Posts tagged: marketing

Business of Software Europe 2019

By , April 18, 2019 11:00 am

Last week I attended my the Business of Software Europe conference. This year the conference returns to Cambridge after a few years in Dublin and London.

This year the conference logo is the black squirrel, which is apparently a genetic mutation local to Cambridge.

As usual, an excellent conference with a wide range of topics and an interesting mix of speakers. I’m not going to go into detail on the talks, other folks will have already written them up in more detail than my sparse notes will allow. If you’re interested in high level strategic thought about how to run a software business, this is the conference for you.

But I did make a note of every book that a speaker or attendee mentioned.

Let It Go, by Dame Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley CH. This book was provided to all attendees by the conference.

Art of Profitability, by Adrian Slywotzky

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

The Games People Play, by Eric Berne

Rest, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

What Got You Here Wont Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith

Skin In The Game, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard

This Is Marketing, by Seth Godin

Clean Code, by Robert C. Martin

Building A Story Brand, by Donald Miller

11 Laws Of Showrunning, (PDF) by Javier Grillo-Marxuach . Also a podcast.

Powerful, by Patty McCord

The Art of Product Management, by Rich Mironov

What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard, by
Mark H. McCormack

Chimp Paradox, by Professor Steve Peters

The Manager’s Path, Camille Fournier

Radical Candor, by Kim Scott

Badass, by Kathy Sierra

Purple Cow, by Seth Godin

Film: Free Solo

Video: Steve Jobs marketing talk

Metcalfe’s Law, as the number of people rises, the number of connections gets out of control.

Conway’s Law, your designs are constrained by your communication structures. This graphic captures it all. Note the Microsoft graphic.

When things go wrong

By , January 16, 2014 1:10 pm

Sometimes you do things with the best of intentions and it all goes wrong. This week has been like that.


It all started out with the simple idea that we’d like to try to create a bit more business by contacting past customers that didn’t renew their software maintenance and see if they wanted to renew.

We’d had some feedback from some customers that they had missed the renewal notices that are included with their software updates and that they would appreciate a separate email from us to inform them. We took this feedback and created some appropriate emails that are sent 90, 60, 30 days in advance of the renewal date. We also send some email after the renewal date for a short period.

So far so good. Nothing wrong with keeping existing customers in the loop.


The problem occurred when we thought about the customers that had not renewed. Was it an error, an oversight or deliberate? Well of course we don’t know. I think the initial idea may have been to contact customers whose maintenance had expired just over 1 year ago. That’s borderline OK. CRM solutions such Hubspot, Act-On etc all recommend 1 year as the cut off threshold for contacting customers. Anyone over a year, you don’t contact. The reason we were going just over a year was to do with when we’d first introduced paid software maintenance. It fell just over a year.

We also thought that contacting these customers would be a good opportunity to get some feedback about why they hadn’t renewed. Where we doing something wrong? Or had their career changed? etc.

I produced lists of customers, organised by software product whose maintenance expired. The lists included their name, email address and maintenance expiry date. The intention was that customers would receive a personalised email that identified the product they used and did they know their maintenance had expired?

What actually happened

Normally we email customers evaluating our software in HTML email via our Hubspot account.

Customers that have purchased our software received email in plain text or very simply HTML email.

But customers receiving the maintenance renewal email received a HTML email in a different format to our normal Hubspot format, not sent via our Hubspot account, sent from an email account our customers have never heard of, with an incorrect email address in the body of the email. The emails were not personalised, not were they specific to the software tool the customer had purchased. In addition some of the email addresses in the list shouldn’t have been in the list. As a final nail in the coffin of getting this wrong, the emails were sent to customers well outside of the time boundaries initially specified.

I don’t think we could get it much more wrong if we tried. Well, I suppose we could have included some Not Safe For Work or some malware, but short of doing that we got this as wrong as we could have done. Very embarrassing. I’ve been writing email apologies to people left right and centre the last few days.

The Result

Some people unsubscribed. No problem. We expected that some people would. Turns out some people were using different languages or made larger changes in their career and no longer needed our tools.

Some people emailed asking if it was a phishing scam (mainly due to the format, incorrect email address, unusual sending email address, etc).

Some people complained that we were horrible unscrupulous people. Ouch.

In summary, we annoyed some people by being inept at this particular task. We could have done this so much better. And I’m embarrassed by it all.

If you have received one of these emails I humbly apologise. It won’t happen again.


As a result of this unintended email episode I’ve created some basic rules. We’ll probably extend these rules as we go.

  • If you can’t personalise it, don’t sent it.
  • If you can’t specify which product you are emailing about, don’t sent it.
  • Don’t send generic, catch-all emails. See previous two points.
  • Ensure all emails are within the date range you intend. Double check them.
  • Don’t accept excuses from marketing for why things are being done a particular way.

The whole purpose of this task was that apart from generating the lists it wouldn’t involve me and I could get on with the technical side of running the business. It hasn’t worked out that way. I’ve had to spend time reviewing other’s work, accepting their reasons for why this way or that way. I’ve paid for their labour and now I’m writing an article about what went wrong.

Email Addresses

All email addresses used were sourced from our own customer lists.

We don’t buy email lists. We don’t sell them either. We regard buying or selling email addresses as Bad for Business.

Ogilvy Lab Day

By , November 22, 2012 11:50 pm

Friday 26 October 2012 was Ogilvy Lab Day, held at Ravensbourne next to the O2 Arena, London, UK.

I apologise if any details are incorrect (please notify me) as I am writing these notes from my hand written notes on the day. I can’t always read my own writing!

Ogilvy Lab Day has been running for 10 years (I think) and this was the first time they have held the event outside of Ogilvy. Another first, they allowed members of the public to attend . You had to apply and if they thought you matched their criteria you could attend.

The audience was comprised of media creatives, advertising people, marketing people and another group which they referred to as “coders”. Thanks but I’ll keep my software engineer title. Coder implies I don’t think, just do as I’m told. The reality is if you want anyone any good, you want a creative person, a software engineer/developer. Whether the use of the word “coder” is ignorance or deliberate I don’t know. Based on continued reference to coders through the day by various speakers I think they see the creativity completely on the media/advertising/marketing side and software people as merely people to do their bidding. I hope that isn’t the case. Given the increasing reliance on interactive marketing having good software people is and will increasingly become a must, even in the advertising industry.

The day starts with an introduction about education, DMIC (Digital Media Innovation Consultancy) and the relationship with Ogilvy and the future of the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund). Ogilvy and Ravensbourne have had a relationship for the past several years, which has benefited both parties, with Ogilvy hiring some talented graduates from Ravensbourne.

The room contained 3 large screens. One large screen at the front and smaller screens at each side. The event was filmed. Video clips were interspersed with the talks. The title of the day was “Storytelling”. As such, the day covered various topics and contained stories from two women during the day.

More people attended than could fit in the main room. Apparently these people could watch from monitors in another room. Many extra people crammed into the room and stood around the edges or sat on the floor. An A4 ring bound white paper (40 pages) was available on each seat – “Making magic, using logic”. This file described some of Ogilvy’s methods for creating their work. I was lucky enough to get a chair and white paper.

A couple of animated clips of points from Rory Sutherland’s Wiki Man book were shown on the screens.

Branded Entertainment

This talk was given by Doug Scott and Cody Hogarth.

Ideas can come from anywhere.

They demonstrated several examples from the 60s, 70s and 80s. One such example was a Flintstones cartoon promoting Winston’s Cigarettes from the 1960s. How times change!

This is called Brand Equity.

Fast forward to 2010 and it’s all about co-created content. This is Collaboration Equity.

  • 77% of TV viewers watch with another device at the same time.

  • 40% of viewers watch and surf the web at the same time.

  • 68 million on mobile.

  • 248 million on tablets by 2015.

The “Fear of Missing Out” (FoME) is driving all this.

2011/2012 is the tipping point. Content must work on multiple platforms. An example given is Coca Cola’s “content 2020” program.

The speakers observe that “creative excellence is going to be superceded by content excellence” and that “VC funds are redirected from tech to content”. This is a $1.8 trillion market.

Types of program

Digital – downloadable or streamed, Broadcast – traditional TV broadcasting, Event – related to an event (for example the Olympics), Property – or related to a property of some sort.

Example: Make It Possible (I have note next to this indicating Coke 2020). Entertainment first, advert second. It’s not even a balance.

Example: Red Bull content for brands. Started by paying for the content to be shown on networks. Now the content is so high quality and there is a demand from the networks for extreme sporting content Red Bull can charge for their content. There is never an explicit advert for their product, but the branding is all over it. Red Bull’s work is produced by their own in-house media company, Red Bull Media House. Red Bull also release their work on a dedicated You Tube channel.

We were shown an excellent extreme snowboarding video promo which I later found on the Red Bull Media House website. It doesn’t appear to be available anymore, but this page contains videos of similar quality for other sports.

Example:Carling Lager. Carling Black label football campaign.

Example:Intel. The “vice magazine” creative project.

Example:Canon: “Project imagination”. This improved Canon’s marketshare.

Example:Mont Blanc watches. This was a compilation of 1 second videos to celebrate the beauty of a second.

Example:American Express. The Hidden Talent program. Sorry I couldn’t find any examples of this work.

The barrier for participants in these types of programs must be as low as possible and must be social and/or viral.

Branded Entertainment Assessment Model

Content strategy leads to brand wealth.

Story about IBM’s Watson computer which featured on the US TV show Jeopardy. By the end of this unusual appearance of a computer on a TV game show, the results were 21x revenue with 3x profit. An estimated $50m marketing value.

The talk now moves on to discuss BEAM, the Branded Entertainment Assessment Model, which is described in detail in the white paper.

A reference is made to which can be seen at

Case Study #1 Storytelling

This story is told by Pat Cadigan, a female American science fiction author. Pat’s story is hilarious and involves nearly dying from anaphylactic shock (twice), once from prescribed drugs and the second from a contraceptive vaginal sponge that failed to work properly.

Two quotes from this story stood out.

“Children are wonderful, where do all the mediocre adults come from?”


“Make a difference, don’t hate your life.”

Case Study #2, Ford and Channel 4

This case study is presented by Cody Hogarth and Rob Romsay.

The case study is about “The Endless Winter (A very British surf movie)”. The movie is about surfing in the UK and features two surfers spending a year (I think) travelling the UK in search of surf, travelling, sleeping and living in the Ford S-Max on the days they are away from their families surfing.

The Ford S-MAX is an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle), not SUV and is aimed at people in their early 30s who have a family but are still active with sports. Surfing seemed an ideal vehicle for this, sorry I didn’t intend that pun. It’s a crowded market so they used content marketing to penetrate the market.

They created a website for The Endless Winter which garnered over a million views.

The aspriational product placement film was re-scripted to make it more like a “Channel 4” production. More graphics were added to the film to make it appeal more to non-surfers. This is known as surf-porn.

The film was 90 minutes in length. This was then edited into 3 films of 30 minutes so that it could be shown as a film or as three separate shows depending on the channel or time of day it was being shown.

2.7 million digital viewers.
14 million broadcast viewers.
167 million watches.

They also held 8 events (2 at beaches and 6 in cinemas).

The film won an award at a film festival.

The £3 million price was paid by Ford.

Case Study #3, Transmedia Skins

This case study talked about the TV series Skins and how different media were used in the creation of Skins and the overall strategy. Skins is not just a TV series.

The creation of Skins as well as involving the traditional TV script writers, actors, production crew etc, also involved a content design company, games and adverts.

The main problem is how to deal with multiple series of a TV show when sometimes the characters are different from series to series.

50% of views are not from broadcast TV. 4oD is also available as an app. Viewing also happens on iPad and XBox. Much of the viewing is time-shifted from the original broadcast time. Demographics are 16 to 34.

There are two timelines. The first timeline is the video/casting timeline. The second timeline is the offline timeline where they make the characters “live” using Facebook posts, tweets and interviews. This second timeline is independent of the video, although it has to be in sync and cannot reveal any spoilers for the video. To do this they hired extra staff to play the offline part of the characters and develop plot/storyline for the offline periods (between each series). They developed a custom software tool to do the job – a beats and stories tool.

Panel Discussion – The Virtuous Cirle of Transmedia Storytelling

The panel comprised Doug Scott (Ogilvy), Bruce Daisley (Twitter), Danielle Style (Tumblr), Ian Forrester (BBC R&D), Cait O’Riordan (BBC Olympics).

I only have rough notes for this.

BBC Olympics had:
57 million unique users
111 million streams of video
12 million video streams to mobile devices
Did not exceed BBC’s capacity planning despite the planning being guesswork (no baseline to work with – previous Olympics and Commonwealth games with less people having broadband, no reference point). All it all worked just fine! Result.

“Binders full of women” Obama campaign produces Romney misstep.

“Tidal wave of crap that comes at us”.

Tracking sentiment via social media during Olympics.

Viral is a dirty word

The speaker is Olivia Rzepczynski.

The talk starts with some examples of what constitute a hit. “overnight successes” to organised events to completely unplanned successes.

The Gangnam style hit by “PSY” is not an overnight hit. This is his 6th album.

Red Bull Stratos.
8 million view live.
60 million views.

490 million people viewed Charlie Bit My Finger. $500K earned by the family. Now pursuing a collaboration with Ragu.

Four percent of YouTube videos get over 100,000 views.
YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world.

5 Step Plan

  1. Have a plan of action
  2. Creative in context
  3. Optimise first
  4. Distribute and promote
  5. Measure what matters

1) Have a plan

You need to identify a trigger event for your video. What will cause this to be interesting?

You need to account for different screen sizes. 20% of YouTube video is watched on mobile devices.

Define your “post-play” interaction (PPI). This is the conversion. Examples might be signing up, watching a movie, downloading a white paper, etc.

2) Creative in context

What is the job to be done? (Clay Christensen will love that :-))

Entertain Brand reappraisal
Inform Product acquisition
Support Make lives easier

Sources of video:

  • Pro
  • Pro-am
  • Archive
  • User generated
  • Sponsored

3) Optimize

Work out the script beforehand.
All dialogue, stunts etc.
Tags, metadata, etc.
Channel naming (video SEO – VSEO)

4) Distribute and Promote

Distribution channels:

  • Paid
  • Owned
  • Earned

You need to careful how you do this. This advert for Liquid Plumr went viral and even ended up on porn sites.

5) Measure what matters

Measure conversions as well as likes/plays

Case Study/Panel Discussion

There was a case study but nothing I felt worthy of noting, followed by a panel discussion for which I have no notes. Can’t have been that interesting 🙂

Story Telling – Incredible Edible

The next speaker was an amazing lady from Todmorden Incredible Edible. She told the incredible story of how Todmorden went from an ordinary slightly run down town to a place covered in vibrant planters, disused land turned into viable allotments, crime reduced. And all of this done by volunteers spending time tending to plant beds, replacing weeds and flowers with edible food.

The talk was wild, funny and informative. The speaker (I think may be Pam Warhurst) was mad, passionate and crazy (in a good way). Brilliant. Talk about audience engagement. A great speaker at any event and a superb inspiration for what can be achieved in a community.

Food, creating a revolution.
“If you eat, you’re in”.
Every egg matters.
Vegetable tourism.
Green Route Map.
The power of small actions.

Sexy Little Numbers

The next talk was by Dmitri Maex, co-author of the book Sexy Little Numbers.

The subtitle is “How to grow your business using data you already have”.

You can also use free data. Free data is available in product reviews. For example look on Amazon at any product then look at the product reviews for that product. For me, I always read the best AND the worst reviews and include those as data points along with everything else I already know about a product.

Data Visualization, referencing Ed Tufte (giant in this field, Google him).

Useful guidelines:
Graphical Integrity
Data Ink (amount of ink must correspond to size of data)
Chart junk (don’t add stuff to a graphic that is decoration, that has no value)
Tag Clouds
Story Telling

An example is soso limited and the creators project.

Apparently a talent crunch is coming. There are not enough people with good, relevant statistics training. As such getting good analytics in the future may be hard.

“Everyone has got a plan until they get punched in the face”, Mike Tyson.

Agility. OODA loop, created by man that designed the F16 fighter.

Sense -> Orient -> Create -> Intent -> Sense -> Orient ->…

Data is used in the basement, but not in the boardroom. This needs to change.

Random notes:
New Data
Double Hub blog (sorry, I couldn’t find this)

At the end of the day Dmitri signed and gave away a large pile of his books. I haven’t yet had time to read Dmitri’s book. When I do I’ll write it up. It looks really interesting.

Rory Sutherland

Rory was the last speaker of the day. He had been unwell prior to the talk but decided he was well enough to attend. He was talking about behavioural economics.

People are influenced by:

Habituation What I do
Contagion What others do
Context When and where I do
Social pressure

Market research, problems.

Sunk cost bias. Innovators dilemma.

Things need to be consistent.

The framing of student loans in the UK.
If you call it a loan people feel like their is a nose around their neck for the rest of their life. This is wrong because you only pay the money back if your income exceeds a certain threshold and even then you pay it back as a small increase on your income tax. There is no penalty for late payment and no bank to foreclose on you. If you reframe the student loan as simply a small increase in your income tax until the money is repaid it is clear for any student from any background, wealthy or poor to see that they don’t have a noose around their neck and the offer is a good one.

Start with theories then use the data to validator or invalidate it.

Reference to Peter Drucker (he gets into so many talks!)

I have an MP3 of this talk, but at this time I don’t have permission to post it. When I do I’ll make the MP3 available. When I get more time I’ll provide detailed notes of Rory’s talk from the MP3.

As usual Rory’s talk was very funny and entertaining.


I’m very pleased I could attend Ogilvy Lab Day and delighted that I was allowed to attend. I’m not exactly a media type, whatever one of those is. I don’t use that term as an insult. It’s simply that I don’t know what jobs most of the other people in the room do. I guess most were marketing, sales, media creation (design, graphics, video, audio), etc. There were some software people there as well.

It was an interesting experience being there. At first I wondered why I had attended. I was watching these lovely videos (some of which I’ve managed to include here and others which I could not find to show you) and listening to these interesting talks about an industry I know nothing about. And I was thinking “this is great, really interesting, but why am I here? What can I learn? And can I help anyone else that is here”. Anyway as the day progressed the topics turned more towards things relevant to the software industry and I started to understand more of what is involved in the transmedia industry. I have a much better understanding and respect for the work these people do than I did before I arrived. It’s clear the people in this industry are there for the same reasons people enter the software industry. They enjoy it. They thrive on being creative and having a challenge.

It’s the same and it’s totally different. If that makes sense.

I really enjoyed it. It was a blast.

And I got to see the Millenium Dome, now christened the O2 Arena. Much smaller than I expected. I just don’t understand where the money went. A billion pounds (1.6 billion dollars) for that? You’ve got to be kidding.

MicroConf 2011 – Noah Kagan

By , August 17, 2011 12:00 pm

Noah Kagan currently runs AppSumo. Prior AppSumo, Noah worked at and Gambit. Noah blogs at

Noah starts his talk with an MP3 rap looping “buy something, buy something…”

He surveys the room for entreprenuers, developers, wannaprenuers, etc. Says he wants to change your life, gives brief bio of where he has been etc. Intel, Gambit, Mint, AppSumo.

His talk is in 3 parts: Improving yourself, being unique, improving your business.

As his talk progresses Noah gives out hot sauce for interesting insights from audience. Also gives out stickers with one having a special code on it for a prize from appsumo. Audience engagement is good.

I didn’t know a thing about Noah Kagan before this talk. He is high on energy and focused on things that most people probably are not. I really enojoyed his talk, although the handing out of Srircacha sauce got slightly out of hand at one point (not Noah’s fault).

Improving yourself


Noah only answers email twice a day. Once at the start of the day and once at the end of the day. He does this to avoid wasting time by being in reactive mode always scanning and answering email.

Benefits: Lots of free time.
Downside: Hard to have fast moving discussion.

I can relate to this. I think this will work for you or not work for you depending upon your business. If we operated Software Verification this way customers would wait a long time for customer support – I don’t think it would work for us. But there is a good germ of an idea here. If you can’t just reduce it to twice a day, can you reduce it to once per hour, or once per two hours?


Don’t waste time typing, ensure you type efficiently.

If you type 30 emails day, 50 words/email how much time do you save? If you go from typing 50/wpm to 60/wpm that is a 20% improvement. Over a year you can save a day of typing. This is fine at these speeds but doesn’t work if you are already typing at 80..100/wpm, the % improvements are smaller (12.5% & 10%).

This topic generated quite a bit of discussion later. Not many folks agreed with it because they already typed reasonably quickly. Later on several of us had a chance to chat to Noah about this over a beer. He is really focused on people that haven’t learned how to type with this comment. In that context I agree. However I think its more important to think about what you are typing before you type it. Doesn’t matter how fantastic you are at typing if what you are typing is rubbish.

The point is not typing so much as “what things in your life can you improve to save you time? To give you more time?”

Examples of this:

  • Type efficiently
  • Better tools, don’t use gmail – reactive waterfall
  • Use chrome
  • Use a faster computer. If you are waiting for your computer you are wasting time. Speaking to many MacBook Air users it seems that SSDs are a major win.
  • Annoying people, filter them in gmail. Don’t delete, filter that way they are gone for good.
  • Annoying email, filter.

Don’t allow people to waste your time. Ensure you use your time effectively.

During this part of the talk, Noah upsets a member of the audience and handles it really well. The member of the audience had won one of the bottles of Sriracha sauce and Noah had passed it back to her. What Noah didn’t know was that she was upset with him for a graphic he had shown (which he had intended to be a joke) and she threw the bottle back at the stage. She didn’t throw it far enough and if landed on some guy’s MacBook, split open and covered his keyboard with sauce, then bounced up, just missed Noah and splattered the back of the hall with sauce. No idea what happened to the MacBook, I hope she helped the unfortunate recipient to clean/fix it. (I didn’t see this incident, I was watching the slideshow. I saw the end of it, but the MacBook part of it was related to me by someone else, so it may not be correct, if you know better, please let me know).


Found out that the routine of exercises for the marathon was really effective at improving his life and how he thought. Make a routine for exercise.

Interestingly since Noah’s talk some studies into depression and brain function have been released and they confirm improved brain function is linked to exercise. I don’t have references to this, I heard this on a BBC Radio 4 program related to this. On a personal note I swim 1km several times a week. I often get solutions to problems while swimming.


Noah puts everything on credit cards. Never puts anything on debit cards.


Noah sets aside time time for reading every day. During this time he does nothing else. This is a good way to take a break from “normal” work and also to educate yourself.

Difference between remembering and forgetting? Writing things down. This is also particularly effective as writing things down forces the information to be internalised differently in your brain. So as well as having a permanent written record the information is also stored in your brain in a different form.

Being unique

Be unique. What makes you, you? Differentiate yourself.

Noah consumes information from a variety of sources and recommends that you do to.

Interestingly Noah does not rate HackerNews. He gets his information elsewhere.

Interesting / Boring

Shows a job posting (boring) then another job posting (interesting) for the same job. The boring one is the standard one. Which application would you prefer to receive? The safe, boring one, or the one taking a risk by being unique?

Noah gives some examples of other people being unique. How do you do extraordinary things? How do your surprise people? He then follows this with a story of how AppSumo messed up which ultimately improved how AppSumo behave today.

Customer for life

Noah thinks you should treat people as customers for life. How would you treat customers if you could never lose one of them? What changes would you have to make to meet this goal?

Noah uses to automatically create followups and never miss an appointment again. For him its a real time saver and email management helper.

Improve your business

Create Rules and systems for improving your business.

Noah gives an example he uses at AppSumo, the Rule of three: Three deals per week. Make it happen. Simple.

  • Checkboxes for each stage in a deal. All have to be checked before it can go live.
  • Prevents foul ups.
  • Anything done more than once, automate it.


Plan your time each day so that you spend parts of each day doing tasks you need to do. Sure you can function without a plan, but things will be forgotten or left on the side and before you know it they are not getting done.

Success: The percentage of people that will work with you again


Find an advisor that is complementary to you. For Noah that person is Andrew Chen: Marketing guru, super advisor.


If you really want to do something, do it. No excuses.

At about this time Noah notices a conference attendee has fallen asleep. So he plays a trick (gets the audience to make a lot of noise) and the sleeping attendee wakes up wondering what he has missed.

Data driven decisions

AppSumo use data to drive all decisions in their business. Get people that bring problems to also bring potential solutions. Empower your employees to make their own decisions and take initiative.

Build models and test the models and experiment with new models. Google spreadsheet models are quite useful.

To close, Noah talks about RewardLevel – an AppSumo idea that failed.


I enjoyed Noah’s talk and found it interesting.

  • Value your time better (faster computer, etc)
  • Stop working on the wrong idea with the wrong people, use your time effectively – right business with the right people.
  • Test, experiment, use data.
  • Type Faster (wrong! type more efficiently)
  • Slides

Tomorrow I’ll post Ramit Sethi’s talk at MicroConf.

MicroConf 2011 – Patrick McKenzie

By , August 16, 2011 12:00 pm

Patrick McKenzie starts with a “I didn’t believe I could do this” preamble explaining how he ended up learning Japanese and choosing a career with a Japanese firm that nearly killed him through exhaustion until one day he stumbled across his future business idea by accident while trying to help a colleague create some bingo cards. Patrick blogs about his business at

For reasons I can’t remember Patrick’s talk is in two parts – perhaps the batteries ran out part way through. I’ve glued the two parts together. Hope you can’t spot the join (its about 3 minutes in).

No budget

Patrick had no budget ($60) and as a result had to be creative about how he did his marketing. He researched the bingo card market and found niches to target and went after those for his bingo cards. Slowly grew the business while working on it in his spare time.

Google Conversion Optimizer

Patrick found that Google Conversion Optimizer was useful for using with Google’s content network. Only display’s content adverts at places that convert.

The Google Halloween

Discovered that Halloween is useful for bingo cards – another spike of traffic for Patrick. He wrote a blog article about it, ended up getting called by Google because his blog article was out-ranking Google’s own blog articles!

Exact Match Domain

Exact Match Domain (EMD) is when your domain name is a perfect match for the search phrase. When this happens Google give you a boost to search ranking. An example would be a search for “New York Plumber” finding the domain EMD works for .com, .net and .org.

Breaking Free

Eventually Patrick realised the revenue from Bingo Card Creator was starting to outstrip his paid salary job. Finally one night while he was asleep he sold quite a bit of software then calculated the hourly rate for the job that was killing him and decided it was time to quit his job and start working for himself.


Patrick had some interesting observations about software pricing.

  • Programmers consistently underprice their software. You should double your price.
  • By charging more you automatically select out pathological customers.
  • Revenue is dominated by people spending other people’s money – monthly budget.
  • Recurring revenue is best.

Web apps

Reasons you should consider building a web app rather than a desktop app.

  • Sales double
  • No piracy
  • Faster iteration
  • Easier support
  • Better tracking of actual use
  • Better conversion rates

Make things easier for your customer, focus on the user experience.


For Patrick’s business 50% sales come from SEO, 75% profits come from SEO.

Create a reason why non-purchasers should cite your website. If someone doesn’t purchase still give them a reason to rave about you.

For all the non-core projects you do (A/B testing rather than bingo cards, etc) write about it and make it available for everyone. Give other people a reason to cite the work you’ve done. This is what Patrick calls the “Iceberg Effect”, the tip of the iceberg is the visible part of your company, the rest of your company is below the waterline and effectively invisible to everyone (and Google!). An example of this is the A/B testing system Patrick wrote for Ruby On Rails. He wrote about this and contributed the software to the community. The result was a lot more links pointing at his website, improving his Google rankings.

Create a system which makes content at scale. This isn’t possible for all businesses, but if it is possible for your business you should focus on this area for easy wins.


A/B testing, cheap + easy to do.
Optimize the first run experience
Work on sales funnel optimization
Collect stats on eval users and re-uses.

Customer support

Do not outsource customer support. Customer support is an important source of feedback plus a great way to make a customer happy or ruin the customer relationship. This needs to be under your control.

Awkward customers

Its a fact in life that some customers are much nicer to deal with than other customers. Its also a fact that some days you are just not in the mood for dealing with awkward customers. I know I struggle with this. Patrick has an interesting, if unusual solution for this problem. When he has an awkward customer, Patrick does not write the email. Patrick’s friendly customer support puppet writes the email instead. Patrick has never known his puppet to write a snarky email to a customer.

I don’t know what Patrick’s puppet looks like, but you can see Gwendoline on the right of this text. She’s a rather sweet witch I picked up from a Cambridge market years ago. I’m sure she’d never write a nasty email to a customer – although she might be tempted to cast a spell or two!


Outsource: Web design, web content, self contained programming projects.
Automate: Routine customer support tasks. If more than 3 times, automate it.
Eliminate: Don’t do stuff that isn’t useful, ask customers before doing (lean!).

Patrick has also written up his talk.

Tomorrow I’ll post Justin Vincent’s talk.

MicroConf 2011 – Ramit Sethi

By , August 15, 2011 12:00 pm

Ramit Sethi is author of the book I will teach you to be rich and also blogs at

Ramit’s talk was excellent and I’m glad I was present. He clearly knows a lot about pyschology. As with the other speakers I did record Ramit’s talk but Ramit has declined to allow me post the MP3 recording of his talk. Please do not ask for the MP3, I will not provide it. Sorry.

Ramit talks about behavioural change. How to get people to change their behaviour. For their own benefit and possibly yours too.

People are obsessed with micro-tests. Testing is important. But don’t over-test. Some tests are meaningless. You cannot test your way to success. You need to combine running the right tests with insight into what is significant and what is not significant.

You can cause behavioural change by deeply understanding your customers. Behavioural change can lead to business and/or personal success.

Said not received

Don’t do words that are said not received. Example of words that people use but which which wash of customers like water off a ducks back: “easy setup”, “fast”, “convenient”, “secure”.

Instead of “easy setup”, try “1 minute setup”. More specific benefit is better. “easy” doesn’t mean anything as it is a relative term, where as “1 minute” is a specific time amount and none-relative.

Think like a customer

Stop Thinking like an expert – don’t show off. Your customers don’t think like this or care.
Customers have their own problems, these are the problems that you should be answering.

Wrong: “What is the difference between corporate bond and mutual bond?”
Right: “How can I invest this $10,000 for the best return in 10 years?”

No one wants to be “financially literate”, they want to “know how to invest their money”.

You should write copy as if answering questions your customer have.

Paper Shredder

Ramit gives another example, this time using Paper Shredders. We’ve all used them. Ramit discusses the upsides and downsides of papershredders. He asks the audience for their ideas. Answers range from technical to benefits:

  • durability
  • security
  • number of pages
  • robust
  • hide your secrets
  • peace of mind
  • fear replacement
  • protect your identity
  • stop worrying

The number one problem with paper shredders is that they break. They typically break when they jam. Ramit then shows a very effective paper shredder marketing message.

“100% Jam Proof Shredder” (They even shred your scepticism).”

Note that there is no message on security even though all the competition messages on security. This works because the customers already know about the security benefits but they are sceptical on the reliability aspect of this product.

Customers come to learn, evaluate and buy. Your job is to improve this. Stop describing your product and start answering customer concerns. You need to understand your customer’s hopes, fears and dreams.

Proxy answers

When asking customers questions do not just accept the first answer. It may be the majority answer is a proxy for another answer. For example “I want to earn $1000 per month on the side” because “long term I want to be my own boss”. The second answer came from pushing back on the first answer.

Why ask people if they want to earn $1K on the side? Because $1K seems acheivable. On the side because you then know you don’t have to quit your job.

What do customers fear?

  • Price.
  • Isn’t worth the time to change.
  • Too hard to use.
  • Scared of breaking the computer.
  • Not enough time.
  • Is it right for me?
  • I can find this material myself.
  • I never finish things.
  • Price objections are often a proxy for some other objection.

Your testimonials should answer specific objections customers may have (using the list above).


Ramit deliberately excludes certain customers based on their profile. Ramit will not accept people with credit card debt. He knows that they are not good candidate customers, so he does not wish to waste time with them.

Solve the customer’s problems

Customers do not care about you. They care about solving their problems. Deeply understand their hopes, fears and dreams. Ethically help them acheive what they want to do, but they will not do for whatever reason.


Example survey:

Surveys are good. Ask surveys occasionally. Surveys should be no more than 5 questions and always fun to complete. Use the results of the survey to write another article for your blog. Use a good survey tool. Ramit uses

Perry Box

At one point in Ramit’s talk he showed a long form conversion page that converted really well. He then focused on a part of the page and said this is the “Perry Box”, it helps convert even more customers. I wasn’t quite sure what this was but when I asked Ramit he kindly provided me with a link about this. It’s type of button designed by Perry Belcher. This video describes how it works.

Results in Advance

Spend time writing material for your website. Deliberately set time aside to do this. This provides a lot of free material for your customers to digest. If they like what they find that increases their chances of becoming a customer. Ramit did this 6 hours a day for 30 days for one of his projects.

Price objections

Price objections are often a proxy for some other objection.
Ask your customers what their concern is – why are they visiting your site?


Asking people for testimonials is good, if they say yes they will be more commited to your product.

Web Forms

Remove all facebook and twitter badges from web forms. You do not want any distractions on a form.

Recommended Links

Ramit also recommended a website but it does not appear exist.

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