20: Big Launches & Big Challenges

Another COVID catch up as Darren covers his big launch of a long time feature completely redesigned and Aaron discusses some staff challenges with the dip in business.

FULL SHOW NOTES:

[INTRO music]

00:10 Aaron Weiche: Episode 20, Big Launches and Big Challenges.

00:16 Intro: Welcome to the SaaS Venture podcast. Sharing the adventure of leading and growing a bootstrap SaaS company. Hear the experiences, challenges, wins and losses, shared in each episode, from Aaron Weiche of GatherUp and Darren Shaw of Whitespark. Let's go.

[music]

00:42 AW: Welcome to the SaaS Venture podcast. I'm Aaron.

00:42 Darren Shaw: And I'm Darren.

00:45 AW: And we are back in front of the mic and ready to catch up on... It's been about a month since we've connected, and we definitely have plenty to talk about and catch people up on. But I thought a great place to start... Just from some of the things that we've been talking about regarding Whitespark and some of the things on your plate. I definitely wanna hear about your big launch that you've recently had with the Local Citation Finder and get the nitty-gritty details on that.

01:21 DS: I know, it's exciting times. It's been really weird, actually. We haven't talked for a month, I think, 'cause we're both really busy. Kind of in a reactionary mode. With all this COVID business there is so much going on and everyone's trying to do their best to launch some stuff and put stuff out there. So yeah, feels like its been a while since we talked. Oh, yeah. Can't wait to talk about the launch of the LCF? But I guess before we get in there, I just... How are things going, what's going on with you at GatherUp?

01:47 AW: Yeah, well, we can get to some of that. I'm more of the big challenge part. We had a challenging week last week with a little bit of a reduction in staff. A few off of my team and that was incredibly difficult. And talk about, I guess, some of the more difficult parts of that, but within this, it's no different than a lot of businesses. There's hard decisions that have had to be made just based on so many aspects of what's going on in the economy and how it affects when you primarily serve small and medium-sized businesses and, in some industries, they've been so susceptible and have their doors shut and not had a way to even adjust, or if they have adjust, it's been a much, much different look to their business so that was definitely really difficult. We've seen some things leveled out from what April looked like as far as that first wave of panic churn.

02:50 DS: Yeah, totally.

02:50 AW: Yeah that kinda kicked in. And now we're just seeing stragglers in some of those situations from what's there. So just kinda adapting with that. But everything on the homefront is good. Everybody's healthy and the weather's been nicer. So we're getting outside more and just grateful for all of those aspects, and we've done a pretty good job of just shifting the... What we're happy with instead of what is different or what we're missing out on and things like that.

03:20 DS: Yeah, right.

03:21 AW: What about you?

03:23 DS: Yeah, so everything is going alright here. I've always worked from home. So it's not a huge shift for me in terms of my work and family life. It's not that much different. Just not seeing, not socializing as much really. And we had a bit of a health scare at the beginning of this, we were all worried that we had it. So we had to do some distancing in the house, but we've come out of that and everyone's healthy again. And so, we still don't know actually if we did have it. Even though we got tested. Apparently, we hear all the... All the tests are somewhat unreliable, especially if you're only carrying a small viral load. So we don't know if we have it.

We're interested to get the antiviral test, but because of that, we're extra sensitized. And so, we're not seeing anybody. We get everything delivered. We sanitize everything that comes in the house. We're just really playing it safe now for two reasons. One, we had a bit of a scare and was like, "Well, we don't wanna mess with it." And two, we don't know if we're carriers now and so we're extra careful around other people too, right? So we had that, but gosh, now that that's over, it's so nice to just be back to living our quarantine lifestyle.

04:35 DS: I spend a lot of extra time together, really connecting with my daughter these days. We all have really fun play time every night after dinner. So, family life has been good and the business has been surprisingly good too. We had a real big scare in at the end of... End of March, it was getting kinda bad. Lots of cancellations. And so it was like, wow, not looking good, and so we had to make a bunch of hard decisions. Similar to you. We did a few lay offs and we reduced hours across the team. And some of that was defensive planning for what was to come, but in the end, April actually turned out okay for us. So our revenue started to climb back up.

We launched a new Yext service, which is Yext replacement service which was well received, and then we launched the new Local Citation Finder. So yeah, it's all been going back in the other direction. So we've brought our team, many of our team members back up to full-time hours and we're forging ahead with a lot of stuff. The business is starting to come out of it looking healthy, too.

05:38 AW: Nice, that's good to hear. I feel like, on a sales and new business side, that has been... Was really, really quiet and I feel like in the last week or two, we've started to see more of a pulse there, which I'm...

05:51 DS: Same, yeah.

05:52 AW: Excited about so.

05:53 DS: Yeah, like the last two weeks. It really starts to feel like the sense that people are... There was this panic mode at the beginning, everyone's getting defensive, cutting expenses 'cause they don't know what's gonna come, but now they're like, "Okay, well, it's been like this. I think we're kinda getting used to this, and we still have to build a business. So what are the ways we're gonna do that," and then... We both run marketing technology companies, so they start looking to us, and so leads are starting to come back in again.

06:20 AW: Yeah. Awesome, let's...

06:21 DS: Yeah.

06:22 AW: Hope that continues. Ride that wave back up.

06:25 DS: Yeah, definitely. What are some of the things you've been doing at GatherUp? What are some of your offensive strategies that you've been working on?

06:34 AW: The one thing that we've really gotten into is we just double down really heavy on content. I finally got it kind of pulled into a thought process the other day, but we were on a call and talking about shipping product, and the importance of that, and things like that. And I was like, "Well, I think what we're doing, we're just shipping strategy right now," because we have a really robust feature set. And sometimes with that, there's just a lot of elements to it where people don't understand all of the pieces, or how to string 'em together, or how to best utilize the features.

07:15 AW: And I've found it almost cathartic to be writing and pouring myself into teaching. So, a lot of strategy type blog posts, and execution, and webinars. We had you on a local AMA we did. You, and I, and Joy Hawkins, and Mike Blumenthal. Yeah, really great. And we have our monthly customer webinars, and we had our agency webinar. So, we've just really gone all out with sharing things that, with not doing as much outbound, without as many demos things, like that where it's like let's just give people as much education as we can and try to help them through it to do the best that they can and for their business. So...

08:00 DS: Yeah, I've seen really great content coming out from you guys lately. It makes me be a bit jealous, we're a bit quiet on the content front. You're like, "Okay, we've got all these great features, let's focus on content." [chuckle] We're like, "Oh, we got a good content list, let's get some new features launched." Yeah.

08:15 AW: Yeah. Yeah, it's that's really it. That's not to say, I still have one heck of a wishlist.

08:22 DS: Yeah. No, I agree.

08:22 AW: And keeping those things moving forward, but it just definitely felt like for, especially for our customers, we wanna help you, we wanna make it through this together, 'cause if they don't make it, we're not gonna make it kind of deal. So, how do we help them understand how to best use our tool, even come up with different ways. Like one of the things that I like the most that I'm trying to get myself on some other podcasts and find some other ways to talk about is a post about just reopening during COVID, and just how important it is to have these tight cycles of you're making changes, you have new guidelines, and safety guidelines, and new ways that you're selling. You need really tight feedback loops to understand if what you're doing is actually building trust and confidence in the consumer and they will continue to come back, because...

09:19 DS: Your content strategy there, it's so smart to really get into that, because people, as they start seeing this, and then it's sometimes they may not even be on your mailing list, but they're a customer, and they happen to see something on Twitter or something, 'cause it gets shared, all that stuff. So, it's really great to be bringing them back and thinking about the product.

09:38 AW: Yeah. And like I said, it's been a good, just a great way to focus. And it's one of those things, it's nice when you get into it and you're able to write these things and string so many ways that you can use the platform and go deep and whatever else. And if anything it's just really renewed my love of what we've built, and how it works, and the potential it has, and everything else.

So, that part of it has been a good grounding, gratitude, exciting, all of those things. Even though I love it much more if I'm talking to people about it on sales calls, that is a greater level of excitement than just riding out into the great wide open, but it has been great to help customers and then hear from them after our webinars or have them mail and say, "Thanks, this is something very tangible that I could use. I am using it. This opened my eyes." It's great to see things like that.

10:33 DS: Yeah, totally. Yeah, awesome. Good job. Yeah, I actually saw a thing today, I don't know if we're both members of that, Aaron Kralls' SaaS Growth Hacks Facebook Group. [chuckle]

10:45 AW: Yup.

10:45 DS: And he posted this thing today, which I immediately talked to my marketing manager about, which was he's got this indefinite email follow-up sequence for anyone that has tried the software or used it and cancelled, anyone that has a free trial but they never converted. And it's exactly what you're talking about, it's like this sort of discussing all of the features. And it's just like you lay out this sequence that runs for indefinitely where it's like every month, there's a new email about this feature of the tool where you're really communicating that. And so, that's the kind of stuff like, man, we are not doing that and I would love to get into some of that. I could see the value there.

11:25 AW: Very cool. If we get to the end of this and we haven't crushed all of our time, I wanna share something that just, it's been going on for a little bit, but I finally paid attention to it today, and it blew my mind. So...

11:38 DS: Oh. Okay, well, I'll talk really fast then.

11:41 AW: Yeah. [chuckle]

11:41 DS: 'Cause I wanna hear that. [chuckle]

11:44 AW: Alright, cool. Well, hey, let's dive in. I was really excited to see and also support, retweeting, and Facebook liking, and everything else the launch of the Local Citation Finder. And I also really enjoyed too, one of our listeners to the podcast, Chris McCarney from Sydney, Australia chimed in and basically said, "It only took two weeks."

[chuckle]

12:13 DS: That is awesome, yeah.

12:16 AW: Yeah. I thought that was great. Shows Chris is a long time and a dedicated listener. And obviously the joke Darren has talked about a lot of times is he always, your comments always, "Just two more weeks, two more weeks, and we'll get that done." So, that was really fun to have one of our podcast listeners weigh in on the launch of Local Citation Finder...

12:38 DS: That was awesome. Yeah, thanks, Greg.

12:40 AW: Yeah.

12:40 DS: The two weeks thing is so bizarre really, when I think about it because this project, launching the new LCF has been on our radar for at least two years. And the actual development spend was at least two years long. It took many different twists and turns along the way to get to where the final product was that we've launched. But, honest to God, I swear to you, in our initial conversation with the dev team when we were looking at the original scope. I was like, "How long do you guys think this is gonna take?" I swear to God they told me two weeks.

[laughter]

13:12 DS: It was because the original version was just supposed to be really basic feature parity. It was because the Local Citation Finder was running on an old development stack. It was on an other server. We had to keep it on a different server because it had an old version of MySQL, but our new software was using the new version and it wasn't compatible. So the first version was supposed to be like, "Okay, well, let's make these changes to the code so that we can put everything on our more powerful server and keep all of our development stack up-to-date, right?" 'Cause we're actually running into problems 'cause we're maintaining two development stacks, which was totally annoying. And so honestly, it was like, "Okay, great. We'll do that in two weeks. No problem." Once you get into that, you really start to think about it and like, I'm the worst... The two weeks thing is absolutely my fault because I get greedy. I'm like, "Ooh well, if you guys are working on it, maybe we can just make these few little tweaks, too, while we're at it."

14:15 DS: And the few little tweaks evolve into a massively new feature set, and a whole new design, and overhaul it. And by the time we even get that stuff done, we got a new development stack we gotta put it on to. So it's like... That's how it just tends to evolve. It's just really hard for me to hold back on the improvements. Once I just start looking at them, I'm like, " Oh, you know, this tool really needs this or it needs that." And so that's basically what happens.

14:43 AW: Well, that balance of quality and speed is always a tough thing. I fight it as well. I love though... You just have coined a phrase for it now, right? I feel like, in your company meetings, the minute someone says two weeks, alarms should go off, and...

14:58 DS: Absolutely. There should be an actual siren and bell. Yeah.

15:03 AW: Yeah.

[laughter]

15:04 DS: Yeah, totally.

15:05 AW: But... So here's one thing I really loved here, and just to give people... And we'll link to this in our show notes. But your post on the release, this was, to me, just so interesting. This was actually the first piece of SaaS software that you built 10 years ago because you really were just a super small, couple person web development SEO firm, and then you got the idea to build the Local Citation Finder, and here you are majorly relaunching it. I'm sure you've probably added, Band-Aided, done whatever else, but this was probably its first overhaul in almost a decade.

15:41 DS: Yeah. As a complete overhaul, this is it. It's been a decade. And I look back at that post, it was kind of sentimental. I'm like, "Oh man, this is the software that built the company." There was a major turning point for Whitespark because we were just an agency building websites and doing SEO for clients, and we only had three developers at the time. We only had three employees. It was me, Ethan, and Jeff, I think, at that time. And so, I read a post from Garrett French, and I was like, "Ah, that's a cool idea." And Jeff turned out the first version of this in three days. I should go actually use three days as our new timeline. [chuckle] I'll just keep referencing and be like, "How long is that gonna take, guys?" And they'll be like, "Oh, two weeks." I'll be like, "Well, you know, Jeff built the first version of the Local Citation Finder in three days," [chuckle] see if I can push them on that.

16:33 DS: But yeah, we launched it in three days and it was really simple. It was just like, you put in keyword, the tool runs, and then it sends you an email with some data. And so that first version... But people really loved it, and then we thought, "Well, we could turn that into some real software and put a subscription model on it," and we did. And that was our sort of first foray into SaaS, which it's been 10 years now. So today, we have a whole new version of it, and gosh, I just love it now. It's the local citation finder I always dreamt of having. And I'm sure I'll hate it again in a year 'cause there'll be new stuff I wanna do. That's always the way it is.

17:15 AW: Yeah. Well, you just always raise your standards, know a little more, and things continue to evolve. I also love that you're able to go back just in when this was released, right? And McGee a friend of both of ours, had... Long-time SEO and used to be editor at Search Engine Land. He had wrote that this was a must-have tool, right, back in 2010. So it was like, you had your own personal Wayback Machine in this blog post that existed 10 years ago.

17:45 DS: Yeah, his post is still up. It's amazing. I can't believe that it's still live on the Internet. So that was great. [laughter] And actually... And then, I guess, Matt talking about it, and I remember having a phone call with David Mihm, and it was like... Garrett French set it up 'cause I think he talked to Garrett... David talked to Garrett first. I think they knew each other. And then Garrett said, "Oh, David Mihm would like to have a call with you." And I was like, "Oh my God, David Mihm wants to talk to me?" And I was so excited about it. And so, yeah, then I guess really it drove all these relationships and getting to know all the Local U guys. And yeah, it really just grew from there.

18:25 AW: Yeah. Isn't it funny how all those things come together in one way or another?

18:29 DS: Yeah, totally.

18:30 AW: I would say Mihm was definitely the main connector. He was my... I wouldn't have my relationship with Mike Blumenthal without David, Mike Ramsey without it. David was just a connector in our industry.

18:44 DS: Yeah. I remember meeting you and Ed Reese at a Local U. And that was the first time I met you, and we hung out and had some drinks, and got to know each other, and yeah. It's all kinda grown from there.

18:56 AW: So you can blame Local U you for bringing me into your life.

19:00 DS: Oh, blame. Thank you. [laughter] Oh, I'll thank Local U. Much gratitude to Local U.

19:06 AW: So with the launch... We're getting off track here, which is normal, but I'm interested... With the launch of Local Citation Finder, what was your... I wanna know what was both your customer base reaction, what stood out the most to them, and then what did you see in new opportunity, the excitement around the launch of it?

19:29 DS: Yeah, so it was really well received, for sure. So... There's a few really big improvements that we made, number one, the new design, the old tool looked like it was built in 2010, and the new tool looks like it was built in 2020, so it really does look awesome, it's got great visuals, it's fast, it's easy to use, it feels good to use, and that's a huge thing. And I have to shout out to Nick [19:55] ____ for really helping with that. He's got a great eye for design, he's really good about thinking about how the user will interact with this stuff. And so, he's our UI UX design guy and he did such a phenomenal job on the Local Citation Finder, just really thrilled with it. So that was one massive thing. People love that.

20:13 DS: It's now also campaign focused. In the old version of the software, you just run these searches and they felt so like, "Okay, I ran a search, I got my data. Why do I keep paying for this tool? I don't need it any more, right?" So the new version of the tool is really... It provides ongoing value on a weekly basis, so it really drives you to create a campaign for each of your locations and then every week you're gonna get an update of like, "Hey we found these new citations for you", so it helps you to sort of monitor your citation growth over time and it also helps you define new opportunities because we're gonna search all of your competitors and find what they have and then report that back to you. And so you're getting this ongoing value from the tool, it keeps feeding you value every week. So that was designed to prevent churn because, man, this tool had terrible churn. We were on a long path of dropping subscriptions, more subscriptions dropping than coming in, and so it was really designed to reverse that.

21:15 DS: Another big thing that we did was submitability. So people that use this software are really just looking for good citation directories to submit to. And so now we automatically identify whether or not you can submit to the site if it's just an easy one to submit to and we sort by that and so, you're immediately presented with actionable opportunities rather than just a bunch of weird sites like a directory of dishwasher parts, which uses a list of Part IDs and that ended up getting into your results or competitor's websites or blogs or newspapers, you can't just go and easily add your business to. It's still good to see that 'cause you can see your... "Oh wow, my competitor got a mention on this newspaper. Maybe I could too." But it's not actionable, immediately. So sorting by submit ability has been a really great feature, good filtering, new charts, new designs. So people were pretty damn happy about it.

22:11 DS: I think that lots of people were excited to promote our number one fan Susan [22:16] ____, she was all over the place, all over Twitter, talking about how great it is, so thanks Susan, she's really been awesome. Also got great feedback on LinkedIn. I don't know, you do much on LinkedIn, but I've been trying to get more engaged over there and...

22:33 AW: Yeah, I do, I've always... I call LinkedIn slow Twitter and I realized Twitter isn't for everyone because of the amount of info and how fast-paced but I, interesting enough see people use LinkedIn almost as their Twitter but it's more like somebody that wants to once a week put something out there or be connected, but that's really interesting that you got good play from there.

23:03 DS: I got really good play from LinkedIn and my own post on LinkedIn drove quite a lot of interest but the real big kicker was Rand [23:13] ____ shared it from my post over to his feed on LinkedIn which was massively kind of him. So thank you so much to Rand for doing that because it drove a ton of interest, lots of comments, and so I was like, "Man, I'm really starting to think about LinkedIn and so I've been working over the past two to three months, I'm building up my following there and being more engaged and posting more often, and I just think it's a really great platform especially for us as B2B SaaS companies. It's just that's where everybody is, right?

23:44 DS: And so the nice thing about it is that it's so unsaturated like you post something on Twitter, it's gone forever, in three hours, no one's gonna see it again, right? You post something on LinkedIn and it's like that person that only logs into LinkedIn once every two weeks, it's the first thing they see on their feed 'cause there's not a fire hose of other stuff getting posed it over there, right? So it really has longevity. This whole concept of slow Twitter is for real because your posts stay up there and they really get massive visibility. Lots of people see it. So yeah I think LinkedIn is an untapped market for a lot of people, and I'm trying to drive more of that.

24:23 AW: Yeah, and it is. So that's been one of the other things inside of our shipping strategy is we're creating more content, more things for people to talk about and just really look at like mentions are your best marketing. It's a great way to be relevant and same kind of things? Mike Blumenthal did a great post for us on review ratings from a bunch of data inside of GatherUp from our monitoring, and it was in Moz's Top 10 email of [24:52] ____ and it shared a bunch of places. To me, it's like when you get the amplification of other people grabbing it and then writing about it in their own words, not just retweeting it, that's where you see a really nice take-off and working into their spheres and stuff.

25:11 DS: Yeah, it's amazing actually the difference between a basic retweet and a retweet where you add a comment and you talk about what is your take on this thing, that really seems to have a much better impact in terms of traction that you'll get off of your content.

25:29 AW: Totally agree. So I'm interested, your switch from search to campaigns as part of it. Was that something that... Did you realize that a long time ago? Did you realize that while you were building it? Was that the reason you built it? Was it a customer who suggested it? Where did that come from? Because it seems like a pretty huge opportunity and swing.

25:55 DS: Yeah, I was aware of it when we started doing the... When the development need came up because the stack was holding us back. That's when I was like, "Listen, if we're gonna do this, can we make some of these changes?" And then they're like, "Okay well, it's not gonna be two weeks anymore, it's gonna be two months." Which, of course was also a way underestimate. But we... I definitely came up with that, at that point because it was like... I've always known that, I've always been thinking about our local citation finder churn and realized that that was the problem and realized that that was the solution too, providing that ongoing value. And so it was when we started getting into it and that was sort of the main thing that I added as a feature request in addition to just a stack update, right? And then it grew from there, then of course, more features came out of it, right?

26:46 AW: Yeah, awesome.

26:47 DS: Yeah, that's where it came from. Yeah. But honestly, it's like the way we approach this stuff has been a bit of a lesson and we did this... We made the same mistake with our rank tracker update. We took two, three years to get that thing out the door and it's because we don't let it progress in phases. We could have actually launched an improved LCF on a better tech stack, so it would have been faster, the customer would not have noticed the difference. And then we could have launched a campaign-based focus by just tweaking it a little bit and that would have been another marketing opportunity.

Then we could have been like, "Look at this, folks, new design." We just like, splashy new design, everyone will be happy." Then we could have added submitability. So all the stuff that we added to the Local Citation Finder and the reason it took two years to get out the door... We could have done that in stages and every single one of those stages would have been another marketing opportunity.

27:41 DS: So I really feel like it's a bit of a failure in our process, and it's something that I'm trying to become keenly aware of, and we're looking at it with our next stuff that we're working on here and we're like, "What is the absolute bare minimum? Let's get that out the door." Then we just keep adding to it. So it's like, "Well, I would love to give you this point." We use a project management software system called 'ClickUp' and every week they are pushing out updates. That's the way to do it. It's like, "Don't throw in 10,000 feature updates, and then launch one massive thing in a year. Every week, have more new stuff to promote and just keep iterating on a regular basis." And so, we're really... I'm really cognitive of that and really shifting to that mindset with stuff that we do going forward.

28:26 AW: Yeah. Now that... Yeah, my reaction is, "Yep, that is way too long of a cycle." I probably... I don't know, I look at it, "What can we have out the door in 90-120 days?" And there's definitely been some things that we've done that have taken longer. A lot of times it's not actually... You have to look at it, it's not like engineering, it's more in the planning, design, gathering requirements, all of that decision-making where things can kinda stall out, fall flat, you hit a roadblock and you gotta figure your way out around it. But the exact thing you're pointing out, we definitely did that, and it was a bit of an eye-opener for me on our last bigger feature social sharing, where it turns reviews into a visual image where we basically said, like, "Alright, we're gonna get this out the door and this is where we're limiting V1 of it."

29:25 AW: And then, 45, 60 days later, then we launched... So we launched it with integrations with Facebook and Google posts, and it was also creating LinkedIn and Twitter images that you could download and then post. And then we knew we were gonna do a Twitter integration, and then we got initial user feedback, and people wanted a cropping tool and we added some font size modification. So, then we had like this second update to it where we'd say, "And now it connects to Twitter and now you can manipulate the image more." And yeah, you get those marketing bursts out of it, and you also get it in the hands of your users, so they can be like, "Oh, I wish it had this," or...

30:05 DS: Exactly, yeah.

30:05 AW: This would be helpful or nice, so...

30:06 DS: Yeah, totally, so, absolutely. It's the way that we're really trying to make sure that we progress in that format. In fact, last week, we had a call about the new big thing that we're working on and we stripped it back. We're like, "Actually, you know what, this is two things, this is not one thing. What is the MVP that we need for this thing that we're building?" And we actually... We're now stripping stuff out of the product that we've been building and so we're gonna just leave that in a separate branch.

We're creating a new branch, and then we'll pull it back in later, because that stuff's almost done, but I know that that other piece of it is gonna slow us down by weeks if we decide to include it into this phase one launch. So the actual workload is cleaner because we can get everyone focused on the main core thing that we're trying to build, and then we get everyone focused on that next thing. And then everyone focus on that next thing rather than splitting the team and slowing things down. So it's gonna be way better.

31:05 AW: Yeah, heck yeah, that's awesome. And that's what's great when you go through these and you have those learnings and it's just all about, "How can we get better the next time? What stood out to us?" All of those kind of... And that's a fun in it too. It can be frustrating in the moment, or when you're like, "Oh, this should have been obvious." But it is so great to learn on the fly like that and then you get to try it all over again, and be better the next time.

31:36 DS: Yeah, it's amazing actually. It's just like this constant growth of both what we know and how we approach the development of things that we're learning, and growth of the company, growth of the software, growth of the user base. It's all pretty good. Man, I'm glad to be in SaaS.

31:52 AW: Nice. Good work. Well, congrats on the big launch.

31:57 DS: Yeah, thanks. It's been really successful too. It's like our goal to reduce the churn has definitely happened. So, since the whole COVID thing started, we dropped about 12% of our subscriptions. In just over two weeks of the launch, we're almost back to parity now and we're not really seeing the churn anymore. And so, I think we've reversed that and it's not just reversing the COVID losses, we've kind of reversed the losses from the last couple of years. And I expect to continue on a growth path now too, where we can kind of get back to the peak of our subscriptions and then go beyond that. I'm excited about it.

32:38 AW: That's awesome, I'm excited for you...

32:40 DS: Thanks.

32:40 AW: Way to go.

32:41 DS: Yeah, thanks.

32:42 AW: Also, the other part of this, for me, no big launch since we last talked. Some nice, little ones, but obviously facing a big challenge with what we had to do regarding the reduction of staff. And the hard part with this is right in running, owning, operating, being in leadership in businesses for 20 years, I've never had to do something like this. It's always... If you had to let someone go, it's been performance-based. And you've already... It's a clear decision. And you've already tried to help that person. You've tried to create a framework to turn it around and succeed, and it just didn't work out.

But this was just like it was so much different because it was purely a role-based activity, where as like what roles are critical to the business, what ones do we have a room for as we navigate through this, what will help add to the bottomline, retain customers, things like that, and that part being really difficult to go through. And, obviously, the hardest part of all of it... I don't wanna minimize, right? The hardest part of all of it was for the people who were furloughed and let go, right?

34:04 AW: And that sits with you hard because you realize, "I'm about to be part of putting stress on to people who... Let's face it. A lot of us are already stressed through this." So that part, not fun to think about. All of those elements to it. I will say, one, I feel like Traject took good care of those between furloughs and those who were laid off as far as taking care of them moving forward and super reasonable timeline on benefits and things like that. I felt like a really stand-up job was done there to take care of them. And really good communication with the team as far as why and the difficulty and everything else. But you can see the difficulty and how people feel. Like just today, I put in a note because Monday is Memorial Day, so US employees will be off at... That's when we normally have our team standoff or stand-up. And I put out a note just saying like, "Hey, let's just do a quick connect on Tuesday for stand-up and whatever else."

35:15 AW: And I had a couple of people message me, and they're like, "Is this a good meeting?" They're apprehensive of a meeting also, right, because of what had took place last week. And I was like... I immediately just went and added onto my thing, it's like, "Hey, this is our normal stand-up. It's all good vibes," and whatever happy emojis that I could quickly find to put on there. But it was just such a... Emotionally, it was very difficult 'cause, one, when you build a company from scratch, we, GatherUp definitely built a family culture. So it feels like we had to put a couple of people, who are our family, off to the side and that was really hard. And then... Personally, the worst part was we eliminated the role of my head designer. And he has been with me at three different companies. We've worked together nearly 12 years like he...

36:13 DS: Oh, man.

36:14 AW: Yeah. My kids know him. And it was hard. And it's that... You definitely hear stories over time that there are people, right? You work with friends or you develop close friendships, and something goes wrong, or the friend leaves, right? I've seen all of those sides, but I've definitely never had to lay off a friend. And it was...

36:35 DS: That's so tough.

36:36 AW: Yeah. It was gut-wrenching. And it was one of the first times where I'm usually... I'm able to find the mode that's needed in those moments, where I'm both able to communicate, but still have the emotional side and not be robotic and understand the gravity of the situation. But this one, right, it was myself and our CEO that did the call with him. And I just pretty much was on the call to cry. I mean, I just cried. And it was just this feeling of helplessness and partially feeling like... I felt like I was letting him down as a leader and a friend, and just sad for the circumstance, right? I can't control COVID. I can't control the economy. All these things, I can't control. But it just... It felt horrible.

37:32 DS: Yeah. That's gut-wrenching. That's really tough when those decisions have to be made about positions like that, especially when you have such a close relationship with one of these colleagues you've worked with for 12 years, you know?

37:45 AW: Yeah.

37:47 DS: Really sorry, man.

37:47 AW: Yeah. Thanks. But I will say, all of the people I dealt with that were impacted, all it did is prove why they were on our team. They were professional. They had their heads up. They understand the situation. They're either furloughed and cheering us on so that we can get them back or they're grateful for what took place and excited for the next thing, right? And to me, that just instantly was like, "This is exactly why I've worked with you for so long because of how you handled this and everything else." It's been hard. It leaves... Again, it leaves holes in the family. Our meetings haven't been the same just because of how those people connect, who brings the jokes, who has the music, all of those different things, so.

38:35 DS: Yeah. We've had similar feelings with some of the layoffs we've had in here, too. It's always tough, right? They leave those holes on the team, right?

38:43 AW: Yeah.

38:44 DS: We're hoping to rebuild and get some of those team members back in the next month or two, too. That's what we're working towards.

38:52 AW: And it's just when you're used to, for so long, creating opportunities and when you're on the other end of where you feel like you're taking away an opportunity, that's just really heavy stuff. And then, lastly, at the same time, right, it just made me realize how much I care about our team and how I wanna work tirelessly so that no one else is affected like this, right? I had thoughts like, "What if I leave and so other people can stay," and things like that. And you ultimately, I arrived at I trust myself more than anyone else to get us through this and I will do whatever it takes to do that, and so I need to do that.

39:38 DS: Yeah, I feel the same. Some of my team, they did reduce hours and I feel like I took on a lot of those extra hours. I've been working way more than usual trying to... I guess, initially it was save the company mode, and now it's just driving all these initiatives forward. Some of the team members are still on reduced hours and so it creates a lot of extra load like to get all the things done that we're trying to do, right? I'm just really pushing extra hard right now.

40:08 AW: Yeah, I'm right with you.

40:09 DS: What was the cool thing?

40:10 AW: Alright. Yeah. Are you a follower or have you ever paid attention to Gary Vaynerchuk at all?

40:19 DS: Not a follower. I know who he is. I've seen some of his stuff. Yeah, he's a little too intense for me. I think that Gary.

[laughter]

40:29 AW: Well, I mean, that's easy to see. So obviously, if you don't know who Gary Vaynerchuk or Gary V is, long-time entrepreneur and super early adopter of social media. That's how I came across him was I don't know eight, nine, 10 years ago when he was doing Wine Library TV. He actually spoken in a really cool event that used to take place in Omaha called Big Omaha. It was almost like a mini-South by South West and he did a show live there. I got to speak at another event, where he spoke at, so I got to meet him for 30 seconds. Talk to him real quick. But anyway, just a high-level engager in whatever else. Well, he's rolled out a new service, as part of his wine business, he also owns a massive agency, too, called Veiner Media.

But it's winetext.com and all you basically do, it's a one-page site and since Gary is so well-known, has an audience, has been selling wine forever.

41:30 DS: He can sell anything, that guy.

41:32 AW: Yeah. There's a 45-60 second YouTube video, and all you do on that page is enter in your email, your cellphone, where you would ship wine to and your credit card information. And then what they do is they text you every day with the deal of the day, and then if you wanna buy it, you just reply with like, "Four bottles," and they ship it.

41:54 DS: Oh. Wow. Wow, that's so easy.

41:57 AW: It's so easy...

41:57 DS: All the impulse buying, you've just tapped into that impulse buy. Wow.

42:03 AW: Yeah, it's so basic, but it takes having that audience. You have to have something to go with it to have an instant boost. But I was like, "Alright, let's talk about removing purchase barriers." Where here it's like, alright, if I spend two minutes and enter all of my shipping payment and contact info, now any time I wanna buy... I'm giving you permission to send me a daily deal and all I have to do is reply with a number, and the bottles are gonna show up. I don't have to enter payment, I don't have to click on anything.

42:40 DS: [42:40] ____ and you type that shit again just reply to a text. I love it, it's amazing.

42:46 AW: Yeah. Yeah. No, it totally... It blew my mind, and it got me thinking of things like, especially thinking the restaurant industry right now and how different it is, and whatever else. What if a restaurant just created, here's our meal for the day, and you just responded with, "Yeah, I want three of those. It's enchilada's tonight? Yeah, I want three of them." And that was your ordering without all the other stuff, right? Yeah, I get there's a lot of complexities, but it just...

43:16 DS: Yeah, totally the menu. You just basically use... You register on the site, and then we'll send you the Friday Special. And be like, "Do you want the Friday special?" The person's like, "Yes, I do." And then it just shows up.

43:29 AW: Yeah, so it was just one of those I had seen tweets where he was talking about it and whatever else, and I never clicked in it. For some reason this morning, I was up working super early and clicked on it at some point this morning, and within taking it in, I was just like, "This is brilliant."

43:49 DS: It really is.

43:49 AW: This is a whole different way to do business, and it got my wheels turning big time.

43:56 DS: No, I'm gonna do it actually as soon as we get off this call. I'm gonna go through our accounts database, and I'm gonna text every one of our customers and be like, "Do you wanna upgrade? Yes or no?"

[laughter]

44:09 DS: And then if they say yes, boom. More money in the company. Look at that.

44:12 AW: Way to go, see, you're quick to adapt. That will not take two weeks; that will take two days.

44:18 DS: Yeah. Exactly, two days. I'm gonna get that done, I'm gonna talk to my dev team right now, I'm gonna just sign up for one of those text services, import all the numbers, just press the button.

44:27 AW: Awesome. Alright, cool, Darren, well, great to catch up. Hopefully, we'll be able to record again in sub 30 days. Congrats about 20 episode... I mean, any time we cross a round number, just things feel a lot more real. So 20 episodes, under our belt.

44:45 DS: 20 episodes. Yeah, that feels like it just gets more and more real this podcast.

44:51 AW: We're not a teen anymore.

44:53 DS: No. Yeah, thanks a lot to all of our listeners. Keep listening, keep subscribing, keep sharing our awesome content.

45:00 AW: Yeah and keep plugging in random jokes into Twitter on us.

45:06 DS: It makes our day, for sure.

45:09 AW: Awesome, Alright, man, well, you take care and we'll catch up, hopefully, in two, three weeks again.

45:14 DS: Sounds good. Alright, thanks, Aaron.

45:16 AW: See you everybody.

45:18 DS: Bye everybody.

[music]
The Saas Venture Podcast from Aaron Weiche and Darren Shaw