In today’s episode, Joe talks to Gary Gaspar, the co-founder and CEO of Marker.io – a platform that encourages a simple way to report bugs on live websites and collect client feedback along the way. This 6-member team with over 2M feedback reported and 1,500 plus customers, continue to make it easier for people to report live website issues in real time. 

Gary shares how he met his two co-founders at a totally unexpected place, shutting down the agency to focus on growing the business, the integrations they planned as they expand, and focusing more on conversion than website traffic. 

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 06:35 Welcome to the pod, Gary!
  • 07:25 Instead of a live chat, Marker.io utilizes capture screenshot with annotations
  • 12:34 Why there are 3 co-founders
  • 20:25 Shutting down the agency and going full-time 
  • 23:33 The value of owning your company despite having a low paycheck
  • 26:57 It took a while to find the right product-market fit, future plans
  • 30:18 Marker.io was built with integrations in mind
  • 34:35 Original business structure attracted non-targeted customers
  • 37:37 Build relationships with folks to reach more people in the community
  • 41:58 It’s useless to do all the marketing channels
  • 47:01 SEO and integration marketing works
  • 49:24 Finding the right person to join the team
  • 53:16 Giving the team a lot of creative freedom

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:00] Joe Howard: Howdy folks, Joe Howard here. All right. For folks watching on YouTube, check this out. Eh, looking pretty fresh. Uh, not too bad. It’s got a nice logo on the back there too. So you can rep MRR a little bit. Uh, we’ve got new shirts, logo, uh, here instead of being begging in the middle. So it’s a little bit updated.

For this year, we’ve got some hoodies. We’ve got, you know, the flat brim cap with guts and ball caps as well. We’ve got water bottles, all that usual stuff. Um, so for folks who are just listening and not Washington, YouTube, and pointing out a little bit of this, a new WP MRR Birch that I’m wearing, it’s kind of.

For this year, 2021, but also like before the summit and trying to have some new swag this year for folks. So yeah, you can head over to DOR dot WP, buffs.com forward slash MRR. If you want to check out the new MRR, Merck chicken offs, just click the link in the header and at the top of the page where you can just filter by MRR gear, you can see all the new stuff and you can order order some, if you want, we’ll probably be giving some.

We’ll probably be getting away a lot at the, at the upcoming summit. But if you want to grab yours early, you’re more than welcome to go ahead and do that. Actually, I wasn’t even really planning to do this, but now that I’m thinking about it, why don’t we do a little giveaway here on the podcast? This episode will go live.

On August 31st. Okay. So use the discount code August three, one. So just August 31, uh, and grab yourself free MRR gear. I’ll create a disc that discount code. It’ll give you like one free item and free shipping. So just like a totally free order, but here’s the catch. We’ll only make it available for five people.

So. When you hear this, go grab your free March before it’s, uh, that discount codes used up probably we’ll, uh, we’ll go pretty quickly, uh, set cool new merch at one summit update. Um, another is just that we’ve had some speaker announcements happen. So if you’re registered already, you’re in the WPR community, you’ve seen them.

Uh, announcements come up, but I’ll give some quick shout outs to our recently announced speakers. I’m gonna run through them quickly. Kim Coleman Chandler Jamison, Brad Williams, Sue Raj soda, Melanie Fung, Danielle Besana, Dean Burton, Erin fill-in. Uh, those were the eight on our first announcement. And second announcement post here.

Kimberly Lee. Kyle mater Ryan Sullivan, Joe Howard, whoever that is a Gustin prot, Carrie dills, Nick Adams and Kristy uh, yeah, we’ve got a great lineup of speakers. I think I’ve only announced like maybe two thirds of the speakers so far, so more announcements to come, but great lineups so far. Uh, again, feel free to go ahead and register for that summit coming up on September 21, 22.

Three it’s about a month from now. Just sign up to be a member of the WP MRR community at community dot WP, mrr.com. And you’ll automatically be signed up for updates and notifications when that live stream goes live right in the circle community. So, all right, that’s cool. That’s our, those are more summit ish updates, community updates.

Uh, one community update. I did want to mention was I posted, uh, a light. Chat that I had with Steve Bursch. Um, Steve’s done a bunch of stuff in the WordPress space, WordPress community as launched a bunch of products, but he’s working on this product called log activity. And I posted this video where we talked about a little bit around SEO and around integration marketing, uh, some ideas about how he can grow monthly recurring revenue for him.

His new SAS product, which again, it’s called log activity. I posted this in the 10 K MRR goal space, um, because that’s just the, where, uh, Steve is with his current bet current product and yeah, cool video here. Folks can tune into that. Now there’s audios. Who’ve been to just download the audio and listen to it that way.

If you want, I had added a bunch of notes here, a background SEO, some screenshots, additional resources, integration, marketing. Lot of notes here, so people can come in and if you’re into this kind of stuff, you can get involved. You can like, you can comment, but you can also just learn from it. So hopefully that is helpful for people, just a little update around something that’s going on in the community.

Uh, okay. Somewhat updates, community updates also done. Let’s get into today’s episode. So this week I got to sit down and chat with Gary gas bark. Uh, now Gary runs a again, we’re kind of staying in the software SAS world. He runs a, the SAS product called. And I enjoy talking with him this week because it gave me, instead of just talking about like developing a WordPress plugin or running a services company, I got to talk about SAS a little bit and think about how SAS or software as a service fits into the WordPress ecosystem.

So a few pieces about today’s episode. Gary is one of three co-founders. Super normal. Most people, either self, you know, solo founders, or maybe they have two people, but three is different. So hearing about how all that came to fruition was definitely eye-opening. And we’ve talked a lot about hiring and finding great people for your team and have some people go through formal processes to do that.

Gary, his strategy of meeting one of his first big hires at a party and going through and hiring him through that. So that was a definitely, maybe like a nontraditional way of meeting a good new hire, but it’s worked for him so far. So we talked a little bit about that and yeah, similar to this conversation I had with Steve in the WPR community, we talked to him.

Lead generation a lot about lead generation. A lot about how to do that via integration marketing, Gary had some really good ideas. I think he’s definitely on the right path to, you know, grow in marker through some integration marketing, through, you know, being involved in the WordPress. Through all of that.

So, boom. That’s all cool. Let’s get into podcasts today. Uh, please welcome Gary Gasper. Enjoy today’s episode. All right. We are live this week with, uh, Gary gas spa. Gary, tell folks a little bit about what you do with WordPress in the WordPress space.

[00:06:43] Gary Gaspar: Hey Joe, thanks for having me on. So I started a company called Marco, right?

And basically we help businesses. Mostly digital agencies collect feedback from their client on digit on websites. Uh, obviously a lot of agencies are building on WordPress. So, you know, we also released a new WordPress plugins. So the whole idea is to help with QA testing and help, you know, clients give feedback to the, to the agency in a very streamlined way.

[00:07:13] Joe Howard: Cool man. So tell me about like the ideal application or applications for marker. And if people want to check it out, it’s marker.io. People are watching on YouTube already now because they see a t-shirt there. Um, but tell me about the, like, how would an agency use marker.dot IO? So I’m on the website and it’s, you know, the, the, what I see on the homepage, it’s just reporting bugs.

Shouldn’t be rocket science, get website feedback from clients and colleagues into your favorite bug tracker without driving developers. Crazy. So it sounds like, you know, if someone’s building a WordPress website and you have client feedback, you don’t want to do X, Y, and Z. It’s a way to a piece of software that kind of lives in the middle so that clients can give you a feedback on this website.

Oh, I want this, you know, edit done in the header, or I want this piece of copy changed, or this slider needs to have a different image here and that. Maybe even some more technical things that we, that can then kind of be translated into actual bug reports for. And agencies development team. Is that in general how it works?

[00:08:16] Gary Gaspar: Yeah, exactly. And I think what’s very interesting is understanding the backbone story is actually before Marco IOI had the, a WordPress agency and we were building websites for, for these, uh, for our customers. And you know, a lot of time, this process of collecting feedback. From client, you know, it’s a lot of email and our phone calls, some clients would set and like, you know, spreadsheet and power point file is, you know, you know what I mean?

Like the, the smile on your face that tells me you, you, you know what I’m talking about.

[00:08:51] Joe Howard: Painful smile. I know that, that pain point.

[00:08:55] Gary Gaspar: Exactly. So did I. And so basically what we did. Is, we wanted to create a way for our clients. We’ll be able to, you know, those little live chat widget, Ulla Intercom, something very similar to that.

But instead of opening a live chat, it would just like capture a screenshot. You could add annotation with built-in annotation tools and then fill out a few fields in a form and then send. So that’s like super useful in and of itself. But as an agency on the backend, I wanted to create something where I wouldn’t just get those in my email inbox.

Cause it would defeat, defeat the whole purpose. Right. And back at the time we’re using Trello for, to manage all our projects. So for each new client, we’ll create a new Trello board and you know, I would have. Put all these requests in, from our customers into and to Trello. And so what we wanted to do is say, Hey, look, our team is working day and night in Trello.

Let’s connect the WordPress site or whatever site we’re doing at the time. With our work, our Trello board. And so now that our client has sent that feedback to the widget developers or PM login into the Trello, and then they have like this beautiful formatted card with a very clear screenshot with annotation and everything and all of that they have on which page, you know, it sounds stupid.

Which page where you actually seeing, when you saw that bug or you had that, you know, that thing that you wanted to give feedback on, um, and then, you know, browsers no more like needed to which browser were you using? Stuff like that. A bunch of more technical data. We even record more advanced data like console logs.

If it’s a very technical bug that might happen. And, uh, and so, yeah, that’s why in our tagline, we say without driving developers crazy, because we just give them the right info in the right place with their everything.

[00:10:53] Joe Howard: Yeah, I’m checking out just in the top menu of your integrations. It’s like, whoa, big menu of a ton of integrations come up.

And I have I’ll think a little bit, even a clearer picture now because I’m seeing project management tools and issue trackers. So in and some more, you know, you have your WordPress plugin here, but project management more for the kind of edits I was talking about, like your traditional, like, I need some basic feedback from, I built a website.

Oh, up here. Copy. It needs to be changed. Like that would be, that would be something you could probably go into project management software, but if you have, if you’re doing bug tracking, uh, that’s a whole nother, uh, you know, you want to be integrated into get hub or get lab or Bitbucket or any of these you have here.

Um, the one that actually stands out here as his clubhouse, what does the clubhouse integration.

[00:11:36] Gary Gaspar: Yeah. Well, I think, uh, you’re not familiar. You might not be familiar with the club has project management app and it’s actually not the clubhouse audio app.

[00:11:45] Joe Howard: Everything.

[00:11:46] Gary Gaspar: Yeah.

[00:11:49] Joe Howard: So clubhouse now is like, oh, is this like, are we doing some more like marketing here? Oh, okay. It’s a different kind of clubhouse. Okay. So there’s I guess multiple, sorry. Sorry. Clubhouse. Project management software. You got overshadowed in the last year or so, but yeah,

[00:12:03] Gary Gaspar: like following them on Twitter and they, they just announced that they are going to change their name because it’s been overwhelming for them. Like I think they spent half of the day just replying to social messages, say, Hey, you tagged the wrong club by account.

[00:12:17] Joe Howard: Oh, wow. Well, Hey. At least they’re making moves. So yeah. Cool, man. Um, you talked a little bit about the, um, moving from being an agency. And building websites for folks into being, you know, running a software company.

I want to dive more to that story. Cause I know we have listeners who maybe actually similar to myself for agency owners or freelancers, or do a product high service or they’re a services company, but they have, you know, Idea in the back of their head. They’re like maybe someday I could do a WordPress plugin or I could do a SAS product or a software business.

That sounds really cool. So I’d love to dive a little bit more into that story. And as part of that story, I do want to touch on. The part of the story of you having three co-founders for the company and how that kind of comes into part of the story I was on your team page. Cause I wanted to see what kind of stage rat it looks like you have six or so team members and three co-founders and I don’t often see three co-founders a lot of times I’ll see.

To, uh, pretty often as one, but three is a little different. Sounds like it looks like. I think I’m remembering right from the website. One of you is CEO. One of you is a CPO, which I assume is chief product officer. Uh, and the third is, uh, C. Thirds. Yeah. CTL or CTL. I’m forgetting an obvious one. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:13:46] Gary Gaspar: Well, it’s all fancy terms to, just to say there’s a design and product guy. There’s a tech guy and then there’s a business.

[00:13:54] Joe Howard: Totally cool. So I’d love to hear that. The started as an agency, but I’d love to hear is like, dig into that a little bit more. Like when did you decide you wanted to move forward on creating a software product?

How did that transition go of moving from agency work into software? Did you hit this MRR? You know, you’re either a subscription revenue point where you were like, we just got to go full time on this. Like talk me through that trend.

[00:14:20] Gary Gaspar: Yeah. So I’m speaking for myself. I’ve always, I’ve always had this entrepreneurial bug from the very start.

So very early on, I knew I wanted to go into business for myself and I tried a bunch of things after university. I went to work at a very corporate job and really didn’t like it complete quit everything. When. Moved to a big city and then start, try to start my own thing. But I was very young and very naive.

So I had no idea what the hell I was doing. So, um, after about six months a year, like, you know, I’m just going to call it, quit on this thing for a little while. And I went to work for, for startup and, um, it’s in the SEO space. It’s called Wu rank. They’re still around. And, uh, I basically learned a lot there, digital marketing, product management, a lot of stuff.

And I actually met my two co-founders at this job. So, uh, we, we started to, to get along and then they pretty much had the same idea of wanting to do a thing on their own as well. And so one of the co-founders had already started a side gig. Together, along with this existing job where he was building a website for folks like you, like you said, so it’s small agency then, you know, it started to pick up steam.

He went full time, quit his job. And then I talked to him and I say, Hey man, I’d love to, you know, join. And maybe we do something together. And I knew that I wasn’t, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be full into service. Long-term. But I thought it was just a great opportunity to, to learn, to meet clients, to, you know, understand all the ropes of building a website, a business, and.

And so I went and helped him out. The third friend, uh, quit his job to F to do some freelancing. And we say, Hey, we have a spot in our office, you know, come and sit next to us. Next thing you know, you know, we’re like, Hey man, we should work together. So we joined as, uh, with the agency and off we go, we were the three of us, like doing our agency.

And we had the perfect mix of, as I said earlier, like tech design and business. And so we. On the side. We, um, lounge a lot of products because we’ve always wanted to create a lot of a product based business. And I think a lot of folks listening, one something similar and well put it bluntly. Like we failed a lot.

And to the point where the, the agency was about to go under. We couldn’t focus on two businesses like this for, for too long. Right. So we need

[00:17:01] Joe Howard: different products. Do you think you, you experimented with

[00:17:04] Gary Gaspar: w uh, the three of us in this agency setting probably like four or five really legit things that we tried and, you know, build out for month.

[00:17:14] Joe Howard: And so a lot of things to try put all your effort into yeah.

[00:17:18] Gary Gaspar: Exactly. Exactly. And then one day we’re really close to, you know, go out of business. And we just said, Hey, you know, whatever is our next big idea. Cause we always had like big ideas. It needs to be something we are going to use ourselves and it needs to have like a prototype and two or three weeks tops.

We won’t be spending too much time on this anymore. And so, you know, one day I was doing a, where we build a huge web app for, uh, one of our co of our clients at the time. And I was doing a lot of QA testing and bug reporting, and this whole process seemed completely broken to me. I had to cut it, take screenshot, copy paste it.

And then when I had to collect feedback from client was a big mess. And so recreate like at the very beginning was a browser extension. You click take a screenshot. And then that was sent into like a Trello board and there was nothing else, much to it. And, um, yeah, we put it live and then did a little bit of push here and there.

And soon enough, we had our first beta customer and that was like a revolution for us, you know? Cause you know, you might sign, you know, 30, 40 K contract in service, but then you get five bucks for a monthly subscription on product. And uh, all of a sudden you like superpower. And, um, and so yeah, we, we thought that maybe we might have something there.

And then, uh, we obviously didn’t want to drop the entire business, uh, existing business. So we worked at it for a little while longer and when we felt like, uh, Mr was growing. To a point where we could dedicate a bit more to it. We were not yet able to go full-time on it. Cause you know, Mr takes a while to build up.

And so what we did is one of the team member was almost in charge of managing the agencies. And then the other two were out building a Marco IO and that period of time lasted for about a year or so, maybe it was really tough. That was a really tough period because we’re not on the same, you know, not on the same band. Then, you

[00:19:31] Joe Howard: know, we’re, we’re, some of you are working full time and one person working more on agency stuff, it’s kind of a different way to be able to split, you know, your attention. If you’re a one person you could maybe like, you know, do your daytime work and a full-time job and doing the nighttime and other, but it’s also possible to do with three people, just maybe one or two are working full-time on a new project and one is working for them.

And the old it does make that communication.

[00:19:54] Gary Gaspar: Yeah. And especially in terms of like the energy and the flow, cause you come up with all these exciting creative ideas. And then you’ll go fundraise like men. Like I got to manage this clan right now. I can’t have my head in there, uh, at this, at this time. So, uh, it was tough, but eventually we were able to get to a point financially with Marco IO, where we could shut down the business.

It took us about six months because you know, you always have the, your existing clients that you just don’t want to throw out the door and then transitioning into the product business.

[00:20:25] Joe Howard: Yeah. Do you remember what about those MRR points were. When maybe one, when you decided like one or two of us are going to go full time on it.

And we were able to do that financially. And then do you remember the MRR point where you were like, fuck it, we’re all doing it. Let’s go to build this business together, everybody full-time. Um, yeah, I wouldn’t worry about it. And your point because it’s maybe doing some annual pricing too.

[00:20:50] Gary Gaspar: Yeah. I would definitely say that there, the idea of having part of the team working on the project and the other one in the agency, It wasn’t much of a financial metric that led us to do that.

It was more of a leap of faith of like men. We have something here. Okay. And, um, so it was more, yeah. Just wanting to do it this way and then just completely shutting down the agency. I would say maybe around 10 K uh, well, maybe even before that, probably even a little bit before, I dunno, 10 K, but we are a small company anyway, so, you know,

[00:21:27] Joe Howard: Yeah with, I think it’s probably that number to push everyone to full-time it’s probably a little bit different than with three co-founders as it is, as it was like WP buffs.

And I was one co-founder, but I, it was around 10 K MRR when I went full time on it, just as one person. So it’s funny how I think different, you know, not, I think different people have different risk tolerances. So three people may say like 10 K let’s do it. And. Your salary may not be, or whatever you’re paying yourself from that may not be as high, but you may be able to, you know, you may not want to work that full-time job anymore.

You may have been more confident in the business model than I was at that point. You know, if you had, if you’re at a a hundred dollars MRR, if you’re confident in it, you know that it’s going to grow and that’s okay to jump into it then as well. So, you know, but we have in the WPR community, we’ve, I’ve created that 10 K goal space because I think every business is different.

Obviously that’s true, but in general, if you can like have this like milestone of 10 K monthly recurring revenue, like you should be pretty comfortable going and doing that full time and paying yourself a fairly livable salary maybe for in like that one time. It’s the most expensive places, you know, in the, uh, in the world, it might be tougher, but 10 K is really good.

Mark. If you can get there, I think you can, you can most likely go full-time in most contexts. So it sounds like that was the point where you said, all right, we’re going for.

[00:22:53] Gary Gaspar: But you’re totally right. Like the context and your risk tolerance is a big factor. Cause we’re pretty young back then. And so we didn’t have to pay ourselves.

We just had to pay ourselves like enough to get by. And for us, you know, it was just like, let’s do it. We’re I dunno when we completely shut the agency where maybe 26, 27, something like that. I can’t remember exactly, but we’re still in that, um, yeah, that mood of where we wanted to, to, to build something and.

Yeah, I would say we’re starting to make like a decent living maybe a year or two ago only, you know? So for it’s been, it’s been like a grind.

[00:23:33] Joe Howard: I feel you, man. I, I’m not gonna lie. There are lots of benefits to being the majority owner of a business that does about a million and a half dollars. I’m not gonna argue that, but I, I kept my S I’ve kept my S my salary is still low.

My, like, my salary is probably still below the average of what, like a C-suite employee is as, is a lot of team members for a lot of smaller businesses. Yeah. Positions for smaller businesses, but, um, I’m feel very similarly. Like I know I never paid myself that much. I almost always paid myself enough to get by maybe a little bit more than that.

Some points, you know, maybe if I wanted to, you know, get myself a little, you know, a little, couple thousand dollar bonus here and there to do something special for my family or something. Yeah. Maybe I do that, but my salary. Even today. It’s like, it’s not very high because I I’ve I’ve I found that. And maybe you would, you may agree with this, that.

I can live pretty simply and be fairly happy with a pretty modest salary and the value of having ownership over a company, uh, or ownership of a company has its benefits too. So it’s kind of like, no matter whether your money is. Putting being put back into the business or it’s part of your salary.

Sometimes it’s actually an often, it’s probably better to put that back into the business because it’s the biggest, um, asset you probably own. Uh, maybe I’m making an assumption there for some people, but maybe for me, it’s a biggest asset they own. It’s also the biggest thing I can most easily grow. So why not keep the money there and pay myself a low salary?

So I think it has multiple benefits. So I don’t know. Yeah.

[00:25:17] Gary Gaspar: I feel like I’m at church now. Cause everything is talking about it sounds exactly right to me. And I mean, you know, as I said, uh, after I, I S I finished university, you know, I had a pretty corporate traditional job. And then after two years, I quit to do my own thing.

But then all your friends that you were at university with, they’re, you know, starting to get better cars and better salaries and fence here, things here and there. And so it was a bit of a, you know, at first I was like, But now I really, it really resonates with me what you said about living simply because it’s really about what you decide to prioritize financially speaking.

And for me, it’s just, you know, I don’t buy a lot of clothes. I don’t, for me, it’s just maybe, you know, going to rest or going out, restaurant, friends, uh, and traveling. But then again, now I’m also traveling while working, so, and then that’s, that’s. That’s good.

[00:26:11] Joe Howard: Yeah. Yeah, that’s probably pretty similar to me. It’s like, I do a good amount of traveling, but like people know who are listeners. Like I lived in DC for a long time in DC right now, DC is really fucking expensive. Like it’s way cheaper to be traveling almost anywhere else in the world than it is, like live in DC. So I’ve actually, we’ve made a lot of changes recently to actually like minimize our financial need and stuff.

And it’s in a lot of cases makes life way better. So, okay. I also want to. Dive a little bit into, like, I want to have an, a marker that IO now status what’s going on right now. Uh, you have six people, six ish people on the team now. So you’ve, I guess deviled, since the three co-founders came together and hired a few more people.

Um, what’s going on with the business now? Like what are your big goals moving forward? Uh, I don’t know, maybe the next like six months. What plans do you have?

[00:27:10] Gary Gaspar: Right. So. We, it took us quite a while to find that product market fit and that right positioning and that right message that really worked with people.

But I think we, we got to a point about a year ago where we hit that. So now we really focus where we we’ve worked from the, from the bottom up. So product. Now we’ve added a lot. We put a lot of effort into customer success, uh, support, uh, product marketing website, and we’ve actually hired, uh, another Joe on the team to actually handle that on the business.

[00:27:49] Joe Howard: And, um, he must be good. He must be awesome. Exactly.

[00:27:55] Gary Gaspar: He’s super nice. He’s Irish. So like he has the best personality, but yeah. Anyway, um, and so product is really good now, customer success support. And now we’re starting to add that extra layer of pure acquisition. Obviously we’re growing and we have stubs that are working.

SEO is working really well for us. Um, integration, marketing as very, very good as well. And now we’re, uh, thinking about, okay, how can we, you know, grow the double the AR in a year or something like that. And that’s really going to be more focused on like pure acquisition play.

[00:28:33] Joe Howard: Cool. One thing you just said, I would love to rewind to talk more about, because. A lot of we’re doing this WP MRR virtual summit coming up. And from our 2020 summit, one of the biggest things people asked about was customer acquisition. It was how do I get customers in the door? I think a big advantage of subscription revenue is you don’t just have to, like the only growth you focus on is not just getting new customers.

You can reduce churn to grow. You can upsell people with new features so that they have a higher lifetime value. That’s another growth trigger, and it’s not just new customers, but a lot of people do still struggle with getting that, you know, to get monthly recurring revenue, you have to get someone to swipe their credit card once.

So the first time they have to give you their credit card. So the thing you touched on was integration marketing, which is a topic that I’m like, oh, I want to talk about that. I don’t think we’ve ever specifically talked about that on the podcast before. I love this idea too. I think it’s in some cases, a little more SAS than it is services, but I think that for WordPress plugins, there’s like the WordPress plugin repository, you know, for services company.

There’s like, you know, if you’re an agency or a care plan company, a website management company, you can be listed and like other companies directory so that people can find you. So it doesn’t just apply to product companies. You mentioned that. And I feel like there’s a really good amount of marketing you can do, based on all those integrations I saw in your top menu.

Like all those companies you integrate with, you can contact them, you can talk with them. Hey, how can we work together? What can we, how can we benefit what we do beneficial for your folks? Like maybe we could get listed here or something, you know, there are a bunch of different ways, but I’d love to hear a little bit more about how maybe you, maybe your marketing person are tackling that.

[00:30:24] Gary Gaspar: Yeah. So it’s almost in our DNA of the product because we’ve built this entire Marco product with integrations in mind. Because as I said earlier, we’re using Trello. And so it’s almost as an add on to Trello. And then, uh, as we went on, we, I, we started adding more integration. And so, yeah, I actually, every time we, uh, uh, launched a new integration, I reach out to the folks over there.

Uh, and then some people are really nice. We want to help them, uh, you know, help us. Grow their ecosystem because to them, it’s also a win-win because the more tools they’re going to use that plug into the project management system, the more people are going to be lucked into the experience. Right. So they really want to help you, you know, make their app better in a way.

And so some people are really nice and really helpful. And obviously we do the basic of being listed, uh, in their marketplace when they have one. And when you think about it, like, okay, it’s maybe more of a product thing than a service thing, but when you think about it, what it is at the end of the day, it’s just.

Being where your customers are. And for us, our customers are Trello customers, JIRA customers get hub customers. And we just want to say, Hey, you’re in this world. And you think about these kinds of problems. Like we’re a good tool for that. And so it’s also a good way to, to, to think about this. And what we’re trying to do now is also develop partnership with partners where.

We can. Now we’ve one of our partners is teamwork.com. It’s a project management tool and we’ve recently did a, oh, there, there you go. Well, they’re one of the very, uh, super supportive partners and we actually did a co-hosted webinar with them. So we put together a webinar with me and someone on their team.

And then we just emailed a database and say, Hey, teamwork customers, uh, Are you looking to improve your, your QA testing and your client feedback process on your website? We’ve put together a webinar. And so it’s really about exchanging this audience, these audiences, and, uh, yeah, just having a very on point methods and with very strong intention,

[00:32:35] Joe Howard: I really liked what you said about yeah. Making sure that the integration partners you work the most closely with, and probably any partnership working the most closely closely with, you want to make sure that their customers are the kind of customers that are going to be good target customers for you, which I think a lot of people may not think about first and foremost or at all, because a lot of people will be like, I want to work with someone.

Oh, it’s like a big company. Or like they have a good brand name or. They have a high domain authority and like getting a link back from that site would be good, but like none of that’s really like top priority value. Like the most valuable thing is like getting in front of an audience that are like high quality potential customers for you.

So if that’s Timor customers, that’s great. You’re going to enjoy a webinar. You provide a ton of value and then you see the conversion probably higher because oh yeah. People use teams. Well, there’s probably a bunch of agencies out there who are using teamwork and have challenges, like getting that QA information, gathering it, getting it into teamwork, organizing it in teamwork.

We have that. It really easily becomes unorganized if you don’t stay on top of things. So like, if you can solve those pain points for people, like I bet a ton of people have those and teamwork is probably not going to solve all of those challenges, especially if it’s like a little bit outside of their scope, right.

So you can come in and be a solid partner. You take care of challenges for teamwork. Not going to take care of, or that they just don’t want to, it’s not in their wheelhouse and you serve their clients in a way that will probably benefit teamwork as well. And of course it benefits the clients who are working with you.

So I think that that’s a good way to think about when you, when you have, you know, 20 choices of who you want to really, you know, dedicate time and energy to a relationship. Like better to pick five that are going to be really, really, really good fits then to try and do 50 who you’re just going to like kind of throw spaghetti at the wall and see what fits, not that that doesn’t have a benefit at some point, but when it comes to your time and your energy, at some point you have to like double down on what’s working and toss, what’s not working.

And yeah, once

[00:34:43] Gary Gaspar: you can do that. I have a funny anecdote on this is at the beginning. Since we have a browser extension, we also had a free plan. Funny enough, we used to have a lot more traffic than we do now on our website, because originally, and that’s by design because originally we’re trying to push this smart screenshot tool, uh, and with a free plan.

And so a lot of people are looking for like a nice little screenshot tool, but then not only did it not convert in the backend. The conversation you were having in support with like a man, this is not at all what we’re trying to build here. And so we’re just attracting a bunch of people that we didn’t want to eventually do business with.

And so we actually changed our positioning. We actually gated some stuff to make it a bit, to introduce a bit more friction to really make you feel like you’re motivated to go through the process. And like, obviously all our conversion rates went up because. The traffic went down, conversions, which went up and bottom line also went up.

So it’s yeah, sometimes you think about, you know, traffic, traffic, traffic, but what you’re really looking is for customers, as you correctly said, and you want to go to the places where those customers hang out and not just hang out in the state of mind that, you know, you want them to be in. If you’re a teamwork and you’re struggling to get client feedback.

Then you in this state of mind, but if, you know, maybe when one, you, once you’re on Facebook and you might have that problem, but that intent is not there at this moment. So the channel fit doesn’t quite work. And so, yeah. Integration, marketing. I love it. It’s it’s it’s been really cool.

[00:36:20] Joe Howard: Yeah. Cool, man. Okay. So. SEO working for you, doing some SEO, investing in content, driving targeted traffic, through search engines, getting folks to, you know, maybe start that free trial, uh, or two. Have other KPIs, I don’t know, download an ebook, join email lists. There’s some, a million of those. So that’s one integration.

Marketing is a second. I’d be interested to ask about more, a little bit more about customer acquisition channels, because I found like WP buffs. We grew from. Early on pretty quickly. And that really quickly grew to be like, it drove like 90% of traffic to the website and like 90% of lead generation and 90% of new customers.

Um, since then we have, because we were so invested in SEO or so such a significant percentage of driven revenue came from SEO. It was like, Ooh, like we actually have to diversify this now because if Google penalizes us one, Then what we’re kind of screwed in terms of driving new revenue to the co to the company.

So we’ve kind of moved into this affiliate track as well. Now that’s our kind of second biggest driver and we’ve started to experiment a few other customer acquisition channels. So I’m interested to hear. What you’re up to an hour. Do you feel like you’re still at the point where SEO and integration marketing are like, those are your two things for now.

They’re doing awesome. You know, there’s a pretty good split between them. And there’s still a long way to go in terms of like low hanging fruit in terms a lot of that. So we’re just going to keep focusing on that. Or are you at this point where maybe it’s time to experiment with a couple other things?

[00:38:02] Gary Gaspar: Right. So the way we think about it is if it works, keep doing it because up until you reach that point where you have diminishing returns, you should go ahead and do it. So integration, marketing, we always going to do it. SEO. We always got to invest in it, but it’s true. And the timing of your question is perfect.

Cause these are the things that we’re. Thinking about like me being on this podcast, you know, it’s actually the first time I’m doing a podcast and, um, you know, it’s a channel that I’m experimenting with and it’s, and, and it’s fun and you get to learn as well. And you know, you in the WordPress community.

So I almost approached it the same way. I approach it with my integration partners. I’m like, okay, we just released that WordPress plugin. Let’s go and dive into this WordPress world. Obviously your name came up pretty fast. A few other people out there. And I was like me. I need to build relationship with, with these folks and expose my message to this audience that is in the right state of mind.

So, you know, a little bit of a community, uh, being more, uh, you know, um, uh, more active in communities. That’s something we’re playing, uh, with, with a little bit, um, paid acquisition is something where investing as we speak, we’re looking for profitable channels as we speak. So. Still a lot of experimenting, a lot of, uh, doesn’t always work, but some, we have some early promising results, so we’ll, uh, we’ll keep investing in that. So yeah,

[00:39:32] Joe Howard: Paid acquisition is tough. It’s a, you have to have a pretty good budget for paid acquisition. Because so much of it doesn’t work or so much of it doesn’t get you that positive ROI, but you can’t just like start off and like find 10 paid tricks that work, right. You have to like try 110 of them will work and you’ll probably waste your money on 90 of them.

So, but you that’s the investment you have to make to eventually. Paid advertising work in the long-term, maybe people I’m sure there are exceptions out there. Right. And I’m, some people may disagree with me like, oh, I was easy for me. But I think from what I’ve heard from the experiences, I’ve heard of a lot of people that that will be the exception.

Most people have to. Spend money just to fail in certain places in order to like really find that paid channel, if it even exists, that’s going to work for them. Um, so that’s definitely a challenge, I think at some point worthwhile for every, um, company to experiment with, because you don’t really know how successful it’s going to be until you.

Um, we don’t do a lot of paid acquisition, which may change in the future, but we haven’t done it in the past, mostly because I just don’t want to like directly pay those companies. I’m like, fuck Facebook. I’m not paying you money. That’s honestly like my opinion. So like we don’t do Facebook ads, but like maybe they’re super effective for us.

And I have no idea. Right. As you grow, some things may change. Um, and the podcasting, like going on like podcast tours or like being on podcasts, get in front of audiences. I think there’s a lot of benefit to it. I’ve been experimenting with ways to try and like make this podcast a little bit more. Like, how can I provide more value for like my guests?

Like how do I get more folks listening to like everyone listening, go to marker.io? You know, I can say that on the podcast. Okay. I want to put it in show notes too, so people can easily click to it. Like I’m building out this community. So we actually have like a place to hang out because if people hear about this on the podcast, they might check it out.

But like, if they’re interacting in this like circle community and like we’re working on stuff and people see a marker that IO. The cool, like awesome animations and guests you have on all your, like, you know, integration pages. They see that like, oh, this looks cool. I heard about it on the podcast. It’s also here in the community.

Maybe I want to go check it out. And I think that helps even more. So podcasts are this, how well do they really convert? I don’t know, but I think like paired with other things, they can be pretty powerful.

[00:41:58] Gary Gaspar: Exactly. It’s more of like a branding branding play. You want to get your name out there? You want people to start, you know, maybe it’s six months down the road, they hear Marketo dyo somewhere or something.

And it’s, you know, cause sometimes I think, cause I think I try to think a lot about these things and I’m thinking about the products that, you know, startups use every day. Right? So like Figma for designers and, and, and I’m always thinking like, how the hell did I. Start knowing about the tool or Intercom or, you know, and there’s, I’m always trying to go back to that moment when I first heard about them.

And it’s rarely because I purely did an SEO search, you know, maybe SEO kind of compliments with it and, uh, and use your, and your bait ads can become more effective down the road. If, you know, the, they recognize the brand name. Cause like, you know, you might be more willing to click on something you you’re recognizing.

So I’m not putting all my, my eggs in the same basket and thinking, you know, we should do like podcasting is the new thing is the new child, but it’s more like, And I think it’s fun, you know, it’s, it doesn’t feel like, like work too much. It’s just like two buddies just chatting a little bit. So that’s fun.

And, uh, yeah, but you’re right. That marketing channels, there are million marketing channels and it’s useless to try to do, like, what does the mall, like? You should at least develop an hypothesis for which one sort of makes sense for you to, to try and then try them because whatever you’re going to do, like it’s going to take.

10 times more, uh, more time that than you would have thought originally. So, you know, let’s do SEO. Yeah. But let’s do SEO. Anyone can crank out a 500 word blog posts, but can you really do SEO? Like it really takes a lot of, you know, research just strategy on page optimization flow. Yeah. It’s a lot of things.

[00:43:54] Joe Howard: Totally agree. I, I think probably 99% of businesses. You look at 99% of definitely small business, smaller businesses, small to medium sized businesses. They don’t have a hundred acquisition channels that work for them. They have like one power, one, and like maybe one or two other ones that are pretty good.

And that can drive you to be a seven figure a year business that can probably drive you to be an eight figure a year business, I think like right around when we hit a million, like a million dollars a year. So we started to like, okay, like we have to like diversify this a little bit. We’re similar to you, like still investing pretty heavily in those things that have been, that have worked well for us and that haven’t plateaued yet.

So I think that’s a good way to think about it. I like the feature on your website where you can actually just like try marco.io. Like it’s right on the side of the, you know, your websites. You can like give feedback, like you use marker IO for marker.io. And it’s clear the product is, is a solid. And I liked that that’s been your priority.

And I think that like early on WP buffs, like my background was more in like marketing and SEO and I, a little bit of sales knowledge because I was doing sales calls. Not because I particularly like sales calls, but I, I was pretty good at them because I was the founder of the company. So like I could talk to people about why it’s a good company, but why we do is important, but the.

A lot of people saw a lot about us pretty early on, because I was like appearing on a ton of podcasts or try my best to, you know, and I was like writing a lot of content on the website and guest posting on other sites and trying to like maybe sponsor some WordPress events and people just like saw WP buffs around a lot and for better, or for worse.

Don’t get me wrong. In some cases it’s definitely worse. But when people see something, a lot of times they just like, kind of gets into their head a little bit and I would go to word camps and people would be like the first word camp I went to with my like WW. T-shirt no one knew who we were, but like after two years people were like, I see you everywhere.

Like, how do, why do I see you everywhere? Like, that’s crazy. Like you’re doing something right. And it was just kinda like, that’s all it was, it was just kind of. Grinded it out a little bit. It’s like be seen in a lot of places and that creates this positive connotation. Like if I, if people have seen me in a lot of places, then they, they must be a pretty good car.

They must be a pretty good company. Right. You know, I think we’re pretty good company and we do a lot of things, right. And of course we have some challenges like every company, but, and so of course you always want to be product first and run a good company, but there’s definitely something to be said about like, people heard you on this podcast and then the next time they see you, they’re already going to have a positive connotation.

And that is, it’s like the, it’s like an SEO terms. It’s like the long tail of like potential customers. It’s right. Some people are going to see you once and like go and start a free trial. But it’s probably like, not most people, like most people are going to need a warm up to you. And so how do you get that?

Like long tail engine going podcast appearances might be a good way to do that. So people who heard you today, man, And that being market IO customers in three months or six months, or, you know, 24 months, but they heard it here and that’s what, like, kind of drove them. So who knows, maybe that’s how it works.

[00:47:01] Gary Gaspar: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You never know. And I think if you can manage to invest a little bit of both, you know, it’s not like, should we do SEO? Should we do community and brands? The way I think about it is like SEO and integration. Marketing works. Let’s spend 80% of our resources in there. And then for the remaining 20%, let’s try something else, you know, and let’s experiment a few things here and there and see, see what’s, what’s working.

And it’s also, uh, why I’m trying to build a team. We just hired, uh, Joe, as I said earlier, is, you know, so he can start taking some of the load of my, of my work that is more focused on product marketing and blog posts that are purely product newsletters, all these things that take time and it’s time that you don’t spend being out there and getting your message out there.

So it’s also about, you know, The older people that you hire, you try to hire them to, you know, do a job that you were doing before, because that’s also, but we might talk for this for 20 minutes, but when you hire for people that you hope are going to solve, the problem that you have for us and never worked out.

Cause I, at some point we’re like, you know, sales. Uh, you know, our problem is sales, you know, uh, we’re bad at sales. If only we could have a sales guy and then it’s very easy to make sense, you draw the economics and you’re like, yeah, we’ve just, we paid them. We can pay them a million, a million bucks, a million a year, you know, if they bring us 2 million.

So it’s a very easy argument to be made, but we have no experience in sales and that didn’t work out. And it’s just not because we didn’t hire. Personal or anything like that is because we hadn’t built internally. The machine that helped us be successful, a full edit. And that’s why now when we hiring people, we try to hire for people that are going to pick up some of the workload they were doing before. And, um,

[00:48:56] Joe Howard: Yeah, I know we said we were going to keep this to about 45 minutes, but do you have like five or 10 more minutes to talk a little bit?

[00:49:01] Gary Gaspar: I’m good.

[00:49:02] Joe Howard: Cool. A lot of people are always asking questions about that. People who have mostly reached that 10 K MRR mark and are looking to see, like, how am I going to become a million dollar business?

Or maybe they don’t even have that goal. They just know that they want to grow a business. That’s going to be a little less stressful than that. Like pushed to 10 K, which is like, I’m doing a little bit of everything. How do I. Continue to grow the company without growing my own stress and growing my own, like what’s on my plate.

And I would love to hear a little bit about. The successful hires you’ve made. And maybe like some of the things you look back and you said, I guess either, like, why were they successful or maybe in that sales case, why wasn’t it a successful? I think you explained that one. So I was kind of shifting more towards, okay.

This hires you’ve made, who have been great to have really worked for your company. Um, what process did you go through to find those people, to interview those people? To onboard those people? I think those are kind of three. Big pieces of it. And I’d love to hear kind of what a small company has done to go from three successful, a team, a successful team of three to a successful team of six.

[00:50:12] Gary Gaspar: Yeah. I mean, I’m not going to lie. A lot of luck was involved like our first developer. Uh, it was just a guy we met at a party here. Like we’re just chit chatting and then it’s like, we just got along so well then did a second meeting and then. We just say, Hey, he had the job. Like he, wasn’t thinking about changing job and the fit was really there and he’s just like, let’s just give it a shot and then joined the team.

And he’s been there for more than two years.

[00:50:40] Joe Howard: Oh, tell me a little bit about that fit. Cause I think like you say, it was kind of lucky and I think, yeah, there’s definitely some aspect of luck there, but I was talking to someone on the WP MRR community about like creating your own luck. And I want to hear about.

That a little bit of time you first spent together at that party or whatever, was it like almost this like magical moment of like, wow, this guy. What if we like work together on this thing and it was like, oh my God, like we’re, it was kind of like two things coming together that just like fit like a puzzle piece sometimes, you know, that happens.

And, you know, maybe like, why were you at that? But like, was there something that pulls you to that party that made you meet that person? Like, I don’t know. I’d love to, I feel like.

[00:51:21] Gary Gaspar: It was pure chance. It was really good chance that it wasn’t even, it was my, my co-founder was at that party. And, uh, it was just like going to a friend’s party.

And then obviously there were a lot of people. He didn’t notice he started chatting. Hey, what do you do for a living? Yeah, I started my own startup Marco dial. We do this and this and this. What about you? I’m a software developer. I work at a, an agency and then we’re like, man, like we build software for agency.

We trying to build, you know, uh, our development team. He was like very attracted by our program, the programming language that we use. And so it was. Like that fit right. Of the band. And that was when my co-founder, uh, came back to the office the following weeks, like, man, I met someone he’s like perfect fit.

Like the energy’s like, so like on so many levels, I say, man, I need to meet that guy. Uh, we met a second time and I can feel that there was really a good, a good match. And then. Yeah, it took a little bit of nudging to make because he wasn’t looking to change jobs. So

[00:52:27] Joe Howard: it was a lot time I was going to ask about, because there’s, there’s this some form of like, whether you call it recruitment or it’s just like, someone’s working in a full-time job and they’re going to come and.

Work a full-time job at like, potentially like a less stable company that was going to be as the first employee, nonetheless. So there’s obviously some huge benefits to that. And, and like, it’s a huge adventure to be the first employee at a company. Like, to me, I’m like, wait, that sounds like total fun. For everybody maybe.

So I’d be interested to maybe hear was the, your first hire that developer, were they happy at their job? Was it like a real job to convince them? Or did you feel like they were always kind of a little bit drawn towards like, uh, they’re going to need a little pull in, but eventually they’re gonna, they’re gonna.

[00:53:16] Gary Gaspar: Yeah, I wouldn’t be able to speak for him, but at least the way I felt it was like, you know, I, I sort of like, he liked his job, but more so than other than something else, he liked the situation. He had just moved to a new place next to his job. It was very easy to walk. He had a lot of colleagues, it was very social, but then I think our pitch.

Ex got him excited. And the business pitch got him excited, but also the technical pitch. So it was very low key, the way we recruited. And when we say, Hey, you know what? Come to the office Friday afternoon, we’ll have a beer, we’ll spend an hour showing you a little bit of our code and how we do things in there.

And he, because he’s a very curious and interested person, he just likes. Got so excited by it was seeing because as, uh, as it was working in an agency was a lot of, you know, new projects, beginning, middle, and next project, next project, next project. And when you working in the software business, you’re always working on that one same product.

So if you want to geek out on like some cool animation for a day, That’s kind of makes it’s worth it because it’s gotten to be great, better UX and better UI for customers that are going to be using. But if you work in an agency, sometimes you don’t always have that opportunity to, to give yourself the chance to geek out on things that you want to make better.

So he was really excited on so many levels and obviously, you know, we’re good. We’re good. In men, the rest of our team, a lot of, you know, other freedom, creative freedom, a lot of we don’t set hours. It’s a lot of, you know, we just have this framework where we do weekly goals. This is by the end of the day, by the end of the week where we want to be at, in terms of my stones, we discussed that as a team and then off everyone goes and they’re just do what they have.

[00:55:07] Joe Howard: Cool man. Uh, Gary, thanks. Being on the pod, man. It was really cool talking to you. We gotta talk, we gotta talk about a whole, a whole bunch of stuff. And it was all really informative and really cool hearing about yeah. The company, how it started, where it’s going, all that stuff. So, uh, let’s start to wrap up, but before we do, I want to make sure folks can find you online.

So where can they go to find marker? Where can they go to find you social media, all that jazz.

[00:55:33] Gary Gaspar: Right? So. Marketed IO, very simple. A website address. Uh, same thing on, on, uh, Twitter. And my handle on Twitter is Gary gas bar in one word. And I’m also a bit active on link.

[00:55:50] Joe Howard: Cool. Yeah. Folks go to marker.io. Just hit up that integration tab at the top. If you’re a WordPress professional, like you’re clearly using one, two, maybe three of these. So if you’re having any challenges with customer feedback, getting client feedback, like just make it easy, like give the, and you have a free trial, right Gary, so exactly right for free trial. Go for it. So I think that’s a good solution for a lot of folks.

Um, cool. Last but not least, I always like to ask you our guests to ask our audience for a little apple podcasts review. So if you wouldn’t mind asking folks that appreciate it.

[00:56:23] Gary Gaspar: Yeah. I mean, uh, go ahead and give five stars review for sure.

[00:56:29] Joe Howard: Cool man. Thanks. If you, uh, go to WP mrr.com forward slash review, redirect you right there.

If you are on an apple device or a Mac, uh, leave a star rating, feel free to leave a comment. If you liked this episode, you learned something from Gary. You learned something from me, make sure you leave it in the comments so I can send Gary A. Little screenshots and Gary, a screenshot in Margaret iOS and let them know and give them a thanks for us.

So WP. M R R a.com forward slash podcast. If you want to, uh, go and listen to an older episode, binge some older episodes, we’ve got almost 160, I think, or so episodes in the hopper. So go ahead and search for something you’re having a challenge with, uh, we’ve got a search bar right there. Uh, you can find and listen to some older episodes at your leisure.

Uh, WP MRR community. Uh, if you to Gary idle, I can’t remember if you said you wanted to do an AMA or not, but I’m asking, I guess I’m asking now you have any interest in doing, uh, an ask me anything in the community.

[00:57:31] Gary Gaspar: Yeah, for sure. I’d love to. Yeah, for sure. Let’s do it.

[00:57:34] Joe Howard: Do it, do it live so, okay. Uh, Gary, we’ll be doing an AMA.

In the community, the timing as it might a little up in the air, usually I like to do it when these episodes go live, Gary, but this may be a wreck go live around the time when the summit is Tom still figuring out some scheduling stuff, but some point you’ll do an AMA in there and, or. WP MRR summit is now in the next week.

And the next two weeks, I don’t know exactly when it’s going to go live, but that’s coming up soon. So that’s the last thing I touch on is just virtual summit. Um, all of that community AMS virtual summit, you can find a community doc WP, mrr.com. Um, you can also just go to WP mrr.com with a little icon in the bottom, right.

That opens up that community for you. So nice. And. Easy. Cool. That is it. For this week on the podcast, we will be in your earbuds again next Tuesday, Gary. Thanks again for being on man. It’s been real.

[00:58:29] Gary Gaspar: Thanks a lot, Joe. It was a pleasure.

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