Hey guys. I’m heads down on goto market and customer acquisition. The DPP update from last week is going to be somewhat delayed. -Loren 06/16/21
Posts From Category: updates
Bolt on Community
I wanted to develop a community for mortgage professionals around the downpayment.gift product. I did not want to run that community in a Facebook Group. I wanted them to return to the app to participate in the community or consume the content posted by us or other users. …so after some consideration, looking at options like Discourse, Tribe.so, Circle.so, and other custom Rails frameworks that would embed a message board, in-app… I decided to implement a new, single page app called Peerboard. The reasoning was around it’s simplicity and support for integrations like SSO, JWT authentication and full, evolving API and Zapier support.
Peerboard can be found at https://community.downpayment.gift. It mostly public except for groups that are secured by login. To login… well here is the beauty… you have to login to the downpayment.gift registry app as a partner. If you click Login from the Community site, it redirects you back and forth.
The goal in the short term for the Community is to post content here, marketing content, templates, ideas for marketing down payment registries, video ideas, slide decks and more. Think like a bit of a dumping grounds for marketing ideas and we’ll see want takes off. I expect we will be direct linking from emails, social posts and ads, directly to the community posts. I expect to be blogging to clients and consumers on the main site, downpayment.gift. …however, I expect we’ll “blog” on the community site for partners instead of posting on a traditional blog. We may spin up a few “tent-pole” partner blog posts… the sky-scraper technique… for partners but that it is.
Being a bolt on to the app, we can simply move it to the next version of our platform and re-integrate it. Due the JWT authentication, we have a simple SSO solution path our app is the authentication server. The new version only needs to carring forward that implementation to maintain the integration. The categories might narrow and then expand. Right now we have the ‘ghost-town’ problem for a forum software.
Stripe.js and Bank and Debit Integrations
The cardholder data never touches our server, our database.
The user flow and will need a fresh look and edge cases where users want to change or add a second account. Right now it’s either a bank account or a debit. One only.
I was listening to a podcast by Mike Maples Jr and they had a guy on talking about category creation. This runs along the theme of creation demand vs. capturing demand. The downpayment.gift positioning is definitely about create new demand for mortgage lenders instead of simply capturing it. We are adding value and trying to help buyers become buyers. It’s a completely different idea to the typical lending pitch.
So anyway… fresh off this category creation deep dive… I was listening or reading someone about Embedded Fintech (or Embedded Finance). This is where financial and SaaS providers sell to other businesses or even other SaaS providers and offer financial related apps, API’s and other integrations to allow them to offer a financial product to their customer. I refer to our Lender customers as Partners. This is a side-effect or having a bit of a two-sided business. Clients or home buyers and Partners or lenders. I hate calling it a marketplace. We are not building a marketplace in the traditional sense. It was more like a co-branded, vertical SaaS. (not white labeled, cause the downpayment.gift brand will always be there)
So under this category of Embedded Fintech, we allow Lenders and Brokers to embed the “down payment savings and gift account” product into their offerings (online or hybrid on and offline). We have a roadmap of tools for lenders to further embedding the entry point to the sign up funnel… widgets for homepage, links, buttons, and so on. Curretly, it takes them away to downpayment.gift for the registry gift account. I could foresee a future API centric or custom domain integrations were to looks seamless for lenders/brokers. This more white labeled, while retaining the Powered By co-branding for trust, would be squarely in this Embedded Fintech category.
Some of the “news” and PR writing about this category list some of the most basic of applications as in this category… for example, Blend or any webapp that is white labeled and take the 1003 app and documents could be considered Embedded Fintech. Not 100% sure I would bucket online LOS sytems for taking a loan app as being novel in this category… but okay.
Apparently the Embedded Fintech category has been brewing in the VC or Fintech communitities. Embedded Finance is a parallel category. Apparently offering things like branded debit cards might fall into that category.
The idea of both names… that all platforms or brands could be a Fintech too. …offering financial products to their customers without becoming a depository bank.
I spend a little time research this catergory of embedded finance, embedded fintech. I don’t think that customers are actively looking for this category… but it’s an investor positining.
Instead of being Fintech-lite or Fintech-ish… we can take this “Vertical SaaS” and “Embedded Fintech” positioning. The two-sided marketplace mental model is out the window!!!
Co-branded Fintech aka B2B2C. I had been tossing around this B2B2C acronym, but it’s confusing and marketplacey.
Okay… so we are Vertical SaaS / embedded Fintech. I’ll keep exploring this. I did add this in the Business Model side in the investor pitch deck.
I fell behind on DPP status updates here once again. I’ve been heads down on sales deck and trying to get a couple core app updates completed before going into content creation and marketing mode.
Mortgage Moneyball Sales Pitch Deck
I spent a good portion of the Week 20 of 2021 working on a sales “content” deck for webinars. I can up with this concenpt of Mortgage Moneyball based on the book and movie staring Brad Pitt. The story is about the Oakland A’s in 2002-2003 and their use of statistical analysis to try to build a winning team on a budget. The focused on OBP or On-base-percentage and Slugging Ratio (which is bases / at bats), instead of the typical batting average and RBI stats that teams would obsess over.
They basically found undervalued players. My idea with Mortgage Moneyball is to encourage Loan Officers to look for undervalued home buyers by stepping back in the home buying timeline, before they are talking with loan officer or real estate agents…. before they are pre-approved. …before they have a down payment!? Yep, that is where downpayment.gift comes in. A Loan Officer can engage with a prospects, weeks and months before, add value, help them become pre-approved and then find a house (via an introduction or elsewise). The slide deck uses a home-buying timeline to show where downpayment.gift can find the undervalued deals.
It’s not a perfect analogy but it should be fun to present and should break up the normal product tour, demo content webinar.
I will post a replay on downpaymentproject.com once I have a good recording.
This week was not a code, feature week. That has extended into the following Week 20 too.
Pitch deck updates
I updated the business (ack.. investor) pitch deck that I created in late September in pasteapp.com …mostly removing text and changing animations, videos or scripting. Tried to remove text bits to make it work better as a presentation slide deck vs a readable email PDF.
Show them, Don’t Tell them
Recorded 30 second product tour to “Show them the product in the first 15 seconds” to fit the style of pitching on Day 1. I amazingly did this in only 45 minutes before I presented. I tried to export to GIF, but my tools kept crashing in trying to generate a file with a lower res and fps… so I ended up with 1080p mp4 instead. This ended up working out as I paused it at the very beginning manually to let my scripting catch up with the video itself. This resulted in the addition to my pitch being more like 40 seconds! So the end result, and due lack of practice, I did not complete my slides… I was at least 30-60secs short. So in the video, I got the hook!!! LOL It did not impact my rating in the end… and they did not tear into me for going too long. At one point, I knew I was not could to make it… and was flying through slides.
I pitched first on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 on Founder.University Zoom call with about 300-350 attendees.
downpayment.gift was well received by judges….
Actually posting this on May 3rd. Is it a miracle?
Switching gears to sales and marketing mode
I’ll be switching from feature development and testing into sales and marketing for pretty must the rest of Q2, May and June. Webinars, workshops, ads, emails, demo, and calls. Our primary mode of outreach is cold-email outreach and paid social ads to mortgage titles and interests. The primary call to action is attend a live webinar and sign up for the free trial.
If someone jumps on the free trial without attending a training, we’ll try to get them in the office hours trainings. If someone attends the webinar, workshops, we want them to sign up and setup there co-branding on the call.
I committed to my microconf mastermind (accountability) to assign code days and sales days. Code days imply remote work, work from have dev station. Sales days imply office, video, webinars. Not remote. Need to implement and stick to it.
1:1 Demo calls?
I plan to provide a motion for 1:1 demo calls, but it might be challenging at this stage in the game to fulfill on enterprise sales type discussions. At this point, we are focused on the bottoms up sales approach. We are not equipped to handle enterprise sales at this point.
Selling the roadmap
Our roadmap and future features will be critical as we jump into “sales mode.” Selling the future vision of what this application, this ‘platform’ could be will be super-important to getting true believers on board with downpayment.gift.
If we get any revenue in the next two months, awesome. If we get feedback on the current app and the roadmap, then I’m going to be happy. If it’s crickets and no one seems to care about offering down payment registry campaigns… well… let’s not talk about that!
Finally catching up.. or almost caught up to the current week. This was meant to be posted on Monday. It’s Thursday today. Hopefully by Monday, May 3rd, I’ll be back on schedule.
More setup for cold outbound outreach
Setup MX and DKIM DNS records for two domains that will be used for outbound emails promoting our content. downpayment.io and projectdownpayment.com Clever right? the reverse of this very blog. There are several tools that piggyback on G Suite and Office 365 as well as use native SMTP servers for sending. Just listing them here is probably not productive. Once I have experience and opinions on which work well, I’ll write and report back.
Working in Public
This “Follow along as we build…” style blog in DownpaymentProject.com is my attempt to embrace the Work in Public (not to be confused with Work in Progress). I have been writing here as well as logging status updates on wip.co where I have over 250 sequential days with updates. They track the streaks and rank them… so I have a streak going.. I don’t want to break it.
I started reading a book by Austin Kleon, “Show You Work.” I highly recommend it. It’s all about the idea of publishing your process and early work… with all it’s imperfections. In software development, it’s very common to just continue developing and improving the product. We are motivated to add one more feature or upgrade one more tech stack or use the latest and greatest library. We want to refactor and improve it. In reality, we just need to ship it. Ship It! ..get it out in the world and get human feedback. Actual user feedback and adoption. Actual bug reports on what matters and what works.
Autofill names and email from parameters in new client, new partner forms
I’ve been spending a ton of time improving and debugging the signup process for new users. It’s been the core feature from December to current. To enable automated onboarding, signup and pursue a PLG approach, Product Led Growth.
In the new client and new partner forms, I’ve enabled pre-filling the first and last names and email from the parameters passed in the URL. This enables passing the data from other directory in the URLs. For example, if we have a claim your partner listing directory with pre-filled data, and they click to CLAIM that listing, it would pre-fill the data into the form and the user only needs to click one button and they are enrolled!
This will also be useful in my email campaigns. If I already know their first and last… and I’m sending a email. The signup form can easily prefill their info.
Renamed Marketing Content section to “DROPS” aka Marketing DROPS
Taking a page from the gaming and streaming industry and renaming the Marketing tab in-app and in the community pages to reference Marketing Drops instead of just Content. So basically, like a video game producer… dropping content or resupplying players (think dropping materials from a plane). I’m not sure where is started to be called Drops. …but that is the new name for Weekly content updates. Marketing Drops. We hope to continually ‘drop’ new content and email the partners and prospects when we do. Look for new Drops on Social and Email.
The goal is to provide users an incentive to return to the app freqently, even if they don’t have any active registries.
My kids play a lot of video games, originally on the Xbox and now on PC. One of the games they played a lot in 2020 is called Sea of Thieves… it does not take a genius to listen to your 10 and 13 year old yelling about going back online to grab the special promotional Twitch Drops from some Sea of Thieves streamer/player… that maybe this Content Drops approach works and might be useful in downpayment.gift.
So we are going to be focused on Drops in two places: community.downpayment.gift and in-app in the Marketing Tools The first should be available without a login. The in-app content requires a valid partner login.
It’s spring break now… tearing out carpet the last week, removing a dead tree. Before the pandemic, this would be spring skiing time! This year we had 2 weeks of spring break due to the school budgeting an extra week for wildfire closures. Imagine that! assume the air quality will force closures like in 2017-2019! Well in 2020, thanks to the pandemic, and remote schooling… no days off. We still had fires thought. :)
I spent a little time using a video tool called Vidstep.io. Vidstep is basically a video player with chapter breakpoints (think about how youtube now permits you to break up a video into sections). Vidstep is focused on processes and training videos. I plan to use it for that purpose, but I also think there is an interesting application for webinar and workshop replays. Instead of editing the video or pulling snippets and retitling them… Vidstep enables that “table of contents” to ride alongside the video. You can put resources, documents, links and CTAs below the video too. If we can avoid editing the webinar and just upload to vidstep and tag the various steps along the timeline, that is an incredible timesaver.
I joined a Mastermind groups associated with Microconf. The conference, group, podcast Startups for the Rest of Us. Basically, they offer for a small fee, to link you up with 3-4 other software founders for mastermind calls. So I’ve been matched with 4 incredible startup founders. At the time of writing this, we already had one call and will have the second call in 2 days.
I’m actually writing this on April 28th. I got behind on the DownPaymentProject updates due to the kids’ spring break (two weeks) and a home reno project to replace the flooring in the entire house. (note: this is ongoing but it’s a weekend project now)
Publish new main website
The website at https://downpayment.gift has finally be updated. The old site was tweaked a little since the original version but the structure is largely the same.
The main goal of the new site was to deokoy a template that would give us room to grow in the design and features and to launch a non-wedding focus. The original branding was all about down payment wedding registries. The new website is more generic to all first-time home buyers and not exclusively focused on wedding buyers. The logo is the same, with the same green and gift wrap design. I don’t have any plans to revise the logo. I think we would customize the colors and backgrounds on the gift logo and use it for some time to come.
The new website is a more like a typical SaaS software website. I’m on sure if that is a good thing or bad. It’s based off a Jekyll template. I wanted to stay in the Jekyll / Bridgetown RB ecosystem. It’s using Bootstrap v4. The old website was not using any framework. The new site is still static, still on Netlify.
Here is a rough list of dev activity in the last week. A few key fixes… but the most exciting thing is the new website starting.
Start new main website!!!
Update Roadmap URLs. Need to update the content on the Public and Partner roadmap to make sure it’s keeping pace. Focusing on bigger items on these resources.
Minor UI fix: no caching Old Password in Profile -> Password changes
Partner Trial Webhook. Explored using Invite system in peerboard to generate login and trial users. Looked at other content ideas with existing bulk member invites, like tribe.so, webinars, or private podcasts.
Fix and update legacy paperform webhooks for new client, new partners
This week we added a drop down “hello bar” style notification to the app. This will be used for urgent messages or offers. The first application is to tell partners to confirm or Verify their Free Trial account through our third-party shopping cart. Once a Partner creates an account, requiring only 3-fields, First, Last and Email, they will see the Onboarding Co-Branding Form followed by the main partner dashboard. After 5 seconds, a hello bar pops down from the top reminding them to Verify their free account.
When they click on this message, it takes them to a “pre-filled” checkout page on the external shopping cart. They should not need to do anything but click Verify. If they skipped their Company name (Lender or Business name) in Onboarding, that field will be blank.