Tools for Getting to Know Your Audience (Part 1)

Jessica Jalsevac on August 21st, 2014

This post is part one of Getting to Know Your Audience, where we focus on three free Google tools to kickstart your research. Stay tuned for more tools and tactics!

 market research toolbox

Who cares?

No really, its a serious question. Who are the people you’re making your product for? What do they talk about? Where do they hang out? What matters to them?

Luckily we have a plethora of tools at our disposal these days to uncover this information and test our assumptions with real data.

When and where do you use this information?

Knowing your audience helps you validate your idea and determine if you’ll be able to achieve your goals before you even create your product. Do you want to write the definitive how-to guide to making ukuleles out of cardboard? While a super cool idea, this might not be the best move if your goal is to actually make some cash. Sadly, there are just not enough people who care about making their own ukulele for this to be a hugely profitable business idea. Also, good luck getting people who want to make instruments out of cardboard to pay for your book.

Knowing your audience also keeps you in check throughout the creation process. With each decision you should refer back to your research and ask if this is something that people want, need, and are going to get excited about. Say you’re creating a fitness course for pregnant women. Each segment should be informed by the most pressing concerns expecting mothers have - is it safety, nutrition, weight management, relieving joint pain, or none of the above?

Finally, knowing your audience will help you - big time - with marketing and selling your product. The vocabulary you unearth during your research should get recycled back into your sales copy for your landing page and emails to potential buyers. Knowledge of where your target market hangs out online should guide your outreach strategy and help you decide how to target ads.

Basically, knowing your customers is the foundation of everything else that you do.

So now, let’s get creepin…er…researching!

 


1. Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Questions to ask:

Which keywords are more relevant to my content? What is the popularity and competition score for each of my potential keywords? What would be the cost of running an ad campaign for these terms? What websites already rank for my keywords? What related keywords might be a better fit for me?

How to use it:

To access the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, you’ll have to have a Google account and sign up for AdWords, but its a completely free tool.

From the Keyword Planner home page, click “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.”

 search for new keyword

Enter your product or service idea into the top box. You can also adjust the targeting filters for location, language, etc., in the fields below.

enter product keywords

Click “Get Ideas”. Once on the results page, click on the “Keyword ideas” tab. You’ll see results for average monthly searches, relative competition for ad placement (low, medium, or high), and suggested bids for your exact search team as well as related keywords.

As you can see, things aren’t looking too good for “make a ukulele,” with only 50 average monthly searches. Some similar keywords are more relevant, such as “how to make a ukulele”, and “how to build a ukulele”, but these are still quite low.

“Cigar box ukulele” is a surprising search term, but unfortunately ad placement is highly competitive.

 

keyword ideas

I ran another few searches about ukuleles, and came across one that seemed a lot more promising: 

keyword ideas

“How to play the ukulele” has 3,600 average monthly searches, and relatively low competition. This might be a better topic to write about than building a ukulele from scratch.

A quick Google search for this same phrase reveals the major competition in this area.

 google search

Takeaways:

  • Making a ukulele from scratch is not a common thing people are looking for. :(

  • A much more popular interest (with 3,600 monthly searches), is in learning to play the ukulele - might this be better entry point for a product?

  • There is still relatively low competition in all the keywords pertaining to learning the ukulele, which bodes well for this type of content.

  • With the top search result being from Wikihow and the second from YouTube, no one website is really dominating the search for learning to play the ukulele.

 


2. Google Trends

Questions to ask:

Is my topic increasing or decreasing in popularity over time? How does interest in my topic compare to related topics? What key news pieces have come up over the last few years? Where in the world are the people that are most interested in my topic? What are some related search terms that are trending upwards?

How to use it:

Google Trends allows you to see stats for your keywords over time. Below is the interest over time for the search term “ukulele.” The letters indicate large press pieces on this topic. Here we see that interest in ukuleles spiked due to  stories about Warren Buffet giving ukulele lessons, a world-record attempt for most ukuleles playing simultaneously in Oregon, and musical prodigy Jake Shimabukuro playing a show in San Francisco.

google trends interest over time

The interest in ukuleles is rising over time, which bodes well for our product idea. We can also compare the popularity of ukuleles to other small stringed instruments, such as the mandolin and the banjo. 

google trends interest over time comparison

Interest in both the mandolin and the banjo is declining, so it definitely looks like ukuleles are the place to be when it comes to small stringed instruments.

In the Regional Interest section we can see which cities have the highest search volume for ukuleles. The place with the highest search volume is always 100, and the other cities are ranked relative to that.

google trends regional interest

This map clearly shows Hawaii’s dominance in terms of ukulele popularity. In the contiguous US, west coast cities show more interest than other areas.

The third category displays related searches, which is interesting in validating our idea. By clicking on “Rising” in the Queries column, I get a few terms that are rapidly increasing in popularity, such as the musical instrument brand “Kala”, “uke”, the short hand for ukulele, and “youtube”, hinting that many people are searching for ukulele videos on YouTube. Perhaps these YouTube searches are for lessons, or perhaps they’re to watch prolific players.

google trends related searches

 Takeaways:

  • Ukuleles have been gaining in popularity since 2009  - yay!

  • A key person on this topic is Jake Shimabukoru, whose been described as a “ukulele pioneer/prodigy.”

  • Searches for ukulele songs on YouTube in particular are rising fast.

  • Ukuleles are very popular internationally, especially in Southeast Asia.

  • In the US, Hawaii is by far the most popular area, with west coast cities such as San Diego and Portland showing the most interest in the contiguous US.

  • Ukuleles are also called “ukes” for short.

  • "Over the Rainbow" is one of the most popular ukulele songs.

3. Google Alerts

Questions to ask:

What are the most current things people are talking about on my topic? How can I use this news as part of my content strategy? What types of publications contribute to my topic? What patterns are there in the words used to describe my topic?

How to use it:

Google Alerts couldn’t be easier. Simply type in your topic and click Create Alert to get emails sent to you with trending new content. You can adjust the frequency of results, and tweak other filters by clicking “Show options.”

I quickly set up an alert for “ukulele”, and got the following results:

google alerts ukulele

Takeaways:

  • Local news outlets come a up a few times in the results, announcing performances featuring a ukulele.

  • When the ukulele appears in serious news publications, it tends to be in a playful piece, such as this one in the Washington Post about baseball player Bryce Harper surprising high school students with a renovated locker room, or this one from Air & Space Magazine about a pilot who entertains passengers by playing the ukulele.

There you have three quick and easy tools for getting you started with your audience research. Next time we’ll look at how to use some social networks and other free services to do an even deeper dive into your audience’s psyche. See you then!

Disclaimer: If you really, really, really just want to write a book about making a ukulele out of cardboard, then you should absolutely do that. Don’t give up on your dream just because some Google tools told you not to. But be realistic about the potential demand (and thus potential returns) you can expect for your project.

The 5-Step Countdown to Launching Your Product

Jessica Jalsevac on August 15th, 2014

You know you need a launch plan. You’ve heard time and time again that you need to build buzz and warm up your audience before asking them to hand over their money. But you’re overwhelmed with what to do and in what order. Should you throw a launch party? Reach out to press? Should you be posting on ten different social media sites? Oh gosh, should you have started two months ago? UGH.

Take a deep breath. Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a simple 5-step countdown to a great launch.

5. Assemble the minions!

Prepare the assets that are going to represent your product. Invest some time and resources to make sure these look professional because you want to make a strong first impression. Your assets will likely include:

  • Landing page/website
  • Trailer and/or pictures
  • Synopsis/description
  • Bio

For tips on preparing your assets, check out our Anatomy of an Effective Product Page post.

Ok, that was pretty self-explanatory, right? Onward!

4. Find the nerds

Instead of shouting to the masses, focus your efforts on people who geek out on what you do. For country rap (aka “hick-hop”) musicians like Lenny Cooper and Colt Ford, whose music focuses on themes such as hunting, fishing, and driving big trucks through the mud, this means that instead of going after the typical country music radio listener, they’re specifically targeting people who have an interest in off-road vehicles and attend mud bogging events (yes, this is a thing).

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You also want to find the supernerd influencers in your space and reach out to them directly. Send them copies of your work to tweet or blog about if they like it. Keep it friendly and give them a way to say no. No one likes to feel pressured to do something - make them feel good about supporting you and your work.

Artist Kyle T Webster sends free brush sets to influential digital artists and designers, many of whom create artwork using his brushes and share them with their following. Kyle then reposts their illustrations on his own social media - what could be a better endorsement?

3. Build momentum with content

Focusing on one or two main content channels (which should be dictated by where your core fans tend to hang out online), drip out free content such as songs, tutorials, sketches, or a sample chapter. Try to build to a cadence, releasing progressively more special content over time (i.e. first a single, then a music video).

Note: Its a good idea to start an email list no matter what, as its the most personal way to send followers updates on your project.

Filmmaker Emily Diana Ruth focused the marketing of her film, The Water’s Fine, on YouTube. She made a 14-episode video series on the making of her film, where she talked about everything from screen writing and casting to location scouting and budgeting. The content was not only educational but it also told high a highly personal and entertaining story of Emily’s journey to produce the film, making the viewer feel invested in her project.

The cadence built naturally as she moved from prep work through to shooting and editing. The 13th episode revealed the film’s trailer, and the final episode announced that the film was ready for purchase on Gumroad with a YouTube annotation linking to the product page.

image

Nathan Barry recently wrote about a 5 week sequence that you could use to deliver educational content via email:

  • Week 1: Educational email, mention the product so they know it exists.
  • Week 2: Educational email, with a quick update on the product.
  • Week 3: Educational email, with more details on the product launch date.
  • Week 4: Short educational email, lots of product details including price and what is included. Reminder of the launch date.
  • Week 5, Monday: Provide every detail the customer needs in order to make a decision of whether or not to buy.
  • Week 5, Tuesday: A short email with link to purchase the product and a couple testimonials.

Both examples focus on providing valuable content rather than being purely promotional.

2. Incentivize

Encourage people to buy by providing some sort of limited time bonus for doing so. This could be a discount for the first week of sales, extra content for early buyers, or limiting the quantity of one tier of your product.

The Eminem team did this extremely well for Eminem’s MMLP2 launch. They released limited bundles of signed merchandise such as lithographs and deluxe albums that created a sense of urgency amongst fans and sold out within minutes.

image

1. Announce!

Coordinate across all your channels on launch day, including any testimonials from your outreach. Its a good idea to make a list of all your channels and the exact copy/images/videos you’ll be using for each, so that all you have to do is pull the trigger on launch day.

That’s it. Five simple steps. Now get out there and prepare for launch!

How to Use Email to Sell More Products

Travis Nichols on July 31st, 2014

We’re pleased to have designer, writer, and teacher Nathan Barry back for another guest post. Six months ago, he talked about his Lessons Learned Selling $355,759 on Gumroad. By the way, that number’s definitely higher now. The third lesson he shared in that post was “Build a relationship through email”. This time, he’s going to expand on that to help you sell more. Here’s Nathan.


Why Email?

Why did you click this article? It probably wasn’t because you want to send more emails. I’m guessing the part that got you interested was “sell more.” After all, who doesn’t want to sell more?

The #1 reason people read my blog is to learn how better market and sell products. I’m guessing you fit into that category. Then I’ll share my #1 tactic for increasing sales: use email marketing.

Building an audience with email has worked amazingly well for me in book sales and courses, but what I find more interesting is how well it works across industries. I was talking to a very experienced marketing friend about marketing, and said “It’s amazing how well email subscribers convert to sales!”

His response? “Um, yeah… I’ve known that for over a decade.”

I was so caught up in the idea that Twitter, Facebook, and other trendy social media sites were the future of online marketing that I overlooked the workhorse of the entire marketing industry—at least those that were focused on making sales.

“Gumroad sellers who use email marketing make 3x as much in a product launch as those who don’t.”

- Ryan Delk, Gumroad

Why is email ignored?

If using email to promote your product will make you 3x more money, why aren’t more people talking about it?

I think that’s because email is boring.

Everyone, especially tech news site writers, want something new and fancy to take over. It’s exciting to think that a new social media site could change the way we do business online. A few things have changed, but decades after being introduced, email marketing is the the best way to sell products online.

Why do you think Amazon puts so much work into their promotional emails? Why do you think Groupon has “Enter your email address” as their entire home page?

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Because they know email works better than any other channel.

Drive-by visitors

For the first six months of writing for my blog, I really wanted a post to go viral. I’d heard all the stories of YouTube videos with millions of views and blog posts hitting #1 on Reddit or Digg. Forget how unlikely this was to happen—I still wanted it.

Then it happened.

My blog post, “How I made $19,000 on the App Store while learning to code” hit the #1 spot on Hacker News. While it didn’t get millions of views, I did receive 50,000 visitors in two days!

I thought I’d made it as a blogger.

image

Unfortunately, when you get a huge spike in traffic like that, it usually isn’t sustainable.

image

Since I didn’t have an opt-in form or any other way to get contact information from my visitors, all that traffic just disappeared. Months later, when traffic started to reliably increase, I had an email list so I could push content out to readers instead of hoping they came back to check if there was a new article.

Takeaway: using email will make you considerable more revenue.

Before Launch

Using an email list to test interest

Is your product going to be profitable? Do people actually want it? Do you know how to pitch it effectively?

These are all questions that you really want to have answered before you sink hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars building a new product. The most effective way to test for interest is to ask people individually to pre-order (which I highly recommend). In addition to asking for pre-orders from individuals (you’ll get so much good feedback), I recommend setting up a landing page to collect email addresses.

Not everyone who enters their email address will end up purchasing your product, but with a good product and marketing, it’s safe to assume one in ten will purchase. That means you can figure out if there is demand for your product based on the number of subscribers you get.

The idea is to build the email list of potential customers before you actually build the product. By doing that you avoid wasting time and money on a product no one is going to buy.

How to set up a landing page

The first step in building an email list is to set up a landing page for your product. You can use any number of off-the-shelf tools (LaunchRock, Unbounce, a WordPress plugin, etc), but of course I recommend using ConvertKit, which is the landing page and email marketing company I founded.

With ConvertKit you can design a beautiful, high converting landing page, add email opt-in forms, and manage all your email broadcasts and campaigns in one tool.

Here’s a landing page I created in ConvertKit for my book Authority before it launched:

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You can then use the ConvertKit WordPress plugin to dynamically pull this page into the rest of your WordPress site. Soon you’ll be ready to start driving traffic to your new landing page.

What Makes a Good Landing Page?

When crafting your landing page, there are four things that are critical to get right.

1. A single call to action

Should people share your landing page on Twitter, join your email list, or pre-order your product? So many landing pages try to get visitors to do too many things. The more options you give the visitor, the less likely they are to do any of them.

Instead, have a single call to action and ask them in a sequence. Have everything on the page direct the visitor towards signing up for the email list. Then on the confirmation page ask them to share the page on Twitter and Facebook. Finally, pitch them on the pre-order over email.

2. No extra fluff

That means removing the sidebar, any extra navigation link, and anything else that could distract from your one call to action. Generally the easiest way to improve a landing page is to remove content.

3. A strong headline

Your headline needs to instantly capture the visitor’s attention and get them to keep reading. Speaking to a pain is often the best way to do that. For my book Authority, my target is authors who want to make a living from their writing. So my page headline is “The idea that authors can’t make money is bull****.”

Anyone who is tired of being a poor, starving author or wants to profit from their writing is going to be drawn in by that.

4. A “What is this page about?” graphic

Finally, I like to include a graphic that visually explains what the page is about. Imagine you click a random link on Twitter and come to a landing page. Is it for a course? A book? An iPhone app? Without context it’s hard to know at a glance.

That’s why all my book landing pages have a prominent book graphic. My iOS apps have an iPhone showing an app screenshot. These give instant context that the visitor can use to understand the rest of the page.

Doing each of these will noticeably increase your conversion rates. Though always keep in mind that traffic source is more important than anything on page when it comes to converting more of your visitors.

Takeaway: capture email addresses to validate a product idea before launch.

The Launch Sequence

A long-term relationship

When someone visits your site you are in a mad rush to sell them a product. Because if you don’t, they’ll be gone in a moment and will probably never return.

My favorite thing about email is that you can build a relationship with each subscriber over time. Once you get that visitor to subscribe, you can educate them gradually until they know and trust you. No longer are you in a mad rush to make a sale. Instead, you have time to develop the relationship and gradually convince them that your product is a good fit.

The more you teach, the more they will trust you. The better your content, the faster you can build that trust.

Anticipation

In addition to trust, you can also build anticipation. Anticipation is a key ingredient in every good product launch. It starts with casual mentions of the upcoming product in the educational emails, then over time you share more and more about how the product will help the them.

If you only had five or six weeks for a product launch the sequence could look something like this:

  • Week 1: Educational email, mention the product so they know it exists.

  • Week 2: Educational email, with a quick update on the product.

  • Week 3: Educational email, with more details on the product launch date.

  • Week 4: Short educational email, lots of product details including price and what is included. Reminder of the launch date.

  • Week 5 — Monday: Provide every detail the customer needs in order to make a decision of whether or not to buy.

  • Week 5 — Tuesday: A short email with link to purchase the product and a couple testimonials.

Before purchase

Note that in that launch sequence you can’t buy the product before the launch email. That means all those emails are building anticipation without the ability to make a purchase. This is critical, because it is hard to sell a product that is available at any time.

The final launch email is just the release of all that built up anticipation. This is how even an email list of under 1,000 subscribers can drive $10,000 in sales in a single launch day.

Urgency

Though in order to have that successful of a launch, you need perfect pricing (that’s a big topic we’ll save for another article) and a reason they should purchase right now (urgency), instead of putting it off for later.

There are a few different ways to create urgency:

  1. Discount the price

  2. Add a bonus

  3. Limit sales

They all boil down to convincing customers who are (almost) ready to buy that right now is the best time to make a purchase or they will miss out. Let’s quickly cover these individually.

1. Discount the price

I find this is the easiest to implement and often the most effective. Running a 20% off sale for anyone who purchases in the first 24 hours has become my default way to motivate purchases. Not only does it reward people who have been on my list since the beginning, but it also gets everyone to purchase right away rather than waiting until some future date.

In order to make this compelling, you need to offer a decent discount (as a customer I would find just 5% or 10% off to be insulting), but you don’t want to offer too much (e.g. 50%) since many of your biggest fans will purchase right at launch anyway.

2. Add a bonus

Many people say that you should never discount your products since that devalues them in the eyes of your customers. I agree that running sales all the time will encourage buyers to just wait for your next sale, but I don’t think a one-time discount at launch will hurt your reputation.

For those who don’t like to run sales, another method is to add extra content as a bonus. This can be an extra video or webinar, a bonus course thrown in for free, or code samples that are exclusive to just the early purchasers.

I have two problems with this method:

  1. I don’t think a bonus motivates sales as well as a discount. You will have to offer a very compelling bonus to match even what you would get from 20% off.

  2. Creating content is a lot of work. I want all the content I create to go out to all of my customers. The idea of creating something just for a few customers that won’t get used in the future really bothers me.

Take all that with a grain of salt since many people who are far smarter than I am swear by offering a bonus to add urgency.

3. Limit sales

If you don’t want to offer a discount or create additional content as a bonus, then another option is to limit sales. That can mean limiting for a set amount of time (the product is only available for 24 hours, then the sales page is taken down) or for a limited number of seats.

For ConvertKit Academy I limit each class to just 10 students. A small group means I can spend more time and attention on each student (a big win for them!). But it also adds urgency to everyone on the fence since they know the class will sell out and they might not get a seat.

On a time-based limitation you just take down the sales page and the product is unavailable until the next launch.

Sending reminders to drive more sales

It doesn’t matter which method you choose to add urgency if you don’t remind your customers about it. In fact, those reminder emails are what drive so many sales in a launch. That’s why it’s so important to add urgency in some way, you get to send emails saying “The sale ends in four hours.”

Those move sales. Take a look at this graph of sales by hour for the Authority launch. Can you guess when I sent the reminder email?

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Yep, sales were trailing off and the reminder email really kickstarted another wave of sales. If you don’t send at least one reminder email, you are really missing out on sales.

Driving Ongoing Sales

Email is especially good at driving ongoing sales after a launch. Instead of traffic disappearing entirely, you can continue to make sales off an email list. So how do you can you capture those subscribers? With a sample chapter.

Sample chapters and giveaways

On each of my book sales pages I give away a sample chapter. Just enter your email address and a minute later a PDF will be available in your inbox (which makes it easy to download onto your phone or tablet). This is great for growing my email list (about 5% of page visitors request the sample chapter), but visitors can also check a box to get a free course on designing better iPhone applications (or whatever is relevant to the book topic).

This course is timed to the date they subscribe, so it is customized to each individual and sends out automatically. In the first few emails I teach more about the topic with content related to the book, but then gradually work in a sales pitch for the book itself.

Many people go to the sales page and are interested in buying, but for some reason don’t make the purchase right then. If a visitor leaves without making a purchase, chances are they won’t come back. But, if they join the email course when they download the sample chapter, then you can gradually remind them about the product and overcome any objections that you didn’t have time for on the sales page, eventually making the sale.

Since all this is automated (once you write the email course) you can continue making sales so long as you continue adding leads to the top of the sales funnel.

Future launches

As your email list continues to grow, the new subscribers will have missed out on that initial launch. Which means that even though they may have heard of your product, they haven’t experienced the full sales pitch.

In fact, last fall I started asking for case studies for my book Authority. I got some great responses, but a large number of subscribers in my audience asked, “What’s Authority?”

That shocked me! I thought I was talking about my books and products too much! Instead there were people on my email list who had never even heard of the book. That means it is time for another launch. Turns out, you can launch the same product multiple times!

Once you have everyone on an email list those future launches become so much easier. Instead of scrambling to finish a product and grow your list, you can focus on just making a great product.

Never start from scratch

But the best part of building an audience is that you will never again start from scratch. So long as there is even a little bit of overlap between your current product and whatever venture you pursue in the future, that audience will help you kickstart future success.

If you play it smart by focusing your next product on the same audience as your first product, you can make so much more money without any more promotion effort. My second book launch was more than twice as big as my first one because I was able to target the same audience (designers).

Selling more digital products

In order to sell digital products (books, courses, Photoshop plugins, or anything else) you should start using email. In order to do that effectively you need an email marketing provider that handles a few things really well. Here’s the basic list:

  1. Allows you to give away an incentive (like a sample chapter or video course) to new subscribers. This is actually surprisingly difficult in many tools. Companies like MailChimp force you to hack around their system in order to implement this best practice that will noticeably increase your conversion rates.

  2. Allows you to combine subscribers from multiple incentives into a single list. If you do get it to work in another provider you’ll quickly find that it forces you to create multiple lists, which is really bad since you can’t segment your subscribers across lists. As you get more advanced with the promotions you run, this becomes very important.

  3. Makes it very easy to create email courses or autoresponders. Email courses are one of the most profitable ways to continue driving sales with minimal work. But unfortunately they are really painful to set up in most providers (especially MailChimp!). You can do it, but you’ll wish you chose a different tool.

Once I learned all these tactics for increasing revenue—and just how powerful email marketing can be—I was shocked that the major tools didn’t support these best practices. So I created my own company: ConvertKit.

I used my background in designing easy to use software to solve each of these pain points and build these best practices directly into ConvertKit. You should definitely check it out and start building your list with ConvertKit.

What’s Holding You Back?

After growing ConvertKit for over a year I was surprised to find out that even with the right tool, people weren’t growing their lists as they should. That’s when I realized that to be successful you need more than just a tool.

After interviewing customers I wrote a brand new course called ConvertKit Academy, designed to take you from zero to growing a successful email list in just over a week.

Then I started asking customers, “What’s holding you back?”

With each answer I built something into the process to account for it.

When working on a coming soon page for a new book, these up and coming authors would get stuck by not having a good book graphic. So we included eight different Photoshop book cover templates in with the Academy.

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And then we asked, “What’s holding you back?”

For some the answer was, “Well, I don’t have Photoshop.” Easy! We jumped on a quick call, helped them choose an icon, and then within 10 minutes had a finished book graphic. They wouldn’t win any cover design awards, but are still very clean and professional looking.

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Again, we’d ask, “What’s holding you back?”

Here the answers got a little more varied. From “I don’t know what to offer as an incentive” to more complicated questions about email marketing or high level tactics. So we added two live Google Hangout calls with each class of ConvertKit Academy (limited to just 10 people). In these calls we talk through any questions that come up, help each student put together a final direction, and then deal with any implementation details.

Focused on success

The success rate has been fantastic! The best students go from zero email subscribers to over 100 in under a week! And those first 100 subscribers are the hardest to get.

Instead of just signing you up for a great tool (ConvertKit’s the best) and giving you some help documentation, we add a full training course, live coaching, book templates, design help, all focused on making the customer successful. What other email marketing provider does that?

This entire course is just $300. And just to make the offer irresistible we throw in six months of ConvertKit for free! At $50/month that would normally be $300, so that alone pays for the entire course.

Taking action

The students who go through ConvertKit Academy say that it was absolutely critical to get them to take action. They knew generally what to do, but hadn’t set aside the time and energy to actually get it done. The Academy provided everything they needed to really make progress. And anytime they got stuck, we were right there to answer questions and help them get going again.

Do you want to grow an audience and sell more products over email?

If so, consider joining ConvertKit Academy. We open up a class of just 10 students once per month and you can join the waiting list here:

Join the waitlist for ConvertKit Academy.

And if you join the list, I’ll send you more free training on how to profit from email marketing.

In-Stream Buying with YouTube Annotated Links

Travis Nichols on July 24th, 2014

Instant gratification holds a special place in our frenzied hearts. That wonderful, addictive feeling of getting what we want, when we want it diminishes in the face of obstacles. That’s part of why we work to make buying on Gumroad as streamlined and simple as possible.

Now there’s a new way of doing that in the most shared and embedded website on the internet.

Annotations have long been a part of YouTube, but until recently, they have primarily been used to add background information or to link to other videos and channels. Now, Gumroad is on the short list of commerce platforms authorized by YouTube to be linked to via annotation directly within a video’s stream.

What does that mean for you? Viewers of your film/book/game trailer, music video, poetry reading, software patch, etc. can click an in-stream link and easily buy your product. It’s faster, it’s easier, and early evaluation is showing that this trimming of the fat can result in more product views and sales for you.

While logged in to YouTube and on your channel, click Edit on one of your videos. Then click the Annotations at the top. Choose the type of annotation you want, and what you would like the link to say (the Label box). Move it around to where you want the link to go. Then you can choose your colors and font size. The timeline at the bottom will help you find the place where you want to put your annotated link, as well as the Start and End boxes. Finally, enter the URL of your product on Gumroad or your Gumroad Gallery URL. The Link box will automatically check, and the default Video drop down will automatically change to Merch. Play back the video to make sure the link is where and when you want it, double-check your link, and you’re all set. Hit Publish and start sharing.

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Previously, using a video to share and promote your project meant embedding the video in your Facebook feed or blog and linking to it in a tweet along with a separate purchasing link. Suddenly that feels like sending a telegraph to place an order via Pony Express.

Your videos can now be a direct call to action. To learn other ways you can connect your audience with Gumroad, see our Integrations page in the Help Center.

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Google Analytics Campaign Tracking

Jessica Jalsevac on June 12th, 2014

Last week we looked at how to set up goals in Google Analytics to track conversions such as views and product purchases. 

This week we’ll learn how to track the performance of specific marketing campaigns by setting up custom campaign tracking in Google Analytics.

With custom campaigns, you’ll be able to see exactly how many conversions result from a given email blast, Twitter post, or Facebook ad, enabling you to make more informed marketing decisions.

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It’s important that you have goals already set up to make the most of campaign tracking. Check out last week’s post for a step-by-step guide on goals.

Disclaimer: Custom campaigns are extremely powerful. But, like your uncle always says, with great power comes great responsibility. If not done correctly, custom campaigns can mess up your analytics big time. So start simple with the guidelines we’ve provided here, and when in doubt, remember that its better to not tag at all than to tag incorrectly.

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What are custom campaigns?

The gist of custom campaigns is that you can add information (called “parameters”) to any URL you own that links to your site. This is known as “link tagging.”

The additional parameters tell Google Analytics more about your traffic, and help identify things that might not be reported properly. For example:

  • traffic coming from an email newsletter often shows up as “direct” because certain desktop mail apps and secure servers don’t pass referrer data.
  • banner ads get grouped in with your referral traffic, even through they’re ads.

You can overwrite this reporting with your own custom tags to ensure you’re capturing the correct information.

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There are five different types of information (parameters) that you can add to a URL:

Medium*: The type of marketing/advertising, in very broad terms. Examples: email, social, cpc, banner.

Source*: The specific site, publication, advertiser, etc. where the link lives. Examples: awaytogarden.com, newsletter, twitter.com.

Campaign Name*: The name of your campaign. Examples: small_gardening_launch, free_trial, thanksgiving_sale.

Term: Used for paid search campaigns to identify the keywords you bid on. Examples: small_space_gardening, urban_garden.

Content: Used to differentiate ads within the same campaign. Most useful for CPC campaigns. Example: logolink, textlink

* Medium, Source and Name are the only three required parameters. We suggest that you only use these three (plus Term when doing paid keyword searches) for now. Once you get more advanced you can add in the Content parameter.

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How to create custom campaigns

To illustrate, let’s enlist the help of the fictional Calvin Burns. Calvin recently published a product, “The Small Space Gardening Guide”, on his website. He’s ready for budding urban gardeners to buy it and create their own beautiful mini oases.

He’s decided to promote the guide in 5 different ways:

1. Newsletter emails
2. Twitter posts
3. Facebook ads
4. Google AdWords
5. Guest post on Awaytogarden.com

We’ll create some custom campaigns for Calvin so that he can analyze how well each of these promotions is working.

First we need to add parameters into our links. Google created a nifty tool to help with this called the URL builder. You simply plug in your parameters and voila! The link is created automatically for you. 

1. Newsletter emails

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As you can see, we entered Calvin’s website, plus his campaign Source, Medium, and Name. It isn’t necessary to include the campaign Term or Content here, so we’ll leave these blank.

Click Submit, and you’ll get a link that looks like this:

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Now Calvin can include this link in his email newsletter to get accurate tracking on the traffic and conversions its driving to his products.

Let’s run through the rest of Calvin’s promotions to see how we would tag the URLs for each of them.

2. Twitter Post

You’ll likely want to use a link shortener before posting this on Twitter.

3. Facebook ads

  • Website URL: http://calvinburns.weebly.com
  • Campaign Source: facebook.com
  • Campaign Medium: cpc
  • Campaign Content: planter_map
  • Campaign Name: small_gardening_launch

See how we included a Content parameter this time? This is useful if you are running different versions of ads. In this example, Calvin’s ad might feature a map of where to put your planter boxes. He might have another ad that features basil on a balcony, which he can call “basil+balcony”.

4. Google AdWords

Don’t tag AdWords URLs. Instead of creating custom campaigns, simply link your AdWords account to your Google Analytics account and enable auto-tagging. Auto-tagging provides more information than custom campaigns without you doing a thing.

5. Guest post on Awaytogarden.com

Don’t tag links back to your site in your guest blog posts. These links will show up in your referral reports, which give you more information than custom campaigns.

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Make a plan

To keep all your information organized, create a spreadsheet with columns for your original URL, all your parameters, and the tagged URL. You can see a great example spreadsheet here.

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Reading your data

You can slice and dice your campaign data in a number of different ways. The most common is to head over to Acquisition > Campaigns for an overview of all your campaigns.

Above is a screen shot showing Calvin’s Small Space Gardening campaign. As you can see, his Twitter post, newsletter, and Facebook ad campaign can all be compared against each other in terms of traffic, bounce rate, goal completions, etc.

By clicking on “Goal Set 1” at the top of the page under the Explorer, I can view how each source performed for various goals. For instance, we can see here that the conversion rate for purchasing the Small Space Gardening Guide from Calvin’s newsletter is 50%, vs. 33% for Twitter and Facebook. If this trend continues, Calvin might want to test different copy for his social media channels, or direct more effort towards getting people on his newsletter.

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A note on Medium vs Source

One of the most common mistakes we see is people mixing up medium and source. Medium is your largest bucket, so you should not use things like “twitter”, “weekly_newsletter” or “awaytogarden_banner” for it. These are Sources. Instead use “social”, “email” and “banner” for the Medium.

For more best practices and troubleshooting, plus a great video explanation of the parameters, see this fantastic post on Annielytics.com.

How to Set up Goals in Google Analytics

Jessica Jalsevac on June 5th, 2014

If you’ve plugged your Google Analytics tracking ID into your Gumroad Settings, you might be wondering what to do next. How do you make sense of the data and actually use it to focus or adjust your work?

Gumroad’s Google Analytics integration enables you to get way more insight into your buyer behavior and how your marketing efforts are performing. For example, you can look at:

  • which keyword searches drive the most purchases of your products
  • what percentage of visitors to your website end up purchasing
  • which marketing campaigns result in the most revenue

But there’s one big thing you have to do before you can dive into all that juicy data. You have to tell Google Analytics which actions to track and log as conversions by setting up goals. So lets create some goals and get tracking!

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Finding the Goal Setup Flow

To get to the goal setup flow, click Admin in the top navigation bar of your Google Analytics account. Make sure the correct account, property, and view are selected from the three drop-down menus. Under the View column, click Goals.

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Click + New Goal. You’re now in the goal setup flow! 

Creating your goal

There are three types of Gumroad events that you can set as goals in Google Analytics: a product view, an “I Want This” button click, and a purchase. Decide which you want to track, and then follow the setup flow to create your goal.

1. Goal setup 

Here you have the option of selecting a template goal configuration or creating your own. We’re going to select “Custom” and click Next step.

Don’t see the option to choose between a template or custom goal? Don’t worry. This just means that you haven’t selected an industry within your account, and so Google Analytics doesn’t suggest relevant templates. Its not crucial to have these templates enabled.

2. Goal description

Name: Give your goal a clear and recognizable name (for example, “Bought Small Space Gardening Guide”).

Type: Select “Event” as the goal type. (there are four types of goals, but we will be working with events to track Gumroad product views, clicks, and purchases). Then click Next step.

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3. Goal details

Now we have to set up the event conditions. Again, there are three types of Gumroad events that you can track in Google Analytics: a view, an “I Want This” button click, and a purchase.

Here are the possible inputs to configure your event:

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Lets walk through an example. To set up a goal that tracks purchases of the product, “The Small Space Gardening Guide” (URL: https://gumroad.com/l/apUj), I would set the fields to:

Category - Equals to - product-apUj
Action - Equals to - purchased
Label - Equals to - purchased a product

We recommend leaving the “Value” field blank,  setting the “Use the Event value as the Goal Value for the conversion” switch to “No” and entering the price of your product in the field next to the switch. Note that the value you enter manually will be recorded even if an offer code or pay-what-you-want pricing is used to pay a different amount. Therefore, for exact sales numbers you should rely on your Gumroad dashboard, but Goal Values are a great way to assess the value of your marketing channels.

If you have created a custom URL for your product, you will have to use the original URL to set up the Goal. You can find the original URL under your custom URL, or in the address bar while editing your product. 

Then verify your goal to make sure that everything is set up correctly. Finally, click Save Goal and you’re done!

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Valuable reports

Google Analytics has a ton of standard reports that you can use to analyze your data and make strategic business decisions. Here are just a few to get you started.

Conversions > Goals > Overview: View goal completions, value, conversion rate, and other performance metrics for all goals at a glance. 

Acquisition > All Traffic: See which sources (Facebook, Google, your website, etc.) result in the highest conversions so you can focus your marketing resources on them.

Acquisition > Keywords > Organic: See which keyword searches are driving the most views and purchases of your products and use that to inform your SEO strategy.

You’re on your way to improved conversions!

Next, check out our post on campaign tracking in Google Analytics to see how you can measure the performance of all your marketing campaigns, from Facebook ads to email blasts.

The Afterlife with Nathan Barry

Travis Nichols on May 1st, 2014

A wise man once said, “One thing leads to another.”

When thinking about your second, third, or fourth project, you don’t have to start from scratch. What can you build on from your last product? It just might have a life beyond your original intention.

For example, Nathan Barry went from building apps to teaching/writing about designing apps to writing about writing and publishing to teaching about that whole process/marketing in blog posts, speaking engagements, etc.

Nathan spent a couple days with us a while back, and one afternoon we went to our favorite coffee house, Front, to talk about The Afterlife of a product. How something you do can become another thing you do.

It was loud. There were multiple construction sites on the block, the freeway was buzzing, the trucks were roaring by, the auto shop across the street was in full swing, the gossipers were gossiping, and the steam was gushing from the espresso machines. But the coffee was great and the words were flowing, and there was something about all of that commotion that just… made sense.

"I found that I was getting more and more questions about how to sell books, and how to make money from teaching than I was actually getting about design. So my third book, called Authority, was actually on how to write books and sell them and make a living from that. And that’s something I wouldn’t have thought, early on, that I could write about, or was even interested in, but because of the response from the first two books, and because of the things I learned, it just opened up so many new opportunities.”

So what’s it going to be? Remember, when you aren’t starting over with a product, you don’t have to start over with your audience.

How to Showcase Your Expertise through Content Creation

Travis Nichols on April 4th, 2014

For the second edition of The Gumroad Creators Studio, Poornima Vijayashanker of Femgineer gave a talk on content creation as a launching point for entrepreneurship.

Poornima started Femgineer.com as a blog to combine her interests in engineering and writing. After, much to her surprise, people starting reading it, she pivoted Femgineer into an educational business. Now Femgineer is speaking engagements, workshops, mentorships, online courses, and more.

We were happy to host Poornima at Gumroad HQ, and we’re glad to share her talk below. If you’re interested in leveraging your expertise in anything from coding to screen printing, from design to pet grooming, from technical writing to urban gardening, this is for you.

Making Great Videos with Caleb Wojcik

Travis Nichols on March 28th, 2014

Caleb Wojcik, co-founder of Fizzle.co, The Fizzle Show, and The Sparkline Blog, created a definitive crash course guide to making better videos. The DIY Video Guide takes you from gear (and the gear you don’t need) to audio to shooting to editing (with a trove of tricks to save on editing time), and everything on the software side. In addition to the book, higher packages include video tutorials, interviews, case studies and more. I talked to Caleb about the guide and video-making in general, and how I could have saved countless hours of my life if his book had come along just a little bit sooner.

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Starting from absolute scratch, what’s it going to cost someone to make good-looking, good-sounding, engaging videos?

Assuming you have a smart phone made in the last few years, you can start making good-looking and good-sounding videos for about $100. The three pieces of gear I recommend for making great-looking iPhone or Android videos are a RodeSmartLav ($60), the Glif Phone Tripod Mount ($30), and a small Gorillapod ($18).

Engaging videos, on the other hand, don’t cost anything but time. Time spent planning and scripting a compelling video, time recording take after take until you land that joke correctly, and time during editing making sure the video is as concise and clear as possible.

What are some of the biggest DON’Ts you see in videos out there in the cultural milieu?

One of the biggest mistakes I see is publishing videos that are way too long. The French mathematician Blaise Pascal once said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” A video that is too long is one that didn’t have enough time spent making it. The creator didn’t plan it out well enough or edit out enough fluff. 

Think of a director’s cut of a movie. Even in Hollywood, at some point you can’t just leave everything in. Videos that take too long to accomplish what they set out to do are a waste of time for the viewers and ultimately show a lack of polish by the creator.

What are the least-used and most-used pieces of video equipment that you own?

My least-used piece of video equipment has to be an LED light that just sits on top of my DSLR. I always bring it just in case I need it but I always default to natural light or setting up a three point lighting kit.

The piece of gear I use the most would have to be my tripod or monopod. I can’t stand shaky camera footage. I don’t mind it in a movie or show that is using it stylistically (see: Bourne movies), but if a video is shaky when I go to edit it I almost always throw it out.

We’ve got some more content coming out soon on improving conversion rates. One of the things we looked at was conversion rates for products with different types of covers (product previews) - image vs. video vs. audio. However, the vast majority of creators on Gumroad who use videos for covers are filmmakers. What sagely thoughts do you have about using video previews for other types of projects?

Don’t be afraid to show your face. In my experience, people buy from people easier than they do from mysterious brands. Hop on camera and explain to the viewer what it is you’re selling, in your own voice, with your own quirks and mannerisms.

Also, show the inside of your product, service, or company. Buyers want to see behind the scenes. Show them the inside of the book, the membership site, the factory where you make the shirts, or kitchen where the sausage is made. Think of it like special features on a DVD.

Caleb, the three-snaps-to-signal-a-mistake technique (see the book, readers) is fantastic. I’m currently digging through stacks of raw footage for some upcoming videos, and that would have saved hours of work if I had known about it before. I’m absolutely going to start snapping my mess-ups. Do you have another other quick video hack that you didn’t mention in the book or accompanying materials?

Always do two takes when possible. Even when I think I nailed the line the first time I always say it again. More often than not I will have made a funny face, said a word incorrectly, or had some other audio hiccup that I didn’t expect. Hard drive space is cheap. Taking the time to set up all your equipment again just to say one line is not.

It’s been around a month since the release of the DIY Video Guide. You talk about hitting the record button every day. That’s a month of work for you. Have you leveled up in that time (streamlined a process or two, picked up some new skills, etc.)? Or, Caleb, have you peaked? Oh no. Did you peak?

I actually worry about this. After you do something for a while, in my case making videos, it is easy to stop learning new things all the time. So what I’ve been spending some time learning lately is color correction. I always make sure that the image of the footage I shoot into the camera is publish-ready, but being able to stylize and adjust the colors of a shot just a little bit can go a long way towards upping the production value of your videos.

What part of video-making do you still find the most challenging?

Being myself on camera is something I still have an issue with when I’m working off a script. When I am just ad libbing or doing more of a tutorial where I can talk naturally it isn’t really a problem, but when I have to deliver a specific line or joke that I’ve written, it still takes me too many tries to not sound like a robot.

You offer the DIY Video Guide in three packages. What are some of the benefits of the packages that include more than the book alone?

What you get in the other packages are threefold. First, there are video tutorials from me on all of the more technical parts of making videos like the software you’ll use to edit and syncing audio with video recordings. Second, I have case studies of different kinds of videos I’ve made including book trailers and sales videos. Lastly, I have video interviews with online entrepreneurs that heavily use video day-to-day in their business, but do the majority of it themselves. These all add a more detailed and step-by-step look at how DIY videos are made.

The Gumroad team are big fans of Fizzle. (Readers, Fizzle creates products and content for indie entrepreneurs.) Anything exciting in the pipeline you can share?

We have some great “guest” courses that either just launched or are coming soon to Fizzle. One of which is an official course from Michael Port’s team called Book Yourself Solid. We’re also putting the finishing touches on an Advanced Podcasting course with John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur On Fire. And that’s not even to mention the great things our Fizzle members are accomplishing and sharing in the forum. I love all the Fizzlers. They rock.

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Find Caleb Wojcik’s blog, podcast, and book at calebwojcik.com.

Your Meeting with a Room Full of Experts

Travis Nichols on March 18th, 2014

You’re an entrepreneur with a great idea. You and your team are huddled around your kitchen table 16-20 hours a day building an awesome product. You get an email from Dropbox. You’re out of storage space. Halfway through reading the message, your computer dies.

Alright. It’s time to raise money to get you out of the apartment and into the world.

We talked to Michael Simpson, DJZ co-founder, about the book he co-authored with Seth Goldstein, The Secret of Raising Money. This comprehensive collection of knowledge from top venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and beyond promises to help you spend less time raising, get your foot in the doors of top investors, and know what to say once you get inside.

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Sahil, our founder and CEO, said, “If you can’t get an hour with Seth, read The Secret of Raising Money”. That’s what I find most striking. This is productized consulting. When you and Seth were working on this project, did you have that in mind? That this essentially puts the reader/viewer in a room of experts that they, frankly, likely couldn’t get meetings with otherwise?

Definitely. Raising money is very difficult, especially if you don’t have access to mentors to guide you. So we took the best knowledge on fundraising from Silicon Valley - from people like Fred Wilson, Naval Ravikant, Josh Kopelman and others -  and included their wisdom in the book. Seth has also raised $100m across a dozen companies over the last twenty years, and I got to learn from him at DJZ.

We also wanted to give entrepreneurs actual tools that they could use immediately. So we created cap table and financial model templates, a legal document explanation pack and a whole host of other items to go along with the book.

Fundraising is a game with very specific rules. The rules can be broken, but if you walk into the process unaware of what the rules are then you are at a huge disadvantage. The Secret of Raising Money changes that.

There’s a huge potential for productized consulting with ebooks, especially when bundled with templates, videos, etc., as you and Seth have done in The Secret of Raising Money. What should other consultants and would-be consultants think about if they’re considering packaging up their knowledge as a product?

Yes - there is huge potential in productizing consulting with information products. It’s never been easier to turn your consulting skillset into a product. In terms of advice - there is so much I don’t know where to begin! 

I’ll focus on one point: Remember that email is the best marketing channel. When it comes time to sell your product (and for many months before), email should be your top priority. There is a huge misconception that getting influencers to tweet  about your product (or post to Facebook) is a sure-fire way to get traffic. There are occasions where it works, but over the past few weeks we’ve learned that conversion rates from Twitter are very hit or miss, and depend on a lot of factors beyond your control. With email, you can communicate with your list repeatedly, and warm them to the idea of your product over a period of time, so when launch arrives, they are more than ready to make the purchase.

What’s the biggest mistake that people make when trying to raise money?

Failure to seek out multiple competing offers. There is a concept in negotiation theory called ‘BATNA’ - Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. The basic gist is that your leverage in any negotiation is a function of the viable alternatives you have available. This applies heavily to fundraising.  The leverage you have with any investor is very much defined by how much other investor interest you have. As a result, you must seek out multiple term sheets, not just one. And the way to do this is to condense your fundraising into a short time window, and approach many investors, all at the same time.

There’s a learning/cumulative part of writing. What’s something that you and Seth learned while writing the book?

The hardest part of writing is finding your flow. Often I would write a sentence, then rewrite it, rewrite it again, etc. This is the wrong way to go about it. The way around this is to  “Lower your standards and keep going.” (credit Sandra Tsing Loh). In other words: just write, even if the stuff that comes out is subpar. Suddenly you’ll find you’ve written a few pages. And only then do you go back and revise it. Much like product development, writing is very much an iterative process. The first version sucks. The way you get to something great is by going back over your work again and again.

The Secret of Raising Money is available in multiple tiers. Could you explain the different options?

There are three bundles - The Elite Bundle, The Bootstrapping Bundle and the book.

The Elite Bundle has everything you need for a successful fundraise: 

  • The book (The Secret of Raising Money)
  • 7 exclusive new video interviews with world- leading VC’s and entrepreneurs
  • 7 video transcripts
  • 6 exclusive written interviews
  • Cap table template
  • Cap table explanation pack
  • Four financial model templates (Saas, mobile, media, transaction revenue -  but fully customizable for any business)
  • Budget template
  • 16 beautiful pitch deck templates (keynote and powerpoint)
  • Legal document explanation pack
  • Fundraising cheat sheet for team

The Bootstrapping Bundle has the book plus a few other resources:

  • The book (The Secret of Raising Money)
  • 1 exclusive video interview with Josh Kopleman, Founder of first round capital
  • 6 exclusive written interviews
  • Cap table template
  • Cap table explanation pack
  • Budget template
  • 16 beautiful pitch deck templates (keynote and powerpoint)

And then if you just want the book, you can get that too (+ a little extra):

  • The book (The Secret of Raising Money)
  • 6 exclusive written interviews

Now that this collected wisdom is available, are you going to have to develop new money raising tactics in the future, or is there a benefit to widely sharing trade secrets?

No - we we won’t have to develop new tactics. Much of what we teach in the book are fundamental principles. For example - social proof. Social proof is the idea that investors are more likely to invest in a company if others are already invested, or at least showing interest. It’s the herd instinct. But this phenomenon isn’t just limited to investors, it’s an inescapable part of human psychology. People are more compelled to do something if others are already doing it. And what’s more, all investors are profoundly aware of this phenomenon. But they still can’t avoid being compelled by it.

Are you offering any sort of launch discount?

Yes! You guys at Gumroad (especially Ryan, Sahil, Jessica, Travis and Tuhin) have been so incredible in helping us through every step of this process. We are constantly blown away by how helpful you are. So we wanted to do a special Gumroad discount.

Get 20% off all bundles of The Secret of Raising Money on Wednesday, March 19th. Use the code “Gumroad”.

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