its twitter time

Hi All,

Sorry for not writing in…. a long time. It’s just so busy here that it’s hard to find the time, plus the burden of managing the comments makes it all just too much. So I wanted to let you know that I am very active every day over on Twitter. The format and time requirements just fit in better with my life at this point.

I’m not shutting down shop here, but you can expect fairly infrequent posts as it’s been for some time.

So if you want to keep the interaction going please follow me at @ianlandsman and you can get HelpSpot related Tweets at @helpspot.


your product is free because youre lazy and scared

David over at 37signals had a nice post today about why startups seem to have abandoned charging customers for goods and services: “How did the web lose faith in charging for stuff?.

Of course, I agree with charging people for a quality product. I make my living doing it. However, I think there’s a point he’s missing in there. It’s a point that people often put aside as not the primary reason, but I think it’s a much more prominent factor than people think. What’s changed in the past few years is that many startups are founded by programmers and programmers are inherently lazy.

In most cases, this is a good trait for a programmer. It leads to wanting to do things more efficiently, maximize speed, and can even lead to better quality IMHO. However, when it comes to running a business this attribute has some negative consequences. In my work the one I most often see is the total disregard for customer service.

Customer service is almost always viewed as a necessary evil. Annoying customers always poking around looking for answers to things which are right in front of them and causing us to take time out of programming to help them.

So this leads into the great cop-out. Make it beta and hey, make it free. Those 2 tags let the programmer get out of so much. Customer has a problem? Screw off, it’s free. Can’t find a phone number or email address to contact us by? Screw off, it’s free.

It’s so much easier to think that Google’s going to buy you and that’s how you’ll get paid or that throwing up a Google ad will make you so much money that you can safely ignore the ad clicking drones users.

Things that are outside your comfort zone are always scary and I think that’s the case here. Programming focused startups fear customer service. They’d much rather have a half hidden link to a forum they occasionally check (only after a 36 hour Mountain Dew fueled coding session) than a prominent email address which they answer promptly.

In some ways of course they’re not wrong. It does take an incredible amount of time to answer all those emails. On the other hand, if you have more emails than you can handle that’s probably a good sign. Also, those people who take the time to email in often end up being your best customers and biggest spokespeople. They have more than just time invested, they have hard cash invested and that’s a big difference. They want you to succeed, they’re loyal and they are in many ways a new companies biggest asset.

David obviously has a business focused mind and 37 started out as a customer focused company, which is why it seems logical to them to charge for things you create. I think this is very much the exception these days so it’ll be interesting to see if David is correct and this starts to swing the other way.

On the upside, us profitable money charging companies can just keep tooling along 🙂

how to sell more software by adding 12 characters to your homepage

Yes, this is the secret to how to sell more software. I’m the first one to break the sacred oath of profitable software companies and reveal the secret of how just 12 characters can make you significantly more money. Are you ready to hear it? Are you sure…..

OK here it is. Put your phone number on your website. Just like this:


It really is that easy, it WILL lead to more sales. If you sell B2B it will lead to bigger sales as generally people making large purchases like to talk to a human.

Now I know all the excuses you people use in not publishing a phone number. It’s all BS. I don’t care that 37 signals only does email support. I don’t care that you only do this part time and you can’t be there to answer the phone. I don’t care that you hate talking on the phone.

It’s time to suck it up, especially in this economy where people are going to be shopping around. Having a phone conversation puts you in a much stronger position with the consumer than just an email. Just having a phone number clearly available improves your product positioning in peoples mind. It implies you’re here to stay, you’re approachable, if they ever had a problem they could call. The biggest secret of all is that most people don’t call. We still only get a call or two a day on average and often no calls at all and we’ve been in business 4 years, are linked from everywhere and have a sizable customer base at this point.

So let’s go through your excuses.

1) 37Signals only does email support, why should I have to do phone support
Of course this one is the easiest. Because you’re not them. You will never ever ever ever be them or anything close to them. You’re trying to make a solid living. The chance of you hitting the jackpot is slim, don’t pretend it isn’t. You can’t tell customers to go scratch like they can. Every single potential customer is hugely important to you (or should be).

2) I only work on my business part time and am not there to answer the phone
Umm, so what. Get an answering machine or digital voicemail box. You don’t have to answer the phone every time it rings. Let it go to voicemail and respond once a day or when you get home from your day job. It’s a big myth that if you have a phone number you need to have someone there to answer it every time it rings. Sure that’s better, but having a phone number is still way more important than not having one and at this point everyone is comfortable leaving voicemail’s as long as you get back to people in a reasonable time (say 1 business day).

3) I’m a programming dork, I don’t want to talk on the phone
If you’re reading my blog you’re likely trying to be in business. In business you have to do stuff you don’t like doing, oh… 75% of the time. That’s just the way it is. If you want customers you have to understand your customers and the phone is a great way to do that. If you’re serious about having a business then working with people is going to be key to your success and the phone is a big part of that.

Listen, the phone is your friend. The phone is the key you making your business approachable to customers. It’s also how you’re likely to get some of your best customers, so bust out your website code and throw your number up there. The worst case scenario is you get lots of phone calls and if they’re not relevant you can always pull it down. On the other hand you may get great calls that lead to sales and happy customers. It’s worth a shot.

winter pictures

Here’s a few nice winter pictures from the past few days just to change it up. Actually I didn’t spend a lot of time framing the pictures nicely, but still I think they’re nice. I could do without that house being there, but I’d need a bulldozer for that.

Ice on the Hudson:




Poughkeepsie at Night: