Startups for the Rest of Us Notes 2018

Startups for the Rest of Us

Episode 373 | How to Craft Your Homepage with Lianna Patch

Date: 2018-01-02


Your home page is the main place where people land. There is no slash after the URL. It has to appeal to multiple types of visitors.

At the top of your home page you should explain what your product does and how you are different than your competitors. Let people know why they should choose you.

“This is X product for Y type of person who want to solve Z problem.”

Every landing page should have one focus–one call to action.

If you only have one type of visitor then your homepage can be a landing page.

If you have more than one focus on your homepage then it would behoove you to get them to where you can tell them more rather than trying to put it all on the homepage.

Spend the bulk of your time (on your homepage) on your research–getting the right messaging down.

Stock photos kill trust.

Invest in less obvious stock photos or take your own photos with your iPhone.

Error on the side of being human. That will build more trust than trying to seem like a bigger company (than you really are).

Episode 374 | Text vs Video, Finding a Mastermind, Joint Ventures, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-01-09


You should have (transcripts) of video so that Google can index this.

(Before you are successful) put yourself first.

Integration marketing is where you integrate your product with another and you co-promote.

When you do co-marketing try not to go after somebody with a list twice the size or yours or half the size of yours.

You can show more value in five minutes of a demo than them poking around in a trial.

Most people would prefer a demo (over a trial).

Episode 375 | How to Evaluate Per-Seat and Tiered Pricing Models

Date: 2018-01-16


Certain companies embody what is going to happen (in the future).

Per seat pricing is charging for any user using your software.

Freemium is a distribution (marketing) model rather than a pricing model.

Episode 376 | SaaS Revenue Patterns, Increasing Annual Renewals, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-01-23


Having a software company with no technical founders is tough.

Depending on what you are building certain types of technical decisions can back you into a corner.

Keep in mind the places where the customer is going to see the company name.

Filing a trademark is a couple hundred bucks.

Episode 377 | Staying Sane While Starting Up With Dr. Sherry Walling

Date: 2018-01-30


Every founder needs to think about stay sane and how to stay strong while you are starting up.

Self-knowledge is the ability to think about your own process in real time.

We become anxious when our environment doesn’t provide what we think we need.

We are all a mixture of skills and abilities and we have to be super honest about what we are good at and what we are still growing in.

Go on a retreat once or twice a year.

You should not do your retreat in your office. You need to go somewhere with different sensory queues.

We need to step aside in order to have insight into the big questions.

Episode 378 | Billing Systems Suck, Here’s How to Make Yours Suck Less

Date: 2018-02-06


You have to make sure that you are billing people for (tier differentiation) is what they care about.

If you are underfunded and understaffed then ask for a credit card upfront.

Never sell lifetime plans.

Dunning is how you let people know their payment is failing.

Have an invoice in the app. (In certain countries people have to have them.)

Your metrics are the lifeblood of the company.

Episode 379 | There and Back Again, a Founders Tale of Services to Product to Services

Date: 2018-02-13


Once someone has already put all of their material on your platform it is a lot harder to switch.

It is hard to have a strategy upfront when you don’t know how things are going to roll out.

Really nurture people (in your mailing list) and keep them in the loop.

Do things that don’t scale from the beginning to gain insights.

It is only a small percentage of people that are really succeeding with their online courses.

You’ve got to do the audience building before you even think about doing the course.

Episode 380 | Allocating Your Marketing Budget, Minimum SaaS Documentation and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-02-20


Not everything has a dollar cost associated with it.

Early on all you are trying to do is find marketing approaches that work. For a small SaaS app you are going to find one or two.

It is hard to do the marketing activities and be heavily involved in the product architecture.

Episode 381 | SaaS Marketing from Square One

Date: 2018-02-27


Know what your timeline and runway look like.

What date is it that you need to be making X in MRR?

If it is your first (SaaS business) then you don’t know the rules of thumb.

Certain marketing channels will be too long-term for (the date you need to be making X).

With SEO you are going to see nothing (in results) for six months. (But once you see results the results last a long time.)

Waiting for customers to come to you is not going to be enough.

You need to do outbound activities where you drive the conversation.

Outbound has become more and more prominent in SaaS.

If you want to get somewhere faster you need to do a mix of inbound and outbound.

There is no substitute for getting in front of somebody and talking to them about your product.

You can overcome a lot of trust issues by having a one-on-one conversation.

Episode 382 | Fixing Onboarding, Marketing a Low LTV Product, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-03-06


Give people a bit of time (to read your site) before your (email marketing) widget pops up on the page.

When looking at the stats of a website it is very easy to misinterpret bots coming to the website to crawl it versus actual visitors who came from a particular search term or referred to by a separate website.

The way to get meaningful feedback is to ask for it.

It is legal to cold email people.

Don’t use a bulk email program (to do cold emails).

Episode 383 | Considering Monetizing SaaS with Ads, Should a WP Plugin Company Consider SaaS, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-03-13


WP Plugin authors are often jealous of the recurring revenue of SaaS while SaaS entrepreneurs are often jealous of the one-off software as that tends to have a higher price point.

The best WordPress to SaaS progressions are things like OptinMonster.

Build a prelaunch list (when writing a book).

Episode 384 | Bluetick Marketing Plan Teardown

Date: 2018-03-20


Submit SaaS to listing sites for backlinks.

Every little bit helps.

A podcast tour is a one-time thing.

Do joint webinars.

Integration directories (for big SaaS apps).

Episode 385 | GDPR, Preparing to be Acquired, Technical Debt, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-03-27


The best talks are a hero’s journey and then pulling out actionable things.

If you buy a company you acquire the assets and all of the liabilities which is why almost all people buying a company just buy the assets of the business. (Just buy the assets, which are listed out, rather than the whole LLC.)

With GDPR if you touch the data in any way, shape, or form you are on the hook for it.

Episode 386 | Balancing Feature Development with Marketing, the Cost of Technical Debt, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-04-03


Ask detailed questions why (people aren’t using your product).

In general, as developers, we think features are the answer. In general, they are not.

Sometimes you make the best decision you have and you find out later it is wrong and there is nothing you can do.

You shouldn’t write a unit test for everything but you should write them as bugs come in.

So much of entrepreneurship is just making it up as you go along.

Episode 387 | Before You Run Any Facebook Ads, Listen to This

Date: 2018-04-10


Offer a free chapter of your ebook (or something easily consumable) that they can download and quickly get a sense of your business, of your expertise, of what you do.

You want your lead magnet to be very stackable. Typically you advertise your lead magnet to someone who hasn’t visited your webpage.

Be careful where you implement Facebook’s retargeting pixel.

Long-form copy will prevail.

Episode 388 | GDPR, Why You Should Strive For High Prices, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-04-17


We are entrepreneurs. We can make our own reality to a certain extent.

You can go on Upwork and hire somebody who specialized in GDPR and help you write your GDPR docs.

Lower-priced customers churn at two or three time higher rates than people who pay you a lot of money.

You should either launch a new product to an existing audience or an existing product to a new audience. The hardest thing is launching a new product to a new audience.

Episode 389 | Pro Tips for Attending Conferences

Date: 2018-04-24


Dress appropriately. Pay attention to what the temperature (is going to be at the conference).

Spend time in advance to consider your goals for the conference. See if there are people you want to meet. Think about the types of relationships you want to establish.

Research potential travel issues or scams.

Rehearse your answers to common questions such as, “what do you do?”, “what are you working on?”, or “what interests you right now?”

Pay attention to how much water you’re drinking and how much sleep you’re getting.

The earlier you reach out to someone after the conference is over the better.

Episode 390 | SaaS Pricing, Sponsoring Events, Subscription Boxes and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-05-01


If you’re sponsoring a conference you can do an informal Q&A during lunch.

Make sure you have business cards to hand out and make sure you collect business cards (when at a conference).

Bigfoot Capital provides funding for subscriptions businesses. to find angel investors.

Episode 391 | The 5 Stages of Your Sales Funnel & Tools to Use At Each One

Date: 2018-05-08


The first stage is making sure that people know that you exist. Tools are based around SEO and social media. Examples are HootSuite, Buffer, Canva, Tweetdeck.

Stage two is finding out if a customer is interested, keeping them on your website, or getting an email address from them. Software examples HotJar and Crazy Egg.

The third day is evaluation. They are evaluating whether or not to give you a chance. It is them gathering more information about your tool and potentially some others. This is the education stage where you are trying to get them to raise their hand. Examples are ebooks.

Stage four is engagement. CRMs fall into this category.

Stage five is commitment.

Segment for in app analytics and then go into Amplitude (for tracking people through their app and what they are doing).

Episode 392 | 10 Key Takeaways from MicroConf 2018

Date: 2018-05-15


You can’t make everybody happy but you have to do what you believe is right.

Lots of entrepreneurs feel like three squirrels in a trench coat when pitching big businesses.

As bootstrappers your priorities tend to be around preserving money.

Humor makes people happy and you want people to be happy while they are using your app. It gives your app personality.

Episode 393 | Marketing and Growth Questions Answered

Date: 2018-05-22


If you are saying you are providing exclusive content then don’t also provide it elsewhere.

If you podcast once a month then you might as well not. For the most part you need to ship fairly frequently.

Episode 394 | Soft Skills for Entrepreneurs

Date: 2018-05-29


A soft skill is a personal attribute that enables someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.

Soft skills are things you have to practice. They are not typically taught (in school).

Empathy helps you relate to your customers and understand what challenges they are having.

Empathy helps you understand what people are thinking and where they are coming from.

Empathy is default listening.

Talk less. Listen more.

Time management is the second soft skill.

You are never going to have enough time to do everything you want to in business.

Track your time.

Sales skills – helping people overcome objections.

You should know what a win is for you. You can figure out what it is for (the person you are trying to sell to). You can merge those two things.

Book: Getting to Yes

First step of negotiation is figuring out what you want and identifying what it is you can and cannot live without.

Book: Never Split the Difference

With certain negotiations you are going to have a further relationship with them or not.

If you’re going to have a further relationship you can’t push so far that you burn the relationship.

Often times the best deal isn’t the best deal for you–it is the best deal for everyone.

You can do everything in your business but it is really hard to do everything in a timeline that is efficient.

If you’re micromanaging you’re wasting your time.

If every interaction with someone else it is important that you have the ability to communicate clearly, effectively, and with empathy.

Episode 395 | 20 Podcasts We Like

Date: 2018-06-05


The Art of Product

Bootstrapped Web

Rogue Startups

Founder’s Journey

Tropical MBA

Hooked On Products

Indie Hackers

Zen Founder

This Week in Startups



Stacking Benjamins

Planet Money

Money for the Rest of Us

The Daily Tech News / The Daily Tech Headlines

Current Geek

99% Invisible

Reply All

Crypto Report

System Mastery

Episode 396 | Revisiting 2018 Goals, Raising Funding, Marketing at Events, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-06-12


Podcast: EconTalk

Podcast: Exponent

Book: Bad Blood

Sponsoring an event from afar isn’t something that generally works.

Episode 397 | Customer Acquisition Strategies

Date: 2018-06-19


Strategies are something that often aren’t talked about because it is the tactics that people are going to be able to put into place.

The first step is to identify what your business model looks like and the price point you expect customers to come in at.

You only need to get one to three strategies working.

The higher touch sales you can do leads to higher conversion rate.

Episode 398 | SaaS Marketing Lessons You’ll Wish You’d Learned Sooner

Date: 2018-06-26


Podcast: How I Built This

Podcast: Mixergy

Do not try to sell to everyone.

Have a mission statement. You can use that as marketing collateral. It says who you are for and which competitors you are not like. It is what you don’t do and what you are going to do.

Value proposition comes before mission statement.

When putting together growth plans you need to focus on actions and not just the numbers you need to hit.

Optimize for growth–not leads.

Don’t get hung up on the top of the funnel metric. If you’re not closing and retaining (customers) you’re going to be leaking people out of the bottom of the funnel.

The more you spend (to acquire customers) the more you can put through the funnel.

Everything takes a lot longer than you want it to.

Prospects are people.

Treat (the people on your mailing list) like they are people.

Build your own audience.

Episode 399 | How Derrick Reimer is Validating His Ambitious Third SaaS Application

Date: 2018-07-03


Level ( is a competitor to Slack but much less interruptive experience.

Scarcity (incite fear of missing out) can be effective.

You need some kind of differentiation. (Can be niching down.)

The challenge when you’re building something new is to validate your most risky hypothesis.

Episode 400 | The Importance of Consistency

Date: 2018-07-10


Be exposed to a variety of business models.

Teach and share with people. A podcast is a good way to do it.

A podcast is a more intimate experience (than a blog post).

If you want to be consistent have an accountability partner.

Episode 401 | Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Your Customers (And What You Should Do Instead)

Date: 2018-07-17


Three types of feature requests:

  • The crackpot requests
  • The no-brainers
  • The inbetweeners

Crackpot requests are about 10% of requests. 

Some feature requests are features that almost no-one will use but are “checkbox features” that you can put on your website that you have and that larger customers will look for.

Integrate with best-in-class solutions rather than try to be everything to everyone.

Every hour you spend building features is an hour that isn’t spend becoming the best at what you’re doing.

Integrations are promotional avenues and make the product more sticky.

Your vision will change over time.

You’re going to get way more feature requests that you can possibly build.

Rewriting an app is not going to solve all of the problems you think it will. It is going to keep you frozen for six months.

Episode 402 | Tactics for Minimizing Disruptions to Your Vacation

Date: 2018-07-24


Empower your support people to do things for you (if you have them).

Outsource your support as soon as your business is making money.

Do not push new code within a week or two of going on vacation.

Block your calendar so people can’t book sales demos with you while you’re on vacation.

Hire someone who is technical to be on call.

Use a third party monitoring service.

Turn off your phone and email during the day.

Episode 403 | Should You Love What You’re Working On?

Date: 2018-07-31


You need to balance your interest in something and the opportunity it has.

Figure out what you can be passionate in and blend that in with something that holds some kinds of opportunity.

Some startups founders are driven by the achievement.

Learning is exciting.

Episode 404 | How to Dissect Your Business Competitors

Date: 2018-08-07


It helps you explain how you differentiate yourself from the market.

It helps you know the unit economics potential of the business.

The support costs on a course are way less than a software product.

Don’t be overly fixated on what other people are doing.

Episode 405 | Minimum Viable Security, Moving on from AuditShark, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-08-14


Have rate limiting in from the start (when creating an API).

Put API on separate server or bank of server because if you have someone take your API down you don’t want everything else to go down.

Make sure information does not bleed from one customer over to another.

You should have some unit tests for testing security.

If you’re not all in (on the startup) then you’re just not going to put in the time to do it.

Startups are not easy.

If you’re going to have a community there has to be a compelling reason for someone to join and stick with their membership.

Episode 406 |  Should Bootstrappers Raise Money?

Date: 2018-08-21


For software businesses the expectations today are much higher than they were five years ago.

There is a smaller (equity) cost for raising an angel round these days.

(A startup is) 60 months of upfront investment of the best years of your career. Instead of (investing) money it is (investing) your life.

You don’t become an expert startup founder just because you raise funding.

Don’t raise funding before you have product-market fit.

Nobody is going to give you money if you don’t have a product.

Going full-time is a game-changer.

Episode 407 | A SaaS Pricing Conundrum, Subdomains, Building an Affordable MVP, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-08-28


Book: The First 20-Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast

Even though Google says there is no difference subdirectory is better for SEO than subdomain.

Don’t run WordPress on a production app server.

If you are selling to someone only doing something a couple of times a year then charging as a percentage of (that person’s revenue) makes more sense than a monthly fee.

Trying to do pricing innovation is a challenge.

Building a product is not an MVP. Answering a question is what an MVP is.

Episode 408 | Should You Take on a Co-founder?

Date: 2018-09-04


Hire your co-founders (if you can afford to).

(A co-founder) should have someone whose skills complement you.

Before you make an agreement have a trial period to work on some kind of project.

The agony of a co-founder breakup is pretty rough.

You don’t want to end up in a situation where you are putting in 95% of the effort and the other person is putting in 5%.

Have regular meetings to discuss what is going on.

Make sure you have a set of common goals and expectations of one another.

There is no right or wrong answer (about getting a co-founder)–it is what is right for you.

It is startups–there never are easy answers.

Episode 409 | Defining Product/Market Fit, Using Inexpensive Developers, When to Quit, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-09-11


Book: Brotopia

Pay more for developers because it will be worth it.

Cheap is relative.

As developers we think software is the answer for everything but in most cases it is not.

Product-market fit is not a binary thing. It is a continuum thing. You ease into it.

A retention problem is not a product-market fit problem.

Is the problem you’re choosing to solve worth solving? I.e. Is it a pain point?

Are people willing to pay for a solution to this problem? That is problem-solution fit.

Product-market fit is when you have solved it well–better than the alternatives.

Episode 410 | Customer Development for Dummies

Date: 2018-09-18


Talk to prospective customers. It helps you find out what your competitors are doing wrong.

Ask people what things they do not use at all (about your competitors software).

Google “<competitor’s name> reviews” and come up with a top ten list of things people like and don’t like.

Dog food your own product. Use your product as your customer would use it.

Episode 411 | Bootstrapping vs. Funding: 19 Questions To Ask

Date: 2018-09-25


Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Legacy code is code that is not highly unit-tested.

Not feeling comfortable making changes on your app is going to be a hindrance forever.

Bootstrapping is having almost no money.

It takes longer to self-fund.

Banks and large institutions are going to be unlikely to go with a single founder out of his or her garage.

There are certain types of businesses where it makes a lot more sense to raise some funds than not.

Episode 412 | The Pitfalls of Several Commonly Recommended Marketing Tactics

Date: 2018-10-02


When you have little traffic split-testing should be the furthest thing from your mind. In those early days you should be talking to customers.

You’re not going to go from a cold start (where you don’t know other people) and make an affiliate program work.

Affiliation works in the aspirational business week. It doesn’t work in enterprise software.

It is not just the generation (for content marketing) that is intensive–it is also the distribution and marketing.

Content marketing is more about SEO and is a long-term play.

It is time intensive to gain followers.

When you post something only about 5% of your followers will see any given tweet you put out.

Entrepreneurs tend to be on the Internet a lot.

Offline marketing isn’t something you should get into lightly unless you really know what you are doing.

One or two marketing strategies–that you figure out how to do–can grow your business well into seven figures.

Episode 413 | How Lucidchart Grew to 13 Million Users with Freemium

Date: 2018-10-09


You can get into a company by offering a free account and then the person shares the tool internally in order to collaborate.

The IT department likes consolidated billing, training (on only one product), secure logins, and document retention (when someone leaves the company you want access to everything they did while they were there).

As a startup your secret superpower is that you can move fast and be close to the customer.

Episode 414 | Content Promotion Tactics

Date: 2018-10-16


Content is reusable. You’re creating an asset that other people can find useful.

If you’re super early then content is probably not right for you. It is a super-long game.

When you’re scaling content is going to be a really good game for you.

Ads purpose is to drive traffic one time.

Content has three uses:

  1. Social media – getting buzz
  2. It gives you an excuse to email your list. (every time you email your list you’re going to get more trials)
  3. The long play of SEO

If you mention (influencers) in a social media post they are more likely to share it than if you email them directly to tweet it out for you. They will see it in their social media feed and just hit retweet without them doing any work. (versus emailing and asking someone to create a post from scratch.)

Tweet quotes from your content. You can create multiple tweets and schedule them. You get them out there and don’t risk repeating yourself.

Long-form content is winning today.

Create a short video that gives a summary of the content. You’re trying to get people who prefer a different medium.

Syndicate your content on LinkedIn or Medium. (repost it or take a an excerpt and repost it there)

People have a limited attention span when it comes to email.

You can embed “in case you missed it” emails in your email workflows.

At the end of the month you can send out “in case you missed it” emails that highlight the three blog posts you wrote that month.

You can send your blog posts to certain segments of your email list rather than the whole list if they opted in on something they are interested in.

Notify your sources of a new post. Give them a snippet that they can share with their own list.

Links are still very valuable for SEO.

Episode 415 |  Product-Founder Fit, Stairstepping, Free Trials vs. Money Back Guarantees, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-10-23


Sell to the marketing director rather than the I.T. director.

It is really, really hard to sell into the enterprise.

(Selling to the enterprise) you live or die by two customers.

Enterprises are slow-moving and not trustful of new technology.

Some of your ideas are going to require things from you that you just aren’t going to want to do.

With enterprise prospecting you are going to have to be the one to do it initially and if you hate doing it then the business is never going to work.

If you are selling B2B a money back guarantee will be a blocker.

Episode 416 | MicroConf Europe 2018 Recap

Date: 2018-10-30


Hit on the point points your customers have not just in your marketing material but when you talk to them.

Money makes you make different decisions and profit gives you optionality you don’t always have if you take a big pile of money for trying to grow fast.

Episode 417 | Pulling Out Profits, Building Features vs. Integrating, Marketing a Podcast, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-11-06


Keep your salary as low as you can (and take the extra income as distributions) to maximize on your taxes.

For paid advertising (for your podcast) you can do newsletters with a similar audience.

Episode 418 | Creators Versus Fans

Date: 2018-11-13


It is hard to distinguish between business and personal (level of happiness).

Do (an exit) in a way where you don’t screw your customers.

Do the right thing by people.

It is a gamble to give stuff away with an expectation that people are going to buy (your product).

If you can build a platform that everyone else is building on then you will make a lot of money. However it is also a headache.

(When building your business on someone else’s platform) you can fall as quickly as you go up.

Episode 419 | VC Prospecting Emails, Building Features vs. Integrations and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-11-20


Screenshots that are helpful tend to be ones that are a small crop of the larger screen.

It takes a lot of time to make good screenshots.

A good explainer video takes a couple of days.

Don’t pay a lot of attention to unsolicited offers of funding or acquisition.

If you are starting up do an integration first (rather than building a feature).

Think in years–not months–when trying to build a successful business.

If you’re going to buy an app you need to educate yourself.

The cheaper you get (when buying an app) the more risk there is going to be.

Episode 420 | An Alternative Form of Startup Funding

Date: 2018-11-27


There are incredible businesses to be built…that fall outside of the traditional VC funding structure.

It is hard to align incentives for founders and investors who are trying to operate in this space.

There was no debt financing for SaaS until a couple of years ago.

Sparktoro fundraising terms

Some accelerators seem to operate more to boost the city they are in than to help the startups in the program.

Venture capitalists give you money then want your timetable to compress–they want you to do more in less time.

Episode 421 | The “Science” of Why “Charge More” Works

Date: 2018-12-04


Salary negotiation is something you should do if you have not.

When you’re working with consumers price tends to be the highest factor.

If your lowest plan is $10/month then it is hard to grow an app.

The price you put on something sends a signal about the quality of it.

If you price too low it can tell people is that your product just isn’t very good.

Freemium is a marketing approach–not a pricing model.

Episode 422 | Impact of GDPR on Mailing Lists, Keyword Stuffing, Shady Competition, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2018-12-11


With any laws that are written they are inevitably written by people not technical enough to understand how to implement them.

Drip has a checkbox to only show the GDPR checkbox to people located in the EU.

Intent versus fraud (when it comes to GDPR compliance).

Responding to trolls is losing (to the trolls).

It is hard enough to get an advertiser–don’t lose their trust (be not being honest with them).

Over time open rates go down and down.

If someone hasn’t opened your last ten emails then it is unlikely that they are going to open any ever. (so you can prune them)

Episode 423 | Our Goals for 2019

Date: 2018-12-18


Once people start not sleeping full nights their mind starts doing weird things.

The further out goals are the harder it is to conceptualize the entire path to getting there.

Most of us are presented with way more opportunities than we could ever pursue and way more “good” ideas than we can ever implement.

Not having goals can lead to a shorter-term perspective.

Goals give you the permission to say no to things.

Episode 424 | Our Predictions for 2019

Date: 2018-12-25


More non-traditional startup funding.

Cryptocurrencies will continue to be volatile.

That Apple Watch is nice but not a game changer for (Apple) in revenue.

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