A change in how I’m helping entrepreneurs


Do you need general startup help (Lean Startup, fundraising …)?  Please schedule time with these amazing people – I personally trust them to help you.

Do you need help (1) implementing a Helpful Marketing strategy, or (2) using SoHelpful to grow you business?  Please, please schedule a call for help with me here so I can try to help you.


Why I’m doing this

Since late 2012 I’ve helped more than 250 entrepreneurs worldwide with any startup problem over Skype & Hangout.  I’m now offering help to a smaller set of entrepreneurs with problems related to my products.  Here is my story – I hope it helps your business.


My story begins in Beijing

18 months ago I was living in Beijing and disconnected from most of the world.  I spent the previous year moving to China and studying Chinese and thus my blog and social media presence were dormant.

I wanted to start building products for entrepreneurs – unfortunately I wasn’t meeting many outside of our small expat community in Beijing.  How could I possibly solve problems for entrepreneurs when I wasn’t meeting any?

I decided to try something new – to make myself available to help any entrepreneur worldwide for 30 minutes over Skype or Google Hangout.  My hope was that doing so would help me meet more potential customers and get insight into their needs.


My helpful experiment works

At first it was tough to get entrepreneurs to find me and schedule time with me.  Gradually I began discovering better ways to promote myself, make it easier for them to book time with me and leave me a thank-you testimonial.

By the March of 2013 I started to see the fruits of my labors.  I was steadily meeting and helping 4-6 entrepreneurs every week, learning a ton about the real problems they face and building relationships all over the world.  Complete strangers would approach me at meetups & conferences to tell me why they thought what I was doing is so wonderful.  It was – by far – the most effective, efficient professional networking I’ve ever done.

I started writing blog posts to answer their questions – these quickly became my most popular posts. It turns out thousands of other people have the same questions.  The calls started becoming a Customer Development process for me – as I learned more about their challenges I got insight into the solutions they wanted.


SoHelpful & Helpful Marketing strategy are born

Quite unexpectedly, many of the entrepreneurs calling me for help asked about the process & goals I had in being helpful.  What I soon realized was they had the same problems I had 6 months earlier – they wanted to build their reputation with customers, get insights into their problems and ultimately sell them great products & solutions.  They just didn’t know how to get started, what tools to use, and how to fit ‘being helpful’ into the strategy for growing their businesses.

6 months (and hundreds of Customer Development interviews) later I started offering a SaaS subscription service called ‘SoHelpful‘ to help them do just that – grow their business by offering 30 minutes of 1-on-1 help over Skype or Hangout.  I’ve spent the past year getting the product stable and closely working with a few dozen of them to figure out the right combination of tools, strategy & tactics they needed.  We had no word for the strategy so I started calling it Helpful Marketing™.


Why I’m changing my offer to be helpful

Our experiment is working.  Our SoHelpful subscribers are growing every month and I’m meeting many new people who share my worldview that being helpful is the best way to grow our businesses today.  But there is still so much more I don’t know – and I want to offer free help as a means of figuring it out.

One of the core principles of Helpful Marketing is helping the people most important to growing our businesses.  Usually (but not always) these are the paying customers.  It’s time for me to focus on helping people who are trying to implement a Helpful Marketing strategy or get started using SoHelpful.  Here are my goals:

  • To build my reputation as one of the world’s authorities on using ‘help’ as a business strategy
  • To get deeper insight into the goals & challenges people face in implementing Helpful Marketing strategies
  • To get more customers for SoHelpful – being helpful gives me a chance to invest in them to earn their trust
  • To get people excited about helping me evangelize Helpful Marketing


Don’t worry – you have a ton of resources available

There are now more than 100 people on SoHelpful who will help you with your startup – they want to help you and many have more experience than I do.  Here are some people are personally trust or you can look through all of them here.