How to validate your business idea, the right way? Marketers have become obsessed with conversion optimization over the last few years. We’re trying to squeeze conversions out of each part of our website. But are we forgetting there’s another human involved on the other side of the screen? We tackle that topic in today’s episode with Josh Pigford, the founder of Baremetrics, a metrics and focusing tool for startups.
Josh shared with us his 3-step plan for starting a new business, including how to validate your business idea, where to find your first customers, and cold emailing in the marketing industry.
- The unexpected reason why most new businesses won’t become scalable
- How to quickly generate a compelling business idea that attracts an audience
- Why you shouldn’t always listen to your customer feedback
- What holds back aspiring entrepreneurs from achieving their goal
- Where to find your target market in any industry
- Why waiting list landing pages aren’t the best validation for your product
- The popular tactic that is ruining your sales email campaign
- Why we should stop optimizing for conversion rates
- What the most human marketing strategy is today
- And more…
Listen to this Episode:
- Growth Hacking is Manipulation
- Tree House
- Data Camp
- Josh Pigford on Twitter: @shpigford
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com. The marketing podcast for marketers, founders and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host Louis Grenier. When I started my consulting business around three years ago–and since then I’ve left this consulting business–but almost, I think four years ago, I got inspired by companies like Buffer and Baremetrics because they were bringing transparency to an entirely new level. Sharing their revenues, sharing their mistakes openly. Basically almost opening up to the public.
Louis: As a consequence of that, I think that all of those companies doing things transparently, Baremetrics is another one. I think they do good marketing which is really fucking impressive. My guest today, you might have guessed, he’s the founder of Baremetrics. Which is a metrics and forecasting tool for small business. The interesting thing about the founder of Baremetrics is that he previously founded at least ten startups, at least that’s what he documented. He has two other projects on the side. One of them is Rockburg, which is an online music industry simulation game and Cedar and Sail, which is a handmade homewares site. Like me, he also sings and like a lot of us, a lot of you listening he also thinks that growth hacking is mostly manipulation, so Josh Pigford welcome aboard.
Josh: Thanks for having me, Louis.
Louis: I’m going to start with the easiest question of the show, so how to launch a new business, let’s play a game. We’re going to try to simulate the situation where we are listener listening to this podcast. We’re either a marketer or designer or developer. We’ll decide what to do with this information, but we want to launch a new business. We have $1,000 available to us right now. We want to be profitable quickly enough. Maybe within six months, we want to start making enough money to cover a bit of a salary of some sort. Here’s the caveat. We cannot use your name. You cannot use your network or what you’ve built so far in the last few years that you’ve been in the business. You really have to start from scratch anonymously. The big question is, how will you go about it?
Josh: Okay, I kind of feel like that was the case with Baremetrics but not totally. I think what it comes down to more than anything at all, as a baseline, you have to be solving a legit problem. Not just this, it’s the whole everybody talks about are you selling pain pills or vitamins? You have to be solving something that’s an actual pain and not just a nice-to-have. I think the nice-to-haves become a lot easier to sell when you do have a name or some sort of history or branding or whatever. If you’re talking anonymously from scratch with zero budget, how do you get something out there? The baseline is you have to be solving a substantial problem.
Louis: Right, let me clarify just the terms you use because they are interesting. You talk about painkillers or vitamins, what do you mean by that?
Josh: Let me try and think of a real-world example here. Let’s think in terms of selling something to other businesses. A vitamin would be something that the business does not need to function. It’s things like updating social profile bios or something. Whatever, maybe there’s some handy way to automatically update social profiles based on what you’re doing or something, you could automate that. Whatever, that’s not actually a problem, nobody has that problem really.
Josh: You could do it, technically, but you’re going to have a hard time making anybody pay for that. Let’s take the social thing further, you think of like, Buffer that you mentioned earlier. Okay, so they’re solving a major pain of companies needing to have a presence on social media that they don’t forget about and they’re able to build up their social media following and keep adding value. That’s a thing that people hire people to do full time. The social media marketer or whatever you want to call them. That thing, Buffer’s tool, can potentially replace an employee or it’s saving people lots of money or helping them make money so it’s solving this major pain. It’s like you have to think on a larger scale something that makes a bigger impact.
Josh: I think a lot of times the problem that new entrepreneurs have is they think that building some little tool means that they’ve got a business that they can scale and it’s just not the case. You’ve got to build something that does something that substantially impacts the business.
Louis: Okay, so step one, we try to identify a pain, something that is actually really painful. Let’s go through the process of potentially discovering problems around you that you might have a business about. It’s not necessarily a new entrepreneur launching something new. It could be somebody in a company coming up with a feature idea or even a product idea based on pains, right? It doesn’t necessarily have to be an Indie Hackers, per say.
Josh: Right, right.
Louis: How do you typically advise people how to go about this first step, to find out problems that are very painful?
Josh: I think the easiest way to find those problems is to experience them yourself. That’s the long way to do it. People want this framework for finding pains. That can be a new entrepreneur or even within a company. What people think in their head is the easiest thing to do is to talk to some customers, ask the customers what they want and that just surfaced what they need to build and it’s not. It’s not the case at all. People are terrible at verbalizing what it is that they need.
Louis: I’m glad you say that I’m sorry to cut you, but I remember reading a blog post of it and I nearly sent you an email but I didn’t. I’m glad we can have a discussion about this right now. Exactly as you say. For example in my job, in my daily job I do keep a note on my mac, with a smaller application notes, every time I go through a pain that I really can’t solve, I couldn’t find any tools doing it. And I just hired, let’s say a freelancer to help us or we had to come up with a process and hack things together to make it work. I do keep notes of that. I probably have ten or twelve at this stage which is not huge right? Those are the small things that you pick up over time. As you said it takes time. But you pick them up and one day you find that this pain is something that you can actually solve right?
Josh: Totally and I think, the way that I do this or we do this at Baremetrics is we keep a running, we’ve got a document for basically every high-level feature in Baremetrics. There’s a dozen of these documents. Any time a customer mentions something about wanting this thing added or this thing changed about whatever feature or they wish this feature could do that or this or whatever. We make a note of it and then we just sort of let it go. We don’t take any action on it at the time other than making a note of it. Then what we can do from that is over time we revisit these documents as we work on the products. We work in like cycles so each cycle will revisit these documents and see if we can find some higher level commonalities amongst them.
Josh: We can say like okay, people are requesting features or changes X, Y, and Z but if we put these things together what they’re really saying is they’re having trouble doing this inside their business. We can group these things together and solve them by doing, building out whatever. I think listening to customers is obviously super important but you can’t take things at face value. People will say if you just had this in the product then we would pay for it or we would stay a customer. Or we would be so happy. Whatever, that’s typically not the case. There’s typically a deeper problem that they’re actually trying to get at. It’s my job to figure out what it is that they’re actually saying.
Louis: Right, and this is the point that I want to make. You’re definitely right when you say when you ask people what they want, our customers what they want you’re going in the wrong direction. We talked about this in this podcast a few times. It’s not about trying to ask them what they want because as you said people are terrible at that. However, they are very, very good at explaining their problems and what they suffer from today. They are able to think about the past and what they’ve done and they are able to talk about the present. If you ask them about what you would like to have this is usually a question that will lead to terrible answers because people are very bad at planning ahead what they like to do. They can say, listen, I have this big pain doing this process. It takes me ages, it costs an arm and a leg. I really wish I could do that simpler manner. That usually leads to the right type of innovation.
Josh: Right and I think innovation is the key there. It’s like there’s that quote, I think it’s Henry Ford or it might be misattributed, about if you asked people what they wanted a long time ago they would tell you they wanted a faster horse. It’s like well, no the car solves the problem of getting somewhere faster but at that time the customers can’t even imagine the concept of a car. It’s your job to figure out what it is they actually want. Whether that’s like they want to get to their destination faster, how do we get there faster? It doesn’t mean take the current solution and make it better. It might mean innovating some entirely new thing that other people haven’t done before.
Louis: Yeah actually Henry Ford never said this quote. I remember reading–
Josh: I feel like I had read that.
Louis: Everybody thinks that he did but he didn’t.
Louis: The point of this quote is interesting because yeah if you ask what they want they can’t really come up with a solution, but they are able to say well you know it takes me three fucking days to go from New York to Chicago–I wish I would go there faster. That might lead you to then think in your head in terms of the type of solution you can come up with. Let’s go back to the small challenge I started with you and let’s get a bit more specific. One of my big pain right now as a podcaster is that I really struggle to promote the podcasts outside of just interviewing guests and asking them to promote it for me, just to share it once.
Louis: I don’t have time for it. I have a full-time job and therefore I really wish I could have a way to select the best bits of each episode and publish them on a recurring basis on like communities and all of that to keep promoting the podcast. It’s beyond just Buffer, it’s like selecting the right bits in the podcast, putting them in a nice visual format and then sharing them, not only on social media but also on maybe communities like Indie Hackers right? Let’s say this is the pain we are trying to solve. What would be the step two after that?
Josh: Basically like you’ve built the thing and now what do we do about it?
Louis: Let’s say that, let’s say not necessarily we have built the thing but we are thinking about potentially solving this.
Josh: How do you validate it?
Louis: For example yes, that’s up to you to come up with the step. But how do you validate it might be a very nice step too.
Josh: I think, say you’ve got this idea and you think that you’re solving a pain. To me, this is the big difference between someone you would say has lots of great ideas and somebody who can actually execute on them. I think execution is ultimately the missing piece that separates say an entrepreneur from the cheesy wantrapreneuer the person who just wants to be an entrepreneur but they can’t make anything happen. The difference is the ability to execute. To me there is no other real validation or the only next step after you think you’ve got this pain or are aware of this pain, it needs some sort of solution, is to just make the solution on a really basic level.
Josh: Otherwise you’re stuck having these high-level conceptual conversations with people. Again, like we’ve just established people don’t, they’re terrible at knowing around the edges. It’s not going to do all the things but on a base level, on as simple as possible, it’s got to solve the problem. The only way you can validate that it can solve the problem is by offering the solution. Letting them see if it solves it.
Louis: If I’m a developer or designer with a bit of knowledge of like I can put something together that is quite online. I guess even if I’m a marketer or just someone who is looking to launch that what are the avenues there to hack a solution together, to put a solution together that might be a first version of a solution you’re dreaming about?
Josh: Yeah, so I think people overthink this. Certainly with Baremetrics the first version, I can do all the thing. I built the entirely functioning first version of Baremetrics. I think best case is yes, you figure out how to code. That will always serve you well, for the rest of your career, having the ability to do some really basic coding will always be a good thing and you should do it. Now if you don’t want to do that, fine. You can even use a tool like InVision or Web Flow or something like that.
Josh: If you can design something, a basic UI then you can fake interactions. I know in InVision, which we use this a lot for just internal product markups, Marvel is another one too. Where you can basically upload designs and then create these hot spots on the site where you click on this and it takes you to basically another image. You can basically hack together a fake app or product and show that to people or even let them click around on it and use that as a way to show off what you’re trying to do or how you’re trying to solve the problem.
Louis: That’s a nice solution.
Josh: It’s something tangible.
Louis: Yes, this why I wanted to go and you’re right when you just speak to people in a very generic manner and you never show anything and you’re like would you be interested possibly in a solution like I’ve just described?
Josh: Of course they say yes! You’re like hey, so if there was this tool and it solved all of your problems would you pay for it? Yeah, of course. You can say anything you want, it doesn’t matter. The other person can say anything they want because they haven’t seen anything. They have no idea what you’re actually talking about.
Louis: So we have grand available. Let’s remember that just as a way to prioritize and focus, because we don’t have a lot of money to play with, but this InVision access doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and we can put a UI together that looks decent without overthinking it. Then you’re say showing it to people. I know I can hear the listeners already asking, okay that’s all well and good but how the fuck do I do that? Let’s go into maybe step three which is, who do you find, how do you find those people to show this product to or this UI to or this hacked solution?
Josh: Sure, so that varies across industries. I think there’s, let’s say you’re building something for gyms or something. If you’re building something for somebody who owns a gym then you go to the gym and you talk to them. That’s it, the end. Those scenarios or those sorts of people that exist in every industry. You just have to figure out. You can’t just be like well my industry is the entire internet. No, it’s not, that’s your first problem, you’re not focused enough. Figure out who your first customers are and it should be a very, very specific group of people.
Louis: How specific?
Josh: As specific as you can possibly get. For us, early on with Baremetrics, it was like, it was Stripe customers who were using the Stripe subscription API correctly. That cut out people who weren’t using Stripe or who weren’t using the Stripe API subscription API or they were using Brain Free, some other payment process. That cut out a lot of those people but let me focus on a specific group of people who I knew we could serve out of the box and didn’t … I could have gone I guess a little bit further and been like only companies within the healthcare industry or something like that.
Josh: This was also four years ago–Stripe wasn’t nearly as large and prolific as it is now. I think the more, you will have an easier time finding people who you can definitely solve a problem for if you have a very specific group of people. The more you branch out the more fragmented the feedback is going to be and the larger the scope of the problem is that you’ll have to fix. Not that you won’t get there one day but again you’re not building what the product could be in like ten years. You’re building something that you can do now, as quickly as possible for as little money as possible.
Louis: Right, and do you have an estimate of the amount of companies or potential companies that were within this group, this very specific group of people four years ago when you started Baremetrics?
Josh: It might have been like, I can’t remember off the top of my head. It was probably a thousand or something like that. We were able to scale up as Stripe grew that made our target market get larger as well.
Louis: Yeah, and today you have integrations with Rick Hurley, Brain Free, a lot of other payments.
Josh: We have our own API, we don’t even have to use those payment processes, there’s lots of options.
Louis: There’s always ways to expand but you need to start small with a tiny amount of people. How do you reach out to those people? You basically said don’t be lazy or don’t be afraid, get out of the building and just go talk to people?
Josh: Yup, if it’s a physical location yes, go. I remember Patrick McKenzie, who works at Stripe now, talks about when he was building this product called Appointment Reminder which is for basically anybody who has clients who schedule time. Whether that’s like a masseuse or a haircut or whatever. He went and basically walked into those stores cold and said, here’s $50 for your time, can I spend 30 minutes or an hour with you talking about business problems or whatever? There’s some of your thousand dollar budget. If you pay people for their time you’re much more likely to get some feedback, good solid insight. Go do that for whatever industry you’re targeting and just ask them to sit down to talk.
Louis: What do you talk about?
Josh: You’re basically trying to figure out, you’ve got this hypothesis right? You’ve decided, here’s a pain that I think exists among this type of business so let me go see if that’s actually the case. So maybe you take in your mockups that you’ve got or take in an iPad to let them poke around on your hacked together thing. You say, “Hey, here’s a problem that I think you might have at your business, could you tell me more about that?” If it is a problem they can ramble on for an hour about the problem that they’ve got. Then if you can be like, “Hey, here’s what I think is a solution. Give it a try and let me know what you think.” You could start getting sales that way, like right away.
Josh: You could be like hey, well we’re going to launch this in the next three weeks, four weeks whatever, I’ll give you a 50% off discount if you want to go ahead and sign up for the first month or something like that. Whatever, there’s lots of ways you could even start getting money right away.
Louis: Probably it is the best way to validate your business idea and your first product is to ask for payment. You will see right away if people were bullshitting or not. If you ask them okay you like that, you have this pain, you said the solution was great, okay it’s $50 a month, here’s a credit card machine I brought with me, or whatever you come up with, let’s do it. If they say, well no, this is probably a good way to dig into the well no and say okay why not?
Josh: I think landing pages like before you launch a product, landing pages are the most ridiculous thing. So many people think I’m going to put this landing page up to collect email address and then they’re going to keep working on their product and then they keep sending people to the landing page that’s kind of obscure, maybe shows a screenshot or two. They then associate, people dropping in an email address as validation for their product. Collecting email addresses isn’t a bad thing but it’s like using the collection of email addresses on a landing page before you launch and taking that as validation. Which is insane. There’s zero validation. Like really, money is about the only way to validate something.
Louis: If you describe on your landing page the pain you’re solving and you’re showing a few screenshots and people leave their email if you do the right thing next, IE building the right product that you promised, it is likely that some of them will turn into customers no?
Josh: Sure, statistically yes. If you’re using the landing page and the collection of email address and the quantity of email. Like I collected a thousand email addresses before I even had a product. Yes, that I think there’s correlation but the mistake is assuming that it’s causation. That the collection of these email addresses somehow proved that you’re solving a real pain.
Josh: What happens, a lot of times people collect all these email addresses, then sure they get people to sign up for their free product and then those people never become paying customers and they’re stumped because they weren’t able to get any money off of it.
Louis: This is a nice, this is the right way to say it, exactly as you said. It’s like, yes they can become like free users of your product but the leap between paying nothing and paying even $5 a month is actually much bigger than you think, the gap is huge.
Josh: Huge, yes. I think, but what happens is people associate a free sign up as a customer and they’re not. They’re very much not a customer at all. They’re basically a lead to become a customer. In the same way that you can’t associate collecting an email address on a landing page as being an actual customer like a free sign up after that is still not a customer. They’re still just this different version of a lead to hopefully become a paying customer someday. They shouldn’t have any impact on what the product is because they have nothing invested in it right? They’re not actually using the product, your product doesn’t solve a pain enough for them to pay for it. You still haven’t validated anything.
Louis: Right, I remember reading in a Facebook group not that long ago a guy who pre launched a product and had a few hundreds of emails. He said I don’t understand what’s going on with my convert key, my email marketing platform. I sent this email to my people who said that they would be interested in this product. Only 20% or like 15% opened the email and I only got a few purchases. I think there is a bug with the email platform.
Josh: No bug.
Louis: No bug, that’s how people think right? That’s how people are, they truly don’t give a shit about you.
Louis: If you’re asking them, as you said the only validation is money. If they are not paying for this thing then you haven’t validated the product.
Louis: Right, let’s move on from that because I think we’ve gone through a nice step-by-step and I think a lot of people will take away a few things. Even if they are working at a company that is much larger than just a one man or woman band because they can also apply those learnings when it comes to innovate and finding new products or new features. I want to go back to something that I found quite good. We even shared it within Hotjar, this article. You wrote an article in December called Growth Hacking is Manipulation.
Louis: I could have written it myself if I was a good writer. It was pretty impressive to see that we were sharing a lot of the same values. Can you maybe give me a summary of why you think this is the case?
Josh: The impotence of that article sort of stems from the unending onslaught of cold emails that I get from other companies who are doing this stuff in mass. They’ve got some list of SaaS founders or whatever. They just go and send out cold emails and replace a couple of variables in the email and try to schedule a phone call or something with me. Or it’s like using Twitter to reach out. They’re sending the same Twitter message to everybody they can get their hands on. That stuff drives me–it’s the laziest thing. I can’t think of anything more lazy from a marketing standpoint. It’s all based around this faux interest in what I’m doing. A lot of times the emails, they’re replacing the first sentence in the email with, “I saw this article that you wrote the other day and I loved it. Hey, do you want to hop on a phone call?” It’s just so dumb and lazy. You’re trying to act like we’re buddies or something just so you can hop on a phone call. I’m not interested. That stuff drives me crazy because it’s a daily thing, and it bothers me that anyone thinks that’s a reliable, decent option for them. I could rant about that for days.
Louis: Let’s do more of that. Cold emails is one of the examples you’re using. You’re telling this story, you were off for a few days and you looked at your emails and realized the sheer amount of such emails you were getting. By the way, I sent you a cold email to get you on this podcast.
Josh: Right. Well, it works sometimes but we had some sort of connection. We had talked previously about getting the CEO of Hotjar on the podcast. So it can work when it’s not terrible.
Louis: Right, I wasn’t asking to get on a call with you.
Josh: You weren’t selling me anything!
Louis: Exactly, right but then you make the point in this article and that goes beyond cold emails and you talk about all of those quick wins or those shallow wins, can you tell me more about this?
Josh: Specifically, what do you mean?
Louis: Sorry, I’m being very generic right there. So you talk about the number of followers you have and the number of likes you get and the funnels–all of that are just numbers and just vanity right?
Josh: Sure, yep.
Louis: So many companies are just focusing on those quick wins instead of are we actually adding value to people’s life? Are we actually adding value to a relationship? Apart from cold emails what are the other things in marketing that you think are just, we need to stop doing right now?
Josh: Oh, I think, really which just seems weird coming from a guy who runs a metrics company, for most people metrics are the wrong thing to optimize. People try to optimize the number itself, so things like the number of followers or the number of comments on a blog post or number of page views or whatever it is. Optimizing things like so much, and marketing obviously for measuring purposes revolves around conversion rates and things like that.
Josh: What happens is people start optimizing for conversion rates. That still kind of flows back to the cold email example where somebody is like well, 2% of cold emails convert into a paying customer. Yeah, but the other 98% hate your guts man. You can’t just optimize for this single number. I think that’s probably even the bigger point when I mention the vanity thing. So many numbers in and of themselves are just vanity and don’t actually mean anything. When you start optimizing for the number itself instead of optimizing for the goal of whoever you’re trying to serve.
Josh: It will always, it always ends up being this race to the bottom of like how can I increase conversion rates of this popup or increase conversion rates from the responses on these emails or whatever it is. The more you optimize for the conversion rate or the number the more you just keep hammering a way to optimize that and you’ve lost focus of the fact that there’s a human on the other side of that number.
Louis: Yeah, and this is an interesting thing because when you focus on numbers too much like this, as you said 2% and 98%, you need to think of those 98% of people as you said who hate your guts. In the long term, this is very bad for business.
Louis: It destroys the trust that you have, that people have in you and in the long term that could kill you because trust is the only currency that I believe can work in the long term in marketing. If people stop trusting you one by one your market is decreasing.
Josh: It goes away. That’s the thing, I get these cold emails. Like if you cold email me trying to sell me something like a product and you’re asking me to hop on a phone call, my response is to block that domain. You won’t ever email me again. I won’t ever see it, that’s the end of the relationship if you cold email me trying to sell me something. There’s tons of people that do that because everybody is sick of getting those kinds of emails. The pay off long term, it’s just not there.
Louis: Right, so two questions then, first, I’m going to start with one, how do you convince people who are still using these type of tactics to maybe try something new? How do you convince them that this might also lead to more value, more money for them in the long term if they do that?
Josh: How do I convince them? I guess me writing about it is sort of like me trying to convince them about it. For the reasons that we’ve laid out, the downsides like yes, maybe you can increase some obscure number but there’s an inverse too of that. The other side of that number actually may be causing more harm in the long run than not.
Louis: What should we do then? We know we shouldn’t really optimize conversions and we know we should focus on helping users reach their goals and people to reach their goals and build relationships but tactically speaking what are the marketing activities or things you’ve done in the past that really seem to go hand in hand with this philosophy?
Josh: I think it comes down to being, like a helpful resource to people. For us, the way that we tackle that would be the content marketing stuff. Writing about what’s working or what’s not working at Baremetrics, the stuff that we’re struggling with as we grow a business. That’s marketing, we’re writing this stuff for people who we want to be our customers but even if you never contact our sales team, you never sign up for a free trial, never have any actual interaction with the business outside of this article, you’ve still gained some value. Even if you’d never become a customer you might still share that article with someone else who could become a customer.
Josh: The positive sort of branding that comes from that of like man, Baremetrics is just–the people there are so helpful. You talk to your friends and other founders about that stuff. It’s all these really intangible things which annoy any kind of marketing person to no end because you can’t measure that stuff. It’s like trying to measure attribution when someone signs up. In reality, there are a thousand different things that play into someone signing up for something but we want so desperately to attach it to, someone read this article and then they signed up. We sent them an email and then they signed up. But there’s no direct correlation. The path to signing up is all over the place. I think you just, you have to look at the bigger picture and try to just offer value.
Louis: This is why I think that word of mouth as a channel, considering word of mouth as a channel is completely bull shit. It’s the number one thing that people do. They talk to each other. If you have the product then yes, word of mouth happen but you can’t optimize for it, it just optimizes or it doesn’t.
Josh: Yes, it’s not a channel, it’s this high-level thing that exists.
Louis: Exactly, it’s normal relationships between people.
Louis: I’m glad you said all of that because content marketing, in particular, is very shiny and word of the minute and everybody is using it and all of that. I think deep down the reason why content marketing works and writing content or publishing content. I mean, when I say good content I mean good content, helpful content. It works because it just builds trust over time and people have the liberty to consume it or not. They have the liberty to stop listening to a podcast or not or keep listening to it. Over time it builds relationships. It’s not new, the Michelin guide for restaurants started more than a 100 years ago as a small brochure that they were giving for free to cyclists. That was content marketing. It’s just building trust and helping people.
Josh: Yeah, I think the frustrating part when anybody says like, content marketing is such a slow thing. It takes a long time. You’re playing the long game with that. It can take six, twelve months or longer before you really start seeing any benefits from it. It’s one of these things that keep giving back for years. Then not even just because this article can keep getting read or serviced in a search engine or whatever but using the content for other forms of content. Turning some article into a podcast or turning an article into a white paper. There’s just a thousand different ways you can use content to be helpful to people but it’s really hard to measure. I think a lot of people don’t, they avoid it because of that.
Louis: It’s almost a good sign. When things take so long but are almost guaranteed to work if you do it right. I would say it’s a good sign that you’re actually building trust over time and that it needs to grow on its own. This conversation right now we are having Josh is a testament to this. I started reading your articles, I started to follow what you’ve been doing for the last four years I think. I said that at the very start of the conversation before the podcast interview started that I feel like I know you very well. Obviously, you don’t know me, but I know you very well because of this, right? That creates the trust and I feel I can trust you even if it’s the first time I’m talking to you.
Josh: That’s exactly right. That’s been intentional but also not the motivation behind it. So many people were helpful to me, pre-Baremetrics that it only made sense to keep helping other people and it so happens that that works pretty well from a marketing standpoint too. I don’t know that content marketing will, obviously any kind of channel will work for one person but not for the other. I think for us it’s been sort of a natural way for us to do marketing.
Louis: Right, you’re pretty opinionated right? You have a strong point of view on a lot of things. I’m wondering where is that coming from? Is there a particular event in your life that you can pinpoint that made you who you are today? Somebody who is quite vocal about all these issues?
Josh: I don’t know, I’ve just been doing it long enough. I started building software or little businesses and stuff for the past 15 plus years. I think over time I’ve just picked up a lot of thoughts and insights on things and have opinions of just because something is shiny it doesn’t mean that it actually works. I think that just comes from…I don’t want to say the word experience, that assumes that I’ve arrived or something. I think it just comes a lot from doing things. I think that’s a huge problem with new entrepreneurs is like they just don’t know any better, like they haven’t ever tried anything before.
Josh: It’s easy to read an article that tells you to do something and then be like okay cool, it worked for them so it will work for me. It’s like no, that’s not how it works. So much of building a business is trying something and it completely failing and so then you adjust and try something else. Business is just a series of trying and failing over and over again for years on end. Most people aren’t willing to stick it out long enough to eventually figure out something.
Josh: They want to read an article that tells them what to do or they want to be able to use some piece of software that changes their business. It just doesn’t work that way. I think it’s just been lots of me trying stuff and knowing that certain things work and certain things don’t.
Louis: Do you have entrepreneurs in your family? Have you been inspired by any?
Josh: I don’t know that I’ve got, my dad’s an engineer, my mom, stay at home mom for years. I don’t have any direct entrepreneurs. I think where I come from is like, a lot of people in my family are what I would describe as a maker. They’re really good at just figuring things out or hacking things together or having an idea and making it become a reality. That was part of my childhood from the start. That is what is instilled in me as like the ability to have an idea and make it happen. I think for whatever reason I’ve got this entrepreneurial gene or bug that I can attach to that. A core level it’s more like, I love just making things become a reality out of nothing. It’s sort of my thing. I just enjoy that.
Louis: What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next ten years, twenty years or fifty years?
Josh: I think they need to learn how to step back, it’s the stuff that we’ve been talking about, step back and look at the bigger picture, have a much higher level view on things to not dig down and get obsessed with numbers but instead look at what the long-term effect of something is and understand that there’s much more at play then a single metric to optimize for.
Louis: Linked to this answer then, what would be the top three resources you would recommend listeners around this topic perhaps?
Josh: Resources? Can I have an anti-resource? I almost, which doesn’t necessarily fit having a podcast here, I think most people should stop looking for resources and instead just start taking action on stuff. Maybe a resource would be like learn how to program. If you’re a marketer who can build stuff, pretty great combo. Go figure out how to make stuff.
Louis: You must know a few resources for that. What would be resources to learn how to program and code?
Josh: There’s a bunch of them. It could be anything from like Tree House is really great for really basics of programming stuff. Then think of, when I say programming or building stuff that may not be like build a website. That may instead by like learn more about data science so you can build some sort of, do stuff with machine learning and be able to take large amounts of data and find real insights from it. There’s a site called Data Camp that is great for teaching you how to do machine learning and statistical programming and things like that to build data models and all sorts of stuff around business. I think any time that you can take something and turn it into something else, something more valuable, anything around that as far as resources goes is pretty solid.
Louis: Josh, you’ve been a pleasure to talk to, thank you so much for going through this exercise of step by step to build a new business and all of the questions after that. Where can listeners connect with you and learn more from you?
Louis: But make sure it’s not a cold email.
Josh: Don’t try to sell me something, dang it.
Louis: Do not, not even a coat or anything, fuck that shit, all right? All right Josh, thank you.
Josh: Thanks for having me.
How to stand out: 9 bullshit-free lessons from world-class tech marketers
Insights from Seth Godin, Rand Fishkin, David Darmanin and 6 other world-class tech marketers.
I’m a no-fluff marketer living in Dublin, Ireland (but yeah, I’m French).
I believe you can treat people the way you’d like to be treated and still generate results without using sleazy, aggressive, hack-y marketing. This is why I’ve started Everyone Hates Marketers – a no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast – as a side project in April 2017.
I’m also the Content Lead at Hotjar – a powerful way to analyse people’s behaviour on your website or app and understand how you can improve their experience.