Don’t fail because you’re looking for a good idea – with Brennan Dunn

This is the story of an entrepreneur who failed because he looked for good ideas.

Then, things turned around for him when he decided to look for and address people’s pain.

Brennan Dunn is the founder of Planscope, a project management tool built for consultants.

I invited him to talk about how he did it.

Watch the FULL program


About Brennan Dunn

Brennan Dunn is the founder of Planscope, a project management tool built for consultants.

Raw transcript


Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I am the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart, and home of over 1,000 entrepreneurs who come here to tell you their stories so that you can learn from them, build your success story, and then hopefully, you’ll come back here and tell others how you did it so you can pass it on to them.

In this interview, we’re going to hear the story of an entrepreneur who says he failed because he kept looking for good, cool ideas. Then things turned around for him when he decided to look to address people’s pain. Once he addressed their pains, things worked out. His name is Brennan Dunn. He is the founder of, among other things, Planscope, a project management tool built for consultants. I invited him here to talk about his experience.

The man who’s paying me to do this interview is Scott Edward Walker. He is the entrepreneur’s lawyer. I will tell you later why you should care about that, and why he is the person to talk to, and why you should go to walkercorporatelaw.com when you’re looking for a lawyer.

First, I got to welcome Brennan. Thanks for being here.

Brennan: How’s it going, Andrew?

Andrew: When you were building your business based on the cool model, do you have an example of a company or a product that you built?

Brennan: Yes. I was consulting at the time, so I built stuff for other people for a living. I had this great idea to build an Airbnb, but for food. I mean, imagine. I live kind of in the suburbs. We don’t really have good food. We have an Indian family down the street and I know they’re cooking amazing curries and everything out of their house. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if they could say, hey, I’m making this meal. I have three seats for sale. You could just have a marketplace for homemade, really good, authentic food.

Something about where I am in Southeastern Virginia. Our international food is not really the best. But it’s a very diverse … a lot of diverse people here. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if Airbnb meets homemade meals, right?

Built it. Got all obsessed with the code, with the glamor, I guess, of it. It totally flopped.

Andrew: Why do you think it flopped?

Brennan: I think it flopped for a number of reasons. The first is marketplaces are just hard, right? Say somebody lists up a meal at their house and no one buys. They’re not going to come back. Likewise, if somebody’s hungry for Thai food and they can’t find Thai food, they’re not going to come back. It’s hard to get that initial fit between both the provider and the consumer.

On top of that, it’s just a lot of things that I’ve learned that are really hard. It’s a consumer app. It’s really hard to, again, see that marketplace. I would have needed a lot of funding, a lot of marketing push behind it, to really promote it. For one person on the side, it was just impossible to do.

It sounded great on paper. It passed the whole friend-that-would-be-cool test.

Andrew: Did you find yourself imagining I’m going to be like Brian and Joe and the Airbnb guys. I’ll have this thing that’s worth a lot. Did you get yourself into that place?

Brennan: Yeah. I mean, you can’t help but be. You don’t hear about the thousands of failures. Yeah. I wanted something a little more predictable and reliable. Playing the start-up lotto wasn’t that for me.

Andrew: That makes sense. All right. The thing about you, though, is you’re not, or you weren’t at the time, a novice entrepreneur who didn’t know what he was doing, and it still didn’t work out for you. You’re a guy who actually grew up in an entrepreneurial household, right?

Brennan: Yes.

Andrew: From an early age. What did your dad do?

Brennan: My dad, he owned a timeshare company.

Andrew: You know what? As a kid, that was one of my fantasies, to sell timeshares, because you’re selling $20,000 products to people who just came in because they wanted a free ticket and didn’t even want the sales pitch.

Brennan: He didn’t sell timeshare. He bought or he resold timeshares from people who got scammed into buying it.

Andrew: Got you. Okay.

Brennan: You bought a timeshare, but you’re like, what the hell was I doing? Why did I do this? He would take it off your plate and find a buyer for you.

Andrew: I guess he had companies that were buying it in bulk from him.

Brennan: Did a lot of direct mail. He bought lists of people who had just bought timeshares, direct mailed them [??] the sales team. In the ’80s and ’90s, it was a very big thing.

Andrew: Yeah. It really was. Do you remember one thing that you learned from him about sales or about direct sales via mail?

Brennan: Yeah. I used to think, these postcards are so cheesy. He would put this big smiley face on it, this hand-drawn smiley face. I’m like, this just looks like crap. But it worked. He tested this over the years. It’s funny because a lot of the things I do online are similar in a lot of ways, right?

Andrew: Give me an example of a smiley face that I, on the outside would look at and go, “What is Brandon doing,” but Brandon knows what he’s doing.

Brennan: I think the long-form sales letter was the hardest thing for me, when I started selling most of my products by having paragraphs and paragraphs of information, instead of the typical shorter form stuff that we all like.

Andrew: I get it.

Brennan: But they don’t work as well.

Andrew: Alright, and you aren’t just a guy who grew up in a family, in a household, with an entrepreneur and were picking this stuff up. You actually built a successful company yourself before this Air B and B for food, the freelance business that you launched. How big did it get?

Brennan: So I went out freelancing. My wife got pregnant. We moved to Virginia. I had to quit my job in Miami, so we moved up here, and I started just moonlighting. Well, I started moonlighting because I was working remotely, and then I went full time freelance, and it went really well. Before I knew it, I had a team of eight subcontractors. We all worked on the same project, and then literally overnight, the investors on that project said, “Hey, we’re not putting any more money into it.” So, it went back to just me.

Andrew: Wait, why did you get investors into a freelance business?

Brennan: You know, it was my client’s investors.

Andrew: Oh, I see. Your clients lost their funding, that means you lost your clients, that means you went from a big team of eight people to just you again.

Brennan: The good news is they were all contractors, so it’s easy enough to part ways, but then I decided, “You know what, I’m going to do it right. I’m going to have an office, I’m going to have employees,” and I hit the reset button a few months later and I had eleven full-time employees, including myself.

Andrew: Okay.

Brennan: And I had a proper consultancy.

Andrew: Wow. How did you build up your client list?

Brennan: I did a lot of referrals. We did a lot of education-based marketing, so we would do seminars, we would host a lot of events, and get people around us as a company.

Andrew: Could you give me an example of an event? I have some freelancers or consulting companies who are listening to us here. How about a tip or two for how to get clients, because I know they’re listening?

Brandon. We really played the long-tail game. What we would do is we would host an event, knowing that the majority of people in the audience are not going to be clients of ours. That wasn’t the goal.

Andrew: What kind of event?

Brennan: We would do things on, like, how to do internet marketing, or how to hire a software company, or does your app need an iPhone or android app and what’s the difference, you know, a lot of these more, “just the why,” just like the informational seminars. I actually got this from, you know I’m on a few different meet-up groups, and one of the local entrepreneur groups sent me an email about this copyright attorney coming in to talk about everything related to DMCA, and all these different online legal things, which I knew nothing about. I’m like, “Whatever, I’ll go.

There’s networking. It could help me get new business, and I’ll learn a little bit about copyright.” What ended up happening was I learned a lot from the presenter. I never had a need to hire her, but I referred a lot of my clients to her. So, I realized the same thing could probably play true in what I was doing.

So, we did a lot of these events and people would attend, and a lot of the people attending weren’t ever end clients, but they were referral sources. It got us work for Mitt Romney, we did work for Peta, we did work for companies all over the world, all over the country, not because we had any direct connection to them, but because we increased our surface area of luck so much that we had all these referral sources.

Andrew: I see. How’d you get people to come into the audience and watch you talk about how to hire an agency?

Brennan: At first, it was harder because we didn’t have an audience of our own. What we would do is we would go to the Chamber of Commerce and say, “Hey, can we present to your members?” Or we’d go to the local groups, like B and I, who’d done the hard work in building up that list. We just siphoned off their audience.

Andrew: I used to go to B and I meetings out of curiosity. B and I meetings are meetings that meet once a week or a couple of times a month, and there’s a lawyer, a real estate broker, a chiropractor, et cetera, and the whole goal of the meeting is for them to share referrals. So, the lawyer might say, “I have someone here who I work with who told me he has a bad back. I’m going give a referral to the chiropractor.” The chiropractor says, “The guy who has a bad back who came into my office last week needs a lawyer because he got hurt by a car.” The lawyer then takes that referral.

So you would go and speak to these groups? They tend to be amateurs at internet.

Brennan: They are.

Andrew: They are. So what you’re telling me is they weren’t the perfect clients for you, but by spreading yourself out among all these people, one of their friends, one of their business contacts became your client. How big did you get the agency? How much revenue are we talking about here?

Brennan: We did, the last year, we did close to two million. Our payroll was a 100K a month, so the margins weren’t huge, but, I mean payroll was our biggest expense. So we were doing about two million a year.

Andrew: So, why even bother with software I like, the software we’re going to be talking about, Planscope, with the course that you taught how to hire agencies and so on. Why bother with that? It seems like you have a winner.

Brennan: We had a big payroll. All of our projects were transactional. We had no recurring revenue. I’d wake up and think, I need to bring in 100K this month. How am I going to do that? It got easier. We worked a lot on our sales pipeline, but it was still a lot of pressure. That’s still a lot of mouths to feed and money to have coming into the business each month.

I was looking around. I saw people selling products online with SAS businesses and subscription revenue. They didn’t seem to have the same pressure that I had running my team. As somebody who built these things for other people professionally, I had all the resources I needed to build it myself. I just wasn’t doing it for myself. I was doing it for other people.

Andrew: I see. All right. That tends to be the reason why consultants end up building products.

Brennan: Yeah.

Andrew: Is it at that point that you started to build out products that you thought would be cool?

Brennan: It was during that. I built a few different things that all kind of flopped throughout my career as a consultant.

Andrew: I see. How about another idea? Another cool idea that didn’t work out the way you expected.

Brennan: Yeah. I had a friend who grew orchids. I thought, maybe I’ll do some out-of-the-box orchid distributor website thingy, right? Because, I mean, these people were selling them for a good amount of money. They [??] space.

But what I realized is I have no way of contacting, finding orchid people. I don’t know how to find these people. I know one person. That was kind of the typical thing, is there was a disconnect between me being able to find these people, me knowing is this something they’ll pay for. I think a lot of engineers think this is an obvious need. Let’s build it. But we don’t actually think, is this something . . .

Now, everyone tries to sell to restaurants, and doctors, and everything else. But we don’t always realize that they don’t always see that they have a problem. They don’t always see that these aren’t people who buy software, maybe. It’s an uphill battle. I see a lot of people who fail doing that.

Andrew: You and I are talking how coming up with a cool idea led to failure for you. Anyone who goes through the Mixergy archives will hear that story over and over and over again, with a few exceptions. But the vast majority of companies that are started by people who just think, hey, this is a really cool idea, someone should build this, I’ll go ahead and do it, tend to just bomb. We still see that they bomb, and we still will continue. People listening to us will still continue coming up with an Airbnb for smoothies or an Airbnb for something else. Why do you think we as entrepreneurs tend to keep making this one mistake over and over and over again?

Brennan: I think it’s really easy for us to build one of these. Nothing’s stopping you. If you have a computer and knowledge on how to code, you can do it. The ultimate test is money. If somebody will pay for it, if this is a problem that’s costing somebody money, that if they fix this problem, they make more money or lose less money. That’s the formula that if you can find something that works around that, that’s typically key to success, at least in the B to B space.

I think we all want the flashy, vastly scalable whatevers, but we don’t realize that it’s not just about building an app. The product itself is just one part of the equation. It’s not the full the thing.

Andrew: I find when I get into those places too, it’s creative and fun, and I can’t wait for this to be out in the world the way I imagined it in my head. That’s why I continue.

The other thing is I don’t realize that I’m doing it. I think I’m making a sound business decision. I have enough experience to decide where to go. I have enough understanding to just build it out. I’ll just sit and I’ll build it. If I explain it to you, I’m not as good at explaining as I am as showing you. Why bother explaining it to you, or a potential customer, or anyone else? I’ll just do it. Does that seem like it’s your experience too?

Brennan: Yeah. You go into stealth mode. You keep it to yourself. Maybe you ask some friends. My mom telling me it’s a great idea or my friends telling me it’s a great idea, that doesn’t mean anything. I need people who say I will pay you money for that to tell me that and to actually give me a check.

Andrew: Before you even build it?

Brennan: Yeah. I’m a big fan now of presales. I never was in the past.

Andrew: I’m going to come back and ask you about how you presold because I want to see this process and I want to introduce it to the audience. Part of this whole new attitude came to you from Amy Hoy. I love Amy Hoy. Her understanding of how to build a business is one of the most solid understandings, one of the most responsible ways of teaching how to build a business, especially for developers. Does she even work with non- developers?

Brennan: Not as… I mean you get the occasional non-developer who goes through her class. But, for the most part, you need to be capable of kind of self-doing anything you do.

Andrew: Coding it up. I think part of the reason why I respect her approach and why she has such a strong approach is she is a developer herself. So, she doesn’t think in B.S. She thinks in structure, in code, in solid understanding of if I do this in a wacky way it’s just not going to work.

All right. You took her course. What did you learn from her?

Brennan: I think what I learned from her is that you want… Basically, what I just mentioned about how you want to find a problem that people have that is costing them money. You know, it’s not making them as profitable as they could be.

That’s naturally going to mean you’re going to be selling to businesses. Because consumers have a really hard time understanding the value of anything. I get this myself. Like if I’m buying email marketing software I’m willing to spend thousands on that, but then I’ll go downstairs and refuse to pay 99 cents for an iPhone app.

Andrew: Yeah, I know what you mean.

Brennan: It’s a different mental switch.

Andrew: Yeah.

Brennan: When you can focus on businesses and you can look at what problems do they have and more importantly what problems are they talking about, what are things that… I found when I was building Planscope. I would go and Google why does Basecamp suck, what are people complaining about, why is Basecamp…

Andrew: You would go and Google Basecamp sucks to see why people said that another project management, Basecamp, didn’t work for them. Then, you understood what from that?

Brennan: I would learn well maybe it’s too general purpose, maybe it doesn’t take into account time and money – which as a consultant those are the two constraints that you’re always fighting with, or the three constraints – time, money, and scope.

I started to learn really about what are the common things that people keep talking about. I would go into forums. I would go to Reddit threads, Hacker News discussions, all these different places and kind of just be a fly on the wall and see what are people complaining about. Like, what is making people’s lives as consultants miserable…

Andrew: I see.

Brennan: …and respond to that.

Andrew: And if they’re so pained by it that they’re willing to post on Hacker News, on other sites, and complain about it then it means that they have a need deep enough that they’d be willing to pay to make go away.

Brennan: That’s right.

Andrew: That’s what you were looking for.

Brennan: Yeah. I mean if you can tell that it directly affects their bottom line, that to me is… Like, who wouldn’t spend a dollar to make ten?

Andrew: But, Brennan, I understand that once you have this idea for a project management that will be different than the software that already exists and different from the market leaders, that going online and understanding people’s complaints would help you sharpen that product, will help you understand how to differentiate it.

The question I have is why project management. What did you do that led you to understand that project management is software that needs to exist in the world and that people are willing to pay for that existence?

Brennan: The first thing is it’s a proven market. There are so many project management apps that it’s a problem that a lot of people have. There’s a million different solutions for it.

But, what that means to me at least is that there are so many different work flows and needs that as long as I could just find my little niche in all of that, and focus on that, and don’t just compete with the feature sets of everyone else, respond to the problems that I’m getting, and respond to them clearly, that was my driving force.

My constraints were is this something that I’m just copying from somebody else. Or, is this something that is actually a direct response to something that somebody said hey this is a problem I have or this is a problem that is keeping me from being the best consultant I can be.

Andrew: So, Brennan, what you’re saying is that this, the original seed of the idea, came to you because you said there are so many other programs in this space already?

Brennan: Yeah. I mean I as a consultant running a team tried most of them. I knew that… A lot of it was from that kind of passive harvesting of pain points online. But, a lot of it frankly was myself. It was problems that I had running my team. It was problems that I… I mean I knew a lot of other agency owners, and they were having the same issues.

Andrew: I see.

Brennan: Every project manager’s goals…

Andrew: So the seed came from you saying I’m not happy with the software that already exists.

Brennan: That’s right.

Andrew: The validation and the depth of understanding came from trolling sites and seeing what are people complaining about. Does that seem right to you?

Brennan: That does. I think it’s risky to say if I have a problem then other people have that same problem. It’s a good indicator, but you really want to confirm that, I think, before you really say this is a big problem for me. I wish there was Airbnb for food, but until you discover that there are other people that have that problem and it’s affecting them the way it’s affecting you I think it’s risky to just rely on your own intuition.

Andrew: Okay, so if I were to make a set of steps here in response to this interview, the first step is to find a pain anywhere. It could be your personal pain. And in your case it was. Or maybe it’s something that you overheard. Or maybe it’s something that you’ve learned by watching someone else but you find that original pain. And then you start to validate it by looking online to see if anyone else has a similar pain. And keep increasing your depth of understanding by being aware of what kind of pain they’re having.

What are they complaining about? Is it that the software is too bulky? Is it that it has too many features? Is it that it doesn’t have enough features? Is there one feature specifically that it’s missing? In your case you found that one of the big ones was project management needs to also take into account that the people doing the work on that project have to get paid by the hour.

Brennan: Exactly. Money concerns. I mean. That’s exactly it. Yeah.

Andrew: But there’s still even more because you told me about preselling. Did you start preselling plan scope?

Brennan: I didn’t. I did build up a list immediately. So.

Andrew: How?

Brennan: A line of code. I put up a slash agent. A landing page that would basically harvest email addresses. I would promote that to my network which, at the time, was pretty small but what I started to do was I started blogging responses to these pain points that were coming up in forums. And on Hacker News and everything. And what I would do is I would basically respond to comments on my blog. And then I would link to that permalink of that response in that blog post of mine in the forum or wherever I was.

So I would say hey you’re talking about this issue. I actually have some thoughts from running my agency on scope creek. Here’s a link to a blog piece I recently wrote on this. And that kind of moved people over to my blog which then had call to actions for opting in to hear more about plan scope. So I built up a list of about 300 people doing. [xx] I don’t do that anymore but at first it worked. Andrew: Forgive me but I’m not understanding how you did this. So, you would blog. You would see somebody complain online. Then you would blog about it on your company or personal site.

Brennan: The plans go blog.

Andrew: The plans go blog which existed before the site launched so you’d blog the answer and then you’d go back to the forum or hacker news or whatever and you’d say I wrote an answer to this. Here’s a link to the answer.

Brennan: Yeah. I mean I would. I would say it a little. I wouldn’t just post a link. It wouldn’t just be a link. It would be. Once I saw that a lot of people. That this was something that people cared about. That was a signal to me that maybe this deserves a more well thought out response than a comment. Right. On a message board. So I would write that.

And then I would use that as kind of ammo whenever this question would come up again and again and again which it would.

Andrew: What’s an example of question that you can answer with a blog post? I would think that the answer needs to be I will build this software. Go buy it.

Brennan: No. So it could be how do you communicate with. What happens when your client at the eleventh hour wants to add more stuff and they don’t realize that it’s going to cost them more? So it was more informational. It wasn’t about like tools or anything to do that. It was more to build up that kind of authority around me knowing a lot about what it takes to work with clients.

And the response to all of that was well I built a tool that is in line with this philosophy that you’ve been reading about. And you know, when I had the sales page up for. Well not the sales page but the op-tum page for Planscope. There were no screen shots. There was nothing about software or features. I was throwing the words that people were literally using again and again and again right back at them. And I would throw the pain right in front of them and I would say if this is something that affects you also you are going to want to hear about this product that I’m building.

Andrew: I see. Gotcha. Answer their issue by teaching something and then saying I’m building software that does this. I’m looking at an early version of your site and I see a few different payment structures. Freelancer which is for one developer. Costs 12 bucks a month. A small team up to three developers. 24 bucks a month. And so on. Was that up on the site right from the start.

Brennan: Once I knew what the tears would be yes. At first, no. Because you want to make it obvious that this is a paid product. You know, even if you don’t have the product to be paid for yet. You want to at least signal that.

Andrew: That you are going to be charging. Even before you know what the product is. Okay. And so this landing page was built before the software was even built. You were collecting email addresses of potential customers. 300 customers. Was that enough proof that there was a business around here or, in retrospect, was that not enough?

Brennan: I think it was because one of the differences that I did which I don’t see nearly enough people doing. What ends up happening a lot is you have this like coming soon page for a product and you put in your email. And you don’t hear anything from them until it is released. When it is released you are like. Who are the. I don’t even remember who these are the. I don’t even remember who these people are.

I made it a point to email these people constantly and ask them here’s what I’m thinking. Is this a problem that you have? And what do you think about my way of responding to this problem? So I got people really excited. I really delved up that excitement and learned a lot in the process. So I definitely think in terms of learning about it, it isn’t really a problem. [??]

Andrew: Okay. Okay. Let me do a quick sponsorship message here and then I want to ask you about how long it took you to actually act on all this feedback you were getting. And whether it drove you nuts to get so much feedback? First I have to say thank you to my sponsor, Scott Edward Walker. He is the entrepreneurs lawyer.

When you’re building a business you need a lawyer who understands the issues that you as an entrepreneur face. And that lawyer is Scott Edward Walker of Walkercorporatelaw.com. Brennan, do you have any advice for entrepreneurs about how to protect themselves legally? What kind of lawyer to get? Or any legal advice? Instead of me doing a plug, we’ll ask you for that.

Brennan: So, I think there’s consulting legal advice which is you should always. I still talk to people these days who don’t use an attorney. Don’t have a contract. They don’t have. They just do it all on a handshake. Worst idea you can do. You definitely want to have a lawyer look over your contract. Get it air tight. For software, unfortunately I use my same lawyer for that. I really didn’t change anything.

Andrew: But isn’t expensive to go to a lawyer and say I just got a client for 10,000 bucks. I need you to put together a contract for me to make sure that I’m protected. And then you know your lawyer is going to go overboard with all kinds of stuff. That then your client is going to read and go I’m taking a risk on you here and now you’re giving me this crazy long contract that makes sure everything is protected.

And now I have to go back to my lawyer and hire a lawyer to read this contract, you know. And that’s going to cost me another 1,000. So basically I’m paying you $11,000. You know what I’m talking about. Does it get to be too much?

Brennan: Yes. And my first contract that I got created for me when I started my consultancy. Paid 15 grand. I had no idea what I was doing. I paid 15 grand for a contract. For what looked like boiler plate copy. Right? What I would do these days is there’s a lot of really good templates. But don’t use. Like use the template but get it signed off. Like pay your attorney a few hours to actually tweak it for you.

Andrew: Got it. Get a template. Take it to your lawyer. Say here’s what I want to hand out. Is this okay? Boom.

Brennan: Make it local friendly and everything else. For me. Much better than doing it from scratch.

Andrew: All right. If you need a lawyer to look over your agreements. To help you set up your company right. To make sure that when it comes time for you to raise money. To buy a company. To sell your company. To hire employees and give them shares in your business and all that stuff. You want a lawyer who would understand it. Who’s done it many times before. Who’s in the space. Who’s working with the kinds of lawyers that are probably going to sue you or probably going to come and work out an acquisition agreement with you. You want a lawyer who has all that experience. That man is Scott Edward Walker. He is the entrepreneur’s lawyer.

Look here. Let me give you the URL. I’m not going to tell you nearly enough about him. You’re going to want to go and do your own research. Here’s the URL that you should go look up. Walkercorporatelaw.com. Walkercorporatelaw.com. Brennan, when you get 300 pieces of feedback from people. It can frickin’ drive you nuts. If I were to open myself up to feedback here I guarantee you. I have a very tacky audience.

They would say Brennan should have been in 3D. You know. All right. Brennan should have been in 3D. And someone else should say no Brennan should be no video because video is too tough and it’s taken up Android. Only audio. And then someone else will say why is the lighting bad. Why don’t you bring it to? You know what I’m talking about. It goes crazy. You don’t even know where to go. So when you have all these people who are counting on you to build your software and you have 300 potential feedback opportunities. How do you keep it all straight?

Brennan: You look for a consensus. You normalize it all. You look for common themes and you basically disregard the outliers. That’s what I did. I couldn’t be. Bloat is a big problem in software. So I had to be very laser focused on solving that problem. And I had to see that people were agreeing with this problem and here’s their feedback and how to solve it. And look for patterns.

Andrew: Okay. What’s a pattern that you noticed right away?

Brennan: One pattern I found was transparency with clients. So a lot of clients. The first time they would realize what you were charging was when they go their invoice. And one person said it best and I actually agree with this. They were like it’s kind of like being in a taxi cab where the meters broken. Right. Like you hate it when you get to your destination and they give you a number. You don’t know how like are they just pulling it out of thin air. Like how did they come up with that number? It would be much better if my clients could see before I issue them a big invoice, why they’re spending money or what they’re spending money on.

Andrew: Got it. So as they’re going through the project management software, interacting with the work that you’re doing. Making adjustments to the scope of the project that they’re hiring you the freelancer to do. They also get so see their rate go up and down based on the work that you’re doing and the request that they’re making.

Brennan: Most issues have to do with bad vindication.

Andrew: Got ya.

Brennan: I realized the tool just had to facilitate communication. One tool isn’t going to fix everything, but it can help.

Andrew: How long did it take you to do that, to actually launch the first version after all this feedback?

Brennan: Four months.

Andrew: Four months, Okay.

Brennan: It was very basic at first it only had to solve that one problem. I wasn’t working to make it so it worked with ever possible need.

Andrew: I understand why you wouldn’t want to wait a year. But why four months as opposed to maybe one month, and launch it faster?

Brennan: I was running a company, so I had to. I didn’t have a lot of time.

Andrew: Okay. In the meantime do I understand that you were also doing courses?

Brennan: I did courses later.

Andrew: Later okay, so this was the project that you were focused on. You finally launch it to this audience of people how did it do?

Brennan: It didn’t pay the bills for a while. I mean, with Saas or any subscription revenue it’s hard. Because when you’re making 200 bucks a month off of it, and your growth rate is 10 or 20% you’re going to make 240 next month. Then 300 maybe the next month, its slow growth.

My goal was to make this more of a living, like something I could live off of. I now look at these things as really well performing assets, like and investment right. But before I was looking at it as an income replacer. It took a while.

Andrew: Were you shocked when you launched it, and you only got a few hundred dollars, worth of orders? As opposed to the thousands that you need in order to survive?

Brennan: In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been. But you know you always think that you’re going to have hit hockey stick, and it will be making thousands and thousands a month and then you’re set. No, it didn’t.

Andrew: I see.

Brennan: It took time.

Andrew: How did you even know then that it was the right product? I mean, four months of work, you launch it to people who you should see get excited about it. To people who are representing the bigger community that should have been even more excited about it. Because they were complaining online, they were talking about it in forums. You were nursing them and understanding them and so on.

You still only got hundreds of dollars. How did you know that it was a potentially good idea and not say, ”Hey you know what? People aren’t really willing to pay for this, they’re happy with Basecamp.”

Brennan: Well, because the people paying for it were very, happily paying for it, they were more successful, as a result. I just had an issue with reach, it was a reach issue. It was getting more of those people, finally more.

Andrew: I see. So you’re saying I have a small audience, so it make sense that I have a customer base. If I could just grow that audience from 300 to 3000 to 30,000 etc. Then I could have a good percentage of them sign up, and I know that they’ll be happy because if this first version made my small group happy the next version will make the bigger group happy.

Brennan: That’s exactly what I did next.

Andrew: I got it. All right but you still you need to bring in some money. So is this why looking at a collection of websites here like Freelancers Guild, like a skill share course, like a consultancy Master Class and the rest. Is that what you did to keep yourself going while you were waiting for Planscope to work?

Brennan: Yeah, the real interesting thing about running Planscope was I started getting customer feedback and support tickets that had nothing to do with the product. They were about, ”Hey you run an agency can you give me tips on pricing.” I kept getting a lot of this.

I realized I had a lot of these email conversations back and forth on pricing and how do I charge more? I was like, as an engineer, I’m so like stuck up I guess when it comes to software being the only way. But, at the end of the day everyone just wants a better business. That can be through a book, it could be through software, it could be through video course, it could be through one-on-one coaching. There are many different mediums that will get them there.

Andrew: What’s the first thing that you did then, out of all of these?

Brennan: First thing I did was a book called, ”Double Your Freelancing Rate” which is actually to this day my most successful product.

Andrew: How can people see that book?

Brennan: Double Your Freelancing Rate.com.

Andrew: Okay, Double Your Freelancing Rate, you sold it for 50 bucks.

Brennan: Yep.

Andrew: Fifty bucks, how did you come with that price? I would think books are supposed to sell for five bucks if they’re online, 20 bucks if they’re hard copy. Where did you come up with 50 bucks?

Brennan: There is kind of a stigma attached to a book, and what you can charge. You can’t charge 500 easily for an eBook. A lot of people, these days, are actually are able to sell 50, ninety dollary books. What made me do it was I realized that if this book is successful. If somebody can raise their rate by even by a dollar an hour it’ll pay for itself in, you know, a few hours really. I really anchored that price against that upside, and I focused on what will tomorrow look like. What will it mean for you and your family if you can add $10 an hour to your rate? What does that mean?

It became… Jane Austen novels aren’t going to make you more money, but a book that teaches you how to… And, you know, there are all these things. Like now I’m positioning it as a course, because it is actually more of a course instead of just an eBook. You know, people are fine paying $50 to $500 to $5000 for a course, but as a book it’s a little… Yeah, there’s that kind of stigma attached.

Andrew: I’m on doubleyourfreelancingrate.com right now. At the very top of the page I see a calculator.

Brennan: Yes.

Andrew: Put in your price per hour and how many hours you work, then you’ll see how much money increasing it will put in your pocket. I scroll down the page, and scroll down the page, and scroll down the page again. It says if you’re billing $50 an hour the book will pay for itself in less than an hour at your new rate, and so on.

Did you as a freelancer, as a developer, as someone in the Hacker News community, say I can’t put this out there? This is a long form sales letter. It’s a little cheesy. I’m offering people to get them rich. What am I doing here?

Brennan: It was hard. As a developer it was very hard, because these scream kind of infomarketer to me. The format, it reminded me of the direct marketing my dad was doing.

But, at the end of the day what makes me so excited about these products and makes me keep doing them are the, like, hundreds of tagged emails in Gmail that are saying you let me go on my honeymoon because I finally figured out what was keeping me back. If I wasn’t getting results I would have not been doing it or stopped doing it.

I realized information is a very… It’s all about building that better business. A software tool can help them do that. But, you know, it’s actually a little quicker usually for an infoproduct. They buy the book. They get the info. They charge for it in their next proposal. They win it. I could’ve helped them make a lot more money pretty quickly. The feedback loop is pretty small.

Andrew: I’m on the page, as I said earlier, and at the very bottom it says Brennan Dunn is the founder of We Are Titans, and that links over to wearetitans.net. You were still running your agency.

Brennan: I was when I launched Planscope, yes.

Andrew: Okay. But, now as I link over to it wearetitans.net says we’re helping build a better web, contact us today. Is that still running?

Brennan: It is, but I’ve converted everyone to independent contractors. Most of them are freelancers – most of my former employees. I still get leads. We occasionally will farm them out and say does anyone need a project. But, we’re not…

Andrew: Got it. All right. So, if I were to click over to it I’m not going to get Brennan working on my project or project managing it. But, I will get someone who Brennan recommends to run my project. Got it.

Brennan: That’s right.

Andrew: Do you still make money off of those referrals?

Brennan: It’s really trickled down. In the first year, yes, but there’s no effort being put into the consultancy any more. Now I’m fully focused on this.

Andrew: Did you pre-sell the book?

Brennan: I did.

Andrew: You did?

Brennan: Yeah.

Andrew: Whoa. All right. Everyone says pre-sell the book. I understand the logic of it. Because if you’re pre-selling it and you make enough money then you have a sense that there will be money if you finish writing this book. Great. There is money in the bank even, which is encouraging.

The thing that I’ve found, though, in talking to people who listen to my interviews and hear other entrepreneurs say pre-sell is they’ll go and pre- sell. They’ll be shocked that money comes in the bank. They’ll be excited that they’re actually getting people to pay ahead of time and start to dream of how much more money they’ll make when the actual product is out there for more customers to buy.

And then, they’re going to feel overwhelmed. Oh my God. I have to write this book, and there’s a gun pointing at my head. Essentially, all these people are waiting, and if I don’t get it right they’re going to not shoot me but they’re going to be upset.

What do you do with that much pressure?

Brennan: What I did is… The last thing I wanted to do was take people’s money and disappear and say I’ll be back in a few weeks or a few months. I just started writing them weekly and saying here’s what I’ve been writing, I’d love your feedback on it. You’re basically getting early access. I wouldn’t copy and paste whole chapters, but it would be kind of summaries. I just made it a point to email each week.

What’s funny is once I launched the book I could go two ways. I could say all right, I’ve done my job. The book’s out. I don’t need to email every week. But, instead I made it my weekly newsletter, which has been by far the number one catalyst for my business as result. So, it kind of…

Andrew: Because of the newsletter you’re able to reach an audience of people who can buy the other things that you put together.

Brennan: Exactly, exactly.

Andrew: Got it. I know how many books you’ve sold. I know how much revenue you made from it. Because we have a researching team here, research staff, and actually, frankly, you told one of them. You told April what your revenue was. Why aren’t you more protective of this revenue? I’m looking here at a very detailed revenue breakdown.

Brennan: It’s not as easy as copying and pasting, right? I’m not afraid to share it, because I don’t see it hurting me in any way.

Andrew: What about this? It may not physically hurt you, but we’re all kind of, I don’t know how to say this, we’re all comparing ourselves, we’re all judging other people, right? If you are a guy who has 50,000 a year, people judge you. If you have 100,000 a year, we judge you. If there is no number, we can’t judge you based on a number, and you’ve taken away something that will allow someone to day, “Brennan is not that successful,” or make people say, “Brennan is so successful, why isn’t he buying drinks,” you know? Isn’t there a judgment issue there?

Brennan: Possibly, but I think the only reason I’m here at all doing this, is I looked at income reports from Patrick McKenzie, I was looking at what Amy Hoye [SP] was doing back in the day, and that made me realize they weren’t always huge numbers. Even to this day, I’m not doing millions a year, anywhere near that, but what I’ve found is that it inspires that next generation. I’m a newer generation, I guess, or people who are starting into this online business thing, and I know for a fact it’s inspired people to say, “You know what, I can do this.” It’s doable. These aren’t far off numbers.

Here is a systematic formula I can use. Yeah, some people try to knock off what I’m doing, but for the most part it’s people taking what they’re great at, what they’re good at, and applying what me and a lot of other people have done and shared publicly in their own business.

Andrew: Tell me if I come across as a scummy person for saying this, but I believe we have both an external motivator and an internal motivator. The external one is, “I want to,” or in your case, you want to take care of other people, and you want to teach them, because you want to pay it forward.

The internal motivation, though, is, the more you publish your numbers, the more freelancers get interested in it, the more they believe that what you’re doing is real and others are buying, so it creates social proof, the more they’re drawn to keep checking out your site, then maybe buy your book, maybe sign up for Planscope, maybe sign up for one of your other products, true?

Brennan: Absolutely. I’ve had people who have entered my funnel through looking at an income report that make it to Hacker News.

Andrew: I’m looking at where your traffic’s coming from, and one of the top sources of traffic for, which domain am I looking at, I’m looking at planscope.io. Woothemes is sending you traffic, I’ve got to ask you about that in a moment, but Hacker News is sending you traffic, I notice that.

So then what I did was, I went to look at Google. I did a site search on Hacker News for planscope.io, and then I came up with a little over 2700 a month from Planscope, so you’re sharing your numbers there. Then I see that you share your numbers in another post. Then you do an ask HN, freelancers seeking freelancer help. So it does help you get traffic.

It does help you connect with this community. You’re even in Hacker News, I see you posting your email address, for example. Email me, I have a few customers testing out my soon to be public API, I would love to get, yeah, there it is, so you actually put your email address in there.

Brennan: Yeah.

Andrew: All right, how much did you make from selling the book?

Brennan: Selling which book?

Andrew: Sorry, “Double Your Freelancing Rate”.

Brennan: They’re both actually published in 2013. I think it was…

Andrew: You know, actually, I have the numbers here.

Brennan: It’s all right. I know the total that I brought in, product-wise in last year, which is 324, I think.

Andrew: $324,000 came from products?

Brennan: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay, and part of that is “Double Your Freelancing Rate” in 2013. That book brought in [??]. You get down to the dollar.

Brennan: Yes, and that’s with zero, there was no ongoing marketing at all.

Andrew: No, the page just survives. If I were to go to archive.org and compare two months’ worth of pages, it would look exactly the same. Go back and back and back, it would look essentially the same.

Brennan: Pretty much.

Andrew: Okay, that’s double your freelancing rate. If I were to look at, let me see what April put together for me in the research, Planscope 2013 revenue, actually no, let’s talk about 2012 revenue. First year the thing is up and running, that’s 2012?

Brennan: Yes, February 2012.

Andrew: February 2012, you launch it. It gets customers. How much revenue did you bring in?

Sorry, the connection seems to have gone away. Can you hear me?

Brennan: I can hear you now. You cut out for a second.

Andrew: Yeah, so how much revenue?

Brennan: In 2012?

Andrew: Yeah, actually, you tell me if you want me to read it.

Brennan: You can read it. I don’t remember 2012. I remember 2013.

Andrew: Yeah, okay, I’ll give you, 2012 is $29,904…

Brennan: …[??]…

Andrew: …the first year of business. Doesn’t seem like a huge amount, especially for a guy who was running a multi-million dollar consulting company. But, you’re saying it’s the feedback that you were getting that kept you going. 2012, do you remember that number?

Brennan: For 2013? Yeah.

Andrew: Excuse me, 2013.

Brennan: Last year I think it was 80-ish, I think, if I remember.

Andrew: Yeah, $87,726.

Brennan: Still not what I was making consulting, anywhere close to it.

Andrew: Is it hard sometimes to go from running a company that’s doing millions of dollars to suddenly running a book that’s doing thousands of dollars and another project for thousands and so on?

Brennan: No, because it’s not really… Like, when I was running the company I was travelling a lot. I missed out on a lot of my kids’ growing up – art shows, concerts, school events. I was at our office downtown 9:00 to 6:00 daily. I would come home, maybe get 30 minutes to hang out with my kids before they went to bed.

Nowadays I work from home. I’m lucky to work maybe 20 hours a week. Total lifestyle change, and even though it’s not as… I mean I actually think it’s more glamorous in a way. I’m not jet setting all over, but I’m happier and I am influencing more people than the handful of clients that I had.

Andrew: I noticed that, actually, that you’re happy and relaxed. I always talk to guests before we get started. Often it’s to relax them because there’s so much stress around them. Then, I barge into their offices right on their computer, which is the stress box, in the middle of their day and I want to chat with them, and they just want to get back to whatever is causing problems.

You weren’t like that. We were chatting. We were chatting about family. We were chatting about kids. We were chatting about all kinds of stuff. I get that. I see that there’s a satisfaction and happiness there that all these numbers that I dig in my interviews can’t really communicate.

Let’s take a look at one other thing here in this list. Again, I have all of the revenue here in front of me. Thank you, April. There it is. Something called consultancy master class brought in $80,557 in 2013. What is that?

Brennan: That is a two day workshop that I do. It’s kind of the end of my funnel really. It’s people who bought that generally buy my other books. What happens is they pay $50 for my book, make a lot of money in return, and then they want to take it to the next level.

It’s an $1800 course. It’s pricy. It’s the priciest thing I offer. What it is is it’s two days of just really in depth teaching plus group coaching.

One of the things I discovered is when you write an eBook or have a book it’s like a one of many broadcast. Like, you’re able to read the author, but there’s no dialogue. You can’t… What’s the protocol to ask a question?

I realized that there are a lot of people who want to go even more in depth and say let’s talk about me and my situation and I want to talk to Brennan about that.

It’s kind of my group coaching but packaged as a product. It’s a two day five hour a day event facilitated over Google Hangouts.

Yeah, I’ve had about 120-ish people go through it. It’s small. I mean it only counts for maybe 2% of my customer base, but it’s I think almost half – or not almost half, but more than a quarter – of my revenue.

Again, it’s closer to the metal. It’s closer to… When you read a book it’s more general. It needs to be more general. But, when you get that kind of individual coaching or group coaching then you can really dive into specifics. My funnel is laid out like that where the more expensive the product the more Brennan involvement there is I guess is a way to put it.

Andrew: I’m looking where traffic is coming to from there, and it’s all within the Brennan empire. That page…

Brennan: Yeah, there’s no… I don’t advertise that.

Andrew: No. I mean, frankly people are talking about it and you’re not posting it on Hacker News or anything. Maybe you are, but I don’t see it.

Brennan: Yeah.

Andrew: But, brennandunn.com sends a lot of traffic. Planscope.io, again, the site that we’ve been talking about, sends it traffic. Doubleyourfreelancingrate.com sends it traffic. Skillshare.com, where you teach, sends it traffic. And, Petovera, run by our mutual friend Matt, sends it traffic.

Brennan: Yeah.

Andrew: This is the top of your funnel, meaning people will have gone through your other sites before they come here to buy.

Brennan: The funny thing is all those referrers you mentioned don’t send it customers. What sends it customers are my emails…

Andrew: This is what I want to get into.

Brennan: Yeah.

Andrew: You are very good at doing database marketing. Database marketing means what?

Brennan: I don’t call it that. I call it marketing automation.

Andrew: Okay.

Brennan: But, basically the idea being you have customers, and these customers have attributes. There are automated ways of gluing everything together, where you can say once somebody’s bought my first book, “Double Your Freelancing Rate,” which is really my entry-level product, if they’re successful with that, I want to move them further down the funnel. I have all these automated ways that glue it all together. You’re going to get promoted my Master Class automatically once you’ve done enough stuff with me. That’s primarily how I run my entire business off so little input time.

Andrew: I see. You use probably Infusionsoft, my guess is.

Brennan: Yeah.

Andrew: Right?

Brennan: Yes.

Andrew: Okay. A customer comes in. Infusionsoft emails them. If they buy something, then it puts them into a second sequence, which allows them to learn about the next product, which then gives them another sequence, and so on. I would not, as a stranger, go to a consultancy Master Class and give you my email address, and then end up at the end.

Brennan: Yeah. I could dump $1 million in AdWords campaigns for that sales page. It would convert no one because the jump from no relationship, zero cash flow, to 1800 is a very big jump. That’s why it’s a long-term thing. These are people who have been in my database for six plus months. I’ve been engaging with them over time. But it’s done its [??]. Most of it’s automated.

Andrew: Let me see. I want to make sure that I’ve got everything here before I ask you a personal question. We talked about preselling, which I wrote down earlier when we mentioned and I promised that I’d get back into. We talked about re-releasing your book. By the time this post is up, there will be a re-release. What’s different about the re-release?

Brennan: The difference is two years of production data [??] the book. I’ve learned a lot. In two years of having this book out, people ask me questions about, well, can you dive deeper into this? Can you clarify this? How do I raise rates with existing clients? I’ve added about 50 plus pages of new content.

But I’m also doing, I’m packaging it. I have two tiers now. The higher tier’s going to have over 15 hours of video interviews that I’ve done with people who have read the book and implemented it. I’m asking them, what were the big challenges? You’re a web designer from Scotland. What was the issue that kept you from raising your rates? What specific about you? You pay more and you get all this extra video content of people who you can probably relate to a little better, right? Those are the two tiers I’m offering.

I haven’t touched the book or the sales page in two years. The sales page you just pulled up is the new sales page. Before that, it was data.

Andrew: It looks sweet. I see the collection of quotes on the right margin, which looks really nice.

Brennan: What’s working well about that page is instead of just testimonials, I have percentage differences. Next to each one, you can see they raised their rate by 400%, even 20%. You can correlate that to the calculator on the left and be like, well, imagine if I raised my rate 50%. What would that mean for my business, right?

Andrew. Right. I see it. No, this is a really nicely done sales page.

Brennan: Thank you.

Andrew: All right. We got to copy of some of that. What else do I have in my notes before I ask you a personal question about me, actually? I would like your advice about me because every time someone interviews me about interviewing, they talk about my past business, and it’s interesting, and blah blah blah. They talk about Mixergy, it’s interesting, blah blah blah. Then at the end, the go, by the way, I have this question. That becomes fascinating because at the end they say, here’s the thing that I really am struggling with. It becomes much more of a real question and much more useful.

Two more things. I want to thank Rob Walling for introducing me to you. Actually, I’ve known you for a while. I don’t know. I’ve known your story. I’ve seen you online.

Brennan: We met when you lived in D.C. You had a little dinner at some Thai restaurant because [??] starting out.

Andrew: I don’t remember that. I know [??] Thai restaurant in, what’s it called? In Chinatown.

Brennan: It was like a Grubwithus dinner. One of those things, right?

Andrew: Yes. Here’s the thing. I’ve seen your stuff online. I’ve known you for a while. It took Rob Walling to go, dude, here’s someone you should have on the site. That makes me wonder why I’m not more on top of it. I should have known to ask you. But it also makes me wonder why you never said hey, you know what, Andrew? Here’s a story. Or did you and I missed it?

Brennan: No. I’m really bad at cold outreach like that.

Andrew: You are.

Brennan: That’s a fault of mine. I’m doing joint ventures now, where I’m reaching out to people that I somewhat know and asking them to help me promote my products. Doesn’t come naturally to me, let’s put it that way.

Andrew: I know. Unfortunately, people for whom it comes naturally, we have to spend a lot of time saying you are not a good guest here. I don’t know how to . . . Actually, I do know. We have a way of explaining to someone they’re not a good guest without telling them that the reason that we’re saying no is because they are blinging up their website. It’s them, and champagne, and money thrown all over. He became a millionaire by the time he was 21, and now he’s a multimillionaire, and all that bull.

Brennan: My Facebook feed is full of that crap these days.

Andrew: I know. I have to be nice when I reject them because frankly, I could be wrong and I don’t want to ruin a relationship with someone who I quickly just realized is not a good guest. But we have to turn those people down a lot because those people, sir, are very good at self-promotion. They will be aggressive and they will cajole.

Brennan: That’s right.

Andrew: That’s what they do. All right. A quick plug for people who want to take this relationship to the next level, who want to learn how to build all this stuff. We have a couple of courses.

In Mixergy Premium, they teach you how to figure out what your customers’ pain is, how to then build products based on it, and how to build a successful business around not cool ideas, but understanding people’s real problems and satisfying those real problems. Then building slowly, over time, with them. We have both interviews and courses. The cool thing about the courses is you will see step by step by step over a course of an hour the process laid out for you and shown to you, how other people do it.

The other set of interviews and courses that I recommend to you are those on marketing automation. The reason that I called it database marketing is Daniel Faggella, who taught a course here about how to do it, calls it database marketing. Daniel Faggella talked to me for hours after the interview to show me how to implement it at Mixergy, and now his phrase is stuck in my head.

Whether you call it database marketing, which makes sense, or marketing automation, or anything else, we have several courses at Mixergy with real entrepreneurs who show you how they do it. They show you their funnels. They show you screenshots step by step of how to do it.

One of the cool things about Daniel is he said, look, most people just ask for an email address. After I get the email address, what I do that’s different from most people is I start asking a few other questions. Actually, for him it’s what kind of fighting do you like, because he has sites teaching people martial arts.

He says once you get that kind of data, you can really start to talk to people using their language. You can really start to explain what you have that you can really introduce them to the products you have that make sense to them, not the ones that you just happen to create.

Anyway, those courses are all part of Mixergy Premium. I urge you if you’re an entrepreneur or want to build a business to go check out mixergypremium.com, sign up. If it’s not right for you, you know what I usually say, ask for a refund. Of course I’ll give you a refund.

But what I would like you to do is complain. You will get an email directly from me as soon as you join. I would like you to hit reply and say Andrew, this stinks, or it’s not right for me, or it’s not changing my life. Then I will work with you to make it happen. Mixergypremium.com.

All right, Brennan. You are great at marketing automation. One of the things that I am working on today and this week is when someone comes to my site and gives me their email address, I don’t just want to throw them into the site and I don’t just want to show them the latest thing that we created. But I want to show them the best course, or interview, or blog post, or whatever for their issue.

I’m asking them after they give me their email address, like Daniel suggested, where are you? Do you have a company or not? Are you struggling with traffic or are you struggling with selling to people who are already coming to your site? We have a list of issues.Then I start to send them an interview based on what they told me.

Brennan, what I’m trying to figure out is, how do I know if the interview I’m sending them is hitting the spot? How do I know if it’s really helping? Or maybe I’m sending them the wrong interview. Maybe an interview is not the right thing they’re looking for. Maybe it’s too long. Maybe they’re not sure what to listen for. Maybe something else. I’ve been asking them, but people do not yet respond to my request.

Brennan: These are people who just signed up, right? Who have paid you. Is there any way that you can kind of group them in a way that you can figure out churn rate differences between the two?

Andrew: It’s very early with it. We just created the funnel on Friday and today, you and I are recording on a Tuesday. We put it up. But the cool thing about the Mixergy audience is I already got hundreds of people who just came in, put in their email address, told me where they were in the stage. We’re talking about over a matter of days.

Brennan: You have data?

Andrew: I have data.

Brennan: [??] wait for it to get out.

Andrew: If they said, I need to figure out how to start a new business, I sent them my interview with Joel from bufferapp.com, where he talked about how he came up with his idea for this business, and he shared his revenue and so on. I sent that to them. Then I sent them an email follow-up saying, so what did you think of that? Did it help or not? I got no response.

Brennan: A few things you can try. I’m actually doing something kind of like that, where it’s part of my newsletter onboarding, where I asked point blank, do you have an issue with pricing, lead generation, or sustainability? I’m doing that before they’ve paid me anything though.

But what’s interesting about doing that, and I could talk for hours about this, [??] about a 20% conversion rate within 10 days of anyone who joins my list is buying something from me, which I’m really, really happy about. That’s been a work in progress for a while, which opens up the door to paid acquisition pretty quickly.

But for what you’re doing there, you could try being a little more specific with the question. You could say, “What’s one takeaway that you’re going to take from Joel, and apply to your business?” And that is a little easier, I think, to respond, because they don’t need to come up with a lengthy response or anything. You could start with that, and then maybe get a conversation going. And talk to them about, “So was that hour you spent watching that interview, was that worth giving up an hour?”

Andrew: Okay.

Brennan: Right? “Was that worth your time?”

Andrew: So ask the more specific question, instead of an open ended question, that they could answer anything to?

Brennan: I do a lot of my newsletters, they’re called “Actions Really Respond.” I want people to reply. And what I’ve learned is I get more replies when I ask a very specific question, like, asking somebody “What’s one big issue?” That’s so broad, they need to think. They need to be, like, “Well, what is big issue that I have [???]?” When you can say . . . I don’t know. I can’t think of an example, but something really specific.

Andrew: Even as specific as “Did you get to watch the interview?”

Brennan: Yeah, and there’s obviously . . . are you using Wistia?

Andrew: Yeah, so we can tell if people have watched it. How about, “Was it useful?”

Brennan: Yeah. What you want to know is, are they going to make a change in their business, as a result.

Andrew: Okay.

Brennan: That’s the number one thing you want to know. And I think by getting specific, and being, like, “What’s the number one thing you’re going to do?” You could even get a little more fancy, by saying, “Okay. Today’s Tuesday,” or “It’s this week.” Whatever you’re going to do by Monday, April, whatever or May 1st, whatever next Monday is, what you plan on doing by then, as a result of what you just heard from Joel. “What’s one change you’re going to make next Monday . . .

Andrew: I see.

Brennan: . . . as a result of this video interview?”

Andrew: I see. And if they’re not responding to that, then it means that it’s not useful, and we try something else.

Brennan: And you could also, one thing that works, [laughs] is hit them again, a few days later, saying, “Hey, never heard from you. I’m really interested in knowing.”

Andrew: Okay.

Brennan: I would do that.

Andrew: All right. I like that. And we can actually do that now with software.

Brennan: Exactly.

Andrew: So if they don’t respond, I come back a couple of days. And they see that I’m at least paying attention, and know that they didn’t respond.

Brennan: Make sure the e-mail is plain text looking. It can’t be formatted and fancy and . . .

Andrew: I know. I hate that.

Brennan: . . . whatever. It needs to look like it came from you.

Andrew: I don’t like even receiving those formatted things.

Brennan: I hate them. [laughs]

Andrew: My mind, instantly, when I see it looking formatted and nice, says, “Oh, newsletter. I should unsubscribe.”

Brennan: Computer made that. That’s the connection you make in your head.

Andrew: Right.

Brennan: The computer . . .

Andrew: Right.

Brennan: . . . generated this e-mail.

Andrew: I actually now even came up with an easy process for unsubscribing. I use Mailbox, the app on my phone, to check e-mail.

Brennan: Uh-huh.

Andrew: And I can move an e-mail that I don’t like or want to unsubscribe from, into a folder that I call “Unsubscribe.” That automatically e-mails my virtual assistant, that I got from Zirtual, and says, “Can you please unsubscribe me from this?” And I do that using Zapier.

Brennan: Yep.

Andrew: And she unsubscribes me, and that’s it. And that means, I don’t even have to figure out the unsubscribe process.

Brennan: Yeah.

Andrew: I don’t even have to click it. I’m just in my flow. And if it looks like a newsletter, I unfortunately have to do that.

Brennan: Yeah. That’s a brilliant idea.

Andrew: All right. If we were to tell people how to follow up with you, apparently you do Thai dinners in the D.C. area.

Brennan: [laughs]

Andrew: And . . .

Brennan: Actually not. I’m three hours south of D.C., but I’m up there a lot.

Andrew: Okay. So that’s probably not the best way to do it. I actually would urge people to at least check out your site. One of the things that I like about looking at a site that’s this thought out, is that just by glancing at it, you get to pick something up. I noticed instantly, that one the right side, you had those quotes. And that you had people’s rates, and how much they increased. I instantly noticed what you were doing, with this calculator.

So one of the things I like about these well-thought out sites, is there’s a lot to learn from them. The other thing I think people should do is . . . actually, which of your sites should we refer them to, as the site to get to know Brennan?

Brennan: Brennandunn.com. I’m actually doing a redo, and the design is a little dated. But by the time this is out, it’ll be a new design.

Andrew: All right. Let me take a look at that . . .

Brennan: That has my podcast.

Andrew: . . . dated site.

Brennan: That has links to all of my different things. And it’s a way to get on my newsletter.

Andrew: Oh. All right. It’s not too dated, but I see what you mean. I see you even have, on the bottom, “This site rocks the Thesis Classic Skin for Thesis.” So you didn’t even change the attribution factor.

Brennan: That’s [???] designer. [laughs]

Andrew: Sorry?

Brennan: I’m fixing that now.

Andrew: All right. [laughs]

Brennan: [laughs]

Andrew: All right. Thank you so much for doing this interview. Everyone else, please, please, if you got anything of value out of this interview or anything else, not just on Mixergy, but frankly online, thing to do is, is to find the person, and say, “Thank you.” That is the best way to build a relationship. Start by thanking them. And I’m going to do it right here, right now, by thanking you, the audience, who’s listening. And by thanking my guest, thank you so much for doing this interview with me.

Brennan: Thank you, Andrew.

Andrew: All right. Bye everyone.

Sponsored by

Walker Corporate Law – Scott Edward Walker is the lawyer entrepreneurs turn to when they want to raise money or sell their companies, but if you’re just getting started, his firm will help you launch properly. Watch this video to learn about him.

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  • sonibvc

    Hi Brennan,

    Good interview. You have struck a cord in me! You mentioned something about apps being really hard. Can you elaborate on that?

    Thanks

  • http://www.radiumcrm.com/ Ryan @ RadiumCRM

    I like the headline – “Don’t fail because you’re looking for a good idea”. The majority of ideas I have for new startups these days are just “execution plays” on services I come across that are poorly executed. First-time entrepreneurs tend to think that they have to have a ground-breaking, completely new idea. If you’re frustrated by the products on the market learn how to make a better one.

    Ryan, http://www.radiumcrm.com

  • Nolan O’Brien

    It was interesting at the end of this interview when you asked for advice about DB marketing with the Mixergy onboarding process, primarily because I just went premium two days ago. I never did get an email asking if the video was a good fit for me :( But I am happy to provide some input :) The recommended video was logical based on the answer I gave, but I didn’t watch because the issue I face is with sn offline process. You mentioned that your analytics can tell you if I watched the recommended video. Perhaps you could base a follow up email off of that little tidbit, what will you use vs. how did it miss. (Also, I was kind of hoping the qualitative answers I gave would feed into suggestions, perhaps a watch-later-playlist based on keywords.)

  • moonmist

    Andrew, do you use Walker Corporate Law?

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    As a single-owner of a site that will never take funding or make acquisitions, I don’t have many legal needs, but yes, I work with Walker Corporate Law. Last time I had a legal issue, someone from Scott’s firm spent hours working with me on it.

  • WIlliam Santos-Powell

    Great Interview. I learned a lot from this. I live in the fairfax Virgina area. So hearing you are from Virgina was really cool. Thanks For the great interview guys!

  • https://planscope.io/ Brennan Dunn

    Awesome, NoVA represent! :-) I’m down outside of Norfolk.

  • https://planscope.io/ Brennan Dunn

    Sure, so the “feedback loop” (initial idea -> getting paid) tends to be pretty large with software, though it doesn’t need to be. Additionally, if you want to build a SaaS product 1) subscriptions are hard to sell… I have an easier time selling a $500 course vs. a $30 a month subscription and 2) it’s hard to replace your income $XX a month at a time.

    What often ends up happening is people get discouraged and shut down their software product because it’s only making a few hundred a month after launching it. I encourage people to look at SaaS businesses as “really, REALLY well performing assets” — if you have a product growing at 8% month over month and it’s doing a few hundred a month, give it a few years and it’ll become a *beast*!

    With this all said, I think the best path forward for most is to create a transactional product (ebook, video course, WordPress plugin) for a specific audience, solve a simple pain, and then build something for this audience that’s bigger and more intensive (and more lucrative) afterward.

  • sonibvc

    Thanks for the reply

  • Chris Nelson

    Thanks @brennandunn:disqus for a great interview on Mixergy. I appreciate your openness and candor.

  • http://www.mixergy.com AnneMarie at Mixergy

    Hi Nolan, Good suggestions! We don’t have an elaborate onboarding process for Premium Members yet. Right now we are working on an onboarding process for first time visitors. The “Generate revenue & increase sales” is the most complete one. You can check it out here: http://mixergy.com/solution-series/welcome-to-mixergy. Click on “Generate revenue & increase sales.” That’s the one I’m working on. Would love your feedback (and whoever else wants to help us out). Hit reply on any of the emails to give feedback to Andrew & me. ~ AnneMarie

  • http://www.Entrepremore.com Jason Gonzalez

    Awesome Interview. Thanks @brennandunn:disqus – So much Value! That Tip you gave on giving your Lawyer a Contract Template to tweak, you know, instead of just asking em’ to draw up a Contract from scratch. That alone, can save us Thousands of $.