Andrew: Hey, there freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of “Mixergy” where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses, and I do it for an audience of real entrepreneurs who genuinely are looking for insights and ideas and frankly sometimes just motivation in the sense that, yes, this could be done and here’s how to do it. And they wanted to come from real entrepreneurs who built real businesses.
And today, I’m excited to have today’s guest on, because he’s someone who as a guy whose own membership sites for pretty much as long as I’ve had Mixergy . . . well, it took me a few years to get it going, but once I did, I did. I kept hearing about the software that today’s guest created Memberium. And I looked at it a few times and it feels like once you commit to one, it’s hard to switch, but boy, there are parts of it that are really just liked.
And so, I probably should have had him on a long time ago, but he reached out to us and we said, “Absolutely. Let’s get him on here.” And so, that’s how we have Micah Mitchell. He is the founder of Memberium. They allow anyone to build powerful, automated membership sites with WordPress and Infusionsoft. And I’m going to ask him how he bootstrapped his company, how he came up with the idea by doing work for other people as a consultant, and then saying, “You know what? I actually can just start selling this instead of doing it one off every time.” And how we turn that into a successful business.
This whole interview is sponsored by two great companies the first will host your website it’s called HostGator, and the second will help you hire your next great developer It’s called Toptal. Micah, oh, Micah.
Andrew:You should just interrupt me and call me out any time I say something wrong. I called you Micah the first time, and then I looked at you and I said, “Something’s off, but we’ll clear it up in the interview.” It’s Micah?
Micah: Yeah, yes it is.
Andrew: All right. How does that feel when I when I got the name wrong? Did you feel like, “Goddamn it, Andrew.” Actually, let me ask you, how you feel when that happens?
Micah: No. It’s something that happens to me a lot on our office hours. We’ll get on and I’ll be like, “Is your name?” You know, and I’ll slaughter their name. But no, a lot of people call me that, so it’s all good.
Andrew: Do you ever feel like . . . for me, when stuff like that happens, like I was talking to Tom Szacky, and I felt the first time that I interviewed him about five years ago, he didn’t take me seriously enough. And I get in my head and I go, “Why am I not important enough for him to take more seriously?” I don’t think in the moment this guy just finished a book tour, I can’t believe that he’s still standing up while running a business. No wonder he’s not fully giving me the energy or whatever it is that I’m looking for, that my insecurity is looking for. Instead of thinking now, what I think is, why doesn’t he take me seriously? So does that come out to you at all? Like when I mispronounced your name? Or am I reading too much?
Micah: No, no. It doesn’t really bug me. I was like, “Ooh,” You know, but it was more that people are going to hear it, and know my different name and probably get a little chuckle out of it. So, it’s all good.
Andrew: All right. Let’s talk dollars and cents. What kind of revenue did you guys do? What did you do in 2017?
Micah: So 2017 we did just barely over 1.2 million in revenue. And so it’s good profit.
Andrew: Okay. And profit? How much?
Micah: Profit, I’m not totally sure yet. Still working with my account, because I went through a couple bookeepers. So they’re bit of a mess, but I would have to guess between 150 and 200.
Andrew:After you taken your salary?
Andrew: You know, I always imagine that this was a hugely successful business, because of how much people have talked about it. And I feel like one of the benefits that you have is, you’re working with people who have . . . I was going to say big mouths, but it’s not big mouths, big megaphones let’s say. That people hear them, right? Because they’re membership creators.
Micah:Yeah, it’s, kind of, a fun business, because all of our clients, it’s easy to do a showcase with a client, and have that go a long, long way. People talk about it a lot. So it is kind of fun that they each have their own following, so if they use us, it kind of automatically happens that way, which is . . .
Andrew: Who are some of the people who use you guys?
Micah: So DigitalMarketer uses us, Jeff Walker from Product Launch Formula, like Bob Proctor from The Secret, and Loral Langemeler . . . [inaudible 00:04:05]
Andrew: I just did something really funny. Can you hear me okay?
Micah: I can, yeah yeah, you might have one of those funny USB things.
Andrew: I get the sense that the number of people and also how vocal they are. I didn’t realize DigitalMarketer was built on you. That’s a huge membership site.
Micah: Yeah, yeah. And they have a ton of membership sites. But all those connected to Infusionsoft are using Memberium.
Andrew:So you’re a guy who didn’t get exposed to entrepreneurship growing up, your dad was . . . What was his relationship with entrepreneurship?
Micah: I’ll still go home and visit my parents and he’ll say, “You know, if you just go to school for four years, you could get a job at the company where I work, and the benefits and all these kinds of things.” Yeah.
Andrew: Wow. What did he do for work?
Micah: Right now he works at Ancestry. He’s worked at Intel before that, but . . .
Andrew: So he’s in the space. It’s not like he’s a guy who’s coming to tech from completely no knowledge. He’s in it. He’s working for Ancestry, a tech company, but what about this? The guy broke his back. And how did it affect your family growing up?
Micah:So, yeah, he was actually working at a grocery store, and he was in the produce section. And so, he went out to get carts and slipped on some ice. We lived in Utah, and broke his back. And so, because he wasn’t supposed to be out there getting carts, it wasn’t covered by the company’s insurance. So it was bad, basically. You know, my mom supported the whole family, doing daycare and cutting hair and cleaning houses and stuff like that. And he was laid up, fully laid out for about six months and then recovering for a while. So that’s when he went in I think to more computer science, which was a good move, because he later had a really good career. But, yeah, when we were little, it was . . . and there’s eight kids in our family. So it’s pretty [inaudible 00:05:50]
Andrew: Get out. So he went back to school, how old?
Micah: In his 30s.
Andrew: Wow. And how old are you? ‘
Micah: I’m in my 30s now, 33.
Andrew: So he’s basically saying you could the same thing I did. I changed my life because of this.
Andrew: So growing up we believed in entrepreneurship, we talked about it all the time, my dad was an entrepreneur. And one of the reasons why we were so passionate about entrepreneurship is the idea that if you had a bad back, or you break your back and you’re out for six months, you don’t have to worry about collecting a salary, because you’ve got a company and it runs. But as I think about your dad’s story, I also think, “Dude, if my back was broken, will Mixergy survive for six months?” I don’t think the podcast audience will remember me for six weeks if I disappear, let alone six months. And then what about the rest of the business? So I think, well, I know that I haven’t gotten to where I needed to be for that. Do you feel like you have as a software entrepreneur?
Micah: I feel like if I was just laid down in bed, as long as I could still talk, the company would do okay, because we have a really great team now. So as long as I could answer some questions, give some direction, and it wouldn’t completely die, but it is an industry where you got to keep pushing, because competition’s always coming about, nipping at your heels, so yeah. I mean, it would suffer, but I actually feel pretty blessed to have a good team where it’s not too dependent on me specifically.
Andrew: So one of things that I’m noticing speaking of competition, is . . . and we’ll get to your story and how you came up with this idea and built it up. That’s the main thrust of my interviews, but I remember when membership sites were non-existent, then it became possibility and people started building on their sites, and then this thing kept coming up in my interviews. People who used to have membership sites and then the chat component of the membership site was a forum on their membership site, and the content was on their membership site, and every feature was on their membership site was starting to like push stuff out.
And the first step, I think, was maybe putting their chat or whatever then forum on Facebook groups that were accessible just to paid members. And then the next step was maybe we put this other thing in Basecamp some people are experimenting with or Slack. And then, it became this weird thing where people felt really comfortable taking their content, their membership stuff, and putting it on third-party sites and saying, “If you’re paying for it on my site, you get serviced by someone else.”
All of this to say is the industry’s really shifting to self-hosting to hosted solutions, right?
Micah: Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of those options available, and they’ve become really good also. Obviously we work with people who host their own, and some people do like that element of control. Some people don’t care. They just want to deliver it whatever is easy is best, but yeah, a lot of our people, they really like a lot of controlling customization, but yes, there are a lot of great platforms that you can put your content on like you’re saying and some people are really comfortable with that.
Andrew: You know, I remember being at Magento’s office, I knew those guys really well, and there was someone in the office saying they need a hosted solution. They need a hosted solution, they’re not going to do it, and they didn’t do it. They ended up selling to eBay. It became eBay’s issue and frankly Magento grew really big before they sold to eBay. So it was fine for them maybe to give it up. But because eBay never got into it, they opened up an opportunity for Shopify. Do you feel like there’s still an opportunity for you to create a hosted solution? Or is that just not on your road map?
Micah: It is, actually, because we, what we want to do is we don’t want to have a completely different user experience, but we want to provide the same thing we provide with the customization, but host it, and take that headache away. So some platforms, they for example, customizing your domain you have to be your site . . . whatever their thing is dotcom. We want people to still be able to use their own domains, and be able to do what they want, because one of the things that we do that’s maybe a little bit different is people are building all sorts of different sites, where they’ve already got some sort of custom scenario, and then they use us for the control aspect of it.
So it’s not quite a one size fits all some of them are using it for franchises, some for a regular membership site, some for internal training. So you get a variety, but yeah, we definitely want to provide self-hosting. We’re going, kind of, tenderly into that, because once we are the host, we’re also point of failure for the sites. So we want to make sure that when we go into it, we can be very robust.
Andrew: You’re doing Infusionsoft consulting. Were you certified?
Micah: I was, yeah.
Andrew: Infusionsoft for people who don’t know is software that’s not just sends out email, but it manages your whole contacts and all the tagging and everything else that goes along with it and what they’ve purchased gets added to each email record, right?
Andrew: How was it to go and get certified? I’ve heard that the process is really painful.
Micah: So my experience was a little bit funny, because I first got certified in 2008 and it was the very first edition of their Certified Partner Program. They hadn’t done one prior to that. That I thought was a good experience, but it was because I already knew the software really well. So in class, even the people teaching it, didn’t quite know it as well, because they were experts at building certification programs but not necessarily experts at Infusionsoft. So it was kind of funny. It wasn’t difficult at all for me, because I already had three, four, years using it for my own business.
But it was funny, because everyone else in the class was really sweating and I think the instructors they were amazing that they picked it up and built a certification program, but even they, Infusion is such a comprehensive software, even they were getting questions that they were just like, kind of, looking around the room like looking at the Infusionsoft employees. And so, it’s a funny experience, because I kind of raised my hand and be like, “Well this is how it works.”
Andrew: So, I see. I didn’t realize that they did that. They hired a company to create their certification program.
Micah: They did in the very, very first edition. I think since then they’ve been doing it themselves more. But right at the beginning they hired some people to come and learn the software and build the program, and the guy’s still a friend of mine, Chris Lee. They did an amazing job [crosstalk 00:11:42]
Andrew: What’s his company?
Micah: I don’t know the name of his company, but I know did . . .
Andrew:I’m looking now.
Micah:Yeah, did it for other softwares as well at the time. And so I think Infusion was like, “Oh, you did a certification program. We’ll hire the same guys and they’ll come do it. But, yeah, that’s.
Andrew: You know what? I feel like most software vendors just don’t realize the power of that. Did I just lose you? There you go. I lost you there for a moment. I feel like most software creators don’t recognize the power of that certification. People who are going through the certification program are putting in a lot of effort to study the software. And then to go out and get clients to use it. And then, if you have people who are using your software, they need certification. They don’t want to build it themselves. They don’t know where to go look and you could turn them on to someone instead of letting them possibly go to a competitor. I’m just now recognizing the power of it having been in the chatbot space and seeing that it’s needed.
Micah: Yeah, we actually have a certification program. And I’m grateful to a client who we were doing our first event and he’s like, “Oh, it can be a certification event.” And I was like, “No, I don’t think so. And events enough.” And he’s like, “So I’ll get certified there, right?” And I was like, “No.” And he was like, “So, you going to have a certification test at the end, right?” And I was like, “Yeah, I guess so.”
Andrew: Why? Why did he want to certified?
Micah: I think he ran an agency, and he was getting certified with other companies. And I think also, he was trying to be nice to us and encourage us to do it, because we saw it as such a big hurdle, and to him it was just like you really need to do this and be really smart. So he talked me into it, and we did it, a very crappy version I’ll say in our very first event. But since then, it’s grown a bit, and I think we have 76 now. We were going to go up to a hundred, but we decided at the end of last year we could have done one more promo. We decided, “Well, we really got to make this thing a lot, lot better, because now that it’s getting serious and we have serious partners certifying we got to take it up a level, so . . .
Andrew: You mean the people who want to get certified are serious agency people?
Micah: Yeah. They were a lot bigger and they were asking us for more resources, and we were like, “Yeah, we need to put our effort into . . .
Andrew: What do you mean? What kind of resources do they need?
Micah: So they wanted, for example, the ability to add their own clients to the software. So instead their client joins them and they say, “Go out and buy these five different things and send us all your logins and passwords to all of them. They wanted to be able to say, hey, “We’ll take care of it for you.” We can . . .
Andrew: Right. I see. So I think of certification as just the class and the stamp of approval that you give the graduate. But they’re thinking I need that, but I also need the software to enable me to provide the service to the client without them knowing that you’re even involved, because they don’t need to know that.
Micah: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: I see it, when you first did it yourself, what did you put into it?
Micah: The very first one we did a three-day training, and then we had a test at the end, and it was pretty much a multiple choice/essay type test at the end of a three-day training. And it was . . . we were flying by the seat of our pants honestly. Part of it was, “Hey, you’re going to be the first certified partners, and we’re going to give you a really great . . . it’s like $97 a year renewal fee versus more than a thousand a year. And those partners who first got in, they got all the clients for a while, because like you said then, whenever somebody asks us for any sort of service work, we send it to the partners. And that was also part of our position of the partners as we don’t do any service work at all. We don’t want to do any service work, so it has to go to you guys, basically.
So yeah, the early adopters got that in exchange for what I can look back and laugh about was a terrible program.
Andrew: So that’s the way you were doing things, and you were on the other side of it or you were certified consultant for Infusionsoft.
Micah: Yeah, so I’ve been a certified consultant and then we certify Memberium partners as well, yeah.
Andrew: And so, once you went through their program, which you said you were one of the first people to go through it, did they send you clients?
Micah: They did for a little while actually. Some really good clients in the early days, there’s actually a similar experience where their first version wasn’t the best, but there were so few of us that we knew everybody by name over there. And when they got especially a big client, they knew us enough to say, “Oh, you’d be a good fit for so and so and make a personal introduction.” So it was really powerful.
Andrew: And so, as you were doing that, you found that several of your clients were asking for what that led to Memberium?
Micah:They were asking for integration. So at the time that it wasn’t like, “Oh, I need a membership site plugin.” It was like, “I need an integration between Infusionsoft and Joomla, was the first one that I got a lot of, and then later became Memberium, and just at some point in there, it took me a while, which is sad to say because I was in this time for money mentality, I realized, “Oh, I can sell the same block of code to this next guy, and instead of charging thousands for it, I can charge hundreds and I can profit and they’ll be happy, so it really worked out well. And I’ve learned a lot of other lessons about distributing software, but at the time I just . . . here’s the source code of my plugin, no strings attached. Give me 500 bucks, everybody’s happy.
Andrew: So it was a connection between Infusionsoft and what was it? Joomla?
Micah: Joomla was the first one, yeah.
Andrew: And what were they looking for it to do? What was the integration supposed to be?
Micah: So Joomla, it’s similar to WordPress, it’s an open source platform that allows a lot of stuff like communities and logging into a website, and they wanted to control access to who could log in or not based on the status in Infusionsoft, you know.
Andrew: So basically a membership site? If they paid in Infusionsoft or if they’re active in Infusionsoft or have a tag, got it, that’s what it is. Then give them access, and then Joomla could actually handle that? Could handle access?
Micah: It could, yeah. So they had user management. And so, we, kind of, plugged into that and, yeah, we gated it based on whether or not the user had paid.
Andrew: And WordPress had user management for a long time, but it didn’t easily allow you to block off pages based on outside sources, right? Or based on anything.
Micah: Right, and went back a long time ago, yeah, they really didn’t. There was some starter membership plugins, but, again, a lot of our clients with Infusionsoft I heard somebody put it that Infusionsoft is really, kind of, a lifestyle choice, so it’s not just a tool you use, it’s going to run a lot of your business, and so, you kind of, got to go with it. And so those people using Infusion they very much need something that integrates to Infusion, not another standalone, because all their e-commerce and affiliates and automations in Infusion. And so they want to reflect that also on the membership site.
Andrew: I think he said it’s a lifestyle choice. I remember Kelly Esavado [SP], the consultant that we hired to initially set us up, and she got a set up with Infusionsoft. She is so connected to Infusionsoft that she said, “I’m going to go to a conference next week and I created this form just for myself so when I meet someone at the conference I type in their name in the form it goes into my Infusionsoft which is like my address book, but also kicks off a sequence of messages that says, “I saw you at this conference etc., etc.” And I thought, “This is pretty intense. This is a lifestyle, and if you live that lifestyle, I can see how organized you could be.” And if you don’t, I feel like “Whoa, is it overwhelming to be in that Infusionsoft?”
Micah:Yeah, absolutely. The people who don’t dive all the way in, they don’t all have the best experience.
Andrew: How many, yeah I get it. Some people even who do dive all the way in end up with painful experiences.
Andrew:How many of these clients requested you get before you said, “I think I need to just sell this a standalone code.” That was probably less than 10 even. But it kept repeating itself, then I started to put together products and I thought, “Oh, I’ve got it.” You know, and I started, I took basically all the code I’d ever done for anybody, because it’s all custom projects prior to that, and I’m actually not really that great a coder. I was hiring it out like freelancers and stuff. But I had all these code bases and I thought, “Oh, I’ll just sell these things,” but I made the mistake of going like 10 products wide and selling them and not really thinking of the long-term support ramifications and all that, and the updates and so forth.
Andrew:I see. So this wasn’t the first thing you sold. It was nine others plus this.
Micah:Yeah, it was the first one, but as soon as I caught that bug, everything else I’d ever made, I started [trying to get this out 00:19:47]
Andrew: I see. Like what? Give me an example of something.
Micah: So like shopping cart stuff, integrations between Infusionsoft and other shopping carts, because Joomla has got some shopping carts, one click upsell tool. So we’d write a little simple script to do one click upsell with API, and I think, “Oh, that’s a product. I’ll sell this.” But it wasn’t really a product. There’s just a script, you know.
Andrew: So, you know what? I should talk about my sponsor Toptal in this context. One of my past interviewees, I don’t know how open he is about it, so I won’t reveal his name. Basically same thing, he’s got an online store, when there’s a tool that he needs over and over, he has this outside development firm create it for him, and then they also maintain it for him, and then he goes out into the world and says, “I created this plugin for myself. I needed it. Here’s how it helped me. And if you guys want to buy go over here and buy it.”
And I think about it in reference to Toptal because so many of us have developers internally, but they don’t have enough time to build the things that we need them to do. Well, you can go to Toptal, hire a developer from there, part time, full time, even a team of developers will go crank on something, people work well together, and they go back if you’re done with the project. But once you’re done having it built for yourself, the thing that your team doesn’t have time to build, you can always turn it into a product like this guy who, I shouldn’t mention his name, and sell that.
Let me ask you this before I finish this Toptal commercial, I know I always talk over myself when I say Toptal I should be very clear. What is the problem with that? Why not take every little thing that you need built and turn it into a plugin and sell, and people who want to buy, buy, good for you.
Micah: Well, there’s a couple problems and some people do it successfully, because they’re constantly tweaking it, but when I think of a product, it’s something that somebody can buy and install themselves, and manage themselves and whatnot, and if they need customer service, of course that’s great. You can get it, but something that’s a little more rounded out on user friendly, whereas, what I did is I was just selling really raw scripts where then they would come back and say, “Hey, how does this work? How does that work? How do I configure it for me? And I would show them and think, “Oh, it’s perfectly fine.”
But then looking back I was like, “You know, I’m spending quite a bit of time with each of these person. Suddenly the one-time fee I charged them in the beginning doesn’t look so great compared to the lifetime of support I’m committed to. And especially in this space where technology changes around you, and you’re in lots of different hosting environments, you just run into more and like it’s exponentially [crosstalk 00:22:08]
Andrew: Right. You’re building on WordPress, where WordPress makes a change, suddenly your thing breaks, you got to fix it, okay. So guys, if you’re listening to me and you need somebody to build stuff for you and you don’t have enough bandwidth or your team doesn’t have enough bandwidth, go to Toptal, but this thing that I had in mind where every little thing that you have them create can turn into a product, absolutely it would become a mistake. Pick the one or two things that make the most sense and focus on those, because you’re right. Otherwise, everything needs to be updated. Every customer has a set of questions and you’re trying to answer every one of them. And you ended up, once you focused on a single product coming up with a really good solution for how to take care of all that customer service request. I’ll get to that in a moment.
First, I’m going to close out by saying, if you want to go work with Toptal, hire their developers, there’s a great URL you can go to, where they’re going to give you eighty hours of Toptal available credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks. I really urge any one of their competitors to try to match that. It’s unbelievable. Go to toptal.com/Mixergy. That’s top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, because they believe in the best talent. T-O-P-T-A-L.com/mixergy.
All right. I have all these notes about you. Now I’m getting to understand a little bit more about why you would do this, and what you meant by focus. All right. We asked you in the pre-interview what are the first version look like? You used the word embarrassing. What was so embarrassing about it?
Micah: It was just a page full of all these settings with not really a great description of what the setting does, or why you would use it. So we would deliver this to people and say, “Yeah, build a membership site,” and they would look at me like, “Okay, so where do I start? Or how do I do that? And what does this thing do? And what does that thing do? And if I want to do this specific scenario, what is the combination of settings that will get it for me?” And, we knew, and so, we’re like, “Oh, you just, blah, blah, blah, blah,” you know.
And that’s fine when you’re managing every site personally or talking to every customer personally, which is kind of what we did in the beginning. We knew that it was lacking in user experience and documentation, and so, we volunteered to help get people through most of it. Because once you do the basic configuration, then it’s pretty much you create a page and you check a box for what membership level like should be. And so, we figured we’ll getting past that initial hurdle, and then they’ll be for the most part fine, and that did work.
But, yeah, the first product compared to now, now people go in and there’s a wizard, and then it installs pages based on their preferences, and gets an a lot further down the road without them having to learn about our software. Because we, kind of, entered with that approach of let’s try to make it easier not way, way more powerful or anything like that. It wasn’t our approach, it was just easier, or user friendly.
Andrew: Which year did you launch this?
Andrew: 2014. At that point, you already had what is it? mmmastery.com?
Micah: Yeah. So I had my own membership site, yeah.
Andrew: Before you launched your plugin?
Micah: Yeah. I was using CustomerHub, which is, a kind of, like you were saying earlier, it’s where you load up your content to hosted solution.
Andrew: Oh, I see. And so before you even had your plugin, you had your own membership site?
Micah: I did, yeah. I’ve always . . .
Andrew: And your membership site, I’m looking at an old version of it said, “Learn how to automate your business and get the most out of Infusionsoft.” So the stuff that you were doing for people, you had a training course that would teach them how to do it. Am I right?
Micah: Yeah, yeah absolutely.
Andrew: I feel like I’m missing something. Tell me what I’m missing.
Micah: Well, so, when I first got in all the internet marketing stuff, I had read a book, and I’m sure it was one of those like spammy, internet marketing, live on the beach kind of books. But I just fell in love with that idea of selling information, or making money when you’re not trading time for dollars. And so, as I was doing Infusionsoft consulting, I did it long enough and was, kind of, the top expert in the Infusionsoft space, and had implemented a lot of their ultimate marketers and stuff. So I decided, “Oh, I’m going to record some training on how to use it, because people had asked me that and at the time, it wasn’t a ton of people, but enough asked me that I thought, “Okay, I’m going to record these trainings.
So, I did record a bunch of training, built out a membership site, and started selling that, which was a great experience. And then over time I wanted more control, but also people were coming back again saying, hey, I want to do what you did, but do it on my WordPress site, which I invested all this money in already. Because the thing is members were already logging into their site for some other reason, and so they thought, well, if they can login and access content, I want to do that with Infusionsoft.
Andrew: And at the time there were competitors already. Why didn’t you use the competitors that existed then just connect them to an Infusionsoft? There were WordPress plugins?
Micah: Yeah. I tried a couple of them, and I didn’t really like some of them were limited, like it was a fine plugin, but Infusionsoft was an afterthought to them. They were a WordPress membership plugin and they thought, “Oh, we have an integration to Infusionsoft.” But again, while I’m everything Infusionsoft, I wanted to do a lot more. And the one that did all that, didn’t have the customer service, didn’t have the user experience, and just wasn’t in my opinion, a great company. And so, that’s when we came on the market. Yeah, there was a very big competitor doing almost exactly what we wanted to do. So, we came on saying, “Well, let’s provide that functionality, but with a great user experience, with great support, and have a friendly company rather than, kind of, like the Soup Nazi company.
Andrew: How much do you think they do?
Micah: Right now?
Andrew: In revenue, yeah.
Micah: That’s a good question. I know a lot less than us, so we overtake them.
Andrew: Really? So you beat them?
Micah: Oh, yeah.
Andrew: Wow. And of the way that you did it was, you started out by selling this script, one of what became 10 different scripts that you’re selling, you saw the people couldn’t fully understand it, and you said, we will put it together, we will set it up for you, and then you could just go with it.” Did you charge for that set up?
Micah: We didn’t, no.
Andrew: You didn’t. The first was just, “I’ll take care of it. You bought for me. I don’t want the hassle that you . . . I don’t want you to have hassle. I’ll set it up for you.” And then, you ended up doing some kind of white glove service. What was that?
Micah: Yeah, so those earlier scripts, that was called like, WordPress for Infusionsoft or whatever. I had a bunch of terrible names for those things.
Andrew: What was the domain? I was trying to hunt that down.
Micah: I made most of those inactive, because Infusionsoft at some point started enforcing their trademark, but it was like Infusionsoft-wordpress.com.
Andrew: Really? Okay.
Micah: Yeah. So . . .
Andrew: And WordPress also is upset about stuff like that.
Micah: Yeah. And I had like Infusionsoftoneclick.com and a bunch of names like that. There was just basically Infusionsoft plus what it did. And that worked for a while, and then they started enforcing their trademark and I was like, “Wow, I got to really make some changes.”
But yeah, when we did Memberium, and when we first came out with that, it was funny, because I had a following in the Infusionsoft space and I thought, “I’m going to release this plugin and everyone’s going to buy it. And almost nobody bought it, not even my friends would buy it, because they were like, “Well, I know you have a new project and that’s great, I want to support you, but I got to give it a little time before I can try it, because my whole business is a membership site, you know.”
And so, we actually got, kind of, a cold taste of reality there and realized, “Okay, we just got to start at the very bottom and get one client at a time and build their site. So that was that white glove service that we started doing for free initially just saying, “Okay, we’ll help you get set up.”
But then we started offering a little $500 package that included about three hours a setup, where we would do more, but we found out that wasn’t a good fit, because it changed the perception then they expected when we said five $500 to set up or install or do basic configuration of your membership site, there was a whole range of expectations that people came up with out of that.
Andrew: Like what?
Micah: Well, they thought we would even like edit their content and do design for them, all of the stuff. And in our minds we’re thinking like basic membership, specific configuration. So as much as we tried to even flesh out what it was and provide like a bullet list of what it includes and doesn’t include, it was still not the best experience. So we went back to just giving away for free. Just like, “Okay, we’ll just help you for free.” You’ll be happier. We’ll get a good testimonial from you, because you don’t expect all this service for $47 dollars a month product. And that formula work for us. But, yeah, we tried the service business and it was not good.
Andrew: Did you learn anything from it? It doesn’t seem like it other than don’t do a service business.
Micah: Yeah, don’t do a service business, and I think also, it really made us think how hard it is to set up, like why is it that this takes three hours, you know. So when we exited that, we knew also that we’re going to have to add a lot of functionality to speed up the set up process. And that’s why today we’ve got a wizard and templates and so forth. So we try to deliver that just automatically rather than it needing time and effort.
Andrew: It feels like it makes a lot of sense though, as a business to say, “I will have my people set you up.” Because once it’s set up, they’re much more likely to use it to keep it, and then they’re hooked, right?
Micah: Yeah. I think for a lot of businesses it makes a ton of sense, because also it’s a lot more revenue.
Andrew: What do you mean?
Micah: Well, so, if we’re charging $47 a month, but can charge easily 500, 1000, 2500 for a set up package, revenue per client goes way, way up.
Andrew: Oh, I see what you’re saying. So you actually would recommend it, that if someone’s listening to us and they have software that takes a little while to get started, they should offer a $500 or something set a fee and have a human being get on a Screencast or Zoom, or something and start setting it up for them.
Micah: Yeah, and I think it’s a little bit of a personal preference just because, we knew we wanted to be a product company not a service company. And so, anyone though who does have a service arm and is good at that, that’s a great opportunity to have like you’re saying people set up the product, because a client is going to stay longer, but when we transition out of that, it’s also part of why we started the Certified Partner Program and thought that was a good idea was to say, “Well, we don’t do services, we’re swearing them off, but we have people who do.” You know, so . . .
Andrew: You know you need that. You know what? So Noah Kagan, I think from AppSumo was doing that, where he personally would set people up with, actually, not AppSumo, it’s a Sumo brand, sumo.com. He would go and install Sumo for websites for them, and then he would even create a lead magnet for them, because most businesses don’t have lead magnets. And then he got a sense of what their site looked like and how tough it was to set it up, and also started to get some presence online.
Who was it? It was Nathan Berry from ConvertKit, did the same thing, where he, I don’t think he did it himself, but he said, “If you want to switch over from Infusionsoft to someone else, I’ll do it. I’ll have somebody set you up.” I’m noticing that as a pattern. “We’ll set you up, we’ll get you started.” And you’re suggesting, “Hey, you know what? At times it does make sense to charge for that.”
Micah: Yeah, yeah definitely. And, again, we tried it for a while and it did make sense, where we were out at the time, but we didn’t love it, and we would much rather go above and beyond and call it support rather than call it Time for Dollars and yeah.
Andrew: Do you ever feel like . . . look at this, I’m working so hard to create software. I’m generating just a bit over a million dollars. Some of these people have membership sites they’re generating millions and they’re doing nothing but creating videos. Do you feel left out sometimes?
Micah: A little bit. I’ve done some case studies where I was a little jealous. But we do also now, we have another membership site about building membership sites, so we’re getting the ball rolling. It’s partially a support piece to coach our clients through best practices. But, yeah, from a revenue standpoint, it’s already done very well in our basic tests, and we’re going to continue on with that. But, yeah, I’m not going to lie. I have been very jealous at times.
Andrew: I remember sitting with a software entrepreneur, just hanging out with them, and he said, “You know, I can’t listen to John Lee Dumas podcast anymore.” I said, “Why not?” “Because this guy’s making millions of dollars just doing podcasts.” And of course, and I’m doing, and he told me what he was doing at the time, I forget right now, but it’s like and we have all these engineers on board. I just started to get frustrated, and I decided I’m not going to listen anymore.” So basically it’s this level of . . . for him it was this level of just overwhelming jealousy. That’s how I would put it. And he recognized himself enough to know that it was just not helping him, so he stopped. But I get it. I feel like you’re in the software space, and some of the people using your software end up making more than you are.
Micah: Yeah, and I brought this up with my mastermind group a little over a year ago, and they told me something that I thought was pretty comforting they said, “Well, when that personality goes and tries to sell their business, what are they selling? Like their name.com and all the content they created. Whereas, if you sell your software business, you’re going to get a much better multiple, because someone else can pick that up. It’s not so based on the personality.” So I was like, “Yeah, that’s comforting.”
And the other thing when we started this, it was to go all into membership sites, but I did envision more products to follow. Kind of, like, well, we’ll get them started on $47 a month membership site, but we’ll have some other stuff down the road that they’ll want to buy from us because they’re buying this. So I do see a [crosstalk 00:35:08]
Andrew: Like an email software or something. Well, you can’t get into email because you compete, but maybe pop up or something like that. Am I right?
Micah: Well, mostly a membership site services. So like membership site events, membership site, like I said to help membership site owners [inaudible 00:35:22] certification program. And we actually looked at a lot of other software and we had people offer us their software kind of saying, “Hey, we built this. Will you market it for us?” And that sort of thing? But we, kind of, came back around and made the decision that we’re just going to be just a membership site company, so anything membership site-related we’ll focus on.
And with Memberium in particular, we’re going for scale. So yeah, we could maybe, and we’ve thought about and looked at how hard it would be to make an order form software, shopping cart software, and a lot of other things that they also do use and would probably buy from us. But it’s like, “Well, we can probably get everyone we have to buy two things, but then we’re going to, we’ll have less overall people. Whereas, if we just focus and, kind of, keep doubling down on the membership space, we can grow past 10,000 customers and beyond, is, kind of, where we’re going for better or worse.
Andrew: Looking in one of your early sites, and it says, “Free WordPress plugin that integrates WordPress to your Infusion application, Infusionsoft application, what was the free thing that you offered?
Micah: That was just a more basic WordPress plugin. I can’t even remember, it’s funny you’re digging up these old sites. I don’t even know which one that is, but . . .
Andrew: So you did that as a lead magnet? Or you’re giving them a small piece of the software and then upgrading?
Micah: Yeah, exactly, as a lead magnet.
Andrew: The site says copyright, and you’ve got copyright spelled wrong, which I hope you don’t feel uncomfortable with, I think we can all look back at some of the stuff that was on our sites and laugh. But it says copyright 2009 infusionalliance.com. What’s that?
Micah: That was, kind of . . .
Micah: . . . the overall company that held all those things, but Infusion even didn’t want people using the term infusion. So Infusion Alliance also, they were like, “No, you can’t really do that.”
Andrew: Yeah. There was a period there where nobody cared. Twitter used to not care, you could call whatever you wanted, Twitter this, Twitter that, and then they decided it actually could hurt our reputation, and also, hurt maybe our copyright, our trademark, excuse me, and they’ll clamp down. Okay, so you had this . . . you were really super into the Infusionsoft life. Are you the type of person who at a conference would go on add someone’s contact information to Infusionsoft as opposed to your phone’s address book?
Micah: Yes, actually.
Andrew: You were.
Andrew: Oh, dude, I would love to see what your Infusionsoft looks like, how organized it is.
Micah: Nowadays it’s pretty good, but also it’s funny because my app is 12 years old now. And so, there’s all sorts of old, kind of, legacy stuff hanging around. So it’s the ones we use actively are good.
Andrew: Because everyone is tagged and sometimes you forget what you tag people with, and you’ve got all these different sequences. You know, the other thing that I noticed on the site is it says Bluehost is my favorite host, and it’s an affiliate link to Bluehost. When I mouse over to bluehost.com/track/moldingbox. So Molding Box is a word I’ve also seen throughout, like the hunting you down. What is Molding Box?
Micah: So Molding Box was actually a friend of mine’s company, fulfillment company, and when I very first started, we said, “Oh, let’s go in on Infusionsoft together.” And so, we called our Infusionsoft app Molding Box and back then you had an actual name for your app. So we called it that, and one of my earliest, I’ve done so many stupid things, one of the earliest versions of my company I called Molding Box Technologies, because he had spent all this money on branding, and he’s like, “Yeah, sure. You can whatever you want.”
And so, that was the first version. And then that, kind of, became Infusion Alliance, and consulting and all these mastery and stuff like that. So that’s some old stuff I should probably at some point clean up a little bit more. But, yeah, that’s where it came from.
Andrew: It’s nice to have that in your history. So far, I haven’t found anything like shocking. I know you were nervous before the interview started. I don’t think you have anything to be nervous about. I think it’s just an interesting walk down memory lane. Like I just found an old photo of myself I shared it with someone on the team as we were going through a Google doc. And she didn’t even recognize me. And I was a little embarrassed by the photo, but I feel like, it’s the way you get to know each other by sharing the stuff that you’re embarrassed by.
I want to come back and ask you about this paring down process. It seems like it was an intentional process. You decided to go through it. And people don’t tend to do it until there’s a breaking point, and then a strategy. And I want to know what that was, and then, I’m also curious about this mastermind that you said. What is the mastermind that you’re a part of? Does it work? Why does it work? It seems like you got a lot out of it.
All right. But first, let me talk about a company that I’ve talked about for a while. If you need a website hosted, HostGator offers inexpensive website hosting, and what they don’t show on their websites is you can scale it up. We started with their cheapest plan, then we moved up, and then as the business that we started a few . . . this has been less than a year ago bot academy to train people to create chatbots. As it grew I just kept upping our hosting package and HostGator grew with us.
Let me ask you this, I told you that this is a question I might ask you within the interview. If somebody’s listening to us and says, “You know, this whole membership thing is interesting. I don’t have that much in me, or I don’t know what to create as membership site.”
If I were to say to them? “Look, I’m going to give you a membership plugin, I’m going to give you WordPress on a hosting package, what would you do with it? Let me ask you, what would you recommend that they do to create a membership site that works?
Micah: So. Yeah, there’s a lot to that, right?
Andrew: This is a lot. This is actually a bad question, because if you had to solve the world’s problem what would it be? That’s what I basically laid on you. Take it out any way that you can.
Micah: Yes. So, what I would say, first of all, is I would encourage them to test out whatever their membership site concept is, just because I don’t want them to build a site that nobody wants to buy. And the best way to test it, or some effective strategies I’ve seen, one of my favorites is, just host a webinar series. So whatever, that person’s an expert at or has some experience with, put on a free webinar series. Let’s say six or nine webinars over six or nine weeks, or whatever. And then, just record them and make that your membership content.
Because what most people say is, “Oh, I don’t know how to make content. I don’t know what to make, blah, blah, blah.” But number one, if you have them do it live, they’re kind of forced into it as soon as they commit to it. As soon as they get some people registered, they’re doing it, you know. And it’ll make them think, “Okay, how do I break down my overall curriculum into three or six or nine chunks, whatever it is and teach it?” and it also provides some user-generated content, because on the webinars people ask questions and so forth.
So I’ve seen a lot of people start out just by holding a few webinars to see if there’s interest. And the thing is, if you do the free webinars, and people really aren’t interested and they don’t love it that may not be the best thing for memberships sign.
And the only reason I say this is we’ve had . . . I had a client a while ago who, I did Infusionsoft consulting for, and they were in a mastermind group I used to run a long time ago, and they invested so much in their site. And we kept telling them try to sell something, try to sell something, they’re like, “No, no. They’re going to buy it.” And they had former corporate lives, they were corporate coaches and all this, and they thought, “Okay, all these executives are going to buy our course, because it’s going to teach them how to get promotions and switch jobs and stuff.” Nobody bought it, not one. And they invested, they said over $100,000 in this project not a single sell ever.
And what they found was those people don’t want to pay for their entry, their own training. They want the company to pay for it, and they’re not going to just go out find it on their own and buy it. And so, it’s a sad story, it’s not the typical story, but it’s like, it really led me around to talking to people in the beginning stages of a membership site to say, test the concept because it is work, and it’s very worth it if somebody wants to buy it. But you don’t want to be the person who invests a lot of time and energy, and passion in creating content and have it flop. You want to learn quicker what will people buy what won’t they buy, and just, kind of, speed up the . . .
Andrew: That’s great advice. There was someone who I work out of Regis office, I love Regis offices, because it’s so professional. It gets stuff done. And I look at this guy who was getting stuff done all the time. He was the last out of the office every day. He was the first into the office. If I came on the weekends, he would be there working. What was he doing? He was into standardized tests. He taught it in person. He said, I want to take all my knowledge and do it online. I’ve got some people who would potentially buy. He spent so much time putting this content together.
And then he finally launched it, and he disappeared. The thing was not working. I checked on his website from time to time for the better part of two years, and it was gone within a year. Now, like, there was like nothing new and then the whole site was gone within . . . the content was gone within a year, not even this blog he was trying out, and then within two years the whole thing disappeared. And it was so sad, because when he finally launched, I saw a Facebook video of him and his young son out by the train station handing out flyers, trying to get people to buy this thing that he spent so much time and he was determined. He wasn’t lazy.
But you’re right. Okay, I think that’s great advice. So anyone out there who has an idea for any kind of membership site, get a hosting package, I would love it if you went to a hostgator.com/Mixergy because they’re going to give you a low price and make it easy for you to get started, and I’ll get some credit for you signing up, and it is a low price. I’ll talk to you about what that is in a moment.
But, boy, I’m so glad that we’re talking about this. Just do offer us a few weeks of live sessions, you can block it off, so that only members have access, by creating a membership site, get some experience with it, keep it really light and use the three themes that you can get online. Don’t make it look good. Feel really comfortable just embracing the bad design and the great content. Look at all the different things that I’ve just looked at with Micah, all the different ways that his site was like that typo on the word copyright.
Frankly, go back to Mixergy. Even last week, you’ll see a bunch of issues. That’s not where you should get hung up on. Hung up on, “Can I start to sell this thing? And then just offer it to your audience.” All right. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy. When you do you’re going to get $2.64 a month. No, don’t sign up for that one. Sign up for that middle package. It’ll cost you, what is it? $3.98 a month to get started, and that’s the one that’s going to give you unlimited domains. One-click installs, unmetered bandwidth, and so much more. But do get started by going to hostgator.com/mixergy.
All right. Let’s continue then. This mastermind you brought it up again, what’s this mastermind you’re part of?
Micah: So those were two separate ones. The one I was talking about, they joined one that I was in charge of and running and we were selling access to. That was whole different gig and story. But the one I’ve been in lately is more peer driven. So a couple people you might have talked to a couple of them, Kim Walsh-Philips, and then, Olly Billson [SP] and Wes Schaeffer [SP]. And we actually stopped meeting, because we got really busy sometime last summer, and we’re going to pick it up again.
But when we were doing it, we would just meet once a week and just, kind of, get four people on Skype and chat. And it was really useful, because we would all whine and complain about our problems and celebrate what was going well. But just picking the minds of people who are playing at a different level was so valuable, especially for me. I live in like an hour out of Salt Lake. And I haven’t done a good job of connecting with people around here yet, so I didn’t have a great support network. Like I said, my dad is funny, because he’s like, “You should get a job, you know.”
So getting some entrepreneurial feedback from people who were in there and doing it was a lifesaver for me, and I got a lot of good, sometimes . . .
Andrew: Do you remember one thing you got out of being the mastermind?
Micah: Yeah, I mean, honestly, just the encouragement through time, because I would I’d be very honest with them and be like, “I’m growing this business, but I feel like a fraud sometimes, because we’re not profitable. You know, like halfway through we’re at this weird point where just working my butt off, and not profitable. And they would, kind of, encourage me, give me some ideas for how to tweak things and whatnot. But mostly, it was just being listened to, honestly, like being able to talk and have people listen who understand and can appreciate where it’s at. But, yeah, I think just the emotional . . .
Andrew: Why weren’t you profitable at the time?
Micah: It’s $47 a month, and I had more and more ditched any sort of service work. And so, until that built up to a critical mass, it was just, it was a lot of work for very little money.
Andrew: And you have kids, and you’ve got a family to take care of. You worked nights a lot?
Micah: Yeah. So I would start pretty early. There was a time I guess there’s only the very first year we were starting, I would commonly go from like 7 to 9, so 7 in the morning to 9 at night, and just meetings almost every hour on the hour doing set ups. And if somebody would have an issue, and so I’d say, “Oh, set up another call.” And I was, kind of, in the groove, and so, it didn’t bother me, but that’s a white glove service that we were doing, especially when we were doing it for free. It just took a lot of time. And so, then we started hiring people to help with that process, and it all worked out fantastic.
Andrew: Wow. Why didn’t you get burned out at that point? Why didn’t you feel like, “I can’t go on anymore I’ll just go do something else”?
Micah: You know, there were times when I’d get a little bit burnt out, but it usually more kind of pissed me off and made me make changes, so it wasn’t like, “Oh I’m going to quit.” It was more like, “This is bull crap. We’re doing something about this, you know.” And so, usually for me, that would be, “Make a video. That’s was usually, kind of, my go-to therapy . . .
Andrew: You make a video, meaning, “I hate that I have to keep solving this. I’m going to make a video so that this walks the next person through the same problem I just helped one person with.” Is that it?
Andrew: And that became this big video library.
Andrew: That’s the heart of, at least for a long time it was the heart of your support. Today you guys do more tech, don’t you?
Micah: Yeah. We’ve got a little, I think 11 now full time tech support, but yeah, that was another thing difference between us and our competitor was video documentation of a lot of the features. So we were trying to differentiate, but also, it really was my own personal frustration of, “I’m sick of answering this question all the time with my personal time.” And so, the more videos I made, the more I was able to say, “Oh, you’ve got three quick questions. Well, here’s three videos.” And not like a “Go away answer, I don’t want to help you.” But “This video is just as good as me explaining it, if not better.”
Andrew: And then did you put it on your site for everyone else?
Micah: Yeah. So we made all those public, because they’re basically support videos.
Andrew:Which software do you use for your support so that you can do that? I find that we answer questions often, but it’s such a drag to go back to it as support software and then add it in again, so we don’t in the moment. And then, next time the same email comes in, we write the same email again, same response.
Micah: Yeah, and we do some of that. We use Zendesk, and we’ve been using it long enough. Halfway through, we switched to another provider and back to Zendesk. But, yeah. Since we use it fully, really heavily, it’s become a really good situation. We use a lot of macros, a lot of templates. So to a lot of questions, we have a template that, kind of, answers it and points them to a couple video examples and we encourage our team to customize those, so it’s not just like a template that doesn’t match their question. But, yeah, and it was brick by brick building toward it, but now that we’re here, it’s nice.
Andrew: What I would love it, is if the support email that we used would just automatically create macros out of our answers. And then next time we get a similar question, automatically be smart enough to say, “This is, maybe one of the answers you’ve given in the past. Can I give you that?”
I should hit up the founder of Help Scout. He doesn’t listen to me. He’s got his own thing. It’s all working really well. But you know what? Because a lot of the help software will do that. When you fill out as a customer their support form, it will say, “Here are 10 potential answers. Do you want any of those?” And then it will send it out.
You know what? I’m blanking for a second? Eoghan. Eoghan from Intercom. I was at a party with him and first of all, I talked to him about sex a lot. I don’t know that he participated that much, but I was open with him about it. And then I was prying into everyone else’s sex life.
And then the second thing was I just like talked to him a little bit about his business, but, boy, I wish I could have turned that around. I don’t think it would’ve been super fun for him. I don’t think he would have laughed as much, but it would’ve been more interesting for me if I were to turn it around to talk to him about his business. Because I have a lot of opinions about support software. I’m sure you do too, because that’s the make or break for your customer experience, and it’s also the make or break for your exhaustion level.
Micah: Yeah. I was going to say is our support become a strength, but it’s been basically through elbow grease. Yeah. So, we could do that, we switched off of Zendesk temporarily to a software that tried to do some of those things you mentioned, but . . .
Andrew: What’s that? Drift?
Andrew: FuseDesk? I don’t know them.
Micah: It’s an Infusionsoft specific one, but it was, kind of, like, “Oh, ticket prevention as they’re typing in their question, it’ll suggest answers and there’s macros that we can automatically respond. And for whatever reason, we just couldn’t . . . it didn’t work for us, you know. So it’s nothing against them. I still really like them, but yeah, I agree. I would love to figure that out, to get that to really work for us.
Andrew: Yeah. Drift I feel in some ways is trying to get to that level of automation, but we’re a bit away from that. I was looking at Fuse right now and I realize Fuse gets customers because they’re part of Infusionsoft. Do you get that? Do you get customers because you’re built specifically for an Infusionsoft from an Infusionsoft?
Micah: We do, yeah.
Andrew: How? How does that work? Do you do webinars for them? Is it just being in the marketplace?
Micah: So part of it is just, kind of, being there because Infusionsoft once they’re aware of you, so we had to be like, “Hey, we’re doing a plugin, whatever.” They’ll say to their customers, “Here’s a couple options, because you’re using Infusionsoft.” But we did actively solicit them a lot. So at one of the first events we went to, we went in there kind of guerrilla, we weren’t sponsoring. And I’ve told people since then to our most valuable piece of marketing was we made a little flyer that said, “We love Infusionsoft. Infusionsoft employees get a free lifetime license of Memberium.” So we weren’t even . . . yeah, some customers were there, we were trying to get them too, but the most effective thing that came from the whole event is, “Hey, all these Infusionsoft staff is here and they want to talk to people. That’s what they’re there for. Let’s go talk to them. Let’s give them free Mbemberium. Let’s support them.”
And, of course then when they get a question they’re like, “Oh, there’s this thing called Memberium. I use it you should check it out.”
Andrew: Oh, that’s smart.
Micah:That was super effective.
Andrew:You also seem to get traffic from lab.digitalmarketer.com. I’m hunting down. If you see my eyes, by the way, talk to you for a second, and then go all over, it’s because, there’s more that I want to get about you in my research. I saw that you that a lot of traffic from lab.digitalmarketer.com. That’s DigitalMarketer’s membership site. But how are they sending you traffic from there?
Micah: So one of the things is they have . . . I forget what it’s called. It’s like DigitalMarketer Deals, maybe it’s like deals for their members. And so, we provide a discount to their members, but also, they we’ve got like on our home page of our site, a nice testimonial from Ryan [inaudible 00:54:06] DigitalMarketer, because they used us. And so that was a big bonus in the beginning is them using us.
Andrew: The other place it’s sending you traffic is membership . . . wait, I see it’s because what they’re doing . . . you’re giving their people a discount, and they then are referring all their people into you to get your discount. Has that worked out well for you?
Micah: Yeah, really well.
Andrew: Yeah. It seems like there are a few different companies that do that. Groove HQ, Groove the help support company. They did a package of those software deals. All right. That makes sense. What about membership.coach? They’re sending you traffic somehow.
Micah: Yes. So that’s actually my site that we built for membership site owners. So I don’t know which way the traffic is always flowing, but we try to cross-promote.
Andrew:That explains why I can’t get into it. It’s only for members, right?
Andrew:What else did you do to get customers?
Micah: So, let’s see here. We also gave all Infusionsoft certified partners free accounts, and that worked out, kind of, the same way of, “Hey, free account, all the training you want. We’ll help you, even build a few client sites.” And this is why I say we work so hard in the beginning, because we had to get in. And so, all that time was either setting up a client, or helping a partner set up a client, and they were just like really? You’ll do that for me for free and get me some software? Okay, I guess.” So we, kind of, worked our way in there, but traditional marketing as well, some ads, and I had an email list in the Infusion space from being in it for a while, but, like I said, that wasn’t that effective. I sent out some emails thinking they’re all we’re going to get this flood of customers. It didn’t really . . .
Andrew: You know, Brad Martineau now does a really good job. He runs PlusThis which is an . . . it started out as an Infusionsoft only collection of plugins. And he still to this day will give it to anyone who is, I think, a certified consultant or anyone who potentially could be working with clients who would need this. And so, they give it to them for free. Those people love playing around with new software, and then they end up recommending him.
So I asked you earlier about this shift from lots of different software to one. And I theorized that something was going on that you hit a breaking point in a vision. And it seemed that you agreed. What was that breaking point and what was the vision that you had?
Micah: So, somewhere in this whole journey, I was even working with one of our competitors early, like, early, early. In fact, I had my WordPress plugin and they had their WordPress plugin, this was my very first, like script crappy version. And so, we said, “Hey, let’s work together a little bit.” And we did that for a while, and I really grew that company up quite a bit. And then we had a falling out. And when I did that, I had saved up some money, and was doing fine, whatever. And so, I really thought, “Okay, what do I want to do next?” I don’t want to do that and that’s when I built my Infusionsoft trainings. I thought, “Okay, let me try this membership site thing, because I’ve been helping people with it forever. I know Infusionsoft. I’m going to try this out.”
And that was really successful and carried me for quite a while, but in some version of it, that’s when I started, because I built on CustomerHub. And some version of it I decided, “Well, I want to . . . so that was kind of, the cleanup was when that happened I was like, “All right. Getting rid of all this other stuff, just going to focus on Infusionsoft training.”
And I think that’s why it worked as I completely focused on it and my wife, bless her heart, was totally behind me. She was like, “Oh, you’ll figure this out.” really encouraging. I’m sure she was scared, because it’s like we’re going to ditch everything we’ve ever done, and I’m going to make a million videos. And so I did that, and like said, it worked pretty well. And then, what, kind of, brought it back around to Memberium is David Bullock who is the Co-founder and actually the author of Memberium. He’s the coder. He was working with DigitalMarketer. He was doing a lot of their IT work and managing servers, and building water forms and funnels, and he said, “Hey, they couldn’t use the other plugin, because of security concerns. And so, whipped this up for them. Do you maybe want to sell it?” And I was actually in Belize at the time working with a client down there.
And so, it was, kind of, funny. I remember I was sitting like in a resort on a mountain, and I just thought, “Yeah, screw it. I’m going to make him an offer to license this and make a software business. I’m going to transition from a membership site that I own personally to a membership site software, again, but this time I’m going to do it right. You know, I’m going to do all the legal. We’re going to really make it a product that we can go to the masses with.” And so, that was, kind of, the cleanup was. Yeah, just, kind of, hitting that rock bottom where a partnership blew up, and I had to decide what I want to do next, and so, I kind [crosstalk 00:58:41]
Andrew: [crosstalk 00:58:41] partnership was you building someone else’s membership software?
Micah: Me doing all the marketing and documentation for it.
Andrew: They built it, and you were . . . what’s the software?
Andrew: Oh, okay. That is competitive with you guys. I saw so many different reviews comparing the two. You helped promote that and you said, “Look, I expected what?” What did you think was going to come out of that relationship?
Micah: So we were partners, but it’s a whole long, I try to be nice about it, but it’s a negative story basically, and so we’re splitting revenue. And then, when I moved back to the States from Costa Rica, that just cut off shortly thereafter. And so, I was like, “Oh and like locked out of all the systems and things like that.” And so that’s why I was like, “Well, I’m not going to just go do software right now. I’m just going to let that lie and just switch directions like take all my momentum. I was pouring into that, poured into my own membership site, and so that was that transition, yeah.
Andrew: And with David, he was creating the software for you. You couldn’t afford to pay him his price it sounds like, and so, what you did was you created a licensing agreement with him where you going to pay him every time you sell.
Micah: Yeah, royalty agreement.
Andrew: Okay, royalty agreement. Wow, how does it sit with you that I asked you about that iMember360? That’s the first time that I saw you, kind of, question whether you should’ve brought something up or talked about it. Well, like I said, I try to keep it positive, but looking back now, I’m grateful that it blew up, because it just wasn’t a good company, I’ll say to put it mildly. So in the long run it worked out. At the time it was really hard, because it’s like, “Okay, I’ve invested a lot of time, moved my family to Costa Rica for about a year.
Andrew: Why Costa Rica?
Micah: Because that’s where he lived at the time.
Andrew: Oh, so you went to be close to them, and then it blew up?
Micah: When I moved back, I just got locked out.
Andrew: You didn’t even know as you were going back to the U.S. that you were not going to get access?
Micah: Yeah. Well, I’ve been in the U.S. for a month or two, and then it all locked down.
Andrew: Wow. I see that pain. All right.
Micah: And so, you took away from that. I need to have things really written down, and clearly responsibilities, and ownership really clearly laid out, and also, what else? What did you learn about managing a company by being involved with that?
Andrew: Well, I learned a lot about customer service, because that was one thing that was always an issue with that company, is, like I said, Soup Nazi earlier, that’s what it was like, is if you don’t approach me properly when you’re asking for help with your membership side, I’m going to cut you off, kind of a thing literally.
Micah: And so, when I was looking at doing my own, it was, yeah, we’re going to be the most friendly to a fault. In fact, we’ve lately had to clean up our billing practices, because we were so nice and so sensitive about cutting people off that they get six months behind with excuses and they’d still be using our support, running our software, because we just didn’t want to cut people off. So I learned most, I would say about customer service. You know, there’s a lot of other lessons in software but just the fact that customer service, especially in a tight knit community like Infusionsoft, and I think you said earlier can make or break you, absolutely can, and that’s what’s really made us, I would say.
Andrew: Yeah. I have heard people talk about you so much. It is, you’re right. They have something about the way that they work. I don’t know what it is. I wonder if it’s because . . . what do you think it is? What is it about Infusionsoft that creates a cult-like connection to them?
Micah: That’s a good question. What is it about them? You know, they’ve been doing events for a long time, and I think when their users get together, they would have contests like their Ultimate Marketer Contest. So users getting together and competing against each other and have the best business, but in a friendly way, I think people really . . . What’s the word? They idolized those ultimate marketers, and they wanted to be there. They wanted to see the next one, they wanted to meet them, the software did change a lot of lives, you know.
It’s, I love Infusionsoft, but I know a lot of people who don’t love Infusionsoft. And so, there’s some people who think negatively of it, but there are some people who, they just love it. You know, it runs their business smoothly, if they really get into and have a good experience. They have a really good experience. And it’s lacking. Every software is. There are better things, but when I said it’s a lifestyle choice, it really is. And those who make it and it works out, they’re pretty much hooked, you know. And I’m one of those people. I really love it, but I’ve dealt with enough people who don’t like it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. You know, I’d recommend it as something to look at and try and if it fits, that’s fantastic.
Andrew: If you like ClickFunnels, it has got that kind of cult-like connection, but they’re fostering it. They’re encouraging it. They’re thinking, “What could we do to be more cult-like?” All right. Let me close it out with this one last realization that you told our producer. You said, “Look . . . ” He asked you, “What was your biggest challenge?” And you said, “Personal growth. I realized that the organization was only going to be as good as I am. And even if I hire people, I still need to be better myself.” Talk about that. I feel like there’s something big there that I’m not picking up on throughout this interview.
Micah: Yes. So, obviously, I’ve had lots of ups and downs, and in most of them I look back and it’s like, that was me being dumb. You know, even the whole thing with, iMember in Costa Rica and whatnot, it was like, “Why did I go commit all that time before being a legal part of the business?” It was always, “Oh, we’ll figure that out, and it’s complicated here in Costa Rica.” And every mistake I made along the way was just like, “Well, if I had known something more, that would’ve happened.” And so, now, I really try to get ahead of it. I try to read at least, 100 books a year.
The other thing is I dropped out of high school. So I’m not traditionally educated in anyway. So I’m trying to make up for that. You know, right now, I’m reading a lot of financial books. Like I said, our books are, kind of, a mess, so I’m not even sure of my profitability, and it’s just like, “Wow. That’s on me.” I should know that. So, I’m going to close that gap. And I just know that even if the business is successful like we talked about if I broke my back and was laid up for six months, what would happen?
It’s like, “Well, I don’t think it would grow exponentially. It would probably grow a bit, and that would be good.” But typically when I am really driving hard, it grows a lot faster. When I’m not, because sometimes I don’t, honestly, it, kind of, just flatlines, or it doesn’t grow as quickly. And so, I know that if I don’t pick up a lot more skills, financial skills, legal skills, whatnot, no matter how good the business is, I could lose it. You know, I can offend people, I can screw up partnerships, I can . . . there’s a number of things I can screw up based on my own experiences of screwing up . . . avoid now.
Andrew: You know, what’s one of the books that’s helped you recently? A hundred books a year is a lot. That’s one every three or four days.
Micah:Yeah, and it’s all audio books.
Andrew: So, that’s seven to twenty . . . it could, a minimum seven hour for most books, yeah. So I want to say one of the books that has helped me the most, there is a book “Scaling Up” and it’s very comprehensive, there’s so much in it by Verne Harnish, but “Scaling Up” has helped me scale up my organization, you know. It’s taught me how to, there’s like the buzz words of culture and all that whatever, mission statement. He does a good job of wrapping that all up in a logical framework, and giving exercises and tools and worksheets to continue to organize and scale. And why I don’t have any other background in doing that, I’ve pretty much followed that system, and it’s worked out rather well for it. So I’d say that’s one of them. Another book that deserves at least an honorable mention is “Ready, Fire, Aim” I love that.
Andrew: Where do I know that book? What is it about that book?
Micah:It’s him breaking down business into a couple stages, where you’re going to do these specific things when you’re growing from zero to a million and a whole different set of things, from a million and above, and just brings a lot of clarity, because there’s . . . he’s been very successful, the author, and he talks about that to an extent, but it’s no nonsense advice. It’s not like a bunch of fluffy, technical, stuff. It’s just like when you’re here, this is all you have to do. And if you’re doing other stuff, you’re a moron. And when you’re here, this is all you have to do. So I have I found that it’s proven to be true for me at least.
Andrew: The reviews of the book are phenomenal. I don’t know much about it, but it’s written by Michael Masterson, the book is “Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat” published in 2008.
All right. I have so much more that I didn’t ask you. I didn’t ask you about the guy who you work for, who . . . I should go. We should go. Anyone who sees you in person should ask you about this. The guy who you work for, who then turned you on to entrepreneurship, and as a result of that you started all these different businesses. I didn’t get to ask about that. I didn’t get to ask you about the four stages of membership sites. As someone who’s built a membership site, I’d love to learn more from you, and someone frankly, you’ve built them, I want to keep building them. I want to learn more from you on this just tons of others. And I’m glad you’re here. How does it feel for you?
Micah: It feels amazing. I really, really appreciate it.
Andrew: Yeah, here’s my analysis. I always like to analyze after I do things. I shouldn’t do it within the interview. It’s like kissing someone and saying, “Now, let me analyze how I kissed you.” But what the hell, we’re in a space where everyone likes to analyze their businesses, anyway. And if I’m analyzing them and also I’ll analyze mine. Number one, what I’m disappointed myself or not pronouncing your name, right? And several times in the interview I stayed away from referring to you by name, which is what I ordinarily would do, because I was worried I would screw it up again. So that’s number one. Number two, I talked way too much in this interview. I think is I just kind of liked you. I got to know your software, and my wife somewhere in the office here some kind of fired up about that.
But other than that, what I liked was that despite all that stuff that was going on my head, I still trusted that the interview was going to go where it needed to go, and we got to some revelations about what happened in Costa Rica. We got to an understanding about how you built up your business. We got to some openness about both the revenue and profits, but also about that time when you were almost out of, not out of business, but you weren’t able to make a profit and you were getting frustrated. And I love all that. That to me is part of the journey that I do these interviews for.
Andrew:All right. Thanks so much for being on here. The software’s Memberium. We’ve been talking a lot about how it works with Infusionsoft, but I look at ActiveCampaign’s website, it works with ActiveCampaign also. So anyone out there who’s interested in creating a membership site should go check it out, memberium.com and the two sponsors that made this interview possible. The first is hostgator.com/mixergy. The second is toptal.com/mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. All right. Thanks so much for doing this.
Micah: Thank you.
Andrew: Thank you. Bye, everyone.