and search for startups. We’re usually in the top three or four and we do have full transcripts of each episode that we put on startupsfortherestofus.com. As always, thank you for listening. I’ll see you next time.