Start Small, Stay Small

by Rob Walling, Mike Taber

Amazon Kindle Version

ISBN: 0615373968

My rating: 9/10


Niches are the Name of the Game

Niche markets are critical. If you want to self-fund a startup you have to choose a niche.

Focus on:

  1. Market
  2. Marketing
  3. Aesthetic
  4. Functionality

Product Last. Marketing First.

Building something no one wants is the most common source of failure for entrepreneurs.

Slower growth, less risk.

Strive to build a startup that generates $500 per month in profit.

The product with a sizable market and low competition wins even with bad marketing, a bad aesthetic, and poor functionality.

Time - your most precious commodity

Anytime you're on your computer ask yourself "Is this activity getting me closer to my launch date?"

At this very moment am I making progress towards crossing off a to-do or am I relaxing and re-energizing?

If you aren't enjoying a movie, walk out.

When reading blogs or books or listening to podcasts or audio books, take action notes.

Define a long-term goal (launch your product), look at the next set of tasks that will get you one step closer to that goal, work, and re-evaluate in a week.

Tools: SlimTimer to track time.


Top Shelf: Traffic Strategies that Will Sustain a Business

  • building an audience (mailing list, blog, podcast)
  • search engine optimization.

Second Shelf: Supplemental traffic

  • Building internet buzz and referral traffic
  • Joint venture partnerships
  • Article marketing
  • Cold calling
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Affiliate
  • Forums

Vertical market niches are superior to horizontal markets

Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) = number of searches per month / number of results

Micropreneur Traffic Estimation if ranked #1 for a selected keyword = 50% of the keyword traffic * 4

Price Point and expected conversion rate

  • $1 to $50: 1% and 4%.
  • $50 and $1,000: 5% and 2%.

Focus on increasing conversion rate than traffic. It has better return on investment.

Path to v1.0

Version 1.0 should fall between 200 to 400 hours. That's about 4 weeks with 15 hours per week.

  • (15 minutes) Create a site map (for websites) or list of screens.
  • (2 minutes) Sketch out how each page will look using pen and paper. You don't have to sketch out all the pages or even capture all the functionality; you're simply trying to get an idea about the complexity of each page.
  • Estimate 4-12 hours per page depending on complexity.
  • Add 10-20 hours for DB design depending on complexity.
  • Estimate back-end functionality such as credit card processing, PayPal integration, or scheduled tasks. Add 10-40 hours each, depending on your experience.


  • $29 fixed or $14/month: For consumer products dealing with hobbies (i.e., products that aren't going to make or save someone money).
  • $49 fixed or $19/month: For consumer products that will make or save someone a tangible amount of money.
  • $400 fixed or $99/month: For small businesses
  • $1000 fixed or $199/month: For larger businesses

End in 7, 8 or 9.

If you charge a one-time fee for your software, seriously consider charging 20% of that fee annually for support and product upgrades.

Test Pricing

If your sales cycle is longer than 1 week, change without notifying anyone. Run test for 1-2 weeks and compare results.

If sales cycle is more than 1 week:

  • Increase your price when you launch a new version and offer the old price for 7 days to anyone on your mailing list. This will create a quick influx of sales, and you'll get away with raising your price because new prospects will have never seen the old one. Check result in a few weeks.

  • Decrease your price and watch if revenue increases (again, you have to wait for a few weeks depending on how many copies you typically sell in a week). You can move back to the old pricing a week or two later if sales do not increase. If you receive emails from existing customers, offer to refund the difference for them.

Mini Sales Site

Use the text "buy now" button on your Pricing & Sign-up page.

After sending 100-200 visitors to your site, look at the numbers of "trials" or "purchases."

Assume you will convert between 2% and 5% of people who clicked "try now" or "download free trial."

Assume 40% of the people who clicked "buy now" would have completed the purchase.

You shouldn't plan to sell to a customer on their first visit.

Your number one goal, even beyond selling your product, is turning browsers into prospects.

A prospect is someone who has expressed at least a small amount of interest in your product by giving their email.

For someone to provide you with their email address you must:

  1. Establish Trust – you aren't going to spam them or sell their email address
  2. Establish Relevance – your product is relevant to their need and that anything you send them will be relevant
  3. Establish a Reward – offer something in exchange for their email

The home page will not necessarily be the most visited page on your website.

Every page needs a call to action.

Every page needs a single focus. Think ruthlessly about eliminating extraneous functionality and duplicate information from your website.

Everything should be within 2 clicks.

Accommodate different reading patterns. Use headlines and bulleted lists for skimmers.

Audio, video and images are always better.

The Core Pages:

  • Home
  • Tour
  • Testimonials
  • Contact Us
  • Pricing & Purchase


Image for your home page: choose one that shows the result of your product.

Use a four-second sales pitch and it should be the headline of your home page, e.g:

  • "Simple proposal software made for designers."
  • "Save Time. Get Paid Faster."
  • "One Thousand Songs in Your Pocket."


Include medium-sized screen shots of the major screens filled with data, along with a one-minute screencast (video demo) of each page.


Can also be titled “Buzz” or “Who uses ?” and it’s one of the most important pages on your site. Do not launch without testimonials.

Monitor mentions of your product using Google Alerts and add choice quotes and backlinks to this page.

This not only adds to your list of buzz, but shows people that you will link to them if they write about your product.


Always provide a toll-free number.

Provide both a contact form in the browser and a separate email address.


Put this as the link on the far right of your top navigation and add subtle highlighting

If at all possible, include an Upsell.

If you don’t offer a free trial, then at least offer a 30-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee.


Make a PDF report from 5-15 pages.

The key is finding a topic that your audience will not only be interested in, but will be ravenous for.

Once you have the title, you can create this work yourself or hire a writer to handle the leg work.

Offering a free, five-day email course can be an exceptional draw.

  1. First create your report and offer it as a PDF download for one-month. Note the number of sign-ups you receive.
  2. Next, break the report up into a five-day email course and offer it for one month. Compare results and go with what works.

Email Marketing

Providing ongoing content every 2-4 weeks is the best way to build a relationship.

Autoresponder series: a 2-4 week gap between each email.

What to write:

  • Share relevant links with a small amount of commentary.
  • Questions from customers or prospects. Answer the question in your email to solidify your place as an expert in this niche.

The Ideal Launch

Step 1: Six Months Before Launch

Six months before your launch date, use your audience on Twitter, Facebook and your blog to send traffic to your startup's home page.

The home page gives a brief description of your product and offers them a deal if they provide their email address to be notified of the launch.

Step 2: Over the Next Six Months

Create buzz around your product by guest blogging, sending interesting updates to your social networks, commenting on blogs and forums and generally engaging your target audience, always sending them to your home page.

Step 4: One Week Before Launch

Approximately one week before launch (preferably on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday), email your list of targeted email addresses. Let them know that your product will be launching next week and that since they are on your mailing list, they will receive a special price available only to those on the list, but that the price will only last for 48 hours. Tell them the day and time they will receive the email.

Step 4: Launch Day

On launch day, email your list. Almost immediately, sales will start rolling in. You're going to have the best sales day you will see for a while.

Conversion rates on targeted mailings can be 20%+. A few hundred sales of your $19/month SaaS application is not a bad way to kick-start your startup.

Step 5: Thirty Six Hours After Launch

Send your list a final email informing them that the deal will end in 12 hours. You will receive another few sales before you close down your special pricing.

There are more complex variations to this, but it's a simple, proven approach to increasing your launch-day sales by ten fold. Without some variation of the above, you will be lucky to sell 10 licenses in your first week.

Selling your Startup

Startups are much better bought than sold.

Even if you never plan to sell your startup, you should be collecting and reviewing the data that will ultimately allow you to facilitate an easy sale:

  1. Traffic Stats – Google Analytics
  2. Revenue and Expenses
  3. Hours Spent

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