WineLog

5 Tips I Wish I Shared During My Mixergy Interview

My interview with @Mixergy is live. Check it out here: https://mixergy.com/interviews/stranger-studios-with-jason-coleman/

It's great. We cover 15 years of business.

I like getting tactical on podcasts. I know Andrew likes it too. I missed some spots. So here are 5 tips I wish I shared during the interview.

🧵👇

1) During recessions, get close to the money.

I talk a bit about what business was like in 2008. Besides some personal struggles, 2008 was also a time when individuals and businesses were clamping down on spending. So what can you do if you are freelancing through that?

Get close to the money. People will be cutting spending on things that seem superfluous, but any tools, service, or consulting that ties directly to the company's bottom line will be the last to go.

This was part of what encouraged us to focus on membership sites.

I remember some clients we built websites for, even friendly clients (maybe family members ;), saying to me "The website is nice, but it didn't really bring us business."

!!!

We weren't tracking it. The membership sites we helped launched had reporting built in showing $$$.

2) When going up against established competition, don't compete with them head on. Focus your marketing efforts on features and in spaces they aren't addressing.

There were already a couple established membership plugins for WP when PMPro launched.

Making PMPro free and open source was a decision that has lead to better software (what I go into in the interview), but it was also a Judo move to circumvent the competition at the time that was relatively expensive and not OSS.

We didn't waste money to compete with their Google or Facebook ad spend.

We didn't try to recreate the affiliate networks they had already set up.

We focused on becoming the best free membership plugin available on the http://wp.org repository.

3) Speaking of focus. Focus on one project at a time.

When I told Andrew about the frustrations of dealing with 3rd parties changing their APIs when trying to grow WineLog, he asked "Do you have to deal with that kind of thing with PMPro?"

Yes! We do. What's different? Focus.

When Google removed wine from their shopping results, it was the final nail in the coffin for WineLog, as we had just spent months building technology on top of those results.

We didn't have the energy, time, or desire to pivot and try something new.

In business, things are going to fail sometimes. What do you do when you have a set back?

If you have other active projects, you can turn to them for what seems like easier progress.

But if you only have one project to focus on, you HAVE to make it work…

… and you will do what what's needed to try again.

Stopping work on WineLog, InvestorGeeks, and the other side projects we had back around 2010, gave us the time and attention needed to make PMPro a success.

In 2015, we made 80% of our income from making membership sites for others.

When we made the switch from consulting to 100% products-based revenue, we turned down $90k in new work over 3 months to focus on a PMPro relaunch.

The relaunched PMPro 4x'd revenue immediately. Focus.

4) Our Auto-Renewal Checkbox Add On caught Andrew's attention while he scanned our site during the interview.

https://www.paidmembershipspro.com/add-ons/auto-renewal-checkbox-membership-checkout/

I glossed over that one to talk about other add ons, but ARC is pretty cool. The idea behind it is insightful even if you don't use PMPro.

On some sites, customers will purchase a recurring subscription and then CANCEL RIGHT AWAY.

They maybe want access to something right away, but don't really see the benefit in extending membership another month or year.

Auto-Renewal Checkbox tries to address these customers.

ARC gives customers an option at checkout to pay just a one time fee for a membership that expires or to lock into a recurring subscription.

You see this kind of UI all the time when donating online.

However, if you notice this pattern on your site, you should try some things.

Why do your customers only want to pay you one time? Figure that out.

Think about how you could create a separate 1-time-payment product. Maybe your subscription is giving TOO MUCH value, and you should break part of it off into a separate product.

People are really focused on getting recurring revenue on their site. It is nice, but you can find yourself shoehorning what's basically a one-time purchase into a subscription product. Don't force it.

I talk more about timing and pricing here:

5) Finally, I missed a chance to talk about the value of disconnecting.

I said it was easier to step away from work in a products company vs a services company.

Andrew said, "Yeah? What's the longest you stepped away?" Maybe hoping for a great sabbatical story, but I had none.

The longest I've stepped away is 1 or 2 weeks, but I'm definitely able to REALLY get away and disconnect 100% when I go on vacation now. And that is HUGE.

*Every single time* I step away from the day to day of my business for a week, I come back with ideas that grow our business at least 10-20%.

I'd say 4 days in the minimum to really get away. Shoot for 7. More could be better.

If you haven't done that in a while, work it out.

Those are 5 tactical tips that I wish I shared during the interview. You get them for free here on Twitter and my blog. 😀

If you can, watch the interview anyway. Like it on the site. Ask a comment there. It really helps to show Andrew you're listening.

Originally tweeted by Jason Coleman (@jason_coleman) on November 9, 2020.

What I Learned During the Mixergy Pre-interview

When I am a guest on someone else’s podcast, I try my best to deliver value to the podcast’s audience. I want them to learn something from the stories I’m telling. For the first time the other day I realized that *I* learn from these interviews too.

This week I did a pre-interview with Arie Desormeaux for the Mixergy podcast. Arie and Andrew have been doing this a while and ask questions that are effective at pulling useful tidbits out of the entrepreneurs they interview. While chatting with Arie, even though I was telling stories I’ve told numerous times before, I had a couple big realizations that I hadn’t thought of before.

These things might come up in the full public interview, and when that happens, I will share a link for y’all to get the full story. But for now, I’ll share the 2 tidbits I hadn’t realized before doing the pre-interview.

(1) In 2008, our son Isaac was born with medical complications that kept him in the hospital for 2 weeks and kept us from working for 2-3 months. Isaac is fine and healthy now, but it was a scary time for us as new parents. We were freelancing at the time and unable to work to bring in money, while also spending somewhere around $15,000 on unexpected medical expenses. (Thank god for the insurance we had and the ACA for allowing us to later get better insurance for our son with pre-existing conditions.)

This moment in our lives was important and pivotal for numerous reasons, but I just realized the other day during the pre-interview, that these months after Isaac were born are part of what motivated Kim and I to move away from consulting into products. We wanted enough money to be able to weather situations like this, and we wanted a business we could step away from for 3 months without risking our financial safety.

(2) We also talked a bit about WineLog during the chat. Arie asked what was the struggle we had with WineLog, and I mentioned how we had a string of issues where crucial technology and business partners made updates and pivots that made it harder for us to monetize our traffic.

For example, at one time Amazon announced they would start selling wine on their site. We spent a lot of time writing code to integrate with Amazon’s APIs. Then Amazon changed their mind and stopped selling wine, making all of that work useless. Similar changes at Google, Facebook, Apple, and others threw us off at different points.

Anyway, during the pre-interview Arie asked if we ever had the same issue with Paid Memberships Pro. At first, I thought no, but in reality we still deal with constantly changing technologies, APIs, and business partners. We have many weeks and months even, where we are doing development we aren’t always expecting, working to fix integration with tech partners. Why are we better able to deal with those things now? One reason is that we are fully focused on Paid Memberships Pro and can spend the time needed to work on these things. Being open source helps as well, allowing other developers to help us with these things. But there are likely other things we’re doing better this time around. Arie’s question really prompted me to think about it.

I’m looking forward to the full interview. I’ve been a Mixergy fan for years. I’m excited to share some of my story and some of the things I’ve learned in business over the past 15 years or so. But I’m also excited to talk with talented interviewers that can probe me so much that even I learn something during the chat.

If you are interested, watch this interview between Andrew and Arie going into the pre-interview process they use at Mixergy. And stay tuned to the Mixergy podcast for my interview whenever it comes out.

WineLog Signups Disabled. When Are They Coming Back?

Hello all. Recently the spam accounts have been getting out of hand. I tried to add some extra protection to our signup form, but that was quickly worked around by the spammers.

For the time being, I have disabled all new signups on the site. If someone really wants to signup for a new account, please email me and I’ll set you up right away.

Current users will not be affected at all. (You should actually see some performance improvements as we move the site to a beefier server and the spammers stop trying to use the site.)

A newer version of WineLog has been in the works for a while, which included a new signup and authentication system. We will likely be waiting until that is ready (sometime in the Fall) before activating new signups again.

Thanks

Super Wine Search is Back Baby

Last Fall, Google retired their “Googlebase” product which we used to get results for our wine shop search engine Super Wine Search.

We had plenty of heads up, but due to lack of time and some uncertainty about which API was the true successor to the Googlebase one, we had to take the site down for a while.

Well, it turns out that Google’s “Search API for Products” is a good successor and I had a bit of spare time… so Super Wine Search is back! I’m excited to try a bunch of searches to see how well the database has expanded. (Be sure to flag search results that come back funny so we can tweak our processing to improve our algorithm.)

The new API is actually very easy to work. I was able to swap things out pretty seamlessly.

There are a couple of things we had to nix. The Search API doesn’t include “size” and “vintage” data as a separate field like the Googlebase API would sometimes. So we are only able to grab this data if it is passed in the product title. Also the new API doesn’t seem to allow us to limit searches to “wine products” like we could before. These features shouldn’t be missed too much though because many merchants (most actually) didn’t provide this information. So we couldn’t count on them anyway… and we didn’t.

Super Wine Search was also used to gather pricing information on wines in your log. You may notice updates to your wine prices and cellar values.

I hope you’ll give Super Wine Search another try. This very simple technology, which basically wraps a bit of WineLog data around the Google shopping search is very powerful and competes well with the more robust wine search engines out there.

WBC11 Rioja Crawl Checklist

Hello, Wine Bloggers Conference. I hope you are going to enjoy the Rioja wines and look forward to a chance to win some Rioja wine or a trip to the region… with Pia!

This is a little hacked together, but I hope it helps you log the wines and keep track of where you are. Logging the wines here and marking of the paper Pia gave you should get you entered into the drawing twice. Here are the steps:

  1. Signup for WineLog. You may want to link up your Twitter account from the account page.
  2. Visit the Rioja Microsite or just search for riojacrawl. Check the wines off as you drink them.
  3. Visit your Wine Log. You will be awarded the Rioja Crawl badge.
  4. Click where prompted to share on Twitter and Facebook please.

Live Blogging the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference

So I’m going to do the full Wine Bloggers Conference experience here with a live blogging of some White and Rose Wines.

We’re getting an update on the weekend’s schedule. I should be getting started in a moment…

First up is Andy Hicks from CalNaturale with an interesting wine in a tetrapack.

So I’ve actually decided to log the wines instead of writing in the blog. I’ll paste a wine list short code here, which should update with the wines as I taste them. Refresh every 5-10 minutes if you’re reading this in real time.

The Wineries of Master Chef’s Joe Bastianich

tritonoKim and I are catching up on back episodes of Master Chef. One of the judges, Joe Bastianich, remarks in the opening about his 24 restaurants and 3 Italian wineries. I decided to try to figure out what and where those wineries were and if any of the wine is available online.

The Wineries

The first was pretty easy to find. A quick Google search brings up Bastianich Winery,a 70 acre winery in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. (Joe’s mug is on the “People” page.) They make a 100% Friulano white wine and 7 other wines. The Friulano varietal, named for the region, is one I had never heard of. The Bastianich site says:

Friulano is the most typical white wine in Friuli, the northeastern region of Italy. it is an indigenous grape variety grown in Friuli for hundreds of years. Our Friulano is produced in the Colli Orientali area of Friuli, an area known for its unique terroir and where world-class white wines of Italy are produced.

So to find the other “two” wineries, I checked Wikipedia, which says “Bastianich has established three wineries: Azienda Agricola Bastianich in Friuli; La Mozza s.r.l. in Maremma, Tuscany; and in Tritono Mendoza, Argentina.”

That first winery listed seems to be a longer name for Bastianich Winery. Must be an Italian thing.

La Mozza s.r.l. in Maremma, Tuscany, has their own website as well. The same picture of Joe is on the “People” page of this site… along with Mario Batali. Celebrity wineries! (Lidia Bastanich, a celebrity in her own right, is also listed on the La Mozza and Bastanich Winery sites.)

La Mozza has a red and a white wine listed on the site. Aragone is a red blend (40% Sangiovese, 25% Alicante, 25% Syrah, 10% Carignan). Perazzi is a Morellino (85% Morellino [the local name for Sangiovese in Maremma], 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, 2% Colorino, 3% Ciliegiolo).

Tritono, the last winery, is in Mendoza, Argentina. Tritono makes a Malbec with a kick ass label (to the right). From the site:

In the glass, the intriguing dark scarlet hues foretell of depth and character Cinnamon and allspice dominate the nose with hints of plum skin and succulent prune. A first sip reveals a mélange of plum, prune, black cherry and hints of orange zest. Underlying flavors of fresh straw and wild mushrooms mingle with earthy, mineral nuances, nicely complementing the intense cherry and plum finish.

Get me a glass!

The Wines

To find the wines, I used what else but Super Wine Search to see if any of these were available online. And they are! Follow the links below to find some merchants offering Bastianich wines.

The Future

Wikipedia also says that Joe has “recently acquired the Brandini Estate in La Morra, Piedmont, Italy.” You can find some wine available under that brand/region. We’ll see what Joe does with it. In the meantime, we’ll be watching Joe school some noobs on Master Chef.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these. Find them on WineLog and log them. Cheers!

Great Wines at BacchusSelections.com

I wanted to give an update on Bacchus Selections, which is offering some great wines right now… at crazy low prices.

First up is the 2003 Chateau Moulinet Lasserre Cabernet Franc, which is selling for $29.99/bottle. DrXeNo gives it 4 stars and says

Color: Medium to dark garnet with brick tones in the core, more brick garnet, medium dark edges.

Nose: Big red cherry note shere, but also some more dried cherry tobacco with a bit of earth and driest coffee, followed by drier leather.

Palate: Medium full, with an extremely smooth and sensual mouthfeel. Great balanced acidity that adds a touch of brightness to the cherry tobacco and dried cherry fruit, along with some definite flint in the mid-palate out to the cool finish, that touches on some more earth, leather and dried cassis. Very good, older style with this hint of age now: OldWorldWK.

I give it 5 stars. Probably because I haven’t been able to drink much wine lately, and this was a fine fine specimen. It’s the kind of wine you can really go to school on trying to figure out the complexity. Pick up a bottle now.Buy 3 and get free shipping.

Next up is the 2008 Chateau Pontet-Caillou Pessac-Leognan. This one is just $19.99 (about 37% off retail) and represents a good value. Ward says give it some time to age. So if you have fridge/cellar space. Pick up some of this. 4 bottles to get free shipping.

DrXeNo gives it 4 stars, and says

Color: Medium ruby, lighter ruby edges.

Nose: Toast and light Brett, breadiness to the toast, drier black fruit and black cherry, followed by a nice, flinty minerality.

Palate: Very smooth and chalky mouth, with fine, but still quite structured and slightly bitter tannins, but they add savory herbs to the mid-palate. Slight Brett also adds just a bit of interest to the all black, brighter fruit, alongside low level toast and charred tobacco with anise. Needs some time to continue to integrate, has good aging potential.

I haven’t had a chance to open my bottle yet, but am looking forward to it. I’ll follow up with my impressions once I get a taste.

Please take a look at Bacchus Selections. Sign up for the their free mailing list to be notified of future offers. I know that their wine selectors are top notch and prepped to find some nice deals in this market.

For disclosure purposes, you should know that Bill Loftus, CEO of WineLog is the primary owner of Bacchus Selections. And Stranger Studios, the developer behind WineLog, is the main developer of Bacchus Selections as well. We’re running ads for Bacchus Selections on the site. And we got these samples for free. DrXeNo and I are as unbiased as always, but take this all into consideration.

Rewards for Logging Wines. Friends of Rutherford Hill.

Friends of Rutherford HillHow do you like the sexy badges awarded on the site when you log wines? Did you know that they aren’t just eye candy? Many of the badges come with rewards.

Many badges will reward you with free shipping at the winery website or 10-30% off your order. Others will link to downloadable ringtones or tickets to wine events.

Log and wishlist some Rutherford Hill wines to earn the Friends of Rutherford Hills badge.

VinPass Has Launched

VinPass

If you use this site at all, you’ve noticed the VinPass badges that are awarded to you when you rate or log certain wines. This feature has been in beta for a few months now, but is finally officially “launched”.

To view all the VinPass badges in play at WineLog, visit the badges page.

VinPass is a cross-site platform, working with the Drync and Hello Vino apps/sites. The launch has gotten some good press on ReadWriteWeb, 1WineDude, and other blogs.

We’re proud to be in such good company, and we look forward to what the future holds for this platform.

Let me know what you think of the feature. If you have suggestions. Which badges are you most excited about? (Some offer prizes)