Why you should NOT pay for product reviews

Paid reviews of your product in popular sites in your business niche are one of the most popular marketing strategies. I have done it myself and after a postmortem analysis of the experience I can now tell you that it was a mistake and one that you should avoid.

Wanna know my reasons to stop paying for product reviews? I’ve listed them there: Five Lessons learned after several WordPress paid product reviews

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Agree to disagree with your co-founders

Nobody knows the exact steps to make your startup successful. Not you, not your co-founders (or anybody else for that matter). Thus, you’ll spend many hours discussing the best strategy to follow, especially regarding how to get more leads/customers for your company (twitter campaigns? Facebook page? Adwords? guest posts? cold calls?). So far so good.

The problem comes when you try to agree on that strategy even to the fine-grained details of it. Instead of trying to reach an agreement (which will ultimately mean that the ideas of some of the founders will be sacrificed on behalf of the ideas of other founders) why don’t you give some freedom to each founder to pursue his vision?

As long as this is limited in time (let’s say no more than one month, it’s ok to differ on the short-term vision but no much to disagree on the long-term one) and you agree on some metrics that will allow you to evaluate the performance of each initiative, this will allow you to explore different paths in a shorter time (and more importantly, each of you will be exploring the path s/he most believes in, so there is an extra motivation to beat the others, almost as if you were using gamification to maximize the growth of your startup).

Worst case scenario (also the most likely one :-) ) ? None of them will work and you’ll need to start over again.

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Right answer to “How much does this cost” is: one million dollars

Unless you’re selling a well-defined product with a fixed price, the first question any potential client will ask is how much her project would cost.

Usually this question is already part of their first contact email together with very incomplete and fuzzy requirements of what they need. Many times we’ve got emails of people asking us to migrate their website to WordPress giving the URL of their current site as the only requirement.

Then, you have to start “educating” them on why you can’t give them a price without a clear definition of all the bells and whistles they are looking for. Or you can avoid this painful process and answer them the cost is one million dollars (as read in the Sandwich Video website). An absurd answer to an absurd question.

A less radical approach is to make sure you give the client a feeling of the possible cost by giving some starting prices, example prices for some typical projects or at least an order of magnitude of the cost (how many zeros are we talking about?). This not just useful to focus the conversation but also to filter out some undesirable clients, e.g. before we added some starting prices to our migration packages we would lose time interacting with clients that were hoping to migrate their site for no more than 100 USD. Now, these people do not even reach out since we are clearly not a good fit for their expectations (win-win situation since nobody wastes their time).

And you never know, you can also hope one day a client will say yes to your one-million-dollars answer!

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Verify the bus factor in ALL areas of your startup

Bus factor for your startupYou may be familiar with the Bus Factor concept (in short, the bus factor is the number of people in your team that need to get hit by a bus before your project can’t go on).

This metric is typically applied to the development team to make sure that information gets shared among all members but we usually forget this same metric should be applied to all the other areas of your startup. Even for small startups, you should make sure that you have a bus factor of 2 in every single important aspect of the company. Some may be obvious (e.g. access to the bank accounts) while others may not but are equally important (i.e. key contacts in popular websites that could talk about your product).

Remember nobody is immune to buses. Be protected!

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A post got 20.000 visits and 1700 votes in reddit. The same post got 2 votes and 50 visits in Dzone. WTF?

A few days ago, I published this post in my software modeling and development blog. I then submitted the post to two popular social networking/sharing sites for developers (Dzone, and reddit). You can judge yourself the results I got

In Dzone ( direct link)

dzone php

In Reddit (/r/programming subreddit, direct link).

reddit php

Completely opposite results that ended up in Reddit sending me around 20.000 visits for only around 50 from Dzone. In fact, this is not the first time I see this. I’ve had similar experiences in the past with other posts (though the results had never been so extreme) and sometimes in the opposite direction (a post liked in Dzone but not so much on reddit). I have no clue why this unpredictable behaviour. Both sites target, in principle, the same developer community, but I guess they appeal to a slightly different profile of developers. Obviously, this is impossible to know for sure based solely on my few personal experiences (if you have experienced something similar, or not!, please let me know).

So, I’m sorry but I can’t help you guess when a post would work well in Reddit and when it would work well on Dzone (nobody can), I just wanted to help you

Do you have any strategy to maximize your chances when submitting to these networks? Anything you’d like to share?

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Bargain. Always. Everything

Bargaining deals does not come natural to me. Even when visiting countries where bargaining all the time is the norm I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

Nevertheless, if I look back and see how we have reacted every time a client asked to negotiate any aspect of a contract for any of our services , I can tell you that none of them left empty handed. Maybe they didn´t always get a discount in price but for sure they got something (maybe more quota, an extra feature for free, free advice,…).

Therefore, now I’m starting to do the same when I’m the customer and I’m observing the same results, this time on me. If you ask for something reasonable, people will have a hard time in saying no. First, because we don’t like to say NO without a good excuse or some alternative option, just “no” looks too direct, even aggressive, and secondly because if we don’t play the negotiation game we may risk losing that potential customer.

In today’s economy every little thing helps so, like it or not, bargain, always, everything. It works.

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RR: What your entrepreneur “dream” is more likely to look like in reality

Tired of reading news only about the big time winners of the entrepreneurial dream? Wondering how is the life of most entrepreneurs? Well, then this article on wired is for you: One Startup’s Struggle to Survive the Silicon Valley Gold Rush

Remember there are always a lot of lessons to be learnt also from the “losers”.

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