Growing Software

After a short break Darby and Ethan are back to discussing traction channels and Lead Honestlys product launch.

Show Notes

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What is Growing Software?

Two software engineers exploring the facets of developing SaaS businesses while working their day jobs. Hosted by Darby Frey, co-founder of Lead Honestly, and Ethan Gunderson, founder of Glean.

Ethan: Welcome back.

Darby: It's been awhile.

Ethan: It's been a long time.

I feel very rusty.

Darby: yeah, my, my
brain is, I don't know.

It takes a while to get back into it.

Uh, so I, I.

Catch anyone up, whatever.

I took a couple of weeks off and on
a trip and I've spent most of this

week just trying to like ramp back up.

It feels like the pace at which
you go most days, or at least

this is the way it is for me.

It's just like, things are moving and then
you take some time off and, uh, boy, does

it take a while to get back up to speed?

Ethan: It does.


And it takes me like
at least a week effort.


But the first two days are just like
messages that you missed at that.

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: Figuring out, like what was I doing

Darby: yeah.


Ethan: is tight?

What is typing?

Darby: and then, so on top of that, some
jet lag, uh, and then kind of a short week

at work to this week, I'm at the day job.

So everything is just upside down.



Ethan: The trip was good though.

Darby: The trip is,
yeah, it was real good.

we went to the UK and we
did the London marathon.

Um, so ran that, survived that, uh, and
then did a little road trip around the UK

and went to a couple of different parts of
the country kind of on the Southern side.

So we never did get up to the
north, but, it was awesome.


So a lot of cool stuff and like,
it was, it really was like of.

of these things, where had we not done a
car ride, uh, and like done a road trip.

We wouldn't have been to these places.

Like, they're not like
trains don't go there

Ethan: Okay.


Darby: it's not easily accessible
on public transportation.

There's probably a way to get there, but
it was just super easy to do it in a car.


Ethan: Is this the first time that you've
driven with, the opposites driving side?

Darby: no, I've actually
done that a couple of times.

Um, so the first day
it was a little rough.

I was still like it.

My head around it, but then
the other, what did we do?

Like four days or five days?

So the rest of it was fine.

Um, and then it was actually kind of
funny cause we got back in to Chicago and

got the car and I was like, oh, I gotta
like switch back now, which is silly.

That took like two or three minutes,
but it was like, oh, I have to

actually think about this a little
bit more than, uh, the normal.


Ethan: nice.

That I've driven internationally before,
but never the reverse driving side.

I don't know what you call that, but.

Darby: Yeah.

Like the, the thing that
freaks me out every time, um,

is the first few, like right.

Turns you go to make.

Ethan: Yeah.

Darby: cause you're like, wait,
there should be a car coming

over here on my right side.

But no, there isn't like, you should
be confident that you can just turn

it like you do the left, but uh, no,
it just totally, it feels super wrong.


Ethan: Nice, nice.

Darby: what have you been up to?

Ethan: Uh, nothing.

Darby: Awesome.

Ethan: Oh, Yeah.

I used, I don't know.

I was feeling pretty burnt out, actually.

So I took you being gone and not
having the accountability of this

podcast, uh, to take a break.

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: I did very little, at least
very little deep work and in some like

design-y type of stuff, uh, some like
front end work, but no, like nothing

that I actually really had to think.

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: And it seemed to work.

I started doing like more,
more heavy lifting stuff on

over the weekend actually.

And it felt better.


Darby: Okay.

I mean, I think that, that's interesting.

The purpose of, one of the reasons
for doing this podcast is to kind

of create that accountability.

So it seems like that part
of it is maybe working,

Ethan: Oh for sure.


Darby: Um, and

Ethan: I would not be, I wouldn't
be anywhere near what I am now.

If I did.

Darby: Yeah,

Ethan: when I gave up out
update in this podcast.

Darby: I think that's
a bit true for me too.

Um, but that's like an interesting
thing to think about though.

Like, like these breaks are good then
like they're like we should have breaks.

There should be time to, you know,
walk like step away from it for a

little bit and things like that.

And so, um, you know, maybe, uh,
if we, for whatever reason go.

A few months without a break,
then we should just even have

one, but we should take vacation.

We should take vacations anyway.


Ethan: should, the fall
hiatus was a good one.

it wrecked my, estimated
time to finish man.

Now it's like March again.

Darby: Oh no.

Ethan: Yeah.

So I gotta pick up the pace a little bit.

Darby: Well that's what happens.


Ethan: Yeah.

Darby: All right.

Well, did you do anything
fun with your dog?

Ethan: Oh,

Darby: Or just,

Ethan: There's a bunch of house
projects that I had been neglecting.

So I did those cleaned up the garage
yard work, like boring adult stuff.

Darby: you got to do it
before the winter hits, so

Ethan: yes, that's true.

Which speaking up today, it's
down in the low forties for us.

Darby: Oh, wow.

Ethan: So a good reminder that
it will in fact be winter soon.

Um, yeah,

Darby: As much as last weekend led us
to believe that wasn't going to be the

Ethan: right.


Oh, um, I guess we can
just jump into updates.

I can talk about mine first.

I didn't do a whole lot of like
real like programming work.

but I did, I talked to one person about
like personal finance and budgeting and

that kind of stuff, which was pretty cool.

It was mostly not about glean,
just about conceptually, like.

What it means to budget and how
to think about it and why people

care about it, which was helpful.

Um, it made me realize that I've never
actually written down, like my, like

ethos on personal finance, like in
general, like, or why I care about it at

all, which is something he asked, which
I didn't have a very good answer to.

Um, ties like, cause we've talked about
like content creation a couple of times,

And I think it's to the point where
I actually should just start writing

stuff and having a blog somewhere.

Um, I got into the trap of, I think
every engineer does this every one

to two years, which is, should I
write my own blogging software?

Darby: of

Ethan: Uh, luckily the elixir
community has solved that for me.

there's actually a pretty cool
framework that I could just

pop into my existing project.

Be done

Darby: Oh, nice.



Ethan: which actually gets into,
like, the other thing that I did was I

started reading a book called traction,

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: which is actually here.

Do you have it?

Darby: Yeah.

It's back there.

I thought I had that one.


Ethan: Yeah.

it's been, or it's been talked about
at a bunch of different podcasts.

I finally picked it up and in it, they
talk about 19 different ways, like

different 19 different traction channels

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: employ for your startup to gain
views and or customers or just traction.

Um, one of them is SEO and
content marketing, so that

kind of like fits into the air.

Try that out a little bit
and see how that works.

Um, the other part that I thought
was really cool of this book is

one of their main examples is mint,

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: uh, which

Darby: Interesting.

Ethan: cool to read about how a company in
the same exact space went from zero to a

hundred thousand customers in six months.

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: I mean, I know I will
never, ever do that, nor would.

I want to, like, I would
just fail almost immediately

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: the way that they did it
was through, blog sponsorships.

So either sponsoring an article or
getting someone to write about men

specifically, and they did that
through blogs and the personal finance.

Which is really Interesting.

I don't know why I didn't think of this
before, but the experiment that I ran with

Google ads, I think I should, I think it
was wrong to target Google ads for this.

I should have targeted ad networks
that are specific to personal finance.


There's more than many of them.


I didn't know that until, uh,
um, so I found a couple of those.

It's still like pretty expensive.

Um, but the other thing I
could do is the same thing they

did and just sponsor posts.

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: even have to be about glean.

It could just be about, you know, like
whatever finance rule or whatever, and

then just have the post be sponsored.

Darby: Yeah.

That's really interesting.

it kind of seems like the, like all of
that sort of flows back to your reason

for doing this in the first place, like
kind of like the, core or whatever.

I'm trying to think of a good metaphor.

Like the root of all of it is like,
here's the reason why you can care

about personal finance and like why,
the way he thinks about it as is maybe

different, or, you know, at least like
can be described in a concise way.

And then all of like the posts
that come off of that are.

You know, sort of reiterations
of that or specific details

within that, base, philosophy.

I don't know if that makes sense, but
like, like then you you start from

that and then you can kind of like
spin off a bunch of topics from there.

Um, that's really interesting.

I think that like, if I think
of it from the lens of the,

honestly, like the sort of.

tenant that we had set up when we
started this whole thing was like,

one-on-ones need to be more about
the questions then, like the agenda.

And so like, starting with the questions
and like, how did the questions lead to

the discussions that like kind of push
someone to grow or address a problem

with an employee or something like that.

And so like kind of all of that branches
off of that one, one like central nucleus

got a bunch of metaphors going on.

Pretty you can tell him
still spinning back up to a

Ethan: You got it for
somewhere so rusty at this?

Um, uh, no, I think you're right though.

I think that shows in the content that
you've produced for lead, honestly, to

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: I'm trying to remember the big
cause I ran the keyword report and the.

Report for you.


And you were getting like a fair
amount of traffic from the posts

that are like, how would have your
first one on one, like the top.

I remember the number, like the top end
questions you should ask you, new boss.

Darby: Yeah,

Ethan: Like I think that's that ethos
is reflected in that content and

that content is somewhat popular too.

And so your

Darby: yeah.

Ethan: in thinking like that.

Darby: I don't want to get off on a
tangent cause this was something that

I kind of wanted to talk about, but
like that report, there is something

in there that really jumped out at me
that, I'm still trying to process a

little bit, which is that, a lot of
the terms that came up as like that,

that were maybe the more popular ones.

So the more frequent, more
frequently used ones that I

kind of landed people, um, were.

From the perspective of an employee and
not from the perspective of the manager.

So they would be like questions to ask
my boss or questions for a new manager.

Um, like from this perspective of
like I'm an employee and I have

this new manager that I needed to.

Befriend somehow.

Um, how do I do it?

and so like, those searches are
landing people on the anonymously,

but a lot of our positioning
is really towards the manager.

The manager is the customer.

And, I'm trying to think about
like, what does that mean?

And like, are we like doing this
wrong or is this just, I don't know,

is this more reflection of like the.

The world as a whole versus tech,
which is like the bubble that we

live in and tech managers are really
focused on, making sure that their

teams are happy and successful.

And I think that maybe another
industries that's not as true, I

could be wrong, but I think that like,
there's less of a push on managers

to, be so focused on that as it is.

Um, and so, so then, like when you
get a new manager, you join a new team

or you join a new company, in tech,
the thing that I see all the time,

there's like the manager is really
trying to bring that person on and

make them feel happy and comfortable.

And, I, I just don't know if
that's the case in other companies.

So then you have these people that
are looking on the internet for

what do I do with this new manager?

I'm, you know, I'm not going
to get all the support that I

need right away or whatever.

So there's like a bunch of theories
and assumptions built into all of

that, but I thought it was really
interesting that based on that one

report, like almost all of the terms
where we're coming from an employee's

Ethan: From the employee
that is interesting.

It was probably something to dive in
there in just have, like, what can you do?

Or what changes can you make to help
employee engagement the managers are

customer, but if their employees are
really disengaged with the product,

they're not going to use it for very long.


Darby: Yup.


So, we kind of look at it, like,
it's almost a kind of that two-sided

marketplace a little bit where
you've got, um, you have like two

kinds of users that you have to get
both to activate to do something.

and, if one site.

Show up then it doesn't really work.

I think the there's maybe just a part of
the positioning that we need to look into

is like something that speaks more to
an employee and like gives the employee

something that they can do to push the
adoption of lean honestly forward, with

a manager who's maybe not a customer
already, but maybe a way to say like, Hey,

I wanna use this for my one-on-ones thing.


that was all from just like looking
at that one keyword report and

think like, oh, this is, yeah,
this is like super interesting.


Went off in a bit of a tangent there.

Ethan: That's all right.

Darby: yeah, like, so, so going back
to the attraction book, It's very

interesting, because I think that, there
is like these stories and these like cases

where this certain mixture of strategy
and technology and whatever, like led

to, good results for these companies.

and we talked about this before and,
um, start small, stay small, right?

Like where, like, I think
in so much of it is.

Kind of like chasing a moving target
because, that keyword ads used to

be cheaper, like content marketing,
like everyone's kind of doing it now.

So it gets more competitive and
like, where is the target moving out?

And like, I kind of thinking
of the core of your mission,

which I think still is relevant.

And I think that's still important
to establish that no matter what.

But then like the techniques
that they use to kind of get

it out there, change over time.

so, I did the keyword thing
that we talked about before.

I've been thinking about that too.

And there was a, this is an indie hackers.

there's a post about like new.

A new podcast ad platform on
Spotify and how like the ads

were surprisingly affordable.

And that made me think like, oh, I
wonder if this is maybe a channel

that is kind of emerging now.

And maybe it's going to be cheaper to do
something in that context because there's

less people focused on it right now.

So like finding the things that are new.

Kind of upcoming to, to like leverage
that because there's just, there's

like less traffic, less competition.

And then because of that, like
the thing that you put out

there actually gets seen more,

Ethan: I mentioned this happens like all
through every traction channel, right?

Like a strategies, someone
discovers a strategy in the channel.

They exploited because
no one else is doing it.

Other people notice.

And then over time, just
everything becomes saturated until

someone figures a new thing out.

Darby: Yep.



So then it's like, how do you find that?

Like the new thing that

no one's

Um, I think like Instagram ads for
such a thing like that a few years

ago, too, like you, I don't know.

The first time you saw an Instagram
ad, you just thought it was like

a regular, like Instagram post.

And then like the, now that
it's like, all it is ads.

Ethan: And I'll just like,
just drop shippers, just

spam and ads, like crazy.

Darby: Yup.


Um, but like those first
few were super effective.

Ethan: Yeah, I imagine the same.

Thing's going to be true.

Like taking the mint and sponsored posts,
like all the blogs that they probably

sponsored are significantly bigger.

There'll be new ones
that I could try to find.

Um, but even those, like,
that's a known strategy now.

So it just might be w the blogs
that I could afford a sponsor may

and probably don't have enough
traffic to actually justify

Darby: Yeah,

Ethan: expense.


Darby: right.


I mean, it's probably the case across
the board of just like the money you pay

for the traffic you get is very high.

Ethan: Yeah.

the thing I like about the, they
call it, the bullseye strategy

in traction is where you basically,
they tell you to try all of the tracks

and channels and see what works.


So it's not like don't bias towards.


My dog is extremely upset about something.

Um, it's not like they said a
couple of times too, like, don't

let your biases influence the things
that you automatically disclude

or the ones that you just go for.

Like try to try them all.

I don't know, like some of them,
I don't know how I'm going to do

Darby: Like throwing a conference.

Ethan: there's there's
that one, like trade shows.

I'm probably not going to do
a trade show, just a little

PR like that's not real bias.

It's just practicality.

Like I'm not going to, I'm just

Darby: Yeah.

Well, so that, like, I remember that,
that section and thinking like, okay,

well I'm not gonna not going to get a
booth at a trade show, but like, what

could you do that is like very local.

in that context or in that, you
know, like, the ideas that popped to

mind for me were like, we'll go to a
conference and just talk to people.

I don't know, like.

these are these, this is a thing in tech.

Like what do they call them?

Lightning talks or whatever.

Like those kinds of things, like,
you know, find ways to, and that's

more of like just getting in
front of people in a conference.

And there's obviously other
challenges to that today anyway.

But, um, you know, like, like, so, so
now don't think of it from like the

straight up marketer's perspective,
but like, you know, more of like, like

what could you do as a single person?

Ethan: Yeah.

my, probably my biggest takeaway is
they recommended that half of your

time be spent on traction the other
half be spent on product development.

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: So I guess like, I'm going to flip
back again and try to spend more time.

Traction channels?

Darby: Is that a question?

Ethan: no.

It's like a leery statement.

Darby: I, you know, I think I, I do
think at a certain time that makes sense

that like, don't know, like right now
where you are, you still need to launch.

Ethan: I still need to launch.


that's the same thought I had,

Darby: Yeah.

So like, like you could do stuff
on traction, but like it's not

going to really matter until

Ethan: some of it has long
tail implication though.

Like the sooner I get blog
posts out, the more I can start

ranking the domain for stuff.

So I think that's even if I don't end
up with, like SEO as attraction channel

it's still has, or as a main traction
channel, at least like getting the domain,

you know, ranking for more stuff early,
like that seems like it'd be hard to.

For that to be a waste of time, but

Darby: I think that's true.

I think that goes back to that
audience driven development too.

Um, and so, you know, I think.

Like that's probably a good example
of one thing that you could do also.

I think that helps kind of
clarify your mission, right?



All right.

So maybe not half, but
like some percentage,

Ethan: I mean,

Darby: and then you're not

Ethan: of like

40 hours.

Like if I had 40 hours a week
that was put into this half,

actually doesn't seem all that bad.

I can get a lot done in 20 hours on the
tech side, but when we're talking like

eight hours a week, half is so much more,

Darby: Yup.


Ethan: yeah.

it's like, it'd be really hard
to have enough time and still

get really deep work done.

Darby: Yeah.

maybe start with an hour.

Ethan: Yeah.

It's not a bad idea.

It's not a bad thing.

Darby: That'd be easy enough
to like measure in time too.

Ethan: Yeah.

All right.

Darby: I didn't show that book.

Um, I think that, like, I
probably need to read it again.

Cause I think it was two or three
years when I read it, it was like,

oh yeah, I want to do all this stuff.

And then life happens
and you forget about it.

Ethan: I'm only in I'm into
like the fourth or fifth.

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: a description.

So I'm not finished with it yet
obviously, but I recommend it so far.

Darby: Yeah.


All right.

Maybe, uh, maybe I'll try to
crack that one open again.



All right.

should I jump in?


Um, I don't remember what we,
where we left off last time.

So also I'll kinda just
try to do a catch up.

I think last time we talked, I was kind
of on a mission to ship the feature, the

Google workspace integration feature.

Before I went on.

Ethan: Yeah,

Darby: Um, so I did that.

So that is full it's shipped.

It's fully live accessible
to all customers, all users.

Um, and then I sent out an email
to all the waitlist and said,

you can go turn this on now.

and I added a few kind of like
alerts and notifications, so I

could see when people were using it.

And, I think we've got 10, 10 ish.

10 users, I think using it.

So either they've set a set up
the integration or they've done

that and then set up meetings with
some, with one or more employees.

so not like a huge adoption, but,
um, decent, uh, and like part of it

is that like, it takes some time to
get set up and you've got to like

add a new employee or whatever.

the other thing that I did do is
I added a co uh, we have this kind

of banner alert on the dashboard.

That's like a, Hey, if you want to
try this click here to set it up.

And, I recorded like a walkthrough
video to kind of show people

how to use the feature and how
it's set up and what it does.

Um, so I think that's
been going pretty well.

we haven't sent out an email to
like the whole user base or the, our

mailing list or anything like that yet.

So, um, but I think the.

You know, sort of organic growth
of this, has been nice because,

there've been a couple bugs and so
able to fix those, but nothing major.

just a couple little minor things.

I spent two hours one morning,
um, like while it was waking up

on the road fixing a little thing.

So like, it wasn't a big deal at all.

but, and the alerting was nice cause I
caught it right away when it happened.

But, uh, yeah, so that,
like, I don't know.

it's good.

I'm glad I got it shipped and out there,

Ethan: Yeah, that's awesome.

It's been a long time.

It's been a long time.

Darby: yeah.

It has been way too long.

so that's been good.

Uh, and so I don't know now it's kinda
like, let that bake a little bit and then

try to figure out what to focus on next.

Um, and like I said, kind of have
been ramping back up this week.

I'll talk to Shea tomorrow and I
think we'll kind of get recalibrated.

So, yeah, not a whole lot to
really update on at this point, but

Ethan: I think last time we talked, you
had mentioned that once it launched,

you were gonna switch hats, do more.

Marketing and sales less product.

Is that still the case?

Darby: I think I want to I think we
did talk about this last time or the

time before there's there is like
some architectural stuff that could be

done, to sort of, I don't know, make
some of the experience a little bit.

I don't know how important that is though.

Um, like things are working fine, so like
I could make it better and more perfect.

Um, but I think it's like we just need
to get some more kind of, you know, like

probably a good thing to do would be to
read the traction book again and really

kind of think about like, alright, where
can we push on some of these channels?

Ethan: Have you, so.

the architectural things that
you can improve would make

the user experience better.

Like the.

Darby: Um, a little bit it's kind
of this, uh, this edge case problem.

So it's, you know, we have a lot of
users that are using it and don't really

experience a problem with it, but some do.

And that's like on this, uh, on this
case of, I want to add some information

to a meeting before the meeting happens
and depending on the way that the.

Data gets created.

it can be in a weird state
sometimes and be confusing.

So, you know, I think we probably
get one to two support emails a

month about it, maybe even less.

So it's not like a huge like on
fire problem, but it's confusing.

And it's like one of these things that
when, uh, when a user runs into the

problem, it's kind of hard to explain it.

Like why it's a problem.

Ethan: Sure.

Darby: It's like, well, this is
kind of a poor design decision.

And so it's, this is why
it's not working quite right.

So, you know, wait until tomorrow
and then it'll work for you.

And then they're like,
okay, weird, whatever.

Ethan: That's really funny.

Darby: Yeah.

Um, so I would like to get that fixed
someday, but, yeah, I think, you know,

there's always going to be those things.

So you gotta kind of balance the two.

Ethan: That's this is only
a problem In the new system

Darby: In the old system

Ethan: from the old system.

Darby: Yeah.

The new system actually does it better.

I've kind of solved that
problem in the new system.

Ethan: forget about it.

Then if you to spend all your time,
like on traction channels, like

driving people towards the new system,

Darby: yeah.


there's still a lot on
the old system, so yeah.

and like, I think part of it is.

I'm not sure if the new system is where
people will gravitate towards, you know,

like we don't have enough, there's not
enough like new users coming in and

setting things up that I can say like, oh,
all new users are gonna go the new way.

So it could be a case where we kind of
have both of them to maintain for awhile.

So, yeah, we just needed, we need
more volume in there and I think

that's where it comes back to
like attraction and marketing.

I think that's probably
a good thing to focus on.

So hopefully, maybe my goal for
next week is to have a plan.

Ethan: The plan is to have a plan.

Darby: Yeah, exactly.

Ethan: like it.

We'll see what the plan is next week.

Darby: Right.

Ethan: All Right.

See ya.

Darby: Cool.

Ethan: Bye.