Take your startup to the next level – interview with Nick Stein

Improve your company marketing efforts with Nick Stein and Osom to Know podcast. In this episode, Nick, a marketing consultant with experience from Ogilvy and running his own business shares his knowledge to help startups launch and grow their business. Learn tips such as the importance of thinking about the bigger picture, the power of writing and messaging before design, and creating effective marketing solutions without spending a lot of money.

Maciej: Hi everyone. My name is Machi Novak, and welcome to Osom to Know podcast where we discuss all things WordPress, right? Today’s guest Nick Stein, a marketing consultant working with tech startups, and as you may know, technology companies are very close to my heart. In this conversation, we are discussing how to approach a website to build and what are the common pitfalls when doing that. We also discussed what to do to detach your marketing from Google as the main source of your leads and how not to think about your business. Please enjoy my conversation with Nick Stein.

Intro: Hey everyone, it’s good to have you here. We’re glad you decided to tune in for this episode of the Osom To Know podcast.

Maciej: So, Nick, you are a marketing consultant. You work a lot with startups and, you know, the natural thing for me to ask is, you know, are startups a different breed or how do they approach web projects? So is there anything particular about their strategy when building a website for their business, or is it like just another kind of a business?

Nick: It’s actually, uh, pretty much it starts off as different. Uh, when I walk in there. It’s different from, uh, from each project, though I try and structure it, uh, the same way cuz it makes it easier for me, uh, in general. Uh, and for, I see most startups make the, the same mistake of going design first, which is my, for me is the mistake. Um, because then you have to write the text in the areas that, that have been designed for it. Uh, and so you can’t really, you end up cutting your, your creativity, um, with your written content. Um, and so yeah, it’s that, that can affect seo, that can affect a whole bunch of other things. And it can affect the, the, the way that people read this, read or interact with the, the website. So, uh, I think there’s a lot of, oh, we want to be Apple. You can’t be Apple. It’s, that’s my personal thing. It’s where you want to get to, but as a startup, you’re never gonna be there to begin with. Uh, you need to really make people understand what the, what your product is very, very quickly. If that’s visually, if that’s verb, uh, uh, uh, with written content. Either way works. But you can’t just say, okay, we’re gonna have bright colors and, and, and a obscure head.

Maciej: Funnily enough, there was a moment in time where when I got this request, you know, cause we also run an agency, and this was the request, like every second time it, it, it was like a season. And now I don’t know for why, why, but it’s changed. And I don’t, no longer hear those requests. Like, we want to be like Apple, oh no, no, no. Mm-hmm , we don’t want to be like Apple, but we want to have the website that resembles, resembles the Apple, apple website. And actually if you strip, you know what’s there, you nearly cannot recreate the content because this is so unique and so much going on behind the scenes that mm-hmm it looks simple, but you just don’t have the content to, to create anything similar like that.

Nick: Yeah. And, and I think the, it, it’s quite well known that simple actually is extremely difficult to pull off. .

Maciej: Exactly.

Nick: That’s that’s what , I don’t think startups really fully grasped. Uh,

Maciej: so if not going design first, what would be the best approach toto work on a website? If you’re a startup, for example,

Nick: uh, the, there’s, uh, it depends what stage of the startup you are. If you’re luck, uh, if you have the luxury of having an, uh, some customers interview them, find out what they’re talking about. Uh, and the, the best skill you can do in marketing in general and, and in life in general, is listen, before you ask, before you talk.So you, you let them talk about, uh, about the industry, how they talk about it. You don’t try and guide them into how you want it to be, so let them use their words. Um, and that’s the, the same thing I take into the. Content creation, SEO creation, cuz I, put that into a two phase thing. First, when you’re, uh, initial startup, you, you look at the, uh, company that you’ve got to try and get leads. So you, you talk to Google, once you get a little bit further on, you talk to the customer cuz you, you found your product market fit. And you need to listen to them and make them understand that you are an expert in your field by relaying or sort of mirroring what they’ve said to you on your website. And that, that’s also plays into the imagery. And so, interviews, customer interviews, industry interviews, um, expert interviews and, and, uh, in, in general is to really get to, uh, to understand what they’re looking for. And it gets you much further, much quicker, with, all messaging and everything.

Maciej: We started discussing a little bit of, um, of, what, startup can start with and, um, I didn’t ask you, you know, I, already introduced you a little bit, but can you explain for listeners a little bit about yourself? You know, where do you come from? I, make this mistake all the time. Just going straight, uh, you know, to what’s the expertise? And I only forget the parts, you know, asking, you know, well, what’s your background? Where, where are you coming from?

Nick: Uh, yeah. I, don’t think the podcast is long enough for my background, unfortunately. I’m old enough and I’m also bizarre enough in, in the fact that. Uh, I am American, but grew up in the UK. Um, so I call soccer football. That, that’s my, uh, differentiator from other Americans, I suppose. Um, and I’ve lived in Austria now for about 12 years. Um, uh, I’ve start, I started basically in project management and then moved into marketing, uh, and worked, on some really great things. I worked for Ogilvy, uh, advertising in London, and worked on the Manchester United sponsorship. Um, and then I moved over here and basically through working, working, uh, in, B2B, space, because, I didn’t really, find a opening in the, the sports, uh, marketing world. Uh, I saw that there was a niche that I actually could offer with the, the knowledge and expertise of, of the UK and the US market. That I could help companies and startups, um, actually that wanted to, expand to those markets. And so that’s where I started working with startups. I also, um, got the startup bug myself and, and created something myself and had a, startup called, uh, One Player Down, which was about trying to, connect people through, playing sports. Because they live in a smaller city, like Vienna, everybody knows each other from a, a very young age. And so it was difficult to get into the sports groups, and I tr I just tried to open it up. Um, and it was good fun. And so I, got to understand both sides of the marketing and also the business, business side of it, uh, to, and it made me better at my job

Maciej: for sure.

Maciej: Uh, thanks for this . I, will no problem. Have to make a mental note to always ask, ask this. Uh, thank you very much. So, is there, is there, is there anything particular, uh, you know, that. startups struggle with, you know, content wise or marketing wise that, you know, looking at the company and their website, it’s like you, you can see patterns most of the time.

Maciej: You, the url, you see the homepage and then bank, you know, like when I’m, for example, talking with my, my friends who run small companies, I see the problems. For example, we had when we were starting and, you know, it needs the outside perspective because, you know, if you’re inside, you don’t see much. You have to have this, sometimes fresh look or helicopter view. So is there anything that, uh, that is like, like a pattern for you happening over or like, um, over and over?

Nick: Yeah. Well, there’s a, couple of things. I mean, stuff like, uh, I’ve seen, uh, and it’s ha it’s happened less and less, but it’s like, uh, trying to reinvent what a call to action button looks like. Um, , if you’re in, in general, that’s something you can do again, if you’re an apple, but you can’t do it when, when, when you’re, when you’re, uh, a niche B2B, uh, solution or, even just a, even a a, a startup, a small startup with a B2C space, because then you have people hunting for things. Um, um, you gotta make things very easy and un and understandable. And, and I, the, biggest thing I think is to, when you’re writing content is not ha have too many jargon words, um, and that, that I think is a a, when I first moved over here, there was a very big thing, a different difference in the way that, that, an Austrian or German company would market to, themselves in comparison to the US and, the UK And it was, we’re technical founders. We’re gonna write in technical speak because we want to show that we’re experts and it’s, and. Uh, go. That’s great. And it does, it’s a extremely useful thing in the European market. It’s very difficult in the, the, the US and UK market because actually the people who are, who are doing it are either doing the research are probably a little junior, so they’re not so technical and don’t, have, uh, this knowledge or when it goes to the buyer, the buyers a lso, it is more in a business focus and not in a technical focus. So you have to have a technical specifications thing, but it shouldn’t be the thing that runs your content. Um, and it, it, that was, there seems to be a happy medium now, um, between the two where you have maybe an expandable box where the then comes your technical details, so you’re covering all bases. Um, but that, that would be, uh, one of the main things I see on most website stuff. Um, yeah, that, that, that’s probably.

Maciej: Yes. This is, this is great stuff because it’s like, you know, focusing on shiny things and you, think that, you know, spending your attention on this, this, this shiny new CTA button will make, uh, something click or move the needle before you, whereas this is the whole, uh, ton of other things.

Nick: Yeah. And, and I, I think the other thing I would put into, uh, into this is sometimes a website relaunch, uh, is not needed straight away. You need to have a, plan to, optimize your current website so you get by your team that breathing space to do the relaunch correctly. Um, because usually relaunches or some relaunches I’ve been, been involved in are the shiny new thing. And it’s not what is wrong with what we’re doing right now, why are we not converting right now? Um, and that doesn’t get solved in just a new skin on the same problem. Um, and, and I think whenever I’ve gone into a, a website relaunch project, I said, what’s, why are you redoing this? Is it because of leads? Is it because, uh, there there’s not a conversion? Or is it because we’re changing our business? Um, and if it’s conversion, I said, let’s look at the website as it as it is, is, is it technically problematic or Yeah, the technical SEO problems that we can at least solve while we, while we want to do the, uh, plan, the, the relaunch? Or is it a huge issue that we need to get solved? Um, I mean, we worked on our project that it was basically a, it was a technical issue and it’s bought, I, we worked together to buy the team time to rethink the whole project, the whole website, the whole way people would go through the, uh, the, um, lead generation flow. And that’s, that can only be done if you, if you have a stable environment, uh, to begin with. And that if it’s a stability issue that needs to be fixed quick.

Maciej: But, how to provide, uh, stable environment if you’re a small startup. Maybe not small, but you know it’s very vague where small stops and, and big kicks in.

Maciej: But, you know, startups are notorious for being places like work environments where everything is moving and the, you know, chaos is one thing, but the pressure is the other. You know, you have your runway, you have to sprint to the, to launch the product because you have money from the investors.

Maciej: Uh, this is very true know.

Nick: Um, but thenI would say the biggest tip for any marketer, listen to this, uh, going into a startup is the first question you asked. Do you have a backup? , do you have a backup of the website? Because I’ve been in that situation more times than I would like to, to, to admit that I, something happens with the website. It goes down like you don’t have even CloudFlare behind it. So we can at least, uh, uh, like put a, put a version, uh, of, of the website up from ages ago. Uh, and you don’t have a backup at the website. And so before any project starts, make sure you have some sort, sort of security if anything happens that at least you can just press.

Nick: Okay. Yesterday’s website’s now backup on, uh, online.

Maciej: Yeah. And, and, and especially if you’re doing updates, you know, for your open source, uh, website. Uh, okay, you don’t have backup, but then the website went down because you did the, you know, the updates the last time a year ago and everything changed so dramatically that it’s no longer compatible with each other, you know, the, the, the moving part.

Maciej: So, yeah. And, and, and this is like a signing check. Um, For everyone. Uh, do you have backup? And it, it, it sounds crazy if you think about this, but again, if you are inside, it’s like maybe pro procrastination. You know, I will, I will take care of the next day, next week, next month because this, this doesn’t scream, uh, you know, for help that you don’t have a backup.

Maciej: You maybe your IT colleague who will left the company a year ago, uh, was supposed to do this, but never managed to do this. So, it’s always like, and like, um, you, never know, right?

Nick: No, I mean, I’ve been in these situations and, and unfortunately, uh, you can be, if you, if it’s badly timed when the, the, the website goes down, which, let’s be honest, it’s always badly timed when the website goes down. But if, uh, it’s like a, a holiday time, a national holiday, you can, uh, or yeah, a bank holiday or whatever, you, can lose the website for three days. Um, or four days without. Yeah, because otherwise it’s too costly to put it back up and so on and so forth. And , this is a disaster. Um, and especially if you’re website’s, uh, I don’t know, um, one of your biggest sales machines, um, it’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s more of a, okay, we tell, we tell this story about the company, but then you can also be in a situation where it’s, you’re in anegotiations with investors and if your website starts going down during, during this time, um, then that can potentially knock, knock some money off what, what they invest because okay, you’re a technical company. You can’t handle the, the small technicality of keeping a website online. This isn’t good.

Maciej: Um, yes, exactly. I cannot imagine worse timing than when negotiating the investment round, round, for example. So I think this doesn’t get any more than that.

Nick: Yeah, I agree.

Maciej: Uh, and you know, it’s 2023 and I find this funny that we are discussing, you know, having backups on a website, for startup. That’s, but, you know, the, I this is recent, uh, stuff as well. Uh, Uber was hacked a couple of, uh, days ago, and then I saw , I don’t know if it is real or not, but then someone screenshotted, you know, LinkedIn, um, job board from, from Uber and there were like eight or 12 security positions from, you know, all sorts of, uh, like things. And the, the hack was someone who got manipulated and that person got, high privileges and you know it’s crazy. Mm-hmm. , it’s, it’s just crazy. And, you know, everyone is, um, um, has to have this, uh, security because backups are security. Mm-hmm. like on, it’s, it, it’s bare minimum. And the bigger you get, the, the more sophisticated you should, you should be.

Nick: Of course, of course. And, as I said, I mean, your, if your lead, your whole lead funnel just relies on the website and then you just lose it. Even if, you lose it for a couple of days, um, it’s not just that you’ve lo you’ve lost the leads for a couple of days. You’ve lost anybody who’s come and done wants to do a little due diligence or anything like that. And so you might, might actually lose, uh, I don’t know, a real big chunk of leads because they were in the research phase. And if you don’t, if you’re not there, then you’ve lost a lot. Uh, and it’s hard to, to, to trace back, um, what you’ve lost. So these are the things that. Yeah. Be aware it’s core business. It isn’t. Uh, okay. It’s a nice window that just marketing deals with. No, this is core business. This, this is a, a COO, um, uh, problem. This is, this is a, uh, the internal, uh, uh, dev team should, should at least be a available to it just in case. And, and they’re working with you and you and, and, uh, awesome.

Nick: Or, are handling it. Basically. There should still be a mirror, uh, that’s, uh, in inside the company that can say, if needs must, I can still flip the, flip a version of the website online. Um mm-hmm, because this is, uh, a big deal and it, it causes mm-hmm. untold stress in inside a.

Maciej: Yes, I bet. I bet. No if you’re a product company, you know your website is your window to the world, right?

Nick: Yeah And if you’re, if you’re, uh, highly technical founders and, and you’re showing we’re, we’re amazing, we can solve really, really complex things and you can’t solve the, the not so complex thing of, keeping a website online, then you, you have a, it can hurt you. Um, but yeah, the world has a short memory, so it’s a, and sometimes it, can, it can just sort of fly back. So nobody will be talking about, that’s all Uber in a while, in, a, in a short time .

Maciej: Right? And, uh, so we covered a bit of, uh, like, like a ba like basics. Not basics, not basics, but you know, the, the very minimum you, you should be doing. But how we, I would like to, Go back a couple of steps. So we mentioned that if you’re going to change your website, because for example, you have one, but you want to change for some reasons. It’s not always a good thing to start like design first and think, then see what happens, but rather to decide where is the problem.

Maciej: So I wonder how, because I’m trying, I’m asking about this because people sometimes Mm, have hard time identifying the, the cause. Mm-hmm. and, uh, for, website not working. And what would be the best approach to identify what maybe the source of problems, because you can. Flood the website with traffic, but then that traffic wouldn’t convert. And you can have small traffic about find conversions, but cannot drive more traffic. So both can be problems. And how do you identify out of spectrum of problems? What was the real one?

Nick: Yeah. Uh, this, this is, again, unfortunately, it depends on which phase you are in, in as a startup, but I’ll talk about a, a product, uh, a, a startup or a company with product market fit because there’s a very different phase otherwise. Uh, but, and I, would solve that, uh, in, pre-product market fit with, uh, a lot of landing pages and, and, and SEO and, and testing. Um, or at least I’ve tried to, um, when you have product market fit, but your website’s not converting the way you, you, you feel it should do. I think it’s, it comes down to understanding the buyer journey and maybe your, your website never was supposed to be a converting website. It was an educational website. And you’ll only understand that if you, if you figure out the buyer journey and where your website fits into it. Um, and so, uh, obviously the, the goal for any marketing, marketing department or a company, uh, in general is to get past the begging for leads by download our white paper or download this and we’ll take your email and then you’re, you’re into the, uh, notorious MQL funnel, uh, where we just we’re, you’re potentially spammed.

Nick: Um, so I think it’s really understanding that buyer journey. And, and seeing where, where the website sits in that, um, and how much you can expand what the website does. Um, from there, because you can obviously then, uh, go into other styles of marketing, like account based marketing, which then comes back to, to some, uh, some landing pages and stuff like that.

Nick: Um, but. In general, it is really understanding where it sits in your funnel. Um, because that’s gonna dictate your, content, your, the, uh, the expectations of, the website. Because if you are a niche B2B, uh, website, you have to really have, uh, look at what is our, total market. Um, because if we’re saying, oh, we, we need 10,000 people coming per day on our website and, and our, the, the, the, the total market of, of what we have, there’s 400 companies. We can’t be looking at 10,000 a day. We’ve gotta be looking at really high quality people, uh, and maybe 15, 20, 30 a day wins. Um, and, that’s, you’ve gotta understand the, the, the backgrounds of your market, um, to, understand, understand these things. And that’s how I mm-hmm, I look at it. All right, so, no quick fix there.

Nick: Unfortunately,

Maciej: yeah, I mean, I, don’t believe you can quick fixes, and this is again, like, uh, tracing shiny, objects. But you answered the question of what now? The question of how, because , I, um, I read one book, you know, the, uh, the CEO of Fintel and, and the group famously said, uh, like, “I, know what to do but I don’t know how to do this.” So, uh, okay, if we know what to do, like, I, I just understand the, the buyer journey, um, how, how this should be implemented. So like, Because mm-hmm. , if you’re working with your customers, you have this product market speed, you have your customers and you ask the question, then this, the loan fact that you’re, for example, asking a question to your customer, change the way they are thinking about this because of all, all sorts of things. Like, like trying to either show off or biasing towards what would should be the process instead of what was the process, you know, like in memories and, you know, this is all human nature. Yeah. You, you cannot ask direct questions because this will change, the results. So how can we identify the buyer journey?

Nick: Yeah. That’s, you’re to totally right. The, the questions dictate the answer. Uh, and, and, and that’s a very, very difficult thing with how you, uh, there’s, there’s a, a huff psychological way of, of writing writing questions. And you have to really make sure you, just, uh, ask something that’s so open that they, they go their way. And obviously, um, if this, this customer has been, this company has been with you for two, three years, the per the, your contact point might have changed. They might not know how this happened. They just know their job and that’s it. Uh, so that there’re, there’s, you might have lost information and, and, and that too.

Nick: And they also will, even if they were the person, they’re gonna have a bias of how they, they looked at it in the first place. Um, it is down to testing again. So, I mean, you, you have to find, uh, By doing more customer interviews or more questionnaires or more something, if there is a common thread through this that then take takes you through this and you start, okay, you work your thesis, uh and experiments off of that, and you say, okay, this, this, there’s this common thread that we’re gonna work off because, uh, I dunno, 70% of our customers are saying that they went through this way and this is, this is what’s, what’s important to them in, in, in the buying process, um, from our website, then okay, then we can push through. Um, if there’s unfortunate cases where that doesn’t exist at all, um, and you then have to say, okay, fine. I have to take the information I’ve gotten from, from the interviews, uh, maybe talk to, to, to some, uh, expert, um, experts in the field and, let them go through the journey, um, as well on your website. And then, I, consistently feel that you have to, you have to buy your own product every once in a while. Um, okay. Because you’ll then see, okay, that made sense in its, uh, in a small scale of, or in its, uh, in its box. But in the work, the whole flow of, of researching, buy, researching, going through, and then buying, buying your product, it’s really, it really feels I’m not going on a line. I’m going, oh, whoops. Then they’re, they’re, I’m still getting to the same place, but there, it’s just not, not, uh, a good flow. So I think with those three sort of areas that the, the customer interviews, the, uh, industry expert interviews and your own user, uh, interviews, um, I think you get there and you find out.

Nick: Um, alright. Again, no, no. Quick thing. I,

Maciej: I get a, a lot of work. Sounds like a lot of work.

Nick: It, it is, but I mean, to become the best you. I mean, I mean, uh, you talk, you, there’s all these documentaries. The net recently about Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant and their machine, they were machines or, exactly.

Nick: You just have to be, uh, focused and just keep on doing stuff. Um, I have ki uh, young kids and they, they love playing sports, but they hate practicing. I said, well, do you want to be better? It’s practice. It’s the effort that that gets you to the next level. Um, you can ha enjoy kicking the ball, but if you want to kick it straight, you gotta practice.

Maciej: Yeah. That’s, that’s not, not fun. Part of the, uh, getting o of becoming a master or even improving because this takes deliberate, practice. And deliberate practice is not fun. You want to like run, uh, run with the ball, uh, and kick it and you know, it is very true what, what you are saying that darker part of the, um, of, of having fun in even mm-hmm. In sports, yeah.

Nick: You’re right to, be, to be good. There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in the background.

Maciej: Yeah. The words relentless, I think is suitable here.

Nick: I, probably should not have said blood, sweat, and tears when I’ve already mentioned my kid. Kids in the statement. There’s no blood, sweat. There’s, yeah,

Maciej: we, we’ll cut it. No worries, . Alright, so, uh, we covered a little bit of, uh, like approach or strategy to rebuilding, redesigning your existing website. But for example, if you have no website, you have to start with something. And let’s assume everything went well and you’re the owner. You spent a ton of money, for example, on your website. And then you just hope and, launch and pray that everyone will want to visit this. Like you people will be talking to your website. Just because you have launched it and, you know, most of the time this is not the case. So the now I would like to tackle the problem of where, how to attract visitors. Where, where should we get the visitors? How, how to do this?

Nick: Yes. This, this is always a difficult one. I mean, uh, pre covid there. Uh, if, if you’re launching in a, uh, a small thing that that’s, uh, a very regional, you go to events, you go to things, you talk to people and so on and so forth. You can get on forum boards. I know that so sounds old, but they exist depending if you’re on a niche, if you’re on a very niche product, sometimes that’s the be the best place for you still, um, get into to, to, uh, groups on Facebook. I hesitate to, to, um, recommend groups on, on LinkedIn cuz they’re still not working as well as they should do. Um, but there’s lots of different areas where there’s audiences already. Um, and, uh, Though it’s a played out thing at the moment that you, you do a launch or something, uh, on, um, product hunt, if you’re trying to find an audience, uh, it is a good, there’s lots of ways to get to it. Um, and your goal is to really, if it’s a, uh, is try and find where the people that, your theory is that that will be using your product are and get them to give you feedback really quickly. Um, because the, uh, again, I mean this is, uh, this is basically, the common thing that I’m saying the whole time is, is feedback feedback’s key at the beginning. Um, you can’t lead an industry from just having a great idea, um, no matter who you are, uh, Elon Musk or anything. There, there. Feedback ground. He talked to experts. He, got all sorts of insights before, before doing things. Um, I’m not saying that you should overanalyze before you launch because launching and getting feedback is part of the learning experience. Um, so get out there, um, and be, be your best salesperson. Uh, love your product and talk about it as much as you much as you can. But, uh, again, listen, you, you’re, it’s very difficult to, to have, uh, the term I hate is it’s your baby, uh, thing, um, with, with a project. Um, but it, when you put somebody in that situation and use that, phrase, the first thing you go back to the, the feeling of, of your parent when somebody says, you’re, you’re, you’re something bad about your kid. You defend, you don’t listen. And that’s why I think that your, it’s your baby is actually one of the worst terms you can use. You can just say, okay, it, open yourself up to feedback, however you want to name this and not call it your baby, that you can actually say, I’m here to listen and find out how to make this, develop this into this great, great thing. Um, that’s probably the best way to look at it.

Maciej: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And, and, and this is popular concept to call a business a baby, you know, company a baby, to think about this, like, about the

Nick: style because it grows. Yeah. It, you develop it, it grows. You’re, you’re supposed to educate it and, and, and give it the opportunities, but I think there’s papa bear, ma bear, whatever you wanna call that, uh, inside you is to protect first. And I think that that’s, that’s the, if you, if you go in with that mentality of, of, of your startup, your idea causes issues. And that’s, that’s why I, I’m loving the whole build in public. Um, uh, movement that’s, uh, started happening a, a couple of years ago because that’s the, it’s, I’m, it’s not my baby. I’m here to give something and see what happens, uh, and, and, and, um, and be happy to, to get the feedback and, and happy to get the engagement.

Maciej: I just, uh, love to find that, you know, you are calling it out, that you cannot think about this, this way because this is natural for when it grows. It’s natural for people to, have it, this, this mindset. But it’s, uh, uh, it’s contr, counterproductive. And what about the other source of traffic ads? So you, you can know, pay for, for the traffic, you know? You can spend a ton of work trying to find like obscure places to, to live your traces and, and, and yeah, of course. And if, where, where to find you. But then this is, there is the, the easy way of. spend enough money on, on, on the website. So how balance it.

Nick:, I, would say, um, because obviously if you’re, goal is to raise money, get investment, you need to get traction as quick as possible. Um, the reason why I wouldn’t go ads first, um, is because maybe you don’t understand the market enough and so you end up do, uh, uh, spending money on ads that are with a keyword that’s maybe not optimized for what you want. Um, and so you’re, you’re looking at volume versus, uh, the actual word with the keyword and to me that equals a, a situation where you end up spending a lot of money and you can actually then, uh, possibly pivot your pro product or, your idea. Too early because you’re actually getting the, uh, the incorrect feedback from the market. You’re getting, uh, a feedback, Hey, there’s lots of traction, but they want this and okay, I’ll build that. And when sometimes that is valid because you, you, you find there’s not a big enough market for your product. But I think if you do that too early, you don’t give yourself a chance to find out if there is actually a, a, paid for need. Um, the other thing I tend to like to do, um, is try and get people to pay for the product quickly.So even in the early phases, the, the MVP phase is, get somebody to say, okay, I would not, I would commit, I’m going to commit. Here’s here , I don’t know, one euro a month, uh, for this product just to say, okay, fine. I’m, I’ve got skin in the game. I believe in you enough. And that’s also for me, a product val, uh, validation or, or an idea validation. Um, once you’ve got a little bit of feedback from this smaller group, um, which I think it’s very useful to work in a small group first, um, that you’ve got more organically and you’re, and you’re more engaged with these people individually, then you go out and test, Hey, is there a bigger market for it? Uh, I’ve learned, I’ve learned more about the industry. I’ve got more keywords, that I can, uh, use. And then you test out, the paid stuff. But if you test out the paid stuff too early, I, think it can distract you. It’s not always the case. But I, that, that’s my

Maciej: feeling unbelievable. Uh, how big a barrier is. Even spending one euro because it’s not about the money, but rather the process of leaving the card details or your personal data, you know, spending time on filling out the form, which I hate, for example.And then there’s that, that, that money, um, money aspect that okay, you are in fact leaving some money. You’re parting with a tiny part of your of your aware of, of the, the product. Mm-hmm. And it, it is a huge barrier. Barrier just even to, to, to, to sign up and spend any kind of money. And this is great. Uh, great, like information for you. If someone is not going to do this then for, for sure.

Nick: For sure. And, and the other thing is I think if you’re just giving everything out for free at, at the beginning, you probably, don’t think of the whole. Payment flow, how they’re gonna do this, and how, uh, and, uh, all these types of things until you’re at the stage where you have to and, or, or it’s more traditional to do it, and then maybe, you’re a little late and, uh, uh, getting the understanding and, and things mess up when you’re asking for 50 a month. Uh, and that’s when people say, okay, if I’m gonna, uh, spend 50 a month on your product, I expect everything to work. Um, so if you haven’t learned that skill in your, in your startup or your company, and so you have that problem also, this gives you the chance, um, to bootstrap if you need to. Uh, so if you can, if you can build a little bit more, uh, money behind all of this, you can potentially bootstrap your, your, your startup. And I think at the very beginning stages, that gives you a lot more flexibility.

Maciej: True. And, When, when you do this too late, you have a huge amount of time lost. That could be spent learning how to tackle this problem. Because when you finally start to do this, it’s like, okay, it’s like the first day you, you have some more knowledge, but then it would be like starting this a year ago, for example. And then you don’t have the luxury of, uh, figuring it out. You, it, it has to work from day one.

Nick: Of course. Uh, I mean, if you’re first starting out, and it’s your very first startup, um, and obviously maybe age plays into this. If you’re, if you’re younger than, than then it might be hard, uh, a harder ask or people might not trust you as much. Uh, unfortunately, no matter how good you are at what you do there, these barriers for people. Um, then maybe you have to, uh, do it a little later or figure out some different type of system to do it. Um, there’s many, many ways to do it, saying, You for the first year you pay this, but, uh, if you recommend X or give me this amount of feedback, you can get the money back, um, just to say, okay, fine. You’re investing in this getting better. So you’ve become like a early investor almost instead of a, uh, just a user.

Maciej: All right. And, uh, so we discussed a little bit of, no, we diverted how to build those, um, processes, you know, for, for, for the product companies that are, for example, subs, subscription based. I would like to go back again to those sources of, visitors because this is like, um, you know, this is, uh, this, this is where the money comes from, from, from the visitors turning into the client. So, If, if you are, you know, investing in as a CEO for example, then you are relying on being, you know, findable. And those, uh, organic sources are driven by no Google, and then you rely heavily on Google. Or if you are spending, money on, on Facebook and you build a community on Facebook, if something back that happens, you can get canceled. I, for business, this is not always the case, but there were cases where the whole, uh, like companies were canceled because, for example, something in the, in the API changed of, of Facebook. But this is a different case. So my question is, is there a way. To be less reliant on those giants.

Nick: Yeah. Uh, this, this is one of my, uh, well, I’m glad, uh, general, it seems like marketing has gone back to, before. Um, I don’t know. Facebook was the only way to do it. Google was the only way to do it. Um, they’ve gone back to the email marketing being, a key component. Um, and I am a heavy, I don’t know, proponent of, email marketing, segmented newsletters, making the community build, build up that way. And then from there, then you build up other, other parts of a community. So, for instance, I was, I was consulting for a company and I walked in and day one there, uh, newsletter had been crushed by GDPR and not really looked after because they were, they were working so well on Google and making lots of money. And I said, uh, what is your stretch goal for the marketing, for the next two, three years? And I said, I want to be able to shut off all Google and Facebook and all these ads that we’re paying for and still be a profitable company. And I, think people were falling off their chair with that statement. I said, this is, uh, it’s not possible. No, it’s healthy. And I said, it’s a stretch goal. I’m not saying we’re gonna achieve it, but that should be, we should be able to have two very, very comfortable, um, streams of income through different ways. So if one messes up with a, an algorithm change or something else, we’re still okay. And don’t get me wrong, I mean, if you start doing a, a heavy email marketing, you’re still likely in, Google’s world. World because a lot of people have Gmail accounts. So you have to start figur those things out. Um, so with, with that, I basically said we’re gonna do some of the ugliest marketing that, and I don’t like, we’re gonna put pop-ups on the website, exit popups. Hey, look, you’re leaving, but why don’t you keep in contact with us? And so we built like the, the, the newsletter list from, to be honest, it was one person, um, on the, newsletter list to like, uh, I don’t know 30, 40, 50,000 really quickly. Um, because we just said, okay, we have the traffic, we have the interest. We are, we are a leader in the market, but we just haven’t been doing that. And then from there, the goal the push was to segment them. So give them good information, put it out there, and then, then start asking, asking them questions. Hey, in a questionnaire, uh, in the newsletter, what’s your interest? Okay, this person is, is in liking, I don’t know, uh, fast moving consumer stuff. This, this one’s, uh, a designer. So we started segmenting them out and built, built out of that. Um, and then we, in another company, I completely changed their newsletter because they, they were just talking about their product and nothing else. And so I, watched this and said, I’m going to sit back. They had a good, a huge subscriber base and I thought, I’ll watch and see what happens. And then every week, huge amounts of unsubscribes. Huge amounts of unsubscribes. And I said, guys, we’re, we’re not talking to them the way they want to be talked to. Um, and then we basically, We, did the, whole newsletter. People were signing up because they thought, okay, we’re a great marketing company. Um, and they thought we’d have great, uh, great knowledge. We just kept on throwing blogs at them. Old, blogs, new blogs, but still blogs. And I said, Hey, why don’t we do curate some stuff from the internet? Um, uh, get some great articles about marketing, give some tips, uh, and whatever. And then we just do like three or four tips before, uh, and, and good articles before we get to just one thing about us, one thing. And so it was a much more a industry focused, uh, thing. Engagement rate, uh, or rate went up, uh, click through rate went up. Uh, everything was going, uh, went really well because of it. And the, we actually were getting many more people sub subscribing. And, we were get, we were seeing that people were sharing the newsletter and talking about it. So it was, uh, a great then engagement to grab a, a whole new audience in, and then it was then time to segment them out. So, and that just the segmentation, uh, that was a scary thing for the, the marketing team. Cause oh my God, I’m gonna have to, I’m gonna end up having to write eight newsletters a, week. I’m never gonna have time for anything else. I said, no. You just say, okay, fine. We know that we have these segments and we’re putting, uh, five articles into the, into the newsletter, uh, per, month or a week or whatever it was. I can’t remember the cadence. Um, and you say, make sure there’s one for everybody in there and just switch up. Like say if there’s one about designing and, and it’s for the designers, but it’s in the fifth place on the one for the fast moving consumer group. You just flip, flip it up to the top, top one and make that the most important article. And it, and they said, oh, whoa, that can work. And again, the engagement got even better. Um, and don’t be afraid to de delete or move the non-engaged people somewhere else. And don’t be afraid to send the same newsletter out twice. So that ones who didn’t open, didn’t engage, send it out again with a different title. Um, make sure that they, understand it. And you build that community and you can see, you send one newsletter out and the traffic to your website spikes unbelievably, um, because of, because of these things. So it’s, it’s really important not think of a newsletter as a, a necessary evil. Think of it as an amazing tool to, to in, in the nurture, uh, um, phase of, of marketing.

Maciej: Mm-hmmm I love it. Uh, I, I really love it because this is, uh, also something that I seek more often right now. And, uh, you know, this is delivering a value, you know? Mm-hmm, other than, you know, writing x time about the same thing. I have many questions to, what you said. So when you started saying that, you know, let, let’s put the, um, exit popups, I thought is, is this even working the, these days? So it is like, and you know, from zero, okay. One from, one subscriber. You, you ended up, you know in thousands, right? Yeah. So what was, what, what was the traffic on the website? It has had to be thousands, right?

Nick: Yeah. It, it was, uh, like a, a, a couple of thousand a a day. Um, but on top of that’s. And, and so, so, uh, on, on top of that, you have the, the, uh, , there were, uh, campaigns we were doing on, uh, LinkedIn, Facebook, whatever, to, to, push to the newsletter. Um, we were heavily put, uh, working with, working on Twitter. Hey, our newsletter’s coming out today. It’s got giving previews and so on and so forth to, to make people understand that there’s, there’s value there. And so showing it to a bigger audience and obviously doing the light Twitter hacks of, adding, uh, writing at this person to, the, to an industry expert or, or an influencer or whatever. And those types of things help out. Um, so there’s those, those little things that, add a little, um, gasoline to the fire on, these things. Um, but in general, ugly marketing sometimes works. I mean, popups are ugly. We all hate them. Um, but sometimes when you’re, when you, you have a tough situation, you have to play. some, some ugly games to make sure that it works. And then once you’ve got the audience, if you have the audience, you have a lot. And, that’s, the thing. It’s an attention level because they’ve, much more likely to buy from you than anybody else. Email is. E- email is consistently the highest, uh, I think it’s, uh, uh, highest, uh, return on investment channel that you have, because they’ve already said yes. They, it’s, it’s a permission. It, it’s, they’ve given you permission to be in their inbox. They want to hear from you. They don’t want you to just keep on shouting. I’m the best. They want to hear your opinion. They want to hear what, what you hear. Because again, if you’re, you curate, curate, um, uh, articles from around the web, you are doing your own research for other article, uh, articles you’re gonna write. So you’re doing it anyways. So it’s just like, Hey, those three articles that you, you picked up this week, just to, to be able to write, the, the next blog. Maybe that’s interesting anyways, to the group. Um, so we can then turn the blog into our take on those three articles. Um, so then you can have the, those three articles in the newsletter and you have the, the opinion side of it coming from you as experts. Uh, and it works. Um, it’s not rocket science, it’s just time consuming.

Maciej: Yes. I, that, that was for, uh, actually one of my questions. So, Was there a dedicated person to take care of this, uh, whole newsletter initiative? Because it sounds like a lot of work, even though, you know, someone has to pick those articles, um, you know, curated, uh, com calls and a newsletter. So it sounds like a lot.

Nick: I’ll have one moment where I praise myself. I’m in an office, in an office group, cuz I tend to run marketing teams or, whatever. I go to, I work well with the other, like customer service or customer success, , the sales team, the, the dev team. And so, for instance, on one place, I, we, I had a, there was an all hands and I, just said, okay, fine. The newsletter is a but all of us are involved in it. So whenever you find an article, whenever you do, whenever you find anything, then please send it to us. We can’t do everything and we can’t have the take that the dev team can have. So if there’s an opening, I’m going to ask. I, need a new author this week for, uh, something that, that’s gonna ring true for the dev team. Um, and, uh, I’ve been very lucky to have buy-ins, from Z levels to push this. Um, because that’s, I’m taking up time from different projects. But if you can show the, the results beforehand, then people will buy into it afterwards. Um, sometimes it, you, you get the buy-in earlier, sometimes you get a little, later. Marketing by, by taking, , working with the entire team.

Maciej: One more question about this, you know, segmentation it implies that you have the toolkit to actually understand what’s happening after you send out the newsletter. The, the, the conversion right. Extract from the newsletter. So this requires a little bit of a sophistication in terms of the tools you are using and the whole marketing and maybe sales team are using to so know how to organize. What’s the best first step?

Nick: Uh, yeah, I’m, not gonna say the be the best first step, is HubSpot. It’s like saying, oh, your fir your first, uh, vacuum cleaner’s gonna be a Dyson. That’s not gonna happen. Um, so you’ve gotta, you’ve gotta get somewhere to get, to get, to earn the right to go to your, uh, CFO and say, you know what? I have expensive taste and I want HubSpot. Um, it’s a good tool and, and, and it’s, uh, work the cost, but you, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s a cost. Um, so there’s other things. I mean, uh, traditionally, uh, I used MailChimp and, and, and basically I worked with, a developer or somebody like a, what’s you call, a the person and said, Hey, look, we can, we, we, we need to, to, to hack together a, a dashboard of how this is working and where the conversions are coming in and, and so on and so forth. Also have to buy in a little bit, maybe with a CFO or a COO or a CEO and say. Hey, this is not gonna immediately for the effort, you’re gonna see that we’re gonna have to put into this. You’re not immediately gonna see sales spike. Um, but what you’re gonna see is people stay with us and we can build a brand from that will help sales stay at a higher level and consistent. Um, but it, takes, uh, patience from, from everybody involved. But the, the, the tool set, there’s so many newsletter tools, um, uh, uh, available. Um, and obviously with the right tracking codes, you can track quite a bit. Um, and that’s, that doesn’t cost a huge amount, to get into Google Analytics or whatever other, uh, analytics tool you’re using to see, okay, fine. There’s, there is this amount of traffic coming from that. Especially if you use u kind of UTM codes, um, they’re pre-built in most of the time with what you call it, newsletter tool.

Maciej: I, love this project. Cause this is, um, not something that, you know, it’s the, the first idea that comes to your mind, like Spent it on, spent it on, on, on the us. It actually requires a lot of effort, but then it’s also working, um, working, working well, and, and you own it. You it, it’s not like something you, you, have to pay every, week in order to get those results. It’s something that that you do. That’s true. But then it’s, it’s work also that costs money, but then you own the results and the base of your, um, newsletter subscribers.

Nick: Yeah. through these things, because I’m, advocating for a lot, a lot of work before you spend. Um, you get closer to, if you’re, raising series rounds, uh, you get closer to that, , uh, or quicker to that point when you can understand, when you do start spending moneyI put, one euro in and I know I’m gonna get four euros out, or five euros out, or whatever it is that the ratio you need. Um, which is a, like C series, B metric. You need that to be able to get to that round. So, uh, if you can do this legwork with, non-paid for leads though, obviously you’re paying salaries and all the rest of it. You get to that, that, um, message market fit that the whole other side of this. Cuz you can get to the product market fit way before you get to the message market fit if potentially, um, uh, that you can then turn, turn this on on and say, okay, Google’s always waiting for there, wait, waiting, uh, for you there to say, come over here and spend some, money. Same with Facebook, same with all the other platforms, but they’re just also different parts of the, the funnel. They, you’re, you’re in Google, you’re, basically saying, here’s a buying opportunity. Click on it. Now Facebook, it might be a little bit more than the awareness side of it. Um, the LinkedIn, it might be, it’s a heavy thing for your account based marketing. Um, but these are things that you get to when you get past the, the do I understand how to sell my product and I’m not just leaving it to chance with Google. Uh, and a really broad keyword. Because that’s what I see a lot is people go broad with their keywords and don’t understand negative keywords. Uh, so they, they all of a sudden are getting unbelievable weird traffic. Um, and if you, if traffic is a, metric that you care for, uh, you then get into the situation where maybe a, uh, an investor or somebody at the sea level is like, oh, we had 20,000 people to, the website. Great. Repeat that. And like, well, it’s not a convert, it’s not converting and say, oh, well then just make sure, tweak what you have to make them converting, but keep, keep the traffic hide. I can’t do both, uh, because I don’t know, maybe 80% of that traffic was garbage. Um, so it’s one of the, one of those things, um, and sorry, , to keep on, uh, keep on going, but I think there’s, um, money better spent in creating communities, um, by going to stuff like, uh, uh, yeah, hacker News or whatever where, where they people are really wanting your product or wanting to know about brand new thing or Discord or, or whatever else where these communities already exist. And under an easy pot to say, okay, fine. You’ve got to go in there, uh, authentically and say, Hey, we’re gonna add value. Not just say, Hey guys, come and buy our product. But it , all takes, um, a little bit more time.

Maciej: Alright Nick, so thank you very much for the, for the discussion today. I’ll, I learned taton about marketing in terms of the newsletter approach, so this was amazing for me. Is there anything you’d like to add, like as a closing remark or something like this, you know, something I didn’t ask you? Anything you’d like to share?

Nick: No. I mean, uh, you’ve asked all the stuff that I, that I want to ask, and I, I’m, not doing this because I’m on your podcast, but I’ve worked with you on a, project to stabilize a website and I was really impressed. I was really impressed. You, uh,

Maciej: Thank you very much.

Nick: I wanted, I wanna say on a different, different notes and I’ve publicly done that before on, LinkedIn, um, because I like, like to work with the right people.

Maciej: Thank you. Thank you. I mean, it’s amazing. You did this, you know, on the record, you know, the tape is, still rolling. So thank you very much for this means a lot

Nick: No problem.

Maciej: And for the the rest of the team as well. Yeah.

So thank you very much for, your kind words.

Nick: No problem, And I’m not getting paid for that.

Maciej: That’s true. Okay. Thank you very much once again and see you around.

Nick: Yeah, thank you very much. All right.

Intro: If you like what you’ve just heard, don’t forget to subscribe for more episodes. On the other hand, if you’ve got a question we haven’t answered yet, feel free to reach out to us directly. Just go to awesome studio.com/contact. Thanks for listening and see you in the next episode of the. 

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