Stacking the Bricks Podcast
EP2 - Scott Hurff's first product launch was "wrong", but $50k later he knows it didn't matter.
In this episode…
30x500 Alumni Scott Hurff joins Alex Hillman. They talk about how Scott's approach to building products has changed, and what he's learned from both of his launches.
By his own measures, Scott's first product - a technical course for designers wanting to use Quartz Composer - was far from "perfect". But even without perfection, his launch still exceeded his expectations and earned him $10k on launch week.
Then, when he improved his launch by incorporating ebombs & our 30x500 launch sequence technique, Scott more than tripled his launch revenue.
Also, like a lot of us, money isn't the only motivator. Scott's learned that there's some amazingly good feelings that come from being in the business of helping people succeed.
Tune in and learn a whole lot from Scott's experience. Check out his blog at scotthurff.com.
This recording originally appeared on UnicornFree.com in an article titled "What if your product launch fails? This interview will give you $10k reasons to do it anyway.": https://unicornfree.com/2014/what-if-your-product-launch-fails-this-interview-will-give-you-10k-reasons-to-do-it-anyway
Alex Hillman: Hey, bootstrappers! I’m Alex Hillman, Amy Hoy’s partner in the 30x500 system for bootstrapping product businesses. Today I’ve got something really great for you!
In today’s conversation I’m going to be joined by one of our 2014 bootcamp alumni, his name’s Scott Hurff, who has now launched two products with his collaborator, Chris Slowik. One of my favorite parts about this interview is having Scott describe his so-called bumbled first launch – we say bumbled, because he didn’t really execute on all the things that he knew he could have, but he still grossed five figures in the first week with a totally imperfect launch.
Then then about a month ago, Scott launched his second product; he fixed up some of those launch “mistakes” and tripled his launch revenue with the second product. So Scott’s having a really great year so far.
You’ll have to listen in to find out what simple things he needed to improve the second time and what he’s going to improve with the next launch that he does. Now it’s not all about business for Scott though, because through these products, Scott’s really achieving his goal of freedom and you’ll have to listen in to find out exactly what that means from him.
With that, let’s talk to Scott!
Thanks for taking some time out of your Sunday afternoon, Scott!
Scott Hurff: Totally, totally. Anything for you Alex!
Alex Hillman: So for those of you who – you and I have gotten to spend a good amount of time in – mostly a chat room together, this is the first time face to face for us. When you meet new folks at parties, whether it’s a professional thing or personal thing, how do you introduce yourself? Who is Scott Hurff?
Scott Hurff: That’s funny, most of the time it’s, you know, “What are you working on these days?” Lately that’s been shifting to teaching designers the latest tools. It used to be, “Oh I work on apps” – because everyone gets apps, and that’s my day job.
After 30x500 I realized that teaching people, educating people, helping them level up their skills and figuring out a way to do that sustainably is something I really like.
Alex Hillman: Was that what motivated you to get into product stuff? Had you done product stuff before 30x500?
Scott Hurff: I’d always thought about it. I’d been on the side-gig contractor wheel. If you get the right job, it can be really fun, but it’s the treadmill. Everything’s a treadmill, but it’s a different kind of treadmill. Right?
Alex Hillman: Sure. So, was there a particular…so you were trying to get away from that treadmill into something in particular? What was attractive about products to you? What made you want to head in that direction?
Scott Hurff: I decided to, it’s a long journey but the first part of the journey was I figured I’d write an eBook. Long story short, I sold a couple of preorders of this eBook. It was like an adrenaline rush, I had like three sales, made 150 bucks or something, but just sitting there and looking at my email and like “You made $49 on one sale”. I’m like, this is amazing! I didn’t even do anything!
Alex Hillman: That’s a feeling that I think when people have for the first time, you can’t really describe that to someone who’s never had it before. A stranger on the internet gave me money that I didn’t specifically ask them for. It’s a pretty wild thing.
Scott Hurff: And you don’t even know this person, like it’s not even, you know, a coworker or your mom or something – which has happened.
Alex Hillman: Thanks Mom!
Scott Hurff: Yeah, exactly! She’s like, “Yeah, that’s your birthday present by the way.”
Alex Hillman: Nice!
Scott Hurff: So yeah.
Alex Hillman: So you got this product up for sale. You sold a couple of copies. What was the product that you were trying to sell?
Scott Hurff: It was a product about how to make products, ironically.
Alex Hillman: Specifically, because you’re a designer – that’s your background? So specifically from a design perspective?
Scott Hurff: I come from the product design world and I had been asked, “How does your team develop product so quickly?” We’re mostly in the consumer space, so I figured you might as well just ask a bunch of people in the same space how they do it and write a book about it.
The biggest understatement ever of how hard that project has become. But I realized later on that there was so much hunger in the design world for really specific things. The idea of process, like how designers work, play into that. So I kind of stumbled upon this overarching theme and so we started out – do you want me to go into the products?
Alex Hillman: We can get to the newer products in just a minute. I’m actually curious of what was drawing you into product. So you heard from people were interested in process, and so you thought, “Well, I can share a bit of our process and reach out to the other folks in the industry.”
And like you said, sort of understatement of the year, “We’ll just put it together into a product.”
Scott Hurff: Right!
Alex Hillman: Actually I grabbed a quote from one of the threads during the exercise program and I think it was after you launched your first post-30x500 product. You said, “After this, I realized that the book project” – which is the one you were just talking about – That you came into 30x500 with – “was so expensive and mushy” – was the word you used, “that I dreaded working on it and as a result, never made progress.”
Tell me a little bit about that. Where was that coming from?
Scott Hurff: So I went into it just thinking that I owe my audience is every designer ever who wanted to make something or anyone who ever worried or wondered about the whole process of making something and I I thought like I have like over 30 hours of interviews and I fell into this group of, “If I just get two more people or five more people this project will become more defined and more clear about what it should become.” Again, like the biggest mistake ever.
Alex Hillman: So instead it was getting spread out further and it was becoming less cohesive you said that was making it, sort of, you were de-motivated to even work on it.
What was it like to sit down and look at a project and you’re like, I’m not even sure, like what was in front of you that you were going, “I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to be working on?”
Scott Hurff: Yeah. I mean, I had this outline that kept changing and it’s because I realized that getting the content first and trying to fit that into a book that’ll write itself later, it’s going to change every day. I hadn’t done any research into, you know, is there a specific slice of the world of designers that I could talk to?
Alex Hillman: Gotcha. Well, and that’s a good segue into my next question, which was what did you change about your approach that helped you get the first product out? So, the first product that you actually shipped because that book is, is as far as I know, still not totally complete. So the first product that you shipped and people could pay for it and get the whole thing downloaded and ready to rock and roll?
Before we even talked about what that product is, what about your approach changed? Obviously 30x500 was in the middle and it was a bunch of parts to the classroom. I’m curious about what in particular about how you were approaching things, did you recognize changed from before to coming up with a new product?
Scott Hurff: Yeah. So I would say I became more skeptical, if you compare my current and former selves, if I could pull an X-men and do the days of future past.
Alex Hillman: Yeah, without breaking the space time continuum!
Scott Hurff: Exactly. You can’t do that. The old me loves to start stuff and you know, it’s exhilarating. It’s hopeful. It’s fresh. You got momentum, but I would do that without asking the hard questions because they weren’t fun and they took time away from the fun stuff. I realized that – and I got friends of mine too, we’re like, man, we should just do this. We should just start this t-shirt company or something. We’re like, “This isn’t college anymore.” So I started asking like, “Okay, Is anyone talking about this? Is anyone thinking deeply about this? Are they commiserating with anyone and are they doing it in places that aren’t the obvious ones?”
Alex Hillman: So this is you tuning into an audience, even asking, is there an audience there in the first place? That’s interesting. With that sort of realization, you chose an audience for your first product, which, if I remember right, you, it’s not just you working on this product either, right?
Scott Hurff: Correct. I also had made a mistake - I think this was kind of part of the book process was just biting off more than I could chew on my own and thinking that I could Superman through it and just figure out everything.
So, I teamed up with a guy that I knew I worked well with, his name’s Chris Slowak – one of the most talented guys I know in terms of just interactions and visual design and just learning things really quickly. We actually met through a couple of projects of mine I did at a startup I worked for every day – he was our contractor. I say just on the general level of doing these sorts of projects with partners, it can be very, very, very beneficial and I’ve actually done two projects with him.
Alex Hillman: You said it was initially a bit of making sure you didn’t bite off more than you could chew than you could handle on your own. How do you guys actually work together? Are you guys doing complimentary things? Are you bringing something to the table that Chris is less comfortable or likes to do less? Is there something that Chris is doing that leaves you with more time to focus on, how are you guys actually collaborating? That’s really interesting.
Scott Hurff:So that’s a great question. I’d say most of the time we’re doing things that are complimentary. Our projects will look something like this, where we both sort of notice something,” Hey, I noticed more people talking about prototyping” or “There’s this new framework from Facebook and people are really into it” or whatever.
Alex Hillman: So sort of like two sets of eyes are better than one in terms of being able to notice the patterns in your audience?
Scott Hurff: Exactly. And then using the skills from 30x500 and Safaring and all that, I’ll dive deep and see if there’s something there, or we’ll kind of know there’s something there, but where is it on that plane?
Alex Hillman: Cool. So you’ll actually go in and do a little bit more of the deeper dive, bring back some of the data from Safari, and then you guys sit down and look at that together?
Scott Hurff: Definitely. I’ll say, you know, Chris has done his research, I’ve done my research. I’ll say, for example in the world of Quartz Composer – people want to use it to make mobile apps and they want to use it to show engineers how the design should come to life. That’s a lot better than saying, “Designers just want to learn Quartz Composer”.
Alex Hillman: Right, right. Way more specific. You’ve got an idea of what’s in the way, what are they trying to accomplish? Not just, they want to use the tool – great. But why? What, and more importantly, why are they not able to? So that was the first product that you guys built together, right? It was a Quartz Composer design course. It was like a video course, right?
Scott Hurff: Yeah it was a video course targeted specifically towards designers who wanted to learn how to bring their designs to life, mostly in the context of mobile, to show their team and engineers, what something should do.
There’s a saying in the design world, “You’ve got a 60 frames per second, and you’re showing a transition and most designers only design for one frame out of 60. So how do you design for 60 them?”
Alex Hillman: Oh, that’s awesome. So that was kind of a core principle that you guys are teaching in that?
Scott Hurff: Yeah.
Alex Hillman: Cool, and that went reasonably well when you launched, right?
Scott Hurff: Yeah. It kinda just came out of nowhere. I luckily had an email list of, I think about 1,500 people at the time.
Alex Hillman: Was that from the book before 30x500? Was that from doing ebombs post 30x500? Both? Where did that list actually come from?
Scott Hurff: I had a sort of a poultry list before 30x500, it was about 200 people and that that’s not nothing to sneeze at. I mean, some cases that’s huge, but I threw ebombs. What’s the math on that?
Alex Hillman: You’re asking the wrong person!
Scott Hurff: To 1200, 1500 people.
Alex Hillman: How many ebombs went into growing the list by that much?
Scott Hurff: I guess I’ve kind of gotten into this pattern of doing one every three or four weeks and so it wasn’t a huge amount.
Alex Hillman: But your ebombs tend to be pretty substantial. The ones that I’ve seen you post the alumni list. These are not little one off how-to’s they tend to be big and they’re really well designed.
You’ve got some visual element to it, so you’re putting some work in and really making your ebombs do the work for you.
Scott Hurff: Yeah. Unfortunately, they take a long time.
Alex Hillman: I mean, you say unfortunately, but they pay off over the long-term, right? It’s not just that initial burst of emails, you’re continuing to get traffic from those ebombs, both in terms of new readers and new subscribers as well.
Scott Hurff: Yeah.
Alex Hillman: So, you’ve grown the list to about 1500 people or so, prelaunch of this Quartz Composer course that you and Chris put together and you launched specifically to that list?
Scott Hurff: Yep. Just to that list, but there is no buildup. It was more just like here’s a new ebomb. By the way, we launched this thing. Do you want to buy it?
Alex Hillman: Okay, and as you’ve said yourself, not necessarily the strongest launch process, you didn’t take in all the strategies, but what you might qualify as a failure, a lot of people look at it and go, “Holy shit, Scott. That’s pretty amazing.”
So how did that first product launch go in terms of sales? How many units? How many dollars? What did you guys do?
Scott Hurff: So we sold it around 60 bucks a unit and we did in the first week about 10K.
Alex Hillman: So for a bumbled launch, you poor soul was rolling around in your piles of cash, right?
Scott Hurff: Yeah, exactly!
Alex Hillman: So not so bad. Not so bad. Did you guys have a goal going into it? You’re like we were hoping we make up to this much or did you have a number going in?
Scott Hurff: My number was 5k total.
Alex Hillman: So you doubled it. And that was launch weekend, and you guys launched that in spring? It was like March or April. Is that right?
Scott Hurff: Yeah, I think a month and a half after…
Alex Hillman: The exercise program?
Scott Hurff: Yeah.
Alex Hillman: Cool. So have you continued to market that course as well as to continue to do well, post the initial 10 grand?
Scott Hurff: Yeah. So lifetime to date, it’s just past 24k and we’ve actually raised the price, we did a final push for discount ending and all that good stuff. It’s still selling, and it still remains luckily I think the most concentrated, most targeted, most direct, gathering of knowledge about Quartz Composer and design out there right now.
Alex Hillman: That’s great, and what kind of feedback do you get from customers on that product?
Scott Hurff: People most of the time they write in, they say, “First of all, thank you so much for putting this together”, which is still a crazy thing to hear. I don’t even know who this person is, which is really great. Second, it’s examples of them putting it to use in their day to day jobs.
Alex Hillman: Oh, that’s really cool. Really, really cool. So you’re actually getting to see what people are doing. People aren’t just saying, “This was really nice to watch. Like I learned something, this was really helpful and I’ve applied it.” That’s the best.
Scott Hurff: Yeah. One guy wrote in and showed a composition he made for some clients of his, and he said they were blown away. That’s pretty cool.
Alex Hillman: That’s so cool. It’s fun. II mean, this conversation with you, ultimately your win is your win, but there’s no denying the fact that me and Amy get that little bit of a hit of a high when we hear about a student, who’s just totally kicking ass and having a great time doing it.
Scott Hurff: Well, we want to do you guys proud!
Alex Hillman: Right. Cool. So first product, was it $10,000 launch? 24 grand over eight months or so? So yeah, not too terrible. Are you noticing any correlation to ongoing ebombs and sales and things like that?
Scott Hurff: Oh yeah. I’ll continue the ebombs and I’ll mention at the bottom PS, people have gotten results from this course. Here’s some examples if you want to click and check it out and people are still taking part in that. It’s pretty fascinating.
Alex Hillman: So, not content with one product out, you and Chris came back for product number two, started with a new audience, same audience? How did you decide, where did this new product come from?
Scott Hurff: I’d say there are a few inputs. So, the first was feedback from our list and watching – so we really love the designer news community. They’re really great. They give great feedback. They’re very supportive and both at the same time we noticed some rumblings of right after Xcode 6 was announced. People were going nuts about Swift, the new Apple programming language. They’re also kind of getting frustrated with prototyping tools and they’re thinking, why am I spending so much time learning this Quartz Composer tool? Basically, insider baseball stuff, Facebook released this addition to Quartz Composer because Apple has not kept up with it over the years.
So why should I rely on this deprecated product that had to be brought to light by someone else, when I could just go directly into the tool? That means sort of kept getting steam and a lot of people were going back to interviews that Johnny Ive had back in 2010 and there’s this quote, it’s something to the effect of, “ A designer should know the materials he is designing with” and this of course since Johnny Ive said it, it’s gotten in a lot of people’s heads and they’re like, that’s crazy! Quartz Composer’s stupid!
We realized that even though there were a lot of Xcode courses out there, none had said, “Hey, you’re a designer. You’re not a coder. Here is what you need to know. Here’s what you need to use to understand how to build designs that actually fit the realities of how apps are made.”
Alex Hillman: Right, right, right. And actually you’ve got – if you go to your Twitter account – twitter.com/scotthurff and your pinned tweet from October 2nd is sort of a screenshot of the welcome to Xcode screen with the caption, “You’ll finally get past this screen and create something”, which I think is speaking to exactly what you’re saying. You’ve got this tool that should be a door that people are able to walk through and instead people see Xcode and they go, “I don’t even really know where to start here.”
Scott Hurff: Yeah. It was funny, someone even yesterday tweeted a screenshot of downloading Xcode from the app store and he goes, “I have no idea what I’m doing, but it’s okay”, with the download progress and someone recommended the course, which I thought was really nice of them.
Alex Hillman: In addition to launching a second course and sort of following on the pattern; building on what you’ve learned before, you’re entering into the family of 30x500 alumni who are now starting to build almost like a universe of products, at Baconbiz Conf this year – which I hope you’re able to make it to next year’s event.
Scott Hurff: Yeah. I’d love to.
Alex Hillman: It was Keith Perhac I believe was talking about people building sort of a universe of products and how those products, in some cases lead to each other, in some cases, add to one another and things like that.
In terms of process, it can also mean that you’re able to take things from one product, what you learned to building one product and put them into the second. And I’m especially interested in what you learned, building, launching, selling the Quartz Composer course that you used in creating the second one. You’ve mentioned a bunch of inputs, but specifically this stuff that came from that first product that helped you make the second product even more successful.
Scott Hurff: Yeah. The first thing that comes to mind is format. People – our customers really, really love the videos and that’s something that we didn’t really understand would be so popular at first. We invested a ton of time into actually writing out everything because we thought that most people would learn that way, but it was actually the opposite. So, I think we tripled the amount of videos. The problem is though that are our format, for Quartz Composer wouldn’t work – and this is getting logistical. We basically were offering a Gumroad download that was like 5gb.
Alex Hillman: With all the high res videos and stuff like that?
Scott Hurff: Yeah, and of course, I don’t know if you’re using Firefox or Chrome, so I had to include the ODG files and it was just crazy. So we said, let’s take a leap of faith and team up with the guys at Fedora, which help you create custom online schools. It was one the best things I think we’ve done.
Alex Hillman: I have a couple of questions. One, did you approach them? Did they approach you? How did that start to happen?
Scott Hurff: I noticed that a few complimentary online schools had launched that had very specific audiences, like the ones we wanted to target as well. So I sent him for an account and this was amazing, within 10 minutes, the CEO emailed me. It was like, “Scott, I love your stuff. We saw Quartz launch. We’d love to have you”. And I’m like, “Well, that’s cool”.
So it’s really helped us to not even worry about all the logistics of video transcoding and all that and we can just throw videos up whenever we want to increase that the value of the course.
Alex Hillman: What does that experience end up actually looking like instead of a download? How do people get the course now?
Scott Hurff: It’s all online. So, you sign in with your own account. You can use it on your phone, your tablet, your PC, whatever. You can download videos if you want. It was an exercise and again, like letting go of everything and because I’m very particular about how our products look and feel, and it’s a design crowd, so, you know, it can’t look stock.
We did put a lot of time into customizing the experience, but on the flip side, I’m not transmitting my own videos anymore. I’m focusing on the things that add value to the business and whether that’s marketing or doing more Safari research or, whatever.
Alex Hillman: That’s really great, and do you think you would potentially go back and port the Quartz Composer course over to that as well?
Scott Hurff: It’s funny you mentioned that, that’s my homework for this week.
Alex Hillman: Nice, cool. So this has been a really positive move for you guys then. That’s awesome!
One of the big things and the thing that I think I was most excited to talk to you about when I saw your email about the launch of the second course, was how your launch strategy changed? But before we get into that, second product launch – sales figures, dollars. What can you share about that? Did you know meet, exceed, the first launch? Is this a better launch for you? And then we can talk about what changed.
Scott Hurff: Yeah. This, this one blew us away by, I think it was two or three days in we’d exceeded the lifetime sales of the Quartz course.
Alex Hillman: Wow! That’s amazing.
Scott Hurff: Yeah, it was like I was living in a dream or something!
Alex Hillman: So that’s opening weekend. So three days in you exceeded lifetime and you told me lifetime was 24 grand on the Quartz course. So on day three of your launch week, if we’ll call it that, you’re past 24 grand. So what was the number you guys hit?
Scott Hurff: We passed 30, on our way to, I think it ended up being 34.
Alex Hillman: 34k on launch weekend?
Scott Hurff: Yeah.
Alex Hillman: So not too bad, not so bad! Again, building on top of a previously, what you considered a – not the best executed launch in the world, you still made 10 grand. Executed a little bit better, more than tripled it, not so bad.
So what did you change about the second launch that made it that much more successful?
Scott Hurff: So I did two things. The first was I tried to do a better job of segmenting the list in a way that I knew exactly where the people were that wanted this course.
Alex Hillman: Sure. So you were primarily selling to that same list, that list had - I’m assuming grown. Where was that list growing from?
Scott Hurff: So the primary list I had, so Quartz launch was, you know, about 14, 1500. I grew it to, I think about a little over 4,000, by the time that I announced Xcode.
Alex Hillman: So that was in like six months or so?
Scott Hurff: Yeah, and that was an ebomb every three to four weeks. So the next phase was we announced the presale. Not really a presale, but like a pre-announcement of, “Hey, we’ll be out October 2nd.” It was September 14th or maybe earlier or so.
Alex Hillman: So two to three weeks ahead of your official launch.
Scott Hurff: Yeah and we offered a pretty nice discount for signing up really. So that list grew, that segmented list grew to about a thousand people.
Alex Hillman: And that’s people specifically signing up to get more information about the new course coming out and a discount.
Scott Hurff: Yep.
Alex Hillman: Got it. Okay. So that’s a new, that’s a totally new people world of people entering into your little universe now.
Scott Hurff: Right, because – and this was sort of a bet. I wanted to see how this would go. I knew there were people who just wanted to do the transaction and not worry about the song and dance and I also wanted to get it out there that this was coming out and build anticipation. So, it was a little bit of, what’s the word? A balance, so my main list of people who got the ebombs and then, you know, were very transactional lists over here. What I did was I made sure that the main list had the ebombs still coming, so it wasn’t like silence. And then what did last time like, “Oh, we’re out already.”
So I really wanted to avoid that. So I kept the list pretty warm with the regular scheduled programming. Then what I did was I emailed everyone at once and said, “This is coming, just so you know. Here’s the date it’s going to happen. I think I invited members of the ebomb list to sign up for the other one, because my goal was with the pre announcement, I’m just always going to be like, “You wanted this, you’re going to get everything about it”, you know?
Alex Hillman: So you wanted to put your focus, your anticipation building on the people who specifically were there for that product.
Scott Hurff: Yup. Exactly.
Alex Hillman: Got it. Got it. Got it. That was the, that was the impetus for your segmentation there.
Scott Hurff: Exactly.
Alex Hillman: Was there a specific reason that you didn’t want to build the anticipation for the rest of the folks that didn’t move over?
Scott Hurff: So I did, but in a less aggressive way. What I would do was, the two days before I announced to everyone, “This is coming”. The day of, I said, “It’s out, you have a discount until Sunday” or whatever. Then I took everyone on the pre-announced list and I filtered out people who didn’t click and I just hit them every day until the discount was up.
I know some people were like, “Why would you end a sale on Sunday?” People are hanging out, barbecuing. I have no idea, but that was actually our biggest day of the weekend.
Alex Hillman: There you go. So again, perfection not necessary in order to achieve some pretty excellent results.
Scott Hurff: Yeah.
Alex Hillman: So you’re starting to experiment with some segmentation and figuring out what parts of the list are gonna respond. You’ve got some anticipation. So the anticipation, I heard you say, there was like a couple of days in advance and then a day in advance and then it’s ready and then reminders of the discount. Were you sending anything other than the reminders that it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming? What did those emails actually look like?
Scott Hurff: I’ll start with the, the first one. I would explain, the announcement that is coming was like, “Hey, we’ve been working on this” and I used a lot of, well, all of it was based on Safari data. Like “Here’s why we built the product. Here’s who it’s for. Here’s a little taste of what you’ll get. If you want to get a discount it’s going to last until end day.” Then after that, it was just very like very transactional reminders and just in a very friendly way though. And we’d make jokes. It was like, “Hey, I’m, you’re probably watching the game right now. You’re in luck though, checkout works on mobile. So don’t miss the discount. “
Alex Hillman: That’s great. Any particular things that you’re intending to do that maybe you didn’t get to this time around with launch, for the next one?
Scott Hurff: That’s a good question. I think overall, I’m not as consistent as I need to be on the ebombs and I’m looking at when I launch an an ebomb in. The frequency tends to go up right before I want to sell you something and so I don’t want to be that guy. That’s something I need to just generally get better at.
Alex Hillman: Sure. Well, and sort of in that realm, with the ebomb, so your ebomb frequency, you said you’ve got a rough, egularly scheduled program as you put it about once every three to four weeks and then things ramp up a little bit when you’re getting closer to a launch. Are there any specific lessons that you’ve learned about which ebombs, which kinds of ebombs tend to get you the best results, from your audience in particular? Is there something that you’re tuning for?
Scott Hurff: There’s one that just won’t stop churning and it’s really interesting to see it. It came out four or five weeks ago and it’s still being retweeted and leaves like little pockets. It’s really interesting and this one was more of – it wasn’t looking at a particular app, how they did things. It wasn’t looking at something highly technical. It was more about how you can apply a principle to your daily work and so specifically it is the headlines, something to the effect of “Here’s how the new iPhone screen sizes will mess with your app designs.” It shows how your natural thumbs rest and the arcs, and why things are painful to tap.
Alex Hillman: Was this the one that you were saying got picked up by Smashing Magazine as well?
Scott Hurff: Oh, that one, that was a separate one I wrote specifically for them.
Alex Hillman: Oh, okay.
Scott Hurff: This one actually got resyndicated in Quartz, Gizmodo and I’m Gamasutra – a gaming blog.
Alex Hillman: Wow. Oh, wow. So that’s some serious mileage in terms of getting it in front of lots and lots of new people as well.
Scott Hurff: Yeah.
Alex Hillman: Did they reach out to you to say, “Hey, we’d love, love to republish that”?
Scott Hurff: Yeah, it was all just happenstance and whatever the divine intervention is.
Alex Hillman: Well, I mean, the good news is, is you put something really useful out there that they recognize that their audience was gonna want. I don’t think there’s much divine intervention here so much as you’re putting out really useful stuff. The beautiful thing, I’m sure is on your mind, just for other folks that are listening, once you’ve got those relationships established and things respond really well in their audience, it’s amazingly easy for you to reach out to them and say, “Hey, I’ve got another thing that I think is going to be up your alley.”
It’s the massive leap that people really struggle from in terms of the guest posts stuff, where it’s like, how do I reach out to these really high profile places and get something there. And it reminds me of what you were saying with the founder of the online course tool that you use. Is It Fedora?
Scott Hurff: Fedora.
Alex Hillman: Where he was like, “Dude, I love your work. I’d love to work with you.” A year ago, would that have happened for you?
Scott Hurff: No.
Alex Hillman: Right. So what’s the thing between then and now?
Scott Hurff: I was thinking about this actually the other day and I think it is related to knowing my audience in a way that I had no concept of in no way did I realize I could talk to people like I can.
I’m not saying I have some crazy insight into their brain, but it’s just stepping back and listening and getting out of my own way and not thinking like, you should know this. Why don’t you love what I’m telling you? It’s recognizing that people don’t know who you are. People want to solve their own problems and have a great weekend and then come back.
Alex Hillman: Do you have one specific thing that you changed about how you approach listening? I mean, it’s really easy to say and it’s easy to hear, “Just listen, just pay attention.” I know that for a fact because when Amy and I started teaching 30x500, there was a tiny little section of the course called “Go do research on your audience”. And as you know, and anyone who’s taking the class knows that’s now the vast majority of the class is the research, it’s the Sales Safari.
So when you say, listening to your audience, and then there’s a little bit more in there of understanding them. What’s one specific thing that you do, a habit you’ve gotten into that’s allowed you to do that more effectively?
Scott Hurff: Actually, it’s just came to mind, I didn’t really realize I did this, but I will actually retire a lot of, when I’m doing research, doing Safari I’ll retype what people say. Copying and pasting separates you from – It’s just more like, I don’t know, just very transactional. Right?
Alex Hillman: So this is part of your note taking process?
Scott Hurff: Yeah. Yeah. I’ll actually type what they say. I’m in a separate Word editor and it takes me longer, but it actually gets me in the habit of thinking through when I’m typing it.
Alex Hillman: And you’re not paraphrasing and typing. It could be a copy and paste for the most part.
Scott Hurff: Yeah. Yeah, but so it gets me used to writing like that. It gives me used to saying what they’re saying.
Alex Hillman: In the way that they say it as well.
Scott Hurff: Right. Exactly. I mean, that’s it.
Alex Hillman: That’s a huge one. That’s awesome. I’ve got a couple more things on my list and then I want to wrap things up and let you get back to enjoying the rest of your Sunday.
Has anything really blown you away and surprised you about yourself, about connecting with a customer, about making sales? If you’d pick like one thing that you were like, Whoa, that totally threw me. I did not think that was going to happen. What would that thing be?
Scott Hurff: I mentioned a little bit of it earlier, but it was just people coming out and saying, thank you for doing this. I never expected that. I mean, I expected more of the, “Hey, you suck. This is stupid”. And yeah, we get that too, but, I’m just kind of amazed how ready people are for some of this content or these courses. I mean, even though there are tons of them out there, I think it’s because we’ve been able to go after specific people.
Alex Hillman: And really be able to connect with them, like you were just saying.
Scott Hurff: Yeah. Yeah. So that’s one that comes to mind first. I think too is I see a lot of people. I don’t want to go into that, but…
Alex Hillman: Now you almost have to!
Scott Hurff: I like it when people who are teachers don’t get jaded. You can tell when it just becomes about the money, you can tell when it just becomes about the machine. A lot of people will have really great machines set up. I mean, it’s. It’s impressive, but I was surprised that we don’t really have that feeling at all. It’s more of just like, “How can we help this dude?” Or “How can we help this group of people?” I’m not trying to sound like I’m an altruistic, you know, Robin hood or something.
But, I mean, you gotta make money to stay doing this. But it’s more of an emotional experience than I thought it would be – not to sound too mushy.
Alex Hillman: No. I mean, I can sympathize with that and I think a lot of folks that get into this and really connect, and the things you were saying, getting feedback from folks that say, “It feels like you really understand me”, or “You really helped me”, or “You helped me reach a milestone that I never thought I could”.
Being in the business of helping people, it feels like a never ending well of good feelings and that’s even when things are tough, when you’re struggling – what I want to talk about in just a moment. I know that’s one of the things that really, really keeps me going, is knowing that what we do is genuinely helping people achieve their goals, do the things they want to do and at best we just get to sit back and watch them succeed, which is really cool.
Scott Hurff: Absolutely. Yeah. Before I knew you two, and everyone that we went through the course with, it felt like a lonely Island. Like I was just looking through the telescope of people on these awesome ships, which figured it out and, and like, I’m smart I can figure this stuff out, but I haven’t, I’m missing something. And you guys helped me see that, which is really great.
Alex Hillman: What do you think that missing thing was?
Scott Hurff: There’s a lot of them. I think it’s one, not being afraid to get out there after, but the key ingredient is changing the perspective from, “I can figure how to shove this down your throat” versus “All I’m doing is telling you what you’ve already said in a way that you exude a confidence and a value that I’m going to be able to solve that problem for you – in a way.”
Just the mechanics of, how do I find where people are talking about things? How do I listen to that? How do I then build my own audience? Get out of the treadmill of the building likes or followers or whatever. Focus on the things that are unsexy and it’ll pay off.
Alex Hillman: That’s great. What’s one thing in this process that you’ve been learning that you think you struggle the most with?
Scott Hurff: I mentioned one of them – consistency. Sometimes this stuff takes a lot out of me and it’s just like, all right, deep breath, focus in on it, just start writing or just get in the flow again. It should be, for me, I think I should be doing, ebombs a lot more often, so that’s one of my goals.
Alex Hillman: The thing in the way, is that like a time and an energy thing? Is it a process? So it’s making sure you’ve got that carved out or figuring out a way to do it in a way that it takes less time, less energy, as well – without sacrificing the quality.
Like I said, the ebombs that you post are consistently epic and so I totally get it and you don’t want to give that up, but is there a way that you can sort of meet in the middle?
Scott Hurff: Right.
Alex Hillman: Anything else that comes to mind in terms of stuff that you’re struggling with? Want to get better with, better at?
Scott Hurff: It’s great that Chris and I have found some success this year and it’s trying to then expand, not our ambition – and we know we have ambition, but it’s more like, how do we grow our footprint in a way that’s sustainable and manageable and how do we think consistently on that new plane we’re at now?
We’ve been blessed and we’re lucky and I’m not complaining at all about that but it’s just a matter of how am I smarter with this list? How can I get 10, 20, 50,000 subscribers? Setting those goals to be big and manageable.
It’s funny because every day we’ll have a flurry of emails to respond to or this and that and it’s like, okay, this is a lot of time consuming, operational stuff. It’s still on the side. We’re struggling to just step back a little bit, maybe once a week and just be like, okay, where’s this going?
Alex Hillman: Great – and making sure that the big picture stays in perspective. You don’t lose it, work on the grind. I think that leads me to sort of the closing question that I’ve got, which is how has over the last year you and Chris getting these products out for sale. How has it impacted your life and your work? I think you’ve touched on some aspects of it, but how is this really making an impact on your life personally, professionally? What is having products for sale let you do?
Scott Hurff: I think it’s one step closer to the ultimate goal of just freedom. That’s one of my goals, like if I want to go with my girlfriend to Oktoberfest and it’s a week away. Well, let’s go. I don’t think that we were meant to spend nine hours a day in a dingy office and a 12 by 12-foot area every day. I mean, we’re meant to be out there and expanding our minds and having experiences and meeting people and that’s one thing I want to do more of, or just sit down and read one of the thousands of books I have that I haven’t read yet. I think it’s getting closer to that.
Alex Hillman: That’s a really, really great answer. And one that I connect with quite a bit.
This has been awesome. Thanks so much for hanging out and taking again an hour out of your Sunday to catch up.
Scott Hurff: Absolutely man.
Alex Hillman: Awesome. Thanks Scott. Take it easy. Cheers!
I just love catching up with our alumni. That’s just the best in the world!
Now, I hope you got to enjoy listening to this interview as much as I enjoyed catching up with Scott, and you can find out more about Scott and his product and everything else he is up to you by going to Scotthurff.com and on Twitter – Twitter.com/scotthurff
Now I’ve done other interviews like this one before, and if you haven’t already listened to them, you should probably start by checking out my conversation with Pat Maddox, another alumni who’s had a really great success recently. You can go to unicornfree.com and search for Pat Maddox to find that interview.
Now I’ll be back real soon with more conversations like these with other alumni and I’ll let you know when those are live. You can go to unicornfree.com/list and drop your email in the box and we’ll send you those via email right when they’re live.
Looking forward to being able to share more of these soon!
Thanks, and have a great week!
Latest Stacking The Bricks Episodes
- EP44 - What's Coming Next
- EP43 - Jonathan Stark has Questions About Self Publishing
- EP42 - What is Sales Safari? with Eteinne Garbugli
- EP41 - Questioning Our Assumptions with David Dylan Thomas
- EP40 - Worst Boss, Best Boss with Lauren Williams
- EP39 - Grow your Audience with Kevin Chemidlin
- EP38 - Don't Pee in the Pool with Nilofer Merchant
- EP37 - The stuff they don't teach you in school, with Mayur and Shahzada
- EP36 - Building Trust at Scale with Will Toms and REC Philly
- EP35 - Debugging Humans with Michele Hansen and Colleen Schnettler
- EP34 - "Is this really gonna help people?" with Tony Lopes
- EP33 - Agency Talk on The Iowa Idea
- EP32 - An (Overly) Honest Review of The Tiny MBA with Brendan Hufford
- EP31 - The Zen Koans of Business with Chariot Solutions
- EP30 - Sales for Founders & The Tiny MBA
- EP29 - What are you optimizing for?
- EP28 - Double your Conversion Rate with Brennan Dunn
- EP27 - You can ship. But will anybody buy?
- EP26 - Don't wait 18 months
- EP25 - Features, or marketing? (Part 3 of a series)
- EP24 - Teamwork is harder than you think (Part 2 of a series)
- EP23 - "Everything will get easier if..." (Part 1 of a series)
- EP22 - How to make an offer they can't refuse (Outreach Masterclass with Kai Davis)
- EP21 - The most dangerous room in the house
- EP20 - Swift Kick in the Ass (Accountability)
- EP19 - A Swift Kick in the Ass (The Game of Business)
- EP18 - Our Profitable Mess (and how we're cleaning it up)
- EP17 - Kids Incorporated
- EP16 - How do you design products people love?
- EP15 - Why "Lambo Goals" never keep you motivated
- EP14 - What are your New Years Pants?
- EP13 - Justin Weiss's shift from side projects to successful product launches
- EP12 - "I'm shipping ebombs, now what?" - From Pain to Product with Nick Piegari
- EP11 - "I just need someone to hold me accountable."
- EP10 - Why do people worship the struggle of entrepreneurship? And how to avoid it.
- EP9 - How to clear a path for product success
- EP8 - From pain to product Masterclass with Amanda Thomas
- EP7 - Part two of "The Life-changing Magic of Shipping"
- EP6 - "The Life-changing Magic of Shipping"
- EP5 - The evil voicemail effect
- EP4 - Shipping is a skill
- EP3 - We didn't hit our 2014 goals. But...
- EP2 - Scott Hurff's first product launch was "wrong", but $50k later he knows it didn't matter.
- EP1 - How Pat Maddox went from 0 subscribers to over $3k MRR in 10 days