How a salesperson turned founder (by solving a pain for other salespeople)

Today’s guest was a salesperson who was working in the field–he was driving around, talking to customers. And he noticed a pain.

He was having trouble finding out where people were, how to get to the right people at the right time, and said, “You know what? There ought to be a solution.”

Steven Benson is the founder of Badger Maps, which makes it easy for you to find your prospects on a map.

Steven Benson

Steven Benson

Badger Maps

So he created the solution. Steven Benson is the founder of Badger Maps, which makes it easy for you to find your prospects on a map.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey everyone, my name is Andrew Warner, I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And you might have noticed that there’s this thing that I picked up on in my interviews anyway, which is that entrepreneurs who find a pain in the world, a problem that people have, and start to create solutions for it end up doing better than ones who just have ideas and start to implement those ideas.

And that’s what happened to today’s guest. He was a salesperson who worked in the field, that means he was driving around, talking to customers. He had trouble finding out where people were, how to get to the right people at the right time, and said, “You know what? There ought to be a solution.” And then he created the solution. That solution is called Badger Maps. If you’re out there doing sales you can appreciate the significance of this. It makes it easy for you to figure out where your prospects are on the map and how close they are to you. His name is Steven Benson. Steven you’re smiling because of the way I’m describing it.

Steven: Yeah, I know, that’s great. That’s perfect. Yeah, we help build salespeople and I love the thought that companies where they are founded by people that are kind of scratching their own itch tend to do better because they really understand their customers. So it’s definitely an advantage.

Andrew: Yeah. As long as I’ve found, as long as they make sure that other people have the same problem and the same pain as them, so for example, like . . . and I should say this interview is sponsored by the company that will host your website right. And it’s called HostGator and by the company that will help you hire your next great developer I hired a great finance guy from them, I’ll tell you all about them both sponsors later.

First, I got to tell you, speaking of pain, by the way Steven, this past weekend I have a one year old, he started to really like jump around and enjoy himself. So we put the cushion from the couch that’s in his bedroom on the floor. And I started like throwing him on the floor. And he loved it. But I was throwing him on the little, you know, it’s not as much of a cushion, it’s from a couch, the back cushion, but enough for him. He loved it so much. I freaking threw myself on it, I said, “I got to see how fun this is.”

I threw myself on there too and I realized, whoa, the ground is way too close. I totally hurt my back. Man. I cannot imagine that there are a lot of people who have this stupid problem. So I wouldn’t necessarily come up with a solution for it, like how to throw yourself on your kid’s floor without getting hurt.
But, when there’s a problem that many people experience, and you’re the first person to experience it and you experience it firsthand, I feel like there’s a power to it. Why don’t we get into who you are for a second and then how you discovered it? You were a regional sales manager for Google when you kind of came up with this problem, what were you selling for Google?

Steven: So at Google I was on the Enterprise team, so I focused on their . . . that means, that the products that they sell to companies, like from a software perspective, so not their Google ads and the Google AdSense or things. They’re big products that you’ve heard of, but instead things like Gmail, they have some security services, they have a search appliance which helps businesses kind of search, kind of like what google.com does but for their business’ internal stuff. And then Google Maps API. And my biggest focus, especially towards the end of when I was at Google the last year there, was the Google Maps API, that’s what I was really zoomed in on.

Andrew: And who were you selling to and why?

Steven: So the Google Maps API is sold to people that . . . what it is basically, everyone knows Google Maps, if they go to maps.google.com they can use this awesome mapping tools as a consumer. But Google also has a product that allows people to consume maps and put in another products, like maybe their websites. Maybe you have a website with a bunch of stores and you want to show people where all those stores are and give them directions to the stores. If you’re a big company you have to pay Google for that. And so all the maps you see are on the Internet and whenever you see maps inside of an application in general that the company doing that is paying Google. And so my responsibility was to sell that solution to companies that needed it.

Andrew: Let me ask you this, as a guy who went to business school, was it ridiculous that you left and then decided, “I’m going to go into sales.”

Steven: Yeah, that was a little ridiculous. I mean, it’s not a common path out of business school I think, for people to go into sales. Although, it was for a lot of reasons, I think a lot, you know, in general people that went to business school tend to gravitate towards a more analytical focused jobs like consulting, finance, strategy, things like that.

Andrew: So why did you go to sales?

Steven: Well, because it was the right fit for me.

Andrew: Because you feel in your bones you’re a salesperson.

Steven: Yeah, for me, I mean, I was looking at all the different options out of business school, and it was just really attractive to me. It’s what I wanted to do. And it was the most interesting to me and it seemed the most fun. And so it was just a natural fit for me. It’s where kind of saw myself going. And so that’s the direction I went.

Andrew: I get it. I kind of feel like every business school, and even an undergraduate schools that teach business students, they should just force you to do some kind of sales or understand it. Just like the owner of factory should walk the factory floor and understand how the different parts are made to get it before they get to run the factory, I feel like the same thing should be true for business school students.

Now, you’re a guy who just had it in your bones, you told our producer that you had a business when you were 13, kind of similar to what I had when I was 13, what was that business?

Steven: So I guess I had a couple, but I think the one that I jumped off the page at her was . . . is this on the record?

Andrew: Yeah, yeah.

Steven: I was selling fireworks and soda at school. So on the way to school I would swing by the grocery store and get a 30 pack of soda and biked to school with them on my lap, and those cans were probably like 12 cents each. I would sell them for like a buck to a buck fifty, depending on who I was selling them to. But the more lucrative business was, in the state that I was in you couldn’t buy fireworks or I guess they just weren’t on sale. There were no firework stores, but you could have them mailed to you. So I was having them mailed to me and then I was selling them to friends and stuff.

Andrew: What state was this?

Steven: Illinois.

Andrew: Okay. You can actually get it mailed to you?

Steven: Yeah, I guess, I’m not sure if the companies that were mailing it to me were allowed to mail it, but they were sending them and so . . .

Andrew: I did a little bit of that, but I had older friends who would then go to Chinatown, they would buy from Chinatown for themselves, I would buy some for them and I would sell it. And I remember one time, I was such like eager 10-year-old, and the 13-year olds told me, “Yeah, we can sell it. Just put your money in the bathroom so that nobody knows that we’re making the drop. You put your money behind the toilet and then we’ll pick it up and we’ll replace it with the fireworks and it will be hidden for you.” Kind of like a drug deal. I hope I wasn’t stupid enough to do it, but I know that I was eager enough to at least have considered it.

Okay, so you’re doing this at Google, coming back to more closely to present day, and there was this time when you were out there selling, you were in Kansas City, and you thought about doing something but didn’t, talk about that.

Steven: Sure. Well, this is a frustration point that kind of pushed me over the edge into saying, “Hey, this is a real problem that someone should take care of.” And so I was basically in, I had a meeting with an executive in Kansas City that I was flying into, I live in San Francisco and did at the time, so I was flying into Kansas City to meet with this executive. And I knew there was another executive that I had to meet with and that was in another town. So the layout of Kansas is basically, there’s Kansas City and then there’s this other town of Olathe, which I thought was a suburb of Wichita, which is the capital of Kansas, and it’s two to three hours away, I forget.

But I thought that Olathe was next to Wichita. But Olathe was next to Kansas City. And so I was thinking, “Oh, I’ve got to come back soon, I’ve got my afternoon free, but I’ve got to fly back here soon anyway because I’ve got to meet this other guy.” I just have to drive over here. And I hadn’t looked Olathe up on a map and I didn’t know . . . I probably had 40 prospective customers in the area and I just didn’t know where they were, and I just hadn’t had a chance to really organize it because it takes time, I was kind of in a rush.

And so I flew into town, met with this guy and then went back to the airport and was kind of working at the airport, and I was going to plan my next trip to Kansas and I was seeing, “Oh, where is this in relation to Wichita?” And then I realized it was like 20 minutes away from where I was or where I had been meeting with this first guy, Olathe is right outside of Kansas City. So I was like, “Now, I’ve got to drive there.” I could have been spending that time meeting this guy too if I just known and thought about it.

Andrew: Basically you thought you were a couple hours away from this one potential client, instead you were basically 10 minutes away if that, and if you’d known that ahead of time you would have gone to see the client.

I’m so surprised that Google at the time didn’t have a solution for this. I’m so surprised you’re telling me that all the sales software that exists out in the world didn’t do this, that there was nothing that would tell you, “Hey, Steven, you’re close to a customer.”

Steven: That’s the problem we solved. And it actually ended up being a lot more complex than just that. And a lot of people had a much bigger problem than I had. So I could have gotten a couple more meetings and just in general the type of sales role wasn’t meeting with 10 people a day, it was meeting with three people a week and most of a lot of meetings over the phone, etc. but like actual in-person meeting with executives as opposed to like someone that sells stuff to dentists or sell stuff to restaurants.

They meet with a lot of . . . if you’re selling something to the dentist for example, you meet with a lot of dentists because there’s a lot of dentists and you sell a new device or whatever that they need to use. And you just end up with 10 meetings a day. They had a much bigger routing problem and scheduling problem and kind of figuring out who to focus on problem, than I ever did in my role.

So I ended up solving my problem, but I figured out that there were people that had a way bigger problem than I did. And so they were kind of the early adopters of our software.

Andrew: And that took a little while to understand. At first you said, “You know what? I have this need, maybe this could be a business idea.” And you spent some time evaluating it. How do you evaluate whether this would be the right idea for you?

Steven: Well, that’s an interesting question. So what I did was, I set out to solve problems that businesses had that you could solve with geography and mapping. And the reason I was doing that was because at the time mapping had just gone mobile. So the Google Maps API was really starting to be able to quickly deliver mapping capabilities to a mobile phone. The internet on mobile phones had gotten fast enough that it was really useful. Cloud computing through Amazon allowed you to kind of do that heavyweight computing anywhere and mobily.

So all these things were kind of happening at the same time. And in the confluence which I was like “Well, there’s a bunch of business problems that we’ll be able to solve, this one that I experienced but also other problems.”

And there were about four business ideas that I had, well, four product ideas that I had, that I was like, “Oh, I’ll start this company and I’ll solve all those problems.” But really it turns out that software is very hard to build. And so I ended up starting with what I thought was the most important problem, like I laid out and evaluated all the problems that I could solve, started out with the one that seemed like it had the biggest market, was the most painful etc. But really the other ideas were almost as good or maybe even better than those.

Andrew: What were the other ones?

Steven: One was, kind of already done now at this point, but it was to provide big companies with maps of their campuses and buildings that could act kind of like almost like an internal Facebook but mapping everyone out. So like, “Where is this person’s desk?” And if you work for a company that has 10,000 people, knowing where someone is, being able to bring up all their information, being able to book conference rooms in the area of like, “Oh, I need a conference room with these characteristics, at least 12.” If you see the list has 12 people, has this type of ID equipment, and is around a two-minute walk from this one.

Andrew: I see, kind of like Yelp for conference rooms.

Steven: Exactly. Yeah.

Andrew: A location for people, so within the office if I needed to know where my boss was I could look at it on a map and see it.

Steven: Right. Well, and you probably know where your boss’s desk is but like this random person that you have a meeting with or something or this person you want swing by their desk, you might not know where they sit and what building they’re in etc., so it’s almost like a company map basically.

Andrew: I could see that. You know what? I go to my wife’s office, she works at Yahoo and it was recently acquired by AOL, which was acquired by Verizon, there’s a ton of people there. I know she doesn’t know who people are because, you know, they keep switching around. And for all she knows the person she’s been contacting and talking with via e-mail or Slack on a regular basis is like just a few desks away. Again, I get that. And so you decided not to go after that because you were thinking where’s the bigger market or was it something else?

Steven: Well, I guess, I chose to solve the problem that field sales people have or the problems of field sales people have because there’s a lot of field salespeople. They’re really an important group of people in their businesses. A business cares how efficient their sales people and are willing to pay to make them more efficient to solve their problems, have them get more done in a day because it translates in more sales.

So solving their problems seemed very important. And it’s not like the other things that I was looking at, they were also important problems, but I felt like this one will be more saleable, bigger market, that sort of thing.

So I guess the next thing I did was, I built a spreadsheet of all the industries that, I don’t know, I forgot how I did this, but like 150 or so industries that are the main industries and then that was down one column in the spreadsheet, down the side and then across the top all the different roles in the company. And kind of identifying who are the people that really have power to solve these types of problems and who would be interested and trying to figure out who do I know in all these industries that I could talk to to get introduced to the people that have these certain roles. So like talking to a sales ops person in the pharmaceutical industry and talking to a VP of sales in the med device industry. So kind of figuring out who I should target.

Andrew: You said, “If I’m going after sales, where are all the industries that have sales people and what are the different roles that I might be able to get access to?” Because I see, so you were making a hit list, was it for sales or for understanding what your customer would want?

Steven: The point was to understand what the best industries were to go after. Because when you solve a new problem, imagine there’s 10 million field salespeople in America. Some of them were like me when I was at Google that wouldn’t have this problem that bad, it’s an annoyance, it would be helpful for them but it’s an annoyance, it’s not like a head wound. There are other salespeople who, because the nature of their job, this is a huge problem that I’m solving.

And you want to figure out who those people are, in what industries, who cares at those companies about these people, who has the power to do something and get to know the industries that you can figure out, “Who do I sell to first? Who I go after first?” Because your early adopters, when you’ve built the thing, you start solving a problem. You solve them the most basic aspects of it first, right? So for us it was giving someone a tool within a browser on their computer, put their customers on a map and then colorize by different characteristics. And that came before routing, that came before scheduling, that came before lead generation, that came before switching it to mobile as well.

But at its core the first thing we did was, “We’re going to show you where your customers are on a map and give you the ability to say what type of customer is this, colorize that and this color versus that color.” And that was the most basic thing that we did.

Andrew: Let me pause the conversation right now. I’m curious when we come back after this spot about what you asked these people and what you learned that directed you towards this. Colorizing on a map, I never would have thought would have been an issue. Butt the advertiser I want to talk about is Toptal. Have you heard of Toptal? I don’t think you have yet.

Steven: I have not. That’s the hiring one.

Andrew: Yeah. So get this, I’ve talked for years about how you can hire a developer from there and they have top developers, they’re known for developers, they also do designers, they have top designers, but they’re mostly known for developers. What I hadn’t talked about until I really got into it is, there’s finance people. And here’s the deal, have you ever heard that people say that entrepreneurship is a lonely business, it’s a lonely activity?

Steven: Yeah.

Andrew: I’ve heard that. And you have. Do you feel that way by the way?

Steven: It is. Yeah.

Andrew: What do you mean when you say that?

Steven: I think that it’s a lonely activity because no one really understands what you’re doing exactly, and for the most part, I mean, other entrepreneurs do. But you have a team that are also doing it with you and if you’re building the team is where you make it less lonely.

But especially in the beginning, like it’s hard for other people to really connect with what you do, if you meet an accountant you really understand what does this accountant do, you kind of can grasp that. It’s very hard to, I think for people, to empathize with the types of risks entrepreneurs take and how hard it is to build something from nothing.

Andrew: Yeah, I get that. There’s not a lot of people who feel what we feel, who experience what we feel. I get it. You know what else is about it? You’re also alone with a lot of the problems. So for me for example, it sounds so it’s petty, but it’s an example of the kinds of issues that I’m alone with. Am I spending too much on contractors. I have to figure it out by myself. Who else am I going to show all the contractors, am I going to go put it on line and say, “Here’s what I’m paying.” It’s really hard, I have to decide that on my own. And, “Do I have too many or not enough? Because I’m being too much of a wuss and not hiring enough contractors.” That’s an issue.

Another one is, did I structure my company right? Am I paying too much for my credit card processing? Because credit card is a big part of our business. All these things I have to decide on my own, I have to go sit through everyone’s paperwork on my own, it’s freaking maddening.

So I finally decided I was going to try Toptal’s finance department. They introduced me to a guy who used to work with McKinsey, was a partner at McKinsey’s now later on in his career, he came on and now a lot of the problems, a lot of the decisions it’s not just me. I’m not dealing with them alone anymore. It’s me and him. I get to say to him, “Hey, look, you know what? The credit card company offered me this. Does this make sense?” This guy is insane. He went through every bit of their fee structure.

They actually . . . did you know this Steven? The credit card companies will charge you a different price based on which card your customer uses. So if they’re using an airline mile card, you get charged a higher price than if they’re using one without any loyalty points. If they’re charging for the . . . you knew this?

Steven: No, no, no, I actually don’t know very well how all that stuff works.

Andrew: I had no idea and I don’t have the patience to sit through it, but I know if I understand it, I can negotiate better and I could reduce my fees. So I told him about it. I didn’t even give him the rate structure. He couldn’t help but he said, “Give me access to them.” So I added him on to my credit card processing account without like the ability to take money out because I’m very suspicious of everybody, you know, those guys helping me.

He called them up. He got the whole rate card. He started explaining the whole process to me and he gave me what numbers we should be looking for. And suddenly, am I saving millions of dollars by changing it? No, but it was one phone call, one negotiation. Am I going to save $10,000 this year? I’d say about $10,000. Let’s say within the next year. Little decisions like that are no longer just on my head.

Decisions like . . . what’s another one that he was telling me about? Oh, here’s a petty one, health insurance premium, what should I be doing? Anyway, all this stuff.

A lot of people who listen to me don’t have these issues at all, but I’ll tell you what you might have if you’re listening to me, Pricing, what should you be charging. You have to figure this stuff out by yourself or maybe you’re putting together a spreadsheet for a potential customer or a spreadsheet for potential investors. You need to sit and figure this whole thing out by yourself.

I got to tell you guys, you do not have to be alone anymore with the business decisions that you have to face as an entrepreneur. Go to Toptal, they have the top MBA, the top finance people in their network. Just tell them what you’re looking for. If it’s a good fit, they’ll tell you and they’ll match you with three different people who will actually help you, and you decide if you want to work with them or not. If it’s not a good fit, they’ll tell you and then you could complain to me because I promoted something that you’re not even allowed to sign up for. Totally understand it.

A lot of people have been turned away. But I’ve got to tell you, if you’re not, if it’s a good fit for you it will change the way you run your business. Go to toptal.com/mixergy and they’re going to give you a special offer that they’re making only available to Mixergy to people. I swear by them now. The guy I work with by the way, is Jack. If you really want a great person, just say Jack, Jack who used to work for McKinsey. So freaking phenomenal. So good.
All right, go sign up. Let me know how it works and don’t forget they also offer no risk trial period of up to two weeks. If you go to toptal.com/mixergy, top is on top of your head, tal as in talent. toptal.com/mixergy. It’s kind of a public service announcement what I’m doing right there.

All right. So, coming back to your story. You were starting to understand who was out there and you wanted to talk to them to get an understanding of what to create. I’m curious about what they told you that helped you understand they should be doing this color coding thing because that’s not at all where I thought you were going to go with colorizing prospects.

Steven: Right. So, basically, it is kind of a part of like figuring out what direction you should take your company. You have to figure out who are the best 2%, like so if you’re looking at that 10 million people who you think ultimately are in this market of people that you’d want to solve their problems, where are the hundred or thousands of them that are the ones that are going to need it the absolute most?

The first 0.2% that the earliest problems you can solve, even solving those in their most basic form will be really valuable to them. Because those are the people that are going to buy it first and they’ll be thrilled as you keep adding more and more stuff and that will actually make it worth it enough for other people to get in the boat.

But those early people are really important because they are the early adopters, right? They have a bleeding head wound and you can solve it. And they just want to stop the blood. It’s not a scratch, it’s not an itch, it’s like, “This is a big problem for us and we will work with a crappy little startup and we’ll deal with the bumps and lumps.” And this was six years ago, we were a tiny company, so someone jumping in the boat then there’s issues with the product, there’s bugs, there’s things they want we can’t build them yet because we only have two engineers, things like that.

Figuring out who those people are and how you can find them and . . .

Andrew: Because if they’re experiencing deep pain, it doesn’t take much to alleviate that pain and therefore get their business. That’s what you were thinking.

Steven: Exactly. And so you kind of have to figure out where are these people. And so I made a list of all these industries and tried to figure out do they have field sales people or not. And if they do who do I know in these industries that I can talk to and kind of try to figure out, are these the types of field salespeople that have the biggest problems in this area that if I solve the most basic aspect of it that they’d want to have it.

And so like dentistry is one example, right? So people that sell stuff to the dentists, there are different types of dentists that focus on different types of things and there’s a lot of dentists. And so if you’re a salesperson covering the New York area or the Los Angeles area, your job is to get in front of all the dentists there with your type of product. It’s very important that you can kind of figure out who to focus on and where are they, right?

Andrew: How can you tell if someone has a deep pain by just talking to them? What are you figuring out that tells you this is someone who has deep pain?

Steven: Well, I think you have to get to know them, you have to build the relationship, you have to have a conversation about it and you do have to ask them. It’s hard to quantify pain, right? It’s like you can’t just be like, “Hey, on a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is this? Does it hurt when I poke here?” The key is, does it hurt enough that if I solved just this, you can lay out the whole vision, [inaudible 00:25:16] build this and build this, and, piece A, piece B, piece C, piece D, all the way on to Z.

But if I just build piece A, would that be worth enough for you to pay me this much money? And, if the answer is no, tell me no. I’m trying to figure out if this is even worth building and if they’re like, “Oh, yeah, that’s a no brainer. I would totally buy that if you would build it.”

And then figuring out who those people are is really important. And understanding what would the process be for you to buy something like this, like is it, you’re talking to the VP of sales operations, do they need to get to the VP of sales sign off? Do they need to get the trainers sign off? What would the process look like? Who would be involved and then talking to all those people and really getting to know this type of customer.

Andrew: I see. So just to break it down, you’re saying if a little bit of solution will solve so much of their pain that they’d be willing to pay for it that means there’s a lot of pain there. If you could give me something that would take away 10% of my back pain right now I’d be excited about it. That tells you that there’s something there.

The next thing you want to know is, who’s the person who’s going to make the decision? Because if the salesperson isn’t going to need this but the sales department head doesn’t care about it because it doesn’t influence their lives, they don’t feel the pain enough, they’re not going to buy it then that’s not a pain worth addressing because the person who’s experiencing it won’t pay. I see.

So tell me about colorizing, what does colorizing actually do?

Steven: So, I mean, this is just like the first thing we did. Imagine you’ve got all these dentists and there’s different types of dentists, right? Is this an orthodontist or is this more of a dentist that fixes the way your teeth look and that’s their focus, I don’t even know what that’s called, like a cosmetic dentistry. Or is this more of just a family practice? There’s a million attributes these guys have.

Andrew: Oh, I see. You know what? So I’m looking at the demo on your site, you still use the dentist as an example on your home page. It’s each kind of dentist work, like each different type of dentist will get a different color, is that what it is?

Steven: Exactly. So imagine if you were like, I’m in L.A. and I sell something to a dentist. I’m driving out to Pasadena. It’s an hour and a half away from my house in Santa Monica. And I know I’m driving out to Pasadena, so show me on the map who of the 3,000 dentists in L.A., show me the ones who are a larger dentist office, maybe you’ve got your customers, your prospects sorted into small, medium, large, and they’re focused on cosmetic dentistry, not orthodontia.

And so you can kind of say, “Okay, only cosmetic dentists, have them show up on the map and now colorize them by size.” And that way I’m driving out to Pasadena, I can just glance at the map and say, “Okay, well, which ones are important to me if that’s what makes someone important to me.” And you can do it by as many characters as you want, with filters and colorizing. Show me who’s important to me who’s on the way to Pasadena or on the way back. What if I went this way on the way back? Because this guy looks really good to see.

And so we help them figure out, “Okay, who should I focus on? How can I maximize my time in front of the best people I’m supposed to be focused on? How do I minimize my time behind the wheel? How do I . . .?” And that was kind of the earliest things that we help people do. And this is five years ago now.

Now, we do a lot of things for field salespeople, but that was the biggest pain.

Andrew: If someone is selling to a dentist, they could just pop into the dentist’s office and say, “Hey, let me in, I’ve got to sell you something.”

Steven: Yeah, that’s field sales.

Andrew: That’s what field sales is? Just literally knocking on doors saying, “Can I come in and show you my new thing?”

Steven: Sometimes, and a lot of times it will be a mix, right? Like let’s just say you sell a cleaning tool for dentists, right? You know who the other four cleaning tool companies are, you want to keep track of which dentist is using what and which one, you want to know how you compare to those ones, maybe there’s an especially weak competitor that if you can show a demo of the thing you can knock them out. You want to know who bought your version five years ago and might be due for a re-up, right?

And in field sales they’ll make appointments, maybe out of the 10 dentists you’ll see in a day, maybe two or three of them will be appointments, like, “Hey, I’m coming to see you to demo this thing at 10:00 and you wanted to do it.” And so we’re going to sit down at 10:00 and do it and I’ve got another meeting at 2:00 and then a meeting at 5:00. But in between 10:00 and 2:00, you want to work on the people that you’re not talking to so you can just swing in and talk with the front desk person and get in front of them.

Andrew: At this point, when you come up with this idea and you’re talking to customers, do you start to see britches in your head? Do you start to say, “I think I got it. This is going to be the next big thing.” Or are you saying something different?

Steven: I mean, I think you know you have something when a lot of people start paying for it, right? Like then we have . . .

Andrew: So, it wasn’t until they paid, and then when they started to pay, did you start at that point to fantasize? Did you start at that point to say, “I think I might have $100 million company here”?

Steven: I mean, it’s hard to say at first. I feel like when you’re building something there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. But you always feel like death is right around the corner. So I feel like I’ve always been up and down on it, like I’ve been like, “Wow, this thing’s really going to make it.” And then two days later I’d be like, “Oh, we’re not going to make it.”

Andrew: And when you think you’re going to make it, what’s the vision at that point?

Steven: I mean, by three years or so I knew it was going to make it.

Andrew: And when what do you mean by make it? Since we’re talking so deeply about the colors and the dentists and all the nitty-gritty of business, I want to take a step away and talk about the exciting part of it, when you think you can make it, what is it for you? Is it having a yacht? Is it taking your dog in a Lamborghini? I saw you in a picture with you and your dog. Is that what it is? What is it that for you is the pinnacle of life success?

Steven: I mean, I don’t think that business in general can be the pinnacle of life’s success. But I think having a successful career is important to me, but it’s not the most important thing to me.

Andrew: What is the most important then?

Steven: Well, I’d say the most important thing to me is the people in my life, so family, close friends, people I work with closely. The people that I have deep relationships with. And I think that’s the most important thing.

Andrew: You know what? Call me a jerk but for me the people who are in my immediate family, absolutely, I feel like that’s the pinnacle. Number two, it’s the business and the legacy that I leave behind. Because if I just have a really good time with good friends here right now in the here and now today 2017, 2018, by 2019 it’s gone. I can’t accumulate that in the same way.

But if I spend all my time in the next 2, 5, 10, 20 years working the legacy I have when I look back on my life in 20 years is just phenomenal. It will outlive me when I die. That’s the thing that gets me excited. Look at how I’m like jazzed, my arms are all open up. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever say like, “This could be the thing. I could be setting up my family forever. I could be doing this other thing that is really exciting.” Maybe we’re two different kinds of people.

Steven: Yeah, I mean, for me I’d say it’s, I mean, ultimately it gets down to like what drives you and what motivates you and for me I think it’s less about the money. I mean, I’ve always felt like I could be financially successful enough that I’d be able to provide for my family and be comfortable. And what’s really the difference in having 5 million bucks or 50 million bucks in the bank? I mean, you buy more things with 50 obviously, but like you’re comfortable and safe and your needs are taken care of either way.

Andrew: What about this? There was a movie called Barbarians at The Gate. I loved the book. I loved the movie on HBO, it’s still worth watching, about these guys who would buy businesses out. And one of the people whose business was about to be bought out from under him he said, this line in the movie that I memorized as a kid it was, “Hell, Charlie. All I am is a salesman. People buy you when they buy what you’re selling.” I forget the lines now as I’m saying it. But I do remember that one sentence, “People buy you when they buy what you’re selling.” Every time the cash register rings, it’s validation that what you are, who you are is strong enough and important enough that they would want it.

As you’re starting to see sales, even if at this point in the story they’re still in the future, you start to feel like, “Yes, I am someone.” What do you feel? I feel like I’m tapping into something because I see a smile on your face.

Steven: Yeah. I think it really is validating to create things. And I think that’s, from a career perspective, that’s what’s more important to me than the money is I like mentoring people, I like leading teams, I like working with people. And I love that there’s tens of thousands of people using this thing that I’ve created and they’re silly little problems, busywork type problems that field sales people have that we’re solving.

And, people tell me all the time, this has saved me 45 minutes a day, this saves me an hour a day, this saves me a half hour a day. It depends on the person.

But I feel like I’ve been able to help thousands of thousands of people do a little better in their lives and take some annoying things off their plate. And like that feels really good. I like that I’ve created something. I’ve solved some stupid little problems for people and in the process I’ve grown a lot of people’s careers and taught a bunch people a lot of things.

And I think that’s what’s really motivating to me, is the ability to create stuff, that’s what really gets me out of bed in the morning, is the relationship with people that we help and the relationships with people that work here. And just the ability to . . . there wasn’t a thing that did this. And now there’s a thing and that’s really exciting. It’s just fun.

Andrew: Okay, so you’re starting to get sales at this point in the story, but you still don’t have a product, do you?

Steven: We’re selling something, it’s a crappy product. It only does one little thing at this point. And I guess to put a date on this, this is like 2013, like we started the company in January 2012, so probably by 2013 we’re making sales. It’s not an impressive product, it does the very basics of what we’re trying to do. We have gotten some decent sized company. I guess we had our first Fortune 500 company using this with their whole sales team by the end of 2013.

Andrew: How did you get there?

Steven: I cold e-mailed a salesperson on their team over LinkedIn. And so InMailed them, I guess, not an email, an InMail, and that person started using it and that was probably in early 2013.

And then his manager found out about it and the people that reported to that manager, the 10 people or whatever, started using it. And then the region started using, it was like the western U.S. And then they wanted it for the whole country.

And so it just kind of literally from this one guy who had started using it and liked it, it spread around the whole company because he was like, “Oh, this is solving this problem for me.” And other people were like, “Well, why wouldn’t we all use that? That sounds great. That’s going to save us a ton of time.”

Andrew: And that’s one thing you guys offered from the beginning, a free trial, so anyone at the organization can sign up. It doesn’t have to be a whole enterprise sale. And that’s what got people. But, so how do people even find your site other than you making cold calls to them?

Steven: And that’s our biggest challenge as a company, is letting the world know that we exist. Like, the field sales people are busy people. And how do we let them know, “Hey, we’ve solved like 10 little stupid problems for you and instead of doing this all by hand you can do it this way. It’s really easy and it’s fast.” Getting their attention and letting them know this exists and that it’s worth trying out and that they should actually invest their valuable time in it, that’s our biggest challenge.

I mean, a lot of people will use Google to search for some aspect. They’ll describe the problem to Google and Google will direct them to us with its genius algorithms there. Or they’ll describe it on their iPhone, like in the App Store, they’ll kind of describe a problem and Apple will direct them to us. And really, it’s word of mouth. The good thing is, if one person at a company finds out about us because they happen to be proactive enough to Google the problem and land on our site and they’re like, “Oh, that’s the problem I want fixed. Awesome.”

The best thing about salespeople as being your customers, is they’re professional communicators. So if you create value from them, they’re really good at telling all their colleagues, the guy that they used to work with who they still go get a beer with, they’re very good at kind of communicating the value. And so we put a referral program in place where every time someone who’s using our product refers another person, and that person signs up, we give the referring person 50 bucks. And that incentive alone has probably been one of our bigger growth hacks.

I mean, we give a lot of $50 Amazon gift cards, we give a ton of them, and that’s been one of the biggest ways we’ve grown business by being like, “Hey, by the way, do you have any friends? There’s this referral program if you tell people about this and they sign up we’ll give you 50 bucks.” And people are like, “Oh, well, I should be telling my friends about this anyway because it’s awesome.” So, I’ll shoot a quick email or next time I’ll mention it to this guy who’s a buddy of mine or I’ll tell my boss, and my boss will have me spread it around to the rest of the team. But that’s been one of our biggest growths.

Andrew: You guys build that in-house or do you use an outside service like Ambassador? We built it in-house. We’ve actually looked at the outside services too. We thought about [inaudible 00:39:35] because they do some things. It’s one of these things in software a lot of times it’s like should I build it or should I buy it? And we’ve actually . . . literally last week really actually, we’d probably get some more sophisticated abilities with this referral program if we swapped for the basic thing that we set up, if we swapped it out for someone with a real program might be cooler.

Because it’s a piece of software. There are things that the professional, the ones that people built and that’s their focus, they’re better than the one we built. I mean, ours is very simple. We give you a code, if they sign up with that code it automatically sends you an Amazon gift card. Simple little integration with Amazon to do that.

But the actual software companies that have built these referral systems, they can do all kinds of stuff. So we’re looking at that now.

Andrew: One thing that surprises me is that you actually were able to get a customer through InMail. I opened up LinkedIn just to look you up and see where you went to school. I see you did Semester at Sea, Stanford University is where you got your MBA.

I’m flooded now, with messages from people and these messages are pretty empty. “Hi, Andrew, thanks for helping budding entrepreneurs. Keep up the fantastic work. Whitney.” Thanks Whitney.

Dimitri Bailin. “Andrew, I came across your LinkedIn profile, I’m an ex-Director in SQL Server Product at Microsoft.” Like, has nothing to do with me. I can’t believe how junked up they allowed LinkedIn to get for messages, where it should be the professional place.

Steven: It’s pretty noisy at this point. I have someone on the marketing team do all my LinkedIn stuff.

Andrew: Right, me too.

Steven: I can’t keep up with it. But, yeah, I mean, depending on what your title is and kind of where you work and that sort of thing, I think you get different amounts of people reaching out to you. And obviously if you run an organization over there like people want to get in front of you. They want to see you get a lot of this stuff. I think our target customer, like there aren’t a lot of people selling stuff to field sales people, right? So I think they get fewer things.
What we send to them is pretty . . . what we were sending at the time, we actually don’t use InMails now, but at that time we were just sending a very clean, very simple thing like, “Hey, we have this mapping company to put your customers on a map. If you’d like to check that out, here’s our website. We’re looking for people to kind of be in the beta group.” And that worked. I mean, that person responded and was interested. And this gets back to approach and the people that have the most pain, like when we described that concept. If you describe the thing that you do to the right people they’re like, “Oh, wait, what do you do? That’s really interesting.” So that was key.

Andrew: All right. I’m going to take a moment to talk about my second sponsor. The second sponsor is a company called HostGator. HostGator is a place where you can frankly get your website hosted. So many people who I’ve interviewed in the past have said that they signed up for HostGator. And the other thing that I don’t like is now phone calls. Look at this, constant phone calls. Somebody showed me how I can send every single phone call that I get directly to voicemail. I did it. I turned it off the other day for a reason, I forget who was supposed to call . . . oh, my accountant, and I forgot to turn it back on. I got to turn it back on. Are you getting a lot of junk calls by the way?

Steven: Yeah. I’ve actually switched my cell phone number now because if someone on our finance team like applied for like a loan earlier this year, and they used my cell phone by accident. Now, it just like from there it got out into the world. Now, the thing just rings and rings and rings. One thing that helps, there’s several of these products, the one that I use is called Nomorobo.

Andrew: Yeah, [inaudible 00:43:17] Mixergy fan. I complained awhile back. He said, “Look what I’m creating.” He sent it over and I got that on my phone, it helps. You got to tell people what that is.

Steven: It catches a lot of the spammy calls. Not all of them, but, I mean, it really reduced it [inaudible 00:43:32].

Andrew: And it’s a plugin for the phone, it interacts with the phone. I can’t believe Apple allows plugins on top of phones. I didn’t hear anything about it until I installed Nomorobo. It sits there and then it looks to see what seems like a spammy call and it sends it to voicemail if that’s what you choose or [inaudible 00:43:43].

Steven: Yeah. They’re capturing it. And I’ve reported things, the spammy calls before that they didn’t catch and they’re looking at the numbers like, “Oh, spammy calls come from this number.” And so it’s pretty cool, I think. It catches a lot of them.

Andrew: The one thing it should do is just say, “Here’s a setting to let you send every call to voicemail except the ones that are in your address book.” I think I should tell them that, every call into voicemail and frankly voicemail is not such a bad thing anymore because most of your friends if they get voicemail they’re just going to text and say, “You free?” The people who you want to do business with might leave voicemail. But now on iPhone and I think even on Android, you actually get a transcription of your voicemail.

Steven: Yeah, I love it.

Andrew: Right. So, who cares? I’ll send everyone to voicemail. All right.

So here it is. It’s hostgator.com. If you’re looking to build a web site there is . . . I was going to say, there’s no cheaper way to do it. I’m sure there’s some cheapos like fly-by-night site that’s going to host you for less money than this, but they’re charging $3.48 a month for basic hosting.

The next level up, which is the one that I recommend everyone sign up for. It’s $4.98 a month. You get unlimited domains, you could be sitting here with me listening to this interview, come up with an idea and just go put it on there and it won’t cost you any extra to host the site. Maybe what you want to do is have a list of all the top tools for blocking phone calls or all the different mail scripts for getting through to people on LinkedIn InMail. Just have an idea. Sit down with a drink and you start creating it.

One step, one click install of WordPress so that you can get your website up and running for free easily. All part of your hosting plan. Get a free theme, in fact they give you a bunch of free themes or you can find a bunch of other ones on the internet. Then you start creating whatever idea you have. The beauty of unlimited domains, and this is why I want you guys to sign up for the second level up, the beauty of unlimited domains is when you’re not thinking, “I’m going to have to pay a little extra for this, a little extra for that.” You just sit and get creative and you just let yourself go.

It’s kind of like, I went only on one cruise my whole life and they had unlimited food. At first I would just eat a little bit. I’d say, I got to diet, I’m watching what I’m eating, I’m putting it all into this app. By the second day I stopped putting anything into my app and I eat everything, French fries, whatever they had, the whole thing.

Same thing here. You sign up for this unlimited domain hosting package. You come up with an idea in the shower tomorrow you go and you implement it, right away, you see what happens. I’ve said this for years. Mixergy was supposed to be an event hosting site. You were going to come to my site and find an event and go there. I had this idea that I wanted to start doing interviews with people who are coming to my event. I had unlimited hosting.

So I just created a blog.mixergy.com and it became my place where I was going to interview people. I started interviewing them, I loved it so much I made that my main business. When you have unlimited that’s what you can do. I urge you guys to go check out the special URL, it’s hostgator.com/mixergy. They’re going to give you 50% off their already low prices.

Start with the cheapest one, once your business really gets cranking, then up it. In fact, not the cheapest, sorry, the second from the cheapest. It doesn’t matter to me, I don’t get paid any more or less whether you go for the cheapest or the second. But the second from the cheapest, the one with unlimited domains is the one I recommend. It allows you to get started, get started right, inexpensively and then as you keep building you’ll be able to grow and they have tons of other plans beyond that including a WordPress manage hosting if you want them to make sure they you don’t get viruses and that your site is up and backed up, the whole thing.

Right, go to that URL, sign up and let me know what you guys build.

Okay. Speaking of sales, you’re starting to get sales, you’re starting to do well with this business. Talk about the development, I know that hiring the right person was really important. How did you find that person who is going to help lead the development?

Steven: So Google had a list of a lot of the people . . . I knew kind of the characteristics of the developer that I was going to need to get this thing off the ground. And I can only afford one at first while I worked on funding the business and stuff.

So Google had a list of people that had indicated interest and talent in working with the Google Maps API. And it was a public list. It wasn’t like a secret list or anything. They had created this little quiz or something that like tested people and shown that they were interested and knew a lot about it, and posted somewhere. And someone that I knew a Google told me about it.

And so I went through that list and looked everybody up on LinkedIn and kind of figured it out. There were probably 120 people that I was kind of looking at initially as I was vetting people for it to be the first engineering hire. And then I kind of boiled it down based on different characteristics and different skill sets and kind of who looked right. And then I interviewed a bunch of them and talked to a bunch of them, met with a bunch of them, worked with a few of them on little kind of mini engagements. And through doing that I eventually, kind of met the guy that I ended up bringing on and he really built the thing. Because I don’t code, I focus on the business side of the company.

So that was a key early hire for me to get someone who was really great at [inaudible 00:48:44].

Andrew: How were you able to pay him?

Steven: So we raised some money early on from friends and family and there was founder money. I put money into the business.

Andrew: How much?

Steven: I probably put in probably about 600k into the company and then . . .

Andrew: And you made that by selling for Google?

Steven: Well, yeah, I mean, when I started the company I was probably like 33 or so. So I had done a lot in my career already. I worked for IBM. I worked for a software company called Autonomy and I worked at Google. Sales is an interesting career path. If you’re good at it, you’re paid for your performance usually. So if you’re good at it, they really pay you out. At Google I had been their top salesperson one year. And the plans are really set up that if you sell a lot of stuff they pay out. So let me illustrate . . .

Andrew: [inaudible 00:49:47] salesperson for them.

Steven: That’s interesting, people ask me that. I had a very successful sales career and I don’t think it’s because I’m the best salesperson out there. I think there are a lot of salespeople that are way more talented than me. I think that what I had going for me from a sales perspective was I’m good at listening to people and I understood their businesses. I have a business background and so I focused on understanding their businesses and kind of understanding what the thing that I was selling, how it was going to impact their business and I could keep the conversation focused on business value. And that really helped me sell a lot more stuff I think than the average guy.

Andrew: And so you started to make some sales. Things were starting to go okay but, still, 2014 you guys are scraping bottom. You’ve already been in this business for two years. Things were going so poorly. There was some guy who helped you start this business, he decided, “You know what? I’m done. Steven, I’m going back to work.” Am I right?

Steven: Yes, so we started out with two co-founders and me being one of them and a good friend of mine being the other. And 2014, the business was not doing well, we were losing probably 20 grand a month or so and we just weren’t able to acquire customers. We weren’t able to acquire customers at the same rate to keep up with our expenses which is a big business problem. If costs are greater than revenue then you have a problem on the horizon. And we were really just kind of scraping along in 2014 not making enough money, not selling enough stuff.

And the reason was the product just wasn’t mature enough. We had solved some basic problems but they weren’t big enough problems for a lot of people and we had a lot of problems with the product, it would choke on itself. That sort of thing.

And there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s hard to get the word out and it’s hard to win sales when you’re a small company, especially big sales. So our product is relatively inexpensive, right? It’s 9 or 35 bucks a month depending on which version you’re getting.

Andrew: Why do you sell it for so little?

Steven: Well, there’s two philosophies. In software you can sell stuff for a lot of money and only a few people will buy it, or you can sell it for a little money and a lot of people will buy it. Because people are often pretty price sensitive. I mean, we found that our user is pretty price sensitive. You know, 9 or 35 bucks per person does add up. So we don’t make a lot of money if like when that first person of the company buys it. But then once you make that person successful and all of a sudden their VP of sales hears about it and they buy it for 300 people that becomes a six-figure deal, right? So it’s worth it to go, 5 bucks a month for one person. But then the little ones bring the big ones in this case.

I think we’re priced right. I think we’re priced in a fair way and it’s an amount of money . . . if people have this problem or any of the problems that we solve and they look at it and like, “Oh, well, I’m going to save 45 minutes a day or an hour and a half a day or 30 minutes day.” Or whatever it is, if we’re going to save them some time and make some things easier for them, they’re going to be able to spend that time selling more or with whatever, right? Their time is worth . . . an hour a day is worth 35 bucks a month, basically. It’s a no-brainer, because these are highly compensated individuals, sales people.

Andrew: Thirty bucks is nothing for something like this.

Steven: Yeah, it’s really cheap. But people don’t like to pay, individuals don’t love paying for software.

Andrew: They don’t, and you know what? And they don’t for some reason feel comfortable asking their bosses to go pay for this or try it out. I had a similar experience here at Mixergy, that someone on the team said, “We need project management software.” They went and they tried Asana. Why Asana as opposed to something else? I said, “Did you guys even consider these other alternatives?” They didn’t, because Asana is free and so they don’t have to worry about charging me money or feeling awkward asking us to pay for it. And I keep saying, “Software is nothing. You guys are expensive.” If for an extra 30 bucks, 100 bucks a month if I make you 10% more effective it’s worth my money. But they still feel guilty about doing it. It’s weird, right?
But if it’s free or inexpensive and say, “All right, I’ll just do it.” And they go for it. Very, very strange. I feel like Basecamp is making a big mistake by not having that free version even if it’s just like enough for you to play with on your own because otherwise people have to pay 100 bucks just to try Basecamp and who on the team feels comfortable saying to the boss every year, “You’re going to have to pay 1,200 bucks because I want to experiment with this thing.”

Steven: Right, freemium is tricky. If you put your product out, some aspect or some part of your product out there for free, you certainly get a lot more people using it. The challenge is, how many of those can you turn into paying customers? Our balance on this was we have a free trial. And generally, I forget what we’re giving now, like 10 or 12 days or something of free trials, we give people the opportunity to kick the tires and the full product.

And then they can decide, “Yeah, I want to pay for this. This is going to save me a half hour a day or an hour and a half day. Whatever it is, this is going to save me time. I’m going to make more money with it. It’s worth the 35 bucks.” We give them that opportunity, but we don’t have a freemium version. There’s not like a free version of Badger that they can just keep using and get some subset of the features forever for free.

And I don’t love the freemium model. I get why Basecamp doesn’t do it. But at the same time I think, you’re right. It keeps a lot of people from ever even trying. It’s like, “Oh, I can’t buy something like this. My boss isn’t going to like it, I don’t want to have that conversation.” A lot of salespeople actually they swipe the credit card. And one reason we’re at 35 bucks is a lot of people can swipe up to 50 without putting it through an account and getting approvals. So 50 is a big hurdle.

If you’re charging 51 bucks they would have to go get approvals. Whereas if you’re 49 bucks they can just swipe it and nobody really checks up on it. So, it’s 49 bucks a month, no one cares. But if it was 51 that needs approvals. So 50 is a big pricing hurdle in software in general.

Andrew: I feel like companies should have an education fund, like go pay this amount of money every year to go buy something that’s going to teach you how to be better at your job or grow as a person and a software fund. Spend this much money to go experiment, a couple of hundred bucks a month, just go experiment and tell us if something ends up improving the way that you do your job so that everyone else on the team can sign up for it, right?.
I can see then how you’re $9 a month plan would allow people to do that. And I can also see frankly why you are struggling in 2014. So what you’re saying to me is, “Look, we were struggling in 2014 because we worked really hard. We’d get a sale but that sale would only be worth a few bucks a month and a few bucks a month does not add up when you’re talking at this level.”

Steven: Exactly.

Andrew: Was the solution just that it started to catch up because more people were telling their bosses, other team members were joining and then things . . . like they took off the SaaS way?

Steven: Exactly. Yes. In 2014 we just didn’t have that much reach. By 2015 people were really hearing about it and people were really signing up and using it. And so we were able to start hiring, in 2014 we had five people at the company and one left, we were down to four. Well, I guess that was actually the beginning of 2014, that was like January, when he left. So all of 2014 we were down to four. And then most of 2015 we still had four.
And then towards the end of 2015 we kind of hit an inflection point where the business was really growing faster and a lot more people were hearing about it and buying it. And so we started hiring. And so since I guess, almost exactly two years ago we were at four people and now we’re at like 60. So it’s been a fast growth since then.

Andrew: Where are revenues now?

Steven: They’re at 2.3 million a year.

Andrew: Wow. All right. Thirty bucks is good that way.

Steven: Thirty-five bucks a month at a time.

Andrew: Shocking, but it does kind of build up because it’s SaaS. Here’s the one thing that I wonder though with the product, a lot of time what keeps people in SaaS, like I was paying for Wufoo forms for five years after I stopped using them, because something breaks. I don’t know what’s going to break, there’s a form somewhere that would break. And so I finally, after five years I asked my assistant, “Please, go make sure we have no more forms on the site that are using Wufoo forms. And then cancel the membership. It’s very painful for me to go do it.” She did it.

And then a few months later I needed some data that was in some form, I said, “Oh, did you delete the forms?” Yes. She forgot to export some of the form data. So it was gone. You don’t have that, that’s the one downside of your product, that it’s still charging SaaS prices. But there’s nothing that breaks if I stop paying.

Steven: Yeah, yeah. Well, I guess that’s why it’s important that we create a lot of value for our customers. Our customers use this thing every time they go into the field, right? So if you’re someone who goes into the field even twice a week and the other three days you’re in the office, if this is something that really makes your time in the field a lot more effective and a lot of the tools that we have put in this thing, people really like what they do. We have to create value. And I guess Wufoo wasn’t creating value for you. It was just sticking because your stuff was in it.

But, I mean, you’re right, if we don’t create value, people will stop paying for us. But actually very few people stop paying for this. Once they’re on, they’re on. And it’s not because it’s they’re stuck on it, it’s just because once . . . we solve 10 problems and different people have different problems and at different levels. So whichever one that we’re . . . some people use all are features, some people only use one of our features. And if even if one of them is creating a bunch of value for you, you’re not going to stop using it. People don’t tend to leave.

Andrew: And that is why SaaS is so good, and it’s not very expensive. And as long as they’re there and it’s not stinking, and it’s useful, they’re going to keep sticking around.

Hey, I was spying on you to see where you got your traffic. I saw that you got some of your traffic from Map Point Alternative. Apparently Microsoft stopped supporting something called Map Point and so you guys are being referred by that site.

Steven: So Microsoft had two mapping products, Map Point and Streets & Trips, and they were both CDs that you would buy, put in your computer and you could do a lot of the same things that we do. And they stopped supporting those products in 2014. Coincidently, when our business really started taking off, possible potential correlation there.

But they had these mapping tools that salespeople and other people that needed mapping on their PCs would use. But they obviously, Microsoft is super smart, they saw, “Hey, things are moving towards mobile, things are moving towards APIs. We don’t want to be supporting all these CDs and boxes anymore, it’s not the future.” And so they killed a lot of those products including both Streets & Trips and Map Point.

And so, Google was smart enough that if you Google Map Point alternatives or Streets & Trips alternatives or, what do I do now that Map Point is canceled? [inaudible 01:01:28] to Google. Yeah.

We show up as a kind of . . .

Andrew: If you guys own the website mappoint/alternative.com, that’s one of the top referrers for you.

Steven: I don’t think so. I’d have to check on that. I mean, we do own a bunch of websites around the web.

Andrew: That kind of refer traffic to you.

Steven: Well, I think there’s probably 3,000 sites or something that different people control or own, like your site, right? Like after we do this, I presume that on your website there will be a link somewhere to us.

And we’ve done a ton of things like this and there have been a million articles about the company and about what we do or about me or about something. And all those different things kind of send us stuff. And so some media company might do an article about routing and they’ll include us.

One of our best referral sources is this company called Handshake.

Andrew: Yeah, I see that. What is Handshake? That’s one of your top sources, like you said.

Steven: Yeah, it’s one of our top sources of referrals. I don’t know exactly what they do, but it’s some kind of product for salespeople. And they did an analysis of us and two of our competitors. And because they’re creating content for the purpose of generating traffic for their site. And so on their blog they did like a routing for salespeople blog. And they looked at us and two of our competitors. And that’s one of the top results, it comes up above us often. Because if you search, what are the best routing apps for field salespeople? That article they wrote on their blog is a top result for that. And so that refers us a ton of traffic.

Andrew: I thought maybe that was some kind of tool that you guys have baked into, I couldn’t figure it out, I get it now.

Steven: No, we have no relationship with them. They probably had some intern on their marketing team five years ago and they clearly did their homework.

I mean, they analyzed the space, and they were like, here are the top three players. They’re not even really biased about it, they’re not like, “Hey, Badger is the best one.” They’ve got our two competitors on there. But I assume everyone that’s clicking through to ours is also clicking through to theirs and kind of evaluating which one they like the best and obviously . . .

Andrew: You know what? This was written a couple, maybe three years ago at this point, and man, people in the comments actually cared. There are sales people who believed one way or the other very strongly.

Steven: There you go, yeah. And there’s little nuggets like that all over the web, right?

Andrew: I thought maybe you were buying some of these domain names because here’s why I thought that, when I went to mappoint/alternative.com, I saw that it was Google Domains that it was bought through, and I thought, “Here’s a guy who worked for Google Domains. Of course he’d be using Google to buy one of these domains.” And then it was private. And so I couldn’t figure it out.

So I see. All right. When I close it out with this, I asked you before we started how do I make this a win for you, you said, “Look, you probably don’t have a lot of field sales people listening to Mixergy.” But if you want to help out I’m still a salesperson. Why don’t we offer a discount? So let’s do it. What’s the discount? I get no cut of this. But, what is the discount that you want to offer?

Steven: Sure, just have any of your listeners mentioned Mixergy . . . if anyone out there knows field sales people or are in field sales let them know that we exist. It may be super helpful to them. And when you do that just tell them to mention Mixergy and we’ll give them two months free of the product just to play around with it. Make sure it’s a good fit for them and kick the tires and the thing and just as a benefit for enduring listening to me for an hour here.

Andrew: Well, hopefully, it wasn’t enduring, it was useful. Guys, if you got anything of value please let them know. Do you want to give out your email address that way people can contact you?

Steven: Sure, you can contact me over LinkedIn.

Andrew: Not LinkedIn, guys, will you actually see your LinkedIn? No, your assistant will.

Steven: My assistant will. But you can email me too, at steve@badgermapping.com.

Andrew: Okay, I don’t think you’ll get a bunch of junk mail from our people. I think you’re going to get some solid people. All right guys, go check it out, badgermapping.com. Also on badgermaps.com, you’re going to soon start to redirect from there.

Steven: Yeah, we initially put ourselves on badgermapping.com and then a year later or something we were like, “Oh, we should buy all the domains around this thing.” And someone had already bought up badgermaps.com because they thought they could make us pay for it or something.

Andrew: And did you guys pay for it?

Steven: No, no, if you have trademark on something, you can claw a domain back. So you can say, “Hey, we’ve got a trademark on this.” So if they just said, if they had badger.com, our trademark wouldn’t be able to pull that back. But badgermaps, we have trademarked and so we can . . .

Andrew: I see now. And badgermaps.com does redirect properly to badgermapping.com. All right. Whether you guys go check out badgermaps.com or badgermapping.com please go check it out. And if you do sign up let them know you heard about him on Mixergy. And of course the two sponsors that I mentioned are the company that makes me feel less lonely as an entrepreneur because I actually have Jack on my side.

The guy is helping me look through every contract that I need or every business decision that I need help with, largely when I have some finance decisions to make. I hired him through Toptal where I also hired a great developer, a great designer. Go check them out at toptal.com/mixergy. Top as in the top of your head, tal as in talent.

And if you want a website hosting that’s done right, even if you hate, especially if you hate your current hosting company, you owe it to yourself to go check out HostGator, hostgator.com/mixergy. People have been really happy with them and that’s why I continue to run ads for both companies. Thank you so much for being on here.

All right. Thank you all. Bye.


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