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

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here.

Speaker: Rob Walling (@robwalling)

HitTail then…

  • At time of acquisition (June 2011)
    • 100 paying customers
    • 4,000 free users
    • Most users paying $9,99 / month
  • Online for 5 years
  • Rob offered $20k, Response: “I need $100k”, Rob $30k, Response $60k –> settled on $30k


  1. Stability (infrastructure was a mess, fixed in 6 months through contractor) – Techzing podcast about this
  2. Redesign
    1. Get rid of translations (until you maxed out your native language)
    2. Get rid of 60-day free trial
    3. Emphasize testimonials (e.g. from BusinessWeek)
    4. Re-Do pricing. Transfer into value-based pricing (doubled average MRR)
    5. Reduced registration form from 12 fields to 3
    6. Add credit card up-front
    7. $8k costs for Design, HTML & CSS

10x in 15 months

  • Easy parts: HackerNews, Startups For The Rest Of Us, Software by Rob
    • Traffic 5,200 Uniques
    • Revenue stayed the same
  • Podcast Tour
    • tells you which audience really converts well
    • Traffic 5,600 Uniques
    • Revenue stayed the same

Operation Retention

  • 60 days off of marketing
  • Trial to paid conversion sucked (18%, good ~50%)
  • Churn sucked (15%)
  • Emailed EVERY SINGLE cancellations
  • Traffic increased to 5,400
  • Revenue increased to 150% base level (+50 % improvement over last iteration)

How I fixed the funnel

  • enforced trial length
  • encourage code installation (email if code not installed after X days)
  • set up email course, that teaches the value of HitTail
  • downsell to unpublished plan
  • one-click articles (Users didn’t have time to write articles, this feature let them get content with one-click. Added value to customer and additional revenue [WIN-WIN])

Returning to Marketing (May)

  • Getting outlines for guest posts from a five-star ghost writer
  • Traffic 4,000
  • Revenue stays at 150% base level


June/July (AppSumo)

  • Signed up 700 trials in one month
  • Traffic up to 7,000
  • Revenue up to 344 % base level (+60 % through AppSumo alone; additional revenue through one-click articles and better funnel) (+130 % improvement over last iteration)

August / September (Paid Acquisition)

  • Tried: Reddit, Facebook, Adwords, LinkedIn, BuySellAds & others
  • LinkedIn converted crazily good, but CPC > $2
  • Reddit converted at break-even ROI
  • Traffic up to 16,400
  • Revenue up to 408% base level (+19 % improvement over last iteration)


  • Free trial reduced from 30 days to 21 days
    • no effect on conversion rate, but much faster testing cycles
  • started integration marketing with Basecamp (no significant gains)
  • added pre-signup drip email course (moved needle 10 – 30 % over 30-60 days)
  • Traffic at 14,800
  • Revenue up to 536% base level (+30 % improvement over last iteration)


  • WordPress Plugin
  • 4 search engines you are neglecting right now:
    • Youtube
    • iOS App Store
    • Amazon
  • SEOMoz partner page marketing (converts REALLY well)
  • Traffic up to 15,600
  • Revenue up to 636 % base level (+19 % improvement over last iteration)


  • Luck Surface Area (“the harder you work, the luckier you get”)
  • Getting quoted on Search Engine Watch
  • Partnered with AuthorityLabs
  • Traffic up to 22,700
  • Revenue up to 728% base level (+14 % improvement over last iteration)

​HitTail today

  • Revenue up to 1350% (+85% improvement over last iteration)

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Josh Ledgard – MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here

Speaker: Josh Ledgard (@joshaledgard)

  • 989 customers after 1 month –> $10 revenue (Q: “What are you going to spend your $5 on?” A: “Coke and Hookers!”)
  • Even if you are NOT seeking investment, go talk to investors. They will tell you the “10 things that are wrong with your business idea”
  • 10 hours on Quora resulted in $35,000 of sales for KickoffLabs
  • “Customers have also bought…” – Your customers have other problems! Help them solve those problems with cross-selling
  • The bar set by other companies in areas such as customer support is ridiculously low
  • Get Personal (Josh checked every single of the first 500 created landing pages and made suggestions to improve them!)
  • Nothing spells “I value my customers” quite as much as getting an email from “no-reply@”
  • “Choose your customers over your code”
  • Integrate a progress bar on your website: “Help us get to 500 customers!” – Add share buttons – PROFIT!
  • at 500+ customers: Amplify your roaring fans (use testimonials, tell people to tell their friends)
  • Long Startup time / slow performance dramatically kills whole user experience

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Jody Burgess – Dude. Marketing is not your thing – MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here

Speaker: Jody Burgess (@jodyburgess)

  • What is Marketing?
    • 4 Ps (marketing mix)
      • Product
      • Price
      • Promotion
      • Place


  1. Set and follow some basic rules
    1. If it is close to customer OR drives revenue, keep it in house
    2. Stay general early. Specialize later
    3. Hire responsibly. Don’t hire-n-kill
    4. Manage outsourcing
  2. Align your tactics
  3. Evaluate your options based on fit, key to success and skills needed to make tactic work (Example: PR needs Time, commitment and the skills of a sales hunter)
    1. PR through contractor or not at all
    2. Social Media through contractor or not at all
  4. Stay Focused (Refer back to your alignment chart every time a new idea comes up)

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Sherry Walling – Don’t Burn Up in the Launch – MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here

Speaker: Sherry Walling (@zenfounder)

Notable quotes:
I don’t have an app…. And I track different metrics

I am the Co-Founder of the Walling Family


  • We had so many opportunities, we had a baby, we had so much success
  • We still were at a point where we talked about splitting up

3 Lessons Learned

  • Manage Anxiety
    • It is unavoidable
    • It is useful (It helps you focus and channel your energy)
    • It can be deadly
    • Entrepreneurs (+ spouses) are far more likely to be treaded with anxiety medication
    • Yerkes-Dodson Law = moderate arousal is ideal for performance
    • High arousal (stress) damages creativity, concentration, problem-solving and communication skills
    • Immediate Action Steps:
      • Notice it
      • Breathe
      • Keep track of what is going well
      • Eliminate unnecessary stressors
      • Get support (partner, mastermind group, therapist)
      • Take care of yourself (Sleep, nutrition and exercise are not negotiable)
  • Communicate
    • Weekly huddle
    • Emotions are contagious (your spouse / partner suffers just as much as you do)
    • Re-Assess:
      • Resources
      • Vision
      • Roles
      • Expectations
  • Invest in your relationship (You want to be with people you love, if you don’t invest in them, they’ll be gone when you are finally successful)

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Patrick Thompson – Bootstraping an App Business – MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here Speaker: Patrick Thompson (@pthompson)

This video is a longer version of the the talk given at MicroConf. Patrick’s talk starts around 12:45 into the video

Notes summarize both the longer version and the version given at MicroConf

Start, Just Start

  • Don’t wait for the perfect idea, climb the first hill
  • Serenditpity happens, Expect it. But it can only happen if you are moving
  • And it can only happen if you are connecting with people

 Developers Business

  • Turn your developer mentality into an advantage
  • Incremental (business) development
    • get something working (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
    • Think of your business as a marketing system: Keep improving it continuously
  • If you are bootstrapping, don’t go for home-runs, go for singles & doubles
  • Go All In & Burn the boats behind you
  • Are you a freelancer or a product person? – Don’t try to be both at the same time

Evolution Of an App Business

  • Dance on the edge of failure and keep growing
  • Started out with one App (QuickReader) on the AppStore
  • Published Lite Version with just one book
  • Integrated ePUB support for more books
  • Published localized versions (e.g. Spanish, French, German apps)
  • Added OPDS support (catalog of publications)
  • Removed Quick Reading and published MegaReader as a eBook reader – also published MegaReader Lite
  • At this point Patrick has 8 apps
  • Strip out the eBook search into a separate free app
  • Created paid version of eBook Search without advertisement
  • Added app to search for and listen to audio books
  • Published niched-down versions of the audio books app (e.g. for poetry)

Product Management

  • App itself has to work well and satisfy a need
  • App store is a hit based business
  • Aim for the Masses – because of prices on App Store
  • Internationalize your app: 2/3 of sales were international
  • Developers: Please don’t make your own graphics!
  • You have to sell a lot!
  • Create a Portfolio
    • Reuse and retarget codebase
    • Look for adjecent opportunities
    • Eat the whole animal
  • Optimizing your engagement increases retention and revenue


  • Marketing is sometimes counter-intuitive
  • it is not about you – it is about them
  • Visibility is everything
  • Traditional Methods
    • Top 100
    • Search
    • Advertising
    • Get “Featured By Apple”
    • Press
    • Social Media
    • Cheat (pay somebody to download your app from China –> increase ranking)
  • Create Levers
    • in-app ads
    • nag messages
    • Push Notifications
  • Paid vs. Free
    • different markets
    • use free apps to build visibility and audience
    • cross-promote your paid app in free apps
  • Be creative
    • Added feature to see live footage from camera behind the text
    • guest posted on a friend’s blog about the dangers of reading text while walking and how the app helps preventing accidents (tongue in cheek)
    • create a fun video highlighting the dangers
  • Cross Promotion with a book cataloging app
  • Show nag messages to upgrade to Pro version
  • Push Notifications
    • about 1/3rd say “yes”
    • Don’t abuse
    • Tie into in-app messaging
    • Start collecting active devices as soon as you can
    • Use for user engagement
  • “Free For A Day” – Campaign
  • Names are important on App Store
    • hints at functionality
    • non-generic app name
    • company name needs to be recognizable


  • Paying for advertising (didn’t work)
  • High-end copywriters
  • Mac store event
  • Lite apps
  • Partnerships
  • (The Web)


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Ben Yoskovitz – Measure What Matters – MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here. 

Speaker: Ben Yoskovitz (@byosko)

Watch the video (sorry, but I’m not allowed to embed it here)

What I have learned

  • It is easy to get zombified (you get used to your life and don’t improve anymore)
  • Recruitment sucks
  • Startup accelerators are fun (managing one that is)
  • I am not an analytics expert; but I wrote a book on analytics anyway

The basics of Lean Startup

  • Ideas (Everyone’s idea is the best – right?)
  • Build (People love this part – especially developers)
  • Product
  • Measure (This is where things fall apart)

What I hope you get from it

  • The importance of intellectual honesty (be honest to yourself about the success of your product)
  • Using your gut properly
  • Better decision making abilities
    • Everyone has data, the key is figuring out what pieces will improve your learning and decision making
  • Focus (Don’t chase shiny objects. Success without focus is just an accident)

Measure What Matters

  • What makes a good metric?
    • Measurement of movement towards your business goals
    • comparative
    • understandable
    • ratio or rate (absolute values often worthless)
    • changes your behaviour (If a metric doesn’t change your behaviour, it is a bad metric)

​​Types of Metrics

  • Qualitative (warm and fuzzy) vs. Quantitative (cold and hard)
    • Discover qualitatively
    • Prove quantitatively
    • AirBNB experiment: Professional photography will result in more bookings
      • Test by sending 20 photographers in the field
      • 2-3x number of bookings
      • now build that into your product
  • Exploratory (gets you new insights) vs. Reporting (neccessary to know)
  • Lagging (historical metric; churn) vs. Leading (prediction of the future; customer complains – which lead to churn)
  • Correlated vs. Causal (Ice Cream Consumption and Drownings are correlated – both caused by season!)
  • Don’t just follow the leader – monthly subscriptions don’t work for everyone!

Lean Analytics Stages

  • Empathy (I’ve found a real, poorly-met need)
  • Stickiness
  • Virality
  • Revenue
  • Scale
  • Skip steps at your own risk

How it All Comes Together

  • Choose only one metric and draw a line in the sand
  • Example: Paid Churn = Paid Cancellations over Paid Signups
  • Some interesting benchmarks
    • Growth (5% / week – revenue or active users)
    • Engaged visitors
    • Time on site (may be vanity, if user spends 20 minutes in help files)
    • page load time ( < 5 seconds – else you are loosing people)


Lean Analytics Cycle

  1. Pick the KPI (Key Performance Indicator)
  2. Draw a line in the sand
  3. Find a potential improvement
    1. Without data: make a good guess
    2. With data: Find a commonality
  4. Hypothesis
  5. Design a test OR make changes in production
  6. Measure the results
  7. Did we move the needle?
    1. Yes: Bring out the Champagne!
    2. No: Pivot or give up!
  8. Start over at 1.

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Joanna Wiebe – Copywriting That Converts: How To Sell Without Selling Your Soul – MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here.

Speaker: Joanna Wiebe (@copyhackers)

Watch the video (sorry, but I’m not allowed to embed it here)

How do we write for conversion while avoiding sounding like bloodsucking salesmen? 

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here

Selling Is…

  • We don’t want to be like sneezy salesmen
  • We boast about our bank account, not about the sales we made to make it happen
  • bad behaviour:
    • “The first one’s always free” – just like with your local drug dealer
    • “The more people you get into it” –
    • “Hook ’em young” – just like your favorite cigarette dealer (Or McDonald’s, or Disney)
  • We are constantly sold to by others and selling to others
  • good behaviour:
    • “the first one’s always free” – almost every SaaS business ever


If you want to start selling….

  • Stop leading with free
    • Believe in your product
    • charge twice as much as you would pay yourself
  • Email like a growth hacker
    • Start collecting emails from leads
    • aggressively selling in emails is OK
    • Unsubscribes are good (they wouldn’t buy from you anyway)
  • use long-form sales pages
    • even though you probably don’t like them as a customer, they convert REALLY WELL
    • You are NOT your customer – projecting your idea is WRONG
    • Use the long-form sales page to educate the reader
    • Power of the long-form sales page –> keeps you reading
  • test to increase conversion
  • stop looking at marketing as an experiment
    • Do one tactic until you get really bored with it


6 Copywriting Tactics

  1. Replace “We” with “You” (Your customers care about themselves, not about you)
    1. Pro tip: Replace “Choose the best CRM software” with “YOU should choose the best CRM software”
    2. Also working: “Get me my download”
  2. Use the Even-If Clause 
    1. Ex: “Even if you hate marketing….”
    2. Ex: “Write High converting Copy in 2 Minutes or Less…. Even If You Can Barely Spell Your Own Name”
    3. Pro Tip: “Could this be” structure –> “Could writing a blog be the worst decision you’ve ever made?” (thanks to @ericabiz)
  3. Create a Gap of Curiosity
    1. Introduce something that feels a little strange and clear up later
    2. Ex: “Your Wife Is More In Love With Your Business Than With You”
  4. The World Is Against You
    1. People have this “My life would be better if only that thing had not happened” feeling
    2. Ex: “You Can’t Be Eyxpected to Grow Sales Every Month – Not With So Many Hats to Wear”
  5. Create Word Pictures
    1. Stickiest copy is made out of “raw and visual words”
    2. Ex: “Decode the Secret Langauge of Your Website’s Visitors”
  6. Be 3D
    1. Positioning the exact same message in 3 different ways next to each other
    2. Get your readers into the habit of saying “Yes”

Bundle it

  • If you can bundle products, go and bundle them
  • Lots of things for just 1 price –> increases sales
  • Don’t give it away for free, though


NOTE: Lukas Fittl has put his own notes on the talk online.

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Josh Kaufman “Shut up and Take My Money” – How to Find Business Ideas Customers Want – MicroConf 2013

I will try my level-best to edit and improve on this. Suggestions are VERY welcome.  I had a hard time keeping up with the speed

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here.

Speaker: Josh Kaufman (@joshkaufman)


  1. Sit in front of customer
  2. tell them about your product
  3. get interrupted with “Shut up and take my money”

Market Evaluation

  • Two-way process: make customer happy, but make yourself happy too
  • Key issues: Uncertainty & Change
  • book recommendation: “The Checklist Manifesto”

The Iron Law of The Market

  • Markets that don’t exist, don’t care about how smart you are

Failure Modes

Main causes for long-term business failure:

  • “I can’t find people who are interested in what I offer”
  • “People say they want what I offer, but no one actually buys from me”
  • “I can’t bring in enough $$$ to make my effort worthwhile”

5 parts of every business

  1. Value-Creation: create something of value to other people
  2. Marketing: People need to be aware that you have something to offer
  3. Sales: Money changes hands
  4. Value-Delivery: You got the money, now GIVE VALUE (else it is called a ‘scam’)
  5. Financae: Do I bring in more than I spend? Is the difference worthwhile the effort?


  • More awesome
  • less awful

the hassle premium

  • falls into “less awful” category
  • the larger the hassle, the bigger the business opportunity
  • removing friction


  1. Urgency
  2. Size
  3. Pricing Potential (cereal bar vs. aircraft carrier)
  4. Cost of Customer Acquisition
  5. Cost of Value Delivery
  6. Uniqueness of Offer (are you the only seller?)
  7. Speed to market (first to market with patented drug => $$$$$)
  8. Costs of Creating Product
  9. Upsell Potential (Gilette blades –> Gilette shaving foam, Gilette after-shave, Gilette Everything)
  10. Evergreen potential

Forms of Value

  1. Product
  2. Service (barber, hair stylist)
  3. Shared Resource (museum, amusement park)
  4. Subscription
  5. Resale
  6. Lease
  7. Agency (selling something you do not already own – think AirBNB)
  8. Audience Aggregation (Advertising)
  9. Insurance (transfer risk from customers)
  10. Option (selling just the option to use something)
  11. Loan
  12. Capital


9 Universal Economic Values

  1. Efficacy (How well does it work? Does it work better than other options?)
  2. Speed (How quickly does it work?)
  3. Reliability (Does it work all the time? )
  4. Ease of Use (How easy is it for me to understand?)
  5. Flexibility ( Can I use it for many different things?)
  6. Status ( How does this make other people perceive me? Walmart watch vs. Rolex – both tell the time)
  7. Aesthetic Appeal ( How cool does this thing look? )
  8. Emotion ( Does it make me happy to use it?)
  9. Costs (What do I have to give up to get it?)


  • Outcome: Prototype / Sell Sheet
  • Talk to your ideal prospects
  • Ideal method: Collect pre-orders
  • At Minimum: Collect email addresses

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Jason Cohen – Designing the perfect bootstrapped startup MicroConf 2013

The MicroConf Hub Page with links to all the notes for all the talks can be found here

Speaker: Jason Cohen (@asmartbear)

Title of the talk: Designing the perfect bootstrapped business

Goal: $10,000 / month per founder – reliable, recurring revenue business

Watch the video (sorry, but I’m not allowed to embed it here)

Revenue model

  • One-Offs never get easier – You need to make new revenue every month
  • Recurring Revenue is the only way
  • 1,000 Fans
    • has never been true.
    • Really hard to get 1,000 Fans / Customers
  • Instead: 150 Fans Customers
    • 50: Scratching and clawing – Get interviews, offer to pay for their time
    • 25: Guest-posts / Social Media
    • 75: Basic Marketing
    • $66 / month average –> $10,000 / month
    • Tier pricing: $49 / $99 / $249 –> $66 average
  • “Boutique” approach
    • expensive
    • special
    • works in every profession
  • Cash is King, Annual pre-pay is God
    • Gets you cash upfront, which you can spend on growing the business
    • Example: $300 Adwords gives you $50 / month revenue $60,000 Adwords would give you 10,000 / month revenue
    • Realistic: (WPEngine)
      • 25% of signups pre-pay
      • 75% give you 1x month, 25% give you 10x month –> 0.75 x 1 + 0.25 x 10 = 3.25 x
      • Cash in > Cost out —–> infinite budget
    • Annual Hacks (ARPU = Annual Revenue Per User)
      • ARPU most important metric to small SaaS businesses
      • Coupon for “3 months free” (just 1 month more than your normal 2 months free)
      • Raise monthly price + increase annual discount
      • Change “per year” to “per month”
      • just raise prices – double price until CR changes
    • 60-day money-back guarantee (not a free trial)
    • No picking up pennies (no revenue share, CHARGE YOUR CUSTOMERS)

Part Deux: Market Model

  • B2C is not worth it, customers complain about costs all the time
  • EVERY speaker at MicroConf is in B2B (that should tell you something)
  • Bad Market: Point-in-Time / Temporary Pain (Weddings, Events, Code Profilers)
  • Good Market: Naturally Recurring
    • On-going actual costs
    • financial cycles (HR, taxes, invoices)
    • pain natural changes over time ( SEO changes, Adwords, Competetive reports, A/B testing)
    • Support (e.g. premium support $100 / month)
  • Bad Market: Viralalityness
  • Good Market: Not Real-Time
    • value not provided instantaneously (e.g. hosting is instant, sending out invoices is NOT) – takes away pressure
    • Decision support (analytics, metrics, reports, monitoring)
    • Finance
    • Project Management
    • Content
  • Bad Market: Marketplace
    • you suddenly have two businesses -> acquire sellers & acquire buyers (chicken and egg problem)
  • Good Market: Something that can be “finished”
    • Examples: WinZIP, Freshbooks, Basecamp, Hosting, CRM, bug-tracking, PDF editor, image editor
  • Good Market: After-Markets (there is already a well-known market, you just provide add-ons)
    • Examples: Smart Bear, Balsamiq, WooThemes, AlienSkin, QODBC, WPEngine
  • Aim for BIG markets
    • Niches abound
    • Room for “me-too”
    • Validated space

 Part Three: Acquire Customers

  • Adverts > Social Media
    • Social Media is hard
    • SM is NOT repeatable, Adverts are
    • Jason got 2 customers out of 30,000 of his blog readers
  • Backing into CPC
  • To what end?
    • Sell before it’s too big
    • Sell to partners
    • Sell to your biggest customer
    • Raise prices (to reduce the number of new customers)
    • Raise money (go into funded-startup mode)
  • As opposed to what?
    • What is the hardest thing? To know thyself – some ancient greek guy
    • What is the easiest thing? To give advice – same ancient greek guy

Jason’s formula to success

Predictable acquisition of recurring revenue with annual prepay in a good market

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MicroConf 2013 – Hub Page

This page is dedicated towards all the awesomeness that was MicroConf 2013. You can find all my notes on the talks here, as well as links to any blog posts (or other content) that was created by attendees relating to MicroConf.

I hope that this provides some value to you – Enjoy!

Notes on the talks

  1. Jason Cohen’s Opening Talk: “Designing the perfect bootstrapped startup”
  2. Josh Kaufman: “Shut up and take my money” (still needs a lot of editing)
  3. Joanna Wiebe: “Copywriting that converts”
  4. Ben Yoskovitz: “Measuring What Matters”
  5. Guest Speaker – Patrick Thompson: “Bootstraping an App Business”
  6. Guest Speaker – Sherry Walling: “Don’t Burn up in the Launch”
  7. Guest Speaker – Jody Burgess: “Dude. Marketing is not your thing.”
  8. Guest Speaker – Josh Ledgard: “Getting your first 989 Customers”
  9. Rob Walling: “How to 10x in 15 months”
  10. Erica Douglass: “How to Measurably Move the Needle With Your Software Company”
  11. Dave Collins: “SEO Demystified”
  12. Hiten Shah: “Killer Content Marketing”
  13. Mike Taber: “Enterprise Sales Tactics”
  14. Guest Speaker – Nathan Barry: “Zero to $5,000 / month”
  15. Guest Speaker – Brennan Dunn: “The Long-Tail Sale”
  16. Guest Speaker – Brecht Palomo: “How a Non-Technical Founder Built a 6 Figure SaaS App Using Only Free Public Data Sources”
  17. Guest Speaker – Cameron Keng: “Taxes for SaaS”
  18. Patrick McKenzie – “Building Things To Help Sell The Things You Build”

Quotes, Photos and Videos from MicroConf 2013

Blog Posts From Attendees And Speakers Relating To MicroConf 2013

Podcasts talking about MicroConf 2013

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