Ben Orenstein – Blind Spots of the Developer Entrepreneur – MicroConf 2017

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    • Prescriptions and Descriptions
    • A lot of speakers start by talking about themselves
      • I’m going to talk about YOU
      • I sent out a survey to attendees
      • Got about 50 responses
      • Q: Monthly income from products
        • 20 @ $0
        • 13 @ $1-999
        • 3 @ $1k-3k
        • 5 @ $3-5k
        • 2 @ $5-7k
        • 4 @ 7k+
      • So half the people have started, half haven’t
      • Presents a challenge
        • Those halfs need different advice!
      • So this talk:
        • Just starting out? Prescriptive advice — you need to know what to do
        • Later stage? Descriptive advice — show you what’s worked for me for you to pick and choose
    • How I started
      • Programmer 6 years ago. Was using vim
        • Made me more efficient
        • But it’s hard to learn
        • Really deep. You can keep learning more and more things about it
        • Became vim aficionado
        • Started helping my coworkers
          • Became “the vim guy”
          • I loved that — I love teaching
        • “How else can I teach this?”
        • Emailed the organizer of the Boston meetup group
          • “Can I give an 8 minute lightning talk teaching the basics of vim?”
          • Went well
        • Can I give a 40 minute conference talk about vim?
          • Applied, got accepted
          • People showed up!
        • People are willing to pay to hear me talk about vim online
        • Can I distill this into an online screencast?
          • Put it on Shopify, $9
          • Started to grow a following online — people wanted to learn vim
        • 2/1/10 — someone bought!
          • Exciting

 

  • Get to that first purchase email

 

            • It’s transformative
        • My mission: to give you that same experience
    • Part 1, for people who haven’t started: How I’d Start Over
      • The process I took with vim was mostly right, but by accident
      • Phase 1: Teach
        • Some ways to pick a product
          • What is something that you from 6 months ago would’ve found valuable?
            • Especially if it’d save you time/money at work
          • What are people asking you about?
            • Indicates people see you as an authority
          • What are you passionate about that bores other people?
            • Speaking to someone last night: “I spend so much time on billing and expense reporting for my freelance stuff, because I love that stuff.” <- Dude, that should be your first product.
        • How do you teach it?
          • Small, in-person, free
          • Ask around. Offer a lightning talk / free lunch and learn about <topic>. People will take you up on it
        • Do this multiple times
        • Three wins in this phase
          • 1. You’re building an audience. Authority. People are starting to trust you. Get a way of staying in touch with them. Get their email
          • 2. You get practice at teaching
            • It’s a tough skill
            • You’ll improve it this way
          • 3. You can do crazy amounts of customer research
            • Ask them — who are they? What got you excited about this? What did you take away from it?
            • Crazy amount of valuable information. Take advantage of that
      • Phase 2
        • Goal: sell ONE copy to ONE stranger
          • Everything else comes later
        • Small is beautiful
        • A 198-page e-book is bad — people won’t read it all, may not open it
          • Start small
        • Example titles (using Docker)
          • “Docker crash course”
          • “Docker for beginners”
          • “Docker for non-programmers”
          • “What I wish I’d known about Docker when I started”
          • “Why Docker sucks and what you should use instead”
          • ALL great e-book titles
          • 40 pages — great.
        • Recommend: get an Airbnb
          • Not a hotel: because Airbnb has a kitchen
            • Buy enough food to last 4-5 days
            • You don’t need to leave to get meals. That interrupts your flow
          • Goal: really simple. Really focused.
            • Write one chapter of your e-book
              • Not the first / intro chapter
              • Pick a meaty middle chapter
            • Write the contents page
            • Make a way to accept money
              • Do not code your own checkout
              • Use Leanpub
        • Most people here said they wanted inspiration & motivation
          • But the people saying this were the ones who haven’t got started

 

  • It’s natural to assume:
  • You feel inspired
  • You get started
  • You have success
  • But the reality is
  • You get started
  • You have success
  • You feel inspired

 

      • “Do you write on a schedule? Or only when you’re inspired?”
        • “I only write when I’m inspired. Fortunately, I get inspired every morning at 9am”
      • Book recommendation: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
  • Part 2, for people who HAVE started: My Ten Best Tactics
    • A grab-bag of tactics
    • 1. Create a recurring reminder to run a pricing test every 6 months
      • Jordan Gal said this morning — he tripled his prices, and signups stayed constant
      • Your first test: hide your cheapest plan / tier
        • If you have only one price point: double it
        • I did this recently
          • Someone recently signed up to my product with an @uber.com address
            • That company is happily losing $3B a year
            • I’m charging them $29/mo
            • Hid the $29/mo plan. So cheapest was $59.
              • Just commented out the HTML!
            • Zero change to trial signups at first
              • After a while it did go down slightly, but trial to paid was way up
    • 2. Create an email course
      • I run an educational site. Helping people with Rails jobs
        • Made a free email course — “land your dream Rails job”
          • Took a while. It’s a solid course. Took some work
          • But it started converting 10% of the people who went through it
          • Totally automated
            • It’s like marketing automation is a thing and you should use it 😉
    • 3. Integrate and partner
      • Slept on this for a while. Dismissed it for a while
      • Turns out it’s awesome
      • Look for win/wins
      • We had a Zapier integration
        • Zapier wrote about it on our blog
          • That drives a lot of customers, for free
          • Win/win: Zapier wins, and we win
      • Another example: that Ruby education product
        • Went to someone else with a Ruby education site
        • Suggested a combined course. My best content, his best content. Cross-promote it
          • Made $100k combined in like 4 months
    • 4. Sell annual plans
      • Talk about it in two places:
        • your pricing page
        • An email that goes out on day 86. Do you want to switch to annual billing? Your next bill is in 4 days time, so let me know and I can switch you before that.
          • Also at the end of the year. If you have a bunch of money in your budget you need to spend — we’ll take it!
      • All that cash upfront is wonderful
    • 5. Put faces near things you want clicked
      • Humans have evolved for millions of years to be interested in faces
        • We can’t help it
      • Increases conversions
    • 6. Try a diving save
      • People sign up, but don’t have time
      • About a day after they cancel we email them
        • Saw you cancelled. That’s cool. People often cancel because they don’t have time. How about we get you set up on an annual plan, for a discount, so you have plenty of time to get set up
          • People take us up on this
          • From $0 churned customer → annual plan
    • 7. Start a podcast
      • Podcast Motor. You basically show up, do the speaking, you’re done
      • Great ROI
      • People tend to say yes to podcast interview requests
        • Can get big names in your industry on your podcast
        • And get them to tweet about the podcast
    • 8. Manually onboard customers
      • Highly recommend
      • Watch someone sign up for your product live
        • Get THEM to share THEIR screen, and talk out loud as they do it
        • You’ll learn A LOT
        • You think things are intuitive. They’re not.
      • Worth doing periodically. Especially worth doing in the beginning
      • “Enter your email here, and one of the founders will get you onboarded”
        • Email them, non-automated email, let’s get a time in Calendly
      • Great way to test onboarding. Show them the new price page and say ‘how does this pricing look to you?’
    • 9. Double down on things that work
      • It’s easy to get excited by the new and shiny
      • But you can get great results from doubling down on what’s working now
      • Snapper:
        • Had a popular blog post about the 30 best stock photo sites
          • Great, but it was sending people to 30 other sites
          • So he made his own stock photo site, and pointed people there at the top of the blog post
          • High conversions… and eventually led people back to Snapper
    • 10. Ask for help
      • You can ask me for help, whenever
      • Other people are happy to help here. Talk to people. The speakers here — reach out. You’ll be shocked how friendly people are. People are happy to help
  • Q&A:
    • “When you get rid of your lowest pricing tier, do you add one at the other end?”
      • Good question. Haven’t tried it.
      • Running one now — what if we put an SLA in the top tier?
      • Should try — “Enterprise – Contact us for pricing”
    • “Rationale of starting with non-SaaS?”
      • It’s harder
      • You can sell a lot of an infoproduct pretty fast and pretty early on
        • Getting that first $ matters more than anything
        • Start your scrappy little business as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about replacing revenue. Just get the first $ as quickly as possible

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