Arvid Kahl is the founder of The Bootstrapped Founder and author of Zero to Sold.
Previously, Arvid successfully built and sold Feedback Panda in 2019 after growing it to $55k MMR.
During this podcast replay from our live workshop, Tom and Arvid cover:
- Scaling your SaaS business
- Identifying a problem
- Finding your first users
- Selling your business
Taking Your Business From Zero to Sold with Arvid Kahl Podca...
Mon, 9/7 10:32AM • 51:38
people, customers, product, build, problem, stage, building, business, sold, book, feedback, features, talking, panda, find, important, danielle, niche, audience, hour
Hey Tom here from a keypad. Today we're sharing a recent workshop we hosted with Arvid calm, who is the author of zero to sold and founder of bootstrap founder.com. Have it is an expert in everything and bootstrapping and building products. He's previously had an exit of his company feedback panda. So we dived into everything to do with actually starting your business from zero from ideation to finding your first customers to scaling to growth. This is a really in depth conversation for anybody looking to actually start and grow their own business. We hope you enjoy it, then be sure to check out make pad doco slash events for any upcoming live workshops and builds that you can attend. See you soon. Enjoy the conversation. And bye.
Thank you, sir, for joining me. You're looking well. Absolute pleasure. You're looking great to be where you're calling him from have it for you. I'm Berlin in Berlin. I'm in Germany right now that's that's where I live. Yeah, time zones. Funny enough. That always was a big thing for us and our business a feedback Panda, too. Yeah, it's like we were living in Berlin. And our customers were in the United States, but they were teaching for a Chinese company. So it was all over the place like it was we were and we were perfectly settled in middle that was really cool. Like a normal day nine to five for us, was just met perfectly into the time slots for both the American people that we serve and the Chinese customers that they
served, it was, first of all, and say thank you for joining me. I know that you're a very busy guy at the moment and recently invested a lot of time into getting your book as it's sold out. Which one say congratulations on it seems to have been extremely well received in maker bootstrapper and community along with obviously, General software folks, because I think Was he really useful for this conversation? Is it going to apply to such a wide range of people, whether you're actually thinking about building a product for the first time, and you're wondering, like how to go about it through to actually having a successful business or kind of getting towards that stage? And you're actually thinking about, like, is this something that you could potentially sell? And maybe you're coming on to your next idea. So that's why this is awesome. And I'm sure this is going to apply to a lot of people. So from your side, so it's to get like a quick overview of how is how's it been for you actually writing the book and getting out there into the wild? How's that process been? And all before that, you want to do a quick introduction to yourself? Oh, sure. I mean, I was born in 1985. Not it's just, it's just really go with the whole entrepreneurial journey. I guess. I started software development when I was a kid. Essentially, I'm a programmer by choice from like ninth grade, and I always dabbled and lots of things I've studied
Computer Science at some point and failed. Like I didn't finish didn't get a degree and then I started something else in finish that didn't get a degree just working interesting jobs that I found. Just Yeah, by being connected with people, and then started a couple of businesses over the last decades. That went pretty much nowhere. Some imploded some just slogged off into the distance and were never seen again, you know, that kind of stuff. And in 2017 Finally, after a decade and, and a half, I guess, of trying to get something out. I co founded a business called feedback panda with Daniella. She's my girlfriend and partner both in life and business. She was an English online teacher. Most specifically, she was an English as a second language online teacher working for a Chinese kids English company who sold English online classes to Chinese parents who wanted their kids to learn Chinese English taught by a native English speaker. So there was only now, like, we were talking a lot about niches today at least I hope so because it's important to me. And we try to be very, very specific. And we had to be because she had a problem she was she was teaching, right she was teaching from her home. Like all of her colleagues working for this Chinese school, she was teaching 10 hours a day through something like Skype, but web based, which these Chinese companies offered, and every 25 minutes, there was one lesson one kid 25 minutes, she would need to write feedback, student feedback for the parents to read. So they knew like what they did in the class and what they could track this for next class, all these kind of little things, and Chinese parents really want to know, so like that their parents who say whatever they really want to know so you better write something meaningful. And that turned out to take a lot of time. And if you teach for 25 minutes and you only have five minutes after that, to recuperate, get a coffee, go use the restroom, and then You still have to write like four paragraphs of text doesn't work. So what Danielle figured is that she needed to do these things after her day of teaching. And what we noticed was that all other teachers had the exact same problem. If they were teaching any meaningful amount of time, they had to spend an hour or two hours of extra unpaid work every single day to get the student feedback done. And it was mandatory, like you had to feel student feedback within 12 hours of teaching the class, you wouldn't get paid. That was a level of intensity. And you can already feel this feels like a critical problem. This is something that has to be solved, either by writing fast or building your own little system. If you're a teacher, or finding something that makes it makes it easier. And that's what we did. I looked at Danielle's, she told me what the problem was, and we figured out okay, we can automate this. So what we built in feedback panda just needed to do it quickly, was a sass that is both a CRM and a templating engine for student feedback and for students that These people could plug into their web based classrooms and can easily click a button, get feedback, immediately modify it a bit, send it off, what took us two hours was now five minutes. And that was the value proposition that we have with the business. So we started this in 2017. We kind of built the prototype into Sep 2017. Danielle tested it, she was the first user. And then a couple months after we ironed out all the kinks and the bugs, we released it, we grew it within two years to five something thousand customers $55,000 monthly recurring revenue. And that's when people got really interested in our business. And we got acquired by a private equity company called transfer of capital for what I'm allowed to say is a life changing amount of money. And that was that after thank you that was one of the most exciting things that I ever did. I guess even writing the book is exciting, but not as exciting as that Doing this right like selling a business. Nobody ever does that, like all all founders that get to this point never have done this before. So it was, was quite exciting to to be in the company of people have done this. And then over the last year, and we sold it in July of last year, I started taking the things that aren't and putting them into blog posts initially, and a newsletter and then a podcast because for some some reason I had all this time on my hands and I really needed to do something. Yeah. And then it turned out that the blog posts that I've written, if you'd looked at him, like from the bird's eye perspective, they almost looked like a book. So at some point, I decided I might just as well turn into a book and that's what's here to solve this. It's like the condensed, or I guess, expanded learnings that I was gonna say it's 500 pages. There's nothing condensed about this book, but it's like the the two years of feedback, plus all the misfortunes, mistakes and errors that I made in the two decades before went into this. And yeah, that's that's where I'm at right now.
Love it. Thanks for the interest great the it's awesome when actual problems come up almost organically because you can be like scratching your own itch and yours so often in in successful companies they often are warmer that just have like Instagram was founded when he and his partner at the time was trying to take a photo on the beach and it was just oh, okay, I can I can build this this is useful. This is kind of useful for us who's likely to be useful for other people. One thing I want to say before we dive into the book itself, and and we're gonna talk about sentence structure. Let's give a kind of high level view around the kind of structure of the book because it's kind of broken up into the four stages of bootstrapping, which you kind of break down as the preparation stage, the survival stage, stability stage and the growth stage. We can kind of Go through, I think it'd be good to kind of dive into each one of those individually. But would you could you just give us like a one sentence like explainer for each of those stages?
Sure, like preparations are just all these kinds of things that happen before you actually have a business, right? It's where you figure stuff out. It's where you figure out what you building, who you're building it for how you build it, and how you can actually turn that into a business. That is the preparation stage just prepares you for the struggle that is going to come that would then start with the survival stage, when you actually launch the product and the product is out there. You have your first couple customers, hopefully, and you hopefully retain them. And you try to find out how you can turn this product that you have into a sales process that is repeatable. You try to find the repeatable model to make this a thing that can work on its own. So yeah, that's the the actual, like practical figuring stuff out part. And once you've found this once you've found a reliable, repeatable way of selling your product to people that you come into the stability to the stage where you can now instead of working in the business, which that was what you were doing before trying to get people to buy and trying to make the product better, you can now work on the business and turn it into a sellable business, a business that works without you needing to be in there or turning into an automated business. So you can spend your time on the important things instead on the tedious things. And once you're beyond that stage, once it works, once, it's a really good business that you could if you wanted to, you don't have to, but you could sell to somebody else, you enter the growth stage, the point where either you keep it, and you just grow it, you hire people, you build a little Empire, or you want to diversify your life and you want to spend a couple months on the beach, well, then you sell it, right then you get acquired or you find somebody who would like to buy a business. And that's kind of the structure of the book. That's that last part is the part where fewest people really know what to do because it's just so few people compared to The rest of the inhabitants of this wonderful planet that have gone through this process, where I find a lot of things that just weren't answered anywhere else, but every single stage has a really important message somewhere in there. And we can definitely talk about all of them, I would be quite happy to.
That'd be great. Yeah, that's a that's a really good overview. Because I think, for anybody, like building anything, you a lot of time you just have the stage way where you're currently at front of mind. And often, you kind of get through one stage and Oh, can we've gone from one stage to the other with naked? I think reading and diving into your book, you kind of are able to maybe make decisions a bit sooner than you would you if you reach that stage and actually, so you can kind of forecast what's coming and you've got to build and tailor accordingly. Maybe you can dive into that in a bit.
It's funny though, because in writing the book, I went through all of these stages again, like it's really there's barely a difference between creating an info product book right, which is a digital product just as well, or creating a SAS, it differs in some key aspects. But over overall, like you still have to conceptualize, you have to find the audience and figure out what they want. And if they're willing to pay for it, and then build it, iterate and make it something that sells itself and then hopefully get to the growth part, which is, I guess what I'm looking forward to at this point. But Funny enough, like 02 sold, structurally helped built or helped write zero to solve, you know, content that's in the book is relevant for the book ever being possible to be made.
Okay, that makes sense.
Yeah, interesting. It's a meta situation here,
I'm just checking checking the book here because I also found that the preparation stage is like half of the book, like 250 pages of this is just the first page first stage because there's so much going on, you would just want me to dive into it like on a more granular level, or how would you like that?
Yeah. So I think one of the ones that really stood out for me, we came to this for jumping on was actually about the audience, you mentioned about the audience and their problem. So this is something which is often like missed, and people kind of skip over that. So she should start there. Or we can over here, go go wherever you want.
I love that because because that is one of the central things that I've found, I wouldn't say missing it just misunderstood in, in indie hackers and new founders, because most of us, even if we're not technical, like even if you're not a developer, if you're if you're if you're coming from a different background, we perceive the world around us as products to think about it. We see the microphone, it's a product, we see the software, it's a product, even a bottle of water is a product right? We don't conceptualize it. As as soon as Due to somebody's problem, so we look at the product and we like the product, and we want to make products that other people like. That is like the basic perspective that we have. And that leads to the fact that many people start with the product. They start with the idea, oh, I want to build this particular software or this app, I want to build an iPhone app that does this. And then they think, Okay, so now I need to figure out does this actually solve somebody's problem? So they need to figure out is this a solution to a problem? And then they might find that it's an actual problem that somebody has, now they need to figure out. So who has this problem? Who can I sell this to? And then they need to track back and find the people that may have this problem. And then they need to figure out what can I even sell it to them and it goes down all the way and you never really know. Like, it's always guesswork. It's always a chance that the thing you wanted to build solves nobody's problem. Or that it solve someone's problem but they have zero money or zero intend to buy anything, right? So if you look at things product, first, you'll only ways, potentially building something that nobody could use, which is why I advocate turning this around and starting with an audience. And then looking at that critical problem, finding a solution that fits into their workflow in building a product that works in the medium that your audience is active. That's like the shortest version of this I can get. But the point is, start with a group of people that you want to help. And you'll find this in Syria to solve I work a lot in the book, trying to work the message that you really need to want to help people if you want to be a founder, or if you want to be a successful founder. Because if you're serving an audience that you don't care about, let's say you really don't like recruiters, right? That's my go to audience. I'm sorry if there's anybody who feels attacked by this, I don't mean anything. It's just an example. But if you don't like recruiters, and you have this idea of building A tool for recruiters Do you really want to spend the next five years of your life interacting on a day to day basis with the people you don't care about? starts with that, right? Find a group of people, an industry or in tiny niche, or just like football fans or people who like coffee or whatever it can be any kind of group of people. But find a group of people that you care about that you actually want to help that you want to empower. And I am currently working on a framework to for this like to actually have a step by step actionable guide to go through the audiences that you're interested in and figure out which ones of them are good ones, and which ones of them are maybe not as good even though they sound interesting. But the shortest version I can say this is find an audience that you care about. Find an audience that is big enough for you to actually build a business in but small enough so you don't get competition from the likes of Google and Microsoft and find it all. Instead, it has interesting problems and find an audience that is willing to actually pay for a solution to their problems. It's like the most basic way to boil it down. Because if, if all of these things are mostly true, then you have a group of people that you can now drill into, and figure out, Okay, how can I serve these people? How can I help them? Because if you have an idea of a product, it's unclear if that actually helps them. But if you ask people in a group that you found that you're interested in, what are your biggest problems, you will hear the same things over and over again, you will have feel like that there will be common threads throughout these conversations and you have to have conversations. So another big thing, you need to actually be part of this community. So when it when it comes to communities, you need to embed yourself in the places where these people hang out. You need to start talking to them, you need to start contributing to the cause. And then you will get the actual information that you're looking for. And I also already see a question by Francisco here. So any step three finding a potential niche? Yes, there is. And I've done this with a couple of mentees after mentoring people over the last couple months, I've stopped recently because I'm actually getting into burnout territory, but just talking to too many people about too many of their problems. But I've taken a week of vacation now. So I'm better. But if you and I did this with him, so that's why I'm saying this, if you look at your life, just really look at a day in your life. And look at all the things that you're doing, you will figure out that you're actually part of a lot of communities and a lot of niches already, like, look at this, like I'm a podcaster right, so I run a podcast part of podcasting community. I like drinking tea, so I'm a tea aficionado, know a lot about tea. So all of a sudden, there's this group of like a
I really don't like cold showers. So that's how I mean some of them may be comical, but another one. I'm an indie hacker. I'm a software developer. I'm a writer. I'm a I'm an author of a book that is self published. So I'm a self published author. And I'm, I love having a good computer. So I'm a Mac, I'm an apple fan, right? And all these kinds of things. And part of so if you just take some time to reflect on all the groups that you're already part of, you will figure out that there may be 30 4050 audiences that you're already a member of, even though you may never have thought about it. Just an example, right? I've had a person find figure out that they really love coffee, and then have coffee to an extent that most people don't like they import it from different countries because they really likes specific tastes. And they have not only one coffee machine, they have like four different ones so they can brew it to the right temperature at the perfect, like pressure and stuff. So these people, they are already domain experts in their niche audience that they could potentially serve. Yeah, and if you do this with yourself, and if you do this with the people around you, and like I did with Danielle like she was the online teacher that we solved the problem for if you if Do this on that level, you will find a lot of potentially interesting audiences. And then you really have to do it step by step. And that's the thing I'm developing right now really the actionable part. Can they pay for the things that they they need solve interesting problems? Do I really care about these people? Do I want to lift them up? Do I want to empower them. And if you find these things, then you start talking to people, then you go into these groups, Facebook groups, Twitter communities, forums, like indie hackers, there's a forum for plumbers and pipefitters. In the United Kingdom. I checked that because I thought we had audience like, this is gigantic forum where they all exchange little tips and tricks on how to do plumbing and stuff. So if you want to serve those people, you will find them and you will need to, like really embed yourself in the community. And then you figure out what their critical problem is, and you validate that with them, and then comes the next step, which is that you find a solution. And it's a solution. I'm almost done with with the four steps here as solution. Not a product, it's important for me to point that out. So we're really looking at audience, problem solution product. These are four distinct things. A solution is a way to solve somebody's problem, conceptually, that you don't need to tell them, I'm going to build an app for you doesn't matter. The problem is I have these four databases, and I need to write a report about it about the data. That's a problem. So it doesn't matter if it's an app, if it's an installable, executive will on your desktop, or if it's a SaaS product doesn't matter. If you take those four databases, and you generate a report that works for them. That is your solution. How you do it doesn't matter. And how you do it. It's also something you need to explore at a later point. So you find your solution, your conceptual approach, validated again with the same people that you've talked to before, and then you dive into the product. So we've just talked about three steps that had zero building, right? Nope. No coding. No, no. No coding nothing. It was talking to people figuring out who you are part of which communities you're a part of, and talking to people first about the problems and then about your conceptual solution. And that's what the preparation preparation stage should be. And we did this with feedback. Panda was super efficient for us. I did this with a couple of my mentees. It's been working significantly better than the things stated before. So there's some belief that this might be a much more efficient approach. Because every step along the stage, you have a valid and a validated foundation. Right? You start with an audience, you notice these people are there because you're one of them. You take their most critical problem, you know, it's critical because they told you, and then you solve it. And if that's validated, well, those people told you this is a good idea to their critical problem. They would pay for that or if they commit but even then, you've then you've built the product. You don't build the thing first and throw it at people. You take the people and they guide you into what they really need.
Got it. I think that's just such a great summary. And it definitely applies more than ever, we can probably touch on this at the end. But now that and noco tools on the state that they are and they're so good that you actually, you can build things so easily often this entire entire four step process, you just outline is just neglected all together and often building a board like the sky, like they'll get bored discard. So yeah, it kind of flips on its head. And I think that's a great way to explain it. It is important to find a critical problem in a niche, the one that already has experience in or does it not matter.
I believe that you should either be an expert, or be really, really close to an expert. When you are in an issue, solve the critical problem, because if you're not, then you're way behind anybody else who's targeting this niche, right. You could become an expert like, I'm not an expert podcast. So wouldn't build a podcasting software but Justin Jackson is an expert podcaster and an expert software biller or like. Yeah, founder. So building transistor was obviously the thing for him to do. And he can reliably with his partner obviously built the business, knowing that he's an expert in the field. So I feel you should try to be an expert or being the proximity and have access to an expert feedback panda. The example is the same. I'm a software engineer, and good at building things. Danielle was the expert. Like she knew exactly what the problem was because she felt it herself. She knew exactly that everybody else every other teacher serving these kinds of schools had the exact same problem because they were all teaching the same centralized curriculum. So there was nothing different between them the exact same problem and she knew that everybody else was already talking about this people already had this problem and for vocal about it and if you are not that deep in a niche You need to find somebody who is, well, you need to spend a lot of time becoming this and then start your business. Otherwise, I think there's a big risk that you might just implode, because there's so much to learn business itself is a hard thing to build. So you will need to learn how to do that, then you need to learn how to do user interfaces, and you need to learn how to do customer acquisition, you need to learn so much, it would be good that you already know something. And that will be in the hope that answers the question.
Yeah, I think that i think that's brilliant, because we often see it where if you diversify yourself too much out of your area of expertise you might get so far, but then you could just going to do is going to drop off and somebody like you mentioned before with that domain expertise is just going to be 10 times out of 10. That's a really good way of describing it. And your co
founder, right? It's always if you can get a co founder that is an expert or that can you if you're the expert that can supplement with marketing or developments or like User Interface kind of stuff your ex great. Like, you don't need to do this alone. And that was one of the things that I painfully learned. And I'll be I'll be talking about this on my podcast this week. I had a very stressful time yesterday recording this because it was a very emotional thing talking about my own shortcomings my own mistakes there. But I and I, we hired No, we didn't hire like we were two people finding the business and two years later, we were still two people in the beginning with zero customers, and then we had 5000 that was pretty stupid. And I'm the one responsible for it. Then y'all always told me we need to hire you. You need a customer service agent. You need another engineer. You can't do this alone. I was like I could do everything. Yeah, well shouldn't have like I was getting anxious. I was stressed. I got burnout and physical symptoms. I'm still working through those at this moment. Like it's Yeah, it's crazy. It's a year later, I'm still there physically. Whenever an intercom thing like an intercom window open somewhere I get like intercom PTSD. It's not a joke. Like I get heartbreak. goes up. And I get this, this feeling here because at some point customer service was such a chore that had physical responses to it. So gonna get somebody to build the business with you. And when you feel anxious, hire people to do your do the things that feel tedious and anxious inducing. That's that's a really important message because I, I mess myself up with that. Just want to know that.
Yeah, that's really that's really good to know. And how would you go from so let's see, you've done all the things you said you found the problem. How Wendy, when is it a good time to move to actually sign putting the product together? When does that happen? And you move on to the next step.
Well, yeah, you can you can overdo the preparation stage as well. Right. You can overdo validation costs. And yes, it's it's different for every business. Obviously, some businesses, it's very clear from the beginning, that your audience is there the critical problem is detectable and detected solution fits and It's a workflow that people already have. And you can build a product in the medium that people have. So you only really have to validate with a couple people, maybe a dozen people, and you figure out, okay, we should really build something there's pull from the market. Also a thing that Justin Jackson has been saying a lot in his newsletter, and he's been talking about the poor. If people say, Okay, I need this, and they sign up and they stick with it, even if it's on a free trial or something, but they keep using it. Right, then, you know, there's something there. And I would suggest not spending more than maybe a month on this whole validation, really as a as a random number of just pulling out of my head right now. Because if you if you line up calls with people, it will take some time, right? It will take a week to get people to schedule call appointments you to chat with them, and then for you to actually dive through the information and figure out like, is this something that I should be doing or what's the reception and lukewarm that people say no, I don't need it right. You still need to do some work both And after a conversation with a customer, both preparing for the call and in taking the data that you've got from the call, but if you're doing this for more than a month, you may be procrastinating on actually getting to the next stage. And with no code tools being so explicitly simple to build a first prototype, that you could then show the people that you had your solution validation calls with, right? Build the first version of the product and show them it's supposed to look like this, even if it's just like a click dummy. Something where people just see Oh, you would click here, and then this would happen. And this would happen. Is this what you need? Is this what you would use, and people say yes, this is exactly what I want or notice doesn't make sense at all. Having that having an actual product or a fake product or prototype, to some degree is incredibly valuable to be able to get out of the preparation stage at some point. This at some point you need to release it at some point you need to have a price point you You need to have an integration with I don't know, paddle and stripe or whatever. And people need to be able to pay for your product. And that needs to happen quite quickly, because otherwise you're just wasting your time. But still, you need to do this thinking part before, right? It shouldn't start building, but you should start building quite soon have the
cat like it. So we've now kind of identified a problem. Maybe we built the prototype, maybe you got a few like early adopted customers, they come on, and they're paying this kind of move through into what you call the survival stage. So what is the first step in survive when you've got paying customers and you have to actually start like building into building and features maybe it's like one step beyond kind of your prototype an MVP is working, but maybe it's quite like janky and then you're thinking about think about what what do we need to build We've probably built the core functionality of the version one in your prototype. So does it do the exact thing? Or the one main function that I had in my head that this should do? Yeah. And the one thing I wanted to touch on here, is building the right things, because I know this is the citizen, often suddenly, which is like a constant battle. When you're building anything. It's like, Am I am I focusing my time on building the right features? Like, am I spending my time effectively? So should we dive into that a little bit?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, there's there's two two chapters, or I guess a number of chapters, but two sections and zero to sold. One is building the right things. And the second one is building things right. So it's right you can build the right things with built the wrong way. And it's still breaks application. But let's start with building the right things. At the moment you have people on both from the beginning when you have these first customer exploration conversations to when you're actually have customers both trial and error. customers and paying customers. Communication is the central function of you as an entrepreneur in that stage, talking to people, like later at some point, like when you're in the middle of the stage and growth, you can delegate that to other people, you can say, Well, yeah, we've got a customer service agent here and the product development person there and they do the thing. And I'm just like doing the highly intellectual work now where the company should go, but not at this stage, the moment you throw yourself into actually having the business running, you need to talk to every single of your customers if you can, right, provided that you're building a b2b thing if you have a b2b, b2c model, which is like to individual agents, or a b2c to private customers like selling these things at scale, different story, but if you're doing b2b and I guess if you're selling to freelancers and stuff like that, you need to talk to people as much as you can. You need to look over their shoulder, see how they use your product, see where they fail, see what they expect. Talk to them about things that don't work, just yet. Talk to them about things that work well. And things they would need to integrate your product even further into, into their workflow into their lives. And these conversations will unearth a lot of feature requests. That's always what's going to happen, people will either reach out to you and say, hey, why doesn't this and I say, Oh, yeah, it's on the roadmap. Or they will tell you, this is not what I want it. This is not as unusable for me right now. It has, it's a great idea. But it's not really it doesn't fit into the workflow, right? Am I at the beginning of your product, I have a CSV file, and I need to have a PDF at the end. Why is there only a PNG, like, as an example, a really simple one, but you know, stuff that doesn't work just yet. So you need to figure out which of these things are important. And there's a lot of ways of doing this, like feature prioritization frameworks. There's plenty of them out there. It starts with the I guess you can do an Eisenhower matrix, this whole thing that has urgency and importance like these four fields, right. It's urgent and important. This is the one you want to do immediately. Important, but not urgent is something you need to do at some point and not not important and urgent is something you want to delegate. And the other thing is completely neglect. You can do this with the feature that feature lists that you've gotten from your customers. And there's many, many others of different systems like this can ban things and different kind of approaches to this scoring methods, or they're like telling you a scoring effort that that you would need to put into the project or this particular feature against the potential demand or impact. Many of these things. I've written extensively about this because I feel it's important. We had some sort of scoring in our business like we had, is this something that would impact all of our customers right now? If so, it would already get a thumbs up. Is this something that would make it significantly more usable, would get a thumbs up? If it's if it would be both I would work on it immediately. And simple scoring like this makes it makes a big difference because if one of your customers they say you have 20 customers, you have a b2b product and one of them asks you for a feature Sure, that would only impact them, but they would be very happy. You're now at an impasse, right? Do I do this and make this customer happy, but I kind of neglect the 19 other people at the same time, what do I say this is something I'll build later and find something that would lift all of them up at the same time. And these decisions, you need to be aware that you actually will need to make those decisions, which is why I wrote the book because just so many little things in the whole journey from zero to selling your business or building this gigantic Empire, you want to build in the future that you never thought would come your way, but all of a sudden now you need to do these weird little charts and scoring for features right? Yeah, this is important.
I've got a question with just in regards pretty like person situation as well. And how does like no code building without with no code tools change things because I come from, I used to be working product management and in like a more like traditional setup, with like engineers and designers and Then we know that obviously, then actually prioritizing your time is really important because you're working with multiple people. But what how does? How does this change when you can build features in a really, really short amount of time? Do you? Would you still invest the same amount of time in actually preparing and scoring these features and kind of weighing those options? Or would you take an approach where, let's say you can build, build it in our build in an hour, and then spend more time on gathering feedback on whether that would work or not? Right?
Well, funny, because it kind of feels to me like what used to be like weeks is now condensed into days, right? But you still have a difference in complexity. So I just want to maybe talk about this, there will always be things that are easy, easily done. In a traditional software engineering environment, it could take a day or two would be considered a low hanging fruit, and in no code, it's an hour. It's also considered a low hanging fruit, and then there would be things to take a week or month. In no code terms, they would take a couple days to set up and test right. And you could, you could still argue that by going for the things to take a bit longer, you're not going to go for the things that most other people go for. Like, they're not called low hanging fruit without reason. Yeah, if you always go for the low hanging fruit, that's the first thing that a competitor will go for as well. So if you want to stand out, you will still want to go for the more complex things that provide the potential of having massive impact for most amount of people at the same time, because it takes you three days to build this and then you're three days ahead of everybody else, right? Even if things take an hour here or there. So I feel no code changes. The timespan in which things work but the the underlying concept of doing the hard things first, doesn't change. That's being said. If you have a day in which you can do like five low hanging fruits and get something out of that, do it right if it doesn't take you four To do this, but just a day or two, that that changes the game for product. So always keep in mind that if it's a low hanging fruit and is really easily done, you might actually be missing out on not doing this, right? Because, yeah, it might provide some benefit that might catapult the usefulness of your product into another dimension. But that's why you do the feature prioritization. And that's why you try to keep it scored in some way. So you always know, which is conceptually The most important thing that you could work on right now. The other thing is also important, but if that is the most important thing, then maybe spending time on this is the best time spent.
Got it? Now that makes the most complete sense. Next question is how do you know if you've done the right thing? So Oh, man, you think you had you know if it's
actually the thing you should have built? Well, you never know that you're only know after that. Perfect. That's, I guess you can always do continuous validation. That's that's the thing that that I also feel is an important concept to understand Usually, I mean, continuous validation in a more holistic sense, like continuously understanding, am I still serving the right customer? Am I still having fun at building the business? Am I still doing the things right? Are people moving away? Is my industry still there? Am I serving people? Or did they lose their jobs just now, that is continuous validation. But you can also do this on a feature level, like you can actually discuss particular features with your customers. You can say, I want to build this. And there's so many ways, right? There's always the fake button. Then you measure how many people click on that button. I don't like this because to me, that's trickery. It's like getting people to build up the hoax. I could do this now and nothing happens. I don't like this. But you can do this with an actual meaningful conversation with your customers, and particularly in this stage where you have a direct connection. Hopefully a direct Connect to your customers through things like intercom, or other tools in the same space that allow you to chat with them. Or you have an email back and forth with them. Or you actually have a personal relationship with people through Twitter or whatever, right? Where you can actually to talk to people, you should, and you should talk to them. I want to build this here is the sketch of what it's going to look like. Does it make sense to you? And they will say, yeah, maybe what they say, yeah, this is awesome. And then you get some some kind of validation, but until you have it in the product, and until people are using it, and using it, well, for the purposes that they have, it's a guess that's why you score these things. It's almost like each of these scores should have some sort of confidence multiplier, and there are scoring methods that actually have this in there, the scoring methods for future prioritization that say, I am this confident that my assumption is correct. And then you multiply it in and it changes the ranking of the features by how confident you are. So Trying to increase your confidence is key. And doing this, the easiest way is actually talking to people.
And how did you how'd you bring in and factor in the key customers that you've gotten? So let's say you've got like a really hardcore user, a user base, and they're, they're requesting features. They're like their power users. How would you like prioritize features, but then weighed up against the customers that say, more likely to churn for instance, in like in a SAS environment? Does that weigh in to what you build?
Wow, yeah, that's, it's definitely a problem. We had those two, like, we had a couple of teachers that were really, really prolific, like they would teach for 12 hours a day. And that means 24 pieces of feedback that they would need to write, and they would teach every single day. So they would have like literally thousands of feedback after a couple months, thousands of records in the database in our system. And then there were people like you said, normal users Who taught like an hour or two, every couple of days. So they were by far not as professional if you're looking at it that way. So when our power users came to us, and they requested the feature, we always really, really stepped back and thought about, okay, it's gonna make them happy. That would be cool, because they also have some sort of elevated standing in the community. So they could be evangelists for a product, but does it impact everybody else in some way. And if it did, in some way, potentially help other people, too, we would build it. But if it was only something for them, like, I don't know, like a PDF export of something or like a reporting on their availability time, so something that only they would need a normal normal teacher would never need this, but they would want that for their optimization strategy. We wouldn't build it or at least we wouldn't build it into the product as a feature. We would build it into the back end system as something that I could give people on request. And we try to keep it as simple and clear as possible, particularly with administrative stuff. We even didn't put it into the, the program or the the app for people to do it by themselves and put it into our back end system. So people would need to reach out to us to get like, I don't know stuff undeleted or restored or to set back to a prior version, you know, these kind of things, people save something, and they wrote over some text that they wanted to get back we had the means to do it. But we didn't put it into the front end. We had it in our system, and we could do it for them on demand. So we would try to keep it the keep those features on a Yeah, need to request basis.
Got it. And I think as we kind of gobbling up this hour pretty quickly, we need to break this down to multiple sessions. So you could go and read these to know this is actually really really, really important because and preparation stage And survival stage is you need to get through these to even give yourself a chance. So another question on like the power user so is it lots of like famous books and quotes about finding those first like hundred customers and first thousand customers really your love your product? How do you turn? or How did you get feedback panda where you turn those 100,000 customers into evangelists for your product? And how, how did you use or leverage Brenda's word into talking about like you really love your products. But how did you how did you get those? How do you use those people to find more of that?
Okay. I have a lot of answers for this. So I think leverage is fine because you don't, you don't use them right and they're not they're not a means to an end. They are an end they are your best customer, right? You want to serve them and by allowing them to evangelize, they make your product better. So if more people come in, you can hire more People you can hire more customer support, so they get help more in the future. So I guess leverage is it's the thing you can recontextualize as something positive here. But so what did we do? First off, we helped them super quick. In the beginning response times, I tried to have a response time under 10 seconds to a customer service. That was my thing, because I was sitting in front of the computer anyway. So I would try to be as quick as I could. And then when I responded to them, and they had like a technical problem that I could solve with coding or with some sort of technical thing, I would try to solve it so quick and deploy it, the new version of the software is so fast that I could actually tell them within half an hour or an hour. So I just fixed this off. I uploaded a new version. Here you go, this is your bug, you reported it, you I fixed it for you. And if you do this multiple times with the same person, particularly with those power users that have a lot of things that they need, you you in their mind, you're working for them, you're building something for them. So they This is some sort of reciprocity happening where they are opening up to you where they are talking about You in glowing terms, because they talked about this button that didn't work and half an hour later, you actually fixed it for them. That blows people's minds. Because if you ever had called, if you ever called like a Comcast hotline or something, Vodafone or something, right, you know how they will never help you in a million years. That's the baseline, right? That's the standard that people are acting and go out of your way. They will go out of their way. And then we facilitated this. We built content that was very shareable. We had a blog with lots of content that was appealing to our customers, we build a referral system into our application, that was a win win win referral system, the person referring would get a, I think a month for free, the person who was referred would get a cheaper plan. And obviously, it was a win for us because obviously now we had two customers that both got something but in the end, it was a higher number than just one customer. So and by allowing people To actually guide the people, they refer through our product, we also outsource some of our onboarding. Like we helped people kind of help other people get into and use the product. And people did videos on YouTube, showing tutorials, like taking tutorials on how to use feedback panda with the school, like hour long tutorial videos did, we didn't need to make because our customers made them for other customers. So that's what you get when you're empathetic when you're giving without taking when you're helping people right where they are, and you're fast about it. So I think that's, that's what is, in my experience, whenever I experienced this as a customer in a SaaS tool, I never turned, this would be something, okay, I'm going to use this forever, I guess, love these people. So that's the kind of response you want to have. And that's what you can work on by just being there showing up.
I think that's also one of the good opportunity if you're building something using no code tools because you can literally fix it. Like in one second is Again. And this happened. Also multiple times where I know we've actually tried to do makeup where somebody will put out like a question on Switzer and just say like, I wish, I wish seeing this thing existed. And like, we just go and build it within an hour and just put it live. And then like we're like, well,
and changes, changes the perspective that people have of you as a company. Because a company to most people is this faceless entity that sells you stuff and tries to cheat you out of your money, right? That's what most people have. And that's what most big businesses are. So if you're a small business, if you are a no coder, if you're just one person who's solopreneur, you can make this an important part of your messaging. I'm just this guy trying to help other people. And if you talk to somebody on the website, it's going to be me, and I'm going to help you and that will turn you from this big faceless entity into somebody that everybody can relate to this everybody either in their family Or in the group of friends has an entrepreneur person that was fed up with a job person that wanted to help somebody else and empower somebody else started their own business, struggled a lot, but eventually made something happen. Everybody knows somebody or has heard of somebody like this, so that you want to remind people of that person that they can relate to. And you can do this by just being there for them by actually giving them your time and making things happen for them. Even its if it's just a little no code thing that you just whipped up that solves that problem that will change their mind forever. Your name. Yep. And that tool will be burned into their minds forever in a very positive light, no matter what you do in the future. Yes, those are good things. But you know, the first impact you can have by being kind and being helpful and supportive. It's very underestimated.
Absolutely. That's pretty good to hear. And, yeah, we we found that to be really useful. Pretty don't do it enough, especially if we're comparing ourselves against your five second reaction times you've worked with a breeder to try to do a better job. So even a better mining and writes on my wall or like a post on my screen, so to respond to anything quicker. And we
have it's also sad inducing, like if you if you want to hit the 10 seconds, that is also a stress level that you might not want to keep. But yeah, beginning when you're you have this energy, and you don't have anybody yet to do this for you. It's a good thing to do, but you should kind of tone it down to a couple minutes, maybe an hour or something at some point.
inscom PTSD. I'll put this recording up so we can watch it back and look forward to the next one.
Well, thank you so much for the opportunity. Always happy to talk to you, of course and to answer questions. Thank you very much, sir. That's a fun So thanks, everybody. Thanks for coming. Thanks for asking questions. Yeah, that was wonderful. So see Next time, I guess,
I see and highly, highly recommend of his book. I've been kind of scanning over it and diving into the things that are appropriate fast it make bad at the moment and learning loads of great stuff from it. So honestly, thanks for putting in the effort to actually extract all the information in your brain and put it into a book. We really appreciate it. Thank you so much. See you soon and see you on the next one.
Thanks so much for listening. You can find us online at maker pad.co or on Twitter at make pad we'd love to hear if you enjoyed this episode, and what we should do next.