Sherry Walling: Mental Health Superpowers – Workshop Recap – FemtoConf 2018

The FemtoConf 2018 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Title: Mental Health Superpowers – self-reflection, relaxation, and connection for the entrepreneur
Twitter: @ZenFounder

The Entrepreneur Life

  • No one else is writing your paycheck
  • You take what’s inside you, put it out into the world and make money
  • Really high highs and really low lows ==> emotional rollercoaster

Why did you choose this path? 

  • 70% did it because of freedom
  • 40% creativity
  • 30% more money
  • 40% terrible bosses
  • There are some great upsides
  • A lot of “internet marketers” are selling the dream and giving the impression that you are failing if you’re not killing it
  • Downsides: 
    • Isolation
    • Anxiety
    • Burnout
    • Failed relationships
    • Sleepless nights
    • Becoming obsolete
    • Instability
    • Self-doubt
    • Failure
    • Selling yourself over and over and over again
  • ==> The psychological price of entrepreneurship
  • We need to pay attention to our well-being
    • Your work depends on YOU


  • Z73.0 Burn-out state of vital exhaustion
    • Physical & emotional exhaustion
      • not having any energy
      • no spark
    • Cynicism & detachment
      • You don’t care anymore
    • Ineffectiveness & lack of accomplishment
      • No relation to reality
      • You feel like you’re not moving the needle
  • Burnout has the power to change the function, structure, and chemistry of our brains
  • 30-40% of attendees feel they have experienced burnout
  • Burnout is caused by: 
    • Not enough social support
    • Lack of clear, meaningful goals
    • Too much work (multi-tasking – great book: “Deep Work”)
    • Few observable or rewarded successes
    • Limited control over work
    • A mismatch between what we think is important and the demands of our work day
    • constant interruptions
    • conflicting goals (family vs. business)

Founder Superpowers

  • #1: Breathe
    • Breathe deep into your belly
    • Sit relaxed, place a hand on the belly button, inhale & exhale through the nose, try to move your hand
    • 5 deep breaths (5 seconds in, 5 seconds out) are enough to start calming you down and push anxiety away
  • #1b: Sleep
    • sleep is the most important way for our brains to reset
    • Benefits: 
      • Improve memory
      • Improve concentration
      • decrease excessive eating
      • improve mood
      • build immunity
      • decrease mistakes
      • improve productivity
      • extend life
  • #2: Body
    • stand up straight and stretch your body for 2-5 minutes
    • If you battle your body, you will lose. 
  • #3: Brain
    • Add some silliness to the thoughts that frighten you and put it on a shelf
  • biggest protective factor: friendships & connection

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Patrick Campbell: Value Based Pricing – Talk Recap – FemtoConf 2018

The FemtoConf 2018 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Twitter: @Patticus

  • How growth is changing: What we think works doesn’t actually work. This has dire consequences for your business. 
  • We are living on another planet: 
    • 10 years ago you could build a database with a shiny UI and you were good
    • Today you face fierce competition
  • Number of competitors when you started: 
    • 5 years ago: about 3
    • 1 year ago: roughly 10
  • Sales & Marketing channels are plentiful
    • Number of sales & marketing channels utilized
      • 15 years old: 2.31
      • 1 year old: 13.22
    • competition is getting harder and harder
  • Time taken to fully onboard product in an organization: 
    • 10 years ago: 56.7 hours
    • 1 year ago: 
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC) has increased significantly by about 70% over the past 5 years
  • relative value of features is declining
    • willingness to pay has declined over time
    • Customers do not care about your features (average NPS is actually down from 33 to 10.2) 
  • What once worked is no longer working for building a business
    • Our playbook was acquire, acquire, acquire
    • Pricing (and retention) is an afterthought
  • Acquisition is now table stakes
  • Impact of improving:
    • Monetization >> Retention >> Acquisition
  • We are building the wrong product, because we don’t talk to our customers enough

How do we fix this?

  • Stop building. Stop buying ads. Stop guessing and checking. 
  • For the love of God: Talk to your customer!
  • How do we do that? 
    • There are three types of data you’re really looking to measure: 
      • Demographic data (purely for segmentation – i.e. size of team, revenue, software they are using)
      • Relative Preference Data
      • Willingness to Pay Data
    • Surveys
      • a non-compensated survey should be at most 5 questions long
      • compensated surveys maximum of 15 minutes
    • Start with a draft of your buyer personas
    • What’s our experimental design look like? 
      • Relative preference: What do people value? 
        • Don’t let them rank features on a scale of 1 to 10
        • Force them to decide on the most/least important feature
  • How much are people willing to pay? 
    • At what (monthly) price point does PRODUCT become too expensive that you’d never consider purchasing it? 
    • At what (monthly) price point does PRODUCT start to become too expensive, but you’d still consider purchasing it?
    • At what (monthly) price point is PRODUCT a really good deal?
    • At what (monthly) price point does PRODUCT become so cheap that you question the quality of it? 

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Mike Taber: Follow-Up Emails – Talk Recap – FemtoConf 2018

The FemtoConf 2018 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Full title: Following up… without looking & feeling like a complete dirtbag
Twitter: @singlefounder

  • When you email people it is hugely important to you, but barely registers with them
  • Clarification: Follow up email!= Cold email
  • Why follow up? 
    • Was it received? 
    • Did they make a decision? 
    • Did they inform you of that decision? 
  • If they don’t answer those questions, you have an open loop
    • Follow up is about closing the loop!

Email Black Hole

  • There are 4 common reasons
    • #1: They never received it
      • Mail server issues
      • Wrong email address
      • Filtered as spam
      • Out of office/vacation/traveling
    • #2 Received, but dismissed
      • Email filters or rules
      • Irrelevant subject line
      • Skimmed & made “wrong decision”
      • Gatekeeper said “Nope!”
      • Wall of text
    • #3 Received with best of intentions
      • Traveling, working remotely or mobile device
      • Mailbox flooded / Email Bankruptcy
      • Dropped off their radar
      • Something on fire
      • Guilt from not responding sooner
        • BONUS: Follow ups give permission to reply
      • Popular misconception: 
        • If it’s important to them, they’ll reply
        • ==> Follow up more than feels comfortable. It works.
    • #4 They hate your guts
  • #1 Incorrect Value Association
    • The value of an email is measured in 2 places
      • The Recipient: What does the email do for them? 
      • The Sender: What does a response mean to them? 
    • The value of a response does not feel measurable at the time an email is sent
  • #2 Time Constraints
    • Feels like busy-work
    • Because… deadlines
      • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make when they pass by. 
  • #3 Your Emotions Will Get the Better of You
    • Sending follow up emails is emotionally painful
      • You feel like you’re repeating yourself
      • Variable rewards schedule
      • Negative emotions disproportionally outweigh positive ones
  • #4 We are afraid
    • Terrible emails

Does Following Up Work? 

  • 52.8% average open rate
  • 5.9% average reply rate
  • Average of 11.3% subscribers block tracking pixels – you don’t get “open rate” stats for those!

Successful Follow Ups

  • When: Select situations where it makes sense
  • Action: Clearly define the single action you want the person to take
  • Automation: Templates, software, reminders, Zapier, outsourcing, etc. 
  • Personalization: Use their name, use your own domain, reply to previous emails, etc.
  • Pass along first name, last name, and email address when redirecting people to Calendly/etc!
  • First email in sequence requires users (your!) approval, all steps after that are fully automated

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Aleth Gueguen: GDPR – Talk Recap – FemtoConf 2018

The FemtoConf 2018 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Title: Achieve GDPR compliance without losing your mind
Twitter: @pl4n3th 
Slides & help: Slides //

  • Protects personal data of persons inside EU
    • any piece of information that can identify a physical person
    • Data subject’s rights
  • any person who’s physically inside EU
  • Privacy
    • What you can do with people’s data & what you can’t do
  • Security of processing
    • Processing is collection, recording, organisation, structuring, storage, adaptation or alteration… EVERYTHING. 
      Once you touch data, you’re on the hook
  • Joint responsibility as Data Controller & Data Processor

Risks & penalties

  • European companies will ask for GDPR
  • people will ask for their rights
  • Stop collecting and/or processing personal data 
  • Fines… 

Set of best practices

  • Marketing & customer relationship
  • Security
  • Functionalities

Keep Calm & Document

  • processes & procedures
  • Record of processing activities
  • Privacy notice
  • Take inventory of your data
    • You want to know the Who, What, Where, How long, Why, and How?
    • Do I really need that data? Do I really process it? 
    • Where? 
      • Transfer to third country: 
        • Adequacy decision
        • “Privacy Shield”
        • Standard data-protection clauses
        • Data Processing Agreement
    • How long do you store the data? 
      • You need to state a duration
  • Train your team on privacy & security
    • Identify when “it’s personal data”
    • Procedures for: 
      • Marketing campaign
      • New users stories
      • Transfering list of contacts
    • Privacy by design & by default
    • Profiling, retargeting
    • Notification of personal data breach to authorities within 3 days

Review information to people

  • What you’re doing with people’s data
  • How they can exercise their rights

Update your consent process

  • Clearly distinguishable
  • Intelligible & easily accessible form
  • clear & plain language
  • Make it easy to withdraw consent

Implement data subjects’ rights

  • Access
  • Rectification
  • Erasure (“right to be forgotten”)
  • Portability (easy to read by machines. Make it easier for people to switch services)
  • Restriction of processing

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Claire Suellentrop: Brand Sprints – Talk recap from FemtoConf 2018

The FemtoConf 2018 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Full title: Why even the tiniest companies should think about their “brand” – and how to get it over with in 3 hours or less
Twitter: @ClaireSuellen
Slide deck & brand sprint templates:

  • I’m not an expert on “brand”, but I had to become “okay” at it
  • Brand or Brand Development
    • Brand is a promise you make to your customers
    • Makes your life easier and your company more attractive
  • branding 
    • Messaging & positioning
    • voice & tone
    • color palette
    • website & product design
  • Brand Marketing
    • Efforts to build top-of-funnel awareness of your brand, sometimes in ways that are difficult to quantify – e.g. billboards
  • Brand dev challenges you to think more holistically
    • Where will my company be in 5 or 10 years? 
      • Lets you make smarter marketing and pricing decisions
    • Your company will keep growing. That’s what successful companies do. They don’t stop. – Jason Cohen, MicroConf 2014
  • Brand development simplifies all the “squishy” decisions
    • How do we describe our features? 
    • How do we tell people how awesome our software is? 
    • What should the logo look like? 
  • a consistent experience makes your company feel trustworthy
    • Imagine meeting a person in t-shirt and jeans one day and a tuxedo the next day. Which of the two versions “are” they?
    • It’s confusing, same goes with the brand
    • Brand development lets you outsource work – without worrying about losing consistency
      • How should a page on the website look? 
      • How do we write copy? 
      • What’s our tone when we do customer support? 
  • Brand Development helps your employees, customers, and potential strategic partners (3 target audiences – not just customers!)
  • Slide deck & brand sprint templates:

How to run a Brand Sprint

  • Do it. Takes 3 hours
  • The 6 brand sprint exercises
    • Your company’s motivation
      • 20-year roadmap
      • What, How, Why
    • Your unique details
      • Top 3 values
      • Top 3 audiences
    • Your brand relative to others
      • Personality sliders
      • Competitive landscape
  • Before you sprint, prepare – it makes the actual sprint faster
    • Make sure there are no phones

Step 1: The 20 years roadmap (15 Minutes)

  • Write down your predictions for your company for 5, 10, 15, and 20 years
  • Share with your team members and discuss
    • What do you do after you get acquired (if that is the plan)? 
  • It was great for Benedikt, Jane, and I to learn about each other’s visions
  • If you’re doing it in a group, have a decision maker. At the end of the 15 minutes discussion he/she highlights the most important vision in 5,10,15,20 years
  • Do we want to raise money or not? 
  • Are we going to be part-timers on Userlist forever? 
  • Are we going to grow it to 100+ employees?

Step 2: What, How, Why (30 Minutes)

  • What we do
  • How we do it better than anyone else
  • Why we do it

Step 3: Top Three Values (30 Minutes)

  • Write a list of 5-10 company values, these should help make why (above) more specific
  • Start with a long list, narrow down in first round, then select the Final Top 3
  • e.g. “honesty” will be a great guiding light in dark times

Step 4: Top 3 Audiences  (30 Minutes)

  • Same process as Step 3

Step 5: Personality Sliders (30 Minutes)

  • Pick your stand point on each of these scales
    • Casual – Formal
    • Young – Experienced
    • Modern – Classic
    • Simple – Complex
    • Friend – Authority
    • Quiet – Loud
    • Feminine – Masculine
  • With Benedikt, Jane & I there was a lot of discussion about “Quiet – Loud”

Step 6: Competitive Landscape (30 Minutes) 

  • place competitors on two-dimensional matrix relative to their brand personality:
    • Classic – Modern
    • Expressive – Reserved

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FemtoConf 2018 Notes and Noteworthy

This is the central resource for a recap of FemtoConf 2018 in Darmstadt, Germany.
If you write/record/create ANYTHING related to FemtoConf please let me know (Twitter: @itengelhardt ) and I’ll be happy to add it here.

Notes on the Talks


Articles and Podcasts About FemtoConf 2018

  • Let me know about anything you write with regards to FemtoConf!

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Year in Review 2017

This a review of my business/personal year 2017. I do this mostly for future-me to reminisce and for present-me to reflect on what happened. That said, if you find something useful in my musings, that’s a nice bonus. 


There are a few people I’d like to thank – just in case they read this: 

  • My wife Katharina without whom my life would be misery. Thanks for always having my back. 
  • Benedikt Deicke with whom I produce a German podcast on bootstrapping & moonlighting called Nebenberuf Startup. Thanks for hosting a conference with me (more on that later) and countless times when you helped me by giving solid advice or just listening to (and sometimes talking me out of) my the latest idea 🙂 
  • My business friends – in no particular order: Michael Buckbee, Andrew Culver, Mike Taber, Jane Portman, Mojca Žove (nee Mars), Dave Collins, Ankur Kalra, Brennan Dunn, Victor Purolnik, Daniel Alm, Daniel Bader, Michael Thomsen, and so many more

Broad Strokes

2017… What. a. ride.

In January I first learned that my wife was pregnant and a week later that I’d be deploying to Afghanistan in six weeks – leaving my pregnant wife at home for a bit over four months. 

In February Benedikt and I hosted our first FemtoConf – it was amazing! I had so much fun and we’ll be back for another season in 2018 (sponsor tickets still available). 

I worked for a few weeks after I got back from Afghanistan and in mid-September, my son was born. I took a few weeks of work and my wife and I tried to adjust to a new lifestyle. 

When I went back to work in early November things were really chaotic and stressful and I didn’t get anything major done. The only project I got done was the sale of LinksSpy. 

Income sources

My business has three major income sources: 

LinksSpy, the SaaS application I developed in 2013, brought in most of the product revenue by a wide margin. It also came with highest support/time burden and I had frankly lost interest in the idea sometime in late 2014 / early 2015. I am relieved to finally have it off my plate (except for the agreed-upon maintenance work). As part of the sale, I agreed on not publishing any numbers beyond what was already out there. 

My book “SaaS Email Marketing Handbook” (and now my only remaining product) brought in $1,312 from 28 sales in 2017. Not much, but also not nothing. This is where I want to focus in 2018 and beyond productwise.

The final source of revenue is my consulting business. In 2017 I didn’t have a lot of time for it, but I worked with three great clients producing meaningful impacts to their bottom line – that’s always a pleasure to see. I’m looking to move away from coding and focus on email marketing automation going forward. 

Selling LinksSpy

I built LinksSpy back in 2013 and launched in early 2014. LinksSpy is a tool that helps SEO agencies and professionals build incoming links to their clients’ websites. 

LinksSpy grew considerably in 2014 and 2015, but then leveled off. I failed to find product-market fit with it and lost interest. 

All through 2016 and 2017 I only invested minimal time into LinksSpy – only answering emails and doing some maintenance. Looking back, I realize that I shouldn’t have built a product for an audience that I don’t enjoy working with. It’s not the people or anything, it’s just that I enjoy working with other founders a lot more. 

In October I found someone willing to buy LinksSpy and we agreed on a price pretty quickly. The transition finally concluded in December. Before I was able to sell it, I had to rewrite some of the backend code as right during the transition period – which I used for queuing background jobs – decided to no longer grandfather their early customers in. That would have destroyed profitability for the new owner, so I agreed to put in a few days of work and migrate it over to AWS SQS. 

SaaS Email Marketing Handbook

In total I made $1,312 from 28 sales of the SaaS Email Marketing Handbook (SEMH). Here’s how that split up into the three packages: 

  • $574 from 16 sales of the “eBook only” / “Basic” package
  • $600 from 11 sales of the “Premium” package
  • $99 from one sale of the “Complete” package

The average revenue was $46.86, which means it was just slightly over the normal price of $39 for the “Basic” package. That’s to be expected as most sales happened with a discount code – either during sales or from people who used a promo code from the SaaS Email Marketing Crash Course or from the free chapter. 

It’s enough to cover the costs for hosting, my Drip account, and a bit more, but I’m looking to grow that revenue in 2018. 

Progress on the book & marketing experiments

Here are the things that I added to SEMH and marketing experiments I tried.

Email Marketing Automation Blueprints

The biggest change to the book in 2017 was that Drip added a feature called “Shared Workflows” that lets me set up email marketing automation workflows and share them with others. I’ve since added a number of such ready-to-use workflows to the Premium and Complete packages of the book. 

That has definitely increased the value of those packages to buyers and subsequently more people bought the Premium package. It’s something that I want to work on in 2018: Make the top two packages more appealing to customers. 

Upgrade path

One way to grow your business is to get more money from existing customers.

Since early on in the year I noticed that people where overwhelmingly buying the Basic package, I decided to provide an upgrade path to those customers. Included with the book download there is a PDF with a link that lets customers buy the Premium package for $30 – that’s a $16 discount compared to buying the Premium package right away. 
So far only one customer has used this, but we’ll see. I’ve only recently added some email marketing automation to promote the upgrade 28 days after purchase. 

Monthly Contest

I bought a lifetime deal for in July or August. I like all the built-in features that increase virality – e.g. giving points for following your social media profiles etc. 

I’ve run a few viral contests in the past, collecting a few hundred email addresses each time. So I jumped at the idea of having a more powerful/viral tool at my disposal and trying a few things. 

Vyper has a pretty cool drip email campaign after signup and one ideas was intriguing: Instead of your typical lead magnet, why not offer a monthly contest? 

I ran the first monthly contest in October and saw a roughly 100% increase in conversion rate over the email crash course. At least for October and November. Signups were down in December – which hopefully is due to seasonal fluctuations.

I’m currently trying to increase the virality. My latest experiment is to offer a way to get the Premium package of the SaaS Email Marketing Handbook for free if you refer 20 friends to the contest. 

Small changes 

I’ve done a few smaller changes to the marketing as well.

First of all, I added an evergreen content newsletter (ECN), which subscribers get subscribed to after they finished the crash course. I’ve also added a “promotions” workflow that takes people out of the ECN workflow and promotes the free chapter from the book. I plan on adding more evergreen content and more promotions to this. 
Overall, I see a lot of potential here as it allows me to incrementally improve my marketing whenever I find time for it. 

Secondly, I added a “write for us” page to that gets me a lot of requests each month. Sadly, I didn’t follow through on any of them yet. The last months were too hectic. 

Thirdly, I’ve hired a javascript developer to build a range of calculators relevant to SaaS businesses such as the SaaS annual revenue calculator. This is pretty early stage, he’s currently working on the second calculator, but I plan to eventually have 10+ calculators and to hopefully get a good chunk of traffic through those. 


Benedikt and I did a meetup for our podcast listeners back in 2014 and wanted to host a similar event again. Somehow one thing lead to another and this meetup turned into a conference. I wrote down my thoughts on running a conference – i.e. FemtoConf – in a separate article, if you’re interested. 

Overall, it was a great experience to get a bunch of inspiring people together and see all of them enjoy theirselves. Benedikt and I focused the conference on the “hallway track” – i.e. interactions between the attendees & speakers – and I’m super happy with how that turned out. 

We’re hosting another one this year (March 2-4 in Frankfurt). There are still sponsor tickets available that come with a bunch of goodies on top of a conference ticket – join us for an amazing conference experience!


Personal life

In mid-January my wife told me that she was pregnant. That was pretty exciting as it meant we’d have to renovate parts of the apartment and shift things around a bit. It also meant that my wife would stop working in her usual capacity as a chemical lab tech. 

About a week later I was informed that I’d be deploying to Afghanistan in March. That gave me about six weeks to prepare for deployment, visit our parents to let them know about the pregnancy, and finish a few things in the apartment that my wife definitely needed me for. 

Deploying to Afghanistan was fun. Finally, I was doing what I had been training for up to this point. Leaving my pregnant wife at home was clearly the downside, but overall it was a great experience. 

During my stay there I started a challenge: Do 200 push-ups every day. 
I started with doing 200 push-ups one day as a “Lets see if you can do this”-kind of challenge. I managed to do 200 push-ups, but almost died the next day. It took me 57 days to get to consistent 200+ push-ups every day. A few times I didn’t hit my goal for the day and had to double down the next day, but I managed to do over 35,000 push-ups in 2017. 
Currently, I’m about 15 days behind schedule with this for a number of reasons: I’ve had a cold on and off for the past three weeks and work was just too busy. But I plan on keeping at it and if I manage to catch up and do 200 push-ups every day I should start 2019 with 100,000 push-ups under my belt. 

In September my wife gave birth to a beautiful boy. The first few weeks were quite… interesting, but now he’s just the cutest, happiest, most even-tempered baby I know of. 
It’s crazy how much he has changed and enriched our lives. It’s so much fun to just watch him take in the world around him and learn new things. 

Goals for 2018

In 2018 I will transfer to a new post, which should decrease my workload considerably. I plan on going on paternal leave for four months (yay for Socialist Europe). 

Talking about the business, I have a few plans for 2018: 

  • Learn to focus again – I noticed that I have a hard time focusing on one thing anymore. “Flow” is all but non-existant for me. My #1 goal for 2018 is to learn to focus again and get some deep work done
  • Bring product revenue up to $2,500 per year. While this doesn’t look like much, it means almost doubling last year’s revenue. 
    • I want to spend some of the money I made from selling LinksSpy on testing Facebook ads. Not having mastered a traffic channel is probably among the top 3 reasons why I failed to grow LinksSpy. 
    • I’ve started writing another book. It’s going to target a similar audience, but is much smaller and will be sold through Amazon KDP. I plan on using it mostly as a lead magnet for SEMH. 
    • Do more cross-promotions. I’m looking for companies that could benefit from offering their customers a discounted copy of SEMH. I’ll hopefully find the time for an outreach campaign in February or March.  

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Paid Content Promotion: Promoting your content with QuuuPromote


Is paid content promotion the way to win the marketing battle?

Content Marketing is on the front line in the marketing battle. It’s use is decisive in theaters such as SEO and social media.

While most people (this author included) focus on content creation, they often forget about content marketing.

QuuuPromote offers an easy way out: Pay for it and your message gets posted to hundreds of social media profiles.

I’m not exactly an advocate of social media marketing, but this sounded to good to be true, so I decided to give it a try.

Here is what I learned…

The content I shared

I decided to set this up as a test right from the beginning: I was going to use my article about the best SaaS email marketing tactic I know and promote it on QuuuPromote.

Then I would check how often that link got shared/clicked – except neither did I implement click tracking nor a notification for when the post got shared.


I didn’t have a way to track either clicks or shares besides the analytics provided by Quuu themselves:


Having your own share & click tracking

So with one completely botched-up test under my belt (how can this even happen after years in the marketing game?), I started all over again.

This time I shared an article detailing how we decreased the churn rate by 40% with a single email AND made sure I had click & share tracking in place.


I used a simple “@itengelhardt” at the end of the tweet to track shares. This gave me insight into shares on Twitter.

I don’t know an easy way to track shares on other social media sites, but Twitter seems to be the major channel for QuuuPromote. So I’m good with that.

For click tracking I simply used which does a wonderful job of that, as you’ll see.

Analyzing the results from paid content promotion

The natural tendency is to mistrust any analytics coming from a promotion marketplace itself.

I expected QuuuPromote to over-report both shares & clicks after the first post – which allegedly had 201 shares and 91 clicks.

So after the second promotion has finished, here are the results:


Now this one got a lot more shares, but a lot less clicks according to QuuuPromote. I didn’t count the shares in my twitter stream, but this is what it looked like for four weeks:


Judging from that I’d say that the share numbers are not exaggerated.

But what about clicks?

I’m glad you asked. According to Bitly, the number of clicks are actually under-reported:


Bitly reports a total of 157 clicks – 9 clicks on the link itself, 148 from other bitlinks to the same URL. It also reports 356 shares.

That number is in line with the 353 shares reported by QuuuPromote – plus a few genuine retweets, I guess.

I wonder how and why Bitly actually reports more clicks than QuuuPromote. If you have any ideas, let me know on Twitter (@itengelhardt)


I got 157 clicks (&356 shares) for an investment of $30. That comes down to $0.19 per click, which is phenomenally low Cost-per-Click.

Will I use QuuuPromote again? Absolutely. It’s a cheap investment with good returns and it takes maybe 5 minutes of my time.

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FemtoConf 2017: Thoughts on running our conference

On 10-12 February 2017 my friend Benedikt and I hosted our first conference – named FemtoConf – in Darmstadt, Germany.

These are my thoughts on the whole experience of co-running a conference.

Why we decided to host our own conference

Purely because we get this question quite a bit: “Femto” is a unit prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of 10 to the power of -15.

Benedikt and I are huge fans and avid attendees of MicroConf Europe, a conference for self-funded software startup founders.
I’ve been the semi-official scribe at since inception.
We both <3 MicroConf, Rob, and Mike.
We even got them a celebratory cake for their 10th MicroConf (

That’s why – when it was time to name our conference – we decided to pay tribute to the legend. FemtoConf is designed to be the smaller cousin to MicroConf – just as the name implies.

We had done a meetup for our podcast listeners back in 2014 and had planed to do it again in 2016. For various reasons (work, family, and stuff), that didn’t happen.

Getting the ball rolling

So one day in late 2016 we said “Screw it, we’re doing this in 2017!”. Within 10 minutes we had decided on a date (10-12 February). We wanted to do it on a weekend, mostly because I work a day job and didn’t want to take a vacation.

We told a few of our listeners and friends about the meetup we were hosting. One of them was Jane Portman of Tiny Reminder, who on a whim told us “I’m coming and giving a talk” – color us surprised.

Turning things up a notch

One thing led to another and before long we had a full blown conference on our hands. We decided to kick things up a gear:
We had already decided to host the conference in Darmstadt. Darmstadt is perfect because it’s where Benedikt lives and easy to get to – it’s close to the middle of Germany and Frankfurt Airport is 30 minutes away.
We looked at conference rooms and found a suitable one at the Welcome Hotel Darmstadt costing 52€ per person per day. By chance my wife had stayed at the hotel before and gave it a raving review.

So we decided on a price: 99€ – enough to cover the costs for the conference room and a bit of buffer in case of unforeseen expenditures (this was a good idea poorly executed).

Benedikt signed us up for Tito so we could sell tickets. We thought that we could – at most – sell 8 tickets.
The plan was to have 8 attendees + speakers + Benedikt & I.

Starting up the marketing engine

When we started selling tickets, we did some serious grade A marketing! I kid, here’s what we really did:

  • we mentioned it to all our friends on all the Slack chats we hang out in
  • we sent an email to our mailing list
  • each of us tweeted about the tickets going on sale

Within 24 hours we were sold out. WHAT?! Looks like we hit a nerve there.
We decided to sell five more tickets and get a bigger conference room.

Finding speakers

Those five tickets sold out as well. So we were now up to 13 attendees + 2 hosts + 1 speaker. We wanted to have maybe four talks, so we needed three speakers.

Luckily, Jane brought along Mojca Mars, who was going to talk about Social Media Marketing.

Benedikt and I decided to approach two additional speakers: Thomas Smale of FE International and Craig Hewitt of PodcastMotor.
Both agreed to speak at FemtoConf and Thomas even was generous enough to be our liquor fairy – another MicroConf tradition; i.e. he sponsored drinks the first night.

The conference itself

There was a lot of preparation – mostly done by Benedikt – that I will only briefly list here:

  • coming up with a schedule
  • sending email updates to attendees (schedule, things to do in Darmstadt, pre-conference survey)
  • taking a look at the room
  • preparing gifts for our speakers (Apfelwein) and attendees (Christstollen)
  • collecting presentation slides from the speakers
  • making plans on how to record audio & video

Kick-off dinner

Fast forward to February 10: I’m heading out from home shortly before 07.00 and take the train to Darmstadt. It’s a four and a half hour journey. I arrive at 11.30 and head straight to the AirBNB I’m going to share with my friends Andrew Culver, Daniel Bader, Daniel Alm and Victor Purolnik.

The next fixed event is the kick-off dinner at Braustüb’l. Benedikt and I spent the meantime talking to the first couple of attendees over lunch and coffee and buying a presenter, because obviously I forgot mine at home. We also set up the audio recording hardware.

Dinner is fantastic, filled with lots of great conversations, and everyone seems to have a blast. The conference is already off to a good start.

The proper conference day

The next morning I wake up around 07.00 and walk over to the hotel to set up the camera and prepare my blog for some notetaking.
When I get there I realize that I brought my camera and my tripod – but that the connector is still on my DSLR, back home in Munich. I text Benedikt, who’s already on the way and he heads back home to fetch his tripod. Disaster averted!

I also realize that there is no cabling in place to supply attendees with power. I get a hold of an hotel employee and she fixes this in 15 minutes – they were on top of their game!

Shortly after 09.30 Benedikt & I kick off the conference with some general information and then we start a round of introductions. After introductions Jane Portman takes the stage and gives a fantastic talk on product strategy.

After that we have a long 50 minute coffee break, before Thomas talks about building a sellable business.

During the 2-hour lunch break we have lunch (surprise!) and we also go for a nice walk the close by Herrngarten. It was a nice change of speed, definitely not something we had planned for.

After lunch we had some more Q&A with Thomas. Than it is up to Mojca to teach us all about Facebook Ads and finally Craig tells us about his adventures in productized services.

Dinner that night was at Sitte – another great restaurant. I leave around 12.30 at night with the few remaining attendees and my head is buzzing with thoughts and ideas.

Sunday morning we have breakfast in the AirBNB and then check out. We all meet in front of the hotel and go for a short tour of the city, thanks to our guide Benedikt. Afterwards to storm into a coffee shop and sit together for a few more hours. Benedikt & I also take the time to record two episodes for our podcast.

My personal thoughts on FemtoConf

First of all, FemtoConf gave me exactly what I hoped for: a weekend with friends and a ton of motivation!

Every time after MicroConf I would feel energized and ready to deep-dive into building a business. The problem is that MicroConf Europe is only once a year.
FemtoConf was – as Andrew called it – a much needed shot in the arm.

I think that Benedikt and I did a lot of things right with FemtoConf:

  • the small size of ~20 founders allowed everyone to talk to everyone
  • lots of time between talks plus two walks throughout the city gave amble time to have deep and meaningful conversations
  • having four talks was just the right amount to get everyone excited about a few(!) ideas they could try in their business AND stuff to talk about with other founders
  • Darmstadt was the right city, especially considering how close it is to Frankfurt Airport (we had attendees fly in from Los Angeles and Crimea – among other places)

Benedikt and I were deliberate in keeping FemtoConf small and focusing on the hallway track. In my opinion those were great decisions. Our attendees share that opinion:

Things that didn’t go well

Aside from me forgetting both the presenter AND the tripod connector the biggest letdown for our attendees was that we wanted to play laser tag on Sunday morning and we couldn’t.
Based on our pre-conf survey I had reserved 7 spots for players, but when I asked around again on Saturday there were 14 willing players. That didn’t work out with the laser tag facility and we had to scrub it.
We all went on a sightseeing tour of Darmstadt instead, which was still great.

Lesson learned: Plan laser tag for all attendees + better halves

From the feedback we got it’s clear that we should give Sunday a bit more structure – maybe with one or two talks plus fun activities. That sounds great, but having additional talks would double our expenses, so we’ll have to see.

Not breaking even

Benedikt and I did improvise (and imitate) a lot for FemtoConf. We followed a solid “Ready, Fire, Aim!” approach when it came to pricing. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

This meant that we were a few hundred dollars short in the end.

That’s not a big deal: We host the pre-conf dinner for MicroConf Europe each year and that has sometimes cost us more than $1,200 bucks (which we are cool with).

Nevertheless, we’d like to break even next year. The biggest contributor to our net loss was that we paid the conference room for 20 people, but only charged 13 people for attending.

Additionally, there were a few extra costs like beverages during lunch, attendee & speaker gifts, and we swallowed a few of the drinks on friday (We had agreed to cap Thomas’ expenses at a certain amount).

I don’t want to charge speakers for attending as other conferences do, so there is only one option: Charge. More. (Hi there, Patrick!)

We’ll probably increase prices quite a bit, but we’ll also add to the FemtoConf experience. People already told us they’d be willing to pay way more, so we’ll see.


Overall, this was a fantastic conference experience. It was great to meet old friends and make new ones. The motivation and energy I feel after FemtoConf is just what I needed to get working on improving my book (SaaS Email Marketing Handbook).

Looking forward to next year!

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Craig Hewitt: “Evolution of a Productized Service – The Story of PodcastMotor” – FemtoConf 2017

The FemtoConf 2017 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Twitter: @TheCraigHewitt

The Premise of Productized Services

  • Quick to launch
  • easy to validate
  • Provide immediate profit
  • Have a clear scope and value proposition
  • Allow previously unprofitable business models to become profitable at scale

But does it scale..? 

  • Yes, however
    • Margin will only go down
    • We saw a ceiling in total revenue/customers
    • Questionable “sellability” of business
      • You don’t want to spend 20h/week working on something that cost you $200k to buy
    • Linear growth curve (along with expenses)

PodcastMotor History

  • 01/15 ==> Launch
  • 03/15 ==> 3 customers, $1k/mo
  • 05/15 ==> 3 team members
  • 08/15 ==> 6 team members
  • 01/16 ==> First $10k/mo
  • 05/16 ==> went full time
  • 07/16 ==> Launched first WP Product
  • 10/16 ==> $20k / mo
  • 12/16 ==> Acquired SSP
  • 01/17 ==> Launch in a Week Course
  • 02/17 ==> Launching PodcastMotor Connect

Lessons Learned Scaling

  • Document everything
  • Better Hiring >> Better Delegation
  • Revisit Monthly where/when you are Limiting Factor
  • Avoid Scope Creep
  • Retain Good Customers (and identify bad ones before they start!)
  • How to write SOPs: We use Snagit to record Screen caps and put them in the process document
  • Removing yourself from the business
    • Get better every month
    • ensure that you’re providing value > cost of support team
    • Do only what you HAVE to, not what’s CONVENIENT in the moment
    • Build in accountability into your team
  • Automatic Delegation
    • Rules in place for when/how to delegate
    • Give the team power
    • Periodic check-in

If I were starting from scratch today

  • Begin with your target pricing from the start (aspirational pricing)
  • Everyone goes on the same plans (no exceptions)
  • Have a service you can fulfill yourself – don’t be dependent on the customer
  • Document and Delegate, Early and Often
  • Structure for >50% margin from the beginning
  • Secondary Market
    • “Typically service based sites sell around 2x net profit, but we have seen them go higher if they have solid brand recognition or a long history of success.”
  • Productized Services can be just the beginning
    • Leadfuze – now Course and SaaS
    • AudienceOps – now WordPress plugins, course, and SaaS
    • Elastic Sales/ – On-demand sales team turned CRM
    • PodcastMotor – WordPress theme/plugins, course, and SaaS

The Future of PodcastMotor

  • Diversifying our offerings
    • Productized Services
    • Information Products
    • WordPress plugins and themes
  • Surrounding the problem
    • Businesses – Concierge Service
    • New Podcasters – Startup Package, hosting, course
    • Existing Podcasters – Ongoing Production Support
    • DIY Podcasters – WP products, hosting, course

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