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The writing itself has been as important to me as the product, and I have always been somewhat indifferent as to whether I have been working on a solemn novel or an impertinent paragraph for 'The New Yorker.' -- Sinclair Lewis
I've had three sales of 247Toolset this week, and a fourth is pending... here are some recent clients.
Next stop, momentum.
To get there, I'll be shooting a video this week with the help of a friend, Jules. I hope to secure a good location tomorrow so that we can shoot it on Friday, and then I'll create the two videos I need from the footage and voiceover work. The videos will serve as an online demo, similar to the demo that I do for prospects.
Once that's done, I send out hundreds of postcards and see if my effort attracts the market. But what I know is that the product and the price are right.
A few months back, I had a conversation with someone about using 247Toolset to capture demographic and psychographic data from the passionate customer base of retailers, where the portal would be configured to the niche of the retailer. Interesting, but that's all it was - a conversation.
Last last night, I processed and analyzed the web stats for Des Moines Amplified.
After scrubbing search engine bots from it: over 200,000 page views per month, over 12,000 unique visitors, somewhere over 2,200 are loyal followers (came to the site on four or more days and visited more than 20 pages), and over 2,700 remain subscribed to the 17 email newsletters published through the web site (with an unsubscription rate of only 4%).
All that, by the way, for a company 8 months in business that hasn't spent one dime on advertising.
A national advertising firm has started a conversation with us, and one of their questions is this: what's your demographic? Given our very diverse community of people, that's a really hard question to answer.
But what would happen if we worked with the advertiser to craft a survey using 247Toolset to provide incentive to our loyal followers and subscribers to create a profile for themselves that would give them access to great deals?
The postcards begin to go out this week, which direct people to a page that features this video. Jules did a fabulous job in the shots we took, and my good friend, John LaMarche, provided the space for the shoot.
I snagged my second recruiter today who plans to use 247Toolset. Kinda cool because it's a validation of what I originally intended to do with it in marketing it to recruiters.
And I did my walk-through with the Des Moines Public Charter School. What was great was a comment at the end, when Travis, a teacher there, said that every school should have 247Toolset. I agree. For the price of a pizza per month, teachers could reach out to willing parents and grandparents and engage them in the needs of the kids' school activities.
The next month is going to be very busy with implementations and enhancements, responding to the market's requests and searching for the next sales.
Next week, I have two conversations with regional managers in national non-profits. One is already using it locally but wants to look at expanding its use, so as always happens, we'll see how it goes :)
Yesterday, I got a 99% yes from a politician. Answer Monday. He wants to use the upcoming email newsletter feature in 247Toolset. He has an email list of 16,000 people.
And I did a demo for a church last night that has over half a dozen sister churches nationwide. They want it locally, but we demo'd later last night to the executive director in Florida via GoToMeeting. This would be my first group sale.
I'm going to start pushing myself to aim for two demos per day, which will require some follow-up on the postcards that I sent this past week.
This weekend, I hope to finish the enhancement that allows the admins to record correspondence, create action items, and find resources to track the action item to completion.
I also got a call in the last week from one of my clients who needed to get a snail mailing list from 247Toolset, so I built that functionality into it as well.
The market's talking to me... I'm replying back as fast and as thoroughly as I can.
Oh - almost forgot. This same client that needed the mailing list is a recruiter in southeast Iowa. They told me in the last week that they want to move ahead and resell 247Toolset to economic development folks in a 75-county area. Might have a conversation about that this week, so I potentially have a few dozen sales from that.
One of the coolest things in the world is to have a conversation with my children.
Last night, Nick called me from St. Paul, where he's buried in snow and occasionally steps out to participate in the Iditarod of traffic in the Twin Cities.
He and I got into a long discussion about the likelihood of life on other worlds. Nick mentioned the life that scientists find in the extreme temps of the ocean floor near lava vents. I told him that, in my observation, there is a tendency toward life and growth. I believe that if the basic building blocks of life are present, it's just about impossible for life not to form.
Once life forms, I believe that organisms do what they have to do to sustain and reproduce, but generally not much more than that.
There are those organisms though that push toward thriving. They are, by nature, dominant.
And then there are those that just don't quit existing, such as Nick's example of the very recognizable Trilobite.
At the end of the hour-long call, after going in and around and through a lot of it, we both had to go.
Everybody's heard of the proverbial "home run." It's where someone succeeds to a degree that by any measure, it was more than a hit.
I have my own system of scoring the baseball metaphor.
Strike: no sales. Foul ball: you're selling, but you're still losing money. First base: you're making money on the deal. You're in the black, but it's not enough to make your living doing it. Second base: you're making your living from it. Third base: you no longer worry about money. Home run: your kids no longer worry about money.
I have three places where ideas get fleshed out for me: bed, bike, and bath. Taking a shower tonight after converting all of the 247Toolset sites to the current codebase, I realized that based upon conversations I've been having and the features I've been creating, 247Toolset is becoming an organizational productivity suite.
In the Call Center module, I built it so that despite misspelling someone's name, you can still find the person you need.
Rodgers will find Rogers. Pierceson will find Pearson. Johnson will find Jonassen.
You get the idea.
Creating ease of use and anticipating points of "failure" before they happen is hard, but worth it in the end.
When I was in the Army, I was introduced to Card Deck PT by Sgt. Salinas. Basically, you shuffle the deck, flip the first card, and that's how many pushups you do. Flip the next card, that's the number of situps. Flip again, and that's how many deep lunges on each leg.
The system is that number cards are their value, face cards are 10, aces are 15 and jokers are 25.
I can't do the deep lunges so I substitute work on my stepper, and I've replaced situps with dumbbell crunches, but this has become my habit now. Just about daily, I go through half the deck. Today, my totals were:
At first, it sucked. But I stuck with it, and now it's fairly easy.
Next week, I'll graduate to 36 cards instead of 27. And sometime in January, I'll go full deck.
My stepper, by the way, is this thing:
It's easily the best stepper I've ever found. Low impact and sturdy as hell, which is great for tubby me.
Business models are tough stuff. Prognosticating the level of delight that others have about your wares is no easy feat. Once you achieve eager delight about your offering, you then figure out how to monetize it and make a living - in a way that preserves that elusive eager delight.
There are different types of business models. I'll list a few:
Me too, but I'm better made.
Me too, but I'm cheaper.
Me too, but I'm cooler - and you will be too, I promise.
The "Me too" variety copies mostly the model someone else created, but offers variations. I call these "swimming lanes." They're established, and when you get into one, you generally do laps. You can get very fit doing laps. Nothing wrong with that.
And then there is the "Say what?" model. That model doesn't make sense, and it generally doesn't pay off - at first. It stands to make the most money, because it tries to swim in its own blue ocean. Where do you swim in a blue ocean? Anywhere you want to.
I tend toward blue oceans - sharks and rip tides be damned. In fact, unless I'm desperate and about to be penniless, I'm cliff diving and pushing through waves. I like to reconsider the puzzle of a business model and work it from the inside out. Doing what others are doing is boring to me. It also leads to the same results that others have when they jump into a swim lane.
In the past year, my business energy has been spent in one of three places:
Contract web development for clients
In these roles, I worked very hard to get things moving for each enterprise.
Going forward, I have to narrow my focus on one gig chiefly. WWA has a lot of people in it and will move forward on its own. Contract web development helps to pay the bills when it comes. But 247Toolset can only go forward if I put the majority of my energy into it, and I deeply believe in its purpose. For that reason, that will be my chief gig in the next year.
It's certainly absorbing all of my attention right now. Today, I'm making more efficient the organization/contact data gathered by the platform. Throughout the rest of the week, I'll be implementing the piece that tracks Projects / Job Orders.
After that, more work to integrate the Call Center with Projects and Resource Management.
My demos to the big non-profits went well, and I hope to establish solid sales in January. I'll make a lot of follow-up sales calls in the first week of January, by which I'll have a sense of how it's going.
Got a testimonial just before Christmas:
"I have found my entire experience with Brett Rogers and his 247Toolset to be easy, a pleasure, collaborative and responsive. Brett has a particular gift for understanding what it is that you want and need, and translating that into the software so that it is intuitive in nature. He works quickly, professionally, and personally. Brett is a very creative problem solver, and has a great way about communicating information and data. He has made contributions to our business in identifying additional sources of revenue, so his product will now be a sales tool, not just a database for us."
That'll definitely go into my future marketing literature :)