What is your problem?

There is a bewildering array of things to allocate time to when I sit down at my desk in the morning.

  • Paid Search (money)
  • Blogging (time)
  • Lead Nurturing (emails, follow ups etc)
  • Hiring
  • Display advertising
  • “Growth Hacks” (aka: ‘clever’ ideas that sometimes work)
  • Press outreach
  • Sales collateral creation
  • Running Webinars
  • Product Development

to name but 10. Deciding what to do is hard. So before I do, I ask myself which problem I have …

Is my problem?
– # of leads
– cost of leads
– Conversion to customer
– Lifetime value

Answering from the second list, instantly cuts down the first list to 1 or 2 options. That helps.

Lets give Bootstrappers the Credit They Deserve

I had a coffee with someone I really respect in the startup community this morning. I’m in the market for a startup accelerator in Dublin and we were chatting over some of the awesome options.

One in particular we talked about was

great of people on their first entrepreneurial project, you know, like those coming from the corporate world, or bootstrappers.


I know I’m a little biased here, but how in the world is bootstrapping a business not entrepreneurial?  if I asked him again, he’d maybe backtrack, but I still feel as though bootstrapping doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

Building enough product income is either amazingly difficult or I’m amazingly incompetent. Assuming I’m only half way incompetent, it is still bloody difficult.

The lessons you learn from building something from nothing are invaluable in terms of entrepreneurial experience.

Maybe us bootstrappers are modern day Del-Boys. Maybe I’m missing something.

I realise of course that it is nobody else’s interest in promoting bootstrapping other than the bottstrapper in question, which is why they don’t get the credit they deserve.

Of course, if you are boot-strapped, you don’t need it.

What I think you should do with Your Website

I just had a chat with a business coach who asked me for five things he could do on his website (in order of effectiveness) to improve the number of leads he gets through it.

I wrote the email and I thought it was a pretty good list ..

  • Add your phone number prominently to the top right hand corner.
  • Use GetDrip.com to set up a “Five day course” which pops up on the
    right hand corner.
  • Introduce a large headline across the center of of the page in the
    format of “[Main benefit], [handle main objection], [ specific time
    period”. eg: “Alan Helps You Get the Business you Dreamed of for less
    than you would think, in 150 days”.
  • Install analytics and have someone set up a report that mails you
    weekly/daily with stats on traffic and conversions (the number of people who sign up for your course) broken down by traffic source.
  • Add a video of yourself to the main page.

What would you change?

The Four Question Sales Call

This year, I wasn’t able to make it to microconf, but I heard a resumé of the highlights on the startupsfortherestofus.com podcast. There was one nugget, suggested by Harry Hollander, which I thought brilliant. On a sales call, Harry uses four questions to qualify and then have the prospect sell themselves on the benefits of a service.

1 What are you doing today?: In other words, how do they manage the task your software helps with today. In Harry’s case, he asked how they managed scheduling countertop installations as his software helps automated that. The question qualifies the prospect. If they don’t schedule installations, the software can’t help, and he moves on.

2 What works about the way you do it now?: This gives the prospect a chance to describe what they are doing themselves right now. It gives them a chance to be listened to and think about their process. 3 What does not work about that approach?: This is where the prospect expands on their pain point. With some luck, your offer will address these.
4 What will happen if you don’t change that approach?: This is a chance for the prospect to imagine all the pain they will continue to experience if they don’t change. When I say change, I mean buy.

I really like this strategy. If there isn’t a fit for the product, these questions will smoke that fact out. If there is, the customer talks themselves into the benefits.

My Next 40 Hours of Work

Umpteen blogs, podcasts, articles, ebooks and videos espouse an endless list of potential ways for me to spend my time as a Growth Hacker for rubberstamp.io, a online purchase order management app.

In a way, my problem is that I can’t figure out what I shouldn’t do in the next fourty hours.

Here is a trello board for the ways I’m currently considering spending that time. The problem is, there are about 40 hours or work in each task. So which should I work on first?

Vanilla b2b Growth Hacking Plan


The board is public and editable.  Add some tasks or drag it around in order of priority that makes most sense to you.  Then tell me why.


GHD Speaker Notes

So you are coming to speak at Growth Hackers Dublin? Awesome! We owe you one.

Now, here are some notes on how to prepare for the big night. Lets start with the basics:

What is Growth Hacking

To be honest, nobody really knows, but Sean Ellis, the guy who coined the phrase, describes a growth hacker as someone who is more likely to use analytics, copywriting and code to develop new customers rather than just managing an advertising spend.

Growth Hackers generally have a technical background. Their tactics are often scrappy. They might bend the rules and they use their technical chops to execute Guerilla Marketing tactics.

What the GHD audience is looking for:

This crowd is a bit of a mixed bag. There are failry sophisticated online marketers mixed with social meeja_ consultants, startup fanboys and investors. Many have an app they are looking to build traffic for. There BS detectors are normally set to kill. They are looking for geniune stories their can learn from.


They are not looking to be impressed. They would rather a detailed story of modest succes than a some magic happens here moment.

The Church of Dave MacClure

Dave Mac is a Silicon Valley super-angel who came up with Pirate Metrics a set of metrics to measure your SaaS (software as a service) development progress.

Dave preaches the five important meetrics in growth hacking …

  • _A_ctivation: Getting customers to your website. Driving traffic in any way.
  • _A_cquisition: Persuading those visitors to sign up for your service. This might mean clever copywriting or free trials or follow up phone calls or anything else that could work.
  • _A_ctivation: The users which actually get value from your product. Sure – they may have signed up – but how many of them actually get to see the value?
  • _R_etention: The number of people who come back to try and use your product again. This is typically stimulated by lifecycle emails, follow up phone calls, network effects etc.
  • _R_evenue: The people who actually pay. Any stories here about how you manage to get people to hand over some money after seeing the value in your product.
  • _R_eferral: How do you get people to recommend your product?When putting your talk together, think about which category your insight best fits into. This will help the audience relate it back to the overall Growth Hacking ethos.

If none of this makes sense, email James or Jason and lets work on a plan. to make your talk take the roof off.


Be at the the venue half an hour before kick off (aka: 6pm). Send us your slides 48hrs before the event. Let’s set up your presentation in advance to make sure all the technical gremlins are worked out. We will be using a Mac to present your slides.

My Data Drive Face Plant

I hated the name Piehole. As a nerdy tech guy, I had a vision of one day running a company called CyberStar or maybe BlueSoft. But no. My partner, Prsicilla, had other ideas. She came up with the name, and the obtuse pink colour scheme. I grumbled but gave in.

Despite complaints – “Your logo is disgusting, it should be taken off the internet”, we persevered.” – the name has been a great success. It makes us stand out from the crowd and while some people hate it, the people who love it, really love it.

Now, six years later, I find myself partnering up with an old friend, Richard, on a new opportunity. He runs a IT support business in Dublin, and he had two clients in the one week ask for an online purchase order system. Some googling later, he discovered there wasn’t really a great fit for his clients unless they wanted to implement thousands of euro worth of SAP.

We decided, together with another partner, to write and market the software ourselves.

This was my chance to at last put a reasonable looking tech name on my LinkedIn profile. Some keyword research later, I found and registered simplepo.com.

Of course, Richard had other ideas. He came up with the clearly ridiculous rubberstamp.io as a name for our new venture. I smiled, thought to myself “over my dead body”.

A few weeks into the project, the question of selecting a name came onto the agenda. The temporary rubberstamp.io was being used for our belly to belly sales while I marketed simplepo.com online.

We needed a way to decide which to go, and I came up with one which I was sure would get the right result:

I set up two ad groups in adwords. Each with identical ad copy and landing pages, save for the name of the url. One had rubberstamp.io and one had simplepo.com.

You can see where this is going.

Adwords naming test

Completely not the answer I was gunning for.  The rubberstamp.io ad came to $26 a lead while simplepo.com came to $101 per lead.  Of course, what really matters is sales, not leads.

Interestingly I also ran a poll, which ran against what adwords is telling me. 7 out of 8 people preferred SimplePO.com yet rubberstamp seems to be 5 times cheaper in terms of acquiring leads.

So tell me. Is there a flaw in my “experiment”?


The False God of CPC

As a Catholic, I’m not new to the feeling of being let down by my church. You, as a fellow parishioner for adwords, Facebook advertising, LinkedIn ads etc, should get used to the feeling too.

Instead of faith, the Church of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) espouses numbers and data as the touchstone for truth. Sadly, these numbers can be used to abuse our trust. Lets take CPC (cost per click) .

We can all understand how we bid for keywords, and using a fair and well understood algorithm, the price for that keyword is set by demand. It is up to us to convert the traffic we buy, and the better job we do of that, the more we can afford to ay for a keyword in the first place.

This weekend while listening to the excellent jonloomer.com weekly webinar, my eyes were opened.

Jon pointed out that, in Facebook advertising, CPC is meaningless. All that matters is the price it costs to acquire a customer (at least if you are interested in making any money).

The problem is, there are two conversion numbers – the CPC (Cost Per Click) and the conversion rate from visitor to sale. The latter is often called CPA (cost per action) but I think CPS (cost per sale) is a better name for it. Because it is only the CPS that will tell you if your ad has achieved ROI.

If you are still with me, you might be wondering why I feel so aggrieved.

Here it is.

Google provides a CPC metric because it suits them. It focuses me on paying more money to them. It doesn’t focus me on achieving ROI. I’m focused on making Google money, not me.

The second conversion rate, from visit to sale, can occur at a rate anywhere between 0 and 100%. But that is my problem right?


The intent behind the traffic that I’m receiving is key to whether or not I’ll be able to convert that traffic. Certain traffic sources (read: keywords) will end up converting to sale better than others. For example, if I were selling online invoicing software, the keyword “Free Invoice Template)” will provide plenty of fairly cheap traffic. “Online invoicing software” will be a lot pricier, but convert much better. The second conversion rate (at 0-100%), makes the first completely irrelevant.

So what does this mean to you and me?

  • Ignore CPC.
  • Configure your ad network to register actual sales as a goal. If you can’t do this yourself, contact me
  • Change your bidding strategy to optimized CPM where available, making the network focus on the traffic which results in sales, not CPC.

You might be disagreeing with me right now. What do you think?



Inside Sales for Scaredy Cats

I’m astounded. SaaS businesses are leaving thousands of dollars on the table.  Following up with people on the phone is an essential strategy for anyone with less than 150 customers. Period.

It is pretty well documented that 0.5 – 1.5% of visitors will turn into paid customers if allowed to waft in from the internet and sign themselves up.

Lets compare this with a summary of sales at Piehole Voiceovers where we follow up leads on the phone (aka: inside sales).


But why trust me? Use your own common sense. If you were able to talk personally with your last 100 leads, do you think they would be more or less likely to buy having talked to the founder?

You know the answer. You maybe just aren’t ready to admit it.

So why isn’t everybody following up their SaaS leads on the phone?

Because it is socially awkward. Good men and women, with great apps are getting burned to the ground because they were relying on a 1% conversion rate based of 10’s of visitors a day.

Do the math. 1% of 100’s of visitors a month will not pay your mortgage.

It is enough to make me want to cry.

But I’m not writing this for the good of my health. Let’s prove it. I’m looking for a SaaS app that needs a sales team. I’ll do the sales for you. You’ll pay me based on effort, and we’ll 10X your growth rate.

Lets talk or, if you’d like to learn how to implement your own inside sales strategy, sign up for the email course I have just written in the popup on this page.