“I secretly despised my business.”

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My guest today told his customers he didn’t love the business. They were shocked. Admitting it wasn’t working allowed him to create a new business.

Today Chris Brisson is the founder of Salesmsg, simple, scalable, two-way business texting.

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Chris Brisson

Chris Brisson


Chris Brisson is the founder of Salesmsg, simple, scalable, two-way business texting.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner and I’m talking to guests who just smiled when he heard that, because he’s heard me say that so many times before he is a repeat guest. Christmas on has been on here to talk in the past about his company called loop, which, um, I’ve got here in my notes.

Last time we talked. Can I say what the revenue was last time? I don’t know that I got your permission, but it’s fine. It was like 700,000 a year, which was damn good business. Right?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, it was pretty good.

Andrew: Yeah.

And that’s the thing that I didn’t realize you did though. Um, after that, that you apparently wrote a blog post where you said, I don’t like my business, I’m tired of being mediocre.

We’re not big enough. We’re not important enough too many things to deal with. I hate this. I don’t, I think I’m going to close. I don’t know that I’m doing justice to the post, but that’s essentially the vibe. And then the comments were like, dude, who writes like this, and then do you understand that we’re customers of yours?

And you’re basically just leaving us with this open loop or what’s another bang. Um, uh, people said, is this just clever copywriting? What are you doing? Are you trying to get us on an email list? I don’t even know if you knew what you were doing. Were you just super brilliant with that post or just soup?

Frustrated anyway, call loop is still up and running, but, Uh,

after that post he created sales message. Let me explain the difference between the two of them, the way that he explains it to me, he says call loop is like MailChimp, where if you want to broadcast a message to multiple, too many people. And not do email the way a mail MailChimp, dubs, but do it via text call loop is the text-based MailChimp and the new business that we’re here to talk about, which isn’t so new anymore.

But the newer of the two is sales message and it’s two way texting. So if I had that up on my website, you could text me. Then you’d get an instant response, but if you responded back and I wasn’t there to respond, anyone else on my team could also text back to you, just like we were all sharing the same phone.

All right. I invited him here to talk about that. That post and sales message and what was going on in his head and how the two businesses are doing. And we can do it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you need a website hosted, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. The second one, you think maybe it’s time for me to add another salesperson.

I want you to go to overpass.com/mixergy, where you can hire and manage your sales people. But first, Chris, good to have you here.

Chris: I am glad to be back. You know, it’s been quite some time and you know, we’ve seen each other grow up. So here we are. Thanks for having me.

Andrew: I’m glad you’re here. Let’s get into the, just the numbers call loop. Where’s the revenue with call loop

Chris: Yeah, it’s a, it’s a little over 2 million right now.

Andrew: annually recurring.

Chris: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay, great. And sales message

Chris: Uh, it’s a lot more than that. So I won’t share the remedy on that, but, uh, that is, uh, substantially a lot more.

Andrew: in the millions.

Chris: Yep. Yep.

Andrew: All right. You do seem a lot happier now.

Chris: Is it my hair? It’s going to be my hair.

Andrew: You do have good hair.

Um, what was going on at call loop when you wrote that blog post? Hmm.

Chris: So this is, 2015. This is six years ago, I guess. Um, which is crazy to think about, um, cause it was like three moments in your life that you really sort of peg as these, you know, as these pivotal moments. So this is 2015. Um, the idea for call loop was in 2009. Um, recruited a co-founder. We started to build a product in 2010.

Really launched it in 2011 as a beta. And so, you know, as 2015 year old around, it was like, um, this is quite some time, but like the feelings are still there where, you know, the things with call loop. We’re, we’re a small team. Um, my co-founder was still working a full-time job. And so, you know, I’m not a developer, but I can code, I did the website.

I can design, I can do all those sort of things. Continually breaking with. It was, um, just a lot of the tech, you know, and it wasn’t really built to scale. And so as, as, as much as I wanted to really help customers and listen to, to what they wanted and all the features that they wanted to do, um, I knew a lot of people and it really.

It wear it on me. Uh, it wear it on me because things are breaking. Things are constantly breaking. And so, you know, I felt like, um, at the end of the day, it all came down to, to me on my shoulders and it was just breaking. I got to a sort of a breaking point, you know, call loop was, uh, it was a great business.

And so I, you know, at that time, Well was just like sort of ready for something different things were growing, you know, you’d look around and you’d see, man, you know, those businesses are growing a lot faster. Uh, and you know, it was just sort of up and down. We were probably doing maybe 50,000 a month at that point.

Um, and so, but it was just like breaking and we couldn’t really solve the problems. I love building products. And so, you know, I think I realized that later is I love building product. And if I can’t build product. And really turn it into a great platform. To me, it was like I was dying. I was like, oh my gosh.

You know, we can’t really solve those problems. And so innovation become

Andrew: Give me an example of something that you couldn’t fix.

Chris: Um, oh man. There’s so many, um, things are just breaking this like billing. Um, and I remember. Pretty clearly. So Cameron, Harold, who, I really didn’t know who Cameron Harold was, but, you know, come to find out who Cameron was after that he was using it for like, um, presenting at an EO event and presenting an actually a Vistage event.

And so, you know, texted, join Texas phone number with this keyword, you know, he’s in front of thousands of people. And, uh, it just, it didn’t work and it broke. And that was just like one of the issues I was like, oh gosh, you know? And, um, but that was just one of the many, you know, there are so many other issues that were just not, it was always breaking, things are working and it just the so inconsistent.

And, uh, that was sort of that tipping point there.

Andrew: Where you, where you profitable or 50,000 where you’re losing money.

Chris: Yeah. We’re making money. Yeah. Not a lot, but we’re making.

Andrew: why couldn’t you invest that money into developers or why couldn’t you raise some money?

Chris: Um, we could have, I think a lot of that was really just sort of fear based, you know, it was like, oh man, how am I going to find somebody to really take this on? And, um, you know, the company was, was growing. I went to San Francisco for probably three or four weeks and we tried to raise money and it wasn’t big enough.

Right. Which, um,

Andrew: The idea wasn’t big enough or the company wasn’t, big enough.

Chris: Yeah, I think the idea, like my vision for it, I think it was very small. And so it wasn’t a large, big vision at

Andrew: What was the vision for it?

Chris: um, I mean, it was a small vision. I think it was, you know, really just building like a SMS sort of text message auto responder, you know, for like multi-channel marketing campaigns.

Right. And so it was, you know, not a

Andrew: Because you’re using words like autoresponder, you’re thinking more like small info-marketer instead of doing the.

San Francisco thing, which is all texts, all communication is moving to text. We are going to be the MailChimp of text. And once you conquer it, you get this, I don’t know, uh, economies of scale, or you have these network effects and so on because we know who everyone is.

And so even if you didn’t tell us your name on one campaign, we know you from another and all that stuff. It seems like you didn’t do it because it’s just not You and you didn’t know, how to get to that worldview or, or what would

Chris: You know, I think that was it too. I think maybe going into, it was like, it was a lifestyle business. I wanted to keep it as lean as possible, you know? And so, you know, bringing on a team and, you know, we had some, some team members, um, in the company, but for whatever reason, like we couldn’t, we couldn’t get past it.

And so I think a lot of that was, uh, it was just fear, you know, it was really fear of, uh, you know, taking a bigger leap, not knowing how to fix it, sort of out of my control, you know, and just, yeah. Or me down for sure.

Andrew: All right. I described the blog post. As you saying, I’m sick of this. I can’t handle it. I’m done. How would you describe it?

Chris: Um, cathartic, you know, I think,

Andrew: But where were you Were you saying that.

Did you mean to say this product sucks?

Chris: Yeah,

Andrew: did, did you have, did you do it because you just felt it, or did you say this product sucks because you were, you had an idea for what you were going to do next and you want people to join an email.

Chris: I didn’t know what I was doing next. So

Andrew: you venting,

Chris: it was, it was me just sort of putting, putting a line in the sand and saying like, okay, look, you know, for me, like, we all know what the good, the bad, the ugly with our own business, but when it starts to sort of leak. You know, I just want to call it cause I was just out of integrity.

I was really out of integrity, um, with like, all right, we’re going to go. And it was just, it was draining. So I wrote that really for me to draw a line in the sand and they really say like, not again, like never enough. And so, you know, I went through. Just like back and forth, but I really made a decision like, all right, this to me was the answer that, that I wanted to sort of put out to the world because there’s probably a ton of other people that were in my shoes.

And so, you know, the whole series of this blog post, I sent it out to our whole list, customer list, you know, leave everybody. It was about 30, some odd thousand people. Um, and the subject line of the email was the death of. And it was just like, Hey, things are changing click here. And it really went into that blog post.

But that, for me, it was really cathartic. Like I just needed to get it off my chest. And, you know, at first, you know, really opened up, um, just like, you know, that the line in there was really, I secretly despise them desserts. Um, and I did to a certain extent to where it was like, I built something, oh my God.

What did I build? Did I like this? Like, hold on. Is this going in the direction that I really liked? And, you know, I think a lot of, a lot of people, a lot of other founders building businesses that maybe they spend 2, 3, 4, 5 years building something and you look around, you’re like, oh my gosh, six years later.

Really? So, um, yeah. Yeah. I can get into the other.

Andrew: And you weren’t willing to do that. And so you said, if I say this publicly, then I have to do something about it. I have to either walk away and let somebody else fix it or start something much better. Or, and that’s what you were pushing yourself to do.

Chris: Yeah. Um, that, and, uh, and at the time, uh, this is like, I think groove, HQ. Yeah, they had that whole series. It was like, you know, from aha to OSHA, you know, follow our journey from zero to a hundred thousand, like, man, that’s interesting. Right? They put themselves out there, they became very accountable. Uh, and then you saw everybody sort of copying that.

Um, and, uh, and then that got sort of played out. And so I was like, man, there’s, there’s something interesting here that, you know, I’m, I’m, um, I want to transform the business. And so I wanted to, to make it more of a public event, but that really came out towards the end. I was like, oh boy, you know, what did I, what did I do?

Number one. But obviously I was in it and I was just going to follow through. And so it was sort of my public declaration. You know, we wanted to build a better company. You know, we were hearing from customers about things breaking, you know, about features. They wanted about all these things and truth be told, like we couldn’t do it, we couldn’t really build it.

And so, um, you know, from a technical standpoint, that’s, uh, you know, so many things to, to dive into there. But at the end of that really came in, you know, follow our journey as we become a better company. As we transform that as we, you know, make the mistakes. You know, I launched that and really like that third thing, I was like, I dunno what I’m going to do.

But, you know, the, the idea was, you know, follow along for the second chance startup and fast forward today, lo and behold, we have that second chance turnout, which, um, you know, was never really documented. I wish we would have documented it, but, um, yeah, it turned into a wild journey.

Andrew: now. So you didn’t have an idea for what you were going to do next. Where did the idea for sales message come from?

Chris: So after that whole post, it was like, okay, here we are. Like, we made that, you know, I made that declaration and uh, let’s go and. And so, um, we started to do that and I said, guys, how long do you think it will take to basically rebuild this whole platform? Like, oh, it’s going to take at least a year, year and a half, like, oh gosh.

So I had, um, this other product. Um, we rolled out a couple of years ago called auto tell seminar. And I was like, man, we could probably reinvent that. So we, we created this product called chicken conference, which. It was like UberConference for marketers. Right? And so we spent a year, we spent a lot of money trying to build this product.

And at the end of that year, we made about 1500 bucks. So I was like, ah, so we picked, we pivoted away from call loop. We started to build this other product thinking, Hey, we’ll build this other product and, and no one wanted it. And so. you know, it was, uh, really that next summer, uh, or actually wasn’t the next summer of 20 16, 20 17.

Um, I was like, well, let me just create a prototype. A lot of people want all these features on colleague like conversational messaging and you know, more around this conversational stuff, you know, you saw Entercom, you saw drifts really sort of going deep on conversations. And so the idea for sales message, um, was really sort of hacking.

Out of that. Um, and I said, Hey, before we launch anything, we made that mistake with kicker conference spending a bunch of times, a bunch of money and no one wanted it. Let me just put a webinar together. And, um, and I said, don’t write a line of code. Uh, and, uh, and, uh, We didn’t. So I put a webinar and about four days later we made about 4,500 bucks.

So that was just that indication. And I knew that, like I knew not to build anything without pre-selling it. And so finally, you know, put that, put that into place,

Andrew: W what was it? What was on the page that people liked

Chris: uh, for sales message.

Andrew: for, uh, for sales message.

Chris: Yeah. Um, it was, uh, I just, I can design. So I designed it up, locked in into Photoshop and designed up basically what the product, um, and what people were buying were the ability to have a phone number, have conversations. They can do it from the desktop, um, and then integrate into their existing systems.

So just being more,

Andrew: a phone number that they could respond to from their desktop and integrate into their CRM. So that if they, is it the CRM.

Chris: Yeah.

Andrew: So if somebody bought something, they would know when they were messaging them. Is that it?

Chris: yeah, I mean, that’s a use case, but you know, a lot of the folks were just, um, they’re generating leads and they’re not having, you know, they’re not able to get in touch with people. And so a lot, a lot more businesses were using SMS, but they just didn’t want to use. Their personal cell phone. So, you know, whether it’s, you know, appointment reminders or just engaging with somebody or a customer needs, something taken care of, you know, SMS is, uh, is that channel.

So it just became a basic interface to do that.

Andrew: Chris, why couldn’t They just use Google voice,

Chris: They do. Um, but

Andrew: why were they going to use you instead of Google voice? What did you have that they didn’t have

Chris: Yeah. I mean, we had like canned responses. Um, you know, you had a separate phone number, that’s a different type of customer. You know, if someone just using Google voice, you know, they’re not going to use a tool like this because they’re just going to use Google voice, you know? And so, you know, the integration, you know, we integrate with Infusionsoft early on and, uh, active campaign and.

To build an SMS into a workflow to automate an outbound SMS, and then actually reply to those people because there’s a lot of tools that would do outbound SMS, but there’s no way to like field responses. So it was just sort of a one-way message. So,

Andrew: Okay. All right. So you finally had something that had legs close enough to what you’re doing before that you can build it and you had some vision of it. Let me take a moment and talk about overpass, my sponsor, and then we’ll come back and see what you did next. Do you have salespeople, Chris at your team?

Chris: Uh, yeah, we

Andrew: You do at what point?

Chris: Um, we’re a very product led company, so product marketing, um, we’ve tried STRs and stuff, um, over the years, but we tried probably about a year and a half ago, and now we’re building out sort of a, uh, a sales team. It took us probably about a year and a half,

Andrew: When does somebody come in contact with a salesperson?

Chris: Uh, once they get qualified, you know, once they meet our qualification notes, you know, a demo.

Andrew: So,

once they go through a demo, it’s a sales person who does a demo.

Chris: um, yeah, I mean, we’ll go through and we’ll qualify. then if they meet sort of, we have a whole lead scoring system, I call it like Fibonacci lead scoring. And if they meet sort of that qualification, then you know, then we’ll outbound. And, you know, we do some other research on that, on that customer.

Some may just be 35 bucks a month, but if they’re have a potential, then we’ll, we’ll find that out and treated differently.

Andrew: how tough was it to find salespeople and I’m asking because overpasses is a place where you can find salespeople and then manage them on their platform.

Chris: Um, how

Andrew: to say it’s easy.

Chris: yeah. Uh, kind of, but, you know, I think, I think, you know, what type of sales person, and so I think there are certain stages of that, right? Like you have a SDR, a BDR. Um, an eight ye you have all these different things that go into it. And so I think it’s interesting to understand what you need and at what price point does it actually make sense?

So for us, it was figuring out early on, it was like, man, all right, let’s, let’s bring in some sales to take over demos that I was doing and that worked. But then at some point it’s like, well that, you know, selling such a low price. Didn’t make sense. And so, you know, we leaned into more marketing. Um, but I think there’s a, there’s definitely a price point.

You know, if you read, um, Aaron Ross is like, you know, 10,000 BCV and all that stuff, but it was, uh, it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t

Andrew: What I find Chris is that when somebody wants to get a designer to design, maybe they’re experimenting with Facebook ads, they dip their toe in the water. They may be hired designer. They may be ask somebody to do. When it comes to sales, they either do it themselves, or they go all in and they hire a full-time person.

And it’s hard to find that one person who you’re going to hire, who if this idea that you had doesn’t work out is then going to be somebody that you have to let go of. What overpass allows you to do is basically hire, hire salespeople as quickly as you could hire designers as quickly as you can add more, um, resources from AWS, and then also be.

As picky as you’d like, you can see how many phone calls they made on the platform. You could see how reliable the person is before you hire them. Are they somebody who’s really good with email or really good with phones? Is it someone that you’re looking for who is more of maybe a housewife who just has extra time, who’s going to nurture your customer?

Or is it someone who’s more of the aggressive, I’ve got to close a sale type of person, whatever you’re looking for, overpasses a marketplace, where you can find them, you can get started with them quickly. You can also end the relationship fairly easily. Uh, not fairly easily. And then if you want to manage them, because they’re going to be working remote.

Overpass that software to do that. Anyone who wants to go give it a shot? Who’s saying, you know, I’d like to experiment with sales. I’d like to add somebody to just, maybe even for this launch, I’d like somebody to be there, to talk to some, to our customers while we’re launching the product. And I can’t do myself.

I’d like somebody to just hang out and text people or email our customers. As a sales responsibility, not customer support overpass has got you covered. If you want to get started and go to overpass. If you want to get started, go to overpass.com/mixergy. And when you do that, be a discount, but also they’ll take especially good care of you because they know that you come in from Mixergy.

I don’t think they’re buying any other ads. I know that they’re just dedicated to trying this out with a Mixergy audience. I mean, advertising. Otherwise they’ve just been. Uh, grown their business organically. So give this a shot. It’s brand new to you and my audience, people aren’t talking about it, but they’ve been around and they’re successful and they’re there to help you.

If you go to overpass.com/mixergy, you’ve then had this product that made sense sales message. What was the next step? Having somebody build it?

Chris: Um, yeah, so actually, uh, Andrew was, um, working on call loop, right? And then we pivoted to kick a conference and he was building that, and then we pivoted to sales message. And so he was building the product, you know, we’re sort of specking the whole thing out. Um, brought on another developer, went through sort of a beta that whole next year.

And, uh, it really, it struck a chord and, um, it was exciting to see. That growth, you know, I think, you know, one of the challenges with call loop was, uh, it’s usage based. And so, you know, there’s subscription and there’s usage, but you know, being a subscription company, like you can really bet on the future and, you know, and usage based or sort of your, your revenues sort of up and down and up and down, it has that roller coaster

Andrew: Meaning, if somebody doesn’t send out messages for three months, you don’t make money from them.

Chris: Right. Right. And so, you know, there’s, there’s a checklist that I sort of went through. I’m like, all right, what do we need to do in order for this next product? Um, I love building software. You know, I just went through sort of a mental checklist on, all right, what does this business need to provide, um, to build a solid, sustainable growing business that, um, that I enjoy.

And so. We started to build that. And, um, and it works, you know, we, I remember at the time we sponsored like infusion soft icon event and then they, the year later the Kessler, so we got a lot of early users from like infusion soft, um, you know, active campaign. And, uh, and we’re, we’re just building, building a, um, just building that product, you know, and selling that.

Andrew: Wait, how long did it take them to build it?

Chris: Um, so we started to build, I think the end of October, 2016, like November December-ish and I think we launched like that early beta version. And I want to say March or may,

Andrew: 2016.

Chris: 17.

Andrew: was 2017.

Chris: Yeah. So May, 2017.

Andrew: two years after posting that I hate my company blog posts. So does that mean that you go to work every day with your customers, knowing that you hate what you’re selling them for two years?

Chris: it’s not that I hated the business. Um, so it was just like the things inside of it, you know? And it was still working, look, things are still working. I’m still functioning. Those that was making money. I was helping customers. And so I think just being inside of it and you couldn’t fix it, I was like, ah, it was painful.

Um, but, but that year, you know, that sort of. Um, in a way I took off, like to just sort of, I dunno, just took a step back and I was so tied to call loop as like my identity and my business and, you know, just it’s like, nah, I’m good. You know? So it just took that year off.

Andrew: meaning stopped going to work or stop caring. Okay.

Chris: No, uh, probably the stock carrying side,

Andrew: Okay. So you’d go into work, stop taking it personally, say, all right? I got it off my chest. The business is going to continue. If customers leave, they leave, we’re still going to be profitable because we’re so lean. I’m just now tired of pretending that it does that, that things are working when they’re not that’s it.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think, uh, um, yeah, things were working, but it was, uh, um, it wasn’t working for me.

Andrew: Okay.

Chris: Right.

Andrew: Did you lose customers after that post or it didn’t matter.

Chris: Um, it didn’t, uh, it didn’t, it didn’t really affect much, you know, I think going into, it was like, oh man, am I just burning this down? Um, and my, my dad called me actually, it’s in the, it’s in the poster. When my dad called me, he’s like, what the hell are you doing? And. You know, I was just like, um, I’m good.

Like I’m going to go through with it. And so I had some friends reach out and like, what are you doing? But also other friends, like, look, I get it. I get what, you’re, what you’re going after here. And so, um, we didn’t really lose a lot of customers from that. The business really just continued to, to grow. Um, you know, that was just sort of that moment in time that, you know, it just, it allowed me to think differently about it.

Like entrepreneurship and, you know, going after that, that bigger vision and, and building the team around us to get there, you know, I just never felt call loop would get to that grand vision. Um, because it just, you know, at the time required a lot of work and we’ve since repaired it, but yeah,

Andrew: can I reveal a personal email that you sent me at the time? I think it’s okay. But it’s a bit of a risk for you to say. Yes. Okay. You sent me an email after that posts saying Andrew, do you know someone who could help me sell the business you wanted, you were thinking about moving on. Do you remember that?

Chris: yeah,

Andrew: And so what do you remember what happened with that?

Chris: yeah. So this is, uh, so I think I, I did, I hired a, um, a broker. He went out, brought in a couple of deals and there was some, you know, okay. Companies that came through. No one was really, you know, it wasn’t exciting. And so, um, cause I had two investors, um, Trevor Mach, he runs care.com is a good friend of mine.

And uh, and Mark Ford, who’s one of the radar ready fire aim, you know, is one of the accord founders. And um, and so I was just like, man, this is, um, this is not working. And more importantly, even if I did sell it, no one really gave a great offer. So I was like, okay, well, you know, let’s, uh, Let’s keep, keep, keep riding here.

Andrew: All right, I’m going to read one other thing from this email that I probably shouldn’t, but it’s I get it. I relate to it. I said, well, wow, that’s a big move. Happy to help. I made an introduction to someone asked how things were going and you said, yeah, things are going really well and quite excited about it.

Chris: What was the date?

Andrew: the date was May 28th, 2015.

Chris: Yeah. So that was like, that was, it was exciting, you know, it was, it was sort of this, you know, got to pull away all the stuff, you know, we’re rebuilding a team and starting over and it just created this new pathway forward. So, you know, it was exciting to burn it down and, and just set a new path forward, you know, and just that, that declaration that, you know, I want it to transfer.

Um, I wanted to transform the business. I knew it could be a better company. I knew it could be a better business. And I just, I didn’t want to settle for that. And, um, you know, I think a lot of people resonated with that. It was very ballsy, you know, there were people that were just super upset and I’m sure, you know, it was funny.

Cause like I had all my competitors email me like, Hey, let me know if you want to sell it. And they’re just trying to pick up the scraps. But, um, yeah. So yeah, it was.

Andrew: so then a couple spent a couple of years building. It has where’s the money come from for that? How do you even get your developers to not pay attention, to call loop, just stay focused on this, this new thing

Chris: well, I built a whole new team and that was,

Andrew: loop or

Chris: yeah. So call look, we still kept sort of the same small development team and, you know, I think early on it was like, all right.

We couldn’t really rebuild. Right without rebuilding a whole new team. And I was like, all right, well, again, let’s try a different products. Let’s try a different, a different vehicle. And so, you know, call it was still still going. Um, but I think, you know, looking back on it, you know, um, in hindsight, that was probably the best move was to build.

Whole new team that wasn’t tied to the past, tied to the baggage and the luggage and all the sort of legacy stuff that, you know, the decisions you made early on really affected how you sort of changed it in the future. And so I, I didn’t want anything to, um, cloud our decisions and really build as we went and being a lot more nimble and agile and not so just tied to what we had before.


Andrew: Okay. So.

you had enough money call loop that you were able to fund a team of how many people.

Chris: Um, sales message was, I mean, call Lou at the time was probably maybe three, um, sales message. We built a team like two or three early on, um, yeah, two or $3.

Andrew: Two or three people spending a couple of years, well, a little over a year, because it was, it was multiple ideas that you were working through in the two years, uh, after the first blog post and before sales message was officially launched. Alright. That makes sense. And I guess you now have a new thing that you’re excited about.

That makes sense. When you’re talking to customers about it, showing them getting feedback you were building it.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I think I just took a different, a different approach and, you know, we brought beta users in or showing the product we’re keeping them updated. And it allowed us to, to build sort of this early, early growth, you know, early on, we went from 2000 to 5,000 to 12,000. And so it just, you know, exponentially started to, um, start to grow and that’s exciting, you know, just building something I love creating, I love creating stuff and it’s like, if I’m not building or creating, um, then that’s, that’s my outlet.

And it just happens that it comes through. Building features and software. And so, you know, as we’re building that out, it just, it really started to, uh, to grow. And,

Andrew: I feel like you also like marketing, do you,

Chris: um, that’s an interesting question.

Andrew: you used to yeah. Tell me.

Chris: I did, yeah. You know, I used to, I, I fell in love with marketing and, um, I liked it. I didn’t so much like the information marketing, right? Meaning, you know, you can create a course and I’ve created many that were quite successful. Um, I was like two, so I sold my first company in 2005 and that was that sold terms and tires and eBay.

Um, but to me that was like that first notch in the belt. And so I went out and just sort of explored different businesses. Um, I went deep on internet marketing and direct response and copywriting and learned all these great skills and, uh, I don’t, that’s not that I don’t like marketing as much. I realized that if I invest my time in building a great product, marketing is the fuel on the fire.

And so every time we invest in building great products, it pays dividends. And so, um, as much as I like marketing, I don’t like to execute on the marketing side of things, you know? You’re on you’re on mute.

Andrew: You don’t like the work involved in executing it.

Chris: yeah, you know, I think I did, I did in the past,

Andrew: Yeah,

You know why I say, I feel like you did. It’s partially the way that used to talk to me about what you were building. It’s also like, um, I hunted for your name online. There’s a warrior forum account that you created 16 years ago. see posts where you’re looking for people to help you promote and market and looking for affiliates and all that.

And you were active in these places. I guess at some point it seems like you got burned out on that. Like you felt I’m selling something that I don’t believe in. I want, I’m getting better at selling and less good at the product. And then it makes me feel bad that I’m now selling to more people, something that I believe in less and less.

And you wanted to undo that and do a reverse it.

Chris: no. It was like learning, learning, marketing, and learning copywriting. And how do you create products and how do you design websites and how do you do HTML? And so that was my, that was my school of hard knocks and I just loved learning all of those things that go into. Into building a company. And so I just saw those as cool.

Like that’s, that’s a, that’s a stepping stone to really what I wanted to build, which is really, you know, software. And I just, I loved building software. And even though I can’t code, I just liked the ability to create something that solved a larger problem. And, uh, you know, like I have a lot of friends that are in info marketing space and God bless them.

No, that’s just not me. And, um, I like to build, I like to build products. I like to build software, so

Andrew: right. I want to get into the product building and then a little bit into the marketing of it. First. My second sponsor is HostGator. Chris, let me ask you this. If you were starting out today, fresh faced kid got nothing, except Andrew gives you a HostGator account. You could create any kind of website you want on it. what would you create? Don’t have a lot of resources. All you could do is launch with that.

Chris: Somebody should take this idea. what I’ll do is I’ll put together, you remember the million dollar homepage.

Andrew: Yes.

Chris: So I would do the million dollar homepage for NFTs and get a collage, get all the best artists in the world. Get a collage. They all submit their collage for like a thousand bucks or one Eve.

You get an ultimate collage, you auction it off, and now you have this million dollar homepage.

Andrew: Wait, there,

Chris: that on

Andrew: they all pay to do that.

Chris: Um, so what I would do is there’s artists all over the world. So maybe you charge, um, you know, for, uh, a one by one pixel or not even a pixel, but really like a piece of a section of this overall NFT RP, sending people, you know, sold that entity for like 69 million or something.

So I figured we’ll get the best service in the world to participate in this square. And then after that Square’s done, you charged a fee for it. Maybe it’s a one eith um, Ethereum, and then you auction off that that collage

Andrew: Okay. That feels like a rough thing to do, to, to pay the artist, to be a part of this.

Chris: no, they pay you so it could be any artists in the world. So they just buy the

Andrew: order to, to

Chris: and they

Andrew: and then you get to sell

Chris: their art on there and they put their own in there. And then, you know, we could do like some charity arm or something like that. Yeah. You know, the money goes to, uh, a charity or something.


Andrew: Okay. I feel like you’ve got something in there. The million dollar homepage where he sold the dollar for each pixel on the homepage, sold a million pixels and ended up actually selling more than a million dollars worth of revenue because some pixels he sold for more money once he saw that he could.

All right. I like that idea. I feel like we need to flesh it out a little bit more, but there’s something in that right.

Chris: Brittany, we had a crazy idea, but the.

Andrew: All right. Whether it’s that idea or anything else, when you need a website to host it, go to hostgator.com/mixergy, and they will give you a super low price. If you use that slash Mixergy to reliable hosting, it just freaking works. And then you can move on with your idea instead of spending forever, trying to think about who hosts it and what do I do?

hostgator.com/mixergy. All right. What was it about the product that allowed you in the early days to feel proud? What did you add to it that you felt proud of?

Chris: I think it was just the speed of innovation, you know, being able to, to create that, um, you know, it was a simple product, you know, I remember showing it to, you know, the team that active campaign and they’re like, oh my gosh, you know, our customers can use this. And so, um, What did we create? I think it was just, it was, it was a combination.

All of, all of that. I just solved a really simple problem early on, which was being able to add SMS to a workflow and then creating those conversations. You know, we had customers from all over, um, uh, you know, all over the U S and all different types of industries. So, you know, they were solving all different use cases from lead qualification to, um, appointment reminders and everything in between.

And you know, when, when people are excited about it and they’re telling you then, uh, then that’s exciting and also having a team to help solve those problems.

Andrew: But when you say that it had those integrations with Infusionsoft and active campaign, it was. When you’re collecting contact information from people, the form would also ask for an E for, in addition to an email address, a phone number, the phone number would get stored where it’s sales message or get stored with infusion soft, the campaign and the other companies.

Chris: Yeah. So it would go through their marketing automation. Right? So that’s. Active campaign or Infusionsoft form. And then that would just through, uh, through an HTTP posts through Infusionsoft, send that through sales message, you know, outbound, that text message. And then if people reply, there’s an interface to, you know, go back and forth on those conversations.

Andrew: Got it. Got it. So just like Now.

I can say after three interactions, send somebody of this specific fourth email, I could say after three interactions, send them an SMS. And then if they respond to the SMS, instead of them getting a, sorry, this is a one-way communication channel. They get. Their message comes to my webpage or my phone and other people on my team and we could respond back and manage it.

And that’s the simplicity of it. And that’s what worked that, that does make a ton of sense, especially back then when this stuff was just starting to become interesting.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Um, and that was it. I mean, today it’s evolved so much and you know, it, uh, it’s still at its core, you know, I think if you look at inner calm and how they have, you know, they’re really more web chat, but the same way that you would use Intercom to have conversations and, uh, send, you know, mass messages or send those nasty emails, um, and build a lot of that functionality.

To engage with those, those contacts. Um, it’s evolved a lot, you know, we’re a team of 22 now, which is, um, I know, uh, finally got it and it’s growing. And so it’s, it’s been, we’ve learned a lot, you know, I think just being an entrepreneur and how to build teams and how to build process and, you know, just everything in between.

It it’s been a wild journey. It hasn’t been easy by any means. Um, there’s been a lot of crazy stuff. You know, it’s, you know, as I look back on these years, it’s been, it’s been awesome.

Andrew: What’s the crazy

Chris: a, it’s been a good ride. Um, you know,

gosh, um,

Andrew: Don’t hold back.

Chris: oh, wow. Yeah, no, you know, I think you realize that, um, Or at least I realized that in order to get to sort of like the vision that is set, um, you know, people is really important. And, um, my original co-founder Andrew awesome guy, uh, it just got to a point where it wasn’t working and we both knew it.

And, um, and so I had to, um, you know, we, we had to part ways. And that was a very, very, very scary moment where you don’t realize, so you don’t know how you’re going to, um, move forward that things are going to get worse. Um, and things don’t, they, you know, things happen. You move forward. Uh, and you pick up the pieces and you move on.

And so that was just, uh, you know, was a very, um, uncertain time on the future of sales message. But in reality, it actually was a great thing that happened. And, you know, we were able to, uh, to continue to build the business, build products, grow the company. Um,

Andrew: him out?

Chris: um, he, wasn’t a shareholder in the country. And so, you know, it was a lot easier if it was, you know, the other, then it would have been a little

Andrew: So the difficulty was in what? And just saying to him, you built this, I’m sorry. We can’t continue.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, you, you work with somebody for many, many years and it just doesn’t work out. And, um, it’s, it’s very tough, you know, and on both sides

Andrew: How did you get yourself to do that? I’ve, I’ve found that people who do that need somebody from the outside to say, you have to, and, sometimes you eat it’s even an ultimatum. If you don’t do it, I can’t work with you. You know, where a third person says that or, or an advisor says that to them.

Chris: yeah, the, the sons were, were early on. Um, and, and when you have people telling you that it’s, you know, hammer them, or people start leaving and then, you know, you, you, you just hear

Andrew: Ah, so,

that is what was happening. People, people, I don’t want to embarrass him, but I don’t wanna embarrass him. I don’t want embarrass you. But what you’re saying is there was internal pressure from people. It just didn’t make sense. And that’s

Chris: we all knew. Yeah. We all knew. And you know, it’s, this is the first time I’ve ever talked about it. It’s uncomfortable to talk about it. Um, and you know, we didn’t, we just, we, we, we, we knew, you know, we knew and. You know, just, uh, it sort of got to that tail end where, you know, you talked to make a decision and at the end of the day, it’s a business decision anyways.

So, um, but yeah, I think, you know, that, that was it. We just, um, it just didn’t work out that didn’t work out.

Andrew: All right. And so then growth ended up coming in the beginning through these, um, These integrations. Infusionsoft has a marketplace active campaign, I think had a marketplace at the time. Right? They’re promoting all the tools that work with their software. They’re sending you customers. You’ve got customers from call loop who want the extra functionality.

That’s where I think your first customers came from. Right.

Chris: Uh, yeah. Yep. From that, you know, we, we did send out like a couple of, couple of promotions to the call loop list. And so some customers came over from that, that CD that a little bit. Um, but they’re really two separate customers. Um, and that was the realization like, oh, wow. They’re actually totally. Yeah. Uh, and so it came from that, you know, we’re doing some marketing and just organically word of mouth really started to kick in.

And since then we do a lot more on the marketing side with them. But, um, but early on, it was sort of that word of mouth that was, you know, helping it, helping it grow and see the integrations that help too.

Andrew: Okay. And then today, whereas, uh, where customers coming from.

Chris: All over, um, you know, come from integrations, word of mouth. You know, we have a bunch of agencies, affiliates, um, you know, we do ads.

So, you know, we’re starting to diversify a lot of the, the marketing side of things, but, uh, it’s, you know, it’s w it’s not perfect, but it’s working, you know, so.

Andrew: Yeah, let me close off with three things that I have in my notes from the first conversation or one of the conversations that I had with you here on, on the podcast. One was we asked you our producer did, um, What advice would you give somebody? And you said you’d suggest doing more customer profiling in the beginning.

And that’s one of the things that you learn from the lean startup movement. Um, what did you do that, that sales message. How did you do it?

Chris: Um, well, we didn’t do it with kicker conference. Which was the opposite. And we learned that lesson. That was the opposite of lean. Sorry. That was like the expensive, uh, start up there. Um, Yeah. You know, we did, we, we did that webinar or we didn’t write any code. We went out, we pre-sold it. We

Andrew: lean startup idea of, of, of starting a simplest of MVP of minimum viable product. But did you also start to bucket people? Did you start to cry? Did you start to say our ideal first customer is, and then start looking for people who are similar to that

Chris: uh, I don’t think I knew so much about like, doing that. I think it was like early on, it was let’s solve this. And then we did, you know, I interviewed a bunch of people and, uh, and just got to learn a little bit about what they’re trying to solve, you know, today it’s like jobs to be done and really understanding that.

But, um, we did a little bit early on, I don’t think it was like a, a big thing in, in, uh, in the beginning. Get it out.

Andrew: We asked you what we’d be thinking about for the future. And this was roughly 2014, about a year before you wrote that post. And you said I’m thinking of a, what of creating a WhatsApp for business, some kind of SMS as the new inbox for business mixed with automation, it seems like that’s what you ended up with here, right?

Chris: that’s funny. Um, yeah. Uh, that that’s, that that’s really funny. I think the vision for sales message is still that in a way, is creating this all-in-one. You know, sales, marketing, support, uh, messaging inbox. And so, you know, channel WhatsApp’s the general. So I think that that kernel of the idea, I guess must’ve been there.

Um, and just maybe seeing the rise of, of WhatsApp. Um, I don’t know if it’s wavered so much, but yeah, I think, I guess I was,

Andrew: Okay.

Chris: I was, right.

Andrew: All right. The final thing is, I don’t think I liked your answer on this, and I don’t think I included in the interview. We asked if you started to start a book club, what would be the first must read book? And you said success principles by Jack Canfield? I don’t think I included in the interview because I think I thought that you were just looking for a quick book answer. was that really that influential or were you just doing what I think, which is tossing something.

Chris: no, that’s a really good book. You read that book.

Andrew: I did It’s like basically what it is. It is, he took all the self-improvement books that he read and he turned each, each winter chapter, um, before starting Mixergy, I even went to some little event that?

he did for 30 people where he spoke about the ideas in the book. And

Chris: Yeah. So I read that in. I want to say 2007, 2008. And, uh, you know, at that time, like, you know, the secret and all that stuff was coming out and you know, that book had a lot of that stuff. I think it was impactful for me because I was like super deep in personal development. And I remember one thing, you know, says Jim Carrey, like carried a check around in his wallet and all that.

Um, Bruce

Andrew: had a million dollar check to himself in his wallet and he promised himself that he would one day cash it, and I think he even had the date on it.

Chris: yeah, yeah. You know, it’s funny as I look back on that, you know, we made vision boards, um, and my wife made a vision board probably five, six years ago, maybe more than. And, you know, we, we bought a house last year and we, we pulled out this vision board and about 85% of what was on her vision board came true or better.

One of them was like, she put chickens on the, on the vision board. Well, come to find out our next door neighbor has chickens. And so it’s like these small little things that, um, I think at that time, that was a good book for me. That was a really good book.

Andrew: All right. I think I dismiss it out of cynicism and the sense that it’s not deep enough, but if it’s not deep enough, it’s fine. As an entry into this. And cynicism has never really helpful. All right. What are you reading now? Is there anything that you’d like to leave us with

Chris: Oh man. Uh, what am I reading now? I am reading, um, jobs to be done. I’m reading, um, the who? That’s a whole hiring process. I’ve read that a million times and now we’re like actually documenting the whole process. So I’m dissecting the book, putting it into a process. So we have a process for hiring because we’re hiring like five people right now.

And it’s like, how do you wrangle it all in and scale it. So.

Andrew: Well, congratulations. One of the cool things about you is how much of your life. Your business life is documented online. I mean, look at, look at this, look at like how young you were in this. You might’ve even been a college student in this post. Right.

Chris: Yeah.

Andrew: as I go through the internet archive, I could see your evolution as an entrepreneur.

I could see your evolution as a, as a business person. Um, and I’m so glad that this interview is part of that archive. I feel like we don’t do that enough. We don’t. Leave these little breadcrumbs for ourselves to go back and say, this is how I got here for other people to say, this is, how I did it. Um, and I’m, I’m happy to see that you, that you’ve lifted on this.

It was a gutsy thing you did with that post and impressive results.

Chris: this is a very uncomfortable interview. Yeah.

Andrew: I

Chris: But it’s true. It’s all, you know. A lot of people can hope to learn from it, um, because it doesn’t have to be the way that you think it is. And so, um, that was a very, you know, bold moment, but it was for me, it wasn’t for anybody else. And it allowed me to, uh, to change that trajectory for the good,

Andrew: damn impressive. I’m so glad that I’m looking forward to another five years from now and we’ll see where you end up. I’d love that. Yes. Open invitation any time, but let’s not make it more than half a decade like we did now. And for anyone else, who’s out there listening. I do keep these emails and I promise if it was, if he sent me anything super personal, I would not have read it.

But I do love when, um, people just kind of catch me up with what they’re doing. Send me a message saying Andrew, one day, I’m going to do this Andrew. Here’s how far I’ve come. And I keep it. And sometimes I show it to them. There’s one entrepreneur who was crying on the phone and tried to stop himself. I said, you let that go.

The, on the zoom call said, you let that go. So that years from now, when you’re doing well, you remember this moment instead of like holding back and having some nothing event happen, you should feel how low you are. And he happened to be in town, uh, post COVID, um, just actually a couple of months ago and I invited him and another interviewee out for drinks and.

I totally forgot that. I said that, and that was one of his proudest moments because he just celebrated a huge raise and he’s it. He still doesn’t have it all figured out, but he’s at a place now where he can look back on that and say, I’ve come really far and appreciate how far he’s come and it’s meaningful.

And I’m glad that we’ve had these meaningful interactions over the years.

Chris: Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s a journey. There’s no doubt about that. You know, I wish I would have documented more. I wish I would have documents in more private public, but That’s great.

Andrew: All right, we’ll keep doing it together. Thank you. Thanks everyone.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.