How does a company become $2 million startup, even though it had no advertising budget?
I want to find out about his first version for the company, where he got his first customers, and how he got them to pay even more.
Andrew: Three messages before we get started.
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Here’s our program.
Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. Of course, as you know after all these different interviews that I’ve done for you, I’m Andrew Warner, the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart.
And in this interview, we’re going to find out how can a company become a $2 million startup even though it has no marketing budget?
Adam Schoenfeld, who you see on your screen, is the co-founder and CEO of Simply Measured, which helps marketers get all their social media data in one place and create beautiful reports, both in Excel and on the web. I invited him here to talk about how he built up this company, and specifically I’m going to be asking what the first version looked like, where he got his first customers, how he grew up from there, how he got them to charge, excuse me, how he got them to pay even more and we’ll find out all that here in this interview.
Adam, thanks for doing the interview.
Adam: Yeah. Thanks for having me. Big fan and I’m really excited to be on.
Andrew: Oh, cool. Thank you. And thanks also for watching these interviews. Let’s go into a question that you, well actually, why don’t we start with this? What did you guys do when you hit the $1 million mark?
Adam: A million dollars in sort of revenue run rate to us was a big milestone earlier on. We’ve grown really quickly from one to two but when we hit that first million dollar mark, it was really exciting. We like scotch at our company, so we had a little nicer bottle. We went with the McAllen 18 for that Friday meeting at the end of the week and at our Friday meetings everybody goes through what they did during the week and what they’re doing, looking ahead.
And then, we have a time where people are able to demo, either something they’ve built or something they’re excited about. I was up for a demo, and what I did is I opened up sort of the operating dashboard that had our revenue run rate. I showed that nice hockey stick growth curve, and I said to everybody, “Now, we’re a million dollar business, and we got to have a Scotch toast to that moment.
There are all these ups and downs through that journey, but I think to really see that growth curve be consistent and to cross that kind of meaningful milestone was a big moment for us.
Andrew: All right. I’m going to ask you in this interview to talk openly about those downs. In fact, we’ll get to it in a moment, but let’s first understand what this run rate mean. Run rate means you took the last month and multiplied it by 12.
Adam: That’s right. Yes.
Andrew: OK. Last month’s revenue, and you multiplied it by 12, and you came up with a million dollars, and then you ended up with two million dollars recently so you guys just keep growing and growing.
Adam: Yeah. Right. And that’s not projecting forward. We’re a monthly recurring business, so we’re not guiding forward. We’re actually looking at where we are today and how that maps on the annualized basis, assuming no growth. Those are pretty real numbers for us in terms of where the business is.
Andrew: And your customers like mine, pay you on a monthly basis once they sign up. It’s just recurring.
Adam: That’s right. Sometimes, they pay longer term. A lot of times we do one year contracts, but we have a monthly recurring revenue model, software as a service. So, it has that recurring revenue concept.
Andrew: OK. And we’ll get more in depth into what the product is, what Simply Measured does and how it helps its customers. We’ve got a story here about AOL and Tom Shoes and how they use Simply Measured, not to run a contest, but to measure a contest. We’ll get into all of that and explain the business in a moment. But, first, I want to go back in time to before you had this success to a previous company. You told Jeremy, our producer, that you sat in your car one day on your way home, and you realized what? This was way before what happened there.
Adam: Yeah. You know, like many entrepreneurs, I had to shut down a company at one point. I remember telling Jeremy that I was sitting in my car, and I was at this point where I had just shut down my first startup, and I had been talking with my now co-Founders, Damon and Aviel about joining on untitled startup to start from nothing and try to build a business again. I had some offers to go back to corporate life. I was sitting there and I remember that moment where we had lost some angel money and friends and family money, and we had that down of the time invested to try to build the company.
But, knowing that it wasn’t really going to work out, and having to shut it down, and asking myself if I could really build something from zero to a real, meaningful business, and be real entrepreneur as my dream was. That was an interesting moment to assess those two opportunities side by side, going back to starting from zero or the corporate route. Obviously, we know which way I went.
Andrew: I know which way you went, but I’m wondering about your friends and family. What was the toughest conversation you had to have with somebody who gave you money, who now had to hear that the business just wasn’t going to work out?
Adam: We had angel investors. We had friends and family. Obviously, my co- founders and myself had put a lot of time, effort, and money into it. There were a lot of hard conversations.
Andrew: What’s the single hardest one?
Adam: There was one angel investor in New York that had brought together a group of folks. I remember having to tell him that we had pivoted and iterated, and we knew he believed in where we were going, but this just wasn’t going to work. I had to be very practical and explain that we didn’t have a prospect to raise additional capital and keep the business going, there wasn’t an attractive exit for us at that point, and this was going to be a zero.
Andrew: What made it so tough beyond that? It sounds like if he’s an angel investor, he’s accredited, so he has enough cash in the bank, or enough net worth that it shouldn’t be an issue for him. Yet, there was something painful about it. What was it?
Adam: Most people doing angel investing have the capital to afford some losses, but it’s the personal connection you make. When somebody invests in you, particularly really early on when you don’t really have a business behind it, they’re really betting on you and your vision. I think it’s a tough place to have to tell somebody that we weren’t able to turn that passion into something that could generate revenue and an outcome for your investment.
Andrew: I’d have to have a scotch before I could have that conversation. How did he take it?
Adam: I think he took it well. A lot of our investors took it well. They’re never going to be happy. They’ll be honest with you that that’s not something they’re excited about, but generally, if you’re honest and forthcoming about why you’re making the decision, and you’re communicating along the way, no matter what, good or bad you’re sharing with them, it makes those hard conversations a lot easier.
Andrew: All right. Was the company, Cheddar? Is that what we’re talking about?
Adam: Cheddar Media, yep.
Andrew: Cheddar Media. What did Cheddar Media do? I want to know the background a little bit before we go into how you got something measured.
Adam: We had a few different pivots. The core of it was that we had a tool for running social media promotions. SO, if you wanted to do a Twitter contest or have a giveaway on your blog, we had a widget that could be embedded on a blog and a version that could build a micro site if you were agency or brand that wanted to run one of these. We found that with the blog business, we really just couldn’t turn it into a revenue generating machine. The bloggers weren’t interested in paying for it, and we couldn’t find a way to connect advertising revenue to it.
Andrew: Why weren’t bloggers willing to pay for it? What did they tell you when you talked to them?
Adam: Blogging in an interesting market. As you know, you’re in the content business, so this is familiar to you. We had a lot of bloggers who wanted to use tool, but not a lot that wanted to pay for it, or help us monetize it, in any way. When we started having those conversations, I remember one where I was asking this blogger who had used it a few times what it would take for her to pay a monthly subscription or a fee every time she wanted to use the widget. I got this wishy-washy answer. I really need to able to customize it. It would really have to do a lot of features that we weren’t able to build around, customizing colors, and look and feel, and all the parameters of the promotions.
I remember just thinking that bar was so high in terms of feature functionality and then the answer of would you actually pay, how much would you pay, and it was very wishy-washy. I had no confidence that even at $10 or $5 a month, could we really monetize this and then we looked at our base of a few thousand users and the growth process and we could make the math pan out to actually see a real business there.
Andrew: We’ll find out later on how you started simply measure in a different way but I’m wondering if the mistake in the way that you launched? Should you have these conversations with bloggers before you even created Chatters? Should you have sat down and said what would you pay for first?
Adam: 100%. Absolutely.
Andrew: That’s the big take an away from that company, right, Chatter Media?
Adam: Yes. I think you have to be very grounded in your market and your customer, very, very early. I think we were, we talked to them but we didn’t really ask those hard questions, early on. We didn’t really push and we weren’t very objective and we should’ve been our own harshest critics. I think that is very important to balance to entrepreneurial passion, with that, sort of, objective market view of what’s really possible.
Andrew: Yeah, there’s a sense as an entrepreneur that you’re going to change the world. In many ways, the world is going to change you just as much as you’re changing it. Anyways, going in with passion you change the world, you want to just put the stuff out there and you say, “I will convince people to buy because I’m such a good marketer and I’m such a good persuader,” or “this product is good, I don’t need to say anything. I just put it out there and people will buy it.” It seems like that’s part of happened at Chatter Media. If instead, you would’ve sat down with bloggers and said, “Hey look, I’m about to build this, if I get it exactly like, will you pay,” and then they came back to and said, “No we need to do this, pup, pup, pup, pa, pa, pa.” That would’ve gotten you realize . . .
Adam: Yeah, we would’ve.
Andrew: . . . you what, either we’re never going to build this because these guys are never really going to pay or we have to adjust the way we created it first. That’s the big take away.
Adam: Yes, it was.
Andrew: All right. How much money did you raise and what did you lose on it?
Adam: We raise, I believe, it was $350,000. So, we very lightly capitalized. We were pretty lean. We didn’t return money to investors.
Andrew: What did you think that the business model was going to be? And by the way, thank you for being this open this. A lot of people, when they have a setback, a lot of entrepreneurs anyways, they want to hide it, they want to pretend they’ve never failed, and it makes for a very boring interview and it makes for very boring person. So, I appreciate you coming here and not just making the interview interesting but also, more useful. I think we can learn a lot from your experience. So, what about the business model, what did you imagine it would be?
Adam: We imagined that we would be able to scale there with revenue, I’m sorry, with advertising revenue or by, actually, charging a subscription to our bloggers. So, we thought that either getting to scale with a large enough bases of bloggers and then figuring out a way to monetize with ads or charging directly. You know, Widgets, in general, as a business model, sort of haven’t really materialized online. We were at a time when that was more popular and a lot different were being tried and not many of them have really materialized into real businesses at this point.
Andrew: It’s too bad. There was a period, there, where the Widget economy seemed to be growing. In fact, anyone who saw Fred Wilson’s blog back then, would’ve felt like it’s here, it’s huge because he had Widgets all over the place. And yeah, I don’t see too many Widgets that are still around. I don’t have Widgets on my website. I understand why charging bloggers wasn’t working out but what about the idea of just offering it to as many as you could and monetizing with advertising, why wasn’t that a hit?
Adam: I think when you’re looking at those kinds of business models; you really have to be serious with yourself about the math and the numbers that it takes. You can’t assume that you’re going to get a disproportionate CPM to what everybody else in the market is going to get. Then, you have to look back and kind of do the math and say, “what kind of scale do we need to build a venture scale business?” And it is in the millions of users and when we really looked at the opportunity size, we didn’t see that after we had got it out there in the hands of a few thousand.
Andrew: I see. So, that could’ve worked if we were to work it out beforehand. They could’ve been worked with maybe an excel spreadsheet, where you said to yourself, how many bloggers do we expect to get, maybe 1,000 at first, how many impressions do we expect to get from them, let’s say on average 100 each, so, we have 100,000 impressions, what can we expect to monetize that at? Well, let’s suppose a buck cpm not $100, $100 a month. That’s not so much. What if we can grow even bigger? Alright, great. We’ll say we have 20,000 bloggers. Is that profitable yet? Maybe. Is that exciting enough? Is that possible? That kind of thing, simple except excel spreadsheet.
As we’ll see, you took these lessons, and that’s why Simply Measured works, because the analysis we are doing right now you seem to have done and you were shaped by. So you shut down. It was time to find something else because you weren’t ready to go back to corporate America, and where did this idea come from? Where did this idea for Simply Measured come from?
Adam: Well, I think Simply Measured was a little bit unique in the foundation of the idea because the company started as Untitled Startup.
Andrew: That was the name you gave it. You just didn’t know where you were going. You just said Untitled Startup is our company, I’ll figure it out later.
Adam: Untitled Startup Inc., was our incorporated name. This was not just our URL, this was actually the name of the business for quite some time until we had to rebrand because we were putting Untitled Startup on the top of contracts with pretty large companies. That’s really a problem that we had to solve pretty early on. We started as Untitled Startup, and the idea was we had a team together of three guys that we though were able to execute across the places that we need from product to technology to business and marketing. We were really interested in the social media space generally, but we didn’t have a specific angle that we wanted to take on it, so we went out and we started building different ideas and we had a community on our site that would vote or submit different ideas. We were trying organically to use the market and the crowd to kind of find our way. What happened is we actually latched on to a product fairly early that was called RowFeeder that was really, really dead simple. It tracked tweets in a spreadsheet.
Andrew: The product was called RowFeeder, and the idea, let’s explain what that means. Track feeds in an excel spreadsheet, what does that mean?
Adam: Track tweets in an excel spreadsheet. You would give us a hash tag or a keyword, we would go get the tweets that matched that, and we would bring those to you in a spreadsheet. It was that simple.
Andrew: OK. Before I ask you why that’s useful, tell me about some of the other ideas that you were kicking around before you hit on RowFeeder.
Adam: We had one that was called Deal Well. It was a Deal based site that had a Groupon-esque feel but with a little more social sort of promotion built in. We had batted around some ideas in the market research space, but primarily we were always drawn to analytics.
Andrew: Where did these ideas come from? I sometimes have a hard time coming up with fresh ideas. In fact, back in my past company, Bradford and Reed, no secret, a lot of my best ideas I basically copied from other people who were doing well but just didn’t know how to monetize. I’m not that creative a person. You seem to be. Where did you come up with all these ideas?
Adam: It wasn’t just me for sure. I think my co-founders are much more creative than I am. I’m a little bit more the guy who likes to go out and talk to customers about it and try to poke holes in it.
Andrew: I see. So once your partners, this is Damon and Aviel, once they come up with an idea, you can either poke holes in it and make them justify it, or take it out to a customer and say is this idea crazy, or are you excited enough about this that you might want to buy it?
Adam: So our dynamic early on was we would all come up with ideas, they would be able to build early proofs of concept or build out UI’s, or build complete kind of minimum viable product and I would kind of go either talk to customers about the idea, or see if they had an appetite to pay for this, or understand their pain around different things we were trying to solve.
Andrew: Look at how you are using, I mean this is early on in the story, and already chatter media has influenced the way that you’re building this business right?
Adam: Absolutely. If you don’t learn from your past body of work, than it’s kind of pointless.
Andrew: I want to learn from your past body of work so I don’t repeat some of those mistakes so I can get customers the way we’re going to find out how you got customers and get them to pay more the way that you got them to just raise the amount that their wiling to pay you. Let me ask you about these guys. Damon and Aviel, I know at my low point where a business I was in wasn’t working out, or if I was even struggling, I would immediately go to nobody will ever want to work with me again. And here you had a big setback and you got these two bright guys to work with you. How do you convince people to work with you after a situation like that?
Adam: That’s a great question. I think you really have to show that what you’ve learned can be applied and you can be successful in that. It’s kind of like the three point shooter. If you’re missing, but you have a great stroke and you figured out why you’re missing and you can articulate that and now you’re like, ‘Now put me in the game, I can make the shot.’ I think that that’s the dynamic that you have to demonstrate. And I think although the business at Cheddar Media was not ultimately a success, it had blips of traction and it had things that worked. It had things that ran well, and so there are experiences I could point to where I said, ‘I was able to do these things well. Ultimately we weren’t successful for XY and Z,’ but I was able to point back and show how I could leverage that past experience to do it again and get it right.
Andrew: James Caan, the entrepreneur, not the actor, has this great book out about his biography. I highly recommend the audio book actually even more than the book because listening to him tell those stories about how he built his company is fascinating. But, over and over he talked about how his job was to paint blue skies for people to show them what was possible if they worked with him, if they tried him out, if they bought from him. What was the blue sky that you painted for Damon and Alviel when you didn’t even really know what the idea was? When you didn’t know the direction you guys were going to work together on.
Adam: Right, it’s funny because we were called Untitled Startup. We approached it as team, market, product. A lot of people come out the other way where they’ve got this product idea, they look for a market to apply it and then they go find people. We were very much people first, market second, and product third. I think what I demonstrated to them was, “Look, you guys, I’m incredibly impressed by your grasp of product, your grasp of technology, your creativity.” I just loved their passion and what they were able to build, what they’re able to do, how quickly they could move and iterate and react. I said, “What you guys need is somebody who can be the scrappy front line business guy to go out and see what customers think and see where the market is and what the economics are like of these ideas and then figure out how we can actually build this into a company.”
Andrew: All right, so here’s what I got. I was obviously taking notes as you were talking because I’m a big note taker. One thing you sold them on when you didn’t have anything else to sell them on was you sold them on the method; the vision that you had for how a business could be built. Talking about conversations with customers before building, and so on. You also sold them on the assets that you have a person. You’re willing to have the kind of conversations that most people are too shy to even think about having. You’re willing to go there and have those conversations.
And, where most of us, if we have a setback, all we think about are the failures that we had. All we think about are the things we should have done, all the things that we did wrong. You said, ‘Hey wait. There’s a lot that I did right.’ Frankly, hearing your story, in a second I could pick up on the fact that you raise money where most entrepreneurs don’t even know how to do that. You did have other achievements and you were able to use those to paint blue skies and to get these two guys on board with you.
So, I see that. I understand some of the other ideas and the way that you came up with the idea for the way that you’re trying out ideas before you hit on the one. And then you discovered RowFeeder and you talked about it’s basically taking tweets that all share the same hash tag, putting them in excel spreadsheet. Who wants that? What’s the use of that? Obviously people do want it, but who and why? Why back then did they want RowFeeder?
Adam: It was interesting because at that time and still today there are dozens of different tools that will monitor conversations in social media or provide analytics about social media and some capacity or another. We had that idea because none of them were simple and easy to use. Actually, Damon and Alviel were doing a promotion themselves and wanted to just track a hash tag for their own purposes and couldn’t come up with a way to do that easily. That initial version was born from that pain that we had.
Andrew: What kind of hash tag did they want to track back then?
Adam: It was actually a really funny little thing where on our early business cards, Untitled Startup, if you would tweet at us with the hash tag. I’m probably botching the specifics of it because it’s been a long time.
Andrew: That’s OK.
Adam: But, our business cards actually had a call to action for you to do something and we wanted to track that.
Andrew: I see. All right, that makes sense. And you wanted an excel spreadsheet of all the people who did it. Who else would want that? You said that you started having conversation with customers, right?
Andrew: Who did you think would be the ideal customer for it? Who were you targeting for the conversations that Adam Schoenfeld would have?
Adam: We knew that people that were community managers or doing PR for brands or social media managers for businesses, they had various things that they wanted track on Twitter and they needed an easy way to get that information to tell whose talking about them and how . . .[??]
Andrew: For example?
Adam: Let’s see. Some of the early users were PR firms like Edelman or companies like even an Alaska Airlines was an early customer.
Andrew: Why would Alaska Airlines and we’re going to get to what you did in a moment, but what would an airline want with a list of tweets that all share the same hash tag?
Adam: Well, let’s say they were doing a deal and it had a hash tag that you had to tweet and you would get a discount on your airline ticket. So then they might want to capture all that information about who’s enrolling in that deal. Or perhaps they just want to track every time that somebody’s [??] their brand name, across a period of time.
Andrew: And couldn’t they just do a search on either Twitter or one of the other Twitter tools that are out there?
Adam: They could but then they just have that stream. They wouldn’t actually have any data to look back and report on what had happened. I think that’s all of the insights that we’ve had and continue to built on. Today is about recording so if you do a campaign or you are running a program or you are managing a social media presence or you’re doing any marketing activity, at some point you need to look back and say what happened, what did I learn, and what should I do next based on this information.
Andrew: All right. And you did talk to customers and according to my pre- interview notes here, there are two things that they told you. Do you remember what those two things are?
Adam: One was certainly the need to have it in Excel. That spreadsheet resonated. And this is sort of a foreign concept to a lot of entrepreneurs because we’re like ‘This should be on the web. This is 2012 and we should be on the internet and Microsoft Office? Who would use that’.
Well, 500 million people use Microsoft Office and it’s incredibly powerful. It’s incredibly useful and when it comes down to doing analytics and measurement and reporting, Excel is really at the core of how people work.
Andrew: I see. OK. By the way, I’m totally with you. This is one of the reasons why you do have to have conversations with customers. I see Excel, especially if it’s a downloaded Excel file. I just want to toss it in the garbage. Maybe, if it’s a link to Excel, in fact, if it’s a link to Excel on Google Dots, yeah but I don’t want to get into Excel, the program.
I know I’m weird that way. I rather have everything in EverNote, for example or on the web. OK. So that’s one thing that they told you that you and I wouldn’t have been able to predict, I don’t think, beforehand. What’s the other thing that they kept telling you over and over?
Adam: The other big thing that I think we’re hearing is the need to tell a story with their idea. And this is something you don’t feel unless you’ve been kind of working in their company or you work in an organization where you need to report on the results. But you need to go out and you need to tell your manager, or if you’re an agency your client, you need to tell them a story with your data and show this worked or this didn’t work and here’s what we’re going to do next time and you need to stitch that together in a compelling way.
And what happened with a lot of the dashboard tools that people have is that it’s hard to tell a story because it’s inflexible, right? And what we’re able to do is just give people sort of the blank slate where then they can create their story with the data.
Andrew: I see. And the story could be something like “Hey, we ran this ad and we told people to use this hash tag and we were going to give them some rewards if they did. And you know what? We only got 40 people to do it. But if we gave them a better reward, I believe that we can get at least 40,000 people to do this. Here’s the data today. I’ll come back with the data tomorrow and it will tell you the rest of the story and then we’ll continue.”
Adam: Right. Or it might be “Our Twitter account is getting mentioned a thousand times a week. The week that got the most mentions was because Andrew Warner re-tweeted us and we need to engage with people like Andrew Warner on a more regular basis because he’s helping elevate our brand online.”
Andrew: I see. All right. I totally get how that would be useful. All right. So let me see. What else do I want to know? I’m kind of curious about how you were able to get in so many offices and so many conversations with potential customers?
Somebody’s walking around in the office making a lot of noise. And by the way, this is why we have to make these interviews really good. This is why I have to push you to tell me what your revenues are. This is why I have to push to find out exactly how you got in the door with people. Obviously, people who are watching this and not just listening or reading the transcription can see that our audio is a little out of sync with your lips because we’re using Skype remotely. Anyone who can listen can see that outside my office door, there are constantly business people who are walking around patting each other on the back and talking loudly.
I’ve got to get this thing so big, so big that we get out of these offices with these, these loud mouths next to me and where we can get better technology than Skype to do these interviews and the only way I can do that is by just making these interviews insanely useful so that people say “Damn it. Andrew got me to a $3 million run rate business. Now, I got to, I don’t know what”. Now they’re going to have to buy the other interviews or they’re going to, it’s going to help me grow. That’s the only way that I can grow. To give people real results and that’s why I have to keep pushing here.
Here’s where I’m imagining someone who really cares about results is going to go with their head. They’re going to say, “Hey, you know what? This is great for him. I can see how these conversations are useful. How do I even get in the door?” Most people can’t get in the door when they have an actual product and here, all you had was a vision, an Excel spreadsheet maybe, and you got in doors with people and they gave you feedback and they eventually became customers. How do you open doors?
Adam: Well, I think the first thing we did is we strived to build community online before we even had our product. We started building community around the idea of untitled start-up. We had great advocates that we were building up, and we could talk to those people. . .
Andrew: Community, how?
Adam: On the website we had a place where people could come, they could vote, they could submit ideas. It was engaging, we were blogging, we were blogging, as well, on TechFlash, which was a Seattle base blog. We were very active on Twitter, we were out at local events, we started putting ourselves out there online and in person, to connect with people we thought would be influential, helpful, as we started building actual products.
Andrew: I see, it’s the kind of stuff that actually just doesn’t seem significant enough to me. When you tell me “blogging” I go “Ah, I have to blog now?” but that helps you. Do you have an example of how blogging ahead of time or how doing any of this stuff you just described helped you learn more about your customers?
Adam: Absolutely. We had people who would comment on our blog posts, they would reply on Twitter. I mentioned Alaska Airlines; we made not only a great customer through that early social media presence that we had built, but also a great friend, somebody that we were able to talk to about the product evolution and vent different ideas with. There were just countless people that engaged with us early on and then became both advocates for the business as well as friends and people that are now a part of our lives.
Andrew: The person at Alaska Airlines, he met you how?
Adam: I believe we initially met through some local events, but early on he was engaged with us on Twitter.
Andrew: I see, so you’re going out to events, you’re having conversations, you’re continuing to build a community online, I get that.
Adam: We used Twitter very heavily. Twitter was huge for us, being in the social media space was a great way to connect, to listen to what other people in our space were talking about, reply to them, engage with them, talk to them about our ideas, and so that was really a place where we could get some leverage on some scale to building this community, rather than having to go out every night to a different event and meet people.
Andrew: OK. Tell me about what the first version looked like, you got all this feedback, you know what people are looking for. What did the Alpha version, whatever you released, what did it look like?
Adam: It was really very simple. You could enter a hash tag or a keyword and then we would pull that information into a Google Doc, that’s it.
Andrew: I see, and by “pull that information” you mean pull all those tweets that fit the hash tag. . .
Adam: . . .All those tweets, right, and the associated, “Who said it? How many followers did they have?”
Andrew: How many followers they have would be another cell, in another column, right?
Adam: Exactly, right. We would take what you see on your Twitter bio in terms of how many people you follow and how many followers you have, what you indicate as your location, we’d have that information as columns adjacent to the tweet that you have and that was it. It was very, very simple.
Andrew: Very simple, and I see a lot of entrepreneurs, when they tell me about the simple way that they launch, there’s a certain pride. There’s a pride that come from saying, “I raised $10 million to launch my business” and I almost feel like it’s an even greater sense of pride that I see in people’s eyes when they say the opposite, “I launched with just an Excel spreadsheet” or “I launched just an AWeb or e-mail list, something really small and so basic that people would laugh and I launched it.” At the time, there’s not so much pride is there?
At the time when you’re coming out with, basically, a spreadsheet representing your new vision for a business when you want your family to be proud of you, your friends to be impressed with you, your potential customer to feel like, “Yes, this is a guy I want to do business with.” You want them to have all these feelings and then you say, “Here’s a Google Docs spreadsheet.” How do you do that? How do you allow yourself to get past all those demands of greatness that you place on yourself and launch something so basic like that?
Adam: Our vision for what we could build was obviously much bigger than just tweets and a spreadsheet.
Andrew: In many ways, that makes it harder because you have this big vision of where you want to go and instead of launching something that fits that vision, or something that lives up to it, you’re launching something so basic that some people might be insecure and think that, “Customers are going to laugh at me; my competitors won’t respect what I’m doing; my buddy, Neil Patel is going to tell me his blog looks nicer.”
Adam: I have to say we didn’t really worry about those things.
Andrew: You didn’t? It just never occurred to you?
Adam: No. No, we had a lot of faith in the team and the process that we were undergoing which at its core involved things that were simple and then betting those in the market. That was really core to what we were trying to do. Our bigger vision was about, in order to build this company into something big and meaningful and to satisfy the desire we have what Untitled Startup can become some day, we have to start with simple things and then we have to validate those ideas. We have to go inter-ate very quickly and find pain [sp]. I think we were proud about its simplicity because that was what we were all about: getting things out quickly and being able to respond and inter-ate about what we saw on the marketplace.
Andrew: All right. Let’s talk about customers then. How’d you get your first customer? I’ve got different ways that you’ve got customers, including this one pay with a tweet one that I want to talk to about. Your very first customer, do you remember how you got that?
Adam: The very first customer was a friend, I believe it was, I might have this wrong, but I think it was Danielle Morrill at Twilio who used the very first version. There was a free version and there was a ten dollar, five dollar option you could go with. I think she was the first person that paid, and that was a friend.
Adam: Friend of the company.
Andrew: Did you feel a little awkward having a friend pay you? Did you feel like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m supposed to give it away for free because she is a friend’?
Adam: I don’t think so. There was value to her, and what she was getting from the product. It was never a concern that we were doing something wrong or we shouldn’t be charging a friend. If you’re giving a friend value, they should pay you back. I’m friends with my attorney as well but we have to write him a big check every month for the service he provides. I think it’s OK to do business with your friends.
Andrew: I see. What about charging in the first place? We’re living in a world where everything is supposed to be free. Even the bloggers who you initially went after were expecting everything that came their way to be free. On-line people get upset when there’s any dollar figure attached to anything, and here you are building a business on the pay me model. Pay me even if you’re a friend model. Any of that hesitation? What made you decide that you wanted to charge?
Adam: I think there are a few things. One is that we were pretty lightly capitalized when we started. We started with 150,000 in seed money from Founder’s Co-op in Seattle.
Andrew: Founder’s Co-op in Seattle?
Andrew: That, by the way, is how I met you. Neil Patella is part of Founder’s Co-op, he’s one of the investors there?
Andrew: He said, “Andrew, you got to meet this guy. He fits the Mixergy model. He’s a proven entrepreneur, you’ve got to have him on.” That’s how we connected. OK, they gave you 150 which is a lot for people who have no funding, but really it’s tiny. That’s seed money.
Adam: Yeah. When you look at how much capital a lot of companies risk getting started, it’s really not much.
Andrew: You’re generating more then that in revenue every month right now, right?
Adam: Way more, yeah.
Andrew: I see the smile now. It took a little while with the lag in the video but I eventually saw the smile of pride with the revenue, OK.
Adam: We knew early on, because of how we were capitalized, that we would have to be focused on revenue. We wanted to build this business so we decided very early on that we wanted to design products that people would pay money for and that we could get to a reasonable run rate quickly; that would cover the bulk or all of our costs.
Andrew: All right, let’s talk about this paper tweet, that’s another way that you got customers. Can you tell me a little bit about that? What was this pay with a tweet thing that you did?
Adam: Pay with a tweet. OK, pay with a tweet came a little bit later on. It was actually our second product, which is called Exportly [sp]. With Exportly you could get a report on something like you’re Twitter followers or your Facebook fan page. So we were now starting to expand within social media on the types of things we could do and the types of data we could capture. What we did with Exportly was instead of doing a straight freemium model, what we’ll do is we’ll have a free option but if you want to download the free report, we’re going to ask you to tweet. In order to get to that report, you’ll have to click the tweet button and actually send a tweet that says, “I used Exportly,” and it will link back. So we created that exchange with the user, and if you did not want to tweet, that was perfectly OK with us. You could pay.
Andrew: This was a custom report that they were getting?
Adam: This was a report that would run on either their fan page or their Twitter account. So it would tell you things about your followers or it would tell you things about how people are engaging on your fan page over time, things that we still do today in our product at a much deeper level but still data sources that we tap into. And Pay with a Tweet was really effective because people liked the reports that they were seeing. They found them useful and insightful and they seemed to be fine with this exchange of [??] Tweet instead of paying and that created a lot of viral distribution for the product because we had those links being shared out on Twitter.
Surely, some people abandoned because they didn’t want to tweet but we were OK with that.
Andrew: Probably the breakdown of paid versus tweet, paid with a tweet versus cash?
Adam: Oh, it was far more pay with a tweet, far, far more.
Andrew: But it does make the tweet a lot more, it makes it more, it gets more people to tweet because they see “Hey, I’m getting away with not paying. There’s a value out of my tweet.” Did you let them customize the tweet?
Adam: We didn’t. No. That’s still something we talk about because we still incorporate this into some of our free tools. So we didn’t but that’s only we may do. I think there’s a lot of ways to approach sort of a trade off type. You share and we’ll give you some extra value. Drop box is very famous for this in its referral rewards and a lot of companies do it. I think there are a lot of ways to incentivize sharing. If you have a good product that people like, if you can make that connection, that trade off really works.
Andrew: OK. Let’s see. What else works for you for getting customers? How about one other way that you got customers? Then I’ll ask you how you evolved your product.
Adam: So, the other big thing we did in addition to our free tools and some of the mechanisms there for sharing, we did a lot of [??] and we talked about blogging earlier in your life and now I have to blog to get…great.
So, we created a lot of content because we are a data driven and analytics company. It was a natural tie-in to be able to follow something like South by Southwest or the Super Bowl or CES and create really interesting analytics about what happened at that event. Or analyzing a really influential celebrity’s Twitter account or Facebook page and then sharing those charts and those graphs or infographics with press and influencers and distributing through our own blog and social media channels.
And so that, even today, continues to be a huge, huge part of our customer acquisition model. It’s taking our data and our analytics and using it to tell interesting stories that would be appealing to a broad base of consumers.
Andrew: Tell me about the one that you did for South by Southwest. I’ve got the link to it right here in my notes. What was, it was down to the minute analysis about South by Southwest. What were you analyzing and what came as a result of that?
Adam: That was this year. You know, we’ve done South by Southwest every year and I think that it’s always been picked up in TechCrunch or Mashable or a pretty major blog as grab that and run with it because the announce is usually pretty interesting.
So, what we typically look at for South by was the overall sort of trend of conversation. This year it was nice because we got to look at year over year so that’s the overlay 2012 and 2011. We also looked for, as you know going into South by there’s going to be some big tech trends. Like 2011, it was all about group messaging. So we compared mentions of Beluga and GroupMe and these group messaging services that we looked at sort of who was sort of winning the South by Southwest conversations.
This year, we did it as well for different social sharing apps, as well as mobile platforms. So, that sort of competitive angle, I think, usually gets people interested and we have a lot of data about within that big conversation about South by Southwest, how are different start ups or new technologies being discussed.
Andrew: It’s a great angle and I can see anyone who’s got data, a data company who’s listening to us thinking ‘Well, I can do this with my data. I could present it in interesting ways that expand on a conversation that people are already having.’
But does it lead to customers or just name recognition and blogging and links to you?
Adam: It absolutely leads to customers. Sometimes it’s not a direct, you know, the link from Mashable led to somebody to our website that then submitted a trial request and became a $5,000 a month customer. It’s not always that clear of a connection but we do hear these stories all of the time.
I remember one time early on when we did our first CES analysis. I can not remember the name of the Agency but I was on the phone with somebody from a big marketing agency and they said, “You know, my boss told me to check you guys out because we had Senior CES analysis that was on ReadWriteWeb. We put it in a PowerPoint presentation for our client – I think the client was LG because we had looked at all of the mobile brands, all the different tech brands and compared their overall conversation at CES – I thought wow, that’s really compelling because not only is our data going out in the public domain, but maybe some of our potential customers are finding it compelling enough that they’re using it internally to tell a story. Then when they see that, they find it interesting and want more, they can reach out to us and talk about using our software on a larger scale.
Andrew: You had Alaskan Airlines, right?
Adam: Alaska Airlines.
Adam: You don’t fly to Seattle enough, Andrew.
Andrew: I don’t, actually. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Seattle. Neil tried to get me to move to Seattle. It was compelling when he told me about it, and then I was in Argentina and I met this group of couples that were all traveling around the world together, and they all started in Seattle. Olivia, my wife, asked them if it’s really that rainy. They had no connections to Seattle any more, they could be open about it. When I heard how gloomy it was, I said I don’t want to live there. Doesn’t it bum you out to be in an environment like that?
Adam: I don’t know how good my microphone is, but there’s a skylight in this room and the rain is beating on it pretty good right now.
Andrew: There you go!
Adam: Seattle has a great culture, great pace of life, great startup community, so a lot of things that help you overcome the rain.
Andrew: Sometimes, having a gloomy outdoors would keep you indoors working a little harder.
Adam: That’s right.
Andrew: So, they were customers of yours and they asked for something that no one had ever asked for, right? Somehow you transitioned. Well, you tell me. You know where I’m going with this. I’m trying to position what I have here in my notes as a question for you.
Adam: So we’re talking about transitioning from the five or ten dollars a month up to a more meaningful price point and a more meaningful profit.
Andrew: Yes, getting them to pay. Now, we talked about how you built the product, we talked about how you got people to pay, including your friends. I wanted to talk about how you increased the price from, I guess it was ten dollars a month back then, to $250 a month. How did you make that transition with them?
Adam: That was the first step up. With RowFeeder, pretty early on, somebody we talked to was a marketing agency in Australia. They were doing research on banks, and they wanted to track keywords around Australian banks. So they emailed us to ask if our solutions could support this kind of scale. We hadn’t really envisioned that kind of ongoing reporting that they were looking for. One of the key features they wanted was to see it in Excel instead of Google Docs.
Andrew: I see.
Adam: This was very early, because we went to Excel quite early on in the process once we started hearing that time and time again. I remember being on the phone with this customer and saying we were going to be introducing what we called an Enterprise version, that was a $250 a month. I didn’t say the price up front. I asked, “What are the features that you need to satisfy the need for this project?” That Excel piece was very critical. So, we asked if it would be worth $250 a month. It was an immediate yes. Likely, we priced it too low if we got an immediate yes.
Andrew: That’s a great lesson there. So, you committed to it, and you launched at $250 a month?
Adam: We didn’t launch. We just provided that service to that customer. We increased the features as we need to do to meet their need. That was the first time we had gone upstream to a higher price point, so that was our first test. Then we started having that conversation with more of our users and people who weren’t our users yet about what it would take to get more value to do things for bigger brands and agencies. We started going up to $250 and $500 price points. The features were still light at the point. Now, we have price points that go to the $5,000 and $10,000 a month range. We’ve built a ton more value.
Andrew: What does someone get for $10,000 a month?
Adam: At those levels you’re talking about a whole lot of social media profiles and a whole lot of data that we’re collecting, and usually some level of custom reporting that you want to integrate with our system. So if you take a really big brand, what they have is – there was a study recently that said the average brand has something like 150 social media profiles. So, if you look at a corporate level at a really large company, they have a lot of data that they need to get about social media, and to tie all that together is really challenging. So, for those bigger accounts, we’re able to charge a higher price point, because there are so many different assets that we’re tracking, and so much data that we’re collecting, that we scale up the price point according to the volumes.
Andrew: Now, I have to say, talking to an enterprise is not as fun and sexy as building consumer products. For example, everyone wants to build the next Instagram that their mother will use, and their friends will talk to them, but there’s so much irrationality, it seems to me, around creating consumer products, especially compared to Enterprise, where it’s very clear- cut. They’re willing to pay you, or they’re willing to have a conversation with you about what they want, where they’ll engage with you and have a back-and-forth, and help you build it out. You know? It’s not just “toss it out there, and see what people get excited about.” Does that –
Andrew: Does it feel that way to you?
Adam: I think it is sexy. I mean, the way I think about it is, most people spend most of their time at work. Right? So, if you think about all the different types of software and technology that you could create and somebody could use, if it’s something that they use in their hours at work, you know, that’s the bulk of their day. So, you can really be a meaningful part of their life. You can make a dent in how they work, and how they behave in the office. And so, we kind of view it as a consumer problem, in a lot of ways, because you’re creating something that somebody wants to use, and you’re trying to improve their life in some way. So, I get excited about the enterprise, because you get to serve that individual, and you get to try to solve their problem, but you also get to charge money, because you’re creating business value.
Andrew: I mean, even myself, I go into the office, and I see, maybe I need to keep track of guests who are coming up. Bob Highler [SP], my mentor, says we need to use QuickBase. Sign up for that, and it’ll set you up. QuickBase costs what, $350 a month? I go, “Great. $350 a month. Here’s my credit card, just keep charging us, and life is good.” I go home that very same day. I look in the app store, and I see an app that goes for $2.99, and I think, “Hmm. $2.99? Maybe, I’ll go for the free version. Maybe, I’ll keep Googling and see if I can come up with another version of something that I can try out. Or, I’ll think about it, and I’ll come back tomorrow.”
So, it’s a whole other mindset. Can you give me an example? I still don’t see what a big customer would pay thousands of dollars for. If you can’t give me a specific customer of yours, maybe you can just make up a customer, an ideal customer, and how they would use you and get $10,000 a month in value from you, or even $5,000?
Adam: Yes. Well, to be clear, the base feature set that we have now is a lot different than just tracking tweets in a spreadsheet, because we have a whole lot of reporting; 20 different reports, we track data from a dozen different data sources. Right? So, the baseline of what you can get from a feature functionality perspective is a lot greater. You can schedule these reports. There’s a lot of sharing internally, [??]
Andrew: You know what? Why don’t we do both? Give me a typical customer who’s paying for the low-end product. What would they pay, and what would they get?
Adam: So, the thing that drives costs for us is how much data you’re pulling into the system. It’s plain and simple: we don’t charge you for more users, it’s all about how much data you’re pulling into the system.
Adam: So, a mid-size business, or a start-up, they might be at $500 a month, which for us, is up to 250,000 fans and followers, and up to 50,000 –
Andrew: How about, use me. I’m a typical customer, I said I’d pay $350 for a QuickBase. QuickBase is a little high, if you ask me, but fine. It’s a business expense, and if we get one hit out of it, then, it’s worth multiples of what we pay, so, I’m happy to do it. What would I come to simply measure it for, and pay you? What would I likely pay, what would I likely be using it for? I just want the audience, and frankly, myself, too, to understand what you’re building and what you’re selling.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. So, Andrew, I’m not going to lie. You’re probably not our ideal customer.
Andrew: Is it because I’m a blogger?
Adam: At $350, yeah, you’re a blogger, you’re a content guy, right? So, at $350 a month, you know, if you’re seeing that as expensive – we’re starting at $500 a month; we’re mainly gearing towards people in the enterprise, or our larger agencies. But, let’s just assume that we could get over those budget issues with you.
Adam: And I would love to have you sign up on this call, if you want to take out your credit card. It would be no problem at all.
Andrew: I like the way you work. OK.
Adam: But, what you would be doing is, how many Twitter followers are you up to now?
Andrew: Twitter followers? I don’t know. 25, 30.
Adam: OK. And you have a Facebook fan page, for mixed reviews as well?
Andrew: Yeah, and I don’t know how many people are on there.
Adam: OK. So, you’ve got an audience of, let’s say, 30,000 people. Some of them are engaging with you online on a regular basis. You’re putting out videos, you’re putting out content that people are re-tweeting. They’re sharing. All right, so, Simply Measured would help you track all that activity, you could say, who’s engaging with me the most; how am I trending week over week or day over day.
Andrew: I’m still not following it. You know what? Can you give me another example? I just want to see a use case, and then, and you know what, how about this, we talked in the top of the interview about AOL and Toms Shoes. What did they do?
Adam: Yeah, great. That’s a great one for it. AOL has been a customer of ours for a while. I mean AOL is actually a great brand. They have a lot of different media properties, like, Huffington Post. Huffington Post is one of the most [??] brands on Twitter. They have million of followers. They tweet once every couple of minutes, and so tons of engagement and sharing is happening in there.
You think about those media properties, they’re tracking all the times that people are mentioning those handles, re-tweeting, clicking through those links. They’re looking at from the social distribution, how are they driving people to the website and how are they driving new audience in social media.
For the specific campaign that we had on our Blog the other day, where they had done a campaign supporting Toms Shoes, Day Without Shoes, which is a really cool program that helps raise awareness for all the kids around the world that don’t have shoes. What they ask is that the consumers take their shoes off for the day and then talk about their experience.
Toms runs this day. What AOL did is that they created a campaign that said if we can reach a million people . . . let’s try to reach a million people with this [hash tag] [before] a day without shoe to raise awareness for this campaign. They used Simply Measure to track everybody that tweeted that hash tag, all the activity, you know, all the influences that tweeted [by it], so, you know, to the celebrity, like when Miley Cyrus mention this, how did that impact the conversation.
They reported back to consumers about how that conversation was happening and evolving and how they were reaching their goal. They also used that data internally to message, this is the kind of brand engagement that we can get online when we do a campaign like this in social media. They showed all the people that talked about it, all the downstream traffic that they were able to get from it, all the influences that were able to talk about that campaign and then ultimately the success of the program.
Adam: I see. I see, so, if they were going to buy ads online and funnel them to their website, they would want Google analytic to tell them how effective each of those ads was and try to figure out what users were doing after they came in. If they’re doing it on social media, specifically, they come to Simply Measured where they can get data on this and figure out what’s working, how they can position their message better next time or differently next time.
Andrew: Exactly, yeah, what kind of content’s working; who are the types of people that you’re reaching; how do you stack up to your competitors or compare in the market. When you’re a big brand and you’re investing a lot time . . . we have brands that we work with that have social media teams of 20, 30, 40 people that are managing Facebook and Twitter and Google Plus and [??]. You really need to get some measurement about what’s happening so you can optimize and make better decisions about being in those channels going forward.
Adam: Why is lack of marketing such a big issue? I was looking a my notes in preparation for this interview and seeing that you mentioned a lot that you don’t have a marketing budget. Has that stopped you from doing anything?
Andrew: You know, I think it goes back to when we initially started the company and we were lightly capitalized. In order to drive initial awareness, we couldn’t go out and buy a bunch of ad orders or pay for a traffic or, you know, hire somebody to do outside sales that would be on an airplane everyday. I think that when you don’t have a marketing budget, it’s important to find these organic, kind of scrappy ways to reach people and engage with your customer base and have them come to you.
Early on and through the life of the company we’ve been really focused on how to organically reach our target customers without spending money on marketing.
Adam: What’s the lowest point? Right now we kept talking about how the company just kept growing and growing and growing. You talked to potential customers. They gave you great feedback. The product kept improving, improving. You talked to customers online. They signed up, and then they wanted more, and you were able to charge them more. The revenue kept growing and growing.
It seems like everything is just going up, but there must’ve been a couple of low points. What’s the lowest point with Simply Measured?
Andrew: Yeah, you know, there are always challenges. I mean, early on I remember when we had little capital and we just knew that we had to get to $10,000 / month was our initial goal just so we could kind of cover our costs and keep the ball moving. We were fortunate that we were able to reach that very quickly and keep ramping. There were a lot of challenges. I’m trying to think of one specific low point. It’s good that it’s hard to think of the low points, you want to sort of forget those at times.
Andrew: Wasn’t there an issue where there was doubt about how big this market could be, you guys in social media, the kind of customers you were going to might run out, the kind of growth in social media might eventually slow, anything like that?
Adam: Yeah. I remember we were early on in the life cycle, before we had transitioned from the early versions of RowFeeder to what Simply Measured is now, there were some of these questions about how big can this company be. We actually had some later stage companies, bigger companies, look at sort of doing an acqui-hire of our team. I think that’s where you start to say, you have to ask yourself, can we really build and sustain a meaningful business. People are sort of talking to you about acquisitions, these acqui- hires that you hear so much about, that can raise some of those conversations. It’s hard to be honest with yourself and get through that. If you’re hearing things from others that this might not be so big, or they have their own agenda and they’re telling you where you’re going you’re going to run into a lot of head room, you’re going to face a lot of problems. Smart people that you respect, that can cast out, and that can create low points. We were obviously fortunate that we were able to move past that and continue to keep grounded in our market.
Andrew: How did you move past that?
Adam: I think it was continuing to be grounded in our market, and really be objective. So rather than letting the opinions of different people take you off course and your passion being over here, and their sort of opinion moving you around, to really stay grounded in the market and continue to focus on asking customers the hard questions about what is it that’s valuable about what we do and what is it that is providing enough value that you’ll be able to pay money for this solution. When you focus on that, and you focus on really listening to the core of what makes you unique and what you do better than anybody else in the world, and then how to go scale that, that’s where you can really get beyond that, and you can really start to see how you can apply that to be a big company.
Andrew: How are you different now? We talked about how, the previous failure, that you could change who you were, and how you approached business. Let’s talk about Simply Measured. How are you different now having gone through this experience?
Adam: I’ve definitely, we’ve talked about this throughout, but I’ve tried to find that balance of entrepreneurial passion with market objectivity. That’s where I really think I would fall. Both in my first company, and through Simply Measured, of trying to strike that right balance. There’s a lot of talk in the entrepreneurial community about, everybody’s going to tell you no, and that doesn’t mean anything, and people are going to tell you your idea’s wrong. It’s your passion and your drive that’s going to carry this through, and you have to do that despite all of the naysayers. Sometimes those naysayers might be right so you don’t also want to go the other way and you’re listening to every no, and every negative piece of opinion of feedback. Really striking that balance between being objective and grounded in reality as well as having that passion to carry yourself through those hard times, and sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel that sort of makes your vision unique and special.
Andrew: All right, I’ve got one last question. I just scribbled it down as a follow up to what you just said, and also to make sure that I get a clear understanding of everything that’s come up to this point, but first, I have to tell you guys, if you heard what we talked about at the beginning part of this interview about talking to customers, we at mixergypremium.com have a great course that I recommend. It’s with, shoot who was it, do you know who was it that did, Neil Patel’s company for KISSmetrics, what was her name who did those customer survey conversations? She did pretty much everything at KISSmetrics. Why am I not coming up with a name here? I’ll come up with a name.
Adam: I’m blanking on the name, too.
Andrew: I’ve said this so many times, I’m sure people in the audience must be thinking of her name right now. Cindy Alvarez. All the emails originally at KISSmetrics were coming from Cindy Alvarez. Neil Patel was one of the co- founders. I rarely heard emails from him from KISSmetrics, but Cindy seemed to be running the show. Any way I asked her to come on here and teach how they had conversations with customers about what KISSmetrics should be; what problems they were having, how they were analyzing their business, etc. And, she used all that data to help Neil and Hiten, the co-founders to build this incredible company that today is KISSmetrics. Anyway, if you want to know how to talk to your customers the way Cindy Alvarez did, or the way that Adam Schoenfeld does, I recommend you check out the course that we did with Cindy Alvarez. It’s part of your Mixergy Premium membership. You just go to Mixergy.com/premium. It’s already there, it’s part of your membership. If you’re not a member, shame on you! You should be a member. I hope you become one soon so that you can join us and also take great courses like this and see the real impact on your business.
Oh, there’s another one I actually want to recommend. It’s one that I might have to remove soon. It’s with Brian Horne, it’s got some black hat SEO in there. I asked him at the end of the interview, are you sure? At the end of the course that he recorded with us.
I said, “You revealed some things here about search engine optimization that are on the dark side. People don’t usually talk about it publicly. Will this hurt your reputation?”
And he said, “Andrew, you know what? I’m happy to have fun here with your audience. If it’s premium only, let’s go for it.”
I put it in there. If he changes his mind and says that it’s bad for his reputation, then I’m going to pull it down. But until then, it’s part of Mixergypremium.com and I hope you go and grab it right now.
All right. You’re a salesman by the way. Before I ask you this last question, what did you think of my pitch there? What could I improve? I feel like there’s a lot that I could improve. But what did you see that I should focus on?
Adam: You know what I liked is that you gave it in context. Right? So, it wasn’t out of the blue. A lot about what we’ve been discussing is talking with customers. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Andrew: All right. As long as there’s no glaring errors.
Adam: I’ll give you a full analysis. Nothing struck me as being too off.
Andrew: You listen to these interviews, at least. What do you listen for? Why do you listen to these interviews?
Adam: I like hearing different experiences from different industries and trying to look at the common threads between entrepreneurs and the challenges they have. It sort of helps you understand that these things are common, what you’re going through. I like hearing how other people have solved problems that I’m facing.
Andrew: Right. Alright, here’s a final question. What advice do you have for someone who wants to talk to customers and get the kind of insights that you got, the ones that helped you build SimplyMeasured and figure out how to add features to it, and price it? Someone’s watching this, or listening to this, and says, “I want to do the same thing”. What advice do you have for them?
Adam: I would say what we did really well was building that community first. So, anything you can do to build either your personal network; like people that you’re having coffee with once a week. Or online, like we did with Twitter and through our blogging. That sort of creates the foundations that you can communicate your vision to a base of people. Then when you have to go ask those harder questions like, “Does this product give you value?” “Would you pay?” You have either a direct network that you can tap into. Or, you can ask those people for referrals. So, I think having a channel of who you can talk to is really important.
Then, I think it’s just important to be really, really honest about what you’re hearing. I think what a lot of entrepreneurs want to do is they want to take what a customer says, they want to twist those words into what they think the right answer is. Or, they want to ask questions such that they’re going to get a certain answer that supports their thesis. I think you want to be careful to ask questions that give you the honest truth, even if it might be hard to hear. And really listen for that.
Andrew: Yeah. I get that. I’ve done that myself. You ask questions looking for people to justify your theory, instead of listening for what they really want. All right. That’s great advice, Adam. Thank you for doing this interview. And, if anyone wants to go and check out the site we’ve been talking about, it’s SimplyMeasured.com.
All right. Thank you for doing this interview. Thank you for watching. Bye.