You have data. What you need is DigMyData.

So there you are, with your startup wired up with every type of analytic instrumentation you could ask for. You got your Google Analytics, Google AdWords, your email engagement program of choice (it really ought to be MailChimp, IMO). And you have your social media data – how many Twitter followers you have, what people on Facebook think of you, how many people read your blog. To top it off, you’ve got your sales data in one form or another, and whatever other stats you’ve bought into.

And you know what all this data will do for you? Not one single thing. It’s just raw data–it doesn’t do anything. It’s your job to figure out what all this data means, how each of these different streams of information interrelate. Then, and only then, have you got actionable information so you can do more of what works, less of what doesn’t.

That’s where comes in. You don’t need more facts, you’ve already got all the facts: what you need is a way to see all of the data you need in one place, at one time, on one screen. If you’ve ever tried to figure out if what you are doing is actually working based on all of your numbers – web site, email, social, revenue – you will want to put DigMyData to work immediately.

This online service is about asking questions, getting answers – answers that let you change where your startup is going. When you post and tweet more, do you sales go up? That day, that week, that month? When you post a video to YouTube, do the number of tech support emails/tickets drop, or rise? What happens in Google Analytics when you spend more time doing tech support and less on social media – nothing, more visits to the right pages that lead to a sale? What?

In a nutshell, you pick which types and sources of data you want to give DigMyData access to. Then you create not just comparison charts (Adwords spending vs. number of tweets/posts, etc.), but annotate that data with scenarios that you can test, and actions you’ve taken. For example, if during the rest of this month you do X, what do you predict will be the results in terms of revenue? Moreover, actions you take – improving your SEO, reaching out to talk to at least one customer a day for 15 minutes, updating your site – will be reflected in your data. With DigMyData, you can add those actions and scenarios as story points in your startup’s timeline, so when you look back in 3 weeks, months or whenever, you can see in the data their positive (or negative) effects.

I’ve been using DigMyData with one consulting client for the past 6 months and will continue using it as launches and WordPress for Startups goes on sale. Today is DigMyData’s official launch date, and they’re offering an extended free trial if you sign up now that runs the rest of 2011 so you can really see results. It’s a powerful, unique way to not just consume data but test scenarios and make decisions. Highly recommended.

Taking Charge of your Startup’s Scheduling

By Mark L. Smith, Co-Founder

Momentum is the life blood of a startup. Nothing gums up the works and kills momentum like scheduling difficulties — timezones, multiple availability schedules, holidays. It’s a wonder sometimes that anything gets scheduled at all.

We absolutely love our product vision at DigMyData and we love using our own tool to tell our business stories. As a result, we schedule a lot of meetings with people all over the world to both pitch our product and to help them with the initial setup of DigMyData. We use Tungle to manage this scheduling and keep up the “big mo’.”

What is Tungle?

Tungle is a cross-company scheduling tool that solves timezone and availability issues. It allows the meeting initiator to “paint” in the time they can meet and send e-mail invitation to one or more meeting attendees. The other meeting attendees paint in their availability and the last attendee gets to pick from a list of times that work for everyone else. Tungle can integrate directly with Google Calendar and Outlook to automatically manage the painting process.

What we use it for:

We use Tungle for prospecting. When we want to talk with people about our product, we paint in our availability and send a Tungle invite to our prospect. How many of your prospects go cold because they’re used to frictionless scheduling with people inside of their company? You often don’t know because you never get a response. Tungle keeps that stuff from happening.

We also use Tungle for support. Tungle lets us plug our Google Calendar availability into a special site. Our customers can visit our site and book a meeting directly — we get an e-mail notification and it automatically shows up on our Google Calendar. Customers are most likely to do a support session with us if it is easy for them to do — which makes it more likely they will stay customers.

What we love about Tungle:

  • Solves timezone issues.
  • Keeps the mechanics of scheduling from getting in the way of great conversations.
  • Great if you use Google Calendar — easy connection (shows busy times, puts it right on your calendar, etc…).
  • Great for setting up meetings with more than 2 people.
  • Free!

What’s bad:

  • People who get it, get it. People who don’t, don’t. In our experience, the people who are most likely to give our Tungle invites the “sideways puppy dog look of confusion” are Outlook/Exchange users in large companies.
  • Tungle was recently acquired by RIM – makers of BlackBerry. I’m an ex-BlackBerry user. I’m concerned that RIM will ruin Tungle.

Our tips to get the most out of Tungle.

  • Setup your page and include your profile info. Send that link to people when you reach out to ask for a meeting. The links look like this:
  • When asking someone to Tungle a meeting with you, go ahead and tell them what call-in information to use (you call me, I call you, we use this #, etc…).
  • We use for on-demand screen sharing instead of worrying about scheduling a WebEx or GotoMeeting session. When we are on the phone it is very easy to to tell someone to A) go to B) type in a phone # length code.
  • Check your Tungle settings! I like making schedulers give me at least 2 hours advance notice for meetings — that way, I have time to notice it in my calendar.
  • Be realistic on setting your availability — bankers hours are fine :)


A typical DigMyData call goes like this: We talk with a customer or potential customer over Skype using with a Tungle scheduled meeting. It’s all free and just works. Reduce friction; keep up the momentum!


This guest-post was written by Mark L. Smith, Co-Founder of DigMyData, a storytelling tool for web businesses. Follow @DigMyData on Twitter.

Will it work?

Will your startup succeed? Will it make you money, get you into TechCrunch, be a home run?

No one can tell you for sure. But some people can give you a damn good guess backed up by a track record of building successful startups. One such person is Jason Cohen, of A Smart Bear fame, and he is ready, willing and able to share his considered opinion with you this Thursday, September 1st, online at 3:00pm Central Daylight Time (4p EDT / 1p PDT) for the second Smart Bear Live show.

If you want a better answer to this question than you already have, here’s the sign-up form: Sign up for details on the conference call, and to get your questions answered.

Patrick Foley and I will also be on the call, adding what insight we can into the question that should be keeping up you at night.

See – or hear – you there.

Weekend Ponderable: Too funny, too true

I can’t personally vouch for Peter Ireland’s services, but he has a solid grasp of the nature of  a certain kind of “startup founder” and a wickedly sharp sense of humor. That’s a good reason to watch this video and check out what else he has at his site. Enjoy:

Weekend Ponderable: The net value of your idea

Derek Sivers nailed it. So what’s the value of an idea? Well, it does have some value, but it’s really a multiplier for execution.

Say ideas are worth 1 to 20. 1 to 20 what? 1 to 20 as ideas in and by themselves. Not exactly enough to retire on, right?

Now do something with that idea. Make it real. Execute on it. Even if your execution is crappy, you will actually have something.

Here’s how he explained it in this AppSumo Action Video – (free, but go grab it now!):

So, if you already had the awesomely amazing idea (like I do – of course! – with you’d better focus 99.9999% on execution. (He says to himself.)

An idea alone – that’s nice. Idea times execution: Now you have something.


In or Out?

In the Zone

Of the Zone I mean.

You’ve heard about it over and over, but here is the best description I’ve read (Thanks Rands!):

Let’s talk about the Zone once more.
You’re either sitting down with your computer to futz around with something or you’re attempting to get in the Zone. This is that magical place where you’ve managed to fit the entire context of your current project in your head. With all this content in there, you can perform superhuman acts of productivity and creativity because you have the complete problem space at your mental disposal.

That’s it.

If you can claw your way past every email demanding attention, every web site (including mine!), every self-inflicted attention wound, you can load up all of the problem in your head and do really good work. But it’s all, or nothing. One damn call, one little growl, and the cathedral in your mind comes crashing down before you can actualize it into something external to you.

Oh, and don’t forget that little red devil slyly whispering into your ear! “You’ll never do it, you’re worthless, look at all those people being written up in TechCrunch. You’re not them! It’s not worth it, and you can’t do it. Go back. Give up.” That’s the voice of your lizard brain (see Seth Godin & Daniel Pink for details).

So it comes down to this: How are you going to repeatedly and deliberately get into the zone? Please don’t give me that crap about waiting for inspiration. This is about perspiration, about making real value.

Here’s a tip: make it as automatic as merging onto a freeway – you do it exactly the same way each time.

One more tip: You can “store” a Zone, go do other things, and reopen that Zone and pick up right where you left off, with minimal effort. But you need to at least power up and then power down that zone once each day to keep it fresh. Stored Zones (whether they’re a novel, a codebase, or all the moving parts you need to do a really awesome WordPress membership site) start to stink like dead fish in a day. Then you have to throw them out and start all over.

Weekend Ponderable: Eternal Truths

Way back in 1981 I was pretty much at rock bottom. I was working as a bicycle messenger in San Francisco, after wandering off the academic reservation. I can remember sitting there in the can after a shift one day: I was soaked to the bone, cold and hurt everywhere after going ass over head when my front wheel got caught in an old train track paved over by Levi Strauss.

Up on the cheap plywood that the toilet at 444 Clementina was, at eye level if you were sitting down, some graffiti. I was cold. I was tired. And this is what I read by some anonymous guru I never got to meet:

“The more shit you take, the less money you make.”

I was stunned. The corollary hit me like a live wire connected to that john I sat on as the rain beat down: The less shit you take, the more money you make.

Within 2 years I’d gotten myself a top slot in the media world: Dayside SF at UPI (think Huffpo now).

In 30 years I’ve not found one scintilla of evidence that whatever else is true in life, this is true. All the time, in all places, for all people, amen.

But it’s time to put this to new music, dance it around the room and see if it works for you:

“The more digital you are, the more money you make.”







ok – so this is ugly.

But I could use 20 seconds of your help. Do either of these HD YouTube vids play for you? After Iain’s killer post I decide to take a cannonball jump into video. Blame Iain :) :

Thanks! You should get over the shock with a few deep breaths.

(An aside: if you run a WordPress site (and who doesn’t?), check out very very nice, and two! updates since launch a week ago.)




What I’ve learned about creating product videos

By Iain Dooley,
Founder of Working Software and creator of Decal CMS

Over the past year, I’ve done a bit of work producing videos and in this post I discussed the importance video has played thus far in marketing, support and training people how to use Decal CMS.

With the launch of our flagship public beta product Decal Mockups recently, I produced quite a lot of video for both marketing and training purposes and felt as though I’d really had the chance to hone my craft, especially when reflecting on my first attempt last year.

I’m by no means an expert, but I feel as though I’ve got a few simple strategies for producing video very inexpensively for your products that doesn’t totally suck.

I’m also very keen to share my experiences, thoughts and methods in the hopes that someone out there will give me some ideas on how my methods could be improved.

My tools of choice are:

The two primary purposes of product video

In my experience there are two primary purposes for product videos: marketing and training. My production strategies for each are slightly different.

Marketing videos

When I talk about marketing videos I’m talking about the video that people see when they land on your home page – the one that’s supposed to get them interested enough in your proposition that they follow some call to action (eg. signing up to use your product).

These are the ones that take me the longest to make and they require the most planning, ironically because they have to be the shortest.

I wouldn’t personally create a product marketing video longer than 1 minute and the shorter you can get it the better (Wistia’s home page intro video is only 30 seconds long).

If your video includes a piece to camera or interview I’d say that you can go (a bit) longer in some cases, however looking good on camera is really hard and screencasts are immeasurably easier and cheaper to produce.

Step 1: The message

When you are releasing a product, your natural inclination is to make a product video that demonstrates the features of the product.

This is because you’re very proud of the features – you have spent a while working on them and you think they’re totally ground breaking.

But features are totally boring to watch and your features are not your message (disclaimer: to a certain extent, this depends on your audience – but I’d say the cases where a feature heavy marketing video makes sense are the exception).

If you take a look at the very first video I made last year for Decal you can see what I mean about “feature focus” – it has absolutely no message whatsoever and is completely and utterly uninspiring:

I recently watched (and blogged about) a TED talk by Simon Sinek entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” which says that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”, but also states that people will buy your product for themselves, not for you.

So it’s not enough to ask why you’re making this video – you have to ask why your audience is watching it, why they’ll keep watching it and why they’re going to do what you want them to do at the end (ie. sign up to use your product).

At the beginning of this year I had just begun to get an idea about marketing message and produced 5 separate videos for the Decal CMS home page which were designed to appeal to different audiences.

I’d started to scratch the surface of what it meant to be talking to my audience, taking the focus off features and trying to deliver a message which would appeal to people’s emotions and you can see one of those videos below – however it’s still far too long and had too much of a feature focus:

I think it’s interesting to look at the progression to my latest offering for our Decal Mockups launch:

Apart from some technical improvements (which I’ll cover later) the single biggest difference is that I’ve taken the focus completely off the product features and come out with a strong message that makes a very bold statement about how this product will benefit my audience.

Jamie Zawinski puts it beautifully when he asks “How will this software get my users laid“? 37 Signals have also written a similar post about “when opening your wallet becomes a no brainer“.

Your message should focus on this: how is your product going to save people time or money, or help them get laid.

Now here’s a little secret: it’s really hard to do!

I guarantee if you’re not a seasoned sales and marketing veteran, this will feel wrong at first – because it is.

The first 2 videos I made above were pussy footing around the issue. The very first one simply presented my product and let people reach their own conclusions. The second focuses more on benefits to the viewer but the benefits are convoluted and probably only relevant to someone who’s had a specific experience with another provider.

The third video says in plain English that Decal Mockups saves you money and makes your job easier – and it felt like a lie. Not an out and out lie, but a bit of a lie.

However you’re trying to fit your message into a space that is so compacted, that if you don’t make a bold statement people will instantly tune out and stop paying attention.

So even though what you want to say is “This product will make your life easier once you’ve learned how to use it, and if you use it in a particular way then you could even save money by using it!”, what you have to say is “This product will make your life easier and save you money” without all the qualifying excuses.

Now I’m going to let you in on another little secret: no-one cares.

I was really nervous when I put that video out there – I emailed everyone I knew (only about 300 people) and I was an absolute wreck. I felt grimy and dirty as if I had told the world’s biggest lie and everyone would soon turn up at my door with pitchforks.

You know what actually happened? People signed up to use the product.

Here is a quick breakdown of the stats:

  • 81% of people who landed on the page watched the video
  • Those that clicked play watched on average 63% of the video
  • Of those that clicked play, 23% signed up to use the product
  • 19% of all people who came to the page signed up to use the product

Even for a free product, that is a phenomenal conversion rate. You know how many people I got complaining that I was taking liberties in saying the product would save time, money and make their life easier? Zero.

There are, of course, laws governing false advertising and I’m not advocating completely falsifying information but if the choice is between your waffly line of conditional, qualified excuses leading up to a statement of what benefits someone might be able to achieve in certain use cases, or just stating up front the benefits of the product in the first 10 seconds of the video, then you should definitely choose the latter.

Step 2: The Script

Now that you’ve decided on your message, it’s time to write your script. Start by writing your message in such a way that you can deliver it in 10 – 15 seconds.

It’s a good idea to state what your product actually is before you start talking about the benefits, otherwise the experience for the viewer is disorientating – but the combination of what your product does and how it “gets people laid” shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to say.

From that starting point, you then need to reinforce your message, focusing on key points of difference and justifying your bold statement with a couple of facts about your product.

The most important thing is: don’t agonise over the script too much before you’ve recorded it and listened to it.

Don’t think of a “script iteration” as writing, or even writing then speaking – think of a complete script iteration as writing, recording and then listening back. Don’t worry about the sound quality of your recording just yet, either.

Once you’re at least 75% happy with the script (not 100% happy, remember that folks: don’t get hung up on your “perfect script” yet), move onto the story boards.

Step 3: The Storyboard

I prefer to use index cards for my story boarding rather than a whiteboard because it’s easier to re-order the “shots” and sections of your script.

The story board for my BYO Website videoI have the shot list on one side and sections of the script on the other, and I can re-order and reposition chunks of text next to “shots”.

The image to the left is the “story board” I used for the 2nd in the series of videos shown above.

When deciding what “shots” to use, try using your product whilst listening to the recording of your initial script draft and see what fits well.

You can then add a visual or textual reminder for that shot to an index card and stick it next to that piece of the script.

When considering what shots you’ll have, you want to have a good balance of things that move and things that don’t.

If there’s one thing that can really ruin your message and be totally distracting, it’s having constant talking in conjunction with constant movement.

Go back and look at the Decal Mockups video above and see how little movement there is on the screen – especially where the spoken information is at it’s most dense.

The most movement occurs when I’m talking about the “real browsable website” and the only movement occurring is web browsing which reinforces the voice over.

Also don’t underestimate the value of just printing words to the screen that are key words in the sentences of the voice over.

Once you’re 75% happy with your story board, (that’s right folks, don’t wait until you’re 100% happy), it’s time to do some actual screen capturing

Step 4: Screen capture and editing

Fire up ScreenFlow and capture each of your shots. Move the mouse slowly and deliberately. It’s very easy to edit out pauses and speed video up, but very tedious to edit out unnecessary mouse movements so the smoother and more accurate your mouse movements are in your initial recordings the more time you’ll save during editing.

Once you’ve got each of your shots, it’s time to edit them to fit in with your script. If you haven’t already, get a good reading of your script recorded.

The timing should be reasonably good – speak slowly and clearly (in fact you should speak so slowly that it feels a little bit weird). Edit out any obvious mistakes but don’t worry about sound quality, or editing out breathing or other noises – this is not your final recording.

Now edit your video down to fit in with your script. This is truly the most mind numbingly tedious part of the process. Try as much as possible to edit out unnecessary mouse movements in the screen casts and avoid using any transitions other than cross dissolve – you’ll be tempted to use one of the many other featured effects in ScreenFlow but they all suck.

I’d love to give you some ScreenFlow tips that will teach you to be a ninja at it but I’m a total hack. I just use images and text boxes to create my “graphics” – zooming to give them a bit of movement. The rest is simply screencasts.

There are a bunch of really awesome ScreenFlow tutorials around on the interwebz though so it’s probably worth boning up a bit on your techniques. I didn’t do this, and it took me 18 hours to produce the 60 seconds of video for the Decal Mockups – and about 70% of that time was spent editing or producing graphics.

I’m sure if you put some time into learning about some more advanced tips and techniques for using ScreenFlow you’ll live a longer and more prosperous life than I.

Remember: you don’t want to have things moving on the screen when you’re expecting people to be listening carefully to your words. This is really important – having too much happening at once is suprisingly confusing and they’ll either not listen to the words because they’re trying to see your product or they’ll miss your product shots altogether.

Don’t move onto the next step until you’re 100% happy – if necessary go back and modify your story boards and/or script and re-record it.

Step 5: The Final Voice Over and Edit

I’ve got a problem that you can hear in the 2nd video in the series above: my office is very big and echoey. I also live right next to a main road where lots of loud trucks, motorcycles and people with sports exhausts torment me.

This is particularly troublesome because I’m only using the in-built microphone on my laptop and I don’t have any sound mastering software or skills.

However, the voiceover in the Decal Mockups video doesn’t suffer from any of these problems. The secret? I record it whilst sitting in a closet. It’s a very small closet and it has lots of coats in it. The result is much clearer, don’t you think?

So, go and sit in your closet and record your script. You should record this speaking ever so slightly faster than the voice over you were editing your video to initially – but still slower than you would normally talk if you were having a conversation with someone (one always has a propensity to speak too quickly when recording voice over).

Do as many takes as you need to get each bit right and just leave ScreenFlow running whilst you do it. Try to do your takes in “chunks” and leave a gap when you stuff up – it can be hard to edit a good take out from 2 mistakes either side if your words or sounds are “rolling into each other”.

Once you’ve got this done, go back to your desk, stretch your legs and edit the final voice over to suit the video. Make sure you get rid of any “lip smacking” or breathing noises. You’ll find that, since you read just a little bit faster, you have some “space” now and during this final edit you may be able to cut the overall length of the video.

It’s important to leave some gaps in talking though – this gives the viewer a chance to focus on what’s on the screen, and also gives their brain some time to process what you’re saying and what they’re seeing.

Step 6: The sound track

This is kind of the fun part. You should produce a few different variations and test them on people you know. For the Decal Mockups video, I started off with this, which is me playing the Mbira:

I wanted to give an air of “magical wonder and simplicity” – reminiscent of a Hayao Miyazaki forest creature. However when I played it to a few people they found they were so distracted trying to figure out what that sound was, that they found it really hard to concentrate on the video.

I knew I had to go with something more familiar so guitar seemed like the obvious choice, but I still wanted something a bit different so I found this Gypsy Jazz version of All of Me played by Adrian Holovaty (co-incidentally, the author of the Django web framework!) on YouTube:

This was a dramatic improvement, however a few people I played it to said they found the melody line a bit distracting – also we obviously didn’t have the right to actually use it!

Luckily for me, Campbell McGuiness (one of the Working Software team) is a musician so he recorded a version of one of his songs minus any melody lines and I re-edited it to fit in with the video and that’s the final cut that we ended up publishing.

That about does it for marketing videos!

Training Videos

Training videos are kind of easier. Firstly, the constraints aren’t quite so strong – if someone is watching your training video, chances are they’re already using and therefore at least a little bit invested in your product.

You can see examples of the training videos I’ve made for Decal here:

When I want to do a training video I write a few index cards of what I want to teach, then I record each of those in turn and edit them together, getting rid of unnecessary mouse movements, loading times and using cross fades for transitions between points.

I then simply watch the video, and type a “narration” of what I’m seeing on the screen. I do a rough recording of this “script” and edit it down to the video.

I iterate like that as required until I’m happy then I go and sit in the closet to do my voice over and come back and edit the real V.O down to the video.

The other big difference in a training video is that obviously you’re basically just showing the product the whole time so there probably won’t be any “graphics”. I also find it’s more acceptable to have a bit more movement on the screen whilst you’re talking (not too much) so long as what the viewer is seeing is being reinforced directly by what they’re hearing.

There are 2 guidelines I use to make the videos more watchable:

  1. Use zooming and panning sparingly – it can make people nauseous but is also a really effective tool for focusing people’s attention on one part of the screen (sort of like a “pointer”) – especially if you want to show a lot of detail in a smaller video resolution
  2. State the length of the video and it’s purpose at the very beginning of the video and put the key words on the screen as you say them. This orientates the viewer and prepares them mentally for what they’re about to see

That’s about it for training videos. They’re far less involved, in my experience thus far, than marketing videos.

Remember: video converts!

Creating video is hard and tedious. It takes a really really long time, but hopefully some of these tips can help you make a better product video in less time than the year it’s taken me to get to something I find acceptable.

However just remember: video converts! It’s really worthwhile taking the time to do videos and improve your skills because you’ll get more customers.

So stay motivated – I know it’s really hard (and I’m totally guilty of cutting corners here and there) but keep slogging it out.

The other piece of parting advice I’ll give you to is to avoid being a perfectionist. You can look at all my marketing and instruction videos I bet and find not only obvious flaws but flaws I’ve advised against specifically in this article.

There are only so many hours in the day and in the final analysis you’re going to be far more aware of the flaws in your video than anyone else ever will be, so try not to get trapped in some vortex of perfection.

Happy casting!
(Thanks Iain for a great guest post! If you have something to share, ping me at

Iain Dooley is the founder of Working Software, creators of Decal CMS. He enjoys chatting with people on all manner of subjects and would love to hear from you on – also if you’ve read this far, you should definitely Subscribe to the Decal CMS blog via email or RSS by clicking here, follow Working Software on Twitter and become a fan of Working Software on Facebook

Ponderable: Bookfunding.

Phil's New BookPhil Simon (the Startup Success Podcast #104) is doing some very sophisticated customer discovery: Give this interview with him a read. While I am sure that Phil’s book is going to make a good read, the mechanism he’s using (Kickstarter) is a story in and by itself.

Screw traditional publishers.

Instead, give people a way to invest in specific content creation, and get in return extras that enhance the experience.

Very cool model, but Kickstarter, why stop there?

What about adding to this get big or go home funding model an investment model?

Say Fred the author is willing in to put up 40% of the post sale revenue for 18 months as equity that can be bought. He estimates, based on what else he has done, that that will be conservatively $10k. He will sell it for $5K, if enough people join the pool and pledge to buy.

Fred’s investors may lose their investment – it’s speculative. His investors decide if they want to place a bet that may lose, break even, make money or maybe lots of money.

Now, I have no idea how all those U.S. securities laws that since the Great Depression protected investors from conman financial types after the last time Wall St. raped Main Street work. Or for that matter, how the same laws got their polarity reversed so they protected the conman financial types when they raped Main Street again a few years back. Maybe it has to be some sort index fund arrangement where you invest in one fund, then divvy out your money in the fund to content you think will pay off.

Sounds like a startup to me. Sounds like just the kind of startup funding mechanism that would work. While somebody makes a few hundred million executing this idea, I’m looking forward to Phil’s new book – and I’m glad he’s not waiting for hidebound traditional publishers to allow it to happen.