23: Course Correcting
What happens when you head down the wrong path? You build a feature or spend time on something that doesn't move the needle and then you need to correct your path. Aaron and Darren catch up and discuss how and when you cut bait on features that might distract you, flop or don't deliver for your customers.
FULL SHOW NOTES:
00:12 Aaron Weiche: Episode 23, Course Correcting.
00:16 INTRO SPEAKER: 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.
00:43 AW: Welcome to the SaaS Venture podcast. I'm Aaron.
00:46 Darren Shaw: And I'm Darren.
00:47 AW: And I just finished eating a chocolate chip cookie. What do you think about that?
00:52 DS: It sounds pretty good. I just finished eating a salad. It's the exact opposite. [chuckle]
00:58 AW: If my wife listens to this episode, I'm gonna get yelled at, but when I got gas at the gas station, they have these big chocolate chip cookies, and, yeah, this just looked like a great afternoon snack.
01:09 DS: Totally, yeah. And now you made me wanna go get one.
01:13 AW: I'll mail you one.
01:14 DS: Wow, I don't know if it'll be good by the time it gets here.
01:18 AW: So what's been going on other than salads and cookies? I know what's been going on. You spent all week last week hosting a massive virtual summit with 4000-5000 attendees. Let's talk about that a little bit before we get into our main topic today.
01:34 DS: Yeah, so it's been huge. This summit was a massive success. We had actually 5500 people register for the summit.
01:41 AW: Wow.
01:42 DS: And pretty great attendance to all the different talks, and so it was big and we've been getting nothing but a steady stream of positive feedback about it. Just people comparing it to other conferences and saying how awesome it was and, yeah, so it was a great success. People love the content, and of course, I had some of the best speakers in the world such as Aaron Weiche, Mike Blumenthal, Joey Hawkins, so we had fantastic speakers.
Basically, all the most known speakers in local search were there. Some heavy hitters outside of the local specific space like Rand Fishkin spoke. Michael King spoke. Brodie Clark, who was really building a name for himself down under in Australia, he spoke as well. And so, yeah, it was a great conference. We had huge visibility and, yeah, it was good. It was all good.
02:31 DS: It was so much work though. Oh, my God, I can't... I'm glad it's over because not only was it so much work to put it together, I had my own presentation to do, the Local Search Ranking Factor survey had to get done out there, recreated, re-pull all the data, re-analyze all the data, build a slide deck, build a presentation around it and present it. And I handed that in like Monday night. The night before we were going live with the conference, I handed in my recording, and it was just a very stressful time. Glad it's over.
03:01 AW: Yeah. Now, I wanna touch on a few benefits that we noticed in having myself and Mike both from GatherUp speaking at it. Our parent company Traject was a sponsor as well. They used their sponsor slot to tease our social product, which has been rebranded, called Fanbooster. But I wanna get back to seeing if you can quantify the work you put into it all, but on our side, the benefits with two speaking topics, we had great exposure, I can only guess you basically led off the conference with Mike, which I'm thinking was another hit. For a decade, he has been probably one of or the biggest thought leader in the space.
03:50 DS: Totally.
03:51 AW: And, yeah, a great draw and just the reason I love working with Mike is just the levels he can think on, and he gave a great talk around review attributes, which plays heavily into our platform and things like that. And then two days later, 'cause it was a three-day conference, and I talked on some things strategically related to reviews and reputation management. But for us specifically, we saw double the leads last week of what we had been averaging like the four to six weeks prior, which really great.
04:30 AW: Any time you can 2X something is fabulous, and it returned our leads to pre-COVID for a week, which is awesome. I'm probably gonna be a little maybe frowny face next week when they jump down most likely again a little bit, but maybe some of those that paid for the videos and things like that are watching in this week, and then they'll still be interested to sign up. So we had a really great experience. A lot of Twitter conversation, which is always awesome, great, in the moment mentions, new Twitter followers, things like that. So from our standpoint, it was fabulous. From yours, what was the amount of work that it took you to put this together? I guess I just wanna frame up for any of our listeners that might be considering hosting a virtual conference as a marketing vehicle.
05:24 DS: Yeah, I would love to be able to quantify the hours. It's tough to say. We've been working on it for about six months. Heavily working on it certainly through July and August, lots of recording. So there were 34 presentations, one of them mine, and then all the other ones I had to book an hour to record with that speaker. There was a ton of setting up all the speakers, doing speaker agreements, lots of chasing with regards to sponsorships too. So getting sponsors, going back and forth with them on a lot of stuff, writing up sponsorship agreements, getting the platform launched. We used the system called HeySummit, which turned out really well. But getting that whole website set up, my own team, if I think about what Jessie and Sydney put into it, it was almost a full-time job for them. And so hours, probably hundreds, a couple of hundred of hours have gone into launching this thing, and so it was a lot of work. And not only that, we worked with a company called HeySummit, and they were great 'cause they keep everything organized, and they also did all of our video editing, all the videos launched onto the site, and so...
06:40 DS: Between all of us, maybe 300 hours is what it takes to put on a conference like this. If I had to guesstimate at it, maybe 400, 300-400. So that's a big investment. That's a big expense. The expenses broke even, so it's not really a money-making venture. We took any money that we got from sponsorship and we put it back into Facebook ads, Facebook and Instagram ads, to market the conference. So our whole goal was to get that attendance list up as high as possible, and we managed to get 5500 through all of our marketing efforts. And then ticket sales are covering all the expenses, expenses of that company that we worked with and speaker gifts, and so there's really nothing left in the end. It's not a money-making venture on its own. It was completely a marketing exercise for us to just get our brand in front of more people.
07:28 AW: Yeah, and so you did that at a very large scale. You also, too, because of... The local search community is very niche and they're really... There's been a couple of attempts. MozCon created their own local event, and now they've just folded local into MozCon itself, which is a very large event in the SEO community. But I really saw it as you took the opportunity of a premier event in local search has been vacated, and you just claimed it heavily with what you did, and I think that's pretty cool.
08:03 DS: Yeah, I think it's cool that way. And it's like, this one was so successful that we can't not do it again, so it's gonna be an annual thing. There's also some talk about doing spin-off conferences. Because we have all the talks pre-recorded, we could pull in a few new speakers that are specific to, let's say, dentistry. Like we'd get some top dental marketing guys to come in, and we'd do a few presentations with them, and then we'd pull out eight good... Our favorite talks from the summit, and we've got a new conference and it's really easy to spin it up now. And so we're actually thinking about doing a bunch of industry-specific conferences. A whole new set of sponsors, a whole new marketing push. So it's an interesting angle that we can keep running with for additional exposure into different markets in terms of marketing Whitespark. So the marketing potential of this is pretty huge.
08:52 AW: Yeah, that's awesome. Now, you guys did a really great job. Internally, I was saying it made me miss 2019 because conferences and public speaking have been so important to GatherUp's growth and something that Mike and I are just wired to do, to share and network and connect through those events. And having that completely shut off in 2020, has been... It's removed a major marketing arrow out of our quiver, so it was nice to see that bump. We've seen it with a couple of the local universities in small chunks as well, but it was really nice to have that happen. And yeah, I'm looking forward to what else you guys can do with it with what you learned year one and what went right and what went wrong. You brought a lot of great speakers and you got some new faces in there, and I think you worked really hard on that, so well done.
09:44 DS: Thank you.
09:46 AW: I was definitely proud, excited, jealous, all of those things, which are all good.
09:51 DS: Yeah, I'm excited about it too. I'm excited about the future of it. One thing that stood out for me is that you talked about the surge in leads that you saw from your presentations. It was fascinating to me that we did not see that. As the premier sponsor, the premier, we had four presentations from Whitespark. At the end of so many things there was all these like, "Hey, Whitespark deals," but we didn't really see a big lift in leads or sales from it, and it speaks to me about we just don't have the greatest products and services that are of interest to people.
10:27 DS: We are very heavily citation-based, and that's part of it. Citations are losing interest in the industry right now but it's a big part of what we do, and so it just wasn't like, "Oh, awesome, citations." If I had done this conference six years ago, then I'm sure it would have been a massive business booster on the citation side of things. But our GMB service is amazing, and I think that there's a great potential there, and we saw some growth from a conference there. But our products, they're a little bit scattered. We got one for citations, we have one for reputation, we have one for rank tracking, but people, they're like, "Oh, I don't know what I should sign up for." So it's really like we have this grander vision of an integrated product that we're building, and we're working on that. So getting that launched as soon as possible is certainly a takeaway from the conference.
11:14 AW: Yeah, no, that's really interesting and probably a super valuable takeaway, Daren. That could end up being... Depending upon how that sits with you and what you do with that, that might be as valuable as the conference and the marketing and the exposure itself. Is like what... It helped you learn something about yourself in a very fast cycle 'cause you saw it as, "We had 5000 people here with our name splashed all over it, leading the conversation, signed up through our website, all of these things, and it didn't move our sales in any direction." Right?
11:52 DS: Right. Yeah.
11:53 AW: Yeah, no, that's really... That's, I don't know, telling/interesting/gave you some elongated, you don't notice it. If it's 5000 users over a year, you don't notice it, but when it's over a couple of weeks, it's something that really caught your eye.
12:12 DS: Yeah, totally. And I think we are dialed in for next year, so when we do this conference again next year, we will have our software in the place, and so it'll be that perfect combination of like we know how to do this conference now, and so we do the conference, we have the right product to sell people, we can market it better and be in a much stronger position. So yeah, it's all good. All heading in the right direction.
12:30 AW: On the flip side of that, and maybe around the leads and the bump we saw, I've really been both enjoying and realizing lately we finally have what I feel is like a very mature solution. And it's taken six years to get to that, and we still have things we wanna do and a couple of big piece items, but really gone are the days where 50% of the questions a prospect might ask you, you didn't have a great answer for or didn't have multiple options for. Where now it's like 10% of the questions might fall into that or even less to what's there.
13:08 DS: That's amazing.
13:09 AW: Yeah, and that just makes it great that when we get exposure, and we get in front of people, when we have the right marketing, it drives interest, leads, demos, sales for us. So it's really interesting to have that positioning now with it and understand that. And along those lines like...
13:28 AW: I wish we could do a ton more marketing right now, it's really... The pandemic and the way, there's a lot of wait and see in the economy, especially with our larger enterprise prospects and customers. And it's such a hard thing to figure out in so many areas right now, and sales are really quiet for us on the upper end.
Our resellers are creating movement and single locations are still coming on, so like the... If you frame it up as like onesie, twosies, we're making it there, our retention is great. We actually, in August, returned up above our pre-COVID revenue number, so it made... We didn't dip too far down and it didn't take too much for us to climb back up and be back to growing again and have gotten above what we lost in the first month or two, and things like that. Which is super encouraging, and I'm proud of our team for how hard, across the spectrum, everyone worked to make that happen. But it does get really... It's almost frustrating now to like, Oh, we have so many of these pieces in place, and the one thing that we could really get after is marketing and sales, and it is such a challenging marketing and sales environment right now.
14:40 DS: Right, yeah, exactly. So it's so hard with the COVID situation, every... Budgets are tight, people are not really exploring new products right now, so... Yeah, I get that. And it's nice for you to be in that position, it's like we're almost in opposite positions: You've got a very mature product that you are struggling to do the marketing for, we've got a really great marketing engine and not the mature product. So it's like we've got to dial in our product, you've gotta ramp up your marketing somehow.
15:09 AW: Well, and I think that serves as a great segue into the main topic that we wanna talk about today. I will say, I think there's no better time to be building than right now. If people aren't buying, great... Build. So that when that releases, when that changes, when that gets better, you have more to offer. Anyone, if you're in position in your product and you know you have some product market fit or things going your way, I would just double down on that so hard right now, so that when budgets loosen up, things pick up, whether that's a couple of months, six months, 12 months, 24 months, whatever it is, be in position to command those dollars. Take what you would invest into marketing and put it into the product. That would be my advice with this.
15:57 DS: Agreed, 100%. That's what we're trying to do for sure. We're really focused on product right now. I'm trying to stay focused, I gotta stop distracting my team with all these side level, "Hey, here's a cool tool we could build, that doesn't actually drive any revenue for Whitespark, but hey, I wanna build it 'cause I love SEO." I need to stop doing that.
16:16 AW: Alright, well, I'll try to hold you to that. I should probably stop eating gas station cookies, but we know how these battles go.
16:24 DS: Yeah. Well, speaking of staying focused, one of the things that's come up for us recently, and I... This is the main thing, course correcting, it's like we had this feature that I got distracted with it, and I wanted to talk about that on the podcast today. It was like this idea that we were gonna build this feature called screenshots in our rank tracker. So we wanted to add this feature to our local rank tracking product that would allow people to see an actual visual of the rankings. So, like, actually we take a screen shot of every page.
So it seemed like such a good idea, so we built this... The thing, we spent probably a good month and a half, two months building this feature. We launched the feature, it has had zero impact on our sales for the most part, so it's been useless from that perspective. And adoption rate of the feature was fairly low too.
17:23 DS: Some people liked it, but the thing that it ended up doing was, while it was two months of development time, but then it was also... It's hugely expensive to... We had to spin up more servers to process everything, we had to implement new structures, and our actual crawling budget is way more expensive, it's like a separate crawl for each thing. We have to store all of those screenshots for 90 days. So we're spending a ton of money on S3 storage now, and so it was like, we launched this feature, did not help our business whatsoever, cost us a ton, continues to cost us a ton in operating costs, and so it's like we just made the decision to ditch the feature. And it's disappointed a few customers, but we set the email, we dropped the feature, we had three people cancel, that's it, just three. And so we've now saved ourselves massive maintenance costs, massive ongoing operating costs. And it really had no impact. And so it's like, that's the topic that's been on my mind and the main thing I really wanted to talk about.
18:31 AW: Yeah, so let's go back to the beginning. Where did this feature originate from? Was this an internal idea, your idea, feedback from a customer, What does that look like?
18:41 DS: It was feedback from a potentially important customer, and it was really... It was Joy Hopkins that drove this feature. I blame you, Joy, if you're listening [chuckle] Basically, we launched the feature because Joy was like, "Listen, I'm using a competitor's tool. I really like your tool, but I can't use it 'cause it doesn't have screenshots, I use screenshots all the time." And I'm like, "Yeah, I know I've always wanted screenshots too." And so it's interesting to see how a decision like that can come from a single conversation with a single customer, and I think there's a big lesson there, it's like, do not drive your features by what one customer asked for.
We've gotten caught by that a couple of times where it's like, we hear one or two people ask for something, but it's like, does it actually appeal to the entire user base? Is it that important to invest the time into? And so it's an important lesson to prioritize your feature development based off of one, how broad is the appeal for this feature and two, what will it to cost to build this feature? And I think we failed miserably on both of those.
19:47 AW: Yeah. Has it spurned in you more ideas now, how to validate? It still doesn't mean one person can't give you a great suggestion.
19:56 DS: Totally.
19:57 AW: But then how might you bring that to your audience or what exists in your communication flows you're with right now where you'd be able to say, "You know what, we've actually had six other people request this" or "I know some people that'd be interested" or "Let me schedule a couple of calls with some of my power users and see what they think about it". And especially if it's a feature where... When you roll this out, were there any... Were you asking people to pay more for it or you were just including it and eating up margin in your current plan?
20:29 DS: Well sure, that's another good question and another good lesson is that one, we should've had it as an add-on at the very least. So it's like if you want this, you've gotta pay extra for it. Because it actually has significant additional operating costs, we should've charged for it. So that was another mistake made in the roll out of this feature. And then only the people that would've really wanted it would've paid for it. But even then, if by having the... Looking back at it, I'd probably still wouldn't have done it because there wouldn't have been enough people interested that would have justified the cost to build it. But to your question, it has made me think about implementing something like Kenney IO. Have you seen that? It's like this little feature request thing. It's like a software that you can have set up and customers can submit, "Hey, these are the features I want" and then they can upvote existing features that exist in there. And so it's like that way, you can kinda make sure that your development is driven by what your customers are asking for and then you have a little widget inside the tools like, "Do you have any feature requests? Let us know." and then that goes over to Kenney. I think that's a really smart idea and it's got me thinking about what... About adding that to our software?
21:40 AW: One thing I would almost suggest, even if it is something that you're not planning on feature gating in a plan or raising a price for, have a handful of phone calls, show them basic visual mocks or explain it, and then when they... If you ask a... Would you leverage this? Would this be something that would be really interesting or valuable to you? And they say "Yes," and then just pose the question,"How much more a month would you spend with us?".
22:08 DS: Sure.
22:09 AW: Right?
22:09 DS: What is it worth?
22:10 AW: Yeah. Would they actually put money on it?
22:13 DS: Yeah.
22:13 AW: Even if everyone likes the idea, but everybody's like, "No, I wouldn't spend any more for it", then you also get like, "I'm saying yes to you to be nice because you've taken the time and it looks nice, but if you're asking me right now how much more I'd pay for it, I'm not gonna pay for it. I don't need it that bad".
22:31 DS: Absolutely. Like, "Yeah sure. Give me this new feature. I might check it out. Sure, cool, but not giving you any more money for it". And honestly, I swear, if I had asked that question, I would've got a lot of people saying, "No, I'm not gonna pay more for it. I don't care about it that much" and then that would've told me and saved me all the hassle of building this. And so there's actually two things that we're... The topic of this podcast is course correcting, but there's also that preventative thing that we need to look at. It's like, how do you prevent yourself from building a feature that is actually not valuable.
23:01 AW: Yeah. Well, it's that question, how did we end up on this course to have to correct it in the first place?
23:07 DS: Yeah.
23:07 AW: It's definitely a piece to it. And it's like... It's something I still struggle with because I do build heavily off of intuition. But a lot of times that intuition isn't uninformed. It is from looking at, What are other people doing? What exists? What are competitors allowing people to do? It is taking in a lot of education across other things. It's even... I listen to probably six, seven talks from the Local Search Summit and it was just to get a feel for what's hot in certain areas, what are these leading experts pointing people in a direction, things like that, and then how does that play into what we're doing or what we should focus on or how can we even change our messaging to capitalize on it.
23:56 AW: Like in the case, both David Mihm and Rand Fishkin's talk, talked about email and its value and just how much it outperforms social, and social is not just shiny, we gotta have it and it's sexy and fun and everything else and we have a social feature we put a lot into and it's very popular and gets used. But I've also written a couple of things like, "Hey, don't just use this for social. You can use this for images on your website or images in your email newsletters," and it just reaffirmed to me like, I'd put out a couple of tweets, piggy-backing on your hashtag and I'm like, "Hey, if you watched Rand and David's talk and you saw... So a email opens or 256 acts of engagement rate of social posts.
24:42 DS: It's amazing.
24:43 AW: Yeah, you're ready to double down on email, we've got you covered with the same solution that does social. So it is. You do have to do a lot of that intake. Obviously, having a way to capture the customer's voice, we still sometimes struggle at that. We keep loose track. We don't have an exact scoreboard but we do understand what people want in certain things and kind of loosely keep track of it. But I can't go and get like, "Oh well, 19 people have requested this, so you're the 20th. We really should build this".
25:16 DS: Right.
25:16 AW: But it would be helpful to make that more quantified.
25:20 DS: Yeah. I was kind of feeling the same way. It's like one, we're not really asking for future requests and two, we're not scoring them. So I think those two things are super valuable and rather than me spending so much time trying to build based off of intuition, which of course, I think I have decent intuition, except in the rank track or screenshots example [chuckle] Generally, I think I have a decent sense about what would be appealing to the market, because I'm actively in the market. I'm always engaged in this stuff. But I think it'd be awesome to pull our customers and make sure that we're building based off of what people want. It's an important lesson I'm taking from this.
26:01 AW: Yeah, well, one, I think you obviously saw where things were trending, you saw how you were leaking on this and there wasn't benefit, and the people weren't championing it, so you made the call to stop. And I think that's a progression because a year ago, you might not have done that. Correct?
26:19 DS: Yeah, we might have just continued to believe, in fact, I might not even looked at the numbers, I've been like... I didn't even notice that it was like, oh yeah, I forgot we launched that thing, it was costing us this much, and it didn't really impact subscriptions, but I'm trying to keep a closer eye on such things now.
26:33 AW: Yeah, and did any part of you wanna talk to the three people that loved it so much that were there... 'Cause one thing I always struggle with, it can either be if you build something that doesn't take off, it either just didn't quite get over the hump where you built some, but not enough for it to really take hold. And someone else that does value it, could they offer you the last legs where then you can make the determination like, "Okay, it's gonna take me another two weeks or another month to build it this much better or to add this other benefit to it, and I'll do that. And if that doesn't change it, then I will shelf it, but I'm already 80% of the way, so just going a little further doesn't hurt, or did you just say "No, I know enough is enough, no one exposed anything great to me. It's just time to sunset it."
27:23 DS: Yeah, I think those are some really good ideas and I would recommend anyone do something like you just proposed. In our case, we were limited and not really able to do that for this feature because one, we were exploring into whole new crawling architecture that we wanted to use instead of what we were currently using, but we couldn't because of screenshots, it was preventing us from switching to a much better solution that would allow us to maintain our crawl much better, and so we couldn't do it 'cause of the screenshots, and so that was like, "Gosh, these screenshots aren't paying us anything, let's just get rid of them," because that was the big driver of why we needed to do it.
27:58 DS: And then the other factor is our rank tracker product is something we're going to maintain, but it's not generally going to be the thing that we're gonna put a lot of love into, because we have a broader vision, we're gonna build rank tracking into the broader vision, and then we'll eventually transition people over to our new software, and so when that happens, it's like I don't want to pull customers and find out that I can make it better by doing this when I don't want to invest any more Dev time into our existing rank tracking product.
28:29 AW: Yeah, not easy, but sounds like you made the right call. You're doing a post-mortem on how we got here. How can I understand what people want more? How should I do more vetting of the value where they actually pay money for it? Things like that. I think those are all good lessons to learn and you have some actions to take next time.
28:52 DS: Yeah, 100%. 'Cause I feel good about it, I'm taking the lessons and continuing to learn and grow and get better.
29:00 AW: Interesting enough, I'm probably in the middle of your situation, so the timing of when you sent an email on this last week and you're like, "Oh, and I wanna talk about this." That was interesting. I have this internal conversation going, but we have a new reporting feature that we wanna put out, I'm not gonna get too specific and name it, but I wanna put this out, and so we've gone through the concept, we had to do a bunch of work in organizing the data on the back-end. So a very long time of doing a lot of just difficult data mapping. So one of those where you do all that work and you really don't have anything to show for it, because there's nothing to show for it, until you create a visual display where it's gonna show. So you do all this work on the plumbing, data mapping, everything else, it's non-sexy, none of the world knows that you actually had to put in all this time to make that happen. Now, once it's done. There's a bunch of different things that we can do with it. It just needed to be done regardless of this report or not.
30:04 AW: But then I took... Alright, I created the wire frame, the purpose, the feature spec, all that, took it to our design in front-end and got it put together. And so it's at that stage right now and close to probably going into a sprint for development, and I stumbled upon someone else doing something similar, and they're doing it like 10 times better. [chuckle] And I just... For a week now, I've been putting off telling my product manager... I've just been like, okay, we're already this far down, this at least gets us something here. The lift isn't too crazy with what it is. It's getting something out the door. But then when I see how these other ones done, I'm like, oh, this is so much better because of this and this, and it's more visual and tells a better story, I missed on how I put this together, and now someone else has shown me like, "Hey, here's what you should have done 10 times better. And so I'm trying to figure out do I just move it forward and take the win in a month that it's out there, or do I course correct, shut it down, re-wire frame, re-front-end Dev, and probably doesn't see the light of day for three months. What would you do?
31:26 DS: Yeah, right. And so is this a feature that you have pulled your customers, you know that they're all waiting for this, you have a lot of interest in it, and it will provide a significant additional benefit to your users, and in that case, it might be worth revisiting. If you think it is like a small percentage will even care, then maybe you just roll out the basic version of it. Right?
31:50 AW: Yeah, so we've definitely been asked for it. It's definitely something in the space is... It's not a table stake kind of thing, but it's not a like, "Oh, this is the only tool that has... " There's plenty of tools that have this, but it is something that's definitely beneficial in a number of ways, and I think the hardest part is getting to... You know how you have certain features that are expected must haves, no matter if people really leverage it or really love it. You know what I mean? And I feel like this falls into that category where a third will really love it and use it beneficially and it helps them. A third notice it, see it every now and then and they're happy that it's there. And then another third, it was like, "Yeah, it's a checkmark when we were choosing tools, but we don't leverage it or use it. It's not a main driver for us." So that makes it even a little bit more difficult. Like just saying, "We have it," and the basic one I put together, that's gonna meet two-thirds of that audience.
33:02 DS: Well, there, I think you just answered it, right, 'cause you're not gonna go back to the drawing board on it, are you? Do you think it's gonna be worth it if it meets the need, and it'll also get to put the checklist on your feature list?
33:13 AW: I still struggle though, 'cause I... One of my personal mantras, right, is good is the enemy of great. And this is a perfect example of like yeah, the, what we have in the pipeline right now is good. It's not great. And especially, sometimes you get that feeling and it gnaws at you and you're like, "Alright, we'll work in some new features. We'll get to this as soon as I get this up, these other priorities done." But for some reason, because I got to physically see great from how someone else is doing it, I'm like, "Well, that's just going against my own ethos. That's pretty dumb." [chuckle]
33:54 DS: Yeah, it's like you just can't get past your personal need to develop something that's great. You can't launch a, what you would now consider half-assed version of it.
34:04 AW: Yeah. And when I look at it like, "Alright, if I'm costing two months or three months, well, what's gonna happen in that meantime that's so... Part of it is just this feeling to ship new code and ship new features, which I think anyone in SaaS, you feel it. Whenever I describe SaaS in two words, it's... Or in two main themes, it's ship code and sell. That's the two main jobs you have in SaaS, and so part of it, like bringing new features, new eye candy, things you get to blog about, tweet about, showing a demo, all those other things, you need that. It is part of your lifeblood.
So part of me is like, "Oh, I gotta put that off. And it was slated to be in this spot for something we can talk about," so I think some of it's just getting past that pressure that you constantly put on yourself to whatever it is, 30 days, 60 days, you need something new to keep people talking about you and to keep improving the product.
35:06 DS: Yeah. It's so hard, Eventually you end up like in our case, our dev team is just so... They're pulled in so many different directions, and it's hard to continue a fast cycle of shipping. Have you ever seen ClickUp? Do you use ClickUp?
35:22 AW: We do not use ClickUp. Is ClickUp a...
35:26 DS: It's like Asana and Monday. It's like a project app.
35:29 AW: Okay, yeah. No, we use some Asana. We're more into using a lot of the other tools in like Atlassian now, so like...
35:37 DS: JIRA and stuff, yeah.
35:39 AW: Yeah. Confluence and stuff like that.
35:42 DS: Yeah, well, ClickUp just blows my mind, because every week, every Friday, I get an email from ClickUp saying like, "These are the five new features we shipped," and I cannot believe how quickly they are launching features and they're good features. It's like they're serious things. They're launching new shit all the time. It's amazing.
36:01 AW: Yeah, but that's where you have to ask what's that size of their engineering team, where you have these... They might have, I don't know, the... I have no idea what they have. But they could have five different teams of five that each one has a rotation. So you're building in your team of five and you release and then you have five weeks till you have to release again in your rotation, because the next team has week two, the next team week three, like...
36:27 DS: Sure.
36:28 AW: Yeah, if you have that cadence and you can do it, that's pretty awesome.
36:32 DS: I want that. I want that, Aaron.
36:34 DS: How do we get that?
36:36 AW: You want that with not even five developers, though. That's the hard part.
36:40 DS: I want that with my two full-time developers.
36:43 AW: Yep. Shiny, wonderful things.
36:47 DS: No. I know.
36:48 AW: So wrapping this up, course correcting. To summarize, I guess I would say it's something you absolutely have to consider. Yeah, sometimes you just gotta cut bait, or as we talked about, you have to investigate enough to know like, "Do I need to put more into this as one last effort?" Because you just, if you have the feeling or you have the data that tells you, "This isn't going the right way. It's just not that used. It's not making me more margin, or more top line revenue." Those are all the wrong signals you want out of adding to your solution.
37:24 DS: Yeah, so knowing that trying to predict it in advance, of course, is the best course of action. If you can definitely identify whether or not this feature is gonna provide value. And I think it's, the lesson for me is to invest more time investigating these features before I give them the go ahead and then, but I do feel like, "Hey, I caught this one and it's time to course correct and cut our losses on it and move forward so the team can focus on other things and we can save those costs, because it's not actually doing anything beneficial to the business."
37:53 AW: Yep. You gotta have the backbone to do it when you realize it's not there, and sometimes some things just have to be cut and shut down and you move on, and then just as you're outlining, post mortem you learn. And I'm a big fan. I use this statement all the time like, "Being proactive is an investment in your business, so more research, more listening, more vetting, asking people what they pay for that feature, taking the right steps to validate, that's an investment and everything you do reactively is an expense." So when you're still trying to deliver it, when you're trying to make it work for people, when you're ignoring the fact that no one likes it or is using it, and it's causing roadblocks to other things, like you're getting the bill on that in more than just dollars. It's time, it's everything else.
38:42 DS: Yep, 100%.
38:44 AW: Alright. Well, maybe on the next episode I'll let you know if I decided to redo this report or if I just stayed with it, but boy, I sure feel like, especially talking out loud with this, I need to course correct and go do it the right way and go from there.
38:58 DS: I'm curious, yeah. I'd love to hear it next time we talk, what you decide to do.
39:03 AW: Okay. My goal is to have that solved, not eat any more gas station cookies, eat more salads like you, and then I should be in good shape in two or three weeks when we talk again.
39:14 DS: Yeah, looking good, feeling good. [chuckle] Sounds good.
39:19 AW: Alright. Anything in closing, Darren, you wanna share? Anything you're looking forward to, or anything coming up in the next few weeks?
39:24 DS: Oh, sure, yeah, there's one big thing. I presented it at the Summit, is our local search ranking factors survey results. So I basically hacked together a presentation last minute so I can present. But the full publication's coming out. So I'm looking forward to launching that, and then also measuring the marketing impact of that as well. It's a pretty big resource in our industry, and so it'll be interesting to see what kind of business that drives.
39:50 AW: Yeah, as a sub-point, maybe something we talk about as a focus in an episode like I think sharing and using data as inbound marketing and as content people want is massive, and you do such a great job with that and having the local search ranking factors is massive. Those are the kind of things that attract dozens or hundreds of links and mentions.
40:15 DS: Yep. It's massive.
40:17 AW: Yeah, over and over and over again and that's something we should probably talk about sometime. I think a lot of people miss the boat on that, just how much data, surveys, expert surveys, things like that, can just really fuel what you're doing for your inbound marketing, so let's mark that down for another topic.
40:35 DS: Yeah, and I don't do it directly to make money. I think that there is a money-making benefit, but I just wanna clarify. I do it 'cause I love it. It's like the local search ranking factors is a labor of love and publishing it, I'm sure it definitely impacts business, but I would do it anyways.
40:51 AW: There you go.
40:52 DS: It's just what I love to do.
40:54 AW: Even better when you love doing it.
40:55 DS: That's right. Alright, thanks, Aaron.
40:58 AW: Yeah, great to catch up. Everyone, thanks as always for listening. We always appreciate if you reach out with any topic ideas via Twitter or via thesaasventure.com, and if you get the opportunity and we're living up to our end of the deal of giving you valuable content, please leave us a review in iTunes to help others find the SaaS Venture podcast as well. So with that until we talk again hopefully in the next two to three weeks, sound good?
41:25 DS: Sounds good.
41:25 AW: Alright, thanks Darren and thanks everyone. We'll talk to you soon.
41:29 DS: Thanks Aaron. Thanks everyone.
Creators and Guests
I'm the Co-founder and CEO of Leadferno, a business messaging app. Leadferno creates delightful connections at speed through SMS and messaging platforms centralized in one app to close more leads faster. I designed my first website in 1998 and never looked back. I have co-founded and been in executive roles in multiple digital marketing agencies and SaaS companies. I speak frequenty at conferences of all types on digital marketing, customer experience, mobile and local SEO. I'm part of Local University and a founding board member of MnSearch. Outside of work I'm a sports fan, love Nebraska college football, Minnesota Twins baseball, snowboarding, boating, BBQ and anything with my 4 kids and amazing wife. I live to the west of Minneapolis, Minnesota.