Christian Genco

Microconf 2016 Notes

Intro #

By the end of microconf, you should have three actionables:

  1. _
  2. _
  3. _

and three new relationships:

  1. _
  2. _
  3. _

"Building and Scaling Products" by Des Traynor #

@destraynor of

1. Strong vision #

Actionable: if you're having trouble making decisions, make a higher level decision about where you want to be and the smaller decisions will make themselves.

2. ? #

How to build an MVP

How to build an MVP

Actionable: when building a new product, your goal is to build the smallest possible thing that provides the most possible value. If you find yourself adding new features to get people to want it, you're probably not building something very valuable.

3. Manage your beta deliberately #

Actionable: if you have to bribe beta users to try your thing, it's a sign you're building the wrong thing

Actionable: if your beta users aren't giving you actionable negative feedback, they aren't very useful in improving the product

Actionable: qualitative feedback from a focused group of beta users is more valuable than quantative usage data from a gigantic list of beta users

Actionable: if your launch date keeps getting pushed further away, your vision of what you're trying to build isn't clear enough

4. Beta periods are lossy #

Actionable: when in beta, set your goal to be learning and exploring, not converting

5. Obsess about onboarding #

Actionable: onboarding is your most important feature (if your users can't onboard, they can't do anything else), so never stop improving it

6. Know the real competitors #

Actionable: pay more attention to your secondary and tertiary competitors than your direct competitors and you'll understand and solve the problem better

7. Know why people switch #

matrix of downsides and upsides

matrix of downsides and upsides

Actionable: to overcome switching inertia, pitch your product as 10x better (not just 2x) not just by saying why your solution is good, but also why theirs is bad and why switching to yours has minimal downsides

8. Product Roadmap #

all/most/some/very little % of time used by few/some/most/all % of your users graph

all/most/some/very little % of time used by few/some/most/all % of your users graph

Anthony Ulwick's framework for scoring features

Anthony Ulwick's framework for scoring features

Improving product usage #

Actionable: when deciding what to work on next, work on things that maximize product value for the greatest number of users. This is probably not building a new feature (which you have a bias to do because it's more fun), it's probably making an existing feature easier to use (which could just be by improving documentation)

Actionable: if you have to implement a new feature, implement the most important feature to your users (how do you know? talk to your users)

9. New features usually flop #

Actionable: sell the superpower, not the feature

Actionable: follow up with non users and learn what worked and didn't work

Actionable: work on improving feature adoption (amount of people that use it and amount each person uses it) instead of building new features

10. Consistently reset your opinions #

graph of actual vs. story path

graph of actual vs. story path

Actionable: give yourself permission to change your mind and realize you made a mistake

Actionable: when planning, build in a method of verifying you're going down the right path (ie: define what success would look like so you can test it later)

Q/A #

Actionable: charge more (if your users spend $80/month on coconut water, don't charge them $20/month for your software integral to their business)

Actionable: after deploying a new feature, make sure it's 1) documented, 2) in the marketing, and 3) email announced, then decide how important the feature is and how heavily you should pitch it (core features used by everyone should be pitched heavily; obscure facebook integrations will be found by the people that need it)

Actionable: when a user churns, ask them what went wrong, but don't expect to win them back

An Unconventional Business - Claire Lew #

CEO of Know Your Company - @cjlew23 -

Know Your Company #

Claire Lew #

Things we do (differently) #

1. Don't show the product on the website #

Actionable: study your customer and what they want so you know when to do things in a unique way that makes more sense for them

Actionable: when you really understand your customer and what they need, try making your landing pages a copy-heavy letter to them

2. Turn away potential customers #

Actionable: don't be greedy if it negatively impacts your long term success

Actionable: choose to market to the smallest possible market and your marketing will be easier and more effective

3. Never say "we're employee survey software" #

Actionable: don't sell a lawnmower, sell a mowed lawn

4. Charge only once #

Actionable: when you're small, optimize for learning, and only work on the most important thing

What's next? #

Actionable: give your customers inspiration on how to use your product

Moderated Question + Answer - Hiten Shah + Steli Efti #

"what suggestions do you have for improving onboarding?"

Actionable: do things that don't scale, especially when you learn from them

"When should we do 3rd party integrations?"

"When we're learning to sell, usually we're selling our own stuff, but then you don't know if your product sucks or if you suck at sales. How can we learn how to sell? Should we practice selling other people's stuff that we know is sellable?"

Actionable: know that you're going to make mistakes, and maximize for learning the most from them (ie: knowing that your sales ability and product suck, set yourself to learn as much as you can about why they suck)

"It seems like a psychological fear. Can you talk about setting internal goals?"

Actionable: set internal goals (like the stoics)

Actionable: relish failure that brings you closer to your goals

"How do you deal with burnout?"

Actionable: when you feel burned out, clarify your goal and the most effective action to move closer to it (it might not be comfortable, but you'll feel better for making more progress)

"Are there specific questions to ask yourself to pinpoint the cause of burnout?"

Actionable: if you feel burned out, take a step back to see what the next step towards your goal is

"Is there a good time of day to do cold calling? Tuesday afternoons seem to work for me."

"how do I business?"

"cold calling is illegal in Canada - should I hire a VA?"

Actionable: don't automate something until you can do it manually (ex: don't hire an accountant unless you understand the basics of what they're doing)

"how do I figure out what marketing channel to advertise on?"

Actionable: when you're not sure what to choose, set up small experiments designed to maximize learning (ex: hire 3 sales people at the same time when you only need one, try advertising in facebook and google adwords and see which converts better)

"how do I turn transactions into marketing material?"

"How do I cold call people when I hate getting cold called?"

Actionable: when selling, sell yourself on how your pitch could be the best part of someone's day

"how do you stay productive when you're doing a lot of different things?"

Actionable: when marketing, realize that you won't know if an experiment was successful until several days later

"how do you grow in a specific vertical?"

"How do you do enterprise deals, and how do you prevent getting crushed on price?"

"how do we figure out how to price when they're using excel (ie: no clear value proposal)? what's next after getting people onboard for whatever they want to pay"

"how do you come up with a marketing strategy/plan of scaling up?" - podcast motor

"how do you identify pricing tiers?"

Lessons from the SaaS Metrics of 1500 Companies - Patrick Campbell #

Price Intelligently: 20 person consulting firm, focused on pricing


As a recap, today we chatted about:

Is there a unified theory of SaaS growth? No, but there are trends:

  1. CAC fiends focus on the wrong benchmarks
  2. CAC fiends don't take customer development seriously
  3. CAC fiends focus too much on acquisition

Focus on benchmarks

Customer Development

Focus on Acquisition

How can we fix it? On a high level:

  1. Buyer Personas and Design
  2. Data Collection and Segmentation: ask demographic information, feature/packaging information (what do they need?), and pricing information (how much can they pay?)
  3. Data Consolidation and Analysis

1. quantify your buyer personas #

Ex: quilter box of the month club

2. implement a pricing process #

How much are you willing to pay?

Vanwesterndort model (use ranges):

took 8 hours and $1264 ( for $2 each)

3. multi-price mindset #



QUESTION: is this for online surveys? in person? surveymonkey?

Attendee Talks #

Lessons learned from a Year of Product Demos at Drip #


Execution: tools and automation


0 to $25k -> $38k MRR with a productized service since last microconf #

Lessons Learned #

Better fundamentals

Fire Yourself

Focus on Building

How We Generate 1,000+ Signups a Week for Our SaaS Business # @cgimmer

We Grew from $5k MRR to $25k MRR in 12 Months and How You Can Too #


Game ChangersThe Four Unfair Advantages for Faster SaaS Growth - Rob Walling #

Four Unfair Advantages #

1. Be Early #

2. Who you know #

3. Who Knows You #

4. Growth Expertise #

Not unfair advantages #

HitTail unfair advantages

Drip unfair advantages:

How they're a requirement for fast early growth #

How to improve yours #

Questions #

2016-04-05 #

Lessons Learned Growing Keynotopia - Amir Khella #

Year 1: Experiment

Year 2: Focus?

Year 3: Scaling and Growth

Final thoughts


From Funded to Self-Funded: The Story of WeddingLovely - Tracy Osborn #

@limedaring (not @limedarling)

Lessons learned regarding cofounders

Lessons learned:

  1. have an MVP live as early as possible
  2. always be networking: you never know what connection will create a new opportunity

Lessons Learned regarding writing

Bootstrapping vs. Funded company




Big takeaways


Patrick Collison #

"in the early days of stripe, was it harder to build the tech or overcome the red tape?"

"You can't really bootstrap a Stripe because you need credibility"

"Was word of mouth channel your primary marketing? What did you do in the early days?"

"What did growth look like? What traction channels did you use?"

"What metrics did you look at early vs. today?"

"Are there things you wish you could do over?"

"Do you have any big decision regrets?"

"Stuff that felt like premature optomization would've been a good decision in retrospect because you were growing so quickly?"

"Is EFT coming?"

Attendee Talks #

@NathanBarry #

  1. Decline
  1. Double Down
  1. Results

Creative Twitter Marketing Automation in 15 minutes/week by Ryan Battles #


Lessons From Manually Onboarding Out First 50 Customers #

Ben Orenstein @r00k

Kai Davis #

Think about:

  1. Who your best buyers are
  2. Increase in podcast listeners in the market
  3. Power of influencer recommendations

1. Best Buyer #

2. Growth of podcasting #

3. Influencer Endorcement #

Putting it together in Podcast Tours

  1. Reach Existing Audiences
  2. Make Direct, Personal Contact

Pitching podcasts

Expert interviews:

The Developer CEO - Peter Coppinger #

Part 1: The Hamster Years (1999)

If you Build it They Will Come, Right?

Preparing for Launch

Did 3 things right:

  1. built a great product
  2. treated customers like honored guests
  3. took every suggestion onboard

Riding the long slow SaaS ramp of death

Hell Night

Other mistakes:

Part 3: Growing Up

Be the CEO

Part 3 takeaways: be the CEO, hold quarterly meetings, set the vision, establish culture, establish processes, you don't have to have all the answers, trust others and let go, try "The Great Game of Business"


The Three SaaS Growth Levers that Keep you From Plateauing - Lars Lofgren #

1. Churn #

Reduction ideas:

2. Acquisition #

3. Lead Generation? #


  1. Make sure you have P/M fit and low churn
  2. Get cohort expansion in place with a great pricing metric
  3. Build your lead gen machine at the right time




Closing Reception #

Hallway #