The Single Best Question I’ve Ever Asked My Prospects

best customer survey question

best customer survey questionThis is going to be one of the shortest posts you’ll ever read from me but I have to get this out there.

I have a long form sales page.

It’s not converting as well as I’d like. I’ve been relying on people going all the way through my free email mini course in order to educate them on the product but without enforcing it as a first step.

Dumb, I know.

But in the past it was working mostly because I was happy to work on all the other random irons I had in the fire and I knew (thought) that Distressed Pro (my site) would continue to grow slow and steady if I just kept doing the things I had been doing…. maintenance mode I suppose. And it did, revenue grew by more than 60% in 2013.

That approach was fine until I set a goal to triple my business this year.

Now it doesn’t feel like that plan is working so well. Bounce and conversion rates  haunt me. My leaky funnel is the first thing I think of when I wake up and often the last thing I think of before bed. I’m running through funnels and sales copy in my head constantly. I’ve become obsessed. What can I do to get this right?

I was trying to develop my sales funnel in a vacuum.

  • Yes, I survey my customers semi regularly.
  • Yes, I get email replies from a large portion of my mini course subscribers.
  • Yes, I worked in the industry for a long time so I have a solid understanding of the struggles and aspirations folks have in that business.

But all that doesn’t tell me why people don’t buy from my sales page.

You can have all the social media interaction you like. You can respond to a sea of email. But what’s happening at the moment that someone is deciding whether or not they want to invest in your product? What’s happening right there at that moment?

I don’t know, um… Why not ASK them?

I’m a big fan of the Conversion Rate Experts.

While I was watching one of their videos they gave this one tip, that actually they sort of blew by, and then said – “it’s sort of like cheating isn’t it?”

My first thought was… “well who is really going to fill that out… nah, that will turn into another untrackable support channel nightmare like the live chat, meh, nah

Then I thought…. WTF am I doing making excuses already about how this will or won’t work? Implement the damn thing and see what happens.

So here’s the question I’m asking:

What lingering question might keep you from starting a trial today? Please be brutally honest.

WOW

The feedback that I’ve received just over the last 3 days has been a HUGE eyeopener.

It’s like my prospects are building the sales page roadmap for me. All of the objections, worries, concerns, not just about the service or security in the cart or whatever, but they’re leaving comments and questions – about their own ability to perform, questions about my credibility about the tour and on and on…

I can honestly say that I am better armed after 2 days of comments than I’ve been after reading countless blog posts and books and ebooks about sales letters.

Do this today if you’re not satisfied with your sales page conversion rate and I think you’ll be AMAZED at what you learn.

Testing for Startups 101

work from home internet business

This is a presentation I gave at our local Startup Meetup in Portsmouth, NH. This is a “Testing 101” introduction to the different types of tests, when to use which tests, elements you should test or just plain include in your pages and a bit more. I covered AB testing, multivariate testing, and heuristics.

I’ve grown my business by more than 60% this year, in part, by employing what I’ll show you in this presentation.

I included one  experiment idea that I had come up with which I’m about to run but haven’t as of this post. The purpose of the experiment would be to validate the pain point and/or language around the value proposition of your B2B saas, service, or product while you’re still “pre-code”.

I propose that by split testing the value proposition statements around your intended features with targeted LinkedIn ads you can more rapidly identify your most likely winners –  the features, the value propositions, etc.

They say the best way to learn is to teach. I’ve been running tests, some successful, many not, for my projects and I share some of those but I also pulled to together a lot of research to back it all up.

This is by no means a definitive guide to testing but highlights some successful experiments and offers a series of considerations for startups.

There’s also a resource list at the end of the presentation.

Better Saas Cancelation Feedback

Better Saas Cancellation Forms

I was inspired by this post from Ruben Gamez to improve my pretty weak cancelation form.

Previously I’d ask an open ended paragraph text “Why are you canceling?” and then require a checkbox confirming that you know I’m not keeping your data. Now I do this

UPDATE: I wasn’t tracking the form submission rate before I implemented this change but I am now and the submission rate is lower than 30%. I don’t know if this is good or bad but what it tells me is that 7 out of 10 times when someone is going to cancel they change their minds while they’re on this page. I suspect it has to do with the fact that I am sending them of to solve their specific problems via the links to the resources embedded in the questions.

No Technical Co-Founder Required

Technical Cofounder
Do you really need a technical co-founder?

Lately I’ve been attending more entrepreneurial or startup events in the Boston and Cambridge scene. It’s striking to me how many people are walking around with what they believe to be a good idea and they aren’t acting on it because they want a “technical cofounder”. It seems like it’s a topic that gets an inordinate amount of attention… every time.

I guess I don’t blame people for getting so stuck on it. They’re usually on the ‘business side’ of things and they desperately want to get something going, they think they have a great idea, AND they have no technical skills… and that’s fine. I also hear people say things like “well y-combinator won’t even take you if you’re solo”…. yawwwwnnnn… I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I got rich when I IPO’d and that the way I’m doing it is right, but I’ll tell you this you’re probably not getting into Y-combinator, and SO WHAT. Is that really your goal? Do you want a good story a bunch of VC and no control. What I want to know is –  Why do you want to build your idea, this piece of software (or ‘app’ or ‘site’)? What is the driving force? What is the reason that you feel you need to do this? Is it to ‘get funded’? Is it to IPO? Ugh, then you probably want to stop reading right here.

I built my first software product because I wanted a reliable, recurring income that paid at least my health insurance and ideally my base expenses (mortgage, cars, etc). Not a very sexy goal but it seemed totally attainable to me and I wanted it desperately. I wanted a business that was scalable, that had good margins, little overhead, and that was a product and NOT a service.

In real estate the money can be huge and then… nada. It’s a constant cycle of boom and bust and I was at the front end of a spectacular real estate implosion where no matter how hard I worked or how many deals I put up on the board nothing, nothing, nothing was closing… and I had a 3 month old and a 2 year old and a wife at home. Talk about uncomfortable. We’d have years when I made a lot more than most followed by a year where my gross was as much as I had paid in taxes the year prior. Holy shit that sucks. So I wanted needed a new business model. I landed on software, a subscription web application specifically.

I probably started thinking about what I wanted to offer (and not just that I wanted to make something) shortly before my son was born in the spring of 2009. I had kicked around with some WordPress websites or whatever for a couple of years before that but I wasn’t serious. In July of 2009 I got really really serious. Like do or die serious. I just had some major deal implosion which left me with nothing on the horizon in terms of income (did I mention the baby, the toddler, the wife and the mortgage?). I was on my way to a 3-day conference (not at all tech related) and I had just read the 4 Hour Work Week over vacation (I know it’s kind of cliche I guess but it’s the truth). I decided that I’d load the iPod with business podcasts for the long drive and just let the subconscious run and before I came home I would settle on an idea. That was the end of July 2009. I released my first software product (soft launch) in October of the same year. I made money  starting the first month and every month since. By the way I had almost zero technical skills when I launched and I had no technical cofounder.

I’m not going to tell you the first round was pretty, it was decidedly not pretty, but I still had people signing up at $97 per month and I was getting good feedback (by the way I’ve spent probably a grand total of maybe $500 on advertising in what’s now almost 2 years and income continues to grow).

Since releasing my first ‘alpha version’ (the nicest way I can think to refer to it) I released a rebuilt “Version 2.0” that is vastly superior to the first . In addition to these I have a new product in a totally unrelated space that I’m releasing very soon.

I’ve had friends ask me over the last year or so about how they’d go about developing their own products and now, as I’m moving around the startup scene, I’m seeing that there’s a real need for some basic info or at least a path. For now on this blog I’m going to focus on laying out everything I’ve learned as I’ve built these products and grown my business and that I’ve learned from the bumps and bruises of ‘solopreneurship’. My plan is to layout a working model of best practices for a non-technical person to get started with producing his or her own software, app, website, or pick-you-nomenclature. I’m going to focus on how to make a real product, not an affiliate website or an eBook or an Adsense site or whatever else, I know little to nothing about those topics except insofar as they relate to promoting a web app. I want to help you with getting your idea out the door and then maybe I’l talk about getting it found. If you want to learn about whether or not you should even pursue your idea, well that’s a whole topic and one that some other people know a whole lot more about than I.

My Distressed Loan and REO Data Business

I’ve been hard at work on distressedpro.com for the last couple of months and now I’m preparing for a proper launch during the month of January. I first conceived of the BankProspector this past summer. Its been coming to fruition since.

BankProspector gives real estate professionals instant access to the distressed real estate and loan data for every bank in the country. I hired a development team to write the database application and I hired a designer to put together the interface and make it pretty. The team has been improving it every month and now I think its ready for a proper push.

If you’ve found me here and you think you could use BankProspector in your business leave me a comment below and I’ll send you a special discounted rate ;).