Today Dave and Craig talk about the difficulties of finding product/market fit in
The ‘desert’ in business is that time where you’ve ventured out to try something new, have an inkling of where it might lead, but still have a long way to go before you realize that vision. Thanks to Jordan Gal from Bootstrapped Web for the analogy
Craig’s been working on developing SalesCamp for about 10 months now and has not seen the results that he’s looking for. Is it a product problem, a marketing problem, a combination of the two?
These times when there is no clear answer to what should come next is often the hardest for us as entrepreneurs. Is now the time to throw in the towel and call it quits, or time to double down on an opportunity that you know can be significant?
Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us all about it.
Intro: 00:07 Welcome to the rogue startups podcast. Where two startup founders are sharing lessons learned and pitfalls to avoid in their online businesses. And now here’s Dave and Craig.
Craig: 00:22 All right. Welcome back to another episode of rogue startups. This episode 160. Dave we’re quite the role these days. A pumping episodes out like it’s our job, not our job, but we only got paid for this shit, you know, make pretty decent money from podcast and it’s a lot of work I think. Yeah, I am
Dave: 00:46 very happy that we’re not actually going down that sponsorship road or trying to do the patriotic thing or whatever because that just seems like a hell of a lot of work and it will sort of suck the joy out of this.
Craig: 00:56 Yeah, yeah, I think so. I mean we’re fortunate to say like turn, you know, have a zoom call, hit record and talk about whatever we feel like. I mean a lot of times we have articles you want to talk about or whatever, but yeah, mean I think this week it’s just more of kinda updates since we’ve been kind of a. We had a guest, a couple guests around the end of the year and kind of want to talk about. We’re going to talk about the desert today a little bit, right? If the desert scorpions, rattlesnakes. Oh my um, but yeah. So how were, how were things going man?
Dave: 01:32 Well, they’ve been pretty busy actually lately. So for recapture we’re trying to nail down some integrations and push forward on that stuff. So I get daily emails from my developer Mike about that, trying to figure out various quirks of things. So we’re doing that. I’ve spent some time in some customer development and trying to get a survey to get people to respond to a survey and recapture and man, I got everybody in business directory doing it, but I am really struggling to get responses and recapture. Like I had a great call yesterday with one of my customers who runs a supplements business and I was on the phone with him for like 45 minutes and talking to them about what he’s struggling with and what he’s not, and stuff like that. That was really great. So maybe what I need to do is try to schedule one on one calls instead of the survey thing because it just doesn’t, you know, my third year of asking for that and this is the first year where I’ve got a practical dud on this. Very disappointed on that, especially considering how successful it was in bed. So.
Craig: 02:38 So with the, with the call that you had with your supplements guy, uh, do you think that the stuff you were saying is like representative of stuff that other of your customers or potential customers would be saying like, uh, is that like a representative sample? You think? I don’t. And here’s why, here’s why I don’t. So he’s probably like one of my top
Dave: 03:00 customers. He has a very high volume of gross revenue going through. So we are like wildly successful for him where he’s at our highest tier of payment. So you know, anything, anytime he wants to talk to me I’m like, Oh yeah dude, here’s my personal cell phone number. Yeah. And, but the things that he’s talking about are not like at different tiers of in ecommerce. There are definitely, definitely different considerations. So he’s a guy in Magento, he’s been working on this for God, I don’t know, years and years at this point, at least a decade I think, and the stuff that he’s concerned about, the things that he, the level of sophistication he talks about, his email campaigns is not the same as I see with all other ecommerce customers, like somebody who’s getting started out and they’re making like five k a month or something like that. Um, you’re going to see, you know, how do I get more customers and how do I optimize this and how do I do that?
Dave: 04:00 I’m struggling with shipping or I’m struggling with customer support or order fulfillment or inventory management or whatever. None of those are his problem. Absolutely. These at another level, Huh? He’s at a total different level. He’s like very concerned about like open rates and bounce rates and conversion rates and trying to make sure that everything’s dialed in. So we had an extensive conversation about reviews and how we could actually get him to have more reviews. So I went and looked up a bunch of stuff, I reviewed his campaigns, I gave him some specific suggestions and said, these are the things that I would do if I was your campaign, you know, send more email chains, these subject lines, do this, test this, et Cetera, et cetera. So you know, he’s very much in the Ab optimization because each one of those micro optimizations for him can be $10,000 campaign.
Dave: 04:53 So this Kinda have some pretty serious impact on his business. Whereas with somebody else getting started out and they’re still trying to find their own product market fit and they’re still trying to get the messaging down or their store, you get the layout and the checkout flow, like all of that stuff. He’s got that dialed in. He’s worrying about things that have very different levels. So, you know, I wish I had 100 more of him because he, he just gets it. He’s like, yeah, I’ll pay your top dear. That’s no problem. Because he’s recovering so much money. It’s just stupid for him not to do that. And you know, he, he asks great intelligent questions, but, you know, where do I find more guys like him? That’s the question. And I haven’t, I haven’t found the magic forum, the magic channel, you know, the guys like camera not looking on the APP store, they’re talking to their friends and that, you know, how do I get into those circles? That’s what I really want to know. So That’s interesting man. I think that the, that’s the question really is like, as you’re, as you’re looking for a degree of product
Craig: 05:58 market fit, how do you get those scalable, repeatable marketing channels? And I think it’s, it, it, I don’t have an answer for sure. It seems like it’s different for everyone. You know, like you go to like I remember specifically at Sas last year until like three talks in a row, almost like it’s facebook ads or other ones. Like it’s content marketing. Another one’s like it’s cold outreach and you’re like, okay, it’s not 100 percent for sure. Any of those. It’s just like kind of whatever works for you and your business and your industry, which is a shitter because like we’re all looking for the answer. Um, but uh, I think that the reality is that probably doesn’t, like there’s not a answer, right?
Dave: 06:36 No, no, there’s definitely not. And that’s the struggle, right? Yeah. Anyway, yeah. So that’s been going along the plugins. There’s some changes coming for the classifieds plugin. We’re trying to push a big release out and I’ve mostly been uninvolved with this. There’s Beta testing stuff going back and forth between my support person in my developer that’s working on that and they’re wrapping issues up and I’m hoping that that gets wrapped up here sometime in February, but uh, yeah, it’s been a quiet otherwise and then lots of work on the freelance client, so that’s keeping me out of trouble for now.
Craig: 07:15 Nice. Nice. How about you man? Yeah. So yeah, it’s like a tale of tale of two cities over here. So like, you know, with, with Castos send with podcast motor, things are going well, I’m growing and you know, everything is getting easier, which is really nice. It’s like, you know, we’re growing and it’s getting easier and all this kind of stuff. We did some kind of infrastructure upgrades with Castos so over the last couple of weeks, which makes our operating costs lower by kind of a lot, like 30 percent, which is nice. Um, and yeah, just kind of looking to get more repeatable, predictable action there, you know, how do we grow, what do we put in this side to get more money out that side. That kind of stuff is kind of where we are now. Um, but I think, you know, I’ve been wanting to talk about sales camp more on the show and uh, would love to talk through with you kind of where we are and let everyone else know it kind of, I guess where we are. Um, funnily I guess you and I had a call last week at our normal podcasting times for this episode will becoming out late and maybe like on the wrong day or something. Um, because we got on a call last week and I was just like, uh, I was not in a good spot.
Dave: 08:34 The words that come to mind or Debbie Downer or definitely not in a good place there, that’s for sure.
Craig: 08:41 Yeah. And you know, honestly, so kind of like full transparency it is because it was sales camp. Uh, I bought it about 10 months ago, almost a year ago and we’ve done a lot of Dev work on it. I feel like I’ve done a decent amount of marketing on it. I’m not a lot, I shouldn’t say a lot. I’ve done some marketing on it, uh, with a lot of product work and we’re basically nowhere still. Um, we have about $100 in Mrr right now and um, it’s really challenging because I look at the business model, I’m probably like you do a little bit with recapture, like it’s so directly tied to your customer’s financial success that it’s really appealing as a business model. Um, but then I look at it and say like, I am just like spinning my wheels with us because I have other things that are working well.
Craig: 09:37 Um, why is this not working well? What would it take to make this start working to be growing? You know, a $100 a month even, and like, what am I missing? Is it product, is it marketing, is it the type of people in marketing to. Um, and so yeah, I’ve been going through a lot of those kind of thoughts in my mind and talking to you and other people that I kind of known respect and I’m trying to come to some conclusions around like what I’m going to do with this because it’s getting to the point where you gotta like Shit or get off the pot. Um, you can’t just sit around and have an APP that basically does nothing for too long. So yeah, that’s, I don’t know, that’s kind of where I am. Um,
Dave: 10:24 that, yeah, that is the worst feeling ever to have a product that’s just not going anywhere despite what effort that you’ve put into it. Uh, you know, I felt that at various other products, whether it was, you know, my very first one with chron lists and I barely got that thing off the ground, a Wright brothers style to where it was just barely airborne. And I’m like, okay, here’s the Balsa Wood. And tissue paper and you know, there’s other support. Mine was kind of like this. It never even got off the ground, but you know, all that Dev work I put into it and then had no real addressable market in there or market need or anything that I could find that would resonate with people on that, you know, that, that just, that feeling sucks. And then on top of all that, you know, there’s that James Kennedy, you haunt me.
Dave: 11:23 I just want to say that and I and not in a docker sort of weigh your words, haunt me because every time I think about my marketing channels now I go back to the conversation that we had when James was on the show and he was talking about you just have to keep trying different things on the same channel. It’s not enough to go three weeks, six weeks, eight weeks on one thing and say this channel sucks. So I keep thinking about that and I’m, well, how much is, is not, you know, how many times do I have to try before I can say this channel is piece of shit for me. And that can take a long damn time if I have to wait eight weeks for each attempt. Right. Then you’re like, oh my God, I just burned six months here. Did I just waste a massive opportunity cost, you know, and maybe this is just, you know, the old guy in me coming out here, but I look at my opportunity costs of all of these things and I’m like, how much more are these opportunities?
Dave: 12:27 Am I going to get, you know, am I, did I just waste a major one right here? So there’s always this haunting voice that, you know, it sounds Irish in the back of my head that’s telling me you haven’t tried enough of the channel yet? Uh, that was the worst imitation of James Kennedy. We just lost the, lost the listener. He totally just, we probably lost all of our Irish listers there because Dave sounded more like the lucky charms cereal character than any. Uh, yeah. And I also like to refer to myself in the third person. Occasionally when I do accents, just as
Craig: 13:02 you know, I mean, you hit it right on, right on the nose. I think so. One is opportunity cost. Um, the other thing I think about those potential whatever deal size or business size or growth opportunity or something like that. Like I look at a contrast, the opportunity we have with sales camp, with where we are with podcast motor. So podcast motor has been growing very slowly. We have ups and downs and all this kind of stuff, but it’s been about static for the last two years which is fine with me. It makes like the money that we need and it’s like a really good lifestyle business for me at this point. But I look at the opportunity with sales camp and like the biggest player in the space, a ambassador was just acquired by a private equity firm a couple months ago, which means like, right, I saw that I saw tens of millions of dollars, you know.
Craig: 13:54 And so I’m like, all right, I’m like, you know, get my feet wet with podcast motor. I try my place in Sas with cast dose, it’s going well, but sales camp and like the, the total addressable market and the lifetime value of a customer in the stickiness of the product is really where like I can make it rain and just have like a business I could run for a really long time. It’s not trendy, it’s B to b, all this kind of stuff. And so I look at it and say like, I have to just figure it out, you know, like a hat and this is, this is not where I was when we talked last week, Dave. But I looked at it, I look at it now and say like, okay, there’s big established players. The need is definitely there. The market is huge. Technology wise, I think we’re kind of close.
Craig: 14:43 The, the product definitely basically has been totally rewritten since I bought it, which is part of the problem is I look at it and say I’ve had this for almost a year, but really it really just got good in the last few months. So that’s really not fair. Um, but I look at all that stuff and say like, I need to figure out a way to make this happen, um, because it’s nobody’s fault, but mine kind of, you know, it’s not like the product quote sucks or the market sucks or there’s not a enough people here to buy my product or something like, all of that is, those are check marks, you know. Um, and so yeah, I’m really looking very hard at like the, like the phone call you had with your customer, uh, looking at like, requiring a demos again. Um, and tightening the marketing message down really, really, really, really super focused like sas businesses on stripe, whatever.
Craig: 15:40 Something else. Even more, even more focused than that, um, to say like, you know, the closing these handful of customers is the, is the way forward, uh, and, and, you know, learn something from there and then, and then you can grow broader afterwards. Um, but I think, I think where I am now is like the product definitely needs some things. Um, and we’re looking at addressing those and making it easier for customers to get onboarded. But the marketing. And the language that we use has to get really tight to make it super clear to those handful of people that land on the site, you know, hey, this is 100 percent for me. Craig is talking to me, all of our marketing is going to be talking to this one person, um, and all that kind of stuff. So that’s, I think that’s kind of where I’ve aligned is like taken some responsibility for sucking up till now, uh, and saying like, you know, we gotta kind of like put the, put these pieces together because it’s been done before. We can be competitive. Um, and just have to kind of go make it happen I guess.
Dave: 16:47 Well, here’s a question for you. Do you have a good answer for who has sales camp four? And I don’t mean just like sales professionals, like a very detailed, let’s say almost a persona and somebody that. Because that gives you an idea of who you should target and where you should talk and maybe where they hang out. I mean, have you, have you really got that part dialed in? Because that’s still something that I, I mean, I don’t want to say I’m struggling with that and were captured because I know that it, it really isn’t that the same. It’s not the same thing that you’re dealing with here, but trying to find like the right, like I know who were captured or is really good for, but finding who those things where they hang out, that’s the tough part or how to get in touch with them. I mean, you know, like I said, I would have 100 more of the guy that I talked to today. But do you know who sales camp who would be most successful with sales campaign?
Craig: 17:40 Yeah. So, uh, so from our whatever handful of customers and sales calls and demos that I’ve been on that are encouraging and people are saying, you know, nodding their heads the whole time. It’s a sas applications or marketplaces like custom web applications that run on stripe and most of them want to offer a referral programs as opposed to affiliate programs. So the differentiator there, I say typically it’s like a referral program is something for your existing customers affiliate programs or something for, you know, bloggers or whatever.
Dave: 18:17 Gotcha. Okay. So you’re basically just allowing existing customers to promote and then get credit for that promotion.
Craig: 18:23 Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so sales camp does both or either whatever. You can do both in the same program. Um, and we definitely integrate with stripe and we have rest API. So all those things already let you say like, okay, how can a stripe I can use the rest api to build this into my application. Um, and all those things make it a really nice tool for those kinds of people. And so we’re using an, a casto and we’ve done all those things and it works really well. We actually use it as an affiliate tool at Casto. Um, we let our customers sign up for the affiliate program and stuff too. But um, yeah, so, but, but I mean I think the problem is like I know the tool really well because I’ve been involved in the product stuff and working with our developers. Um, but people coming in see a lot of the rough edges on it still, you know, and it’s like, oh, what is this thing and what I had to do to stripe here and you could tell me I have to integrate this into my code and all this kind of crap.
Craig: 19:23 And I’m like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, which is an interesting thing because like, you know, this is something that I think we touched on with courtney last week is that like when you get integrated into somebodies APP and into their business, you get, you become a really sticky product for them and you would expect turn to be really low. But conversely, probably like uc little bit Dave, like adoption for those kinds of businesses is inherently going to be lower than for profit. Well versus bare metrics where you just hit a button and connect to your stripe account and it’s not a big deal to connect to the other one instead, you know?
Craig: 20:45 on you right now. I mean it’s uh, it’s, I mean it’s kind of the nature of the beast. Like you can’t just pass information to stripe without passing the information to stripe. You know what I mean? Like something has to happen and we have to send that data somehow. So we’re looking at some different ways to do it. But yeah, currently it definitely is like whatever. It’s one line of code in your APP that you have to, to add, but you have to add that piece of code in the APP. And so yeah, we’re looking at like what if we used, what if we gave our customers the option of giving a like coupon code or discount codes instead of using referral links. So then you wouldn’t have to integrate anything into the APP. It’s just like, you know, Bob’s discount goad, obviously riff attributes the sale back to Bob, right?
Craig: 21:31 Because it’s Bob’s discount code. So we’re looking at doing that instead of like, you know, if someone clicks Bob’s linkedin’s in the metadata does stripe or whatever. So um, we’re looking at doing some of that kind of stuff, not, you know, there’s questions about like conversion rates and all that kind of stuff. If people use coupon codes instead of links and stuff. But that would definitely reduce some of the friction for people to get started. It’s just how successful would they be if they did, if they went that way. Well, have you also talked to your customers and ask them, you know, so you had all these great sales calls and then they’re not converting afterwards. So do you follow up with them and say, look, I’m going to keep stocking you until you tell me why the fuck you didn’t sign up for this thing? Was it too hard? Was it not the right solution? Did you have features that were missing? No. Beard had been chicken shit about it for sure.
Craig: 22:22 You can’t be chicken shit and do all of those things. And then have nobody talked to you, which. No, I mean this is a really good point. I mean this goes to like a whole different conversation, but uh, so we talked about email tools, whatever two weeks ago, um, coincidentally. So podcast motor is now on convert kit. I’ve tried to move casto off of drip to three different providers now and I keep coming back to drip so we’re going to stay there for a while, but I think that the high touch level of something like sales camp and you might be in the same boat, Dave lends itself to the crm nature of a tool like active campaign active campaign has like a full on built in crm tool where you can like pass whatever activity data from an app into the crm there and they say, oh, this is a high value lead or this person is achieved this thing, so you need to trigger whatever this kind of workflow or whatever. Um, so I’m going to look to move to that tool to get kind of more of our activity organized around the really high touch sales and follow up after they can whatever convert or don’t convert. Um, because we don’t have like credit card up front. So we have to actively convert everybody as they come in the door.
Craig: 23:45 Well, I
Dave: 23:45 mean without information you’re just flying blind in the dark here man. So I mean here, here, it’d be my suggestion to you in this sales frustration hill that you’ve got all those sales calls that you’ve done in the last 60 days. Spend the next week following up with every single one of them on the phone and just find out what, what stopped you from signing up with us? I think right there. That’ll tell you the next direction where you need to go or at least whether like if they all said, oh, I went to this tool because of this long host of features over here that you just don’t have and are not going to get anytime soon. Then you can be like, oh, that sucks. So I know that I’m just not on feature parody with my competitors. But if they’re like, well I just, I can’t use what you’re saying or I, you know, I’m not going to get value out of this. Or it’s just not that big of a priority. Now that tells you a lot too. So I mean there’s gotta be some reason, right?
Craig: 24:43 Yeah. It is interesting in the conversations I’ve had, the ones that haven’t gone well have all been for different reasons. It’s probably one of the biggest frustrations is, you know, hey, can use discount codes instead of links or hey, you have a mobile Sdk or hey, uh, can I have like multilevel marketing ability to give like tiered rewards back to like the best people and I’ve gotten a lot of difference requests and I think it’s probably because our marketing is not specific enough, you know, if we’re marketing is really clear, I just wouldn’t get on the phone with some of these people, which in reality is okay, but the ones that came in and saw like this is the tool for referral programs on stripe for custom web applications. Okay. Like, you know, we’re in the right Ballpark, at least, you know.
Dave: 25:36 Yeah, yeah. That would make a huge difference. Having the right that your marketing message is attracting the right kind of customers that all have a consistent set of needs so that you can address those consistent set of needs without having to be all over the map.
Craig: 25:50 Yeah, because I mean it is really discouraging to be searching for product market fit and everyone telling you something different, you know, because then you can’t go say if we build this thing then we’ll be good because it’s like fuck riff, go build these 20 things,
Dave: 26:07 you know, if it were only that easy. Yeah.
Craig: 26:11 So yeah, I dunno. Um, but you know, so dave is part of this. I am a strongly considering uh, learning some like code and Ui stuff until you have decent Ui chops from working on, learned some code as part of this because like we have a lot of product work to do. Um, so I’m going to be working with somebody on code, I think a like a mentor slash developer kind of thing.
Dave: 26:42 So got to do like that Brian Castle
Craig: 26:44 thing and actually learn how to build the APP yourself. Chatting with Brian in the slack group that were in earlier today because I mean he’s really inspired me honestly. I mean like Brian shipping all this crazy stuff he shipped in the last few months is super inspiring. Like anybody doesn’t follow Brian, like on twitter cast jam, this is my handle on twitter is really doing a lot of cool stuff these days. But yeah, Dave totally mean, you know, learn a little bit of rails won’t ever hurt me, you know, in my career and at this point like we need the business needs a lot of product and like I, he got to figure out a way to make it happen.
Dave: 27:18 Yeah. Well there’s definitely advantage in that but you know, there’s the flip side of it where you get so mired down in your development and this is the side where you’re not coming from a sales and marketing background but you’re just pure development. Then you just want to live in the code all the time. So yeah. Yeah, that’s definitely not, not good either. But having those skills to be able to build something to prototype in it at the very least is huge. So yeah. Yeah, I would, I, I highly support this.
Craig: 27:50 Yeah. I mean I think the way I’m looking at it as, you know, little tweaks, small features, things like that I’ll probably build. And then, you know, someone that I’ll work with, we’ll build the bigger things and more kind of mission critical stuff, but you know, changing the layout here are making this button, connect to that thing over there, I can do that. And it’s just easier. Like I mean, part of the way you probably the pain you see with working with your developer Mick, is that like when you need to thing done, you got to say, okay Mike, we need to do this thing and how long it’s going to take and blah blah blah and it’s three weeks and you’re like, how the fuck could this be three weeks? Just go change these three lines of code and make this thing happen or whatever. Like it’s just,
Dave: 28:27 well I don’t really have those conversations with Mike because usually Mike’s coming back to me saying, oh well did you think of this? And there’s this one thing over here. And by the way, we have to update the worker to do this crazy ass thing over here that you didn’t realize was there. And I’m like, okay, yes, I totally get it. You know. So in that sense, I, you know, I don’t have to worry about him bullshitting me because I know we have a deep trust and you know, if he says this is going to take this amount of time, it’s like that’s usually the upper bound of that, which is awesome. But that also means that, you know, if he says it’s going to be 144 hours that I’m like, okay, I can’t bring that in. So yeah, that’s, that’s a different conversation altogether.
Craig: 29:13 Yeah. Yeah. So yeah man, I mean that’s, that’s kind of where, where things are with sales camp in a nutshell. I mean it, and I don’t mean to, to, uh, be negative about the tool because I mean, like I said, we use it for sales camp fans or visa for cast and it’s perfect. It does everything we need it to. We have some really cool features in there already and our buildings more. Um, and I think it’s, I think it’s honestly probably a little bit of onboarding and the friction that we get there. Um, and a lot of just marketing to the right people. So that’s kind of where I’m going to focus here in the next couple of months. Um, because I do think that I do think it’s worth making it work, you know, like if it was just another kind of flippant business that was just going to be okay, I probably wouldn’t worry about it, but I think it could be like a really big nice business. Um, and so we’re going to stick with it.
Dave: 30:06 Yeah. And it’s tough because you never know if you’ve hammered enough on it to say this is the right thing or not. And that market, you know, I wish I had great inspirational suggestions on marketing channels to hammer out with this, but, you know, sales camp is not in my space of expertise and I don’t know where the people who are doing these things are hanging out necessarily and you know, with why would they pick your solution over something else that exists out there that are existing referral things. So I don’t know, man. I don’t know.
Craig: 30:40 Yup. Yup. So, uh, yeah, I hope this wasn’t too much of a Debbie Downer, a episode, but I think we, uh, I think we have like an obligation to kind of keep it real with, uh, with talking about the downs as much as the ups and the challenges, especially for folks who are just starting out. This is the reality they’re faced with on a regular basis. You know, trying to get some off the ground and have a product and nobody’s buying it and you’re like, why is nobody buying it? This is a, this is the real hard question. I think when you have some success, then you look at this even more and say like, fuck, this is just hard. Like why is this not working out? And it just gets really discouraging so
Dave: 31:18 that it does that. It does. So if you have any comments or suggestions for Craig sent them in email@example.com, we’d love to hear from you. And I’m sure Craig would love that magic silver bullet to make sales can’t take off. And if you have a moment and you find that we have been valuable for you are asked, as usual is to share our podcast with somebody else you think would benefit until next week.
Speaker 4: 32:46 Yeah.
Intro: 32:50 Thanks for listening to another episode of rogue startups. If you haven’t already, head over to itunes and leave a rating and review for the show for show notes for each episode and a few extra resources to help you along your journey. Head over to rogue startups.com to learn more.