Stand Out, Serve Hard, Sell Soft & Get Traffic (FS085)

Questions from 4 listeners today take us into the realm of the USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

We share some of our insights about getting to clarity in your offers to increase conversion and engagement. Enjoy!

It’s better to listen on the go!    Subscribe on iTunes 

Listener Questions

Talia Pollock

  • Party in my Plants. Such a fun site.
  • Her audience struggles with engagement. “How do I have an online business when all the audience wants to do is consume privately?”

Paul Ricken

  • is Paul’s Site. Paul’s song and energy in his question are amazing!
  • “How can I build an intimate relationship with my subscribers if they’re not signing up?”

Brian Wampler


  • She’s a film maker making some specific films for specific markets, currently writing some website copy.
  • “I don’t feel comfortable with hard-sell copy. Can you suggest some effective websites that don’t use hard-sell tactics?”
  • Resources:

Get More Leads with Brennan Dunn

You could do a lot worse than to take advice from Brennan Dunn. Whether you’re building an agency, a SaaS, a course, or a productized service, he’s done it all and done it well.

In today’s episode we talk to Brennan about the right way to generate leads, how he does it, and how he plans to do it with his newly launched agency. You can find out more about that new agency here.  We’re looking forward to following along on the journey.

For some reason, Brian forgot to say the intro.  Why?  We’ll never know.  So on this episode, we dive right into the good stuff with Brennan.

In this episode

  • We ask Brennan about what he’s been up to and what he has planned for 2015.
  • The mindset required to break free from the typical feast or famine cycle.
  • How Brennan built his agency using a sales funnel that combined in-person networking and email marketing.
  • Brennan’s advice for generating  leads as a freelancer/consultant.
  • The struggle so many developers face in marketing and sales.
  • How Brennan plans to build a sales funnel for his new agency.


The post Get More Leads with Brennan Dunn appeared first on Bootstrapped Web.

Staying Motivated While Juggling Multiple Projects

Sam Soffes, founder of many awesome apps such as Cheddar, Roon, Whiskey, and Shares, talks with us about how he splits his time between freelancing and all his other projects. He's incredibly honest and really opens up about motivation and why he chooses to work on certain projects. Anyone juggling a few different projects will definitely relate to this one.

Show Notes:

  • Sam Soffes
  • ROON
  • Whiskey
  • Shares
  • Ghost
  • Cheddar
  • Vimeo Video Journal
  • Drew Wilson
  • Kevin Rose
  • Intro Song by Alex Koch of Digital Dust Studios
  • Outro Song Speedy Ortiz - "Tiger Tank"
  • SaaStr on TechCrunch: “Box Will Hit $1 Billion In Revenues Before You Know It”

    TechCrunch yesterday published a short post we did explaining why now, Box will clearly get to $1,000,000,000 in ARR, once it IPOs.

    There’s so much controversy around the space, and Box.   But for us SaaStr’s, its just an example of how recurring revenue models work at scale.  No matter what the product does, really.

    The post at TechCrunch here and below.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.08.33 PM

    Editor’s Note: Jason Lemkin is a managing director at Storm Ventures focusing on early stage software as a service and enterprise software startups. 

    There’s probably no enterprise software company more people opine on than Box. In particular, the business model of Box. They’re spending so much, Alex says. I like Google Drive better,Ron says. File sharing is a commodity, Jon says.

    They’re all right, on some level.

    But while opinions are somewhat subjective, math is math, and the physics of software as a service (SaaS) and recurring revenue are highly predictable. And there’s one thing we now know after Box’s recent SEC filings on its run up to an IPO: Box will be at a billion dollars in revenue before we know it. In fact, probably right around 2019.

    And this has absolutely nothing to do with what you or I think of Box as a product, or even what you think about the market per se.

    Here’s what Box’s revenue run rate is today, and will it look like over the next 5 years, based on current and projected growth rates (Box hit a $228,000,000 run rate in Q3):

    Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 5.26.12 PM.png

    From Box’s SEC filings, we can predict the future pretty reliably. Even if growth dramatically declines, Box will still hit a $1,000,000,000 revenue run rate by 2019. Box’s growth rate declined a bit in Q3 ‘14, but it’s still growing at an epic rate — 70 percent year-over-year in 2014.

    • If this gradually declines to 30 percent growth by 2019 — a much lower growth rate than comparable companies like Salesforce experienced at this stage — Box will still cross a $1,000,000,000 run rate in 2019. This is just basic math, the way recurring revenue compounds.

    • Box no longer has any material risk of ever running out of money. In Q3, Box’s magic number decreased from 1.38 to 0.97. In other words, Box now spends less than its first year of customer revenue acquiring and closing its customers. As long as this continues to decline, Box’s losses will decline as well.

    • Add in, say, $250 million from an IPO, and Box should never run out of money. That might have been a risk before Box added an additional $150 million in funding earlier this year, and before sales and marketing expenses declined. But unless an IPO never comes, Box has, for all intents and purposes, infinite cash runway now.

    • The customers are all still renewing. As they almost always do with true Enterprise products. One objection to Box’s business model is the general concern that cloud storage is commoditized to the point of free.

    • File storage may now be free, but clearly, the customers are still renewing. And customers aren’t stupid. They clearly view the enterprise-grade functionality of Box as worth quite a lot. If churn had dramatically grown, the growth rate above could be at risk. But churn isn’t materially growing, according to the latest SEC filings.

    • Box’s customers continue to buy more Box, and pay more for Box, in the second and third years after first buying. This isn’t just true of Box. It’s nothing special. It’s exactly what we’d expect.  Because it’s true of all true enterprise SaaS companies. No matter what their products do:

    Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 5.40.19 PM.png

    You can love Box, hate it, or maybe never even use it but still have an opinion. It’s fun water-cooler talk. But SaaS and recurring revenue is highly predictable once you hit scale. Box will hit a $1 billion run rate around 2019, plus or minus.

    You can bank on that.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 5.38.17 PM



    How to Analyze Your A/B Test Results with Google Analytics

    A/B testing tools like Optimizely or VWO make testing easy, and that’s about it. They’re tools to run tests, and not exactly designed for post-test analysis. Most testing tools have gotten better at it over the years, but still lack what you can do with Google Analytics – which is like everything.

    When you run a test until you’ve reached validity (not the same as significance), you have to do post-test analysis to decide on the way forward.

    Looking at a summary screen like this is not enough:


    Use these at-a-glace views for a quick check to see what the overall status is. But you need to go beyond once the test is “cooked”.

    Your test can really only end in 3 different ways:

    1. Control wins
    2. No difference
    3. Treatment(s) win(s)

    Even when our testing tool tells us that that’s the final outcome, that’s not where our job ends. You need to conduct post-test analysis. And in most cases you need to do that OUTSIDE of the testing tool. Sure – Optimizely enables you to see the results across pre-defined segments, but that’s not enough either.

    You need to integrate each test with Google Analytics

    Both VWO and Optimizely come with built-in Google Analytics integrations, and data for each test should be sent to Google Analytics. It’s not only to enhance your analysis capabilities, but also to be more confident in the data. Your testing tool might be recording the data incorrectly, and if you have no other source for your test data, you can never be sure whether to trust it or not. Create multiple sources of data.

    In Optimizely setting up the integration is under Project Settings:



    You definitely want to use Universal Analytics instead of Classic Google Analytics. If you haven’t switched your GA tracker over yet, do it as soon as you can.

    Not only will you be able to take advantage of new GA features, you can have up to 20 concurrent A/B tests sending data to Google Analytics. With Classic it’s only 5.

    And once this is done on a global level, you need to pick a slot for each test:


    Make sure that there aren’t multiple tests that use the same Custom Dimension (or Custom Variable for Classic) slot in GA – they will overwrite each others data, and you can’t trust it anymore. One test per slot.

    Optimizely’s manual has a step-by-step instruction for this integration as well, including how to set up custom dimensions.

    Once done, you’re able to look at any test result in Google Analytics using Custom Reports. You can make the report show you ANY data you want:


    Some variation has more revenue per user? Why is that – well let’s look at average cart value or average quantity – those metrics can shed some light here.

    Use whatever metrics that are useful in your particular case. Swipe the custom report used in the example here.

    Note that Google Analytics won’t tell you anything about statistical significance (p-values), power levels, error margins and so on. You’d need to pull that data into an Excel / Google spreadsheet or something where you auto-calculate that. Don’t start the analysis in GA before the data is cooked. Make sure the needed sample size and significance + power levels are there.

    Send variations as events to use advanced segments

    Built-in Google Analytics integration is not foolproof. Sometimes the data is not passed on, there’s a 20% to 50% discrepancy – somewhere somehow part of the data gets lost. There could be numerous reasons for that, anything from how the scripts are loaded, in which order to script timeouts and other issues. I’ve dealt with a lot of different problems over the years.

    My good friend Ton Wesseling taught me this “trick” that I now use for every test: sending an event to Google Analytics each time a variation is loaded.

    All you need to do is add one line to the test Global Javascript (executed for all variations), plus a line of event tracking code as the last line for each test variation.

    So this is the line you should add in the Global Experiment Javascript console:||function(){(||[]).push(arguments);}; Date();

    This makes sure that the GA tracker gets all the information once it loads.

    Here’s where you do it in Optimizely. First open up the Settings while editing a test:



    And now choose Experiment Javascript. Add the code there:


    And now you need to add a line of event tracking code at the end of each variation (including Original). You need to just change the Experiment ID number and the name of the Variation:'send', 'event', 'Optimizely', 'exp-2207684569', 'Variation1', {'nonInteraction': 1});

    So what the code does is send an event to GA where the event category is Optimizely, action is Experiment ID (you can get that from your URL while editing a test) and label is Variation1 (can also be Original, Variation 2 etc). Non-interaction means that no engagement is recorded. Otherwise your bounce rate for experiment pages would be 0%.

    Here’s where you add the code in Optimizely:



    Now you’re able to create segments in Google Analytics for each of the variations.

    Segment setup:



    Create separate segments for each variation, and apply them onto any report that you want. So you could see something like this:


    Illustrative data only. 

    Same thing can be of course done with Custom Dimensions. Just make sure data consistency is there – compare thank you page visits, revenue numbers etc between your Optimizely result panel and GA custom dimension or event based report”.

    No difference between test variations. Now what?

    Let’s say the overall outcome is ‘no significant difference’ between variations. Move on to something else? Not so fast. Keep these 2 things in mind:

    1. Your test hypothesis might have been right, but the implementation sucked

    Let’s say your qualitative research says that concern about security is an issue. How many ways do we have to beef up the perception of security? Unlimited.

    You might be on to something – just the way you did something sucked. If you have data that supports your hypothesis, try a few more iterations.

    2. Just because there was no difference overall, the treatment might have beat control in a segment or two.

    If you got a lift in returning visitors and mobile visitors, but a drop for new visitors and desktop users – those segments might cancel each other out, and it seems like it’s a case of “no difference”. Analyze your test across key segments to see this.

    Look at the test results at least across these segments (make sure each segment has adequate sample size):

    • Desktop vs Tablet/Mobile
    • New vs Returning
    • Traffic that lands directly on the page you’re testing vs came via internal link

    If your treatment performed well for a specific segment, it’s time to consider a personalized approach for that particular segment.

    There’s no difference, but you like B better than A

    We’re human beings, and we have personal preferences. So if your test says that there’s no significant difference between variations, but you like B better – there’s really no reason for not going with B.

    If B is a usability improvement or represents your brand image better, go for it. But those are not good reasons to go with B if B performs worse in a test.


    Don’t rely on a single source of data, and go deeper with your analysis than just looking at overall outcomes. You’ll find more wins and have better data to make decisions. Integrating your testing tool with Google Analytics is an excellent way to go about it.

    The post How to Analyze Your A/B Test Results with Google Analytics appeared first on ConversionXL.

    Bootstrapped, Episode 53, “$1000 join”

    Download this episode, in which Ian and Andrey discuss names, getting punished for good deeds, fast-food burgers, Authorize.NET, HelpSpot mobile apps, making money from mobile games in the app store,  a decade of running HelpSpot and Antair, life checkboxes, HelpSpot 4, and making games.



    Discuss this episode in the forums >>


    “I’m in the US – what if I just ignore the EU VAT changes?”

    The European online businesses are in pain. The upcoming Value Added Tax (VAT) changes are a nightmare and many European bloggers are crying out – but American bloggers are silent.


    Because as soon as you open your mouth and admit that you know about the changes, you can no longer apply the default strategy to cope with this – by staying under the radar and ignoring the whole thing.

    But there are questions you’d probably like answers to, like:

    “What’ll happen if I ignore the changes?”

    “How will this be enforced?”

    “What’s the penalty for breaking the rules?”

    “Are there any loopholes?”

    It’s been a long time since I did accounting and taxes myself, so I interviewed a tax specialist and asked these questions for you.

    DISCLAIMER: I cannot encourage you to illegal acts. The purpose of this post is to deliver information.

    My official advice is to comply with the rules and do your duty as a tax-payer.

    I’m describing the situation as it is now, so if you are reading this after Jan 1st 2015, some of the information may be outdated.

    What’s changing and why?

    Until now European businesses selling to digital goods and services to European consumers have charged VAT based on where their business is located. Now the VAT must be charged based on where the consumer of the service/goods is located.

    Table for VAT changes 2015

    The change was made because EU wants to get more money from American companies – or to force them to move more operations to EU to get VAT reductions.

    The VAT percentage is different country-by-country, ranging from 3% to 25%. Here’s a full listing of VAT rates in different EU countries.

    The lowest rates are in Luxembourg, so that’s where Google, Amazon, Apple and other large American companies have their European headquarters. It’s been a perfectly legal strategy to pay less taxes – but after the change it will stop working. It no longer matters where your business is, the taxes will get paid based on where the consumer is.

    What happens to small online businesses is just collateral damage.

    What’ll happen if I ignore the changes?

    If you take a look at the table above, you’ll notice that this change affects only EU businesses. The same rule has been active in Non-EU countries already since 2003.

    So in theory you can’t start ignoring this – you’ve already done so for over 10 years.

    How is the law enforced?

    Currently each individual EU country enforces the law themselves, via tax audits.

    VAT is an ‘end-user-tax’ so EU companies get to reduce any VAT they have paid, which is why their book-keeping has all the information tax authorities need.

    Consumers don’t keep books on their VAT purchases. Consumers do get tax reductions from certain goods, so they’ll save the receipts and send them to tax authorities. Most of those are physical goods like work clothing, but there are also some goods that could be digital, e.g. work literature.

    However, there are small businesses which aren’t registered for VAT yet. They may keep books already, yet they are categorized as a consumer by this law. As a rule, if an EU company cannot provide you a VAT code, they are a consumer. Yet they’ll keep books, save all receipts and are a target to tax audits.

    There’s also a separate enforcement system. You must register as a VAT payer in each of the countries where you have consumer sales. Another option is to register to VAT on eServices (VOES) system in one EU country. VOES is a similar system than MOSS (UK), but for non-EU businesses. Each country has their own system, but it’s enough to register just in one country.

    When you are registered, the authorities can then follow up that you send the reports and payments on a regular interval.

    But if you aren’t registered, there’s very little enforcement.

    To really enforce the law in the US, EU would need help from the US tax authorities. At the moment US tax authorities show little interest in enforcing this – moving wealth from US to EU isn’t in their best interest.

    However, there have been some rumors on EU tax authorities starting to use spiders and web bots to find law-breakers, but whether these exist is unclear. There’s some information about this in Taxamo blog, but their material seems to be a bit biased to increase sales.

    What’s the penalty for breaking the rules?

    Frankly, the rules are so complex and change all the time that EU businesses break the rules accidentally every now and then.

    When you break the rules accidentally or just because you didn’t know, what normally happens is that the tax authorities calculate how much tax you have due and charge it afterwards. In some countries like Finland you’ll also have to pay overdue payment.

    If you break the rules intentionally, that’s a tax crime and a court gig.

    However, each country in EU has their own law. Even though Finland does not have penalties, some other countries may have them.

    Are there any loopholes?

    Overall, the law is pretty clear this time. If there would be holes, they’d probably get plugged pretty fast. There’s only one gray area.

    All kinds of digital goods and services are included. All kinds of physical and customized/human services and goods are excluded.

    So in principle I could offer for free, and then charge customers 1-2 times per year for support or metrics analyses – which are both manual work. I’ve also heard some speculations on automatically customizing ebooks, but the gist is in manual/human work, so I think that wouldn’t work.

    It’s crazy, huh? What are you going to do?

    If you ask me – YES it is crazy. There are 28 member states, new ones joining, old ones leaving. And there are over 75 different VAT rates – which I should all know and create different invoices for. And in principle you should too – since 2003.

    Many small EU businesses are going to stop selling to European consumers, including me.

    Starting from today, SaaS analytics will continue to be available for all American customers, but European customers don’t get in without a VAT code. Most of my customers are from US so this doesn’t change things much for me, but it makes me sad.

    Many small EU businesses with their own shops are going to have to move their business under the wings of Amazon, just because they can’t deal with the bureaucracy. There’s no revenue threshold in the VAT law, so we will lose all those lovely sewing patterns from handicraft shops and ebooks sold directly from people’s blogs. We might still be able to buy – but we’ll lose the personal shopping experience.

    I can’t ask you to share this post – but please share this other VAT post for EU folks which links to the petition for the small online businesses. Because sharing is caring.

    The post “I’m in the US – what if I just ignore the EU VAT changes?” appeared first on Happy Bootstrapper.

    EU VAT changes for online businesses – Act before Jan 1st!

    If you run an online business in EU, there are important VAT changes coming into effect at Jan 1st 2015. I met with a tax specialist to get an up-to-date view to what’s going on.

    I wrote another blog post on how this change affects US-based folks, which also explains why this nightmare is happening, so I’ll concentrate on practical issues for EU-based businesses in this post.


    If the changes affect you, register to your country’s local MOSS-system NOW, before the year ends – it’ll save you a huge trouble later.

    If the changes don’t affect you – please stand up and plead for the ones who are affected. Share this post, sign the petitions linked to the end of this post, take part in TwitterStorms, speak about this. We need a revenue threshold to this law to save the micro-businesses.

    What’s going on?

    What happens is that consumer sales will carry a VAT based on the consumer’s location instead of the seller’s location. The change affects only digital goods and services, not products or services which are just delivered digitally.

    Below is a table that shows the change in red:

    Table for VAT changes 2015

    Not only do you need to know the VAT rates for your goods in all the 28 EU member states – you’ll also need to create invoices and receipts to match. If you are using Stripe, I believe ecosystem apps like Quaderno are already working hard to make your life easier on this.

    But even then, you’ll also need to handle the sales separately in your accounting and tax reports.

    Until Jan 1st 2015, you can register to your country’s ‘Mini One Stop Shop’ (MOSS) system. You can report all your EU consumer sales through that system.

    But if you miss the deadline, you’ll need to separately register for VAT in all the countries where you have consumer sales, because the MOSS system adds new users only once per quarter (at least here in Finland). And that means you’ll have to file VAT reports and make VAT payments to each of those countries separately. Yes, this sounds crazy, but this is what the tax specialist told me.

    In addition to all reports, you must collect two proofs of the customer location. Country information from credit card, address or IP address would all do.

    How do I know if this affects me?

    If the goods/services you are selling aren’t digital, but are just sold online, this does not affect you.

    For example, if you design web pages and each design is custom-made, the changes shouldn’t affect you. But if you sell web page templates instead, you are affected.

    If you provide pre-recorded learning material via internet, the change applies to you. But if you provide live webinars, you can ignore the change.

    How much human touch there must be in the process is still unclear.

    If you aren’t the official seller, the change does not affect you either. So if you are an affiliate, or sell your goods via Amazon, you aren’t affected.

    If you are selling only to businesses, the change does not affect you. You don’t need to register to MOSS either. The only thing you need to do is to collect the VAT codes from all of your customers and continue to use the reverse charge 0% VAT.

    What is Reverse Charge?

    Reverse charge moves the VAT-paying responsibility from you to your customer in another EU country. The responsibility can only be moved from business to business.

    You’ll write an invoice/receipt without VAT (or 0% VAT) and include a text “Reverse charge, VAT directive art. 44” and you are done. In practice the text is often missing, as people re-use the same invoice format they use for non-EU sales.

    Why do I need to collect the VAT code?

    If your customer cannot provide a valid VAT code, they’ll be considered a consumer – no matter what kind of business they have.

    In theory, you are responsible of validating the VAT codes you get. There’s a handy service where you can do that. If you get deceived and book VAT sales as non-VAT sales, your local tax authorities will calculate how much tax you have due and charge it afterwards. You’ll also have to pay overdue payment.

    In practice, I wouldn’t worry about the validation part too much. Giving an invalid VAT code when you don’t have one is a tax crime, resulting an extra fees that can be thousands of euros, having to pay the tax that you’ve avoided – and you’ll end up in the court too. So smart people don’t give invalid codes just to be able to buy stuff.

    How will small businesses handle this? 

    Now we are getting to the core of the problem.

    Here’s what I’ll do. Starting from today, SaaS analytics will continue to be available for all American customers, but European customers don’t get in without a VAT code. Most of my customers are from US so this doesn’t change things much for me, but it makes me sad.

    This is the only logical thing to do for a mainly B2B product like mine.

    If you can’t do that, Rachel has written several good articles on VAT and how they are going to handle it for their SaaS which is a bit more B2C. ArcticStartup has a good article about VAT as well.

    But lots of small online shops are just going to drop the digital products, if that’s not their main business. Some businesses are going to change back to physical products from the digital ones, and many of them will move to Amazon or some other marketplace that makes them legally non-sellers.

    What I can do to help?

    Please stand up and petition for the small ones!

    Your grandmother selling sewing patterns will become a law-breaker when the year changes. We’ll see a lots of content just disappearing from online shops or becoming unavailable to us.

    I enjoy visiting the colorful and quirky small online shops by hobbyists who want to earn money doing what they love. Many of these shops can’t handle the extra workload and costs of the VAT change. I may still be able to buy the same things – but shopping experience in Amazon isn’t the same than visiting the small shops.

    This isn’t right. Killing small online consumer shops in EU or making them criminal overnight just cannot be in EU’s best interest. We need a revenue threshold to this law to save the small businesses.

    So stand up, speak about this, share this post, take part in TwitterStorms and sign the petitions below to save our unique small business shopping experiences:

    The post EU VAT changes for online businesses – Act before Jan 1st! appeared first on Happy Bootstrapper.

    10 questions to ask in your next client interview

    Proposals are fundamental to the success of any new client project. Without them you have no clear objectives. You also have nothing to measure your success against. Perhaps more importantly, without a proposal your client has no idea whether you understand their problem. But before you get anywhere near a proposal, you need information, and the only person who can give you this information is your client. So be sure to ask the right questions... In today’s post we’ll look at 10 questions you should ask in your next client interview. Your client’s success depends on it…And so...

    La entrada 10 questions to ask in your next client interview aparece primero en Nusii: Proposal software for creative professionals..