Marketing that enhances product reputation (and doesn’t overwhelm)

My goal with this interview is to understand how today’s guest has grown his business through his phenomenal marketing. He’s very understated about it, which is good because I want this type of approach for my business.

I want to grow through good marketing that I could feel proud of and that doesn’t overwhelm the product. I want marketing that actually enhances the reputation of the product.

My guest today is Dave Rogenmoser, the co-founder of Proof, a SaaS that helps build social proof and increase conversion rates by displaying recent customer activity on your website.

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Dave Rogenmoser

Dave Rogenmoser

Proof

Dave Rogenmoser is the co-founder of Proof, a SaaS that helps build social proof and increase conversion rates by displaying recent customer activity on your website.

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Full Interview Transcript

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 this is a live interview. And I’m so excited that people are actually listening to us live because I feel like when somebody knows my guest’s business better than I do, when someone brings in their own problems and frustration and then uses that as a way of pushing me to ask better questions, to pull out information that’s actually useful, it makes the interview better. And also from an ego point of view and “Does anyone love me?” point of view, it feels good to know that people are there. So I love that [Tenenbaum 00:00:36] has been jumping in and saying hi and Hendrick, I know you and coming in and saying hi, Chris Luck has been coming in. So I love that there are people that are chiming in live.

My goal with this interview is to understand how today’s guest has grown his business because of his phenomenal marketing. And I feel like he’s very understated about it, which is good because I think that I want this type of approach. I want to grow through good marketing that I could feel proud of and that doesn’t overwhelm the product but that actually enhances the reputation of the product and lets people know about it. All right. Anyway, I’m talking too much without introducing the guest. His name is Dave Rogenmoser. He is the founder of a tool called Proof.

If you’ve ever been on a website where it’s asking you for your name or leading you towards a sale and maybe you saw on the corner of the screen that it says, “Verified by Proof,” and it has a picture of a person who just signed up recently, or a number like, “76 people signed up in the last 24 hours,” and you thought, “Oh, that’s kind of cool.” It’s his software that’s being used. Proof helps you increase your website conversions with social proof. They have a great name. I don’t love their domain. I know the domain a million times because I’ve kind of laughed at this for a while. But even in preparation for today’s interview, I went for . . . I won’t even bring them up, a bunch of different iterations before I realized, “Let’s just type in Proof into Google and see what their URL is.” And the top result was useproof.com.

And I’m looking for a nod from him, good. Because in my head, I’m thinking, “Is that really it?” Yes, it is. And then the fifth result was a competitor’s product.

Dave: Boo.

Andrew: Right. Anyway, so the software’s really good. I feel like the URL could use some help. And the other thing that’s really good is he’s got this podcast called “Scale or Die.” I try tons of different podcasts, it is the best new podcast that I’ve discovered lately. And I really will switch podcasts daily. And what I love about it is he’s in the SaaS space and he’s talking to other people who are also in the SaaS space about how they built their businesses, about how they marketed and he’s coming at it from like I think a little bit of a selfish point of view, Dave, where you’re thinking, “What can I use? And also what can my audience get?” Am my right?

Dave: Yeah. So I think with the interview, so it’s like two components. We have the end interview which sometimes we do interviews well. You know, I think interviews are hard thing. I think you do it really well. But I’m trying to not have like the typical fluffy interview where I’m just like teeing them up, you know, for every like softball answer. But I think they kind of do that. But really, I’ve switched my mentality from like, “This is a podcast,” to like, you know, reach ton of people to more . . . I’m just trying to build a relationship and learn personally here.

I think that’s made a lot better interviewer where I’m like I’m really just asking the questions that I want to know whether anybody ever listens to it. I think it’s a lot more interesting that way. We also have the Founder Friday segment, which is once a week and me just kind of sharing like what’s on my mind? What am I learning? Like what are the ups and downs on going through? It’s almost like my diary, kind of, and me just kind of like processing like lessons I’m learning and kind of synthesizing those. And so those are really fun. But yeah, it has been this like really cool process, I think, for me to even think through what am I doing in my business and also how am I learning?

Andrew: I think that’s best. That’s how podcasts are done well where it’s the interviewer getting really curious about what they need and then knowing that there are other people who need it too, otherwise you’re just trying to imagine constantly what other people need.

All right, I should say this interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies. The first, Dave has actually used himself, and we’re going to talk about it. It’s called Toptal. A great place for hiring. And the second if you’re looking to do email marketing, you should check them out, it’s called ActiveCampaign. I’ll tell you about those later. Dave, what I love about you is you guys are so into openness that you keep sharing your revenue numbers. Where are you guys today monthly recurring revenue?

Dave: Sort of about $230,000 MRR here right now.

Andrew: And in the first year, you did how much?

Dave: Yeah, to 175. So we’ve kind of scaled back as far as the growth side of things like the last four or five months, and I can share the strategy and the thought around why we’re doing that. Yeah. About 230 now.

Andrew: Doesn’t that bother you though? I know that you did a whole podcast about how we’re not focused on monthly recurring revenue. I used to be addicted to it. But come on, as a man, don’t you get validation from seeing more revenue, from seeing more of any number?

Dave: Oh, I love it. I mean, I just love the growth. And so yeah, like it is painful. But I think I got to think about like, “What are we trying to do here? Am I just trying to grow MRR in the short term?” I’m trying to build a lasting company that can be around 50, 75, 100 years that can be like an industry-defining software. And so when I look at it that way, I think that MRR in the short-term not growing that fast, doesn’t really bother me that much. But I certainly would prefer it to be growing really fast.

Andrew: You did a post about how in the beginning, you got a lot of users, I think within . . . let me see. I actually wrote this down, yeah, within six months, you got to $75,000 monthly recurring revenue. And then you realized, “A lot of it churned, so a lot of it is people who sign up and then disappear and you’ve got to go back out and get them.” Why do you think churn was so high for you guys?

Dave: Well, initially, when we launched we were like, you know, some of the only ones. You know, and there was FOMO, as well. They were more focused on Shopify. Nobody was really like the internet marketing space. And so we were kind of the first movers in that. And when you’re the first mover, you just get a ton of traction and there’s no competition. There’s really nobody else that people really switching to, besides us if they weren’t on like a Shopify site. And then competition catches up. We were really still focused on growing really broadly.

So we were just like let’s make a huge land grab. And like the competitors were kind of going like get entrenched so deeply before they come. And so I think for a lot of our power users, we weren’t developing more and more features. If they’re using all the features, we might add an extra integration, or we might do better onboarding, or whatever, but it doesn’t help them at all, they’re already set up. So I think we got a little too focused on going wide instead of deep. And that because of that, you know, we let competitors catch up.

Andrew: You’re saying people were switching to different products?

Dave: You know, I don’t know. I mean, some for sure. Yeah, some for sure were switching to different products.

Andrew: You know what? I actually, I don’t think having talked to people who use your software, I don’t think that’s what it is. I think that a big part of it and tell me if I’m wrong because you know the space better, I feel like it’s really hard to know whether it even helps. And yes, you could do A/B testing, but who’s going to do A/B testing and the numbers are so small for conversions that it’s really hard to trace it back to any one thing. And if you can’t come back and say, “Because I put this thing on my site, it showed other people that other users were signing up. I can’t prove it that’s what got me more sales, let’s just get rid of it.”

Dave: Yeah.

Andrew: What do you do think?

Dave: Yeah, totally. No, I think that’s probably like 40% to 50% of people. And they might say, “I couldn’t track it,” or they might say price. Let’s say price because they don’t know if it had a real ROI. So it took us like a year and a half to build out internal A/B testing into the tool, which was a mistake. We just didn’t prioritize it. We just didn’t build it fast enough. And so yeah, people had to set up external A/B testing, which is just never good. And so that was definitely big mistake where people are leaving because, yeah, they were like, “It looks cool. I feel like it probably works. But like if push comes to shove, I’m just going to cancel it and go back to like what I was doing.”

Andrew: And so then what do you do to deal with that?

Dave: A lot of it was surveying a lot of our users. You know, we’d have an exit survey where we’d have to ask them, you know, “What’s the reason that you churned?” Again price is probably like the biggest one that we’ve got to overcome. Because we do charge a premium, you know, this isn’t a WordPress plugin, where you pay 7 bucks for life for, you know, $19 a year or whatever. We want to charge a premium because we want to be, you know, premium service. And so we’re constantly kind of trying to prove, you know, the value of it. And, yeah, some of it was working on our pricing. And a lot of it was just A/B testing. And a lot of it’s just kind of showing, you know, weekly reports or reports inside your dashboard about how well it’s working for you. And that’s definitely driven down churn for us.

Andrew: But that even took a while. I feel like there is a level of people who are going to just churn and then there are others who just say, “I’m just paying for it.” Actually, are there?

Dave: I think there’s a surprising amount of people that will use the software or be paying for a software but not using it, which is surprising to me. You know, internally we’re probably using a bunch of softwares that we’re paying for but we’re not really using. But yeah, I think, you know, there’s definitely a subset people that pay for it and not even have a campaign setup. And will pay like six months and it’s like, you know, I don’t know what to do about those folks. We try to engage them and try to get them activated as best we can. But then yeah, there are folks that don’t test it, don’t want to test it. We push out A/B testing. We tell them about it, they look at it, they see it, it’s easy, it takes a few clicks to set up. And they just don’t set it up and don’t really care, which I think is interesting.

Andrew: Here’s Alvin who’s in the chat saying to me . . . I guess you mean . . . oh, there, “I churned off Proof. It drove sales. But when we rebuilt the pages it was on, we got the improvement without the Proof notification. It showed we needed social proof on the page, but didn’t necessarily need to have the Proof notifications.” And that’s a challenge. I feel like of all the things that I’m going to say today, that’s the one that maybe hurts your stomach the most. Am I right?

Dave: Yeah, I mean, I think I totally get that. And I think social proof works, I think we’ve got to figure out and what markets does our version of social proof work? And I don’t think it works and maybe sensitive. I’m curious, Alvin, like what’s the business? What do you sell? What’s the market? Because we see it working differently in all different kinds of markets. And, yeah, I think is we’ve kind of made a shift more like B2B SaaS companies and talking with them.

Like we were talking with Gusto, you know, recently about potentially using it for them. And they don’t really love the styling. It’s like having that kind of popup. It’s more kind of an info-marketing kind of thing. It’s a little bit more obtrusive. Again, we try to make it clean, but they wanted it more like in line and like embedded into the site. So I think we’re trying to figure out different industries like what format does social proof work in best, as opposed to just the initial way that we started with it.

Andrew: This was on Buzzsprout, a B2C software as a service podcast product. So it’s product for podcasts. And I have talked to people who kept it on and I’d asked them, “Well, do you see a return? Why are you doing this?” And, you know, the big answer is, “I don’t actually care. It gives my site a sense of a heartbeat and a sense of activity in the way that I don’t care that I’m using one font over another is going to increase my conversions but I know it looks better and I’m prouder of it.” You see that?

Dave: Yeah, we actually asked and surveyed a ton of customers. And the top two reasons that people used it, like the benefit that they said they got was, one, increased conversion rate. But then tied with that, they would talk about credibility. And they weren’t talking in terms of numbers and conversion rate, they said credibility. And that’s you got to keep reminding ourselves, we’re like very data driven here. Like we just love to increased conversion rate. But they were like, “It just makes me look good. It’s exciting. It’s fun to have on my site.” And they weren’t talking in terms of metrics, I think it’s important for us to remember that people want different things and kind of have different angles around what they think the benefit of Proof is.

Andrew: Yeah, I get that to that for a long time with Mixergy Premium, I would only talk about all the benefits of it. And then I realized that a lot of people sign up because they want to support my site. And I’d always turn away from that. I’m not looking for charity. I’m not looking for you to feel good. I’m looking for you to get a result. And then I realized, that’s why I sign up to stuff. And if you listen to like “The New York Times Podcast,” that’s all they do.

They say, “If you like us, the best way to support us is to subscribe to ‘The New York Times,’ because it’ll help you have fund good journalism.” And I realized they’re not saying you’re going to get the best news, you’re going to get news in a new way that you don’t like because your podcast people but you’re going to get it on text too. They just say, “You like us, support us, go for it.” It’s kind of painful to tell people to sign up for reasons that you wouldn’t ordinarily sign up or that don’t register to the intellectual part of our brain.

Dave: So this has been something that we’ve actually been leaning more into, as we talked about and think about personalization is in one of the new tools, we’re kind of trying to move out of just the social proof notification into more of a platform that can personalize your website in real time based on a lot of different traits about the customer. And one of the things we’re personalizing off of is like the benefit that they’re looking for. And what’s the pain point? So we’ll ask them in a survey or try to tease it out based on their behavior.

And based on, you know, if they click and say, “I want more credibility,” or, “I want higher conversion rates,” we’ll change a lot of the benefits statements on our website to match up with that. And we see good results from that. And I think that’s we’re still in the early phases of understanding like how to do that well. But definitely people of all different angles about like why they’re wanting to engage with your product. And that’s been a, I think, a really cool new test that we’ve been able to see actual results on.

Andrew: I feel like the best marketing technique that you have is that “Verified by Proof” link on all those widgets to show up on all those sites, right?

Dave: It works well. Absolutely.

Andrew: What percentage of your customers would you say come from that?

Dave: Austin, do you actually know that number? Austin is in the chat. He’s the CMO.

Andrew: Austin, the CMO, who’s in the chat.

Dave: He’ll share the number.

Andrew: Wow, you guys share. Why do you share all these numbers?

Dave: I think just because you ask and I like having the conversation. I don’t think we share outside of you asking, man. I think we just keep things internal.

Andrew: It Hiten Shah five years ago who told me that, “If you have a product that shows up on other people’s sites, it’s a no-brainer, especially in the free version, put a link back to your site. People who are going to like it and want it on their site are going to see it and then that’s the best marketing for it.”

Dave: Yeah, and Austin mentioned this at the beginning but, you know, initially we had Powered by Proof. I think we just saw Drift doing that. And we’re like, you know, “Powered by Proof. It’s kind of what everybody has on there.” Again, we were like, hey, people are asking to have this removed. And we’re like, “How do we kind of flip this and reposition it from Powered by Proof to Verified by Proof?” Now people click it, it takes them to a page that’s all about why this is verified, this is a real sale, and it makes the website look good. And we started having people request to add that and that they thought that was really about feature.

And, again, I was talking to one of our B2B SaaS customers, we were kind of building out in line social proof. And so underneath the signup button, it’ll show embedded into the page, how many people signed up. And our original design was just like an MVP, and it didn’t have Verified by Proof. And they were like, “Hold on, before we put this on there, how do we get the Verified by Proof link?” And I was like, “What happened here? Like that is such a unique perspective.” And they were like, “I don’t want this unless you’re going to verify it as well.” And we took what was kind of a liability and turned it into an asset that people were like wanting to pay more for, which I thought was pretty cool.

Andrew: I get that because you know what? On your site, and you guys must do a lot of A/B testing on your site because I keep seeing different versions of it as I hunt around. There’s one that I’m looking at right now that says 4.75 star rating based on 151 reviews. And even though I know if I click on it, it’s not going to take me to the site where the reviews are. I keep hunting and clicking and like seeing if I could right click or something to see where it goes. I do want to know who said that. And I just . . .

Dave: Interesting.

Andrew: It’s really powerful that you guys did that.

Dave: Yeah, I think for that we actually pulled those from Facebook and Google and, you know, a bunch of different places and kind of just added them all together and put that up there.

Andrew: And so this was you saying, “I think it makes sense for us to keep this on because the best promotion that we could get for ourselves, how do we make it so that our audience, our users, our customers are going to want that on their sites?”

Dave: That was the question. Yep.

Andrew: Let’s talk about the podcast. I’m kind of obsessed with the podcast because I think most podcasts from product people are just blah. It’s another form of content marketing. Yours just good. And you did this episode where you talked about how you came up with it. And I thought what was interesting was you guys had like a marketing hackathon internally?

Dave: It was a whole company hackathon. So it’s just kind of a time where we can stop and like, for two days, just work on some unique new project. You know, there’s all those things that like putting the backlog like that’d be nice do some day like you never get around to, it was never quite makes it onto like, you know, the strategy. But we use hackathons to spark new ideas, do the thing that you think might not be worth doing. Take the risk and just see like how far you can get on some new projects there. And so we were doing this hackathon. And we came and we were going to host like a mastermind like a, you know, two-day intensive that for B2B SaaS companies that we could just host, you know, every quarter maybe and get a whole bunch of like new customers that are B2B SaaS. And we just weren’t really feeling good about it.

Andrew: This was one of your ideas and you were thinking of doing it why? Why do a mastermind as a way of . . . it’s not for getting money. Is it to introduce yourselves to customers that you’re trying to get?

Dave: What we were trying to do is move up market and work with bigger companies, and specifically, the niche we kind of picked was B2B SaaS. We would work with bigger B2B SaaS companies and trying to figure out how do we get in front of them? How do we serve them? How do we connect with them? And the problem we felt like as we didn’t have any credibility with them. So there was no reason a Gusto is going to send their CMO to our office for two days to learn about marketing.

And so we’re like here, “We’re probably going to get more of kind of the same kind of customer, and again, I love of our customers, but we’re trying to kind of figure how to kind of get into a different channel.” And we’re like, “Okay, well, before we do that, we need to figure out how do we get some more credibility? And how do we meet more of these people? How do we get into that sphere first?” And came up with the podcast as our experiment to maybe move us up market and have like the right people listening to content, but also meet the people they’re interviewing. And that might come to that someday or might send their people to that someday.

Andrew: And so you’re thinking when you interview . . . who’s that guy? Casey Armstrong, am I right?

Dave: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Andrew: Casey Armstrong, he was a . . . what’s his background, I forget?

Dave: He was a CMO or VP of marketing at BigCommerce for a couple years. And then now he’s the VP of marketing at ShipBob, which is a big YC company.

Andrew: Right. I use ShipBob now and I’d like to hear how he was thinking about the company. And so you were thinking, “If he comes and does an interview with me, I might get to know him and then he might come to our live event. Now, if he comes to our live event, then other people who respect him and want to get to know him are going to come also.”

Dave: Yep, yeah, he might either come to the live event, he might send someone to the live event, or he might help me teach the live event. And all of a sudden I’m kind of curating my like speakers and trainers for this thing. That was the big initial push for it.

Andrew: And you don’t think you could have gotten to know other marketers other than a podcast and just invited them out? I guess you could have as a YCombinator-backed company, but you wanted to get to know them?

Dave: I think you can, you know, and it’s like it’s such an easy way, like, most people will respond and like want to do a podcast if it’s done well. And so, you know, I’d say like 95% of the guests, I invite on the show respond positively and like want to do it. You know, I would think if it was just a cold outreach, “Hey, you want to grab coffee? You want to hop on a call? You want to do this?” It’d be like, you know, 10% might respond well. So I think it’s just a way easier way to get in front of people and like meet people and build friendships.

Andrew: I’m with you, even if there’s nobody in the audience listening, I think just getting to know the guest in for an hour where you get to ask questions where they’re staring at you, where they’re putting away their phone because that’s what you do is just invaluable right now. I want to ask you . . .

Dave: It’s amazing. And like, I think you said, you like doing video, and you’re kind of doing it because you’re trying to read me and you’re going to pick up all the body language. You know, I just like it. I’m not that good at that. But it’s like because it just builds a better connection. You know, it’s like you’re looking at each other. It’s like a real relationship, as opposed to, “This is just audio and I can’t see anything.” You know, it’s just not going to be as tight. So we try to do as much in office as we can but then remote, we always try to do a video interview.

Andrew: Yeah, I actually definitely read people well. Like there was a founder who I recently interviewed, and I saw that when I asked him that his dad, he was like squirming, even though his dad was like co-founder in the company. And I brought it up, I said, “This makes you feel uncomfortable?” He goes, “Yeah, go interview my dad if you want to ask about my dad.” And then I said, “Well, is it inappropriate to ask if you and your dad have some friction with each other?” And it kind of brought something up, which was basically Andrew back off, which I did, but I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t seen him. Meanwhile, Gary Vaynerchuk, I asked him why he left Wine Library, this is years ago, and I saw that there was more to it. And then he went in and said, “Yeah, my dad and I had a little bit of friction. And I couldn’t overrule him, and I need to be the leader. And so I ended up leaving.” And I think that that’s invaluable.

Dave: Is that just natural for you to like pick up on that and like lean into that? Or it’s just you’ve developed as you’ve done this more and more?

Andrew: It’s come to me as I’ve done in-person conversations more and more. And I can name the techniques from the interview, you know, where before the interview, I wouldn’t have known what am I doing over here? Through the interviews I’d have to think about it because there’d be some crappy experiences. And I think, “How do I undo it?” And I realized, “Oh, wait,” when I’m at my best, I don’t just go in and say, “What’s up with your dad?” I say, “Is it inappropriate to ask you about your dad?” And recognizing that giving them those two questions in one, is it inappropriate to ask you about your dad? If they’re fine with it they’ll say, “No, it’s not at all.” And they’ll talk about their dad. If they’re not, I’ll just ask them if it’s inappropriate and they feel relief. I’ve invited them to say, “It is inappropriate. It’s not right for you to talk to me about my family. I’m here to talk about business.” So those little things I only had to name and systemized mentally because I do these interviews a lot.

Dave: Yeah, that does give a lot more freedom. I like that.

Andrew: Let me talk about my first sponsor, and then come in and talk to you about like podcast marketing it’s a pain for us. There is no good way to do this. But first, I’m going to tell you about a company called ActiveCampaign. Dave, do you know ActiveCampaign?

Dave: Yep.

Andrew: What do you know about ActiveCampaign?

Dave: We used to used them. And I think they’ve kind of blown up since we stopped. I think we stopped using them like three years ago. I was looking recent, I think they’ve kind of blown up since then. I’m sure the products like way better and more robust than when we were using them. But I’ve heard a lot of good things as of late.

Andrew: They did change. In fact, when I first considered them as a sponsor, I thought, “Oh, that’s kind of an older company.” And when you think about older companies, there’s a list of them that have done well. They keep making their monthly recurring revenue. And so they don’t want to hear anything different. And their software just stinks. But it stinks and their customers are locked in. And so I thought maybe that’s what ActiveCampaign was. And then I started looking into them and talking to friends who use them. And I discovered that they got really good at this whole automation thing, which is the if-then analysis, the tagging, the putting people into sequences, but they did it in a way that’s so simple that even people who don’t care about marketing can use it, even people who are not geeks about this stuff can use it. And so it allows us to actually get results.

By the way, one of the things that I noticed about your site is it’s Austin, I think, who does six different videos for six different industries, right? The first thing you say is “Who are you? Are you a software company? Are you an online education company?” I know I’m misnaming them.

With ActiveCampaign, if somebody clicks on one and watches one of his videos, you guys can just tag them. Then if you have different messages that go out, you can send a different message for each one. Or if you have just one message because you have like a set of 10 emails that work beautifully for you, you could just at the top of anyone who watched Austin talk about SaaS using Proof at the top, say, “This one is great for SaaS companies,” and then go into the message. And then the next day, “This one SaaS companies love,” and then go into day two’s message. And the user doesn’t even have to tell you, you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to do it as an extra field in a form. You just do it automagically, right?

Anyway, ActiveCampaign can do that and so much more. If you are listening to me and you want to try out ActiveCampaign, Ken Wallace and Alvin Brooke and everyone else and David Goodman, go check them out at activecampaign.com/proof because when you go there, they’re going to give you a free trial so you can actually experiment with it. They will then, if you sign up, give you your second month free. They will give you two coaching calls, which I really like and then finally they will migrate you for free. Activecampaign.com/mixergy.

What do you do to promote your podcast? What have you found that works? I found jack to work. The only thing that works is good guests but with a caveat, which I’ll come back to.

Dave: Okay, so we’re new at all this and I don’t know a whole lot either. And it feels like a lot of people don’t know. Like it really is this very underdeveloped industry and kind of channel is what it feels like to me. Like I saw you talking like reporting is painfully hard. I have no idea or little idea how well it’s actually working. I have little idea about how to go get sponsors. I’ve little idea. So, you know, I think podcasting is taking off. I think we’re just the beginning of it because there’s really so few tools like infrastructure around how to actually turn this thing into a business. It feels a little like the Wild West. So I’m just curious. I guess I’ll answer that. But, you know, do you feel like that same thing?

Andrew: I think it’s because Apple does not give data and Apple is the number one platform and then all the other platforms are not thinking about the importance of data. But I would love to buy ads on Facebook that send people into whatever podcast app and then told me if they converted into subscribers. And I keep seeing different entrepreneurs here in San Francisco. We’ll sit down and talk to me about their software and how I could charge a premium membership on their platform. That’s great. That’s like bottom of the funnel. Give me this something at the top. The only thing that’s worked is good guests who promote the podcast. And that’s it. So like I’m going to have a guest later on today. He is . . . I wonder if you know him because he’s kind of part of this YCombinator, Julian . . . what’s Julian’s last name? Julian Shapiro. Have you heard of him?

Dave: No, I actually hadn’t until I saw the landing page for this.

Andrew: He is apparently huge in the YCombinator community these days. And I feel like he . . . and he had the top podcast with Indie Hackers. And so I heard how brilliant he was, I heard how popular was. I invited him to do an interview. I feel like he might have bought ads to promote it. And I think that there’s some people who buy ads to promote their podcast episode and that’s popular.

Dave: Interesting. Okay. So what we’ve done is when we launched it, we wanted to make a big push and get on New and Noteworthy. So we thought, “You kind of have, you know, one shot to get that, let’s do really well.” And we didn’t know what metrics Apple was really rewarding for that. So we said, “Hey, let’s pick reviews for big social proof people.” And so we were just like, “We’re just going to go reach out to all of our friends and all of our like past, you know, customers, and we’re was going to Facebook message them like one by one and we’re going to get all these reviews.” And I think we ended up getting like 230 reviews in the first 24 hours. And Chris Hull, one of our co-founders, he made this bet with everyone in the company that if he didn’t get 100 reviews himself, he’s going to like give everyone 20 bucks. And so he was fired up. So he ended up himself getting like 150 reviews.

And so I think that helped a ton. We also made this big push initially. And so we end up getting on New and Noteworthy. And we’ve gotten a lot of traffic, I think from that and a lot of people. And again, I don’t fully know the answer. I don’t actually know where everything is totally coming from. But now on New and Noteworthy, we definitely see good results from that. I was on the phone with a prospect the other day is a B2B SaaS company for mid-market, and he first saw us on New and Noteworthy. So anecdotally, you know, that was a brand new person that came in from that.

You know, we email out our list. We definitely like try to have our guests promote. I haven’t done a great job like getting guests to promote but that’s kind of it so far. And I think what we’re looking for is, yeah, how do we do this intentionally and how do we measure some of the results? How do we kind of start marketing “Scale or Die” on other people’s podcaster? To actually be a sponsor. And that’s one thing as a podcast listener.

If I’m listening to like some, you know, true crime podcast, a lot of times the sponsors are other true crime podcast, “Oh, this is perfect. Like I’m so very clearly your target customers. As I’m in the middle of listening to this, like 100% of people listening to this want what’s being offered.” And you go listen to that as well. So I think that’s a really good opportunity instead of marketing Proof. Market “Scale or Die” on these podcasts is a way to get some traction there. But yeah, we’re early on in trying to figure that out. But even anecdotally, it’s been a huge one for us. And we think we’re going to do it for a long time.

Andrew: I want to know how it’s a win. But let me tell you something, I actually don’t think you should be buying ads. Here’s what I’ve been thinking. And we’re going to do this next now that Megan got you here today and she did a whole day of interviews scheduled for us, I think she’s got this process down. We’re going to keep running this, the live interviews, and the reason the live interviews are great is it gives me a reason to promote that people should show up here. It gives people a reason to register and then to go back and listen. But I think the next thing we’re going to do is find podcasters and say, “I like your podcast at the end of your show, if you like mine mention it. If like yours, I’ll mention yours and we’ll do a swap.”

Dave: I agree.

Andrew: And I feel like a free swap at the end is helpful for people who are trying to discover other podcasts like this one the way that in at the end of a YouTube video they might say, “You like this YouTube video of a guy drawing, here’s another dude drawing, you might like that,” right? I think that’s the move. I actually, there’s this analytics company that’s working on podcast analytics, and they will analyze what people have said. And he said, “We can help you automate it.”

So at the end of some my recent podcast that I recorded, just to test his software, I started promoting you.” I said, “If you like this, go check out the ‘Scale or Die Podcast’ from Proof,” and then I gave two episodes that I really liked. I really like the Sujan Patel episode and then Founder Fridays. You did the best with Sujan Patel. I think we need to do that and then we need to systemized it so that anytime I like a podcast like Noah Kagan, shoot him a message, do you want to say something at the end and just go for it. And that I think that works. You were saying . . .

Dave: I agree. How we’re trying to think about is I think my view on marketing and like explosive growth has really shifted over the years. I used to be so heavily marketing focused. I know this conversation is about marketing. I think with the podcast, what we’re trying to do first is create a really great product. And like the reason Mixergy works is not been you have great marketing. Since it’s not like you even do a ton of marketing for the podcast. It’s because it’s a good product. It’s a good show so I’m going to come back and I’m going to tell my friends. You know, “Did you hear that crazy question that Andrew asked Noah Kagan?”

Andrew: I’ve been doing it. I think I’ve been wrong. I’ve been spending all my time just doing it and researching people, asking questions. Like if Austin will go and check his text messages right now and check his Facebook Messenger, he’ll see that I was messaging him because I had some questions for him. I didn’t get a response because it was last minute. But still, your competitors got messages from me before the last interview. So I do that before an interview.

I think that that is weak. I think what I should be doing is after the interview, also saying, “Did you hear what Dave just said about this thing?” And talking that up. And that’s a mistake that I’ve made that I need to undo. Now, look, there he is, he just sent me a message going, “Oops.” Because he probably checked his text messages. That’s totally fine.

Dave: He blows me off too.

Andrew: But I do that on a regular basis. I check in with guests. I think that I need to be walking hand in hand, marketing and product all the time. And I do just the product and it isolates me.

Dave: And I think you’re at the point now where you kind of have, you know, if we’re talking about product market fit, like you’ve got the product. You’re now like, “This thing works. You’ve got a good style, you’ve got traction here.” Yes, I think you’d be foolish to not go scale the pants off this and really do it. I think for us, and we’re still early on and, you know, I think we’re still exploring and changing things up and shifting and learning where we’re probably not going to get a great return off of heavy marketing right now. But once we get the product a little bit more cleaned up, we feel like, “Okay, it’ll be time to really scale it.”

Andrew: So I think what we’re going to do, is there a few things that have worked for us, asking guests to email . . . sometimes does sometimes it doesn’t. It’s worth a shot. Asking them to tweet, we need to be better about that because that that doesn’t help get listeners at all, it just helps get build credibility, which is more of a branding thing. I think these live things we should be doing more often. I think we should be asking guests if we could buy ads to their audience to promote the podcast. And that is pretty . . . would you have done that? If I said, “Hey, Dave, can you give Ethan Sigmon, who buys our ads, access to your audience so we could promote your podcast to them?”

Dave: Like I give you access to our like Facebook custom audiences and stuff? Oh, yeah.

Andrew: Yes? And totally say no.

Dave: Oh, yeah.

Andrew: You would?

Dave: Oh, yeah, yeah. Totally.

Andrew: Okay. You wouldn’t worry about, “What is he going to do?”

Dave: No, we would do that. I mean, I do with people I trust, you know, and we’ve done that before, where it’s like, “Hey . . . ” you know, and they would use like our affiliate links. So like, “Hey, can I run ads, you’ll get commissions off it or whatever.” And that’s kind of them doing that, instead of paying us upfront. “Well do all the work and we’ll pay for it all.” It’s like, “Yeah, it’s a no-brainer.” And I think too like, you know, we’ve had an email list of about 130,000 that we promoted for this. Like I’ve never promoted any other podcast I’ve ever been interviewed on. But like because this is live, it’s a little bigger format, like we sent like two emails to like that list that promote this, which is I think that’s a really good idea for you to have these things live. It feels a little bit different. It doesn’t just feel like the standard podcast.

Andrew: Yeah, that was part of my goal. Guys, if you’re listening and you got that email, let me know. Owen, were you listening to it? Or sorry, were you getting the email from Proof and that’s how you knew to come here?

Dave: Because I want to have a lot of people show up, and I want my people to show up, right? And so it’s like if I don’t email, maybe it’s just going to be like two people on and then I’m going to look lame and look like I don’t have any like influence. I don’t have anybody listening. And so it’s like, I’m like, “Man, I need to like make sure Andrew knows that we’ve got some people here. So I wanted to bring them on.”

Andrew: Yeah, I feel like that’s one of the best things that we’ve done. And I’m sitting here doing these interviews anyway back to back. I might as well. And then I also . . . so it’s great for marketing and it’s great for the product, because people will give me feedback that will help drive it. Like I saw something kind of interesting here. Who was it? There’s someone in here who runs MastermindJam. And MastermindJam isn’t using your software anymore. I feel like in the past someone like that who’s got an online educational content info-marketing thing, they would have just been natural for Proof. And it seems like you guys have shifted. You went from them to more of a focus on SaaS with an open to any one of the six different types of companies that you guys created welcome videos for to sign up. Is that true? Am I misreading it?

Dave: Yes, so when we first started, it was like heavy info-marketing. We’re going to help you increase registration for your webinars, for your online courses, for your lead magnets and it’s going be very heavily in that niche. And we did really well I think because of that.

I think all of a sudden, maybe three or four months in, all these other companies started signing up. We had like law firms, then we had SaaS, we had ecommerce, and all of a sudden, like, all this feedback we were getting was all different. And we really didn’t do a good job of prioritizing it and saying, “Here’s our people, here’s who we’re building for, here’s what the software is going to be.”

We got kind of bloated, I think, and it got a little bit sloppy because of that. At the same time, I think, you know, in that one like info-marketing niche, you know, that’s a great niche. And again, that’s kind of where we came out of, but I didn’t see how this thing became this $100 million a year type company, you know, in that niche. And we were talking to investors, and I try not to put a lot of weight on investor opinions, but I’ve kind of tried to say, “Here’s what we’re going after.” And they were all like, “Is that even an industry? Like what even is that?” And I was like, “I think it’s an industry, you know, it’s like there’s something there.” But they were like, “I don’t really see how that’s even a thing that’s going to get much bigger than, you know, a couple $100,000 a month maybe.”

And I think it’s bigger than that. But I think we ended up getting kind of like bloated. And now what we’re doing is we’ve kind of have this social proof notifications and we’re really going after like five different industries there and we personalize everything off of that. But then we’ve got this new product that’s for personalization and personalizing your site. And for that we’re starting with B2B SaaS, like mid-market B2B SaaS. And at some point that’ll open up everybody else. But we’ve had to get really, really like laser focused to get on one type of customer because it’s just too hard to build product. We have 10 different people in mind. You never know what to build. It’s paralyzing.

Andrew: We’re talking about experiences?

Dave: Yep.

Andrew: What is experiences?

Dave: So it’s kind of like how you describe ActiveCampaign. Is you want people in different buckets, different tags, and you can send them different emails based off, you know, those different tags. We do the same thing but instead of different emails, we just change your website. It’s like once you’re in that SaaS category, you go through that funnel click on SaaS, you’re going to see a whole different website, you know, or different copy different images, different testimonials, different logos, as you go throughout all our different pages. And so basically personalizes the onsite, instead of just leaving it at emails or retargeting.

Andrew: Ah, yeah, this is something you talk to me about after you . . . I guess when you were at YCombinator here at scotch night. I see it. So for example, anyone who’s into marketing or content creation would probably understand, let’s say, Neil Patel, right, and they would respect him. And so if I have somebody coming to my site who’s clearly into content and online marketing, I would want to highlight that Neil Patel thinks this is a great podcast. Where for software, it would be this is great software for marketers. But for someone who’s not in that space, they don’t think Neil Patel is the height of greatness, but they do think that someone who’s a YCombinator partner is and so you’d highlight their quote. That’s what you’re creating?

Dave: Yeah. So like, for example, in our signup form, once you click like “Start a free trial,” based on which bucket you’re in, we swap out Neil Patel is one of them. I think he’s like the standard. But then if we know anything about you, we actually swap out that testimonial to somebody that you might know. For example, like Gustaf is the former head of growth at Airbnb. He was one of our YCombinator partners. And if you’re in SaaS, we show you Gustaf’s quote about social proof, instead of Neil Patel. And we see good lift. I think when we started doing this, we saw like 46% more demo registrations, and then trickle down about 25% more free trial signups. So definitely works. It’s little bit complex to set up initially, but it’s definitely working well.

Andrew: And the reason you’re doing SaaS then is why? Because there’s more credibility in SaaS?

Dave: It’s just you got to start somewhere. I don’t know if B2B SaaS is the right place to start. We’ll kind of see that over the next six months, do they even want this? But you got to start somewhere, the space that we know space we’re excited about. It’s the type of people that I was enjoying interviewing. And so it’s like everything just kind of lines up around that. It’s like I can get good interview guests. You know, it is a niche. It’s a growing niche. You know, VC money is pumping, you know, hundreds of million dollars into that space. And so it’s going to be growing more and more. So it’s like a wave I’m trying to ride. But I think there’s the questions like, “Will be B2B SaaS companies really want this or is it actually ecommerce or a different niche?”

Andrew: Yeah, I wonder that too. Like I feel like they might be a little more hesitant to try something new. It’s often someone else’s money that they’re using, someone else is backing them and they don’t want to let that person down versus like a small entrepreneur, especially in the info-marketing space who’s going to experiment with anything, and if it works, it’ll take off. But there is more credibility. Investors do feel like those brand names that are using your software have more credibility. And that’s what you guys are about. Doesn’t Brendon Burchard have a similar product?

Dave: Not that I know of. I don’t think so. Brennan Dunn.

Andrew: Yeah, yeah, right. Brennan Dunn he does.

Dave: Yeah, he totally is. He has a product called RightMessage and I know Brennan. I respect Brennan a lot. You know, I think they’ve done good stuff. They’ve been working on this. We actually tried using RightMessage about a year half, and we were getting really excited about this space to kind of see if it could help us. And maybe they didn’t just have some of the integrations at that time, maybe they do now, to like work deeply with like a SaaS product. And I think they’ve kind of gone a little bit more towards info-marketers and into that space. But that’s partly why we’re like, you know, we’re go a little bit different direction here and try to go into this blue ocean because it didn’t seem like what they were building at the time was for a mid-market SaaS company.

Andrew: You know what I love about you is, is you don’t seem to give a damn. I intentionally didn’t mention the company name. I knew the company name more than I knew the last name. Because I know that people are put off by hearing their competitor’s names. It brings up internal anxiety. It brings up question marks. I intentionally did it is soften the question to get the answer instead and you just said, “Well, no, here’s the name. And actually here’s what we think.” You do that a lot actually. I feel like at some point, you’ve gotten to a place where you feel comfortable with yourself to do that, not with everything, but to do that. I feel like with your software, there’s still some anxiety internally with where’s it going? Is it going fast enough? That type of thing, but with openness, you don’t have that.

Dave: I remember on our last interview you kind of read me as you’re kind of bringing up our other competitor. And you’re like you feel some anxiety there, you kind of tensed up a little bit and so, yeah. I think, you know, it does come . . . I am more confident like what we’re doing. But also like I know like the long game. Like I know that this is not a zero sum. There’s going to be a lot of winners. And it’s going to take us 10 years to win. And a lot of people are going to take different, you know, exit ramps, you know, there.

I happen to really like Brennan and really respect him. So it makes it easier to like bring him up. But also I think we’re going in a little bit different directions. And we’re kind of going to be cohesive and like playing in the same space but I actually don’t think our like customer base will overlap all that much. So it’s probably a little easier to talk about him there.

Andrew: Do you feel like you can take care of your family like even if this whole thing goes away? Do you have enough money that you bought your house already? Do you feel like you have enough stored away that just in case this whole thing explodes you can still do okay?

Dave: I mean, no, I have not made a ton of liquid cash yet from these businesses. It’s like almost all my wealth is like equity. So if Proof fell apart, I would be like firing up the info-products and like doing some masterminds, stuff like that to get cash going, but . . .

Andrew: Do you think about that a lot now that you are a dad? I do.

Dave: I think about it a good amount, couple times a month, probably. It’s like, “What are my options here?” But I think with SaaS, like it’s just amazing like recurring software businesses, just like are impossible to kill. And so it’s like there’s just no planet in which Proof like goes to zero in the next two years. Even if we did everything wrong, it would still be making good money two years from now, I think. And so it might not get to what we want it to be, but it’s going to be worth a good amount of money two years from now, even if we mess everything up.

Andrew: Yeah. That is the beauty of SaaS. I still pay premium Webcart shopping cart software, because I use them 10 years ago and you can’t stop paying them. Even though I don’t like them. I switched to Stripe. I’ve got my own shopping cart. But there’s some people who are still on there. So some people pay, still on there so we just keep doing it. And then frankly, even at times when I want to go in and start reducing expenses like $10 SaaS here, $20, $100 remove that.

It’s such a poor use of my time to go and figure out where it is and what it’s doing that I know I’ve made a mistake. I’m much better off thinking am I utilizing my people right. Because think about like one or two hours of Megan’s time if she’s going in the wrong direction because I screwed up or because I am still having her do basic stuff. Because she feels uncomfortable saying this should go to someone else. That’s a mistake, right?

Dave: Yep, oh yeah.

Andrew: It makes it less enjoyable. It’s a big waste of my money, right?

Dave: We have so many little $10 SaaSes that . . . we’re just not going to cancel it because I don’t even want to figure it out. I mean, honestly, we’ve got a product that we pay $50,000 a year for. It’s kind of built into our software. And we really don’t like it. We’ve got . . .

Andrew: Well, mention the name.

Dave: I don’t know if I can mention that.

Andrew: Come on.

Dave: I don’t know if I could mention these guys.

Andrew: What type of company is it? What type of product?

Dave: All right, it’s FullContact. We use a product called FullContact. And, again, it’s a good product. So basically, what it does is we give them the email address, if they entered on your form, we send it to them. They give us back the name of the person that that email address touches. That’s how we show names on Proof, Joe and . . .

Andrew: That’s FullContact you’re using, okay.

Dave: We use FullContact, which again, it’s just a good server. I think there’s people ones out there, but it’s so deeply integrated with our software. We kind of looked at it. And even though it’s $50,000 a year for us, if we found it for $20,000, it was still just take too much time to like rewrite the software. And so we made this decision, “It’s like let’s just re-up for another year, another 50 grand.” Because it’s like, “I don’t even want to figure out where all this is” It’s like, “That’s a pretty nice business.” I’m like, “We’ll be around for a long time, even if we don’t really love the product, just because we’re integrated.”

Andrew: Yeah. Yeah, I think that makes sense. And I’m glad that you mentioned it. I think that it’s a type of thing that they wouldn’t feel hurt about. They might actually contact you if they’re smart, and say, “Wait, Dave, we can actually help you out here.” Let me talk about my second sponsor, it’s a company called Toptal. I’ve hired from them. Dave, you just recently hired from them.

Dave: For a second person.

Andrew: Who?

Dave: So we hired a designer. So for us Toptal is really nice. We we’re looking for like really skilled people that are pre-vetted, that have been worked on, they worked with other people and like it’s like they can speak highly of them. And so we hired a designer that we needed to come in and help us redesign our product. We just needed someone quick. We didn’t want to go through the whole process. And they worked out really well. And we ended up hiring somebody in just a couple days.

Andrew: And before that there was a developer?

Dave: Yeah. And before that, actually to launch Proof. We needed an engineer, like a second engineer, to help us build the product. And we hired like a really senior person from Toptal. And so both have been really, really great.

Andrew: And so you hired the senior engineer, and then once the product was up, and you got guidance from them, they could move on and your team could take over.

Dave: Yeah. In that case, I think we worked with them for about three or four months. Got a lot of training, they were more senior than anybody else. And then we moved on to somebody else. But they could definitely have stayed on for a long time. I thought that was a little bit more expensive. I mean, you’re definitely paying a little bit of a premium. But it’s like you get a ton of benefit for that premium. So it’s worth it, at least in the short run. I think it’s well worth it.

Andrew: That’s what I’ve seen from people, that they might have good contacts and can hire someone if they do their full vetting process. But they don’t have time. They have a client who’s waiting for something, they’ve got a launch that needs to happen. They go to Toptal, they hire somebody who’s, let’s say, bringing in the A team, from that old TV show. They come in, they do their thing and they disappear if you need them to. In some cases there’s a long-term relationship. But I’ve heard actually often it’s, hire them, they got it done, we’ve moved on.

All right. If you guys are out there looking to hire the best of the best developers, Toptal is known for that. All you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy. And when you do, they’re going to start you off with a conversation with someone. They’re called a matchers. As soon as you get on with the matcher, you tell them what you’re looking for. They understand your needs. And then they go and they find you that person. Actually what they’ll do is usually get two or three people, you get on calls with them. You check them out. If you like them, you can often get started right away.

And if you use that URL, you’ll get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours. All you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy. toptal.com/mixergy. I’ve got a note here that you guys grew from webinars, you’ve told me that before. Was it originally webinars to your audience, the info-marketing audience that you had? It was?

Dave: Yeah. So that’s how we launched since we had built up this info-marketing audience and we host this webinar and we pitched this software that didn’t exist yet. And we got like 40 people to pay for a year up front. So about 40,000 bucks, I think they paid $1,000 for the first year. And that’s how we initially launched just from a webinar. And then kept doing them from there. We’re not really doing webinars heavily right now, I think they’ve worked. I’m a little bit jaded on them right now, as far as like the metrics. I just don’t see how it all actually works out to be a great investment, but I think they can be effective. I just personally haven’t, I’ve just haven’t seen them work as well recently as they maybe did two or three years ago.

Andrew: It does feel like there was a period there when they were just taking off, and now they’re losing their effectiveness. What is the thing . . . and when they were taking off, I was someone who just said, “Ah, it’s just.” I don’t know, it’s a thing that info-marketers do. And wasn’t paying attention to it. And then didn’t realize that there were so many software companies that were actually quietly doing it too, except they were doing it to enterprise. And so it’s easy to miss these opportunities and say that’s for someone else, that’s beneath me. And then be late to the game because once you realize how big it is and you get the full validation from all your friends having done it, and you realize, well, it’s also burned out. What’s the thing right now that’s like that? Have you found anything like that?

Dave: Like the next wave?

Andrew: Yes.

Dave: I mean, so I think fundamentally, I believe, chat is a massive wave, I know you’re heavily involved in that. And we’re not really in that that much. We just haven’t had the time to set up like bots or live chat. Like I think live chats like a really great way right now. And people just want to connect. I think the other thing is like video and podcast, and I think the big way of that, Yeah, quickly. I’ve always said video, but I think in my experience, I’m now seeing like audio is probably even growing faster than video. I could be wrong on that, but that’s what it seems like to me.

I think those are two waves that we’re looking at. And we’re starting to invest heavily into like audio and video. But then I also think like personalization, obviously we’re kind of building a product for that. I think the thing that something that’s been talked about for a long time, works really well in like email and retargeting and bots, as an example. I think as far as like web personalization, it’s still kind of in its infancy. That’s what we’re really excited about. I think the day it’s finally coming available for companies to do website personalization really well.

Andrew: So you know what it, it is. Here’s the problem that I have with website personalization, I think you guys are solving this problem. The problem is, I don’t want people on my website. They do come and when they do come, I want them there and I’m happy, then I want them to convert and then move on to the podcast or something. The thing is that, I don’t want them to . . . so I don’t have a lot of traffic there. And I can’t tell what people are doing on the site. What you guys are going to do, if I understand you, right is saying, “Hey, Andrew, you don’t know which of your people actually have SaaS companies and which don’t. But guess what? The SaaS people have been on our site.

And if they’ve been on our site, they might have been on two or three other sites that also use our software. And we know that they’re hunting for SaaS. When they come to your site, we’re going to tell you that they’re SaaS people. And we’re going to let you highlight the five big SaaS entrepreneurs that you have on the site. And that’s going to help increase your conversions. But don’t worry, your thousand people a week or whatever,” I don’t think we have 1000, I don’t even know my number, that’s how much I don’t care. But let’s suppose it’s 100. Your 100 people a week are not going to have to inform your software. It’s us through all of our . . . Am I right?

Dave: So I think that’s part of it. And we’re definitely starting to be able to do that. We can’t do that yet, but we do have . . . I don’t know, we see . . . I forget the number. It’s like hundreds of millions of people across all of our different sites in a month. And we are starting to be able to do that, but even if we couldn’t do that, you could ask a little survey, you could enrich information with like a tool like Clearbit, or FullContact or Datanyze or something like that. You can could do those kinds of things even without like our existing data right now.

And we’re seeing that, or even without asking them anything maybe you see somebody watches like five SaaS entrepreneurs. And like you can tell like, “Put them into like that SaaS entrepreneur bucket.” And then like, “Show them that kind of thing.”

Andrew: But they don’t watch it on my site. My site, they watch it ideally on the podcast. They pick one thing, they go to the podcast, they subscribe, and they’re there. But do you feel like you’re go . . . you’re saying there are other places where you can tell me that someone’s into SaaS, there are other places where you can tell me what someone’s excited about, and then we give you that.

Dave: Yeah, exactly. There’s data now, third-party data being available on other companies that they’re making available to people like us, that they can tell you a lot about somebody just by you paying them 10 cents or something like that.

Andrew: That’s what I want. I want to be able to just not have to have my site do the work, put your software on, and then have your software say, “Okay, who that who are the different buckets that you care about?” I put them in. “What do you want to show in this?” I think what you guys do is let me highlight an area, and then say what do you want to put in that area for people or within this bucket? What you want to show in that area for people who are in that bucket? Am I right?

Dave: It’s almost ready, man. That’s it. That’s the future.

Andrew: You are not excited when I say it. I feel like I’m more excited when I say that than you are, which tells me that maybe I’m like off base. I’m looking to see where I’m off base and missing it. Is that really the future? Or am I just imagining a future that you guys . . .

Dave: No, that’s real. I mean, that’s truly . . . maybe I need to work on my body language here. But it’s like that is what we’re doing right now. It’s like people come to our site, they enter their email address somewhere, we call Clearbit, which is a third-party data tool. They tell us about who that person is. And then what industry they tell us, we actually will skip that whole survey section, because we get it that way and they will personalize the whole site based on their industry like all in real time. Like this is all happening like right away, right now. And we’re actually doing this like on our site and a few beta customer sites right now.

Andrew: So it doesn’t even have to be what they’ve done, what they’ve told me, you guys can get that data. Austin is in the chat. He’s saying, “Do you Andrew use Facebook cold audiences more or upload . . . ?” I uploaded custom audiences, what we do is we upload our stuff, and then that helps us figure out who to target. Why do you ask that, Austin? And what’s that . . . there’s someone was asking another question that I wanted to bring up, “What percentage of Proof . . . ” Like this is a good question from Danny, “What percentage of your audience actually takes you guys up on the actual personal demo versus just signing up directly and trying it?”

Dave: So we actually don’t offer a live like in-person demo. It’s we offer a . . . it’s a video recorded demo. So with Proof, we’ve never really gotten on the phone with almost anybody for Proof the whole time. And actually, one thing that you mentioned, Andrew, I thought that was interesting. This kind of goes along the lines of what personalization, people’s perception is. Often, we only actually have one video demo for all the different industries, but it’s just framed in a way that it kind of like we don’t ever say it’s like specific for SaaS, but it’s just framed in a way by the time you watch it, you kind of assume it’s a specific video for you or for your industry. And so I think we’ll think about personalization like, “Well, how do I even like redo my entire site, or all my videos or whatever?” It’s like, even if you just take a few steps, people perceive that the whole thing is for them, even if it’s not.

Andrew: You know what? I didn’t even think to hit play on all the other videos. I just assumed it was going to say something different when I clicked on SaaS versus when I clicked on content marketing, got it. And you’re just saying it’s the same video but it’s positioned as being available for SaaS companies who want to understand your software versus info company side.

Dave: And, you know, the testimonials have changed, the benefits statements are changed and all that. And then in an ideal world we would have that video personalized. We’re just a small company. And so we can’t spend all this time putting on every little thing right now. But even without that it’s still works really well, which is exciting.

Andrew: I’ve seeing a few questions here about how you advertise your webinar. But you guys don’t even do webinars anymore. It sounds like you’re telling me, right?

Dave: Right now we’re not doing them. We’ll do them for customers. Sometimes you have to like launch a new feature, talk about that kind of help people like get activated. But when we did, you know, we were doing them heavily. We would just do Facebook ads and run a lot of Facebook ads to webinar registration page, they sign up there, send them a bunch of emails, follow up. And I think the reason that webinars aren’t working as well anymore is people just want stuff now. And for like a software, it’s just a hard ask. Like I think if it’s like an info-space, like you’ve got this like course, that’s like the next greatest thing that unlock all your potential, you’re willing to like wait around for that. But if it’s like a software company, like people know there’s competitors and other number of options. They might not wait four days for like the webinar to start. So I think people just want stuff now and that’s maybe why it’s not working as well, right now.

Andrew: Don is asking, do you guys use . . . do you still use influencers to get prospects to your site? You do?

Dave: Yeah, that was even an affiliate program. I think we do 30% kickback for people that promote it. And we still definitely use that as a channel.

Andrew: You know what? It’s Brad Martino who . . . he has a free version of a software for anyone who’s running an agency. And I feel like that’s brilliant. Because when people are using it and they’re agency owners or they’re freelancers, there’s so much more likely than to put it on their customer sites. And then, of course, if they get an affiliate commission, that’s nice also but . . .

Dave: That’s true.

Andrew: But they’re familiar with the software. They know it, they’ve gotten it, they’ve play with it. And so they’ll just give it to you too.

Dave: That’s so true. That’s a good idea. That’s good idea by Brad. He’s a smart guy.

Andrew: Yeah. I feel like that’s what I brought to ManyChat, the agency focus. And now I see that they’re running away with that. That they’re just creating more and more stuff for agencies. ManyChat, the chatbot software company that I invested in.

Dave: They just raised a huge round, man. Like 18 million series A?

Andrew: So you know what? Actually, they just announced it recently. I was part of that. I think like months ago. And he just kept saying, “Oh, no, no.” He talked to me about it months ago and he just said, “Andrew, don’t tell anyone.” It’s like I hate when people go and tell me, “Don’t tell anyone.” Because I always keep it quiet but like I’ve got to keep shutting up. Yes, they did. It was huge.

Dave: That’s massive.

Andrew: Good for them. I wonder how they decide when to announce it, when to tell the world. Maybe it’s when they want more attention. So maybe they waited till after Facebook F8, when people are talking about chat, and then piggyback off of that for marketing?

Dave: Maybe they had to get it full. You know, it’s like they were kind of filling up the 18 million and maybe get some more people on. And maybe they were waiting for the whole thing was like full before they launched it.

Andrew: Oh, now I see. Maybe. One of the things that I learned with them was as soon as they were raising another round, even though I had no right to come back in, I pestered. Apparently pestering. And then I saw it as useful if you want to get in on it. So I got in on then they said, “Andrew, you know, we can actually buy your shares back for a lot of money.” I said, “No, I’m going to hold on to it. It’s worth it. It’s great company.”

Dave: So you invested. You invested more?

Andrew: I did through pestering. There was no reason for me to come in. They were actually going through a very busy time. But Mike and I are friends now because I’m a heavy user and promoter for a software. I said, “Mike, is there anything I could do?” He said, “Andrew, you should talk to your CFO when the CFO is up and running.” I’m like, “Okay. What’s the CFO’s number?” So I kept like a little at a time. And then I just said, “We got this big round and then Andrew.” It looked good. We’re good, I mean, on that.

Dave: So I’m going so let me ask you a tough question. Because I asked you if you’d want to invest in Proof when we were raising after Demo Day at YCombinator. And you said, “Oh, I don’t invest.”

Andrew: I’ll tell you why. Here’s why. I’ll tell you why. I still have to put money into someone else’s round. It’s not a startup, it’s someone else. Because it’s such a pain in the ass for me to even get the routing information from the right person, figure out what software. I can’t log in to whatever, Adobe nothing to sign up. And so I’m slowing them down because I have to go figure this out. It becomes a job for me to figure out how I could wire money in. What’s the paperwork? How do I log in? And then I end up letting them down. And so I said, “I can’t do it because it’s that much of a pain that then I end up feeling like guilt and walk around with this guilt all the time.” Because so that’s what happens.

My other friend, Shane, I invested with him. He sends me a note that says, “Andrew, we need you to sign this thing in 24 hours.” What am I signing even? What is this over here? But I understand he’s about to sell his company. He needs me to figure this out. And maybe he’s putting pressure and saying 24 hours, but it’s more like 48. I don’t know what to do. I finally just admitted to him. I don’t know what this is that you guys are trying to get me to sign. And it’s asking me to fill in the gaps with how many shares I owned before. I don’t know how many shares I owned before. It seems like there’s some amount here in Carta and some amount somewhere else, and I can’t reconcile it.

So I finally admitted it to him and said, “I need you to get your lawyer on the phone with me.” And then I get his lawyer on the phone. His lawyer doesn’t understand. I said, “Hey, lawyer, you have to do Zoom screen share with me on my iPad, so that you can watch what I’m signing, and I’m not letting you go until.” So now, he had to pay his freaking lawyer to go walk baby Andrew through the thing. And that’s why I don’t want that. I don’t want to do that. I don’t know what other people do. Maybe there’s some quick answer that I need to know. Like I know that some cases, you can just sign a safe agreement and you’re fine. It’s the same standard thing. There’s always these little things you have to sign.

Dave: Yeah, now, that makes sense. Even as we were raising it was about 2 million bucks. And I had, you know, maybe 10 people that were not, you know, professional investors that were interested. You know, that they made some money. They wanted to throw in, you know, 25 grand, or, you know, something like that. And with all of them, really, I mean, not through any fault of their own. Those were all so painful. And I think maybe all of them fell through except for maybe one. Whereas the professional investors, they’re usually, you know, investing other people’s money they’ve raised around and know it.

Like they’re like talk to you once. You know, send you 100 grand check an hour later. Like no problem, no questions. But then all my other people were like they wanted all this due diligence, they wanted to see the code base, they wanted to like see all the numbers, projections and all this stuff that was like I can’t accommodate all of that for your 20 grand check. And I get your need for it, at least your desire for it. But it is. It’s a complicated thing. And I think if you’re not really in it, it is hard to invest in the companies.

Andrew: I don’t have a need for that. I don’t need that extra data. I actually prefer not to. It’s the extra stuff, the paperwork that then goes through some crazy thing because that’s what you guys decided to use. It’s the instant response that no one on my team could demand instant response for me, you know, invest in Shane’s company. He just sold his business, he needs an instant response. I’ve got to stop everything and go respond to him. Even if I’m, you know, on vacation. That’s the pain of it. And if it could be a little bit faster. I think the upside to the company is great because you get more passionate about it. And the upside to me isn’t even a big win. I just want to know how you guys are operating behind the scenes. I really love learning from ManyChat what they’re up to. I invested inDinero. I love seeing the software get built and talking it through to them, you know?

Dave: Yep, yep, totally.

Andrew: We still haven’t mastered that. So yes, I feel bad but I feel way worse if I said yes. And then it did. I became a pain in your ass. Right now, you love me, I love you. I don’t want the negativity.

Dave: We got a good thing going here.

Andrew: Let’s talk about a brand positioning. Only because Austin said that’s an important thing for you guys. What do you guys mean by brand positioning? And how does that actually help you market?

Dave: So again, our goal is to create a huge, long lasting company. And so I think brand really matters. In fact, I think brand is more of a moat now than it’s ever been. And especially in software, like, you know, someone could just come and knock me off. We probably have a competitor a week. Come out of the woodwork and clone our company, create some weird name that’s like Proof and like launch it. And then they all fade away. And I think like more and more software, there’s like feature parity, or like you’re not going to be able to like differentiating features for long.

And so I think brand is one of the huge moats that you can build. And we’ve always thought like, “Hey, we want to be like the brand leaders. We want to be the number one product in the space. We want to like pioneer social proof marketing.” And I think largely, we have. You know, it’s like we weren’t first, but I think when people think about social proof, they think about us first. They copy us. They copy our brand, and they copy our site. They copy our logo. You know, first over, you know, the other guys. And it’s like I think a lot of that is because of brand. I think secondly, like if you’re playing the long game like this stuff compounds inside.

And so I hopped on a call with, again, it was like one of the heads of growth at Gusto. They want to try experiences. This is like a huge customer for us. And he said, “I’ve been watching you guys for a year now. You know, seeing what you’re putting out, seeing your products, seeing your marketing, seeing your ads.” He’s like, “And it all looks like really great. You seem like really stand up guys. You know, I’m excited about working with you guys now.” And it’s like all they stuff compound so much. And it’s like if you invest in brand and invest in like brand leadership, you’re going to get customers down the road that like you never would have been able to get if we were just putting out like crap and stuff the whole time. And so I think we’re building a long-term company like we know that’s a moat. And we know that that’s the way we can differentiate ourselves.

Andrew: I noticed that too. And it’s so hard as a numbers person to justify that. Like even being on Twitter every day is a pain in the butt and you can’t justify it. If I tweet out and say, “Hey, does anyone . . . I’ve got this great podcast episode, click here to go.” I get jack. It’s not moving the numbers. But being there does help raise awareness within a certain community. So when I do reach out to someone, I can get them.

Or when I was going to Chile and I want to do interviews with entrepreneurs in South America, the founder of Magma Partners, the top venture capital firm there said, “Yes, we will help you and we will be a part of it in any way that you want.” And that’s just invaluable, right? I can’t buy an ad to get that when I need it.

The thing that I wonder is how do you do it? How do you do it in an organized way? Build a brand without going crazy and being one of these people spending tons of money without seeing a result hoping that somebody cares. What is working for you guys?

Dave: So I think we always come back. I mean, our mission is to make the internet delightfully human. So we want to be human, we want to be delightful, we want to be fun and playful, but also like real people. And so I think that helps guide a lot of our marketing and that, is this marketing human? Are we putting faces? Are we putting people? Like are we like real people? Or are we just some boring, cold, enterprise software company? And that builds a brand. And people like know. The people know Austin Distal, because I guess face is like all over the website and he’s like doing all these things in Facebook Lives.

So I think we’re always defaulting to like how do we introduce them to people? I think secondly, we also like think about quality. And, you know, I think when like conversion rate optimization and internet marketing specifically like people have some real janky looking site and real janky you looking landing page to say, “Oh, it works, it converts.” Like yeah. Like maybe like today, it converts a little bit better. But like what sort of like brand impression did you leave on someone right there? So I think like with our podcast and the videos, like we try to do a really good job. Like we spend about 10 grand on like equipment to do it really well and do the video well.

But it’s like I think over the long-term, it’s going to pay off. It probably won’t pay off, you know, right away. Like I could probably get away with just having like a Logitech, you know, camera here. But I think it’ll pay off and leave a good impression for where we’re trying to go. And that’s working with bigger companies and being like a long-term brand. So I think quality and like human connection are two things we just love a lot.

Andrew: Yeah, and you guys are so freaking good at it. And I wouldn’t have expected because you come from the info-marketing world. I would have thought that you guys would be more about the data, more hungry for the dollars today and less appreciative of the details. You spend a lot of money on your setup. It was about $10,000, I remember for the podcast. And then you got a different mic, you still went out and you bought different mics, even though you had thing that was working.

Dave: I know, I know. We did. And I try to avoid that. You know, I’m always like grinding everybody on like keeping costs down around here. But yeah, I think it’ll pay off. I think having a little bit of audio quality will pay off over the long-term and like help our brand.

Andrew: Let me close out with these Facebook ads. What’s working for you? My ads are not doing as well as they used to. I want to figure out what to do to improve them just in with ads. It’s just like a tiny thing can make a big impact. What is it for you guys?

Dave: So I think retargeting, you know, is like the number one place. Like if we’re going to spend any money, it’s going to be like heavily on retargeting so they come to the site. And then we start showing ads to them. I think for cold ads, video ads, you know, always work really, really well for us. They’re a little bit harder to create. Obviously, you got to have a video. But because it’s hard to create, there’s less of them out there, less of them that are good. And so it works really well. But then I think the second thing is we used to build all these crazy funnels, yeah, like funnels. And we used to have the lead magnet and then the bridge page.

And then all these other pages before we’d like, “Hey, do you want to sign up?” And we found that really, it works well. We just drive a lot of people to our homepage, which is actually it’s like the big no, no, right? Like all the lame marketers do that. But we found like you have such a nice drop off for every step that if you’re not running like massive traffic, you’ve got people that are relevant enough they’d come to the page and probably buy right there. And at least for SaaS, like the free trial is the lead magnet. And so like that’s how they sign up and like our product is the funnel. And so instead of adding all these steps before it, like just keep them to the homepage, set up the free trial and then like take them through the funnel of your product. So I think that has been a huge shift for us, particularly for SaaS. And I don’t know if that applies totally to every industry, but that’s working for us right now.

Andrew: All right, the website is useproof.com. Do you hate that I keep like sighing before I say your domain?

Dave: What would you recommend we have?

Andrew: I don’t know. Actually, that’s a good question. I don’t know. Because Proof is just so good. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t have.

Dave: And Proof is that it was a million bucks. I reached out like two years ago and said, “Hey, we want to buy proof.com.” And they said, “Seven figure offers and above.”

Andrew: I think it’s worth it. I think it would have been worth a million dollars for that.

Dave: The seven figures?

Andrew: It’s such good domain that it’s an asset.

Dave: And like you can’t ever remember it. So you’re on Google, you know, that’s important.

Andrew: You know what I did? I went to Get Proof by accident.

Dave: That was the one I should have bought. I should have bought. That one was 10 grand. And I passed on it or I waited on it. And then somebody else bought it. And I’ll probably never get that now.

Andrew: Yeah, proof.com. I wonder if proof.co . . . I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. That’s a good question.

Dave: I don’t like it. We don’t like it either.

Andrew: I’m kind of like riffing on it just to make sure that people remember it and just because it’s kind of fun, but you’re right. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that. And I do think that’s where you guys raising your profile is going to help because I actually searched AProof and that’s how I ended up with this.

Dave: Yeah, I think people do. I think we actually run AdWords to Proof. If people search for Proof, we run like an AdWords add to that I think just to help get in front of people who are looking for us because they can’t remember the domain.

Andrew: So in a moment, I’m going to do a live interview with Amy Porterfield, who is here because she’s so freaking organized. So she’s here early. She’s kind of checking you out to see what’s coming up for her. I want to go and take a moment to get tea. Would you mind? Donny has been asking a couple of questions. Can I bring Donny and Austin if you want to also on camera just for a couple of minutes? Could you just hold things down while I go? Okay, great.

Dave: I got it.

Andrew: Everyone, I’m going to close this out interview out for the recorded audience. This is the first of a day full of interviews. We’re going to continue to record the rest. And if you’re listening to the podcast, you will get them. Also make sure to subscribe. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first is ActiveCampaign. Check them out at activecampaign.com/mixergy. And the second if you’re looking to hire, check out the company that Dave and I have both used to hire, it’s called Toptal. Check them out at toptal.com/mixergy. And finally, I’m not going to tell you to go get Proof. I’m going to tell you to go check out the freaking podcast. Dave does a great job with his podcast. “Scale or Die” is the name of the podcast. Bye everyone.

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