Come to the SaaStr Annual and Make a Week of It

2016-event-4-3It’s not often you get an opportunity to join 5,000 of your peers in SaaS in one location for a week.  Sure we gather at Dreamforce, wave as we run across Moscone to our next customer meeting or maybe catch up for 5 minutes at one of the 17 parties that night, but rarely do we get to have meaningful conversations with other founders and execs who are grinding it out everyday.

We’ve got a lofty goal here at SaaStr: to be the largest non-vendor confab in the world by uniting the global SaaS community both online and off. We want to help everyone do better, more quickly and with less stress. (Piece o’ cake, right?)

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s simply no place on earth better than Dreamforce for getting face time with your customers and prospects or reconnecting with folks from the small-world-that-is-SaaS.  But the SaaStr Annual is for you, the founders and execs, to take a step back and really think about your business, to learn from the very best, to connect with your future VP Sales, to have a beer with a potential investor, or just to share that knowing nod with someone who is pushing a different boulder up the same hill.

So come and make a week of it.

tweetsIn 2016, we’re taking the SaaStr Annual to the next level – 3x amazing speakers, 3x networking opportunities, 3x incredible content.  You’ll join 5,000 SaaS founders, execs and investors in San Francisco for three jam-packed days of unparalleled networking, amazing speakers, great food and, of course, generously poured drinks (bars open at noon sharp!).

Why did we expand to three days?  Several reasons.  First, we were blown away by how many folks flew in last year from all over the world for a one day event.  They made a week of it, set meetings with customers and investors, and made full use of time in the Valley. So we thought why not cut out the Uber costs and make it easier for everyone?

Second, the networking last year was so ridiculous we actually had folks complain that it was too loud.  People were fired up and the energy in the room was truly electric.  So this year we’ve moved to a bigger venue with way more time for everyone to connect.

Finally, there are so many learnings to share! We wanted to make time to delve into the functional areas that matter most. You can pick and choose the sessions and spend the rest of the time connecting with your peers, meeting with customers and investors, and still have time to put out the occasional fire back at the homestead. After all, you’re making a week of it, right?

You can’t afford to not to come (for real).

The 2016 SaaStr Annual is your opportunity to join your peers in SaaS, to learn from the best in the business, to avoid the big mistakes, to strengthen your ties, to do better – so we can all achieve The Impossible.

This year, in addition to the CEO sessions, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the topics that are most critical to your success – Sales & Success, Scaling, Demand Gen and Raising Money.  Every session is led by someone who has already done it, and done it well, candidly sharing their learnings and advice. We’ve already confirmed incredible CEOs from Marketo, New Relic,  Zenefits, Mattermark, Intercom and Hubspot, as well as Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures – and we’ll be adding many, many more over the coming months.  And, of course, it wouldn’t be SaaStr Annual without the epic after party.

Even though we’re packing in three days of nonstop speakers and no-fluff content, like last year, we insist you don’t attend every session.  The real power of SaaStr is the community, so make sure you’re spending ample time in “the lobby” connecting with your peers gathered from all over the world in one venue.  We’ll record all of the sessions and make them available to everyone. We promise you won’t miss a moment.

So get your tickets now (really, now, we sold out in four weeks last year) and plan to make a week of it. We’ll create plenty of opportunities for you to connect during the day as well as in the evenings, so you can pick and choose your activities.  Don’t miss the opportunity to take your business to the next level, or at the very least, avoid making the costliest mistakes.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 5.11.28 PM


The Fine Print

Venue. February 9-11, 2015 at the Nob Hill Masonic Center, San Francisco, CA.

Tickets. Super Early Bird tickets start at $1199 and will increase $100 each month through January.  We want to be completely transparent in the pricing and let you choose how much you want to pay and when. We will sell out – don’t say you weren’t warned 😉.

Sponsorships. We’ve got a limited number of sponsorship options available.  We ran out of space last year and expect the same this year, so if you’re interested, check out the datasheet and contact us to reserve your space now.

 

How to Get More Sales From Your Mobile Visitors

Over the next few years, most of your traffic growth will come from mobile devices. Mobile is becoming so important that Google is making algorithm changes based on mobile device usage.

But what you’ll notice as your traffic increases from mobile is that your conversions and sales won’t increase as fast. Why? Because your website isn’t set up for mobile conversions.

In order to help you grow, I’ve created an infographic that will teach you how to get more sales from your mobile visitors.

Click on the image below to see a larger view:

How to Get More Sales From Your Mobile Visitors

Click here to view an enlarged version of this infographic.

Conclusion

Increasing your mobile conversions isn’t difficult. From making your phone number clickable to speeding up your load time and adding a call to action above the fold, it’s the little things that will impact your sales.

How else can you improve your mobile sales?

Embed This Image On Your Site (copy code below):

The Female Perspective on Startups and Lifestyle Businesses (FS111)

In this episode we’re joined by a very special guest: the new Director of Member Success here at Fizzle, Steph Crowder.

In Steph’s inaugural episode we explore the experience and perspectives of women in startups and lifestyle businesses.

  • Is there discrimination against women in the indie business world?
  • What has Steph’s experience been like?
  • What steps can all of us take right now to discover where gender bias is limiting our content strategies?
  • Plus a crap ton more.

I mean it, we discuss a lot more, and Steph is so awesome. Enjoy!

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


The Female Perspective on Startups and Lifestyle Businesses


Show Notes:

Marie Forleo will help you create a business and life you love.

Jess Lively | Designing a Life & Business with Intention

Emily Ley | Joy & Simplicity

Jessica Livingston (@foundersatwork) | Twitter


Question for you:

We cover a lot in this episode about gender bias, equality and business stuff. What’s your biggest takeaway?

How to Acquire Customers on a $0 Marketing Budget (Infographic)

The old adage “you have to spend money to make money” doesn’t always apply to marketing. If you have a product that people want, you don’t need a $100,000 marketing budget to acquire customers. There are ways to acquire them without spending a penny.

Today’s infographic shows you how to do just that. It applies to both startups and established companies. Following the infographic, you’ll find some recommended reading on acquiring customers without spending money.

How to Get Customers Without Spending Any Money
Courtesy of: Quick Sprout

Recommended Reading:

Somewhat related:

Paul Graham’s essay on Doing Things That Don’t Scale.

About the Author: Zach Bulygo (Twitter) is a Content Writer for KISSmetrics.

‘Start your own software business’ training course 2015

trainingI am planning to run my ‘Start your own software business’ training course again this year, probably in September. It is an intensive weekend course, at a hotel in my home town of Swindon (in the UK). It is aimed at people who want to start (or at an early stage of starting) a software company selling desktop or web software. It builds on my 10 years of experience running my own software company and consulting to other software companies. It’s the course I wish I had attended when I started my business.

I know a lot of courses are online now. But I think you get more from face-to-face training. More intensive. More interactive. Less distractions. Also you get to meet other people in the same boat. I have run the course twice before and the feedback was very positive. You find out more and read comments from previous attendees here.

Fill in the form on the training page if you are interested. I am happy to answer any questions in the comments, by email or on twitter.


Filed under: microISV, software, training Tagged: business, course, microISV, mISV, software, training

3 reasons you shouldn’t outsource your startup, and what to do instead

3 reasons you shouldn't outsource your startup, and what to do instead

3 reasons you shouldn't outsource your startup, and what to do instead

One of my favorite things to do is to help others who are at an earlier stage of the startup journey. I had a lot of false starts before Buffer. I enjoy sharing my lessons from those failed attempts, and I also enjoy getting my mind back into those early days challenges, now that Buffer is almost 5 years old.

In the last week, I’ve had 5 sessions (typically around 30 minutes, in person or via Hangouts) where I’ve tried to help someone. I was surprised to hear the same challenge come up in 3 of those 5 sessions this week, so I thought it might be a worthwhile blog post topic too.

The thought process of outsourcing your startup

I think if you’re not technical and can’t code, it’s very natural to think that you can’t progress much with your startup idea unless you find help. Often the first thought is to either find a technical co-founder, or to outsource building the minimum viable product to a firm or a freelancer.

In my experience, both these options are almost always the less optimal approach for succeeding with your startup as quickly as possible.

Here’s why I think you shouldn’t outsource your startup:

1. Your goals and a freelancer’s goals are completely misaligned

If you think about it, the goal of a freelancer or a creative agency or firm is to serve many different clients, and to ultimately make money. Your goal when you have a startup idea is to reach product/market fit and make something that can get traction.

A big problem with these 2 differing goals is that the successful path for a freelancer to reach their goal is very different to the successful path for startup founders to reach product/market fit.

One of the easiest problems for a freelancer to encounter is scope-creep of client projects. If the freelancer or agency is setting a fixed price for the project, they need to take many steps to ensure that the scope of the project doesn’t grow beyond what was initially budgeted for. This means that in the beginning, they are going to want to set down a very defined specification of what this project involves. A freelancer’s goal is to make money and a key ‘tool’ for success is to be quite exhaustive with defining the initial specification for a project, and to avoid changes to the spec along the way if at all possible.

As a startup, your goal is to reach product/market fit. There’s a great insight Matt Mullenweg once shared which really puts into perspective why as startup founders we should launch as early as possible:

“Usage is like oxygen for ideas. You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world.”

Therefore, the ideal approach for creating a successful startup is to put it out there as soon as possible and then iterate from there based on the new information that comes from usage and from doing customer development. This is almost completely at odds with the approach most freelancers will want you to take. Not only that, most freelancers or agencies are building websites for more established or more predictable businesses and they often don’t understand the nature of startups.

It’s not that a contractor or agency is doing it wrong, they’re just optimizing for their most common type of client project: to create a website. For example, it might be a website for a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a golf club. In the words of Eric Ries, these are ‘known problem, known solution’ situations. We know what a restaurant website should do. It should have a menu, show you where the restaurant is, etc. With startups, we live in a world of ‘unknown problem, unknown solution’ situations. We don’t know whether our new idea will work. It takes a whole different approach, and I think this is almost always misaligned with the way a freelancer will approach things.

2. It gets you into the wrong mindset of what it takes to get a product off the ground

Very much related to the first challenge, I believe that if you are thinking about outsourcing your startup, you likely already have the wrong mindset about how to create a successful startup.

I’m lucky to have been coding since I was around 12. When I got into startups, I was lucky to have that part of the equation taken care of. What I realized after a few years in the game was that my technical ability blinded me from what it takes to make a successful product. I just kept building, and that’s not the main part of succeeding with a startup.

I think that often if someone is thinking about outsourcing their startup, they’re also under the false impression that the key to succeeding with their idea is to get it built.

The idea itself is often way off, and most likely won’t work once you put it out there.

What it takes to create a successful product is eliminating all the unvalidated aspects, and finding something that users or customers truly want, that has product/market fit and can get traction. The interesting part about this, is that coding is actually not at all required to achieve this.

It’s my belief that, especially today, you can create a fully working (albeit potentially somewhat manual) version of your startup without coding at all. You can use tools such as Wufoo, Unbounce, WordPress, Google Forms, and other things to string together a set of interactions. You can fill in the gaps with hustling and manual work yourself. It won’t scale, but ironically that is the key to initially growth and understanding what is working and what isn’t.

Without coding at all, I think you can have an early (far from perfect) product and even start to get traction if you iterate and solve the unvalidated aspects of your idea. Once you start to get traction, so many doors will open up for getting help to code the product and make it much more beautiful.

Any decent coder is tired of hearing an idea guy come along and try to get them to build their startup. On the other hand, a decent coder will be extremely interested by a startup put together with no code that is getting really good traction. That’s something they can have a big impact on and has already been shown that it has huge potential.

3. The founding team should wear every hat

The other belief I have for why you shouldn’t outsource your startup is: the founding team should wear every hat. Here’s why:

  • it gives you the mindset that you can make anything happen, you just need to figure out the hacks and shortcuts to do it with your current capabilities
  • you retain full control over all parts of the process and can adapt and iterate super fast
  • when you reach the point of hiring people, you’ll know the difference between someone great and someone not so good
  • you’ll have a level of passion across many different areas of the startup. That can more easily help you be great at multiple things as you grow. It’s hard to hire passion and hard for someone else to thrive in something the founder doesn’t get excited about.

Therefore, I highly recommend you and your co-founders do absolutely everything in the beginning. In the early days, between the two of us Leo and I did development, design, database and sysadmin work, customer support, marketing, and more. I even built the first version of the Android app before we invited Sunil to the team to take it over. There’s almost nothing we do at Buffer now that myself or Leo haven’t done in the early days of the company. As a result, I get super excited about how far we can take things across all areas of the company, and I can speak on a deep level with anyone in any area.

What to do instead

I honestly believe that building your product yourself is the most optimal and in fact the fastest path to creating a successful startup.

It might seem counter-intuitive that building the product yourself could be the fastest way to success, when you don’t even have any coding ability at all. The thing is, I’m not talking about coding - I’m talking about building your product. In any way that you can. That could mean zero coding, or it could mean picking up things here and there (which I think is great, too).

The reason I think it’s the fastest path is that I believe you’ll struggle to find a great technical co-founder if all you have is your idea. And, I think if you work with a freelancer or agency, it’s unlikely you’ll have a working relationship that lets you cycle through the build-measure-learn loop and iterate towards product/market fit.

So, my recommended approach is to hack it together yourself, and at the same time keep meeting technical people in your local startup community. I believe there’s an inflection point where what you have is attractive enough for a technical co-founder to jump on board. If you don’t have a technical co-founder (or someone technical willing to join as first employee), I think you just keep hacking and doing customer development and validating your assumptions, to create something that gets traction.

What are your thoughts on creating a startup if you’re not technical? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

ILO in Asia and the Pacific

Why do you want to become an Authority?

I felt confused and a little sad as I walked along the Seattle waterfront. It wasn’t the conference topics that had me confused, but instead my own emotions.

I came to An Event Apart (a web design conference) in Seattle hoping to meet like minded designers. They were all around me, but I was too quiet and shy to introduce myself. Other than basic conversations with the people seated next to me, I didn’t meet anyone.

In a room filled with 250 of my peers I felt alone.

Back on the waterfront I noticed a group walking ahead of me. It was the group of all the conference speakers laughing, joking, and having a great time. More like a group of close friends together for a long-overdue reunion that a meeting of the top minds in an industry.

That was the circle I wanted to be a part of. So I quickened my step to join them.

Unfortunately I lost my courage ten feet short of their group and—like a stalker—slowly dropped back. The worst part is that I was staying at the same hotel, so I walked further and further behind them for what felt like a mile (Google maps tells me it was only 350 yards).

Once at the hotel they settled into the comfy chairs and couches in the lounge and I kept walking to my room.

That’s the moment

That’s the moment I knew I wanted to become an Authority. I wanted to be invited to speak at conferences, to be part of that in friend group, and to make a living from my blog.

I had no idea how to actually make it happen, but then, for the first time, I knew clearly what I wanted.

Think for a moment: why do you want it?

Everyone has their own reasons.

To make it easier to get contract and consulting work. To get invited to speak at conferences. To make a living from writing. To have a group of fans that are eager to buy anything you create. To be able to get introductions to any industry leaders. To quit your job and have the freedom to travel and work from anywhere.

All of that is possible once you become an Authority and build an audience.

 

Writing a profitable book

Writing a book is the fastest path to doing that. Not just any book, but a profitable book. I’ve worked for the last three years to develop a repeatable step-by-step process to go from a vague idea and no audience to launching a profitable book in less than six months.

That course is called Authority. I’m just wrapping up a new edition (with all new video training) that will launch on Wednesday May 27th—that’s next week!

Authority will walk you through:

  • How to choose a topic that will be successful (90% of the book ideas I hear are destined to fail, but there’s one simple way to fix them).
  • The pricing strategies I use to triple revenue.
  • How to get your first 1,000 email subscribers.
  • How to stay consistent, stick with the plan, and actually finish your book.

And a lot more. Whatever your reason for wanting to become an authority, this course will give you the step-by-step process to make it happen.

Vegas

Last year I was at the MGM in Las Vegas with a few friends. We sat down at the poker table, each with our stacks of chips. The one guy not from our group said hello, then asked “do you all work for the same company?”

I looked around at the group: Ryan, Patrick, Jessica, Brennan, and others.

“No, we’re just good friends we’re all in town for a conference.”

That’s when I realized I was sitting with the top people in my industry. All very successful and well-known. And all of them wonderful people who I consider my close friends.

I met these dear friends through building an audience, teaching everything I know, and selling books and courses.

I took another look around the table at each person there. I immediately thought back to that evening walking along the Seattle waterfront feeling alone and out of place. With that memory, I knew my journey was complete. I’d found my group.

And with that thought, I folded my poker hand. Because let’s face it: you’re not going to make anything happen with an unsuited 2-6 in Texas Hold-Em.

 

 

 

The Retargeting Myth – How Remarketing Could be Sabotaging Your Sales and Conversion Rates

Retargeting. To hear some marketers tell it, it’s the ultimate boomerang promotional effect: You leave my site without buying. I display ads on the sites you do visit, to encourage you to come back. These ads could be anything from special coupons to the item you left in your cart (or the last product you viewed) with a gentle “hey! You forgot this!” note.

From a marketer’s point of view, this is a great method of capturing what would ordinarily be chalked up as “lost sales”. But what about from the customer’s point of view? Do they see remarketing ads as a gentle prod, or a clingy nuisance? One study wanted to find out.

InSkin Media and RAPP Media conducted a study late last year to determine just how pervasive customers find retargeted ads. Do they even notice them? And if they do, at what point does it become annoying?

Reaction-to-frequency-of-retargeted-online-ads

Image Source

In the study, seeing a retargeted ad five times or more, as the chart above notes, is viewed as “annoying” and “intrusive”, while ten or more times of seeing an ad makes visitors “angry”.

More than half of the visitors polled said that they may be interested in the ad the first time they see it, even though only 10% report making a purchase as a result of seeing a remarketed ad. And even then, when the ad is displayed is far more important than the frequency.

seen-ads

Image Source

Retargeting: When is More Important than How

Four times as many users reported that they felt encouraged to buy during the research phase as opposed to after doing the research. That number jumps to over a third of users who were discouraged when seeing the ad after purchase, and nearly 50% who were discouraged by seeing the ad on an unrelated site, because let’s face it, the last thing you want to see when buying baby clothes is a lawnmower.

Case in point, the study showed a Land Rover ad on The Independent’s website. This garnered a 71% approval rating. A Land Rover ad then appeared on Catster. The results were much less positive. For women, viewing a Clinique ad on Marie Claire achieved a nearly 90% positive rating rather than seeing that same ad on Instructables.

catster

Image Source

marieclaire

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Essentially, when customers are in the product frame of mind and doing their research, seeing a relevant ad on a relevant site just makes sense.

A Fine Line Between Trust and Privacy

Trust is another big factor, with 37% of users saying they were more likely to click on an ad if it’s on a site they trust. The last thing they want is an ad following them around tirelessly. 69% of customers felt uncomfortable with advertisers knowing which sites they’d visited – a slightly lower percentage than those who felt uncomfortable with advertisers knowing their home address (72%) and their current location (71%).

Yet customers also say that they want things like personalized offers, relevant deals and other carrots that require ordinarily private information. It’s a fine line that advertisers have to walk, between building a two-way relationship with their customers and respecting the customer’s desire (and expectation of) privacy.

Is The Platform Really the Problem?

If you were asked to optimize a floundering retargeting campaign, you’d naturally look at all the points that make up the campaign itself:

  • The creative – Is the ad relevant to what the customer was looking at? Does it encourage them to come back?
  • The context – Does the ad display on places the user trusts? Or does it just blanket each and every site they visit?
  • The timeframe – Has they user already purchased this or a similar item? Or are they still in the early stages of researching or comparing products?
  • The target – It’s a common mistake to simply throw your ad at the wall and hope some of it sticks. After all, isn’t it better to cover everyone who might have an interest in buying, rather than cherry picking a select few? Not exactly. Targeting matters – and it’s better to spend your time working with a customer that’s very interested than one that’s tepid about ordering.

But think about going a little deeper. What was it that made the customer leave your site in the first place, to even spring the retargeting plan into action? Common issues are:

  • Lack of mobile responsiveness or mobile-friendly technology
  • Surprise charges sprung on the user at the last minute
  • Lack of free shipping (even after a certain order amount)
  • Product unavailable in the size/color/style the customer wants
  • Product on backorder with no clear re-order or re-stock date

Maximizing Retargeting Success

Even if you’re careful about where and when you place your retargeting triggers, there are still a few points to really make your campaign shine. For example:

  • Watch your windows – It can be very tempting to give your ad a large retargeting window. You don’t want to display ads too frequently or run the same one for too long. Nobody wants to see the winter coat they looked at last fall chasing them down over the summer.
  • Be selective about what you target – The last thing you want to do is ruin a holiday surprise by retargeting an ad for a children’s bike on a popular gaming site or having a remarketed ad show something embarrassing in your browser during that big family get-together!
  • Automation doesn’t mean you get to be lazy – Just because it can be automated, doesn’t mean it should be. Analytics, tracking and remarketing are getting smarter all the time, but they still require that human factor to be successful.
  • Learn from the survey, but do your own homework – What surveyed customers say they do in a survey, and what they actually do when faced with a remarketed opportunity can sometimes be two very different things. Take this advice in stride, but always run your own tests and analyze your own data to see how these results play out in your market.

What are your thoughts on retargeting? Have you been hit with remarketing ads that seemingly follow you everywhere? Or have you purchased something as a result of a well-planned retargeting campaign? Share your stories and successes with us in the comments below.

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

How Russ Perry grew a multiple 6 figure business in 106 days

Kyle’s note: Russ Perry has built a great businesses with recurring revenue and a big added value to his customers. Russ uses the same strategies that helped WP Curve grow in its early stages. This is a great case study for anyone looking to build a business with a recurring revenue model. Over to Russ:

Entrepreneurs love to talk about their successes but very rarely do you hear about the failures that preceded them. Last year, on September 1st, 2014 I was unemployed. No income. No business. Nothing. My decade long career owning a very successful international branding agency ended in less than ten days over Skype and a handful of emails with my now former partner. I had failed as an entrepreneur with a wife and two daughters waiting at home to hear the news.

As I write this article, my new startup, Design Pickle, just signed our 100th active client and is at $20k per month in recurring revenue. To get here was an interesting journey of personal exploration and head down execution.

 Design Pickle Icon Infusionsoft

This post will reveal my process of going from fear to focus in hopes that my experience can help you navigate the murky and often uncertain waters of entrepreneurship. 

Get clear and stable

To say goodbye to your first business after 10 years of blood, sweat and tears is gut-wrenching. I was heartbroken, unemployed and worst of all had slipped deep into a scarcity mindset. As the Economist explains, a scarcity mindset “shortens a person’s horizons and narrows his perspective, creating a dangerous tunnel vision”. I had dozens of business ideas flowing through my head but was only thinking about short-term cash flow.

The Simple Dollar talks about 8 ways to switch from a scarcity to abundance. For me to make any clear decisions I had to make the mental shift.

Journaling was my first step. Using my trusty Evernote Moleskine, I bunkered down at my local coffee shop and dumped every idea and possibility onto the blank sheets. It turns out that the act of writing has scientific benefits. When you’re writing you’re using your left brain – the part responsible for rational thinking. This frees up your right brain to create and feel, removing potential mental blocks. 

Out of this exercise was overwhelming relief. While I didn’t come to any major conclusions, the ideas were out of my head and I realized that I didn’t have to make any decisions right now. The abundance mindset showed me there was plenty of time to make long-term plans.

Thankfully I had a few consulting opportunities available that created a stable financial base for me to operate on. Consulting is the best employment option for people in states of transitions. You’re able to set your own schedule and rates, maximizing your freedom while you create your long-term plans.

Consulting is the best employment option for people in states of transitions. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Hire a business coach 

My next step was to bring on a professional coach. Outside perspective is a magical thing if you’re open to the process. Be warned though, there are no easy answers. The main goal of a professional coach is to continue to challenge and evolve your mindset. The Guardian defines a great coach as “someone who has a good understanding of your business, ideally with experience in your sector, and who you feel you can trust.” I reached out to the prolific Taylor Pearson after following his writing on a private entrepreneur forum I belong to. We kicked off a coaching engagement and out of the gates I was tasked with two pieces of homework:

  1. Read part 1 & 2 of Ray Dalio’s Principles (Free PDF).
  2. Create a three year vision and list of decision filters 

Ray Dalio is founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the most successful investment firms in the world. He believes we must operate from individual principles, or values, that govern all decisions. Reading his work was profound and allowed me to realize that before any decision was made I needed a stronger operational foundation. 

The second part of the homework was simple, but equally valuable. Pearson asked me to answer the question: Three years from now where will I have to be personally and professionally in order to be satisfied with my progress?

Answers included:

  • One more (and final) son or daughter
  • Be professionally focused around my strengths
  • Dream home purchased
  • 2+ months a year abroad
  • Summer in Japan
  • Summer in Italy
  • Mission trip with my family
  • Regular paid speaker

 Having a vision of our future allows us to be aware of the steps we need to take to get there. The most successful leaders of our generation consistently maintained a clear vision. Part of my fear was rooted in not knowing what lied ahead and this simple exercise painted a clear vision.

Now it was time for me to create my decision filter. In the book Stand Back and Deliver the authors share how decision filters create alignment with vision. A decision filter is a straightforward and objective way to check if the decisions you are making, in life or business, are in alignment with your long-term goals. They must be simple and concrete.

Here’s my exact list:

  • Recurring income component (selling a software/platform)
  • High value consulting components (builds my brand)
  • Able to be executed remotely
  • Virtualized teams for support on implementation
  • A niche where I can be an expert

After creating these filters, I had a clear idea of where I was going and the core principles of my next business. Whenever an idea popped into my mind, I ran it through these filters and weighed it against my three year vision. Rather than feel anxious that I would be missing out on a great opportunity, this process allowed the thought to simply melt away.

With no viable entrepreneurial ideas in sight I decided it was time to step back and just exist. Consulting was going well with my outsourced creative team and my decision filters were quickly cracking down on random business ideas that surfaced to my consciousness. 

That’s when I met Dan Norris. 

Pulling it all together

The week before Christmas I stumbled across Dan’s book the 7 Day Startup. Page by page I realized my consulting shared the core DNA as WPCurve’s business model. The similarities extended to the fact that we both used outsourced teams, were technology-driven and held a narrow focus on a broad service. Ideas were firing on all cylinders and the time came to measure it against my decision filters: 

  • Would I be selling a software or platform? Yes!
  • Could this idea build my brand? Yes!
  • Is it able to be executed remotely? Yes!
  • Do I have virtualized teams for support on implementation? Absolutely!
  • There is a niche I can be an expert in? You bet! 

It was decided. On December 26th, 2014 I begun work on the WPCurve for graphic design – a flat rate subscription delivering unlimited graphic design help. To niche down we decided to focus only on small and clear creative requests. Complicated projects like branding or website design would be left up to traditional service providers.

This put us in direct competition with the marketplaces like 99Designs or Fiverr. I knew we wouldn’t be able to compete directly on price so instead we wanted to deliver a simple process and consistently great customer service experience. Plotted against all options for creative content this is where we wanted to land:

Design Pickle Compare

As for pricing, I did zero research. Instead I asked myself, “what seems fair?” and $195 per month came to mind. That price actually seemed ridiculously low but seemed to pencil out in my financial models. The average freelance designer bills $71 an hour so if using Design Pickle saved a client at least three hours a month we’d be very competitive.

Build a memorable brand, fast

Lacking a large and persuasive marketing budget, I wanted to develop a friendly and memorable brand. The Harvard Business Review discussed why we have greater trust for emotional brands. Turns out by creating a personality you gain an emotional dimension the human brain can easily identify with and trust. Seeing our model might seem a bit outrageous, building a friendly and trustworthy brand for the company would be key.

I love pickles and DesignPickle.com was available. Case closed. We had our company name. Next up was a logo. I took out my green felt-tip pen made two attempts at a pickle, the second was validated by my three year-old daughter when she exclaimed with a smile, “it’s a pickle!”

Design Pickle Logo

All in all, my website cost me $88.82: 

  • $41.83 for a year of WordPress hosting from Name.com
  • $10.99 for the domain name from Name.com
  • $36 for the WordPress theme from Themeforest.net

Pulling from the content of 7 Day Startup – I kept our message simple and looked at other sites for inspiration. Within 72 hours we had a name, logo and website. 

3 keys to early Design Pickle success

I won’t go into the details of my launch strategy, if you are interested check out my post titled Try a Bunch of Stuff™: A Hacked Together Product Launch Guide. In short, I focused on guest blogging and email marketing for launch. You could tell my blog posts were a bit all over the place, but the first key to success was simple: Have a plan.

Eventually, we gained momentum and climbed from $0 to over $6K in MRR in one week. Not a bad start! This leads us to our second key to success: hustle your pickles off.

Paul Graham wrote the seminal article Do Things That Don’t Scale and talks about everything we should be doing as founders that may not work long-term but are critical to early success. Doing things manually is one of these tenants. Most of my time during launch was spent emailing new prospects, writing a dozen guest blogs, compiling contact lists of everyone I’ve touched over the last decade and beating the drum every single day.

“Every day I’m hustlin” – Rick Ross (CLICK TO TWEET)

Most startups lack hustle when it comes to anything but the product itself. The hustle got us from 1 to 100.

Rick Ross Hustle

Finally, the third key is build to scale. I built Design Pickle asking myself with every decision, “How would this be different if I was 100 times bigger?” The result was amazing. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber has a similar approach that encourages you to build your business as if you were going to franchise.

Out of this process we built a company manual in Evernote so no process or system was locked away in my head. This allows anyone to learn how the pickles are made really fast.

Design Pickle Manual

We implemented marketing automation with Facebook Custom Audiences and Infusionsoft so our sales system could be automated. I wanted to sell pickles in my sleep! A big thank you to Growth Ninja for killing it with our Facebook lead generation.

infusionsoft

Our teams from Arizona, the Czech Republic, Philippines and Mexico meet every day in Slack. This allows us to communicate in real time as well as builds a really cool sense of comradery with our virtual water cooler.

Design Pickle slack

By entertaining the thought that we would have 1000 clients or 100 employees, I created systems and processes in advance that allow us to grow faster and with less friction.

Begin and end with values

Finally, I thought back to the beginning of my journey. It all started with a strong foundation. Through this process, I revisited my personal work with Pearson and made sure I applied it to the company. A vision and values (or decision making filter) is just as important for the brand as it is for the CEO.

Kyle Porter, Founder of SaleLoft runs an amazing value driven organization and so we used a similar structure: 

Values: Friendly, Resourceful, Smart-working

Mission: To become the next 100mm ARR Arizona based company.

Why:

  • To change the lives of our staff and employees worldwide by providing them a foundation to accomplish their life’s goals
  • To support the Arizona economy, a state that has incredible potential
  • To allow more businesses to access creativity in innovative ways

How: 

  • Honor our core values in every decision we make (Friendly, Resourceful, Smart-working)
  • Always be delivering the pickle (Watch this video to understand what we mean!)
  • Be stewards and support the next generation of global designers
  • Solve challenges with integrity and technology
  • Educate clients on the power of creativity

This is Design Pickle’s decision making filter and we use it every single day. 

From idea to 100 clients in four months is tough, but possible. As a married guy with three kids, my wife saved the day allowing many late nights and working weekends (thanks Mika!) but all in all I believe anyone can achieve this as long as they have the right foundation in place. 

Best of luck building your startup and if there’s anything I can help with, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can contact me here anytime!

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The post How Russ Perry grew a multiple 6 figure business in 106 days appeared first on WP Curve.

[73]  Taylor Pearson on The End of Jobs

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On this episode Taylor Pearson joins Jordan and Brian to discuss the changing world…from traditional jobs to entrepreneurship.

Taylor began as an interpreter and English teacher and transitioned to an entrepreneur and marketing consultant.  He talks about his upcoming book, The End of Jobs, which he hopes will help people take the steps to become an entrepreneur.

The guys discuss how technology and the internet have changed the traditional safe types of jobs due to companies turning over faster and faster.  Through time what was once considered a safe job is no longer the case.  The changes have enabled entrepreneurs who make smart financial decisions to gain greater control.  Taylor demonstrates how safe jobs are like “the turkey problem” which is a dilemma faced by holiday gobblers each year.

Taylor explains how apprenticeships with entrepreneurs and stair-stepping with low-risk micro businesses can lead to success.

Check out Taylor’s website to learn more about the soon-to-be-released book and stay tuned to his site for some upcoming book giveaways.  If you opt-in on Taylor’s book page you’ll get a free copy when it comes out.  Taylor will be hanging out in the comments below and will let us know when the giveaway for $1310 of books goes live.

Today’s episode was sponsored by PodcastMotor.  The concierge podcast editing service which does does everything from editing your show to publishing it on all major podcast networks. Bootstrapped Web uses PodcastMotor and highly recommends it if you’re serious about your podcast.  Mention Bootstrapped Web when you sign up to get 2 free episodes of the Concierge Service.

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The post [73]  Taylor Pearson on The End of Jobs appeared first on Bootstrapped Web.