In this episode, Stacy sits down with Will Christensen, who is the co-founder of DataAutomation, a company specializing in software automation and integration processes for e-commerce sellers. The two discuss what ways companies can use automation as a way to provide innovate solutions to problems in business and marketing.
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Transcript For This Episode:
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them). I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of influencer marketing and branded content agency Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for top experts to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well-versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom-line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money, whether you’re doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.
Speaker 2 (00:31):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them). Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.
Stacy Jones (00:36):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them). I’m Stacy Jones, and I’m so happy to be here with you all today. Want to give a very warm welcome to Will Christensen. Will is the co-founder of DataAutomation, a company specializing in software automation and integration processes for e-commerce sellers. He additionally leads business development for RoundSphere, a tech incubator dedicated to developing new opportunities through software. Will’s passion is tinkering with cutting-edge technology, apps, and systems to create innovative solutions to both common and unusual problems across business and marketing. Today we’re going to talk about the function automation plays in marketing, when and how it should be used, and what you need to know for the future. We’ll learn what has worked from Will’s perspective, what should be avoided, and how some businesses miss the mark. Will, welcome. So happy to have you here today.
Will Christensen (01:24):
Thanks. I’m excited to be here.
Stacy Jones (01:26):
Well, to start off, I would love for you to share how you got to where you are today, leading DataAutomation, quite frankly, something I’m fascinated with, that I am trying to have take over our entire company. But people actually call you the Tony Stark of software. So can you share with us how you’ve gotten to where you are today?
Will Christensen (01:47):
So well, one, I’m a huge Marvel fan, so that helps. So watching Iron Man and the way that he just seems to be able to pull together and make things out of nothing or create random stuff, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of inventing, always been fascinated by the idea of creating something new, creating something from nothing. It’s always been something that I’ve wanted to do. I’m that kid who loved to take things apart, and I wouldn’t always put them back together. I have always wanted to know why and how things worked. And so I kind of dug in to kind of see how the world worked. And when you combine that curiosity with what I would call drive… My wife might call it laziness… you combine those two things, that curiosity for making the world a better place or for figuring out how things work with a drive to do things in an efficient way, you kind of naturally spin out and become someone who is basically driven by automating processes and looking at the world through a lens of what if. What if we could just make it so that you never had to manually key in that order again? Or what if we could make it so you never had to fill out that form again? Maybe it would just automatically fill itself out.
I’ve always been fascinated by what could be done. And so through a lot of digging in and finding different situations or coming up against manual problems that people would give me, a manual task… My grandfather gave me the unique opportunity to go out and… Well, it wasn’t that unique… to shovel the walk for his apartment business. And I shoveled and shoveled. I mean, it was endless. We live in Utah, so in the wintertime, we get a fair amount of snow here. And as a landlord, you have to keep those walks clear. And I really didn’t like shoveling the walk. And I had seen somewhere… This is back in 2002, I think, something like that, maybe 2000. No, it would’ve been a little after, 2005, something like that. I had seen somewhere that you could build your own website. And so this was 15 years ago. And I was like well, I’m going to teach myself how to do it. And so I went in, and I told my grandpa, “Hey… In a couple of college classes, we had done Google sites. And I had a basic HTML class that I took in high school. So I didn’t know anything really about building websites, but I knew more than he did.
And I went in to him, and I said, “Hey, how about you pay me the same hourly rate that you would pay me to do this, and I’ll build you a website instead.” He said, “Do you know how to do that?” And I said, “Well, I’ve done it for some classes in college, and I’ve done some stuff, but I’ll figure it out.” And I probably spent 80 or 90 hours teaching myself how to use a very rudimentary version of a CMS. This is before WordPress was really… I mean, WordPress was out there, but I mean, there were no real estate plugins. There were no anything. So I taught myself how to just get in there and do that. And so-
Stacy Jones (05:23):
Your grandfather got a hell of a deal, I’m sure, with the amount of what you actually were paid and the time you invested.
Will Christensen (05:30):
Hey, it worked, and it was exciting. So I don’t know. You asked me how did I get here? A lot of tinkering, figuring out how to look at the world. So I didn’t want to shovel walks, so I went to my grandfather and pitched him on, “Well, instead of shoveling walk, how about I build you a website?”
Stacy Jones (05:47):
I am an all believer in data automation. I mean, there is nothing at our company that infuriates me more than having someone touch something more than once. I mean, I want it touched, and then I want it to go into a database. We use Monday, which I love. We have our own proprietary database too. But however we can create systems in place where we can automate it and we can have spelled out here’s a how-to, this is what you do, and then it kind of goes off on its own, and you can use your intellect to actually take it to the next level versus using worker bees just to sit there and do data entry is a fascinating world for me as a business owner and one that I think that every business owner and marketer should be in. But they’re not. Not everyone actually embraces data automation right now, do they?
Will Christensen (06:37):
Nope, they don’t. And it’s interesting to see, I mean, the ones that do and the ones that don’t. I think a lot of the ones that don’t, a lot of the reason I think people run into that is they don’t actually see the pitfalls that come from not recognizing where data automation can be a powerful way to change the way that things are going on, or they tried it and failed. It’s not the most simple thing in the entire world. There are specific ways of going about it that will help you overcome some of those challenges. I mean, automation at its core is what… I mean, you think about businesses and services that are being provided in a lot of ways that they really are about automating something. We actually started our own podcast as well called Automate, Delegate, Eliminate. And we chose the name Automate, Delegate, Eliminate because we find that most things in the world are kind of in one of those three facets, automating, delegating, or eliminating. And that’s how we create value. You create value by taking a process that was manual and automating it. You create process value by delegating that to another individual. Or you create that value by eliminating a process that’s slowing the company down.
So it’s such a powerful thing. And if done incorrectly, it can be a really disastrous, frustrating thing. I still have things sometimes that I’ll get into and be like oh, there’s got to be a better way for this. I mean, a good example of that, have you ever tried to find an app out there that will help… So if you’ve ever heard of this trend. There’s a no-code trend out there right now where they’re like hey, if you want to, you can create an app, like an android or IOS app, and you can do that with no code. There’s a bunch of solutions out there that’ll help you-
Stacy Jones (08:35):
What are some of the issues that are stopping marketers from doing this?
Will Christensen (08:39):
Well, I would say especially for marketers… I mean, marketing is really something that is a creative thing. You have to look at a problem and say okay, how do I get the word out about this solution? And most of the time that means thinking outside the box or thinking… I mean, I think the longer we go in the world we’re in, the more creative you have to get because the traditional way of reaching out to people… I mean, think direct mail. Think about just a straight old email. Those two methods of communication are so overused by people that aren’t creative, that if you’re not going to be creative about it, you might as well just not reach out. And so what I’ve found is it’s important that when you decide to automate something, when you decide to look at those pieces, you have to realize that that creativity is not something that a computer can do. Computers can’t just come up with a new creative idea. That’s one of the things, one of the God-given things that we have, is the ability to create.
And so the comment you made about people not automating because they’re worried about getting rid of jobs, if you have someone who’s job really is going to be replaced by a robot, that individual needs to step it up a notch and use that brain they were given to create value. There are definitely things where checklists must be followed. And thank goodness we have people who are willing to follow those checklists. I don’t mean that you have to find somebody who always colors outside the lines. But having somebody who can follow a checklist and use that human intuition to go through there is powerful. So what I tell people that are concerned about well, I don’t want to automate. One of the reasons I’ve found that people don’t automate is because they’re the low men on the totem pole, and so they feel like their job is going to be replaced. So speaking to that individual who’s in there, if you can find a way to take pieces of your job and build a system that’s renewable and you find the right boss, the right employer, they’re going to share that wealth with you. They’re going to share that opportunity. And if they’re not, go find another employer because they are out there. There are people out there who are willing to reward you for creating that sort of value inside a company.
Stacy Jones (11:24):
Yeah, because as your business is going to grow, you’re going to be getting more money into that business, which is going to open up the doors to create new growth opportunities for employees in that business. And that’s how it’s supposed to flow and work, and so it’s not a dead end, oh my gosh, I’m automated, so all of this data that I’m slowly and agonizingly typing in and having issues getting it from one sheet to another doesn’t have to happen anymore. Or something can trigger, and a process can be put in place, or an email can be send out that I already wrote the template for, and I can actually spend my time working on helping the business grow in whatever way or find new things to do within that business and continue my own education and growth versus just being stale and entering data non-stop.
Will Christensen (12:12):
Yep. I mean, my wife talks about it sometimes where she says that the manual entry is actual soothing sometimes, and I thought, man, I’ve got to find… Actually, I said that on a call once, and another entrepreneur was like, “Would you mind if I had your wife take a personality test? Because I need to find people who find that soothing.” And so he actually paid for like a $200 personality test for her to take just so that he could see okay, what are we looking for here? And it’s kind of fascinating to understand that there are people out there that are more comfortable with it than others. And I think I’m kind of one of the… It’s my antithesis. I am absolutely not cut out for doing the same thing over and over again. So it gets me in trouble sometimes because part of being in a business that generates value is that it does do the same thing over and over again, and you have a standard operating procedure.
I had to find other people who were willing to help me follow some of those processes. I pay an executive assistant on a monthly basis, and she helps me follow the process. And that’s kind of the way that I figured out okay, in order to survive, I can’t just keep creating a new and different widget and throwing it down the pipe because everybody chokes on it. You just can’t do it. So it’s kind of an interesting process. You have to see where you are in the world of automation. What do you see yourself as in the world of standard operating procedures? Where do you fit in?
Stacy Jones (13:50):
Yeah, if someone gives me another Excel document, I think my eyes will just crisscross over. Google Docs and Excel docs to me don’t make a whole lot of sense because they are not easily automatable. And so that’s I love platforms like Monday and Asana, Trello, all those different project management systems or customized software where you can actually pull in Triggers, and you can use Zapier, and it can connect to all those other software platforms that you’re probably spending tens of thousands of dollars on as a business nowadays in many cases and make them all talk to each other. And that’s what you do. That’s the magic of what you do behind the scenes of making those different things have a conversation.
Will Christensen (14:28):
Correct. Yeah, no, we take Asana, and we push it into a Google spreadsheet, or we take it from a Google spreadsheet and put it back into Asana. One of the things that’s actually really powerful… You mentioned spreadsheets can be really difficult, like project management in a spreadsheet, that’s painful. One thing I discovered recently is that a spreadsheet is actually pretty powerful because really all it is is a grid, and it’s got boundaries. I have to put things in cell one or cell two. And when I put this in cell one, and I put this in cell two, you start to kind of get a feel for what the data should look like. And so I found that oftentimes it’s really powerful to… If you’re taking that like okay, we’re going to keep track of our to-do list on the whiteboard. Take it from the whiteboard and put it into a Google spreadsheet. It’ll force you to decide okay, this has to have some structure. And then after you start to figure out oh, this data looks like that data, I can start to line up those columns, then you can start to decide oh, now it’s time to go and graduate to something else.
So I tend to see whiteboarding, then a spreadsheet, then push it over into something like Miro. Miro is more in the whiteboarding facet, but take it to like an Airtable. Airtable is kind of a spreadsheet-esk kind of piece, but it forces you to choose the data type, and then you kind of get down the road. But what I’ve discovered is that you can’t really decide what you’re doing or how you’re going to automate until you’ve done it at least five times manually. That’s one of the tricks that I throw out for people. If you’re going to automate something, don’t even begin to automate it until you’ve done it five times manually. One thing I’ve discovered that as you’re looking at it for those five times, it isn’t until the third, fourth, or fifth that you’re like okay, this is a for realsies process. It’s going to be something that we’re going to do again. Until then, you don’t know that. You don’t know that it’s going to come up again. It could be a one-time thing, or it could be a three-time thing. Then it just evaporates, or it goes away.
Stacy Jones (16:34):
So you’ve just talked about the first steps. So if you’re whiteboarding, take it to an Excel or a Google Sheet so that you can put everything in columns and make sure that the data is repeatable. And then you’re taking it to the next step of kind of bringing that back into more of an automation effect. And you’ve already done the proof of making sure that what your data is actually needs automation. Are you going to be touching it enough times in life to make it make sense? Where do you go from there?
Will Christensen (17:02):
So if I were to take the whole process beginning to end, I tell people it has to follow a litmus test. And this the litmus test I share on almost every podcast I get on. Do it five times manually. Okay, that’s the first step. And then watch how long it takes you. If it takes you more than five minutes… Or, excuse me… more than 15 minutes a day, more than an hour a week, or more than an hour a month, you’ve probably got something that you could find some ROI in automating it. If it takes any less time than that, it’s going to be hard to find the ROI. And so there’s an opportunity there to say okay, you know what? This isn’t really that valuable. Then when you’re doing it, let’s say you do those things, you got to answer three questions around the process that you’re taking. Where is the data now? Where does the data need to go? And what needs to happen to the data in between? And so when I say data, where’s the report now? What makes up that report? And where was the data that makes up that report? And what did you do to mash it all together to create something that actually can take you where you want to go?
So those three questions, where’s the data now? Where does it need to go? What needs to happen to it in between? coupled with that litmus test of okay, more than 15 minutes, more than an hour. I’ll call it 15, one, one. So more than 15 minutes, more than an hour, more than an hour on a weekly or monthly basis. That’s where you really start to say okay, it’s time to dig into this.
Stacy Jones (18:37):
And then obviously, digging into this does not mean figuring out how to do it yourself. You made lots of money by no longer snow shoveling, and you’re driven to learn all things inside and out on how to build a website for your grandfather, new proposition that you did. Your proposition here is not for all of our listeners to actually go in and study how to all of a sudden be a data automator. So how can someone find a good data automation company to work with? I mean, we’ll share your information obviously, but what are some of the things someone should be looking for in a company to figure out whether they would be a good fit if they know their stuff or maybe not so much?
Will Christensen (19:19):
So if you’re familiar with where you can find freelancing help. Upwork is a fantastic place to do it. There’s another company out there called FreeUp that’s recently come to the playing field for that sort of thing as well. And what I tell people is when you’re writing that job post, answer those three questions in the job post. Where is the data now? Where does it need to go? What needs to happen to it in between? And put that in your job post. If you’ll throw that in your job post, nine times out of 10, you will come back with a much, much more solid quote on what’s being done. I would recommend point blank asking, “Have you automated in X, Y, Z system before?” Or, “Have you automated in CRMs before?” So there are categories. Some people come to me and say, “Have you ever automated inside?” And they’ll name some really random CRM I’ve never heard of. And I’ll say, “No, but I’ve spent hundreds of hours inside CRMs.” And when you’re talking about a deal, an opportunity, a contact on an account, there’s only so many ways that you can display that. And most of the time I can help you, unless it’s a very customized, specific CRM.
So dig into the industry experience with the type of software, the type of data you’re trying to look into. Ask them point blank. And don’t just be satisfied with, “Oh yeah, we’ve done that before.” Ask for specifics, like, “Oh okay, how many times?” “Oh okay, but with CRMs? Specifically CRMs? Tell me about some of that.” You find that as a salesperson, one of your jobs is to say yes. And so when you get a yes from a salesperson, get specific. Ask for, “Okay, great. I hear that you said yes to that. Can you be more specific? Can you give me a couple of examples of ways that you’ve done that?” And I find that that helps you get past the resume level or the surface level stuff that you get from people. You can really start to find out okay, what’s really behind this? And where does it go?
Stacy Jones (21:26):
Yeah, because it can be really hard, whether you’re a business owner or in a position of making decisions for the company. If you don’t know how to do it yourself, it can be very hard to vet out who does.
Will Christensen (21:39):
So one thing that I’ve done is I’ve hired two companies at the same time, and then I have them vet each other. So you get two or three people to work on the same project, and they’ll start to use vernacular. And you’ll say, “Okay, so what makes you awesome?” And they’ll name off three things, like, “Oh, we’re fast,” whatever it is. And then you take those same three things, and you go ask the other company, “How do you do these three things?” And then you say, “Anything else? What makes you awesome?” And then you take whatever else they said, and you go back to the first company and say, “Well, how do you do this?” And so you can start to… If you don’t know how to do what it is… And then the other thing I’ve done is I’ve actually had them review each other’s work. So I take a milestone on a project, and I say, “Go ahead and do this.” And then they’ll do it. And then I’ll say, “Okay, now, your next milestone is to review the work that another freelancer did who did exactly what you were supposed to do as well. And they did it differently than you, and I want to hear why you think they went about it that way.”
So there’s a humility aspect to this, where you have to find somebody who’s willing to be humble enough to recognize when… Sometimes I’ve done it before. And they’ll get it, and they’ll look and be like, “Wow. He did a better job at that than I did.” And here’s why I’m more likely to hire that guy than the one who gets it and like, “I’m not looking at that. That’s somebody else’s work.” They’re too prideful about it. So there’s a lot of different ways you can hire people to do things that you don’t know to do.
Stacy Jones (23:05):
With data automation, what are some of the unique things you’ve seen people do and have success at? Because it’s just turning a spreadsheet into something that can step it up. What else can you do?
Will Christensen (23:18):
I mean, the crazy thing is with the technology that’s out there today, I mean, it is possible to automate all sorts of things that you are not currently automating, that you are not even thinking are possible. I mean, you can build a chatbot on your website that’ll actually make sales for you. You can build a chatbot on your website that’ll push individuals one way or another. You can automate phone systems that are actually very easy to create a very custom phone system that texts you when anybody presses one. I mean, there’s so many… I mean, that question is so hard because there’s all sorts… I mean, just to give you an idea. I’m not going to say I use a different keyword than Alexa, but I have an Alexa at home, and I have an Alexa that I can say, “Alexa, trigger Alex home,” and it will shoot a text message off from my phone to our neighbor, who often has my daughter over at her house and say, “Hey, can you send our daughter home?” Well, you could just be like, “Okay Google. Send a text message,” blah, blah blah.
And I was like, but that was more words. So I mean, it’s endless in terms of what’s possible for what’s there. So I like to tell people don’t get stuck on what can and can’t be automated. Learn to use Google in a way that you’re going to find what can be automated in a very, very fast way. So learn to speak Google, is probably the way I would say that. Learn to figure out how to phrase it like the masses phrase things. Watch for what Google is suggesting when you type something in. Go read through the suggestions on the bottom of that list and say oh, that’s probably a more common way to ask this question. Click on it. But use that. Rephrase your question until you find out how everybody else is asking it. And somebody’s probably done something with it already.
Stacy Jones (25:10):
And that actually holds true for SEO too and long-tail keywords and anything with Google. If you’re trying to figure out how to market your business, you should see what other people are looking for when they type into Google things that are not your business.
Will Christensen (25:24):
What do people call you? So I didn’t know when people said, “Well, what’s DataAutomation?” I was like, “Ah.”
Stacy Jones (25:32):
It automates your data.
Will Christensen (25:33):
Yeah. Well, they were like, “What do you do?” “Well, I automate data.” I actually found out that there’s a technical term called systems integrator. It’s an actual type of business, and it took me six months before I figured that out, that that’s what it was called. So the way I actually found out was I was talking to a client. And he was like, “So what do you guys do?” And I explained it, and he was like, “Oh, so you’re a systems integrator?” And I was like, “Yes.” Google. Saw systems integrator. I was like oh my gosh. Yeah, that’s exactly what we do. And so, I mean, go out and talk to the people who are buying from you or would buy from you and find out what do you call what I do? What do you call what I do? And that’s going to tell you a lot about how you can build a brand and figure out how to do what you’re doing.
Stacy Jones (26:23):
And everything that you’re working with… I mean, you’re working with getting HubSpot Monday to talk to whatever software platform-
Will Christensen (26:23):
Stacy Jones (26:33):
You have out there.
Will Christensen (26:33):
Yeah, you name it.
Stacy Jones (26:34):
So it just keeps on going so that you’re pulling data from one platform to another platform, often over to an Excel or a PowerPoint or a Word doc. So now you have sales proposals that are being automated basically based off of your whole ad if you have a template. So really the sky’s the limit as far as what you could be doing. Email letters to people, triggering sequences.
Will Christensen (26:59):
Oh yeah. I mean, you could do… Let’s say that you’re an e-commerce company, and you want to trigger a thank you letter. There are actually companies out there that will literally receive data from you and hand write a thank you letter for you specific to that product, specific to that individual, signed by you at the bottom, and send it off. So you essentially have a personal assistant who sends off a thank you letter for every time somebody orders an item on your website. I mean, it’s shocking how much you can really do as you start to pick it apart and see where it goes.
Stacy Jones (27:35):
Yeah, and so you can take this whole world of software and virtual assistance out there and get then to be an army working for your company at a much more affordable cost than hiring all these different heads to be full-time.
Will Christensen (27:49):
Yep, yeah. And you kind of have to see it’s all about riding down that process and finding those individuals and handing it to the right group. Yeah, absolutely.
Stacy Jones (27:59):
Are there any mistakes that you see people make along the way with thinking that data automation going to solve it all for them?
Will Christensen (28:05):
Oh yeah. I mean, one of the things we tell people to watch for is if you’re going to automate, you really got to be careful with doing… Like if you’re looking okay, what should I automate? How should I automate this? Where does it go? be careful with automating things that have anything to do with billing. And it’s mostly with client expectations. So we automate billing all the time. We have an automated, once-a-month bill that we send to people. As long as you’re looking at that and you’re seeing how it should work, that’s not an issue. But let’s say that you send a bill to a client, they’re not expecting it, and it’s before the project is actually done. The sentiment behind that bill, when that bill comes, generally you don’t pay for it until it’s done. And so you have to be really careful with some of that. What are the repercussions of what I’m going to see?
Another thing that I often see missed in automation steps is they don’t recognize that in order to automate this process… So they look at their end report, and they’re like okay, this report’s awesome. I got all of that data by downloading it from Shopify. Or I got all that data by downloading it from Marketo or from HubSpot. They don’t realize that they also went and got another report from monday.com that augments the data at the end. And so they go start automating along the process. The go look for a tool that connects all this different stuff, and they forget that there’s an alternate system that actually makes that data really valuable at the end of the day. And so when you’re answering those questions, where is the data now? Where does it need to go? What needs to happen to it in between? you’ve really got to consider what are all the systems? Where is all the data now? Not where’s just a part of the data? Because you find that a lot of times that’s the most important piece, and that’s the one you left off.
Stacy Jones (30:05):
The actual story that you’re trying to tell at the very end of the day.
Will Christensen (30:09):
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.
Stacy Jones (30:09):
Yeah, and you’re right because if you’re sitting there and automating from one platform to another, you might only be pulling over certain cells, certain data sets. So you don’t have the full story necessarily anywhere anymore once you have the system in place.
Will Christensen (30:24):
Yep, yep. So you really got to see where is that data? And if it’s in multiple systems, as you automate, choose so that you can get all of that data to go where you need it to go.
Stacy Jones (30:39):
So what are other insights that you’d like to share about automation that our listeners really should know about?
Will Christensen (30:45):
I mean, one thing I would say is know your tools. You would be surprised how often you’re sitting on top of something that actually is quite powerful. And the only reason you don’t know it does that is because you haven’t taken the time to go out and see how powerful it can be. So for example, HubSpot, have you explored all of the settings pages of your app that you’re in? If you’re currently paying for Trello or you’re currently paying for Slack or you’re paying for whatever else, spend a minute and just look through the settings pages. If you’ll spend some time in the settings pages, you’d be surprised how much time you can spend just be flipping a switch one way or the other. The software provider, whoever’s writing that piece of software, they want to make your life easier. But they also have no idea how to tell you about all of the things that their piece of software can do. It’s endless in terms of what’s there. So if you start just browsing… If you’re using Dropbox or Google Drive, go look at the settings. You’d be surprised how often the thing that you are just hoping, just hoping, hoping, hoping it would do, it’s already in there. There’s a button. You just have to turn a button on, and it does whatever it was that was going to do that’s magic or whatever.
So I mean, I kind of geek out on it. I’m a nerd that way. I like to go pick apart and look at all the settings and know how things work. Remember what I told you at the beginning of the podcast. I like to take things apart, see how they work. If you can take a leaf out of that book and just go browse the settings sections. I mean, if you’re constantly frustrated with an ex-boyfriend who’s constantly calling you, and you want to block his number, the dialer app on your phone probably does that. You probably don’t need to call Verizon or whoever it is to get that number blocked. There’s probably a setting there where somebody’s already made it possible to do what you wanted to do, and you just don’t know it yet. So spend some time in the settings portions of your apps.
Stacy Jones (32:55):
Yeah, it’s even like Zoom allows you to connect your calendar for Microsoft Office, and all of a sudden, you have an instant join button for all the calls you’re either joining from someone else or that are from your own Zoom account that you’re hosting. And you don’t know about that button. You’re going back and forth between Outlook, or whatever calendar you have, and Zoom and spending extra time punching in numbers when you could be just hitting join, the lovely button of join.
Will Christensen (33:22):
Yep, Zoom is a perfect example, because Zoom, as far as settings go, it is so configurable. It has got a setting for almost everything under the sun. I would hate to be the guys who program on Zoom because, I mean, just an immense amount of work to make… I mean, I want to make so that there’s a dial tone when people join. I want a ding when people join. I don’t want a ding. When people join, I want all of the people on the call to hear a ding, or I don’t want none of the people to hear a ding. I want to make it so that they have reactions. I want to make sure they don’t have reactions. I want to make it so that they can have security. I want to make it so they don’t. It’s amazing, amazing. And that’s just one piece of software we’re talking about. Pretty powerful stuff.
Stacy Jones (34:05):
It is. I spent six hours on the phone with them the other night learning that there’s one little tiny checkbox way built deep into the system, that if it’s unchecked, the thing I needed to work worked. If it’s checked, the thing I needed, no one could log into any of our calls. So it’s true. Everything is very customizable so much to the point that some of their engineers are still surprised at what they’re learning.
Will Christensen (34:28):
Yep. I mean, going back to Google, when I want to change something in Zoom, I’ll just Google exactly what my question is, and most of the time Google is faster than going to even Zoom chat to go find out where you’re going. Like we wanted to figure out exactly that. I wanted to turn on and off the capability to have breakout rooms inside our meetings, and that’s a setting. You can turn that on or turn it off. And just did a quick Google search for it, poof, right to the page. And then I didn’t have to go look through all the settings pages. I was able to find where it is. But yeah, no, it’s a powerful way to get in there.
Stacy Jones (35:09):
It’s a powerful way to mess it up for your entire team if you click the wrong button too.
Will Christensen (35:13):
Stacy Jones (35:14):
Yep, learning lesson.
Will Christensen (35:16):
You got to be careful with the buttons you press in there. Yeah, with great power comes great responsibility, right?
Stacy Jones (35:23):
Will Christensen (35:24):
You’ve got to know what you’re doing to some degree or another. But don’t be afraid to experiment either. There’s a lot of opportunity there.
Stacy Jones (35:31):
Now, you also lead business develop and sales for a software app development company. And different business, but really closely aligned because the software and the apps that you’re producing are allowing people to again pretty much automate their businesses in a different way. Can you share why so many companies are going in that direction and developing subsets of apps or new software applications and what those opportunities look like?
Will Christensen (36:05):
Yeah, so the position you’re talking about is director of business development for RoundSphere, which is a tech incubator. And my job there is to evaluate new software opportunities that come across the plate and decide whether or not we’re going to build a new company around the pieces of software that’s there or develop for ourselves internally. And software is such a powerful tool because it’s an aggregate of knowledge that allows you to skip some of the frustrating things that are out there. So I mean, you look at Lessonly or one of these teaching tools that are out there. It is so powerful to be able to go in and see what’s out there, what opportunities kind of push and knock at the door. And if you find the right set of tools or you find the right niche for things, people will happily pay $100, $200 a month to have access to the shortcuts that you’ve created. So you think about QuickBooks, for example. Keeping track of all of those books is quite valuable, and people happily pay anywhere from $29 to $200 a month to have access to a system that allows you to put in all of your invoices and keep track of all of your accounts receivable and do all of the different things that go in there.
Well, QuickBooks is pretty generic. So if I run a flower shop, I’m going to have to do a lot of work to make QuickBooks fit my needs. But let’s say that I had a version of QuickBooks that was pre-loaded with all the possible skews associated with that flower shop. Oh, and by the way, it’s got a special scanner on it and even an app that you can scan a flower, and it’ll tell you what kind of flower it is. Well, all of a sudden, you’ve found a tool, and accounting tool that you can layer on top of and see where that’s going, and you’ve got a completely separate SaaS product can be built and has the features that QuickBooks has, but it also has some custom features. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s missing half the pages of what QuickBooks has, but it has some custom features that are specific to that flower shop. And so software is one of those things where you’re basically packaging up the shortcuts, the knowledge shortcuts that you have and handing them out to other people and selling them on a monthly basis in exchange for those shortcuts.
Stacy Jones (38:29):
That is a very succinct way of saying why you should develop software a company.
Will Christensen (38:34):
Yeah, it’s an important way. I mean, a lot of the companies… You look at 37signals. They have a company that built Highrise and a couple of these other CRMs and other pieces that way. They built it internally for themselves to begin with. And they said, “Wow. This is so valuable, I bet you there are other people who want this.” And they were right. And they create multi-million dollar companies that just do that.
Stacy Jones (39:00):
Okay. So if you are developing software to run your business more efficiently, you should be looking at ways that you could potentially white-label that software since you’re going in with all the time in building it out that it would help someone else, and you could profit from it.
Will Christensen (39:16):
Yeah, absolutely, especially if you’re using a software system like Bubble or one of these other no-code solutions that’ll help you build from the ground up to kind of see what’s out there and see how things are going, absolutely. You kind of have to look at that build verus buy, make versus buy model, because there’s probably somebody out there who’s created something kind of like what you’re looking for. But after you’ve done the research and found there’s not really anything out there that does exactly what I want it to do, it’s not a bad way to go at all.
Stacy Jones (39:49):
Awesome. Any other last parting words of advice for our listeners today?
Will Christensen (39:56):
Don’t give up. I mean, the number one reason that I see people stopping when it comes to automation is they’ve tried. They spent five to six hours trying to put together what they were looking at, trying to automate something, and they get to the end, and they forgot that one system or one of those things, and they give up. They say, “Ah, automation is just a me thing. I just don’t do that very well.” That would be my number one piece of advice, is don’t give up. Sometimes you have to be a little tenacious about it, get through some of those hurdles, but there’s some real power if you’ll keep sticking to it.
Stacy Jones (40:38):
Will, thank you again. Really appreciate all of your time you spent with us today. And to all of our listeners, thank you for tuning in to Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them). I look forward to chatting with you on our next podcast.
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