Six months ago, Bertrand – our CEO and the creator of Youzign had a privilege to sit in a rare and exclusive interview with Carl Picot of LaunchGigs magazine. Here, he shared his amazing story on how he built the company from scratch since the days he started on his IM journey up to now. This is something very inspiring and worthwhile we’d love to share with you.
(Please note that this was a raw transcript from a Skype interview so there are quite a few typos 😛)
With no further ado, let’s dive in!
CARL: Hi, this is Carl Picot here and I’d like to introduce Bertrand from YMB Properties to LaunchGigs.
CARL: The topic of the discussion is obviously going to be based around launches. Perhaps you can tell the readers how you first got into the launch scene. How did you launch your first product? What made you choose that product? And how did you go about getting people to promote for you? And how did things progress from there?
“…my first product was really something I did out of passion rather than there being a need for it in the market.”
BERTRAND: Yeah, sure. My first product in the IM niche was from a Tristan Bull coaching program I did in 2011. It was kind of like a coaching in how to create a list and how to do content marketing to build your list, and how to create a product, all that kind of product launch arena and my first product was really something I did out of passion rather than there being a need for it in the market. I think it flopped really, really badly.
It was a product about a launch from Ryan Deiss. He did a million-dollar launch back in 2011 or something. So I kind of analyzed all the sales funnels and everything that he used in his marketing and did a PDF out of that, kind of a report on how he managed this launch. I lost money on it. I paid for the WSO price, which was $40.00 at the time and then I bumped it a couple of times. So I spent like $80.00 on listing fees, and I only sold, I think, four copies at $10.00 So I made a loss of $40.00. So that’s my first, I guess, launch, IM launch back in 2011 and from there, I’ve just kind of been improving on it. Sold a few more PDF products, sold reports on strategies I would use.
“And then in 2012, I really started to focus on software.”
And then in 2012, I really started to focus on softwares. So at the time we created a graphic software for Facebook covers and that was our first graphic software and it did reasonably well. Then I felt I could… Instead of going from product to product and not focusing my efforts enough, I would create a suite of graphic softwares. So back when I did the Facebook one I felt I could use the same kind of principle for a Twitter cover editor and so a YouTube cover editor and maybe infographic, any kind of graphic. The principles of a graphic software are really the same. It’s the same underlying system behind it.
“So I kind of had this product roadmap, and I think that’s what really helped me in what I did.”
So I kind of had this product roadmap, and I think that’s what really helped me in what I did. For the next two years between 2012 and 2014, I just followed that roadmap. So I brainstormed 10-15 different products that would fit that first initial product and would still be in that same niche to kind of build on it, and in the course of two years, we released about 13 graphic softwares, so about one every two months, and kind of grew a little big brand from there.
That phase from 2012 to 2014, we are selling small graphic softwares in that brand. The brand was called Instant Presence and then so there will be like Instant Facebook Presence and Instant Twitter Presence and instant YouTube Presence and Instant Infographic Presence and so on. So we released about 13 softwares and grossed about a million dollars in those two years.
“…we really focused on was the software and intellectual property and the actual value that we built up over time.”
So I guess in terms of launches and what’s done in the IM space, we didn’t really sell a lot comparatively to what other people might be doing with launches. But what we really focused on was the software and intellectual property and the actual value that we built up over time.
CARL: There are a couple of good things you said there Bertrand. You mentioned the Instant Presence brand. I actually remember that myself, and the fact that you created this very, very good quality software applications that made it very, very easy for marketers to create things. I actually bought them myself. I’ve got the graphic that I created on my Facebook page. I made it with your software. How did you get the idea that the market needed that? Obviously, like you said, it’s a very similar process to make very similar types of software for the purposes. How did you realize that this was a product that the IM market were going to pick up and would sell as successfully as it was?
“Yeah, I guess it’s a kind of vision in a way I had at the time.”
BERTRAND: Yeah, I guess it’s a kind of vision in a way I had at the time. I guess it’s really based on experience. If you are a marketer, you’re going to use… I mean traditionally, we use a lot of Photoshop, especially at the time when there wasn’t an all-in-one graphic solution like Canva and Pixlr and that stuff, and Photoshop is just really tedious for what we want to do.
When you want to do a banner, you really don’t want to be spending one hour figuring out dimensions and cropping and all this kind of things. So I kind of realized that we could really simplify that and really simplify the process and make it a lot easier with a simpler software that wouldn’t do as much as the biggest software but would do what it does pretty efficiently. So that was kind of the original idea.
“I realized we could even go further and turn all of this into one single platform. So that’s when the idea for Youzign was born”
And early on, I think about like six months of starting to really develop this suite of software products. I realized we could even go further and turn all of this into one single platform. So that’s when the idea for Youzign was born, I guess, probably back in late 2012. So Youzign is our flagship software now. It’s our main product. But I felt if we’re going to release those 12 different graphic softwares, then probably in time, we could combine all the technologies into one because especially, that was the big user request we had that instead of having all the separate tools, have it in one. So it’s really made sense to already think about that.
“… we had this vision for creating this line of 10-15 software products and then merging them into one single platform and we followed that through since the beginning.”
But the thing at the time is that we didn’t have the technological resources. We didn’t have the know-how to be able to produce such a software, and we didn’t have the financial resources as well because software development is pretty heavy in terms of investment. So we really took our time. I guess kind of not unique thing, but something we were really focused on since the beginning is that we had this vision for creating this line of 10-15 softwares and then merging it into one single platform and we followed that through since the beginning.
Eventually, in early 2014, we started developing the Youzign. We developed it for about a year. Before we first showed it to the customers, we had about 12 months of development. So we started in January 2014. In December 2014, we launched the Beta to about 1000 people, so a very limited number and that year, just to maybe give you a an idea into the kind of development fees, developing a large software can involve, we spent more than $150,000 in that year in development, and that was in 2014, just developing YouZign.
So it was really… like we were learning things as we go as well. I’m not a software developer. We have some software developers in the team, but as new company, you always have to create your systems and find your way to work, and I guess we really spent that year focusing on that and then in February of this year, 2015, we launched Youzign and again, with the evolution of the work we’d been doing two years before – it was 10 graphic softwares – so we took all that technology and kind of rethought the UI and really made it targeted at Internet marketers to really help Internet marketers who are creating marketing graphic online. and that launch did pretty good. I guess that was our biggest launch, definitely.
“We grossed about $650,000 in the first four weeks and about $800,000 in the first 12 weeks and we sold about 10,000 copies of Youzign.”
We grossed about $650,000 in the first four weeks and about $800,000 in the first 12 weeks and we sold about 10,000 copies of Youzign. So it’s one of the bestsellers, I think, in this year. It’s a product that really resonated with a lot of people in our space and it really made their life easier. So getting to that, I guess the bottom line for me in business, in what I do, is just helping people.
I’m just trying to find creating ways with my company, my team, and my skills to make people’s life easier and I think ultimately, business is that. It’s just like the more you make life easy for people and the more you give them, the more you get. So I’m really in that position and I think that’s been helping us since the beginning.
“We’ve been really close to customers. We have a really good support system and really try to help out a lot and I feel that made a big difference in our business”
We’ve been really close to customers. We have a really good support system and really try to help out a lot and I feel that made a big difference in our business because we got a lot of repeat customers that bought 3, 4, 5, or 8 of our products. So because we have this relationship with our customer, I think it’s really helping us to build the kind of software that they want and that’s where we are at moment. We’re really trying to find that perfect market fit with Youzign and Internet marketing space, and hopefully scale to be one of the major softwares in our space.
CARL: You mentioned a couple of things there that I think are very, very important. The first one is making life easier for people. That is obviously what marketing is all about, curing problems, doing something that’s going to
benefit them in their lives in some way. What I thought was very, very good about the Youzign marketing and the launch was the fact that it was represented this kind of graphic software for people that didn’t have the time or the inclination to want to go learn Photoshop. But it did everything that the marketer needed in a far simpler way. That’s the way I got it anyway. I don’t know if I’m right there, am I?
BERTRAND: Yeah, yeah, pretty much.
CARL: Yeah. It was fantastic the way you angled it at the Internet marketing scene because I mean a lot of people do find Photoshop intimidating, and there’s obviously the open-source stuff like Gimp. Still, the learning curves are very, very steep for those sorts of software products and if what you want to do is make a banner, I mean most people would just outsource it, wouldn’t they? And that’s costs money and can be time consuming and the quality unreliable. And the other thing which you mentioned as well, obviously, being close to your customers.
I think this is very, very important because listening to the market and listening to your customers has got to be one of the greatest skills that a marketer possesses because obviously, without their feedback, it’s going to be very difficult to know what to do next. I suppose unless you second guess, really. How do you go about the process of building and maintaining the relationship that you have got with customers?
BERTRAND: I guess the start for us was fast support. I guess the first process we tried to implement is to have at least 24 hours’ response time support and then progressively, we got it down to about… I think our average right now is 7 hours and 30 minutes, 7.5 hours. Response time for support, so I guess having this kind of benchmarks, data you can base yourself on was… One of the first objectives we had. So we hired the support teams to be on support 7 days a week. So we hired two dedicated support staff and then we get everyone involved in the support as well in the company. So we extended the support to the developers, to the designers. Pretty much included everyone.
“And what we did good, I think, is that our support desk is really open. It’s kind of like a forum where people can come and ask questions and really interact with us. It’s really transparent.”
And what we did good, I think, is that our support desk is really open. It’s kind of like a forum where people can come and ask questions and really interact with us. It’s really transparent. The way we’ve been doing support is pretty much supporting people wherever they are, whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter. They have to come to our help desk and we implemented live chat two weeks ago.
So now we have live chat 8 hours a day and live phone calls as well. So you can call as well and get support within Youzign during support hours. You can call, and you’ve got an agent helping you out. So I think we’re just really customer focused and some of the tools that we use, we found that Intercom was pretty much the perfect fit for what we do. So we happily recommend that. It’s a pretty amazing tool. It’s a Dublin based company as well. So help desk, we use something called Helprace, which is a kind of an online community forum.
CARL: Okay. So where would people go if they wanted to get that for themselves?
BERTRAND: It’s called Helprace, helprace.com. They can check it out on support.youzign.com. That’s what we use. It’s like a forum and a help desk and a ticket desk at the same time. So it’s a great combination. It’s very efficient.
CARL: Yeah, that sounds really good. I like the idea about being totally transparent because often companies try and hide the issues that they’ve got. You’re always going to get unreasonable customers. But I think 90% of them or 99% of them are actually fine.
BERTRAND: Yeah, very much.
CARL: Excellent. Okay, so this has been your most successful launch. You told the story in the beginning about the Warrior Forum, selling four copies.
BERTRAND: Yeah there was some way to go there.
CARL: Yeah. I mean personally, I think the amount of time that you’ve been marketing, I think you’ve done incredibly well. What I would say my personal view of what makes you so successful is because there’s nobody else doing what you do to such a good, solid standard with such a good set of products, basically.
CARL: Okay, so as far as the launch process is concerned, how would you structure putting the launch together? How important do you think things like affiliate contests are? Obviously, a JV network is very, very important. What would be your steps? Say you were to launch a new product in the next two weeks or begin to plan for launch in the next two weeks, how would you go about it?
“It’s important to start systemizing your business and building processes and to make sure that you can kind of let go of some tasks and focus on more tasks as you go.”
BERTRAND: OK so to start at the beginning… I read a book a couple of years ago called the Emyth by Michael Gurber. It’s a book on systems and processes and it’s basically talking about the trap of the… As a young entrepreneur, when you start, when you work, you’re really struggling to get through your day. He talks about when you are at that point, it’s important to start systemizing your business and building processes and to make sure that you can kind of let go of some tasks and focus on more tasks as you go.
So that book really turned the switch on me. I just became really process-oriented. I spent good six months in 2014 just building like an operation manual detailing all the important tasks that we do, why we do them, and how to do them. So I kind of created like a knowledge base for the company with probably about 100 articles on various things, how to send emails, how to structure a promotion, and so on.
And in terms of, I guess, producing that kind of content, I used something called mind MindMeister from mindmeister.com, and used mindmaps for the product launch. So I would go about organizing the product launch that we have in two weeks or in a few weeks. So we have a product launch process which is on a mind map. So just pretty much run through the process. So there are several areas, for instance, the product development part even before the product launch.
So how do we develop a plugin? We start by researching the competition, researching what sells and then we start to use the competition features. Then we develop the plugin and then in the IM space, we would break down the plugin in an upsell funnel. So in terms of the nature of our space and how the pricing is, usually you have the front end and then the upgrade and optionally a second upgrade.
So I guess the first stage is the product development. Then we’ll go into creating things like the marketing pages. So the marketing pages would be the sales page, pre-launch page, the front-end page, the upsell page and the second upsell page and we’d have process and guidelines for each of these. So for the prelaunch page, for instance, we have a template. We have an Optimized Press template that we would reuse for pre-launch. Then for the front-end sales copy, we have a sales copy template as well that is made for Optimize Press as well. So we can quickly edit them. So pretty much customize the copy based on the product. We have very simple copies.
“So I mean I could go on and on. We just have a process of pretty much all of it.”
And then you have the video and the video would get… we define the video script, and then record the video demo and then record the video narration, and then get a video voice-over done. So I mean I could go on and on. We just have a process of pretty much all of it. But then we’re moving to the JV pages, the delivery, how do we deliver all the products? So we’ll have step-by-step instruction and the model that we use that works best for us would be the Work Based Structure, WBS, Work Based Structure.
So it’s a kind of structure where you define those steps in a process down to the most basic step. For instance, for example, even for something like creating the JV page, I think you mentioned it right. So the prices that we charge, So that’s what information you have on the creative page, the bonus pages, what element of the JV page you need them on. Then the JV agenda, like day minus 14 where you start to pull out and day minus 7 and so on. So you just try to kind of define everything and then run with it.
CARL: Yes, it’s almost like you’re giving new JVs a process to work through themselves on the JV page with the tools you’re getting them, giving them. Is that right?
CARL: All right, that’s brilliant. So how far along the road did you need to go before you could actually put these processes together? How much knowledge did you need to gain and experience?
“I guess I would’ve wished I started earlier. I think I waited for a bit too much time before creating processes and systemizing the business.”
BERTRAND: I guess I would’ve wished I started earlier. I think I waited for a bit too much time before creating processes and systemizing the business. So I guess from the second launch on, the third launch, I think I started putting processes in place. But I only started probably two years after starting this business because I didn’t realize that having systems will be that important, especially if you want to scale up your business in the future.
CARL: Okay, Bertrand, that sounds excellent. So from one-man band on the Warrior Forum to where you are now, how has the company grown? How did you start employing your first employees? Where did you get them from? And how have you continued that process to what it is today?
“And I guess the first thing to me when I saw you could make this kind of money, when I had this kind of money, it was to think about hiring a team and really building a team.”
BERTRAND: Yeah. So like you said, it started as a one-man army, and then when we started, when we released that first Facebook cover software in 2012, the way we started hiring people was through outsourcing. So we worked with someone we outsource to on freelancer. com, and then it was going pretty well. We had a good launch. It was not even that big of a launch, but we must have launched that software and made about $10,000 and I guess the first thing to me when I saw you could make this kind of money, when I had this kind of money, it was to think about hiring a team and really building a team and just back in, I guess, 2012…
So we offered that outsourcer to come and work for us full-time, even if we only had like probably three months’ worth of salaries to pay. That was the first, step towards building the team and from then on, we added more and more to our team. A friend came and joined us and became one of the developers in the company and then we hired some designers to help out and we hired the customer support staff, then more developers, then the community manager, then secretary, a live-chat person, and like a tech evangelist, someone that would pretty much reach out to blogs and talk about what we do. So we really changed from myself to employing 18 people in the company.
“Currently, we have 18 staff. We kind of really went that route of being a company and being a team of people with a shared vision and shared values.”
Currently, we have 18 staff. We kind of really went that route of being a company and being a team of people with a shared vision and shared values. Most of the hires that we did in the team is… We always kind of focused on the values, on kind of the vibe you would have someone. Because I’m a really calm and chilled out person, in YMB Properties what you find is that most of the staff are really chilled and just no worries, down-to-earth guys and girls.
CARL: Sounds really good. One of the first things I noticed about you actually is how easygoing you are and chilled out you are. I like that. That sounds very much like companies like MindValley who have got very similar approach where they’ve all got this sort of universal set of ideals and they’re all very, very advanced. I think it’s a very, very important thing about building a company. That is one of the things about your presence online. Obviously no pun intended with your set of products. But it is very much… Everybody sees all this YMB Properties or Youzign. they see these brand names, but nobody actually sees a face behind it or anything like that – a big marketer. How do you fit in with the IM scene without having this kind of big marketing persona that so many of these marketers have got?
“I guess it is down to my personality as well. I’d rather be quiet in my corner kind of guy. I guess it’s a bit why I consciously put the emphasis on building the brand of the company it also kind of fits with my lifestyle as well.”
BERTRAND: That’s a good point, actually. I guess it’s a choice I made at the time a couple of years ago when building the company like whoever built the company was about to be myself. My personal brand about my company as a brand. The way I wanted to build my business is that I’m not a really on-the scene kind of guy as well. I guess it is down to my personality as well. I’d rather be quiet in my corner kind of guy.
I guess it’s a bit why I consciously put the emphasis on building the brand of the company it also kind of fits with my lifestyle as well. I didn’t want to have to be there to run the company. I didn’t want people to buy based on my recommendation but based on the company recommendation and kind of slowly remove myself from the equation. So I guess it all goes back to the operation manual and you talked about belief and things like that. So if you go on our website, ymbproperties. com/about, you can see the belief that we’ve put in.
“So this high kind of stuff, not high-level but just high stuff. Dreaming is freedom. So I built a lot of the identity of the company on the vision, on really selling the vision and what we are.”
So there are 6 core beliefs. The first one would be that happiness is simplicity. So we believe that happiness is found in the simplest thing and so on, that in a sense is transparency and that no details are too small, that great is where we want to start and that life is always first so that we believe in family and friends and making time for the ones we love and being kind to each one that crosses our path. So this high kind of stuff, not high-level but just high stuff.
Dreaming is freedom. So I built a lot of the identity of the company on the vision, on really selling the vision and what we are and then I try to infuse that into the team and I think it’s worked really well by having this kind of vision approach. There was a saying by this writer. He used to say if you want your boatman to take you to a faraway island. You won’t just give them the plans and show them how to build a boat. But you’ll just give them the yearning for the sea. So I kind of get your team to see the big picture on where you are going and then let them think that we’re with them so that in any situation, even if you’re not here, to run things for whatever reason, your company can still keep going. So I guess that’s the main way I kind of try to build that company.
”When you release 10, 15, 20 graphic software products within that space that all kind of about the same things, you cannot really reinforce the brand.”
In terms of branding, what we really did is that we did a logo for the company on the company website and again, the brand also goes with the product. So we really kept our product line really focused and I think that’s really helped kind of reinforcing the branding over time. When you release 10, 15, 20 graphic software products within that space that all kind of about the same things, you cannot really reinforce the brand and then on things like the way you… like which username you use when you sign up to MunchEye or JV Notify Pro and you promote your brand. You sign up under your personal name or the company name. So you would always use… Even on the JV pages, I wouldn’t put my picture on it, just with the company name. It’s really about what the team does.
“And like you said, I’ve been pretty low-key in that respect, that the company kind of speaks for me.”
So I guess that was also one choice, to stop putting my branding everywhere instead of really focus on the company brand to be the main piece and like you said, I’ve been pretty low-key in that respect, that the company kind of speaks for me and as well, with these systems and kind of letting go as well of what you do. So it’s something good, actually, we did about a year and a half ago.
We hired Magnus as an affiliate and campaign manager. So we hired someone to really take over because there’s a kind of thinking in Internet marketing that when you are marketing that you have to market from your own voice and you have to have a deep relationship with the customer. It really does help that… but in our case for instance, for the past year, I haven’t written emails for YMB Properties. We have Magnus in charge of writing the emails and sending the campaigns and communicating with affiliates as well.
“It helps to kind of remove yourself from being the center of attention and instead to put your brand in front and your company in front.”
So by kind of letting go on some of these things as well, it helps to kind of remove yourself from being the center of attention and instead to put your brand in front and your company in front and the whole, I guess, underlying thought behind it is that I kind of got into this space and created this company because I wanted the freedom pretty much. My thought was that by having a brand rather than myself in there, I could put systems in place and the company would run itself – which gives me pretty much a lot of freedom to really enjoy and live my life.
CARL: Right, that sounds very good, very good company and working ethics and I like the way that you attribute so much of the company’s success to your team as well. It’s very good. Lovely, right, many thanks for sharing your story and wisdom with LaunchGigs Bertrand. It’s been excellent. To find out more information about Bertrand and YMB Properties go to www. youzign.com.
So that’s pretty much it . Thanks for your time going over this somewhat long interview and we hope you got something helpful out of it to use on your own IM journey. We’d also love to hear your thoughts, just feel free to share them with us below!