Rob Walling: How to 10x in 15 months – MicroConf Europe 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here Speaker: Rob Walling (@robwalling)

Things you’ll learn

  • Inside story of a small acquisition
  • specific steps taken to grow it
  • How to apply what you’ve learned to new products

The State of Rob’s Product Portfolio

HitTail Then…

  • More information on the acquisition is here or in Rob’s own words here: (part 1, part 2, part 3)
  • 100 paying customers, mostly on $9.99 / month plan – many free users
  • Good things
    • Credibility (mentioned in BusinessWeek), incoming links, good market (SEO / Internet Marketing)
  • Not so good things
    • Prices too low, only 2 tiers
    • 60 day free trial
    • complicated signup process
  • Total Acquisition cost: $52,000 – including redesign, legal & technical

Redesigning the App

  • Make signup process easier (only 5 fields required, more focused page, less fuss)
  • Complete redesign (Bringing the website to 2011)


Growing The Business

  • Business now running at about 84% profit after fixed costs
  • It takes Rob 6 months of learning to market HitTail – expect even longer for yourself

Phase 1: Relaunch

  • Posts / Mentions on Hacker News, Startups For The Rest Of Us, Software By Rob
  • Traffic increased to 5,200
  • Revenue stayed the same

Phase 2: Podcast Tour

  • BlogcastFM, Escape Velocity, Foolish Adventure, Internet Business Mastery, The Startup Slingshot
  • Partly knows the hosts, partly cold-call emailing
  • Traffic up to 5,600
  • Revenue stayed the same

Phase 3: Operation Retention

  • Trial to Paid sucked (18%)
  • Initial churn about 15%
  • Actions:
    • Emailed cancellations and asked for reasons
    • Figure out what makes HitTail different from Google Analytics
    • Drip-Email-Campaign
  • Traffic stayed the same
  • Revenue increased to 150% (+50%  over last iteration)

Phase 3.a): How Rob fixed the Funnel

  • no marketing (!)
  • Enforced trial length
  • encourage code installation (even do it yourself for free – LTV justifies that!)
  • drip-email-campaign during trial period (education on using HitTail AND doing SEO)
  • Implement downsell
  • Implement one-click articles (don’t only deliver action items, but solve those items for customers!)
  • Results:
    • Trial to paid doubled to 36%
    • Churn decreased to 8%
    • Overall a 4x improvement to the business (multiplicative improvements FTW!)

Phase 4: Return To Marketing

  • Start retargeting (tried 4 different networks – recommendation PerfectAudience)
  • Tried Facebook Ads – didn’t work out
  • Google Adwords – too expensive for HitTail
  • Guest Posts – work, but super time-intensive
  • Traffic at 4,000
  • revenue stays at 150%

Phase 5: AppSumo

  • Rob does not like discounts, had real reservations about AppSumo deal (-70% discount)
  • You get 30% out of gross revenue from AppSumo
  • You get additional signups besides AppSumo – massive footprint
  • Traffic to 11,400
  • Revenue up to 344% (+130% over last iteration)

Phase 6: Paid Acquisition

  • Reddit, Facebook, Adwords, LinkedIn, BuySellAds & others
  • Reddit worked for a while
  • Facebook Ads worked for about 7 months – what made it work:
    • Invested more time (1 month) & money ($5,000)
    • a lot of iterations (about 30 pictures tested)
  • Google Adwords never worked out for Rob
  • LinkedIn was too expensive for Rob
  • BuySellAds didn’t work for HitTail
  • Traffic up to 20,300
  • Revenue up to 408% base level (+19% improvement over last iteration)

Phase 7: Product Manager

  • reduce free trial from 30 to 21 days – almost no effect on conversion rate, but faster iteration
  • Integration Marketing with Basecamp – didn’t drive many customers
  • Drip-Email-Campaign to educate people about benefits of Longtail SEO and how HitTail plays into it
  • Revenue up to 536% (+30% over last iteration)

Phase 8: More Integration Marketing

  • When thinking “Search Engines”, start thinking: “Amazon,, Youtube, Drupal”
  • WordPress plugin huge win: Easy to rank on, makes installation easier (Win-Win)
  • Get a deal as “SEOmoz Pro Perks” (best converting traffic for HitTail)
  • Revenue up to 636% base level (+19% improvement over last iteration)

Phase 9: Mentioned on Search Engine Watch & AuthorityLabs

  • Got mentioned purely due to “Luck surface area” – “the harder you work, the luckier you get”
  • Revenue up to 728% (+14% over last iteration)

Part 2: Moving to Drip

  • Move from HitTail to Drip caused by:
    • saw writing on the wall (“Google is going to pull some shit with SEO”)
    • Churn Rate
    • Tough Market
    • Want to do something new
  • Same three phases “Building, Learning – eventually Scaling”

How To Get 3,000 emails?

  • concentric circle marketing (about 2,500 signups)
    • your own audience (blog, podcast)
    • other blogs / podcasts
    • Press (all inbound, no pitching)
    • Facebook Ads
  • Viral loop (each Drip popup has a link back)

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Dave Collins: SEO Demystified: Practical Techniques That Produce Astonishing Results – MicroConf Europe 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here

Speaker: Dave Collins (@thedavecollins)

Also see the notes on the talk from MicroConf in Las Vegas


  • 70% 60% 50% of SEO is simple!
  • SEO is dead – but Dave Collins knows how to revive it!
  • SEOs don’t have a good reputation, rightfully: They often don’t deliver
  • For every person who knows what tey’re talking about with SEO, there are _______ who are talking out of their _____
  • You want relevant visitors
  • Google wants relevant visitors to find you
  • Users want HELP!

Google’s role

  • Wants to get rid of:
    • keyword stuffing
    • hidden keywords
    • shallow content
    • all forms of spam

The new SEO – Guiding Google

  • Brute force doesn’t work – you can’t fight Google
  • Help them understand your content
  • The SEO cycle aligns itself only when SEOs give Google what USERs are looking for
  • Distinction Black Hat – White Hat is obsolete. Nothing illegal about “Black Hat” – Even Dave did “spammy” stuff in the past (Testing)
  • Getting “slapped” by Google does not feel like a slap – it’s a punch
  • Optimized pages should NOT look like optimized pages (e.g. keyword stuffing)
  • No “cunning plan” will work – at least not for long
  • SEO has become much much harder in the last year –> Opportunity: your competitors won’t do it anymore

How to deal with (not provided) and Google’s changes

  • “(not provided)” is killing keyword data
  • Steps to deal with (not provided):
    • Google Webmaster Tools (shows some keyword data, good enough for trends)
    • Google Analytics
    • Keyword Rank Tracking
    • Keyword Research (e.g. using Google’s Keyword Planner)
  • You are up for a fight against Google itself – i.e. Knowledgegraph (showing information directly in the SERPs)
  • And now there’s Hummingbird (In Dave’s words: Knowledgegraph 2.0)

So what lies ahead, Dave?

  • More pain
  • Less accuracy, more extrapolation
  • It’s going to be about the keywords
    • one main keyword per page
  • Keyword research process
    • Brainstorm (pen & paper)
    • Analytics
    • Competition
    • Keyword planner
    • Identify primary keyword
    • Identify supporting keywords
    • Analytics (existing)
    • Analysis
    • Decision: optimise existing page or create new page?
    • Link in the content

Keyword Planner

  • can only use with Google Adwords account
  • Helps you find keyword ideas
  • Do keyword research this way: (for secondary keywords)
    1. NOT “ad group ideas”, select “keyword ideas”
    2. Export to Excel CSV
    3. Keywords Performance Indicator = Searches ^ 2 / competition
    4. Delete not related keywords
    5. Insert small number of those words into your content – need to blend in seamlessly

Content Marketing

  • It is about adding value
  • People are supposed to like reading your content – tell a good story!
  • If people like your content, they will share it
  • Secret to good rankings: Write epic content!


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Peldi Guilizzoni: The Tools We’ve Used to Grow From Zero to Seven Figures – MicroConf Europe 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here

Speaker: Peldi Guilizzoni (@peldi)


  • 2008 – Solo founder, bootstrapped
  • Goal: Feed myself, my wife & my son
  • …little by little, as slowly as possible…. (totally not what happened)
  • revenue about $6,000,000 / year, 35% profit margins
  • probably a one-hit-wonder, and totally fine with it

Lots and Lots of Tools

  • CEO’s job is to optimize, choose tools quickly
  • Diversify and look behind the curtain (make sure that tools are staying in business)

Tools for Design & Development

  • Pivotal Tracker (easy, one step above a text file)
  • Confluence
  • Github
  • IntelliJ IDEA
  • Jenkins
  • Selenium / PhantomJS
  • AWS (extensively! S3, EC2, SQS…)
  • Balsamiq Mockups / myBalsamiq
  • Adobe Creative Suite tools
  • Charles – proxy software
  • Chrome Dev Console
  • ….

Branching Strategy

  • One branch per developer
  • Merges to Revision branches only from MASTER
  • one staging server per developer + one main staging server

Do a Gamma (after your Beta)

  • Launch your software, but with a hidden signup page
  • Ask people to pay (“need to test payment processing”)
  • set expectation to possible errors (test that you don’t loose data, fix biggest errors)
  • Stress-free launching
  • At launch you can easily say “200 people are already paying for this”

Tools for Communicating internally

  • Google Apps (email)
  • Hipchat (was Skype / Yammer)
  • Confluence
  • Dropbox
  • Google Hangout / GoToMeeting
  • Zapier
  • Spotify

Tools for Communicating externally

  • (was  “Reply All” in Google Apps)
  • GMail (with Undo Send)
  • DashExpander / Typinator (storing all rules in dropbox – common style across the company)
  • Skype (SkypeIn phone)
  • Google Hangouts
  • GetSatisfaction
  • Social Media (for tech support – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • WordPress + S3
  • Google Forms
  • AdWords (managed by Dave Collins)
  • (was delicious)
  • Youtube (was BrightCove)
  • Skitch
  • Screenflow
  • Screenr
  • Desk chats / Olark

How we host our Website

  • A little history:
    1. Drupal
    2. Self-hosted WordPress (got hacked)
    3. WPEngine (moved the hack along… got hacked again, but WPEngine mitigated this quickly)
  • Static websites hosted on S3 (build with Hammer, automatically uploaded by s3sync
  • Cloudfront? Not yet, but on the roadmap

Tools for running the company smoothy

  • Macbook Pros + Big monitors
  • Google Apps (shared Cal, Docs, ….)
  • Confluence
  • Dropbox
  • Hipchat
  • Google Hangout
  • QuickBooks online
  • Balsamiq Olio (was spreadsheet + Freshbooks)
  • Stripe (was e-junkie + PayPal + Google Wallet + Spreedly)

A little bit about how we work

  • Not flat, fluid (no managers)
  • Project-based work
  • Pace over deadlines (good quality is more important than speed)
  • Handbook and Wiki (“How we do things”)
    • to bring new employees up to speed
    • common acronyms page
    • weekly agenda pages for every employee
  • Macro Company Areas (“Departments”)
    • emerge over time
    • Right now:
      • Mockups
      • myBalsamiq
      • Plugins
      • Next Gen
      • Testing
      • Kaizen
      • Admin
      • Sales
      • UX / Websites / Support / Marketing
      • Docs & Tutorials
      • Ops
    • each area with Projects Backlog
    • Projects:
      • one lead
      • people (pigs vs chickens – pigs are active, chickens only listen)
    • Every area has own Hipchat room
  • Monthly “all hands meeting” via video conference (includes 5 minutes presentations from everyone)

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Andy Brice: “Notes from the Trenches: 8 years of Software Marketing Experiments” – MicroConf Europe 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here

Speaker: Andy Brice (@successfulsw)

The Challenge

  • How do you get a potential customer’s attention in a cost effective way when countless other vendors are trying the same thing?
  • 5.3 trillion display ad impressions delivered in the US in 2012
  • Even Perfect Table Planer has >100 competitors

Organic Search / SEO

  • Good content
  • On-page SEO is not rocket science
  • But:
    • It is a game where none of the players know the rules
    • Results are not guaranteed
    • It takes time
    • Blackhat tricks can get you banned
    • Everything relies on Google


PPC / Google Adwords (search)

  • Can be highly targeted
  • very cost effective
  • Huge reach
  • Quick results
  • Lots of feedback
  • But:
    • Complex
    • Requires significant tuning
    • Bid price inflation
    • Easy to waste money

PPC / Adwords (Display Networks)

  • Potentially huge reach
  • CPC can be cheaper than search
  • Can use image / video ads
  • Andy could never make it work

PPC / Microsoft Adcenter

  • Less competition – may be able to get cheaper clicks than Adwords
  • But:
    • Much less traffic
    • Painful UI
    • Minimum bid of 0.05 pounds

PPC / Facebook ads

  • Demographic Targeting
  • Huge reach (#2 on the internet)
  • But:
    • People aren’t on Facebook to buy stuff, clicks may not convert well
    • No conversion Tracking
    • No downloadable products allowed

PPC / LinkedIn ads

  • Can target by:
    • Job function
    • company
    • gender
    • age group
    • country
    • LinkedIn group membership (this is awesome!)
  • Easy to set-up
  • But:
    • Expensive (Minimum CPC $2, Minimum CPM $3)

Facebook Page

  • Only need 25 ‘likes’ to get a vanity URL (
  • Potential to reach out to friends of customers
  • Free
  • But:
    • A low ‘like’ doesn’t look great
    • Less control than own site
    • They show ads for other products
    • Clunky UI


  • Allows engagement with customers
  • Useful for promoting ‘viral’ content
  • Free
  • But:
    • Hard to build up followers if you aren’t a celebrity
    • A low follower count doesn’t look great
    • Time consuming
    • 1:1 interactions don’t scale


  • Builds a relationship
  • Can bring in a lot of organic search
  • Free
  • But:
    • Major time commitment
    • Some products easier to promote through blogs than others
    • Hard to do if you don’t like writing
    • Useless if not targeted

Bloggers (a.k.a. other people’s blogs)

  • Mention on high traffic blog can drive significant traffic
  • Helps with SEO
  • Great if you can get a free mention
  • But:
    • Hit and miss
    • Many bloggers expect to be paid
    • Getting a mention is unlikely to have long-term effects

Download Sites

  • Can provide useful amounts of free targeted traffic for some types of products
  • May still be important for some platforms (e.g. Mac)
  • Free
  • But:
    • Increasingly irrelevant
    • Engaged in race to the bottom (toolbar installers, Dubious PPC ads, Fake awards)

Posting on Forums

  • Free
  • But:
    • Time consuming
    • Most forums have ‘no follow’ links
    • Ethical issues (pose as a woman, etc)

Magazine Ads

  • Buying a magazine shows commitment
  • Repeatable
  • But:
    • Expensive
    • Hard to track results
    • ‘Impedance mismatch’
    • Ads may become less effective over time

Press Releases

  • Review and editorials have more credibility than ads
  • Great if you can get it for free
  • Online services, e.g.:
  • But:
    • Hit and miss
    • Press releases are only worthwhile if they are newsworthy/creative, e.g. not “ACME Corp is delighted to announce v1.23 of their revolutionary new…”

Partner Programs

  • Sometimes free
  • Well worth trying if available and free
  • Examples:
    • Microsoft Office Partner Program


  • >2 billion LBP of affiliates sales in the UK in 2006
  • ‘Super affiliates’ can drive serious traffic
  • Can be largely automated
  • Performance based
  • But:
    • May compete directly against you
    • Some affiliates expect 75% commission
    • Very few people seem to manage more than a few percent additional sales
    • A lot of spam going on

Email Marketing

  • Potentially low cost and large reach
  • But:
    • Hard to know how good the quality of the list is
    • CTR likely to be very low if no relationship
    • Spamming is bad for your reputation

1 Day Discount Sites

  • Can give exposure to a new audience
  • But:
    • One-off
    • Heavily discounted
    • Price anchoring issues
    • May attract wrong sort of customer
    • Volumes probably not worthwhile for most niche products

Snail Mail

  • Can include physical items
  • Measurable, A/B-testing
  • But:
    • Difficult to assess quality of mailing list
    • Expensive
    • Kills trees
    • Low response rates

App Stores

  • Increasingly a feature of selling software
  • Store owner is providing (some) marketing and infrastructure for you
  • But:
    • Rejection is a real possibility
    • Big cuts for store owner (30% for Apple)
    • Interaction with the customer is restricted
    • Downward pressure on prices
    • Median sales for paid apps in the iPhone is $682/year

Make Product Promote Itself (Viral Marketing)

  • Potentially exponential growth
  • But:
    • Hard to pull off
    • needs right product

Word of Mouth

  • Best marketing is done by your customers
    • Massive reach
    • Maximum credibility
    • Free
  • But:
    • Requires customers first

Choosing the right method

  • Best choice depends on
    • Type of product
    • value of sale
    • Your personality/skills
  • In general prefer:
    • Targeted over un-targeted
    • Measurable over un-measurable
    • Scalable over one-to-one
    • Continuing over one-off
    • Performance based over flat fee
    • Cheap experiments over expensive ones
  • Run the numbers
    • At %1 conversion rate and profit per sale is $20 –> CPC needs to be below 0.20
  • Be creative (How to advertise on porn sites)
  • Don’t neglect existing customers (Version upgrades, more expensive plans, optional extras)
  • Try a lot of things!

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Adii Pienaar: “How To Build Any Startup With Zero Budget” – MicroConf Europe 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here

Speaker: Adii Pienaar (@adii)


WooThemes Today

  • 500,000+ Users
  • 110,000 Paying Customers
  • Starting something new, I became more risk averse

What I was looking for:

  • Something that had as little risk as possible
  • Something that I could fund myself

Public Beta

  • Want to help Entrepreneurs
  • Started with only a landing page
  • Acquired 2000+ emails in 8 weeks
  • Content marketing on
    • 10 posts written
    • 8,344 unique visitors
    • 15,977 page views
  • First 4 weeks:
    • 2313 Unique visitors (28% conversion from
    • 8080 email signups (35% conversion)

Product Validation

  • Problems to convert emails to customers with Lunchbox
  • Money in the bank is ultimate validation
  • Credit Card numbers are 2nd best validation (almost equal to money)
  • Plan A: Risk Mitigation (Validating Public Beta has cost $1,000 to date)
  • Sell something you can get, but don’t yet have
  • Keep it simple stupid (How little could we build?)
  • Capture Credit Card details at “sign up”
  • Decide on your threshold ahead of time (For Public Beta it was 30 paying customers / +- $1000 monthly recurring revenue)
  • Do customer interviews and find out why they paid you

Launching the Product

  • all this leads to incredible validation:
    • 47 minutes to process transactions
    • 68 customers
    • $4,000 revenue
    • $2,000 MRR
  • Changed the roadmap


  • Being paid is the ultimate validation (in absence of money, credit card details are great!)
  • Doing Customer Development with someone that paid you, 10X’s the validity of the feedback (people who don’t pay you tell you a LOT of stuff)
  • Deception sucks. Always.
  • Your heart should be in the right place
  • Startups are about speed and access

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Dan & Ian: “What Operating System Powers Your Business” – MicroConf Europe 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here Speakers: Dan Andrews (@TropicalMBA) / Ian (@AnythingIan)

Get the SOD and a lot more information over here.

Background Story

  • Just 2 normal guys back in 2005
  • We believed that building a successful business would set us free

Started in 2008

  • Pre-Sold equipment for valet agents with no design, no manufacturing
  • Now biggest manufacturer of valet equipment
  • Then started cat furniture business
  • Then started portable bar company
  • Now doing – a SaaS application

Perception of career choice by family

  • 2007 – Crazy
  • 2008 – Crazier
  • 2009 – Lost it
  • 2010 – Potentially gone forever
  • 2011 – What is it that you do again?
  • 2012 – …..

How can we help?

  • How we cut our internal email volume by 30-50%
  • How you can create a business that serves you instead of the other way around
  • How to manage a team of 14 with just a few phone calls a week
  • How hiring decision can be easy to make and manage

Excuses not to hire

  1. I can’t hire, I’m broke! –> cut back on other things
  2. I can’t stand the drama! –> it is less drama than not having a team
  3. My cash flow won’t support hiring! –> sell expensive products

Strategic Operating Document

  • Mission –> Principles –> Processes
  • “dreamy” Mission
  • General Operating Principles as a general guideline on how to work the business (e.g. Every customer fault is basically OUR fault)
  • Processes spell out exactly how everything works in your business

The Implications Of Working the System

  • Before: Only I can do this
  • Empowering employees/contractors to do the work
  • After: Faster, Better, Cheaper.
  • When should we hire? – After writing your SOD the conversation is way easier – you know what it will cost
  • Weekly reports:
    • This week’s big initiative
    • Last week’s big initiative
    • KPIs
    • At the same time/day each week

Guerilla Hiring

  • Lived on minimum possible salary
  • Paid first employees more than we made
  • Went to Vietnam (to hire Drupal developers)
  • Went to the Philippines (to hire marketing people)
  • Realized a lot of people want to travel
  • Create a company worth working for…
  • Understand cash / time / mobility as a system
  • There are people in the world who want to be just like you – make them your apprentice / intern

The mistakes we’ve made

  • Thinking somebody else will grow your business for you (Hiring for growth rather than hiring for management)
  • Thinking somebody else will care as much as you
  • Spending too much time on interns
  • Not firing fast enough (implement 90 day review)

5 Things You Can Implement Today

  1. Start your SOD document. Build a culture document from day 1. Write the operating system of your business
  2. Identify a few ways you could “race” to your first full time hire
  3. Write your mission statement
  4. Start a habit for writing processes for every repeating task in your business
  5. Stop work on repeatable tasks, start working on solving the unknown


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Mike Taber: “How to Sell Anything to Anyone” – MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here

Speaker: Mike Taber (@singlefounder)


A few Caveats

  • Sales is a Learned Skill
  • Sales is a Process
  • Sales can be used for Good… or Evil
  • It’s NEVER too late to iterate on your sales pitch

Emotional Triggers

  • Greed
  • Altruism (Red Cross & other NGOs)
  • Pride
  • Fear (AuditShark – fear of being hacked)
  • Envy (People will think I am stupid, if I don’t buy)
  • Shame (People will think I’m a douche if I don’t buy)

The Power of First Impressions

  • First 0.2 seconds -> First impression
  • First 2.6 seconds –> most influential time
  • Make sure your copy is great – good first impression
  • Website speed matters: +100 milliseconds load-time results in 0.2% lower conversion rate
  • “First impressions last forever”
  • To overcome first impression, you need to overcome it in multiple contexts

Stop Selling Software

  • People don’t buy software, they buy solutions to their problems
    • They buy ways to overcome pain
    • They are outsourcing processes
    • They choose to allow other people to build things they need
    • They don’t prescirbe to the “Not Invented Here” syndrome
  • Feature – Benefit – Valued End State (example: buying ski helmet with bluetooth)
    • Billy the kid: Bluetooth – Music/Phone Calls – Self-Esteem
    • Billy’s Mom: Bluetooth – Music/Phone Calls – Peace of Mind (call Billy at any time)
  • 2 people you need to pay attention to
    • the ones who just bought your software
    • the ones who just CANCELLED your software

Why are People moving towards your Product?

  • Ask new customers:
    • What other things have you tried?
    • Why didn’t those things work?

Iterate on your Startup Pitch

  • First Pitch is often aweful
  • “Buy a kazoo for a dollar and help Camp Good Days” – problems:
    • What the hell is Camp Good Days
    • Sales pitch is too long
    • People are conditioned to say “No Thanks”
    • Kazoos are worthless!
    • Kazoos in the hands of children are annoying
    • No relationship with the customer (==> you have to be upfront, tell about perks)
  • Revised sales pitch: “Would you like to help little kids with cancer? (Just buy a kazoo for a dollar)”
    • No one says “No Thanks” to this anymore
  • Bonus: Be a sexist. When approaching couples, talk to the woman (She’ll look at the man and he’ll be under pressure)
  • Use Remarketing & Google Adwords
  • Talk to people (They love to tell you how much their job sucks)
  • Use A/B Testing

Does Website Speed really Matter?

  • Yes, but it’s Google’s fault
  • It’s a perception issue, NOT a speed issue (Google is fast, so your site should be fast too)
  • Reframe Perceptions (“Do you want to search the deep web?” + 1 minute delay makes people value search engine MORE)
  • Flight search engines are delayed, because people think that the algorithm works harder for them & value results more
  • Sometimes lack of insight into what is going on, makes people angry & leave
  • Don’t tell customers how hard you’re working. Show them!
  • Change the basis of comparison (Don’t get compared to Google!)

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Patrick McKenzie: “Building Things To Help Sell The Things You Build” – MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here

Speaker: Patrick McKenzie (@patio11)

Notes from Patrick’s talk at MicroConf 2013

We were all Newbies once

  • In the early years (2005 – 2008) just a nice little bit of money on the side
  • Later made enough to quit 9-5 and go entrepreneur
  • Then started – lesson learned: “Only do products that really interest you”

What should I make? (And how will I know that people buy it?)

  • B2B or B2C ? —> B2B! B2B! B2B!
    • Easier to get to monthly recurring revenue (MRR)
    • more technical knowledge
    • more money to get out of it
  • Find people who don’t love you and ask them whether they would pay for the product!
  • Do customer development before you build anything!
  • Ask the right questions (“Do you have a missed appointment problem?”)
  • Getting email address is next best validation to getting credit card details

Quick Wins To Pay For MicroConf 2014

Fundamental SaaS equation: traffic * conversion_rate * ARPU / churn

  • Traffic is hardest to optimize for
  • Conversion rate throughout funnel is easier to optimize, but takes weeks/months to see results
  • ARPU you can manipulate with a few minutes of work
  • Churn: run your own Operation Retention

Charge. More.

  • Low prices bring you bad customers
  • Killed the $9 plan, added $199 plan for

Lifecycle-emails for SaaS

  • Drip email marketing is often/typically pre-signup, lifecycle emails are post-signup
  • Lifecycle emails require more app-specific logic
  • Very helpful: good understanding of funnel
  • Not required:
    • Lots of volume
    • Great copywriting

Get People to Upgrade To Annual Billing

  • Offer discount (1 month free) if they switch
  • Offer it to “loyal customers” over email
  • One click + confirmation to switch
  • Conversion rate from 10% to 25%+
  • Immediate revenue of $200 per email sent

Raise your ARPU by upgrading customer to higher tier

  • If customer is close to edge of the quota (80%), they might grow anxious
  • Suggest them to upgrade to next higher tier (at a discount)

Investigating Low Conversion Rate

  • build a dashboard that shows you which customers are failing in using the software (e.g. not setting up any appointment reminders during trial)
  • Walk people through the Trial
  • set up trial email sequence
    • Day 0: auto-generated welcome
    • Day 3: Personal welcome from me
    • Day 20: if successful sell them hard – if NOT successful extend trial
    • Day 27: “incoming charge”

Weekly Checkup (“Get Them Promoted”)

  • High perceived value (everyone likes to hear how much money they made this week)
  • Great engagement
  • Creates “ongoing earned media” via the option to embed announcemenets/links/etc
  • Makes ROI discussions academic

Digging Into Individual Accounts

  • If he cancels or has a CC billing failure –> he gets a phone call
  • Everybody gets a dunning email, sent three times (i.e. email send when somebody owes you money)
    • Get to the point ASAP
    • Prominent link to capture updated CC data
    • Extend a 3 day grace period, try daily within grace
    • Don’t forget a “You didn’t update so we took the liberty of pausing your account” email

How To Quit Consulting

  • Ways to scale consulting:
    • Move your rate up – dramatically
    • improving your utilization
    • Hire people
  • Why I really quit?
    • Constant rat race to get new clients
    • Lots of unpaid time
    • You have a boss & you have to go to work every day
  • Why not replace with a SaaS ? 
    • Long slow SaaS ramp of death
  • So what do we do then? 
    • Productized consulting
      • your most common / most valuable consulting engagement, delivered without the full dance
      • an e-book / video course / etc
      • a training event / seminar / etc
    • Sell it through email
    • Offer it at a variety of price points
    • Make several gigs worth of money in a repeatable, scalable, tweakable fashion
    • most common consulting: “We don’t do email – can you fix it?”
    • Goals for productized consulting: 
      • Teach them how to implement drip marketing & lifecycle emails
      • Market at scale
      • Teach them to do their own copywriting
    • Why would you buy that over consulting?
      • Because it is $500 versus $20,000
      • Because you couldn’t find somebody to do this for you
      • Because you’re not sure you can get it right now
      • Because it’s a cheap, easy way to “test the waters”
    • Why not get it free on the internet?
      • If you pay employees to read information “for free” on the internet, it is no longer free
      • real businesses spend money on problems
      • it reduces roadblocks to adoption within an organization
    • The Key To Marketing it
      • Start building an email list a few months in advance
      • Focused 75% on teaching people stuff (pricing, selling to enterprises, A/B testing, etc) and 25% on telling them about upcoming product
      • Sent two, count’em, two sales emails
      • Sent folks to a long copy page (example)
    • Charge. More.
    • Multiple ways to buy –> multiple ways for best customers to discover ways to pay you more money
    • Partnered with folks with related interests: additional value to customers at vanishingly little work to me
    • Revenue: $64,608

Keys to Product Success

  • Email, email, email
  • Target a pain which you *KNOW* there is demand for
  • Work on your copy!
  • Deliver quality products, because you only have one reputation

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Sherry Walling: “Don’t Burn-up in the Launch: Staying Emotionally and Relationally Healthy While Launching Your Startup” – MicroConf Europe 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here

Speaker: Sherry Walling (@zenfounder)

The Transition Year 2007

  • Rob’s transition from employee to entrepreneur
  • Sherry gets her residency
  • Fighting every evening over whether to get a divorce and how to do it

Lessons Learned from that year

  1. Manage anxiety
  2. Invest well
  3. Go all in

Manage Anxiety

  • We didn’t recognize that we weren’t doing well. Too focused on our jobs
  • Study: Entrepreneurs are more likely to get prescribed anxiety medication than control group
  • Anxiety is:
    • unavoidable
    • (can be) useful
    • (can be) deadly
  • Yerkes-Dodson law:
    • low OR high arousal / anxiety leads to poor performance
    • moderate arousal / anxiety leads to great performance
    • Sweet spot is “lower” for high difficulty task than for easy tasks
  • Signs of Anxiety
    • Mind won’t stop
    • Muscle tension
    • Digestive problems
    • Sleeplessness
    • Increased heart rate
    • Irritability
    • Feeling frantic, distracted
  • Results of Unmanaged Anxiety
    • Damages Creativity, Concentration, Organization, Problem-solving and communication skills
    • Damages health
    • Linked to family violence, addiction, and risk of suicide
    • Too much anxiety for too long is bad for your business AND your life
  • How do you know when your anxiety is unmanaged?
    • You can’t shut it off (can’t focus on anything else)
    • Eating more / less
    • Haven’t had sex in two months

Managing Anxiety

  • Notice it!
    • Track the metrics (There’s an app for that)
    • Pay attention to your behaviour
  • Breathe
    • Anxiety is mainly a body reaction
    • focusing & telling your body it is OK to relax, will actually help
  • Double check it
    • Ask yourself “why?” – is it real or are you just getting used to being anxious?
  • Solve solvable problems
    • Throw money at solvable problems (house cleaning, babysitter, etc)
  • Keep track of what is going well
  • Take care of yourself
    • Eat well, sleep regularly, exercise
  • Same level of planning needed for personal life as for your business life
  • Those that care about you will shoulder the burden too. Emotion is contagious

Pre-Launch Communication

  • Why are you doing this?
  • What will it cost?
  • How much involvement?
  • How long do we try?
  • Plan B?
  • How will you know that you are not successful?
  • What about the worst case scenario?
  • Book recommendation: “For Better or Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and their Families”

Mid-Launch Communication

  • Weekly family meeting
  • What do each of us need this week?
  • How can we solve our solvable problems?
  • When is family time?
  • Don’t multitask your family

Post-Launch Reassessment

  • Take time for important conversations
    • Money
    • Time
    • Vision
    • Roles and expectations
  • What is sustainable? What is not?
  • Regular “time on your own” about every 6 months: check if you are happy with your life (both entrepreneur + spouse on their own)

Risk Intelligence

  • No linear relationship between risk tolerance and entrepreneurial success (Caliendo, Fossen & Kritikos – 2010)
  • Persons with low / high risk tolerance are more likely to fail than medium risk tolerance
  • Try with smaller numbers, work your way to bigger numbers

Invest in Relationships

  • 54% of entrepreneurs have a role model
  • 1/3 of the role model users claim that they would not have started their business without this role model
  • Master Mind Groups (same ventures, provide mental help for members)
  • Invest in others & their dreams (especially your girlfriend / boyfriend)
  • Questions to ask yourself:
    • Are you investing in the trust of your partner?
    • Are you investing in your relational network?
    • Are you investing in the dreams of others?
  • Don’t put your life on hold indefinitely

Go All In

  • Becoming a founder changes everything
  • Entrepreneurs enjoy work that fully utilizes their skills and gives them personal autonomy
  • Entrepreneurs were less depressed than their 9-5 colleagues
  • “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself” – Michel de
  • “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other” – Mother Teresa
  • See the big picture

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MicroConf Europe 2013 – Hub Page

This page is the central ressource for (almost) everything that happened and came out of MicroConf Europe 2013. You will find all the notes I took during the conference as well as blog posts, videos, slides or podcasts from attendees covering MicroConf Europe 2013. I sincerely hope that this is of some value to you – enjoy & execute!

Notes On The Talks

  1. Rob Walling: “How to 10x in 15 months
  2. Mike Taber: “How to Sell Anything to Anyone
  3. Andy Brice: “Notes from the Trenches: 8 years of Software Marketing Experiments
  4. Adii Pienaar: “How To Build Any Startups With Zero Budget
  5. Peldi Guilizzoni: “The Tools We’ve Used to Grow From Zero to Seven Figures
  6. Dave Collins: “SEO Demystified: Practical Techniques That Produce Astonishing Results
  7. Sherry Walling: “Don’t Burn-up in the Launch: Staying Emotionally and Relationally Healthy While Launching Your Startup
  8. Dan & Ian: “What Operating System Powers Your Business
  9. Patrick McKenzie: “Building Things To Help Sell The Things You Build


Blog Posts Relating To MicroConf Europe 2013

Podcasts Relating To MicroConf Europe 2013

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