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 microconfeuroperecap.com since inception.
We both <3 MicroConf, Rob, and Mike.
We even got them a celebratory cake for their 10th MicroConf (https://twitter.com/itengelhardt/status/759480902279979009).

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

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

Speaker: Patrick McKenzie (@patio11)

  • “Bingo Card Creator is doing business on hard mode”

Once More, With(out) Feeling

  • Listen to Peldi: Start a business that fascinates you (or risk burning out on it)
  • FYI for lifestyle design: your own business is where it is at
  • Becoming an entrepreneur and delivering value to the world is an righteous and awesome way to walk down in life

Quick Wins To Pay For MicroConf 2014

  • Fundamental SaaS Equation: [traffic] * [conversion_rate] * [ARPU] / (1 – [churn])
  • Traffic is the hardest to optimize for – see Rob Walling’s Blog
  • Conversion rate throughout funnel is easier, but takes weeks/months to see results
  • ARPU you can manipulate with a few minutes of work
  • Churn: run your own Operation Retention

Star #1: Charge. More.

  • killed $9 plan
  • Added $199 plan due to apparent demand

Star #2: Drip Email Campaign

  • 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

Star #3: Annual Billing

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

Raising Your ARPU, Trivially

  • Consider Bob with 280 appointments in the small business plan ($79)
  • Is Bob happy? How can we make him happier?
  • We should do him a solid and offer to upgrade to “Office” plan ($199) at a discount
  • Did this at a consulting client:
    • Run my SQL query of everyone who is within 20% of quota on FEATURE_1, FEATURE_2 or FEATURE_3
    • Add new special offers for the higher plans with a slight (~20%) discount
    • Write email offering upgrade to special offer
    • Make +N% revenue per year

Investigating Low Conversion Rates

  • Check if users are actually using your service
  • Start walking your customers through the product using lifecycle email​
  • send emails based on how successful they are in using the product

Lifecycle Emails

  • Day Zero: Auto-generated Welcome Email
  • Day Three: “Personal” welcome email from “me”
  • Day Twenty:
    • Trial successful: sell them hard
    • Trial not successful: rescue the trial
  • Day Twenty Seven: “Incoming Charge”

Star #4: Weekly Check-Up (“Get Them Promoted”)

  • High perceived value
  • Great engagement
  • Creates “ongoing earned media” via the option to embed announcements / links / etc.
  • Makes ROI discussions academic

Star #5: Digging into Individual Accounts

  • Bob’s usage goes up & to the right –> his business is doing well
  • If he cancels OR a credit card billing fails, he gets a call (because probably his CC data needs to be updated)
  • everyone gets 3 dunning emails
    • 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

  • People say consulting doesn’t scale.
  • Ways to scale consulting:
    • Move your rate up, dramatically
    • Hire people
    • Improve your utilization at the margin
  • So why did I quit?
    • Constant rat race to get new clients
    • Lots of unpaid time doing prospecting / proposal / administrative work
    • You have a boss and you have to go to work every day
  • ​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

My Non-software Product

  • Most common consulting engagement (2010): “We send no email. Can you, like fix that?”
  • I would implement:
    • Drip marketing (see MicroConf 2012 presentation)
    • Lifecycle emails (like two minutes ago)
  • It generally required:
    • Lots of sales/convincing
    • A bit of coding
    • Copywriting by me
  • Why choose this over consulting (from a customer’s perspective)?
    • Because it is $500 vs. $20,000
    • Because you couldn’t find somebody to do this for you
    • Because you’re not sure you can get to it right now
    • Because it’s a cheap easy way “to test the waters”
  • Why Not Get It Free on the Internet?
    • Because real businesses spend money on problems
    • “Free, if you have two week to research it” is not free to someone who cuts paychecks
    • Because paid initiatives signal quality and help to reduce roadblocks to adoption within an organization
  • The Key To Marketing It
    • Started 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

Nathan Barry Is An Effing Genius

  • Three packages: $249 / $99 / $39
  • Sales focuses on what customer gets not on what the price is
  • Packaging is a huge win (largest package made ~75% of total revenue)

What Did My Actual Product Look Like?

  • Me speaking into webcam and $60 microphone
  • Loosely scripted. If I were to do it again, I would add slides
  • Took ~2 weeks to record plus video editor @ $3,000
  • Hosted video on Wistia and rolled my own delivery platform (you should probably use Gumroad or similar)
  • Partnered with folks with related interests: additional value to customers at vanishingly little work to me (e.g. CopyHackers for copy writing)
  • Revenue:
    • Launch day: $12,862
    • Next week or two: $16,576
    • “Reminder: Sale ends today”: $15, 579
    • TOTAL: $64,608

Keys To Product Success

  • email, email, email. Get people on it, delight them, teach them, sell only occasionally
  • Target a pain point that you know there is demand for
  • Work on your copy.
  • Deliver quality products, because you have only one reputation.

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Cameron Keng – Taxes for SaaS – MicroConf 2013

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

Speaker: Cameron Keng (@cameronkeng)

  • When you loose money, claim your tax refund
    • I lost $20,000
    • asked for tax refund
    • got $10,000 refunded
    • re-invested money into the next business idea
  • Failure should not stop you, keep soldiering on
  • “And then I said: Pay taxes? What am I…. poor?”
  • Online sales tax is coming – 27 states currently require you to pay them Amazon style


  • You should never incorporate, except:
    • Is there liability?
    • Is there profit?
    • Is there investment?
  • pass-through vs. corps
    • Generally, corps suck
    • Pass-throughs are cool
  • tax credits & deductions
    • R&D tax credits (this is great, because we are all developing software – right?)
    • Domestic production activities deduction

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Brecht Palombo – How a Non-Technical Founder Built a 6 Figure SaaS App Using Only Free Public Data Sources – MicroConf 2013

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

Speaker: Brecht Palombo (@distressedpro)


  • Started Real Estate Auction Business in October 2006
  • Started Real Estate Brokerage right before the bubble in August 2007
  • Until your back’s up against the wall you never know yourself that much at all.

3 Keys that got me to $100k

  1. Open up – make most of your content available to everyone
  2. Niche, Niche, Niche 
    No: “real estate investing”
    Yes: “list of banks in Alabama with REO”
  3. Teach – 62 % of conversions come from free email course

2 Big Mistakes

  • Distracted by shiny objects
    • Random Affiliate Niche Site
    • Discovered twilio
  • Fire Bad Contractors Quickly


  • best way: Goals

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Brennan Dunn – The Long-Tail Sale – MicroConf 2013

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

Speaker: Brennan Dunn (@brennandunn)

Slides on Speakerdeck (embedding does not work – if you know how to fix it, please let me know)

The Happy Path of Sales

  1.  Google Search Results
  2. Landing Page
  3. Signup (& Profit $$$)
  • The “Happy Path of Sales” is extremely high friction
  • Initially CPA > LTV


Increase Trust & Lower Friction

  • Trust (“Who are you, and why do you want my money?”)
    • Best way to establish trust: OVER-deliver on value
    • Teach them something that helps them (Ex: teach them to be better freelancers and increase rates)
  • Friction
    • caused by:
      • Sign up
      • Setup my account
      • Get familiar with the product
      • Invite team & explain the product to them – and why we need the product
      • OMG throw a real project at this and pray I don’t embarrass myself
    • When anyone is trying to sell you anything, we’re looking for any excuse to bail. You have to overcome objections

New Funnel

  1. Freelancer’s Weekly (Newsletter)
  2. Double Your Freelancing Rate ($49)
  3. The Blueprint ($49 – $249)
  4. Consultancy masterclass (live workshop, $1,199)
  5. Planscope (SaaS)

Metrics of the New Funnel

  • CPC 2.10 with LinkedIn ads
  • 40% conversion –> $5.25 per subscriber
  • List of 4,507
  • drove $230,876 in revenue
  • = $51.22 (10x) per subscriber

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Nathan Barry – Zero to $5,000/month – MicroConf 2013

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

Speaker: Nathan Barry

  • eBook revenue curve is essentially one short spike and then rapidly approaches zero (at best a low plateau)

Webapp Challenge

  • rules
    • start without an idea
    • build to $5,000/month in MRR
    • 6 month deadline
    • only spend $5,000 of my own money
    • only work on it 20 hours a week

Lessons Learned

  1. Teaching is the best form marketing
  2. Only sell to a market you have something to teach
  3. It’s not customer validation till you have their credit card
    1. “That is a cool idea” IS NOT ENOUGH
    2. “I would probably buy that” IS NOT ENOUGH
    3. “I would pre-order that” IS NOT ENOUGH
  4. Being your own customer is wonderful
  5. Transparency works
  6. Focus on making your customers successful

Current Success Level

  • $1,513 monthly recurring revenue
  • 32 paying customers

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Mike Taber – How to Sell Anything to Anyone – MicroConf 2013

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

Speaker: Mike Taber (@singlefounder) – a.k.a. the Liquor Fairy

  • We are all in sales – all the time
  • Sales is a learned skill
  • Sales is a process
  • Sales can be used for Good … or Evil

Why do people buy things? (emotional triggers)

  • Greed (Mike’s kids are supposedly good at this)
  • Altruism (Tom’s shoes)
  • Pride (it makes me look smart / good – MicroConf ticket)
  • Fear (bad things will happen, if I don’t buy – insurance)
  • Envy (Rolex anyone?)
  • Shame (Flowers for your wife – I guess)


  • First impression takes .2 seconds on page
  • Impression is virtually set in stone after 2.6 seconds
  • First Impressions last forever
  • First impressions will dominate regardless of how often it is contradicted by new experiences

Stop Selling Software

  • People don’t buy Software – they buy Solutions to Problems
  • Billy:
    • Feature: Bluetooth
    • Benefit: Music/Phone Calls
    • Valued End State: Self-Esteem
  • Mom:
    • Feature: Bluetooth
    • Benefit: Music/Phone Calls
    • Valued End State: Peace of Mind (she’ll be able to call Billy at any time)
  • you need to talk to the following two people:
    • just purchased your product
    • just stopped using your product
  • Products find a certain market only when they help their customers get done the jobs that they have already been trying to do.” – Clayton Christensen
    Job of the Milkshake: Make the long commute easier

People don’t Buy Software

  1. They buy ways to overcome pain
  2. They are outsourcing processes
  3. They choose to allow other people to build things they need
  4. They don’t prescribe to the “Not invented here” syndrome
  5. [MISSING]

Iterating on Your Sales Pitch

  • Make the pitch all about what is important to them
  • Don’t be afraid to invoke fear or shame (“Would you like to help kids with cancer?”)
  • Be a sexist: Invoke the shame in the women (it works better than with men)
  • Do A/B testing

Enterprise Tactics

  • Ask if they have a Budget and how big it is
  • Ask for Authority (Who makes the decision? Ask to speak to that person!)
  • Ask for Need (Why would you like to do that?)
  • Ask for Timeline (How long will the purchase process take? Is there a deadline?)
  • Use Market Data (Example: After 6 months there are 10 pounds of human hair in your carpet)
  • Lead them to Yes
  • “Magic” Enterprise Pricing (2 Dollars below the assigned budget)


Experience might be the best teacher… but the tuition rates are really high

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Hiten Shah – Killer (Content) Marketing – MicroConf 2013

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

Speaker: Hiten Shah (@hnsah)

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




  • Learn things by doing them
  • Two strategies:
    • Hire as few people and try to make as much money per employee as possible (CrazyEgg)
    • Try to grow as much as possible (KISSmetrics)

Story of a Product from Idea to Acquisition (KISSinsights)

  • Do customer development
  • Find the core problem (of your customer)
  • Learn how to ask the right questions
  • Always begin with a hypothesis
    • Problem hypothesis: Our hypothesis is that [certain type of person] have a problem doing [certain type of task]
    • As specific as possible (e.g. localize the people to people in your city)
    • Example: Our hypothesis that product managers have a problem doing effective customer research
  • ​How we learned
    • 20 phone interviews
    • 3 paper user tests
    • 2 landing pages
    • 1 hacky MVP
  • What we learned
    • People are NOT doing customer research
    • They want private feedback and targeting
    • It requries developer involvement
    • It is a constant pain
  • “How you get to the customer is as important, if not more, than what you get to the customer” – Patrick Vlaskovits
  • Channels get crowded fast.
  • Dropbox used Adwords –> Cost Per Acquisition: $233 – $388. For a $99 product –> FAIL
  • Solution: Make your own channel (double incentivized referral program)
  • Customer Development
    • Who are your customers? (product managers)
    • Where do they hang out? (other people’s websites)
    • How should you engage them?
  • Your marketing has to align with your customers

Create Your Audience

  • Build, Grow, Convert
  • The more I help you, the more you will trust me” – Nathan Barry
    • Build: Free Content
    • Grow: Paid Content
    • Convert: SaaS Subscription
  • Write with the intention of appealing to a specific audience.” – Brennan Dunn
    • Build: Email newsletter
    • Grow: Paid Content
    • Convert: SaaS Subscription
  • Who has time to learn every new piece of software they run into? Not me. I’m pretty sure you don’t either” – Ruben Gamez
    • Build: Free Guide and Newsletter
    • Grow: Sample Proposal (mini-demo of his SaaS product)
    • Convert: SaaS Subscription
  • Teach people how to solve their problems
  • Learn from your audience and customers
  • Questions you can ask your customers:
    • How did you first find about us?
    • What persuaded you to purchase from us?
    • How would you describe [PRODUCT] to your friends?
    • What prompted you to start looking for this type of service?
    • If you could change one thing about this website, what would it be?
    • What other products or services should we offer?
    • Which other options did you consider before choosing our products?
    • Why did you decide to use [PRODUCT]?
    • Why do you use [PRODUCT] instead of an alternative?
    • What would persuade you to use [PRODUCT] more often?
    • How would you persuade people like you to use [PRODUCT] ?

Strategies for B2B distribution

  • Use Platforms with distribution potential
  • How to optimize integrations
    • Integrations make YOUR product better
    • Measure your conversions and revenue
    • Discover valuable integrations
    • Ask customers about integrations
    • Make your partner pages awesome
  • How to optimize “Work Emails”
    • Optimize on-boarding
    • Show people who they should follow
    • Utilize invitations during on-boarding
    • Measure # of people in every company
    • Discover the engaging interactions
  • How to optimize embeds (like Youtube, Slideshare)
    • Why should people embed?
    • Make it as easy as possible to embed
    • Track how well your embeds convert
    • Test relevant call to actions
    • Optimize for search, but don’t obsess
  • How to optimize “Powered By”
    • What are you Powering?
    • Test the copy of your call to action
    • Test and optimize your landing pages
    • Track views, clicks, conversions and LTV
    • Measure individual effectiveness
  • How to optimize “Free Stuff”
    • Build a free tool that helps your customers
    • Map to customer decision making
    • Think about what you can repurpose
    • Educate your prospects
    • Test your ideas minimally (ghetto)
    • Measure and optimize revenue

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Dave Collins – SEO Demystified – MicroConf 2013

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

Speaker: Dave Collins (@thedavecollins)

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


  • 70% of SEO is simple
    • Almost every one can do it
    • It always works (usually)
  • A lot of Bullshit going on in SEO land
  • For every person who knows what they’re talking about in SEO, there are ______ who are talking out of their _____
  • Legitimate SEO aligns the agendas of your website and Google
  • What do users want from Google? HELP!
    • 30 Trillion pages in Google index
  • What does Google want? Money! Or help people find answers (Depending on your level of cynicism)
  • Google needs help with finding high quality content
    • Freshness of sites
    • incoming links to sites
    • Keywod density
    • and so on
  • Your role as SEO: Guiding Google – NOT manipulating
  • The SEO cycle aligns itself only when SEOs give Google what USERs are looking for
  • Black Hat vs. White Hat –> We did this (!), because it WORKED
    • Black Hat is becoming a thing of the past
    • Even BBC got slapped for bad links by Google
  • Getting slapped by Google –> doesn’t tickle, feels more like getting hit by Rocky
    • Revenue drops by 85% possible
  • The Death of Algorithm Manipulation – Ask your SEO what he will be doing when he works for you

What SEO should look like

  • Keyword Density is not an absolute percentage. Best percentage: Whatever comes out of a GOOD writer
  • How do you know if you’re breaking the rules?
    Ask yourself how you would feel sitting in a room with Sergey and Larry. Would you feel bad? Not a good sign
  • Chasing the algorithm is futile
  • Give Google what they want and you can ignore the algorithms & filters
  • Search Results are going to be flooded with Advertisements in the future
    But: Organic listings may have become a platform for ad delivery; this does not devalue the results!


  • “But I have a really clever idea! Google will never figure this out” – Nope. Google has 1000s of really clever engineers
  • “(not provided)” will kill keyword data ==> http://www.notprovidedcount.com/
  • “(do not track)” will kill keyword data
  • You can get slapped without being aware of having done anything wrong
  • Punishing the innocent happens

It’s all (mostly) about keywords

  • One keyword per page
  • Long tail is your friend (3 or more words – HitTail anyone?)

The Keyword Research Process

  1. Brainstorm (pen & paper)
  2. Analytics
  3. Competition
  4. Keyword research tool
  5. Identify primary keyword
  6. Identify support keywords
  7. Analytics (existing keywords)
    1. Determine time spend on site for existing keywords —> short = bad
  8. Analysis
  9. Decision: Optimise page (risk breaking it) or create new page

Tips for Keyword Research

  • Activate Keyword suggestions in Google Keyword Tool
  • What you want: Low Competition, Many monthly searches
  • KPI:  [Number of searches] ^ 2 / [Competition]
  • Sort by KPI (highest to lowest)
  • Write content with the keywords; make content read naturally
  • Use “Related Keywords” from the SERP for your main keyword

It is also about content

  • “This is the part where you pretend to add value”
  • NOT just any content – high-quality, enjoyable content
  • Also: Reputation & Authority
  • Links are still important

The Biggest Secret

  • Write REALLY GOOD content that is WORTH READING and SHARING
  • Google only knows, what you tell it!

Random tips

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Erica Douglass – How to Measurably Move the Needle With Your Software Company- MicroConf 2013

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

Speaker: Erica Douglass (@ericabiz)

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

Case Study #1 – Changing Your Pricing

  • Worked with WPEngine
  • before:
    • 3 packages at $49, $199 and “Call”
    • people don’t understand difference between “multiple sites hosted” and “WordPress-multisite”
    • convoluted design
    • “Enterprise-Class WordPress-Hosting for Serious Bloggers”
    • Main problem: “No blogger has just ONE website”
  • after:
    • changed all the copy on the pricing plan
    • 4 plans at $29, $99, $249 and “Call”
    • “The Fastest WordPress hosting”
    • changed the homepage as well – new copy: “Hassle-Free WordPress Hosting”
    • Get a toll-free phone number and display it prominantly

Case Study #2: Doing Things That Don’t Scale

  • Email your customers individually and manually
    • Don’t say “me”, say “you”
    • Show that you read stuff from your customer
    • name-dropping is social proof!
  • Guest posts don’t scale, but “Be Everywhere” really helps you launch your product
    • email 10 people / day for 3-5 months
    • follow up, if no response – good copy: “Did you receive my last email?”
    • 10 / day * 5 / week * 4 weeks / month * 3-5 months = 1,000 emails !

Case Study #3: I DId This. It Doesn’t Scale. Do It Anyway

  • Offer free consultation and integration for customers that have $100+ / month plans
  • Try to learn:
    • What words are they using?
    • What problems do they have?
    • How are they solving those problems right now?
  • Get a feel for the step-by-step process your customers use to get results
  • Try to manually improve their website / business – keep them more than happy
  • Use your learnings (which words do they use) in the copy of your homepage
  • 1-on-1’s are a great way to get incredible testimonials
  • Make your customers more than “happy-enough”
  • Being frugal does NOT help you grow your business
  • You are not your customer
    • Your customers are probably willing to accept higher prices
    • increase from $9 to $49, $499 and $999 / mo
    • doubled average revenue per customer ($40 –> $80)
    • next step: Get rid of $49 / mo plan
    • “What would make it worth $99/mo to them?”
  • WARNING: This may force you to re-evaluate your entire business
  • Went from selling “SEO software” to “Marketing Software”
    • White-label marketing software for agencies and hosting companies
    • Make your customers look good in the eyes of their customers


WhooshTraffic MarketVibe

  • no longer startup-y company, now selling to enterprise companies
  • VP of Coca-Cola: “Your name is WHAT? That’s effing dumb!”
    • “OK. We are going to change the name”
  • Million-dollar business Billion-dollar business
  • Be brave
    • Charge more & deliver the experience
    • Do what others can’t or won’t do
    • Do what doesn’t scale
    • your paying customers will heart you spending time with them
    • Best user-testing is with your current customers
    • Go bigger

Questions & Answers

  • How do you manage the culture change associated with “SEO software” to “Marketing Software”?
    Either we are going to shoot this business in the head, because it just doesn’t work for us. OR we make this into something MORE AWESOME.
  • Did you implement every feature that was suggested by customers or did you wait for multiple mentions?
    The main problems our customers had was reporting. So we added that. With features that were only mentioned once, we did it – if it took less than 2-3 days. Some customers then came back and said “That feature is great. We just didn’t think about it”

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