What I Learned from Asking, “How did you build that?”

Over the last few months, I’ve interviewed dozens of people, asking a pointed question: “How did you build that?” In that time I learned common tools, business decisions, and generosity. Recently I gave a talk where I went through the most important lessons I learned, and some tools to get the job done.

Sometimes, all you have to do is ask

If you don’t know Randy Pausch, he was a Computer Science teacher at Carnegie Mellon. He wrote an incredible book called The Last Lecture, where he wrote lessons to pass onto his children. He was terminally ill. The book came out in 2007 and he passed away in 2008.

The biggest lesson I took away from the book had to do with Randy and his family going to Disneyland. He and his father had always wanted to ride in the front of the Monorail, but Randy wasn’t sure how to do that. He asked the conductor, and sure enough, they got to ride in front.

The lesson Randy passed on here was: Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. It’s a lesson that’s stuck with me since I read the book, and one think of every time I do the podcast.

Why do I do the Show?

About a year ago, I was asking a lot of questions. I was revamping WP in One Month and I was talking to people in the WordPress community. I wanted to know how they built their businesses. So I asked. I saw a lot of value in these conversations – so much so that I decided to record and release them.

Over the course of the past year, I learned about great tools and got valuable advice. Here’s some of my favorites.

Tools of the Trade

In Episode 12, Chris Lema talked about using Zapier to “connect the dots.” He automates his sales funnel, and even mailers. This allows him to spend less time on menial tasks, and more time on big picture objectives.

In Episode 2, Rebecca Gill told me about Follow-Up Emails for WooCommerce. This helps keep buyers engaged and informed as soon as they make the purchase.

In Episode 34, Shawn Hesketh talked about engagements in LifetLMS. My LMS, LearnDash has something similar. It allows him to trigger emails when one of his students completes a lesson or section. He can send welcome emails, congratulations email, or more. One trick he told me he employs is triggering an email after a particularly hard section. This helps encourage questions and course completion.

Development Tools

I also talked development with many of my guests. The biggest lesson I learned is each person develops differently. My favorite takeaway here is from  Episode 18 with Pippin Williamson. He talked about the benefits of having a light development environment. If his laptop fell in a lake, he could be up and running in an hour or less.

Recurring Tools

There were also a few tools that kept coming up:

  • Mailchimp or some other newsletter program. Email is still the best form of marketing!
  • WooCommerce or EDD. Many guests used one of the other. WC if they wanted to do more than digital products
  • Zapier for automation
  • Genesis for Theme Building

Great Advice

The show has also allowed me to get some great advice from lots of folks. Here are my favorites:

Build an Audience. Both Troy Dean & Justin Ferriman talked about building an audience before creating a product. By doing so, they said, they had some social proof as well as someone to sell to when they had something to sell.

Communicate. Many of my guests talked about the power of communication. This could be letting your customers know what’s going on, or creating an active feedback loop. Dialog with your current and potential customers means better relationships, and better service.

Never Stop Learning. Keep an open mind and know you can learn from anyone. Never sit on your laurels and always improve yourself and your business. This is valuable advice for everyone.  A recent guest, Kiko Doran, talked about how his goal is Win or Learn. Either you success in your endeavor, or you learn from the failure.

Just Do It

This was another common anthem of my guests. If you want to do something, set aside some time and just do it. Get enough done for a working concept and see if it’s worth going further with it. What do you have to lose?