Lessons from MicroConf Day 2

"Leverage your failures."

if i were to summarize day 2 into a single statement, that would be it. In a conference focused on bootstrapping products, a lot of the information has been about parlaying opportunities.

The first full day of talks was equal parts inspiring and exhausting. You hear so many tactics that could earn you real money. This is the reason people are here. People looking to bootstrap products thrive in their zone of genius but fall off a cliff in other areas. For developers, this means coding too early and running into a brick wall of sales and marketing.

Leverage failures productively

Perhaps the biggest theme of the day was failure. Failure is inevitable in new products. Even the ones that succeed have done so despite a series of miscues along the way.

Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.

The trick is to learn from failures and leverage them moving forward. This requires us to admit and analyze them even though we'd prefer to tuck them under a rug and forget about them entirely. We must harden ourselves against failure and come to expect it. Welcome it, even.

Failure should be the thing at the top of our mind. Not because we are afraid of it, but because we recognize it as part of the process.

While failure is never a goal, its occurrence need not be strictly negative. We have control over what we do with it. A properly managed failure is just a learning that didn't earn you money.

Raise your prices

As the saying goes, double your prices until people stop paying you, then go back a step. Most SaaS companies have never truly tried this because it's scary. Fuck the fear. The reason we bootstrap is to improve our financial standing and gain independence. If you can get there in half the time by doubling your prices, there is literally no better decision to make in a budding product.

I tripled our prices. Signups stayed the same.

If the prospect of doubling prices scares you too much, try raising them slowly. Every month, raise your prices on your pricing page by 25%. Upgrades will slow at some point, but unless they drop by more than 25%, the change is still positive. This is a more approachable tactic for companies nervous to go all in with doubling prices.

Be a thought leader

I've not heard of "thought leadership" before MicroConf. I tend to think of it as building your personal brand. The people who are considered experts on the internet are often the ones who can best communicate the topics.

People aren't thought leaders because they knew more. They are thought leaders because they were the ones to write it down.

There are a number of ways to do establish this internet credential. The best way is simply to curate and share the knowledge you have with others. As you create this content and share it, you start building an audience of people who consider what you say valuable.

At 18 months of blogging consistently, it's like the Narnia closet opens and crazy animals start coming out. You begin getting inbound opportunities that feel impossible.

Establishing this audience also allows you to start collecting emails. An email list of people who care what you have to say is something to leverage when you are trying to sell. Selling a product to people who consider you valuable is a lot easier than selling to someone anonymous.

Create value

People buy products because those products stand to improve their lives. This is both common sense and important. It means that when we are building the product, we need to remember it isn't the product that matters. What matters is the value the product provides.

Don't sell to people. Ship so much value they just want to buy from you.

This can be easy to forget when you get lost in the weeds of the technical details. It is a trap many of us fall into. I'm not sure there is a way to prevent it. Reminding ourselves about it regularly could certainly be helpful, though. Build value. That is what customers buy.

Mastermind groups

Mastermind groups are a collection of people with similar goals who meet regularly to answer questions and hold each other accountable toward reaching their own goals. Sound a bit like babysitting? In a sense, that is true. In reality, all but the pinnacle of dedicated founders could benefit from it.

Building side projects is all about momentum. Launching is all about determination. Having a group of people to talk about the problems you run into, bounce ideas off of and get someone to affirm you aren't losing your mind is a useful tool. It's rare that our close friends can empathize with these experiences. Find some people who have been there, or are currently there. Lean on them and let them lean on you. Symbiosis is nothing new.

The people

I wrote yesterday that my initial impression of MicroConf was that the true value of the conference was talking with the attendees instead of the talks themselves. Today only enforced that suspicion. The speakers are great and had excellent talks and slides. But the information is not novel. It is well curated and distilled, but not novel.

The value so far is the people you meet and the relationships you form. There are unique perspectives and product ideas everywhere you turn. Everyone here is driven and hungry. Seriously hungry. It is an inspiring group, to say the least.

tl;dr: Failure and blogging can be valuable parts of launching a product. Learn to use each to improve your product and audience.

Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox.
Author image
Written by Ben
Ben is the co-founder of Skyward. He has spent the last 10 years building products and working with startups.