Something Boring, Something True, Something Alluring, Something New

Michele talks about the unexciting but necessary parts of running a business, and Colleen experiences one of the most exciting things -- launch!

Michele Hansen  0:00 
Welcome back to Software Social. I'm Michele Hansen.

Colleen Schnettler  0:03 
And I'm Colleen Schnettler.

Michele Hansen
Hey, Colleen.

Colleen Schnettler
Hey, Michele!

Michele Hansen
How's it going?

Colleen Schnettler
I'm doing well. I'm excited to hear what you have to share with us this week since we didn't get to share last week since we did my little video intro. So what has been going on with you and your business?

Michele Hansen  0:22 
Honestly, not a whole lot.

<laughter>

Colleen Schnettler 
Okay, fair enough!

Michele Hansen  0:28 
You know, I was thinking about this. And, and I think that's kind of one of the things when you get to the stage that you have weeks when you're just kind of doing, like, normal work, you know, dealing with invoices, and cleaning up stuff from the past and responding when customers, you know, report an issue or bug with something and answering questions. And, and, and not a whole lot happens. And that's kind of what's going on.

Colleen Schnettler  1:03 
I still think that's good for people to hear. Because I think when you, like me, as we've discussed, read a lot of like, these really exciting startup stories, it makes it sound like it's so exciting all the time. And ultimately, it's still a job, like you're still doing kind of mundane, but important work.

Michele Hansen  1:19 
Yeah, I mean, it's the big project, if you can call it that, that I was working on this week was a lot of things dealing with invoicing. And, you know, we've been migrating customers over from QuickBooks to Stripe, which is just as thrilling as it sounds, let me tell you, but it's also super necessary. And it's the kind of thing that you write really have to do when you've got a business that's going and it's working.

And so for, for a long time, we had it set up so that if customers paid us with a credit card, they paid via Stripe, but if they paid us any other way, you know, a ACH, paper check, carrier pigeon, like that was all through QuickBooks. And I don't know why we did that. I think it's because we weren't using invoices for Stripe for a long time. And but that's created all sorts of accounting issues where when we actually want to make our financial statements in QuickBooks, which, you know, things like insurance companies and whatnot want... It always made such a mess in QuickBooks, because there was like, some payments would be counted twice. And then like we didn't really have one true source of revenue numbers. And I was always like manually patching it together with spreadsheets. And so that just you know, involved a lot of thing of, you know, setting up new subscriptions and checking once and twice and three times that everything is set up. And, you know, like, it's interesting, you do a lot of things early on that don't scale. And you do that intentionally because you don't know if you're going to be successful. And then when things do start working out, you you kind of have to, you know, basically bat your own cleanup.

Colleen Schnettler
Mm hmm.

Michele Hansen
And I did a lot of that actually, in my in my first job. And I think that was such a valuable thing, because I think it's something every business goes through, especially as they grow.

Colleen Schnettler  3:14 
Yeah, I absolutely know what you mean, because I'm right in that very beginning stages where I don't know if this is going to work. And so I have absolutely made decisions that might be hard to change later if I have, if it is successful. And I can see that now. But I can see it now. But it doesn't seem like it's worth the time to put this really impressive architecture in place for you know, my three customers. So I can but I could definitely see you know where to work out down the line, I'd be like, "Alright, we got to really beef up, you know, change some of the things we made."

Michele Hansen  3:48 
Exactly, I think we're, we're looking at doing something like that pretty soon with how we handle failed payments. So I mentioned you we have most of our customers are paying us via credit card. And when those payments fail, like usually the process right now is we just go through manually and follow up with them. Like they get emails from Stripe, they get emails from Intercom. Sometimes I have to, you know, oftentimes email them personally, like from my own email, but I've had to go as far as like calling the front office and asking for the accounting department, DMing them on Twitter, like finding any random contact information, finding people on LinkedIn.

Colleen Schnettle
Wow.

Michele Hansen
And yeah, and it's always so satisfying when you finally get it paid. And you're like, wow, but I spent what, like six hours chasing that down for $150 like, was that really the best of my time? And so we've been kind of thinking through like, how we might, how we might like automate some of that and any, you know, introduce kinds of things like you know, Your Account isn't paid. Like, you can't do anything until you've paid up or, like, actually, as of right now, even if you have an outstanding balance, people have to contact us in order to pay, like, there isn't a way to do it in the dashboard. Like all of those small things, I think if you're using a product, you don't realize that like, every single one of those is a feature, there's no like real, you know, there's no just sort of out of the box that comes with every single feature that you might need, like deleting an account and changing your email address and updating your credit card and paying a past invoice. Like, every single one of those is a feature and you're prioritizing that against something that's going to get new customers or have existing customers, you know, pay you more add more features for them, right. Like there's like boring business improvements, versus things like new features, and, you know, marketing related initiatives that are shinier objects.

Colleen Schnettler  6:01 
Yeah, that's actually kind of interesting that you guys are this far along, and you're still handling all of that manually. I also think there's a way and we've talked about this quite a lot, like what do you need to ship. And there's always this, this temptation, I think, is a good word, to put everything in place before you put anything out there. So it's encouraging to me, I guess, is the right word to hear that, like you guys are still handling some of that manually, like those are things that you have been able to handle manually for quite a while.

Michele Hansen  6:32 
We didn't even have billing code when we launched!

Colleen Schnettler
That's amazing, by the way.

Michele Hansen
Like we had integrated amazing Stripe, like we literally didn't expect anyone to pay us. And then you know, and we had that sort of like monthly payment cycle. And the first of the month came a couple of weeks later, and we're like, oh, we have to charge people today. Oh, we forgot to write the ability to charge people.

Colleen Schnettler  6:59 
It's amazing.

Michele Hansen  7:01 
Yeah, I mean, all of those things are just, you know, gradual, like, like, for a long time, actually, I think in Stripe, we were the way we were creating the payments was literally as individual payments, they weren't as invoices. And so if a payment failed, we had to manually go through and recreate the payment and retry it.

Colleen Schnettler
Oh wow

Michele Hansen
And it was like that for like, three or four years.

Colleen Schnettler
Wow.

Michele Hansen
So every month, I would go through and recreate all of the payments when they failed. And then if those still failed, then like a week later, I would do it again. And now at least since using invoices like Stripe will retry them. So it's it's amazing when you use the features of the products that are there already there. Right. Like it like I think, you know, you kind of talked about this with like AWS sometimes it's like, there's so much there that it's, you can't possibly do all of it at once.

Colleen Schnettler
Yeah.

Michele Hansen
Yeah, it's an ongoing improvement. But I think, especially once you get to a bigger scale, those kinds of things really add up, monetarily and also in terms of time, right, like, whereas, you know what, when we first launched, if we had five failed payments, and it took me an hour to total to follow up with all of those, then that's not a lot of time. But if you you know, if you've got, you know, 15 or 20, whatever, like each one of those, if you're spending half an hour on it each, right, like that adds up very, very quickly. And thankfully, we usually have diligent customers who are businesses who are fine with paying us right, this is much, much more challenging when you're doing B2C. No operational improvements are automatic and and they have to be weighed against the the shiny objects that that often win out until boring stuff gets to a point where you're like, Oh, this is this is gonna break or this is broken. Oh, man, we have we Okay, fine, fine, we'll fine. We'll do this now. Fine. Like, that's usually how that conversation goes like, you're right. All right.

Colleen Schnettler  9:09 
Well, it sounds like you were productive this week.

Michele Hansen  9:11 
Yeah, I did a lot of boring stuff. And you know, what the boring stuff is good. The boring stuff, you know, makes the accountants happy, makes makes the insurer happy. Makes me happy because I don't end up going in six months later and be like, Oh my gosh, like, that was never paid. Or you know, we've been allocating resources to someone and they actually canceled three months ago, like, those are the kinds of things that you know, everybody gets sloppy on them, but you can you really can only be sloppy on them once or twice, but otherwise they'll really start to to hurt.

Colleen Schnettler
Yeah.

Michele Hansen
But it's also kind of normal. Like, you know, you know, as I mentioned, I dealt with this in my first job, and I would say that one of my favorite activities was what I just simply called finding money, which was when It turned out that we had to accidentally, like not billed a client for six months like, because things hadn't been centralized before I was in that role or other things. And I would just go into my boss's office and be like, "Guess what! I found $3,000 today!" Like, it's just, it's so satisfying when you can close those things out. Yeah, it's a tough balance between the boring and the exciting.

Colleen Schnettler
Yep, sure.

Michele Hansen
Enough about my boring stuff Colleen. What do you got? This is this is the good stuff that people want to hear about right now.

Colleen Schnettler  10:36 
Well, I feel like I'm in a really exciting, you know, phase of this building a business, right, like, just launched. So it's invite only. I'm trying to get my I haven't really started trying, I'm gonna try next week to get my 10 users and it you know, I'm full of energy and optimism right now. And, and so that's that's kind of a nice feeling. Although I am aware, as we've discussed before, like, now is when the real work begins. But one exciting thing that happened to me is, a few people watched our video podcast last week, and reached out to me and asked me if they could help me test the product.

Michele Hansen
Yeah?

Colleen Schnettler
And so yeah, isn't that awesome?

Michele Hansen
That's so awesome.

Colleen Schnettler
I thought so. And so I asked them if they would do a call. And they agreed. So I have two calls next week, with people who might want to use my product.

Michele Hansen
That's so exciting.

Colleen Schnettler
Yeah, I'm pretty excited. I'm really happy they did that. Yeah. If anyone else wants to use my product, please let me know. I think it'd be really nice to kind of get it in front of people see what their problems are. And see if this is a solution that can meet other people's needs, as well as my own need. So I'm kind of approaching it -- we've talked about the difference before on this podcast between customer interviews. And what do you call it user interface? You guys were changing your dashboard. And you were like.

Michele Hansen  12:15 
Oh, yeah. Oh, actually, we released that this week. And that was kind of exciting.

Colleen Schnettler  12:18 
That's exciting.

Michele Hansen  12:21 
Yeah, so there's usability testing, user interviews. But then there's also sort of user onboarding, which may be these calls sounds like they're more like onboarding and sort of trying to figure out what what what they're trying to solve, but but in a very solution focused kind of way, rather than a, the exploratory solution agnostic way that a customer interview often is.

Colleen Schnettler  12:53 
Right? Yes. That's kind of how I'm approaching it. I hope to, while I'm chatting with them to Yes, see how the onboarding is at the moment, because it is very shaky. I mean, the documentation, I just started reading the documentation, right. So the documentation is very sparse. And I, the nice thing about starting with a marketplace is that they force you to write really extensive documentation. So it's almost like it's kind of forcing you to have that discipline to actually write it down. Like I know, people with great products and no documentation, and they wonder why they can't sell it.

Michele Hansen  13:32 
Like, what? How do you launch something without telling anybody how to use it?

Colleen Schnettler  13:37 
I don't know. I think it's common with developers because we make this because it's the shiny object syndrome, right? It's fun to make the thing. It's not fun to spend hours and hours trying to write down how to use the thing that seems obvious to you because you created it.

Michele Hansen  13:52 
When you're an electrical engineer. When you were in college, did you ever have to write technical documentation? Like instead of having English class, did you have like, tech, technical documentation writing class?

Colleen Schnettler  14:08 
No.

Michele Hansen
really?

Colleen Schnettler
That wasn't a thing? Well, that was almost 15 years ago. And I think they have since learned, and I'm pretty sure they offer technical writing now. But I've been thinking about this a lot, because I'm about to start this marketing journey. And I don't know anything about marketing.

So Alex Hillman has a great article about this on Medium called The Fear of Beginning Again, and it's about how with the course he runs with Amy Hoy, how so many of their students are very talented designers and developers. And they're taking these designers and developers and they're trying to teach them a completely new skill, and how so much of the challenges their students face are psychology based. And one of my favorite quotes is he says, quote, but when these creative pros sat down to learn a new skill from scratch, where very few of their existing skills translate, they lose their freakin minds. And that really resonated with me because it's hard to start over. And you've worked so hard to get where you are in your current craft or trade, you know, this whole concept of Wow, now I have to start over again and learn this new thing. So it's not bad, I'm excited about it. But at the same time, I've worked so hard to build competence in a specific field. It's almost like I'm changing fields, and starting again, anyway, so there's just a lot of like, ego and like self evaluation, I'm finding kind of going down this path. It's really weird.

Michele Hansen  15:42 
Yeah, I think we all do a disservice when we discount other types of expertise, especially as bootstrappers when, you know, you have to wear many different hats and sew your own hats as well.

Colleen Schnettler
Yes

Michele Hansen
Like, you have to be able to do all of it. Like, you know, I like my background is, as a product manager. It's not an accounting. But I have to do that. And that's also something that my husband has to deal with as well, because he's dealing with Stripe, like he's not, you know...you have to do a lot of different things and be able to appreciate that things outside of your sort of home expertise are worthy, and complicated, and capable of being interesting or even beautiful in their own right.

Colleen Schnettler
Yeah.

Michele Hansen
To get us back on track, I know that you are a huge reader of books, and there's a voracious reader when it comes to doing anything new. And so I'm really curious what the resources are that you have honed in on as you start this marketing journey.

Colleen Schnettler  16:55 
My resources are named Michele.

Michele Hansen
Oh, okay, well, I have some books for you...

Colleen Schnettler
Do you have any suggestions? Because I'm, like, totally new to marketing. But I know that I don't wanna say it's easy to make good tech, but it's kind of easy to make good tech, everyone has good tech, this is what's gonna make or break it, whether it's this image service, or whether it's a whole other business, like, I have to learn this stuff, because this is gonna make or break me when I you know, if I want to real business. So let me know your recommendations.

Michele Hansen  17:20 
There's a really good one that a lot of people recommend, as well called, Obviously Awesome. That's all about writing, copy. And framing. Another one I really like, is Creating [sic: Building] a Storybrand which you may seem like for a technical product, like, how does that how does that apply? Right, like, you know, I think is very clear how it applies in B2C. But in, in, in B2B, it applies as well. And basically, the idea of that is that your product is not the star of the show. It's actually the user and the person buying it like they are the hero. And your -- what your product does is it elevates them to do what they do better or, or faster. And, and it's so fascinating, because it goes into how storytellers you know, people who write movies and books and whatnot, how they construct stories and how you have the main character of the story, but maybe they have a goal, or maybe they don't know what it is, but then they meet this guide, who helps steer them in a direction and helps them refine their goal, and they, the hero goes through a journey and whatnot. And it's basically saying that, you know, your product is not the hero. Your product is the guide. And so how do you frame that in your copy that it's not just, this is an image management service. This is spend more time on things that are impactful for your clients or, or like whatever those sorts of things are, you know.

I'm reminded of, actually, I'm reminded of my -- one of my brother in law's he launched a sort of handyman and lawn maintenance business in January of this year. And like talking to him about like, what his slogan should be and whatnot. And I remember some of the early drafts of it were things like, you know, we handle all the things you don't want to or we can do all of this or and it was like very much framed out like what the company could do, right? And we're like, but how do we frame this from the customer's perspective. And the slogan he ended up coming up with I think, was along the lines of "Your house can look good." Because it's something that people want it to believe about themselves, they want it to believe about their house, but they need a guide in the form of his company to get there. So it's not that his company is the hero that comes in and saves the day, which, like a lot of products kind of frame themselves that way that like, we're going to save you from what you're dealing with right now. It's instead No, like, you are capable of more. And our company will just give you that little push that you needed to get there. Like it was already within you, you I might talking about The Karate Kid or whatnot right now, or am I talking about landing pages, right? And so and so Obviously Awesome and and Storybrand are two really good places to start. They're not going to be super in depth on like, you know, these are the parts of a great landing page. And, and this is how you optimize for SEO and, and all the things like that. But they'll give you at least a good start to thinking about it from your customers perspective and the kinds of things that you need there and the way you write about them, too.

Colleen Schnettler  20:59 
Yeah, I took a stab at trying to -- after we did our video podcast last week, I felt like I didn't explain it to you very well, like rewatching it. So I took a stab at kind of like narrowing down those bullet points. And that's what I was like, Oh, this is really hard. Like, I know why is great. But But how do you frame that in a different way? So that's awesome. I'm definitely gonna check that check out those resources.

Michele Hansen  21:22 
Do you have any drafts of that framing that you've come up with so far?

Colleen Schnettler  21:27 
Well, yes, I do. Now, I was not intending to share this this early. But this is what I got so far: "Dead simple file, uploading and storage. Simple file upload handles all the heavy lifting of uploading user files to the cloud returning a CDN URL for you to use whenever you need!"

Michele Hansen  21:46 
Do you think that frames the product as the hero or the guide?

Colleen Schnettler  21:51 
The hero. Because I'm not now that you've just said that? Like, I'm not saying anything about how I'm guiding you to have a better life.

Michele Hansen  21:59 
Yeah, and yeah, I just thought of one of my favorite places to find examples of good marketing is actually Good Marketing on Twitter, I think they just changed the name to like Harry's marketing examples, or what it was called good marketing for a while. And he basically just does a ton of product tear downs, I'll take up the exact link to the Twitter account and, and put it in the transcript. So good, like, like he goes through different landing pages has like, this is why this is good. And this is what they're doing here. And, and I get so many ideas from that.

Colleen Schnettler  22:36 
Awesome. That's exactly. I feel like I need to start immersing myself in that world because I like I don't interact with that world at all. So yes, that's the kind of content I want to be getting into now is like that kind of stuff to get an idea, because I'm telling you that little snippet sentence that was not impressive. I was like, that took me a while. It was not as easy as the marketing people make it look.

Michele Hansen  23:01 
It's hard. And I'll say like, I looked at marketing examples for a long time. But until I read those books, I didn't really get why they worked. And I didn't really know how to frame things myself, like, you know, take those examples, and then transform that inspiration into something that works for our products. It became a lot easier, like having those those books as the underpinning and especially if you're already doing customer interviews, you're going to have a library, whether that's, you know, in, in Notion or in your head, of what are the things my customers are saying? What are the things they're frustrated about? What are the ways they describe what they're frustrated about and ways they describe their process? And how can I use those words that they are already using to create marketing that puts them as the hero? It's, it's really, really hard. I definitely don't think I have it figured out by any means.

Colleen Schnettler  24:04 
Yeah, well, and like I said, I'm hoping that talking to these guys next week will just help me figure out, you know, if their problem is that did they frame their problem in the same way, for all I know, they're framing their problem a completely different way, or they're attacking it a different way. So I'm really excited and grateful for their time and excited to kind of see how this impacts them in terms of what they want to build. The interesting thing is they're both fellow indie hackers, they both have small SaaSes. So it makes me think I had originally thought and this is only two people. Okay, so this is not to base a decision on. But one of the things we talked about with my product specifically, is it's aimed at developers. But most developers, especially developers with like a full time job, they're going to have some really complicated solution they spent hours on and probably already works, whereas what I'm building might be more appropriate for people who are trying to get something together quickly people who have a SaaS, as we discussed many, many episodes ago, people in the no code space that just want a thing they can just throw in there. So I'm kind of like I said, I'm excited to kind of start looking at these different avenues and, and see, see where it goes.

Michele Hansen  25:19 
Yeah, I bet there are some no coders listening to our podcast. I mean, that's a huge thing now. And I'd be really curious to see if if they experienced this problem, too.

Colleen Schnettler  25:31 
Yeah, yeah. Because I that's an avenue, I really want to learn more about because I don't do a lot with no code. So I'm pumped to kind of learn more about that. And see what that's all about.

Michele Hansen  25:44 
And don't make decisions based on two people.

Colleen Schnettler
I won't.

Michele Hansen
The absolute men is five people, before you really like and that's and that's if you've, if you've heard the same thing, basically, from those five people, then Okay, that that's a pretty strong, directional signal. But I mean, I've had so many times when, you know, when, especially when I first started doing user interviews and user testing, like you put in front of one person, and it doesn't make sense. And then you change it. And then you do the next person. And actually, they needed another way. And you're like, ah, I could have saved myself so much work just by being patient.

Colleen Schnettler  26:16 
Yeah, that's good advice. So I got to get my 10 people signed up. So I hope to do that next week. And you know, of those 10 people, how many are actually using it, as we talked about, and how many are just like being nice. And being my friend and getting me into beta? I'm not sure. But of the people who are actually like, interested in using it, I'm going to try and talk to as many of them that will talk to me. Because I think, you know, that'll really help me just kind of see where people are and where their thought processes are.

Michele Hansen
Absolutely.

Colleen Schnettler
So yeah, so that's what's been going on. So like the launch is, it's just exciting. I mean, it's just kind of nice. I think we've talked about this before as well, like, I just needed the psychological win.

Michele Hansen
Yeah.

Colleen Schnettler
Like up shipping, something I totally get the the concept of you should definitely talk to people before you build anything. I understand that. And when I hear about really successful businesses, most of them did that. Right. They talk to customers before they build anything. But I am just at a point where I just need to psychological when of shipping something. And so I'm pumped. So I'm good. Like, I'm excited. And I hope that you know, when we talk next week, I've at least signed up to 10 people. I can't get to beta till I'm done on my documentation. So that's quite a lot of work as well. Like they have very specific requirements and like ways they want you to structure your documentation in the marketplace. So I don't think I'll be in beta next week. We'll see how everything else goes in life. But yeah, I'm like in that kind of fun, exciting just getting rolling stage.

Michele Hansen  27:52 
Exciting. Well till next week.

Colleen Schnettler  27:54 
Yep. Thank you for listening. You can reach us at on Twitter at softwaresocpod and we'd love to hear from you. Thanks.


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