Why Underway Focuses on Content Creation even as a Bootstrapped Startup

by Sara Robinson
Underway
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Have you ever thought about the boring parts of your job and wished there was a better way? Do you ever want to ditch those monotonous tasks and have more time for the fun parts of your job?

Those are questions that Daniel Zacarias aimed to address when he created Underway in February, 2018. Daniel is a former Product Manager who continually heard from the readers of his blog that the busy work of being a product manager was weighing them down.

So- Daniel created a solution: Underway, a product that allows for automation of some of the everyday tasks that product managers face. 

Since founding Underway, Daniel has stayed committed to remaining bootstrapped. We discuss how he loves that this commitment forces him to be focused and show constraint with his choices for the product and the company’s resources. 

Focusing on Content even when You’re Bootstrapped

Even though they are a bootstrapped startup, Daniel knows the importance of great content. Though Daniel had a blog (foldingburritos.com) prior to starting Underway, he says it was a relief when he handed off content creation to Audience Ops. Before hiring us, he wasn’t able to be consistent with publishing information and he knows the importance of producing content on a regular basis; it’s critical to building trust and authority for your brand.

On the episode we discuss how Audience Ops has helped Underway see an increase in pageviews, more activity on social media, and growth to the top of the sales funnel. As the founder of Underway, and still a one-man-band who is doing just about everything, Daniel shares about how he’s worked productively with Audience Ops and the importance of giving us autonomy in the work we do. 

Transcription of This Episode

Have you ever thought about the boring parts of your job and wished there was a better way? Do you ever want to ditch those monotonous tasks and have more time for the fun parts of your job?

I’m Sara Robinson, a manager here at Audience Ops, and on this episode of the podcast we’re joined by Daniel Zacarias from Underway.

Daniel is a former product manager who continually heard from the readers of his blog that the busy work of being a product manager was weighing them down.

So, he created Underway, a product that allows for automation of some of the everyday tasks that product managers face.

As a start up that began in February, 2018 Daniel has stayed committed to remaining bootstrapped. He loves that it forces him to be focused and show constraint with his choices for the product and the company’s resources.

Even though they’re bootstrapped, Daniel knows the importance of great content. When you create high quality content on a regular basis, you’re able to build trust and authority for your brand.

Even though Daniel had a blog, foldingburritos.com, prior to starting Underway, he says it was a relief when he handed off content creation to Audience Ops.

On this episode we discuss how we’ve been able to produce strong content on a consistent basis, which has led to an increase in page views, more activity on social media and growth at the top of his sales funnel.

As a founder of Underway, and still a one man band who is doing just about everything, Daniel shares about how he’s worked productively with Audience Ops. Check it out.

Daniel, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. How are you today?

I’m great. Thanks for having me.

Yeah, we’re excited to have you here. So let’s jump right in.

As a startup, how did you identify the need for Underway for product managers?

Right, so I run a product management blog for a while now. And one of the things that I ask any new subscriber is what’s their biggest struggle as a PM. Over and over again, I got some variant of the issue of being too bogged down by the day-to-day stuff, and firefighting, and dealing with questions and interruptions from around the company.

So that’s when I realized that given that and given my own prior experience as a PM, I know that a lot of the job is often just dealing with that small stuff, and not having time for the large, strategic type of thing that we should be caring about as PM.

So yeah, that’s how I got the idea and how I realized that a lot of the day-to-day stuff is about communicating progress and sending out status updates to the rest of the company. And then that’s when it hit and then, oh yeah, what about automating that sort of stuff? It should be automatic and, and still be effective for what we need. So yeah, that’s the origin of the idea.

Yeah, that makes complete sense that there’s so many tasks that you’re doing on a regular basis that becomes so time-consuming, and to automate those really does make sense. So that’s fantastic that Underway is now an option for product managers.

Yeah.

So you’re a bootstrap startup, which we love. How are you managing your resources as a new startup who is working bootstrapped?

Right. So my main source of income is my consulting work and that’s what allows me to invest a little bit in this sort of ideas and projects. At the moment what we are able to do in Underway is basically take some of that consulting income and allow us to invest in the product and try to grow it a little bit more, until it can sustain itself. So that’s essentially the goal. The consulting practice leads to the product experiments and projects that that I want to launch.

That’s great. Ideally things continue to grow, which is part of what we’re going to talk about, how you’re making that happen. So some of those resources are obviously going to marketing. What sort of marketing are you currently doing that’s working for you?

Well, content has always worked great forme. Even on my own personal blog, I have a pretty a large following there and it’s based on having good content. So that’s one of the things that I knew from the start that should be a bench for us and try to create something that was useful for PMs.

Right. So you obviously had a blog, so you were very familiar with creating content and like you said, the importance of having that content for your followers. So what has it been like to delegate that to someone else, to pull in a company like Audience Ops hand off that content creation to someone else when you were so familiar with it to begin with?

Yeah, it was a relief to be honest, because I could be sure that things were be done on time and they would be done regularly. And one of the things that I often struggle with is I enjoy writing, and I enjoy putting a good content together, but I don’t often have the time to do it. And I try to dive to the on some subjects and what turns out is that I don’t have a pretty good cadence on creating content then. And having a team that can handle that for me was a excellent. Definitely it hit a very particular need that I had.

Yeah, I can see where that would be a relief, to have that taken over and on a consistent basis even though it’s something that you really enjoy doing, and it sounds like you were very passionate about before even Underway began. So what was it like to just sort of let go of that? I know it was a relief, but kind of internally, how did you allow yourself to let go of that and let us take that on for you?

Yeah. Yeah. I only did it because I knew that you guys put together pretty good content. One of the things that bugs me the most is when I go around some other products, blogs and I really see that content is not really that good. And that’s something that I didn’t want to put out. I prefer not having any content than having bad content, and one of the things that allow me to kind of let go and be sure about things moving forward in a good way was precisely knowing that you guys have a process that things get done properly, and based on guidance, and we can provide input. So that’s definitely reassuring in that sense.

Yeah. So obviously you are bootstrapped, and so I’m sure you were very thoughtful about where any resources were going. So what prompted you to start thinking about getting that outside help? I know it was maybe you weren’t getting the content out as often as you would like, but what prompted this thought of let me bring in an outside resource to help?

Well, essentially knowing that I really have to improve my marketing and I know that our content is a very effective marketing mechanism, but it takes time to build up, to bring in new traffic, to get on people’s radar. So given the fact that I wasn’t really putting content together, and that I wanted to invest on it, the thought was basically immediate. I’ve been following Brian’s blog also for awhile, so I put two and two together and say, well yeah, I should probably invest on this.

That’s great. And so we’re creating this content for you, how does that fit into your marketing plan? Sort of bigger picture or at a smaller look? How is content an important piece of that?

Yeah, the moment is essentially the only viable marketing mechanism that I can see moving forward. It’s just I think it’s the best use of marketing money that we can have. So to me it’s at the moment, given our early stage and bootstrap status, that’s definitely the only focus in terms of marketing for now.

That’s great. Well we love that you chose us and that we can help you with that. So how do you work productively with us? If someone was thinking about starting with us or another outsource piece of their business, what would be your thoughts on how to work productively with another partner?

Well, it’s having a good notion of where you want to go, so what are you trying to get out of it and what are you trying to produce, what outcome are you trying to produce? So in our case, it was how to position the product, what kind of topics we want to talk about, and what things not to talk about, what things are less explored in the space and having a good notion of what’s worthwhile and what’s not always helps.

Yeah definitely.

Yeah, I would say that in working with any partner, I always believe in giving the partners the biggest amount of autonomy that I can. And the only way that’s going to happen is that we have on the one hand, trust, that I know that they’ll do a good job, but they also need to have some kind of guidance of where they should be going, and when those two things are aligned, great work happens and a good trusting relationship develops.

Yeah. That’s great. I would completely agree with that as one of our managers here, it’s fantastic when we have clients who, yes, trust us, but also give us the input, and the guidance, and the information that helps us get to a point where we’re really understanding who you are, who your clients are, what it is that you’re wanting to do. So yeah, those are definitely good points about working productively together. So now that we’ve been writing for you for a little while, what benefits have you seen from working with Audience Ops?

Well, I’ve seen a traffic increase on the page. I’ve seen social media activity improve, and some more conversions coming out of that funnel. So yeah, now it’s something that needs to keep going and exist over time. But that’s definitely the major outcomes that I wanted to achieve.

Yeah. Well, I think you sort of answered this question and we touched on this, because I know you’re a big fan of just content creation in general, seeing as how you’ve done it for so long. But why do you think it’s a good idea to continue to focus on content creation? You’ve got some content, I think some people sometimes are like, I’ve got it out there, let me jump ship, but why is it important do you think, to continue to focus on that as a main marketing effort?

Yeah, regardless of whether you can or cannot invest in content at any given point in time, and that’s certainly been the case for myself, because of Underway, and even my own personal blog, I believe that content is a really great way to establish trust between our leads and our followers and audience, and ourselves. And the way that we establish trust is by providing value that’s for free, that’s related to the main product. And so you’re kind of serving the same need that the product is serving, but you’re serving it in a different way and you’re providing all these tools. That to me is a really good positioning statement where you say, as a brand, we want to help people, regardless of whether or not it’s through the product or through our marketing efforts. So that’s why I like content so much, is because it’s genuinely helpful when it’s done well, and definitely that would be my motivation to continue to invest on it.

Absolutely. So yeah, it’s clear that content is something that helps you continue to stay connected with your current customers, provide value to people who may be are future customers, or who never become your customer, right?

Correct.

You just become trusted for knowledge and information, and you get people who are learning more about you, which is fantastic. So do you have any tips for founders who are entering the next phase of growth, or maybe who are getting started and who want to be a bootstrap startup, things to focus on or watch out for? Any tips for our listeners?

Well, as I always say, the main thing is to focus on what your customers need, and really try to nail that solution for a particular problem before you try to do too much, and that’s precisely where we’re at. We are still very early stage. The fact that we’re bootstrap doesn’t allow us to invest and create as many features as we would like. And that’s often, I believe a pretty good constraint, I would say, because it forces you to have have better notion of where you should put in your dollars and where you want to invest, and what’s driving your outcomes, and be very mindful about what you do. That to me, those are two very good things to keep in mind.

Yeah, I love how you look at that.

Try to make sure that you are solving one thing well before you do too many things.

Yeah, I love that you put a positive spin on that. You could look at maybe what would be considered not enough resources, it’s oh, we want to grow and add more features, but you’re looking at that as a positive that you can do this thing really well and serve the needs of your customers, and then you’ll grow, and change and probably add more features.

Yeah. And if everything works out, that’s great. If it doesn’t, well that’s too bad, but there are more opportunities to pursue. But I believe that regardless of the end result, what matters is that you focus on what you’re trying to do and don’t deviate too much until you’re sure that you need to deviate from it, or that you can deviate from it. So that’s the main thing I would say, is just I love constraints because constraints ultimately force you to really think about your choices, and it might turn out that your constraints actually don’t allow you to do everything that you need to do, and the thing ultimately is not successful, but as long as you’re conscious about a lot of the constraints and when being bootstrap, it’s a very conscious constraint that you choose, then I believe that you can be set up for success as long as you keep that in mind.

Yeah, that’s great. I love that perspective. So if our listeners want to find out more, which I’m sure they will, where can they find you?

Right. So they can find me on my personal blog, which is called foldingburritos.com and they can also find me on Twitter, where I treat very sporadically my handle is @ListentoDaniel, and they can always of course reach me on the Underway side, which is Underway.IO.

Great and we will link all of that for anyone who is actually physically on the blog, so that they can track you down. Daniel, thank you so much for your time today and sharing all of these fantastic thoughts with us.

My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Thank you to Daniel Zacarias from Underway.IO for sharing more about the product, his philosophies of business and how content creation has been a priority even as a bootstrap startup. If you’d like to learn more about done for you content, you can request a free consultation at AudienceOps.com.