Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m a 3x founder, CEO and Founder of Cicero.ly, 5/5 Rated GrowthMentor with over 90 reviews, and Creator of the No BS Startup Guide who has worked with over 200 founders and executives on growth strategy, idea validation, leadership, and product development.
I launched a No BS Startup Guide, which is a step-by-step curated guide with 400+ checklists, cheat sheets, SOPs, blogs, tools, software, advice, and courses to grow your startup.
We launched in February of 2023 and averaged $2k/month in revenue since.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
After launching 3 startups (while failing at two), I know how frustrating it can be to juggle guides and courses across the internet, filled with generic advice and thousands of words but no action items.
So, I decided to create my guide that cuts through the noise and provides specific action items to help entrepreneurs build successful startups.
Throughout mentoring a couple of hundred startup founders, I noticed certain patterns of challenges and which resources seemed the most helpful in solving them.
My mission was (and still is) to share the tools and techniques that I’ve used to build my startup – Cicero and to help fellow entrepreneurs achieve their goals.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
It started out two years ago as a simple Reddit post with a free bare-bones version of the currently paid guide. I had built up this compilation of tools, and resources in my Notion to clarify things for myself and “scratch my itch”.
Since 2012, I had been building a huge bookmarked list of resources I had gathered from all the newsletters, forums, blogs, and podcasts I frequented. I had over +1000 resources booked. So it was overwhelming.
That’s when I decided to start categorizing my resources into stages and activities. This helped me have a simple list of tasks to accomplish.
Eventually, I started using this with my startup coaching clients. So I’d continuously validate it through my 1on1 work with founders and entrepreneurs. Then based on their feedback and my reflections/observations I’d remove certain parts and add others. Rinse n’ Repeat.
Eventually, I got it to a place where I could just share it with them to follow as we went through our coaching program. Or as something they would reference.
It took me a couple of years to share the prototype in public. There was no website or anything. It was simply a post I made on my medium and Reddit that you can see here. Just a simple text post.
Funny enough, I didn’t make it into a longer and easier-to-follow guide until 2 years after the Reddit post blew up. I was too focused on Cicero and too busy with my coaching and consulting clients.
I also believed strongly in offering a free product. But over time I kept adding to the original guide I shared in 2021. And eventually, it became so big and helpful that it made sense to make a more ‘premium’ offering.
The best way to build a product is through rapid re-iteration and feedback from the end customers.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The early access paid launch (priced at $59 originally) revolved around Reddit and the credibility/karma I’ve built up there over the past couple of years.
My launch post received 50K + Impressions, and 30+ signups on my startup guide.
Pretty crazy. Right? Here more:
I wrote an entire article on how I got to the top of Reddit and how you can too.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
People still come through Reddit, but since you cannot promote yourself or your products there consistently it has slowed down considerably.
I hired a part-time marketing assistant to help me with that.
Together we regularly ship: new “lead magnets”, email promos, weekly newsletters, blogs, and social media posts.
Thankfully, I already had a ton of content in my guide. So it was all about turning that content into stuff for newsletters, social media posts, and more.
We use Notion to do this. We’d go through my content, prioritize all the stuff we could make, and then start deciding what we’d focus on each week. I gave my marketing assistant a lot of autonomy to decide what to write about and how to do it. I mostly served to approve, edit, and draft new ideas.
I also set up email marketing automation with promo codes and tons of free value to help convert more free signups into paid customers.
In so far as repeat customers I offer free 30-minute consultations for everyone who buys the paid guide, but that hasn’t ‘clicked’ as I hoped for yet.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, after the initial burst of sales, we continue filling up the tank by:
Regularly posting on social media (LinkedIn & Twitter).
I mostly keep the content the same, but on Linkedin, I use a lot more carousals
Sending out weekly newsletters with actionable steps
Creating & promoting new “lead magnets” to help gain more signups for our newsletter
One of my most popular ones is the ignition toolkit, which combines three of my lead magnets into one
Converting newsletters into blog posts and optimizing for SEO (to drive traffic down the line)
I want to find a synergy between my startup Cicero & the No BS guide, so I can grow both simultaneously.
A few main projects in the ‘future’ pipeline:
- Booking me as a guest on relevant podcasts to establish more credibility
- Launch the guide on ProductHunt (potentially collaborate with one of the top makers)
- Try to replicate the success from Reddit to IndieHackers
- Paid promos on newsletters
- Create more offers (or bundles) around my 1-on-1 mentoring
Your obsession with customers should never end (and never come at the cost of employee happiness). It is what will give you the fuel to build your inbound engine.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I learned how powerful engagement in smaller communities where your target audience hangs around is. In my case different subreddits. Where most people go wrong is they try to engage only once they’re launching something, but that doesn’t work. You need to build up the social credits ahead of time.
I also learned that the best way to build a product is through rapid re-iteration and feedback from the end customers.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- My #1 tool for all my personal and team project management is Notion.
- Hubspot for CRM, Slack for communication, Apollo for Prospecting and Outreach, and WordPress for the website. I keep it simple.
- Here’s a compilation of 500 tools I put together for entrepreneurs starting out on their journey. Based on the tools I used, continue to use, or found valuable in specific moments of my startup journey.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Freakonomics and You Are Not So Smart helped me understand the subtle ways in which ego can get in the way and our minds can fail us while learning valuable lessons to apply to my business and life
Extreme Ownership and Leaders Eat Last gave me a framework for how to treat other humans, both in my professional and private life, with respect, honor, and kindness. And how to live a more stoic life
Never Split The Difference equipped me with kind and empathetic ways of helping people recognize their own needs, and enabling successful and fruitful conversations
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Your obsession with customers should never end (and never come at the cost of employee happiness). It is what will give you the fuel to build your inbound engine. It is the catalyst for morale.
It is the inspiration for features and products no one thought possible. It is your greatest asset. So, I’ll leave you with this quote from the most customer-obsessed CEO on Earth. It perfectly exemplifies everything I’ve been saying.
“There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great.
Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.” - Jeff Bezos.
Where can we go to learn more?
- NoBSStartup Website
- The Impossible Startup Substack
- Medium Publication
- GrowthMentor Profile
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings