Episode #12 – Troy Dean from Video User Manuals and WP Elevation
Troy Dean, Video User Manuals and WP Elevation
In this episode number 12 of the InnovaBuzz podcast, Troy Dean from Video User Manuals and WP Elevation, talks with me on the importance of innovation, listening to the customer and being different. Listen to the inteview to learn what Troy shared with us on the podcast.
Listen to the Podcast
Watch the Video
Today I’m going to give away a copy of the book “The Year without Pants” – the story of wordpress.com and the future of work, written by Scott Berkun. Leave a comment under the video and tell us the number one thing you’d like to fix on your current website that would actually make a difference to your business. I’ll get Troy to swing by in a few weeks and award the prize.
Some of the highlights of this episode include:
- A healthy list of contacts, customers, prospects and leads is one of the most valuable assets in any business.
- For a new business launch, find a way to test on a small scale with minimal investment of time and money and see if it will work, will scale, and grow from there. If not, move on to the next idea – quickly.
- Building a community for your customers to connect with one another can be a huge value add to them.
- Off shore outsourcing is a good way to cost-effectively grow a business and ultimately grow to the point of employing local staff.
- A clear understanding of your target market and where to find them keeps you focused and saves you wasting time trying to sell your services to people who don’t need them.
- Sound processes are vital to any business, particularly to enable the business owner to delegate effectively.
The Buzz – Our Innovation Round
Here are Troy’s answers to the questions of our Innovation round. Watch the interview to get the full scoop.
- #1 thing to be innovative – listen to your customers and find ways of delivering them value in a more efficient way.
- Best thing for new ideas – listen to your customers and create amazing user experiences.
- Favourite tool for innovation – Infusionsoft
- Keep project / client on track – Contact your customer before they contact you. Do everything for them!
- Differentiate – if you want extraordinary results, do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.
Troy suggested I interview Collis Ta’eed from Envato, on a future podcast. So, Collis, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the Innovabuzz Podcast!
Hint: to enter the competition, leave a comment under this video and tell us the number one thing that you want to see fixed or you’d like to fix on your website that will make a difference to your business.
- Video User Manuals
- WP Elevation
- Troy’s Website
Start with Why, Simon Sinek
Linchpin, Seth Godin
Getting Things Done, David Allen
Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas L. Friedman
Click to Read…
Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz. Welcome to Episode No 12 of the InnovaBuzz Podcast – designed to help smart businesses with an interest in innovation and the Internet of Things become even more innovative.
In this episode, our guest is Troy Dean from Video User Manuals and WP Elevation. Troy is one of my mentors, so I’m really excited to have him on the podcast. We talked a lot about listening to the customer, focusing on your ideal customer and the needs they have, and serving those needs better than anyone else, but at the same time doing that in a way that is profitable and sustainable for your business.
This week‘s innovation tip is start early – get some testing underway for your new product or service ideas. Test with your best ideal clients and get their feedback. Don’t invest a lot of resources, time and money up front, before you get that feedback from your customers – find out what they like and don’t like and then adapt the test product or service accordingly. This is a classic lean start up model. Improve the product/service as you go and keep getting that customer feedback. When it’s ready for “prime time”, then sink more resources into the project to make a successful launch. Troy in the podcast today, talks quite a bit about the lean start up model.
So let’s now find out how Troy and his business partner applied that lean start up model to get the WP Elevation business up and running.
Before we meet Troy, a quick competition announcement – this week’s competition prize is sponsored by Innovabiz and it is a copy of the book “The Year without Pants” which is the story of wordpress.com and the future of work as it’s called. It’s written by Scott Berkun, so stick around for details on how you can enter the draw to win that prize later on in the video.
Stay with us, let’s go into the Innovation Hive and get the Buzz from Troy Dean.
Jürgen: Hi I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz and I’m really pleased to have here with me today all the way from St. Kilda Road in Melbourne which is only about 60Ks up the road from where I am, Troy Dean from Video User Manuals and WP Elevation. I’m really pleased to have Troy here with me because he’s largely responsible for me undertaking this podcasting adventure and beginning and running with it. It’s a real privilege to have you on the podcast, Troy.
Troy: Thanks for having me, Jürgen it’s interesting – I interviewed a guy yesterday on my podcast with the name of Ed Dale who is probably the reason that my podcast is there in the first place. It’s a nice loop that’s going on here.
Jürgen: That’s great. It’s a real privilege to have you on the podcast. Of course for those people that don’t know WP Elevation, I think your pitch is, it’s the first business coaching program designed specifically to help WordPress or website consultants attract better clients and better projects and so on.
I guess, my spin on that because I’m part of the program, is it’s a global mastermind of around 130 to 150 people. It’s a fantastic community that are all supportive of one another and if people come to us at Innovabiz and we don’t know how to do something then I can ask that community and there’ll be at least a handful of people that will know the most obscure things and all of them right through everywhere in the world are really helpful and will go out of their way to solve each other’s problems. It’s really fantastic.
Troy: That’s good to hear. I haven’t heard it referred to as a global mastermind before but I think I might have to put that one in the back pocket. I like the sound of that.
Jürgen: Yeah. Of course you’re also responsible for Video User Manuals which is the original, the best and the only way to teach your clients WordPress.
Troy: That’s right.
Jürgen: I’ve been listening to your podcast! Before we learn more about Troy, about Video User Manuals, WP Elevation and his journey and the innovative things he does within those businesses, I’ve got a little competition prize today that I think is quite appropriate. It’s a copy of the book “The Year without Pants” which is the story of wordpress.com and the future of work as it’s called. It’s written by Scott Berkun. For those people that don’t know and have been living under a rock, there are over 50 million websites on the world wide web that are powered by WordPress. It’s about 20% or more of the web and the force behind the software that drives that is a little company that has about 120 employees, called Automatic.
The Year without Pants is the story of Scott Berkun’s year where he actually worked within Automatic and learned all about them. He describes this company as having as big an influence on the internet as Google and Facebook do, even though they’re much, much smaller.
Troy: It’s a fabulous book. Actually I read it, I think I was traveling overseas and it’s really engaging. Scott came from a pretty traditional corporate startup world and entered the world of Automatic and just had to adapt to a whole new way of working remotely. It’s an inspirational book. I love it. I really enjoyed it a lot.
Jürgen: It is really fascinating. Also it talks a lot about, because actually all of those employees work remotely from wherever they want to be, which is quite fascinating and presents some challenges that most traditional companies don’t necessarily have. So, stay tuned for how to enter the competition later on in the interview. We’ll see what Troy has in mind for us there. I haven’t actually asked him what he wants us to do.
Troy: We’ll work something out.
Jürgen: Before we get on to that Troy let’s take you right back to when you were a young child and find out a little bit more about you. When you were a young child, what was your first big ambition? What did you want to be?
Troy: I wanted to be an actor or a rock star. In hindsight when I think about it, I used to spend a little time when I was 6 years old jumping up and down on the bed in front of the mirror with something as microphone pretending that I was the lead singer of Kiss or that I was in a Rolling Stone’s film clip. I was just fascinated by music film clips and actors. I was a huge fan of James Dean when I was in late primary school or early high school. I was a huge fan of Johnny Depp. I was fascinated by how magnetic these characters and these personalities were. I’m fascinated by the celebrity and the attraction that these people had on mass.
In hindsight I think as I’ve grown up a little bit I’ve realized that what I really wanted to do was to connect with lots of people rather than connecting with individuals. I wanted to be in front of large groups of people connecting on mass because it’s just a real buzz from being in front of a large group of people and having that connection. That for me is like a drug. It’s quite addictive.
Jürgen: Perhaps making a difference.
Troy: Yeah absolutely.
Jürgen: The interesting thing about that is James Dean died very young of course. I remember I was probably only a child at that time and I was kind of devastated when I heard that. Then Johnny Deep, he’s done some interesting things lately but he went off the radar there for a long time and I think he got fed up with the whole acting thing didn’t he?
Troy: He’s been one of those guys that’s chosen really interesting roles. He’s had some duds as well. He’s a character in Pirates of the Caribbean. He freely admits he’s modeled on the guitar player from the Rolling Stone’s, Keith Richards. If Keith Richards was a pirate, this is how he’d be. I just love that. I love that take on it. In fact I think Keith was in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Jürgen: He was there.
Troy: He made a cameo.
Jürgen: You did actually go into music at some stage didn’t you and into radio?
Troy: I did. I did a little bit of acting when I was a kid and when I was a teenager did some bit parts on some commercials and stuff and then did a quite a bit of theater. Started studying theater at university and then discovered music and rock and roll and pubs and beer and girls and let the acting go and joined bands and was playing rock and roll for most of my 20’s. Then towards my late 20’s I got into voice-overs – voicing television commercials on radio and television.
The good thing about being a voice-over artist is you still get to perform. It’s not a live environment but you get to perform but you’re completely anonymous. You still go out for dinner with your partner and no one recognizes you. Whereas if you’re an actor on a TV show or you’re a famous musician you go out to dinner and people want to get your autograph all the time. If you’re the voice of ANZ or the voice of Telstra no one knows. No one’s got a clue so it’s a sweet little gig doing voice-overs.
Jürgen: That’s great. There is an interesting story there though isn’t there about the Cadbury jingle?
Troy: There is. I sang the Cadbury jingle. Which part of the story do you want? I sang the Cadbury jingle “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and it’s based on a Beach Boys track of course. I got the gig and I’d been gigging the night before. I probably had a few too many to drink. I woke up at 9:00 in the morning and my agent rang me and she said you got this gig today going into the studio to sing the Cadbury jingle Wouldn’t It Be Good by the Beach Boys. They were singing “Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was Cadbury”. I instantly freaked out because I thought there’s no way I’m going to be able pull this off.
I was really husky from the night before but also it’s just that Brian Wilson’s melodies are amazing. It’s such an exact melody. Anyway, I spent about 4 hours in the studio recording the jingle and it went really well and it went to air and it was shown in Australia, in New Zealand, in Singapore and in cinemas and it turned into a nice little gig for me. When I met my – now wife, she was doing a few voice-overs as well and she discovered that I do voice-overs and in conversation she discovered that I sang the Cadbury jingle and I think that was it. I think that was what got the girl! She was just completely kind of … Because she loved that commercial. Her and her sister used to sing it every time it came on the TV and here she was out on a date having dinner with the guy that sang it.
Jürgen: You got your fame and your rock star status.
Troy: That’s right. Exactly.
Jürgen: That’s actually a pretty important way, wasn’t it?
Troy: It is.
Jürgen: It went more – deeper than having anonymous fans out in the world.
Troy: That’s right.
Jürgen: When did you deviate from that path and go into design and marketing and then websites?
Troy: Well it’s interesting in my – I got my first internet connection back in ‘95 when I was living in Adelaide and it was like a 7.7K dial in modem and I remember dialing in for the first time and hearing that squelchy sound like a fax machine. I remember the first website I ever browsed in my Netscape navigator browser was the Melrose Place episode guide. Every Tuesday night we used to get together with bunch of friends and watch Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. I knew the Melrose Place season was ahead in the States so I wanted to get the episode guide so that the following week I could just spoil the plot and tell everyone what was coming up. “Oh don’t worry about her, she dies next week, anyway”.
Anyway, I remember logging on to the Melrose Place episode guide and then going to have to make a coffee and come back half an hour later and the screen was still loading. Those were the days. We’ve come a long way in 20 years I tell you. Anyway, then in my mid to late 20’s, I was just playing gigs and doing voice-overs and I had a lot of spare time on my hands. I just was playing around on the internet and was starting to build websites for bands I was playing in. Some venues that I was playing, they’re asking me to build websites and it was all done in Flash back then. Then I migrated to Dreamweaver and I was doing table based design which was a gorgeous thing.
Then somebody said to me once, a buddy of mine he’s a cinematographer actually said “Man I’d love to pay you to build me a proper website.” I was really offended. I was like “What do you mean dude? I built you a proper website. ”He’s like well you know, I’d like you to build me a proper website. I said if you’re going to pay me then I better learn how to do this properly. I just started reading and I started Googling and I actually remember the first time I saw Google it would have been late 90’s and I logged on to this website and the simplicity … I didn’t even know what user experience was back then but all I knew is that I can get what I wanted a lot quicker than if I used Lycos or AltaVista or Yahoo.
For me that was a huge opening of the flood gates. Since then I have just been fascinated by the user experience and it’s just been a wild ride for the last 13 or 14 years just delving into the web and internet and marketing and everything it offers and it’s great. I love it.
Jürgen: And so you built that website for the videographer?
Troy: I did.
Jürgen: Then get started building a lot more from there.
Troy: Yeah. Then it went from there. I remember one of the first things I realized is after I built this website for these creative people who got out and work on new jobs or maybe they shoot video or new wedding. They’re going to want to add that new stuff to their website and I don’t want to have to be doing that. I remember I wrote a content management system in Notepad on my pc. Taught myself PHP and MySQL and wrote this content management system so these guys can manage their own website and it was horrible but it worked. Then very quickly discovered content management systems were available on the internet and of course, then it was just – the rest is history. It’s just been an amazing ride since then.
Jürgen: When did you first discovered WordPress?
Troy: It was funny. My current business partner Brian – I was dating a girl at the time who was working with his wife or the girl he was dating at the time who is now his wife and we all went away for an Easter weekend at Port Macquarie in Sydney. I was reading these PHP cookbooks and CSS cookbooks. He was like “What do they teach you in that stuff?” I was showing him some examples and I had no idea what I was doing but I was just trying to consume as much as possible. I kept asking him about uploading multiple images at the time into a content management system rather than doing one at a time. How can you select multiple images and what’s the PHP script for uploading multiple images at a time and he kept saying “I don’t know man I just use WordPress.” I was like “You’re lazy man. I thought you were a developer.” Every question I asked him he’s like “I’m not sure. I just use WordPress.” Anyway, I was like … he said “You should just use WordPress.” I’m not using WordPress. I’m going to write my own thing. Then eventually I had a bit of spare time and I thought well I’m going to check this WordPress thing out that Brian suggested. I downloaded it and within half an hour I realized that I just achieved in half an hour what had taken me the last 6 weeks to achieve in this content management system and that was it.
I think it was version 2.2 was the first WordPress I downloaded. I think I downloaded Joomla and Mambo or Drupal and Mambo the same day whichever ones they were called back then. I downloaded them the same day. I couldn’t even get them to work but I managed to get to the WordPress log in screen and I thought right I’m onto something here. I managed to log in and look at the dashboard and went – I reckon I can figure this out.
The big aha moment for me was I reckon I can use this as a way to build websites quicker which is going to make potentially building a business out of this profitable because doing it the way I’ve been doing it for the last 6 weeks is not profitable unless someone is paying me 50 grand to build a website which at that point they weren’t going to. When I first started off in that low end website market I needed something to be able to churn these things out quickly and WordPress was just the thing that works pretty much out of the box.
Jürgen: It’s fascinating. I remember I think I saw it first in 2003 or something and it was my son at the time who was, he would have been 20 and he was running his own little hobby blog and I came across it and I said we’ll that’s … I always thought he’s a geek so that’s beyond me. Then when I started off in the websites game, invested a lot of money in a custom proprietary content management system that was really clunky and hard to work with and had all these limitations and you couldn’t do a blog on it which was the thing that actually turned me back to WordPress.
Eventually clients that I had started talking to me we’re going to do a blog as well and I looked around and saw WordPress. We did blogs with WordPress. I thought hang on a minute. It’s much easier to upload images like you said there and rearrange pages. Then I thought well you must be able to actually do a standard websites with this whole thing. Why not just use this system? It’s fascinating.
When did you embark on writing video user manuals?
Troy: It’s funny because the … I figured that the first thing is – I need to have a content management system that people can use to upload their own content because I don’t want to do that. Then I discovered WordPress and I think great so now we’ve got a content management system that people can use and I don’t have to help them manage their content. The very next thing that happened was I was about to hand a website over to a client and I foresaw I’m going to have to train this client how to use WordPress and they’re going to have a lot of questions. I get my next client which I intended to get more clients – I’m going to have to go through the same process again.
How do we systemize this so that I don’t … There’s nothing more painfully boring than teaching 10 people how to use WordPress over a 3 months period and just running the same training session over and over again. Back then webinars didn’t really exist and online video was a bit clunky and the bandwidth wasn’t great. I locked myself in my room for about 2 weeks and wrote a written user guide in a word document and took about 100 screen shots that showed everything you can do in WordPress as a content manager or what WordPress call an editor and I saved as a pdf.
I flicked that up to my buddy Brian in Sydney and said hey man you use WordPress, check this out. You should give this to your clients instead of training them and hopefully they won’t ask any questions. I gave it to my client and they just loved it. Then Brian rang me back and said “Man we should make this a plugin and we should make videos.” I said “Do you know how to make a plugin?” He said; “I reckon I can figure it out.” I said; “I reckon I can figure out how to make videos. You make the plugin. I’ll make the videos.” I said “Okay no worries”.
At the time I think Vimeo Pro had just come out and that Vimeo Pro allowed you to upload videos for commercial purposes because before Vimeo Pro it was just for … you couldn’t upload commercial videos and you couldn’t select make videos private for particular websites. We didn’t really have a solution but Vimeo Pro just came out, which was the perfect timing for us. I just went and made all these videos and again systemized, documented the process on making the video so they were all consistent, uploaded them all to Vimeo and Brian worked on how to put them all in the plugin and then we just gave that to our clients and said, “Here you go, this is how you use your website.”
They were just blown away and then we decided to put it up online and start selling it to other WordPress developers to help them and then it slowly built and became a recurring revenue stream in our business.
Jürgen: I remember discovering it I think it was 2009 was it around then?
Troy: Yeah. We launched in 2008.
Jürgen: Okay. We’ll maybe in 2008 because it was very early on when I was building WordPress sites and I had probably about 3 or 4 and like you say I had people ringing me up all the time. I’ve missed this. How do you do that? I’ve forgotten how you upload an image. I forget how you do this. I saw that come through. It must have been through an email or something and I took a quick look at it and I thought I’ve got to have this. I went and installed that in all websites I had straightaway the existing ones and it was just before Christmas.
I remember I sent out an email to all my clients and I said this year I’ve got a really special Christmas gift for you. It’s in here. Here’s where you go to and I did my own little video. I said here’s where you find this stuff and you now have this video series and user manual and everything and you can do or write stuff. That was really good.
Troy: It’s really interesting to hear stories of customers that acutely use it in real life because it’s weird even though we’ve got hundreds of customers all over the world I still get stuck in my own little bubble where I think we’re the only ones that use video user manual. When you hear someone else using it it’s like all right people are actually using this product.
Jürgen: Do you know how many downloads you’ve had?
Troy: I don’t know off the top of my head but I do know that video user manuals is installed I think it’s about 35,000 websites around the world – spread across all of our different customers. I’m not actually sure the number of times its’ actually been downloaded. I probably should know that but I don’t. Brian would know that off the top of his head.
Jürgen: We always put it in as a standard. It’s part of the training process.
Troy: That’s good.
Jürgen: It’s a great product. When did you decide that you needed to do more than that?
Troy: I had a consulting business. I had a web design agency. We’re just doing client services and I had Video User Manuals with Brian that was this product business that was taking over and we were just doing it part time. I had a meeting with my mentor Ed Dale at the time. This was mid 2012 and I said I was just really unhappy in my client services business for a whole number of reasons and it was all my own doing really. I built this business that just made me miserable. Every time I spoke about Video User Manuals my eyes would light up and I would get really excited and Ed just said to me; “Dude, what are you doing? Just focus on the one thing that you really love the most.” It becomes really obvious.
I left that meeting, I called Brian and I said “Mate I’m in full time. I’m going to get out of my web design agency. I’m going to dissolve that partnership and we’re going to go full time because this is what I really love doing.” That was music to his ears. Then pretty much the first thing we did in early 2013 I looked at our database and said hang on there’s about 10,000 contacts. At that point there were about 8500 people in our database and we had about 700 or 800 customers actually using the plug in.
I thought, what are the rest of you doing? Our database was built by people signing up for a free e-book that we give away and I know that the e-books are great because we get good feedback on them. I thought hang on you’ve signed up for the e-book and you haven’t bought our software. That’s like I’m okay with that I just want to know where the “disconnect” was. I sent out an email just saying, hey what’s going on? Where are you guys at? What were you looking for when you signed up for our e-book? Why haven’t you bought the plugin?
450 of them came back with a response in my inbox and said we need more clients. If you can show us how to get more clients and grow our business we’d love to be able to use your plugin and we’d love to pay for other software as a service app online but we just don’t have enough cash flow because we don’t have enough clients because we’re still freelancing and we’re not quite there yet. That really was just listening to what our customers wanted and I said to Brian I reckon we should just sell tickets to 1 webinar and teach them how I ran my agency and how we got clients and how we manage projects. If enough people turn up and they like it then maybe we’re on to something.
Maybe we can turn this into a business coaching program. That was why we did that and it completely shifted our entire business. WP Elevation is now probably 60% of our revenue. We literally doubled our business within 2 or 3 week period just by launching WP Elevation in direct response to what our customers told us they wanted.
Jürgen: There’s about 3 or 4 really important points in all of that and I really like that story because it’s the lean startup model isn’t it?
Jürgen: The first important point I think you need a good list and it amazes me always that and in fact I had a discussion yesterday with somebody that I’m about to write a proposal for. It was like “What are you doing to get their emails and so on?” I’m not into sending emails to people and so on. Well hang on a minute so having a good list that’s a huge asset for a business.
Troy: I think it’s the most valuable asset in any business. Whether it’s an email list or whether it’s … in the 80’s in the 90’s it was an Act database. Everyone used the Act CRM software. The health of your Act database was the most important asset in your business. If your Act database wasn’t humming along like a well-oiled German engineered machine then your sales staff won’t able to do their job and you won’t able to reach out to your customers and you won’t make any revenue.
For me the modern version of that is a really good healthy email CRM and anyone who says they’re not into sending emails I’d say; “Are you’re not into making revenue? Are you not into servicing your customers?”. I think it’s the most valuable asset you can have in a business is a healthy database of customers, prospects and leads. Sorry I interrupted you.
Jürgen: That’s good. I think that’s a really important point. I think the second thing there is then finding out what they actually need. Where are their pain points? Where are their needs, where are the gaps and again this is the same person I was talking to yesterday around what services they provide and they were just so hung up on the service.
I said “What problem do you solve? What are people looking for that want to engage your service?” It was always around the service for them. Asking your customers and finding out why aren’t you using the product I have or where’s the disconnect or where’s your problem, where’s your issues and then addressing those with a product and doing it in a way that and I think this is what you did you sort of tried it out on a small scale with a webinar and then built from there.
Troy: There’re 2 things that I want to touch on. First of all the reason that you can’t just focus on your product or your service anymore and think if we just keep doing what we’ve done for the last 20 years it’ll work. That might work in some industries but the reason things have changed it’s because of the internet we can now track and understand and measure the language that customers are using to try and solve their problems or achieve their goals. The smartest, savviest startups are using that information to reframe and reposition their service offering to speak to that exact audience.
For example, if you’ve got a project management system that does a great job and you just call it project management 2004 or whatever it is and someone else comes along with pretty much the same piece of software or the same system or the same IP but they’re packaging it as helping startups accelerate their growth and that’s actually what startups are looking for. They’re looking for growth hacking systems then they’re going to win the game because they’re talking the language of the customer. If you just keep saying what you’ve been saying for the last 20 years and you don’t adapt your language to your customer’s language then there’s going to be a disconnect between what you’re offering, what your customer wants.
The second point there is the way we tested WP Elevation we absolutely followed the lean startup model which was to test if anyone actually wanted to buy this before we built anything and that went pretty easy in our case because it was … we didn’t really know what WP Elevation was. We just knew that they needed help. The quickest way for us to do that was to sell tickets to a webinar. I hadn’t built the webinar. I hadn’t even opened PowerPoint to build my slides. In fact I don’t even think I had an account with GoTowebinar. I setup an account with GoTowebinar and I just put up a landing page and connected Eventbrite to GoToWebinar.
I said; if you buy a ticket on the website through Eventbrite you automatically get registered on the webinar. When enough people bought it, then I went “right I will make a PowerPoint now and build my slides and work out what’s going to be in the webinar because enough people have bought this that it’s a proven concept and we’re up and about”. I didn’t want to waste any time building an amazing presentation if 3 people were going to buy it because that’s just a waste.
Jürgen: There’s a big lesson in that too. Find a way to test it on a small scale with little investment and then move on from there. If it’s not working or if it is, then you scale it. That’s great. What happened after the webinar then?
Troy: Interestingly, one of the things I learned about webinars is that you average about 30 to 35% attendance on a free webinar. We sold 84 tickets to that first paid webinar and 78 people turned out which is just ridiculous. You always get a higher attendance on paid webinars because people have actually paid money but the 6 people that couldn’t make it actually emailed me in advance and said I can’t make it because I got to pick up the kids from school. It was an amazing turn out. I just taught my face off for 2 ½ hours or I don’t know how long it was about everything I knew. The engagement was really amazing. The comments and the engagement and the Q and A at the end, was just really humbling that everyone was so engaged.
Immediately after that I sent out a survey via I think I used Wufoo to send out a survey to everyone who registered. 84 people that have bought a ticket got a survey and 55 of them responded to that survey and filled that in. The survey basically said “Well that was awesome. What do you want to do next? Do you want another webinar? Do you want a series of webinars?” It was just tick boxes. They didn’t have to write much. I just gave them options.
I made it really easy for them to give me feedback. Do you want a webinar, a series of webinars? Do you want a mastermind group … do you want to get in the Philippines for a week and have a mastermind group? Do you want monthly coaching calls? Do you want a member’s forum? Do you want a Facebook group? What do you want to do next? They filled that in and then I got about 5 or 6 of them on Skype and had a conversation and said hey if we build this what does it look like? What does it need to include and what’s the price point?
I had 5 people say this is what we want included and if it’s between $1200 and $1500 a year I’ll sign up right now. I said great. I’m coming back here in 2 weeks’ time and I’m going to take you up on that. Without getting the money I essentially got preorders from at least 5 people and interestingly we launched it about 3 weeks after that. I opened the doors for 4 days and we got 55 people to join in those first 4 days. They weren’t the same 55 people that filled in the survey but for some reason that was a magic number. 55 people joined in the first 4 days that we had the doors open and we were up and about. It was live. We were there.
Jürgen: It’s just gone from strength to strength since with additional stuff being added. As a member of that community I can say that you’re still following that same model asking people what do they want and so on. There are posts in the forum that they’re saying do you want to see this topic covered or that topic.
Troy: Yeah I say, our job is to facilitate our community to become the best they can be at what they do and part of that at the moment is though we’re teaching a lot of it but we are bringing in other subject matter experts to teach the stuff that people who are better than us at doing certain things. We bring them in but our job really is not to prescribe everything but to really listen to the community and say what do you guys need, what do you guys want help with and who can we bring in to help you with that. We’re really active in listening to what our customers are asking for.
Jürgen: That’s really great. The other part of it that I really like is that forum itself. Did you foresee that forum becoming such a valuable asset for everyone?
Troy: It’s really interesting because we had the first 5 people that have got on Skype said we really want a member’s forum so I noted that down but what I actually had written down was private Facebook group. I thought that’s the way we’ll run that because everyone is familiar with Facebook. I spoke to my business partner about it and he said no, we have to have a members’ forum in the website. I said; “really”? Before WP Elevation I hardly ever used forums. I thought forums were a bit creepy. I said; “really?” He said “Oh yeah we’ve got to have a members’ forum in the web site that makes perfect sense.” I said; “Okay man I don’t know if anyone is going to use it but okay.”
I reckon now we know the people who joined WP Elevation and leave within the first 3 months aren’t active in the forums. They’re not in the forums. They’re not part of the community. I know now that the forum is absolutely one of the most valuable parts of the WP Elevation membership – is sharing ideas and sharing success and sharing stories and struggles with the rest of the community – especially for freelancers or sole entrepreneurs. A lot of us work from home or work from small offices and we’re stuck in our bubble. It’s really important to be able to reach out and connect with other people who are in a similar situation. I didn’t see that one coming at all.
Jürgen: I think that’s a really hugely valuable resource and certainly personally that’s one of the first things I do every morning. I put the email aside until the end of the day except for that one email that gets me linked into the forum part and I check that out. I feel a bit guilty because I’ve been very busy in the last few weeks and I haven’t been as active as previously. I read stuff and felt guilty I don’t take the time to actually contribute as much as I have been.
Troy: You’ve been a great contributor over time. In fact, it’s funny because we’re actually … I’m telling you and I’m going to put you on the spot here we’re actually rewriting the welcome email for when people join WP Elevation. I was going to ask you about it if it is okay so I’m just going to ask you now. In the welcome email I actually want to put a link to say go and check out the forum and in particular read Jürgen’s success story in the forum and reach out to Jürgen and say hi because he’s one of our really good members. I hope that’s okay if I’m putting you on the spot.
Jürgen: Of course, that’s fine. For our listeners who aren’t WP Elevation members: what happens – every second week there’s a webinar, every other week is a coaching call. The presentation webinar is with Troy or a guest presenter. Troy teaches something and it’s a particular aspect of the business and at the end of that there’s always the call to go out and implement that, take action on it and the other one is kind of a mastermind session, question and answers, but again it usually revolves around problems or issues somebody is having and a call to implement it.
On one of these occasions I actually was in a position of having to run some workshops that I committed to and the training just before that happened to be around using webinars, workshops and so on to generate new business. I sort of structured my whole workshop and the whole lead up to it and the follow-ups in that manner and the course blew me away. I was flooded with business after that. Of course I was so I pumped and I went and shared that on the forums and I explained exactly what I’ve done in terms of the steps.
The interesting thing is everybody is really positive and supportive. Everybody is getting on and so that’s fantastic and then other people come back and say yeah we’ve done something as well and share another success story. You learn off one another and the other thing about the forums of course if you do get stuck on something you can post it and people will actually point you in the right direction or even people actually reach out to you and say; send me a private message or get on the phone, get on Skype and I’ll help you work it out.
Troy: It’s quite amazing little community, isn’t it?
Jürgen: Alright. Let’s get back to you. What do you tell people when you meet them for the first time and they say what do you do Troy?
Troy: I usually tell them I’m a drug dealer! If my wife is anywhere nearby I usually say “I don’t know. You want to explain it?” If I do have to explain it I say; “We help WordPress consultants build the business they need to support the lifestyle they want.” That’s our why. That’s what we’re really passionate about. If a lot of people don’t know what a WordPress consultant is so I say a web consultant that specializes in a particular tool or a particular piece of software that we use.
It’s interesting because some people, very few, will say “How does that work? Tell me more.” Then I explain what we do and most people aren’t interested because they’re not in the space or they’re not in the industry and that’s totally fine with me because I don’t want to have a conversation about what we do to people who aren’t interested, especially if you’re in a large networking event. If you’re in a large networking event everyone is just kind of out for themselves and out for working out who they can connect with. I don’t want to connect with the wrong people at a networking event because then you just have to field all these incoming inquiries about whether you want to do a JV here or a partner here.
It’s like well if you’re not actually talking to a WordPress consultant and serving WordPress consultants then we’re probably not going to be a good fit for each other. I like to tell them really specifically what it is I do and if their eyes glaze over I’m really happy just to move on.
Jürgen: So it’s very specific.
Troy: It is.
Jürgen: You define your niche very specifically and how you help them. The fascinating thing though is I was kind of conscious of this yesterday. I met with another chap yesterday who’s focused on business coaching for companies that want to do growth but his background is in franchising. He was telling me about … He’s got all this experience and people come to him for that experience and he loves doing presentations. He doesn’t do many of them and I ended up advising him to start a podcast because we’re talking about websites and that. I thought the philosophies and the principles around what you’re doing at WP Elevation are actually fundamental business principles if you strip back the technical bits and say what’s behind that? What’s the principle there, that’s applicable to all business.
Troy: It is. It’s a really interesting point you make because we’ve thought about this a lot. In fact before WP Elevation, I started a membership site called Online Marketing Masters which was kind of the forerunner to WP Elevation and the reason that failed is because I didn’t know who my audience was and I was trying to teach small business owners about how to become an online marketing master. It would have been … ended up being a lot of the same content. Authority, positioning, podcasting, streamlining your customer experience – all that stuff, but the problem with that is … it’s like when you say to most small business owners especially in the service industry, who is your target audience and they say … if you say you’re a web designer who’s your target audience and they say everyone.
My question is, is everyone going to pay you for a website? Is everyone that you meet going to pay you for a website? Of course not – who’s most likely to pay you for a website? We do a lot of work in financial services. Right now we’re getting somewhere because you can’t market to everyone. It’s just impossible. Where is everyone? Whereas if I want to market to accountants I know exactly where to find them. If I want to market to WordPress consultants I know exactly where to find them. The reason that we market to WordPress consultants is because we are WordPress consultants so it makes perfect sense.
We understand the struggle. We empathize and we’ve actually got the results in our own business. It’s interesting what you say that a lot of what we teach and a lot of what we facilitate is fundamental business stuff but the reason we focus on WordPress consultants is because that’s who our audience are and we know where they are and we can get in front of them pretty easily.
Jürgen: Yeah. You speak their language and they can understand you. That’s really important point as well. What do you spend most of your time doing day to day these days?
Troy: What do I spend most of my time doing day to day? At the moment I’m looking for a new office. That’s what we’re doing for the last couple of days.
Jürgen: A move?
Troy: They’ve put a personal training studio on top of us here and its’ very noisy. We’re on the move here. I spend most of my time podcasting. I spend most of my time interviewing people on our podcast, creating content for WP Elevation, so creating webinars, trying to partner with other people to create content, putting together coaching calls, coaching clients. We’ve probably got half a dozen platinum members in WP Elevation now and I’ve got a handful of other private coaching clients that I coached through general online marketing stuff.
We still do a little bit of client services so occasionally I’ll be actually working on a website for a client and also I do spend a fair bit of my time working with Gin, who’s my assistant here in Melbourne and our staff in the Philippines to work out what part of our process and systems are broken – which means they can’t do their job. I’ll spend a fair bit of time, Gin will just bail me up every now and then and say – I’ve got 5 questions I need answers to and I’ll say all right hit me. You’ve got me 5 minutes and she’ll ask me the questions.
I’ll go all right that system is broken and then I’ll dig in and I’ll try and work out and maybe shoot some new videos and rewrite some processes so that the team can do their job, so that I can get on with thinking about more of the high level strategy about where the business is going and what we want to do over the next 12 months. So, it’s kind of a bit of a mixture.
Jürgen: That’s an interesting point you make about the processes and if you have robust processes then you can get other people to do the job and then we’re certainly doing a lot of work on that too. In fact recently we had a new guy working for us a little while and we basically gave him some task to do and the person managing him came back to me and said “Oh look he messed up on this and I’m really disappointed.” I said “No hang on that’s actually quite exciting because what did he mess up on?”He said; “He’s setting up this process.” I said; “Yeah which step did he mess up on?” “I don’t know.”“Okay, go back and find out which step he messed up on because the process is broken.” We have to fix it.
Troy: That’s right. The first thing I look at when something goes wrong the first thing I look at is the process. A lot of the times staff can fill in the blanks but there are some times where staff just can’t fill in the blanks – especially if it comes to technology. If something goes wrong, you probably know – we’ve had email invitations for webinars go out 3 times with the wrong date in it and our audiences are very forgiving thankfully. I just look at that and go, we’ll it’s not the staff’s fault. It’s the process’ fault and ultimately I wrote the process so it’s my fault. I need to rewrite the process and make the process more solid and more robust otherwise I’m just going to have to end up doing it myself. It’s my job to get the process right.
Jürgen: That’s right. Actually I was sending out one of my processes to someone because I offered to share it by sending it out to him and I looked at it again and I thought hang on that’s not what I do when I do that steps so I went through and rewrote it.
Troy: It’s really interesting too actually you’ve touched on a very interesting point. If you share your processes with other people it eliminates the BS factor. While you can look at one of your processes and oh yes it’s pretty good I know what to do there but if you share with someone outside your business, it forces … you don’t want to be embarrassed, you don’t want to send them a bad process … I’m a big fan of sharing things outside the business because it forces you to have a look at it and tidy it up so you’re then proud of it.
Jürgen: What are the biggest challenges then within your business – is it getting those processes right or is it scaling up with staff?
Troy: I think, probably the biggest challenge I’ve got is identifying what the most valuable thing is that I can be doing today and this week. That’s something that I have struggled with for a long time. I get distracted by opportunities as we all do. Luckily I’ve got a business partner who’s pretty good at keeping me on task. The biggest challenge we’ve got at the moment is scale. How do we take what we’re doing and scale it up? How do we do that and avoid getting distracted by all of it because we get emails on a daily basis from people who want to partner with us because we’ve got a good audience and a good community.
We’re just constantly saying no, not now. Put it on a shelf. Come back to us in 6 months’ time we might be ready. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges is just scaling and managing that growth so that we can stay true to what we’re doing and keep the service offering as good as it is. Keep the product good and just managing those growing pains.
Jürgen: You mentioned earlier you have a team of staff in the Philippines as well. I would imagine that’s quite important to the whole operation, right?
Troy: It is. Employing staff in the Philippines has allowed us to grow to this point. There’s no way we can afford to employ 3 staff in Australia the way we have in the Philippines and those staff have allowed us to generate the profit that we need to actually get to the point where we are now. We’re now starting to employ staff locally but that has its challenges. Time zones, language, culture definitely has its challenges. We use project management software to manage them.
One of the biggest challenges that we’ve got now is actually trying to encourage our team to take more initiative but also giving them clear parameters about what that initiative means because their version of initiative is very different to ours. If we say take some initiative here they come back with an idea and you think wow I would never have thought to do it that way but that’s okay. They just don’t exactly know … I haven’t told them the destination clearly enough. They don’t know where we’re trying to go and so that’s a good idea. It’s completely wrong for what we’re trying to do but it’s not their fault. It’s just because we haven’t painted the picture clear enough and they don’t really understand what it is we’re trying to achieve. Again I look at that and think we could be managing a remote team a lot better and it’s something we’ve constantly working at improving.
Jürgen: That’s really become popular to outsource work to people in other countries where the cost of living, first of all is a lot less, so that you can pay them a lot less and they still have a really comfortable existence. They’re still really comfortable and well off. Like you say that gets small businesses into a position where they can grow to a point of employing locally. There’s a lot of negative comment around on some forums on the internet, about that whole movement but it’s a case of for businesses going to expand and grow that’s a first step to the point of then employing local staff.
Troy: I love negative feedback about outsourcing because the first question I ask anyone who says anything negative about outsourcing is, have you ever done it? Have you ever managed a remote team? If they have then I’m more than happy to have a conversation with them. If they haven’t, then I’m not interested in having a conversation with them because its’ just all opinion. It’s not right for everyone but as I said it’s certainly allowed small business to keep their labor cost down.
We pay our team very well for Filipino standards so they are very well looked after. They’re earning more from us than they would be if they worked in a call center for example. Anyone who’s got a problem with outsourcing I just say what phone have you got in your pocket? Where is that bad boy made? It’s not made in Los Angeles is it? It’s not made in California? It’s made in China.
Jürgen: China, Thailand
Troy: Exactly. The outsourcing argument is just … it’s just not even an argument really for me.
Jürgen: What are some of the ways you do innovation within the businesses?
Troy: That’s a really good question. Probably the cloud based software. It was funny I was just looking at a new office and there’s a whole corner of this office that’s partitioned off with a door. I said; “Oh what’s that?” He said “That’s your server room. ”Oh right;” I said “We’ll just take the partitions down. We don’t need a server room. We don’t have any servers.” It’s just interesting. It’s just funny because everything we do is in the cloud. It’s in Dropbox pretty much and it’s just interesting to see the old school business model.
I guess the cloud based software that we use is pretty much a prerequisite. Anything that we use in the business has to be accessible online because we are a remote team. My business partner is in Sydney. I’m in Melbourne. Our team is overseas and I think that allows us to move pretty quickly and pretty inexpensively like we can try lots of things out really quickly and if they fail then we just get rid of them. If they work and they add value and they increase our productivity, then we keep them.
The challenge with that is that we end up trying more stuff than we need. That’s my fault – distracted by shiny objects on a daily basis. My business partner is always telling me; no don’t sign up for anything new. We use things like … I’ll give you specific example. We use Amazon AWS which is Amazon Web Services. We use Amazon AWS to deliver all of the videos that are in our Video User Manuals plugin.
If you imagine 30 or 35,000 domains around the world accessing those videos on a weekly or monthly basis our hosting costs would go through the roof but hosting all the videos on Amazon now allows us to deliver that product and the cost is negligible, would be less than a carton of beer every month for our video hosting cost, which is ridiculous and we service hundreds of customers all over the world. So, that’s just one example of thinking like a lean online based startup rather than a traditional business model.
Jürgen: Amazon is not a small company is it?
Jürgen: They’re pretty reliable and …
Troy: Occasionally it goes down. Foursquare the local based social network website is completely built on Amazon. When Amazon went down for I think 24 hours or 48 hours last year some time, Foursquare was completely offline for a couple days. They couldn’t do anything because their entire business is built on an Amazon or at least it was back then. You’re definitely taking a risk but I have more faith in Amazon to be able to run a hardware than our team, with all due respect to our team. We’re not in the hardware business.
Jürgen: That’s right. The resources and the infrastructure that they’ve got in place and I think I’ve got about 4 or 5 locations in the world where they’ve got redundant servers and so on. What do you see is the risk and opportunity cost then of trying to get out there and do things differently?
Troy: The risk is always that if you’re investing in other people’s technology or you’re using other people’s technology in your business, the risk is that they might not be around in 2 years’ time. If you get into bed with them so to speak and build your business on someone else’s technology then you could be in a bit of strife. The opportunities I think are huge because it allows you to run experiments really quickly. Like you can literally set up a website, put up a landing page, drive some traffic to it whether it’s from Facebook or Google ads or your own internal list and test the hypothesis. Will this part of the business work? Are people interested in this?
3 or 4 year ago that might have taken a week to get all that up and running and now you can do it in a couple of hours. I think the opportunity far outweighs the risk but I think you do have to be aware. My business partner is really good at doing risk analysis and saying if we do this, this is everything that needs to happen; whereas my gut reaction is to just pull trigger and then see what damage I’ve done and go and put the fires out quickly before anyone notices. Always ask for forgiveness instead of permission as the old adage goes. I think you do need to strike a balance. I know it’s a really boring answer. I think the opportunity outweighs the risk is my message and I think the technology, definitely the internet technology should be embraced more than it should be feared.
Jürgen: You raise an interesting point there about how quickly you can do experiments and the data that you can then collect of having a website and analyzing, how many people are visiting that website and what they’re doing when they get there. It’s just amazing. It was fascinating. I’m often asked because I’ve got a science background. How did you get into websites? That’s totally foreign isn’t it? Not really because the way I approach it is to treat it as doing experiments and testing things out and looking at the data. Like you say draw a hypothesis and then test it out to see if it’s working and have a look at the data and then adapt from there. You can do that very quickly.
Troy: Imagine food manufacturers who were thinking about releasing a new line of toothpaste. Imagine if they got that data from customers who were in the toothpaste aisle and they were thinking I wish there was a toothpaste that did X and if you can tap into those hidden thoughts in your potential customer’s brain, it will make your decisions so much easier, wouldn’t it?
Jürgen: That’s right. Let’s have a look at your spare time then. What do you when you’re not working? Not on the internet doing WordPress or webinars.
Troy: I’ll paraphrase Bill Belew, I think that said on my podcast, he said you make the assumption that I have spare time and there is time where I’m not working. What do I do when I’m not working? I still play music with a couple of buddies of mine. We go down to rehearsal studio every now and then and jam. It’s like a poker night without the poker really. It’s an opportunity for the boys to get together and let off steam and it’s awesome. It’s so much fun!
My wife and I like to travel a bit. We like to get away for weekends here in Melbourne and we like to travel. As you know we love Southeast Asia and I just love traveling in general. We’re both pretty active in terms of physical exercise. I run a bit and I work out a couple of times a week to try and get my head screwed on properly, try to get my head clear. I got to say I work a lot because I love it. I just absolutely love what I do. I don’t consider it as work. I just consider it as play. I get to play on the internet all day and hang out with these awesome people and the bills get paid. It’s remarkable.
Jürgen: My last guest that interviewed on Monday actually and I’m not sure when it’s going to be published because I’m about 4 episodes backlogged. He must be in his 70’s now and he’s still working full time and he says I’m so lucky. I don’t consider it work because I get up every day and I’m really excited to go in and work. I know you do a lot of reading. Have you got any books that you’d like to recommend to our audience?
Troy: Yes. I just finished reading Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
Jürgen: Simon Sinek, yeah I know this author.
Troy: It’s fantastic. Occasionally there’s a book that comes along. My wife would tell you; I get pretty excited in most things but when I discover the occasional book that comes along that just stops me in my tracks. Linchpin from Seth Godin was one of them. Getting things done from David Allen was another. There’s a bunch on my bookshelf here behind me but “Start with Why” is a game changer for me. I’ve known this stuff for a long time but just the way Simon lays it out I strongly recommend anyone if you haven’t read it read “Start with Why by” Simon Sinek.
Jürgen: It is an excellent book. It’s been some years since I’ve read it. I’ve got to find it again.
Troy: It’s fabulous.
Jürgen: It’s a great book. So, I’ll ask the magic wand question. If you have a magic wand and could fix one thing in the business what would you do?
Troy: I had more staff.
Jürgen: More staff.
Troy: Yup. We’re getting there. It’s just we need to hit certain revenue targets before we can employ more staff but I just know that having a good team and having more staff will allow us to get the things done. Essentially will allow us to add more value to our customers and there’s so much in our list of things on our road map that we want to do with this business and for our customers and that’s just going to come from having more staff to get things done. That would be if I had a magic wand I would just employ 5 people right now.
Jürgen: I feel like that sometimes too. I say if we got 2 or 3 more people that could do all these stuff.
Jürgen: Put too many ideas on the plate and just don’t get them done.
Jürgen: Let’s move on to what I call the Buzz which is our innovation round. Just like your podcast I think there’re 5 questions and quick answers and we’ll see where we go. It’s designed to help our audience learn about other people who are innovating and leaders in their field and learn from their experience.
Jürgen: What do you think is the number 1 thing anyone needs to do to be more innovative?
Troy: That’s a really good question and I thought about this before when I was looking at the sheet. I think they need to listen to their customers is the very first thing they need to do and find efficiencies to find ways of delivering the value in a more efficient way. I think the number 1 thing is you have to listen to your customer.
Jürgen: That’s the thing that’s coming through really strongly in all that you’re doing. That’s really great to tie in with … The next question you could probably answer the same. What’s the best thing you have done to develop new ideas and new products?
Troy: Listen to your customer and focus on the user experience. You really just have to put yourself in the shoes of your customer and say as the customer is using our product, what happens? There are so many ways that you can improve and innovate. I tell you – buy anything from Apple and just look at the packaging. No one packages and delivers things the way Apple do and – it’s packaging for God’s sake. Who cares about packaging? Steve Jobs cared about packaging. Steve Jobs cared about the user experience and that’s why people who use Apple products become cultish about Apple because they care about the user experience and its packaging. There are opportunities everywhere to make an amazing user experience you just have to listen to your customer.
Jürgen: That’s good. I had the privilege of recently spending a lot of time with Tom O’Toole and one of the things he said that relates to this was about price and service and the user experience or the customer experience (his words) that lingers long after the price is forgotten.
Troy: Absolutely – of course it does.
Jürgen: What’s your favorite tool or system for driving innovation or for improving productivity?
Troy: At the moment and this could change tomorrow or could change this afternoon
Jürgen: The next shiny object online…
Troy: At the moment it’s Infusionsoft. So, Infusionsoft is for those who don’t know – is a CRM. You can’t begin to explain how powerful it is but it is just helping us systemize our processes and automate a lot of our internal systems. Even for example when we publish a podcast episode with a guest, we email the guest. The link to the podcast episodes that they can share with their following and then 2 weeks later we email them to remind them to come back and look for the comments and award a prize. That’s all automated in Infusionsoft now.
What we do is we add the link to their episode into their customer record card in Infusionsoft. We tag them as podcast guest and that the email will just go out automatically so it doesn’t fall through the cracks. We’re not relying on some human to put a reminder in their calendar to email that podcast guest. It just happens automatically. Infusionsoft is not perfect but it’s fabulous.
Jürgen: If I understand it correctly you can actually do conditional things there also. You can trigger those things to go different pathways depending on what events might have occurred.
Troy: The easiest example is I’m working with a coaching client at the moment, who’s has got 3 major things that she teaches. Let’s call them apples, bananas and oranges. You can send an email to your entire database that basically says; “Hey do me a quick favor tell me are you interested in apples, bananas or oranges?” Each one of those is a link and based on what someone clicks on, which link they click on, they will be funneled into a whole new sequence where we just talk about apples because that’s what they said they’re interested in. Now apples, bananas, oranges all leads to the ultimate sale which is a bag of fruit but they got there, they got there talking about apples or bananas or oranges so again customizing the user experience through your marketing funnel that really excites me. I’m a geek but that really excites me.
Jürgen: It is very powerful.
Troy: It is.
Jürgen: What do you think is the best way to keep a project or a client on track?
Troy: Everyone says constant communication. I’m going to say contact your customer before they contact you. We have a failure metric in our business now that if a client emails me or calls me to ask me how a project is going, we failed. Guess what? It still happens. We still fail every now and then but I like my customers to know that we’re working on it and that they can rest easy. Make sure you contact your customers before they contact you. I’m just going to dovetail that.
Something that Ed Dale said to me yesterday on the podcast. One of the best places to keep a client on track is to not ask them to do anything. Do everything for them. The moment you ask a client to do something – the wheels are going to fall off. Because A, they’re busy and B they’re not equipped to do what you’re asking them to do. We’re specifically talking about creating content for websites.
Jürgen: I was just going to say that as an example.
Troy: He said stop asking clients for content. They’re paying us as a consultant. Just do the content for them. I think I’m going to take that on board.
Jürgen: I was going to throw that very example in because I think that most website developers whether they’re on WordPress or anything else will probably say – are getting content from the client is the biggest hurdle.
Jürgen: In fact I tell people usually if you’re talking to somebody on pre-proposal and I say how much is it going to cost and how long will it take? Those are the 2 questions I asked fairly early on and say we can be pretty quick it depends on how quickly you can get the content that’s my answer.
Troy: That’s actually right. The answer always is well how long it will take depends on how organized you are and how much it will cost will depend on how long it will take which will depend on how organized you are.
Jürgen: The last couple of times I’ve actually gone back and I’ve said we’ll organize the content for you so I’ve taken that advice.
Jürgen: It’s great advice. Finally, what the number 1 thing you can do to differentiate yourself or anyone can do to different themselves?
Troy: That’s a really good question. You know, I learnt this from Dan Kennedy. Dan Kennedy says if you want extraordinary results, do the opposite of what everyone else is doing and I think it’s so true. I’ll give you one very practical example. It ties in a little bit with innovation. If a client emails or a lead emails or calls up and says we need to talk to someone about a new website, most web freelancers will say I’ve got no worries well I got some time next week do you want me to come over and meet with you and they’ll go and have a meeting with the client. I just don’t think that works. I think that model is completely broken.
What I do now is I say more than happy to talk to you about your new website project. I need to see if we’re a good fit for each other. This is a canned response email by the way that they get. That just drives them into a worksheet inquiry form on the website that they fill in. Now if they fill that in, most people don’t if they fill that in which is telling in itself, if they fill that in I’ll look through it and if the responses make sense and I think we can actually hit a home run with this client, I will then email them 3 times, 3 opportunities, on next week Tuesday 10:00, Thursday at 10:00 and Friday at 1 pm I’ve got some time to meet with you and usually it will be online. It’ll be an online meeting.
Pick your time if you want to get on Skype and chat with me. I‘m just filtering out people who are not a good fit for us and I’m using technology to automate the whole process. Really the first thing, I get is an inquiry form filled in and I look at it and go I reckon we can hit a home run there. I want to get on Skype and chat with this person and then I flick them a canned response email. I want to hear from them. If I do, great I know they’re qualified and I know that we’re probably going to have a good time working together. No one is doing that because everyone is optimistically running around having meetings and that’s fine. I’m happy for them to do that but that’s not the model that I’m in.
I deliberately chose doing what I’m doing now because no one else is doing it. That was just a way of differentiating myself. Turns out it’s a good positioning exercise as well but that was a byproduct really.
Jürgen: That’s great advice to do something different. It has to be something that makes sense obviously.
Troy: It does.
Jürgen: Do it differently to others.
Troy: It’s basically the reason that I’ve adopted this model is because it’s like the specialist model. You try and make an appointment to go and see a kidney specialist. You need a referral from your GP which means you got to see your GP first and then the specialist will tell you when your appointment is. You’re not going to make your own appointment.
Jürgen: Go have a meeting with you to find how much a kidney transplant will be.
Jürgen: That’s great. I think someone posted in the forum I just can’t remember this thing. I think it was brain surgery. It was a very humorous discussion around that.
Jürgen: Alright, how do you see the future for Video User Manuals and for WP Elevation? Actually on Video User Manuals – I know there’s, you’ll be familiar with, Sidekick is it or Sidekicker?
Jürgen: Do you see that as a path where the product is going or do you see eventually it’s something that will end up in the back end of WordPress?
Troy: Sidekick. I don’t think Video User Manual will ever end up in the back end of WordPress because they want to serve up those videos. The economy of scale I think would not be viable to do that for free, but it might be a paid extension I’m not sure. I might have to email Matt and see if he wants to acquire it.
Jürgen: A license …
Troy: I might. I’m coming to get you, Matt! Sidekick is just a different mode of learning. Sidekick is these spoken tutorials with hover blues that tell you what to do next at one step at a time –just a different mode.
Jürgen: Different mode of learning.
Troy: Yeah, different mode of learning. I think, what I’d like to see is I would like to see and certainly what we’re aiming for is I’d like WP Elevation to become a registered training organization. My business partner probably isn’t aware of this. This might be news to him. I’d like WP Elevation to become a registered training organization where if you are going to startup a business as a WordPress consultant that you go through WP Elevation and you become certified as a WordPress consultant and you put a badge on your website. The aim is I want to up the game for WordPress consultants and lift the quality that we provide as consultants to our clients.
I want our clients to get better outcomes. I want all of our members to run profitable businesses because it’s important you’re on a profitable business because if you don’t run a profitable business you can’t service your clients. Ultimately I would love WP Elevation to become the go to place for any WordPress Consultant to go through our training and to become certified as a WordPress consultant – just like you would become certified as an Action Coach or whatever
Jürgen: Microsoft provider.
Troy: Yeah. I think probably the biggest gap that we’ve got that we’re trying to fill is to provide more software and provide more tools for our members to help them run their business and implement what it is we teach, into their business and that’s just something that is going to require more resources for us and hence that is why the magic wand is – let’s employ more staff to actually get that stuff built.
Jürgen: That’s pretty exciting stuff actually.
Troy: It is.
Jürgen: You’ve got about 3 weeks to break the news to Brian because it’s probably about 3 weeks before we publish this.
Troy: That’s fine. I’ll just let him discover it in the wild!
Jürgen: What do you say is the future for the industry? Do you see see WP Elevation taking on other things than WordPress? There are a few other systems out there now that are really interesting. Shiny new toys, I don’t know coming up like what’s the other one I can’t think of its name at the moment – the other blog posting that looks like a really interesting CMS.
Troy: Squarespace or Ghost.
Jürgen: Ghost I was thinking of.
Troy: Like anything, it’s hard to imagine Facebook and Twitter and WordPress not begin around but history would tell us that they won’t be around forever. It’s hard to imagine that. I imagine there was a time where people thought the television is going to be around forever and the television screen will be around forever but television won’t be around forever. It’s starting to being replaced on demand subscription services. I mean radio is dying. The CD, the vinyl, the cassette tape – all technology will ultimately be replaced by new innovation.
What won’t change is that the way to … a successful business needs to work out how it adds value to its customers and how to deliver that value at a profit and that’s something I’m really passionate about. Whether it’s WordPress, whether it’s Squarespace, whether its new fandangle whatever it is I think there will always be a need to teach creative people – how to run a profitable business and have those basic business fundamentals in place. I think that’s the space that I’d always like to be regardless of the technology. Does that answer your question?
Jürgen: Yeah, pretty much.
Troy: Ultimately the technology is irrelevant. It’s all about people. If Facebook dies tomorrow, everyone that’s on Facebook would find somewhere else to connect.
Jürgen: That’s right.
Troy: That’s exactly right.
Jürgen: Again coming back to what we were talking about earlier it’s not a forum to publish stuff or anything – it’s a place to connect with other people, isn’t it? It’s a need.
Troy: That’s right. It’s the base desire of any human being. Once you’ve got food and shelter taken care of, our base desire is to feel connected to our tribe. Anything that helps facilitate that connection which goes back to the first question what do I want to be when I was a kid – I wanted to connect. I wanted to be in a community. I wanted to connect with groups of people so I think I’m always going to be in that space.
Jürgen: Where do you see the Internet of Things going and fitting in with all of that?
Troy: Someone was showing me a website the other day, a new app that is a speed reading app. These guys have spent 3 years studying speed reading and worked out that the most time spent when you read is actually your eyes moving across the words. These guys have now developed this app where you just focus on the center of your phone and the letters spin past so you don’t have to move your eyes. You just focus on one point and they reckon they can increase your reading speed for 3 or 4 times.
There’s a fascinating book written by Thomas L. Friedman called Hot, Flat and Crowded. He wrote a book called The World is Getting Smaller or the World is Getting Crowded and then he wrote a book called Hot, Flat and Crowded which is all about how the planet is heating up, the middle class is the flattening out because of everyone in China or India is coming out of poverty, getting online and discovering this middle class lifestyle and the planet is getting crowded. He posted this amazing vision of the future where all of our cars and our houses are connected to a smart grid which is solar powered. That every device we use is only using the power it needs at that point in time to deliver us what we need and as soon as we’ve stopped using it, it’s feeding power back into the grid from solar energy.
It’s an amazing vision of the future. I’d love to think that it would happen. I think that there are too many vested interests in fossil fuels in the world right now. I don’t know whether we’ll see it in our lifetime but I would love to think that the internet and the way that the internet enables devices and the people to connect and communicate I’d like to think it will be ultimately used for our good and not our downfall but only time will tell.
Jürgen: That’s right. A lot of that technology actually exists and I’ve been speaking with a couple of guests recently, Jacques Touillon from AirboxLab who is I think episode 7 so – they’re doing indoor air quality monitoring. Also there’s a guy that I need to publish soon from Noveda Technologies and they’re doing energy monitoring both for energy use and water use in buildings. That’s quite a fascinating story.
The technologies are there, but like you said there’s probably a lot of vested interests – those things are threats to their existing business.
Let’s move on to the competition and I might put you on the spot here and ask you what you’d like people to do by way of commenting or contribution for this.
Just as a reminder, the prize is a copy of the book “The Year without Pants” – that’s the story of wordpress.com and how that fits in with the future of work written by Scott Berkun. It is a fascinating read. Lots of lessons there on creativity, on productivity, leadership and from the company that powers 20% of the web and we’ve been talking a lot about that today. What do you think?
Troy: I’m going to be a little bit selfish here and ask what is it … what’s the number one thing that the listeners or viewers would like to fix about their current website? What is the number one improvement or innovation or the number one thing they’d like to fix about their current website that would actually make a difference to their business?
Jürgen: That’ great. That sounds good.
Troy: That way we’re both in the web space so that way that gives us a bit of market research, doesn’t it?
Jürgen: That’s right. It’s excellent. What’s the number one thing that you want to see fixed or you’d like to fix on your website that will make a difference to your business? Put a comment underneath the video here and I’ll get Troy to call back in a couple of weeks and award the prize to the best entry or the most innovative entry. We are looking for innovation here. If somebody has got some wild idea, fancy things, we’d love to hear those.
Jürgen: This has been fabulous. I think we’ve been going for quite a while now so I appreciate your time.
Troy: No problem at all.
Jürgen: In wrapping up then what’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to any business that wants to be a leader in innovation?
Troy: Just ignore your competition.
Jürgen: That’s interesting.
Troy: Don’t worry about what your competition is doing. Don’t worry about how they’re innovating – because if you worry what your competition is doing and you’re … We have competition and we see our competition innovating and doing things and adding new features and new tools and we’re kind of oh; why didn’t we do that first. We used to and now we don’t. In fact now I don’t even know what my competition is doing. I just don’t care. I’m only interested in how we can deliver more value to our customers at a profit. That’s what I’m interested in and that’s how we’ll innovate. We will continue to innovate to add more value to our customers and maintain a profit. My number one tip is – just ignore your competition and listen to your customers.
Jürgen: That’s fantastic. There is a thing there isn’t it?
Troy: There definitely is a thing. No doubt.
Jürgen: This has been really great. Really appreciate your time Troy. Where can people reach out to you and say thank you or get in touch or maybe even want to have a look at the WP Elevation website and learn how to elevate.
Troy: @troydean on Twitter is probably the easiest place to get hold of me, T-R-O-Y-D-E-A-N and wpelevation.com is where you can check out WP Elevation and troydean.com.au if you want to hit me up there by the contact form. Twitter is probably the easiest place – that’s where I’m most active.
Jürgen: All right we’ll post all the links for those underneath the podcast post. Finally then Troy, your suggestion on who’d you’d like to see me interview on the InnovaBuzz podcast in the future and why?
Troy: I knew you were going to ask this question. I’m totally unprepared for it! I have been thinking about this. From an innovation point of view, because I’m in this bubble in the WordPress bubble and I don’t want to give you someone like Tim Ferris is pretty obvious but I want to give you someone that I think you can actually reach out to and wouldn’t take you 3 years to get them on. I’ll tell you what – how about Collis Ta’eed from Envato?
Jürgen: Oh Envato, yeah.
Troy: I’ll tell you why Collis. Envato was the first digital market place and Envato for those that don’t know, is a digital market place where you can buy audio files or video bumpers or website themes or anything digital. Collis was one of the first guys to create a market place where, instead of just selling digital goods, he created a market place where people can sell and buy digital goods. He’s not selling any of his products. It’s just a market place. It’s like eBay for digital goods.
He was really the first in that space. He’s a Melbourne guy and he and his wife have grown that company out of their in-laws garage. They now employ over 200 people. They’ve got an amazing office here in Melbourne and I’ve interviewed him. I think he would be fascinating. I actually think he’d be interested in not talking about WordPress or the web but talking about innovation in the business because he’s constantly got his foot on the pedal. I’m more than happy to connect you with Collis to make that introduction.
Jürgen: That’s great. Actually my last guest suggested I interview Neil Diamond – that’s presenting a bit of a challenge.
Jürgen: Troy, it’s been a real pleasure to have you on the podcast and thank you so much for spending so much time with us today. It’s been quite a long episode but it’s been fascinating to hear the story of Video User Manuals and WP Elevation and get some insights into what drives you and the philosophies and the innovation that you do in your business. Thanks very much.
Troy: Thanks for having me Jürgen. I really appreciate it.
Jürgen: Bye for now.
I hope you enjoyed meeting Troy as much as I enjoyed interviewing him on the podcast. It was great to catch up with him again and find out more about what drives him in his businesses.
The key takeaways here can be summarized as “Listen to your customer” and deliver more value to your customers and do that in a way to be profitable and sustainable for your business.
Of course, you can subscribe to this Podcast via iTunes or Stitcher, so that you’ll never miss a future episode.
All the show notes for this episode will be at innovabiz.com.au/troydean that is T-R-O-Y-D-E-A-N, all lowercase, all one word, innovabiz.com.au/troydean for all of the links and everything we spoke about in this episode. Remember, leave your comments underneath the video for your chance to win a copy of The Year without Pants by Scott Berkun.
Leave a comment under the video and tell us what’s the number one improvement or innovation or the number one thing you’d like to fix about your current website that would actually make a difference to their business. If you leave a comment under the video, I’ll get Troy to swing by in a few weeks and award that prize.
Troy nominated Collis Ta’eed, from Envato, to be on a future podcast. So, Collis, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the Innovabuzz Podcast!
If you like these podcast episodes, please give us a five star review over at iTunes. It really does help to get more listeners and to share this information with a bigger audience. And I really do want to share these gems, that people so generously share with us on the podcast with as many people as I can.
So, Until next time.
Remember, if you don’t innovate, you stagnate, so think big, be adventurous and keep innovating!