Scott Buscemi is the founder of Luminary Web Strategies, a consulting and development agency specializing in eCommerce and custom web apps.
As a WooExpert for WooCommerce and a top recommended consultant for Easy Digital Downloads, Luminary helps businesses tell their story and succeed online. Scott is also a co-organizer for WordCamp LA, which is happening September 10-11.
What Your Favorite Motivation or Business Books?
I’m not much of a reader, but I do find myself motivated by Gary Vanerchuk’s videos and books. I gain the most motivation by surrounding myself with other determined individuals and traveling to new places, for a conference or for leisure.
Can You List 3 to 5 Life Success or Leadership Principles?
In order to be different, you have to act differently or go places other have never tried before.
Don’t let fear rule your life.
Always take time to reflect and digest your experiences.
Audit and be real with yourself.
What’s The Best Way That Listener Can Contact You?
@scottbuscemi on Twitter
Want To Watch More Of Our Interview With Scott Buscemi?
Full Interview Transcript
SB: The second time it turned out really good. So I think if you just say “luminary”, then it turns out all right.
JD: Yep, I think you’re right. Hi there, folks. It’s Jonathan Denwood here, from WP Tonic, it’s episode 118. We’ve got a great guest. I always say that, but we’ve got a very insightful guest that joined us a few weeks ago on our round table discussion.
It’s Scott Buscemi, and he’s from the agency Luminary Web Strategies, based in Los Angeles. He has extensive experience in ecommerce, so we’re going to be talking about that subject.
So Scott, would you like to give some background to our listeners around your experience in that?
SB: Sure, so I actually, when I was 12 years old, I started building PowerPoints for clients. I had one client, and that was my first foray into the business world.
In a few years, I actually had a family friend that was interested in building a website, so I had no idea how to build websites, didn’t know what FTP was, I didn’t know even what really HTML was, I think I had experience from editing my Myspace profile page, but that was it.
And ever since then, I’ve actually always had more and more clients, so I went from having just one family friend’s website that needed to be built, all the way to having project managers and developers working for Luminary, the agency that I’ve been running.
So our focus has been eCommerce and web apps. So we do a lot of WooCommerce websites as well as Easy Digital Downloads websites.
JD: That’s great. Thank you for that, Scott. So, John, my co-host, like to introduce yourself quickly?
JL: Sure thing, my name is John Locke. I run a WordPress consultancy in Sacramento called Lockedown SEO.
JD: And folks, I’m Jonathan Denwood. I’m the founder of WP-Tonic, and I just want to point out if you’re a designer or a developer and you’ve got legacy clients that really don’t fit your current hourly rate or where you really want to pursue your business, WP-Tonic can take over those legacy clients for you.
And we offer a boutique WordPress management company, and we will work with you so your old legacy clients will still have the same level of service and care that they received from you. So if that sounds interesting, please contact us.
So, Scott, [when it comes to] eCommerce in general, you’ve had an extensive career, like you’ve stated, building apps, building eCommerce websites.
Reflecting back, what are some of the major things that you have learned through that experience that you wished you had known at the beginning of your business journey?
SB: Sure, so some of the different lessons that I’ve learned I think relate to either me running my agency, so from an agency perspective, but as well from the client perspective. And the cool part for me is that my clients that I have now have, or they can take advantage of all the experience that I have from all the other clients that I’ve worked with, all the experience that I have with the different eCommerce sites, what works, what doesn’t. Even startups that are eCommerce sites in itself. So startups that may not have succeeded or startups that are succeeding on the web. I have all that experience now to be able to kind of guide people in the right direction.
One thing that I’ve actually been doing recently is really diving into the business purposes of any development that we do for a client. So instead of just having somebody come up and say, “Hey, I have this feature or I have this website that I want to build. Here is my list of exactly what it’s going to do. How much am I going to pay for this?”
And instead of just taking that, writing a proposal, walking away, or just saying this is how much it will be, I really dig into it from a consulting standpoint and say, “Are you actually spending your money the right way?”
So even recently, I had a woman who came up, and she said within the past three years, she had built, I think it was three different websites for her business. So she had paid three different companies to build websites for her, and she said all of them failed.
None of them were actually helping her grow her business. None of them were that good. None of them were doing anything for her. And so she came up to me and pretty much she was ready to plop down a bunch of money for a new website.
But when I talked to her, I wanted to really dig into why were those other projects failing? What would be different in this project that would make the next project more successful?
So as we talked more and more, it sounds like she actually didn’t really understand where her business was at, what she wanted to do, and what her goals were for the business. So she kept on saying that the industry was going this way, but she wanted to go this way, but she really needed to follow the industry because that’s where all the money is, and she still wants to have her influence in it.
So in the end of it, after we talked about this, I suggested, I said, “Look, you actually really need to have a business consultant, or just spend some time figuring out where you want to take the business first, rather than plunking down money for a website initially.”
So instead of saying, “This is exactly what my website looks like,” there needs to be more time spent actually figuring out what is the business.
What is the direction of the business? Where is it going, what needs to happen, What is the branding? What is the messaging? And then that’s when you can bring in somebody to develop the website and to take that messaging and make it real.
So that’s been one of the core things that I’ve been doing recently, is when somebody says, “Hey, I have this amount of money to plunk down on this feature,” actually questioning is that something that is the optimal solution for the client? Is there a good chance that they’re going to get an ROI on what they’re spending, and is it a good fit for us?
So all of those different questions that at first maybe I would have, when I first started, I would have said, “Cool, new project, let’s do it. I’ll go for it,” but now it’s more of that calculated approach for my benefit, but as well and almost more importantly for the customers’ benefit.
JD: That’s great, Scott. I think they’re very wise words.
I think in a previous interview, Angie [Meeker] said something quite similar that normally the need for a website, or the need for a revamp in a lot of occasions, there are deeper reasons why the client feels like that, and I think you’ve pointed out that very well yourself.
What are some of the other things you’ve learnt on your journey when it comes to eCommerce that would be useful? It doesn’t have to always be about the client.
Even if you’re a developer or a designer, some of the things that, on reflection, you’ve learned and tips or tricks that you would like to point out maybe to a developer or somebody who’s got a small agency?
SB: Sure. It’s interesting, because I do want to almost
loop back to the conversation we had a couple of weeks ago about WooCommerce and that was supposed to be an hour chat about WooCommerce and how to make it do so much for your business, but I think 45 minutes, we talked about you need to figure yourself out before you even write a line of code or pay a dollar for website development.
So once you actually are ready for the website side, I think it almost comes down to the same conversation of making sure the money that you’re spending is going in the right direction.
A lot of startups that we’ve worked with, they’ll have no customers at first. So they’ll start talking to customers, and they’ll say, “What do you think of our feature set? What do you think of what we have to offer?”
And a lot of the times what will happen is somebody will come up and they’ll say, “I love your service, it’s a perfect startup. I think it’s wonderful, I’d love to be on your platform.”
“But there’s one thing that I’d love you to add, and that’ll make it so I join.”
And so then the eCommerce or the startup company will say, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll add it, we’ll add it, we’ll add it,” and then they add it, and they spend all this money adding it and then it turns out maybe that customer actually didn’t even sign up.
They’re like, “Oh yeah, I forgot about you guys. I’m actually not interested.”
Or the value of that customer is nowhere near the amount of investment that it’s not worth it at all.
So that’s probably the biggest thing, is once you start getting that traction, or even before that, but really once you start getting those customers that are saying, “I want this, I want this, I want this,” it’s really weighing the value of whether or not it’s actually worth it to invest in it or to even have that feature.
So another example even would be a customer that we had where they…It was an eCommerce shop that you could go on and get meals delivered to you weekly.
Now, before they even launched the website, they actually wanted, or launched their service really, they wanted to have the option for subscriptions and for gift cards and gift certificates. And for me, I was like, “Look, you have no customers right now, you have no fans really, right now,” so it’s almost a distraction to have gift cards and gift certificates, because usually the people that buy gift cards and gift certificates are people that are loyal fans of your brand.
Unless you’re Apple where somebody says, “Oh my grandson loves Apple, I’m going to buy him an Apple gift card.”
If you’re a small business or a startup, gift cards are those people that they say, “I love this company so much that I’m going to almost pay for my friend to find out about your service.”
“I love the food that you offer, I love the cupcakes that you make. They’re so great that I’m going to pay you $20 and give that gift card to my friend, and now they’re going to be a loyal fan of yours.
So if you’re considering gift cards and gift certificates before you’ve even launched, that’s something that you’re distracting yourself and almost getting too far ahead, and instead you should be focusing on getting those fans, getting those people that say, “I really, really love your service,” and those are the people that are going to keep on coming back and eventually say, “Hey, would you buy gift cards?”
JD: Yeah, I think that’s a great insight, actually, Scott. It’s going to differ, but do you think a lot of that is that dealing with the look of the site and feature set is easier in some ways than the hard graph, and it is really hard graph of actually getting those first customers to actually start using whatever you’re selling or building or whatever.
SB: Sure, so that actually is an interesting point.
That it’s really, honestly with WooCommerce, with any of these, with WordPress in general, it’s so easy to get a website up. It’s so easy to get an eCommerce site up, and honestly, it’s easy to burn your money with a developer and throw a bunch of cash at a developer because you just say, “Hey, I want this feature, here’s my money,” and that’s it.
You could easily today, if you said, “I want an app,” just that’s it. I want an app, and I’ll pay $100,000 for it.
I’m sure there would be a developer who would say, “Okay, I’ll take your $100,000 and I’ll build something for you,” but at the end of it, what do you have?
Do you have a brand? Do you have a message? Do you have something that people actually care about? Do you have a purpose? Do you have a goal? Do you have a mission?
And if you don’t have any of that, you’re not doing the hard work, and the hard work is what makes you different.
The hard work is what differentiates you from all of the other sites that are out there, all the other apps, or anything that’s out there.
So it really, it’s almost tricky where you can go onto WooCommerce.com, see all these cool extensions. Oh my gosh, they have it where you can start charging people subscriptions, that’s cool. I totally think people would pay $50 a month for this, or instead of charging $50, maybe we do $10 a month and then within six months, we’re making our money, or making extra money.
So almost seeing all these cool extensions that you just press Install and configure and you’re set up, it’s almost, not deceiving, but it can be a trap.
It can be a trap to make it so that you think I installed these things, I’m set up, I’m making lots of money, instead of realizing these are tools to grow yourself once you know who the company is, to know what makes you special.
JD: I think that’s great.
Now we’re talking about eCommerce here, but obviously our general emphasis is WordPress and the WordPress community, which is a very large community of different groups, really Scott. But would you, if you’re testing out idea, but this is a different one, if you’re testing out idea, do you think WordPress and let’s just say WooCommerce is the best solution to start off with?
SB: Sure. I’m not sure if we touched on this a couple weeks ago, but we can always talk about it again.
One thing, even with the gift card program that we were talking about just a little bit ago, I always am more for the idea to even just build a landing page before you build the full features and try to either collect emails or just generally, collect the level of interest in whatever you’re doing first.
So, WordPress honestly can actually be a good way to build an MVP, a minimum viable product, for perhaps what could be a bigger software package that maybe needs to have its own custom CMS or needs to have its own custom code or what have you, different code base.
So, WordPress is a good way to build that initial version, but if, let’s just say, WordPress is your final destination.
That is your final product that you’re building, maybe you could even pare it down even further and just build a flat HTML page that says, “Here’s what we’re going to be doing. This is why we’re doing it, this is the message. Are you interested?” And that saves you so much time and money that you don’t have to even build a WordPress site.
So recently there was actually, on Delicious? I’m trying to think of what their full company name is. Delicious Brains, they’re the makers of WP Migrate DB Pro.
So they’re the tool that either lets you migrate DBs, export DBs, all those kind of cool things. So they recently announced their Beta program that they’re starting for a new program. Let me see if I can pull it up. It’s called Mergebot. Basically it makes it so if you have a local environment, a staging environment, and a live environment, and let’s just say on your local environment you’re changing some copy, you’re adding some things, you’re deleting some things and then eventually you want to get it to live, you’d be able to actually just sync it between those two.
So have a synced environment between everything. To me, that’s going to be a huge deal. So we have a lot of times where we have a live site up, and then we have the staging site and the local site that we build, and we make some updates at the local, or updates to the staging, but then the client actually goes on, and it updates the live, too. And so we can’t just take the database from local and push it to live.
We have to track all the changes that we made and then push those out manually, or there’s different ways to do it. So Mergebot, supposedly it’s going to solve all those things.
So I got an email from them, because I had actually signed up a while ago for an email landing page that said, “Here’s the problem that we have. Here’s how we’re going to solve it,” or “We are going to solve it,” and then recently there was an email that said, “Now we’re ready for Beta.”
“Sign up for the Beta here,” and right away, I said, “Sign me up.”
So all I’ve seen from them? They could even not have built the product yet. It could be that they’ve written zero lines of Mergebot, but they have me.
I am so pumped for this. I am ready to plunk down cash for this solution because they identified what the issue is that everyone’s having, or I’m having. They said, “This is our suggested approach of how we want to do it. We’re going to have a service, we’re going to approach it.”
The other thing is that they have the credibility of being the creators of WP Migrate DB Pro, which shows that they kind of know what they’re doing when it comes to databases, and they’re in the WordPress industry, so that credibility factor adds to everything, and I signed up.
So it kind of shows that they could have taken the approach that they built all of Mergebot and then they went to the world and said, “We have the solution, are you interested?”
But they took a cooler solution.
They said, “Here’s what we’re looking for, or here’s what the problem is. Here’s our fix, are you interested?”
And I signed up right away, and it made it so that they, I’m sure they still were developing. I’m sure they still would have gone for it, but they could have technically not started development until today.
JD: That’s a great, thanks for that, Scott. I think we’re going to go for our break, folks. And when we come back, my co-host, John Locke is going to continue this really fascinating interview with Scott. Back in a minute, thanks.
We’re coming back, folks. So, John, like to continue interviewing and take over for me?
JL: Sure thing. We’re talking now with Scott Buscemi of Luminary Web Strategies, and I want to talk about that for a second. You made Web Strategies part of your name, and one of the things that I read on your website is that “magic is not a plan.”
It pays to have a strategy when you’re going into this, and the first half of our conversation, you were talking about building, basically MVPs. How important is it for an agency, when a client approaches them, to have a strategy for how they’re going to strategically roll things out to where they don’t blow their whole bankroll and have nothing to show for it?
SB: So are you looking for the importance, I guess can you clarify? I’ll say it that way. Can you clarify what did you mean?
JL: Sure, and you might have already touched on this, but how important is it, when a client approaches an agency, what should they be looking for? A lot of people are looking for a developer that it’s probably good to be looking for a partner who can help you with overall strategy.
SB: Okay, so this is actually a really interesting point. So there’s some people that, let’s just say if you are really good with business development, with knowing exactly what features you need on your site, what your site exactly needs to do, and you know that if it’s built, it’s going to do everything that it needs to, and there’s no other optimal solution for it.
That’s really when you should hire just a flat out developer. That would be Luminary Web Development, where it would just be, you say, “Here’s my spec. Don’t tell me if it’s wrong. Don’t tell me if there’s other solutions. Just do it.”
And there’s some people that want that approach. They don’t really want somebody to even dig into their business or to really consider the implications of building the system.
They just want, you know what? I want to burn some money on this, or I want to spend some money on this. I want it done within in a couple weeks, and then I’m going to move on. Now, when it comes to some other people that maybe aren’t tech savvy.
Maybe they’ve never done a website before, or maybe it’s their first startup, or it’s their first foray into eCommerce, or maybe they’ve done eCommerce before.
It didn’t work out, and they want to know why, or they want to see what they can do differently. That’s when it’s better to go for a consultant or somebody that takes it more of like a strategic approach of considering where is money best spent?
Maybe it is even, let’s just say somebody’s doing a marketing blitz for something, and they want to burn $15,000 on a website, but when I go through it and we talk about it, it turns out that it’s better for them to spend $15,000 on Facebook ads or $15,000 on Twitter ads or something like that.
That’s where I would rather have it that somebody spends their money elsewhere if it’s better spent elsewhere. So, my goal is never to, when somebody comes in and says, “Hey, this is the project that I have.”
This is actually something that I learned from my mentor, where he actually would rather talk somebody out of a project than just have them come in and that’s it.
Because if somebody can talk you out of your project within 30 minutes, it probably wasn’t something you should have done anyway. If after an hour of somebody saying, “This is not a good idea,” and you still want to go for it, then that’s where you can start to figure out why is it that you have such a passion, but as well, how can that passion turn into a proper direction?
How can it be that you’re actually going and not just going on a passion craze, but actually building something that’s proper. So that’s kind of what I see as the difference between just a development company and a consultant / strategic company for website development or app development.
JL: Yeah, totally. So, what role does analytics play in evaluating what direction a site is going? How do you evaluate whether you need to change up the UX, the layout, the offer?
SB: Sure. So, analytics and AB testing, which is kind of just testing different variations of the same page, they’re definitely important, and they have their roles. The one caveat is that they, all forms of testing require a good amount of data.
So if you’re having it that only 20 people are coming to your site every day, or 30 people are coming to your site every day, it might be that any analytics data that you get about how they’re navigating to your site, or if you have different variations and you’re trying to see which one works, the data that you’re getting is really hard to believe. It’s not scientifically or statistically significant.
So it can me, let’s just say if you built a site, and you have really qualified leads that you’re sending to the site, and it’s people that you know their exact demographic, you know who they are, and you send 10, five get on one landing page, five get on the other, a different variation, and A makes it so that nobody signs up, B, everyone signs up.
Maybe you can actually consider that. Technically, you got a really good amount of information and you already knew who the leads were, the demographics, but technically, that’s only 10 people. It could have just been a fluke.
If you think about it, when you flip a coin, it could be that I could guess correctly through 10 times whether or not it’s going to be heads or tails. And nobody’s going to think I’m amazing. Nobody’s going to think I’m a magician or that I’m a psychic, or what have you, because it’s only 10, but if I started to be able to predict that after 10,000 tries?
That’s when everyone’s like, “You know what, that’s actually pretty cool, that like you can flip 10,000 times, and Scott’s going to get it every single time.”
So that’s almost the statistical significant side of A/B testing and analytics as well, or digesting analytics, that once you have a good amount of traffic, that’s when you can start saying, “Hey, we notice that people go to this page then they go to this page, and they leave. But if they go to this page, and they go to this page, and they stay, maybe we should actually figure out what’s going on with the page that’s making everyone leave.”
JL: Yeah. I totally get what you’re saying. So, I’m going to switch it up. This is something that we usually ask each of our spotlight guests. We ask you what’s your favorite motivational and business books, and I think you mentioned that you really get inspired and motivated by Gary Vaynerchuck’s videos and books or by being around other people who are motivated. Tell us a little bit more about that. What inspires you?
SB: I just joined, WeWork Co-working Space August first, and it’s been actually, it’s been…Really changed my business, actually. It’s really changed how I operate, how I get motivation, how I feel throughout the day. So for me, I really feed off of other people’s energy, so when I’m around other people that are working hard and accomplishing things, I kind of want to be in that same environment and be motivated and work hard and make things happen. So that’s actually, next month, I’m moving to Downtown LA, whereas right now I’m in Culver City, which is a little further away.
And the reason for that is because whenever I go to the businessy parts of Downtown LA, just the environment of all the business people, of all the activity really motivates me to say I want to keep working hard, I want to keep on making things happen, I see all this potential, all this activity.
I see people doing business. I see things happening and that tells my brain to turn it up a notch and join in on all the activity.
JL: Absolutely. And you know another thing that we ask our spotlight guest, what are three to five success or leadership principles and I’m just going to like call out these ones that you listed and you can just tell me a little bit about each. The first one you mentioned was, “In order to be different, you have to act differently, or go places that you haven’t tried before.”
SB: So, this year I’ve kind of done a lot of soul searching and a lot of self-auditing, figuring out where I am, where I want to be, what I’ve been not doing as good as I want to, or kind of what progress I need to be making, and one thing that really intrigues me was when I was at PrestigeConf in Minneapolis.
And I was sitting there, looking around in the room and there’s a lot of significantly talented people in there, just a lot of amazing people in there that everyone either looked up to, or they just saw as special. And even the one that always came to my mind was Chris Lema, where everyone wants to walk up to him and shake his hand, or some people are too afraid to shake his hand and walk up to him because they glorify him so much.
And that was even me when I first saw him around.
I was like, “Oh my gosh, I saw him on the internet, and he’s really special, and I can’t imagine talking to him, I’m going to be so nervous.” And I started to think about it. I’m like, “What makes it that in a room of people, why is it that Chris Lema can be different, to stand out?”
And it turns out, and it sounds so stupid, or so simple. In order to be different, you have to act differently. You have to do something that nobody else has done, nobody else thought of, nobody else put that much effort into, nobody even thought was possible.
So that’s one thing that I’ve been really diving into, is the fact that if I sit around, do exactly what everyone else is doing, if I don’t try anything that nobody else has done, if I don’t take any risks, I’m not going to be ever special. I’m not going to stand out, and I’m not going to actually help people progress, and it’s not even from a selfish standpoint.
It’s more of I’m not going to make an impact in this world. I’m not going to progress humanity, or I’m not going to help other people learn new things. I’m just going to kind of be a person that pushes the same exact thing over and over again, and be a follower of everything.
So it’s not that I want to be this magical great person that everyone bows down to, and everyone’s scared to talk to, because I really have never cared for that. I had a couple times where, in college, I would mentor freshmen for Management Information Systems, and sometimes they would be a little nervous to talk to me because they were like, “Oh, he knows what he’s talking about, and he’s been through my degree,” and what have you, and I was like, “Look, I’m just a person, let’s talk.”
“We’re people, I’m happy to help you out.”
So for me it’s more, I want to be able to say I have made an impact, and in order for me to do that, I have to take a risk. I have to do special, different things.
JL: Totally. The other thing you said was, “Don’t let fear rule your life.”
SB: Right, so that almost goes with the same thing too. I took a risk a few years ago, and I built a startup. I burned $20,000, $25,000 on it, and within a couple months it died.
I was too busy, I didn’t think of a full strategy, I didn’t think of the marketing, I didn’t think of the audience. There were so many things that were wrong with it, and since then I’ve been quite risk averse. So I wasn’t interested in risk at all.
I did my thing, I wasn’t trying anything that could potentially lose money or just not work, but I realized it goes back to the same thing. If I’m not doing anything risky, then I’m not going to make an impact, or I’m not going to get anywhere.
So that’s where I really realized that that fear was dictating my day to day, or my life overall.
And starting to kind of combat that and rule it out has made it so that I can still be rational, not be completely delusional and do all these risky things and jump out of plane without a parachute, metaphorically speaking. But I’m still able to be more free now and actually make choices that might not pay off 100% today, but I’m investing time and gaining experience right now.
JL: Absolutely. All right, Jonathan, you want to close this out?
JD: Yeah, thanks, Scott. I think we’ve touched some really interesting, as normal, new claim on our round table. Now on Saturday we had some great discussions and I think we’ve covered some really interesting concepts and that. It’s time to wrap up the podcast part of the show.
Hopefully, Scott’s going to agree to continue the discussion for another 10 or 15 minutes, which you will find on the WP-Tonic website, folks, and on the WP-Tonic YouTube channel, but we initially post it on the website with a full set of notes and more information about the ideas, and links, and everything that we’ve discussed during the WordPress podcast.
So go to the WP-Tonic website to find that out.
So, Scott, how can people [find you], what’s the easiest way to find out more about you and to contact you?
JD: That’s great, Scott. So, John, how can people get hold of you?
JD: Ouija boards?
Oh, that was a little bit, I’ve been told off on my English humor folks. I’m cutting it back.
SB: It’s okay, it’s okay, that was a good one.
JD: No, I’ve actually had complaints, Scott.
My humor sometimes comes across as not that humorous. It’s cultural, I feel.
So, basically email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can always get hold of me either on LinkedIn or Twitter. My Twitter handle’s @jonathandenwood and people have been surprised how quick I contact them back.
It’s been a great show. We’ll continue the conversation. Like I say, you’ll find that on the website and on our YouTube channel. And we’ll see you next week, with another hopefully great and insightful interview like what we got with Scott.
See you soon, thanks, bye.
SB: Thank you.
JD: Alright, so Scott…
SB: Now we can talk about the real stuff.
JD: Well you’re going to get my full English humor now. The sarcasm’s just going to pour out.
So, do you think, I think a lot of the things because all the things you discussed, I probably have done wrong with my own sass brought up with Mail-Right, but I’m not giving up on it, because the running costs are not that high. But do you think that a lot of people enlist the example you utilized about Delicious Brains?
We’ll they’ve already got, they’re onto their third, fourth different product, and they’ve already built up a considerable following with his podcast, with Pippin Williamson, Apply Filters, and just they are mainly listing all of the other things they’ve done.
But if you haven’t, do you think that’s one other thing that a lot of people just need to think about? You need to build up some social credibility and have some kind of audience before you think of any kind of product?
SB: I think having a connection to the audience is really important. So even when I was building my startup, I was actually targeting one specific college for a social network, and the college was my competing school, my competing university.
So I was targeting, and as well, I was targeting party kids, which I actually am not a party kid. I don’t go out and drink every weekend and all those kind of things.
JD: I would never have guessed it Scott.
SB: You never know, people have other sides. That was my thing is I was targeting an audience that I didn’t identify with. I didn’t really understand what their needs were and I almost kind of made assumptions that maybe weren’t correct.
So for even, let’s just say Delicious Brains didn’t have all the credibility that they already have and they came out with the Migratebot. No, what is it called now? Mergebot.
If they had come out with that solution and maybe this was their first foray into WordPress and nobody knew who they were and they had maybe touched a WordPress website once before, I wouldn’t believe them, not because they didn’t make any products before, but they’ve never been in the WordPress community, they don’t really know our issues, they don’t really know much about us.
So that’s where I would kind of be a bit more “iffy” about it. So I think if you’re able to build a product for people that you already know, are already involved with, or really identify with, then that’s when you’re going to build the best product.
Now if you’re able to spend more time, go to Word Camps, like if you are building a WordPress product, let’s just say. You can go to Word Camps, you can connect with people on Twitter, you can go out and figure out how other development companies or product companies are succeeding and what messaging they’re having, and what actual issues people are having in the WordPress community, and then targeting those.
Because honestly, if any other company said, “We’re going to finally fix that issue of “syncing all of your environments,” I would be down, I’m going to try it. Even I would actually honestly love if somebody took this.
One of the things that I’ve been challenged with is when we first come up and somebody says that they want us to work on their site and we want to build a local environment of it and push it up to Git or have a Git repo for it, there’s no, I wish there was just a command line that said, “Vacuum this website from thisthisthis.com, here’s the admin credentials, create me a local environment.”
Change it to “.dev”, set it up in Desktop Server or Pressmatic, what have you, and make it so right away with one click, I could have a local environment configured from that site. It brings down all the uploads, brings down the database, changes the database.
So if somebody solved that problem right now I would pay for it. I would go for it.
And so it’s things like that of even just understanding the issues that people are having and presenting a solution that people are going to throw money at you.
JD: Yeah, I think, let’s put a couple things to around reducing risk. I don’t know if they do reduce risk or I’m deluding myself. They say you looked at a particular industry that had two to three established products, services, and you combined some of those products so you’re at, let’s say half the price and the actual base services in your opinion were better than the established competitor’s.
Do you think that is why you’re reducing your risk or you’re just deluding yourself?
SB: What do you mean?
JD: Well let’s say you had three established players and you took some of their key functionality and you put them in your own product, and it was about half the price of the competition with more functionality?
SB: So it’s interesting. And this might be kind of a tangent anyway. But price is not always a factor, or the determining factor.
So I pay a lot more, probably, to have an iPhone, or I pay a lot more to have a MacBook than I could just get a Windows computer, but to me, the MacBook represents reliability. It represents that I don’t have to worry about my computer and I don’t have to have a virus scanner or any other different things. I can just have my computer, walk up to it, start working.
And so for me, I would rather pay more to have it done correctly, and sometimes, an interesting thing. Sometimes the higher price actually increases the perceived value, even if there is no actual increased value.
So let’s just say you’re offering something, and it could be offered because of your margins for $9 a month, but you turn around and you say that it is $900 a month, and obviously that doesn’t work for everything, but it could be that it actually increases the perceived value, that somebody says, “Okay, I’m actually going to get “$900 worth out of this, so it must be really good, and it must be worth it to me.”
That’s a fine line, and you have to have the right product to be able to do that, and you can’t have a competitor that’s charging $4 a month and you’re trying to do the same thing for $900 a month, but it kind of goes to show that just because you take other features and then make it cheaper doesn’t mean that other people are going to go, “Okay, I’m leaving my legacy system and moving,” because you also have to consider moving has a cost.
Moving means that people either have to spend the time migrating their data or they have to trust that they don’t have to come back to the old provider. That’s why even WP Engine having their Migrate Tool, where you just type in the credentials and boom, you’re moving over, that’s a huge thing, because they’re reducing the migration cost, where the time is spent for new customers. And that makes it easier for them to sell it.
They say, “Don’t worry, we’ll make it really easy for you to move,” instead of ugh, I have to move to another host. It’s going to be that drag and drop, use FTP, all this other kind of stuff.
So I think even going to your example of Mail-Right, it could be considered that right now, when somebody goes onto your site, you don’t have a 30-day free trial, it looks like. Or somebody has to start subscribing right away, so it could be that offering a 30-day free trial would make it so that if somebody’s using the competing system, they could mess around with it and make sure that if they do make the hop it’s a smart decision, rather than, people see once they start subscribing or paying for it, that they have to make the hop.
People don’t think, okay, I’m going to pay for a month and then if it doesn’t work, I’m not going to subscribe anymore. Most people, when they make their decision to subscribe, they’ve gotten over that hurdle of I’m going to move to this system.
JD: Yeah, that’s a great point. Have you got a question to ask, John, to kind of wrap it up?
JL: Sure, I would, in tying into what you just said, how important is branding when it comes to what you’re offering, and your price, all those things, getting customers to pick up your product and use it as opposed to anything else?
How important is branding?
SB: So it’s kind of interesting. This kind of is related. There’s some times where people really won’t be shopping for different solutions to their problem. So if right away, you are presenting the solution to their problem, and let’s just say you’re charging $50 and everyone else is charging $25, if you were the one that has the strongest messaging, if you’re the one that connected to people, or people connected with you so well, you’re going to grab them.
You’re going to make it so they sign up and that they’re dedicated, because you’re the one that said, “I hear you.”
I hear your problems, I hear what you need, I hear what can make you more money or solve your issues, or make life easier for you. Just sign up and we’ll make it happen.
So maybe I was thinking branding in terms of corporate branding and the logo, and all these kind of things, but I think branding also, probably what you are referring to is even just the messaging side.
SB: And that’s highly important, because I’m sure if two companies had the same table that showed here is all of the what’s included. Like a little like pricing table. If the same companies had a pricing table but a completely different message and paragraph and all the copy above it, and the imagery and the approach that they take and the conversationalist tone, or what have you, it would be significantly different between the two.
So the feature set almost isn’t the star. The feature set is what solves the problem, but ensuring that you’re actually communicating to people that their problem will be solved, or even saying that you recognize the issue that they’re having. That’s the core tenet of it all.
JL: Yeah, that’s totally insightful and I totally agree with that. And it is, a lot of it is the messaging and whether you connect with people, and that is totally what I meant by branding.
JD: Ah thanks Scott. I think we’re folks, if you’re watching this on our YouTube or on the website, but do consider signing up on iTunes, because you’ll get the podcast automatically pushed down to you. And please leave some comments on our YouTube channel because that really helps the show.
Scott, thank you so much for being our guest. I think it’s been a great episode again. You’re always welcome to join us on Saturdays. I’ll add you to our list and give you a reminder so if you ever want to join us, you can.
I think we’ve covered some really interesting things and hopefully you’ve enjoyed the experience, Scott.
SB: Yeah, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on.
[John]: Thank you, Scott.
SB: Thank you both.