What a difference a year makes.
About this time last year I made my way down to AppSumo’s headquarters as a proud winner of one of their contest.
It was an eye opening experience to say the least.
At the time, AppSumo was on target to make $10,000,000 in sales and focusing on expanding and growing their business.
I remember chatting with Noah (for 5 minutes) where he said he wasn’t interested in affiliates who couldn’t bring more than $2,000 a day in revenue because their paid traffic strategy was working so well.
Everything appeared to be going great – at least on the surface.
Before I tell you how I think AppSumo is messing up, allow me to share what I think made them originally stand out.
I have no idea how I was first introduced to AppSumo but I do remember watching the videos.
The one that stands out to me is this one:
It was a great and content filled video, that they were giving away for free, to help spread the brand name.
There were more videos – funny ones, with personality and branding attached but in a cool way
To me, it was clear – AppSumo was Noah Kagan and Neville Medhora.
They seemed like lifelong friends and business partners and played off each other perfectly.
They were brash, they were funny, and they didn’t give a fuck who was offended – they were just who they were.
I bought a few of their products and I’ll agree they were helpful BUT nothing special or over what other products I had owned.
Except for one thing – the branding.
The branding (the videos, the course design, etc) was what made me spend more money on courses that gave me some of the same information I already owned.
Well, like any good business, the push to expand was always present. I remember hearing that their payroll was six figures a month alongside the six figures they were spending in advertising.
To me, it was growth for growth’s sake, and things got lost in the process.
The personality, the branding, the fun and laughter seemed to fade.
It went from these two guys (plus the support staff) having to a good time to hey we need to grow so lets promote this product, then that one, then this one.
It went from an email from two friends to getting an email from a faceless company.
That wasn’t the only thing. I would have loved to helped AppSumo grow and offered several times to do so – that was usually only met with silence.
While I was in Austin I wanted to show them the Nanacast system and share some affiliate marketing strategies but they weren’t interested.
To be honest, I felt blown off and after a “mixup” while down there, I ended up leaving a day early (it’s a long story meant for another day).
That was the day I went from being a champion of AppSumo to just another customer.
One last thing that bugs me – emails. Anytime I’ve emailed Noah I’ve always gotten a response but I’ve always felt like it was rushed or short – not because it had to be – but because he was trying to accomplish something.
What I mean by that is that there is a big push right now for email brevity.
The goal is to keep any reply under 5 sentences – not because it has to be, but because it’s the cool thing to do.
A few months back I wrote Noah and asked him what was going on with AppSumo and their changes.
His response was simple “We’re doing what we want” but not helpful. He gave me no reason to want or try to help them and no explanation of the past, present, or possible future.
So now that AppSumo is doing what they want, when they want, how they want I imagine things have changed.
I don’t see their ads on Facebook anymore, I imagine their staff has been cut along with their income.
If I’m wrong, here’s how I think AppSumo could turn things around.
1. More of their own content with new faces. I said earlier that I see AppSumo and Noah and Neville. That means that I would love to see more products from both of these guys and not random affiliate offers from other companies I don’t know, like, or trust.
The issue with that is creating products takes time, knowledge, and information and let’s be real – most people are only good at a few things and once you teach those, you’re done.
AppSumo could combat that by reaching out to other experts and bringing them “into the family” so to speak. In the same way I got hooked on Noah and Neville in the beginning, I could easily come to “accept” new AppSumo faces and buy their products as well.
It wouldn’t be that hard – find some people that are subject experts but horrible marketers (or don’t want to be marketers) and work out a publishing deal.
Warm them up to the crowd with some fun videos and information.
Make it go from Noah & Neville to Noah and friends (a few of them). Instead of having two people making AppSumo products, have 4, or 6, or 8. That way you’re building up content, a loyal fan base, and your own powerhouse team.
2. Make it fun again. I miss the crazy videos of Neville in a sumo suit and Noah in one of his many stages of dress (or undress). That’s what drew me into AppSumo in the first place – and that is what would bring me back. Somewhere along the line the videos stopped, the jokes seemed to fade, and corporate america rolled in.
It went from two funny guys to a nameless and faceless email with a nameless and faceless product. Lame.
I have no doubt that the videos were time consuming to create, edit, and promote – but I also have no doubt that is what made AppSumo stand out from the crowd.
People buy people, not products and taking the people & personality out of AppSumo is like removing Jimmy Buffett from Margaritaville.
AppSumo should get back to their roots, stand out in the marketplace, and do some of the stuff that made them popular in the first place.
3. Have a real reason from growth and help affiliates help you. In Wall Street 2, Shia Labeouf’s character asks his future boss – “what’s your number” in relationship to how much money he needs to make in order to walk away.
His bosses reply – MORE.
I think a lot of times companies get caught up in growing for the sake of growing. There is no real reason behind the growth, except to make even more money so they can grow even larger to make even more money so they can grow even larger.
I feel like that’s what happened with AppSumo. Growth and expansion occurred in all areas and before they knew it, they had to keep feeding the beast.
When you’re spending 6 figures a month on salary, advertisement, and more you can’t really take a day off from mailing offers or making money.
Maybe standards slip a little bit and the product that was “eh” got promoted – not because they wanted to, but because they had to.
I know Noah and the whole crew have been working on that and I’ve seen the change in how they are promoting products but until there is a real reason behind the growth, I fear the machine may rise again.
Lastly, if you want to help grow AppSumo’s business as an affiliate you’re going to have a hard time.
You gotta email, get personally setup and then the real fun begins. Unlike a traditional product creator (where 50% affiliate commission is standard), some products get you a certain percentage in affiliate commission and others even less.
It’s hard to track, difficult to understand, and not affiliate friendly (at all).
Most affiliates are lazy and won’t bother jumping through the hoops.
If in fact AppSumo is no longer spending mega tons of money on paid advertising, they’d be well served to make it easier for affiliates to promote them.
Instead of worrying about paid traffic, they only have to pay out for results once an affiliate sells something.
Yes, affiliate traffic comes with it’s own nightmares and headaches but I can’t begin to imagine the amount of money being left on the table by not making it easier for affiliates to promote in the first place.
A year from today it will be interesting to see where AppSumo stands.
Will it be the mega machine it once was, the small but profitable company I believe it to be now, or something completely different?
Only time will tell.
In closing, I’ll end with a quote from Noah himself:
AppSumo, I heart you, I really do.