Got a little chicken or the egg situation here. Except in this case, we’re talking about CAC or ASP (cost of acquisition vs. average selling price). More context…
My company’s recent little pivot is called Burner Rocket. We help B2B companies break through the noise to reach key decision makers. Our secret sauce? We send burner phones. Yes, a little like that scene from The Matrix when Neo gets a phone and gets an immediate call from Morpheus.
It’s crazy effective(~65.5% turn-ons and 75.3% conversation rate)
… and fun (you can’t help but feed off the fun energy from “folks recording personalized videos” to “recipients turning on the phones”).
This isn’t the cheap direct mail piece like coffee mugs or keychains. Sometimes, you gotta go big to break through the noise these days.
When I pitched a local entrepreneur recently, he immediately said, “wow, your customers must have a high ASP”. I thought he would, for sure, go with “wow, your customers must have a high CAC”. It’s a chicken or egg situation where you could ask which came first?
In the world of ASP vs. CAC, they both influence each other. My focus on CAC is to isolate the costand difficulty of acquiring a customer. I want to focus on the customer, and her buying cycle. The burner phones really cut out a ton of time, especially, when it comes to breaking through to net-new leads. They also get conversations because of the novelty (prospects may now associate the brand and product to be novel).
ASP should take into account CAC, too. However, ASP does not cover the longer-term revenue that could come from a customer – lifetime value (LTV). ASP may not actually cover cost of servicing a customer. Instead, the lifetime of the customer should take service into account.
Our new business may not influence ASP, or LTV for that matter. Instead, our new business can accelerate the pipeline via the top-of-funnel conversions (cold to conversations, to demos) and likely the mid-funnel with stalled opportunities. Thus, our phones can materially impact CAC.
Then again, I focus on all three metrics with a priority on both CAC and LTV before ASP. Prime B2B companies who have high CAC and LTV are good candidates + our other ideal customer profile (ICP) facets.
What are your thoughts? How are you considering your go-to-market strategy?

Every once in a while, I’m prone to share a more vulnerable, personal story – a struggle, if you will. This post is one of those. It’s about evolving – the need to. More specifically, it’s about the important parts of me that have fallen and the struggles to continue to evolve.
It’s a pain in the neck – literally. Last year, I injured my neck, and I haven’t been able to recover. I might’ve pulled a muscle or so while working out, but the following Saturday, I got hit pretty hard from the back – the other player flying straight into the back of my neck. My right arm went numb for a few minutes. I rested up after that, but you know what happened? Nothing. Almost two months went by, and I didn’t feel better. My neck was in all sorts of pain. I couldn’t turn to my right to look at my girlfriend in the passenger seat of my car without feeling pain in my neck.
I went to the doctor who prescribed physical therapy. I blew past the 8 sessions, and my PT was able to get more sessions from my insurance provider. However, I had plateaued. I wasn’t getting better.
All this time, I changed everything about my workouts – lowering all the weights, changing the exercises, etc. In soccer, I moved myself towards the backline. I favored the middle of the park, but it required me to be more mobile. The back and forth and sideways movement was too much. Playing in my favored role required quick changes in direction. Apparently, changing directions on a sprint heavily involves one’s neck. That was no good. I started slotting into the backline. This, at least, kept most of the play in front of me. I could put a little distance so I could also prepare if I needed to break out into a sprint. That’s how much my pain was.
I didn’t get more sessions from insurance for PT. I had “failed out”. I went back to the doctor and was told to get an MRI. The results… was a herniated disc.
The troubling part about a herniated disc is that there is little that can be done. Like many injuries, you lean on your body to repair itself. However, it’s been so long with the herniated disc that it was clear my body had not repaired itself… and grimly, might not. We opted for a couple epidural injections over the next couple months to ease the pain while perhaps giving my body some “space” to heal.
Sadly, that hasn’t proven the case.
The next treatment? There’s really only one option – vertebrae fusion. It’s, “eff your disc, it’s not getting better. We’re just going to fuse the two vertebrae that is separated by the disc together.” Except 80% of folks I talk to say not to do it. They say most people don’t get better, and the complications that can arise from this surgery is “worth it”. Awesome.
I sit here today getting ready to play soccer in a few minutes. My neck is sore. It’s not in a lot of pain at the moment unless I articulate my neck within 15-degrees of my prior-limits (looking left, right, up, and down. That’s a lot of restriction. Tomorrow, I hope to work out. Except, I’ll approach it as a very strict “de-de-load” session.
To be honest, I’m scared. I’m scared because I’m feeling aches in my body now, and I don’t know what else can be done. Or rather, I don’t like the next options. I’ve already limited so much of what I do – weight, range of motion, exercises, etc. I’ve lowered my expectations. I apply a heat pack daily to my neck and upper traps. I stretch as much as I can. I’m scared I’m losing a big part of me – the physical me.
For years, soccer was my passion. It was who I was. In high school French class, I always volunteered at the beginning of class [for participation points] to say what I did the day prior in French. “J’ai joue au foot!” (I played soccer!) I was like a parrot I said it so often. I played soccer every day. I played soccer throughout college. Then, I kept playing after college. Then, something happened. Friends couldn’t play anymore. They were moved out-of-town. They were having kids. Organizing soccer with friends became harder.
At that point, working out had started to be THE thing for me. If soccer was hard to come by because of a lack of friends (team sport), then working out was a sport I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. It was me against myself. Weights didn’t care if I had a bad day. It was perfect.
Working out became such a big part of my life. It even became a part of my entrepreneurial life with Body Boss.
Now, it’s possibly being taken away from me. Now, I think I’m losing that, too. I’m no longer the competitive soccer player. Now, I may not be the strongest guy in the room. I may not be the guy everyone looks up to for being able to lift and do impressive feats of exercise.
I admit that when I think about how I can’t challenge myself because of the pain, it hurts real fricken deep. When I feel the pain coming when I work out, I wonder if I should just pack it up and go home. Don’t know how many people around me know this feeling. I wouldn’t wish anyone to face this. In some ways, it’s an existential crisis. If I have stern look these days, chances are, the back of my mind is trying to rush into the front of my mind – reminding me of the pain and the possibility of everything going away. I didn’t think this would happen to me, let alone so soon.
Last week, I remember rolling up from the bench press into a sitting position. I was able to lift a good heavy weight, but I knew that I used to be able to lift so much more. I knew that I used to know I could push myself. Now? Now, I’m scared to. I’m afraid of the pain. Again, I think about going home. I looked down at my watch, though, and realized my 2-minute rest was about over. Well, while I still can, “eff it”. I rolled back down on the bench and go to my next set. Might as well…
It sucks. I’m scared. I don’t want to be anyone else, yet. But looks like I might have to. Who will I have be next?
We’re doing a lot of customer discovery work right now at SalesWise. We’ve built a great platform with strong enthusiasts, but we need to keep evolving to help our customers do what they do best. Helpful, then, when a colleague recommended I check out The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. Rob describes the book simply:

“How to talk to customer and learn if your business is a good idea when everybody is lying to you”

You may have a notion of what the book is about, but it’s likely not that – not just about target audiences in customer discovery. It’s both more general in its approach and more specific in asking the right questions to get the most useful input.
What I liked most about this book was its focus on tactics. Many books like the Lean Startup, the Challenger Sale, etc. are great at shaping your conceptual thinking. They’re great frameworks. However, they aren’t as tactical as what I found in Fitzpatrick’s book – a welcome change of pace. Plus, I can always ask better questions.
  • The gist of The Mom Test is to get beyond compliments and to facts. Most people provide what you want to hear – spare your feelings. They’ll tell you how great your idea is. They’ll tell you to keep them in the loop for when you launch. When it comes time to launch or buy, they don’t. Instead, ask for specific examples of how they accomplish tasks today. Ask for real problems – examples. Ask how problems affect them. Ask for facts.
  • “Why do you bother?” An interesting question here. It’s a question to get at the effects/ impacts folks run into. Get to the “why” and “how is that important”. “It’s important for me to know how productive my team is”, “I have to run reports daily on employee overtime”, etc. Impact sheds light on value.
  • Don’t talk about the idea. When gathering feedback, it’s important to not lead the audience. Ask questions about the current situation that your product/ service (idea) may solve for. Ask for impacts. Ask how they currently solve the problem you hope to solve. How has the audience tried to solve the problem – have they found other solutions? If they haven’t, why? Maybe it’s not a big problem after all…
  • Bad is good. That is, if the multiple folks in your market reiterates they have a fine solution, and they say their problem happens only so often, that’s good. If they says they don’t bother to look for a new solution, that’s good. Yes, you may want to show off your idea and try to convince them why your idea will save their lives. However, if the signs are not looking good, this is good feedback. Maybe you shouldn’t actually pursue this idea after all. Pursue another opportunity with better traction and viability.
  • Have conversations. Fitzpatrick highlighted the importance of having “conversations” rather than interviews or meetings. Approaching casually enables the dialogue to flow with honesty and buy-in.
  • Meetings are only productive when there is learning and/ or clear next steps. This is already highlighted in countless sales books. Even if the next step is not to move forward – again, moving on is a good thing. Get commitments and advances – time, money, or reputation (e.g. introductions).
  • Democratize feedback to get alignment and provoke thought leadership. Withholding input from conversations challenges creativity, problem-solving, etc. Share feedback across leadership, teams, etc. – transparency or democratization of insights.
  • Segmentation is critical to success – addressing a target audience to ensure a product/ service has a market. If there are too many different responses, take a sub-segment till you have cohesive feedback. Too many responses could mean too wide of a market which could lead to too many solutions. Then, no segment actually gets satisfied.

The book could use a professional editor. There are quite a few typos and misspellings. Normally, this stuff distracts the heck out of me losing a lot of credibility. However, the book’s points and lessons were great. Thus, I highly recommend this book. 

A startup debate that has been weighing on me recently is building a solution for today vs. an idea for tomorrow. David Cummings recently wrote a post touching on this – “Funding Today’s Business or Tomorrow’s Idea”. We could be talking evolutionary vs. revolutionary. This could involve a high-degree of market education and long sales cycles.
I remember early on with Body Boss this very issue. My co-founder Darren Pottinger really started the company off an idea to bring heuristics and predictive modeling to exercise. The idea employed regression forecasting to recommend the weight an exerciser should do next.
Body Boss was originally intended for the Consumer market. However, we pivoted towards the B2B crowd of professional strength coaches – institutional teams and training programs. Where coaches thought the algorithms and forecasting were interesting, they wanted full control of what athletes should be doing. For example, they wanted the ability to prescribe the percentage of an athlete’s one-repetition maximum weight. Body Boss would just calculate the weight to be done from the percentage and the one-rep max via a “test assessment”.
As a startup with no real expertise in professional strength and conditioning or other exercise research, we did not have the credibility to recommend our algorithm vs. the coaches’ traditional methods. Though there was real potential in our algorithm – the Idea of Tomorrow – coaches wouldn’t buy Body Boss without the ability to build percentage-based workouts – the Business of Today. The opportunity of Body Boss, then, was the ability to collect and organize workouts and their results.
We saw prospects who were hesitant to buy early on convert to paid-customers once we implemented the percentage schemes.
Entrepreneurs will likely have their visions of grandeur for tomorrow. However, tomorrow may never come. Instead, build a base off of today’s business. Then, run research behind the scenes to validate the ideas of tomorrow. This isn’t much different from traditional research and development teams in large corporations today. But they all start from a position of a stable base.
Build the bridge to tomorrow on today. When you have the credibility and resources, you can influence tomorrow.
A friend recently asked me about starting a business/ building a product as a side hustle to a full-time gig vs. consulting as the gig to reveal a business opportunity. Given his personal life, building a business as a full-time gig could be extremely risky without strong revenue upfront. The potential flexibility of consulting, however, could income, flexibility, and market insight.
I’ve had experience doing both with Body Boss and 5 Points Digital (5PD), a consulting company – as a side hustle to a full-time gig and with consulting to find the next big move.
Thoughts on pursuing consulting as the means to an end:
·      Consulting is a great way to learn of problems, design solutions, network, and test market interest. Companies (startups, big corporates, etc.) serve markets with solutions at scale. Consulting is akin to a one-off solution for a singular client. Products are then extensions of solution for greater scale.
·      Practice asking questions to understand situations and uncover problems. Much like entrepreneurs would do well to perform customer discovery, consultants use probing questions to learn of problems, bottlenecks, information silos, etc.
·      Practice disseminating information – telling stories and detailing processes. Effective consultants can communicate effectively. Many can tell a story interweaving cause and effect. They can lead audiences through flows. Practicing case studies can help reinforce information dissemination and asking questions (previous tenet).
·      Remember what you’re looking to do. Consulting can be comfortable like any other job. I suggested to my friend to take a step back periodically to synthesize lessons and their opportunities. When I started 5PD, things were easy. However, I did not find the inspiration for a new product-oriented startup. I got comfortable and locked into the tactical projects. I had to stop consulting. Pick when to leap into and out of consulting according to your grander purpose.
Consulting can be fun. It can be financially rewarding and offer flexibility. It’s also a great way to leverage experience and expand into other areas to lean into and build a marketable solution.
Start practicing and expertise will come. 
A friend recently spoke to me about an idea from helping clients work out tedious real estate issues. He worked with several clients who had poor management of a particular aspect of the business. Most of the work was done painstakingly in Excel, if any process was instilled. 
Like any idea, there are several risks. However, we talked about early mitigations:
  • Risk: As a standalone tool for a single “client”, usage would be infrequent. For one client, the problem occurs every several weeks. Mitigation: The target customer is an entity that manages several clients. This enables more frequency of the problem and exponentially increasing the pain. Thus, the benefit, too, exponentially increases.
  • Risk: Explicit pain could be felt with management of several spreadsheets. However, quantifying the impact of pain could be difficult. Mitigation: Benefits start with both monetary and legal exposure. As added bonus, there was a time-saving component. Stick to benefits that get closer to the wallet.
  • Risk: Is this a big enough opportunity? Are there competitors/ monetized solutions today? Mitigation: My friend had a colleague who left his company to start his own – similar services for clients. Meanwhile, my friend’s clients are large institutions and just a few of the large firms in Atlanta. Additionally, macro-economic environment points to a growing trend.
  • Risk: Introduction of a new solution to companies/ employees – adoption. Mitigation: the pain seems explicit and with good benefit potential. Many of my friend’s current clients are using incumbent solutions (i.e. spreadsheets). This also could enable an “import” process addressing empty-state issues.

A good early step is doing customer discovery. While doing so, ask prospects to agree to pilots of an MVP.

CNBC reported a few days ago how Robert Wang, founder and CEO of the company behind Instant Pot, still reads all (more likely most) of customer reviews on Amazon (article link). That totals almost 39,000 reviews of the invention he launched almost 7 years ago modernizing the original Crock-Pot.
Wang looks to customer reviews as sources of inspiration and quality assurance. For example, Wang cites reviews for the inspiration to build the Bluetooth-connected iteration of the beloved Instant Pot.
Instant Pot’s Amazon-first sales channel has enabled Wang to spend little on advertising and focus almost strictly on product. This strategy has helped the Instant Pot to sell over 215,000 units on Amazon’s Prime Day recently. Yes, that’s in hundreds ofthousands. Impressive.
Wang is not a business man by trade (or entrepreneur); though, Wang did cofound a messaging company prior to Instant Pot (before being forced out.) Instead, Wang is an engineer. He and his cofounders focused on the product. They made the product great with smart marketing tactics (leveraging social media).
Make a great product. Delight customers. Be opportunistic.
I have a new idea.
It’s not technology-based. It’s a hard-good.
It’s not as innovative as other ideas. It’s practical. Hugely practical.
It’s not going require a sales team. It’s going to be heavily marketing-driven as the go-to-market strategy.
It’s not something that will be immediately scalable.
It’s not a product I thought about doing before. It’s in a market I’ve always loved.
It’s going to be so incredibly hard. It’s going to test me in a way that I haven’t before. It’s going to require skills and knowledge I don’t yet have. It’s going to be fun.
I think I know the early team. I think I know how I will start to build and market. I don’t know if I will have the funds to pull this off. I’m more excited than ever to try.
I can’t wait to share it with you.
Target persona is a marketer’s depiction of the profile of a single target consumer. Typically, persona includes the demographic profile of an individual. It may also include the motivations of the individual. For Body Boss, target personas included high school football coaches, collegiate strength and conditioning coaches, collegiate football coaches, professional baseball coaches, etc. Understanding the internal narrative of any persona could be the difference between making a genuine connection (and sale) or being swept aside with the rest of spam.
Google “internal narrative”, and you are left with how to write one, change one, or mixed in with “internal monologue”. My back-of-the-napkin definition is “personal story”.
Marrying the idea of internal narrative with persona would be a crude way of applying something specific and powerful to something otherwise abstract. Instead, internal narrative should be applied to the exact person being engaged with (in sales) – highlight “internal” as how she tells her story.
Persona-wise, I am a 30-year-old male sales and marketing leader at a startup. (There’s more, but let’s leave it at that.)
My internal narrative dives much deeper into who I am. I am highly ambitious with strong entrepreneurial ambitions. My role at SalesWise is to lead and learn. This will help me in the next phase of my career. I care about leveraging technology to further my team and company’s capabilities. With my company and team’s success, so will my own success.
My internal narrative is attuned to my goals, character, risk tolerance, etc. For a sales professional to effectively engage with me, s/he must go beyond my persona and understand my internal narrative – trigger a deeper truth and purpose.
Understand the difference between persona and internal narrative. Apply each accordingly.
It’s been a while since I took a real-world “funny event” and pulled entrepreneurship lessons from it – notables include being attacked by a ninja cat and then the intruder at 4AM.
Let me share with you how excited I am about being in a new relationship – I backed into my new girlfriend’s car. It was a typical Sunday morning heading to the gym. Except this time, I added a nice dent to her driver door and my passenger-side rear bumper.
I don’t normally have cars parked where she parked, and I was on auto-pilot. Sadly, auto-pilot does not include auto-awareness. No excuses here – I should’ve been watching.
Quick lessons:
  1. Comfort can breed complacency. I was comfortable in my Sunday morning routine – comfortable in driveway routine. Add in a wrinkle such as a car in an unusual position, and I fail to realize it. Be mindful. Always.
  2. Technology still requires attention. I have a rearview camera and backup sensors. None of it matters if I don’t pay them attention. Backup sensors work well when the driver knows there is an object coming closer. None of it is useful without attention.
  3. All about damage control. Once I heard the crunching of metal, I knew what I had done. I had to go tell the girlfriend, notify insurance, and get ready to allocate time and money to remedy this. Once the damage is done, it’s all about reaction. (Luckily, my girlfriend’s reaction was of understanding and a positive laugh about it.)

The first and third lessons are the most important. The first lesson is about prevention. It’s about diligence and awareness. The third lesson is about adapting. Not everything will be controllable. Reaction is critical to get back on path, or onto a new normal.