27: Plan the work, work the plan

Aaron has announced his new company is Leadferno, a business messaging app. Darren digs into Leadferno's plans as they have launched their marketing site and the plan to launch in June.

[INTRO music]

0:00:12.0 Aaron: Episode 27: Plan the work, work the plan.

0:00:16.2 INTRO: Welcome to the SaaS Venture podcast, sharing the adventure of leading and growing a bootstrap SaaS company. Here are the experiences, challenges, wins, and losses shared in each episode from Aaron Weiche of Leadferno and Darren Shaw of Whitespark. Let's go.


0:00:42.3 Aaron: Welcome to the SaaS venture podcast. I'm Aaron.

0:00:45.7 Darren: And I'm Darren.

0:00:47.7 Aaron: Darren, I wanted to start today with a little bit of an inspirational quote for us in our planning topic. Are you ready?

0:00:55.7 Darren: I'm ready. Let's hear it.

0:00:57.0 Aaron: So Eleanor Roosevelt said, "It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan."

0:01:05.1 Darren: It's a solid quote.

0:01:07.4 Aaron: I like the positivity of wishing and day-dreaming without the work involved, [chuckle] but I get where she's going.

0:01:15.2 Darren: Just take your wishes. They're all running around in your brain. Just write them on paper and you're starting to plan.

0:01:21.0 Aaron: There you go. One other note. We are also using video recording for this episode. We're gonna test this out and see. When we watch it back we'll [0:01:33.2] ____ if we're cringy or it's just not something that we want or if it's a good second medium for us to distribute our talks.

0:01:44.1 Darren: I think our subscribers are gonna go through the roof. You're so handsome. You're gonna have [chuckle] so many people being like, "Well, I wanna see more of that Aaron Weiche."

0:01:54.1 Aaron: I'm pretty sure there's not enough of a filter to combat that to make that come true, but it sounds good. All right, well, hey, it's been almost two months since we recorded an episode. I'm definitely to blame on that. I've been super heads down with some things, which we'll talk about my side of planning work and working the plan, but how have things been? Are there any changes in your life in the last two months during the pandemic?

0:02:22.8 Darren: No. Pandemic-wise, it's all the same over here. Nothing really has changed. No one's gotten vaccinated in my immediate family yet, so it's all same stuff here. Busy with work. You're definitely not all to blame. I have been heads down on a bunch of stuff as well, and so I haven't sparked a podcast conversation, but yeah, what's new at Whitespark? Let's see. We launched actually a really big update to our Local Rank Tracker. It's not the kind of thing that has much impact customer-facing, but we've rebuilt the whole thing in our standard tech stack. It used to be on Angular, and now we've switched our front-end JavaScript framework to View, which has many positive impacts for us. We're able to iterate on it much faster. The software is more organized, and so it really opens us up to quicker feature releases on our Rank Tracker, so I'm excited about that.

0:03:25.8 Aaron: Nice.

0:03:26.8 Darren: We are finally about to pull the trigger on our new account system that I've talked about on the podcast many times, but it's actually happening. And I'm not even gonna say two weeks. It's actually happening in five days on Tuesday. Tuesday is the day that we're gonna pull the trigger, and actually on that day, we've decided we're going to raise the prices of our premier SaaS software, the Local Citation Finder. We're doing a big price increase on that, that I've been talking you a lot about, Aaron. I'm excited about that. I think there's great potential there. I feel like it's long overdue.

We've had the same price of that software since we launched it 10 years ago. I've never increased prices, so it's long overdue. I feel like we're just gonna flip the switch and be just all of a sudden, we're making a lot more money, which we should've done a long time ago. So I'm excited about that. And we've got a big new feature to launch. I've talked about this before, I think, on the podcast, which is our citation auditing component that's gonna be integrated into our Local Citation Finder. So that's next on our agenda. That we're gonna be diving deep into that. It's mostly done, but pushing towards launch on that as well, so that's what's new in my world. How is Leadferno going? .

0:04:42.9 Aaron: Yeah, well, one, it's great to be public with Leadferno. I think that's the biggest thing in announcing this. Just Monday of this week, I mentioned to you when we were talking before, hitting record earlier today is having this time between leaving GatherUp and just helping wrap up some things there and whatever else and diving head deep into Leadferno, but not really having it in a place where I wanted to promote or talk about it. That was definitely hard. So it was like... In my planning, it's like I had this plan on how I wanted to announce. I wanted to have the marketing website ready, and I wanted to have it to a pretty like, I don't know, full-blown or at a pretty solid part, to be able to build content around and screenshots and specific features.

And early in the product and planning, there's a lot of that that you still don't even know how it's gonna end up or come true. You don't have visuals for it, things like that. So that was definitely one part of figuring out how do I make the most out of announcing what it is and driving people to something that actually does a good job of explaining it and all those pieces. So yeah, that was just a huge shift this week in being able to say like, "Here it is. Here's what it's called. Here's the link to it." And be able to socially do that in my professional profiles and my personal profiles. That was awesome.

0:06:26.3 Darren: Yeah, I was excited to see the tweet from you and see that you've gone public with it. It's like, "This is the thing. You can check it out now. This is what's coming." So that must be a huge relief and just feel good to get it out there.

0:06:41.5 Aaron: Yeah, I was kind of laughing. It checks the boxes on that social high or that dopamine hit you get when your LinkedIn posts and all the congratulations and the comments and the likes and retweets on Twitter and everything else. It's like this fever pitch. I kind of laughed at myself 'cause it's like, "I want that. I need that. I need word to spread on Leadferno and what it is and what it does." But I also felt like one of my teenagers where I'm worried about how many likes are on my TikTok video and things like that. It's like, I was like, "Oh, geez. Don't get caught up in this." But yeah, Monday was definitely just a rush all day long of people reaching out, people I forgot I had in my LinkedIn network where it's like you build these networks of, I don't even know, thousands of people, and then you get something and then you're like, "Oh, who's that? Where did I meet them at?" You go back and recall all of that so.

0:07:40.7 Darren: Well, I think you coined the phrase, "LinkedIn is slow Twitter."


0:07:46.9 Aaron: Yes. I'm glad you remember that. It totally is.

0:07:50.7 Darren: Yeah, it makes some sense. You post something on LinkedIn, it continues to gather likes and comments for weeks, whereas something on Twitter, it disappears within half an hour.

0:08:00.9 Aaron: Yeah. No, you're absolutely right. The Twitter steam settled down within 24 hours, and you're exactly like, "I'm still getting messages three days later on everything related to LinkedIn and whatever else." So people can check LinkedIn once a week and feel like they really haven't missed out on too much, where if you're really into Twitter, you're on it every few hours at least, so...

0:08:27.2 Darren: Yeah, well, congratulations on going public with your new software, and you got some pilots running too. I'm excited about that. How are those running?

0:08:38.1 Aaron: Yeah, so far so good. I have five pilots up and running. It was definitely hard on me. You have this incomplete product. You know all the things that you want it to do. The vision's there, but you're also rolling out this like, "Hey, it does one-fifth of what it's going to do it in three or four months. Is that good enough for you?" [chuckle]

0:09:01.5 Darren: Yeah, you probably get a lot of feedback too where people are like, "Oh, this is great. Can it do this? Can it do that?" And you're like, "Soon, coming. Yeah, we're working on it." [chuckle]

0:09:11.3 Aaron: Yeah, so it's great when you get the requests that are in your product road map because that just affirms that the things you thought or what you know to be like feature parity, things like that, are true, but the other part, though, some of the feedback, there's been a handful of things. There's definitely one thing or all the early ones, so it's like, we built it and it's a desktop app only right now and it will be when we launch and then we'll be building our mobile apps right after launch.

So with that, really the biggest thing, every time I was doing a demo for a potential pilot user and as they got on it, all had to do with notifications. And it was kind of interesting where it's like, "Yeah, we kinda knew that we built in... We had notifications on our road map, so we fast tracked doing your operating system notifications." You get the little alert that says, "Allow or Block." You allow it. That way, if you just have the window open, you're in a different tab, different browser, whatever else, you're gonna get that notification. But I've learned it's not enough. People have become so dependent on their phone telling them things, so what we're actually looking at doing now is building an SMS notification to fill the gap before we get to apps, so...

0:10:35.9 Darren: That's good.

0:10:36.5 Aaron: Yeah, yeah. So you'd just be able to drop your own mobile number and your user profile, and it'll just say, "Hey, you have a new lead from Leadferno." That will hopefully be that stop gap until we get an app that has push notifications, and you get your annoying red bubble that you don't want the numbers to go up on.

0:10:56.7 Darren: That's perfect. And then at the very least the business owner gets a heads up that there's a new lead, and they can just jump in there and respond to it right away.

0:11:03.3 Aaron: Yeah. Absolutely. Other than that, I've been doing Mechanical Turk notifications. I log in to all the pilot accounts, and I see if they have leads in there. And then I send them an email, "You have leads. Do you wanna go in there?" Like, "Oh, we forgot to log in." Working a new piece of software into somebody's routine can be hard and difficult, but yeah, that was one really interesting thing, it was like, "Okay, I just didn't realize how important the notifications were." And that sounds almost silly, but it's like...

0:11:37.0 Darren: Makes sense.

0:11:38.4 Aaron: My head is around 50 features into V1, but if you don't have this one, then we really... It's just not gonna work for us. We're worried about not meeting customer expectations. We wanna be able to move freely away from our desktop computer. We wanna know these things. So that was definitely a really big win, and then we've just had some other just small things as they're using it like, "Hey, if this expanded when I was typing in, it would be helpful," things like that. So.

0:12:10.0 Darren: Can you access the application through a mobile browser? Is it responsive enough that it's functional?

0:12:17.2 Aaron: So we've chosen not to build it responsive, just because we're gonna go straight to mobile apps. The thing that we just didn't feel like a responsive was gonna give us a big enough win for the effort, just for what we talked about, the push notification, just some of the snappiness that you get out of a native app over a responsive site. So we just kinda chose instead of duplicating efforts for something that would maybe get used very little when you have the app as an option, like we're just gonna skip it. And right now, I would love there to be a responsive web design version of it. But six months from now I'll be like, "We have mobile apps. Don't worry about it." So then I won't care, so...

0:13:05.4 Darren: Totally. I was only thinking of it as like a temporary stop gap until you actually have mobile versions.

0:13:10.7 Aaron: Yeah. And we just looked at it, "Why spend time on that right now when we could just build more features into the core product itself," so...

0:13:17.5 Darren: Absolutely. Makes sense. Yeah. Wow, good. It's going well, it sounds like. I know somebody who's running a pilot and they're like, "Man, this thing works too well. I can't keep up with all the leads," So that was great feedback to hear.

0:13:31.9 Aaron: Yeah, no, the theory of exposing and marketing that you will text with customers definitely seems to be doing what we thought in opening more conversations. The barrier to starting a conversation for people is so low on text. You're just completely fine texting randomly a new business where having to take the time to make a call and will I get a voicemail or will I get a person or will I get a call tree? Am I gonna ask the right... All of those things is just so much lower, so... Yeah, from what we've seen in our pilots across a very diverse group of business types, and they're all seeing just an increase in conversation starting. It's also just been really interesting, which gets me excited.

It's like, "All right, we have these five testers, and we have dozens of conversations happening in a week, but already seeing the differences in how people communicate." And the businesses is what I'm talking about, how the length and their process. Some are using it and immediately jumping into different communication medium. Others are solving it all right in the text conversation. It really gets me excited for the future of like, "Wow, the things that we'll learn as we compile all these conversations for a business to expose what do people care about? What are they asking the most?" Things like that really get me jazzed.

0:15:03.8 Darren: Yeah, you think about the sentiment analysis you can do on all that incoming content, that's really interesting.

0:15:09.9 Aaron: Yeah, no, totally, for sure. So when I look at that, that gets me excited for planning past the V1. It's like everything right now, I can script for you the next three months to six months, pretty much like almost every move we know we have to make. There's gonna be more things like the notifications that come into play that will be like, "All right, we need to do this, or people are gonna be not happy or frustrated." So we need to solve that, but the fact that there's just so much that has to be in the coming time frame, is just like, holy cow.

0:15:53.5 Darren: Yeah, totally. That's almost the way it is with every product. There's just a non-stop stream of things that you can do to make it better. It's a good industry to be in. Speaking of all that stuff and planning that stuff, you wanna get into the topic of the day, planning.

0:16:13.8 Aaron: Yeah, absolutely. As it relates to me, this is the first time I had to do planning around a launch of a product. Done plenty of feature launches and things like that, and I already kind of touched a little bit on just planning how to announce it and what was there and what was needed and things like that. But in this too, it was just thinking through like, "Okay, you get the site. You have those elements there. What do you need of those elements? Created some motion graphics for the site, what are all the things that we can round out?" And then after that, it's like, "Okay, putting the site out there, what's kind of our plan? What do we want to have happen? What's the conversion that we want out of it?" So it was mapping out like, "All right, we want people to say, Yeah, send me notifications. We're launching in June, but we'd like to every two or three weeks, send out an email and say, Hey, here's something new that we've just added to it. Here's how things are shaping up. Here's a couple ideas." Like just kind of build that fever pitch so that hopefully there's some people feeling like, "The minute that you will take my money, I will give you my money." That's the hope for sure.

0:17:30.9 Darren: You want people to land up at your door with bags of cash.

0:17:34.0 Aaron: Yeah, exactly. The next part is we introduced some calls to action for early access. So people who are early adopters who wanna put it to use, we wanna find out who they are and tell us a little bit about you so we can see like, "All right, based on where the product is, would you be a good fit to be a tester? Is it in a business type or a process we haven't served yet where we could learn from it? Will you be a heavy user of features that we already have instead of, Oh, the feature that would really benefit you is one of the last we're gonna build. So I'm not gonna bring you in now and get you frustrated." So that as kind of a pre-launch goal. And then the other one is we're gonna do a partner program with this product.

This will probably be one of the most fundamental decisions that I find really interesting, so I decided with Leadferno not to do a white label product, which we had at GatherUp. And a couple of the reasons behind that, the beauty of a white label product is we had a large customer base that are digital marketing agencies and marketers and SEOs, and they resell it. They put their logo on it. They can claim it as their own, and then they can mark it up however they want.

0:18:57.0 Aaron: We charge them $50 a month, and they can sell for $100, $200, $300, whatever they want. So those are the pros on it. The cons that I always found that won't be surprising is, one, you're not maintaining double the product, but 25-50%, you're double maintaining a product because how settings work, and how things are accessed, how you name features, you have to keep your brand out of everything, then you have to build materials for your white label people that they can grab and convert to theirs. There's just a whole lot of pieces to it that definitely make it a challenge. And for a lot, it can be worth it.

Like for GatherUp, it was definitely worth it for us. We had 400-500 agencies when I left that were reselling our product, and some doing extremely well with it. But I just chose with this one, I wanted to take the route of building a partner program where what our partners, what they have to do is just refer their customers to sign up. They get the benefit of, "Hey, here's a great tool." If we're a web designer, we built you a beautiful site, but let's convert customers to contacting you. That's the ultimate goal.

0:20:17.6 Aaron: If we do local search or SEO, we're a digital marketer, we wanna convert that traffic. So this is a great conversion tool. It will allow them... They'll have access so they can see into all of those accounts and see what's happening and grab data and reporting and site conversations so that they can add that to what they're doing on a retainer basis and reporting for that customer. And then also we'll kick them back a percentage of reoccurring revenue. So the downfall is I can't take a $50 product and mark it up to $300, which some have done, but the win is all I have to do is tell them to go look at this. We'll sell them. We'll support them. We'll do all those things. 'Cause the one thing that was probably the most frustrating with a white label product is you build new features, you do all these things, and your resellers just don't know or don't care or don't really have an idea. They don't support the customers as well. It's like you win on the sales side, but you can really lose on the customer experience side.

0:21:26.0 Darren: Sure, yeah, actually, I've got two questions about this partner program 'cause it's something that we've been looking at a Whitespark because we currently have some referral partners that send us leads and we don't have a good system. We're currently tracking it manually. Stuff gets lost. It's like someone sends us an email and then we gotta go in and be like, "Oh, make sure that we're giving credit for this person for this referral." And so we've been looking at software solutions, and the more I look at them the more I think, "Wow, they're expensive, and we could easily build our own." So the first question is, are you gonna build your own or are you gonna use some third-party system for managing the referral program? And the second question is, I'm wondering what kind of kick back you're planning to give?

0:22:08.8 Aaron: Yep. So the first one, I'm having a hard enough time building one product. I am not building another product. So [chuckle] I'm gonna use... There's a couple out there. I've watched more than a few Facebook group conversations on things like this. The one that I probably see mentioned the most that I'm probably gonna do the deepest dive in is FirstPromoter. I think based on our needs and what I've read, that's one that I definitely want to investigate. I need to investigate further. I know another founder, Josh Ho. He has a product called Referral Rock. I need to see if that's kind of built the same way as FirstPromoter. I just... I know Josh through online conversations, but I haven't dove into his product as deeply. So I'm gonna find a product that fits the need for us to be able to do that so we can just focus on our core product.

0:23:08.5 Darren: Yeah, so I was thinking about this, and it's like, I looked at one called PartnerStack, which Unbounce uses, and it looks really slick, it looks great. But it's $15,000 at the lowest end to $40,000 per year for the high end, and I'm like, "What? That's really expensive." and I don't get the value proposition there because when I think about what my needs are, I need to go into my account system, press a button that says Add New Referral, put in their name, their PayPal email, and it's gonna generate a referral link for them. I give them that link, and then all I have to do is on our website is track the URL parameter, set a cookie, and then on checkout, look for the cookie and record a transaction in our account system if anyone comes through on that cookie. It's actually pretty straight forward, and our team could build it, they're telling me in like... It's a week-ish to build this functionality into our account system.

0:24:08.8 Darren: So when I think of it from that perspective, then it's like, "Why wouldn't we just build our own and just have it internally." And then you have to have a page for the referral partner and be able to look how many people came, clicked through on my link, how many people converted, and what is the timeline, what are my kickbacks, what is my next check gonna be. You just need a system like that, so it seems pretty straight forward. And I don't know if it justifies the expense of a third-party tool.

0:24:35.3 Aaron: Yeah, my inclination would be I'd do more searching. The pricing on that sounds really steep. Like FirstPromoter, I think is in the $100-a-month range. I think they have some plan variants, but also everything you're describing there and just in building software, like your first blush is like, "Oh yeah, it's just these five things," but then it's like, "Oh, yeah, but these five and these five and these five," and then pretty much then it's a runaway train and I don't know. I'm just hesitant on those. I'm like, "Let's find someone who all they care about is this and let's plug into them, right?

They're already plugged into Stripe. They already create the landing pages. They already have all these elements." So like I said, I have enough to do [chuckle] where I'm like, "I'll outsource." If we look at it and like, "Oh, we're only using these three things," then I at least have the experience of using something else and saying, "We could build this better, easier, simpler, that just meets our needs and eliminate that cost," then I'd at least know I'd rather start using something that's there.

0:25:45.4 Darren: Sure.

0:25:46.5 Aaron: And then head the other route.

0:25:47.9 Darren: Yeah, I'll do a little bit more investigating of those two that you mentioned.

0:25:51.4 Aaron: Yeah, and then after that, your second question on percentage, I think we'll probably be falling between a 10-15%. This was part of the other thing. Our product most likely, and we're still working completely finalizing, but I would say we're gonna fall between $150 to a $250-a-month product. And in my experience with a lot of agencies, especially the ones that really like the uptake on this product, selling price points is really hard for them. So I looked at it. If we did a white label and say we even discounted the product to, let's say, $100 a month, we could afford to do that for them. They would, because it's already at three figures, I feel like they would price it at $125 anyway. They'd get the same $20 back than if we just did everything else, because they'd be afraid to push those margins higher. Now, some of the really good sales agencies and successful ones like, no, they would probably... They could push it a lot higher and not have a problem with it, but that's just some of the things that I noticed that GatherUp is overwhelmingly a ton of them, just their own price sensitivity and sales.

0:27:06.5 Aaron: They're good at their work. They like to do the strategical and tactical things, but selling for a lot of those agencies was really hard. So that's why, I just wanna do it like you make the introduction. We'll make it all happen. You get access. You get data, and you get revenue from it. So I'm hoping that like I said this could be a fatal flaw in my plan. I might be building a white label version of our product six months from now. So...

0:27:33.0 Darren: Sure. Yeah, no. I think it sounds like a really good plan to me. I feel the same. Like I'm thinking about our future developments and where we're going, and I don't think we'll ever have a fully white labeled version for many of the challenges that you've already described. It's just so much more to maintain when you do that. I remember white labeling GatherUp and then noticing that the source code references your product. Even some of the class names of your CSS had to be updated, so just so many hassles.

0:28:03.4 Aaron: Yeah. No, there is. There is a lot of it that you really have to have in mind when you do it. And it's like when I would talk with our team when we're launching features or things like that. Especially as the brand grew, you worked more like branding things into what you named it and how you created it. And there's just so much where I always looked at... One of our top-three threats all the time was exposing our white label resellers. Like hands down, that was the one thing where I was just always like, "Oh, nothing would be worse than me having 20 emails or 50 emails or 200 emails saying like, You just exposed me as a GatherUp reseller, and I charge four times more than you charge because I'm layering it with a service where like, Oh, what... I'm glad a few times we'd have something small, whatever, and quickly stomp it out or it was only a handful accounts, but that's scary stuff.

0:29:03.8 Darren: Yeah. Totally. Well, I like that you're just avoiding that all together, go referral system instead of white label.

0:29:09.5 Aaron: Yeah, well, we'll find out. Like I said, that plan might be a bad one. The jury's out on that. We'll see where that one goes. That's one of those, right, where it's like, "I definitely... I feel this way, but I understand this. And it was super successful before, but I don't know, we'll see where I land on that."

0:29:31.2 Darren: Yeah, we'll see. I think as a person that has a re-sold product, it's also a lot of work on my end. I would almost prefer the referral system.

0:29:41.6 Aaron: Yeah. Yeah, that's my hope. My big question is, is the revenue enough for someone to care because they might not look at your product as like a revenue generator for them. It's like, it's money back in. It adds up. It's worth something, but it's not gonna become a line item on the balance sheet that you really care about unless you have hundreds of customers. I mean, oh man, I hope I have a reseller that's like, "Yeah, sweet. We have 100 accounts that we've brought you." That would be fantastic, so...

0:30:15.3 Darren: Yep, and do you pay your resellers... Is your plan, if it's like a percentage, do they get that recurring forever or is it just like for the first six months, the first...

0:30:24.0 Aaron: Yeah, we're gonna do recurring for forever, so...

0:30:26.4 Darren: Okay.

0:30:27.2 Aaron: Yeah, I want it to be a win-win. I actually want it to be a win, win, win. I want the agency to win.

0:30:35.4 Darren: Win - win - win.

0:30:36.8 Aaron: Yeah, I want the business to win, and I want the consumer to win by loving using our product. When they can text with the business, they win on it. I like this where I was talking to... I was doing a demo with another potential pilot prospect, and he used to be a GatherUp customer and saw what I was doing, and the great thing is he's like, "The beauty of you and Mike... " He's like, "You guys, I never felt like you're out to make money. You were just out to give us a great solution. So I fully trust whatever you're doing on this, and I fully trust whatever price point you set." And I was like, "Oh well, I hope the whole world feels like that, so that sounds good."

0:31:14.6 Darren: Yeah, you have implicit trust, everyone that comes over to you.

0:31:17.9 Aaron: Yeah. I'm leaving money on the table, but I sleep well at night and I like what the product does, so...

0:31:22.6 Darren: Yeah, yeah. Good. What else related to planning?

0:31:27.3 Aaron: Yeah, now that it's like out, now, it's a lot of both planning on the marketing side, how do I keep mentions going and stay in front of people and things like that. Lucky over the years to build contacts. We just had Localogy reached out and did an interview with me. I have a couple of others that lined up, pinging some people and just saying, "Here's an angle. Is it worth mentioning?" To try to keep that going to launch and then use launch as another propulsion. And there's a lot of things that I even joke with our marketing or our product team when they're talking about building something. I'm like, "No, we can wait on that. We can wait. That can come a month after launch." Well, I'm like, "He gives me something newsworthy to talk about and to put out there." So just planning all that out. And then now I'm just starting to focus on the launch plan, and we still have a ton of things to build into the product and just mapping out.

0:32:32.2 Aaron: We basically have five sprints to where we wanna hit for our launch date, so it's like we have each of those sprints ratcheted with like, "Here's what we need to do and accomplish in whatever else, and we're really at this point, you're kinda out of room on, "Oh, that can get bumped or at this point, if it falls out of a sprint, it's not gonna be in the product for the V1, which is gonna be a bummer. I look at my list of 20 things right now, and it's like, "I don't wanna live out without any of them at launch, but I'm also... There might be five of them that just aren't gonna make it at launch." So a lot of that planning going on and that plan will probably be re-factored pretty heavily as we move through each sprint, but we'll see what happens.

0:33:16.7 Darren: And how do you do the planning? What software systems do you use? How do you communicate this with your team? How do you set up your meetings? How do you lay out this plan and manage to stick to the plan?

0:33:28.9 Aaron: Yeah, so we do all of our sprint planning and development in Clubhouse. My product manager just hates Jira. I think he spent too much of his life in it. So even though Jira is probably the staple that's out there, it's what we used at GatherUp as well, he wanted to use Clubhouse. So that's what we use for that. That's where everything goes into play as far as organizing the sprints and what epics and stories and tasks and everything go into that. For the team, for me, I try to... The less I'm writing things in Clubhouse for me, the better.

I try to... That's the weeds for me. I try to stay out of those weeds. I review the stories to keep track of progress. I answer questions when they're needed, but I like to frame things up in just any visual and have done both like Google Slides and also spreadsheets, just to say like, "Here's a high-level view. Here's all of these things." And a lot of times I like to use those and then also match them up for them to understand the business goal side.

0:34:39.4 Aaron: I think it's really easy for engineers to be building in a vacuum and not understand the business needs and what goes on publicly and things like that. So helping them understand, "Hey, we need these things done and need to be this far, so we can have pilot testers. And once we have that, we wanna be able to launch and show people the product and have short demo videos and things like that." So it's good to not only have them see the sprints, but like what are the business goals that might be attached to these sprints as far as public launch, how many pilot customers are on the platform, soft launch with some paying customers, all those kind of things with it. So there, I'm pretty, whatever I can pull together fast that is well organized, that shows them and gives them a longer view, helps them see three months out. And how does all this work together?

0:35:39.4 Darren: Yeah, how often do you... Has it been from the genesis of the concept of Leadferno to today. You make these plans, you try to put a structure in place and create the timelines. How often are you sticking to things, or has it been going pretty well?

0:36:00.8 Aaron: No.

0:36:00.9 Darren: No.


0:36:03.5 Aaron: You get all the other challenges in building a team, right, like finding the right people with the right expertise, the right ways to communicate. We can definitely get into this another time, but we hit kind of a road block end of January, February that had to do with our team's expertise with Flutter, and that's what we're using for the front-end SDK format of thing. I don't even know if you can call Flutter a framework or what you call it, but we realized we needed to level up. And so we had to do some changing of our team in relation to Flutter experience, and so that was a big shift that probably just kinda gutted two sprints off us.

So we were not only... We weren't moving fast enough to that time because we didn't have the right components, and you're back and forth between, "I'm hopeful this will change," and, "Let's try some of these things and whatever else." And your gut might be telling you something, and then finally, I was just like, "We have to do something, right?"

0:37:14.7 Aaron: So yeah, between all that, we just kind of... It's not accurate to say we lost a month. That's how I feel about it, but we had to change guard. We had to hand off information. We had to bring some new people in. Any time you bring new people in, they are also gonna have some ideas, which a lot of times, they're good ones on restructure. "Here's the efficiencies you're missing. Here are some of the things that if I was here from day one, I would have decided different that you're gonna wanna redo this." So it was really hard, and I was super bummed at that point. It would be like, you combine what you're working on isn't public. You can't talk about it at all. You're just in this hole working with development teams and testing and everything else. We weren't at the point of being able to have pilot customers yet. We were trying to do this work to have pilot customers. That was part of it, where it was like, "Man, everything feels like it's just kind of not going right right now, but you just keep working at it and things are getting better."

0:38:18.2 Darren: With that big speed bump behind you, are things flowing to plan fairly well since you've kinda caught up from that, that bump?

0:38:28.2 Aaron: Yeah, I feel like it's getting better. We've had to make adjustments. There were things on how we were planning, designing features where we weren't doing a good enough job on it, and so we had to step up our game with how prepared we were ahead of the sprint, how we are creating some of the epics and stories. We're making adjustments there. So yeah, all the stuff is always an evolution, and so you're working hard to how can we constantly be getting better? And you're taking what you feel and what you see and feedback from the team and you're bringing in new expertise.

There's just a lot. There's a lot happening at once. And it's like, that's easily the one thing it's like, you come from... I came from a team at GatherUp that our core development team had been together for three years when I left, and there's so much that was in lock step. Things were still hard and difficult and you'd still have misses or holes, whatever else, but so far less just because there's so much trust in the team. They had worked together. They understand the overall direction, a bunch of things like that. And then you jump into something else and you realize you have to rebuild that, and for the first three years at GatherUp, we didn't have it. It took us three years to hit our utopia or our best efficiency within that, and now I'm trying to smash and shrink it into months. [chuckle]

0:39:55.2 Darren: Right.

0:39:55.8 Aaron: Which is really not possible.

0:39:58.8 Darren: No, but I think you are shrinking it, though. It seems like you're moving really fast at Leadferno actually. If you think about how much you've accomplished since you started this, you're progressing pretty zippy, it seems to me.

0:40:12.7 Aaron: Yeah, I can tell you personally, the weeks have never flown by faster for me like ever. They are like... I'm like, "What? How is it a weekend?" Then on the weekends, there's no stand-up. I can't see what else got done, [chuckle] anything. It's like, I actually don't want the weekends. I want weekdays. I want stand-ups. I want progress. I wanna test. Man, it's crazy. So anyway, but I threw into our notes. I read a great tweet, and this guy was just sharing something that he had heard. And I reached out to get the pronunciation of his name, and his name is Tobenna Arodiogbu. And he put out this Tweet, and he just said, "Someone once told me it takes about three years to build really great software." And he said, "I kind of agree. The trick is in providing value when your product is merely good and executing every day the right to make it great." And I was just like, "Oh, that's so it." Right? And I'm like, "I'm trying to make great software in six months, and it's not gonna happen. But I need to do well enough where people are like, Yeah, I see where you're going. This is good enough and keep going and we're gonna stay with you."

0:41:28.9 Darren: Totally. It's a really good quote. It's like people... You don't wanna take three years to launch your product. Launch it when it's pretty good and it continue to iterate. And actually, this is one of the things that we've actually had a roadblock at Whitespark about is we continue to refine and iterate before, and then we do this massive launch. It took us a year-and-a-half to get this thing out the door, and we're really trying to solve that problem and be like, "No, this is our existing product. We're getting that out of the door." We did it again with our new account system. It's like, "We could have launched this a long time ago if we weren't constantly refining it." And actually the nice thing is that once you get it out the door, all those refinements can come week after week after week, and then you're doing regular updates. 

You're showing your customers that you're alive and continuing to make the product better, and you have a new marketing push every week. And so that's the cadence that we're trying to get towards where every week we've got some new updates, some new thing that we're pushing live.

0:42:35.1 Aaron: Yeah. No, I think you're spot on with that is how can you build and iterate rapidly? I think it's the same thing I was kinda talking about with our team. Like momentum, that's the killer thing. When you have great momentum, it doesn't even matter if it's just constant small steps, but you have momentum. And when we hit our rut, January, February, the momentum was gone. If anything, the momentum was backwards, and that is emotionally tough. It's tactically tough, all of those things. And the same when you get your customers to start feeling that your product has momentum, like, "Hey, every month or every other month or every quarter there's something new," like they feel that momentum. I think that's the key thing to find.

0:43:27.9 Darren: Yeah, I see it with ClickUp. So we use ClickUp for some of our project management on our GMB Management Service, and every Friday I get an email from ClickUp. They call it the ClickUpdates 2.75, every time it increments. And they've done, I think, 275 updates. And so every Friday, there is an email that usually covers about three new features in the software, three new things. It's incredible, and that's... I dream of getting to that point, and it doesn't seem impossible. It seems totally within our grasp very soon. As soon as we have new accounts out, we're gonna start iterating on all... 'Cause at Whitespark, we have like five products. So we have so many different things that we're always working on.

0:44:14.0 Aaron: Yeah. Well, it gives you a story to tell, and then you can take that story to your customers. That's marketing, and, yeah, ClickUp does a great job. I definitely went on a binge of signing up for any tool with a free trial for researching onboarding processes and things like that. And so I'm still getting a ton of emails, which is great because it helps me understand their messaging, and yeah, ClickUp does... They do a really great job with it.

0:44:40.3 Darren: Really good, yeah.

0:44:41.0 Aaron: Some of their little animations in their emails and things like that, so yeah, that's definitely a good example.

0:44:49.3 Darren: They've got the resources too. I think they got $100 million in funding. [chuckle]

0:44:55.2 Aaron: I don't know. It sounds great to have... I would have such a hard... This like Leadferno, we raised a small angel round, so we can scale up a team. And even that still feels hard for me, getting a team of five, six engineers right off the bat. It felt like, "Oh my gosh. That's so much for no income coming in and whatever else." It's like, "Oh, I'm learning, man. I'm baby steps on how to do something that isn't bootstrapped from the start." So...

0:45:24.9 Darren: Yeah. [chuckle] Yeah, totally.

0:45:28.8 Aaron: Well, cool. I think we've probably worn people out by now. You've worn me out. You just made me answer all the questions today, so...


0:45:37.8 Darren: You know what? That's because I'm like the worst planner, so I just basically have to defer to you and be like, "Hey, Aaron, what can you teach me about planning?" So I'm learning as much here as the audience.

0:45:48.0 Aaron: Yeah, you're evolving though with it, Shaw, but sooner or later you will be the plan guru, and I'll just take notes from you, so it's all good.

0:45:57.9 Darren: Great, well, we'll slate that for March 2022, new episode on planning where I'll lead. I'll give some advice on planning.

0:46:06.7 Aaron: You'll hit it before then. I know you will.

0:46:08.8 Darren: Okay, great. Great, I appreciate the confidence.

0:46:11.3 Aaron: Awesome. Yeah, you bet. All right, well, thanks everyone for joining us. Good to get another episode out. Hopefully we won't let so much time go by until Episode 28, and we'll get back to you. Anything you wanna make note of coming up Darren? 

0:46:27.2 Darren: Nah.

0:46:28.2 Aaron: Nah? 

0:46:28.8 Darren: No. [chuckle] Let's talk about it next time.

0:46:30.9 Aaron: Keep doing the things on repeat.

0:46:33.1 Darren: Yeah totally.

0:46:34.2 Aaron: All right. Well great catching up as always with you Daren, and we'll talk soon. And we'll talk and record soon as well.

0:46:41.2 Darren: Yeah within a month. All right thanks, Aaron.

0:46:43.7 Aaron: All right thanks take care everybody.

0:46:45.7 Darren: Thanks everybody.

[OUTRO music]

Creators and Guests

Aaron Weiche
Aaron Weiche
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.
Darren Shaw
Darren Shaw
I'm the founder and president of Whitespark, a local search company with software and services that help businesses improve their rankings in Google. I started developing websites back in 1996 during my first year of university. I failed plenty of courses because I was skipping class to work on my HTML, CSS, and Javascript projects in the lab. Fortunately, people wanted to pay me to build websites, and in 2005 I started Whitespark as a web design and development company. In 2010 we stopped doing web development projects so we could focus on local search, and we launched our first SaaS software, the Local Citation Finder. We now offer multiple SaaS applications and services. When I'm not speaking at conferences, researching the latest in local search, or designing the next best local search application, I like to spend time travelling, skiiing, and dining with my wife and daughter in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
27: Plan the work, work the plan
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