Press Releases

Justin Tadlock writing for WP Tavern about the importance of Press Releases:

On occasion, I get a message that says something along the lines of, “Hey, you’re giving the big businesses too much coverage. How about throwing the smaller folks a bone?” That is a fair question. However, what is often the problem is that this news by a smaller company may not be on a particular publication’s radar.

Enter the press release.

This is where smaller companies should sneak a peek at larger companies’ playbooks. Large businesses often have entire public relations (PR) or communications departments. Sometimes they only have one person in that role. What those PR positions are doing is getting the word out, and they are making sure the publications within the WordPress realm know about their news.

Individuals or small companies need not hire someone for communications with the press. However, at least one person should serve as a representative and handle this role.

There are many things happening in the WordPress world on any given day. Even with a press release, there is no guarantee that WP Tavern or another publication will publish your story. There is a guarantee that they won’t if they do not know about it.

The whole post is worth reading especially if you are a small business. Just like Justin, I want to help your product if it’s in the Laravel space, and I can’t guarantee that I’ll cover your launch. However, your chances greatly increase if you can send a press release and the earlier the better. I honor embargo’s and knowing before the release gives us time to put your news in our weekly editorial calendar.

Announcing Made In Production

Made In Production

I’ve always been a fan of developer swag. Everything from shirts, to hats, and everything else. Secretly I’ve had a dream to start a site to sell shirts with nerdy puns and geeky sayings, but the time never felt right.

That was until a few months ago when Phil Sturgeon announced he’d like to sell Made in Production, and Matt Stauffer and I jumped on the chance to get it, and we are now partners in this business.

All the old existing designs are still up on the site and we plan to leave those up for the foreseeable future but will eventually phase some of those out. If you see one you like, you should go ahead and get it now, and if you are a fan of Laravel News we have one for it available now.

Our next plans with the site are to get new designs created, work with some open-source brands, and to have even more inventory. If you have any ideas for unique shirts, be sure and let us know.

Pedialyte – A Marketing Success Story

A few weeks ago I went on a vacation to the city that is in the middle of the desert, Las Vegas. Even though it was technically late winter or early spring the weather is always dry and hot.

On the massive billboards down the strip, I kept seeing marketing for Pedialyte. Something to the effect of “Stay hydrated Vegas, drink Pedialyte.” It stuck in my head because I’ve always thought of children when I hear the word Pedialyte.

Flash forward to this past week when I’ve been mountain biking every day, and I got dehydrated. The first thing that came to mind was Pedialyte, and I went out and bought some.

They didn’t use invasive tracking pixels, they couldn’t measure engagement, it was just an old school traditional advertisement with a simple message everyone can relate to. That’s marketing!

Stripe Checkout

Normally when I sell advertising spots on Laravel News it’s a one off purchase so I’ve been using Quickbooks Invoices for it. This works okay but it doesn’t support recurrning payments. So I have to regenerate an invoice every month for those customers. It’s not an idea workflow but it works.

Today I had a request from a customer that wanted this payment to be automatic and my first thought was that I would need to integrate something like Laravel Cashier which is overkill for a single customer. After doing some research and talking with some friends I was pointed in the direction of Stripe Checkout.

Example Stripe Checkout

In about 10 minutes I had it all setup and I could sent the customer a link to initiate the flow and make the payment. Thinking back to how hard this would have been before Stripe makes me really appreciate the tools we have available to us now.

From this I do have two thoughts. The first, is always try to find the simplest solution to a problem you are facing, and the second is to keep your eyes open on new tools. I had heard of Stripe Checkout before but I didn’t see the value in it so didn’t pay it much attention. Now that I needed it I’m thankful I had a friend that could point me back to it. Without that I might have wasted an entire Saturday building a complicated setup.

Keep Going — Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon has a new book out named Keep Going which gives you 10 ways to stay creative in good and bad and for me it was a fun read. The pages are short and the wisdom easy to digest.

Although it’s written for artist I feel like a lot of the book carries over to being a developer as well. We all have to be a little creative when solving problems and it does a great job of helping you when you are having those bad days. It’s also a natural next step to his previous book Show Your Work.

The book is fairly short, around 200 pages, and is a quick read. Here is the list of chapters to give you an idea what it covers:

  1. Every day is Groundhog Day
  2. Build a Bliss Station
  3. Forget the noun, do the verb
  4. Make Gifts
  5. The Ordinary + Extra Attention = The Extraordinary
  6. Slay the art monsters
  7. You are allowed to change your mind
  8. When in doubt, tidy up
  9. Demons hate fresh air
  10. Plant your garden

It’s full of quotes and drawings and just a fun book. I’d recommend you pick up a copy and get the paperback because the format is great.

Pricing is hard

I’ve been talking to a friend about pricing a new product and figuring out what to charge, especially when you are first launching, is hard. Really hard. It feels like you are just putting out a guess and hoping it works.

As I thought through the pricing I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it, and what I would do if I was launching a new product today. Much of what follows should be looked at through the lens of a brand new product.

Before even thinking about pricing I’d want to have a pretty good idea on what my expenses are. Without that how do you know where your break-even point is? You don’t, and you are just guessing. Watch any business show on TV and the first thing anyone wants to know is what it costs for a single item. It should be the same with your product. How expensive is a single customer.

Once I had this I would try to figure out how I could fairly price my product. If it’s B2B how can I charge a fair price to a small business, and a fair price to a company of 500? Usually this is done with different plan levels, and a good differentiator is the number of users. To take common pricing terms a single user might be $9 a month, 5 users might be $49, 25 users $129, etc.

This is a simple way of segmenting your customers and also easier on your codebase because you aren’t putting feature flags on a million different things. It’s one code base, everyone gets the same features.

Of course, users are just one way of doing it, there are tons of others. Just remember to have your packages on simple things that are easy to understand. As a buyer I want to know instantly what package I would need.

Out of all the pricing models, I think the two I dislike the most are charging for things I can’t control. For instance, if you are a selling a SaaS CMS and billing based on views or podcast hosting charging by downloads. In either case, the actual amount is outside my control, and I don’t want to have to go create a spreadsheet to see if I’ll fit within a specific plan. Plus neither has any bearing on if I’m successful. I feel like the product creators think income is related to these, but I’m not sure that is the case. It’s never been that way for me.

The second model I don’t like is one price for everyone. Basecamp does this and charges $99 a month. I’m a small business and $1,188 a year is substantial. Where a company with 50 employees and 7 figures of revenue this is nothing more than a rounding error. As a true small business, I get screwed every year.

Like I said in the beginning pricing is hard and there is no right or wrong way to do it. In my opinion, when you launch your first product it’s better to undercharge and make just a little profit than to overcharge and not get any customers. It’s always easier to raise prices than to reduce them, and once you’ve turned someone off it’ll be very hard to get them back.

Think of a new launch getting featured on Product Hunt. Thousands of people will be hitting your site finding out about your creation, if the price is too high, in relation to the market, there is a big probability you’ve lost a lot of really good customers, and you’ll probably never get them back to the site again.

I’ll say it again, pricing is hard and I think all we can do is use our best guess and gut instinct to figure out where to start.

Book Review: It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work

Do you have employees, run a business, work in software, or sick and tired of your current workplace? If any of those are true then you need to grab a copy of Jason Fried and DHH’s new book, It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work.

I’ve been a fan of these guys for years and I’m also a Basecamp customer so I’ve been following their path for a while now and was excited to see Jason doing a Q&A at Laracon this year. Those are some of the reasons I jumped in to buy this book but that just got me interested. I thought the book itself was fantastic and that it lived up to the hype.

Our culture says that we should do whatever it takes to succeed. Put in 80 hours if need be, work through the weekend, push through, hustle. Do it for the team, the family life can wait.

Rightly so they call B.S. on this and give plenty of examples from their company and from many leaders in their respective fields. Here is one of my favorite quotes related to this from the book:

A great work ethic isn’t about working whenever you’re called upon. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do, putting in a fair day’s work, respecting the work, respecting the customer, respecting coworkers, not wasting time, not creating unnecessary work for other people, and not being a bottleneck.

As I flip back through my copy of the book, almost every page has a highlight or sentences underlined. So much of this hit home to me. Another one of my favorite quotes is related to how many companies claim “we are all a family”:

The best companies aren’t families. They’re supporters of families. Allies of families. They’re there to provide healthy, fulfilling work environments so that when workers shut their laptops at a reasonable hour, they’re the best husbands, wives, parents, siblings, and children they can be.

Right now where I work employees just four people outside of the owners and it does feel like a family because we are close, but they 100% follow what the quote above points out and it’s amazing working for a place like that. In fact, much of what is outlined in the book my employer already does, to say I’m lucky in that regard is an understatement.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work is set up in distinct sections with essay’s that support the overarching goal of the section. This allows the book to touch on many different areas of running a business but also makes it accessible to managers, and employees. All wound together in a book that can be read in a short time. Unlike most business books, they’ve left out the cruft and put all the focus on getting their points across as quickly and sufficiently as possible.

It’s a five-star rating from me and you should buy a copy, read it, then give it to your boss or employees.