Turns Out, 85% of the World Likes “Contact Me”. Even Though You Don’t.

I know you are probably like me.  You go to a web service.  What do you do?  Free trial.  Sign Up Now.  The very, very last button I am going to touch is “Contact Me.”  The last thing I want, as a web-centric small customer/user, is some sales rep selling me on some product I just want to try for 20 minutes and see if it works for me.

You and I are like that.  But it turns out, 85% of the world isn’t.  At least as measured by revenue, by dollars spent (not # of customers).

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And the “problem” with this is that so many SaaS entrepreneurs, especially those coming into sales and SaaS for the first time, and/or with a bias toward freemium-type products … design for the 15%.  The folks like us.

There is nothing wrong with this.  It makes sense.  And it’s often the fastest and easiest way to get to Initial Traction, your first $1.5m in revenue.  To solve a problem you know for people you know want it solved, in a way you think it should be solved.

The problem is when you try to extrapolate after that, after $1.5m in ARR or so.  The scenario I often see is this .. great entrepreneur gets to $1.5m by hook or crook.  But then … gets nervous.  Isn’t sure this will really continue all the way to $10m+ ARR.  Worries the market is getting sort of tapped out.

And usually, the founder is right.  If you continue to sell to the 15% of the world that is like you, you may decelerate on the way to $10m+ ARR.  And you may never get even close to $100m ARR.

So here’s my only real insight:  learn as early as you can what the 85% of the world wants to do with your product.  And make sure you sell to them the way they want to buy.

They usually want to buy with a Contact Me.  A Web Demo.  They want to sit back at their Dell desktop, and get a demo in their grey felt cube.

You may not like sales people.  But 85% of the world does (as measured by revenue, not # of customers).  Because they provide the 85% of the world a very valuable service.  They help them decide what solutions to bring into the enterprise.  Price is just a small piece of that, and it comes out of their budget — not out of their pocket.

And they don’t buy or try 100 new web tools a year.  They bring 1-2 pieces of innovation into the enterprise.  Or solve 1-2 problems a year with software.  Max.

So they want a demo where you show them how you solve their problem.  How you provide a real solution.  That’s their internal win.

Not, 9 times out of 10, do they want to buy by playing with your web service and figuring it out on their own.


  • If you don’t have a Contact Me, if you don’t do enough Demos, do them now.
  • If you don’t understand why your largest paying customer would pay 2x more than they do today, talk to them.  Figure it out.
  • And whatever you do, at least once you pass Initial Traction — don’t assume your customers are anything like you anymore.

Most aren’t.

And once you figure out who those 85% are — your market can grow at least 6-7x.  Maybe, much more.

It’s just simple math.

Hustling for Traction and Doing Things That Don’t Scale

Ian Heidt, Co-Founder and CEO of Housecall, talks about the extreme lengths they’ve gone to build early traction in their local market. From dressing up like elves and delivering Christmas trees, personally fulfilling services through the app, and giving back to the community, they represent the epitome of hustle. And through these processes, they’ve discovered the tactics that will help them massively scale.

Show Notes:

  • Ian Heidt
  • Housecall
  • Intro Song by Alex Koch of Digital Dust Studios
  • Outro Song: Jakwob - "No Place Like Home" (feat. Rationale)
  • Productized Services with Brian Casel

    So there's services where you trade time for money. And then there's products, where you build once (sort of) and get paid over and over again. But there's another way... and it might just fit the bill for all you people (looking at you Scott) who don't have a pure product idea and are trying to move in that direction.

    In this Business Time interview, Brian Casel shares a couple excellent tips on how he created a successful productized service offering, successful enough that he was able to stop all of his client work and focus full-time the company that embodies his productized service. You'll learn things like:

    • What to look for in the work you already do to find a productizable service
    • How to turn your service into a repeatble and measurably improvable process
    • And much more...

    8 Ways to Stop Boring Your Email Subscribers

    We constantly talk about testing email headlines, email layouts, emails for mobile, and email timing. But, what about looking at what we’re actually sending our subscribers?

    Would you read your own emails?

    Here are 8 ways to energize your subscribers:

    1. Do not talk only about your services.

    According to recent research, we humans spend 60% of our time talking about ourselves. The number increases to 80% on social media.

    Writing quality emails is about how you can help your subscribers. Use words like “you” and “your” throughout the email. Focus on helping your subscribers learn more about your services so they will understand the benefits. This all starts by not talking about your services from the beginning. Build a relationship first.

    2. What is your attention span?

    Have you been reading this article word for word? More than likely you are skimming it. That’s part of the reason I bolded the first sentence of each point and placed the test link below on a separate line.

    We attract like-minded people to our businesses. Consequently, if you do read every word of every article, then you will attract people with similar predispositions to your business.

    That means they will want to know a similar amount of information as you. To understand your patience level, test your own attention span. When you know how much content you pay attention to in an email, you will know how much detail to include.

    Test your attention span here!

    Use your own attention span as an indicator of whether your email content is useful and engaging, or long winded.

    Also, consider the fact that attention spans online over the past twenty years dropped from 12 minutes to 5 minutes thanks to social media. You have less time than you want to interest people in your email. Use the time to the best of your abilities.

    3. Why buy the milk, when you can get the cow for free?

    Pardon the un-politically correct question, but do you give away too much in your emails? Free is good! Giving away everything of value in your company for free is bad.

    Your email should entice people but not give away so much information that it makes your call to action useless. Tease people with information so they feel compelled to click on the link. Make them want to learn more. Stop short before you…

    4. Follow up with people.

    Sorry, but your software is not good enough for me to stop in the middle of my day. When I need it, I will search every corner of the universe to find it. In the meantime, stop sending me one-off missives and then disappearing into the ether for long stretches of time.

    To get on your prospects’ radar, you must be consistent. In sales, it takes five no’s on average to get to a yes. Only 8% of all sales people keep asking five times or more. Email can be an even longer approach. You are building trust and relationships with a larger number of people over time to increase your sales. Be patient, and keep providing information that is relevant to your prospects.

    5. Use social media as a testing ground.

    Dean DeLisle from Forward Progress uses social media as a testing ground for email topics for his clients. “For example, maybe you want to connect with CIO’s and vice presidents of IT. You are not sure how they will respond to your topic. You can test discussions in targeted groups in LinkedIn. You post discussions to see how many people like and comment on the thread. That will give you a signal whether you will get your own database to respond.”

    I tested this idea for an email I am working on about entrepreneurs’ greatest fears (see next point). While I know how to write, I wanted to see exactly what I should write about. Within one hour, I had two detailed descriptions of entrepreneurs’ fears from a question I asked in a LinkedIn group.

    6. Speak to your clients’ fears.

    Everyone has a fear of something. Your job is to understand how to reduce that fear with your service.

    This means your wording should mirror these fears. Take the question about entrepreneurs’ fears from the previous point. Here are two golden responses from the discussion. “The sky’s the limit, but you have to get in the air to see how far you can reach the stars” and “My biggest fear is that we will run out of cash before we achieve traction and meaningful growth, and everyone’s work will be for naught.”

    These fears might need to be cleaned up in an email, but the expressions give good ideas for how to help. Using prospects’ words in your writing can improve your chances of striking an emotional chord with your subscribers. They want to know that you get them.

    7. Test your content.

    I opened this conversation talking about writing good content, not just testing it. However, if you are going to write engaging content, it will take time to get better at your craft. Testing helps you improve.

    After all, B2B emails have a paltry 1.7% click-through ratio. This means that out of 100 people, at most, 2 subscribers click through to your information.

    As you work on improving this ratio, start playing with your email content. Do not change everything at once. Instead, constantly look to see how you did. Can you do better next time by improving the information you share?

    8. Raise Eyebrows

    A few years back I read the book Copy This by Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s. One thing that stuck with me was that he named the company after a nickname friends had given him. As he said in the book, “It was no accident I chose it. Customers don’t forget hard consonant names.”

    I know that telling you to try something and you trying it are two different things. However, you will know you have the right platform or the right product when other people raise their eyebrows. So, do eyebrow tests of your product. Hold video chats, take the product to network events, etc., and see where people raise their eyebrows. By their response, you will know very early on in the process whether you have a winner.

    Would You Read Your Own Emails?

    Writing an email for your subscribers should be about educating them on how they can use your services. While you do not need to be an entertainer, you need to put some charm into your emails. Show your human side, and let your subscribers know you care. Otherwise, they will leave your email list by either clicking the spam button or ignoring you altogether. It is your responsibility to create great content for them. So, what keeps you interested in an email campaign?

    About the Author: is the author of the upcoming book Start Up Gap. He is a prolific blogger and freelance writer, creating over 3,000 articles in the past 5 years.

    Using Interactive Content to Increase Conversions: 4 Examples from Top Companies (And How You Can Do It Too!)

    If content marketing was 2013’s internet marketing buzzword, 2014 may well be the year of its evolution: interactive marketing.

    But what exactly is interactive marketing? At its core, interactive marketing focuses less on an immediate sale and more on building a relationship with customers by engaging them in conversation. With the proliferation of social media and mobile phone use, opportunities have surfaced that make interactive marketing easier than ever. So how are well-known companies putting it to use, and more importantly, how can you? Let’s take a closer look:

    Coca Cola Embraces Referral and Social Marketing

    Coke’s wildly popular “Share a Coke with…” campaign replaced their iconic logo with popular names and invited consumers to share a coke with their friends. The hashtag campaign #shareacoke on Instagram generated over 340,000 posts and enjoyed a 96% positive (or neutral) customer reception – the kind of numbers New Coke dreams about.


    Oddly enough, Sherice isn’t available, but Sharkeisha is!

    Key Takeaway: Sharing a Coke with someone isn’t just about enjoying a drink. To Coke and its consumers, it’s about capturing a moment in time and building a memory – Name-emblazoned Coca-Cola just happens to be the primary driver of that memory.

    And while you may not be a giant corporation, you can still add a personalized touch through brand incentives such as Ambassador. It works with a variety of third party applications including PayPal, ExactTarget and Shopify to name a few.

    Yoplait Helps Save Lives

    Every year, Yoplait yogurt donates 10 cents per specially marked pink yogurt lid mailed back to them, to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation. Yoplait’s parent company, General Mills, is estimated to have donated between $35-50 million dollars since the movement started in 1997.


    That adds up to hundreds of millions of lids sent in by customers!

    Key Takeaway: Support a cause that gets your customers involved too! People are more likely to recommend your product or service to their friends if they can interact with it (i.e. mailing in lids) or even do so on a social basis (like or share) and see the impact of their action.

    Jack Daniels Invites Users to Share Weird Drinking Stories

    Stories of intrigue…passion…and maybe a few chairs and tables flying. That’s what great bar tales are made of. Sensing that everyone loves a good story, whiskey manufacturer Jack Daniels invited users to share their wackiest, most unbelievable bar story, and bundled them into a campaign it called “The Few & Far Between”

    Some of the stories involve Jack Daniels – like the “200 Shot Salute”, wherein a well-liked bartender’s remains were cremated and added to shots which were then consumed (knowingly) by patrons at his bar. Others don’t involve Jack at all, but are still funny and worth sharing. Like with the Coca-Cola campaign, the brand isn’t front and center, but rather hovering in the background, still noticeable and still in the back of consumers’ minds.

    Key Takeaway: Your product or service doesn’t always have to be in the spotlight. With interactive content, simply inviting users to share a story from your particular industry can be enough to reinforce your own brand’s history, or its fresh modern take on big issues. What stories are your users waiting to tell? Using a web-based service like Storify can help them bring together the snippets of media and images to weave a tale about nearly anything.

    Ice, Ice, Baby

    Much of the viral marketing that happened this summer surrounded the Ice Bucket Challenge, designed to raise money for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).


    As a result of the ice bucket challenge, the ALS Association was able to raise over $79 million dollars while also spreading awareness and gaining exposure for this little-understood disease. Of course, one of the biggest pulls were the celebrities who participated – tagging each other to see who would be next.

    The virality of tagging pals to participate and video their reaction is what made the challenge so memorable for so many. Plus, it started in the hottest part of the year, so it was only natural that people wanted to “cool off for a cause”.

    Key Takeaway: Of course, you don’t need a major celebrity’s endorsement to start your own viral sharing challenge. Think about something simple, fun and do-able by just about anyone. New challenges have already sprung up to piggyback off of the Ice Bucket Challenge’s massive success, including the Rubble Bucket, Bullet Bucket and Rice Bucket. Whether or not they’ll have the same incredible success that the ALS Association saw remains to be seen, but the seeds of promotion have already been sown.

    What’s Next for Interactive Content?

    The great thing about interactive content is how quickly it can spread, and how the concentration is on the customer and their response, rather than the brand and its benefits. Creating such challenges, stories and relationships often involve little other than a great idea and a receptive audience. The direction is up to you.

    Have you seen some great examples of interactive content? Have you used it in your own business? Share your experiences and perspective with us below in the comments and let us know how it has helped you forge even stronger customer relations!

    About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps businesses improve website design and increase conversions with user-focused design, compelling copywriting and smart analytics. Learn more at iElectrify and get your free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up. Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!

    What Spending $57,000 on Instagram Taught Me

    dan bilzerian Over the last few months, I heard one name mentioned by my fellow entrepreneurs more than others. Can you guess who it is? It’s not Elon Musk or any other popular entrepreneur… It’s Dan Bilzerian - the man with over 5 million Instagram followers (some of his pictures aren’t safe for work). If you aren’t familiar with Dan, I can tell you he’s pretty much the modern Hugh Hefner. He posts pictures of his lavish life and all of the women he is surrounded by on a daily basis. It isn’t Dan’s lifestyle that interests me, however. It's what other entrepreneurs say about him. In essence, they love his life because they can’t have it. For example, I was meeting one of my buddies in New York, who has a few billion dollars, according to Forbes. He is married and has kids. He, as well as a few of my other wealthy friends, love talking about Dan and living vicariously through his Instagram profile. This made me think: how can I replicate Dan's Instagram success, but with a much more toned-down version? Read More

    Please help – 5 second SEO experiment

    A while ago we posted our advice on whether or not you should be implementing SSL on your server for SEO reasons. The nutshell answer being don’t panic over SEO and SSL.

    Another reason for not doing anything right now is that there’s evidence to suggest that HTTP Referrer information is not being passed on through links. So we’d like to put that to the test.

    All you have to do is click on the link below; that’s it. That’s our own HTTPS referrer linking to a non-secure page on a website that we’re using for testing purposes.

    Please only click on this link from the actual page on our server though. If you’re reading this elsewhere (for example in an RSS reader/service), please click on this link first to open this post in your browser, then click on the link below.

    We’ll let you know what we find.

    >>> Please CLICK HERE from your web browser  <<<<

    Thank you.

    My new product : Hyper Plan

    scrum kanbanI have just launched a new product. First some back story. A few years ago, my wife and I were renovating the house we live in now. Trying to schedule and track all the different tasks, tradesmen and quotes was a real pain. We stuck Post-it® notes onto a whiteboard to try to keep on top of it all. The Post-it notes represented the various jobs that need doing. We placed them in columns (representing what stage they were at: needs quote, accepted quote, scheduled, doing, done) and rows (representing the various trades: plumbing, roofing, electrical etc). It worked, but it was far from ideal:

    • I wanted to see status vs trade, status vs room and room vs trade. But changing the layout was a pain, so I had to pick one layout and stick with it.
    • Colours were useful for extra information. But we were limited to just the few colours that Post-it notes come in.
    • There was only limited space to write on the note.
    • My wife couldn’t read my handwriting.
    • We had to use a separate spreadsheet to track the budget.
    • Post-it notes would fall off and get lost after being moved a few times.
    • I ran out of Post-it notes.

    That is when the idea of Hyper Plan first occurred to me. It has been burning a hole in my brain for the last 5 years. Now I have finally got around to implementing it.

    Hyper Plan is Post-it note style planning, implemented in software. In software you are no-longer limited by the number of Post-it notes you can afford, the amount of wall space you have or the number of colours Post-it notes come in. You can even change the layout and colours with a mouse click. All with animation and easing curve loveliness.

    The sorts of planning you can use it for include:

    • project planning
    • planning what is going into your next software release
    • event planning
    • Kanban / Scrum / Agile
    • planning a holiday
    • to do list (I know!)

    Anything where you have discrete tasks that you want to be able to categorize (e.g. by person, status or type), schedule or track in a visual form.

    Here is a 2:42 minute overview in video form (with audio):

    Hyper Plan videoCan’t see the video? Try this mp4 version (10.7 MB).

    Hyper Plan is quite different to anything else I have seen. That could be a good thing or bad thing. I am putting out an early beta to try to find out.

    Hyper Plan is not currently for sale. I don’t want to take the time to set up all the payment processing and licensing until I am confident someone might actually buy it. The current beta version will run completely unrestricted until 17-Jan-2015. There are Windows and Mac versions. Hopefully a commercial version will be available for sale by the time the beta expires. If not, I will release another free version.

    Currently it is very much an MVP (minimum viable product).

    • The UI is a bit rough around the edges.
    • The logo was done in 5 minutes in Word.
    • The documentation is just a quick start guide.
    • Some important features are not implemented yet (e.g. printing, exporting and undo).

    But I have tried to follow my own advice and resist foul urges to spend months polishing it (which is hard!). What is there is pretty robust though, and I think it demonstrates the concepts. Hopefully I will know in a few weeks whether it is worth taking the time to polish it to commercial levels.

    I would love to know what you think. Particularly how useful you find it for ‘real’ planning tasks. Even responses of the form “I wouldn’t use this because…” are helpful. Please also email a link to anyone else you think might be interested. Particularly if you have ever seen them sticking Post-it notes to a wall or swearing at Microsoft Project! My contact details are here.


    Q: Why is it desktop, rather than SaaS/mobile?

    A. I think stories of the death of desktop software are exaggerated. Also:

    • I can build a minimum viable product much quicker for desktop.
    • Differentiation. Some people prefer desktop apps, e.g. because they don’t have reliable Internet or don’t want to store their data on third party servers.
    • Less competition. Everyone else seems to be doing SaaS/mobile.

    I might add SaaS and/or mobile versions later, if there is enough demand. Note that DropBox (or the Google, Microsoft or Apple equivalents) allow you to easily sync a Hyper Plan file across multiple computers.

    Q: So it’s Trello for desktop?

    A. Not really. I had the basic idea before I ever saw Trello. And I’m not stupid enough to compete with a free tool from the great Joel Spolsky! Trello is great at what it does. But Hyper Plan is different in quite a few ways. In Trello the emphasis is on collaboration and workflow. In Hyper Plan the emphasis is on visualization and planning. Hyper Plan allows you to present your information in lots of different ways with a few mouse clicks. It also has a built in ‘pivot table’ type feature that is much easier to use than Excel pivot tables. This is really useful for totalling effort and expenditure by different categories.

    Post-it is a registered trademark of 3M.

    The scrum photo is licensed under creative common by Logan Ingalls.

    Filed under: Hyper Plan, marketing, microISV, productivity, software, tools Tagged: agile, Hyper Plan, kanban, lightweight, planning, post-it, scrum, software