Master Class:
How to increase social media shares
(So influencers are promoting your idea)
Taught by Jason Galoob, Kyle Patrick McCrary, Stanley Lee, and Steve Young

Master Class: Social Media Sharing

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Andrew: Hey, this session is about how to increase social media shares and it’s kind of a different one for us. We’ve got a team of people here who all helped promote a Mixergy Infographic that Lemonly created for us. I want to introduce you to them, and then we’re gonna work together to show you the process that we all went through to promote this Infographic and get tons of shares for it. Up on your screen you’re going to see Steve Young, Stanley Lee, Jason Galoob, Kyle Patrick McCrary, and Anne Marie Ward.Let me show you guys the significance of what we did here. This is what our typical shares are like on Mixergy. We don’t really feature it. We don’t really get much of it, but if you can look, you can, tiny, tiny, letters, see that we’ve got, what, 50 shares at our height, five Facebook likes, 19 for that one on the bottom, so we don’t get that many. And then, we did what we are about to show you today and got suddenly this many. Over, here let me zoom in, over a 1000 Facebook likes, hundreds of tweets, promotions on sites like Pinterest and places that are all over the place online.

What we want to do today is walk you through the process that we did as a team to promote this Infographic. And I want to show you one last thing before we get started and teach you how we did it. This is the Infographic. Let me zoom out a little bit here. This is it. But, whether you do it for an Infographic, or a video, or a new business that you’re running, or anything else, it doesn’t matter.

The idea is if you use this process that we’re going to show you today, you’re going to be able to get influencers to help promote it. You’re going to be able to get your friends to help promote it, and you’re going to create this swarm of people who will all help you grow. And we know that it works, because it worked for us. And here’s the process we’re going to go through to show you how we did it. And the first step is start with the spreadsheet.

Anne Marie, you’re the one who helped us get started with this. How many days were you working, or weeks or months were you working at Mixergy before I said, “Hey, let’s start this and would you be a part of this project?

Anne Marie: I believe it was a couple of days but then you had told me oh, 30 minutes before. I’m meeting with these guys who are doing some creative project. Do you want to be involved? I guess. So I really, when I stepped in, I didn’t know much about the project and what we were doing but I was game.

Andrew: Thirty minutes notice, you were pulled in, and by the end did you feel confident about it? Were you getting results, or did you still feel kind of new and shaky?

Anna Marie: It was exciting and I was confident because we were watching the increase in the number of tweets. I would go home at night and say, “Look, look, it’s working!”

Andrew: And one of the things that helped us do that is right here. It’s this, let me zoom in, what is this?

Anna Marie: It is a great spreadsheet that Lemonly had handed over to us, to say, “Okay, look guys, this is how you could get started. You enter in the names and contact information of major influencers,” and as a group, we brainstormed who would those influencers be? What target market do we want which we decided basically those who used webcams, and then, from there, all the guys filled out the spreadsheet, and this spreadsheet motivated me to create one of my own, which included all the people that you, Andrew, have had as guests on the show. And then I went on and emailed the guests.

Andrew: And this spreadsheet really became our guide, that we use this spreadsheet and I think some of us used additional spreadsheets to just keep ourselves organized. To help us know who we’re going after, how to contact them, and then, we just got to work.

Anna Marie: And then the date that it was completed so I would go online occasionally and look at the spreadsheet and see, “Oh, great, Okay. Now we have contacted all the people that we said we are going to do, what should we do next?” So it was a really good way to keep track of our project.

Andrew: What are the key elements on this spreadsheet? It’s names of the person, URL of what they do, what else? Email address that we filled out and we’ll show everyone later how to get email addresses. Anything else that’s critical to keep on this spreadsheet?

Anna Marie: Well, who wanted to do…

Andrew: Right, since it was a big team of people.

Anna Marie: So who wanted to contact…

Andrew: Who was going to contact them? Okay. And the idea is, over days, if not, if you have it, do it over weeks. Before the launch date put this spreadsheet together so you know where you’re going to target, right?

Ann Marie: Correct.

Andrew: Okay. Anyone have anything to add to that before we go to the next point? Nope. Okay. So then the next thing that we did was we said we have this spreadsheet, we have to fill it out. Where is that? So we want to find influencers, influencers who are going to help promote it, influencers who are going to help tweet it. And, Jason, you had this idea. Do you want to walk us through…what is this?

Jason: Okay. So this is a really… Well, when I was looking to finding influencers, the first question I had was, well, influencers in what area because what we were trying to do is we were trying to promote something that was related to webcam interviews, right? So that wouldn’t be as obvious as some other things. So my first step was to find relevant keywords.

And so I found this tool on a site called Twtrland. It’s, and they have a really great keyword tool. So what I did was I just started typing in “interview” on their search bar basically because their keyword tool is connected all throughout their site. And it gave me this list of really relevant keywords actually. So I was surprised. I was like, this is really great. So I wrote down all of those keywords, and then I wanted to search through Twitter bios to find people that would mention those keywords and connect to relevant influencers.

So the next thing I did was actually used a site called Followalong which is a Moz company. And I was able to search through all of the Twitter bios, and I got a bunch of influencers that I’d never heard of. A lot of them had more than 10,000 followers…

Andrew: Okay.

Jason: …when I searched through all my keywords. So I thought that was really interesting, and then the third step I did to find keywords was I went through… I guess actually there was two steps included in searching through the bios, and that was looking through the keywords that were relevant that I found on Twtrland, but also kind of poking around the landscape of what I found trying to find other relevant keywords. And I was able to find that actually Jobseekers was another really relevant keyword. So I just tried to get a sense of the landscape with those keywords, and I found more influencers as well…

Andrew: Okay.

Jason: …instead of poking like on the borders of it.

Andrew: And the reason we want influencers is if we’re going to ask someone to share it we want someone who will actually influence others to share it too, or, at least, check out what we’re sending out. So we wanted as many influencers as possible and in order to think through what kind of influencers to get and where they are, you said I’m going to use some tools that will help me think through keywords. And then I’m going to look for people who have their keywords in their Twitter bios, right?

Jason: Definitely. And if you don’t have keywords you can just use that Twtrland search bar, and it will give you a list of keywords. And I found that super helpful.

Andrew: Okay. That was this bar right here I’m using now. Wow, that’s giant; right there, right?

Jason: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay.

Jason: Yep.

Andrew: And, Stanley, you used this as a personal guide. What is this? To help you find influencers?

Stanley: This is logically all the situations that I could think of when it comes to… These are all the situations where all the people would want to look good in the webcam and also not have any of the issues that are mentioned in the Infographic.

Andrew: Right. Mm-hmm.

Stanley: So… Go ahead.

Andrew: So, for example, if someone who uses live stream to broadcast live video of themselves is probably going to want our Infographic which is aimed at helping you look good on camera.

Stanley: Exactly.

Andrew: Gotcha. You were thinking anyone who uses platforms like Wistia, Skype, Citrix. Citrix makes GoToMeeting which is what we use now, okay? And what did you do to put this together? Was it just a brainstorm session where you sat down and wrote it all out?

Stanley: Well, it’s kind of like a… The first version started as, let’s say, like a brainstorm session where I don’t access anything online, to just think about things, and then when I come across new ideas I just added it into the list.

Andrew: Okay. Of all of these, what was most effective? Who was the most effective group of people?

Stanley: The most effective group of people that I found so far, it’s probably the podcasters who also filmed video on the interview shows.

Andrew: Right. For example…

Stanley: For example, I actually approached Jaime Tardy of EventualMillionaire. She also has video streaming, an interview component, along with audio interviews for podcasts.

Andrew: Mm-hmm. Okay.

Stanley: So I actually sent her an email telling her about Mixergy has this Infographic out. I think it’s going to benefit you. If you like it, can you please share it on the social media.

Andrew: Okay. And we’ll take a look at that email in a little bit, but the idea is that you were saying to yourself, “Who’s using video and podcasters who do video based interviews are very likely to use video, of course. And they have big audiences because they’re podcasters and their job in life partially is to find big audiences. And so you went after them.

Stanley: Yeah.

Andrew: Anyone have anything else to add to this to finding influencers? This was where we spent a large amount of time. Kyle or Steve? Uh-huh?

Steve: I just want to say that the offline brainstorm is a great idea, and if you took the podcaster thing… I really fell in love with that Twtrland tool. So take podcaster and plug it in there, and it will probably give you other relevant keywords, too.

Andrew: Gotcha. That we might think of them as only podcasters but maybe they think of themselves as vloggers, for example, or something else.

Steve: Yeah. Exactly.

Andrew: And once we find that alternate, that synonym almost, we can start hunting for people who use that synonym in their Twitter bio.

Steve: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: Okay. Alright. On to the next point. Let me bring it up. Here’s the big board. The next big idea is now we’ve got all these influencers. We know who we want. It’s time to get their email addresses, and the thing about influencers is that they don’t make their email addresses publicly known because they don’t want them to be flooded.

And, Steve, you have this really cool process for finding email addresses that I’ve used ever since you showed it to me. Here is a spreadsheet that’s based on what you gave me, and I kind of expanded on it so the whole team understands exactly what it is. And we’ll give everyone who’s listening to this a copy of this spreadsheet. Please only do good things with it, but, Steve, what are we looking at it here?

Steve: Yes, this is a spreadsheet that will put in the different variations. If you think about email addresses, there’s probably about seven or eight very popular variations of an email address. So it could be Steve.Young@Marchew [sp] or Steve@Marchew, whatever it is, and I’ve just made it easy. So all you’ve got to do is put in the first name, last name, and their website, and this spreadsheet will give you all the different variations, other email addresses, along with what I think their Gmail address may be. So I’m assuming that most people join Gmail a little bit later in life. So maybe it’s first name.last name@gmail.

Andrew: Okay. And then what you did is you have that last yellow line there is a combination of all the variations that are likely to be the person’s email address. We actually plugged yours in. We plugged in, and we came up with potentially,, SteveYoung, et cetera. So you copy all that and use a tool called – Where is that? There it is. How is Rapportive intended to be used before we go into what you do with it?

Steve: Rapportive is sort of intended for you to sort of build a rapport. That’s why the name “rapport” is in there. But anyone that we’re communicating very often with, you get to see their social media profile. So from their Facebook, their Twitter, everything. Their online presence, you’ll see it on there. And so one way to build a rapport in a case you’re trying to close a big sales deal is to kind of look through their Twitter profile and see what they might be tweeting about or what they may have problems with. You can incorporate that into your email. And so that’s the right way to use Rapportive.

Andrew: So you type in Steve Young’s email address. Now instead of having to hunt through Twitter for his recent tweets and Facebook for information about him and LinkedIn for his recent job, Rapportive just shows it on the right margin. So what are you doing with it?

Steve: [laughs] I like to use it to find different people’s email addresses. And so Rapportive, what I’ll do is I’ll copy that spreadsheet, all the different variations, and I’ll put it into the “to” field of your Gmail. Rapportive, you’ll got it solid within your Gmail, first and foremost. And then after you do that you can then copy and paste all the different variations, and you hover each different variation.

Andrew: This is what it looks like…

Steve: Yeah.

Andrew: …when it’s right.

Steve: Right. And so here, this is where we found it. And so Steve@SmartShoot didn’t work but Steve.Young@SmartShoot worked, and it showed me a picture of who I am, all the links to my social media profiles, and then my title, everything else. Now I get a sense that this is Steve. This is the guy I want to reach. I’m going to email Steve right now.

Andrew: And you just mouse over each one of those variations that the spreadsheet gave us, and the right one will cause a photo to pop up on the right margin. You also gave me this screenshot. What is this?

Steve: Yeah. So, this is the Gmail auto populator. I don’t know if there’s a real name to this but essentially I’ve used this where Rapportive didn’t find any match. And so, on the right hand corner of your Gmail you would just see blank pictures. But, if you look over at Gmail, and this is great when you have somebody’s Gmail account, they’ll show you their Google+ image. That’s one way where I couldn’t I find their domain email but when I found their Gmail address, the different variations that I have, I can actually see a picture pop up for their Google+ profile. And that’s when I know that I have the right email address.

Andrew: Okay. I wanted to interview the founder of GoldieBlox on Mixergy because she was in the news. I didn’t know her email address. I don’t think we have any friends in common. I just did this exact process and I came up with her Gmail address. I came up with two GoldiBlox email addresses. It totally works. Anyone find a guest through this process or another process? Kyle, I see you’re nodding.

Kyle: I just use the Google+ by typing in the name, the different emails, drawing a few separate emails, and see the picture pop up and you know that’s the jackpot through the email. If you don’t receive an error back then hopefully it got through.

Andrew: So you aren’t even installing Rapportive, just the built-in Gmail ability was enough for you?

Kyle: Yeah. Yeah, it was.

Andrew: Okay.

Steve: I can usually find an email address just by taking the suffix like ‘’. If you take the first name, space last name, space ‘’, and do a Google search a lot of times it will come up. I’ve had a lot of luck with that formula.

Andrew: So, if you wanted to find Andrew Warner via Google this process, what would you do? It’s Andrew, space Warner, ‘@’?

Steve: I would do Andrew space ‘’ and see what came up.

Andrew: Gotcha. Okay. And just pop that into Gmail and there’s a good chance that you’ll come up by email?

Steve: Yeah. Sometimes you can extend it by just using the first initial or the last initial and put that into the variables. And yeah, a lot of times it’ll come up. In articles, you know, different places.

Kyle: Yeah. I second that. I use the exact same method and to be quite honest one thing that I did after hearing the ways that Stan, Steve, and Jason, the ways they found people, I also just Googled how to find to find people online and that actually popped up with a few extra things.

Andrew: Anything thing that was especially helpful that we can share with the audience? If it worked for you, I want to know about it.

Kyle: No. You all hit the key ones. I don’t think I found anyone else through the other methods.

Andrew: Okay.

Kyle: So I think you all hit on the most important one.

Andrew: For me I find that spreadsheet and this Rapportive process gets it so fast that I almost don’t want to check anything else and don’t need to check anything else. GoldieBlox is a great example. I just typed it in and got her email address. Okay. Anything else before we move on? Nope? Let’s do it then.

Next big one is now we got their email addresses, it’s time to draft the email itself. We talked about this before guys and we could have tweeted at them. We could have LinkedIn them. We could have Facebooked them, but we all used email and it worked best. Right? Ann Marie, you’ re nodding. Best approach email.

Ann Marie: It’s true. Yes.

Andrew: Okay.

Ann Marie: I even received responses email back from people saying, “Oh, I tweeted it.” I didn’t have to go check to see if they tweeted.

Andrew: That’s the cool thing.

Ann Marie: Everybody was awesome. Your guests are amazing.

Andrew: What you did was you said, “You know what, Andrew? The people who you’ve interviewed are really connected to you. You should ask them to tweet this Infographic out.” And you put together a list of all the people I interviewed recently. You got their email addresses because they were in our address book and they tweeted it out. I think, by the way, I want this to be universally applicable. You don’t have to have an Infographic. You don’t have to have to do interviews the way I do.

I believe that if someone has, say, a new product or before we get into this drafted email let’s talk about this. If someone has a new product, a new video, a new blog, a new whatever, if they just contacted people who they know who are in their address book and went through this process, do you agree that it would work for them too? Yeah? You’re all nodding?

Ann Marie: Yes.

Steve: I think you’d have to find people that are willing to spend the time on it. That would be the only challenge, I think.

Andrew: You mean, find a team of people who help out?

Steve: Yeah. That would be open to really helping. I mean, take the time to do it.

Andrew: Yeah. You’re right. We did this as a team. If we did it individually it would take at least six times as long and maybe produce fewer results because each new person brings on a whole new kind of creativity that more time couldn’t compensate for. Right? So, Jason, for example. You’re coming up with processes that I could spend twice as much time and still never come up with them.

Jason: Yeah. And one thing that you have going for you is that we all love what you do. So hopefully you can find a way to get people interested in the process.

Andrew: Thanks. That’s a good point. Alright. So get a team together if you can, work through this process, either way. Yes, Kyle?

Kyle: Also I want to note that one thing I take from this was even if you’re trying to reach out to one person, say you just wanted to contact that person using this metric, after doing work on this project now probably constant, that I can get you a hold of a lot of people that I had known forth with that I don’t have any connection to if you just use this method. You don’t necessarily need a team. Yeah, if you want to promote but just using it as a networking tool You can use this method with the same process.

Andrew: All right. So let’s talk about now drafting the email, asking them for results. Kyle, since we’re talking with you now, who is this Brian? Walk me through what you did right here.

Kyle: Let me see what they’re… Brian from CopyBlogger. Let’s see, he was on the spreadsheet. I’m going to pull the spreadsheet up real quick.

Andrew: We were thinking CopyBlogger is a site that’s aimed at podcasters and bloggers whose audience is filled with people who broadcast. If he can tweet out it’ll help us.

Kyle: Exactly. So I got the name off the list and… You actually sent a template. I don’t know if you have that pulled up but you sent a small kind of, “Hey, guys, send out emails. People want to use this method.” So I kind of used a little bit of that method. It was compliment them to begin with. Tell them what you’re doing and compliment them again and thank them. That’s basically the method I used. The keys that I pay attention to were I want to be first. Of course, that’s one of the biggest ways that you can gain rapport immediately. I suggest being very personal.

So I was really honest with Brian, and I got a hold of a couple of other people who responded through email. And really what I did was I started the compliment after checking out their website or whatever they did. Brian, for example, I went to or Chris Tucker, I got a hold of him. I went to his blog and I would read some of his blogs. I would take the time to read or find something I was personally attracted to.

Obviously, they have some good content. So I wanted to get a hold of that content and figure out what they were offering to their viewers, and then at that point I had something to compliment them on. It wasn’t just I came up with a compliment. It was, “Hey, I really like this.” For example, in Brian’s email it was, “I really enjoyed the influence your site offers to entrepreneurs like me, and your content is top notch which is why I decided to contact you.”

That’s a very broad statement, but it’s completely true. That’s the key. I don’t want to make up a compliment to him. I told him exactly what’s going on. I’m friends with Andrew Warner. He asked me to find following websites to share this Infographic with, and I picked you as one person that I figured would be interested. I gave him the link and, let’s see, the rest of the email consisted of just letting me know that I think CopyBlogger and his followers at Google would benefit from it. I really wanted to stress that point. So I tried to make as concise as I could while still having some really pertinent information to ask why he would want to share it with people.

So I complimented him. I told him what I was doing very briefly and then told him how he could use it. It’s not so much how he could use it but how his followers could use it. Of course, that’s why most of these people that we were trying to get a hold of, they’re bloggers. They’re getting key information to their bloggers so keywords letting them know that this information was what their followers needed. So that’s basically the method that I use. It works pretty well. I got a good response.

Andrew: Okay. And we’ll get everyone that’s listening to this a copy of the template that we used. It was just a guide, but it was a helpful guide. I’m glad that it worked for you. It just didn’t result in CopyBlogger, one of all of our favorite bloggers tweeting out. He also sent this out. He emailed you right back and he sent this to you. “Kyle, thanks, just tweeted it. Tell Andrew I’d love to be on the show some time if he’ll have me”…

Andrew: Of course, I’ll have him. I love Brian. One of the guys who helped me understand how to blog, how to write, how to be a human being, not just be a robot online. And because it was so heartfelt, what you sent out, the response that we got from him was so positive. Alright.

Kyle: Well, that’s where the networking thing comes into play, we know you know a lot of people for the promotion and end up actually evolving our force and next time, say you’re promoting something else, you have this one person that, if they like your content, they’re very likely to promote it again.

Andrew: We have one other email that we talked about earlier from Stanley.

Stanley: Yep.

Andrew: This is to Jaime, what is your thought process behind the way that you contacted other people? Jaime Tardy, who also does interviews on her site.

Jason: Right, so I just went on her website and saw she’s having webinars, and the first sentence just asked, “How’s it going?” And then it kind of stands out from probably most other emails that influencers get, which it’s asking them to promote something or sell them something. So I think that would stand out. And then I just used the basic copy, added some benefits that were relevant to her based on the previous process I just talked to you about. And then in the PS, I listen to one of the interviews and she mentions something, and I thought about adding that personal note in there. Usually, the PS, it’s actually read by a lot of people, like direct mail or email pieces, so I just thought adding that all in when it’s applicable.

Andrew: Yes. I like how you and I think, everyone here basically said, check out the website of the person who you’re asking for a tweet or asking for help with promoting, and you did a great job here of including what you saw on her website. “How did your webinar go? Hope it went well.” And then you ask, as a result, here is what she sent back to you. She tweeted, and she liked the Infographic so much she asked where was it made because it looks nice and not only did we learn this whole process from, but they also taught us how to promote. So we’re able to give them a recommendation with Jaime. Alright, anyone else? I know, one last thing, Jason, you’ve got to go, do you have a couple more minutes, Jason?

Jason: Of course.

Andrew: Okay. Great. So anything else, anything about email, any other tip about what to say in an email, what to do to get results? Yeah, Steve?

Steve: Andrew, I think it’s important to point out that the subject line that you crafted is beautiful. It says, I added the person’s name, but it says, “I thought of you and website when I saw this”, and I think that’s very compelling in terms of “I got that email address, somebody’s actually thinking about me”, makes you want to open it a little bit more, and whatever website that it…

Andrew: Okay. We’re going to include that and make sure to give that to everyone. Again, it’s a guideline and it’s just a way of saying, “Hey, think about the person and also think about their site before you send out the email” Jason, yeah?

Jason: You know, one of the pieces of gold that I got from Mixergy that I hold with me, is that when you’re asking one of your, a lot of times these influencers will be kind of like our idols, so to speak. You know they’re like guys like one day, I’ll talk to that guy, one day I’ll work with that guy. So you can kind of ask for anything as long as you give them an easy out.

And I don’t know, if that’s applicable here because it’s just a tweet. It’s not like a big deal, but one of your guests once said, “if you’re asking someone for something and you give them an easy way to say ‘no’, you kinda, and you don’t give them, “You don’t want to do it, that’s cool, I still love you” or your blog, whatever it is, that’s really helpful because that keeps the relationship kind of smooth. And I always remember that when I’m asking someone, through email, to do something.

Andrew: You’re so right. I grew up reading Guy Kawasaki’s books. When I wanted to start a business, or I did start a business, I remember reading his books about entrepreneurship and thinking, “This is so practical, I wish that everything I learned in school was like that”. I asked him to help out this conference in LA by coming out and speaking there, and I gave him an easy out and he actually took it, he said, “no, I’m not doing it”. But because of that, I was able to then go back and reconnect with him, and reconnect with him, and over the years, he’s one of the people who has helped me out more than anyone by doing interviews, by being there for a course, by doing all kinds of stuff. And its just like you said, give them the easy out. It’s not about the result today, it’s about just continuing that relationship or starting it.

Jason: Mm-hmm.

You know what I actually did? I think the first email I sent out was, “Would you do this, speak at this conference that’s coming to LA that I’m volunteering with?” He said, “no”, and we went back and forth a little bit afterwards about other things, like how much I love his books. I think the next time I asked him to do an interview or asked him to do something, I just hit reply on that original thread, just to show, “Hey, I’m not just a guy out of nowhere. We had this great conversation.” But if you’re interested in doing a Mixergy interview, here’s all all you have to do. So he got to see the context and got to respond.

Alright, I want to be aware of the time, so let’s go back here to the very last section here which is, “Learn from our mistakes”. Here at Mixergy, we weren’t perfect, we were just following a process. We did it well, but we also learned some things from it. I have one mistake in mind, but I’ll save it because maybe one of you has a mistake. Maybe one of you has thought of this exact mistake, but is there one thing that you think that you wish we would have done differently? Or when we do this again or when you do it again for your project you could do differently? Anyone want to start us off? Ann Marie, maybe?

Kyle: I can, so one thing.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Kyle: Or one thing that I mentioned earlier, I related to you, Andrew, was maybe just trying to promote it again just to see, after we go through our initial list of people, trying it again, just because it never hurts, playing around with it, experimenting with it.

Andrew: I see. We went through one round where we really focused on that one day that we launched, which was Thursday, and then continued Friday, petered off by the following Monday, but you’re saying, “Hey, how about another round where we come back and you hit the people who said ‘no’ or didn’t respond and say ‘would you tweet it?'” Or maybe actually I found myself a week later thinking, “Oh, I wish I thought of this guy”. So you’re saying, “Don’t just make it about the initial launch, you could keep it going.” Okay.

Kyle: Exactly. And it doesn’t hurt, if it’s the main thing there.

Andrew: Hey, Ann Marie, how about the fact that I just grabbed you here to be on camera and I just tossed it at you last minute and said, “Hey, do you have something before we even discussed it”? Does it stink to work here at Mixergy?

Ann Marie: Does it stink to work…

Andrew: Does it stink to work here at Mixergy because I just keep tossing stuff at you out of the blue?

Ann Marie: I love it.

Andrew: Oh good.

Ann Marie: I actually love it. And one mistake that we could have but the spreadsheet prevented us from having is contacting one person multiple times. Like we all could have hit up one person but we have the spreadsheet to really give us a way of saying “We’re doing this person, and so we won’t hit them up as well”. That could be a possible mistake but we prevented it through that spreadsheet.

Andrew: Yeah, you know what, I didn’t think of it at the time, but that would have been so painful if I don’t know, Jason Calacanis might have gotten five emails, one from each of us, “Hey, would you tweet this out?” That’s a good point. Jason, yeah?

Jason: Well, another idea, just following up, for example, like I reached out to one of your past guests without saying his name on air, but he just happened to be very busy, but I really think that if I were to follow up with him and say “Hey, did you get my email. I just think this is a really useful Infographic. Maybe you want to help spread the word.” I think he probably would, knowing his personality. So I think following up, keeping a list, and if people don’t tweet about it, just ask them again, “Did you get my email, and if not, cool, but I just want to make sure you saw it”.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s a good point. Sometimes, I miss emails or I wish I could get to them and I don’t get to them in time. A reminder helps. So follow up without being a jerk. How many times would you say following up is okay or how many days in between?

Jason: For you, like every day, for two weeks.

Andrew: [laughs]

Jason: I would just do like three days later I would just do a follow up, I wouldn’t for these kind of guys, I wouldn’t probably follow up more than that.

Andrew: Okay. Yeah, Steve?

Steve: Hey, Andrew, so one thing I would have liked to test is making it easier for people to tweet. There’s a site called “click-to-tweet”, and I use this very often when we’re at a conference. I meet somebody. I’m like, what we’ve been doing is giving out free head shots, and I’ll say “Hey, thank the conference of organizers”, and spreadsheets to that for the [inaudible 33:53] conference, and I just put this little click-to-tweet, little button at the PS and they do it. It does great, and so I think one thing I would love to test is make it easier for them to tweet, and just say, “Hey, click here to tweet it out. They don’t really have to go into the content. They just wanted to share the content.

Andrew: That’s the one that I was thinking of. I really regret that we didn’t do that, that we didn’t give them one link that they could click on that they could automatically pre-populates, doesn’t tweet on their behalf, but pre-populates a tweet with the words that we found worked best. And so that we’re more likely to get clicks on that tweet and also to just make it easier for them so they don’t have to write the tweet themselves. Or even copy and paste our tweet into the Twitter box. Yeah, I got a few responses from people that said, “If you do this, your conversions will be higher” or “You’ll make it easier for us”. How about you, Stanley, any big mistake or anything that you think other people can learn from?

Stanley: Yeah, I think Jason already kind of mentioned it. It’s following up with the influencers on whether they had a chance to look at our email and I would suggest alternating between, let’s say, email versus Twitter or Facebook depending on the influencer because they have multiple mediums, but if we got at them at the same time, they’re more likely to at least take action to what you have to say.

Andrew: Okay. And let me give one more thing that I learned from you. And then afterwards, to close it out, how about if each one of you just gives a website or a Twitter handle where anyone who connected with this wants to follow up, or maybe ask you to tweet out their Infographic, can follow up. Or just check out who you are because we didn’t get a chance to go through full introductions, even though we’ll have links on the site.

But first, here’s the thing that I wanted to close out with. This I learned from you, Stanley. That Stanley, you emailed Moniche Sethi, and you said, “Would you ask Wired? I know you’re connected with Wired. Would you ask them to write about this, or tweet it if you think it’s useful.” I forget the exact words that you used.

But Moniche emailed me afterwards and said, “Hey, do you want to chat?” And we got on the phone, and last Thursday, he and I spent maybe about half an hour, maybe even 45 minutes, just catching up. He showed me what he was working on. He was in his lab. He was in his office, and he showed me this new project that he’s building, and we got to talk about that. And we got to talk about where I was with Mixergy.

And then he showed me his computer screen and showed me how he does his work. I showed him my computer screen remotely, and showed him how we keep track of all these interviewees. We got to learn from each other, and then we talked about reconnecting in person and about him potentially doing a Mixergy interview.

Wired did not write about this. He… I don’t know if he even tweeted, if Moniche did. So… but we still got to connect. We still got to help each other out. And the reason I want to bring this up is because at the top of the interview, I showed all these different share numbers. Because numbers are important, and because we’re here to talk about shares and get people to help promote the work we’re doing.

But I want to close out with this to remind everyone, and myself, that it’s not just about shares. It’s about those relationships that you can start off or you can continue building, if you ask for this in the right way. You just connect with people the way that Stanley, you helped me reconnect with Moniche. And throughout this process, I’ve been really lucky to meet Brian, whom I’ve admired for a long time, and to reconnect with people who I’ve known. And that, to me, is one of the best benefits of this.

It’s about the numbers, but if you’re doing this at home, if you’re following this process, and you don’t get this super huge numbers like we have, remember, make it also about those relationships because they will help you in the future, the way Guy Kawasaki did… I think it was three years later. All right, so how do we reconnect with you? Who wants to give out a URL first? Or… Steve, I see you’re smiling.


Andrew: Yeah. Emery works at Mixergy. The first full-timer at Mixergy.

Emery: Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah. Thank you. Who else Steve or Kyle?

Kyle: I’ll just go ahead and go. I’m Kyle Patrick McCreary. Some of you all might recognize me as the note taker from Mixergy. I’m the new kid on the block, so don’t check me out now, but check me out in another year. I hope I’ll be doing bigger then. I will be doing bigger then.

Andrew: Is there a good way for someone to connect with you now? Do you want them to connect with you on Twitter?

Kyle: I kind of want them to use the methods we mentioned.

Andrew: Okay.

Kyle: If they even want to. But, yeah, Kyle Patrick McCreary. And they should be able to find me by checking out that name.

Andrew: Okay.

Kyle: Facebook.

Andrew: How about you, Jason?

Jason: Yeah. You can just email me. JasonYoung@gmail. That’s probably the best way. And I’m on Twitter, I’m on Facebook. But my… that’s the best way for sure, yeah.

Andrew: Okay. So that email hack that we showed earlier would work with you, for sure.

Jason: Yeah. You can find all sorts of, you know, dirty laundry. But just reach out directly.

Andrew: Stanley, how about you?

Stanley: Well, my website, it’s I’m going to give you the URL. It shows me what I do, not just promoting Infographcs but helping you capitalize on the traffic that comes to your Infographic or whatever else you’re promoting, after you get the traffic. and you can also email me at I can also give that email out as well.

Andrew: Cool. All right. And Steve?

Steve: And, yeah, I’m smiling because I didn’t want to go first. But you can check out SmartShoot for all of your video/photo needs. And I also host a podcast of my own called Mobile App Chat, and you can check out all the information that you need.

Andrew: What’s the URL for that?


Andrew: All right. Good. Great. Thank you all for doing this with us. If you’ve listened to this and you used any part of this, please reach out to me or any of the people here and just show us what you’ve done with it. We’re always eager for you to not just hear this but to use it. And it’s also a good way to reconnect. Thank you for being a part of it. Bye, guys.


Master Class:
How to launch top-ranking products online
(Even if you’re intimidated by iOS, Kindle Store, and Google Play)
Taught by Abel James of The Fat-Burning Man Show

Master Class: Online Marketplace

Report Bugs


Andrew: The session is about how to launch products in major online marketplaces, like the iOS App Store, Google Play and Kindle Store. It’s led by that gentleman who you see up on the screen, Abel James. He is a musician, bestselling author and founder of The Fat-Burning Man Show. He’s also the creator of “Caveman Feast” and Gluten-Free Dessert apps and so much more. I’ll help facilitate. I’m Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy. Where proven founders teach.Abel, I know my audience.

Abel: You do. Thanks so much for having me, Andrew.

Andrew: I know my audience and they’re going to say. “Alright. Who is this guy to teach me how to do it? What has he done and so”? I have a certain kind of audience, “What has he done”?

And so, I’d thought we’d lead with this. Brag a little. What are we looking at here?

Abel: Yeah, so this is all in the past few months, actually. Is getting to the number one spot in most major marketplaces that are out there. This is using entirely free traffic using white hat techniques. It’s just engaging your community in a really interesting way.

And this company that I have right now and pretty much everything behind it didn’t even exist like a year and a half to two years ago. I just had a fire under my butt. I was working at a strategy consulting firm.

And I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted to build a company and I had been dabbling for a while. But once I started focusing on it and learning some of the advantages that we have being small and nimble, I started to take advantage of those. And start to move ahead of some of the people who are trying to own the marketplace, which is a lot of the old media companies, but they don’t really understand this whole Internet thing.

And so, I try to use that to our advantage and do something that’s a little bit different. And so, what we’ve been able to do is launch a podcast–

Andrew: This is the podcast right here, I’m going to circle it as best I can. The podcast right there, where were you in the podcast store? It’s not really a store, right?

Abel: Yeah. Number one in health, it’s more than a half-dozen different countries. A lot of times when I check, it’s number one. It doesn’t always stay number one. But I pretty much know how to get back up there when I want to.

But that’s not the most important thing. Hitting number one is more important than staying number one in a lot of these marketplaces. And we’ll explain why later on. So, you’re circling now Amazon, that’s kind of a cool story.

I put this book together in a weekend and then iteratively expanded it and kind of crowd sourced the biggest paying points and some of the other things that people really wanted to have included in a book that would be actionable. And so, when I put this out, it’s called “Intro to Paleo” and it hit number one in “Men’s Health.” Which means that it outsold, as a Kindle book, all hard-copy books as well. So I was totally stoked about that.

Andrew: We also see the iOS store right here. That is the top paid iPhone apps.

Abel: So that one was pretty nuts. Because I applied some of these frameworks when we launched our first app, which was “Caveman Feast” and we’ve launched a few others since then. And I wanted to see how well it would work in the apps store.

And it worked ridiculously well. When we launched in the first hour, it hit number one in all food and drink. It took down the Food Network, Martha Stewart, a bunch of people like that. And then, it kept going up all the way to number six in the world on the iPhone.

So Angry Birds at that point I think was number 45. You can see their Contra and Minecraft and all of the other apps that everyone knows of. And all of a sudden, instead of competing with the little guys or other podcasters or something, you’re competing with Warner Bros. and Disney. And that’s way more fun.

Andrew: And then, we got this right here, actually. This is essentially the same, right?

Abel: Yes. So, that’s number one in Food and Drink. And we were able to maintain that for a really long period of time. We can go back up there when we want to, too. Especially with “Caveman Feast.”

But the coolest thing, too, is the top iPhone paid apps. This was on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. We had two of the top five in Food and Drink, which was pretty rocking. We were stoked about that.

But all of this, it’s not about where you hit in the rankings. It’s about what the long tail looks like. And that’s why we really do this.

Because if you do it with the podcast, you build an audience. If you do it with a product, then you continue to get generally reliable sales as long as your app doesn’t break or something like that. And you’re focusing on making sure that you still have a relevant product for the years to come.

Andrew: The next thing they are going to be saying is, ‘Well, this guy just has it easy. It comes easily to him.’ But is does not. What of this?

Abel: My approach has really been a [shock-out] approach. All of the things that do not work disappear pretty quickly. I am surprised that you found that interesting. This is kind of funny: when I had first launched my podcast, it did really well really quickly. A lot of people asked for the ability to make it more portable than being truly digital.

A lot of people asked for CDs to give as gifts to their grandmother, their mom, or what have you. I was like, “Okay. I will do this.” I designed the cover and worked with a firm to put it together and do print on demand. I printed a bunch up, and then it was like crickets. No one bought anything because it is available for free and you can download it. It is kind of obvious why it did not work, but I was just amazed by how many people asked for it and then did not actually end up buying it.

Andrew: I know what you mean. It is the kind of thing that people ask for all of the time, and anyone who tells you how to succeed online says, “Listen to what people tell you to do.” You listened, and it does not work. Many of us have listened, including me, and it does not always work.

Abel: Listen to what people do.

Andrew: No. Let’s talk about what does work.

Abel: Yes.

Andrew: This is what you did to get all of those high rankings that we talked about earlier. The first step is kind of what did not work for you: ask customers about what they want. What are you doing differently than you did before, when you were listening to the CDs?

Abel: It is always important to hear people out. You do want to listen to them and let them know that they are being listened to. However, what you really want to do in terms of action steps, especially as you are building a product, is to make sure you listen to what your customers do. What do they purchase? What do they consume? What actions do they take? That is true in interpersonal relationships as well.

Andrew: Give me an example. What is a product where you did that for- where you listened to them and you heard them in the right way?

Abel: The one that I brought up before, the “Intro to Paleo” book, I put that together literally in a weekend. It was a short guide that was based and built around the questions that came in from people who listened to the podcast, read my blog, and had purchased some of my other products.

Based around those pain points, those areas of interest, I filled those in with relevant information. I did not have all of that information then. I researched it or reached out to someone who knew. That is really useful too, because you do not want to give people something that is incomplete. You want to give them exactly what they want and need.

Andrew: This is the book, right?

Abel: That is it, yes.

Andrew: By the way, dude, you are ripped.

Abel: Thank you.

Andrew: I hope that that is not inappropriate to say here.

Abel: It is all good.

Andrew: What you are saying is, you just started out by putting it out there, asking people, ‘What do you think of this,’ and improving?

Abel: Pretty much. At first when I put it out, it was free. It was as a favor to my followers, as a special thank-you.

Andrew: OK.

Abel: Then I figured, “Why don’t we build this out a little more and just see what happens in a marketplace?” I put it on the kindle store. I went back and forth a little bit and came out with a new version that was a little more complete and on target with what people wanted. It is still very brief- about 70 pages. When I released that and launched it, it actually hit number one in ‘Men’s Health.’ That is when people really started rallying around it. It made more of a splash in the marketplace because all of a sudden people are finding a book that is hitting all of their pain points.

Andrew: Yes. I understand putting something out there for free. People are going to accept it. It takes some work, but they are going to try it out. Asking them for feedback and expecting them to actually give you something useful and doing something with it, that is a tough process. People do not just give feedback. When they do, their feedback is sometimes more about what they think they want than what they really want. You get so many different opinions that it is then hard to integrate it. What do you do to make it work out well and not end up creating another CD in a digital world?

Abel: I think it is the ones that resonate. It is the ones that make sense. There is a difference between the complainers and the people who are trying to help. Some people just want to get their complaints out. They want to feel like they are being heard by someone. Maybe they are frustrated, so they will just get something out. They will say something terrible. They do not even really mean it.

Andrew: Right.

Abel: That happens all of the time. What you want, though, are the people who you can tell have thought about this for a little while. What they are saying is on point, if you hear that same theme a few times. A really popular one in health is that people have so much trouble getting off of sugar. Sugar is an addiction. And that’s one that comes up all the time, but very few books and resources really focus on that as a major problem, there’s like, oh yeah, sugar, don’t eat that and that’s all they say.

Andrew: Okay.

Abel: But what people want is a lot more. They want people to engage with them and embrace that this is one of the biggest struggles that they have. So, how do you deal with that? And so, that’s what we try to do. You look at the feedback that’s coming in and then you find the major themes and then you take those themes and build upon them and try to, try to expand upon them in a way that most people aren’t expecting. That makes it feel like you’re talking directly to them and answering the question that everyone has, whether they’ve asked it or not.

Andrew: Okay. You gave me this before we started. What is this image?

Abel: So I do this all the time. My show, I really want it to be high value for people.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Abel: And so, it’s important to me that I am hitting upon those main things. Because I’m not, as someone who, like you said, is ripped or whatever, that’s because I’ve been doing this for a while. I like, know what works for my body and if you’ve been doing something for a while, like, for you, for example, you’re a successful guy, you have a platform, you make good money, but because of that, it’s very difficult for you to converse with someone who’s trying to start a business right now from zero, has nothing. Because if you don’t keep in touch with those people, which is what you do, by the way, but if you don’t keep in touch with those people, then all of a sudden, you can’t talk to them anymore.

You don’t know what their struggles are and so, it’s really important at strategic moments, or even if you just need like fodder for content, to put this out there and social media is a really good way to do it because people engage very quickly, but I found, actually, just sending out a blast on my newsletter saying, “All you have to do is respond to this e-mail. I really want to hear from you. What are you struggling with right now?” I actually have that built in to the auto-responder of products that people buy as well. It’s just, you know, like, on the fourth day, it’s just like, “How is your day going? What can I help you with? What’s your biggest struggle?” and so…

Andrew And do you respond to everyone who does that?

Abel: I respond to almost everyone. Like, the number is enormous, so I have a community manager who helps me out a lot, but a lot of people know that she’s on the team and it’s Emily and if she’s listening, you’re awesome, Emily. Totally love you…

Andrew: Alright, on to the next point and I already, I actually was going to edit this out quietly, but I got to call myself out publicly. It’s just tease[SP], it’s a typo. Alright, tease.

Abel: I noticed that, but I wasn’t going to call it out.

Andrew: Did you? No, you should. You should keep calling me out. If I’m going to be the person who calls everyone else out, I’ve got to be called out to be called out too. There it is. Tease, only mention your product in passing at first. How do you do that?

Abel: Especially when you have a lot of different things competing for people’s attention…

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Abel: … so you have a lot of free products, you have a lot of products in general, you want to make sure that you’re not asking people or telling people to buy all of the time all of your products because what you’re going to do is just dilute your whole message.

Andrew: Okay.

Abel: And so, what you want to do there is, especially if you do have those kind of like, competing interests with the way that you run your business, or your platform…

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Abel: You want to make sure that you’re bringing it on to people’s radar, but you’re not just shouting it at them because it’s annoying. You don’t want to be marketed to. No one wants to be sold to, but they do want to know if you’re, for example, like, we just built an app that was gluten- free desserts from my girlfriend Allison and myself.

So literally from my kitchen and a lot of people, when they listened to the show, they were just like, “Well, I don’t really care what all these best- selling authors and health experts eat. I want to know what you eat. What do you eat for dinner. What are these desserts that you’re always talking about?” And so, we listened and we built an app for them that are exactly what they asked for.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Abel: And so, being able to do that and staying nimble with it is kind of a cool way to do it. So, the way that you bring it up is just like, oh yeah, so, three weeks ahead of time maybe, I’ll be like, “By the way, we’ve been working really hard behind the scenes on this new cool thing that you guys have been asking for us, all the desserts from our kitchen, and we’re really excited to bring it to you. Stayed tuned, it will be coming out in the next few weeks.”

So what that does is basically says, it’s coming, we built it for you, it’s what you asked for. It’s all about them, as opposed to saying, “We’ve been working on this new app and it’s totally cool and you need to buy it on Friday, December 22nd because of blah blah blah,” and it’s just a very different approach. It’s still a call to action, but it’s a softer one.

Andrew: This is, I think, from your podcast, when you launch, I’m actually crowding on my own logo here, my own hashtag.

Abel: Oh no.

Andrew: It’s important to do it. I want to crop properly. Let me do it. Crop from the top, boom. There we go because I need to zoom in and just move it up right there. Right here on the bottom, this is where you’re linking to it.

Abel: And then this is where you announce it but it’s not the first time you actually talked about it on your podcast. You would intentionally say, “Hey, you know what, Alison? I’m going to mention that we’re working on something this week. Next week I’m going to mention that it has to do with gluten free deserts.”

Andrew: Is that kind of a roll out?

Abel: Yes. It’s like, a lot of times it would start with, you’ll see a twinkle in my eye, talking about working behind the scenes. Not ready for you guys yet, I can’t even talk about it yet but I know you’re going to love it.

So that’s ramping it. It’s fun to ramp it up that way because a lot of times that’s totally true and we don’t really know where some of these projects are going, we don’t know when they are going to be coming out. So you [??] and you get more and more specific as you get closer to releasing it.

So a lot of times we are talking about it as we’re developing it, asking people for the features that they want and need, as we’re developing it.

Andrew: I see.

Abel: So if you do that, then they’re kind of a part of the process of building these things. You’re not just throwing products at them, you’re incorporating them into building the products themselves.

Andrew: Okay. All right. I think we can do that. Tease it.

I’m looking also on your site to see are there any other mentions that we could bring up. It looks like you started talking for a while there about gluten free desserts. This is August, 2013. Here is one from April. Alright.

OK. I see the build up. Let’s go on into the next big point which is hopefully spelled correctly, it looks like it is.

Abel: You got it.

Andrew: Run a giveaway. Here’s one giveaway that you ran. Tell me about how this works and then let’s understand what the bigger idea is. But what’s going on here?

Abel: Okay. So what you’re looking at here is the share-able social media graphic that we use across Pinterest, Instagram, in Facebook specially. You can also get to it through Twitter but usually you focus on photo based social media because it’s much more share-able and our demographic shares it a lot more if it’s a photo. That pretty much applies to everything but specially applies to what we do.

So what we’re looking at here is we launch, this is for Caveman feeds which is a collaboration I did with George Bryan of Civilized Caveman. Totally awesome dude, great marketer, pay attention to him. So we launched Caveman Feeds the app in the Google play marketplace. We came out for the Android, which by the way people have been asking for for a really long time because we released on the iPhone first.

When we released this, we also did a giveaway at the same time. We didn’t make purchase necessary. That gets complicated legally but we did it around the same time and if you notice it’s a 16 Gigabyte Nexus 7, which runs Android. And so the things that we’re giving away are very much relevant to the products that we’re coming out with.

So for example, I have a launch coming out in just a couple of weeks for another product that I’m doing called Fat Burning Chef. And that’s like a digital cookbook and video, cooking classes and that sort of thing and we’re giving away like 25 pounds of bacon. So the more relevant and fun and exciting you can make it, the more luck you’re going to have with getting it to more people. It’ll become more viral that way.

So doing giveaways is something that’s like really effective for us, especially if you pull favors at the same time. So for me I don’t really have any affiliate relationships, I don’t really ask people to mail for me, I don’t really mail for anyone, I keep all of this very close to my chest but what I do do is when we release an app and I’m really close to someone or I’ve had them on my show, I’ve tweeted about their new book or something like that, I’m just like by the way we’re releasing an app this week and we’re doing a giveaway.

Would you mind helping us out by sharing this with your audience? And more people would be like Yes, of course. I’ll send a tweet or I’ll post this on Facebook or I’ll share this image because it’s a very small ask as opposed to saying Hey, can you blast this to 100,000 people, which is a big ask.

Andrew: I can see people posting on their Facebook pages. I mean, your friends doing it and then you get Likes on your friends pages. I can see you posting it and getting Likes and comments. But ultimately, wow, what’s going on with the camera here? There we go. Ultimately, though, what’s the point of it? How does that help you get higher up on the charts?

There we go with the camera again.

Abel: So the way that that works is the more people who engage with something on Facebook, for example, [??] for a Like on Facebook or a share on Facebook, because the more people do those things, the more people see it. As a direct result it becomes viral if you do that. And if you ask other big thought leaders, they’re very likely to help share your post as well.

Andrew: I see. So it’s just to get the word out and get people to see that this new thing is coming out. I’m looking now at the image, and on the bottom of it, it says, “” And so, the more people like it, the more their friends will see that URL, the more they influence or share it, the more likely their followers are to see it.

Abel: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: Look at that. Something’s up with Skype today. This is all just straight-up Skype. All right, on to the next.

Number one, before we started you said, ‘Hey, Andrew, what’s the technology that you’re using to do all this cool stuff?’


Andrew: Now you don’t want to know. Forget it.

Abel: It’s kind of working.

Andrew: It’s working. Except, you know what, Skype for some reason goes letter box and squares, letter box and, you know, squares. So strange. Not always, but with some cameras and I can’t figure out why.

Abel: Yeah, it happens to me, too. We’ll get the hang of it one of these days.

Andrew: One of these days. All right, discount for early customers.

Abel: Yeah, so what we do around a launch is we will launch something for less than it actually costs. So, if it’s an app that usually costs $2.99, we might discount it to $1.99 or even $.99…

Andrew: This is one example of that.

Abel: That also applies to Kindle eBooks. That applies to pretty much everything we put out there. The way that we frame it is Fan Appreciation Sale, which is just totally true because our fans to be able to get it for, you know, as close to free as possible, but still allowing us to, you know, move up in the market place.

But this is a favor for them for helping us out, build these things through the crowd sourcing, or just being our fans. So, it’s something that, you know, that even the discount…technically, it applies to everyone, but the only way that they’d know about it is if they are our fan, is if we move up the market place.

So the way that we frame it, and what I truly believe, is that we’re coming out with this to get it to people for less than it actually costs because we appreciate their help so much. You can use that in your own marketing as well for pretty much anything that you come out with, and it’s just a really good move for a number of reasons.

At the beginning, when you launch something, at least that the way that I do it, I focus more on the velocity and the momentum and making a splash in the market place than revenue generation straight from the get-go.

So like, I don’t care what it costs to develop. I’m going to price it at the price point that is appropriate for the consumer and for the fan, or for whoever is on the other end of that so that we can make as big of a splash as we possibly can.

If you want monetize that later. It’s much better to do that on the back end, because if you launch it, and, you know, if your app is $6.99 because you’re worried about how much it costs you to develop, where competing apps are at, like, $1.99, then you’re going to have a really hard time getting momentum and making a splash in that market-place because it’s just too expensive, and it doesn’t really…

Andrew: It’s supposed to just see how many orders you can get quickly. Because the more orders you get quickly, the more likely you are to rise up in the charts. So, as you’re going to email your list, you might as well give it to them at a low price because what you care about at first is not so much the money, but the ranking that comes from people buying, right?

Abel: That’s right.

Andrew: If you give them, hey, here’s a deadline. In this case you gave them the deadline of November 27, then they’re more likely to do it all quickly. And if they all do it quickly, then you’re more likely to rise.

Abel: Exactly. So, that has a discount built in, so it’s a great offer, and there’s also scarcity there. But it’s not like fake scarcity. This is real. We up the price after that, and usually…

Andrew: Actually, I went into the store to see did you really up it, and this is what I found now. It’s right now, I don’t know that people can see it, but I will tell you that it is $2.99.

Abel: [??]

Andrew: But, actually, this is a different app, isn’t it?

Abel: It’s a gluten-free desserts. I believe it’s $1.99.

Andrew: It’s $1.99. Exactly. $1.99. Here, let me see if I can grab that. You can’t give it away for free in the iOS app store because then that won’t count toward your paid rankings later, right?

Abel: Yeah, and it’s a whole different…Like, releasing a free app is fundamentally a different move. It’s kind of a different market place, and I’m more excited about the paid market because with a free…I mean, yeah, you can certainly monetize, and we’re going to do some free apps as well I would like…

Making a big move in a pay marketplace just means so much more. Like having a best-selling free eBook or something, doesn’t really mean that much. But if you have best-selling app, and people have paid money for it, then it says something. And you can build more, and it’s easier to get developers who are doing great work because they know that you’re doing great work. You know?

Like, the more serious you can make it, the more major of a move you can make, I’d say go for it.

Andrew: Abel, some marketplaces will count those freebies towards the overall charge which would then allow you to be able to boost and bring more people in because you’ve hit the top of the charts. Is it the Kindle marketplace that does allow that, that if you give it away for free…

Abel: Yes.

Andrew: It does. So how do you know, where do you find out which marketplace allows you to do it and which doesn’t and all the other subtleties of these marketplaces? Who do you talk to about that?

Abel: I stay focused on one first. There are so many experts in Kindle, in app marketing, in SEO. All of these things have their own idiosyncrasies, but within each of these marketplaces the fundamental algorithm is pretty much the same. You’re looking for velocity, momentums, reviews, whether it’s a subscription or clicking “like” or what have you.

You want all these things in a compressed [??], and you also want consistency. When it comes to like hacking it and saying, “Well, this needs to be free on a Tuesday so that we launch the paid version on a Wednesday at this price point then we upped by this much,” that stuff can totally work. But the problem is it doesn’t work two weeks later, like literally. [laughs]

Andrew: Is there a forum that you go to to talk to people about this? Are there other people somewhere that you talk to about this?

Abel: I talk to my close friends about this. And a lot of my close friends are people who are really into cooking. They have their own blogs, a few masterminds as well. But really if the information is out there I don’t really pay too much attention to it less a book, to be quite honest.

The most useful information I received has mostly been from books that some of them are 30 years, 60 years old about copyrighting and marketing.

Andrew: There’s no book that’s going to keep you updated enough to tell you, Abel. Now Amazon suddenly will take care of you. I will include those free downloads in their overall rankings.

Abel: No problem.

Andrew: So you’re saying, for that you go to your friends.

Abel: No. I’ll go to my friends if they know about it, but if no one seems to know about something than you have to figure it out on your own. You have to try different things. There are different blogs that you could pay attention to that would be on top of something like that.

An example would be in some marketplaces all they care about is the raw number that hour, and nothing else enters into it. Another one is more of an average. It’s not just an average of that day or that hour. It’s an average of that week, that month. So it’s really hard to build that out. The problem is that if you focus on that too much than it changes, and it’s costly changing.

So since I’ve launched in Kindle I’ve seen so many things change there, and that’s exciting because every time something changes the big guys [??] and aren’t small like you. All of a sudden they’re very slow and bureaucracy and red tape won’t allow them to adapt and learn that new algorithm as quickly as you can.

So I get really excited about this. When something stops working, I’m stoked about it because that means we need to figure it out again.

Andrew: And when you figure it out, you want to figure it out ahead of everyone else at the [??] and you get the advantage before they do. Do you do this as a consultant, too?

Abel: Yes. So I coach other people. My background is in strategy consulting. I just do launches for Fortune 500 companies and even launched a $4 million website for the government. In interview cases, I’ve seen this work on a …

Andrew: Does this have anything to do with the health care launch, this launch for the government?

Abel: No. Fortunately, it did not.

Andrew: It does not have your name on it.

Abel: It does not.

Andrew: Alright. Let’s continue with the big board here.The next one is we want to stack those early reviews. Here you did it. I’m going to again show the big screen shot and then I’ll zoom in. This is one of your apps. Let me just zoom in properly here. Let’s see what I can do if I do that. Is this where you got 1100 reviews within a couple of days? Is that what you did there?

Abel: Yep. It was actually like 1,000 reviews in the first few hours of our launch.

Andrew: Okay.

Abel: So you can see on the Apple app store, the ratings every time you update it or add a new feature, they kind of dilute your ratings which is pretty annoying, especially when you have like 1300.Twelve hundred five are ratings plus and then you go down to…

At the same time the point is you want to have a good amount because you don’t have to have the full 1100. That’s absurd. We probably even got too many because we want to save those calls to action for something else.

Andrew: How do you incentivize people to give you reviews without doing anything that gets you banned from the marketplace?

Abel: So that’s the hard part. This works the best when you have a platform and when you have people that listen to you and love you and are really interested in what you do. What’s really interesting about this app, for example, we put it together based on recipes that were available for free, like on George’s website and my website as well.

Usually there’s a lot of those that are free as well. The sheer amount of content that I put out for free on my podcasts, videos, YouTube, the eBooks, blog posts is enormous. I give 95% of them away.

Andrew: [??] If you say, “Hey, I”m launching this,” can you review it? Does that do it?

Abel: Yeah. If they can’t buy something, a lot of people will be like, “Get them off your list. We don’t care about those people. They’re not going to help your business.” I take the opposite approach to that. If people can’t buy from me, I think that’s great.

I’m not worried about it one bit. I believe in this message. I don’t care about making money as much as I care about spreading this message. So if someone can’t buy your app for $2.99, that’s okay because when you ask for review on some other market plan, it’s for your free product, for example for podcast review. They’ll do it because they believe in what you do and they want to help you.

Andrew: Maybe they feel guilty that they never bought from you, but they still got all of this value over the years. Without enough of an incentive people don’t do anything. So how do you incentivize them to go and click and to then write a review?

Abel: So in most marketplaces you can’t directly tie in some sort of a giveaway or rewards into reviews. That’s how a lot of people gain it, and they do it that way. What we do is… I guess it kind of simulates that, doing a giveaway around the same time. People might implicitly think that they need to buy it in order to win an iPad or a Nexus seven or something like that, but mostly I just think it’s when you have a bunch of attention and these people care they will leave reviews.

It doesn’t matter really if you have 1200 or if you have 50 or even if you have five. If they’re solid and they’re believable and they’re coming from real people, that matters so much more than the other garbage. What happens is – I’ve seen this happens many, many times, especially in the Kindle marketplace.

A friend of mine had like, it was 1800 plus reviews, and they had put an incentive onto leaving that review. And Amazon noticed and they just like blocked him. That’s what happens in every marketplace. As soon as someone knows that you’re gaining the system all of a sudden you have zero long tail. There’s nothing you can do, and you’re gone unless you try to do it again and figure it out. That’s really not a sustainable business.

But the reviews are powerful, and they’re important so just get some of them, but get… Everyone has a platform now. Everyone has a brand. Everyone has a Facebook account, a Twitter account, an aunt, a brother. So if you’re serious about those people get some reviews.

As long as you have a handful of them you’re going to be just fine, but in terms of tactics to incentivize it, the best one that I found is raising awareness about what you’re doing, what you’re launching is, and between giveaway and [??] time. That’s the best one that I found.

Andrew: But not a giveaway tied to reviews, just a giveaway to get…

Abel: That’s right.

Andrew: I see. Okay. Alright.

Abel: And you can kind of like subtly ask for reviews, but you can’t like say, “I’m going to give you a carrot if you give a review.”

Andrew: Okay.

Abel: Depending on the marketplace.

Andrew: Okay. Is there a marketplace where I am allowed to bribe people?

Abel: [laughs] I’m sure there is.

Andrew: I don’t know of any one.

Abel: There might be a few.

Andrew: This next one I wasn’t sure whether to include or not. The way I put this together for the audience is [??] and I were talking before. I said, “What are you doing?” Then I said, “How are you doing it?” I just started taking notes, and then I said, “Can you show me that you’re doing this? Don’t just tell me that you’ve got featured. Can you prove it because I’m a bit of a jerk?” I don’t trust anyone. I said, “Show me.”

That’s how I just walked through it. I take obsessive notes, and then I pulled out the key ideas and then I put them together, and he helped me find all these visuals. This one, I wasn’t sure we should do because I don’t know if we can promise to people.

You said, “Get featured.” After you do all this you’re get to start to get featured if you get reviews, if you get those early users from the discounts. And I was shocked. This is a spectacular feature. Is it in the iOS store?

Abel: Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah. This is unreal, but can we promise that to people. How do we get them featured, too? What do they do?

Abel: You can’t promise anything like that because there are so many inputs there, but you certainly can stack the stack. And I say that we’ve been featured in most countries across the world in the app store, featured in most podcast stores as well, and featured on Amazon. People have sent me emails that come from Amazon saying that they should buy my book, like, at the top of the email.

So it’s like, once you get enough momentum, once you get good reviews and you have a solid product, that, by the way, people, employees at that company have probably gone through, once that’s established, then why wouldn’t a marketplace love you?

Because what you’re doing . . . every time I promote an app, every time I promote my podcast, every time I promote a Kindle book, I’m promoting Amazon and Apple, right? Or if I say I’m releasing an Android app in the Google Play Marketplace, and right now it’s a best-seller in the Google Play Marketplace. That’s like an advertisement for them. So they like that, because you’re bringing them loads of business, and most marketplaces will keep 30%. And so it’s to their advantage to feature very well-performing products that are high-quality.

Andrew: Okay. Well-performing products, look good, etc. Is there anything to do to make sure that they know that we exist and make sure that we kind of ask for the sale? It’s not enough to just be good.

Abel: Yeah.

Andrew: You have to ask for the sale sometimes, right? So what do you do? Do you have a contact there? Is it something else?

Abel: I have no contacts at any of these companies that I’ve used, although some have come after I’ve been featured.

Andrew: So they feature you, and then it results on them calling you and saying, “Do you have artwork so we can feature you?” That’s how you get the contact?

Abel: Yes. I mean, they emailed us asking for artwork before they featured us in the ad marketplace, but they featured my podcast many times without ever asking me for anything. And same thing for Amazon. So they don’t always tell you.

But the best thing you can do to stack the deck is start with a very, very solid product. Whatever marketplace it is, whatever product it is, it should be amazing. If it’s not, you’re not going to get featured. If you do it, you totally . . .

Andrew: What about your product? You don’t have a developer on your team, do you?

Abel: I have a lot of collaborations. And so the way that my business is run, quickly, is mostly as a result of those collaborations. So one of my partners, his name is Andreas, he’s a kick-butt dude. And we decided to build apps together a few months ago. And so he handles the whole design and programming team, the development team. And basically, he manages that process. So they’re not on staff, although we’re thinking of bringing them on.

Andrew: Actually, before we go to the final point. Did I come across as a jerk earlier, where I kept saying, “What about this? Well, can I see that you were featured?” You can be honest, just like I asked you to be honest with the teasing typo.

Abel: Oh, I don’t think that’s being a jerk at all. Especially in this industry, people say a lot of things, right?

Andrew: Yes. It’s got to be tough.

Abel: People say a lot of things.

Andrew: I’m always worried I’m going to get it wrong.

Abel: Yeah.

Andrew: But I don’t want to be a jerk.

Abel: And I think that’s really important. I’ll tell a quick story. There’s a podcaster who I know and love. Very sweet guy, been doing this for a long time, and doing great work. But he was asked to be on someone else’s show, and that other person just wanted to talk about being low-carb. And that’s totally fine, right? You think that someone with a platform and a show does pretty well, would be a good show to go on.

So he goes on, and after he goes on the show, he starts getting hate mail from his own listeners, all these horrible comments from people. It turned out the guy’s a well-known white supremacist.

Andrew: Oh, no.

Abel: So he goes on the show, and all of a sudden he’s sharing the platform of a white supremacist. And that’s an issue. So you’re fact checking all this stuff, tip of the hat. I think it’s really important. We don’t have enough of that today.

Andrew: Thanks. And you know what? And I think you were saying earlier, where some people end up getting a lot of positive reviews. There’s one guy, I wish I could think of his name, not so I could say it publicly here, but so I could talk about it privately when I have people over for scotch. This one guy, clearly he was gaming the process. All the reviews were five stars, and they all said the same thing.

Abel: Yeah.

Andrew: And one of the things that Anne Marie here is doing to check on guests when we consider them is going in and seeing are there reviews, what do the reviews say. And she said, “You know what? We have to make sure that they’re not cheating. Because here’s what I saw.”

Boy, that is . . . it’s funny, and I’d love sometimes to catch people on that publicly, but that’s not my thing. My thing is if that’s what they’re doing, I should just keep them off. I don’t want to catch the white supremacist and say, “Hi, you’re a white supremacist.” I want to say, just no. Avoid him.

Abel: They’ll catch themselves.

Andrew: Thanks for going through all that. And we have one more, but thanks for going through all that.

Abel: Of course.

Andrew: Here’s the last one. Build your own database. What is the problem that we’re avoiding here? That we’re trying to protect ourselves from? Or here, let me show you the image so that you know. This is from my notes. This is what I noticed that you do. All these [??] for people.

Abel: Yeah, sorry, I was just getting . . .

Andrew: Illustrator to illustrate for the people.

Abel: Yes, sorry, I was just getting a little delay there. Yes, so what you want to do is, you know, a lot of these market places…If you do it right, you wind up with many, many customers, a lot of times tens-of-thousands of customers.

The problem is, Amazon, Google, Apple, they’re their customers. They’re not yours. That’s the way that they see it, right?

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Abel: So, there are usually little things that you can do. You can do this in Kindle Book. You can have live links that go to an opt-in form. You can do this in apps as well, and that’s what we did. We knew that people would purchase our apps, and we can still send, like, push notifications to people, but you don’t have them on an email list unless you do something like this.

So on the side of all of our apps, we have this area that it says “Bonus Content: or “Get Your Free (X) Here,” or whatever. Then it has something like this, which is an opt-in form, and it offers them a bribe for signing up for your email list. Which is, you know, any internet marketer is very familiar with that process.

But then, of course, you give them a lot of value, and so what you can do there…This is where it gets really interesting. The reason that I play in most of these major market places is because it’s all lead generation for my premium products. Because when you get a customer who has already seen you on their phone or on their device, and they’ve been really happy with what they’ve purchased for $.99 or $1.99 or $2.99, don’t you think they are a heck of a lot more likely to buy your product that’s $495.00 or join Master Mind or something like that?

Andrew: I see.

Abel: Because they see that you’re delivering value all over the place, and so if you capture that lead, they’re an extraordinarily valuable lead and one that may not have come through your own funnel or your own affiliate connections or anything like that. They’re coming from the market place itself. And so, all of a sudden, you’re using free traffic, and people are paying you to get that lead as opposed to paying for leads.

So, it’s a really cool way of doing it and I have…

Andrew: I see, and it allows you then to have all that mailing list that you can go back and say ‘I’ve got a new product. Will you review it? I’ve got a new product. Go download it while the discount’s there.’ And it just creates this virtual circle.

Abel: Exactly.

Andrew: All right, and the products are right here, right? These are some of the products that we’re talking about?

Abel: Yup.

Andrew: They are right on your site, and we’ll link to them. Do any of these products use Skype to create, because I hear Skype is very weird, as you could see.


Andrew: You don’t use Skype?

Abel: Only the podcasts.

Andrew: Only the podcasts. Way to go. Does this ever happen to you when you record a podcast where the screen goes narrow and wide and narrow and wide? No?

Abel: I’ve had it been…It’s been a little flickery, but I’ve never seen it do what it’s doing right now for you. This is novel. [laughs]

Andrew: It is. Well, that’s one of the reasons why I’m glad that we have all of these visuals. Thank you so much for doing this. I will, of course, link to all of these products, all of these apps, so that people can see them directly.

But, the site to go to, is it Is that the best place for people to see what you’ve been working on?

Abel: That’s the best place for the health vertical, but also I have a number of projects that are in, like, the business vertical. If you’re interested in consulting or publishing type things…

Andrew: Yes, that’s what I meant.

Abel: It’s Also, I have a project that I’m pretty excited about that’s done with Jaime Tardy of Eventual Millionaire, and that’s called Done Cast. Basically what that is, it’s going to go over a lot of the stuff I talked in terms of launching in the new media.

Andrew: I know that. Where’s that site?

Abel: You know, so it could be a podcast. It could be an app. It could be something else, but, yeah, we’re really excited about that. And that’s at

Andrew: How do you spell that?

Abel: Actually, we’re building it right now. [laughs]

Andrew: Ah, sounds great. Sounds right up my alley. I’m curious to see..

Abel: But, it’s d-o-n-e-c-a-s-t.

Andrew: All right. Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of it. If you’ve got anything of value from this besides learning not to record using Skype…Actually, Skype is really good. This is just a one-time thing. It’s one of the…

Abel: And the audio is going to be stellar.

Andrew: Sorry?

Abel: And the audio is [laughs]…

Andrew: The audio is going to be stellar because you have a good mic, and the content is…

Abel: Forget I said that.

Andrew: If you’ve got anything of value, please let Abel know. Thank you all for being a part of it. Thank you, James. Bye.


Master Class:
How to create company culture
(By going beyond customer service)
Taught by Robert Richman of Culture Blueprint

Master Class: Culture

Report Bugs


Andrew: This section is about how to create a corporate culture. It’s led by Robert Richman who launched this,’Zappos Insights’, the Zappos family company dedicated to helping businesses with their cultures. Today Robert is working with fast growing disruptive companies to co-create their cultures, he is also the author of this book ‘The Culture Blueprint’, a step by step guide to shift and design your company’s culture. I will only be here to help facilitate.My name is Andrew Warner; I’m the founder of Mixergy, where proven founders teach. Robert, we all think of Zappos as being this giant of a company that everyone studies but it launched back in the late 90s, what was the problem with selling shoes back in the late 90s?Robert: You take yourself back to that time period, people were really hesitant to buy things online, even books, they put their credit cards, do this type of transaction and you take that and imagine it with shoes, something that’s very, very tangible, people couldn’t even imagine that and why would they do it?To get over that hump they said okay, well what’s so great about buying shoes in a shoe store, what’s the experience of it that makes it so great? It was well, you get it immediately for one and two that there’s great service, somebody’s right there helping you.

So the idea was what if rather than spending the marketing dollars on Super Bowl ads which the company didn’t even have, was if that was invested into the service experience so getting the shoes there the next day, having somebody available, an 800 number on the front of the site, which was revolutionary at the time, no call limit times, call answered in under a minute and free returns both ways.

By creating an experience, heavily based on service that was as close as possible to the shoe store buying experience, that was what was able to cross the hurdle and get people to spread word of mouth that a company was just so dedicated to being of service rather than just trying to get your transaction and money out the door really quickly.

Andrew: So, I’ve got all these principles that we’re going to be talking about but I know that the person listening has got to be thinking, alright if service is the way to do it, why couldn’t Zappos or why can’t the companies that are listening to us just say, we’re going to be in the customer service business, here are the five things you need to do to give good customer service, address people by name, offer them a toll free number and so on. What does culture have to do with all this?

Robert: It’s a great question. The biggest misnomer with this is having the word customer in there. The word customer isn’t even in the Zappos corporate values. Their value is deliver wow [??] through service, the word customer is intentionally not in there because what happens is, anybody whose focus is just on customer service, tends to be of service only in front of the customer so it ends up being like acting, we’re going to put on our smiling face when we’re talking to the customer but on the side whether it be the vendors or bosses or co-workers, we’re not going to be of service.

The secret ends up being creating a culture of service such that everything came from that place because that’s what’s necessary when a call rep or whoever it is that’s of service, is going to have to make a call on the spot. When you make a call on the spot, which is constantly happening at Zappos up to twenty thousand times a day with the calls, you’ve got to have that instilled in you which is why the value is to be of service and the company actually looks for people who love to be of service rather than training people in service, that makes sense.

Andrew: Yes, and I can see the before and after, here is the site as it was back in 1999. This is before culture became so closely identified with Zappos, it’s before so much of what we know about Zappos was actually built and you can see right from the top that we got that from Today as you say, the phone number is right on the home page.

I don’t know if people can see it if I zoom out, it’s right at the very top there, 800-927-7671 and it’s just a part of the way they communicate their culture and we found this. I usually talk about how big companies get as a result of what they do but it’s more than that, the company is regularly featured as one of the best companies to work for so their people love working for them, it built up a company that was worth over, what is it, 1.2 billion dollars they sold to Amazon and people who work there love it so it’s obviously worked for them.

Alright so now the next thing I think about is, maybe because I’m just a selfish guy, and I imagine that my audience is here saying how do I apply this to my business, and that’s the next thing, right great for Zappos, what do we do, how do we do it, so in your book The Culture Blueprint, you have these principles that I thought we can talk about.

Robert: Yeah.

Andrew: First is to co-create your culture. And when I take a look at… You talk about how one of the first things you did when you joined Zappos was take a class on culture. I went online, and I looked at videos like this one. This is like a video done in one of the classes by someone holding onto what seems like a phone with video capability. What I go to is the tiara on the guy’s head and the wackiness in the environment, but there’s something else you noticed right from the first day when you went in to learn about culture. What was that?

Robert: Yeah. Let me just preface this by saying these principles that you’re talking about here, this is like the shortcut. This is the short code after years of studying this, of finding what the principles are that make it work. So this is the real high value stuff to understand culture very, very quickly without taking years to study it.

This principle is around co-creation like you said. I really started to discover this at the culture class. This was rather than it being a class and saying, “This is what the culture is” and dictating it and saying, “This is how you’re going to have it.” The first conversation was actually a question; what is culture? And we sat there and discussed, not even what is Zappos’ culture. What is culture? What are we really talking about? It’s amazing how many conversations you’ll see. People aren’t really defining their terms, and people can be having different conversations about the same thing.

Andrew: So then wouldn’t it make sense for Zappos too to tell you here’s what culture is, write this down and remember it?

Robert: No, no, no. A discussion, what does it mean? How do you see it? Where is it? What is it? And if you ask anybody, just ask anybody the question, especially in an office, what is culture, you’ll get 30 different answers. It’s a really rich conversation to be had because culture can be so many things.

That was the idea. First, we’re going to define it and discuss what it means. And then we’re going to say, “What is Zappos’ culture and what is that like and why?” And I realized that we were co-creating this idea that rather than them dictating to us what culture is.

Andrew: Remember in Tony Hsieh’s book, “Delivering Happiness”, he said that when he wanted to write down what Zappos stood for, those corporate principles, he emailed everyone who worked at Zappos and said, “What makes us great.” And then he got a big list from them and then he picked the ones that he thought made the most sense. I’m over-simplifying it, but it was, “What do you guys think”, here’s what I think and it was a back and forth, and that’s what you mean.

Robert: That was the core values creation process, yes. The idea behind this is you just co-create, anything from a meeting to the entire core values process. That was definitely a vast simplification. It took a year. The process I do with clients takes about seven months, and it’s a whole system though, back and forth co-creation.

Andrew: So give me an example of how if someone’s watching this or reading your book and they say, “Alright. I want a culture that’s meaningful here. I want a culture that I get excited about working for and that my customer and my co-workers are excited about being a part of. I was told by Robert Richman I should be co-creating. What do they do to co-create? Where do we start?

Robert: Yeah. It can start anywhere. For example, one of the things I did… People stop and say, “I’m only a company of one or two. This doesn’t apply at all” For example, when I first had my assistant on, we didn’t do any work the first day. The first day our meeting was, “I want you to tell me what makes for a great boss. How do you communicate well? How are we going to disagree with each other? How will I know that you’re growing and doing well and happy?” And it was an entire conversation where I, as manager/owner, was just asking questions.

Andrew: I’m sorry. Were you asking questions waiting for the right answer? And then going, “Yeah. That’s great” and giving positive reinforcement when you get what you want, or how do we do it without being chaotic? Otherwise, then they want one thing and I want something else.

Robert: Because this is going on you know it whether or not, and this is just bringing consciousness and shining a light on it. So all things are happening. There is a conversation going on in the back of his mind, and it’s just bringing it to light. One of the great questions to ask him is, “What is your expectation? What is your expectations of me? Now I’m going to cover my expectations of you. Let’s see if we’re even on the right page before we start off a whole relationship.”

Andrew: I see. Alright. You say to the very first person even if it’s just a two person operation. It’s what do you think this company is about. What do you expect of me and so on? Alright. Let’s go on to the next big idea which is to share what you want. Again, I went online and I found tons of photos from Zappos. Here is a photo by, someone’s personal site and he took this photo as he was walking through Zappos’ office.

You guys allowed… You’re not with Zappos anymore, right?

Robert: Right. Right.

Andrew: Zappos allows people to come in and tour the office and see this stuff. Why? What’s the purpose of showing everyone else how to create a culture? Why not focus on selling shoes?

Robert: That’s right, yeah. You know, people would say wow, you can do this despite sharing all this. I started to realize being there for several years that in a lot of ways it’s because of. The idea with it, a lot of people say wow this is a mass distraction.

But, what happened was having that many people – when I was there it was 25,000 people a year coming through – it really holds you accountable to it. People talk about values just being on the wall. Or, people are talking about culture but not really living it.

But, people are coming in day after day interacting with any employee – and by the way, anybody from the press can interact with any employee. So, everybody is constantly in an authentic state. To do that if you’ve got people coming in constantly you actually have to really truly live it and breathe it.

That’s why it really sustains the culture, and it keeps it in people’s minds. When everybody’s on the tour and they’re talking about it, and people are asking about it, and you’re saying the answer, it reminds you. So, it’s like this actual free refresher that comes in reminding you why you started the company and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Andrew: I see. One of the things we here at Mixergy believe in is systemizing. You write down what you do. Then, you keep thinking about how you can get it better and better and better. If I tell everyone else this is what we stand for, then it’s a dictatorship. If we all decide why we stand for it and how we do it, then we’re co-creating. Great.

Robert: Exactly.

Andrew: The next step you’re saying is maybe invite people who are struggling to document and keep their team together. And, to come into our office and see how we document. And, to allow anyone on the team to just open up our documents and say here’s how we screen guests, here’s how we read books so that we really absorb what we’re learning, and so on.

Even though that’s going to take an hour, maybe a precious hour, from one other team member’s time, you’re saying it’s worthwhile. Because it’s going to reinforce the way that she does it, and it’s going to reinforce the message of systemization in her when she teaches it.

Robert: Yeah. There’s that. There’s that you don’t know what to expect when it comes back. Some people might have more new ideas on systemizing that you didn’t know about.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: The other thing is it’s for your own guests. Your own super fans, they want to know what’s behind the scenes and what does it take to make this show. They feel like they’re a part of that process by seeing it happen.

Andrew: I see. All right, I get it. Okay. And, you’re talking about even simple things like that. If I’m running a small operation where I don’t have this kind of interesting background and all this, even if all I do is I love to systemize, even if all I do is I love to read books and turn them into programs like this, that’s something that I stand for and I believe, and someone would want to watch and come in and learn from that.

Robert: Oh yeah, absolutely. I’m sure so many of your viewers are asking how do you get through a book so quickly, what’s your tip on how to read it, how do you ramp that up, and what are the programs you use. I’m sure a ton of your audience is curious about all of that.

Andrew: You know what? I’ve wanted the team here to do that, to share how they do it, for the same reason that you’ve just talked about. I think maybe I punked out of doing it. Because I thought, well, it’s going to take too long. Maybe I thought too much like we should make a formal program out of it.

You’re saying no, just invite them in. Maybe I’m thinking, too, if it’s not in the office we could just do a screen share where someone who reads the books here… We have a couple of people who read your book, believe me, at least a couple. Maybe Alex Champagne who read it can, say, do a GoToMeeting with someone and say here’s how I do it.

Robert: Yeah.

Andrew: Here’s what I’m looking for. This is how I find the good stuff. All right. I like it.

Let’s go onto the next point. I’ve started highlighting this point so people can see where we are and follow along. The next one is to let culture feed culture. Here’s what I saw. By the way, we go and we hunt so much to see is this true, is this something the company really does, and how do they do it.

Here’s what I found that I think you’ll understand. Right now Zappos has a help wanted ad on some site for an audio visual college intern. I looked at it to understand what’s going on here. I don’t know if people can see it. I’ll just read it. There’s a little line there that I’ve highlighted with a red box. It says shooting and editing videos to magnify the Zappos family culture to the world.

So, there’s a team of people who do this, and an intern now who’s going to be hired on to shoot video of the culture.

Robert: Yeah.

Andrew: And, this is something that you talk about in your book. What’s going on here? Help us see behind the scenes what they’re doing.

Robert: Yeah. In a way it’s like a much more extensive example of when you hang out with your friends and you all recount a really funny story that you just loved. You get to retell it again and re-experience it that way.

That’s what happens when a culture decides to actually take the time to document in whatever ways, video is one of the best, and say this was a moment in our time and we get to relive that because that was something that can’t just be passed down orally if you’ve got generations and generations coming through and you can show them these examples of the company, another one is the Zappos Family music video that was done that was really incredible.

We even did that on my own team where we did like a reality TV show style introduction that highlights each of our personalities and we would just love watching it every now and then because it reminded us of each other’s personalities, why we liked each other, why we like working together and so it’s this idea that culture really feeds on itself so do what you can to document it and make it fun so that you can use what to re- invigorate the culture.

Andrew: Ah, I see, okay. So if one of the things we stand for is having fun on the job, it’s not enough to just have fun on the job, you’re suggesting also document is so you know that it’s precious, document it so that a year from now you can go back and look at it, that twenty years from now people who still continue this culture of fun can go back and look and say here, we’ve always been like this. Culture feeds culture meaning document it, save it, and keep sharing it within the organization.

Robert: Exactly.

Andrew: Alright, so what about a smaller organization? You work with companies that are smaller, that are just getting started with their culture. What do you do for a company of say five people, small funding, a few hundred thousand dollars, and they say we’re on the verge of doing something great, we want to implement this, is it just a matter of taking iPhones and taking photos?

Robert: It really can be that simple. You wouldn’t believe how long at Zappos we were doing it just with Flip Cams, before there was even an A/B team. It’s that whole idea that, yeah with an iPhone everybody’s got an incredible camera now, if you want to you can even edit it on there but [??] it has the software as well, you throw in music, it’s even got movie preview stuff things you can do, it’s just so incredibly simple to do it that anybody can.

Andrew: I’m imagining of course it’s not just photos of what’s going on day to day but it’s photos of what you stand for or what you want the culture to represent, right?

Robert: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay, so it’s not just here’s me on the job today, here’s me with my brand new computer, we don’t stand for [??] new computers and what we stand for it’s those areas that signify that show and expression of what you stand for.

Robert: Yeah. Like it would be great if somebody on your team, after you got on the phone with like a fantastic interview and you’re like feeling great, they just popped out the phone, they said Andrew what’s up, well what was great about that interview, and in that moment when you have all that energy, you’re just showing it and sharing it.

Andrew: You know what, we’ve had those situations and we haven’t captured it, and you know what, and I always think that the parts that are really serious to us, that are important, I don’t want to document because I want to be more in the moment but I always regret it later on.

Like last night some people from Mixergy audience came over to my house and we talked and we had this really great discussion, and at the time I thought I shouldn’t be taking photos, now I’m really regretting not doing it, that personal conversation is one of the things that I want to preserve and I want to remember later on when hopefully we’ll do more and more of it.

Robert: Exactly.

Andrew: On to the big board again, this is one of my favorites, make culture game like. The reason this is one of my favorites is because first of all, I love games like, I love games like this one, this is my favorite game. And second because there is a guide, a table in your book that helps me understand where I’ve screwed up in the past. Right, there is it. Can I actually give this screenshot to the audience from the book because I don’t think they can see it on the screen as clearly? Are you okay with that?

Robert: So, I’m going to take them through it, is that what you said?

Andrew: Well yeah there is, first of all what I’m asking is can I give this to the audience this[??] screenshot?

Robert: Yeah.

Andrew: Help me understand how culture should be game like and then we can talk about this box.

Robert: Sure. I think the key distinction here is, this is not gamification[sp], gamification is like adding badges and scores and points and things like that which does have its place absolutely. This is about game dynamics and a lot of this comes out of Jane McGonigal’s work from “Reality is Broken”, she studied gaming and it has these core four elements that if you see it you can see it anywhere in culture and if the culture breakdown is happening it’s usually in one of these four areas.

So the idea is that every game, and not all games are fun, again it’s about the dynamics of the game because if you have the dynamics then you know how to play and you know how to win. If you don’t know how to play and you don’t know how to win the game that’s where it becomes really frustrating. So, in order to have a good game, it requires that one, a clear goal, what does a win even look like, you wouldn’t believe how many employees are just thinking, how do I know if I’ve done my job well, how do I know if I’m succeeding here? Many people don’t.

Andrew: Okay.

Robert: So, a clear goal both for an individual as well as the team and as well as the company.

Andrew: Did you always know what your goal was when you were working on Zappos Insights?

Robert: It kept changing. It kept changing. It didn’t change every day, and we would talk about how it would change. For example, when I got in there the verse was just approve the business model. We weren’t even sure this was going to take. Doing the first event and seeing if people would pay for it, that was the first win.

Andrew: Okay. And, Zappos Insights is where you taught the Zappos way to other companies, right?

Robert: Exactly. It wasn’t only Zappos way. We really were studying culture entirely.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: All companies would come through, and we would learn from them as well, so not just the Zappos culture.

Andrew: Okay. So, the first one is here, and I’ll zoom in on just that top one. There it is. The first one is have a clear goal. Unhealthy companies, unhealthy games, have fuzzy goals. If you want to have healthy culture everyone needs to have a clear goal.

Robert: Yeah. When people say we’re going to be the best blah, blah, blah, what does that mean? How do we know if we’ve achieved it? And, even defining that, if it’s fuzzy, or if some people know the goal and some don’t, or some people have one goal but another group or department or team has a competing goal, that’s, again, another area where culture goes wrong.

Andrew: Okay. The next one is clear rules versus vague rules.

Robert: Yeah. One of the rules, for example, if you’re playing soccer and somebody decides to pick up the ball, then it becomes a really bad game. Suddenly, it’s not a lot of fun when people are just making up their own rules. This is what can happen if they’re not clearly defined or if they are defined but they’re not enforced.

Some companies have core values as rules, but they’re more like guidelines. They just say this is what we recommend, but if you happen to be a high performer who’s making us a lot of money and you break one of these rules, that’s okay. We’re going to overlook that. But, in case we need to enforce them we will.

That’s where things get really vague. It’s where some people have some rules, other people have others. Some are enforced. Some are not. That’s when people start to check out or say, you know what, I’m going to make up my own rules. They start to play politics and realize, oh, Andrew really plays by these rules, but John over here plays by these other rules.

That’s when they start having to navigate the corporation to understand what rules people are playing by rather than everybody just having clear rules, and playing by those, and there being consequences for not following them.

Andrew: You know what? It is hard. So, one of the rules here at Mixergy is whatever you do you document so that you teach other people on the team how you do it. I’m tempted sometimes to just say if this is too hard don’t document it. Or, if you’re too important and you’re too bored with documenting then don’t do it. You’ve got to stick with those rules. It’s so tough, because I don’t want to be a rule master. I want to just create.

Robert: Well, there may be another rule there to explore, like in which case is it absolutely a must. And, maybe there are certain things that need to be documented that don’t, and you establish a clearer rule about that. So, it’s just more clarity on the rule rather than everything gets documented.

Andrew: Got you. Okay. On to the next one which I’ll bring up here in a second. I’ve just been pulling them out and copying and pasting as you can see. Accessible feedback. Healthy companies, healthy games, have accessible feedback. Unhealthy companies have no feedback. What kind of feedback do you have in a game, by the way? What do you mean?

Robert: In a game it’s just the score. It’s how many goals do you have. It’s a very easy process. You understand. Everybody is on the same page of if we’re winning or if we’re not by that feedback mechanism of the score.

Andrew: Okay.

Robert: In a company it becomes a little more tricky and complex where it’s, again, on an individual level, a team level, and a company level. Many employees complain in surveys that they don’t know how well they’re doing. I’ve had star employees say to me, well, I’m not even sure if I’m doing that well. I said, are you kidding. Because there wasn’t an institutionalized way of giving them feedback so that they know that they’re doing well.

On a team and especially company level, the more visual that can be the better. So, if you can actually see on walls how are we doing economically in terms of our customer score, in terms of just anything that you want important, make it visual and in front where you’re keeping that score. That’s going to keep it front of mind, whereas if it’s not available people really start to freak out. Because they don’t understand how well the company’s doing and they don’t understand how well they’re doing as employees.

Andrew: I get that. Okay. Then, the final one is, oh, I’m grabbing the wrong image here. There it is. The final one right there is healthy companies and healthy games have opt in. Unhealthy companies, unhealthy games are mandatory enforced.

Robert: Absolutely. The idea with games is you get to choose whether you play them or not. What companies tend to do is force people to do things. This is happening at every level from assigning projects without even saying, hey, do you agree to do this. Agreement is just assumed. They don’t actually get that agreement.

One of the best examples or stories of this that I’ve seen of why this is so powerful and how it breaks down of actually opting in consciously is what happens with restaurants. A study was done that showed when a maitre d’ or somebody on the phone says, “Hey, Mr. Johnson, we’ve got you down for four people at 7:30 p.m., call us if anything changes, a high percentage of the time they would not call. The table goes unused and they lose money.

Whereas when it was changed to an opt in style conversation the person said, “Hey, we’ve got you down for 7:30 p.m., will you call us if anything changes, and actually waiting to see if there’s agreement. They’d wait, and the person would say yes. Now that they’ve actually opted in, the percentage shot up of people actually calling to do it. Because they actually agreed.

That opt in is happening in everything from levels of assignments to who’s going to be in on a meeting to even coming in for the job. That’s why Zappos has the famous offer $4,000 sometimes to quit so that people could say okay, I’m completely here by choice, rather than I have to be here for money. If they got in the door and said oh my God this is way overwhelming, I didn’t know it would be this crazy here, but this is my job and I have my bills to pay and I’ve got my family.

No. Let’s take that off the table and say do you really, fully want to be here, are you fully opting in.

Andrew: Okay. On to the big board. The next one is build your culture on systems. I’m going back to this image that I showed earlier. This does not look like a company that’s systemized. It looks like a company that’s just having fun. There are streamers. Do you mean the same thing by systems as I would? What do you mean by that?

Robert: Yeah. A system is an institutionalized habit. So, when we create habits it means we don’t have to think about it anymore and we do what we need to do. For example, if you have a habit of going to the gym every day, every morning…

Andrew: …Yeah…

Robert: …and you do that, you don’t have to think about getting in shape. You are just simply doing it as habit. So, what systems do are institutionalize habits.

For example, when Zappos as a company decides, you know what we’re going to do, we need to meet four times a year and check in. Everybody gets together. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to go over the company numbers. We’re going to get educated.

That’s done four times a year no matter what. That’s just one system example. The entire recruiting process, the entire training process, each of these there was a long while before determining the core values, and then really creating processes that make the core values a part of everyday living rather than everybody having to think constantly how am I living the values.

Andrew: You say the three parts of a system are elements, interconnections, and purposes. What do you mean?

Robert: The idea with this is the elements are like, for example, people. The interconnectedness is what’s the relationship there. Then, the purposes is why.

Like any system, you want to have a purpose to it. For example, a system would be onboarding and recruiting. So, onboarding, you’re getting people within there. For example, what’s being paid attention to are the people there, but what are the connections to them?

So, rather than just onboarding where people are coming in and learning what they have to do, a lot of time is spent building the connections between people and building the connections between teams. Because this is the system that’s going to get it done. So, when people kind of come in assuming okay, I’ll just train people to do what they do, that’s all going to happen.

But, it’s the interconnectedness of the elements and to which purpose so to which value create fun, a little weirdness, deliver [Inaudible 0:03:48] service whatever those values are. Each of those values is a purpose. So, this kind of gets to high level systems thinking. But, you know, if you really…

Andrew: …Can you give me an example of how a smaller company would use this.

Robert: That’s a good question. Let me think about that. The idea with it is just to start rather than getting overwhelmed with it. That’s why I use the example of somebody’s first day.

Andrew: I see.

Robert: What are you going to use, no matter what position it is, no matter when they’re coming in, and say okay this is what we need to do to bring them in? Even something I think that’s important is how you start off the day.

What I used to do with my team was we’d have 15 minutes of just saying what it is that we’re really excited to be working on, what’s the thing we’re going to focus on, and any updates. We would do this every morning as a ritual, as a system, to get people to connected to what each other are doing and to build excitement and energy for the day.

Andrew: Got you, okay. So, we’re talking about much simpler systems than I imagined. Especially when we were talking about the Zappos system I started to feel, oh, this is overwhelming, it’s going to take a long time to build it and I should spend that time building my company. But, when you bring it down to the level of a system for how you start your day, a system for how your day. A system for how you on-board a new employee.

Then I’d really understand the importance of it it, first of all for us, and also I can see that you can start simply. In my mind I’m thinking alright; just make sure that we give them their GMail account or the internal Google app account with our domain. Let’s make sure that we give them access to Google docs and show them how that works. Alright. So we start simple, we go from there. But it’s a system that reinforces this culture and makes it easier for people to work with us.

Robert: Exactly.

Andrew: Okay. Let’s go on to the Pen Ultimate. It’s one of my favorite words apparently. Pen Ultimate point here, which is to use the currency of culture. What is that currency? What I’ve come to realize is there’s actually set [??] petal. Culture currencies that are going on. So one that actually isn’t so much focused on the book, but I’ve seen as just one of the most important is energy. Energy. Energy is hugely important.

And, I mean, just think about it on the simplest level. You know, if you come to work, and you’re energized you can take on the world. If you come to work and you’ve got no energy, I could give you your favorite book, your favorite project and you would just say, I just want to go home and watch a movie.

Robert: Okay.

Andrew: How many business schools are really focused on energy? I don’t hear of any, really. I mean, some work like Tony Schwartz’s, but they’re not really drawn into the same way nutrition isn’t taught to doctors. But it’s really the core of it. So, what, you know, one of the things that we would do is that, of course, is have a three minute dance party. We’d throw on a song. Everybody dancing for three minutes and then going back to work. Because energy’s the currency. Energy is what’s really running things.

Robert: I see. What other currencies are there? Actually, I think I’ve got one. One of them is one of my favorites that I keep trying to empathize to interviewees.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Robert: Which is storytelling. And I love that this article did so well on Life Hacker. The power of storytelling. Why is story telling such a power currency?

Andrew: It’s so powerful because it’s essentially, it’s a currency that carries values without telling people what to do. And, so people can actually see themselves in the story. See the company in the story. When you should see like. When you hear a story, for example, about how the company had to sacrifice everything for a core value.

Robert: Uh-huh.

Andrew: And then it’s not . . . Well, there’s an incredibly story about that. That at Zappos where 25% of profits were let go of in a day. And over into dedicate itself to service. And when you do that, you don’t have to actually say to employees, we value service here. And you should too.

Robert: What is that? What is that story?

Andrew: That story is when during the early days when it was expanding to become one of the biggest, to become the biggest shoe store. Every brand would allow Zappos to ship shoes out. So some would drop ship on Zappos’ behalf. But if they would do it right, there was no way that the company could do anything. They’d say, hey, I got my shoes two weeks late. Why not? And you really couldn’t throw the vendor under the bus.

So the choice was, does the company would work with every single brand and say, hey you know what, some people may get their shoes two weeks late, but we’re using every brand. Or cut off the brands that will not directly give the shoes to the warehouse and have a top level service experience.

And in one day, 25 percent of brands were cut. Huge percentage of revenue, just dropped off the table, to say, you know what, we are more about service than we are about revenue and becoming the biggest shoe store in the world. And that play ended up being a move, that not only got it to be the biggest shoe store in the world, but also #1 in customer service according to American Express’ customers.

So those [??] were achieved by really committing to value. So when you have a story like that, you don’t have to say to people, hey values are important and we value them and we value service and tell people what to think. That’s that whole mandatory, non opt-in kind of style. If you tell a story that’s really inspiring, people immediately get that it’s important and they get all the emotion and energy that comes with it.

Robert: But isn’t it just faster to say, we value service over money? Versus saying, there was a time where we lopped off 25 percent of our revenue because that came from companies that didn’t deliver to our customers fast enough. And, you know, them tell them the story they way that you told it. Shouldn’t we just go for the faster, more efficient way than the story telling?

This is, by the way, what becomes just like the devil’s advocate. Obviously I don’t believe it. But, I should keep challenging this way because I don’t want to keep reinforcing what I believe. I want to challenge what I believe. And in this case . . .

Andrew: My whole thing whenever I speak to any audience is I say don’t believe anything I’m saying. Don’t believe any of it. Try it. And see what happens. And try those two techniques. And you’ll see, if that works for you great. I really seriously doubt it will. If you have the access to a story. If you don’t have access to a story, that says something, too. Because it usually means there wasn’t that full commitment that it became tested. If you have both, I would try it. If it works for you just to tell people and [??] all-star service. Great.

Robert: Alright.

Andrew: Finally embrace the secret to innovation. I did a search for Tony Hsieh. I came up with this. Tony Hsieh, of course, the founder of Zappos. I shouldn’t even have to say it even in a whisper. The audience should know. Right there on the bottom it says learn from failure advises Zappos’ Tony Hsieh. What does this have to do with the secret of innovation?

Robert: Sure. The big secret to it that I was surprised to learn – because I thought that I had a great team that was fantastic and there weren’t any issues going on there – but, when we really looked underneath we found that people were actually kind of scared, scared to try something new, scared to do something different.

We can say all day to people hey you’re empowered, do it differently, try new things. But, if people don’t actually feel safe to do it they will not. They’ll find any kind of reason not to, all kinds, even good ones. Hey, I’m way too busy with this other stuff. I’m not going to do it. All kinds of issues if they don’t feel safe.

But, when that happened… For example, at Zappos somebody made literally a million dollar mistake. Tony said we just had a million dollars’ worth of learning. There are all kinds of things that could’ve happened if we didn’t learn it this way. That said to the company and the world hey we value learning, we value innovation, and if you screw up but learn and have great intentions it is okay.

Andrew: I see. So, the way to encourage innovation is to allow for failure. And, of course, the way to communicate that we allow for failure within the organization is to tell stories like the one that you heard about the person who lost a million dollars.

Robert: Exactly.

Andrew: All right. The book is “The Culture Blueprint.” If people want to check it out, is the best place for me to suggest that they go

Robert: It’s going to be coming up there. They can go to and find information there. Right now I’m offering 10 culture hacks for free. The book hasn’t come out yet. I decided what I’m going to do is launch it early next year in a crowd funding campaign…

Andrew: …Okay…

Robert: …as well as by Kindle. Because my big thing with this is I don’t really care so much about best seller list. I want people who are really excited about this, and want to use it, and are going to share stories back about how they used it.

So, I’m going to launch it to a very limited audience first. If you want to find out about how to be a part of that you can go to and download the culture hacks there. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Andrew: So, we’re talking about this page right here. Where do I click to get that?

Robert: That’s under, I’ve got to look myself here.

Andrew: I know where to find the culture hacks, but I don’t remember where it is over here.

Robert: If you go to engage, and then go to culture blueprint.

Andrew: Engage, and then culture blueprint. Where is that?

Robert: Oh my gosh. Sorry, folks. I think we put it under speaking…

Andrew: …Oh I see, engage, and then culture blueprint…

Robert: …Yeah, I did…

Andrew: …at the top right up here. You know what? I’m going to just link people directly to that so that they can get these culture hacks.

Robert: Great.

Andrew: Alright, I’m going to put it right here. Boom, I have it now in the notes. What are the culture hacks?

Robert: The culture hacks are things that I realize that people can make a change very, very quickly. What happened was people would come in and say you know what, I don’t have a year to work on a big culture change, especially from big companies. To do a real core values process that I guide people through, it does take seven months or so to really, really get it, understand it, and develop it through the company.

But, I didn’t want that to be a limiting factor for people not to create shifts in their culture. So, what I did was I said if somebody was to just read this, go to the office immediately, and make a big impact or change on the culture, then what would that be. That’s what I put those tips together for.

Andrew: Alright. And if people want to hire you? How about if they say you know what, screw it. I don’t want to read the book. I don’t want to wait for the book to come out. I just want you to do it for me. Is there a place? I’m looking on your site. Let me see if I can find that.

Robert: Yeah, you can just contact, I think there’s a contact button there…

Andrew: …Just contact you. Are you doing that now that you’re not with Insights?

Robert: Yeah. Basically, I’m doing keynote speeches and then culture assessments which is like a due diligence of culture.

But, the real excitement now is in the core values work. Because when companies do that it lasts for essentially decades, potentially a lifetime, when you have the core values implemented through the whole company. That’s what we’re doing now is actually going into companies, excavating those core values, and then getting them implemented throughout the organization.

Andrew: I like the way you say it – excavating. They’re there.

All right. Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of it. If you got anything of value from this or any other program that I’ve put on, or any other program you see online, find a way to tell the person that you learned from.

In this case, it’s Robert. I would actually suggest if you got anything of value just go ahead and email him. The contact form is right there on his site. His email address is on his site, the same one that I always use for him. Robert, thank you so much for teaching.

Robert: My pleasure. Thank you, Andrew.

Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, guys.


Master Class:
Marketing for small businesses
(Using a step-by-step marketing system)
Taught by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing

Master Class: Marketing for small businesses

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Andrew: Hey everyone. This session is about giving small business owners a step by step marketing system. It’s led by John Jantsch. He is the founder of Duct Tape Marketing, an education and consulting company which teaches real world, proven, small business marketing ideas and strategies. He is also the author of this book, “Duct Tape Marketing.”I’ll help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I am the founder of Mixergy, where proven founders like John teach. These ideas come directly from John’s book. We’ve pulled out a few that we think you as a member of the Mixergy community will be especially interested in, and we’re going to go over them and give you an understanding of John’s process for marketing for small businesses.Welcome, John.John: Hey, thanks Andrew.

Andrew: One of the problems that we are here to address is an issue that Laura Frazier had. What was the issue that she had when she ran Espresso Escapes?

John: She had a coffee shop, an espresso business. It’s probably a business that really relies on that everyday customer coming in. That’s how they build momentum. But, she really suffered from the same problem every business has. What do I do that’s cost effective? How do I promote my business in a way that allows me to build that regular customer?

Andrew: I see. So, what did she end up doing to get regular customers for her business?

John: She tried a lot of things, like advertising and different things. She said one day on a whim she came up with this idea. A couple of people told her it was crazy. She made up these cards. She played on the potty humor, if you will. She played on the being regular in those types of areas and being a regular customer.

She printed up cards that had a message. It was something like nothing feels as good as being regular, or something of that nature. On the other side it had a coupon and information about her shop. I don’t know if she paid people to do it or she did it herself, but she left them around town in various bathrooms.

I think people thought it was funny. This was before social media of any sort. You can imagine today how people would be tweeting this. She found that people came into her shop. It cost her very little.

When I interviewed her she swore it was absolutely the biggest thing she’d done from a promotional standpoint. She even got a couple of articles in local newspapers about the idea. It turned into a real hit for her.

Andrew: All because she printed up these coupons where on the back of the coupon it said nothing feels good like being regular, and she passed them out in bathrooms. I can see how that would be shocking and get attention. But, I’m curious. Before we get into the specifics of the ideas that we’ll be talking about today, what about this makes it into “Duct Tape Marketing?”

John: The idea behind it, and it’s the metaphor of the name quite frankly, is that it’s simple, effective, and affordable. I’d owned my own small business for at least 10 or 12 years already before I wrote the book “Duct Tape Marketing” and really refocused my business totally on small business. It’s kind of the perfect metaphor that a lot of small businesses go through.

I’m sure a lot of your viewers, listeners, and subscribers go through that same thing. What can I do that’s cost effective that I can bootstrap, that I could try tomorrow and see if it works? We’re going to talk about strategy, too. But, those are the kinds of tactics that really get my attention. I think they’re fun. Quite frankly, they’re very practical.

In my mind they’re one of the key advantages that the small business has. Can you imagine Starbucks doing what we just described? They’d be ridiculed. But, a small business owner who’s trying things out and really has the ability to change on the [??] that kind of thing.

Andrew: All right, let’s get into these ideas right now. The first one is you say to put strategy before tactics. At your company, what is your strategy?

John: First, let me describe what I mean by that and why that’s really point number one.

Andrew: Okay.

John: For maybe hundreds or thousands of small business owners that I’ve worked with, the first question was always some tactical thing. Do I need a website? Nowadays, of course, it’s should I be on Facebook? What social network should I jump into? They really get pulled by kind of the idea of the week. I tell people when I consult with them you can’t pass Go unless you have a firm strategy and that firm strategy says here is who our narrowly defined ideal customer is. And, here’s how we’re going to tell them or get them to understand how we’re different than everybody else who says they do what we do.

That second part, of course, is crucial because there has to be some difference. There has to be some way that you stand out, that you offer value, and that you do what you do in a way that nobody else does. A combination of those two elements really makes up a marketing strategy. For a lot of small businesses it’s really their business strategy.

It is the thing that we then can hang all of the tactics on or be a filter for the tactics. A lot of times, when somebody will develop a really strong marketing strategy it makes it very easy then to say we’re not doing that, we’re not going into Facebook or whatever the tactic is just…[SS]…

Andrew: …But, once you come up with your strategy you’re able to express to others and to yourself what you’re going to do and also understand what’s just not right for you.

John: Exactly. It’s like everything, all the tactics that you do, then just become the voice of a very well defined strategy. So, you’re right, [??] decide what not to do as well as what to do.

Andrew: Here’s how you put it in your book for your business. I’m always curious about how the people, the entrepreneurs who I interview, use the ideas that they teach.

You said, when I created “Duct Tape Marketing,” my stated strategy was to create a recognizable small business marketing brand by turning marketing for small businesses into a system and product. This strategy contained a narrowly defined ideal client and a clear point of differentiation. Our mission was to radically change the way small business owners taught marketing, and our marketing as a system strategy became how we do that.

So, marketing as a system – that is your strategy, and that’s the kind of thing that you want us to do.

John: Yeah. What I did to create that point of differentiation was… Nobody in the small business world was really talking about marketing as a system. We went as far as to suggest when somebody [??] – and we’re going to talk about the talking logo or a way to really describe your difference – I would tell them I install the Duct Tape Marketing system.

What I found was for my business I actually created this point of differentiation quite selfishly for myself. I was tired of walking into a business and saying what do you need. Okay, we’ll write a proposal. Then, we’ll come back and tell you what we can do.

So, I said what if I created this turnkey system where I’d say, look, here’s what I’m going to do and here’s what you’re going to do. Here are the results you can expect. By the way, here’s what it’s going to cost.

I was, of course, addressing my frustration. What was interesting about that – and when I knew I was really onto something – was that I ended up addressing the greatest frustration most small businesses have. That is how do I buy marketing, how do I acquire marketing services. Because everybody was essentially making it up on the fly. Nobody was walking in and saying every other part of your business is a system so why isn’t marketing.

Andrew: Here’s the way I see that strategy expressed on your website. I happened to show it earlier, so I still have it up on my screen. Here it is, the ultimate system. One of your products includes the word system in it. You are not just teaching marketing. You’re giving people a system.

John: You bet.

Andrew: Now I understand it, this tactic illustrated through your business. How does the person who’s listening to us right now come up with their strategy?

John: One of the ways I have, a really simple way, may not be the only answer. But, it can be a great start. We’ll come back and dissect that idea of an ideal customer. But, the way I have been successful in getting small business owners to identify and then, hopefully, embrace that difference is to talk to their customers. Talk to six, eight, or ten of your ideal customers [??] ones where, and this is the easy test, ones where you said if I had six, eight, or ten more just like that then life would be great. Ask them why they hired you in the first place, and why they stick with you, and what you do that nobody else does.

A lot of times you’re going to get generic answers like, well, you provide good service, things like that. You dig a little deeper. You say tell me a story about a time when we provided good service. You ask what does good service look like to you.

Here’s what my experience has been in doing now thousands of these interviews for small business owners. You’re going to start hearing themes over and over again. A lot of times it’s the little things that you didn’t know were so valuable, that you thought maybe everybody else did. A lot of times that’s what you have to embrace and say here’s how we’re different, here’s how we’re going to tell the world that we’re different.

Sometimes it takes some guts. Because we all want to sound really, really important, right? And our business does this, and it solves this world problem. Then, our customers tells us, well, that’s great. But what I really like is that you return my phone calls, right? [laughter] It’s the little things like that.

I’ll give you an example. We had a remodeling contractor. This is one of my favorite stories. They did great work. They had carpenters on staff, they did great craftsmanship, and they would swear, when asked, that that’s our key difference is that we do great work.

We started talking to their customers, and their customers said, well, yeah. They do great work, but they’re expensive. We expected them to do great work. What they do that nobody else does is at the end of each day they clean up the job site like nobody else that we’ve ever worked with. They are nice to our kids, they don’t let the dog out, I mean, it was all this stuff that they didn’t think to really promote, and yet it became an essential part of their overall message, that the process of how you get your project done is just as important as the end project.

It really changed their entire marketing message, and really their entire business mentality, to the extent that allowed them to grow in the period we worked with them about 300% just with that new focus and that new message.

Andrew: All right. Great example. Let’s go on to the next big idea, which is to identify your ideal client.

John: Yeah. I …

Andrew: Uh-huh. I was going to show … [??] …

John: I was just going to say, you can tell I’m a little giddy about this stuff. I love talking about these concepts, because I’ve seen the power that they can have. Even if people have heard some of these things over and over again, the whole packaging of them as a system is really a very powerful concept. The idea of the ideal client is that you can’t serve everybody. You can’t be all things to all people.

So often, I talk to larger audiences all the time and I’ll ask people repeatedly who’s your ideal client. I can’t tell you how many times people have said, “Anybody who says they’ll pay us.” Right? That’s kind of the typical response so often. What happens is, of course then I say well, do you want this kind of client or that? Well, no. We don’t want those people. We don’t want people to beat us up on price, or no, we don’t want people that don’t sit through our process so that we can deliver [??].

We start narrowing that down, and it turns out that there are certain not only demographics, the type of business, or firmagraphics as we call them now, or the type of individual. Those are interesting characteristics, but what always happens is, when we really narrow it down to that, tell me about six or eight or ten customers that, if you had six or eight or ten more just like that. There’s always a behavior. A certain type of thing that they do. A certain type of thing they appreciate.

For example, in my business, or my marketing consultants, we have determined that if a small business owner also participates in their industry association, is on committees, or serves on the board of their chamber, or something of that nature, that that’s a really good marker of a behavior that suggests they understand lifelong learning, they want to grow their business, and they want to make their industry better.

So a lot of times you can get really good at creating that narrowly-defined ideal customer. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to take work outside of that, but if you know who you’re looking for, then you can use all of your marketing and all of your decisions about where you’re going to advertise, what shows you’re going to participate in, what trade shows you’re going to go to, and really focus on attracting more of that ideal customer.

Andrew: Here’s an example of that that I saw in the book. This is Malinda. I’ll zoom right into her site. This is Malinda Bartling [SP]. She’s a real estate agent who is focusing on people who have changing lifestyles. She knew that it worked for her, that this message worked for her, when a friend of hers introduced her to a new client.

She said to this friend, “Mary, why didn’t you refer this person to your son?” And Mary said, “Well, it’s because this person was changing lifestyles, and I know you specialize in that.” Another real estate broker didn’t get that business. Malinda did because she focused on that point in people’s lives.

John: Yeah, and what’s interesting about that example is, I think in that case there are probably some specific details that are really helpful. You get into some of the finances say of a divorced couple or something, you know. There can definitely be some particulars that somebody with experience … but the big thing is that the perception is certainly that hey, if this is my situation, if you only work with companies of this size or you only work with people that are in a changing lifestyle, and I myself identify as one of those, at least the belief is that you are going to know how to meet my needs.

Quite frankly, or quite often, that belief turns into the expectation that I’m actually going to pay you a premium to do so, because [??] after all the BS, you’re going to know what I need, and that’s going to get me a better solution.

Andrew: In your business, if you say, “I help anyone with marketing,” you wouldn’t get as many referrals, and you wouldn’t be able to charge as high a premium as if you say, “I help small businesses with marketing.” And that’s what you want us to do. Find that ideal client, communicate that that’s your ideal client, and people will send those clients to you and you’ll be able to charge a premium because you specialize.

John: Quite often, that’s the case, and you can even go farther than that. I’ve chosen to focus on the small business that wants to go to the next level that understands the idea of a system is very attractive, too, and so we hear that time and time again from the folks that hire our consultants is “I want that system in my business.” But you can take that a step farther.

I can be the marketing consultant that specializes in working with plumbers, for example. That would be another great way to niche down even farther. The key is that you’ve got to be able to make a living in that niche, but the narrower you can go, the better in many cases.

Andrew: Real quick. This is a magazine I wouldn’t expect you to read, but there was a period there when you were reading it. You don’t care about the Olsen twins, you don’t care about most of the topics in there. Why did you read People Magazine?

John: Well, I use that example in the book, and quite frankly, now there’s so many only examples, but the thing about People Magazine, if you’ve ever stood in a grocery store aisle, you’ve got all these kind of magazines. Cosmopolitan is another great example. The men’s magazines, like Men’s Fitness, and the National Enquirer. One of the things that these magazines do is they know how, their existence is sucking people in by the headlines that they have on the cover. And they really understand the formula for how to do that.

And the other thing that I think that, particularly in the case of People Magazine, is that if your business relies at all to any degree on pop culture, and what’s going on, and the trends, how silly the world is being, then this is sort of the leading edge of that silliness, but not in a hip way, at all, but more in a, “it’s tipped,” right?

The mass market is now on board with whatever that trend is, so it’s one example of how you have to broaden your horizons, and particularly to get outside of your industry and don’t just focus on the websites and the blogs and the magazines and the newsletters in your industry. Get out there and read everything, particularly anything that your customers are looking at.

Andrew: Here’s the next big point: Discover your core marketing message. This company did it. Again, I will zoom in. Steve, I hope I’m pronouncing his last name right, [SP] and Neil Harris Heating and Cooling. They developed a consistent core marketing message that separated their company from the competition, positioned it at the top of consumers’ minds, and their message is, “Technicians you can trust with your house keys.”

And I can see that right up in the upper left, they have those house keys, there’s an arrow that [??] pointed to a sign there, where they have a picture of house keys on it, too, so I can see the consistency of the message. I see the power of it, “Technicians you can trust with your house keys.” How did they come to that? How [??]

John: Yeah, that’s a great story. I think they’ve actually changed their name, now, so it’s not Neil Harris anymore, but, they came to that by doing those interviews, actually. They had, repeatedly, you think about people coming into your home, and that’s why people rely upon referrals so much. That’s kind of a hard, potentially scary thing to have somebody show up, and come in, and a lot of times you need to leave for a while, while they’re working on a project.

And they just repeatedly heard people say, “Your technicians are just so great. We’d have them over for coffee.” And they even had some people say, “We just give them our keys, because we’re going on vacation, and we want them to finish.” And so they said, “We’re going to run with that theme,” and it’s because of that idea, what they’re playing on, of course, is they’re using a catchy slogan, so that’s different from your point of differentiation.

Their point of differentiation is that their technicians are so clean and professional and friendly, that that’s their differentiator, but they turned that into a slogan of sorts that drove that message home in a way that made people–That’s like saying, “You can trust us,” but in a way that certainly brings it home from a marketing standpoint. So, that’s surely where they came up with that slogan. It’s a great example of then how to turn that into your core message into something that delivers for you from a marketing standpoint.

Andrew: Okay, so I can see how it originates with phone calls and conversations with customers. I want to get a more tactical approach from my audience so that we know how we can also come up with a short message. Maybe this is a good time for us to talk about a talking logo.

John: Sure.

Andrew: What is a talking logo?

John: Well, it’s a device that I really came up with to really help and it’s really just a tool to help in this idea of creating a core message. So, it starts with . . . well, you now understand a logo of course, is that your identifier that should say something about you and should be recognizable and all those things. So, the idea of a talking logo is that same thing, but it’s the answer to this question. What do you do for a living?

Andrew: When people ask you what do you do for a living you want to [inaudible 00:00:58] their answer for them?

John: Yeah, when people ask you, but in terms of using it as a tool, I’ll pose that question to a client.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

John: What do you do for a living? Well, they always say, well I’m a chiropractor. I am a dentist. I’m a plumber, right? It’s their title.

Andrew: I’m a web designer.

John: Yeah, I’m a web designer, right? So, imagine you’re at this fictional cocktail party or networking event and somebody asks you that. Oh, you’re a chiropractor? Okay, don’t need one of those. You know, see you later, right or you’re a plumber or you know, whatever it is. They already believe they know what that is, so the conversation doesn’t go much farther a lot of times.

I’ll give you an example of an architect, right? That’s what he used to say.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

John: You used the answer you know, I’m an architect. Well, we interviewed the clients and after about the third . . . and then his clients were all commercial construction contractors. After about the third, one of them said this, we had to say, well tell me more about that. So, they said, yeah. They do good work. You know, they’ve got those letters by their name. We expected them to be able to design our buildings, but what we really love and you can almost feel them lean into the phone. What we really love is that they help us get paid faster.

Again, after I heard that about three times I had to dig into it. Well, it turns out this architect, their firm had three or four of their architects involved in city councils, on zoning boards, different things around the community and so they really understood the whole red tape game and how to get stuff through [inaudible 00:02:22]. So, consequently their plans got approved much quicker and because of that the contractor got to start to work earlier and got to get that first draft.

So that became their talking logo. Now when somebody said, what do you do for a living? Instead of saying I’m an architect you would say I help contractors get paid faster. Now, if you’re a contractor who has all the struggles and challenges of a normal contractor, are you going to at least say, tell me more about that?

Andrew: Right.

John: You know, as opposed to oh, you’re an architect. I got four of those. Get in line, right? So, it actually became a big part of their core message, but what it did is it captured the chief benefit of how they were different.

Andrew: So, here’s what I see, three parts to that. I help, contractors, get paid faster.

John: Yes.

Andrew: So, it’s I and then the verb of what I do. I show. I teach. I help.

John: Yes.

Andrew: Contractors is who you’re addressing. So, I help web designers. I help plumbers. I help, etc. That’s who you’re helping. Then the final part is, part three is, what you helped them achieve? What’s the problem frustration that your market has? So, I help web designers get paid faster. I help web developers get jobs that are meaningful. That’s the three parts. I didn’t make it up and I didn’t just break it down right now. I obviously read it in the book, but you also talk about it here on your site.

John: Yeah.

Andrew: What I can do is to make sure that people who like this or think that this is useful can see the breakdown of it. I’ll include this in the tool box section of our conversation so that they can come directly here and see how that happens.

John: Yeah, there’s actually a little form there that they can download, worksheet to help them through it. The one point that I want to make on that is you know, for a lot of people that benefit when they get the idea of the formula, but then they say I help small business owners with websites that actualize their core value and blah, blah, blah. It’s like . . .

Andrew: Yes.

John: . . . you basically told me your entire business. So, it’s got to be a real . . . here’s how you know you’ve really nailed it. The person on the receiving end says, really? Tell me more about that, right? I mean, they have to know more. Then you get to talk about your special process or your special experience you know, once you’ve kind of peaked their interest.

Andrew: Okay, not a full description, just a way of peeking people’s interest. Let’s go onto the next big idea. Well, we have so many here, but we’ll get to them all. Next one is to wake up the senses with an image that matches your message. You give an example in the book. This is [laughs] …

John: [laughs]

Andrew: … just an image that I saw online, and you know where I’m going with this, of a boss who wears Chuck Taylor shoes, the ones that I have up on the screen, to the office. His chocolate lab greets everyone who comes to the business, and this person and the people at his company would rather eat uncooked meat than throw recyclables in the landfill. That’s the way you described this person. It’s right down to his outfit and the dog that greets you where you get his message. What’s going on there? Help me understand that process.

John: I intentionally went maybe a little over the top with that description. Do you get a real sense of this business? You get a real sense of this person, what they care about, their vibe, their sense of style, you get a lot of that. If that business that I just described, their clients were corporate CEOs of fortune-500 companies that were looking for a special type of [??] consulting, that’s probably not the match, right?

But, if that business was a software company that designed software that educational institutions used, and again I’m just making up an example there, but the key to that was that if we have this core message, if we have this narrowly defined ideal customer, a lot of what goes into the image elements to the branding really is more effective if it matches.

Now, I’m hesitating because I’m not saying that if you like dogs and your clients don’t like dogs that you can’t have a dog in the office. But I do think that there are certain expectations with … all of those pieces go into what the perception of your brand is, and they should at least be thought out and be a true representation of what your business stands for.

Andrew: So the brand doesn’t end with the logo, it doesn’t end with the website, and it doesn’t end with the product. It extends even to the way you’re dressed, the way you function in the office. I have an example of this …

John: To a large degree, even the core values that are put into action. I used that example of recyclables, and obviously some people jump on the whole green thing because it’s the politically savvy thing to do, but that idea of believing in renewing the planet, that goes deeper than just having recycling bins. Many people are attracted, quite frankly, to businesses where they share their beliefs or they share why they do what they do. So, a good part of your brand as part of that can really be sharing what’s our higher purpose for this business.

Andrew: Where else? What’s our higher purpose is one. You also say on the phone, the way you greet people on the phone. I remember even as a kid calling up Tony Robbins’ phone number to buy a CD or to ask about a CD, and they put me on hold and it wasn’t music. It was Tony Robbins talking, self improvement. What else? Where else would we not …

John: [laughs] You can be a better person today.

Andrew: Right. Exactly. That’s his message, and it’s there on voice mail. What other aspects of our business would we forget to have our brand influence?

John: Well, here’s the over-arching global approach. Any way, shape, and form in which your business comes into contact with a customer or a prospect, you’re performing a marketing or branding function, right?

Andrew: OK.

John: So, that’s the over-arching thing where a lot of people, especially in this day and age when a lot of organizations have found that it’s easy to get virtual workers and to outsource things. Those folks are an arm and a branch of your organization. Are they representing your brand the way you want?

Finance. That’s another one of my favorite areas to pick on. How many companies have incredible branding, incredible marketing, everything is just laid out to a T that touches the customer. Then, they’ve got Olga back there in finance that’s pretty much ruining the whole deal with any interactions [laughs] that the customers have with that department. That’s how you have to look at it.

Andrew: My buddy Noah Kagan from AppSumo, when he sends money as refunds, or just sends money to compensate someone for helping out, it doesn’t come from his main email address or just some billing@whatever, it comes from [laughs] or something. Right down to the email it’s a fun personality.

John: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go on to the next big idea here, and that is to create products and services for every stage of client development. You talk in the book about, and I’ll go again to the example. I always want to show the examples because I understand and I visualize better when there’s a concrete example there. Here’s the one. This is vision space and we can see that they have a white paper for perfect coaching, how companies are maximizing software delivery ROI through Justin Time Training, etc.

So, what are they doing here that we should be studying?

John: Well, there’s a concept. As we were talking about [inaudible 00:00:30], there’s revision of the book. I’ve added this concept that I call The Marketing Hour Glass.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

John: It’s something that I’ve been working on for some time. It’s probably the thing I’m probably most proud of in terms of you know, original creation. So, the idea behind this is that there’s a logical path or journey that the ideal customer needs to go down. What typically happens is those customers that are referring business, they love you, they’re evangelists. They’ve probably whether it was intentional or not, walked down that path. So, the idea behind this is that obviously the first goal is to get them to know you, right?

The seven logical steps are know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer. In a perfect world as somebody comes to know you whether it’s because they read an ad or they did a search and found your website or a friend referred them that you actually have your marketing set up not in the funnel fashion that’s really just aimed at trying to you know, squeeze a few of those people that come to know you through that small part of the funnel, but that you actually spend as much energy on getting them to like you and trust you and understand the value of your brain. Maybe even having a process where they can try what you do.

Obviously, once somebody comes to buy or decides to become a customer, what do you do to keep that experiences high? What’s the orientation process? What’s the new customer process? What’s the process after the sale for making sure that they got the result that they were after? What’s the process after the sale to sell them more stuff? What’s the process of the sale to actually turn them into a referral customer?

So the idea is that you think out each of these stages and that you intentionally create campaigns and products and processes and services that move people through those stages logically. Most people want to run an ad and you know, call us up and we’ll come out and sell you something. That’s actually how you know, the problem is at works sometimes, but that’s how you get that customer that’s not an ideal customer. The way you get more of those ideal customers is you actually teach them to be ideal through your process.

Andrew: Here’s the hour glass. I just found this online.

John: Yeah. That’s it. You [??].

Andrew: I understand the steps, but how is this different from a standard sales pipeline where you get someone to know you, like you, trust you, try what you’ve got, buy it, keep coming back and refer other people? Why the hour glass metaphor as opposed to a pipeline?

John: Well, the reason I use the hour glass, most people actually use a funnel.

Andrew: I know, right?

John: I mean, it’s probably the most common. The problem is it ends when somebody says, okay. Yeah, I’ll buy, right? I mean, that doesn’t mean that they don’t do other things in their company to keep them a customer. What I suggest is and the reason for the hour glass shape is that from that point they decide to become a customer and that you do things to make them a repeat customer and a referral customer, you focus on the customer experience.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

John: The shape expanding back out really demonstrates the idea that a happy customer, a satisfied customer is actually your best lead generation source. That’s the idea behind this shape. Imagine if organizations spent as much time on even lead conversion, but certainly customer experience and referral generation as they did on trying to make the phone ring which is where everybody focuses their attention.

In fact, what I generally tell people to do to make this really effective is to flip it on its head. If you can and you’re really good at this Andrew, so if you could like turn that over for me it would help this presentation. Imagine if you said to yourself, okay we got this new product coming out.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

John: We want to launch this thing, right? Everybody’s first feeling is, okay. You know, what’s the email copy? What are we going to do to get people interested? Imagine if you started with what do we want people thinking, doing and feeling 90 days after they buy this product from us?

Andrew: I see.

John: You know, 45 days after at the time they buy it. So, the idea is that if you worked backwards like that and you focused first on the customer experience [inaudible 00:05:50] referral generation, it would first off you would make a better product, but you would certainly create a better experience.

Andrew: I was also grabbing the link to the eBook that you wrote on this to make sure to include that in the tool box so the people could find that after the session.

John: Great.

Andrew: Whether it’s just so many different sites about this or so many different pages online referring to the marketing hour glass which I’m seeing on this computer right. I said, what’s the best one to link and I think I found a good one.

John: Yes.

Andrew: We’ll include the eBook. All right.

John: Great.

Andrew: Let’s go back to the big board here and now we’re talking about producing marketing content that educates. In your first book, you actually talked about a man called Victor Gonzalez, the logic of success. Actually, here it is. This is the guy. I didn’t see it in the second version, the most recent copy of the book. Do you remember him?

John: I do, but as you and I were talking offline some, the first version of the book was written in 2006. I’m [??] and I’m old. So, I don’t remember everything . . . [SP] . . .

Andrew: Two different things here at Mixergy to make sure that we got this right, Alex Champagne who read the copy of your book that he had for a long time which was the older version .

John: Yeah.

Andrew: I read the most recent one which I got on Kindle because now I prefer Kindle and so he pulled that. I couldn’t even find it in the book, but now I understand why. Well, I’ll quickly tell the story and people will see why it’s not included in the latest version of the book.

Basically he said, people aren’t coming to my website. I’m going to take the content that I think is best, most useful, most educational, put it on the CD-ROM, send it out to potential customers. He did that. Total cost, $3200 back in the CD-ROM days, but because of that he ended up getting 15 customers at an average of $2500 plus travel per engagement. So, 15 customers at an average of $2500 just because he decided to take his educational material and send it directly to users.

So, the format doesn’t work. The main idea still does of educating. Talk about that if you good.

John: Yeah. I do remember it now especially when you reminded me of it. He was a pioneer of sorts, right?

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

John: We are all now. You know, content marketing you can’t get through about eight blog posts than you are assess reader now without somebody writing about content marketing. I mean, everybody’s really accepted this idea that we have to be producing content. It’s not just because you know, we have great things or that we’re all great writers, it’s just that the market now expects to be able to find anything about any problem or solution.

That eBook that you mentioned you know, that’s the CD-ROM now.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

John: Right? So, you know, we have to be [inaudible 00:02:44], we have to be producing high quality educational content that answers you know, that doesn’t just sell or promote, but answers those burning questions that are prospects that customers have or that teaches them actually how to do what they want to do so that they realize we know what we’re talking about.

Andrew: Do you think that it’s enough to just have a blog where you teach or do we need to go beyond a blog and do what you did which is create eBooks?

John: Well, I think you need and again this can get almost silly, but I mean I think you need a blog. I think you need to be producing videos. I think you need to be on YouTube. I think you need to be creating eBooks. I think you need to be on Facebook promoting all of those things. I mean, it really has gotten to the point where once you have this marketing strategy you know, then you need to figure out where are all the [??] that we can create exposure and drive people back.

Still today you know, we’re in many cases trying to drive them back to our home website to capture an email address in many cases so that we can continue that journey you know, through the outer bus.

Andrew: Now, here’s an interesting thing that I saw about you in preparing for this interview. One of the most interesting concepts for me is tactics. In your book was have a testimonial party.

John: Right.

Andrew: I’ve seen actually restaurants. There was this authentic New York pizza in Washington, D.C. where the founder said, when I open I’m going to throw a testimonial party essentially for people who are big on Yelp and have them come out, enjoy the pizza and hopefully they’ll give testimonials. I’ve seen restaurants do it.

You say any business can do it. Hold the party, hire a professional videographer and have the videographer record professional looking testimonials from all of your guests who are willing to participate. Even kick in a benefit for them you say. I love this tactic. That’s why I’m repeating it with such enthusiasm. Even you can say, offer to have the professional videographer record video for their own businesses and their own websites as long as they’re helping you, you should help them too.

I said this is a great idea. Let me go to John’s website and see what I can learn about this, so I can really be prepared in case we talk about it. What I found was the section of the book where you talk about that tactic along with others that are similar on your website.

Then I said, I see John’s process in action. He says, take the content that you put in one medium, put it in whatever mediums make sense,” and you did. You had it almost, maybe even exactly, word for word like it was in the book on your website, and I think in one other blog it was somewhere else. That’s the message that you’re leaving us with. Educate, and forget about one single medium. Put it out there.

John: Yeah. You know, the example I use all the time, and it always boggles me, but I have a podcast that I have had for years. You can go to my site, you can put on the podcast link, and listen to them for free all day long. An organization approached me and said, “Hey, we want to create a podcast app for you.” I was like, OK. Fine. No cost to you. We’ll sell it on iTunes, and it’s $2.99. Thousands of people buy that app and listen to my podcast. It’s the same feed that goes into that.

Andrew: Wow.

John: The message there is, they are getting the content the way they want to get it, and the way they want to control it and have access to it. That, I think, is the important thing. It’s like in the days gone by when people said, do we need to take checks and credit cards? Within reason, you’ve got to be catering to the way people want to get information.

In my business, I have people that buy from me that are 25, and I have people that buy from me that are 65. I guarantee you that they are, in most cases, consuming content and finding me in much different fashions. So, if I want to be able to be available to that slice of the market that fits my ideal prospect, then I’d better make myself available in the ways that they want to consume content.

Andrew: All right. Produce marketing content that educates. There’s a big idea, there. We’re going to go on to the next one, which is to get your entire team involved. Again, I’m going to pull out an example. This example maybe was 20 words in your book, and I still decided I was going to bring this one up. So, no surprise, I will just tell you what it is and tell the audience. This is Conference Calls, Unlimited, a telecommunications firm in Fairfield, Ohio.

John: Actually, Iowa. But yeah.

Andrew: Oh, where is it?

John: In Iowa. Yeah. Fairfield, Iowa.

Andrew: Right. I said Ohio, even though it clearly says “Iowa” in my notes here.

John: [laughter]

Andrew: What they did was they wanted their whole team, contractors and employees, that’s where their focus was, and they wanted them to focus on making customers happy, prospects happy, and making each other happy. Very [??] right?

John: Yeah, right.

Andrew: Do you want to take it from there, or should I continue to read?

John: No, go for it.

Andrew: All right. The goal of each employee when answering the phone was to give callers more than they asked for and play nice with each other. Everyone focused on that goal. They found that employee-based focus worked wonders for the customers, their calls for … boy, I should not be reading this out loud.

John: [laughter]

Andrew: Basically, everyone had more fun, was more productive, had a better experience, and their customers were happy. But, what we’re trying to say here is it’s not just the boss who did this and said, “This is the way I’m running it.” He got everyone involved in the process. You can go to their website and see the phone numbers up there, the focus is on this, and you say that’s what we should be doing. Even if we have one extra person we need to recruit them for our mission.

John: Yeah, and what’s interesting about this particular organization is that not everybody answered the phone. That was not their job, right? But everybody, including the CEO at the time, would rotate through and make sure that they were actually talking to customers, and that they actually had some metrics of how many high-fives they got was kind of in their language.

They actually gave all of their people leeway to, if they had a customer that maybe had a particularly tough challenge, or had something going on that didn’t quite work that they helped them through, they would send them flowers and stuff. Everybody had license to do that.

But where that really starts, quite frankly, is having this marketing strategy and making sure that everyone understands it. I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve worked with over the years that you walk outside of the marketing department or the board room where the executive team meets, and ask them who an ideal customer is for this company, and they couldn’t tell you. Even if they’re a sales person. Ideal customer? Well, I don’t know.

I just go out there and get new business, right? It’s amazing how engaged people will become if you include them in here’s what we stand for, here’s how to talk about our business, here’s our talking logo. I’ve had some organizations where we did this talking logo as a group, and it was actually the first time they all wanted to hug each other instead of kill each other.

Andrew: [laughter] Do I have your permission to link to the page in the book where you talk about it? Because I think I didn’t read it as clearly as I should, but if people want to read it more clearly they should have a way to do that, are we good with that?

John: You bet, you bet.

Andrew: All right. It’s directly to your book, from Google book search, thank God for Google, for situations like this they are priceless. All right, back to the big board, and the next big idea we’ll talk about is, use direct mail, you call it an ideal target medium, why direct mail?

John: Well Sarce(SP), I get a little heat for this because I’m still the promoter of this, frankly. When you think about your own, again, this is going to go with some assumptions that we’re doing it effectively, but think about first off, in your own world, we don’t get a lot of mail that we want to open anymore. First off, we don’t get very much period. People don’t send catalogues and things, or what we used to call junk mail so much.

And so, particularly if you are highly targeted, you know who your ideal customer is, and you are going after the small slice of that possible, and you are sending something that is highly personal, that is valuable, that is leading them to, say, educational content. So an example might be, that you would send to a highly targeted list, you have a new eBook that tells them how to do something.

You send a direct mail piece, maybe 500 pieces, to people to actually offer them this free eBook, which is then going to be followed up by a webinar, or in person seminar that you’re going to do. It does have a hard cost, but what I love about it is you can really stand out doing it effectively, particularly when you combine it with some online tools. You’re driving people online, even if you’re then trying to drive them back off line, into a seminar or workshop.

Andrew: We’re not talking necessarily about buying a list of names, I think you gave an example of one person in your book here, this is Donald Levin, Levin Public Relations, in New York. What he does is, he uses something that he calls the Levin 10 letters a week method, I like that he named it after himself. First he researches 10 companies, for who he thinks he can provide profitable service, profitable to the company, and profitable to his own business. He studies their websites, calls them to confirm the single best person to write, then he starts writing to them.

Then he gets the follow up with them. But what he’s doing here that stood out for me was, he’s manually looking for these people, he’s manually making sure it’s the right person, he’s not sending out thousands of letters to a list that he bought, he’s just doing it one at a time. To me that feels more connected to the work that we do, easier to do, more manageable.

John: Well, it’s far more effective, I think a lot of people want the push button method, send out 10,000 letters and make the phone ring. What he’s doing is, he understands who’s an ideal client, and he is personalizing the experience in very, very small batches. The other thing I love about it too is, he probably spends a couple hours a week doing it, and it all comes down to the type of business, what business you need, or how many leads you need.

But that type of prospecting, personalized prospecting can be done by an individual sales person, and greatly increase their chances of getting in front of the right person, with the right need, and having that person really being receptive to actually now talking to you about their issues and challenges. Now I believe that you also have to have that in this day and age, you have to have that.

Here are some resources, you know, here’s an online video you can watch, because we have to build that trust, we have to establish that trust. You can do it with that letter, but then you have to back it up with some things that allow people to experience your brand, before they ever invite you into their world.

Andrew: Here’s the final point that we pulled out of the book. Ramp up your referral machine. How do we do that?

John: Well, you know this is a great segue, I’ve written another book since Duct Tape Marketing, called The Referral Engine, so you just go buy that book. Actually, this is one of my favorite subjects, because so many businesses I work with will tell you that a significant amount of their business comes by way of referral. But it’s what I call, the accidental referral, you know, they do good work, somebody else needs what they do.

And so they tell a friend, and next thing you know they’ve got a referral, right? So, what I’m suggesting, and really that entire book was about, that you have to have a very systematic approach to that. It’s part of the hourglass, that I talked about, so you’re going with every customer with a referral in mind even if that’s you know, I give one really tactical thing that has worked for thousands and thousands of people that I’ve worked with during the sales process as you’re actually agreeing to here’s what we’re going to do for you today customer that you actually would say.

We know you’re going to be so thrilled with the result that we’ll promise today that in 90 days I’m going to come back, we’re going to make sure you’re thrilled and we’re going to ask you to tell us about five more people that you think need this result as well.

Just even a simple thing like that of putting referrals in the lead conversion of the sales process is one really simple way to make a focus on referrals. It’s amazing how many companies I’ve talked to that they get a significant amount of their business by way of referrals and yet they do nothing to actually amplify their refer ability.

Andrew: You know, I did an interview with a top salesman at this company. There it is, Cutco Knives. I said, how did you become a top salesman? He said, you know, one of the first things I did was I didn’t call on customers and said I want to sell you. I said, I’m here not to sell you. I’m here to get a referral from you and so I’ll show you my knives and teach them and show you why they’re so important, but my hope is at the end of this if you know someone who could use it then you’ll refer me.

Obviously, often people buy from him, but he asked for the referral upfront that way. Here’s the other thing that he did. He said most people would just ask for referrals. What he would do was, he would put a list numbered 1 to 20, I think and he said, who do you know who would benefit from this? The implication was if there’s 1 to 20 that you and I are going to fill out 20 names.

John: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s one of the reasons why he did so well asking for referrals that way right up front like you’re suggesting.

John: Well, I worked with a financial planner years ago and his referral system was he would have a client, he knew maybe what country club they belonged to, what church they went to, what school maybe their kids went to. So, he would actually prepare a list of 20 names and he would say, hey. You know, here’s some people I think I’d love to meet. Do you know any of these people? Well, nine times out of ten if he did his list right they knew half of them.

A lot of times what the mistake people make is they say, hey. If you know anybody who needs what we do, you know, send them our way, right? You know, we can’t. Our brain can’t process that. If you say, do you know any of these ten names on this list, all of a sudden it’s like, oh yeah. I just played golf with him yesterday, you know? I’ll introduce you. So, you make the job really easy for them. That’s a little . . . you know, we could go on. We could do an entire show about this.

Andrew: Just on referrals.

John: Yeah.

Andrew: And I hope we’ll . . . [SP] . . . to do it. This was really helpful. The big ideas were right there. If you want to follow up, my suggestion of course and you guys know where I’m going with this is to check out Not duck, no quack quack. I’m so proud. I’m very carefully articulated. Duct Tape Marketing just to make sure I don’t make that quack quack mistake.

John: Well, I do own the URL though for that.

Andrew: Oh, is that right?

John: Just in case people do.

Andrew: Let’s see. If I go to D, U with a K.

John: Yeah.

Andrew: Oh, there we go. That’s a smart move. Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of it.


Master Class:
How to design user interface
(Even if you’re not a designer)
Taught by Firat Parlak of Awesome

Master Class: User Interface Design

Report Bugs


Andrew: This session is about how non-designers can design user interface. The session will be led by Firat Parlak. He is the – there he is. He is the founder of this website, Awesome, which specializes in crafting beautiful and engaging UI and UX designs for text startups. Their website is I’m going to help facilitate.My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where proven founders like Firat teach. And Firat, you’re about to show us a whole lot. These are all the things that we’re going to be talking about today.Before we get into that, there’s someone whose name you’re not going to mention here because of what happened to them, who didn’t go through this process. What did they do wrong, this company?Firat: Yeah, we had a potential client who didn’t want to follow our process, which we strictly advised to entrepreneurs. One of the reasons we believe nine out of ten startups fail because the way they approach the execution, especially the digital process of designing their products in terms of UI/UX.

Long story short, he ended up failing, and last time I should run into him, he was sleeping on his friend’s couch. He was living the startup life [??] but I thought, you know, he’d been through the right process, not enough spending a lot of money in the wrong direction, then he wouldn’t be bankrupt and wouldn’t be probably sleeping on the couch. But, you know, that’s when –

Andrew: What do you mean? What did he do wrong about his user interface process? The process of creating his user interface.

Firat: Nothing in terms of that, but the way he approached the process and how he used his resources, how he spent the capital he had in [??] led him towards that. That was the problem, I think. I mean, if you follow the process, you can lower your cost of designing a product.

Andrew: Okay.

Firat: And not just with [??] because if you have everything laid out professionally, you can talk to a developer and you can negotiate the price as well. If you don’t follow the UI/UX [??] process, you’re most likely going to spend twice the money that you would originally do.

And if this is all the money you have, that you put in for your product, you might end up sleeping on your friend’s couch.

Andrew: It happens. It happens. There is one company though that did it right, that followed this process that you’re about to walk us through. And I think this should be their website right here. What’s Date My School?

Firat: Date My School is a website for educated people and educated dates. You can sign up as an alumni or as students using your college e-mail. And you can search people through their majors. You know, let’s say you want to date someone in Harvard studying finance. Or you want to meet someone [??] college studying marketing. And because you had the same interest if you’re studying the same major, there’s a conversation opener, therefore it leads to a better connecting.

Andrew: I see. So it’s a dating website for people who care about the school that – not just the looks, but the school of their particular dates? Is that right?

Firat: Exactly, exactly. Best thing about this product, it’s you’re not embedded in the search results. Nobody can see you. That’s their approach and I think it’s a great, smart approach.

Andrew: Okay, and so I’m looking at their website right now, the screen shot that I took of it, and they have 336,000 users.

Firat: Right.

Andrew: And that’s because they followed this process that you’re about to show us, everything including the hand-drawn sketches that you’re going to tell us to do, the mock-ups, et cetera. The mock-ups that actually work, the user testing.

Firat: Absolutely, absolutely.

Andrew: Okay, alright, let’s see how we do it.

Firat: [??] processes.

Andrew: Alright, I’m glad that Date My School did well, because it adds a lot of credibility to this conversation. But I know the person listening to us goes, “Great for them. What about me?” Alright, person listening, we’re going to get to you, and the first thing is you’re going to say, “Talk to your customer, but don’t go overboard in talking to your customer.”

Before we understand what you mean by how to do it right, tell me about this last part, where you say, “Don’t go overboard.” Who went overboard?

Firat: I mean, sometimes you can spend so much time on market research and talking to your customers, market changes. Let’s say you’re in the market for fashion. You designed an iPhone app to solve a problem that you realized.

But if you spend six months, maybe less that even – three months, but the market changes. You depend on your information that you collected six months ago and apply that to user interface design, because the consumer needs a change since six months ago. So, keep it short. Keep it effective. Don’t spend a lot of time because it just…

Andrew: You worked with someone who took six months? This is not an exaggeration, of customer research and talking to them?

Firat: Yes.

Andrew: I see.

Firat: They came back to us and the first question we ask our clients is how long have you been working on this project? If they say that I’ve been working on it for a year and a half or six months, you know, I will go like you shouldn’t be spending that much time because whatever you’ve collected is not going to be valuable maybe next month or next year.

And it’s going to take you maybe three or four months to develop this app, to build this app and you’re going to ship this based on what the metrics were a year ago or six months ago. So, it’s not valuable. Whatever you put together is not going to be as valuable.

Andrew: Alright, I’m looking at the big board here and in a moment you’re going to talk to us about how you do user testing in person. I don’t want to get to that yet, but talk to me about when you say I need to talk to customers, what are telling me that’s different? Everyone says talk to customers. Give me a little more direction. Give me a little bit more of the awesome process. How do you want me to do it?

Firat: Sure. So, talking to your customers is literally asking them to set up a meeting with them. You know, show them that you are really interested in their ideas and value their opinion and show them some ideas, sketches. Ask them some questions. Again, this is not intensive market research, but understand what the needs are as a consumer that you are talking to. If they are talking about I need a solution for finding a babysitter, ask them how would you approach this?

Would you care if it’s really important to have a platform where it’s invitation only or is it more open to everybody because as a parent, if you are looking for a babysitter maybe you want to sign up to a website where you know the babysitters are handpicked. So, ask them questions like that. Do you think will be something that you would use? Do you think this is a product that you are going to use as an ongoing process?

Andrew: Let’s be a little more specific and then, I want to see more of the… We’ve got some really good visuals here. Let’s talk about this site right here. This is Dog Amigo, you guys are done building this or done designing this. It’s not yet launched, but this is what the site will look like. How did they do it?

Firat: So the client went to dog parks. There are eight dog parks in New York City. They went to all of them and they researched. They asked questions to the people that were walking their dogs in these dog parks. They had a survey of fifteen questions on a piece of paper.

They went up to dog owners and asked, “Can you fill out this survey?” Because they didn’t want to this discussion-based, they had a paper which was just checks. It was just quick because these people don’t have time. They are walking their dog.

Andrew: So these people walked into a dog park and said, “Will you fill out my survey? It’s only check marks. All you have to do is check off what you think.” That’s the kind of customer research that you are suggesting we do?

Firat: Exactly. It’s effective because you know that they own a dog. You can’t just stop people on the street and ask them, “Hey, do you own a dog or do you own a cat, or whatever?” It’s difficult to find that.

Andrew: What was on the survey that was checklist only? Do you remember one of the questions?

Firat: Does your dog have a Facebook profile?

Andrew: Really?

Firat: Yes.

Andrew: And they were hoping that people had Facebook profiles for their dogs?

Firat: Yeah, actually, seventy percent of the results that came in said yes and the reason Dog Amigo was created because Facebook used to delete dog profile pictures, non-human profiles. So, these people were homeless, they were looking for a place where they felt more comfortable. So, they were targeting these people. They wanted to understand dog owners. Have a Facebook for them.

Andrew: Alright. My dog does not have a Facebook profile page. I understand that some people would want that. Alright, so this is what you are talking about. Keep it simple. Do it quickly. Move on to the next step and the next step, if I look up on the big board, is draw every single screen on a piece of paper. I actually have here, let me go over to my second monitor here. A lot of buttons I press during these sessions. It’s lot of work. It keeps me busy, but I like it.

So, here is the way that you did it. Sketching on a piece of paper. Alright, here’s the thing that I would notice if I were watching in the audience. This looks like it’s some kind of special piece of paper. Where do you get this paper that has the browser on it, a place for notes.

Firat: Actually, what you are looking at is the digital version of what it would look like. It’s not that it shows drawings; we had to put this in our website to showcase how the process was.

Andrew: I see.

Firat: I didn’t want to show some napkin drawings and so on. So, to answer your question, it will be just a basic piece of paper and a pen.

Andrew: Just like the listing that I got from the drug store.

Firat: Exactly…

Andrew: Without lines on it.

Firat: Yeah without the lines on it would be ideal.

Andrew: So when I draw the screens and I say, here’s how it works, do you like it? Or what’s the question that I would use?

Firat: Well this is actually for you to see how many screens are out there, so therefore you can relax, because sometimes you think about, you know, your product is about 10 or 15 pages, but it could end up being 40 or 60. If you draw every screen, including [??] from the loading process, to you know, the dashboard and everything else, you can get to see what’s missing.

It’s just like writing a business [??]. If you’re writing a business [??], [??] spot analysis, you get to see your weaknesses, right? Same thing. If you write something, if you draw something, you’re going to see what’s missing, so you can fill in the blanks and make sure that you’re prepared for the rest of the process.

Andrew: Okay. So every single thing, on a piece of paper, so I know what all the screens will look like, and then…you sent this to me in Dropbox, no one’s going to be able to see all the details. It is ok that they can’t see it. What we’re looking at here is, well, you describe, what is this?

Firat: So this is one of our recent projects, we finished a couple of months ago, it’s a project management iPhone application too. Let me start the project we usually put together for our clients. Obviously we do all the customer research, market research, we draw our ideas onto paper for every screen. And then here’s the step where we turn our user [??] into digital format, and that’s what you’re looking at right now.

An entire blueprint of the iPhone application that needs to be designed. The next stage of this is the [??] design; but right before that, we’ll put together an entire user experience. [??]. So what you’re looking at right now, is a very detailed user experience documentation, showcasing the entire user phone. So what happens is when you tap here, one screen opens up and another one opens after that, and so on. It’s very detailed.

Andrew: Okay. What software do you use to build this?

Firat: Well we use, actually, Illustrator. Everything’s handcrafted. But for [??], I would recommend them using Balsamiq, it’s a very popular user [??] tool. This is [??] our design agency, so we don’t use template markup or user forms, but we put together our own. However, if you know basic Photoshop and Illustrator, you can put this together as well. There are templates that you can download…

Andrew: Balsamiq, it’s mock-up software, this is what you’re saying, but basically what you want us to do is…

Firat: …It’s the same thing. Ours is pretty, because we’re designers. [??], and so it’s a part-time job to make [??] next. But you can achieve that same thing using Balsamiq, without going to a design agency like us. And…

Andrew: …I know. Sketch it out with a piece of paper so you know every screen that needs to be built, and then lay out the flow of what happens when people do this, what happens when people do that, what do they see, etc. OK.

Firat: Exactly.

Andrew: Alright. Next is: Turn your designs into an interactive version. Do you guys do this for people, by the way, or…you do this for your clients, you’re saying if we’re doing this ourselves you want us to do it ourselves.

Firat: Exactly. We do it for our clients, but you can also do it, because there are tools out there. You can sign up too, and usually they are free to a basic level, but if you really want to do something advanced, obviously you have to pay. However, if you’re designing your own product on your own, this is a great way to make it interactive, so you can get to see your ideas actually in a user experience perspective. You can really click on your designs now. So it’s…

Andrew: Let’s look at how this works. This is the site that you sent me before we started. I’m going to click on the latest example right here. There it is. [SP] is the tool. And what it does, is it turns screenshots into experiences, actually like a chef on TV. I clicked ahead…no this isn’t going to work…no, OK. Continue. There it is. Alright.

It turns screenshots into interactive experiences that look like the finished product, that act like the finished product, even though there’s no intelligence behind them, beyond clicking from page to page. Is that right?

Firat: Yes, that’s correct. You can interact in the line of [??]. You can input your designs here, link them here, and you can get to see how it will look like. How it’s actually built.

Andrew: I see.

Firat: Obviously this is not dynamic. You can import some dynamic data, but it is limited. However, it will give you an idea of what app is going to apply, I think, or is going to look like. So you can make adjustments and changes, and understand the entire approach that you’re having, if it’s right or not. You can go back to the drawing board. In fact, actually launching it and coming back and changing things is a lot harder, and it will cost you more.

Andrew: So this is the tool,

Firat: It’s very important to test it out as much as possible before you launch.

Andrew: Yeah. Okay.

Firat: For the product.

Andrew: So we lay this out. It’s done. Is the idea to let real users interact with this design that we’ve created to see what they think of it?

Firat: Absolutely. That would be a great feedback for you. So you can come back and make changes, update your designs, and maybe even your user experience. They may not know what to tap or click. Maybe mainly focusing on right now on iPhone app, but it could be a website as well. You can use this tool, same thing. It’s good to see what they think about the products, and coming back to the drawing board, and then the designing of changing, making updates accordingly.

Andrew: Right. Do you have an example of someone who saw a document that looked like this one, or who showed it to their users and, based on user feedback, adjusted it?

Firat: Absolutely. Yes. We have clients coming to us actually having prototypes like this, and saying, “Here is what we put together so far, and here is the feedback we have received. Can you design it?” So we take these into consideration and design our UI/UX [??].

Andrew: What’s the most surprising thing that you learned, having gone through this process?

Firat: Whatever we think, it’s not always right, so you’ve got to ask your consumers. It’s surprising to know that, what you put together sometimes is not what they’re looking for. They’re like, “I don’t understand this, what it does.” So that’s a red flag.

Andrew: “I don’t know what it does,” is a big one. Do you think it’s going to make sense?

Firat: “I don’t know what it does,” or, you know, learning about the user experience mainly. The focus here is to understand, actually, how your user’s engaging with your products. Were they able to figure out that icon? Were they able to figure out that Home button that you put in there.

You thought it was so obvious, but when you give it to somebody else, they can’t find it as quickly as you did. So you go back to the drawing board and make that better. So that’s what we’ve learned by doing this strategy. You know, making it attractive and giving it to people hands-on and then we can collect that feedback, and come back and make the changes accordingly.

Andrew: All right. The next big idea is to let your competitors do the research for you.

Firat: Yes.

Andrew: And for that, you’re saying that we should use this site, Dribbble. Dribble with three Bs. And I always thought of Dribbble, by the way, as a site to go to just to see designers showing off with beautiful designs. And you’re saying that it’s a place to see what my competitors are doing?

Firat: Right. Dribbble is actually not only a platform to showcase your designs but also designer process and progress. So you can see what your competitors are doing by searching similar ideas, similar products, and see how they’re approaching their user experience.

Andrew: And they’re showing what they do online, and saying, “Hey, what do you think of this?” Here’s a guy you sent me. What’s he doing right here?

Firat: So this is an iPhone application, and there are some comments. Specifically, you need to read those and understand the feedback from other people, if this is something that you are doing similar to. We can get to learn from this feedback from online. We don’t have to do the research on your own. You should, but we can also gain more metrics and information from looking at your competitors and what they’re doing.

Andrew: You had someone who tried to bring an outside idea and copy that, and bring that into their space. What’s wrong with that? Why are we looking specifically at our competitors and what they’re doing, and not being broader in what we’re trying to copy?

Firat: Because they already did their homework. They already amassed their resources, and it’s important to look and understand that, that doing it from scratch. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and do the entire process, but looking at what they’re doing and do something better, is the approach you should have.

Andrew: Do you have an example of something that you were able to see your competitors do or one of your client’s competitors do, and then brought that back in, and basically let your competitors do the research.

Firat: Yeah, you can. If you’re designing an iPhone application for finding a babysitter, for example, you can look on Dribbble and similar ideas and see what they follow and what their feedback is from the hits and get the,,,

Andrew: And you did that?

Firat: Right.

Andrew: Did you guys do that at the babysitter site that you worked on?

Firat: Well, I use an iPhone application in this. It’s a citified project, a project called website, but you can do the same approach by looking at other competitor babysitting directory websites and see what they are up to and gain from their research [??].

Andrew: Okay. Let’s go on to the next big idea. This is to have a clear direction. Who doesn’t have a clear direction? That seems almost too simple for us to keep on the board, but it was important. Why is it important?

Firat: It’s very, very important to have a clear direction of your products’ features and all the details of what you want to incorporate for your initial launch. A lot of entrepreneurs [??] design are fortunate in incorporating a lot of features like [??]. I want to have this. I want to have that.

But then they spend a lot of time doing it, and it’s important to have a clear vision and plan what you want to do, what you want to incorporate of the features at first launch. It’s very important so you don’t actually fail. This is part of the process. Our approach in this process is not having our designer audience not fail by not doing their part of the process. So having a clear vision is a very important part of this process so you know exactly what you want to design.

Andrew: Here is one of your clients who did that. This is WonderFly [??]. This is the work that you did for them. You said to me before that these guys came to you with a clear direction. What was the clear direction that they came to you with?

Firat: So they knew actually the features of the app they wanted us to design for them. They had exactly the wire frames. They had user [??]. It’s great to have that kind of vision. It makes the designer’s job easy and if you’re the designer and also the product person you must have a clear vision, know exactly what you want to do and make clear decisions. [??]

Andrew: This is what you want us to do. You mean, be clear in the direction we give you by giving you, the designer, specific wire frames, specific guidance. Most people don’t do that. They say, “I have this vague idea. I need you to help me clear it up. I need you. Help me figure it out.” That’s what you’re saying?

Firat: Exactly. They think it’s ten pages. They think it’s very simple. It can be done in one month. Have a clear vision. Do your research. Do your homework. This is all part of it obviously. Having a clear vision is part of it, even going through this process. User [??] that it will shape you, your direction, and have you on a [??].

Andrew: Okay. Onto the big board again and the next idea is do user testing to get feedback. Again, before I started, I said to you, “Everyone does user testing, no?” What can we leave people with that’s different, that opens them up to a different way of doing user testing. And you sent me… I’m going over to my second monitor to show you. You sent me this. What is this?

Firat: So this is an event that’s held at Beaver Flats [sp]. Beaver Flats is a [??] space. A lot of other startups are working in a [??]. It’s a great environment and one of the members put together a great musical to test events, and they do this frequently where other people can come in and bring their products and get real accurate feedback from other people.

It’s like speed dating. You sit in the front of a computer and you record it. Your screen is recorded. Your video is recorded and you can have ten, 15 people testing the product every four days on screens. And then you can go back to get these and then understand what you did right, and what you did wrong. And, therefore, you can go back and update your designs and user experience.

Andrew: If we copy this can we just have, do you think, entrepreneurs in a room, so maybe ten entrepreneurs get together, they each check out each other’s software and give each other feedback? That’s the goal.

Firat: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: That’s the way you guys did it. They were all entrepreneurs.

Firat: Right. They were entrepreneurs or founders, the majority of the people going to do the feedback. However, you can set this up on your own as well. You can create a [??] or ask your friends and family. It’s not ideally like that because your friends tend to give you good feedback regardless. They’re not going to tell you the real feedback, but…

Andrew: My friends better say everything I do is great.

Firat: [laughs] Exactly. So it’s important to actually go up to the people that you don’t know and they don’t know you so they can be objective because that’s going to be, the feedback you’re going to get is so valuable that it can change your entire success.

Andrew: And so I would just bring ten people into an event to gather, have each of the ten people check out my site or my app, watch them as they use it, and you also said earlier record them. What did you guys use to record?

Firat: There are a few apps out there you can use. However, you can record it basically with any recording. But mainly I would highly suggest screen recording, than video recording.

Andrew: So you can watch where their mouses go and what they’re clicking on.

Firat: That’s the point. Because you don’t want to sit next to them. That’s another thing. You don’t want to pressure them. You want to give them the directed prototype and say, I’m not going to tell you anything about this product. Here it is. Just tell me at the end what you thought about it. You’re going to leave them alone for 5,10 minutes. Not a lot. Don’t give them 10, 15 minutes.

Maybe at a maximum ten minutes. And then watch their recordings afterwards. See how they were interacting with your product, with your initial design tool. Because you put together some process, thought process, of user experience and see actually if it was easy to use [??] or not.

Andrew: Okay. Alright. So don’t even have them look at it. I’m thinking, all right, so you could do a party over at your place and have people over, not friends and family but potential users, say the computer’s over in the corner, at some point tonight everybody go over and try this out and let’s talk after you try it out but I’m going to hover.

I’m not going to tell you what to do, I’m just going to let you experience the site and know that whatever you do is being recorded so don’t do anything embarrassing.

Firat: Exactly. And you don’t have to do this maybe 10 people at a time. You can do 1 person at a time at different times as well. It doesn’t have to be a big event. You know, you can find someone, schedule a meeting, you know, meet them at a coffee shop, anywhere, your office, and then the computer, and then, you know, get feedback from that. And then do this repeatedly until you’re satisfied.

Andrew: Okay. Get all these nice designs that we talked about. They’re all set up. And then you tell us we need to have the design sliced. What does it mean to slice them and who does it?

Firat: So once the design process is finished, the next thing on the assembly line is the product developer who is going take your source files and slice them. And it’s important for our audience to understand that. After the design stage is finished, finalized, before that there’s one more step. What a lot of people doesn’t understand is that we have to slice every individual elements of your design including icons, buttons, fonts, everything.

They have to be sliced up and handed to the walker. This is actually the walker’s job, responsibility. I advise, as a designer, or as a venture set- up [??] to have your walker do it versus the designer doing it because it’s important for the walker to understand every component of the website.

Once they do the slicing, they will go over the entire process and understand your design image, your user experience versus handing them the sliced file and asking them to do it. So it’s important for the walker to do it. But it’s mostly important for our audience to know that there is something in between, not just design at the moment but there has to be process for slicing.

Andrew: On your website you say, we’re no IKEA.

Firat: Yes.

Andrew: Right next to this. What does it mean that you’re no IKEA? And then I want to understand this left object here.

Firat: So not every designer group is very organized. So we work pretty loose and name every folder, every layer nicely. And readability is really important so when you go into production, it’s important when you’re slicing these units you understand where each layer was.

Andrew: So you’re saying that IKEA makes it so tough, that you’re stuck there trying to figure out sometimes where a piece goes because they use no words on their, on their guides, on their how-to-do-it.

Firat: They don’t label them properly. They don’t tag them properly. So we’re no IKEA. It’s like you bring an IKEA furniture, it could take up to a couple days, depending on what you put together.

[both laugh]

Andrew: I call a company called Exec to come and do it. There’s a company called Exec here in San Francisco. I call them and let them do it. I hate doing that. But I see what you’re saying. Side bar, all properly labeled. Player, properly labeled. You’re saying cut it up, label it properly, make sense for the next, for the developer to understand what it is.

Firat: Exactly.

Andrew: Just like you, as a designer, wanted a process that makes sense for you with all the screen shots, you want the same thing to go to the developer. I say, thumbs up.

Firat: Yes. It will save you time and money.

Andrew: All right. I like saving time and money.

Firat: Um-hmm.

Andrew: On to the big board, again. Final point is, have a separate person on the back end development.

Firat: Yes.

Andrew: What’s back end versus front end development? Let’s start with the basics.

Firat: Sure. So they’re two different areas, therefore two different professions. It’s like being a doctor. You can be a doctor but you specialize in certain body parts. So same in the developers. That’s why I give that example. It’s very basic to understand. Not every developer can do everything, the entirely. Not everybody offers the front end. Not everybody offers the back end.

They’re two different animals, therefore you have to look at them separately. You have to approach them separately. So you shouldn’t be hiring one individual who says I can do front end and back end for you because it’s almost impossible to have both talents. Or you can, but you won’t have enough experience or approaches as, you know, being specialized in front end or back end.

So it’s important to separate these two when you’re hiring the person who’s going to implement your designs so they can be really good at what they’re doing.

Andrew: Okay. Alright. There it is. I know that people are going to come to your website after we’re done. I know that some of them are going to be a good fit for you to work with and some aren’t. Who is a good fit? By the way, did you notice I just fidget, I just double click, triple click.

It’s so weird that if you watch people use a website, they just click around. And I just notice now with the camera on my browsing habits that sometimes I’ll just do funky habits like this, or maybe I just move this around. I can’t do it for you.

Firat: That’s cool.

Andrew: Okay. So what size clients do you guys take on?

Firat: [??] approach is to help start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Andrew: But the corporate clients have the big money?

Firat: Yes, that’s it. That’s exactly why we don’t want to represent them. It’s not about the money. It’s about passion and people. People that are smarts, and want to actually do something in the industry. They’re very innovative. We love their ideas. And as a designer, you want to see your designs actually implemented. Working with big corporations, they hire five or six agencies at the same time and your designs will be picked partially.

And they’re going to take your designs and adapt with the other designers’ work and so on. So you never get to see your actual work being implemented. As a designer, your motivation is to see the feedback. That’s your real [??] So working with start-ups is really actually great because they execute and because of that, we prefer working with start-ups.

Andrew: Right. If I came to you with an iPhone app idea and said it was ten screens, what would you charge to design that?

Firat: Well, usually it’s not ten screens. As I mentioned earlier…

Andrew: Ten screens seems…

Firat: …it could be, you know, 30 or 40 pages because there’s a lot of screens that…

Andrew: How many screens in this? That we showed earlier.

Firat: This is close to 35 pages, I believe. But the client told me it was about 15, 20 pages. Double the amount of pages for any project.

Andrew: It ends up being more than they think. So what does this cost to develop? To design the user experience for?

Firat: So this is just a UX card. We also designed the actual user interface as well.

Andrew: Okay.

Firat: It was around $15,000 dollars.

Andrew: $15,000 dollars for something like this.

Firat: Fifteen, yeah. 1-5.

Andrew: 1-5, right? Fifteen?

Firat: Fifteen. Sorry, I have an accent, so. [laughs]

Andrew: I want…it’s not even just about the accent. I want to make sure the transcribers write it down and people don’t think that it’s 50.

Firat: There’s no way. If you’re spending $50,000 dollars in design, some companies do and I don’t want to name them but you’re getting ripped off. There are a lot of very talented designers or agencies out there that can deliver good results.

Andrew: Alright. And you will not allow me to share this PDF that I’ve been showing up on the screen with anyone, right? You’re okay with me showing this…

Firat: It’s the blueprint for a project. Unfortunately we can’t show a case, I mean we can’t show a case, I mean a video but not an audible.

Andrew: All right. If people want to follow up with you, what’s a good way for them to contact you?

Firat: Email would be great. They can contact me through


Firat: Yes.

Andrew: Fraught, thank you so much for doing this.

Firat: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Andrew: The viewer. I interrupted as you were saying thank you to me, I apologize. Thank you for doing this. And to the audience, thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, guys.


Master Class:
How to use design for conversions
(Even if you think looks aren’t everything)
Taught by Brian Casel of Design for Conversions

Master Class: Design for Conversions

Report Bugs


Andrew: This session is about how to use design to increase conversions. The session is led by Brian Casel, he is the founder of Restaurant Engine which makes website design easy for restaurants. He’s also the co-founder of SweetProcess, an app designed to help businesses document their standard operating procedures, and he’s got a book on design, it’s called Design for Conversions. It makes designing your startups marketing much easier. Thank you so much for doing this session, Brian.

Brian: No problem, Andrew, I’m really excited to be here. I’ve been a fan of Mixergy for a while, I’ve been a member, and just awesome, I hope it’s good for the audience.

Andrew: I appreciate it, and you know what, I’ve known you for a long time, and what I found is when I know someone for a long time, when I want to do an especially good job, that’s when I step over my lines the way that I did earlier. But we’re good, I think we’ve explained to people what this is about, I think we’ve given them a little bit of your background, now let’s help them understand the problem that we are solving, and this is a problem that you experienced with, we’ve got this website right here, what happened here?

Brian: Yeah, so that is ThemeJam, and this design is, I mean, it’s actually still up and running, but it’s old, I haven’t really touched it in a long time. So going back to around 2009, this was my very first product that I tried to design and sell and launch. It’s a WordPress themes shop, and you know, back in 2009, you know, this was not the first WordPress, you know, premium WordPress themes company out there, but it was still kind of early on, and there was kind of a lot of opportunity there, and I was really excited to jump into that market, and this was my very first product. Before that, I had only done client web design work, and . . .

Andrew: So I’m looking at this, and I’ve got to tell you, Brian, this looks nice, it looks like a well-designed site, but there’s something that this design is missing, and what’s that?

Brian: Yeah, it was missing a focus on marketing, and I mean, back in 2009, I basically knew nothing about marketing, and developing a value proposition, and copyrighting, and merging that with whatever web design skills that I had. So I had spent almost a year leading up to that launch, you know, just putting in long days and nights building that site and getting it ready for launch, so once it actually did launch, I was expecting early traction and growth, and that just didn’t happen.

I was watching my competitors, you know, new competitors would pop up after I launched, and they would, within a matter of months, just zoom right past me and grow into these larger companies, so that ThemeJam site just didn’t really live up to my grand vision that I had for it. I mean it also hurt my business, I mean I had put in a lot of time and kind of invested my personal savings in that, and so that was kind of my big wakeup call that if I really wanted to successfully run my own products, I can’t just rely on design, I have to learn about marketing as well, and kind of merge those.

Andrew: And that’s why we’re going to be talking about design for conversions, not just design for visual appeal. Now after you figure this out, and maybe help you figure it out, you launched this site, Restaurant Engine, what happened here?

Brian: Yes, so, you know, fast forward a few years, 2012, I had been listening to a lot of Mixergy interviews, and . . .

Andrew: Thank you.

Brian: . . . just reading up on everything I can on marketing and conversions and connecting with customers. So I launched Restaurant Engine, it’s a web-design product for restaurants, and you know, that site is doing pretty well, you know, it is converting kind of a steady stream of paying customers. Today, about a year and a half, beyond that, into the life of that business, it’s basically, it accounts for most of my income today, and it’s been working out, thanks to kind of this education in marketing and merging those concepts into my design work on the product.

Andrew: Okay, and as we continue here with this session, we’re going to see how the ideas we’re going to talk about, how they’re in play on this site and on SweetProcess. But let’s jump into the first of the big tactics that we’re going to be talking about, and that is to make it a no-brainer. Make it a no-brainer for your customer to make sure that they see that they have great value from the site that you’re building. How do we do that?

Brian: Yeah, absolutely. This is kind of a mindset thing that you really have to have as you go into designing your marketing website for your product. Any product, if it’s going to be successful, it needs to have a strong value proposition. Why does this product matter to your target customers? Why does it give them a good value for the money? What kind of problem does it solve for them, and how valuable is that?

So, your mindset as you’re designing your website for your product has to be driving that value proposition home and really just making it a no- brainer. That’s the way I like to look at it. So, every decision that you make when you’re putting your site together, whether it’s writing copy, laying out the page, choosing which graphics to use, everything should be with that mindset of driving home the value proposition.

Andrew: Let’s take a look at how we do that or how you do that, not me. This is your site. This is just the pricing page.

Brian: This is a graphic that is available on the pricing page.

Andrew: Okay.

Brian: There’s kind of a link that would pop this up. Basically, what happened was in the first six months or so…

Andrew: …I think it’s actually here. This is the pricing itself, and you’re saying it comes up when I click this button right here.

Brian: Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: That’s what you mean. Okay.

Brian: Yeah. Early on in Restaurant Engine, in the early days I was getting quite a bit of push back on the price of the products. It’s a SaaS model and it starts at 49 dollars a month. So, for restaurants, they would come to me and say 49 a month is too high. Even other web developers would give me some feedback saying you can go to HostGator and get web hosting for like 7 dollars a month, you know, 49 is…

Andrew: …So they were comparing you to just plain old web hosting.

Brian: Right, right.

Andrew: Okay.

Brian: Because we provide web hosting, and the assumption is that’s all we provide which is not the case. Talking to my target customers – restaurant owners, consultants for restaurants – I came to the realization that I should position Restaurant Engine when you compare it to hiring a web designer to do a custom website for you. Because when you compare the price that way hiring a web designer would cost you thousands of dollars. It would take much longer to get it finished. And, it probably wouldn’t even include all of the things that we’ve built into the streamlined package.

So, with this graphic on the pricing page, and, again, the pricing page is where I would hear that push back. You know, they’re looking at the price and they’d send me an IM or call me and say this is too high. So, I placed this graphic there. What this is is basically a comparison, side by side, Restaurant Engine versus hiring a web designer.

Then, I went through line by line the things that you would ask for, just line item, every item. The initial setup cost for Restaurant Engine is either zero if you’re doing it yourself, or you can pay us to do it and it’s 99 dollars. Compare that to hiring a web designer. On average, it’s 3,000 dollars, and a lot of times way more than that.

Andrew: I see. So, you’re just walking them through a comparison that makes more sense for you than the one that they might naturally make which is I can get hosting for only a few bucks a month, and I can set up a WordPress site and hire a developer to redesign it for me so that it looks like a restaurant site. They’re thinking just, I can set up WordPress for free. You’re making sure that they understand, well you’re also going to need a designer, you’re also going to need all these other expenses.

Brian: Yeah, exactly. A lot of times that’s the quick assumption. It’s like, oh I can do it myself and get my own web host. But, when they look at this comparison not only are they seeing the drastic side by side numbers in costs but, oh, I also need a mobile site too, and web hosting is included. Whereas hiring a web designer I’d have to get that separately.

Andrew: Okay.

Brian: So, it kind of gives them all these unforeseen factors.

Andrew: So, what you’re saying is with everything that we do we need to make it that kind of a no-brainer. How do we do that in other aspects of the site? I can see if you can create a comparison on the pricing page. You’re shifting people’s focus, and you’re helping them understand why you’ve got a much better price than the alternative. What about in a homepage, what about in other aspects of design?

Brian: Yeah, you know, another great example of this would be the site for Bascamp. Everybody knows Basecamp from 37signals, right, so . . .

Andrew: Yeah, so look at the, this is one of the screen shot at what their site looks like, I think they change it sometimes, though, we took a screen shot.

Brian: So Basecamp, at least their current version of the site is, they lean heavily on social proof, and the social proof is really powerful, and it does help you drive home the value proposition. So if you look at their large headline here, they’re saying that they sign up over 6,000 companies every single week, and so now it’s your turn to sign up. I mean, basically they’re saying, hey, 6,000 companies per week, you know, all those companies can’t be wrong, obviously Basecamp has some kind of value to them, it’s the most popular option out there, it will be a no brainer, you know, it will be stupid for you not to try Basecamp, you know, that’s kind of what they’re saying, using the social proof here.

Andrew: Okay, I just brought up the latest version of the site, and it’s essentially the same except it says, last week they had 6,800 companies sign up, and the one that we took from, I guess, the previous week says they had, oh, there’s a number . . .

Brian: That’s funny, they’re actually . . .

Andrew: . . . sixty-four, so it does seem to change.

Brian: Yeah, they’re actually increasing the number, that’s funny, that’s not just copy there, they’re actually keeping tabs.

Andrew: Yeah, and they change a little bit of the design, it looks like the speech bubble is gone. All right, but I get the main idea here. You’re saying that they’e showing that it’s a no brainer, what you want to do is take away the worry, this is a no brainer, other people have done it, it works. Your product is a no brainer because it is so much cheaper there than looking at this screen, than hiring a designer. All right, let’s go on to the big board, next big idea is you want us to get to connect with our customer on a deep personal level and know their needs. Give me an example of how you do that.

Brian: Yeah, so you know, it’s always really important to be talking to your customers early, talking to them often, and really just never stop talking to them. So you really want to get to know what they are, what they care about, and especially in regard to your products, so which features, what do they like best about your product, what just doesn’t really resonate with them very much . . . so you just really want to know your customer, and then make design decisions and copy and messaging decisions based on that.

So one example, again on Restaurant Engine, would be early on I would kind of focused on all these features that I was really excited about, which is, you know, I built them, they work really well, things like it’s easy to connect to your Google Analytics to your website, or we’ve got this really cool events system where a restaurant can post their upcoming events and things, I thought that was a killer feature. But it turned out restaurant owners just weren’t really asking about that all that much. I mean some of them actually use it, but it’s not the feature that they care about most. So the ques- . . .

Andrew: So how do you know what that feature was that they cared about most?

Brian: Yeah, so mostly pre-sale questions, and questions from existing customers, a lot of customer support. I mean, I’m actually the one doing most of the phone calls and live chats and e-mails, so I would start to hear the same questions again, like how easy is it to sign up, and how long will it take, or people who are cancelling, you know, saying it’s too complicated and so, not only is that an indicator that I need to fix the product to make it easier, but it shows that they really care about it being easy. So in the way this design, I really made a focus on emphasizing that it’s really easy to use, easy to get up and running quickly.

So the top headline right there, Restaurant Website Design the Easy Way. And even like further down the page, it really kind of emphasizes, so we actually added this Done For You service, the Setup service, so you can come on and do it yourself, but if you’re too busy, or, you know, most restaurant owners are, they’re running their restaurants, so we actually do it for you and we’ll get it done in three business days.

Andrew: I see, and I could see how that could be different than speaking to someone like me. If you told me, I’ll do it for you, I wouldn’t think, oh, that’s so easy, I would think, huh, his must be made for people who are not as smart as I am, or if he’s doing it for me maybe this site is very complicated. You know, the software is just too tuff for me to understand, that I need a professional to set it up, but when you’re talking to [??] they don’t see software that way, they think… that if you do it for them, then it’s even easier for them.

Brian: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, a lot of restaurant owners will come to me and just say that they need a new website design. A lot of them are just reluctant to even deal with it. They’re just like, ‘I know, I need it, but it’s kind of on the back-burner. It has been on the back-burner for months. Just want to get it done, but I do want to get it done right.’ The other do it yourself options… so yeah they’re easy to use and do it yourself, but they don’t give the professional quality that I would get. So again, positioning it alongside hiring a custom web designer, except it’s a lot easier than that.

Andrew: He used this as a bad example. What are they doing wrong?

Brian: Yeah so, I’m not sure where I found this site. You know, I came across it, and I was looking at it, and they’re not connecting with any customer. I’m looking at it. I don’t even really know who they are, or what they do. So, one [??] place. I’m seeing this logo, is it a doctor’s office? Like is it a hospital? Like what is it? I’m not really sure, what it is, and then I’m seeing these graphics for some kind of T.V station, or radio program. Again, they’re not making any connection with me. They’re not saying, ‘Hey, we know who you are. We know this is what you care about, and we’re here to offer you, this.’

Andrew: Alright, Let’s go back to the big board. The next big idea is to give them a clear path.

Brian: Yeah, so another mindset, as you’re going about designing your website, putting it together, you always want to really get into the mind of your customer. You want to think about, how your customer is preserving your website, and really just assuming they’re a first time visitor. They’ve never heard of your product or your company before. So, they need to just digest it, and figure out how to make their way through your site. You never want them thinking to themselves, ‘Where should I go next,’ or, ‘what should I do now.’

So, you want to just make the navigation easy, kind of pointing them into the direction you want them to go, and the way that you can do that, is to avoid having a bloated navigation. So, I see a lot of sites, they have… all the pages that exist on their website, they just put across the top in their main navigation, sometimes in a drop-down, within a drop-down, and it’s just crazy. I think it’s better to be a little bit more strategic, separating out a primary navigation, and then maybe like a secondary navigation or a [??] navigation.

Andrew: This is sweet process. I guess I can see it here. It all is meant to drive me to keep going down the page, and in fact I think if I click up here… It takes me down where you want me to go. If I click on pricing, It just takes me down. The goal is to just get me to keep going down until I hit the try free button. I have an account so, It’s filling in. It’s putting in information, but that’s the goal.

Brian: Exactly. So here on sweet process, really simplify that top navigation. I mean, across the top your only seeing those three links, and they don’t even take you off the page, like you said. They just kind of point you down the page. All of the content on this page, it’s designed to inform you about the product, and sell the product, and sell you on the value proposition of the product. It’s all here, and those are what the links across the top are for.

I chose to include those links, and not links to our team bio’s page, because these are the ones that are mission critical, in terms of getting to that conversion. We want to, tell the person how it works. We want to, tell them why it’s important that they systemize… of course we want to sell them on the price point, but then we have all these others things like our team bio’s, we’ve got a blog. A couple of other random pages. Those are linked in the footer, they’re out of the way. They don’t compete for the attention, and they don’t kind of add to the confusion of the customer. The customer is just focused on moving down the page. Let’s pull up a bad example. Actually it looks like for some reason there website isn’t loading, so thankfully you’ve got us a screen shot so I can show that.

Brian: Zoom in. Yeah, so this is a campus store, is it University of Rhode Island, I’m not really sure. So it’s some university campus store website. You can see across the top we’ve got a lot, a whole bunch of links here. I think on this site they actually open up these really complex drop downs, and then on the left and right side . . .

Andrew: The site just finally came up, and yeah, drop downs, drop down, drop down . . .

Brian: Yeah, I mean not that drop downs are always bad, but here there are just so many different places that I can go, I’m not really sure where I should go first, and what’s most important. Again, if they kind of know their customers, they know that like maybe these textbooks are the most popular item, they probably want to have a big call out to those right on the homepage, and de-emphasize everything else.

Andrew: Yeah, this looks like designed for browsing, not not designed for conversions.

Brian: Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: It’s meant for me to look around, to look until I find what I want.

Brian: Yeah, and there are even things that I think are taking unnecessary attention away.

Andrew: I just like the link, let me go back.

Brian: Yeah, like I think there are something like an events calendar on there, I mean, what is events, what is that doing on a site that’s meant to be selling, you know, school supplies?

Andrew: Okay. Alright, you know what, the page is actually not loading up, so we’ll leave it, thankfully we’ve got this screen shot. I get what you mean. We’re talking about giving people a clear path so that they know where they’re going, you know where you want them to go, and get rid of everything that’s not necessary, even if it means that your photo and the team photo gets pushed down to the bottom of the page.

Brian: Yeah, exactly. I mean, sometimes those things are necessary to have on the website, but you don’t have to have a big link across the top pointing to it.

Andrew: Yeah, I’ve seen people, if it’s important in their sales, I’ve seen them put it, have it linked on the page, or sorry, the top link will say team, and when you click it it just scrolls you down to the middle of the page where you see photos of the team and it says, we’ve got your back, it’s whole team of people here ready to help you out.

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay, all right, on to the big board once again. Be relevant to avoid the back button.

Brian: Yeah, so this is about catching their attention immediately when they hit the site. You know, keep in mind the first time visitors, never heard of you before, never heard of your product, they need to know right away, I mean, in the first moment that they hit your site that okay, this is relevant to me in some way, because it is, you know, all of us on the web, as we browse the web every day, I mean, we’re ruthless with our time, right?

I don’t want to be on a website if it’s going to waste my time, and you know, so I’m very careful about that, we’re all very busy, right, so knowing your customer, knowing what really matters to them so that your site can immediately speak to them, say Hey, I know who you are, and this is for you, we want you to stick around a few more moments to continue reading on, rather than hitting the back button.

Andrew: You know what, I see how your site does that, I can see it’s clearly designed, it’s about design, it’s a site for a book, it’s not just design, but it’s designed for marketing and it’s aimed at startups, I see all that, but you gave us another good example of Sketch, I’m looking at this site and I don’t know what Sketch is, I don’t know why this logo is taking up so much space, it says designer’s toolbox, maybe because I’m not a designer, I don’t understand what a designer toolbox is?

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: It doesn’t feel to me like it’s being relevant or clear about what it’s about.

Brian: Yeah, it actually, those comments are true, I think they could have done a better jobs in terms of having like a better, you know, big headline and yeah, that graphic seems a little bit large, but the story here of having the screen shot here was, so I’m a designer, and Sketches is kind of this new design app that that’s been making the rounds,

And so I found out about it through Twitter, it was a few weeks ago, a bunch of web design people that I follow on Twitter started tweeting about it, and I caught one of those tweets, I clicked the link, and I have never heard of it before, even the person tweeting it I don’t really know them personally, so this is a totally random thing, it could be a waste of my time when I should be doing work.

So I clicked on it, and I started reading it, and it did start to speak to me in a few different ways, you know Sketch is, it’s basically an alternative to Photoshop and the guys behind Sketch must know that designers, most of them are using Photoshop to create websites, but most of them hate using Photoshop to create websites. We’re constantly looking for alternatives because Photoshop is just clunky and extremely expensive.

Andrew: And this seems like the money shot right here.

Brian: Exactly.

Andrew: Using Sketch instead of Photoshop.

Brian: Yeah, so that just really shows that they know who their customer is, they know what really matters to them and they’re speaking to them.

Andrew: I hear more Sketch verse Photoshop.

Brian: Yep.

Andrew: And that’s on Magento’s website. Okay. Alright. The point is, you want to relevant. And the way to be relevant is you’ve been talking to people, seeing what their issues are.

Brian: Yeah, exactly. I mean, you know the other example would be SweeProcess. So, we know that we’re, our product is targeted as small to mid-size business owners who are really really busy, they’ve got a tone of task going on, they’re doing too much themselves and they need to outsource and hand things off and systemize. So the top headline, just grabs your attention right away. Stop doing everything, or Stop doing it all yourself. So, if I’m a small business owner and I see that, you know, I’m instantly relating to that.

I’m doing too much myself, I need to delegate to my team. So I’m not telling the whole story about what SweetProcess is, all I’m doing is grabbing you’re attention, making a relevant connection with you, so that hopefully you’ll stay on a few more minutes and hear us out.

Andrew: Okay. Alright. Onto the big board and the next big idea is to create a hierarchy. What do you mean by that?

Brian: Yeah, so creating a visual hierarchy, this is kind of one of the key design principals, especially, it’s especially important on the web. So, a visual hierarchy kind of creates order on the page in terms of your layout. When you’re explaining a new concept to your friend, you want to roll out that concept one idea at a time, making sure that they understand the first idea, and then you can move onto the next idea and then the next. You kind of want to do the same thing on your website. You don’t want too many things fighting for your attention for the visitor’s attention.

So the way that you do that is you create a visual hierarchy, and this is about guiding the user’s eye across the page and down the page in the order that you want them to digest it. So first, you want to draw their eye toward the headline. Second, maybe it’s the sub-headline. Third, it could be a big image or a video or something. Just being strategic about what you want them to see first, second, third. And then the way that you do that is you assign visual weight to each element.

Andrew: Okay.

Brian: So visual weight can be done using size, so one element is a lot larger than another element. The one that’s larger is going to attract my eye first. Color. So using contrast, something that’s high contrast like white on a dark background, that’s also going to attract my eye first, whereas if it were a gray on a dark background, it kind of falls into the backdrop a little bit. Space, so if there’s a lot of space around an element, it’s kind of on its own, it attracts attention, whereas if it’s jumbled up with a lot of things, it kind of gets mixed up.

Andrew: Let’s take a look at a site that you think does it well and then I want to ask you about big requests that you get from people and why you think it’s wrong. But this is Trello. How are they doing this well?

Brian: Yea, so this is I think it’s the tour page on the Trello site, and you can see the headline, instant clarity on any project. That really pops out as one of the first things that you see for two reasons. One, that text is a lot bigger than the text below it. The other reason is using color. It’s a dark blue on a white background. That’s a high contrast. It’s attracting our eye first. And then, you know, the text below it is kind of smaller, it’s a little bit more subdued. So we’re telling the visitor, hey look at the this first headline first and then move on to the rest.

Andrew: Okay.

Brian: So they can kind of digest the page in an orderly fashion. They’re not confused, like what should I look at first, and the story doesn’t get mixed up.

Andrew: What about the logo? I noticed actually Trello has a big logo up on their home page. When clients ask you for that, what do you say?

Brian: Yeah. This is a classic request that I think every designer has heard at least a few times. Make my logo bigger. The push back there would be you don’t want to always focus on the logo. You want to focus on grabbing their attention and making a connection with your headline, or with a video, or something. The logo shouldn’t be front and center. If we make it bigger we’re going to detract attention away from where we want it, which is the headline. So, that would be…

Andrew: …I see Basecamp’s…

Brian: … the way that I would explain. Yeah.

Andrew: They’ve got a small logo up here, but their headline is much bigger.

Brian: Yeah, exactly. They’ve set their priorities. They’ve said, we really want the headline to be the number one thing on this page.

Andrew: What about SweetProcess? The logo is smaller than the headline. Don’t you want people to know what site they’re on? Or, if they don’t click here and do what you want them to do, don’t you want them to at least remember the headline?

Brian: You know, I think it’s okay. Because they’re coming here from somewhere. Maybe it was an article about SweetProcess, or somebody told them about SweetProcess. So, the assumption is there that if you’re on this website or if you came to this website you came here for a reason and you know the name.

Andrew: Right.

Brian: Now it’s about selling, it’s about educating, and it’s about making a connection and resonating with the customer.

Andrew: Alright, makes sense. Let’s go on to the next big idea. The penultimate idea that we’re going to be talking about today is to write copy in your wireframe. What do most people do when they’re just sketching out their idea, if it’s not the copy?

Brian: Yeah. This is kind of a process thing. I think there are two ways that people usually go about this. One is they use placeholder text. So, they actually do the design first, and then they might use Lorem Ipsum…

Andrew: …Yeah…

Brian: …placeholder text just to show what some generic text would look like in the design. Then, later on they worry about putting in real copy. That would be one way. The other way would be to write the copy first, writing it in like a Google doc or a Word document, and then designing your site around the copy that you’ve already written.

I prefer to write the copy in the wireframe and create the wireframe and the layout at the same time as I’m actually writing the copy. So, I spend a ton of time in the wire framing stage, because not only am I laying things out but I’m also writing out headlines. I’m even writing out paragraph text. I don’t use any placeholder text…

Andrew: …This is where you do it. You’re not writing in Word and designing in Balsamiq Mockups. You’re doing it both in what seems like Balsamiq Mockups app. Right?

Brian: Yeah, Balsamiq, my favorite app to use, granted. As you can see, I really get pretty detailed in Balsamiq. I’m not worrying so much about fonts. I’m not really worrying about colors. I am setting colors just to define the contrasts. Later on in Photoshop I’ll worry about fonts and exact colors and things like that.

But, here in Balsamiq what I am doing is I’m writing the copy and I’m setting up the visual hierarchy. As I’m writing the copy, as I’m writing the words, I’m also thinking about what’s the volume of this statement that I’m saying. How loud am I saying this? What do I want the visitor to digest first? It’s both about the messaging and about how they visually digest the page.

Andrew: Why can’t you just open up a Google doc and write a headline, because you know you need one, then write a sub-head because you need one of those, and then write a block of text? And then put it into the finished design?

Brian: Yeah. I think if you start with the copy first – and a lot of people do that, and it’s certainly a valid way to do it – I’ve just found that if you write the copy first, the sizing and the layout, that kind of stuff, isn’t really playing into it. For example, once you get to that third section that writing a few paragraphs about it. In this particular page I might have written only one paragraph, and then we have all this extra space because it’s out of balance with the book.

Andrew: I see.

Brian: Where I might have written five paragraphs and going on and on in the Word document, but then once that translates into the design then I find that, oh, I need to edit this down or. . .

Andrew: So you want to get a sense that the length of it feels right with the size of the book.

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: That the sub-head and the head – it’s your mock up. It’s not the finished version – but you want to see that this heading and this sub-head here feel right together and that the heading isn’t so long that the sub- heading just looks like it’s a speck of dirt underneath it or vice versa.

Brian: Yeah. Exactly.

Andrew: Okay. I see that for even [??] This is your mockup of Sweet Process. What did you use here? This doesn’t look like Balsamiq.

Brian: No. So this is a screenshot right off of the live website.

Andrew: Okay.

Brian: The point that I want to make here is another copyrighting tip, and that is to focus on the benefits not so much the features. So kind of spinning the features into the benefits, uncovering those benefits.

Andrew: Okay.

Brian: So what I’m doing here – This is kind of the middle of the page on Sweet Process and so we’re taking a tour of the product. And so each of these little kind of thumbnail and headline paragraphs kind of focuses on one feature. But the way that I wrote that copy is to focus on what that benefit is.

So the second one here where it says, “Clarify with images and videos” the feature that we’re getting across is that, hey, you can embed images and videos in your procedures, but what I’m saying is you can clarify the procedure using images and videos because that’s what we really care about. If I’m going to give a procedure to my VA I want to make sure that he’s going to understand it and that he’s totally clear on it. That’s the benefit of using images and videos.

Andrew: Okay. Anything else on this point before we go to the next one?

Brian: No. I mean, there are so many different copyrighting tips that we can include, but we talk about it later.

Andrew: The big idea though, the one that we want to emphasize too is, you’re saying, write the copy in the wire frame, in whatever it is that you’re designing put it together.

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: Alright. And this is the software that you use and so many other people use, Balsamiq. I’ll reinforce it so people can see it.

Brian: That’s great.

Andrew: Final point. Do you design on your pricing page, too?

Brian: Absolutely. So, yeah, there are a few tips here that I have for pricing pages. So the first is really just to keep it simple and keep it easy to digest and easy to understand. You don’t want your users coming to your pricing page and having to do some kind of complex calculation like, what is this really going to cost me or trying to figure out what’s really included in this plan.

You just want to make it simple, easy to digest, focus on the value. Again you want to get across that this is a no-brainer. You’re getting a lot for the money. Focus on benefits. Another tip here is if you have multiple plans for, let’s say, a SaaS product you do want to emphasize one plan over the other, kind of say, this is the most popular plan. Or this one offers the best value.

It just kind of drives home the idea that there are things to compare here, and this is the one that we’re suggesting you make. You don’t need to think or spend too much time comparing. We’re helping you along.

Andrew: I saw you do that, just highlight the one that you want them to take, the most popular.

Brian: Yeah. So I am kind of highlighting that most popular plan that’s kind of the core plan. The other point that I’m making here is if you notice the check marks are they’re very linear. So the first plan has the shortest stack of check marks. Then we have a slightly later one, and then the longest.

So it’s really figure out what the differences are between these plans.

Andrew: As opposed to this one.

Brian: Exactly. So here’s a site. This is actually a pretty popular hotel booking software. They have three plans, and it’s just really hard to figure out what the difference is between these plans. You can’t even find the price without scrolling all the way down to the bottom. Now that we’re at the bottom you probably need to scroll all the way back up just to see which features are included in each one. The check boxes are not linear. I even found myself putting my finger on the computer screen just to line up is this feature included in which plan was that, you know. It was just really confusing.

Andrew: Okay.

Brian: One more tip on here.

Andrew: Yes, please.

Brian: On that example they’re kind of including all features that are included in the product. I think that’s a mistake. I think you should, again, just keep it simple. Just pick like five, six, seven at most, a handful of features and benefits that you want to highlight on your pricing page. You don’t have to tell everything about your product. It’s just about comparing your prices and showing the value. You have other places on your site where you can educate about the product.

Andrew: Alright. So, those are all the big points that I have up on the board. I see here in my notes that there are a couple of sites that you want to point to. Should I bring some of them up?

Brian: Which ones?

Andrew: Actually, here, there’s just one now that I see it,

Brian: Oh, okay.

Andrew: And this one you’re saying does a great job of calling attention to the newsletter opt in.

Brian: Yeah. We were talking about some additional tips especially for optimizing your blog and your content marketing. Yeah, they are doing a really great job of calling attention to the email newsletter signup to get those email signups. I think that is very important for any blog to really focus on building a list. You want to have a newsletter signup somewhere in the top right corner. You also want to have one at the end of the article, because people who read through the entire article, and they actually make it to the end, are much more likely to sign up for your email newsletter…

Andrew: …Let’s see if they use that. I think they do. Scroll, scroll, scroll…

Brian: …I think they do. They might call out…

Andrew: …Oh yeah, there. It just popped up as soon as I got to the bottom of the post.

Brian: Yeah, exactly. That’s also a pretty popular way of doing it these days. Right there, I mean that is drawing your attention. It has the animation, so some movement on the page. That is going to draw your eye towards it. Again, the email updates in the top right. It’s a very dark, almost black box on a white background. It’s the only element that has that much contrast to it, so it’s really high up there in the visual hierarchy.

Andrew: Let me show one other one. Let’s click that link. What do you like about this?…

Brian: …Yeah, this is the blog…

Andrew: …Why isn’t that showing up properly on my screen? Let’s see if I can show it more clearly. Here, you can see this is basically, I’m showing my computer screen. I’ll center it. I do wish that this was centered properly, but I think I’m also cutting it off because of the way I’m showing my screen. What do you like about these guys?

Brian: Yeah, this is the blog for Intercom. They do a great job with their content that they put out. They kind of keep things simple. I guess the point that I wanted to make here was the right sidebar is pretty simple. There are only a handful of things. I see a lot of blogs that have popular posts, categories, a tag cloud, every social network that they’ve ever been a part of, callout one, callout two. Here they’re just really keeping it simple, keeping the focus on the article and the one opt in that they want you to hit…

Andrew: …Right, which is to try out their software. Let me try a different color this time, red, this one right there. Alright. Well, thank you for walking us through this. The book is, where is that, there it is, “Design for Conversions.” Is the place to get it right now

Brian: Yeah. That’ll take you there.


Brian: Yeah. That’ll be available in early November.

Andrew: Well, thank you for doing this. Thanks for doing it. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye everyone.


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Master Class: SMS Marketing

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Andrew: This session is about how to increase sales with SMS marketing. The program is going to be led by this man up on your screen. His name is Derek Johnson, and he is the founder of Tatango, which allows you to send a text messaging marketing campaign to your customers and gives you the tools to collect their cell phone numbers. I will help facilitate, and at times apparently trip over my words. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where proven founders like Derek teach. Derek, welcome.Derek: Hey. Thanks for having me.Andrew: And how does this explain the big problem?Derek: Yeah. You know, there’s, I think, two problems that happen, you know, very recently.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Derek: First is email marketing, you know, the open rates used to be ridiculously high. But as everyone knows, you know, as email, you know, continues to kind of evolve, the open rates have continued to decrease.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Derek: So they’ll … as you can see, you know, depending on the industry, what industry you’re in, you know, it can range from, you know, on average, about 13% open rates. And that’s on the lead gen …

Andrew: That’s what you’re saying on this … where it is …

Derek: That’s from Mail Chimp. Correct.

Andrew: Right there, from this Mail Chimp article about how Gmail’s new inbox is affecting open rates. I’ll isolate the image just like that and zoom in. So what we’re seeing is what’s the before and after that they’re demonstrating here?

Derek: Yeah, so that was kind of the evolution of the last, like, 10 years with email marketing. Email marketing used to be super powerful. And it still is, but it’s become less powerful. Now, with tabbed inboxes, you know, and Google’s the first one to do it. I guarantee, you know, other email providers are going to follow.

Andrew: Yeah. This is what we’re seeing, where they isolate … Gmail does, before users even see it …

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: … Gmail isolates anything that looks like it’s marketing and puts it in a whole other bucket that’s got nothing but advertising, nothing but promotions, etc. All right, and so going back to this chart, this is a before and after that change was made to Gmail open rates. What we see is in both cases, open rates are pretty freaking low. Below 15%.

Derek: Exactly. Yeah.

Andrew: And so the reason that you want us to think about SMS is because if email open rates are so low, then maybe it’s time to look at something where open rates are much higher. What are the open rates on SMS? Or as we call it in the U. S., often, text messages?

Derek: Yeah. Text messages, SMS, it’s kind of interchangeable. So right now with text messaging, the average text message has an open rate of 99 percent.

Andrew: 99 percent of the text messages that I send out are going to be opened.

Derek: That’s correct, yes.

Andrew: And that’s why you want us to consider sending text messages and using them as marketing instead of the email channel that we’ve known for years.

Derek: Yup. Exactly. And as, you know, I think, as, you know, as email, you know, over the last ten years has kind of progressed and, you know, more people are marketing via email, obviously open rates will go down. But right now, they’re extremely high.

So you’re almost looking at where email was ten years ago and how valuable that was, you’re looking at right now with SMS. It is that valuable, and you can generate a huge amount of revenue. So, you know, it definitely is the time to get into SMS marketing.

Andrew: All right. This is the potential. People in the audience are going to be thinking, “All right. Great. But what has this guy done?” And then they’re going to think, “What can he do for me?” So let’s start with what have you done. Let’s give them one example. What did you do for … this is Seattle Suntan.

Derek: Yeah. So Seattle Suntan was a great client. They, you know, are using pretty much everything … you know, all the marketing channels that everybody, you know, all your viewers are using. Email, social, you know, in-store. You know, really … and they’re spending a lot of money on marketing, you know, per year. We came to them and we showed them, obviously, the open rates. And they knew the open rates of their email.

We said, you know, “Why don’t you collect people’s mobile phone numbers and send text messages similar to what you’re sending via email. Instead of getting, you know, a 13% open rate, you’re going to get a 99 percent open rate.” And the average text message is opened within three minutes of being sent. Where you compare that to email, it depends on kind of who you’re listening to in the email marketing space. It can be anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. And I don’t think even they know now, with the tabbed inboxes, how that’s affecting it. And it’s just going to get worse. So we came to them and, you know, the results were …

Andrew: So bottom line, what did you do for them?

Derek: Yeah. So we set up … or they, actually, set up on our text messaging service. We have a platform similar to, like, Mail Chimp or Exact Target. And they went in. They created an SMS campaign which allowed their customers to opt in to receive text messages, and do that by texting in pretty much “tans,” which is what we call a keyword, to the short code 33733, which is just a five- to six-digit phone number.

Andrew: It’s in here. Let me show it right up on screen.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: Just like they have an email box over on the right of their site asking people to opt into email, in the center, they say text the word “tans” to this number, and when they do that, they’re opting in to receive text messages. But I want to understand more about how this process works, and more importantly, how it’d work for our audience. But dollars and cents. I know you’ve got a statistic that you’re willing to share with us. I think it comes from the first month of sales. How much did you increase their revenue first month?

Derek: Yeah. So just with SMS. And again, it’s very easy to track SMS, which is what I like, so I can get hard numbers from clients. They generated specifically … what was the number here? I think it was $196,101.87. So about $200,000 in revenue in the first 30 days of running their SMS campaign. Now, obviously, you know, a lot of companies don’t want to disclose how much ongoing revenue. It is just as high or considerably higher continuing.

So, you know, the client is extremely happy with the results, and they get more and more subscribers into their SMS campaign. I think during the first month, 4,750 subscribers opted in. That number is extremely higher now. You know, it’s been maybe five or six months since they started.

Andrew: Okay. Alright. We’re going to learn how to do this, and we’re going to see how text messaging today is maybe where email was about 10 years ago. Maybe it’s even further ahead, because I don’t ever remember email having that kind of open rate, or being able to influence that much in sales. Let’s take a look at the big board here. This is a list of the topics that you and I are going to be talking today. There it is. How we’re going to increase sales.

The very first item that I have on the list is the very first thing that you wanted us to talk about, which is “be compliant.” And one of the warning stories, the stories we all need to be aware of, is this one. I’ve clipped out this article. What happened to this company?

Derek: Yeah. So this is Papa Murphy’s. And actually … yeah, it is Papa Murphy’s. No, actually, I think you’re on the Jiffy Lube one.

Andrew: Jiffy Lube is what I have up on my screen.

Derek: Okay.

Andrew: It’s obviously happened to multiple companies. So what happened to Jiffy Lube?

Derek: Yeah. Dozens of companies have been, you know, not only fined, but sued and lost in court. So Jiffy Lube, interesting case. They took … so when you go into a Jiffy Lube, you give your mobile phone number for the purpose of being called when your car is ready. So at Jiffy Lube, a certain owner, you know, of a franchise that Jiffy Lube called Hartland Automotive Services, they took millions of phone numbers from those forms that people filled out when they, you know, signed their name saying, “Yes, you can have my car, but give me a call when it’s, you know, ready.”

They took all those phone numbers and sent them a text message. And I think it was … what was it? 2.3 million consumers, you know, that they sent a text message to. Which means, under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which is a federal law, consumers can sue anywhere from $500 per text message up to $1,500 per text message, depending on if the company maliciously did it or they just didn’t know. And that’s what happened here. And this … you know, the $47 million was a settlement. They could have been sued for billions of dollars for that many … amount of text messages, and the fines that, you know, you …

Andrew: So what do I need to do? Because I don’t want to be a jerk about it. I don’t want to spam people. I want to do this right. What’s the biggest thing that I need to watch out for? I can’t just take their phone numbers and put it on a list and text message them, right? Is that basically what you’re telling me?

Derek: You know, so the Telephone Consumer Protection Act is very, very complicated, you know, and takes a long time to read. But really, the piece of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act which you need to know is you cannot send text messages to someone unless you have express written consent. Which really, for, you know, your viewers out there, means that, you know, they have to know that they’re opting in to receive text messages from you. You know, so you get kind of in this gray area where they’re like, well, but I bought this list, but the kind of … that’s the kind of, you know, place that you get in trouble.

Andrew: They have to explicitly do it. If they give you their phone number as part of the purchasing process, it’s not enough. They have to explicitly say yes.

Derek: Exactly. And …

Andrew: Can I have a check box on my form when they buy, or when they sign up for something, where I say, “By checking this box, you’re also getting text messages from me?”

Derek: Yup. You know, and it is still new, kind of like email marketing. We are going through a lot of growing pains in terms … and the courts are really deciding this, which is nice. So we’re getting a lot of case law around this. If you are doing something like that … the Jiffy Lube case, they established that it cannot be part of another process.

So signing, like, a contract, it can’t be buried in there saying, like, “Hey, by putting your phone number in here, we’re going to also do this.” So if you do want to kind of do a check box, what I usually recommend is uncheck it, you know, when somebody lands, by default, on the page. Very clear in there that by signing up, you know, putting your phone number in, you’re going to receive X amount of text messages. Message and data rates apply. And then have them check that. The best way to avoid, you know, a costly lawsuit.

Andrew: All right. So let’s go on now to the big board and see what the next thing we need to understand is, which is you’ve got to pick great keywords and short codes. Let me see if I understand what this is. Show the image that you talked to me about before we started. It seems like there are two parts to the way that you collect text message permission. The one part is the phone number. In this case, it’s 90210. The second part is the word, right?

Derek: Yes, correct. And the word is what we call a keyword, and the phone number — the five- to six-digit, and I’ll reference this all the time — is what we call a short code.

Andrew: Gotcha. So why can’t I just have people text message anything to a phone number that I give them? Why does it have to be … why do we need both of them?

Derek: Yeah. So are you talking about, like, let’s say, for this example, like, “My Lexus” to just my regular phone number?

Andrew: Yeah. Can’t I just say, “Text me at … ” What’s our number? 1-888- 4-MIXERGY, or something?

Derek: Yeah. So you could, obviously. And people do do that. They say, hey, you know, text me your … whatever, or something like that. The carriers are very specific. Now, you could get away with it on a personal level, or very, very small business. But the carriers are very specific that if you’re running an SMS marketing campaign, or you’re doing either mass text messaging or some type of marketing initiative, you have to be doing it through a short code. It’s very similar to kind of email marketing. You do still have those people that are using Gmail, you know, to email market people, or Outlook, but really, the proper way is using Mail Chimp or Constant Contact. So it …

Andrew: About the collecting. Do you allow me to collect — going over to your website — if I’m on Tatango, and I’m a customer of yours, can I collect cell phone numbers on my website instead of asking people to text a specific short code?

Derek: Yep. Exactly.

Andrew: Okay.

Derek: And similar to kind of what that Seattle Suntan was doing on the right-hand side, you know, we do have a lot of customers, also. It takes a little development knowledge, because you’ve got to implement the API. But, you know, people can put their phone number into a form or a field …

Andrew: Gotcha.

Derek: … and then opt in.

Andrew: All right. But you’re saying if we use this process, which is the short code and the keyword, we can’t be dopy about the keyword and the short code that we use. It can’t just be a scramble of numbers and a scramble of letters.

Derek: Exactly. You want to make it …

Andrew: What about these guys? Lexus in Northland. How are they doing it?

Derek: Yeah, yeah. So this one was actually … so the short codes are very, very expensive, and most of the time you’re going to be using what we call a shared short code.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Derek: So this short code, 90210, thousands of businesses are using it. So, you know, this guy has to find a keyword — “My Lexus” — that isn’t being used by another business. Kind of like a web domain, almost.

Andrew: Okay.

Derek: And, you know, some big businesses, you know, the Fortune 500 companies, they will buy their own short code, so then they have all the keywords available.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Derek: They don’t kind of have any brand, you know, confusion. But most businesses are going to operate on a shared short code. So at Tatango, we have shared short codes like 33733, 68398. And you can kind of pick and choose which one you want. And then, on top of that, you put a keyword.

Andrew: I see.

Derek: So what we’re pointing out in this keyword example was the fact that 9% of people … and with a mobile phone, you have to be very cautious, because I have fat, you know, thumbs. You know, you can make mistakes. And people are looking at this really quickly. They’re not staring at it for, you know, 15 minutes thinking, “Okay, I know what that is. I’m going to type it in my phone.”

Usually it’s something that’s quick. You know, a quick engagement with the brand or advertising. So what we were pointing out in that example was the fact that “My Lexus” is two words. Well, most SMS systems are pretty stupid, and what they’ll do is, if you don’t have “My Lexus” with a space, and somebody texted, you know, into 90210 without a space, or with a space, it won’t register.

So then you lose that subscriber. So you have to be very, very cautious. Even putting, like, quotations around your keyword will throw off some consumers, because they’ll put quotations around their keyword.

Andrew: Oh, I see. So if you put, quote, “My Lexus” . . . I see.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: So if he had . . . in an ideal world, he would just have “Text Lexus to 90210.”

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: That way there’s no confusion about should I do “My Lexus,” “I Lexus,” just the word “Lexus.”

Derek: And then you look at also . . . yes, you’re correct. And then you look at also autocorrect makes for some funny text messages, but also can screw you up. So when we do national campaigns, we will do autocorrect on multiple phones in our office — or our account managers will — and then they’ll show the client, like, “Hey, there’s a potential on this one for an autocorrect.”

Andrew: Gotcha. Okay. All right. Here’s an example of a company that’s doing it right. We talked about them a moment ago. What are they doing right here? What do you like about this?

Derek: Yeah, so very, very simple. It’s “tans,” you know, which does not autocorrect. It doesn’t have . . . you know, it’s not “tans5677” to 33733. You know, people are going to look up, and most of the time it’s on a billboard or on some kind of advertising, you know, in the real world. They’re going to look at it really, really quickly and then go to their phone and type it in. So if you have something like “tans467727,” they’re going to have to look multiple times back and forth to their phone, and that can influence, you know, the amount of people that will opt in.

Andrew: Okay.

Derek: So this is very, very simple. They’re not using . . . and they keep it short. So it’s not . . . like, they could have said, “Text ‘Seattle Sun Tan in Seattle’ to 33 . . . ” Like, that would be a pain in the ass to type in, God.

Andrew: You don’t even want us using the . . . excuse me, the dollar sign for the S in “tans.”

Derek: Yeah. It’s pretty funny. We go out and we talk to a lot of people. A lot of regular people. You have to remember, I live on my phone, you live on your phone, a lot of your viewers live on their phone. A lot of people cannot figure out how to tab on a cell phone to get to a dollar symbol, or to get to three dollar symbols in a row. So just make it simple as possible.

Andrew: All right. Fair enough. Onto the big board again, and our next big point is we want to create a compelling opt-in offer. And I’m going to show one of the examples that you talked to me about before we started. And I know that there’s going to be some issue with this with the audience, and we’ll bring that up. But what are these guys . . . who is this, and what are they doing well?

Derek: Yeah. So this is Jack in the Box. They are . . . so when . . . again, the keyword is, you know, “JackSB,” which obviously kind of . . . you know, I have some issues with it, but they have to . . .

Andrew: Right, but you have to . . . why . . . what’s the “SB” in Jack in the Box?

Derek: So it depends on kind of, you know, what the company’s trying to do by doing this. Some of them, they’re using it as a tracking tool.

Andrew: Oh.

Derek: So “JackSB,” like, your reference to a certain location or certain campaign.

Andrew: Gotcha.

Derek: So that they can see, oh, the SB location is getting 400 opt-ins. So I can . . . if there’s a reason behind it, I can understand. But if this were . . . if they had the option to just text “Jack” to 31278, it would be much better.

Andrew: Okay.

Derek: So they are . . . so right there, it says “Text ‘JackSB’ to 31278 to sign up to receive mobile offers.” That’s a very standard, you know, text messaging call to action. What we realized, though, is those kind of things are not very attractive. I mean, some of them . . .

Andrew: You mean people are not getting excited about receiving mobile offers?

Derek: Exactly. Yep. And it’s the exact same thing as email marketing. Even nowadays, you’ve got to give them something. So Jack in the Box is doing a really great job. They’re giving you free tacos. Actually, two tacos. Not even one taco, which I would think is enough. They’re giving you two tacos to sign up to receive, you know, future text message alerts from them.

And I think this just shows the power of text messaging and the value they see in collecting somebody’s phone number. They’re willing to give you two free tacos to get your phone number.

Andrew: Okay.

Derek: So that phone number’s pretty valuable.

Andrew: So people in our audience aren’t going to be selling burgers. They obviously don’t have burger chains. But what they do have are software companies, app companies, content companies.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: Pick one of those and show me how someone in that business can create a compelling opt-in offer that would encourage people to submit their phone number.

Derek: Yeah, exactly. And what’s great is, you know, five years ago, when we started doing SMS marketing, I don’t think this could have ever been possible for your viewers, because the phones weren’t smart enough. You know, they didn’t have internet access. Now that they have internet access, the browsers are really great, you know, you can download apps, there’s all kinds of things you can do.

So let’s say you have content, and let’s say, you know, you’re a dating coach or a dating website, and you want people to sign up for dating tips, you know, from you. Well, just like Jack in the Box did. Jack in the Box has an actual product that they sell. You’re selling dating tips. You could offer, you know, a video, you know, in the first text message. So, sign up for our, you know, our text message tips on, you know, dating. Weekly text message tips. And get a special video, you know, from us on 10 reasons, 10 ways to pick up girls at the bar. You know, that could be …

Andrew: I see what you’re saying. You’re saying I can control the first message that people see after they sign up, and that message can include a link to content on my site because people have iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones, smartphones of every kind, they can see it on their phone. And so I see. So that opens up a world of possibilities for content creators. Everything from videos to PDFs to books, etc.

Derek: Yeah. Exactly. And you can even get more crazy, too. You could link … let’s say you have to, for some reason, get their email, or maybe their address, because you want to ship them a T-shirt, you know, for signing up for this. You can link to a mobile website with a capture form on that mobile website, you know, to get more info from them, or maybe what you need to send them the info. So, you know, you can really do anything. You know, videos, app downloads. Maybe you have a special app, or, you know, maybe you’re not as technically savvy on the mobile side. Give them some kind of coupon code.

So let’s take Mixergy, for example. Let’s say you say, you know, “Hey, give me your phone number and I’ll text message you when a new video comes out.” And you put a little link in there every time, every week, so I can click on it and just watch the video on my phone. But I want something special, so what you’ll do is, hey, sign up for … you know, to receive these weekly text message alerts, and you will get 20 percent off, you know, a premium membership. And then in the text message, you don’t need to put any links or anything like that. Just put the coupon code. That is only accessible via the text message. Then they’ve got to go to the web on the regular computer and they type it in.

Andrew: Right. Later on, we’re going to talk about how you’ve got a note here about the frequency and timing of sending out those messages. I want to add to a conversation about what am I emailing, or what am I texting. My mind is still on email.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: What am I texting? But let’s stick with collecting those opt-ins so that we can later on have a more meaningful conversation about what we’re sending people through opting in. All right. Next big point is to advertise to our current customers. Why is that such a dramatic different thing? Why is that such an important thing to talk about, that you actually want to do this on this short list?

Derek: Yeah. I think because that’s a big question that our account managers get, is they get sold on, you know, hey, we’re going to make a lot of money and get all these phone numbers, but really, you have to get the phone numbers first. You can’t buy phone numbers. You know, and they’re not very easy to get. So, you know, advertising … we get this question all the time. “Where do I advertise?” And we always quickly say back, “Where don’t you advertise?” And what’s great about, you know, SMS compared to email is email, you really only can advertise, you know, online, unless somebody wants to, like, pick up a pen and fill out a form in a store, which, you know, is very unlikely.

With SMS, you can advertise both online with, you know, one of those capture forms that we’re talking about, that Seattle Suntan could have on the right-hand side, and then in the real world, you know, with those short codes and keywords so people can text and interact. So we’re talking everything from billboards in the real world, you know, changing rooms, you know … anything … flyers, postcards. You can even do direct mail. You know, people thing …

Andrew: Chances are, my audience is not going to be doing those things. But I do hear what you’re saying. It is intimidating when you sign up for a program like yours, and you have the possibility to text message people, and the first thing you see is you have no one on your list.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: And that is really intimidating. So what you’re saying is before you think about new ways to get people in, before you think about how to go outside of your world and bring more people into your world, and then get them to give you their phone numbers, you’re saying start thinking about the people who are already on your list. The people who are already on your site.

Derek: Exactly. And my … yeah. And you’re looking at two great ways, because, you know, kind of like me, you know, I do get your email alerts, but maybe I … you know, maybe I’m traveling a lot, and I want to kind of tone down my email. I want … and I’m a premium member. I want to get SMS orders, because I want to send straight to my phone, and I want to be able to watch it on my own time. So, you know, your current members are going to be some of the best. And you know all the statistics about people that already have a relationship are going to spend more, they’re easy to acquire. I would focus on those people first.

Andrew: Right. And this is being done by bigger, more experienced companies. Who’s this? What are we seeing here?

Derek: Yeah. So this is actually pretty cool, and this kind of relates to what you were talking about. Julep is a very, very large now e-commerce company that sells not only nail polish but a lot of different beauty products. They’ve kind of expanded, (?) from Navron [sp]. They do a lot of revenue, e-commerce revenue, and they have some actual retail locations, too. So they sent out an email. This was the email. Obviously, there’s more stuff around it, but they sent out an email to their existing list.

And I think I have the statistic here. I don’t think they said how many people they sent it out to. So they sent this email out to all their existing list, existing customers to (?) 33733. They had a really great offer which is 50 percent off your next nail color. At that point they didn’t even have a fully enabled site, so what they did is they just put the coupon code in the text message and told them to go to your computer and type.

Andrew: A computer launch doesn’t take much more. Actually now I’m looking on their Facebook page. It looks like they did it on their Facebook page and . . .

Derek: It’s everywhere.

Andrew: And it kept getting people to type in Jewel there to your short code. Now I’m starting to recognize this. Any time I see your code, that’s 33733, I’m going to know it’s you.

Derek: And that’s a shared shortcut. So those are very easy to figure out, but we own dozens of short codes for different clients. What’s interesting is because they use their existing database to market to they got 5,000 people to opt-in. So 5,000 people opted in and texted Jewel to 33733 within the first 24 hours. And that was just from their first email blast. Since then they’ve done multiple email blasts because with a 18 or 13 percent open rate you’re not going to get everybody to open that email. So they’ve continued to advertise it.

Andrew: Alright. And just because I didn’t know them that well I’m bringing it up for myself and for others. This is their site. This is what they sell. Okay.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: Alright. On to the big board. So start with your own list but when you’re ready advertise to new customers. You actually gave me that I will give the audience. This, this is your blog. What are we looking at here? I’m going to copy the URL right now to make sure that I give it to the audience.

Derek: Yeah. So this is 20 examples of websites advertising their text messaging campaigns. What is crazy is a lot of Fortune 1000, Fortune 500 companies are already using SMS. So it’s a great kind of learning tool to look at what other companies are doing.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Derek: Our blog is definitely a good example of that. We throw a lot of case studies and examples up there. You can scroll through and just get really good ideas of how some people are actually laying it out in the forum. Some people are doing it like Jewel did, like text it in. Some people have it very, very small. Maybe that’s not the best. Some people it’s part of a huge registration process. Some it’s part of their loyalty program, but you’ll notice Bed, Bath & Beyond, Guess, K-Mart. . . These big companies are putting a lot of money, Victoria’s Secret, into (?).

Andrew: I’m sorry. I was stopping on Bed, Bath & Beyond because I couldn’t see where they had it on their forum. Now I see it. Right above the submit button there’s a box that says, “Bed, Bath & Beyond may deliver mobile offers and promotions via text messages in the future. Check the box if you’d like to receive then.” So You’re just showing me a bunch of different ways that people are getting new members of their mobile mailing list. This one’s really cool.

Derek: I love the Jack in the Box one. They did a great job, and we have another blog post. At the bottom it’s like a sliding footer at the bottom of the site. It says, “Want to get alerts for your email or your phone number, click this big button.” Just super simple. I think a lot of those ones that you show they do have a lot of complexity. I would try to keep it as simple as possible because just getting that phone number is really valuable, including a lot of (?) in front of that. It makes it harder to get that phone number.

Andrew: You have to give me one example of somebody that’s getting new people in, and I can even go online and find it to show the audience. What would it be, something that you want my audience of digital entrepreneurs?

Derek: I would say Jack in the Box. Sometimes they’re AB testing, and sometimes they’re not.

Andrew: You mean, on their website? So go to

Derek: Yeah. It should be there. and then . . .

Andrew: I don’t know why I typed it in the Google search instead of (?).

Derek: So there it is.

Andrew: Oh, I see what you mean, right on their website. This is it right here.

Derek: It’s awesome, isn’t it?

Andrew: Yeah. I don’t know why I never noticed it before.

Derek: Trust me. One . . .

Andrew: Actually I do know why because I’m not on Jack in the Box.

Derek: You have to be on the Jack in the Box website. So at one. . .

Andrew: It’s equal to email, at least on this page.

Derek: It, yeah, well it’s first, you know, so for us that’s a huge win.

Andrew: Okay. Alright. Are you working with Jack in the Box, by the way?

Derek: No, they’re not a client of ours.

Andrew: Okay, I want to make sure that we’re not just showing your clients here on the board.

Derek: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: Great.

Derek: And you’ll start to notice too, after this interview, walk through the mall, and whenever I’m traveling, I go and just walk through malls, you’ll see 20 text message call to actions if you look around, obvious . . .

Andrew: You know, I never notice them. I have never in my life given a text message like that, my guess is my audience is like that too. I don’t know their audiences, but they must have some people like me who don’t even notice this, who just start to space out on it because they feel like texting a company is not for them.

For end users like me, it sounds like the best thing to do is not have a box that says text this key word to this short code, but have form that says what’s your phone number, and I will give you something for it, right?

Derek: That’s the best way for a web advertisement, just because I’m here with my, you know, keyboard in front of me, where I’ve been, me picking up my mobile phone and then kept looking at it, if feels kind of weird, depending on kind of how, you know, if you can integrate an API, and our APIs are very simple, and end loads to our competitors, so yeah, I would say most of the time it’s a form.

You also have to think, too, a lot of those brands you’re not interested in, you know, Victoria Secret, maybe Jack in the Box, you really just don’t want to receive their text messages, no matter how well they advertise it. If you have a good content and someone is interested, someone is going to want to give you their phone number, just like I would to Mixergy, you know, I want to receive the things right away, and I want to watch on my phone, so it just has to be positioned right.

Andrew: All right, that’s a fair point. All right, on to the big board again. This is something that I wanted us to talk about, which is picking the right frequency and timing. You know what, maybe we say what content goes in for the next big point, because I see that you’re already, you’re going to be talking about some of what I want to address here. Well, let’s start with frequency and timing. I don’t have a perfect visual here, my sense is based on the notes that you prepared for this session that it depends on the company? For me it will be different than for you?

Derek: Exactly, depends on the company, depends on the content, depends on who you’re targeting, so even that Jack in the Box example, the SB1, they might because, maybe that’s the Seattle location, you know, and it rains all the time here, so people eat more Jack in the Box, I don’t know that, but, you know . . .

Andrew: Right.

Derek: . . . they’ll send four messages a week, where a California location will send three messages a week. And it really depends on the frequency of the dining. I think for your customers, you know, I am your customer, and you would be your customer, so you’ve got to really look at, like, where is the threshold of being annoying, and actually adding value? So I can span a couple different examples, all the way from, like, car dealership to kind of e-commerce or content company.

So car dealerships, you know, let’s talk about buying a new car. Buying a new car happens every, like, two years, maybe, so sending a text message every week about buying a new car is going to get very, very frustrating. So buying a new car is more six months, you know, maybe even every year. Now maybe oil changes and maintenance and tire rotation, maybe once a month, maybe every quarter, and you know your business obviously, so you kind of figure out, I like haircuts is a good example, if an average person gets a haircut perhaps, let’s say, every month, send it every three weeks to get them in there a little sooner.

And when you look at the numbers, let’s say I get a haircut every month, and within a year that’s 12 haircuts, 12, you know, times $10 a haircut, you know, it’s $120 of revenue, if I can scoot that up to three, every three weeks I get a haircut, because I get this awesome text message discount that kinds of remind me I got to get a haircut, a little sooner than average, you’re now talking about, you know, more haircuts which equals more revenue. So really looking at numbers in your business, and how that frequency can impact it really helps. So . . .

Andrew: (?) haircuts, I used to have a buzz cut like yours, I kind of (?) it, my hair just, such a pain to deal with, and now I have a beard, I don’t have to be noticed, but it’s getting long, and it’s fairly new, so I was playing with it earlier, I could use an iOS text message, but a text message at least to buzz again. Isn’t it convenient to do it that way?

Derek: I used to have long hair like you, and, you know, being an entrepreneur, I can’t focus much time on my hair, so it’s like . . .

Andrew: It’s so convenient.

Derek: Number two all the way around, and it takes like 10 minutes of my (?), so.

Andrew: Yes, and I used to love when I go number one, which is really short, because . . .

Derek: Yep.

Andrew: . . . then in a few weeks I can go without having to touch it up.

Derek: Exactly, exactly.

Andrew: What happens if I have an audience of people who are all over the map? All over the globe?

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: So some are in this time zone, and some are in the exact opposite. If I hit people in what’s a comfortable time in the US, it might be uncomfortable for China or for Australia.

Derek: Yeah, so this is kind of a new feature we’re launching, actually. We take … now, so SMS … most SMS companies will only deal with US and Canada, just because the laws outside the US and Canada and the carrier relations are very, very hard to deal with. So most SMS companies are just going to be a couple countries. There are some companies that do, you know, across the entire world. But the SMS fees get really expensive when you go to, like, Australia. They’re, like, five times the cost.

So a lot of people don’t do SMS over there. So all of my advice is really centered around kind of the US and Canada, and maybe UK. In regards to kind of having all these different people, there’s a couple different things that you can do. So one example is like you were saying, like time zones. You know, let’s say I want to send something out at 7:00 a.m., but if I send it out 7:00 a.m. here, you know, in, you know, New York …

Andrew: Pacific Time, it’s going to be way too early for people in New York.

Derek: Exactly. So our system will take whether … let’s say you submitted a zip code into our system for that subscriber. Some people collect extra info, like a birthday or a zip code or a name. We’ll take that, we’ll put a time zone onto that, and then similar to kind of like what Mail Chimp does with their time warp feature, we will send out, based on that person’s time zone, across their entire campaign. So 7:00 a.m. across all the different time zones.

You know, I don’t know very many SMS providers that do that, but I think it does help, because, you know, especially if you’re looking at hitting people at lunch, or breakfast, or maybe even at the best time to see your content. You know, 3:00 p.m. is not 6:00 p.m. in terms of the best use of content, you know, East Coast and West Coast.

Now, that’s one side. The other side is let’s say you just have a really varied audience. Well, then you can use what we call segmenting. So a lot of, like, news sites. If you go to any news site, and you type in your phone number and sign up for their text message alerts, you’re not just going to get every text message alert, from horoscopes, classified, you know, emergency breaking news. You’re going to select by maybe a drop-down or maybe check boxes — that’s usually the most popular — which alerts you want to receive.

Andrew: I see. Okay.

Derek: So, you know, that’s a good way, too, if you’re kind of like, “Oh, gosh, breaking news happens all the time, but weather, I don’t want to receive it the same frequency.”

Andrew: I just want to know if there’s any problem with BART or transportation in San Francisco. Alert me to that. But if it’s going on in the New York subway system, I have no interest. That’s what you mean.

Derek: Exactly.

Andrew: Hey, before we go on to the next point, what is a Tatango? Where did you come up with your company name? What is this?

Derek: Yeah, so, yeah, it’s kind of a …

Andrew: I’m looking at the pricing. Maybe that’s not the right place to ask.

Derek: No, no, no, that’s cool. And our pricing is very different than a lot of companies, and I can explain that really quickly. I think there’s been a big shift with companies like Twillio and stuff coming to the market. So Tatango … we originally called ourself NetworkText, which is all one word. This was 2007. There wasn’t really any blog post about, like, naming a good company.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Derek: We started going into voice calling. We started doing a little social media Push-type stuff to Facebook. And NetworkText really kind of pigeonholed ourself into just doing text messaging.

Andrew: I see.

Derek: So at that point, we locked ourselves in a conference room. And I think the guy that came up with it, his name’s Andrew, he works at Maw’s now. He’s the Director of Business Development over there. We were just kind of coming up with names, and he said, “How about, like, Tango?” And I think that was taken, you know, by a squatter. And then we just said, “Tatango?” And it was available. And we were there for, like, six hours, so everybody was like, “Let’s vote on it.”

We did a vote around really quickly, and everybody’s like, “Yup, that’s the name. We don’t want to discuss this anymore.” Bought the domain. And that was interesting. Once we bought the domain, we could do anything with that. We could operate a dump truck company if we wanted.

Andrew: I see. It does … when you have a name that doesn’t mean anything, it’s not in the dictionary, you can superimpose whatever you do onto it. Whatever message you have.

Derek: It’s funny, because we went and we pulled away from doing voice calling and all these other things, and we said, the last four years, it’s just been text messaging. So, you know, whatever. But I like Tatango much better.

Andrew: Right. Cool. Fair enough. Onto the big board. Let’s talk about the must-have elements of a text. So here is the before and after.

Derek: Yep.

Andrew: Talk to me about what the difference is and why that’s so important.

Derek: Yeah. Yeah. This is … this goes to more, like, you’re trying to drive somebody to a website. You’re trying to drive somebody to a location. Kind of like couponing or promotions. Obviously the content … let me start there, because I know a lot of your viewers are, you know, content people. With the content, it has to be … you only get 160 characters, so you have to put something in there that is very, very attractive, and then you have to put the link in there.

And a lot of people mess this up. Like, TMZ, they do this every day, they mess this up. It’s very frustrating. I’ve told them not to do this. They’re not a client of ours. They put, you know, “Hey, Kanye West did something crazy again. Click here to see what he did.” And they just put

Andrew: Oh, I see. Instead of linking me to the article itself so that I can see what Kanye West did. I need to see it directly.

Derek: Exactly. Now …

Andrew: I don’t have time to research Kanye West.

Derek: I know. It makes no sense. Now, the only thing I can see why it makes a little bit of sense … obviously for advertising, because they would … you go to the main page and get an ad, and then you click through, you get another ad. Also, text messages are opened within three minutes, so maybe the Kanye story’s going to be at the top of the page, so it might be kind of easy to find. But from just a user experience, that just sucks, you know? And also, they can’t track it. So they can’t tell that the Kanye message that mentioned Kim …

I’m kind of embarrassing myself, but that mentioned Kim Kardashian in the text messages with Kanye gets a 50 percent more click through rate than the one that just mentioned Kanye. So now you can start doing AB testing, as long as the link is … you’re tracking the link. You can use, like,, or your own link shortener to kind of put it in there and track that information.

Andrew: I see. All right. So back to this.

Derek: Yeah. So let’s talk about …

Andrew: What have we got here?

Derek: Couponing …

Andrew: I know this is different from what our people are going to be doing, but let’s understand what’s going on with this one and then we’ll bring it back to us.

Derek: So the first thing you want to do is you want to … and I’ll kind of go before and after and kind of explain. First thing you want to do is you want to identify the campaign. And this goes for your audience, too. If you just put out something that says, you know, just a tip, and you’re like, “Whoa, who sent me that tip?” you know, it can become very frustrating or confusing. People will opt out.

Andrew: Actually, this is what you gave me before we started. Maybe this is a better thing to look at. This is just a text message. A text box on my screen. So you want us to identify the campaign.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: I’ll underline it so we can see it.

Derek: Yeah. So identify the campaign. So obviously that’s the first thing. Now, that could be a link to your website. That could just be, “Hey, guys, this is, you know, Andrew from Mixergy. Here’s my … ” Whatever it is. You’ve just got to make sure people know who it’s coming from.

Andrew: Okay.

Derek: The question with a shared short code, a lot of people don’t realize that SMS is threaded. So if Julep is operating on the same short code as Mixergy, your guys’ messages will really be kind of stacked.

Andrew: Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that. Okay.

Derek: So it is kind of confusing sometimes when I get a message from Julep and it says, “Julep,” and it says, “Here’s your discount,” and then I get a message from maybe a non-profit or a … and they’re saying something weird, and I’m like, “Who the heck is this? Is this Julep?” And some people get confused about that. So always make sure you identify who is sending the message.

Andrew: Okay. All right. So again, I just have a text editor up on the screen. So that’s the first thing. Identify the campaign.

Derek: Yep.

Andrew: Next thing you’re suggesting to do is to have an expiration date.

Derek: Yep. Include an expiration date. This is key because it expresses the urgency in the deal.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Derek: Remember, text messages can get lost pretty quickly, so if there’s an expiration date of a year out, well, you know, that text message is way, way, way, way down the page on my phone, and I forget about it. So text messages, because they’re opened within three minutes, make that expiration date no more than, like, a day or two. Julep, I think they do it for less than, like, 12 hours, because they’re like, look, we only have a certain window, and other people are going to text message them. That text message will get lost.

Andrew: Okay. Alright. That makes sense. If you don’t … if I’m not responding to a text message within a day, I’m done.

Derek: Yep. And even for the content people, you know, it depends on kind of how, you know, developer-friendly you are. But, you know, you could do something where this video will only be available for two hours the minute you click on this link. Sometimes if you can’t do that, you can’t build that yourself, you can just say that in the text message, and people … it’ll just increase the urgency. Increase them clicking on it at that point.

Andrew: Okay. This next point doesn’t necessarily apply to our people, but you want the audience to still be aware of it. You like the … if it’s in person, you want the message to say, “Show this text message … ”

Derek: So this concept applies, I think, to your readers. Well, what I’m trying to say with “show this text” is you have to be able to track it. So “Show This Text” is a great way if you are a retail store because somebody is showing the cash register the text message and then [??] that that text purchase was because of the text message.

Now, some people even go more and put unique coupon codes within the text message so they can track it on a more [??] level. But it goes back to what we talked about with TMZ. TMZ, they don’t put a in their trackable link. So, you just can track it. So, then, you can’t justify our pricing if you can’t track it.

Andrew: So, here’s the before and after that we talked about earlier. On the left, it says, “Buy one 10 inch gourmet pizza at regular price, get another one half off.” That’s the before. Would you rather they’d say is, “Show this text message at New York Pizza to get half off a 10 inch gourmet pizza with purchase of any other one at regular price?” And there’s the expiration, “Expires 7/27.”

Derek: Exactly…

Andrew: [SS] …Alright. So, one last item on your list. Again, I’m going….

Derek: [SS] …Yes….

Andrew: …to go back to the text.

Derek: [SS]…And I have it on my screen here. “Include This Text Message” also, or “Show This Text Message,” it really helps explain to the consumer this is an exclusive to text message subscribers.

Andrew: Okay.

Derek: One of the worst things you can do is because the phone number is so valuable, you don’t want to devalue it by giving everyone in the world the same deal if they didn’t give you their phone number. So, I think it’s Dollar General Stores, I wrote a blog post about it. They send out the same deal on Facebook, they put it on their website, just the front page of their website, on Twitter and they send it to their SMS subscribers.

What’s the value, now, of me giving you their/my phone number when I could just go to their website and just see the deal? So, “Show This Text Message” really puts into consumer’s mind that you, because you gave the phone number, are the only one that is receiving this deal and you are special.

Andrew: There’s the article you wrote. I’ll bring it up on the screen. “How To Make Dollar General’s Text Promotions Better.”

Derek: Yep and I think I go through all these places they put promotions and it doesn’t really make me feel all that special. You know? And the phone number, you have to remember, nowadays the phone number is 100 times more personal than an email address. People give out email addresses all the time now. But the phone number. I only have one phone number and I don’t want to switch phone numbers…

Andrew: [SS]…You’re right. I have an email address for junk mail. I have one for urgent mail. I have one for purchases. I don’t have that many phone numbers.

Derek: Yeah. Exactly. So, I don’t even think we have this on our list but you have to treat that phone number with respect. You cannot sell it to other people. You can’t spam them. It has to be valuable content. So, realize that phone number is extremely valuable when you do collect it and as you maintain that relationship with the customer. The [??] start with the deal. This is just marketing 101.

Anybody that builds land [SP] pages will kind of realize what I’m talking about. I think in that example that I have, if you look at any McDonald’s ad, it’s always, “Get 20% off” and then the qualifications are below. You got to hook them. Especially the text messenger because a lot of phones will show the first couple of lines in a text. You don’t want to say, “Buy a burger” and that’s what they see. You want to see, “Get a free burger.”…

Andrew: [SS]…Oh. I see. You’re right. Because this text message starts off with, “Get half off 10 inch gourmet pizza with purchase of another” could have started with, “Purchase pizza and get half off the next.” Right? That is marketing 101 but I can see overlooking that.

Derek: Exactly. And especially where you have 160 characters and maybe the first 30 to 60 characters may be displayed first on the phone first depending on what operating system you’re on. But all those kind of things, especially when you have 100s of 1000s or even a million subscribers, those things can influence open rates and redemption rates significantly.

Andrew: Alright. Here’s a more basic question. What do we send out via text message? What are some examples of reasons that companies email their audiences that don’t involve freebie discounts? What other reasons could we have?

Derek: Yes, so you have, I say, breaking content. And there’s the news content which is very, people just want to be in the know. People want to be first to receive content. So, kinda like with your video, sometimes I get kinda behind because I don’t see the emails. I want to be the first one that knows if somebody’s on then I’m the first one to see it because I’m getting it right on my mobile phone.

Andrew: Okay, so, advanced notice of what’s coming up.

Derek: Yeah, exactly. And, the fact that people are always mobile. You know, it is kind of a different way. I’m not on the bus, but let’s say I was on the bus every day driving to work or going to work. How great would that be if kind of the commute I could watch something.

So, maybe it’s a different medium that you’re pushing them to, or a different mindset that you’re communicating to them. Now, you can send content. You could send stuff like, hey fill out a survey, watch this video, or even download this app. You can really do anything. You’ve got 160 characters. So, think of it kind of like Twitter, what you send via Twitter, very similar.

Andrew: It’s like it almost needs to be even more special than Twitter.

Derek: It needs to be more special than Twitter, but a lot of the concepts of what kind of stuff you send can be applied.

Andrew: How about this. I’m looking again at this before and after. I don’t see a way to unsubscribe. If I’m irritating people, how are they unsubscribing? I say that because it’s good for them to unsubscribe, but it’s also good for me to see, based on unsubscribe counts, what’s not hitting the mark.

Derek: Exactly. This is not a real text message. Not the telephone consumer protection act. They’re a little more vague about it. The CTIA which regulates our industry says now, this is a newer law within the last year or so, that there must be a call to action to unsubscribe from the text message on a broadcast base. So, if you look at any of our text messages from Julep or any of our clients, Seattle Sun Tan, marine e-commerce companies, or even content companies, at the bottom it will always say, to opt out reply stop. It’s like how Mail Chimp auto puts in, click here to unsubscribe.

We put that at the bottom, so if anybody replies stop they are automatically removed from the campaign. We take that very, very seriously, because obviously if you have an error or something that’s extremely bad we take like 12 different – like stop, unsubscribe, cancel, quit. We do all of those. Those are very standard.

Then, we use mechanical turk so that if somebody text messages back and says, I don’t want to receive these any more, and somebody has said that over the last five years, he’ll be removed, too. Because our mechanical turk system will catch that because somebody else has said that.

Andrew: So, you have a real human being look at every response that people text in?

Derek: Yes, exactly.

Andrew: I see. I’m imagining that if you have common responses like thank you, that doesn’t go to mechanical turk. But, anything you haven’t seen before and don’t know how to act on goes to a real human being.

Derek: We’ve kind of set up a mechanical turk where we put a lot of negative words into the mechanical turk. Thank you will be like white, so it’s very easy to scan all the responses. Things like a swear word, don’t, stop, or anything like that will be red. So, it’s very easy to go through these…

Andrew: …I see…

Derek: …You bring up a good point, too. People can respond to these text messages, and they can respond positively. Let’s say you send out a text message saying, hey Derek Johnson was talking about SMS, click on the video, when you’re done reply back and let me know one through five whether you liked it. Then, within the Tatango system, you’ll see all the responses.

Andrew: Got you, alright. That’s cool. So, I can see if people say, hey Andrew I do like the beard, Andrew keep playing with the beard, whatever it is. I get that, and that’s kind of an interaction…

Derek: …And people…What’s crazy, too, is SMS, because it is so intrusive, people will quickly tell you on social media or via text messages in response if you’re sending too many, or that deal wasn’t valuable enough. They’re very vocal about it. Definitely listen to your community.

Andrew: Okay, alright. The last big point is to track our results. How do we track when we’re talking about text messages?

Derek: Yeah. Let’s kind of go content first. I think the easiest way is via link. So, a shorter link with Bitly or your own shortener. Use a different link for each individual text message. And you’ll be able to now see with Google Analytics link tracking, okay, that text message got way more hits and they stayed longer, less bounce rate in terms of web page or content. So, that’s very easy…

Andrew: …I see…

Derek: …You get more into e-commerce. Most e-commerce, if they’re a mobile enabled site or mobile responsive maybe, you first track the link. Then you track the entire goal flow down to the e-commerce purchase. That really gets interesting, because now you know exactly how much each phone number is in terms of the value of revenue it brings to your company.

So e-commerce is awesome. If there are any e-commerce companies out there, contact me. I love working with them, because the numbers make sense. And I can justify why you are going to pay X, when you are going to make 10X, those I like.

Andrew: And do they keep track of that, I guess they keep track of it the way they would from anywhere else. Because the initial URL, has a tracking code on it, and then from that you can figure out where traffic is coming from.

Derek: Yes, usually just a slug and most of them use like Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, whatever you are using, and it’s the exact same on a mobile phone, is really is. And it is really cool too, to see, when you look in your Google Analytics, or phone types people are using? What browsers do they have on their phone? Gives you some insight into who your customers are, and what they are using. It gets a lot harder when you talk about real world. You know, stores, retail stores, you can even do nightclubs, you know, entertainment places, venues, stuff like that.

Most of their Point of Sales systems are kind of, -unless you are using new Ipad systems, It’s very hard to track. So a lot of them will just put one coupon code in, and one SMS broadcast, and they will say, OK, we’ve got, 50 people redeemed this promotion. It gets way more interesting when your Point of Sale becomes a lot smarter, or maybe you click through to a QR Code and you scan that QR Code, and then now you can start telling how much revenue they are generating.

We have some clients who do that, they will use a Point of Sale system, and they will spit out 30 thousand coupon codes, and they will put them into each individual message. So when I send a message to 20 thousand people each individual message will have a different unique code.

Andrew: There would be 20 thousand tracking codes?

Derek: Exactly.

Andrew: That seems a little excessive for us, especially if we are talking, if someone is watching this, they are just getting started. What we can take away from this, is whatever tracking we might use online, whatever system our software already allows for. It is going to create, or allow us to create, a URL that is unique to this campaign, use that, but shorten it.

Derek: And I think, for content, people use, -and this is how people use it in the real world. Let’s say that you are going to give 50 percent off Mixergy Premium, for the next year, if you sign up to receive text messages, well if you put just a reg, -just one coupon code in there, well, that coupons going to go to Facebook pretty quickly, and go Twitter and be emailed, to…

Andrew: Oh, I see, I see.

Derek: Now if you put a unique one in there and most infusion software, most online platforms can spit out these unique coupon codes, then it can only be used once. So, like Toolio, they put in individual unique coupon codes because 50 percent off of, you know, nail polish, is a lot of money for them, so they do not want it to spread it to everyone.

Andrew: Alright, if we want to start off, what would it cost?

Derek: So, and this is kind of the crazy part, SMS has gone through a lot of evaluation. Especially with companies like, Toolia that have kind of came into the market and just disrupted a lot of SMS. And a lot of, I think your viewers too would be kind of interested, between the difference like, Toolio and us. I kind of look at it as, that a lot of your viewers, know Mail Chimp obviously, Mail Chimp is like Tango, we provide the analytics, the software, and more marketing tool so marketers can log in and just create everything.

Andrew: So Toolio is more like Sendgrid?

Derek: Sendgrid or MailCheck actually, you know, it is, you have to build it all myself, and I would never encourage anyone, to build their own SMS platform. You spend almost, I’d say a million dollars building a platform the last seven years. You know, sending a hundred messages per second. This takes a lot of development power, it is just not worth it, it is kind of like why would you build your own email marketing platform, when you have MailCheck right there.

Andrew: Okay.

Derek: So that is the difference, but it has kind of brought to the forefront that SMS has become kind of a commodity, what really people are paying for is the service, and the platform.

Andrew: It is really pretty expensive, I can get started I think with AWebber for a buck.

Derek: On your email?

Andrew: Yes, I mean frankly that is just a, it might be a teaser rate, because how much can you do for that buck. But, it is expensive to send out text messages, right?

Derek: It is, and most of our competitors, I think, all of them right now, and I think it will be changing over the next couple years. Most of them are charging anywhere from like, five cents per text message, but you have to buy 20 thousand text messages right up front, and they do not usually roll over.

It is very complicated, so we switched, maybe six months ago, we said, look, because of what Toolio is doing, it mad SMS a commodity pretty much. We said, you are paying for the platform, so our platform fee starts at, -and we mainly deal with kind of new market enterprise companies. Our platform fee starts at 499 dollars, and goes up to like 10 thousand, depending upon what services you need.

Andrew: I saw that earlier.

Derek: Yes, like we saw and then on top of that, you paid pretty much Twilio pricing for that. Because that has become a commodity. So on top of the platform fee you just pay a cent per text message.

Andrew: Oh I see. So all this plus a price per?

Derek: Yep. And you don’t have to buy text messages, you don’t have to pre buy them. It’s just a cent per text message. And you only pay for outbound, you don’t pay for inbound text messages.

Andrew: Alright, fair enough. By the way, a few times in our conversation, where is that, ah it’s not coming up right now, is a ding dong sound that came up. I’m usually good at getting rid of all the stray sound effects. But the ding dong sound was, I guess Alex at your company who pops up a chat box. And I thought, “There he is. Alex I see you the whole day here.” But it’s just live chat, and that’s what that is. Alright, the website is complete with Alex’s smiling face and ability to chat with him. It’s Tatango. Derek, thank you so much for doing this session with us.

Derek: Yeah, no problem. And if anybody has any questions to my email is You can text message me at 206-334-4012.

Andrew: That’s going to go straight to the phone that you have right now?

Derek: Yeah, yeah. Well I only have one phone, so…

Andrew: Why did I turn my phone off in preparation? I always like to send stuff when people are there.

Derek: I only have one phone and I get really great questions. Some people, people really like communicating through text message rather than calling me. So, I give that out. I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter. Our blog is a really great resource if you’re interested. But seriously, just hit up the website and one of our sales guys will be on there, and most of them have five plus years of experience in the industry. So, we can definitely help any kind of business.

Andrew: Alright, I’m glad to have you on here. I want to make the bigger point that this is possible with other companies too. You can roll your own using Twilio or any number of other services. Derek is here to talk about his company. But we’re both here also to talk about the big idea beyond this. That there’s something here with text messages.

We have seen it, but we haven’t maybe like me, you haven’t paid as much attention to it as you have to those old email boxes on lots of sites. And maybe even those QR codes you might have seen on ads. But with them, this has been out there, marketers are using it, and I wanted to learn how they were using it, and I wanted to show it to you.

And my hope is if you do use it, that you will contact me or Derek, let us know what you use from this session, and how helpful it was. If you do, I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Even if you don’t, I’m looking forward to hearing from you. And it looks like Derek is too.

Thank you for being a part of this, and thank you, Derek, for leading us.

Derek: Yeah. Thanks, Andrew.

Andrew: You bet. Bye, everyone.


Master Class:
How to develop software
(Even if you’re NOT a developer)
Taught by Sam Ovens of SnapInspect

Master Class: Hiring Developers

Report Bugs

Master Class Toolbox

Course Cheat Sheet

Hidden Brains



Andrew: This course is about software development for non-developers. You have a great idea, you want to have it built out, but you’re not a developer, can’t do it yourself, and maybe you’re having trouble figuring out how to explain to developers what you want built or how to even find a developer. If that’s you, this course is made for you, and to lead us in this process, we’ve got Sam Ovens. He is the founder of SnapInspect, simple property inspection software. He did a killer interview on Mixergy where he talked about how he built this thing up, very scrappy, and people wanted to find out, alright, if he was able to build this business up, and he’s not a developer, can you just break down for us how he did it, how he even found a developer to do it?That’s what this course is about. I’ll help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where proven founders, like Sam, teach. And Sam, before we get into what you were able to do, just give me a quick snapshot of how much development you were able to do. Were you able to program in some language, like Ruby on Rails, or were you able to do WordPress? Where were you when you got started?Sam: I honestly couldn’t build a plain website that would say, ‘Hi, my name is Sam’ or install WordPress on a server, nothing.Andrew: Not even build a website that said, your name is Sam, online?Sam: Yeah, I don’t even know a single HTML tag, even today.

Andrew: Okay, and despite all that, what were you able to do?

Sam: Well, I was able to hire a team of developers that were able to build Snap Inspect, and then build Snap Inspect up to what it is today, so I was able to work with developers. Despite not knowing code, I was still able to work with them. We were still able to produce good product that people could use.

Andrew: And how many customers do you have now using this software?

Sam: Around 1,500.

Andrew: 1,500 customers, and what kind of revenue are you doing with it?

Sam: Last time I checked, it was $37,000 a month.

Andrew: $37,000 a month, recurring. Right?

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay, and you know what? We, actually, have this. Let me just put it up like that on my second monitor. What is this?

Sam: Well, that is my old office and bedroom.

Andrew: This is where you lived. This is where you worked, and I’m seeing something green in the background. What is that?

Sam: It’s a garage door.

Andrew: So you were living in the garage?

Sam: Yeah, that was my air con system. I’d just open up the door a little bit when it got hot.

Andrew: Alright, well, I don’t want to embarrass you. I want to get into it, since we have this big list of tactics that we’re going to go into and a mindset that goes along with that, but really quickly, what is this?

Sam: That’s my new place.

Andrew: This is now where you live?

Sam: Yep.

Andrew: Beautiful loft, great place. You’ve come a long way, and you’ve done it using the ideas that you and I are about to discuss here today.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Alright.

Sam: And that was one step. There was no intermediate going from that garage and that apartment, that was one step.

Andrew: Alright, well, let’s see how you did it. The first that you suggest is, don’t hire a company. Hire an individual, and you did at one point hire a company. I actually believe that the company that you hired was this one, right? And so, when you hired them, what was the advantage of going with this company, Hidden Brains, as opposed to just finding a single developer on a site like Elance or Odesk?

Sam: So, for me, I was very restricted by budget. I had a set amount of money, and with hourly rates, which is how most Elance people work, the budgets can blow out completely. They can be three times what they initially think they might be, but when you’re dealing with a company a lot of the time, they’ll scope out the project. They’ll go through every feature. They’ll make sure that they understand everything, and then they’ll give you a fixed price. When you’ve got a fixed price, it’s not going to blow out over that. I don’t know. It made me feel safe like that I might also witnessed a few trends that were paying developers hourly and it started to get out of control.

Andrew: They hired individual developers, they were paying them hourly, this is part of a launch group that you’re a part of, The Foundation and others who didn’t do what you did instead of hiring a company to build their software they hired individuals to do it. You heard some horror stories. Can you give me an example of one problem that was especially painful for one of the other entrepreneurs in the group?

Sam: Sure. So, again it was in The Foundation of that [?] and not only was her developer completely behind schedule but he was over budget and that he just constantly had excuses he’d just disappear for a wee and then he would say something like oh his mum was sick and we’re like oh OK fair enough but then you know the next week he’d come up with another and then they got more and more serious because as you start lying about that you’ve got to keep going.

Yeah and you know eventually said he got hit by a car and was in hospital and it just sounded like, it was an actual horror story I mean she had to end up completely switching developers, she was thousands out of pocket and the main thing was she was, about three months got wasted.

Andrew: Yeah, all right and when you have a company if one person flakes out well they often have other people on staff ready to pick up the slack but also it sounds like what you experienced was there’s management, someone to make sure that the person doesn’t get so far behind that he can’t keep up.

Sam: Yeah and someone’s always there if you’re panicking. If you want to get someone on the phone which happens a lot I’ve found when I was building the Vision One product. Just being able to get someone on the phone and know they’re not going to disappear. They’ve got a physical office, they’ve got multiple employees, they’re not just going to disappear. If one person gets injured or sick the whole project isn’t going to collapse.

Andrew: Alright. Onto the big board for the next big idea we’re going to be talking about which is to fake the first version of your software. And we have the first version of your software. I say software in quotes. But tell me just the mindset behind this. What’s the purpose and how are you…what the purpose of creating this version that we’re going to show?

Sam: Sure. So it has multiple purposes I’ve found. So the original reason why I did it was to understand the product myself. Why, I needed…when you’re briefing developers or when you brief anyone on how they’re going to view your product you’ve got to know every screen and you’ve got to know what happens when you click this, what happens when you clock that and it’s too much detail to have in your head and you start drawing it on paper and there’s too many arrows so for me to understand my product fully and what it was going to look like and what the development would involve I mean, it was perfect, I just built every screen of my software in Keynote with Keynoteopia [?].

Andrew: Here’s what that looks like. This is what, this is something that, it’s just a PDF and if I click here I go to see your first screen. If I type in the password word supposedly and click that I get to see what people see when they log in. Click inspections, boom you’re taken to a list of inspections, click properties you get a list of all your properties, add a new this is what this screen looks like for adding a new one. Add the address, see the address, etc. and it just keeps going through.

It feels like a totally working version of the software and people can actually see that I’m kind of clicking right there on properties and it goes to the list of properties, kind of clicking on inspections, it goes to inspections, if you load this PDF on an iPhone the person who’s using it can actually use their finger, right, to click on inspections and they’re taken over but if I zoom out this is just a set of screens here in a PDF format. People click…

Sam: So they’re essentially invisible hyperlinks that link to slide numbers so when you put a box in there and it’s transparent and the box contains a hyperlink that links to slide four, slide five.

Andrew: I see.

Sam: Pretty straight forward to do. I mean, would openly say anybody could build one of those.

Andrew: And the idea behind that is you wanted to make sure that you understood your product, every single screen of it. You wanted to make sure that when you communicated it, there was no question about what you were looking for each button to do, because the person who’s using it, the developer, can actually click and see when someone clicks inspections, you want to see this next screen, and you want it to work in a certain way.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: And you’re not a developer, so you can’t develop it, but what you can use is this software, which allows you, using Keynote, or now even using Microsoft’s PowerPoint, to design what we just looked at.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: You told me, Sam, that people, who saw that PDF that I just showed you, always go to download your software, because they want to see it. What are they looking for, or what do they see when they go to download your software right now, after seeing this PDF?

Sam: Well, I mean, the first thing I notice is that it’s exactly the same, the UI. I mean, there’s a couple more features in there, but the UI, and the look, and the feel, the basic features of it, are exactly the same. What I actually did, because I was so cheap back in those days, is I gave that raw Keynote file to them, and I told the developers to not do any design and don’t charge me for any design, just to grab those Keynote elements and use them as the UI design file.

Andrew: Exactly as it’s there. They don’t even have to add, because you can’t afford for them to add more.

Sam: I swear, in terms of design, it is exactly the same as that. Every icon, the top menu bar, the bottom menu bar, it’s like exactly the same.

Andrew: What about this? If I go to the top here. Well, let’s scroll all the way to the top. Oh, there’s so many screens in here. The images? Did you design this house, or I guess you just found clip art online?

Sam: So, the little magnifying glass and thinks like that?

Andrew: Yep.

Sam: I just Googled them.

Andrew: You did what?

Sam: I just Googled that magnifying glass.

Andrew: And found a magnifying glass? And these elements, like, at the very top. Oh wow, the magnifying glass at the top that I’m highlighting right now, that comes with Keynotopia, right?

Sam: Yeah. So the basic one’s like a home button and a search button. Keynotopia’s got quite a lot. You know, if you’re going to put an icon or a design element that’s not there, I mean, I just Googled it.

Andrew: This is unreal. Alright, so there it is. Create your fake first version, and that’s what you want to send out to your developers, save yourself time, save confusion or avoid confusion.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Alright, so, you’re not a developer, so the next thing you say is, run your idea by a developer. You found this guy. Let me see if I can bring him up here on the screen, so you can tell me. I’ll ask you in a moment what you guys are doing in that photo, but who is this guy, and how did you get him to run your idea by?

Sam: Sure. So, I knew him from a previous project. His name’s Terry, and I knew him from a previous project. Where I had hired him to develop something for me, and I knew he was very good. He’s very good at what he does, very skilled. I knew I was going to have to hire an off shore team.

A fear of mine, at that stage, was, are they good enough? Are they going to be able to build this? And so I talked to Terry and I showed him all the screens. I briefed him the whole project, and he goes, okay, well, it will be built like this, and the developers are going to have to be very skilled with this, this, and this.

Andrew: I see.

Sam: And he put together a basic coding test for me that I was able to give them and test them and then I’d bring the results back to Terry. Terry, essentially, helped me choose the original developers.

Andrew: I see. So he’s not doing the, actual, original, code work himself. He’s just telling you, this is what you should keep in mind when you’re hiring developers. Here’s the problems that you’re likely to have, and then he gives you a test to hand to potential developers and helps you evaluate it. Well, how much time would you say it took for him to do that?

Sam: Maybe, five, six, hours tops.

Andrew: Okay. So if you can’t afford a top developer to build out your product, maybe you can find one who’s willing to either give you or you can hire for five or six hours, maybe get ten hours and have yourself a little cushion, but the idea is to help look at your plans give you some direction, tell you where the land mines are, help you find the right developer and look at their original work. Is that it?

Sam: Yeah. Essentially, you’re getting an, expensive, highly skilled developer. When I mean expensive, I don’t mean ridiculous. I mean $80, $90, $100 an hour, someone that’s very skilled to look at your project and give you an idea at the beginning and then help you find an offshore team or a cheaper team to help build it. It’s, kind of, mixing a highly skilled developer and cheap developers together.

Andrew: Yeah. Alright. And I said that there was something about this photo, and I want to bring it back up here on the screen, because I’ve got to ask you a question about it. You guys have drinks in front of you. I noticed that even though you have drinks in front of you, there’s a notebook and a pen on it. You’re obviously still taking notes even while you’re celebrating here. What are you guys celebrating?

Sam: Well, we always said, we’d never had a beer together. We never did anything social together.

Andrew: Oh, you’re saying this is the first time that you guys even met, in person?

Sam: No, this is the first time we ever had a beer together.

Andrew: I see. Okay.

Sam: Yeah, and we worked together for quite a long time before this happened, and we always said once we get to six figures, we’ll go out and we’ll have a beer.

Andrew: And this is your beer to celebrate the fact that you guys did six figures in sales? How many months did it take you to get to that?

Sam: I think it was seven months of actually selling.

Andrew: Okay.

Sam: Ignoring developing time, the time that we started selling, it was seven months.

Andrew: Alright. Now we got to go to the controversial point. When you did an interview this got people both excited, and it got them angry, and I’m glad that you’re including this here and not saying I’m going to white wash all the things that I did, and I’m only going to present things that people are going to admire me for. I want to see the real process. Here it is, you say, get a proposal from a company you can’t afford. What kind of company? I’ve got your proposal here. You removed their name. I want to understand. What are you looking for from this proposal?

Sam: Essentially, a basic feature list and overview of the technology. A big one was should this be built using native IOS or should it be built using HTML5. That decision kept me awake for at least a week.

Andrew: Really? Okay. Which one did you go for? Did you go for native or did you go for HTML5?

Sam: Native.

Andrew: Native. Okay.

Sam: It was more expensive and took longer. We had to build two separate apps, one for Android and one for ROS, instead of just building one, much more expensive, much more time consuming, but it was the best decision I made, just because people live inside the app and HTML5 apps. I don’t know about now, but back then they were still a little bit flaky.

Andrew: As of right now, it’s still laggy. I want HTML5 to be the better solution, because I want universal apps. I want them to work well in Safari, not just when I download and install a new app. But I have to say, every time someone creates an HTML5 app, it’s just so slow. It’s so frustrating. There’s no real offline support. Anyway, so it’s the big decisions that they helped you think through, but you couldn’t afford to hire them, because how much would they have charged you to do the work to build out your product?

Sam: Version one, which was very small compared to what Snap Inspect is now, even version one was in between $100,000 and $120,000.

Andrew: $100,000 and $120,000? It’s on the expensive side, which tells me how expensive this company was, but even if you went for a cheaper firm, it’s expensive to get a native app developed for you. It’s in the tens of thousands of dollars which a bootstrapper can’t easily afford. So what you got was a proposal from them.

This was one of the screen shots that you gave us. I’m not putting this up here because I expect people to read through it and really understand every part of this. It’s not about that. It’s just to show that it’s a pretty detailed document that you got from them, 30 pages. See at the top, this is just the objective, scope, flow, diagram, etc. And then what did you do with this if you couldn’t hire them?

Sam: One of the first things I did was rip the names and prices off of it. And then I emailed it out to three companies at the time that I’d short listed. And I said, ‘I had a local company here put together a proposal. I’m wanting to see for this exact same thing, what the price and time frame would be.’

Andrew: You are basically saying here, ‘This top development company, this is what they would create for me, they’ve thought it through. I’d like you to build it.’ And then you picked from the companies that responded to that.

Sam: Yeah. If you go to one of those companies with no idea, if you haven’t talked to a developer, if you don’t have all the screens built out, if you haven’t even thought about it yourself, and you haven’t got anyone else to look at it, you could wind yourself out in a lot of trouble.

Communication barriers is probably the biggest thing with off shore developers. As much stuff as you can arm yourself with to get your vision and exactly what you want created, to try and transfer that out of your mind and into the developers mind. As much stuff as you can get is good because, I’ve found with development anything can be done. As an entrepreneur you often see it all in your head and it looks crystal clear. And it’s getting that vision out of your head and into the developers head. And that’s the hard part. You just got to make sure the developer is seeing exactly what you’re seeing. And once they understand that, you’re pretty much good.

Andrew: And here now you’ve given them the visuals. And you’ve given them some direction on the development. And the visuals were created with Keynotopia, the direction on development was developed by a top-end firm, and now you’re able to go out to someone who your developer gives you some feedback on and say, “This is what I want. I’ve given you a lot of specificity.”

On to the next big point. You’re suggesting that if you don’t have a buddy who is a developer, if you don’t have the money to hire a developer that’s a top-end developer, use outsourcing sites. But don’t get played for a fool on those sites. I want to show a visual here of one of your proposals up on Elance. This is from a section of your proposal. What are we looking at here that helps us avoid getting fooled, getting taken?

Sam: This is an ad that I posted on Elance. You want to write a very good ad. If you’re writing an ad to hire a developer you should put at least an hour into it, and a lot of thought, because it’s very important. You don’t want to try and save a half hour here when it could affect you two months later down the track. What you’re seeing here in the screen shot is the requirements, essentially hoops, I made them jump through to get considered for this contract. For the first one I put ‘I am a human (?)’. That essentially filters out the robots or the scripts that people have written to automatically apply for every job.

Andrew: I get that all the time, and it’s really well written pieces that say, “We can do this for you, we’ve done all this other work, etc.” And of course it’s well written, because someone put in hours of time to write it, and then they are spamming by sending it to every single person who puts up a proposal on Elance, and so by saying I am asking them to say I am ‘human 63,’ you know when someone doesn’t have it that they are clearly a spammer or likely a spammer. Alright, what’s the next one?

Sam: So, a big one for me, is I always try to get people to show me previous work that they’ve done that they believe closely matches this project in terms of like code type or something. I wanted to see mobile apps that synced. So it doesn’t say this here, but up further in the job ad, it would have said that I wanted to see a track record of mobile apps that have synced with web apps. That was the crux.

That’s what my developer, and that’s what the end development shop told me was the crux of this project. The web services that connect the app to the web app. That was the hardest place, and that’s where most developers would fall short, so I wanted to see if they had any previous work with anything that did that.

Andrew: I see. And previous work is better than a skill set.

Sam: Oh, absolutely.

Andrew: Alright, you want them to work fast. You want them to hit deadlines, update daily.

San: Update daily.

Andrew: We’re going to talk about how you kept track of this and held them accountable throughout. Let me see, is there anything else, specifically, here in the notes that you wanted us to point out? No, but people can basically copy this. Anyone who’s watching us can copy this and use it for themselves, starting with ‘I am human’ and working down the list to get as much in that makes sense for them.

One of the cool things is, you told me as we were setting this up that you heard about the top section. Let me bring it back up here, the ‘I am human’ part, from a past Mixergy course, and here you are now saying it worked for you, and you’re sharing it with other people, and I’m really proud to see that people who are watching these courses end up building their own companies and come back and teach, and I’m hoping that the person who’s watching us right now, at some point in the future, will not just use these ideas, but come back and teach them with whatever changes they’ve made, so that we can learn from them.

Alright, on to the next one. We’ve got so much more to cover, and we’re going to fly, ‘Test Your Developers.’ Alright, so you want to make sure the person’s good, not just that they pretend that they have past relevant work. The challenge is, we don’t know as non-developers what’s good. We don’t know how to evaluate, and so you said that you went to a friend and you asked him for a test. What’s the test that he gave you?

Sam: Well, I don’t know the explicit details of it. I know that it was the specific test that we’re going to put up on the screen.

Andrew: Here, let me bring is up on the screen. This is a screenshot from the test that he gave you.

Sam: Yes, so we had lots of different tests, and they were all many tests to, basically, test the different cruxes of this project. This one here is to see how schooled they are at rendering data into a Microsoft Word document, so taking data and photos and then rendering it in a report in Microsoft Word, because that was a big part of my app, because you use Snap Inspect to collect data with your mobile app and then create a report in Microsoft Word.

Andrew: And so you, actually, want to see, can they take data out and put it into Microsoft Word.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Do you pay them to write that code that you’re using as a test?

Sam: Back then I didn’t, no.

Andrew: Okay.

Sam: You always lead them to believe that they’re in the final leg of the race, which they were really. I kind of, made it seem like they were, really, really in the final leg.

Andrew: That they’re really, what? I’m sorry?

Sam: In the final leg of the race, like it was just being won by the person.

Andrew: In the final leg, right. So, if they’ve done all this work, and you’re really down to three super stars. They want, after gone through all this work, to get to work with you, they want to show you how good they are, and so the test is part of it.

Sam: Yeah. If they come through good on the test then there’s a very high chance that they’re going to get this job, get the money.

Andrew: And frankly, when companies like Google hire, they are not taking people through their tests and sets of questions to figure out who the right person is, and then saying thanks for coming to the job interview. Here’s 50 bucks cash.

Alright, but I have seen some people who use outsourcing sites say that when they have people do tests that they pay them. In your case, you didn’t even need to pay them, and you explained how you prized it and made it something that they wanted to do.

Sam: And recently, like when I’ve hired some other people on Elance, they’ve been upfront and they’ve said, we don’t do work like this. If you’d created a mini project and funded it, we’re happy to do it, and that’s fine, because their individuals, especially if the tests going to take four hours or something. I’m happy to fund it. But when I was dealing with these big companies, the deal size, I think, was $10,000. They’re just willing to do it as part of the groundwork of winning the contract, so it never came up. They never asked.

Andrew: Let’s go to the big board again. The next big step is to take time zone seriously. Did you make a mistake with this where you didn’t pick the right time zone?

Sam: Yes, so I worked with someone. Well, I tried to work with someone once that was in London while I was in New Zealand, and they’re pretty much at exact opposites. I mean, you wake up really early in the morning, it’s real late at night. It’s too early in the morning. It’s almost impossible to find a piece of overlap in the day where both of you can get on a call and communicate. When you’re dealing with people in different time zones, the overlap is what’s really important, so at what point in the day do both of our days overlap, because that will eventually be the block of time that you schedule every single week or day to communicate with them.

Andrew: How many hours a day do you have, overlap, with your developer now?

Sam: So right now I’ve got a full time developer in New Zealand.

Andrew: And that’s where you are right now, today?

Sam: Yeah, right now. I’m in New Zealand. I was traveling for three and a half months. I got back three days ago, and when I was overseas in the states, it would be the evening, so it’s 6:00 p.m., I would talk with Terry, back in New Zealand, which would be about 9:00 a.m. for him.

Andrew: Okay. How many hours would you say you need to have overlap in order for the relationship to work well?

Sam: It really depends what stage you are on the project. I would say at least one hour a week at the very least. That’s when you have a daily update sort of thing, sit with them, where they might type into a Google Doc Monday, and then just bullet point what they achieved or whether they were on track or behind schedule, and then at the end of the week, have a one hour call and go through all of that stuff. Every day while I was traveling I’d try to do one hour with Terry, every single day.

Andrew: One hour using Skype to talk to each other, or were you just chatting with each other?

Sam: Anything we could get, especially when I was in places the internet is bad, anything, phone, just as long as we could talk. I like talking much more than typing emails.

Andrew: Alright, and I’ve got this. This is a screenshot from your Iphone. Let me zoom out so we can actually see this properly. Are these all the different places where you have developers or where you have had it?

Sam: So, I change it. Right now, Wellington’s in my local time right now. L.A. is on the Pacific. A lot of our customers our on the Pacific time.

Andrew: I see.

Sam: So I always like to know where in the day they are. New York is where my sales rep s. Well, he’s not actually in New York. He’s in Montreal, but they’re on the same time as New York. We have a lot of customers on the east coast. It’s where most of our customers are, and then Sydney, Australia. That’s where a ton of our customers are.

I always like to know what time it is for the bulk of my market, because sometimes a whole bunch of calls or support requests might come through and you want to quickly look at what’s going on, what’s the time. Is it night? I find that is the simplest way just to have it on your iPhone. So, when you’re dealing with developers, if they’re in the [??], put their time in. If you’re dealing with another person, put their time in. And you can pull it up anytime and see exactly what time everyone is on.

Andrew: Look for those overlaps. Alright. On to the big board. The next one is to set expectations properly and you want to watch people as they progress. Where do I have that? There it is. Here is what you use…There it is. This is just [??] and anyone who’s watching this screen right now can see why Skype chat is on top and the reason my Skype chat is on top there is when you and I went over this session you said, “Oh, I just used [??],” and I said, “can you take a screen shot?”

Without making any changes at all, you quickly took a screen shot, even while leaving everything in there, including my Skype chat, which l like. You said, “I’m not even going to go through and see what I can hide from the audience. Let’s just let them see the whole thing.” So, now that we are seeing the whole thing, walk me through how you use this to set expectations properly.

Sam: Sure. I create a board for everyone that I work with. Right now we’re looking…If you look at the top left, it says Snap-Inspect [??] development in [??] [??]. This is Terry’s, what Terry’s doing. Basically, I use three little columns, one that says to-do-, doing, and done. Then, I have like 50 columns out to the world of all different areas of my product in features and bugs that need to be fixed within most different areas, like billing, customer reports, and the automatic sign up process. Every palette [SP] of my software I have chunk-ed [SP] out and given it a name. There is always features and bugs in each one.

Andrew: Let me see if I can highlight this and show it. What you’re saying is…Let’s see if this works. There it is. This is the person right here, Terry. Everyone has a board like that. If I wipe that out, you see, this is what he needs to do, this is what he’s working on right now, this is what he finished and all of the rest…and I’m going to let this circle go off the screen, because it just keeps going further and further to the right…all of these are different categories of projects that you guys need to do together. But, he hasn’t started them and when he does, when you want him to, you might say, “Move this one over right into here, into his to-do.” He does that and then he move it over to doing once he starts.

Then, when you guys are ready to celebrate, he moves it right to this column. Done. This is how he knows what’s expected because he keeps seeing all this stuff that’s coming up on the right side and you know what he’s working on because at any moment you can look here and you get a sense of what is done when you finally move it here. This is what you mean by setting expectations.

Sam: Yes. When I’ve checked on it, when I’ve looked at the “done”, and I’m like, “Good!” I just delete it from done. That’s why done is always empty. I always make sure that to-do has enough staff in it for the week. When you work with different people and you’re paying for them, you always want to know that they’re doing some work, especially when they’re remote or you’re in a different country. You really want to know that the actual work is being done.

That’s why I like that, because I stack up what would be considered a reasonable amount of work for a week. We both agree that this would be a solid amount for a week and that they believe they can get it done. I can see in real-time what’s going on. If I check at any point in the day, I can see what they’re currently working on, and done! At the end of the week, that to-do should be ended.

Andrew: The expectations are set properly because you know what needs to get done and you also understand that even though you have this big to-do list, there are only a couple of things that can go into the doing column, and the also know what’s coming up.

Sam: We have development ‘to-do’ listers.’ That probably is another 12 months’ worth of work if you keep scrolling out to the right. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff in there.

Andrew: Alright. Final point is, and then I want to tell people how they can connect with you. The final point is, you’re suggesting that people pay per project instead of per hour. I see the logic of that. What was Snap Inspect priced at when you were trying to figure out how much money you needed to put together, to hire a developer and have the first version of your product put out. What did you think this was going to cost?

Sam: I didn’t know, but I mean, I knew that a high end shop wanted 100,000 or 120,000, and I did know that. The cheaper company, or Hidden Brains, the one that we pulled up before this. That’s the first time I’ve actually ever told anyone the name of that company.

Andrew: It’s the first time that what, that you mentioned their name publicly?

Sam: Yeah. A lot of people emailed me, and I never told them, just because it was too soon after I’d finished working with them. I don’t know. I had a lot of [?] beliefs that people were going to steal my ideas.

Andrew: I wouldn’t go there.

Sam: So I never told anyone. That’s the first time. The original price was $6,000 US dollars, but then we decided to go native, which added a few more thousand. I think it ended up close to $10,000.

Andrew: Okay. So even with a set price for the delivered product, there was still some extra expenses that you didn’t anticipate?

Sam: Well, they didn’t pop out of nowhere. It was my decision that I was on the fence for for a long time whether to go native, because they said they said they could do it cheaper and way faster, and speed for me, at that point, was a massive thing. The sooner I could get out and sell this thing the better.

Andrew: Yeah.

Sam: I thought to myself, you know, if it’s going to nag and it’s going to feel like peace, you know, no one’s going to pay for it. That defeats the purpose of getting to sell it, really.

Andrew: We’re not, necessarily recommending the company that you used. We’re just being open and saying that’s who you use. We’re not saying, hey, go use them. Sam used them. He loves them, and you can’t go wrong with them. You got to figure it out for yourself, but Sam’s being open about his process. No part of this process should be copied exactly. Just understand how Sam did.

Sam: Do not think for a second that because I did that process to find that company that they’re already on the white list. You can skip everything and go to them. You might get a different project manager. You might get different developers. The companies might have completely changed since I used them. I mean, so much stuff and so many variables. I would strongly recommend not doing that. I would go through the exact same process again.

Andrew: But the main idea is this. Hire a company, not an individual. See if you can get someone with some extra capacity and someone who can be accountable. Start by creating what you know you can create, which is fire up Keynotopia, or a tool like that, and create that first version, so that you can play with it and understand what the final product will look like and so you can communicate it clearly.

Run the idea by a developer, even if you can’t hire a terrific developer to build your product out, you can get that feedback from them, and one of the cool things about the foundation is, there are some experienced developer on-hand to give feedback to anyone who’s part of the foundation. Get a proposal. This is what you did. You got a proposal from a top company, so you can think though what you need.

I don’t want to go through every single point here, but I’ll just leave it at use outsourcing sites, but use them with intelligence, so you don’t fall for big mistakes. So you don’t fall for tricks like spam that looks real. The final point I want to make here is, pay per project, and then I’m going to add one more. Set expectations properly, because I really like the way that you are working with your developers. You know what’s coming up. They know what’s coming up. You what they’re working on. They know what they’re working on. That kind of clarity is, really, really tough. We struggle with it here at Mixergy still, and so I’m always curious about how other people do things.

By the way, I’ve been scrolling through here and I see all these different screen shots. These aren’t screen shots that are part of your product right? These are just elements that come with Keynotetopia [sp?] right, and you’re just playing with them.

Sam: Yeah, those are the elements of Keynotetopia that. . .

Andrew: That you used.

Sam: Yeah, those were the original elements and I created the new slide and started dragging the original elements up into my own ones and I just left them there at the bottom. I don’t know why. Probably because I couldn’t figure out who to get them out.’

Andrew: Sam, can we give this to people who are watching our session right now or is this proprietary? Don’t feel obligated to say yes.

Sam: I’m happy to give that out to maybe install on their iPhone.

Andrew: No, not Keynotetopia because that we shouldn’t give because I don’t want to give, but this PDF-

Sam: To put on the iPhone because you can download the Keynotetopia app, load that PDF into your iPhone and you can see yourself exactly how you tap on it and everything. I mean I’m happy to give that away. The design is still obviously my own.

Andrew: Yeah, you don’t want people to copy the design and thinking because you’re generous here that it means ‘hey, walk in the house. Take whatever you like. Use whatever I have.’ All right, do you want me to put it as part of the course on our page, or do you want me to send people to your site. Would you feel more comfortable if people emailed you for it? What’s the way that you prefer.

Sam: Just put a download link on the-

Andrew: Put it right down on the site. Alright. I will do that. It will be on the page that people are using to access this course and to finish this off, let me say this. If you want to see the product that we’ve been talking about here, just go to, look through the website, they can download the app for themselves, Sam?

Sam: Yeah, I recommend watching the videos instead of signing up for a free trial because it’s just going to create leads for the sales team but you’re welcome to do it if you want to. You can see a lot about the app if you just got through all the different pages and watch the videos.

Andrew: I’ll hit x. You also have a website that people can check out. It’s [sp?]. I was hoping we could say people can go and hire you for consulting. You are not accepting anymore consulting work. You’re just doing fine with Snap Inspect and you’re probably just too busy doing that. The other thing I would suggest is the foundation. This is where you learned a lot of what you learned and I think aren’t you also a mentor at the foundation?

Sam: Yeah, I was in the very first version of it and that’s where I actually learned how to, well, that’s actually where Snap Inspect started. In the very first version of the foundation, it was very rough. Nothing was quite certain and it’s sort of where it all got pulled together and it’s much more refined now. It’ll be doing its third year this year.

Andrew: There you go, and to our viewer, thank you so much for being a part of this, Sam. To the viewer again, thank you for watching. As always, I’m hoping you’ll take this course, use at least one idea here and get some big results from that idea and a combination of everything else that you’ve learned, and when you do build your business, when you build your app, when you have that big one, I hope you’ll consider coming back to Mixergy and teaching how you did it the way that Sam did.

Sam, it’s an honor to have you on here. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, guys.


Master Class:
How to learn anything
(Even if you have less than 24 hours)
Taught by Josh Kaufman of “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business”

Master Class: Learn in 20 Hours

Report Bugs


Andrew: This session is about how to learn anything in 20 hours. It’s led by Josh Kaufman. He is the author of, there it is, “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business,” and the book that this conversation is based on, “The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast!” Josh, welcome.Josh: Thanks, Andrew, great to be here.Andrew: Thanks for doing this. So, the problem, actually what is the problem. You’re a guy who’s learned, who’s been online since back in the days of this site. Where is that site? There it is. I wonder how many people even remember this site. You were online back in the days of this, developing websites since then. What’s the problem if you were already able to learn?Josh: Yeah. You know, I think all of us have in the back of our minds this list of things that, in an ideal world, we would learn how to do. Some of that stuff is professional, and some of that stuff is just personal hobby interest kind of thing. The vast majority of us when we learn a new skill we learn it the hard way. We learn it the long way. For me, back in the days of I wanted to learn how to put together a website. I had no idea where to start or what to do. So, I did like a lot of people did. I went to AngelFire. I fiddled around, and I fiddled and fiddled and fiddled.Andrew: Yeah.

Josh: Now, over a decade later, I can actually put together a site that looks halfway decent. But, you don’t have to learn that way. Based on a lot of the research that’s been coming out of behavioral and cognitive psychology for the past couple of decades, there are things that you can do to learn in a much faster, much more efficient way.

If you basically use a method to figure out what are the things that can help you learn a new skill, do it really well, and do it very quickly, what are the things that work, then do those things. If you can stop doing all of the things that don’t work, that waste your time, waste your energy, and waste your focus, then you can learn pretty much anything really, really quickly. That’s what I tried to do in “The First 20 Hours.” Here’s a method that you can use to learn anything as quickly as humanly possible.

Andrew: Alright. So, I would think that it’s the responsible thing to do to sit and spend 10 years really perfecting your craft and becoming a good developer or good artist or good interviewer, and you’re saying that you don’t have to do it that way. I wouldn’t, frankly, believe you except that, first of all I know you and know that you’re an honest person, but second I saw this. What is going on here?

Josh: Alright. This was actually a little movie that I put together of all of the things that I learned how to do this past year. Starting from knowing absolutely nothing about playing the ukulele, wind surfing, playing “Go”, learning how to touch type using a new keyboard, learning how to program, and do yoga. In all of these things I wanted to really test a lot of this research for myself.

So I decided I wanted to learn these things. I wanted to learn them as quickly as possible. So I tested going from knowing absolutely nothing to being as good as I could possibly be very quickly. What I found is it only took about 20 hours of practice to really go from knowing absolutely nothing to getting really, really good results – to go from being an absolute beginner to having a really good level of skill. And, it’s fun. It’s fun to not be able to do something and then be able to do something really quickly…

Andrew: …What about Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” that that’s how long it takes to really get good at something? You’re telling me 20 hours?

Josh: Yeah. You know, the key there is really understanding what the 10,000 hour rule, as it’s called now, what it really says and what it really doesn’t say. A lot of people talk about it but they don’t really understand what it means.

It’s important to understand that the research behind the 10,000 hour rule – absolutely true. It just came from studies of very specific types of people. So, the original researcher, Dr. K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University, among a group of other researchers was studying chess grand masters and people who play first violin for the New York Philharmonic. People who are number one in a very competitive, very easily ranked kind of field. What Dr. Ericsson was trying to figure out, is, okay, you want to step on the golf course and be able to compete with Tiger Woods. How long is that going to take?

And his answer, based on a lot of research was about 10,000 hours, as an order of magnitude. So, you want to go up against Tiger and have a shot of winning? That’s probably what it’s going to look like. So the problem with that is that people have heard this research, they’ve heard this rule, and they generalize it into this kind of blanket statement of getting good at anything takes a long time which is really not true.

Andrew: I see.

Josh: When you and I decide to learn how to do something new, we’re usually doing it for our own reasons, right?

We want to learn a new skill that we can use at work. Or we want to, you know, learn how to skateboard just for the hell of it, because we think it’s going to be fun. Right? We have our own reasons. There’s a result that we want to get out of it. And so, it’s important, if you’re able to identify what those reasons are, which are usually not being absolute number one in the world at a very narrow thing, right?

Identify what you want to get out of it, and figure out the most efficient way to practice to get that thing as quickly as possible, you can learn tons of really useful, really fun things in very short periods of time. It doesn’t take 10,000 hours.

Andrew: All right. Let’s take a lot at how to do that. Before we started, I had a set of, I don’t know how many different items on my checklist, and you said, “no, Andrew, let’s keep it to these five.”

Josh: Yep.

Andrew: Why did you select these five big topics for us to talk about in this conversation?

Josh: Yeah. This is what I call the core method. And so this is a very checklist that you can use to learn anything, to be able to practice anything in a way that will get you, or that will make you as good as possible in the quickest amount of time possible.

And so in the book I present, there’s actually two checklists. One is for, you know, here’s how to practice well and the other is here’s how to learn in a way that supports practice.

But the core method is really simple. It’s about five steps. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Andrew. So there it is. The first one is define what you want. Maybe you can take a look at it in the context of what you did here. What is this?

Josh: Yeah. So this is actually a picture of my computer, believe it or not, where I took a screwdriver to it and I started rearranging keys on my keyboard.

And I started doing that because I wanted to learn how to type in a slightly different way.

So most of us, the keyboard that we have in front of us is the traditional English called the Qwerty, Q-W-E-R-T-Y format. Which is what 99.99% of the population learns to type on.

The thing about the Qwerty keyboard format is its very inefficient. Your hands have to travel a lot to type most of the common things that we type every day.

So there are lots of other keyboard formats out there that are way more efficient and I decided that I wanted to learn a different format called Colemac, because I spend a lot of time on the computer and, you know, less effort is a good thing.

Andrew: Yep.

Josh: And so what I decided to do was learn this new layout as quickly as I could. And in order to do that, I needed to have some type of metric, some type of thing that I could say, “okay, when I reach this level of skill, this is what I’m trying to get out of this whole thing.”

And for me, it was I wanted to be able to type in, using the same average typing speed on the new keyboard.

So I was typing 60 to 70 words a minute on QWERTY, touch typing, so I wanted to 60 to 70 words per minute on Colemac. That was how I was defining success of the project.

Andrew. I see. And that’s what you want us to do when we’re starting out. Define what success is.

Josh: Yes. And it’s called a targeted performance level. It’s, this is the level of skill that I’m really shooting for. And when I’ve got there, I’ve succeeded.

Andrew: I want to ask you a follow-up question in a moment because there’s something I’m curious about.

Josh: Sure.

Andrew: But first, let me show you and the audience that someone on the Mixergy team, I’m not sure if he wants me to mention his name but he volunteered his stats.

He said he’s been doing this, again, he wanted to change the way he typed so he switched to the Colemac keyboard, and here are his numbers. And that Qwerty line at the top is, I guess where he was before and what he’s aiming for.

Josh: Yeah, so that’s what? Over a period of…

Andrew: We’re talking about ten days here, with some ups and downs, a couple of missed opportunities.

Josh: Yeah. Really good.

Andrew: So here’s the thing that I was wondering. I still on my second monitor have this frozen. How do you, when you’re practicing the ukulele, set a target? I understand how you can do it when it’s something metric related like a typing speed, but how do you do it there?

Josh: Yeah. That actually goes into the second part of the method which is being able to take what is often a very complex skill and being able to break it down. It’s called deconstruction. And so, the target performance level when I was learning how to play the ukulele was, I wanted to be able to, I have a songbook called The Daily Ukulele Songbook, and I just wanted to be able to look up a song online or look up a song in the songbook and be able to figure out how to play it.

And so I didn’t have to have everything memorized. I didn’t have to be able to perform flawlessly in a concert or something. I just wanted to be able to pick up the instrument, find a song and have a fighting chance of figuring out how to play it.

And if I practiced the song for long enough I’d get pretty good at it. Right?

And so, in order to do that, you know when you’re playing any instrument, ukelele’s a great example or guitar or piano or whatever, you’re not just doing one thing, you’re doing lots of different things all at the same time.

So you’re playing chords and you’re switching between chords and you’re strumming or finger picking and you’re trying to do that while you’re singing. You’re doing a lot of things at once.

And so part of the process is just taking this very complex skill and breaking it down, and starting to practice all of the elements in isolation.

Andrew: Why is that important? Why is it important to start by defining that?

Josh: I think it’s really, it’s important to define the target to understand what it is you’re practicing for. Right? And where you are in terms of achieving it.

It’s important to break it down because learning something new is really frustrating. It’s super intimidating. You know, as a general rule, we, as adult learners, we hate feeling stupid. We hate feeling like “you know, I’m trying to do this and it’s not working” and so that’s really the biggest barrier to learning something new is overcoming that initial frustration and intimidation.

As so defining the target performance level says “okay, I’m not trying to do everything that is ever going to be possible with this particular skill. I don’t have to learn everything at once. Here’s my target. I’m going to work towards it. ”

Deconstructing the skill into smaller parts helps you figure out, okay, of all of the things that I could be doing, what are the things that I’m going to do most? And can I start practicing those? Because if I get good at those I’m going to use them most of the time so that’s going to provide the most improvement per unit of time spent practicing.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go back then to the big board and the next one is to deconstruct the skill into smaller sub-skills.

Josh: Yes.

Andrew: How did you do that with programming? And I’ve got the page here in the book, I’m not sure how much sense it makes to even show it like this but, this is the way you did it in print. [laughs] This is the way you describe it in your book.

Josh: Yeah.

Andrew: How did you do it? When it comes to something as big as learning to program?

Josh: Yeah, so important to understand is that programming is not just one thing. It’s a bunch of things kind of all under the same label.

So an interesting way, you know, non-theoretical way to visualize this is, think of learning something like golf. Right?

It’s not just one thing. You’re doing lots of things in the process of playing the game. And hitting a ball of the tee, or driving off the tee and putting on the green, two totally different activities. Okay?

And so instead of practicing golf, you can practice driving off the tee. You can practice putting on the green. And if you get good at both of those things, you’re getting better at the global skill of golf. Right?

And so applying that analogy to programming, there were some basic concepts, like variables and conditionals and, you know, the theoretical computer science stuff that was useful to know because that’s how programs work.

But there were some very tactical things that I needed to know too. Like okay, I’ve written a program. How do I actually get it up on a computer connected to the Internet so it actually does something? Right?

And so starting to breakdown, you know, what is a programming language and how does it work? How do I install it on my computer?

You know, I was learning how to program in Ruby and I didn’t even have the right version installed. It took a long time to figure out how to do that. So, how do I install it?

How do I learn, you know, very basic rudimentary computer science stuff like what a variable is? What does a program actually look like? Like how do I make an input and how do I get an output out of it? And then how do I run that on an actual computer to get the result?

That’s an example of deconstruction. Just taking it, and breaking it down, and breaking it down.

Andrew: I see. What about something where, well, what about something like yoga? How would you break this down?

Josh: Yeah. So yoga was actually a really good example of, well first setting the target performance level. So for me, it’s not being able to contort myself into very uncomfortable positions. It was. I wanted to be able to practice on my own at home for 20 to 30 minutes and not hurt myself. [laughs] It’s very important. And so understanding that was the target that I was trying to do, deconstructing it was actually really simple. Yoga has a deconstruction of its own, individual poses.

And so what I did there’s a very basic sequence called the sun salutation sequence that most practices use over and over again, like half of pretty much every practice. So you learn the sun salutation sequence first. Then I said for myself, I want to learn ten (?) poses, and I want to learn ten (?) poses.

If I learn to do sun salutation (?) I can do that in about half an hour, and I can do it safely, so just deconstruct on that.

Andrew: I’ve got to tell you. Part of the reason why I wanted to show it because that photo just looked so good. I’m about to show another one that’s really well taken. Who took your photos? We got this right off of your site. Did you hire a professional photographer for this?

Josh: No. I actually took those photos myself using a timer.

Andrew: Really? I’ll show the next one.

Josh: And actually the video that you showed earlier that was a learning project for me as well. I had never shot a video before, and I decided I wanted to make a little video (?). And so I did it. Like I say, it was a learning project. I went from (?) to research and buying a video camera all the way shooting and editing and color correcting, producing it and uploading it to the web. It took me 20 hours to produce.

Andrew: Twenty hours to produce that video.

Josh: Yep.

Andrew: I just turned it off because I think it might. . . Downloading it might interfere with getting video of your Skype connection. So we want to get to that point.

Josh: It took 20 hours. You must see the whole thing.

Andrew: That was a beautiful job though.

Josh: Thanks.

Andrew: Here comes the image in a moment. Next is to research and find the most important sub-skills. How did you do that for this? First of all, this is a self-portrait, too? This is a self-e?

Josh: Yeah. Self-portrait that’s using a (?) Hero 2 mounted on the front of my sail board. So, yeah. It worked.

Andrew: I was wondering about that.

Josh: Yep.

Andrew: How do you do that, research the most important sub-skills?

Josh: Yeah. So as you’re trying to deconstruct this skill that’s very new to you, you need to have some information on the types of sub-skills that are likely to be particularly important. So practice those first and then all the things that you could spend time on that are really just a waste of time for a beginner.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Josh: And so a couple of ways to get really good information from the beginning, how-to books on the topic. So just go to Amazon or go to the library or go to Barnes & Noble and find anywhere from three to five really good, solid hot-to books on the topic.

Andrew: I’m sorry. Find how many books?

Josh: Anywhere from three and five. You don’t want 20 because it’s too much. You don’t just want one or two, and the reason why you want to get somewhere between three and five is you’re not going to go through these resources in detail. You’re going to skim all of them very quickly.

Andrew: Okay.

Josh: What that allows you to do is the concepts and techniques that come up over and over and over again, those are the ones that are really important because you’re seeing confirmation from multiple sources for something critical here. And so looking at a lot of resources helps you figure out what are the most important things that you should practice first.

Andrew: So if we’re getting that many books, how exactly are we skimming so that we absorb enough of it so that it’s useful without being overwhelmed?

Josh: Yeah. I talked about this a little bit in the interview that we did for, but you want to use what’s called a structured breeding technique.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Josh: So you’re not trying to read every word in the book. What you’re trying to do, look at the table of contents, look at the index. Skim through the book really quickly and look through the chapters. Look at the headings, look at the sub-headings. Look at the concepts and ideas that come up over and over again.

So for wind surfing, looking through the books, here’s the equipment I need to have, a sail, a board. I need to have an up-haul which is like a bungee cord attached to the sail so you can raise it up out of the water.

Andrew: Okay.

Josh: There’s a bunch of safety equipment I needed to have and understanding that just from the books helped me when I was ready to buy equipment because you can’t wind surf if you don’t have a sail board. I called up. There’s this specialist company in Wisconsin. It’s sail boards, and I talked to the founder there. And I had a good working knowledge of what I needed and what I didn’t because I did a little bit of research before I talked to him on the phone. That helped a lot.

Andrew: How much time would you say of the 20 hours goes to that?

Josh: One to two hours max.

Andrew: One to two hours.

Josh: No, one to two.

Andrew: One to two hours. Okay.

Josh: So you don’t want to spend ten of your 20 hours on this stuff. A little bit of research goes a very long way. The classic failure mode here is. . . I actually fell into this myself when I was learning how to program. It’s like I got 20 books on programming. I’ve got five courses, and I was thinking to myself, I’m going to read all of these books, and I’m going to take all of these courses. And then I’m going to sit down and write a computer program. It was totally backwards. Research is a form of procrastination.

Andrew: I can see that happening to me, too.

Josh: Yeah.

Andrew: If I’m going to spend my time I’d better really research where my time should go and obsess about getting the right path.

Josh: So the whole goal is you want to research just enough to help you do the deconstruction and find those small number of sub-skills that will actually help you get the best result, classic 80-20 stuff, the small number of things that will help you get the biggest result. Research helps you do that, but you want to get into the actual practice as quickly as possible.

Andrew: Alright. Next is remove barriers to practice, those distractions, the friction. Why is this important? And what do you mean, first of all, by barriers. What kind of barriers to practice could there be?

Josh: Yeah. So classic examples of, let’s say, practicing programming and your computer remains connected to the Internet. It gets stuck, and you don’t know what to do. It’s like, “Oh, I’ll go research this” and then you go to Hacker News and everything is downhill from there.

Andrew: Yes.

Josh: And so when you sit down and practice the very most effective thing you can do is set aside a chunk of time where you are not going to be distracted. You can focus all of your attention and all of your energy on practicing in a way that will help you get this particular result.

Anything that threatens to take your attention and energy off of what you’re doing and put it on to something else is an enemy that needs to be destroyed. You really need to focus as you’re doing this.

Andrew: Even an Internet connection when you’re learning to program could be one of those enemies.

Josh: Yes.

Andrew: What else? What about when you’re doing this, when you’re learning. I’m guessing this is another self-e, when you are learning the ukulele.

Josh: Yeah. So my strategy here was the most reliable time that I could sit down and actually get some good quality practice time was in the evening after my wife and daughter went to bed.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Josh: And so I would just schedule every day, I would set out about a half an hour. The house was quiet. I could sit down on the couch and just practice without being distracted. I didn’t have my computer. I didn’t have my cell phone. There was nobody else in that area of the house to distract me, and I’d just sit down and get it done. So anything that you can do to make it less likely that somebody is going to interrupt your focus that’s great.

The other thing too, ukulele is a great example of this. For a lot of people like learning how to play guitar, play the piano, or something. If it takes a lot of energy to get started in the first place, you’re less likely to sit down to practice. So if your guitar is in its place in a closet on the other side of your house you’re way less likely to actually practice than if it is sitting in a stand right (?)

And I have just a little stand. I sit there all the time, so if it’s easy for you to pick it up and go, the easier it is and more likely you’re actually going to practice.

Andrew: You know what? So I have these – let me bring them up – I have these thank you cards right here.

Josh: Yeah.

Andrew: For about a year – there it is -I had thank you cards in the drawer in the box because I want to conserve space on my desk. I hate to have stuff on my desk. Then I took it out and I put it out there, and I started actually to use them. That and I had a pen there that I was using, and I always use it with this paper because ballpoint doesn’t work, and I did start writing them more.

What’s the difference? It’s in the drawer. It’s right there, and it’s actually in a smarter place if it’s in the drawer, in a more protected place. Why am I more likely to use it when it’s right there?

Josh: That kind of thing, it sounds so dumb. Right? It shouldn’t make a difference. Right?

Andrew: Yeah.

Josh: But even just a little bit of effort or a little bit of…so, so, if it’s right in front of you, you don’t really have to do anything to look at it and think about it or remind yourself, “oh, I should be writing a thank you note right now.”

If it’s in a drawer, there has to be some trigger to remind yourself that there’s this thing that you wanted to do. Right?

So this is just classic behavioral psychology stuff. Altering the structure of the environment around you to make it much easier to do the thing that you want to do and not do the thing that you don’t want to do.

Andrew: I feel like such a rat in a maze that I created for myself but still, but still…

Josh: Yeah, it works.

Andrew: …because the easiest path is the one that I end up going in, not the smarter path. The smarter path is to put it away in the drawer where it’s protected and to write whenever its appropriate. The dumber path that I’m more likely to take is to keep it available and then you’ll do it.

Josh: Right.

Andrew: But’s what you’re talking about….

Josh: Exactly.

Andrew: …you have your instrument next to you. You’re more likely to use it.

Josh: Yes. And anything that you can do to minimize the amount of effort it takes to go from not practicing to practicing. That’s pure win.

And it’s, you know, it kind of goes back to this whole kind of thread coming out of behavioral psychology now, is don’t assume that you have unlimited attention and energy and willpower. You don’t. You just have a limited amount every single day, and so the most effective thing that you can do is instead of relying on yourself to, you know, will-powering yourself into getting started, just make it as easy as possible and brain- dead simple to do and you will actually do it.

Andrew: Oh. Alright. So, it’s also good that I have this, where is that pen, this pen right here.

Josh: Yay.

Andrew: On to the big board. The last point is to pre-commit to 20 hours of deliberate practice. Twenty ho-, what does it mean to pre-commit?

Josh: Okay. So, pre-commitment is saying to yourself before you get started, so before you start practicing at all, saying to yourself “I am going to invest at least 20 hours of practice in this thing or I’m not going to do it at all.”

Andrew: Okay.

Josh: And this is actually coming out of another thread out of behavioral psychology research that the stronger you make that pre-commitment, the more likely it is that you’re actually going to follow through with the practice.

And it serves two very important purposes. The first is making the pre- commitment itself is a really important check on your priorities and motivation at that point in time.

Andrew: Okay.

Josh: So a lot of us have things that we would someday maybe like to learn, but in the grand scheme of everything that’s happening in our lives, they’re just really objectively not that important right now. We have other more important, more valuable things that we can do. Right?

So the pre-commitment helps to figure out how important this is to you right now, and if it’s legitimately not that important, you can in a guilt- free manner say “it’s not that important, I’m not going to do that right now” and you can stop feeling bad that you haven’t gotten around to learning how to speak Finnish because, you know, it’s just not important. Right?

So, if you’re not really willing to sit down and make time for the practice part and rearrange your schedule and change your environment, it’s just a really good check that, you know what? That’s probably not so important for you right now.

That’s okay. You don’t have to do it.

If it is important, important enough to spend the time, pre-committing to 20 hours helps, is the single most important thing you can do to overcome those early barriers of frustration and intimidation.

So, just telling you right now, the first few hours of doing this for anything, they’re going to suck, and they’re going to suck bad.

And so what most people do when they’re learning something new, if they don’t go through a step like this is, they get to the part where they are actually practicing and they’re terrible or its not working or they don’t know what to do, and they get so frustrated and so upset with themselves that they stop doing it.

So, you know, going back to programming as an example. It took, I’m trying to remember, it took at least five hours for me to learn to install the latest version of Ruby on my computer. I hadn’t even got to the writing of a program stuff yet, which is hard in its own right. It was just getting to the point where I could start.

And so without a pre-commitment, it would have been really easy to say, you know what, this is stupid. It’s too hard. I’m just going to shove this in a corner and I’m going to go do something else. But because I said, “You know what?” I”m going to spend 20 hours on this thing no matter what. It was much, much easier to say, “Okay, it’s hard right now. I’m going to push through. And so there’s nothing magical about the 20 hours. It’s short enough that it feels okay to pre-commit to that amount of time without really knowing what you’re getting yourself into. But it’s also long enough that if you actually put in that amount of time you’re going to see some really dramatic results.

Andrew: What happens if we spend 20 hours and we still don’t hit that target?

Josh: You have a choice. And so that’s the point where you give yourself permission that if you’re terrible and you hate it and you’re not getting what you want out of it you have full permission to say, “You know what, it’s not worth the time. I’m going to drop this and do something else.”

What usually happens is hours one to three or one to four are terrible. Hours four to five, four to six are about the time where you start seeing improvements in your ability to actually do this thing. So really the purpose of the pre-commit is just to ensure that you practice long enough so that you can actually start seeing results. And when you start seeing results, you get that burst of internal motivation. It’s like, I can do this. There’s something that I couldn’t do. Now I can do it. This is awesome, and I keep doing it.

So really this is a very ideal system that makes you trick your brain into sticking with it long enough to see results, trick your brain to see results.

Andrew: Here’s a final image that I’d like to show. What is this that you’ve got on your table?

Josh: This is actually the oldest and most complex board game in the world, believe it or not. In English it’s called “Go”. It’s actually so old that they can’t precisely date how old it is. It’s somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 years old, and it’s analogous to chess. It’s way bigger and way more complex.

And so I wanted to learn how to play the game mostly out of personal interest but also as an experiment because this is the type of thing it’s so big and so complex that there have been people that have been playing this game since like age three or four and play it professionally for decades and you see the very best people in the world say, “I only have a fraction of the understanding that it’s possible to have about this game. I still don’t understand it.

Andrew: Uh-uh.

Josh: And I’m one of the best in the world. And so really this was a test. I wanted to test the method on something that was really huge and really big and really complex that I had absolutely no hope of mastering it and it worked.

Andrew: And so where there times when you wanted to quit playing this game?

Josh: Oh my gosh, yeah. And so it’s interesting about “Go”. They have a pretty robust. . . You can rank yourself like chess, rank yourself versus other players, but it’s also been around long enough that it’s a game that you can study, just like you study chess. And so they have a series of ranked problems. So as you get better at understanding the game you’ll see a diagram of a board and it says, “Solve this problem for this piece” or whatever. As you get better you can solve higher and higher ranked problems.

And so it was the type of thing where I was looking at the (?) and I have no idea. I would solve it, and it would be the wrong answer. I wouldn’t understand why it was the wrong answer. It just really, really frustrated me, trying to play a game online with somebody who had been playing for a while and you just stopped.

I remember playing a game against this guy where he was beating me using techniques that I didn’t understand or I couldn’t even see. There’s this old “Go” proverb, you know, after so many games you can block the punch, and after so many games you can see the punch coming. I couldn’t even see the punches coming. It was just amazing, but it’s still as huge and complex a game as it is. It still responds to the same strategy. Break it down. Understand the fundamental parts. Master the critical concepts first, and everything else becomes easier.

Andrew: Alright. So let me go back to the big board. This is what we’ve got covered. This is the process. For someone who just listened to us talk here for the whole program and they want to know what to do next, what do you suggest?

Josh: Okay. So, first off, you know that list of things in the back of your head that you’ve always wanted to learn how to do?

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Josh: First thing is get it out of your head and onto a piece of paper where you can see it. Right?

Andrew: A full list.

Josh: A full list. Everything that you would like to learn. Professional stuff, personal stuff, anything that’s in the back of your mind that would make your life more interesting or better in some way. Just write it all down. And choose, so do an experiment. Choose one. So something for work, something for your business, something for yourself.

Andrew: Only one. Not one for…

Josh: Only one. Yeah. And so most of us are severely time strapped anyway.

Andrew: Right.

Josh: We’re all building businesses here. Me too. And so we don’t have an unlimited amount of attention. And so it really is just an arithmetic problem. Right? You need to have a critical mass of experience doing something in order to get good at it. And so, you know, you could either do a couple minutes here, a couple minutes here on a bunch of different things or just concentrate all of that practice on one thing and actually get some skill.

Andrew: Yeah.

Josh: And so the more you can concentrate, the better. For me, it makes me feel a lot better to say, I’m going to focus on this thing for now and I’m not deciding that I’m not going to do all of this other interesting stuff at some point in the future. I’m just not doing it right now, and that makes it much, much easier to concentrate.

Andrew: So, write your whole list, pick one thing.

Josh: Pick one.

Andrew: Here is the list. And if you want a more in-depth reading, more in- depth understanding of everything that we’ve talked about, there it is. The book is available at I actually got it from Audible first and then I decided I wanted to read it. There’s some things that I absorb better on paper. And when I say paper, I mean the Kindle version. So…

Josh: Yeah. And actually, one of the things that I really, gets me jazzed about this whole thing is, you know, it’s a method for learning absolutely anything, and so I love hearing from people who use this method to learn all sorts of wild and crazy things. And so if you use this method, learn something for your business or learn something that makes your life better if some way, I want to hear about it. So Send me your stories, tell me what you’re working on. If there’s any way that I can help, let me know.

Andrew: Alright. Thank you for doing this and thank you all for being a part of it!

Josh: Yeah, thanks Andrew. Bye.


Master Class:
How to use cash float
(So you can fund your business)
Taught by Sam Ovens of SnapInspect

Master Class: Cash Float

Report Bugs


Andrew: This section is how to use cash float to fund your business. This session is going to be led by Sam Ovens. He is the founder of Snap Inspect, simple property inspection software. ‘Cash float’ is a phrase that Sam Ovens is applying to start-ups to explain a process that he’s going to teach you here and one that helped him bootstrap his business with no outside funds. Sam, before you built Snap Inspect, how many failed businesses did you have how much money did you lose?Sam: Three failed businesses, two years of, or maybe two and a half years, of trying really hard and not really getting anywhere. I don’t know. I’ve never totaled it up, but I know it would be in between $10,000 and $20,000 lost.Andrew: So you weren’t in a position to just toss money around, because you didn’t have it. You didn’t have funding. You weren’t in a part of the world where funding is passed out like burritos, the way it seems to be in Silicon Valley. So you had to come up with a new process, which is the one that you’re going to teach us here, and as a result of it, what’s the revenue like now at Snap Inspect, and how many customers do you have?Sam: Sure, so we’ve got around 15,000 paying customers, and revenues $37,000, roughly.Andrew: Okay.

Sam: Per month.

Andrew: And you created a video to help explain what concept you’re bringing into the start-up world. Let me see if i can play it here, and then we’re going to go into this big board of specific tactics that people can use. I never liked programs where you learn big idea, but then when it’s time to go and apply them, you don’t know what to do. You know, you just fell like, whoa, that guy’s brilliant, but I don’t even know how to get started. So we’re going to give people, specific, tactics. Let’s play this quick video, that you edited yourself, which I’m really impressed by. I thought this was a professional operation here. Let’s take a look.


So what’s special about insurance? Well, customers have to pay their premiums up front. That creates a massive cash float that Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger, can take away and invest.

For us, we believed we had an edge in terms of investment expertise, getting into a business that provided float had a special attraction, so we thought we were playing to our strengths.

Andrew: Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger use cash flow from insurance companies they own, such as Geico, to help fund and grow other businesses. that require investment, to help them scale and become profitable. For us, those who don’t have the luxury of owning multiple insurance companies, consulting businesses can be used in the same way. That’s the main message here, and in order to get started, let’s take a look at the big board, and the very first thing we’re going to talk about is consulting.

That’s the big idea here, that you’re going to be talking to us about, right? Warren Buffett got videos. Let me take step back here. You know why I’m hesitating? Because what I should have done was said, cash flowed from consulting and then played the video. Am I right, Sam?

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Yes, so I got it out of order.

Sam: That’s alright.

Andrew: Why don’t you just explain why you’re bringing this concept here to start-up since I’ve go this out of order.

Sam: Sure. So for me, I had an awesome idea with Snap Inspect. I knew it was going to do well, and it was growing, and it was profitable and all good things, but I wanted it to grow faster, and I wanted to build features. I needed money, basically, to buy ads and to use contractors to scale my company faster. Everything was going well. We didn’t need funding to start. I needed some sort of cash injection to grow the company faster. I didn’t want to go raise capital. I’ve always followed Warren Buffett, and I’ve read all of his letters that he wrote to [?] shareholders, and I recognized that the big thing about Buffett is that he doesn’t borrow money. He used cash flow instead.

He does not believe in leverage, and so, he owns these companies, such as Geico and a whole bunch of other insurance companies that produce large amounts of cash that he then moves out and invests in companies that need it to grow, and I thought that was genius, and I thought, what could I use to generate cash like that, that I could invest into Snap Inspect. And when I started thinking about it, I realized I had a lot of basic skills and that consulting would probably be a good business to do on the side of Snap Inspect, to make some money, and to stimulate Snap Inspect’s growth.

Andrew: I’m looking at the big board, and let me bring it up here. There are a few things here that are unique to the way that you do things, starting with, and this is my favorite one, which we’ll get to later on, the ‘lumpy mail’ package that you send out, the way that you fix people’s problems and alert them to them, but for someone who’s listening to us, at this point, who’s saying, all Sam is saying is, get a consulting job, or do some consulting to make money to fund your business. That’s not that unordinary. That’s not so different. What do you say to them?

Sam: Yeah, so, I mean, I think every entrepreneur’s, kind of, always thought in their head, like, I’ve got my start-up business which probably isn’t going to give me much money now, but it’s going to take off, and I need something else to fund money so that I can buy nicer clothes than what I currently have, and live a lifestyle, and also feed the start-up business. I think every entrepreneur, sort of, feels like that. They need another, sort of, source, to generate their living money, and everything, at the beginning, and I always felt that way, and I never quite knew what that was. It was always odd jobs here and there, and I never gave it a turn.

It was just when I watched this Warren Buffet video, and read all his letters, that I saw it used by a real high level dude, and so I decided to use the same word, cash flow, decided to use consulting instead of different little odd jobs or having a part-time job, just use consulting, and I mean, that’s the high level idea here. That’s, like, the big strategy, and then what we’re going to dive into is exactly how to get clients and run a consulting business. So, I mean, that’s the high level strategy, and then, I guess, we’re going to dive into the specific tactics.

Andrew: And the process that you have, and the organization that you have around it, means that you’re not scrambling as much as other people, that you have more structure, so that you know what to do, and that, I’m imagining, tell me if I’m wrong, freed you up to think more about Snap Inspect, instead of waking up every morning and saying, how do I get my customers? Where are those customers? How do I convince them?

Sam: Yeah, I mean, everything changed for me, like, when I started thinking in this cash flow, sort of, way, because I always used to feel guilty about working on other things other than Snap Inspect, because I was like, it’s not Snap Inspect, but once I realized that I was doing this for cash flow that would, you know, be leveraged well in Snap Inspect, I no longer felt guilty, and I realized that I had to spend 50/50 time on both of them. At the end of the day, I’d been much more successful if I did that, than just focusing on Snap Inspect.

Andrew: Let’s take a look at how you did it. One of the first, and most important, things for you is that the skills that you learn through consulting need to improve your sales skills. You’re not just doing work for the money, but you grew as a person. What were you like as a salesman before you started doing the consulting process that you’re about to to teach us?

Sam: Well…

Andrew: Were you great? Were you natural born?

Sam: I’d read a couple books. I did, actually, know how to sell, and I knew all the skills, but for me it was the emotions, and I think that’s what it is for everybody, really. They might think they’re a good salesman, but when it comes to the crunch, they’re emotions just wreak havoc with them, and I don’t think there’s really any way other to deal with that than just by doing it, and so by doing consulting, and actually having to sell things and asking for big prices, I was able to really come to those emotions. Now, when it comes to selling [??], it doesn’t even touch me emotionally. It just feels natural now.

Andrew: There isn’t the same fear of picking up the phone, the same fear of asking people for money. One of the things that I see here from the notes on this session is you had to get the confidence to ask people to pay what you thought you were worth, which isn’t just a few bucks but $10,000 for a project and so on.

Sam: Yes, I mean, it was the third time I even asked the prices [??] my whole life and when I first started [??] I honestly felt like I had just committed a crime.

Andrew: What is this? There it is.

Sam: Yes. So when I started out in consulting, I needed some way to show exactly what it is that I do and how I can help people and this became like one of my little secret weapons. This is when I started to understand marketing and sales, where I was able to draw a funnel like this. So it starts with attracting traffic and capturing leads, nurturing prospects, converting them into sales, then delivering and satisfying the customer.

Andrew: Upselling them.

Sam: Upsell some referrals.

And it looks so basic but if everyone was to apply this to their business, I mean, I still use this for my own business today.

What you do is you map down all the little initiatives that you got under each category and you try and draw a straight line through because you might have a ton of things in the attracting traffic area but you might not have anything in lead capture. And if you can’t draw a straight line the whole way through that funnel, it doesn’t matter how many you have in any category. It’s all about the straight line the whole way through.

Andrew: The straight line meaning that if you have a way of getting customers through content marketing or through the process that you’re about to teach us, it needs to somehow connect with the way that you capture those leads from content marketing. You can’t just have a whole lot of ways to do content marketing that sends traffic but no way to capture those leads, right?

So if it’s content marketing like Blog post, you have to thing of ways to capture leads and then you have to think of ways to nurture those prospects that come from content marketing and become leads by giving you their email address and so on and so forth.

The line that you want us to draw is to say that each step needs to be the next one.

Sam: Exactly.

Andrew: In this graph right here.

Sam: Yes. And what I found is if I pull this thing out in any business like if I walk into any business and I started filling it out, I could always spot within 10 minutes the massive gap in their funnel. I call it a leak in the funnel. And what most companies try and do is fix the leaky funnel by pouring more water into it, which they think to get more customers, they’re going to need to spend more money in marketing. So they’re like we need more [??], we need more magazine ads, whatever, just to get more customers in. And they’re right.

They will get more customers but what they really should do is fix the leak first because you fix the leak once and you don’t have to pay for it again. And honestly when I came out with this thing and I showed it to business owners and I showed them that it all made sense, you can’t argue with that diagram there.

Andrew: So it all makes sense and still in order to do it right, back to the big board here, you had to create a habit out of doing revenue generating activities.

Why, and we’ll your chart in a moment here, is a habit so important for you?

Sam: Because otherwise it’s just not natural and you’re always fighting it. And I found that when it came to doing revenue generating activities, I always found them a little bit uncomfortable and I met Tim Farris. [??] something like that.

Andrew: It was what? Can you repeat that?

Sam: I put it on a sticky note. It was like you were working on important things or are you simply inventing things to do to avoid doing them.

Andrew: I see.

Sam: It was worded way better than that, but that was the main point, and it struck home so much for me that I wrote it on a sticky note and put it on my monitor, because when I first started out, I’d constantly find myself inventing things to do to avoid being boughten. Like, oh, we need a new Word Press theme, or, you know, I need more Twitter followers, or my profile picture isn’t good enough. I need a blog, just stuff like that that doesn’t generate money.

Andrew: And each one of them becomes a rabbit hole, like a need a new word press theme. Oh, it’s so much fun to get lost in finding a theme.

Sam: It can be a weakness, yeah.

Andrew: So, you did this. What is this?

Sam: Sure, so I started printing out monthly calendars, every single month, and I can give the calendar I use away on the download section of this course. It’s just this real simple calendar. I really liked looking at the whole month, and what I’d do is, I was just, like, one revenue generating activity, Monday through Friday, every day. and I’d write down the company that I was going to contact, Monday to Friday, and I’d write it down at the beginning of the month, so there was no getting out of it on the day. On the day, I didn’t wake up and then get into the office and think which company am I going to take, because that’s a rabbit hole in itself. I would know that that was the one I was going for that day.

Andrew: So what we’re looking at here is, this date right here, you would write that down at the beginning of the month. You know, exactly, which company you have to call.

Sam: Oh, yeah, I’d fill up the whole calendar.

Andrew: The whole calendar, right there, everything a month a ahead of time.

Sam: Yep.

Andrew: And we’re going to see how you knew who you’re going to call, but the point is that you didn’t want to wait until the morning of and feel like I don’t know what to do and then procrastinate by looking for themes. You wanted to know, ahead of time, what you were doing.

Sam: Yeah, and on the habit thing, I still found it hard to do and then I read that book, ‘The Power of Habit.’ Is that what it’s called? Yeah, I read that book.

Andrew: Charles Duhigg.

Sam: So I decided to create, to give it a little test, and create a habit to do revenue generating activities, so first thing in the morning that was my, like, trigger. As soon as I walked in, before email, anything, it was got to send a direct mail piece to this company. That was my trigger to trigger the action.

Andrew: I see.

Sam: My action was put together the piece, and then I’d drive to the post office, send it, and then my reward for doing that was I’d go to the cafe next door, and I would just sit and just get a five dollar coffee that I always used to think was too expensive, and I would just sit there, and I wouldn’t care if I took half an hour just to sit there. That was my reward for getting that done.

Andrew: I see.

Sam: And after a while, after about three weeks, if I didn’t do that, if I didn’t send that piece and get that coffee, I just felt guilty, and it became a habit so quickly that it was, like, the only way I could get satisfaction at that point of the day was to do that. It really was a habit.

Andrew: This is the book you’re talking about?

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says, find something that you do already and use it as a trigger for a habit that you’d like to continue to develop. Alright, so, now comes more detailed part of the process, and I love this section. Target local businesses that are already spending money on marketing. What is this thing? What is this book here?

Sam: So, first of all, let me explain.

Andrew: You want to explain the process before I reveal this book?

Sam: Yeah, yeah. So, you can leave that book over there.

Andrew: Oh, I’ll leave it out. I’ll leave you out for a bit.

Sam: Okay. So, when I first started out trying to get consulting clients, I did a couple things wrong. One was, I would approach companies that just were too small and didn’t have enough money anyway. A company that’s scraping month to month, even if you’re going to solve a big problem for them and you’re really going to help them. I mean, expenses is the last thing they need, and I spent a lot of time trying to salvage those guys, and it didn’t work. So one thing for me was to target businesses that were, at least, doing a million in sales.

Andrew: At least three million in sales.

Sam: One million.

Andrew: One million. Okay.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: I don’t even know how you figure out who has one million in sales.

Sam: So I found ways to do that after a while.

Andrew: Okay.

Sam: Like, and then there’s in each country, some in New Zealand, but in a lot of different countries there’s these different data bases that you can go to, because the creative writing agencies often sell the information.

Andrew: Okay.

Sam: And you can you often get a rough indicator of what these sales or at, or you can’t, I mean, employees is a good indicator. I mean, if you just look at the number of employees. If someone’s got more than ten employees. I mean, typically, they’re pretty close to a million or if they have a big office. There’s just different indicators I could get to tell that they weren’t, you know, a really small, struggling shop, and that was one breakthrough, targeting businesses that have money, but then I found out that they had money, but they weren’t interested on spending it on marketing. And so, I asked myself, how can I find businesses currently spending money on marketing and want to spend money on marketing? And so, the obvious one was, well, they’d be buying ads.

Andrew: Okay.

Sam: So that’s how I came across the yellow pages idea. So I’d just go through the yellow pages, which was what our picture was.

Andrew: There it is. In a a minute it will be up there.

Sam: And I looked for full page, color ads, or just big ads, and I’ll just go through, casually, and just tear them out without looking at who the business was. I’d just go through and just rip them all out, and then when I had a big pile, I would go through and then I’d put each ad into a different pile based on what industry it was in, and then I’d get a look at, like, you know, how many people, for example, in the roofing industry are spending a lot of money on ads. It’s amazing, I could actually see which industries were, you know, currently spending a lot on marketing, just cut and tearing full page ads out of the yellow pages.

Andrew: I didn’t even know people were still buying yellow page ads, let alone that there were people reading yellow pages, but Alex, who produced this, said, ‘Hey, Sam had a good idea. Alex championed it. I’m going to go and try it.’ So he went out and found someone who had a yellow pages somewhere, I forget who, and he said, ‘Can I just take your yellow pages?’ Because he also, like me, assumed no one cared about the yellow pages, and the guy said, ‘No.’ Apparently, there are people out there who use the yellow pages on a regular basis and there are companies out there that still buy ads.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: So what you realize is, if they’re buying a full page ad in the yellow pages, then, first of all, they have money to spend on ads, and second, they probably need to consider moving to the future.

Sam: Yeah, well, that’s the other thing, right? I mean, instead of going through Google, and seeing who’s spending the most on Google ads, I mean, they’re pretty clued up. Like, they probably already have someone that’s doing all of that for them, and if you’re going to help them get better, you’ve got to be better than who they’re currently using, and that’s a hard argument when they’re already doing well, and you’re telling them you can do better for them, and that’s also difficult work to do for somebody. You know the 80, 20, rule.

You’re sort of getting into the 20 there, trying to ad those extra results with massive things. But when you target the people in the yellow pages, I mean, there’s not much you have to do to make a massive impact to their, business because they’re missing such crucial things when it comes to online stuff. Like, the work that you can do for them is quite basic, quite simple, and it has a massive affect.

Andrew: Let’s take a look and see how you were doing that. So you go through the yellow pages, and the next thing you’re telling us is that you want us to build a targeted list. What goes in the list?

Sam: Sure, so, this kind of ties in with everything now, especially with the monthly marketing calendars, which was that calendar we had up before. At the start of each month, I would put together what I used to call a laser targeted list, and it was, essentially, a hundred businesses that I was going to reach out to that month. So every month, my goal was to reach out to a hundred businesses, because I used to think, well, if just one of them buys I’m fine, and that’s 100 percent, so that was my goal, and I’d tear through the yellow pages, rip out a ton of ads.

And then I would open up an excel file and I would build a list of 100 companies that I would reach out to.

Andrew: We’re just talking about a basic excel like this?

Sam: Yeah. Nothing fancy at all. I mean, the company name, where you got the ad from, because sometimes you branch out and you just don’t pull from the yellow pages anymore. You might get a couple business magazines or some trade journals. This doesn’t just apply to the yellow pages. That’s one tactic. I encourage people to see the idea behind it and they can probably work out a million and one different ways that they could use the same idea. And also basic company details, like, phone number, website . . .

Andrew: And so you’re looking for people who don’t just buy ads in the newspaper and still buy yellow pages ads, but they have websites.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay.

Sam: So, I mean, I’ll give you just a classic, typical plan of mine, which will be a company that’s been in business for ten plus years. They’re doing two, three million in sales. Profitable and they’re doing really well. And they’re open to spending money in marketing. But they’re very traditional. They will get their customers through yellow pages and referrals and maybe radio. And the online stuff is just out of their mind, that they don’t know anything about it. So what I’d typically do for them would be, [rejig] their website to make it actually look a bit better.

But most importantly to have things like a headline and bullet points of the benefits their product or service has to the customer. So I’d make it customer-oriented. And I’d always put some lead generation on there. So, you know, an opt-in form where people could get some information, or whatever. And I’d build them a list, basically, build them an email list. You know, very basic stuff. Stuff that anyone that’s been an entrepreneur or tried to be an entrepreneur for at least a year probably knows how to do that. But that’s what people don’t get . . .

Andrew: Wait. Would you build the websites for them yourself?

Sam: No. I would . . .

Andrew: No. Oh. Well, actually you know what, don’t even get into what you do. I see that it’s one of the points on the board. The reason I ask is, I said, wait, I didn’t know Sam knew how to build these websites. Even though we’re talking about basic things, like a website with better headings and bullet points and email collections, I know that you’re not the most technical person out there. And I said, wait, how does he do it? And then I realized, wait, that’s coming up. So let me just ask you one final question about this section, and then I want to move on to the next one because that lumpy mail I think is really important for people to hear. How do you get all this data? How do you know their phone number? How do you know their address? How do you know the person’s, the owner’s name, etc.?

Sam: Let’s say you start from the yellow pages. You can Google them. They might list their website. Try and find on their website, about us, contact us. You’re sort of looking for a page like that. Or in the footer they might put their details. You can grab a lot of information like that. And just through Google. And then, I mean, if all else fails, you can . . . I used to just sometimes call up the business and say that I was going to drop in, what was the address. And ask who is in charge. You know, just ask the questions on the phone. And the receptionists just let it all out. And just write it all down and fill in the blanks. Most of the time you can get it from Google.

Andrew: Okay. And so, actually, before we get to the lumpy mail, you want us to target this person. Who is this person that you want us to target? In this case it’s Ron. Who’s Ron? Why do you want us to get him?

Sam: Always target the person at the top. So let’s say, a typical company like this, I mean, you’ve probably got IT support, and you’ve got systems [???]. You’ve got a whole bunch of sales and marketing. You’ve got a whole bunch of different people. And a lot of the time, people get paralyzed. I’ve found this a lot. Because they get paralyzed. They’re like, who do I talk to in the company? And I always just go right in at the top, regardless of whether it’s a CEO of a massive company, or anything, I just go, bang, straight to the top. We use this for Snap Inspect too. We go in at the top, and it’s awesome, because a couple things can happen.

One is they might be the decision maker themselves and, bang, you’ve got them, and now you’re talking, or, two, is they will just refer you to the person inside their business that you should be talking to, and this is really powerful, especially with hunting big deals, like Fortune 500 deals, things like that. You go in at the top, and they’ll ‘cc’ you to the person you’re supposed to talk to. Now you’re referred to the person you’re supposed to talk to by the boss, and now they’re, like, obliged to talk to you. I call it an internal referral.

You know how referrals are the most powerful way to get introduced to people. I call it an internal referral, because the CEO is copied you on an email to the person. You could have gone straight to that person in charge of sales and marketing, and you would have been below them, because they would have been thinking, well, I don’t have to let them in. But when you come from the CEO, you’ve kind of got a little bit more power.

Andrew: Yeah.

Sam: And that’s the power of targeting the guy at the top, which is that guy we had the arrow pointing at.

Andrew: Alright, so now we get to the ‘lumpy mail’. What is this ‘lumpy mail?’ Why does it shock potential customers and get their attention? And I got a visual here. Let me know when you want to show it, but what is it?

Sam: Sure. Like everything I’ve been talking about, a lot of the stuff I do is pretty basic, and offline, and that’s exactly how I get my customers too, because I don’t use Google ad words. I don’t blog. I don’t use ECO, or LinkedIn, or anything that most people would think that you’d have to use to get customers. I just build a list and then I want to contact them, and the best way to contact them, I’ve found, is through signature required ‘lumpy mail,’ because it’s guaranteed to get to them, and when it gets to them you get notified by an email or a text, and you know they’ve got it. Why I say, ‘lump email’ is because you probably know when you get delivered something by courier, if it’s in the bubble-wrap pack and it’s lumpy, you’re like, what? It’s probably something you’ve bought from Amazon. It gets you excited and you want to open it. Whereas, if you get a letter, it could be a bill. It could be anything. You just toss it into the pile.

Andrew: A lumpy mail means there’s some kind of product in there, something feels like…

Sam: Something exciting.

Andrew: Yeah, like a free prize inside.

Sam: And also, it can’t sit at the bottom of the pile. Like a lot of people have mailing piles, especially when their receptionists collect mail for them, and if they have a pile, something lumpy can’t sit at the bottom, everything else just falls off it. The lumpy stuff has to sit at the top, so it’s right at the top of the pile, and the receptionist will never open it. A lot of times you’ve got to get through gate keepers with mail in bigger companies. They’ll open it, and if it’s marketing stuff, people see brochures and stuff, bin, bin, bin. A signature required lumpy thing, the secretary, the gate keeper’s, going to think, well this is something he’s probably bought, personally, on the internet. I’ll let him open it himself and put it right on his desk. That’s the beauty of ‘lumpy mail’.

Andrew: You tell me, what is this?

Sam: Sure, so this is the ‘lump mail’ piece that I’d seen, so, essentially, that Yellow Pages there that I tore out, I’ve just stuck it right in the front page.

Andrew: Let me crop it a little bit and see if I can zoom in while you talk.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: On that piece of paper is the Yellow Page ad that you ripped out?

Sam: Yep.

Andrew: And then, it’s on a letter.

Sam: And then I’d write a headline, and I’d write a headline that would say something like, ‘Andrew, what do people do after they see this ad in the yellow pages?’ And then I took it one step further as I got better at this. I’d call up the Yellow Pages, and I’d ask them, hey, I’ve got a business and I’m thinking of buying an ad the same size as this guy’s ad, how much did they pay for their ad? And they’d tell me. [inaudible]. And they’d tell me the exact number. And then below, you can’t see it there but, I’d sometimes write like, Andrew, what do you think people do after they’ve viewed the same yellow pages? And at the bottom I’d put, you spent $10,386 on this ad. Now, don’t you want to know you’re getting the most out of it? You know what I mean?

So when people first call, they get a signature-required lumpy package on their desk. They open it up, they pull this out and they’re like, it’s their ad, torn out, put on their name, like some question, and then they know the exact amount of money they’ve spent on their ad. They’re like, you’ve got their attention.

Andrew: All right. So, when I’m looking at this, what I’m seeing is a few things here. First, this is the part right here, the letter. Craig, what do you think people do after they read this ad in the yellow pages? I get that. Here is the yellow page ad that you rip right out. I get that. What is on this disk?

Sam: Sure, so the front page is just to get their attention. Then if they turn the page, there’d be a brief letter that would just describe what I’m talking about. And then I’d say, I did a quick five-minute critique of your website. It’s on the CD. And take a look and let me know what you think.

Andrew: I see.

Sam: And so what I’d do is I’d just use a basic screen recording software like screenflow, go to their website and record myself just talking and using my mouse as a pointer to go over everything that was wrong with their website, in terms of,

Andrew: I see. You give them a critique of their own website just using screenflow, where you’re just riffing and talking about their site. And that’s what’s on the DVD. And you’re saying, I can help you fix this. And you also have your phone number in there so that they can call you up if they say who is this guy who’s now going to fix my website?

Sam: Yes. And a free 30-minute consultation to tell them. It’s a risk-free way I can tell them exactly what’s wrong and how to fix it. They can hire someone else to fix it after the consultation.

Andrew: Are these actual letters that you’ve sent out.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go onto the next step, because some people are going to see this and they’re not going to call you up. Your next step is, let me bring it up, there it is, you follow up by phone three days after the lumpy mail piece arrives and you have their phone number because you put it into that original excel spreadsheet. And now we have this. This is how you keep track of it?

Sam: Mm-hm. With this business, I keep it as simple as possible. So, instead of signing up for a CRM, I just use . . . You know, instead of having a digital calendar I just print that thing out. Because this isn’t my main business, it’s just here for one purpose only: it’s just to provide cash. So, I don’t try to make anything fancy. It’s just the bare basics. And this is how I would know who to call when. So the reason why I say follow up three days after the direct mail piece is, I like to call it long- range bombing. So in like war times, they’d seen the planes and they’d drop bombs on the enemy. And that would soften them up.

And then they would send in the ground troops to finish off the job. After, you know, they had already softened them up with the bombs. And so, I like to call it that with direct mail. You know, you send in the lumpy mail piece, and that’s like your bomb. It shocks them. They see your name. You’ve shocked them then. If they don’t call you, then three days after, you come in on the phone and you use the package that you sent in as reference.

And it’s a whole different conversation than a cold call. It is honestly like, you have awesome conversations with people when you’ve already sent something in like that. It’s not a cold call at all. That’s the beauty of doing it. I mean, because most people would cold call, this is something you can do to make all of your phone calls not called.

Andrew: Let’s take a look here. I want to show this in more detail.

Sam: Sure.

Andrew: And then ask you an important question about it. Let’s see. Where is it? there. First off all, what I’m seeing here is… Let’s bring up the telestrator again. I can actually see, this column here is the names of all the people who you’re going to call, and I see, right there, it actually says, ‘LM’ for ‘lumpy mail.’ Three days later, this is phone call number one, phone call number two, phone call number three, all scheduled out, so every day you know exactly what you need to do.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Because you’re coming down here and you’re realizing, alright, for this person, lumpy mail. For that person, I’m on phone call number two, ect. And after three phone calls, if you can’t get it, what you’re saying is, forget it. It’s not going to work out. I’m just going to move on to the next one.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Is that right? Let’s bring up your video. There it is. So, three times. Here’s the thing that I notice when I look at this. It’s a very expensive, very time consuming product, process, because you have them, which takes some time. You have to create the lumpy mail which takes some time. You have to mail it out, which is expensive. You have to make phone calls, which take some time. Isn’t this too expensive?

Sam: For you to do?

Andrew: Yeah.

Sam: So, I mean, a lumpy mail piece used to cost me around 16, 17, dollars.

Andrew: Wow.

Sam: All out for the week. I mean, you’re looking at about 100, 100 bucks for the week. Alright? And for a lot of people that is expensive, but, I mean, it’s relative to what you make. Right? I mean, you know, every month I was able to pick up one or to clients at least.

Andrew: I see, and that’s why you want people who have a lot of money, that they’re already spending a lot of money, that they already have a lot of money to spend, that means that, yes, it’s going to cost you more to get them, but once you get them, you’re going to be generating a lot of revenue from that.

Sam: Yeah, well, 400 dollars a month, you know, it’s not that big on the whole marketing budget side. You know what I mean? One rule I got after struggling to do, you know, 1500 dollar websites [?], when I was looking for odd jobs to get cash to, you know, help start Snapscript, is I just never touched anything below $5,000 anymore.

Andrew: Nothing below $5,000?

Sam: t was my rule. I just wouldn’t touch a job or anything below $5,000.

Andrew: Gotcha.

Sam: Just because it’s too hard to make any decent money. When you’re in a service business, when you’re actually providing a service, and you’re having to go to this level to get a customer. It’s just too hard. And when you deal with bigger numbers like, 5, 10, 15, 20, I mean, if you only get one or two of them, you’re still fine.

Andrew: Okay. Let’s go on to the big board again. Now comes the answer to the question which I asked you earlier, which is how does a guy who’s not a developer, who doesn’t sit and enjoy being caught up in code, how do you do it? And is that the answer right there, outsource the actual work to contractors?

Sam: Yeah, So, I would get deals. That would be my job. I’d win a deal with a company, and then I would spend, maybe, one or two days to scope out, exactly, everything that I was going to do right, and I’d write the copy, just in Microsoft Word or Google Dot, and I would just use Keynote to mark up, exactly, where each thing would be, like Opt-In Form, or just put, like, a read box on Opt-In Form. I’d just create, like, a brief, and then either take [?] of contractors through Elance that I would give the work to, and they would do all of it for me, and they would do the implementation of, you know, actually writing the code, actually installing the Opt-In forms.

Andrew: I see. There it is. You’re just talking about this site right here, Elance, straight up.

Sam: Yeah. So there’s a couple of contractors I’ve got working at the moment.

Andrew: These are people who have actually worked on your project?

Sam: They’re working right now, those people.

Andrew: Oh, wow.

Sam: So sometimes doing a zen disk customer support order. Well, actually, that person’s doing accounting operation for a lot of different companies. So, one thing I did after a while is instead of selling like a 5K or a 10K deal one off. I would try to build a retainer into it to get some sort of recurring element into my business, so I decided to bundle together a retainer that would contain basic metrics and would also be there to make any changes they needed to their website, and, also, we’d get them a blog. We’d give them an ECO package, and this might sound like a ton of stuff, but I wasn’t doing any of it. These were all filed out to other people, so there would be ECO done too, and a blog where someone would, actually, write them articles.

A lot of small businesses are like, we want to blog. We don’t have time to write the posts. Well, I would even find someone to do that, and I’d bundle all this stuff together, which was like their dream thing on a recurring basis, after I won the big deal up front. Then I’d sell them this as a retainer and then just pay it monthly, and they had everything they needed covered, and then after I’d got enough clients on retainer, I didn’t, actually, need to take on any new clients, and that’s where I’m at right now. I’ve got enough clients.

Andrew: What kind of revenue are you earning from this consulting business today?

Sam: $35,000 in revenue per month.

Andrew: $35,000 a month.

Sam: And my expenses run about $5,000, $6,000.

Andrew: Really?

Sam: This is what I see, like, I’ve had this money from this consulting business to invest into Snap Inspect.

Andrew: Now that is floating you and allowing you to continue to do it.

Sam: I was able to hire a sales rep. I was able to spend decent money on marketing to compete with my competitors, and most of them are publicly funded. They’re funded by VC firms, and they’re based in Silicon Valley. I mean, I’ve got to compete with these guys, and having this, this cash flow from that, it allowed me to play the game properly.

Andrew: Sorry, I’m really eager to get onto the next point here. Sorry, I’m hearing the audience’s voice in my head now. They’re saying, ‘Don’t interrupt. Don’t interrupt.’ Let me let you finish that thought, before I get to the next part, which I think answers a question that they were going to ask.

Sam: Sure. So, Snap Inspect was growing like his.

Andrew: Right.

Sam: Everything was going well. So Snap Inspect was growing like this, and the minute I realized this whole cash flow thing and put time into growing this consulting business, and started moving that revenue into Snap Inspect, it started growing like this.

Andrew: I don’t think we can see what you’re doing.

Sam: Well, it started growing steep.

Andrew: Crazy, it started growing a lot faster.

Sam: Yeah, like, way faster. One month, now, we had the same new monthly recurring revenue than we used to have in six months.

Andrew: Wow.

Sam: Because I spent the money from the consulting business in this business, I’ve put over $100,000 of my own money into Snap Inspect since [?] one.

Andrew: So, that means $100, 000 has come to Snap Inspect from consulting?

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: Wow. Alright, let’s go onto the big board here. The next big point is, price on value, not on cost, so you can charge high. You once created a site for someone with, I’m looking here a the notes, Sam’s recent project was, literally, redesigning a basic website and adding Opt-In forms and one auto responder. Do you remember what you charged for that?

Sam: It would have been. I’m just trying to think, did I give you the, exact, name of the company?

Andrew: Yeah, I’ve got the research here, Alex Champagne, who put this course together with you, said that cost was $10,000 for the project, so even though you were just putting a website, Opt-In form, auto responder, to that customer, that was worth $10,000, and that’s what you charged.

Sam: Yep. I mean, I, basically, had two packages that I sell to people. There’s one that’s $5,000 and there’s one that’s $10,000. Another thing I learned, is when you give a proposal, to always give two options, because people love options, and always have one that you want people to choose, and then just add one that’s way higher. It will make the one you want them to choose look better, and there’s a chance that they’ll choose the high one, and if they choose that, then you’re well off anyway.

So, I invented the $10,000 package just to position the $5,000 one better, but then a lot of people started choosing the $10,000 one, and then, you know, eventually, I was like, well, I wonder if I put a $10,000 one and then put like a $15,000 dollar one as the up sale one. Once you learn that you don’t have to price on cost, you can do a lot of things. Price is a very funny thing. I’ve learned this with Savingsbid, especially with Savingsbid, that, you know, price is a very weird thing to play with, but you should always anchor on value, and that’s why I choose companies that are doing big revenue, because I try to target a company that has a high value customer, so one new customer to them might be worth 20, 30, 40, 50 thousand, so, like a roofing company, or a fencing company, or something like that, One new customer to them might be worth 50 grand.

Now if you improve all of their marketing, you can tell them, look, what’s one new customer worth you, and they’ll tell you, and then you say, alright, well, with this, I honestly think, we’re going to be able to get, at least, one new customer a month. Regardless of what number you put next to that, it’s a good decision, even if you put $10,000 next to a $150,000 customer a month. It’s a done deal. You know what I mean? Whereas a lot of people, I’ve noticed, they price on, like the hours. So they might go, I’m worth $20 an hour. I’m going to spend 10 hours on this, that’s $200.

That’s how they’d price, or they’d look at the market, like they’d go on Elance and they’d see how much to do a WordPress website, might be a 100, 200 dollars. They’d go, OK. That’s what I’ll charge. Try some value. How much value are you going to give to your customer? And then, you know, a good way to work it out is, you know, ten percent of that value, so if you’re going to help make them an extra 100 thousand, $10,000 is a good trade, 10 percent of value.

Andrew: Alright, let’s go onto the big board here, and the final point, which I didn’t highlight yet, is this. There it is. Find client problems and fix them. Tell me about that.

Sam: The best way I’ve found, with consulting, is to find a painful problem in the business owner’s mind, something that, you know, keeps them up at night, and, essentially, be the guy that can solve that, and there’s lots of ways to find out what that is. It’s always through conversation and just asking the right questions. When you’re the guy that can solve that problem for them, I mean, like, they’re just going to hire you, because there’s an emotional element in that now, to where it’s not just logical.

You’re not just going to help plug the hole in the leaky funnel. You’re going to get rid of that pain that they’ve got. I always am, like, looking for problems that I can solve, and how I usually find those problems is through that first thing that we covered, that funnel. I highlight the problem, and I go over it with the business owner, and I really, I like to say, ‘Kick their bruised knee.’

Andrew: You said, ‘Tap their bruised knee?’

Sam: Kick it.

Andrew: Kick it, oh, so if there’s a pain there that they forgot about or they’ve gotten used to, you want to kick it so that they remember the pain.

Sam: Yeah, like, really, you know, when you visualize it, you go over it, how does this make you feel? You know, ask questions. You’ve heard of spin selling.

Andrew: Yeah.

Sam: That’s where I learned all of my sales skills from by the way, and in essence, there’s, honestly still the best sales book I’ve ever read.

Andrew: Spin Selling, a fantastic book. Let me ask you this, around this point, I’m looking at the notes, and I see that you included this, and I don’t know what this is, so I got to ask you.

Sam: Sure. I saw this. One thing I use to sell is, a lot of the time, is analogies. I sell the same way every time. It’s, like systematic. So I get someone interested. We have a conversation. I work out the leak in their funnel. They’re always trying to solve the leak in the funnel by pouring more water into it. I use this analogy. It says, ‘Don’t put traffic before conversion.’ So the Wright Brother’s, the first guys that got an airplane to fly, they focused on the airplane before they focused on the engine. So they worked on a plane that could fly without an engine, and then added an engine to it.

Andrew: I see.

Sam: And then the guys that were focusing on the engines were building the biggest most insane engines ever, forgetting about the plane, and then they never flew, and so that’s the same analogy I tied back to these guys. I’m, like, their airplane is the funnel, and the traffic is the engine. Focus on the funnel first. Focus on the airplane, and then focus on the engine, and that’s how the Wright brothers got their plane in the air, and that’s how real businesses are going to run properly.

I find it really powerful to use analogies like that when talking to business owners. A lot of people go, We’re going to get you on page one of Google. We’re going to use HTML or Java script. You know, they talk in this language, and business owners are just, like, what the hell is this guy talking about? But if you just use a basic analogy like that about the Wright brothers… [tape is silent] …You know, it’s very powerful.

Andrew: Sorry, the connection just froze there for a moment. Alright, so, you keep it simple. Keep the analogies in a way that they understand them, and throughout you’re speaking to people who aren’t technically savvy, and if you keep that in mind, it seems like it means, yes, you can send them DVDs instead of asking them to go online and looking at videos. Yes, they’re more likely to look at their mail, and of course, if we send them a lump email, they’re much more likely to spot it.

You make a phone call to them, which is surprising in a world where most people are emailing in. You’re the guy, who owns the company, that’s going to solve your problem, calling you up. You follow up, and you, yourself, keep everything really simple, no heavy SRMs, no heavy programming to develop their sites. You want to keep it simple so that you can create enough cash to float your business idea, and as I result of all this, you’re able to build a phenomenal company with Snap Inspect.

Sam: An entrepreneur’s lifestyle is pretty average to be honest, and when I had this consulting business creating money, it didn’t all need to go into Snap Inspect. I was also able to do some lifestyle things that I was never able to do.

Andrew: I know it. We were scheduled to record this last week. You were in Mexico at the time.

Sam: Yeah.

Andrew: I said, how is this guy, he’s building a start-up. He’s not running an established business that’s been around for years. It’s a start-up. How is he still growing his company, running a start-up and doing it while traveling, and I can see why the process is there. The customers get satisfied by the our sources, and you just keep on working your system, and we have it right here for you guys. I’ll just quickly show the outline that we talked about up on the big board, and there it is. Thank you so much, Sam, for walking us through this. If people want to follow up with you. Of course, they can check out snap inspect. They can check out Is there anything else?

Sam: Or they can just fire me an email, All I ask is to have one clear question.

Andrew: You want them to do what?

Sam: Just to have one clear question in the email.

Andrew: One clear question.

Sam: Yeah, because sometimes I read a lot of emails every day. I’m always unsure what they’re asking. If it’s a clear question, I will reply to it. I will reply to it if it’s a clear question.

Andrew: One final question, there’s someone here, on the Mixergy team, who on the side is using your process. He’s making those phone calls. You ask him to record his calls and send them to you so you can give them feedback.

Is this something that you do for other people?

Sam: Well, I thought about it and I’ve taught 5 people now in detail, like every detail that I have and I’m sort of starting to because I want to get out of this business now to focus more on [??]. And the way I’ve thought about getting out of this business is to systemize it and turn it into a course or something to show people how to do it. And that’s sort of what I working at at the moment. And I’m working with the guy from Mixergy to sort to iron out the bugs and, they’re not bugs but, you know, iron out the places I might have not been clear, the places that might not work and make sure it works very, very well.

Andrew: I see. So you’re not ready to fully announce it here and ask people to sign up.

But can I say this? You’ve given out your email address. If someone is really eager to be part of it and they understand that it’s not ready to launch, can they email you and see if there’s something that they can do with you?

Sam: Yes, absolutely.

Andrew: I kind of expected at the end of this that you’d say ‘All right, everyone if you really how to learn how to do this, I would work with you. I’ve got this whole program where you can sign up. Go give me your email address.’ You’re not at that stage but you are at the stage where you want to say This has worked, people, even if you don’t pay me, even if you don’t ever contact Sam, you still want them to know this works, wake up, there are other options. And I think we’ve done that in this session.

Sam Ovens, thank you so much for doing this. Everyone out there, thank you so much for being a part of it. Let us know how well you do with this program.

Bye, guys.


Master Class:
How to master growth hacking
(To get and keep users)
Taught by Ryan Holiday of Growth Hacker Marketing

Master Class: Growth Hacking

Report Bugs


Andrew: This session is about how to get and keep users through growth hacking. A session that’s led by Ryan Holiday. He is the founder of Brass Check Marketing and Media Strategist for notorious clients like Tucker Max and Dove [??].He’s also the author of let’s bring up that webpage, there it is “Growth Hacker Marketing”, the book that I’ll be using as the basis for our conversation here today. I’ll help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where proven founders, like Ryan, teach.Ryan, welcome.Ryan: Thanks for having me. It’s good to be back.

Andrew: You were working at, here, let me bring this up. You were working at this company. I thought everything was going great at American Apparel. You guys were buying ads. You had money. You had reputation. What’s the problem then that suddenly you had to adjust to become a growth hacker or be open to growth hacking?

Ryan: Yes, look. I thought I was the greatest thing in the world. I’m 24, 25 years old. I’m the Director of Marketing at a publicly trading company, one of the coolest fashion brands in the world. One day I show up at my office and I sit down and I read this article. The article is called, Andrew Chan is a great asset, he writes for Silicon Valley. The article was ‘Growth Hackers are the new VPs of marketing’ which sort of stopped me cold because I was the VP of Marketing.

So as I’m reading this article, I’m looking at the names that he mentions as sort of Zynga, Air B&B, DropBox, Facebook, Twitter. These companies that didn’t exist 5 years ago, didn’t exist 7 years ago and hence now they have billion dollar valuations. And not just billion dollar valuations [??] like billion dollar valuations and user bases in the billions of dollars. And who was the marketer behind these companies? It wasn’t Wyman Kennedy, it wasn’t Don Draper, David Ogilvie, right? It was nobody you’ve heard of. And the article stunned me because he was totally right and I never thought about this.

These billion dollar brands that were created right in front of us, supposedly by people in my profession it turn out were made by a bunch of people you never heard of. Noah Kagan, Andrew Chan, Aaron Jen, Jesse Farmer. These sort of geeks who had totally reinvented marketing from the outside and reinvented it theoretically but reinvented and you could not argue with the results of their success.

Andrew: I think a lot of people in the tech community, the majority, would say, “You had it all. You were at American Apparel, lots of money, lots of reputation, all that.” A handful of people in the tech space are saying no, no. There’s something that these guys don’t know and that’s what they’re implementing. Instead of waiting for yourself to get run over by these people, you said I’m going to be curious and that’s what we’re going to be talking about here today, in this session right. And I pulled out a few ideas from your book and you’ve actually used these ideas.

Before we get into the details of it, just give me a top line view of what you’re able to do for one of your clients with this book, using the mindset that you’re about to introduce us to. What were you able to do for this guy, Tim Ferriss?

Ryan: Yes. So I’m writing the book, I’m interviewing all these growth hackers and then one of my clients, who is Tim Ferris, asked me to help with his most recent book. And for people who don’t know this, the book published by Amazon and as a result sort of last minute writing for the book came out, every retailer in the country decided that they were going to refuse to carry it. Wal-Mart, Cosco, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, every independent bookstore in the country. The most demanded book in the history is what we ended up calling it and we had to reinvent book marketing from scratch. Reinvent a book launch actually from scratch because all the old channels were gone.

Andrew: And how far did you get it? How many books were sold and how far off the list did you get?

Ryan: It debut in #1 on the New York Times [??], #1 on the best seller list specifically the Wall Street Journal Business list. Sold something like 250,000 in its first 6 months of release, 60,000 copies its first week. A monster best seller and not just in the book sales sense. People reached, brought into the sort of Tim Ferriss universe, astronomical numbers, all because of the tactics that I ended up learning studying these tech startups, and then asking myself the question, well, if you can growth-hack a startup, can you growth-hack a book? The answer is yes, and I think it means, if you can growth-hack a book, which is essentially an unchanged medium for thousands of years, you can growth-hack anything, whether it’s a restaurant, or a clothing line, or whatever you happen to be trying to get people to try.

Andrew: Okay. So, in your book, you actually go through all these tactics, and the last section of the book is bringing it all together. But I would like us to start with that, because I want to see what you’re able to do, and what can be done with this mindset and with the tools that we’re about to teach, and then I want to get deep into every one of them, and frankly for the audience, this right here, this one, that’s where we’re going to spend I think, the bulk of our time, where we have a lot of examples, where I’m especially excited for people to pay attention. But the first thing they’re going to wonder is, how did he do it, when he brought it all together? So talk to me about, tell me the story of what you were able to do with Tim Ferris.

Ryan: So, Tim is a total anomaly in terms of being an author, in that, you know, I think most authors, they write their book by going off into their writer cave, and then they come back with a book. And Tim has always been a data-driven, data-obsessed person. So, when he was editing this book, as we were throwing it together with very little time on the clock, I watched him ask his fans what they wanted in the book, and then drafting a book accordingly. I watched him build marketing angles into the product, rather than thinking, okay, the book is done and sent to the printers, now let’s think about marketing. I watched him grab multiple editors, like friends reading the manuscript, and then cross-reference the passages that each one liked, to see, what are they responding to, what are they not responding to, what are their favorite sections? If they had to cut three sections, what would it be?

I’ve been in this position myself. You send a book to a friend and you say, hey, is this any good? And then your feedback is there. I watched Tim treat it almost like a tech product. What are people clicking, what are they not clicking? I watched him test dozens of iterations of the back cover, based on what people were clicking and responding to, rather than handing the book to the publisher and expecting them to come up with a back cover, and then doing what we tend to do too often in marketing, which is just hope that it works, based on our gut instinct.

Andrew: And what about what you guys did with these people? What is this?

Ryan: When retail distribution is cut off as an option, you are screwed not because of the sales, but because of the discovery element. You know, millions of people go into bookstores around the country every week, and that’s where they discover new books. And we were locked out of that. And so we sat down, Tim and I, and said okay, how can we get this book in front of people? What can we do? And anything is on the table. And I threw out BitTorrent, who if people don’t know, is basically, for many years was sort of known as the main source of pirated material on the Internet, movies, music, books, any kind of protected content could be gotten for free [overtalk] – it’s where you steal music, it’s basically what people know it as.

Andrew: Yes. And this was your idea, by the way? This is you tossing out BitTorrent as an option?

Ryan: Yeah. A friend of mine is an author, he wrote a book called The Pirate’s Dilemma, which is a great book, and he ended up from this book, becoming the director of marketing at BitTorrent, so he and I have been friends for a long time. And Tim was like, is there anyone I can meet who you think would help with this book, that might have a crazy out-of-the-box idea? And I said, you should talk to Matt Mason. And Matt was like, why don’t we give a huge chunk of the book away on BitTorrent? I know you don’t want to give chunks of your book away, but I promise you we’ll put in front of almost 300 million people. And so we thought about it for one second, and said, that sounds amazing, let’s do it. And we ended up putting together the package that you showed it was a 750 MB bundle of video, photos, deleted chapters, extra material, video files, just all sorts of amazing stuff.

Andrew: Did you guys have to pay BitTorrent for that?

Ryan: We were partners. So BitTorrent is trying to create this as a distribution business model, and we were the first author through the gate.

Andrew: And here’s the kind of press that BitTorrent got from it, and the kind of things that you guys were able to do. There’s the next web article, “Thanks to BitTorrent, The Four Hour Chef Goes from being boycotted by Barnes and Noble, to a bestseller.” So that’s how you were able to bring it all together.

Ryan: Yeah, so I think the bundle was downloaded something like two or three million times.

Andrew: Wow.

Ryan: It sent more than 250,000 people to the Amazon page, which is an insane click-through rate for anyone who’s done any sort of tracking on the press and media that they get. And we think it was direct, not we think, we know it was directly responsible for moving tens of thousands of copies that first week and I have actually done it again since with another client who’s a musician. But this was probably the single most effective promo that we did for the book, and it, it was free and it, what it did, ultimately, was it, to try a book is hard, right? You’ve got to buy, where do you get a book for free to check it out? Either a book store-

Andrew: A book store, they give me the first few chapters.

Ryan: Right. So by giving people this chunk of the book they were able to read some of the book and get engrossed in the universe and then pick it up so cheaply on Amazon.

Andrew: And do it even more, and because it’s such a new thing, you get a lot of attention.

Ryan: Yep.

Andrew: I see how it developed. Alright. Let’s take a look at the details and the way the person who’s listening to us is going to be able to use this. First step you say in your book is, you say “Find product market fit.” You say “Most marketers aren’t used to the idea that what they do is adjust the product, they just adjust the marketing.” You talked about how Tim Ferris did it by checking in with people along the way as he built it. What about what these guys did? These, this is a site from 2008, a screenshot, of Air B&B’s home page. Where were they and how did they use this?

Ryan: So, a lot of people don’t know that Air B&B started as essentially renting people’s living rooms and crashing on an air mattress on their couch. It was a cheap idea thrown up by roommates who had some extra space in their apartment, and knew there was a big design conference, I believe, coming into town, like, a month from whenever they came up with the idea in 2008, and one of them was like “Hey, let’s make our living room into a bed and breakfast.”

Andrew: Yeah.

Ryan: “Well give them free breakfast. It’ll be this weird thing.” It’s a silly idea that got, you know, a tiny bit of attention online, and got a couple users, and the founders said “Okay, we’re onto something, but the idea is clearly not going to work like this,” and then they continued to iterate it and change it and improve it until they got the Air B&B that we know today, that is, itself, an explosive idea.

You know, a person who makes $200,000 a year is not going to sleep on an air mattress in some weirdo’s living room. So what you’re seeing there is their marketing is not what they’re doing externally PR wise. Their marketing is refining and improving the product based on feedback. And the reason that doesn’t happen too often is that most marketers don’t actually work for the company that they’re marketing. You know, your marketing is something you outsource to an outside party or to a firm or to a specialist, and that’s to say that those marketers aren’t very talented, but the problem is you are handing them a finished product and saying “Here, get people to talk about this.” Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: What about this? Aren’t you, I’m looking at your site, let’s bring up your site, aren’t, isn’t that what you do-

Ryan: No, actually.

Andrew: For your clients? You can’t go in and start to change the clothes that American Apparel makes. You can’t start to change the books that Robert Green writes, can you?

Ryan: Actually, that’s exactly what I do. So, Robert Green, I started as his Research Assistant. I worked, I actually worked on the crafting of his last two books, thinking about what marketing can be built into your product to make it more successful as-

Andrew: Can you give me an example of what you did with Robert Green?

Ryan: Yeah, so his last book, Mastery, was about how masters developed their acumen, or their craft, and Robert wanted to interview living people, which I thought was an amazing idea. And what I did was refine that from a marketing standpoint, and say “Robert, if you’re going to have, you know, 10 people in your book who are masters, let’s pick masters who have audiences or platforms-”

Andrew: I see.

Ryan: “Or compelling, interesting stories, that allow this book to be accessed by a different audience. I’ll give you a great example. He decided to interview for his book Paul Graham, who happens to run Y Combinator, who controls a website called Hacker News that has millions of visitors every month.

Andrew: I see.

Ryan: Now, Paul Graham clearly fit the criteria of a master, but if you had to choose between a programming investment genius with zero fans and one with millions of fans, from a marketing standpoint it’s pretty clear which one you should put in your book.

Andrew: I see. Okay. Going back to the AirB&B example.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andrew: It occurred to me after reading your book and looking at this old screenshot the basis of their business, much of the basis, is gone. It’s no longer airbed. They don’t offer breakfast. Here is the way that when they launched, early on, they were described. You and I looked at this before we started. With an actual air mattress, this is the way that TechCrunch explained…

Ryan: …Right…

Andrew: …what the product was. It changed so much that today this is the kind of place that they’re trying to sell. Find a whole place to stay, not how to stay in someone’s living room. So, that’s what you want us to keep thinking of – not how to sell what we have, but how to change what we have so that it sells.

Ryan: Yeah. Exactly. Instagram is an amazing example of this, too. A lot of people don’t know that it started as a geolocation sort of four square style check-in service called Burbn. It had a feature that let you take and edit photos. That feature was so overwhelmingly popular that the founders pivoted and zoomed in on that one feature and created the whole company around that feature. Not because they felt like it or their gut told them that was what they should do, but because that’s what the users were flocking to.

I guess to back up for two seconds, it’s don’t invest in some enormous blockbuster launch. Imagine if AirB&B had launched with 20 million dollars supporting the airbed and breakfast model. They would be very reluctant to go back to the laboratory and retool the entire product around a different version of that idea because they just invested so heavily. But, by launching small, just doing this TechCrunch article, getting a few customers, and being small enough to pivot and change is to me a marketing opportunity as well as a product development opportunity.

Andrew: Alright. Let’s go on to the big board.

Ryan: Sure.

Andrew: In the book you say that the second step is to find your growth hack. I want to talk about one example and then I know that there’s going to be a problem with this, so the listeners or viewers, trust me. I know the problem you’re going to have with this, but let me start off with this example. I know many problems you’re going to have. But, the first one, let’s just explain what is AirB&B, or what was AirB&B doing in this image.

Ryan: Yeah. AirB&B figured out a way. They didn’t figure out, they engineered an end run around craigslist so that you could automatically syndicate your AirB&B listing as a sort of craigslist apartment house for rent listing…

Andrew: …It would go from AirB&B to, I think, let me see. Here is an example that I found online. Like that, a little too big…

Ryan: …Exactly. It created a super well designed, easy to use, free ad on craigslist for your particular unit, but also the service as a whole.

Andrew: I see. Okay. So, the idea here is that they created a way. Well, actually, what makes this a growth hack for you?

Ryan: What a growth hack is to me is finding some underexploited platform or opportunity and leveraging it to bring a rush of users into your service that otherwise maybe wouldn’t have been available to you if you were thinking of marketing only as advertising, public relations, and like sending out e-mails to your friends and family. Then, the growth hack is taking advantage of something that maybe other people haven’t fully understood.

A very good example is PayPal building itself on the back of eBay. They see all these people interacting in this community. They design a product that exactly they need. Then, they get themselves essentially embedded on every eBay auction. That is doing millions of pages early on in the tech bubble, and essentially turning a platform or a business into a billboard, advertisement, or referral system for your product. Like, yeah, go ahead.

Andrew: This is what I wanted to get into. I know that the person listening says, I heard about AirB&B. That’s a clever idea, I can’t reproduce it.

Ryan: Right.

Andrew: So, let’s talk about different approaches. One of them you just said. I’m going to write these down right now. One of them is piggyback, right? And you gave the example of PayPal piggybacking on eBay which is big. They enabled payments on eBay’s system. What about Mailbox, the service that I use to get e-mail? What are they doing? Maybe we can come up with a broader understanding of it that other people can use. What did they do to launch?

Ryan: Mailbox came out with a great demo video that made their product look super exciting, like, hey, I want to try that. But, instead of letting you try it they made you sign up for a waiting list.

Andrew: Okay.

Ryan: And that waiting list was not just any waiting list. It was a waiting list where you were told how many people were in front of you in line and, more specifically, how many thousands or tens of thousands of people were in front of you in line. So, it became this sort of social movement where you’re like, hey, I thought this service was cool, and then to find out that there’s 250 thousand people in front of me in line tells me that I’m on to the next big thing. This sort of sign up invite only create an appearance of scarcity, or nothing draws a crowd like a crowd kind of mindset I think is a good example.

Andrew: Okay. So, what we have here is exclusivity.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andrew: And we have crowd, what would we call it, use a crowd to draw a crowd.

Ryan: Yeah, yeah. And on that a related one that I like. I think Reddit only came clean with it somewhat recently. But, as one of the founders was recounting the history of Reddit, which is now maybe the biggest social news site in the world, he admitted that they started the site by creating thousands of fake accounts which they would then use to interact with users who thought the site was way more popular than it actually was. To me that’s a great growth hack, because you’re sort of faking it until you make it.

Andrew: You know what, first of all I love that fake accounts…

Ryan: …Yeah…

Andrew: …but instead of use a crowd to draw a crowd, that’s a mouthful…

Ryan: …Yeah…

Andrew: …let’s just call it social proof…

Ryan: …Sure.

Andrew: Social proof, okay. What about Yelp and Myspace, what do they have in common in the way that they were getting people excited?

Ryan: Yelp is a funny story. Yelp just threw a series of parties in the cities that they were trying to make, and they created a real community out of nothing. You can do events, and you can do things at a very small scale. I think that’s a good one. You know, Myspace is a great example where Myspace went to Friendster, and Tom has admitted this, he went to Friendster and he individually e-mailed all their big users and asked them to come over to Myspace and stole them. So, Tila Tequila, people don’t know, was poached from Friendster by Myspace. The rest is history.

Andrew: What do we call that one? Let’s call that…

Ryan: …Influencers…

Andrew: …Steal influencers?

Ryan: Yeah, I think that’s great.

Andrew: Okay. And you also talked in your book about how, I guess it was, uses influencers?

Ryan: Yeah, was one of the few early startups to really exploit the idea of having celebrity sort of advisers and influencers on your board. It’s like if Kevin Rose has 100 thousand Twitter followers and is a rich guy, maybe he’s the guy to take some venture capital funding from rather than some other guy who has more money but zero Twitter followers. So, the day that launched a dozen or so really influential Silicon Valley influencers all mentioned this service in the same day. It was sort of, hey, check out this new thing. It really blew up.

Andrew: I don’t know how to exactly add this one to the list, so I’m actually just cross off that bullet point…

Ryan: …Okay… Andrew: …and just ask you. You also did something for one of your clients with Planned Parenthood. When I interviewed you on Mixergy you talked about it. Can you say that story again?

Ryan: Yeah. I think media stunts are a great growth hack, too. You know, how can you engage in something with the exclusive purpose of getting a lot of press and media attention that sort of puts you on the map.

Andrew: Yeah.

Ryan: With one of my clients he had a line in his book where he said that he paid for so many abortions in his life that they should name a Planned Parenthood clinic after him. So, we tried to name a Planned Parenthood clinic after him. We ended up offering the money as a donation and getting rejected which itself became a media story. We were covered in essentially every major media outlet that you could think of. Publicity stunts, that’s my specialty. I got my background in PR and marketing. So, I love when people do crazy things. They get a ton of media attention and drive millions of views. That’s always my favorite.

Andrew: Alright. Let’s go back to the big board. I wrote close the loop as the next topic…

Ryan: …Yeah…

Andrew: …to talk about, but in your book you talk about add the viral first. I think it’s more appropriate to do that. So, in adding the viral, there are lots of different examples of how companies have done it. What does Groupon do?

Ryan: Yeah. When I say add the viral, what I mean is…

Andrew: …Yeah…

Ryan: …virality has to also be built into your product. This isn’t an accident. I’ve been in so many meetings where someone will come up to me and go, hey we’re glad to have you on board we really want this video to go viral. Or, can you make this make the front page of Reddit. Like it’s some simple task. It’s like, no. If it’s really good and worth sharing I can facilitate or encourage that process, but it has to be baked into it.

So, when you see massively viral things it’s either completely accidental like it’s a funny child falling over kind of video, or it was deliberately engineered. Groupon and LivingSocial are two great examples of companies who built a referral based viral system into their product. With LivingSocial I believe it’s if you refer three friends you get the deal free. If you get three friends to buy the same deal…

Andrew: …Yeah…

Ryan: …the deal’s free. With Groupon it was you get 10 dollars in Groupon credits for every user or friend you refer to the service.

Groupon and LivingSocial are e-mail newsletters at their core business. They are just e-mail newsletters. Instead of spending 20 dollars in advertising per every user that they acquire, they said let’s give our users 10 dollars to refer their friends. Every time they sign up the service is now better by two people, because I’m on it and you’re on it.

I think Dropbox is probably the greatest example of a referral program. Oh, you have a photo of that?

Andrew: This is my own personal Dropbox account. I decided not to take a full screen shot, but I did get that top gift box…

Ryan: …Did you click that? Have you referred anyone?

Andrew: I did. I referred so many people that when I click it they don’t even offer me free any more.

Ryan: So, for people who don’t know, Dropbox has maybe the greatest referral program in the history of growth hacking. They were trying to acquire their customers through traditional online advertising. They were doing pay per click advertising, and one day one of the founders did the math. He said, we are paying 300 dollars to acquire each one of our users for a product that is free. That is not sustainable.

What they came up with instead was a referral system. So, the more you use Dropbox, and the more you add your friends to Dropbox, and the better and more active of a Dropbox user you are the more free storage you get. For every friend you get like a 500 megabyte bonus. If you follow Dropbox on Twitter you get a 125 megabyte bonus. If you take a tour of the service you get a 125 megabyte bonus on the service. If you agree to let Dropbox have access to your Facebook account so when you’re active on Dropbox it shares your activity socially you get a bonus.

It turns out I think something like 38 percent of all Dropbox customers, and it may be higher than that, are now from this referral system. It drove literally millions and millions of users to the service and completely replaced their paid advertising program because it was so much more effective.

Andrew: Okay. Those, I can see, are very effective, but they feel kind of bribes. You give the example…

Ryan: …They are bribes…

Andrew: …Sorry? They are bribes…

Ryan: …They are…

Andrew: …But there’s only so much bribe…

Ryan: …I guess the point is, although less sexy, it’s cheaper to bribe your customers to bring their friends into your service than it is to go out and try to acquire total strangers to give your service a try.

Andrew: Okay. Well, here, let me give a couple of other examples from the book. Here’s, I think, the granddaddy of them all. It took me a while to find an old one for this. This one is from 2010, but it still has the…

Ryan: …It’s still pretty old.

Andrew: Yeah.

Ryan: Maybe the first viral marketing example in the Internet era was Hotmail. Tim Draper, the investor who put in the first, I think, half million dollars into Hotmail was talking to the founders. They were telling him their grand marketing strategies – hey, we’re going to do an ad campaign and we’re going to do billboards. He’s like, your product is free. You can’t pay to acquire customers. Instead, what if we just put a little line at the bottom of the e-mail that said, P.S. I love you and I want to give you free e-mail, sign up for Hotmail.

And I think they went from something, like, a few thousand users, to a million users within 10 days, into 10 million users within the first year, into something like 40 million users by the time it was acquired by Microsoft for $400 billion.

Andrew: Here’s another example, we’ve seen this so much. Blackberry, iPhone, they don’t have much in common, but they do have that one line in the bottom.

Ryan: I actually think maybe Apple’s greatest marketing plan, or greatest example of viral marketing, was the decision to make the headphones for the iPhone which are included, white, instead of black, and it turned every single person, not only was it, you know, complimented by a great advertising campaign, but it turned every person who was using one of the Apple music devices into a walking billboard for their product.

Andrew: I was looking for (?). As soon as you said it I said “How quick can I be with the images?” and here’s what I came up with.

Ryan: Right. People don’t, it’s easy to forget that 10 years ago, or less than, yeah, less than 10 years ago, all headphones were black, and that is was somewhat of a shocking image to see someone with white headphones, and I think that goes to the core of what we’re saying too with the “Find Your Growth Act.” Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Do something new and different and exploit it before that area or ocean gets crowded, and take advantage of it while you can, and then move on to the next thing.

Andrew: You know what? The Hotmail example is an old one, but look at this. Let me see if I can even show it, it’s a little hard to see here, but this is a Hello bar that a lot of people put on their website. I saw that Tim Ferris had it up on his site. You can use this top section, a little hard to see, but this top section here is where you promote your stuff with a button and so on. On the left of the free version is an H that people can click on if they want to get Hotmail, excuse me, the Hello bar for themselves. They just click it and then it goes back to the Hello bar site, and I see a lot of web apps do that. If they’re giving away something for free, there is an ad that goes along with it so the free people then are carriers, the paid people don’t have that ad.

Ryan: Sure. And I actually use the Hello bar, and I probably, this is crazy, I think I found out about the Hello bar from your website, clicking that exact button.

Andrew: Oh wow. They gave me an early version of it so that I can try it on Mixergy before an interview.

Ryan: Yeah, this would have been, like, three or four years ago, and maybe not that long ago, but I remember, I found out about it from someone else’s website. It’s not like I read an article about Hello bar or I saw a billboard for it when I was, you know, driving down the 101. It’s that I saw it in use and they turned the product itself into an advertisement in some way without ruining the product. And that, a growth hacker made that decision. You know, a designer probably hates it. A traditional marketer would think that’s not part of their job, and a growth hacker would see the opportunity and seize it and drive millions of users as a result.

Andrew: Okay. Last, well, not the last, but the last step in the book, not the last point that we’ll be talking about is closing the loop.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andrew: What is that actually? There is it. Closing the loop, what does it mean to close the loop?

Ryan: Yeah, so if we open with, you know, deciding that fixing the product is part of the growth hacker’s responsibility, whereas a traditional marketer wouldn’t think that it is, I think you close with a similar thought, which is “It’s not the marketer’s job to just pull customers in and then leave it to somebody else to make sure that they become customers.” You know, a marketer’s job stops at the front door, or stops at the landing page, or-

Andrew: Right.

Ryan: Or at brand awareness, or something. A growth hacker says, you know, “It doesn’t matter if you got me in the New York Times and drove 1,000 people to my website. If they all immediately left because they’d been tricked into coming here,” and what I love about growth hacking is they think about conversion and they think about data and they think about improving the product based on, not just improving the product based on that feedback, but also improve it, improving the type of customers that they go after.

So if you, if you get in the New York Times and it doesn’t drive you any customers, don’t try to get in the New York Times again. Try to find customers who are actually interested in your service somewhere else. So I think the, the best example of this, and you might have a screenshot of it or something, is, is it the Twitter thing?

Andrew: Yes.

Ryan: Yes. So, you know, 2007, 2008, Twitter has got all the buzz that you could want. It’s got a lot of tech folk who are joining its millions of members, but what they’re noticing is that people join Facebook and love Facebook and continue to use it. People join Twitter, set up an account, and then never log in and never give any tweets.

And an engineer, a growth hacker named Josh Elman at Twitter decided that he was going to do something about this, and what he noticed data wise, he closed the loop by doing this, he noticed data wise that when customers, or when potential users had noticed and then added manually 10 or so friends that they could follow on Twitter, they were significantly much more likely to stick around and continue to use the service.

And so he said “Well let’s design something that makes that easier. Let’s design the Twitter Suggested User List that gives you celebrities and influencers and other people who, based on your interest, or based on, you know, what’s cool right now, you would be likely to get value out of following, and he designed this feature and it ended up drastically reducing the bounce rate and increasing the conversion rate and long term value of their customers. Now, I think-

Andrew: What’s the feature?

Ryan: The feature is the Twitter Suggested User List.

Andrew: It is. As soon as you sign up, you’re told who you can, I see.

Ryan: Right, right. Instead of saying “Hey, you know, we’re getting all these customers but they’re leaving,” and then thinking “Well, we’ve got to get-”

Andrew: “Let’s go get new ones.”

Ryan: “And only 1% of them are staying, let’s get more so we can, that adds up to a lot,” he said “What if we just increase it from 1% to 10% by rolling out this new feature?” And to me that is fundamentally a marketing innovation because it makes marketing so much easier.

So, it’s like “Patch the hole in the dike, and then you can go out and market externally, instead of, you know, trying to get more and more and more and more and more, and marketing, in my experience, has always been about more and never about better.” It’s all, it tends to be quantity over quality, always, because we judge ourselves based on certain vanity metrics. You want to tell the client that you got them picked up in 100 media outlets rather than showing up on Mixergy or something and having a group of core people love your stuff and become, you know, become lifetime fans.

And so, I think a growth hacker says “Hey, we’re a small, you know, lean team. We don’t have money to chase new, new, new. Let’s only do the things that work and let’s let the data decide what that is, and let’s get better every time we do it.”

Andrew: Alec Champagne, Alex Champagne, let me say his name clearly, who produced this session, he got this stat, and I don’t know if it’s from your book, I don’t remember seeing it, but you tell me. It says “According to Bane and Company, a 5% increase in customer retention can mean a 30% increase in profitability. According to Market Metrics, the profitability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70%, while to new prospects is just five to 20%.”

Ryan: Yeah, I think that actually is in the book, and it’s-

Andrew: Okay.

Ryan: It’s a pretty stunning stat when you think about it. The idea that it’s not only easier but cheaper, and I think people always think, also, “How can we get more customers?” rather than “How can we increase the value of the customers that we already have?” So, instead of “How can we get more users for Twitter as it is right now?”, “How can we improve Twitter so it’s better for the people who are members so then they’ll recommend it to their friends?” Our growth hacks will be more affected. We’ll have greater product market fit.

And so growth hacking is certainly, it’s a recursive loop, rather than, like, a formula, I would definitely say. And the, at the core, the most important step there is to be empirical and optimization-driven in your marketing efforts above all things.

Andrew: Here is the final point that I pulled out, and it’s the use of feedback, and I’ve got a great visual of this of someone who’s an Evernote fan who’s got a sticker on their laptop lid, but I don’t think it makes sense to just show the image. I think that the thought process behind it is more valuable than the image, even though I think it’s a really cool thing that I want to show.

Ryan: Yeah, sure. So, Evernote, which is a great sort of note taking and research software-

Andrew: Yep.

Ryan: They kept getting feedback from their customers that they were getting in trouble from having their laptops open during meetings because their boss or their peers or the clients would think that they were, you know, screwing around on the computer instead of paying attention, and so Evernote came up with the idea to have a sticker that goes onto the back of the computer that says “I’m not playing around on the computer. I’m taking notes in EverNote.” And in turn –

Andrew: Here, let’s bring it up, this is what they did.

Ryan: I’m not being rude. I’m taking notes in EverNote. I love that because one, it’s funny and it’s cute and it’s the kind of thing that you would have a picture of and show to people because it’s a clever marketing idea so it’s this sort of meta press. It’s a social object that people would talk about in a meeting. If I see someone with that on their computer, I want to get it myself. And it’s feedback driven. It’s about making your existing customers better and happier customers, rather than chasing new customers. I just love that idea from top to bottom.

Andrew: I do, too. I’m going to ask you in a moment for something personal –

Ryan: OK.

Andrew: But first, let me say thank you for doing this, and if anyone wants to see the book, to read the book that we pulled just a few ideas from, it’s right on Amazon. It’s called “Growth Hacker Marketing”. What we do – and, by the way, it’s only $2.99 – what we do at Mixergy pull ideas that we think are relevant to the audience, but there’s no way I could pull all the ideas, that I can pull all the examples, that I can tell the stories in this short amount of time, completely. And if you enjoyed this program and you want to get the full message and you want to see specifically how it’s all done, it’s right there.

It’s Growth Hacker Marketing and it’s just, like I said, $2.99. You could have sold that for more. By the way, it’s actually a very short book. I have a produced here at Mixergy, Alex Champaign, who read the book for me. Who pulled out examples and images and so on. But, I said, I got the book, I’m going to go sit downstairs for a bit and just flip through it. I think it took me thirty minutes to read the whole book cover to cover.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andrew: It’s like – how many pages is it?

Ryan: I think it’s like 60 pages, or 55 pages or something. This is the sort of meta thing, you know. I wanted to growth hack the book itself. So, instead of going off and spending two years writing a 300 page book that cost $26.99 and that I hope is successful, and meanwhile also missing out on the fact that, right now, growth hacking is sort of an en vogue movement, I wanted to get the book to market fast. I wanted it to be cheap and affordable, and I wanted to test the market for the product as well.

So, the book this is an e-book only, it’s a single. And so, based on sales, my publisher and I are going to decide whether we want to escalate it into a full, printed version. It being a digital book only, if I get feedback from people that say, “Hey, you’re missing this” or ” I love this” or “I hate that” or “You misspelled something on page 22”, I can fix it. So, I wanted to apply growth hacking to the book. And part of the reason it’s 3 dollars instead of 15 dollars or whatever is that I wanted people to take a chance. I can always raise the price later on, but I want people to test it. I want to get their feedback. I want them to recommend it to their friends. And then I’m going to decide what to do after that.

Andrew: All right. So, here’s the personal stuff that I’m hoping – I can even give it away with your permission. Can I just give out your email address in case anyone got any value out of this, they can say “Thank you” to you?

Ryan: Of course.

Andrew: All right, I’m not even giving the Ryan Holiday.netaddress. I’m giving the gmail which you can’t give up because everything is probably tied into it. It’s Is that right? I’m reading off my notebook.

Ryan: Yep.

Andrew: Ryan, Let me tell you something that happened to me just this morning, or maybe it was yesterday. Someone emailed me and said, “I want to go and work for this guy who taught a course on Mixergy. Can you please email him a note introducing me?” And he gave me his email address and he told me exactly what I can say. This is just a note to Josh at Kick-Off Labs, and it’s so simple for me. And then I thought, is this just some user, some guy? But he did something clever. He didn’t write a brand new email, he replied to an email exchange that we had. I guess it was months ago, maybe even over a year ago, that started with him just saying, “Hey Andrew, thanks for all the work that you do” and a specific compliment about something. I replied back and said, “Glad you appreciated it, thanks for the email.” He hit reply on that, and said “Andrew, could you do me this one small favor and I’m going to make it real easy for you.”

The reason I’m telling you that is you’re not going to want to send Ryan an email in the future when you want something from him. You’re not going to want to send an email to him in the future when you want to do business with him, or one of his clients, or even want to hire him. You don’t want to start off cold. You want some warm introduction. That’s why, not just here but in as many session as I can, I get you the guest’s email address so you can at least send a quick note to say, “Hey, thanks. I got this much out of it.” Whatever. “Hey, here’s a typo on page 7”, like you wanted to know.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andrew: Whatever it is. It’s a good way to start things off. All right, so, that’s why I asked for the specific and real email address and not just the contact form. I appreciate you giving that and I appreciate you all being a part of this. Thank you, Ryan. Thank you all for being a part of it.

Ryan: Bye. Thanks for having me.


Master Class:
How to create videos worth spreading
(Even if you’re afraid of risk)
Taught by Kong Pham and Jesse Jah of SimplePickup

Master Class: Create Videos Worth Spreading

Report Bugs


Andrew: This session is about how to create videos worth spreading. This
session is led by Kong Pham and Jesse Jah, co-founders of this site. Let’s
bring up the site here. SimplePickup, where they teach guys how to be more
confident through video evidence.Recently they launched Project Go. There it is up on your screen, which
offers full videos of them picking up girls and breaking down their
interactions. I’m going to help facilitate. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m
the founder of Mixergy, where proven founders teach. Hey guys.Kong: Hey, Andrew. How’s it going?Andrew: Hey, give me an example of someone who’s not doing this right.
Let’s call them out by name, by website. I’m going to show it. Who’s smart,
but still not able to get their videos viewed?

Kong: There’s a company that I used to work with, and I used to work for
them actually, and afterward it was more like an advisor role because they
wanted to make a viral video. And this company is called SlugBooks.

Andrew: I’m going to them right now. This is the site.

Kong: It’s an amazing website. Their idea is perfect, and they’ve had a
tremendous growth. But their video, the one that you see right at the
bottom there, they actually tried to make that a viral video. I was telling
them you got to make it shocking, you’ve got to have humor, you’ve got to
do this, you got to be risky, be polarizing, maybe offend some people. But
they decided to go the safe, informational and boring route. And you go to
the video and you’ll see that they only have 2,000 views.

Andrew: Two thousand five hundred eighty four. This is the exact same video
that’s on their site that they’re promoting. I just went to YouTube to look
at the numbers.

Kong: They did actively try to make this video go viral.

Jesse: And as you can see it’s not.

Kong: I think they have a couple other videos, too. They actually paid
people on YouTube to promote that video.

Andrew: Really?

Jesse: People that are our YouTube friends that have lots and lots of
subscribers, hundreds of thousands, a million, and they asked them to
promote their video, and it still did not catch on because [???]

Kong: It sucks.

Jesse: Yeah, it sucks. It lacks the shock value that is needed to make a
viral video.

Andrew: Okay. Give me an example of what you guys have done with a video.
How many views do you get? Give me an example of one of them that got a lot
of views.

Jesse: Before that you should tell what your advice was.

Kong: Oh yeah, my advice to SlugBooks was do a campaign, a video, where
they make students angry. They get them angry at the bookstore. So I told
them, do a huge campaign called “Fuck the Bookstore.” Basically make a
whole bunch of videos that are kind of humorous, but kind of make people
angry like look at all these rip off prices. The whole campaign should be
pretty much fuck the bookstore.

Jesse: And some just cause because the bookstore does rip off students.
Students aren’t genuinely angry about it, so if you play off their anger,
rally them together, they would I believe want to say “Fuck you” to the
bookstore. That would’ve been a better viral concept.

Kong: We’ll go into more of why this works, but this whole “Fuck the
Bookstore” mentality, that whole tagline itself, really encompasses every
single thing that you need to make a viral video. So, to answer your
question, one of the ones that we did that had a lot of good numbers…

Andrew: By the way, before you go into that I’m looking at the title they
went with and said they went with “Welcome to SlugBooks. Compare college
books.” So they’re trying to say that they’re better, but they’re not being
nearly as outrageous. Alright, and you were starting to say, Kong, that
there was one that you guys did that got way more.

Kong: Right, right. So one video we did was “Drunk Times with Hot Girls at
ComicCon.” I believe something along those lines. There we go. “ComicCon
2012 Drunk Times with Hot Girls.” What I did here was instead of going to
ComicCon and just interviewing girls…

Jesse: Also there’s a lot of ComicCon interview videos.

Kong: A lot.

Jesse: A lot of YouTubers, it’s a thing for YouTubers to go to ComicCon and
interview the weird people at ComicCon. And that video formula has been
done over and over and over again. We wanted to put a twist on that.

Kong: So our twist to make it a little bit more viral, I guess you could
say, is one, I got drunk, and you can see me drinking throughout the video,
so it adds to the humor. Two, I’m doing very, very forward things, things
that some people might find offensive. So for example I insult people, I
motor-boat this girl that is on screen right there. And again I [??] that’s
wrong at a convention where you’re supposed to be looking at comic books.

Andrew: I see.

Kong: And even that part, just messing with people at Comic-Con, that has
been done before so we wanted to take it a step further. So at Comic-Con
they have these panels that you can ask celebrities-

Andrew: Oh hang on, let’s save this for the rest of the program because I
want to break down the process and not reveal it all at once here. I’ve got
to stop you-

Kong: Alright right, okay.

Andrew: I’m going to put this video away right now. Alright. I got what
you guys are saying, you want to be shocking, not ordinary, and I don’t
just want to hear ”be shocking”, that’s not the way you guys talk; you
break things down. And we’re going to break it down right now. And here are
the different sections that we’re going to talk about. The first is to
prove it on camera, [??], and show that it works. How did you guys do it,
give me an example.

Kong: So for us, it really depends on what industry you’re in, what
industry you’re trying
to get in. For us, we wanted to get into the dating industry, and how we
proved it… I mean basically we always knew that we wanted to teach guys
how to be confident with girls, how to be better at talking to girls. But
now our question is how do we prove that we are people who they can take
advice from, how do we prove that we have skills, enough skills, to be
teaching them how to do this? So YouTube is a great way to prove that
whatever you’re teaching works.

Andrew: Okay.

Kong: So for us, we put out videos where we went out and picked up girls
and on YouTube it gets a little bit ridiculous; we’ll dress up, use Harry
Potter pick-up lines, one time I had black lipstick and eyeliner because I
was trying to be like Goth-emo. And we did that to show that we can do it
with all of these obstacles and handicaps. So if we can do that then one,
we can do it with our regular selves, and two; you can do it, too.

Andrew: So here’s an example, what’s going on in this video, in this shot
right here?

Kong: I dressed up as Batman, ran around, and hit on girls as Batman.
Obviously I got rejected some times, but I also had girls that were
intrigued, that thought it was funny, and that gave me
their phone numbers. And-

Andrew: And the idea is you’re proving to people, sorry the whole point
you’re about to say and I just jumped on to it.

Kong: The whole point is that we’re trying to prove to people that if we
can do it like Batman and Superman, and these ridiculous characters then
you can do it by just being you. And we also show us picking up girls just
being ourselves, too. And it’s just we want to provide a ton of evidence
that this is doable and that this is easy so that guys can [??] themselves.

Andrew: I see. And on a more ordinary example, this is – bring him in
here, it’s not cooperating, there we go – this is Jason, is that right?

Jesse: That’s actually me.

Andrew: Oh that’s you?

Jesse: Jesse.

Andrew: Excuse me. So that’s you grabbing someone and kissing? How long
did it take you to make that work?

Jesse: About 20 to 30 minutes?

Andrew: Of going and talking to women and trying to get one that’s going
to allow you to kiss her.

Jesse: No, no, no, 20 to 30 minutes with this one girl. And then, like-

Andrew: Oh, I see.

Jesse: -for this, yes.

Andrew: I see, okay. Alright, so you guys have something that I imagine
people think is easy to, well not so easy to get proof you’re going out
there and you’re doing it, but it lends itself to a visual proof. What
about other companies, can other people do this?

Kong: Yeah. Yeah, so you’re talking about making videos, right?

Andrew: Making videos that prove it. I mean what would you say to someone-

Kong: Yeah, of course. So again it depends on what industry you’re in.
There’s a lot of people on YouTube right now who are making YouTube videos
and then they’re finding a revenue stream on the side. So YouTube itself,
yeah you can make videos from ads, but to get really good money off of that
you need to get millions and millions of views like every single week.
Which takes a very long time to build up, especially if you’re in an
industry like us where it’s kind of a niche industry or a niche audience,
then it’s going to be hard.

So for somebody else, you just have to think, ”How can I prove that I am
very, very, good at this or if my product is the best?” So I’ll give you
an example of one girl, let’s make up, her name is Michelle Faun[SP], and
she does makeup videos and she proves that her makeup tips are very good,
and she is a guru at makeup because she does it on herself and she makes
really good videos. And she turns her average-looking self into a very,
very, beautiful girl with this type of makeup or this type of look. And it
appeals to people, people like to see that, and now she has this
subscription service where she sells makeup.

Andrew: I see.

Kong: Or she sells, like- makeup tips – that what it is? Yea, something
like that. But it’s super, super successful so that’s another industry that
you can do it in. Basically you can do this for anything; you can go into
interior design, you could go into even teaching people how to market, and
how to make YouTube videos. And everyone wants to know how to do something,
so you can see a commercial for makeup on TV, they don’t have the time
first of all, they don’t show
you how this person put on their makeup product. But the difference on
YouTube is you have the time to show people how something is done, and
people are very curious about how, and they will pay to know.

Andrew: Wait, and you’re saying though not just how, shnd prove that it

Jesse: Exactly, right.

Andrew: I see. Alright, let’s go onto the next point, the next big point
for us to talk about is to market videos on forums with shocking titles.
How did you guys do that?

Kong: Well, the first time we found out how to do that was our first video
came out and we were under the idea that if you just put out a video it’ll
automatically go viral – and there are very rare instances where that
happens, like cat videos or whatever, but generally speaking a lot of
videos don’t go viral on their own. What we did was we marketed this on a
forum. So what we would do is go on popular forums such as NeoGaf, or
Bodybuilding, these are some of the most popular forums on the internet-

Andrew: Yep.

Kong: And kind of like an account, we have friends on there, you can also
make a dummy account, and you just say something like, ”Asian Guy Says
Penis to Girls and Gets Their Number” and you have a title, which we
actually did, or something like that. So you have these shocking titles, so
a lot of people will start clicking on it and start commenting on it.

Jesse: The first video we ever did, it was basically Kong walking around
and the challenge was to use the word ”penis” while talking to a girl,
and try to get her number. Just try to fit in the word penis somewhere We
initially were going to call the video just ”Penis Pickup” but the term
”Asian penis” is more of a curious term than just ”penis” alone so-

Andrew: So how do you know that? How do you know what words are going to
shock people into clicking and which ones are just going to feel like
you’re trying too hard?

Jesse: I mean, I’ll ask you. Would you rather click a video that said
”penis pickup” or ”Asian penis pickup”?

Kong: And also it comes out of trial and error, too, so sometimes we’ll
have videos that we think we put out the best title on a forum, but later
on we go, ”We should have done this” so you’re not always going to be
perfect all the time. You just do.
Andrew: Are you looking at someone else’s stuff and saying the word
”Asian” is really funny right now and people accept it. If I say,
”Indian guy goes and picks up a woman by saying penis” it’s just not
going to work, how are you doing this? How are you figuring out which words
are going to get people interested?

Kong: For example, well, with ”Asian”; I mean the stereotype with Asian
penises is that they have small penises, that’s just like a stereotype. So
if you type in ”Asian penis” into Google, you’ll find thousands of forums
and people asking questions about small Asian penises. So it’s just kind of
intuition pop-culture thing that you just kind of know living in today’s

Jesse: And again, you’re not going to be perfect, sometimes you’re just
going to put out things that you think will work but later you’re like,
”That wasn’t that great of an idea.’

Andrew: In a moment I’m going to ask you the one question that I think a
lot of people who are hearing this have, the one area where they’re
doubting it. But let me take a look at this, what are these two screen-
shots you guys sent me before we started. I’ve got to really zoom in on
this one. ”Asian does it again with ridiculous pickup.”

Kong: Yeah, so this is like a very shocking title that someone actually
posted before us, and if you look to the right there’s 15 pages of comments

Andrew: I’ll go to the right, and there it is. I’m actually moving this
with my mouse here. That’s why it looks like it’s just going up and down.
There it is.

Kong: There’s 30,000 people that watched this, and that equals 30,000
people. You only need a few to share it on another viral forum, or another
site, and that spreads to another one and that spreads to another one. The
point is if you make it go somewhat viral at the beginning, it’s kind of an
exponential trajectory that starts.

Andrew: People are actually going to forums still? People use forums?

Kong: A lot.

Jesse: Yes.

Kong: A lot.

Jesse: Yes.

Andrew: Really? Which ones are you finding people going on?

Kong: The biggest one right now is Reddit.

Andrew: Okay. Reddit I feel like, of course, Reddit gets a lot of traffic.
But I don’t think of Reddit when I think of forums. I think of something
like this when I think of forums.

Jesse: Yeah . . .

Andrew: People are going to . . .

Jesse: . . . so you’re thinking more traditional forums.

Andrew: . . . those little [??] forums.

Jesse: Right.

Kong: Yes. I think Reddit is a forum. It just has a little bit of a
different format. Bodybuilding, for example, is a huge, huge forum.

Andrew: This is

Kong: Yes. Their miscellaneous section is just huge. If you go on it and
you make a thread, within a second it’s going to be on page two or three
because there’s just so many threads being made. It’s a very popular forum.

Jesse: Very, very popular.

Kong: NeoGAF is a very popular forum. 4chan is a popular forum. There’s a
bunch of very, very popular forums. I don’t think they’re dying out. We
have a forum.

Andrew: How are you finding the popular forums? Where do you see the ones
that actually have traffic, not just reputation?

Kong: We literally just looked up most popular forums on the Internet.

Andrew: I see.

Kong: Then we just tried to target some of those. A funny story is one of
the most popular forums, at least at the time, on the Internet was the
Disney forum. This was probably not the best thing to do, but it’s kind of
a funny story.

Andrew: Alright. I always want to hear the truth. I want to hear exactly. I
want to hear how you honestly did it, and not the fake story that you’re
supposed to tell other people.

Kong: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. So we went and just Google searched what’s the
biggest forums. And then two of them we had friends on there who had a
reputation, which kind of helps a little bit. But generally speaking, we’d
just get a new account and posted it on all of these forums. A few of them

Andrew: Even on the Disney forums?

Kong: No. The Disney did not. We actually did a Disney pickup lines video
one time and posted it on the Disney forum. I think we got banned. [laughs]
. . . [SS] . . .

Andrew: You did it intentionally? You created a video with Disney pickup
lines intentionally to get on there.

Kong: Yes, yes.

Andrew: OK.

Jesse: . . . [SS] . . .

Andrew: What is this one that I showed up on this screen earlier? Then I’ll
ask that question that I know the person listening has.

Kong: That one is also another one that, this one was a really interesting
one because we did, there’s these things on the Internet called memes,
where it’s kind of like phrases that people use. We use these phrases. We
talk to girls using these phrases, and then we got their numbers. Now all
of these forums that use these phrases, like, 4chan, Bodybuilding, and even
Reddit, where we got these phrases from, are now spreading it. They’re,
like, oh look, they’re using our memes.

Andrew: Ah, they’re using our memes to pick up girls. I see. Got it. Got
it. I see what you’re doing.

Jesse: That was supposed to work in theory with the Disney pickup lines
thing. Because if you’re using Disney lines in a video, people that watch
Disney videos would hopefully post it. But the mistake we made there was we
were targeting a demographic that was not our demographic. [laughs]

Andrew: What about this? We’re saying that people need to use shocking
titles. You guys can do it because you’re in the pickup business. But
someone who’s selling textbooks or selling something more conservative,
should they really be using shocking titles? Or wouldn’t that hurt their
reputation and their brand?

Kong: They should. They should. Shocking is very relative to, again, your
industry. For us, we’re picking up girls, and we’re saying swear words all
the time, so it doesn’t matter what we put. But for textbooks, for example,
you’re targeting college students. Yes, you think of college and you think
it should be more PG, but realistically there’s no reason to be. Let’s take
a more conservative audience.

Andrew: Sure.

Kong: The makeup audience. You don’t have to say fuck the makeup companies,
because that’s a little bit inappropriate. You might be targeting 13 to 17
year old girls when you’re doing makeup. So what you do instead of just
saying, how to do your makeup like Lady Gaga, you can say something like,
look fabulous like Lady Gaga. That alone, that wasn’t an amazing example
because I’m not in the makeup industry, but that alone is way better than
the first one. You see what I mean?

Andrew: I see. I see what you mean. OK. Let me ask you this. I said that
you guys should call me out in this session if there is anything that I do
that’s wrong. I’m going to call myself out. Or if there’s anything I say
that you disagree with. See how it says “Market Video on Forums with
Shocking Titles”? I was thinking it should be “Market Videos”. Do you guys
ever publish something and find a typo, maybe one that’s worse than this
one? What do you do when that happens?

Jesse: [laughs]

Andrew: Video’s a bit of a pain that way. Bloggers get to just go in and

Kong: We did a commercial for Project Go where we misspelled through
instead of T-H-R-O-U-G-H, we put T-H-R-U-O-G-H…

Jesse: Yeah, something like that.

Kong: …something like that.

Andrew: Somewhere on this site, uh-huh.

Kong: Yeah, that was a long time ago, you can’t find it anymore. But it
was like in the video in big letters because we were quoting someone.

Jesse: And we were [inaudible] inspirational and motivational and then
there’s just like a very distracting misspelling in the middle of the

Andrew: Yeah, and you guys want to be the people with credibility. There
are so many people in the pick up space who have nothing. No value,
they’re just kind of slapping a website together. So what do you do? You
just go in and edit it.

Jesse: Right. And I think generally speaking, those are the kind of
things people will forgive you. Especially if you have evidence, real
evidence elsewhere that reaction.

Andrew: Alright. Let’s go on then to the next big point and hope that I
don’t have another typo. If you aren’t offending someone, something is
wrong. You guys offended people at the Gay Pride Parade. Is that where
this shot was taken?

Kong: Yeah, I mean, these kind of things aren’t really offending the
people that we’re talking to. If you watch the video, you’ll see that
they’re having a good time, too. What we mean by offending is offending
the audience. So a lot of people, take the SlugBooks for example, this is
what I mean by that whole line of fuck the books stories, it kind of
describes everything that [inaudible] viral campaign. They were afraid to
do that because they didn’t want to offend anybody.

And realistically you can’t do that because if you don’t offend somebody,
then you’re not being shocking enough. And if you’re not being shocking
enough, you’re video won’t go viral. Simple as that. You know what’s a
really good example of this? Dollar Shave Club. Dollar Shave Club is
really good and recently McAfee. Have you seen the McAfee video where’s
he’s like doing lines of coke?

Andrew: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Where everything that people have said
about him he’s illustrating in that video. He’s showing them doing coke.
He’s showing all these supposed prostitutes in the video.

Jesse: Imagine if he just came out with a video where he’s just sitting in
front of a camera and just explaining his side of it. That would not be
nearly as viral as that video. You know, where he’s acting crazy and doing
coke with strippers.

Andrew: I see.

Kong: Or the other company we’re talking about called the Dollar Shave
Club, they made a video and it’s literally the biggest video on Reddit, I
think ever. Don’t quote me on that, but it’s definitely in the top ten.
What their whole line was, “Our blades are fucking great.” That and their
whole [inaudible].

Jesse: …like thunder of What is

Andrew: I went to their website and the video, I guess, is so good that it
immediately starts playing. They’re so eager for you to see it.

Kong: Yeah. And it went super viral and they’re making tons of money now
on this shaving subscription service.

Andrew: How many views do you guys get on a typical video? Everyone says
that they know how to go viral. That they get viral views and then they’re
in the hundreds or thousands. How many views are you guys getting?

Kong: So it depends. If we do one of our informational videos like where
we give guys tips, generally speaking now around 300 to 500 thousand views.
But if we do something that is meant to go viral, that we actually think
has the potential to go viral, anywhere from 800 thousand to 1.5.

Andrew: So this one, this is a relatively new one. We’re talking about
three quarters of a million views on this one.

Kong: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Andrew: The one that we talked about.

Kong: The only reason that that one didn’t go higher is because they age
restricted it.

Jesse: Right, you see content warning right there?

Andrew: Yes.

Jesse: That warning significantly lowers the amount of views that we would
get on a video.

Andrew: And the only reason it’s doing this is because I’m in incognito
view. Otherwise I’d go right to it. The odd thing is, you guys have done
more shocking things than you did in this Gay Pride video. Do you think
it’s because it’s at a gay pride parade?

Kong: No, it’s pretty random. People just randomly flag videos and
YouTube has an algorithm, it’s like a very automated system. So like three
people flag it. The video…

Jesse: However many people.

Kong: Yeah, however many people, this will automatically be flagged and
you have to sign in to view.

Andrew: That is one of the thing that you did there.

Kong: Yeah.

Andrew: Again, you’re offending people and that’s the goal.

Kong: So again, it’s not like we’re offending that guy right there.

Andrew: No, I saw the video. That guy looks very happy to be a part of
this video.

Jesse: Very, very happy.

Kong: But if you read the comments, there’s a lot of people who are like,
“Eww, I don’t support this gay stuff.” Or whatever. And realistically we
don’t care about that. We wanted to do this event because we knew there
were going to be haters. So it’s not a big deal.

Andrew: I don’t know if I said this earlier, but I should have. Every
video that we’re talking about here, we will link up right underneath this
video so people can actually go watch it. I didn’t want to start playing
videos and coming back to the conversation. That would be a little
distracting. So if you see this or any other video you will actually be
able to go and just watch it on YouTube.

All right. On to the next point. Or anything else from this?

Jesse Should be good. Yeah, I’m good.

Andrew: All right. On to the next. Rally against a common enemy to unify
your community. You guys have enemies?

Kong: We do. We do. And I think . . .

Andrew: You do? Who?

Kong: . . . no matter what you do, you’re going to have enemies, especially
if you try to make viral videos.

Andrew: [laughs]

Jesse: If you’re [??] in any sense, there will be haters out there.

Kong: Yeah. And our . . .

Andrew: Give me an example of how you guys found an enemy and how you
rallied your community to support you against this enemy.

Kong: One example was when we started a while ago. We still get them to
this day, but there are a lot of feminists who are very, very adamant on
getting us off YouTube and making us stop making videos. There was one who
wrote, was it a guy who was [??] this?

Jesse: There were so many. I don’t know. There was a blog called “Fuck
Yeah, Feminists” that was after us for a while. What they’ll do is they’ll
pile on to our videos, and they’ll flag them, or they’ll down vote them, or
they’ll report them in masses, like, in feminist masses. They’ll try to
mess us up. So we have to do something to protect ourselves.

Andrew: So you guys rally against the feminists?

Kong: Right. At first we were, it’s not even rally, like, hey go mess up
their website or whatever. At first when they did that, we were, like, oh
man, what should we do? Let’s just ignore it and hope it goes away. What we
did afterward, when the third or fourth article came out, feminist article
about how these guys are misogynists, and these guys do this and that, and
they’re [??].

We actually emailed that article to our fans. At first we were scared that
they might read it and think, oh shoot, they might be persuaded. But then
we thought, why don’t we just email it to them and poke fun at it? So we
email it to them. We don’t have the email anymore, unfortunately. But it
went something like check out this hilarious article that this feminist
wrote about us. Then we just linked them the article.

Then you can see that all the fans were sticking up for us. Nobody was
swayed at all by this article because they liked us. In fact, that made
their love for Simple Pickup even stronger because now it’s an us against
them mentality. It’s, like, we’re on a team and we’ve got to battle against

Jesse: Just to clarify, usually when feminists don’t like what we do it’s
because they don’t actually know. They don’t watch the videos. They just
hear a third party that, oh they said this out of context. We did a speech
at Berkeley about a year ago. Feminists were supposed to protest us during
our little speech.

Andrew: Here, I think it says Kong on your forum, I think, talking about
that. Feminist protesting Simple Pickup event?

Jesse: Yes. Yes.

Kong: There we go.

Jesse: They showed up. They listened to us speak. They sat politely and
listened to us. And they just walked out after it was done. I guess they
realized that we weren’t these misogynist people that other people
portrayed us to be.

Andrew: Cool. Before we continue, I’m wondering this. Looking up at the
title that I picked, “How to Create Videos Worth Sharing”, I feel like
Jesse and Kong would not approve of this title. So now that you know so far
what we’ve talked about, what kind of title would you give our conversation

Kong: That’s good. For something like that, I would probably change it to
“How to Get 100,000,000 Views in One Year”.

Andrew: Because that’s what you guys did.

Jesse: Right. Or was it two years?

Kong: Either way. You could even put “How to Get 100,000,000 Views.” That’s
good enough.

Andrew: I see. We’re not, are we shocking people? I guess we’re getting a
lot of people to say, no, this is not possible. This guy, Andrew, is now
overselling it. It’s not really going to work. That’s what you want.

Kong: Right. If it’s, like, for you, it’s more of an information product.
You don’t want to be overselling it. But when you’re talking about a video,
you want to oversell the video. You have to oversell the video.

Andrew: I see.

Jesse: An example of overselling, not really overselling, but basically
having a title that’s very catchy. We, [??] twerking video, we originally
titled it “Twerking in San Francisco”. We wanted to share it on some
forums, and we just titled it “Twerking in San Francisco” on these forums.
It wasn’t really getting shared.

So I thought to myself, what could be a better title to use on these
forums? So I put black girls twerking in front of confused white people.

Andrew: I see.

Jesse: That got shared massively on the forums. Once I changed that title
just to that.

Andrew: I see. Actually, what is twerking?

Kong: Twerking is a rapid, imagine how a mermaid swims, but now it’s like
a girl standing up and doing it.

Andrew: I see. Okay.

Jesse: It’s a new dance craze on YouTube.

Andrew: Okay. Let’s go on to the big board. Include one or all of the
three key elements, and those are, let me bring it up here. There it is.
Humor, motivation, or shock factor.

Jesse: Yeah, and these are arming three and there’s a couple of other
small ones like anger or, it kind of falls into shock also. So what you
want to do is have a, or motivating too. So these are kind of like the
three big ones. And what you really have to focus on is eliciting a
response of the audience for one of these key elements. So let’s take that
SlugBooks video for instance. They’re going to be so mad when they find
out. Talk about [inaudible]

Andrew: Our audience buys text books. Maybe they’ll be happy.

Jesse: Yeah. Makes a good website, but they’re video was very
informational. It tells you what SlugBooks is. It did like a little cute
cartoon on how the book store is kind of ripping you off. It wasn’t
shocking, it wasn’t humorous, and it wasn’t motivational. It was none of
those things. So you really have to get one of those things to elicit the
response out of the audience. And that is when they will share it.

Andrew: Give me an example of how you guys do motivation in a video.

Jesse: We mix motivation with entertainment. If it’s just purely
informational on YouTube specifically, the audience is going to be geared
towards wanting to be entertained versus wanting to be informed. So it’s
kind of a little bit of a struggle between information and entertainment.
So we try to balance the information with jokes, with funny examples, just
to make it more digestible for the average YouTube.

Kong: Now when we’re talking about a viral video, let’s say we think of a
concept of [inaudible]. When we’re talking about a viral video, we’ll
always go a shocking or humorous route. One example of that is there’s a
video called “Gay Guys Pick up Girls,” where we dress up in like short
shorts, pink outfits, goofy pink outfits, roller blades, and we went to
pick up girls.

And that thought on its own is very shocking. One, that gay guys would be
picking up girls in the first place and two, if you watch it, it’s just
these three straight guys dressing gay and then going out to pick up girls.

Jesse: And that’s our most viral video.

Andrew: What’s happening in this video right here? Why is she smiling?

Jesse: That is Michelle Rodriguez. I think it’s the Avatar, or no, it’s
the Resident Evil panel at Comic Con. Like we were saying earlier, you
have to have a twist in your video. We were talking about the interviews
that we do. A lot of people do interview and a lot of people make fun of
people at Comic Con in their interviews and they put that on YouTube. No
one does something really crazy in the interview.

Kong: Especially to a celebrity.

Jesse: Yeah.

Andrew: So what did Con do that was so crazy?

Jesse: So we wanted to figure out something to do that was just out there
and people could say here, watch this video for this. And there was a
Resident Evil panel at Comic Con and Collin went up to her…

Kong: In a Buzz Lightyear outfit.

Jesse: Yeah, in a Buzz Lightyear outfit. And asked her, how did you ask

Kong: I was like, because the thing is they have their foot on a button so
if you say anything personal they just block it away. So I kind of phrased
the question to make them think that I was asking a legitimate question,
but I just said something like…

Jesse: This is in front of like five thousand people so…

Kong: It was something like, “Michelle, I really love your work, but in
terms of the Resident Evil series, would you ever have sex with me?”

Andrew: And you didn’t give here enough time to hit the button.

Kong: Yeah, and then by that time it was too late. Everyone was like
laughing. Michelle started laughing too. And that itself was very
shocking and it’s also humorous.

Andrew: I see. Alright. So the three big ones are humor, motivation,
shock factor?

Kong: Yes. One thing not to forget, though, with all these tips is, you
have to have good content too. If you don’t, you might get people to click
on your video based on your title or whatever. But they won’t stick
around. So just remember . . .

Jesse: They won’t share it.

Kong: . . . they won’t share it. You have to believe that what you’re
sharing or making is worth sharing.

Andrew: OK. On to the big board. Final point is, steal and remix. Do
not be afraid to get ideas from other people. This . . .

Kong: Yeah, other people.

Andrew: How does this and who is this and how did they both relate to the
work you guys do on Simple Pickup?

Jesse: So that’s Castle G and . . .

Andrew: Here, let’s bring him on.

Jesse: . . . [SS] . . . watching him in college before we started our own
YouTube channel. He basically just interviews people out on the street
about random stuff. So the one you have up is on tattoos. He interviews
people and asks them what they think about tattoos. He makes jokes. And
the other one is Jay Leno who . . .

Andrew: And by the way, this one got a tattoo on, that he posted up just a
week ago, over half a million views.

Kong: Right, he’s very big on YouTube.

Andrew: Huge on YouTube. OK. Alright. And of course, Jay Leno.

Kong: Yeah, and then Jay Leno has a segment called “Jay Walking,” where he
interviews people and he kind of does the same thing, man on-the-street
interview. Talks to them about random things. You know, kind of pokes at
them a little bit and generally just makes jokes while they answer
questions. Now . . .

Andrew: So essentially, it’s similar to what you do when you go out on the
street with your mike and camera.

Jesse: Very similar. It’s similar to what a lot of people do.

Kong: Yeah. But remember you have to have a twist.

Andrew: Yes.

Kong: You can’t just steal and copy because now it’s like. Unless you can
just do it like way better. What we did was, we started interviewing drunk
girls instead of regular people out on the street. And then sometimes if
they weren’t drunk, like a [??], then I would be one.

Andrew: I see.

Kong: So we call this segment “Drunk Times with Hot Girls.”

Andrew: I see. And so that’s your take on what they are doing. You are
just taking ideas that are already existing out there and you are adding
your twist to it.

Kong: Right. And the other twist is the hot girls, too. We only
interview hot girls.

Andrew: I see.

Kong: There are a lot of people think that they want to create a huge
draw. They want to create the videos that go viral. They want to create
something that people keep coming back to watch. But they don’t have any
ideas. And they are trying to think up these original ideas, very
elaborate and the thing is that it’s very high-risk. If you know it’s
going to work, go ahead and try it, but it’s very high-risk. So why not
take something that you know already works? For example, interview people
on the street, people love watching that, and turning it into your own. So
adding getting drunk or having only hot girls.

Andrew: What about the way that you guys edit your videos? It feels like
it’s just regular guys who are shooting the videos and recording those and
doing the interviews. But the cuts are so professionally done. How do you
do that? How did you learn to do that?

Kong: These cuts we learned just from watching YouTube. So we watch . . .

Andrew: So you are just reproducing what you see other people do?

Kong: Right, we just watch the videos that we like. And then we say, “oh
I like this about that” or “I like this about that.” And we kind of just
mix it together into our own. So it’s not like we came up with how to edit
videos. It’s not like we came up with what kind of music to put in the
background. We literally just got inspiration from all these other videos
that already have success on YouTube. I can sit a random person down for a
day and pretty much teach them how to edit just as well as us.

Andrew: I see.

Jesse: It’s not . . .

Andrew: All right. And the majority of your revenue, I’m guessing, is
coming from the site? And from, not this program, because this is a fairly
new program?

Kong: . . . [SS] . . . is our first program from a year ago.

Andrew: I see.

Jesse: Yeah. Our new program is Simple 30. Which we don’t publicize to
the public, yet, because we are still kind of testing some things out.

Andrew: Simple 30, that’s the one where you show where there are 30 boxes,
each one has the challenge. I love that.

Jesse: Yeah.

Andrew: I say it because I was checking you guys out to see are we really
going to have someone come up there and do Simple Pickup? Then I looked at
your stuff, the quality is real good. And you wouldn’t come on to do an
interview about how much money you make and how you do it. So I said,
“Let’s find a way to learn from them.”

Jesse: Yeah.

Andrew: But that’s the new product and it hasn’t officially launched?

Kong: Yeah. It’s only launched to people who already subscribe to [??]

Andrew: Overall, are you guys doing over a million dollars from this

Kong: Oh yes.

Andrew: You are. Alright.

Kong: The thing about doing online video is it’s very, very low cost. So
there’s pretty much no overhead.

Andrew: Well, this is fantastic. Thanks for going through all this with
us. The course is “How to Get a Hundred Million Views.” We re-titled it
right here.

Jesse: Yes.

Andrew: Thanks for joining us, guys. The website is or Thank you for doing this and thank you all for being
a part of it. Bye guys.

Kong: Great.

Jesse: Thank you.


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