I just got back from Microconf in Vegas and wanted to do a brain dump of some thoughts while they’e still fresh. This was an outstanding event in every way – killer speakers, high quality of attendee & flawless execution. I highly recommend (provided Rob and Mike decide to do this again next year) that any single founder or bootstrapped company attend.
This was a 2-day deal with some top-notch speakers. As is always the case with these types of events though the real value is in the hallway and meal conversations. I was fortunate to meet some super duper cool cats & dogs. As far as nuggets of actionable advice, I noted a couple from the various talks:
- Ramit showed the scientific approach he takes to understanding his customers’ problems and objections via increasingly specific surveys and systematic testing on the site. His testimonials are all surgically placed to address the objections he uncovers via testing. This wasn’t earth shattering but he hammered home the value of a methodical approach to unearthing your customers’ problems and thinking in those terms vs. selling the features of your product. I’m looking forward to implementing some of his ideas on how to conduct killer surveys.
- I finally got to meet Sean Ellis whom I’ve followed for about the last year and a half. I love his philosophy of mandating that you achieve a certain level of measurable product market fit before ramping marketing. Think of it almost like a type of “escape velocity” in that you don’t leave orbit and apply the rocket fuel until you’ve achieved this “must have” level of affinity from at least 40% of your user base. He dropped a nugget in passing that I thought was very insightful. He said “You can increase the gratification of your users without even changing the existing product simply by identifying what they perceive to be the core value and stripping all messaging down to that essence.”
- Hiten is my hero and is the lyrical gangsta of funnel analysis and conversion optimization. He dropped some pure gold with his presentation on the various lessons he’s had in building Crazy Egg, Kiss Insights and Kiss Metrics. For people already immersed in the Customer Development movement it wasn’t anything new but it was a great orientation for the folks who weren’t familiar with that framework. He pulled together a neat bundle of resources which I plan to go through soon. He also inspired me to re-implement Kiss Metrics and get a firm grasp on exactly where we’re losing people in the funnel. If you’re not following him and Kiss Metrics on Twitter you’re doing yourself a disservice as it’s the best curated fountain of useful techniques for young startups. One audience member during Hiten’s talk shared what I thought was an ingenious cheap/elegant hack for getting early CustDev feedback on an app: post an ad in the jobs section of Craig’s List for the industry role you’re targeting and solicit input either via a survey or a physical focus group.
- Noah blew our mind with hot sauce. If you weren’t there we’ll just have to leave it at that. But there was literally Sriracha flying.
- The website teardowns were one of my favorite parts. They picked apart the sites volunteered by attendees and walked through what could be improved. It was hugely interesting to hear their take on the flaws and the rationale for how/why/what to change.
- The Pluggio guy, BuySellAds guy, Rob Walling and Mike Taber all gave great presentations worth noting.
In all it was a superb event that I would highly recommend to anyone contemplating attending. The one format change I would propose is to break up the lineup of back-to-back speakers all day by interspersing some type of interactive exercise. The speakers are just the excuse to get the right people in the room but the truly valuable part is the interaction with other attendees. It would be neat to see them sub out one of the speaking slots with a problem solving exercise whereby people break into groups and work to cobble together a solution to a specific business challenge and then have an ambassador from each report back to the group at large. Anything you can do to increase the surface area for having conversations amongst attendees goes a long ways towards making the conference even more useful.
Lastly, I just wanted to share a moment I had after making the drive back from Vegas last night. I’m now living up in northern Arizona in a cabin for the summer (a whole ‘nother blog post). Anyways I went for a barefoot run on the golf course listening to this guy’s playlist and this beautiful song came on right as the sun was setting and I was running this path through an outcropping of trees. This experience happened one other time but it was an absolute wave of pure gratitude that washed over me and every cell in my body simultaneously acknowledged how lucky I am to meet all these incredible people who are laboring to change the world in their own small way. For all the doubts that swirl around when building a startup in an unproven market and an uncertain economy it’s moments like these that confirm we’re running the right path.