Episode 30: MVPs and Product Validation w/Ian Lawson

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Ian Lawson from Awmous and SlickPlan joins us today. As an agency owner turned product-creator, Ian has plenty to tell us about the importance of an MVP, and the surprise product validation that launched his product.

In this episode, Ian talks about being a self-professed art nerd, starting his own interactive studio, and how he went about deciding what product to create.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • The importance of avoiding tech/design debt
  • How to capitalize on a business accident
  • How to plan for growth
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 Show Notes:

Awmous – Ians newest venture
SlickPlan – Create a beautiful site map in minutes
Honeypot – Simple and intuitive web app that simplifies HR tasks
Startupland
Basecamp
Lean UX
Remote: Office Not Required

Episode 29: Launching a Productized Service w/Brian Casel

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Today’s guest is Brian Casel, a return guest, in a first for Chasing Product.  Brian is currently the founder of AudienceOps, a done-for-you content-marketing productized service. Before launching a productized service, Brian had successfully made the transition from freelancer to product creator over the past several years with his earlier businesses.

In this episode, Brian talks about what he’s been doing since we last heard from him, what he’s learned along the way, and shares some insights into what launching a productized service requires, without becoming overwhelmed.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • The importance of a team
  • Why “done for you” is the new hotness
  • Content marketing for personal vs business branding
  • Building an audience from nothing
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 Show Notes:

Casjam – the online home for Brians projects
Audience Ops – Grow your audience, your email list, and your customer-base with done-for-you content marketing
Restaurant Engine – Brians original Saas product
Content Upgrades – WP Plugin for use w/Audience Ops service
Software Product Marketing & Design (the previous episode of Chasing Product, featuring Brian)
How To Start A Freelancing Business That Won’t Fail

It was interesting to talk to Brian again after having him on the show so early on. He’s been talking about launching a productized service for a while now, even creating a course to teach others how to do it. Getting to sit down with him and actually talk about how a bootstrapper can go about launching a productized service was educational.

Brian learned that launching with a team was crucial – he wasn’t interested in going back into freelancing. Launching a productized service with a team behind it on day one allowed Brian to work ON the business instead of in the business. He had no interest in this business if he’d be the only one doing the work, which is reasonable.

The other part of launching a productized service that was crucial was focusing on doing ONE thing really well for an ideal customer. Audience Ops does content marketing for B2B software companies; that’s their focus. This powerful focus made a lot of decisions very clear in the new business.

The real wisdom in launching a productized service is in how easy it is to launch and how little infrastructure is needed ahead of time. Launching a service offering allows for lower costs and lower technical requirements on day one. Brian was able to launch the offer with a 1-page sales pitch and start signing up clients right away. It may *use* software, but software is not the offering.

Launching a productized service is not easy, but Brian was able to take the lessons learned from previous business efforts and roll them into this one. It’s a big inspiration for those of us who hope to eventually do the same thing.

Episode 28: Teach Everything You Know w/Nathan Barry

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convertkit-nathan
Today’s guest is Nathan Barry, founder of ConvertKit and author of several books. His career has spanned from anonymously doing client work to becoming a highly-visible and well-respected author, speaker and founder.

In this episode, Nathan talks about his journey, including early struggles, professional epiphanies, hard-learned strategies for growing his Saas app, and why “teach everything you know” is so powerful for marketing.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Growing a Saas app
  • Why your heroes are no different than you
  • How to position yourself as an expert
  • Why it’s important to get customer feedback
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 Show Notes:

ConvertKit – Email Marketing For Professional Bloggers
Authority – A step-by-step guide to self-publishing
Designing Web Applications – Nathan’s guide to web app design
The App Design Handbook – Nathan’s guide to iPhone/iPad app design
How To Cheat At Online BUsiness – Nathan’s article about audience-building
Chris Coyier – Writer, CSS Tricks
Jason Fried – Marketing By Sharing

Episode 27: Founder Success Habits w/Dan Martell

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SuccessfulSoftware.net’s “Start Your Own Software Business” Intensive weekend course, 10-11 October in England: More details
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buzzsprout-tom
Dan Martell, founder of Clarity.fm (among others), share his story of starting out in consulting (including a hilarious, never-before-heard consulting growth hack story) and developing the success habits to move on and bootstrap companies to multiple exits. Dan has focused on success habits, service and teaching in order to build relationships and provide value in his successful career of building companies and products.

In this episode, we talk about Dans’ experience with moving from tech geek to marketing expert, the concept of founder-as-operating-system, and the importance of success habits to building companies.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • When to build an audience
  • The compound power of success habits over time
  • Why fortune 500 clients can be hesitant to hire young consultants
  • Why the CEO should be the product manager early on

 Show Notes:

Clarity.fm – On Demand Business Advice for Entrepreneurs
Flowtown – one of Dan’s acquired startups
The Right Way To Go From Services To SaaS – Dan’s video regarding how to build a product within a service company
37Signals
RECORD & RELEASE – Learn How To Podcast In Just One Day (discount code provided in the episode)

With an early start in consulting, Dan soon found himself eager to tap the power of social media and developing the success habits that create products.

Dan talks about topics including how to resolve conflict with a business partner, how to tap into the power of social media, why your CEO should be your first product manager, and the importance of success habits & personal development for a founder.

To close the show, we have Dans’ 3 bullet points, offering three concrete ways to move forward as a founder.

Episode 26: Long-Term Product Success ft/Tom Rossi

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buzzsprout-tom
Tom Rossi, founder of Tickspot and Buzzsprout, share his founders’ journey on this episode. From client services to a Web 2.0 epiphany to long-term success without marketing, Tom has managed to sustain a career by focusing on long-term product success.

In this episode, we talk about Toms’ experience dealing with the economy post 9-11, switching to Rails from .NET, and more!

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • how to “accidentally” create a product
  • letting go of client service work, the right way
  • how to manage a team effectively
  • how to prioritize for long-term product success

 Show Notes:
Tick – Time Tracking
MSites – Web sites for no-profits
bsites for non-profits
Buzzsprout – Everything you need to podcast
Tom Rossi – Twitter feed
37Signals
RECORD & RELEASE – Learn How To Podcast In Just One Day (discount code provided in the episode)

After starting out in 1996 doing client services work, as many of us do, Tom quickly got excited about the Internet boom. But he soon found himself trying to stay afloat in a post-9/11 world.

Creating a CMS for non-profits in 2001 was Toms’ first step toward long-term product success, made for a variety of reasons:
– desperation move
– important for culture
– trying to retain the team
– fell into developing it
– no strategy

Creating a time-tracking tool for freelancers in 2005, in the wake of the Web 2.0 ethos popularized by 37signals, was another step toward long-term product success. The motivators for this product were:
– frustrated w/ clients
– more planning & strategy
– just me & kevin
– Switching to Rails from .NET
– Attending the “Getting Real” workshop
– letting go of client services thinking: documentation, process, making everything provide value, default to “no”, shoot for MVP, how can we be the best at x?

Later, Tom created podcasting software, based on client work helping churches to put sermons online. This would be yet another link in the long-term product-success chain.

As always, a horrible client project spurred a desire to change to products – Tom goes into detail on this in the show. We’ve all had horrible client projects, and the one that drove Tom out of client services was a bad one!

SEO & marketing was difficult for Tom and his partners, as it is for many of us. A chance conversation with Rob Walling convinced Tom that he needed to improve his marketing game in order to maintain that long-term product success. Tom talks about some of his go-to marketing moves, and shares his shock at discovering where Buzzsprout stood in the podcasting world due to a lack of marketing. Don’t miss his story here, it’s good.

A big part of Toms’ long-term product success is the idea to “make quality of life a part of what you do”. A lot of us in the freelancing world struggle with this, as well.

Tom also talks about how changes in the cultural outlook on how software is sold have made things easier in some ways, including the old outlook that Saas will never work, that nobody understood it, and why Ruby On Rails has changed the game for small-time product founders looking to experience long-term product success.

And of course, we finish the show with Toms’ 3 “do this now!” bullet points for aspiring founders. You don’t want to miss these.

Episode 25.5: Gumroad Small Product Lab Winner, D.J. Coffman

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dj-coffman-small-product

DJ Coffman joins the show today. We talk about DJ winning the recent Gumroad Small Product Lab challenge. We also discuss his journey from being a young artist to becoming an experienced cartoonist. Currently, DJ has a best-of-both worlds work situation that includes both a stable job, and small product releases.

And of course, we’ll get into detail on what it took to conceive, create and launch a small product in just 10 days.

Small Product Talking Points

  • why a small product matters
  • how “reuse and recycle” is a hack to help you create a small product
  • how to leverage your background for product creation
  • how to deal with distractions

 Show Notes:
Comic Drawing Toolkit For Photoshop
Small Product Lab
Cash for Cartoonists
Hugh MacLeod
Chris Brogan
Steven Pressfield – The War of Art
RECORD & RELEASE – Learn How To Podcast In Just One Day

Episode 25: Build Something Small, Build Something Now w/Justin Jackson

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mijustin-start-small
Justin Jackson joins the show today. From hacking on a Vic 20 to releasing multiple products and podcasts, Justin has done a lot! More importantly, he’s figured out a lot about how to make small products work.

In this episode, we talk about Justin’s experience with audience selection, message amplification, getting traction with small products, and more.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • why you should build something small, NOW
  • why you should hang out with your audience every day
  • how to look for patterns to tailor products around
  • how to start with info-products without jumping the gun

 Show Notes:
Marketing for Developers – A guide to marketing your software, apps, and digital products
Product People Club – Daily stand-ups and community for solopreneurs
Amplification – Creating great content isn’t enough; to get it seen by thousands, you need amplification.
Product Hunt Handbook – Learn how to effectively launch your own product on Product Hunt.
Build & Launch – Build and launch your own product
Product People Podcast – A podcast focused on great products and the people who make them
Justin Jackson on Twitter

James Altucher (remember the 1% rule!)
Getting Real, 37signals
Jason Fried
Designer news
Designer subreddit

Episode 24: Learning As You Go w/Tracy Osborn

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Tracy Osborn joins us today to talk about her founders journey. From college CS to art courses, to an incubator, Tracy has made her bones in the industry by learning as she went along. Now, Tracy can claim multiple products and recently authored a book.

In this episode, we talk about Tracy’s early experiences working in both startups and agencies, her experiences with partnerships, and why it pays to get an app in front of customers, fast. We also cover some practical aspects of being a founder and keeping a product moving forward.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • the benefits of participating in an incubator/accelerator
  • how Kickstarter can aid your product launch
  • why it’s important not to dilute your focus
  • why learning as you go is better than reading books

 Show Notes:
WeddingLovely – Tracys web product
Hello Web App – Tracys book; Learn to Build a Web product w/Python & Django
Limedaring – Tracys blog

Python
Django
500 startups
Y Combinator
Kickstarter
PyCon
Nathan Barry
Authority
Gumroad
Leanpub
Product Hunt
Reddit
Uber
Skillshare

Episode 23: Building An Audience w/Richard Felix

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Richard Felix joins the show in this episode.  Richard Felix has a multi-product mini-empire going on. From his early collaboration with Chris Coyier until now, Richard has leveraged building an audience and education people into a steady stream of lifeblood for his products.

In this episode, we talk about his start as a big reader & computer support pro as a teenager, his early lesson regarding audience-building and how it impacts success, and his experience using the act of teaching as an audience-builder. We also cover some practical aspects of being a founder and keeping a product moving forward.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • how having an audience made his first success without knowing it
  • the importance of developing marketing skills
  • opportunity cost and how it changes when you have product out
  • why the term “MVP” has baggage

 Show Notes:

Be Stunning – Richard’s product; stops SaaS app churn by preventing failed payments
Get Retained – Richard’s product; stop Saas customer cancellations before they happen
– Retained tells you what customer to talk to & what about
– Customers need to do certain things to be successful
– Customer questionnaire upon sign-up; use the responses as criteria

Customer Retention Academy – used to build e-mail list
– Creating customers through education

Richard’s Blog
AreMySitesUp – Richard’s project from 2009
Chris Coyier & CSS Tricks
– Chris was building an audience long before the site – this is important

Amy Hoy – product-launching badass
30×500 – Amy’s product-launching course
– never build w/o an audience
– lots of structure
– lots of goals
– sales safari…identify needs & marketing opportunities in peoples own element
– see what people complain about…find enough of them

David Kadavy
Steli Efti
close.io

Dropp – geo-tagged messages & media

Richard Says:
Build something small first
– maybe solve 1 part of the problem & see if the complainers bite

Marketing skill development
– be social!
– come out from behind the keyboard & meet people (the opposite doesn’t work)
– keep up a constant trickle of communication while building an audience
– losing a lot of customers to easy-to-fix problems prompted a desire to communicate better

Mistake: taking things I read as fact – too much focus
– Now, focus on outcomes
– Don’t get overwhelmed
– There’s a chance people don’t know why they’re successful

Opportunity cost – freelancing takes away from the product business now
– Most of us have the opposite problem

3 things
– build an audience…this is important!
– talk to your customers, or the people you want as customers (do you really want those customers?)
– ship as fast as you can – get as much as you need shipped to see if people pay
WARNING: MVP HAS BAGGAGE

Episode 22: Practical Product Transitions w/Garrett Dimon

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Today we have Garrett Dimon (founder of Sifter) on the show. Garrett shares the story of his transition from consulting to products.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • How to scale big-company testing practices down to your size
  • How to keep an eye on costs
  • How to avoid “desperation freelancing”
  • How to maintain productivity despite health troubles

Garrett-related links:

Sifter – Issue tracking for nimble teams
@garrettdimon – Garrett’s Twitter feed
Garrett’s blog

Show notes & links:

SmallSpec – Christophers painless functional specification product (join the launch list)
Cogeian Systems – Christophers consulting practice
Sapient
BrightCorner
Starting + Sustaining – build and launch a saas web app with less pain and fewer mistakes.

Garrett has had an interesting career. I’ve been following his writing since way back when he was at BrightCorner. These days he has made the transition from consulting to products, but it took a while. He had to fight some interesting battles along the way to being ablet o create, market and sell his own app. Along the way he also managed to put together a book/spreadsheet and task list to help other would-be founders launch their own Saas app.