How To Launch A Product, Make Money AND Get Incredible Feedback

Background

Last Summer (2013) I had the pleasure of attending Hacker School where I met Tom. Tom and I spent a good chunk of the summer hacking on projects together and, towards the end the summer, we decided to create an email marketing tool. We’re the perfect combo: Tom’s been in the email marketing industry for a while and I’ve been a marketer (whatever that means) for 3+ years.

After a few days of hacking, a really rough prototype of MailCharts was born. (I’ll explain our development approach in another post.)



Build it, they will come…

… said no successful entrepreneur ever. If you’re reading this, you’re likely to know the importance of user feedback. Building something in a silo is the best way to build something nobody wants.

The problem is, nobody cares about your product. Seriously. Getting feedback is wayyy more difficult than your average blog post makes it seem.

Why? Because not only do you need to find people interested in your product or service, but you also need to find users that are supportive (new ideas can be a fragile thing), willing to trust you and — ideally — willing to pay for your product or service.

See, not easy!



Meet Product Hunt

Product Hunt is a really simple (and beautiful) website where community members post new products or services. Once something is posted, the community can upvote it and share their thoughts.

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Before posting MailCharts on Product Hunt, I asked Ryan if he thought it’d be a good fit.

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A few minutes later the post went live. Sweet frijoles Batman! Never have I seen a community that is so supportive, welcoming and full of constructive criticism.

Product Hunt is all about the community

We received tons of support and valuable insights — and even got to connect with a few companies interested in using our public API (when it becomes available).

Here’s a few comments:

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Charge a credit card, you must

Your most valuable feedback will come from customers (notice the “monetary consideration” part). Fremium might work for some but, IMO, free users are not necessarily a good representation of those willing to pay for what you offer.

So, how did MailCharts do?

  • Product Hunt drove 1,712 sessions and 1,385 new users
  • Our sign up page also received 387 unique page views (aka: visitors with some form of purchasing intent)
  • We received 30+ new (paying) users in less than a week
  • Our mailing list received over 100 new subscribers

Quick math: Assuming new users stay with MailCharts for 10 months (we have no historical data), Product Hunt drove $8,700 in sales ($29 * 10 months * 30 customers = $8,700).

Buuuuut, much more important than new user count, we received tons of actionable feedback. One thing is clear: Product Hunt drives quality traffic!

My experience with Product Hunt has been amazing. Hats off to Ryan and his team for building such a great product and community — you’re doing it right!

If you’re looking to discover the best new products, head over to Product Hunt and sign up. An incredible community awaits!

P.S. Don’t forget to say hi on Twitter or on Product Hunt :)

The Best To-Do List: A Private Gist

I’m a HUGE fan of todo lists. They help me stay organized, prioritize my day and add structure to an otherwise chaotic day. 

I recently discovered what appears to be the best yet simplest way to keep a todo list: a GitHub Gist.

Edit: As mentioned in the comments on HackerNews, this is the best to-do list for me based on my workflow (I use this on a daily basis at Thinkful). Depending on your workflow, other to-do lists might make more sense (here are some recommendations from HN and some from LifeHacker).

Allow me to elaborate: GitHub has this thing called “GitHub Flavored Markdown” which allows you to write task lists.

Go to gist.github.com, create a new Markdown file (ending your filename with .md will auto-set it to Markdown). Enter some Markdown and create a Secret Gist (secret ‘cause you don’t want others peeking on your todos).

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Notice how the above example includes task lists which, when saved, transforms into checkboxes.

The notation is:

  • - [ ] for an empty checkbox
  • - [x] for a checked checkbox
  • Note: As mentioned by Ben in the comments “you need a space between the dash and open bracket and, for unchecked items, a space between the open and closing brackets.”

It’s like magic, but real.

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Whenever you complete a task simply check it off (all changes are automatically saved):

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At the end of my workday I click “Edit” to delete all tasks completed and move tomorrow’s tasks up:

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Save the file (shortcut: cmd + enter) and voila!

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Wait, but what if I want to know when I completed something? Easy, this is GitHub! Simply go to the revisions tab, your entire file change history is available there:

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Find the sample todo list here. Let me know if you found this useful and happy holidays! :)

P.S.: I often tweet about Marketing, Engineering and Startups. You should follow me here.

Learning jQuery with Street Fighter and Hadoukens

Here’s a guide teaching jQuery basics with Ryu and Hadoukens that I created for Thinkful. The guide teaches jQuery by using the JS console; the code is available on GitHub.

View the jQuery Guide Here »

Enjoy :)

Google Search A/B Testing SERP Ad Unit

Here’s a peek at Google’s latest SERP A/B test.

Original (click to enlarge):

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Variation (click to enlarge):

I love how much cleaner the variation looks and wonder how this will impact click-through rates.

Exporting UTM Codes From Your Facebook Ads

We, online marketers, love to track everything in our campaigns. Here’s another way to look at it:

This posts assumes you’re familiar with UTMs, that you use Facebook ads, that you know how to use Excel vlookup AND that you want to track your Facebook ad performance by UTM.

Side note: I’m the Marketing Engineer at Thinkful (we help you learn to code through mentorship and real coding projects) and I use this technique to tie Facebook ads to lead, engagement and student conversions with our CRM. The way I match everything is via UTMs. This is REALLY important since it enables me to determine the ROI of every campaign, audience and ad.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

1) Got to your Facebook ad dashboard and click edit columns:

2) Select the “Ad ID” field and click “Save Columns”:

You’ll now see an extra column labeled “Ad ID” (the 4th column in my example below). You can now select the time-range you want to analyze. In our example we’re looking at the last 7 days:

3) You’ll now want to export this to Excel by clicking on the blue “Export” button.

4) Next stop: Facebook Power Editor. Open Power Editor and click on “Options” > “Settings” > “More Settings” and enable the “Keep Deleted Campaigns/Ads” option. Click “Save”. This enables us to get info for ads you may have deleted.

5) You’ll now need to download your latest campaign data. Do so by clicking on the big “Download” button on the top-right. Once your data is done downloading (this can take a minute) select the “Ads” tab up top:

6) Click on your 1st ad (it should become highlighted in blue), then press cmd + a to select all your ads (they should ALL be highlighted in blue now). Press cmd + c to copy them to your clipboard.

7) Open the Excel file you downloaded in Step #3 and create a new tab.

8) Paste this data in the new tab.

Look at Column A… You see where we’re going with this, don’t you? Column A contains the Ad ID you need to tie this to your previous export (from Step #3). Now look at Column S (with the header “Link”). Oh snap, I smell some UTM awesomeness!

Side note: You may be wondering “why don’t we just look at THIS data (from Step #8) and call it a day?” From my experience, the spend, impression and click data from Step #8 is NOT always accurate. Another reason is that on the web interface you can ad conversions and other metrics (just follow the steps we used to add the “Ad ID” in Step #2 but select any other metric you want to analyze). Ready to keep going?

9) Select Column A and do a Find and Replace.

In the “Find what:” type “a:”

Leave the “Replace with:” blank and click “Replace All”. This will essentially remove all the “a:” from Column A.

10) Now go back to “Sheet 1” (which contains the data from the Facebook web export from Step #3) and create a new Column at the end called URL.

11) Time for some vlookups! You’ll want to lookup the Ad ID (Column D in Sheet 1 of this example) and match it with Column A in Sheet 2. You’ll want to return the “Link” field (which is Columns S for me).

Here’s what my vlookup looks like in Sheet 1, cell S2: =VLOOKUP(D2,Sheet2!A:S,19)

12) Drag your formula all the way down. Boom! You now have URL details at the ad level.

13) You can now use text-to-columns to split your URL by “?” or “&” and get UTM info.

14) Throw all this in a Pivot Table.

15) Find incredible insights, optimize your campaigns, and destroy your competition :)

P.S.: If you’re interested in more blog posts like this, you should follow me on Twitter.

New Google Analytics: How to find my Referrals

The new Google Analytics removed our loved “Referrals” tab from the “Traffic Sources” menu.

No need to stress though, as you still have access to this valuable information… here’s how:

1. Go to the “Acquisition” tab

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2. Click on “Channels”

3. Select “Referral”

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Tadaaaa! You will now see all that amazing referral data you were looking for.

Google Calendar: Adding Other Calendars to Your iPhone

Calendars shared with you on Google Calendar are added to your ‘Other calendars’.

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On the web, you’re able to see events from both ‘My calendars’ AND ‘Other calendars’. This is great buuuut, when it comes to checking your upcoming events on your iPhone you’ll notice that the only calendar events available are those that fall under ‘My calendars’.

Adding your ‘Other calendars’ to your iPhone is quite simple as it turns out. Simply go here https://www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect and select the calendars you wish to see on your iPhone.

Give it a minute to sync and you’ll be all set.

Wouldn’t it be great if…?

Couple nights ago, over dinner, my girlfriend and I were talking about startups and this phrase came up:

'Wouldn't it be great if…?'

Take a second to think about it. When it comes to your startup, when I say ‘Wouldn’t it be great if…’ what comes to mind? If you think about your product, user acquisition strategy or PR outreach, what ideas do these words evoke?

'Wouldn't it be great if…?'

If you were to ask your team this question, what responses would you get? (There’s only one way to find out.) This combination of words appears to be the perfect way to question the status quo and bring new ideas to light.

As soon as I’m done with Hacker School (and join the workforce again) I’d love to implement a monthly email that goes out to my team and ask this very question: Wouldn’t it be great if…? I’d also love to test this with our customers (or a segment of them).

How do you come up with new ideas? If you’ve ever done anything similar, I’d love to hear about it!