Shufflr Case Study: Turning a consultancy into a SaaS

Joining me today is someone whose path to software creation is very similar to many of the other entrepreneurs that I’ve interviewed here.

She started out by doing consulting services, helping businesspeople with their presentations. Then she recognized that they had a problem with consistency across presentations.

She said, “You know, I can solve it.” And she created a software company to solve that.

So AlexAnndra Ontra is the co-founder of Shufflrr, a presentation management software tool.

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AlexAnndra Ontra

AlexAnndra Ontra

Shufflrr

AlexAnndra Ontra is the co-founder of Shufflrr, a presentation management software tool.

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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 for an audience of entrepreneurs. Joining me today is someone whose path to software creation is very similar to many of the other entrepreneurs that I’ve interviewed here. She started out by doing consulting services, helping businesspeople with their presentations, then she recognized that they had a problem that the presentations that the company was seeing out there in the field were not consistent. And she said, “You know, I can solve it.” And she created a software company to solve that.

So AlexAnndra Ontra is the founder, co-founder of Shufflrr. Shufflrr is a tool that . . . Well, it’s a presentation management software tool. We’re going to have her . . . You know what? I’m hesitating here is because I accidentally, as we talked, deleted your last name to make sure that I had your first name spelled right. How was your first name spelled AlexAnndra with like . . .

AlexAnndra: AlexAnndra Ontra.

Andrew: With a capital A in the middle and then the two ends. What’s the story behind that? I’ll get it back in.

AlexAnndra: Honestly, my mom’s name is Ann, so she had to put it in there. It’s pronounced Alexandra like anybody else who has that. And you can just call me Alex for simplicity sake. I’m . . .

Andrew: Has it been frustrating? Was it frustrating growing up?

AlexAnndra: I explained it every time I meet somebody . . .

Andrew: Every time.

AlexAnndra: . . . and they’re like, “Oh, look at the spelling of your name.” I’m like, “My mom, yada, yada, yada, yada, yada, yada.” So I just . . .

Andrew: I get it. My name was Shuki growing up. That’s what my parents named me. I said, “Who’s even understanding what Shuki is.” I just changed it to Andrew because Andrew Carnegie was my hero. I said, “All right. You know what? I’m just going to go with Andrew Carnegie, Andrew’s first name.”

AlexAnndra: Is that true?

Andrew: Totally true, yes.

AlexAnndra: Wow. How do you spell Shuki?

Andrew: Yeah, right. Like, how do you spell . . . What is Shuki? Who’s going to remember what a Shuki is?

AlexAnndra: But you can call me Alex.

Andrew: All right. And you can call me Andrew now.

AlexAnndra: Deal.

Andrew: All right. This interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies. The first you can call HostGator. They will host your website right. And the second is Toptal. It will help you hire phenomenal developer, or my case, I hired in addition to developer a finance person I got to tell you about, Alex. All right. Alex, you were doing presentation consulting. What does that even mean? What kind of work were you doing?

AlexAnndra: Well, gosh, now we’re going back over 20 years. And we had a presentation, software and services company, technology and complimentary services. So a company would come to us. Usually, starting out it was a lot of broadcast companies because we played video better than at the time PowerPoint did. This is late ’90s.

Andrew: But before . . . Did it all start with software and services or just software . . . or it wasn’t just consulting services.

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: It was both.

AlexAnndra: It was both because back . . . Gosh. Back in the mid-’90s when laptops first got sight, sound, and motion, the first companies were advertising sales teams because they wanted to take advantage of the ability to put video in their salespeople’s presentations on a laptop. So back . . .

Andrew: And they couldn’t do that using PowerPoint.

AlexAnndra: Not in 1995.

Andrew: And so you had software that would do what for them?

AlexAnndra: So we built high-end database-driven specialty software platforms that ran off a CD.

Andrew: Okay.

AlexAnndra: And basically, at the time, it was very similar to what we have today. It was a library of slides with animation, with video, they were all pre-made so that all the message was consistent. It was written by the marketing team, so it was on message, it was on brand. All the graphics and all the animations were branded and professional and the video was intertwined. And the salesperson would say, “Okay. Here’s my library. I’m going to choose this slide and that slide and that video and this slide and save it out and now I’m going to go do my presentation to . . . ” I don’t know, Coca Cola or whatever big advertising. “And I’m going to show them my slides that have say since we’re using broadcast audience delivery, and then I’m going to show our sizzle reel and it’s going to be great presentation. I’m going to do it right from my laptop.” And how cutting edge is this in 1998?

Andrew: And you pulled that all together. And then how’d you get into that? I guess maybe I got it wrong. I understood that you were doing services first, then you started layering software on top.

AlexAnndra: They were combined. It was like . . .

Andrew: How did you understand that this was even the problem to get into then?

AlexAnndra: It was . . . A client needed it. A client . . .

Andrew: Which client?

AlexAnndra: I think originally and this is more my partner James’ per view because he was the one who started doing these laptop presentations. He worked for a boutique agency that did specialty interactive digital solutions when it was all new. And I think it was CBS Nagano Olympics. And they were like, “We need a sales pitch to sell advertising and sponsorships for the Olympics.” So, of course, you need video.

Andrew: And so when he was going out to talk to clients, he needed video himself to do it and other presentation materials.

AlexAnndra: Yeah, well, they just use examples of other client videos.

Andrew: Okay. And so he needed that. And is that why he started creating the software?

AlexAnndra: That’s why they created the software and then on top of the software because it was so specialized, you really needed designers and specialists to assemble it.

Andrew: I got it.

AlexAnndra: Today you can go into PowerPoint and create a chart and it’s no big deal, anybody can do it. But back then you had a graphic designer or an art director go into Photoshop and create a chart and make it a bitmap and then put it in the database . . .

Andrew: Oh, my God.

AlexAnndra: . . . add it on the software and . . . Yeah. So it was a much bigger . . . These were all like $100,000, $0.5 million projects for the Olympics for Cigna at that time, did a really big one.

Andrew: And so he was doing this himself, you recognized he had the problem, he . . .

AlexAnndra: Well, he was doing it as a part of a company called . . .

Andrew: As part of the company.

AlexAnndra: . . . Micro Interactive.

Andrew: And then because he had this problem, how did he solve it before you guys decided that you were going to team up or before he decided he was going to get into?

AlexAnndra: So what happened, so as you know, the dot-com boom started booming, that boutique company Micro Interactive got bought by IXL. IXL at the time was one of those interactive agencies whose stock went from like $5 to $50 overnight in the boom, and then it went back down to like negative.

Andrew: Yeah.

AlexAnndra: But during the heyday, everybody said, “You know what? We want to be . . . Everything is on the web. We don’t want CD-ROM technology anymore. That’s outdated.” And this was kind of his department, so he wrote a business plan and he’s like, “I’m going to spin this off and make a small company just focused on doing these specialty presentations.” And so he started a company called Iguana Interactive. At the time, I was in advertising. So I came over as General Manager because working in advertising, I had the experience of basically managing a creative product. What’s the design? What’s the copy? And what’s the timeline to put it all together and then go into production and release it and make your . . . I mean, that’s what an account executive does in advertising. So I just took that experience and I applied it to instead of making a television production or television ad, we made a presentation. And then I’ve learned about the technology as I went along.

Andrew: And then who developed the software then?

AlexAnndra: We had a development team on staff.

Andrew: Wow.

AlexAnndra: And now . . .

Andrew: It was expensive back then. How did you hire them?

AlexAnndra: A lot of them came over from IXL because they were part of that team, so he had a few core members that were part of that team that said, “Okay, we’ll go with you.” And he had investors. We had angel investors. And then we hired a few as we went along and as the company grew. But then 9/11 happens, the company ran out of money. The investors didn’t want to put more money in, so they were just like, “Shut the doors.” And there were still some clients there that were like, “Hey, you got to service us. We have this specialty thing that nobody else knows how to update, but you guys . . . ”

And James had a . . . He still had his employment contract, so he was literally the last creditor on the company. And he literally, like, pulled it out of the garbage and said, “Let’s take the software and let’s keep going,” and I’m like, “I don’t want to.” But at the time I didn’t have a job either and I was like, “Maybe I’ll go back into advertising.” And I was like, “Well, I’ll help you start.” And we got our first client with a . . . We rented two desks and a phone and we just cold-called and our first client we got was NBC National TV sales.

Andrew: Doing what for them?

AlexAnndra: Making a . . . Now, we renamed it Ontra Presentations and making a specialty presentation with a library of slides that all had a consistent brand and message and that played video seamlessly that also had a reporting aspect so that the marketing director could see who presented what slide to when for how long, so it had that feedback loop.

Andrew: So they could tell, “Hey, these slides are not being used,” or, “This one’s being used a lot, then that means it must be useful. Let’s make sure that it’s good and it’s up to date.”

AlexAnndra: Exactly.

Andrew: Got it. Got it. And we should mention that this is your brother we’ve been talking about.

AlexAnndra: Yeah, my brother.

Andrew: Right?

AlexAnndra: Uh-huh.

Andrew: James. What was he like growing up?

AlexAnndra: He was like a brother. He was annoying.

Andrew: I heard he was also like really big into sales even as a kid.

AlexAnndra: Yeah. He’s always an entrepreneur or like . . . In college, he was like publishing calendars for the University of Houston. And it’s so sad because . . . Not that it’s sad, really, but the funny story. I went to the University of Texas. Like, “Here, Alex. Take these calendars and sell them in Texas and sell them in Austin.” So I’m going into Texas, UT, Austin, Longhorn bookstores and I’m like, “Hey, you guys want to buy these calendars?” And it was for like another university.

Andrew: But he’s telling you to go sell it and you’re doing it. Why are you doing it? Because . . . What he would say, “Why would you do it?”

AlexAnndra: This is what you do for family, I guess. It sounded like a good idea at the time. I remember one spring break we were down in Padre Island and he was print . . . He brought a t-shirt printing. I don’t know what you call, but he brought a printing press for spring break and, of course, his spring break . . .

Andrew: The spring break he brought it with him.

AlexAnndra: Yeah, and he was printing out t-shirts and I went down to Padre Island with my friends, and now I’m sitting on the beach and everybody is like throwing footballs and passing frisbees and drinking beers and whatever, and I’m running around the beach trying to sell his t-shirts. I’m like, “What am I doing?” But it was fun. It’s like, “Whatever. It’s fun.” So, yeah.

Andrew: It was fun for you to sell all this.

AlexAnndra: Well, yeah, it was pretty fun.

Andrew: And then in . . .

AlexAnndra: There was always a party around it. I mean, we always had fun with it.

Andrew: And it is kind of fun to see the money come in and to feel like, “Well, you’ve got something to do.” Was it fun, though, when it was the two of, no customers, the software that you kind of rescued from the last company, making calls trying to win your first client?

AlexAnndra: I would say no, that was not fun. That’s not the word I would use, but like . . .

Andrew: Was it scary?

AlexAnndra: It was scary but it was kind of . . . It was a necessity. It was just, this was the opportunity. Sometimes out of great hardship comes a big opportunity.

Andrew: Yeah.

AlexAnndra: And honestly, at the time, we were both unemployed and the economy was tanking. Nobody was going to go look for a job in October of 2001 right after 9/11 in New York City. That’s just like . . . It was just so depressed, and depressing and we were like, “Well, let’s see what we can do. Maybe we can make a couple bucks.” And then one thing led to another. And then when we got ABC a couple of months later, it’s like it’s the best feeling,

Andrew: Oh, yeah.

AlexAnndra: [inaudible 00:12:08]. So you know that roller coaster. Like, “Yeah, this is the best.” And then next day, you’re just like down in the dumps. And then you get another win and it’s the best feeling ever. So it’s . . .

Andrew: And they needed a software that would manage all the different presentation material, and they also needed the design. And the design, how easy was that to do?

AlexAnndra: Well, we had designers. We had animators. And I, at the time, then I just started writing the presentations. Writing, I wouldn’t say it’s easy for me, but I don’t mind doing it. I do a lot of writing.

Andrew: Okay. And so once you got the first set of clients, did you have to change a software at all? Were they starting to ask for things in film?

AlexAnndra: The software, you constantly have to update it. You constantly have to make it better. And that’s why you saw . . . I mean, you saw the evolution. We went from Ontra presentations and we thought, “Okay. You know what? We’re going to take responsibility. We’re going to put our name on this.” And then a few years later, YouTube became really popular, so video now was democratized. And people didn’t really care about the quality of the video.

One day we’re at ABC and a salesperson walks into the room and he slams down the CD-ROM and he’s like, “My grandmother made a nicer video, a nicer presentation for our family reunion than our sales deck.” And we just like knew, we were like, “Ah. We are in so much trouble.” And so that was a painful and eye-opening moment, but that’s when we were like, “Okay. We need to bring those same benefits and use PowerPoint that everybody already knows how to use. You can’t compete with Microsoft. Don’t waste your time bothering.” And . . .

Andrew: Before you were competing with Microsoft because you had slides . . .

AlexAnndra: But it went down.

Andrew: . . . and video and then once they started to catch up, you said, “We can’t compete with them.” That means you have to change your business . . .

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: . . . to what?

AlexAnndra: So then we invented . . . We developed the PPTshare, PPTshuffle brand.

Andrew: That’s when you changed your company name.

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay.

AlexAnndra: Yeah, that’s when we changed. We changed the brand name, actually. We developed a new product, essentially.

Andrew: Basically around this competitor that was swallowing up the industry, you said, “You know what? PPT is PowerPoint. That’s their file extension. We’re going to go with the PTT Share. We’re going to help you with your PowerPoint.” Right?

AlexAnndra: Yeah, pretty much.

Andrew: Did they come after you for it? I remember interviewing the founder of Ontraport, it was called like something Office. And Microsoft went after him and he said, “Andrew, I think we’re going to have to change . . . ” It was called . . . I don’t remember what it was. Now it’s called Ontraport because he had the word Office in his name and they were suing him for that or going after him.

AlexAnndra: Yes. Because he has the word Ontra in his name.

Andrew: Right now he has Ontra, but before he had Office.

AlexAnndra: Yeah, that’s my name.

Andrew: It was some kind of office. So did they come after you for having PPT in their name, your name? No.

AlexAnndra: No. You know why? Because we weren’t really competing with them, we’re embracing them. So what PPTshare did and it’s the same benefits, it created a library of PowerPoint so you could upload all your PowerPoint files, but you could see the slides so you can quickly find that needle in the haystack, you can search for it, you can find it, and then you can just easily reuse it and you can drag and drop a video in and include your video because at the time, video was still messy. Like, if you didn’t download it or you didn’t have a link, it wouldn’t play and it played in the office and then you got to the client and then you have this black screen. And it was still like it was awkward. So we just made PowerPoint and video easier to use and that’s what PPTshare did.

Andrew: Okay.

AlexAnndra: And that was a desktop installed application, and then web 2.0. Then we built PPTshuffle, which, again, same benefits, a library of slides . . .

Andrew: Well, before we get into PPTshuffle, I’m looking at PPTshare, the next version of your business. I like that it’s got this file compressor because PowerPoint slides used to be big. Even like everything in Microsoft, the files used to be outrageously big. So you found a way to compress it and that was a $45 product. You also had a desktop slide manager which is what you’re doing now, which is what we talked about. And then there’s something called an Enterprise Edition. What was that?

AlexAnndra: So the enterprise was still our entre. It was still the bigger CD-ROM installed, the bigger database-driven, proprietary presentation solution. So we still operate it . . .

Andrew: Same thing, same file management, but bigger companies needed to put stuff on a single server.

AlexAnndra: Bigger companies would put it on a bigger server, but it’s still like, even to this day, like, the quality of the video and the animation and the graphics in that proprietary system, honestly, between you and me is still nicer than PowerPoint. But it’s like Sony Betamax VHS. So VHS was everywhere. Everybody went there even though the Betamax, the beta was a better product.

Andrew: That’s . . . So, in addition, you’re saying the enterprise version you were creating the slides for them. They weren’t even doing . . .

AlexAnndra: Yeah. We still had those clients. We still had a lot of clients on it, so we just kind of added to our product portfolio.

Andrew: What’s your annual revenue now?

AlexAnndra: It’s over $1 million.

Andrew: Okay.

AlexAnndra: And that’s recurring.

Andrew: Yeah. And that’s after you take your salaries, the two of you.

AlexAnndra: Yeah. Well, we have . . .

Andrew: Oh, I’m sorry. That’s revenue, not profit, excuse me.

AlexAnndra: That’s revenue. That’s revenue. And we have a staff and . . . Yeah.

Andrew: Right. All right. Let me go into my second sponsor and then we’ll talk about how you got customers. The first set of customers came from phone calls. I want to know about the second batch and how you got like Royal Caribbean cruises and Green Mountain and so on. My first sponsor is a company called HostGator. I misunderstood your story. I thought you started out doing consulting first, understood the problem, and then you said, “You know, I think we could create software to do it.” And that is a common way that I’ve seen entrepreneurs who I interviewed get started.

If that’s somebody who is listening to us, HostGator will help you get going. No problem at all. What you do with HostGator is you go to hostgator.com/mixergy. One click install, you get WordPress up and running. And you just go with a template that lets you look professional by telling people about what your new agency does. And maybe, frankly, Alex, your agency I thought did presentation help. I think there’s . . .

AlexAnndra: We did it.

Andrew: I thought it was just that. I thought in my mind that you started out doing nothing but presentation help. Businesspeople need help with their presentations. We get sucked into how do we create it? Why should we do that when we could just hire somebody who will talk to us and pick out our best ideas and then turn them into presentations for us and then we can feedback and adjust it and then they go back and fix it and then we make it our own by delivering the presentation ourselves. I think that is a killer, killer useful service. I think . . .

AlexAnndra: Yeah. And there are a lot of people who do that. There are a lot of freelancers who . . .

Andrew: A lot enough.

AlexAnndra: There’s a whole industry. There’s a whole presentation economy around that.

Andrew: You know how long it took me to find somebody to do that?

AlexAnndra: That’s the problem.

Andrew: Maybe because you’re in the space, you know it. I feel like they’re not in our space. I think they should be. How many times do I go to see a conference where the person will pay money to fly out there, will count on it to help their business, and then the presentation just stinks because they did it themselves. They’re good at their business and not good at giving presentation. How many webinars do I see? Including mine. Mine used to suck. I ended up hiring people to go through it but I had to take people who were doing well at their webinars and said, “Give me feedback on mine.”

I think that there’s room for somebody to be a consultant to create a service business that will do it and then start to productize it in some way. All right. For the people who are listening to us whether that’s your idea or something else, bring it over to HostGator. When you go to hostgator.com/mixergy they will make it easy for you to install WordPress and get up and running with your website like that. And whether it’s . . . And frankly, it doesn’t have to be WordPress. I’m just using WordPress because I think now a third of all websites are hosted on WordPress. They’ll make it easier for you to host just about any other site that you want to.

Hostgator.com/mixergy. Lowest price on the internet if you use that URL as far as I know. If it’s not, you guys will let me know. Unmetered disk space, unmetered bandwidth, unlimited email addresses. And if I stink and if I’m wrong, you can get 45-day-money-back guarantee. Hostgator.com/mixergy.

All right. I see now where you were going. Talk to me about the first clients that you got, the Royal Caribbean cruises, Green Mountain. How did you get them, coffee company?

AlexAnndra: They found us through Google search.

Andrew: Looking for what? This was when you were doing . . .

AlexAnndra: They started doing SEO and content advertising and running AdWords and they would find us.

Andrew: And so . . .

AlexAnndra: Time goes on, like, especially today, nobody answers their phone anymore. You can’t cold call people.

Andrew: I know.

AlexAnndra: You can’t even cold email. I get 1,000 cold emails in my inbox and I’m like, “I can’t even read this. I’m sure it’s great product, but I don’t have time.” So that’s just not how you get customers anymore.

Andrew: I can’t even warm call anyone. If you . . . You and I now are connected. If I called you, you wouldn’t take up the call because you wouldn’t recognize my phone number. I’d have to text you first and say, “Hey, it’s Andrew,” and then tell you what it’s about. And then you say, “Okay, fine.” If I didn’t call . . . If I didn’t text, you probably wouldn’t pick up the call. If I did just text you and say, “Can we jump on a call?” you might say, “I’m a little busy now.” It’s really, really tough. And so what you did was, you got into content, you said, “We’re going to create as much content as we can.” What’s the original version of your content marketing strategy and then how did it change?

AlexAnndra: Well, the interesting thing is doing all this . . . developing all this technology over the years and working in different industries, what we found was even across different industries, and over time, it’s always the same problems that the client has. And to your point about creating content or creating better presentations, it’s . . . For Fortune level companies or any company with a salesforce say of 50 people or more, it’s how do you give everybody a high-quality slides and files that they can use? How do they have an easy way to customize them for their meeting because meetings are similar, but no two meetings are alike? And how do I know that they’re actually using the right material? And what are they presenting?

And going back to that first installation with those Nagano Olympics on the clunky CD-ROM software to today, those are the same problems. And even though we started going in the software direction, our clients still said those, like, we have to solve this. So we started blogging about the issue and ways to make better presentations and ways to manage your presentations and organize your content, and we realized this is a discipline.

This is . . . Presentations are strategic communication just like advertising is or broadcast strategy or your PR strategy or your digital strategy. There’s a message that you need to develop. There’s creative and graphics that go around, and then there’s a feedback loop so that you know how to update it and you see what’s working and what’s not, and then you push out the updates. And so we . . . I mean, if you look on our resources page, we wrote “The Definitive Guide to Presentation Management” and that’s to help companies think about their presentation content differently because presentations like the example you just gave, it’s like somebody speaking at a major event and his presentation looks awful because they’re always like an unwanted stepchild.

They’re always like, last minute, they’re never thought of, but really, the presentation is at the very bottom of the sales funnel. When you’re presenting to your client, that’s when you’re really representing your company and that’s when they’re going to make a decision whether or not to buy or not. So it’s important to have the right brand in there, it’s important to have the right messaging, and it’s important to have . . .

Andrew: I get it, but the content . . . I think content marketing makes a lot of sense, right?

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: And the way you presented it’s helpful to think about it. We can’t cold call anymore. It used to be that you were really determined to call a bunch of people and you’ll finally get a sale. It just doesn’t work. You will just waste too much energy. But if you spend that same energy writing content that’s useful, some of the people who read it will end up calling you which is not only a better way to connect with somebody, but at this point, a more effective way.

I get that. I’m wondering in the beginning, was it you just sitting down and saying, “Hey, you know what? I’m a good writer. I’m writing about presentations. I’m creating presentations. I’m going to sit and blog myself.”? And the reason I ask is because they’re no names on your blog post, so I can’t tell if it was you writing it back then, if it’s you writing now. Tell me about the evolution of how you figured this out.

AlexAnndra: We do have guest blog post writers now, but originally, I started writing all the blog posts. So the different aspects . . . Like, if a client would ask me a question or I helped a client with a certain problem, I’d be like, “Oh, that’s a good idea for a blog post.” And then I’d sit and write the blog post and put it up on the site. And then we started getting guest blog post, we also include some of the press we’ve been getting on our resource’s page. It’s all there together.

Andrew: That issue about what you said, if a client asks a problem, that brings up a question. That’s something that we’ve been working on too. So I’ve got this obsession with chatbots and I created a whole site on chatbots and what I discovered was, whenever somebody has a problem that our community solves, we need to interview the person within the community who solved it and then create a blog post. Now I’ve got my writer just going out to that person who solved the problem and saying, “Talk to me about how you solved it and maybe the person who had the problem. Tell me about the problem.” And now we’ve got a blog post for everybody. It’s incredibly efficient. And it’s helpful because you’ve started to nail problems that people are searching for.

All right. So I see that that’s how you did it. One of the thing that I noticed is, so I’m using Ahrefs, so I’m a customer of theirs. I think they might even be coming back as a sponsor, but they gave up on sponsorship with us. I don’t know, but I’ve fallen in love with the freaking software. I’m in there and I see January 2019, you guys started doing something that, like, it’s an upward link . . . It’s an upward climb of links that’s consistent, steady and slow, and then boom, January 2019, you guys start to shoot up with people linking back to you. What did you do? I feel like in the last six months, you’ve really gone aggressive. And you’re smiling, so I’m hitting on something. What happened?

AlexAnndra: Well, I’d say January 2nd we had our first broadcast interview on Chatter TV, so that was kind of exciting. But I think it’s cumulative because we’re getting more press, we’re getting more interest, we’re writing . . .

Andrew: But how? How are you getting other people now to write about you?

AlexAnndra: I’m writing a lot of bylines. So I’ve been . . .

Andrew: You . . .

AlexAnndra: I’m writing a lot of bylines, so for like business.com and Pharma Marketing and like CFO Today and all these different blogs and sites, we’ve been writing a lot of bylines for that . . .

Andrew: And that’s the difference that . . .

AlexAnndra: . . . around the subject of presentation management. We also launched the book last year at the end of last year.

Andrew: We’ll get to the book in a moment. But at first what you were doing was you were reading on your site, and then you started to shift towards, “I’m going to write on other people’s websites.” Got it. And so MarketingProfs, for example, you were writing on their site about the topic of presentations. And that’s what’s increasing all these backlinks to you, that’s what’s getting other people then to start writing about you. Got it. Why did you decide to come up with that and what’s that process been like?

AlexAnndra: Well, I’ve hired a PR firm to help us get that attention.

Andrew: You did?

AlexAnndra: Yes.

Andrew: Okay. You just said, “I need somebody to go out there and pitch me as a content writer.”

AlexAnndra: Yeah. And that’s what they do. Well, they pitch presentation management. So they pitch the topic and the topic presentations as an element in the marketing mix is actually pretty relevant and it’s interesting to a lot of different industries and a lot of different marketing, sales enablement, CRM-focused sites and publications. So they’re like, “Yeah, that’s interesting.”

Andrew: Got it.

AlexAnndra: “You should write about this.” And I’m like, “Yeah, okay, I’ll write something.” Or sometimes my brother writes it.

Andrew: I saw that. I saw some of his bylines out there too. I’m wondering how much of it, is you just sitting down and typing and how much? Is there a process behind it?

AlexAnndra: There is a process, but I mean, the process is put an outline together first, figure out what you want to say, and then that’s a lot of sitting down and typing.

Andrew: Really?

AlexAnndra: And then retyping and then retyping. And the art of writing is rewriting.

Andrew: You know what? I don’t even do that anymore. My approach now is whenever I need to write something, I’ll get on, I’ll talk to someone using Zoom. I have Zoom set to automatically record. So I’ll say, “Okay. I’m going to talk.” I actually will ask the other person if they’re working with me, “Can you hit Record?” They hit Record, I talk what I need to say out, they hit Stop. We send it to Otter software. The software is free.

AlexAnndra: What’s Otter?

Andrew: It’s amazing. You just put it into Otter, it automatically transcribes it. We’re talking about like, if it’s a one-minute talk or a three-minute talk, three minutes later, the whole thing is transcribed, 80%, 90% per . . . Not perfect, but 90% accuracy. And then I give it to our writer and I say, “You know what? I’m looking for . . . Can you just clean this out to make more sense?” And then it comes back to me as a Google Doc. So whatever I said has been transcribed, cleaned up, and then I get . . . That’s just super powerful because I’m talking to a human being which I’m better at than looking at a screen, it comes out really effective and more and more natural. I thought you had a process like that. No, you’re just sitting down and typing.

AlexAnndra: I’ll sit down . . . Although, actually, it’s funny. That’s James’s process because he’s much more verbal and he’s more extroverted, so when he has an idea he has to talk it out. And when I have an idea, I just want to be left alone and think it through. So I’m going to send him to Otter next time and then that’ll free up my time and actually do my job.

Andrew: I think the founder of Otter told me several times, “Check out our new software. It’s fantastic. It’ll be good for your transcripts on Mixergy.” And I just kept saying, “No, I don’t think it’s good. I don’t think it’s there,” because I kept comparing it to 100% accuracy. There are times that I just want 90% accuracy is fine. Just give me speed. All right. I’ll give you one other thing about Otter. Otter is not a sponsor or anything, but check this out.

AlexAnndra: Okay.

Andrew: I had a meeting with someone and I needed to take some of their content down and bring it to my team and have them talk about it to our customers. Well, it was with Mike, the founder of ManyChat, this chatbot-making software. I said, “Mike, I want to make sure that I’m getting this right. I’m putting Otter down.” I hit Record on Otter, put it on the table at lunch with us here in San Francisco outside where it was noisy. Whatever he and I said it not only transcribed it, again, 80%, 90% accuracy, it also attributed the voice based on the voice to the right person, so that I can go back to the team and say, “Here’s what he said.” And if for some reason the transcript is not right, just double-tap on the word or whatever the gesture is and it’ll play it and you’ll hear us say it and now we know that we’re getting this right and we’re not just telling our customers what I remember, my memory is pretty bad, but what he accurately said and it’s all recorded there. Super powerful stuff, right?

AlexAnndra: Wow. That’s really powerful.

Andrew: Okay. All right. Do you have any like systems, any hacks like that for getting things done more effectively?

AlexAnndra: We have a . . . Well, we have a process for configuring and organizing and consulting and onboarding our clients. As it relates . . .

Andrew: What is it relates?

AlexAnndra: Well, as it relates to presentations, it’s like 123, you select your best files, you organize them into, we call it a corporate story, and each division, each product has its own chapter. You take a bird’s eye view of that and make sure then that all of the slides all the content in there has a consistent brand. You remove the duplicates and then you upload it into Shufflrr, and there’s your corporate library. That’s the beginning of it.

Andrew: But they have to have something already created.

AlexAnndra: Yeah. I mean, Shufflrr is existing content. So it’s the content you already have, but it’s visualized and indexed so you can see it, you can search for it, you can find it and then you can reconfigure it so you can take it from there and then customize it for your own meeting.

Andrew: Okay. Let’s go back then to the book that you mentioned. So far the content that we’re talking about is you going out pitching and waiting for somebody to come to you. One of the things that you did was you created a book and you started sending it out to potential customers, right?

AlexAnndra: Yep.

Andrew: What was the topic of the book and then how was the response for you sending it out?

AlexAnndra: The book is called “Presentation Management: A New Strategy for Enterprise Content.” And so far, the response has been pretty positive. It’s an easy read. I wrote it. I don’t know a lot of big words, so I made it really straightforward. I don’t do a lot of marketing-speak. And it just gives you a step by step like, why are presentations important? And then, what are the elements of presentation management? And how do you set up a good library and what’s the future of presentations? Really, really straightforward, giving everybody just a basis, a different way to think about their presentations and to really leverage presentations as the marketing asset that they are.

I mean, you think about it. When somebody makes a presentation, they’re doing it for a meeting, and if it’s a big meeting especially, you get the best of the best in the company. You’ll get the graphic designer put the templates together, you might get a copywriter on that massaging the words, you might get a quote or a video from, say, the CEO or from the head of product, and all of that collaborative effort goes into that presentation.

And then you go to the meeting, and, “Yay, great meeting,” and then the presentation gets forgotten and lost on the network and it’s like, “Well, what if you take that presentation and let everybody in the company use pieces of it over and over again, make it easy for them to find so they can do it in, say, five minutes instead of five hours and now everybody’s presenting like the CEO? Even if it’s just a little one-off, “Oh, I have a meeting with a junior-level client very, very premier,” you still have, like, the best message, the best brand and the best information that you’re always putting your best foot forward for your company. It’s like everybody present like the CEO.

Andrew: Again, I want to come back to the book in a second, but we do something like that too, but we keep it all in Keynote. And it’s . . . All the major slides are kept in Keynote, and whenever you want to go and give a presentation, I don’t want to keep doing it myself. Someone on the team will go and pull out the slides that they need, copy them and bring them into another presentation, yeah, because Keynote, it stinks if they’re on anything other than a Mac.

AlexAnndra: Right.

Andrew: But . . . Okay, the general idea is there. Why does somebody need software beyond that? Why isn’t it enough to just go into the slide?

AlexAnndra: Okay. So, when you do that, let’s say you have 50 salespeople or 100 salespeople or 1,000 salespeople like some of our clients do, then now everybody is copying and pasting those slides and they’re creating new presentations, and let’s say those 1,000 salespeople they do 10 meetings a week, that’s . . . I don’t know what the math is. A hundred thousand? So now you have like 200 or 1 million versions of that same presentation, they’re slightly different, they’re slightly the same and now somebody’s got to go, “Oh, let me make the presentation.” They open up the network and they open up the SharePoint site and they have 8 million versions of the same presentation that then they have to weed through to find that one slide.

Andrew: And then what about this? If we change one slide because I think there was like a dopey design of the image or things bother me like they’re not centered properly which doesn’t bother some people, I don’t know why. If I adjust it, you’re saying Shufflrr will automatically adjust it on everyone else’s presentation too?

AlexAnndra: Yeah, everybody who’s used that slide. Now, if you have the other example, then you don’t know if you’re picking up the right version or the dopey version.

Andrew: Right, right. Did they fixed it or not?

AlexAnndra: For example, when you do that, you updated in one place and it’ll push out to all those 1 million version that everybody who’s used that slide.

Andrew: Okay. I want to talk about my second sponsor and then we’ll get right back into it. My second sponsor is a company called Toptal. I’ve talked in the past, Alex, about how I use Toptal to hire developers, and I think anyone who’s in a service business who’s doing things repetitively should talk to Toptal about hiring developers who could automate some of this stuff for them internally and then turn it into a product externally. Anyone who’s hiring should go to them.

But lately, I’ve been talking a lot more about Jack Barker. He is someone that I hired from them and I’ve been working with him for a long time. Here’s the deal. Alex, I was finding that I knew that having a second pair of eyes on my presentation helped me. I hired this guy, Tim Page. Everyone talked about how good he was at presentations. I was doing webinars to explain what chatbots were. I said, “Tim, I know you don’t usually do this. Can I just give you some money?” Actually, I didn’t do it. I know what it was. I was going to ask him, and then I realized if I asked him, he’s going to say, “Andrew, I’ll just do it for free.” So I said, “Megan, go over and ask him saying, “Andrew is going to hire someone. Can he hire you?” And he said, “Sure.”

So I hired him who’s a great webinar leader. And he watched my presentation and gave me a bunch of feedback and I said, “This type of stuff is what I do all the time.” I look for someone who’s the best at something and I ask them for feedback. When it came to interviews, I said, “Who’s doing great interviews?” It turns out it was Inside the Actors Studio a few years ago. I went and said, “Who is their producer? Let’s go hire their producer.” I worked with him for months and got better at it. So I said, “I need another pair of eyes on my finances.”

So I went to Toptal, I said, “You guys acquired this whole MBA finance company that I can hire people from you. I need somebody from you.” And they introduced me to a handful of people who could have done the job I was looking for. And Jack Barker is the guy that I hired. Jack is a person who’s been on boards of companies, he’s been a Managing Director, he’s been all kind . . . Let me see the thing that really got me. Where was it? Oh, he was at the Carlyle Group. They’re super impressive.

AlexAnndra: Oh, wow.

Andrew: Right? He worked at McKinsey and Company for 12 year . . .

AlexAnndra: That’s [inaudible 00:37:47].

Andrew: Who works for McKinsey and Company for 12 years anymore? Right? He worked for them for 12 years.

AlexAnndra: Wow.

Andrew: So I said, “Perfect. I can’t hire McKinsey and Company. I don’t think it’s the right fit for me, but to hire someone who worked there is great.” I hired him. He started going through a lot of my stuff and saying, “Andrew, here’s what bigger companies do. They have a competition. I’ll just give you a basic thing. Competition. Everyone on your team knows what the big wasteful expenses are. Take the whole thing out of your finance software, put it in a spreadsheet and send it out to everyone and have a contest where you give them something if they cut expenses.”

I go, “What?” We came up with something. It seemed too simple for me. A hundred dollars? If you save anything more than like $60 I thought it was something like that. So, basically, we’re losing money. Something like that that didn’t seem to make sense to me, but I said, “All right, Jack, let’s do it.” I said, “Who cares? Why would they care about the money? They’re helping me anyway.” The contest is what did it. They started . . .

AlexAnndra: It’s the contest.

Andrew: . . . saving money. They started finding this software that we didn’t need anymore and cutting it. They started saying, “Hey, you know what? It’s a little bit more work for me to switch this over, but I’ll switch this over and cut, cut, cut, cut, cut.” Rebecca cut the most. She won. It was great. So little things like that that I thought would make sense, but he said, “Look, even in big companies, even in places where people don’t need the extra $100, when you give that incentive, if creates a much more valuable incentive than you realize.” And he brought that kind of expertise.

If you, Alex or someone else who is listening to me, and you say, “You know what? McKinsey. This level of finance. There’s somebody out there who I need to help me out.” They are the people to go to. They will help you with your finance, with your financial projections, with your spreadsheets, with your deck when you’re getting funding, especially when you’re in the later round of funding. But they’ll even do things like what I did with them which is just look over your finances and give you ideas based on what’s worked for other people and also give you the push that you sometimes need from an external consultant. That’s what Jack has done for me. I met up with him through Toptal.

If you, Alex or anyone else is looking to take your business a little bit bigger, a little more professional without the heavy costs of bringing in a big consulting company like McKinsey, I’m telling you, this is within reach for all of us. I’m not paying that much. And I get him every month we get on calls and he helps me out.

Go to toptal.com/mixergy. I’m telling you you’re going to love it. Top as in top of your head, tal as in talent .com/mixergy. They’ll give you 80 hours of developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period. I could do that all from memory because I’ve talked about them for years. And I’ve talked about them for years because people keep signing up for Toptal. Toptal.com/mixergy.

All right. We were talking about the book. Was it helpful to now take this book and then give it out to potential customers? Did it lead to any sale?

AlexAnndra: Oh, yeah.

Andrew: It did?

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: People were what? Opening it up and reading it?

AlexAnndra: People were opening it up and reading it. They are . . . It also . . . Well, it’s . . .

Andrew: Oh, no, we just froze on our video.

AlexAnndra: No, no, no. It also it defines the category.

Andrew: Okay.

AlexAnndra: It tells them how to do it. Like, everybody knows that presentations are a mess. Everybody . . . Any big company, you open up a network folder and there’s just a million versions of the same presentation, and then there’s all these files and all these videos and nobody knows what the right one is. Everybody knows it’s a problem, but it’s like a subconscious problem. It’s like, you didn’t know you needed an app to hail a taxi until Uber. And then you’re like, “Oh, this makes perfect sense. I’m never going to stand on the street with my arm up ever again because I don’t have to.” And so the book was kind of the same thing, I was like, “Let’s tell people how they can do this better. Whether they use Shufflrr or they use something else, let’s tell them how to organize their presentations and leverage their investment and all that content and reuse it over and over again in a very systematic, streamlined, effective way.”

Andrew: So what’s your process with that? You find a list of people who you think would be good customers, you find their address, not hard, you mail it out to them, and then you follow up with them?

AlexAnndra: Yep. So what we’re doing is we . . . Well, first we send them an introductory letter like a letter on paper with a signature that I personally signed because nobody gets letters, an 8.5 by 10. I don’t even know what size paper is anymore. Nobody gets those. So we send the letter, and then a couple of weeks later then we send the book and I put a message on the book to them so it’s all very personal, but we focus on who we send it to. We don’t just blanket send out direct mail and drop a bunch in bulk. We research the person as best we can like through LinkedIn or Google searches of “Is this the person who’s going to make decisions about presentation and marketing for their company? Is this a possible influencer?” and we send it to that person. So it’s very personal.

Andrew: Letter, send the book, and then when you follow up, you get a response from them?

AlexAnndra: No. I hate to say this and admit it, but it’s almost impossible to follow up with a phone call because if you don’t have the direct line to somebody, you go into the switchboard voicemail oblivion. And like you said, people don’t answer their call. Like, even if I know you . . .

Andrew: So you’re just waiting for them to respond to you?

AlexAnndra: Yeah. It’s a . . .

Andrew: But they do.

AlexAnndra: It’s a form of advertising. It’s just awareness building at this point.

Andrew: And that’s it. And you get . . . Have you . . . I’m imagining you made more than your money back because how much does the book cost? But did you get a significant number of customers from it?

AlexAnndra: We get . . . It’s interesting because we’re a smaller company, we get a lot of credibility for it because if you’re talking to say, a Comerica, or a Rush, and they’re like, “Well, who is this company? There’s only 10, 15 people. What are they doing? Who’s Alex Ontra? Who’s James Ontra?” that we wrote the book and that we have all of that content and that resource gives us credibility. It’s like, nobody has ever got fired for hiring Microsoft, but going after them might be a little riskier, so we have to have all of that information out there.

And if you look at our website, it’s very informative. It’s less about “Buy us. Buy us. Buy us,” and more about, “How do you do this? Why is this feature good or why is that feature good? And here are a bunch of articles and here’s a guidebook and here’s the real book if you want to get that.” It’s very informative. And that’s to help people feel comfortable making the decision and also help them get the best value out of our product.

Andrew: I wonder how if you wanted to get their phone number how you could do it and not have it feel like too much.

AlexAnndra: It’s funny that it’s actually a hard thing to find now. I hired an intern just to do them to get these phone numbers and he’s like, “Alex, I got hung up on all day long. I just don’t . . . ”

Andrew: Because people won’t take the . . . Because the right person won’t take the call?

AlexAnndra: Well, if you don’t know the person’s direct extension, then you go through the main number. And if you’ve worked in a big company, everybody has caller ID, so if they see a call coming through that’s coming through the main switchboard then they know, it’s like, “I don’t know this person,” and I’m like I answer the call and half the times they don’t even have voicemail anymore. So you can’t even leave a message like, “Hey, I sent you a book.” You can’t. So it’s I call it . . .

Andrew: I’ve got two possible answers for it.

AlexAnndra: Go for it.

Andrew: One is more involved, the other is like, very quick. The more involved one is, do a podcast where you interview them or write about them, they’re more likely to respond back to you to answer the questions either for a podcast or because you’re going to write about them on your blog, and then you’ve got the connection that you can follow up with a little while later. Like, I didn’t have an opening that I could follow up with you and sell you something. I just don’t have anything to sell you. But that’s one. The other one is, if you have their email address and you put it into iMessage, you can text message them or call them on their cell phone that way. And it could be something like you take their email address, and that’s not hard. There are tons of companies, reachout.io, cont . . . What is it? Contact [inaudible 00:45:43].

AlexAnndra: You’ll get email addresses. Yeah.

Andrew: You plug it into your iMessage or to your desktop Mac and you just send them a text message that says, “I hope you got . . . I hope you like the book I sent you.”

AlexAnndra: That’s a good idea. Nice.

Andrew: That type of thing, super effective, super effective. I got a bunch of those for finding interviewees. It’s actually not so much for interviewees. It’s for researching on a guest. Like, I will sometimes sit down and go, “Is this guy for real or not? How do I even find out? Well, I got to reach out to someone. How do I reach out to them and get an answer within two minutes from a stranger?” I do a couple of techniques like that, I get my answer quickly, and I’m either reassured, or I realized I should tell the person, “Sorry. It’s not going to be a good fit because I’m going to be a bit aggressive with you on this and I don’t think you want that here. Why don’t we just end the interview?” And sometimes they say, “Who cares? Let’s do it.” Sometimes they go, “Okay. Thanks for warning . . .

AlexAnndra: Yeah. In the interview, it also appeals to their ego.

Andrew: Yeah, that first part I think is a no-brainer.

AlexAnndra: [inaudible 00:46:34].

Andrew: It takes a little bit more work. So here’s what you do for that. It does take more work, but now there are agencies and for just a few hundred bucks, not even that, will take your conversation. You just do this via Zoom. You send it over to them, they’ll take it and they’ll put it into a pod . . . We use that for the . . . What’s it called? For the chatbot business. We wanted to reach out to a few people, we wanted to get to know them, we wanted to elevate the brand of this new thing that we were doing, so we said, “Let’s do a podcast, but who has time for another podcast?”

Well, there are services now. I start paying like 20 bucks per episode. They take this type of trends, this type of Zoom video, they automatically edit it, they post it up on the podcast feed, they do the design, they do the music, the whole thing’s done, boom, they’re good. And now the guest has something and you’ve had a conversation with the guest, and yes, it raises your profile, it raises their profile. And by the way, even if the guest knows this is what you’re doing, they’re happy to do it because podcasting except for Mixergy where I’m a little aggressive with people, podcasting it’s an easy way for them to get their message out on the internet. They’re not doing it for you or your audience. They’re doing it for Google and the podcast app audience. It’s an easy win.

All right. I have been very nice to you. I’ve got to ask you a couple of challenging questions here because otherwise, what’s the point of doing this interview? You’re basically talking to yourself. I’ve recognized a few things with your site that kind of stand out for me that I’m wondering like, this . . . Okay. So on the bottom of your site where I go into resources, there’s not ADP case study, and I’ll link to that, it says ADP Case Study Page. It’s like somebody just created a page and said, “We’re going to call it ADP Case Study page,” and didn’t realize it’s going to go up on the site. And when I click on that Case Study page, I see that it takes me on to what looks like a HubSpot page, but it’s not really a HubSpot, that says, “Hey, if you want this white paper, just enter your contact information. We’ll send it to you.” It goes to list. The text on that page where it says “What you’ll learn in this case study,” it’s white on a white background. And I find like, there are few things on the site that are like that and I’m wondering.

AlexAnndra: Wait. I’m looking at it right now. It’s gray.

Andrew: Oh, is it gray? And it’s coming out maybe on my Safari thing.

AlexAnndra: So dark gray on a light gray background.

Andrew: Let me take a look. Maybe it’s a Chrome Safari thing. I’m going to go take a look at that. No, it’s coming . . .

AlexAnndra: But it’s funny that you mentioned the HubSpot thing because a couple of years ago we hired a content agency to help us get our blogs up and running and get into a system for that. And they put all of this stuff on HubSpot which is great because HubSpot tracks, but then it sends all of my customers to HubSpot and not on my WordPress site.

Andrew: Yeah.

AlexAnndra: So then we backtracked and we recreated those pages on our WordPress so it’s on ours, but it’s been . . . I mean, you know like, once you have a website, there’s all this legacy stuff and it’s really hard to get rid of it.

Andrew: I see it. You’re using Contact Form 7 in here, you’re using mo . . . I see what you’re doing on here and I think it can be done, but I’m just wondering, like . . . I thought maybe you weren’t looking at this page and that’s why it came out that way. For me, I’ll tell you, on two browsers, it’s white on white. And so there are little things like that that I wonder, like . . .

AlexAnndra: Can you send it? Which page are you on?

Andrew: I’ll just screen share with you once we’re done.

AlexAnndra: Just send it to me when we’re done.

Andrew: I’ll send it. I could even chat it over to you now.

AlexAnndra: Okay.

Andrew: Oh, interesting. I wanted to see also what your response would be to that. And it’s interesting that you want to actually take a look. And so in your . . .

AlexAnndra: No. I want to fix it. If it’s broken, I want to fix it. Should I look . . .

Andrew: And it’s you going into a WordPress site, logging into wordpress.com/wp-admin, whatever the thing is, right?

AlexAnndra: Yeah. I mean, I don’t do the website. We have a web designer who does that, but if it’s . . . What is this?

Andrew: That’s what [inaudible 00:50:10].

AlexAnndra: I’ve never seen this page.

Andrew: Oh, okay. All right. It’s linking from the bottom of your site. All right. And then another thing.

AlexAnndra: And now I see it. I see it. Okay. All right. I’ll fix this. Thank you for paying attention. I’ve never seen this page.

Andrew: I just got it when I went to the footer of shufflrr.com.

AlexAnndra: Oh, so you went from the footer.

Andrew: Yeah. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking to, like, say, “Aha. This is not a good business because of that.” I’m sure I’ve got tons of issues too on my side, but I’m wondering about that.

AlexAnndra: Yeah, and there it is. I’ll do that. No, I’ll get on that.

Andrew: All right. But now I get it. It just kind of slipped through. All right. Here’s another thing. So I’m on your blog and I know that you’re getting traffic from your blog, and I know you’re getting credibility from your blog, but then there’s like a Request Demo button, but it’s kind of hanging on the side, but I don’t know what I’m requesting a demo from. So if I’m somebody who’s searching online and I end up on a page, it’s like “Presentations are Enterprise Assets, ” what’s the Request Demo thing? And I wonder, like . . . I feel like you’re doing this stuff yourself. I wonder if what’s happening is you’ve reached your limit of where you are and you’re not going beyond you at this point. What do you think? What am I . . . What should I make of all this?

AlexAnndra: Hang on. I’m not understanding. Because I think by the time people get to the blog, the Request a Demo is a demo for our software. So that’s a . . .

Andrew: Oh, so you’re saying they’re going to the main site, and then they get to the blog, and then they go demo. You’re not seeing that they’re going directly into the articles.

AlexAnndra: Not . . . I mean, sometimes they do.

Andrew: All right. I’m overthinking it, but I do feel like people do, but maybe you’ve got more data than I do.

AlexAnndra: Yeah. Usually, they go to like the homepage or to, if you notice we have product pages for different industries and they’re going there.

Andrew: Got it. Okay. How’s it feeling? Like maybe you shouldn’t be doing this interview?

AlexAnndra: No, it’s fine.

Andrew: Has the interview turned at this point?

AlexAnndra: No. Believe me, I’ve been in the hot seat by meaner, tougher people then you, so go for it.

Andrew: Yeah. I’m not going to mean.

AlexAnndra: What do you next?

Andrew: I’m looking to get understanding. Okay, here’s the last thing I want to ask that seems a little tough. Do you feel like considering the years of hard work that you should be at way more revenue than you’re doing right now, that you . . .

AlexAnndra: Originally because we did consulting services, it was project work. So we had more revenue, but it didn’t repeat, so we would have to . . .

Andrew: Because it was service work.

AlexAnndra: Because it was service work. It was consulting, so once you finish your job, you’re starting from scratch. We started Shufflrr. Shufflrr is its own company and we started about . . .

Andrew: 2014?

AlexAnndra: . . . four years ago, four years ago, 2014 was our first Shufflrr client.

Andrew: [inaudible 00:52:44] at this point.

AlexAnndra: And it’s a SaaS business. So we have . . . And we started it without funding. We started it straight from . . . We put our own money in it and we put . . . And mostly clients because clients were willing to pay for it, so we built it based on revenue, the old fashioned way, so that takes longer. But we were having like steady growth of 3% to 5% month over month now.

Andrew: Okay.

AlexAnndra: So the trajectory is finally hitting and then last year, we did get an investor. So we took in money and that helped accelerate our development schedule. And that’s starting to see. And what we’re seeing now is more and more clients are just signing up more users. They’re just . . . So it’s growing virally within some of our existing clients. We’re getting new . . .

Andrew: Talk about that. You talked to our producer about that. Tell me how you’re growing within companies now.

AlexAnndra: Well, one of the things is we have single sign-on. We use single sign-on with Salesforce or single sign-on through the network. So if anybody is in a permissioned group, they can click and get access to Shufflrr [inaudible 00:53:54]

Andrew: And then they become a new seat.

AlexAnndra: Yeah, that’s a new seat.

Andrew: So if I sign up for my company, everyone who has Mixergy email address can go in and sign on, and they don’t even have to ask permission, they just sign-on, and then they become another seat in your company?

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s how enterprise works right now?

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: I had no idea that’s the way it worked. Okay.

AlexAnndra: Now, some of our larger companies like a flat rate based on a maximum number of users and when they’re at the 1,000, 2,000 user level, we’re happy to give them a flat volume discount, but that is how the company’s growing.

Andrew: And that’s how it goes. Okay. And then, like, can you give me an example of maybe one of the pharma companies that are working with you? How is it that it goes from one department to another or one group to another and then you end up growing within a company?

AlexAnndra: Well, pharma is a tough one to talk about because they have very strict NDA, so I’m not allowed to say what this company is doing versus what that company is doing.

Andrew: But in general, you’re starting to see some patterns that are expressing themselves that way. Here’s what I understand from your conversation with our producer. What they’ll have is several products. And if somebody uses Shufflrr to manage presentations for one product, somehow it leads from one product department to another and they’re creating a whole other set of slides, a whole other thing. How does that happen? What’s the point where one person with one department finds out about another person and the tool that they’re using?

AlexAnndra: Well, it starts with word of mouth. And then a lot of times . . . Well, let’s say pharma doesn’t do a lot of cross-selling because they’re highly regulated. So if you’re working on one product, that’s all you’re allowed to talk about. But at a big company like that, there’s the compliance department, and then there’s the marketing department, and then there’s like the medical affairs. They are responsible for all the different brands and giving them tools and systems and training so that all the different salespeople or the MS sales can go and do their job and they have the materials. So what you do is you get in on one product, they test it and then you hit that artery. You hit the higher level head of medical science liaison or something like that that’s . . .

Andrew: And it’s on them that they go in and talk through within their company what are the tools that are working.

AlexAnndra: And then [inaudible 00:56:13] all of our products on this.

Andrew: But there’s no way for you to go in and ask for the next person to come through.

AlexAnndra: I can ask but they’re very . . . They work in their [Fifes 00:56:30]. They’re very secular that way. I mean, I do ask, but they’re like, “Oh, I don’t know anybody.” But when you hit the artery, then it just explodes. And that’s one of the highs of having a small business, it’s like, “We have 800 users now and last year we only had 100, and that is great.”

Andrew: I’m intrigued by enterprise. I feel like because we start out as entrepreneurs who fight against big companies, we don’t recognize how big they are as clients. I got one company, I don’t know if they’re going to be a sponsor yet or not, it seems like they are, that hit enterprise. They went from consumers, and more importantly, they went to like individual entrepreneurs to suddenly go into enterprise. And they are now selling at multiple seats at a time. We’re talking like huge, all at once, because the company will sign everybody on and then it’s a benefit within the company and you’re told forget it. And he doesn’t even know if . . . I don’t even know if they’re going to use the software or not, but they’re paying for it.

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: And MarketingProfs where I talked about. I think you wrote on MarketingProfs so they wrote about you.

AlexAnndra: Yeah, I’ve written on . . .

Andrew: MarketingProfs did that. They went from individual marketing freelancers, I think, to then focusing on companies and they had to add a few extra features like, let the boss know whether you watch the videos on MarketingProfs or not, and boom, those little features mean that companies are signing their teams up to MarketingProfs. All right. So we learned a lot here. Number one, we learned Otter can be used to record conversations.

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: Number two, we learned that . . . I don’t know. I’m still feeling a little awkward about bringing up that one page about the ADP case study from the bottom.

AlexAnndra: No. My one broken page on a website? No, you did [inaudible 00:58:10].

Andrew: Yeah, you’ve gone beyond it. I haven’t it.

AlexAnndra: [inaudible 00:58:11] deal with somebody tomorrow, you know that’s going to happen, right?

Andrew: Are heads rolling?

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: They are going to roll about it.

AlexAnndra: Yeah.

Andrew: We’ve learned about content marketing, of course, pulling people in. We’ve learned that if you hire the right company, they can get you tons of articles that you guys are suddenly jumping up on Ahrefs. We’ve learned that Ahrefs does not like Andrew enough to sponsor, but does actually have a tool that’s phenomenal for figuring out what other people are doing. All right. Thanks so much for being on here. And we also learned that it turns out that me just letting all my people go through my keynote presentations may not be the best way to keep things organized.

AlexAnndra: I would agree with that statement.

Andrew: But I wonder, are you the right tool for a company my size? We’ve got four different people who are going into keynote. That’s it.

AlexAnndra: Well, I’m going to be honest with you.

Andrew: Hit me.

AlexAnndra: The companies that get the best benefit from Shufflrr usually have like 50 salespeople or more because that’s where you start herding cats and you have a dispersed salesforce and you have to give them the materials, you have to keep track of what they’re using, you got to make sure they have the right version. That’s when they really get the ROI of something like Shufflrr. We do have a lot of . . . Our minimum is five users for $100 a month, so it’s not a big deal. And they just sign up on their own and set it up on their own and we’re happy to help them, but honestly, they don’t stay around as long. It’s really the big bigger companies with the branding issues and the logistical issues of getting the right material in their salespeople’s hands or their trainers hands or . . .

Andrew: So be open with me. Why are you doing this interview then? This is not the audience where you’re going to get mass adoption. Is this part of your backlink strategy? Is it just trying to be everywhere? What’s the thing?

AlexAnndra: Yeah. Part of it is awareness, but also like presentations. I feel very strongly that presentations really are a marketing asset and I think people need to think about them differently. So even if you have four people and you only use keynote, and so you’re not going to necessarily be a Shufflrr customer, you still use presentations to sell your sponsorships or whatever it is, and it does make sense for you instead of recreating the same keynote one over and over and over again, and now you have 20 versions of the same presentation.

And then one of your colleagues is like, “Yo, Andrew, what slide is it?” And then now you just got interrupted because he’s got a presentation to do. It makes sense to organize your presentations, create that master presentation, your corporate story, and then pull from there and update it periodically as your business evolves and put it in a system or a library where people can easily find and search for, one or two slides and they can use it and reuse it, so it becomes one big library that gets used over and over again versus 1,000,001 disparate presentations.

Andrew: So I thought we were being really advanced by recognizing that we’re going to have one big file where all the slides live, and when you have to go give a presentation, you go shopping, as I said, think about it’s like going shopping in the big slide, pull out that stuff you need, and then you can go anywhere from doing a 20-minute talk to doing a three-hour talk and there’s no problem, we’ve got the slides and the stories and everything to go along. But you’re showing me that that is a step further than most, but it’s still not as organized as it could be.

AlexAnndra: Yeah. And then if you put that big presentation in Shufflrr, then you’re not creating multiple versions over and over again on the network that everybody else has to weed through to make their next presentation.

Andrew: The other thing I’m learning is there are more problems than we realize, that so . . . This is not an obvious problem. You’re saying even the people who experience this problem don’t recognize it as a problem. It’s just like a fact of life. And the more we . . .

AlexAnndra: Right. They’ll accept it, like, hailing a cab. That’s why . . . And then when I explain it to people, they’re like, “Oh, yeah. That makes sense. When you got all those presentations on your network, it’s a mess, you don’t know where it is. You’re looking in your email, you’re looking on your documents folder, you’re asking your friend to email it to you.”

Andrew: And the only reason you knew that was because your brother, your co-founder, he experienced it himself when he was working for someone else and he said, “There could be a better way and I could create it.”

AlexAnndra: The reason why we know it is because for 20 years consulting on presentations when our customers came to us, they all said the same thing. So those few early adapters, they were the ones for who were like, “There’s got to be a better way.” And here are problems and it was always as whether you are Green Mountain Coffee Roasters or you are [Roche 01:02:44] or you are ABC sales or U.S. Bank, it’s always the same problem whether you’re a big company with 1,000 people or even a small one with 4 it’s still the same problem. That’s why we wrote the book.

Andrew: All right. The book can be found and the website can be found at shufflrr.com. It’s shufflrr.com. And of course, we’ll link it in the show notes within the podcast. And this interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies that make this interview happen and all the others. It’s called HostGator for hosting websites. And if you’re looking to hire developers, go check out toptal.com/mixergy. Oh, wait. I should now say hostgator.com/mixergy. And . . . Oh, that’s it. We’re done.

AlexAnndra: All right.

Andrew: Alex.

AlexAnndra: Thank you so much. That was fun.

Andrew: Thanks so much. It was. All right.

AlexAnndra: All right.

Andrew: Bye.

AlexAnndra: Bye, bye.

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