The Vanity of Big Names at Tech Events

Alan O’Rourke from workcompass (they help manage staff evaluations) gave a talk a few months ago at Growth Hackers Dublin. I’ve been coming back again and again to the talk. It was hands down the best talk of the series for me. It was

  • actionable
  • detailed enough to understand
  • completely useless to 80% of the audience.

Well, that last bit is a bit harsh, but true. It seems to me, that the number of people actually walking the walk when it comes to building an online business is vanishingly small. The idea is far more alluring than the practice, which is probably why the Growth Hackers Dublin series managed to pack out big venues in Dublin.

The “big names” were great for motivation but, that was probably useless. I’d rather a room of 10 people who were really in the thick of building their businesses than a 100 groupies.

This year, there is a another series of talks coming up under the moniker of traction. A less enticing (IMHO) catch line but one that will prick up the ears of those in the know.

Job Opportunities; 200km from the nearest coffee machine

I believe that the internet is going to transform rural life. For all the talk of needing to be in “the valley” and “networking”, there is a lot to be said for a quiet, focused environment that lets you concentrate on the metrics that matter in your online business.

I see a time in the not too distant future, when rural life won’t just rely on agriculture and will have new life breathed into it through a new way of smart, knowledge workers that realise they can deliver more value to customers when they don’t get worn down by traffic, queues, pollution and bad manners even before they reach their desk.

I am looking to build a team here, in a place called Somerset East, South Africa. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it. Most South African’s haven’t even heard of it. It a desert town with a fantastic outdoors lifestyle and beautiful warm weather most of the year round.

So who would I like to work with?

  • Someone fun to be around.
  • Smart and motivated.
  • Detail orientated (because I am often not)
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Excellent computer skills
  • Excellent communication skills on the phone

Available Roles

  • Web development
  • Graphic Design
  • Inside Sales
  • Customer Support

Nice to have:

  • basic or advanced coding skills (HTML, Javascript, Ruby)
  • Analytical skills
  • A degree level qualification

What can I offer?

  • A competitive salary
  • A chance to work with people from all over the world
  • A learning opportunity you won’t get anywhere else

Send me an email at james [at]

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 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 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, 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

Of course, Richard had other ideas. He came up with the clearly ridiculous 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 was being used for our belly to belly sales while I marketed 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 and one had

You can see where this is going.

Adwords naming test

Completely not the answer I was gunning for.  The ad came to $26 a lead while 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 yet rubberstamp seems to be 5 times cheaper in terms of acquiring leads.

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