The Long Game

I was sitting in the Barcelona airport after a week-long offsite with Clickbank, the company we partnered with to deliver Clickbank Powered (the equivalent of mixing Squarespace, AWeber and E-Junkie into one).

Need more airports with open areas post-security.

While sitting in the food court and waiting for our respective flights, Eric (Director of Marketing at Clickbank) and I were chatting about side projects. The convo went along the lines of:

Me – I’d like to write a book on customizing the WordPress admin.

Eric – How much would you sell it for?

Me – Don’t know, probably $5 – $10

Eric – That’s pretty low, what is it actually worth to someone?

Me – I’d say a $100 or so, but I guess that’s not what I’m looking for, I’m in it for the long game.

To my surprise, that was the first time I had used that phrase to describe my activities, and in a reflex-like manner nonetheless. I put the thought aside and we continued chatting.

Their flight left well before mine so I accompanied them to their gate, said our goodbyes and proceeded to hunt down an electricity socket to start trimming down my inbox. Yet, the fact I used the term the long game got me thinking.

The Default

Before continuing, it’s probably important to establish what constitutes “normal game”. That can probably best be described as a career where you’re locked into a monthly salary, getting the occasional raise or bonus along the way. It’s a rat race with few winners. I’d represent it as such:

Default State

The only things that remotely resemble the long game, constitute of some additional training and maybe that yearly conference (don’t forget to bring your business cards). Oh but wait… there’s a hiring freeze, so all that shit just got cancelled.

The Long Game

So there I was waiting for my flight, pondering about this label I had just given myself. What did it mean and how did I define it? I came up with a basic definition:

You engage in the long game when you price a product or service at anything less than its worth, in hopes that it will bring you more value down the road (even from completely different buyers).

This begs the next question, where does that difference between the retail price and real value go? If done correctly, right into your personal brand and reputation. For a lack of a better term, this karma is your ticket to larger opportunities. You’re essentially paying it forward. Time for another chart:

The Long Game

Whilst you’re spending a lot of time investing in your brand and yourself, you’re obviously making less cash, duh. But those bursts of income, that’s where the sweet taste of victory comes into play. Said differently, every long game requires an endgame, a moment of “cashing out” (realistically speaking, it’s more likely to be multiple smaller endgames).

So coming back to the initial discussion with Eric, what was my long game with the book?

It certainly wasn’t an immediate monetary gain, the only reason I’d price it is to run another experiment and once again learn something new in the process. Customizing WordPress is also a process, one that Human Made and I are starting to understand and execute extremely well. Thus, the long game here can be described as receiving further opportunities to work on sizable SaaS projects, our brand and reputation adding credibility to our demands.

Applying it

To call it purely a strategy is misleading. I think there are certainly fragments of planning that (should) go into it, but ultimately it comes down to attitude. For myself, I think it’s the overarching desire of owning scalable revenue streams and having the ability to choose what’s next, regardless of the where, what and how. Having done the corporate circuit, it’s tempting to play the same game and apply the same models. I could be a successful freelancer working X hours per day with clients that pay me Y rates, but that’s just the same hustle without a suit. I’m in it for the long game.

Rethinking our Onboarding Checklist

When we first launched happytables, one of the things we did well was create a series of tasks for the user to complete, commonly known as the checklist. This is what it looked like:

Onboarding Checklist

It was linear and long, thus easy to read yet hard to add anything else on that page. With happytables 2.0, we needed to replicate the concept of this feature, but maybe try to optimize it a bit in the process. So I spent a part of yesterday coming up with a simple checklist that now looks like this:

Onboarding Checklist

I’m really happy with the result as it does a few things now:

  • Only shows 3 items at a time (if you’ve only completed 1 or 2 items, it will still show you the completed “Sign up” task and checkmark)
  • It’s ordered in terms of what we consider the priorities (will likely change, will share results in my newsletter)
  • It very clearly demonstrates your progress visually (and also a bit differently then the stereotypical progress bar, using chartjs)
  • Most importantly, it saves on real estate.

This did however mean that we had a chart and checklist above another set of charts and statistics (“Website Statistics”). In order to not overwhelm the user, I also added a task there, reducing the visual clutter quite a bit:

On-boarding Checklist

This also makes sense as the user won’t have any real data till the site is getting traffic. We’ve also had users do a simple redirect to the subdomain which is not the correct way of connecting a domain to happytables (a CNAME is). So in addition to creating better focus visually, it has the added bonus of acting as a check when a domain is set incorrectly.

Final result:

Interface Onboarding

What do you think? Time (and metrics to an extent) will tell. I’ll share some of the MixPanel stats over  my newsletter soon so that you can see the impact of these changes.

Landing Page Redesign Thoughts

During our retreat out in Lanzarote (pic & pic), we were able to hammer out the new happytables beta. In the process, I quickly threw together a new landing page. It certainly wasn’t complete, but in the interest of shipping, I spent some of the early hours working on it. I finally had a chance to review the copy, mostly motivated by Nathan Barry’s post, in particular this part:

This time I turned to Google Docs and wrote in plain text. By getting design out of the way I was left to focus on convincing the visitor with content, rather than getting caught up in the design.

The comment resonated well with me as I often let the design guide the text (which is a horrible idea and a bad reflex). Starting with a blank doc however took care of that problem in one swoop. I’m quite happy with the result so far, 21% of viewers click through to the sign up form. More comments below the images.


Landing Page Before


Landing Page After

There are a couple big differences to the old design:

  • High level promise instead of a description of the product
  • Benefits vs. Features (radical difference in this case)
  • Message is consistent: Make more money
  • Convey what the build process entails
  • Moved FAQ items to front page

As my writing is pretty crap, I had Siobhan have a look at it and she had some great comments via skype (the changes are already implemented above):

  • I would change “generating revenue” to “making money”. “generating revenue” takes more thought to grasp instantly, some people won’t get it
  •  “Is your restaurant ready to generate revenue?” asks the question of the restaurant, but a restaurant isn’t something you can ask a question of, since it’s not a person

Your thoughts?

I have to say, I’m very happy so far but there’s a lot of room for improvement. A number of these changes were only possible because we also changed how the product functions (so this landing page couldn’t even have existed before).

What do you think?