🛠️ SFC HQ DevLog

DevLog 04 - Found my community (!) & question for the devs

Week 48 2022-12-02

In this week's edition: The case for daily emails, finally found a community I think I'll love, and what the SFC tech stack looks like

From the founder

Have you considered sending daily emails?

If ever you wonder if sending a daily email to your list is a good marketing strategy, consider this:

Unless you're on my other, daily email list, you didn't receive last week's DevLog - because I accidentally sent it to that list, and not the one that you are subscribed to! 🤦

The people there, they get a short daily article - the ones that I add to the SFC Vault each day. (If you click that link, you can sign up to get them delivered daily.)

Those people are absolutey not used to getting a long, multi-section email, much less one about the behind-the-scenes of my building an app. Oh, and they never get my emails on Sundays either. But, that's when I sent DevLog 03.

So normally, you'd expect to see at least a few people unsubscribe, right? "That's not what I signed up for, Martin. Goodbye". And rightly so.

And yet, not a single single reader unsubscribed from it. Just goes to show how strong relationships can get with readers, if you constently, even daily, show up with something intended to be useful.

You can make a complete gaffe, send them something they never expected and be forgiven, and that's exactly because of that commitment to serving, and showing up consistently. Dunno, maybe this will have you consider sending daily emails to your own list as well...

Also: sorry, I sent your DevLog to the wrong list.

Keywords, avatars and insights

That whole SEO thing is proving a hell of a lot harder - and more useful! - than I had expected.

Obviously there's a lot to figure out and a lot to get my head around. But that process of reviewing what a competitor is doing, and what search phrases they rank for, and how that translates to the type of person they are trying to appeal to... that's doing a lot of good for my own thinking.

It also means that we're still very much in the research phase of SEO and not so much in the implementing phase, but that's ok. I'm all about taking action, but in this case research and learning are prerequisites.

My biggest learning this week is that the people I thought were my competitors, rank for keywords that are very hard to rank for... and those keywords that are easy to rank for, are those entered into Google when people are starting out as a coach or consultant.

Searches lke: "how to start a consulting business" or "how to land my first consulting client". And that's a problem, because I have a "battlescars required" rule.

The difficulty is that people who are new to coaching or consulting tend to be more in need of help with their mindset, instead of help with strategy and implementation. And, they typically would benefit from a phase of intense learning, when right now I don't offer any training programmes or digital course.

Which means they might benefit from the free content in the vault, but they won't be a good fit for a Personal membership. And means I have no way to monetise the traffic, so it makes no sense to spend time and money trying to attract that kind of traffic.

All this to say: I was looking at competitors for my coaching and consulting work, but in terms of SFC and the SEO it needs, they are actually not my competitors. So in the coming week we're taking a step back, in order to first research competitors in-depth, and only after that get into the keyword-weeds.

What's new this week at SFC HQ

Alright, I'll play the startup game: we have a new intern, and it's a kitten named Groovy. I'll add him to our Team Page tomorrow. (Gosh, I'm so modern. Maybe I should move to Sillicon Valley.)


One early morning on my daily constitutional, one of those strays that you see here in the vega, came up behind and started following me.

So I figured: "Fine, little one. If you walk with me all the way back the car, I'll give you a home". Which he now has. Crazy little guy walked with me for almost 40 minutes.

Of course Funky - my other cat - wasn't too happy with the intrustion, but tensions have already begun easing.

Cool finds

  • The Indie Worldwide community. Felix Wong, one of the mentors who helped me this week, pointed me at this community - and I think I've finally found the perfect place to hang out and talk to fellow entrepreneurs. Membership is $49 per month, so you get a small community of nice people, without all the self-promotion you tend to get in non-gated communities.
  • OneSchema - an embeddable CSV importer for developers. No building required - just install, configure, and deploy. You can't imagine how things like that wake up my inner nerd. It's fun, exciting and dangerous to find things like this, because it's just so tempting to get distracted, thinking about new functionality we can build into the app. Gotta stay focused though: content & SEO is the name of the current game.

New content

For the devs and the nerds

A technical quandary

If you've never played with Obsidian or you don't know what Gasby is, the following help request is inside-baseball and probably won't make much sense, but here's the deal:

For certain pages, such as pillar pages, I'd like to have a section that displays all content that has been added to the Vault, sorted by date added.

Above, under New Content, you see what that looks like - but, those are links I added manually.

On a pillar page like Sales and Selling, I'd want to show the latest ten articles related to that core topic, and that list needs to be updated automatically as new content gets added.

The problem is that we can list files based on their creation date, or last modified date - but that doesn't work for us. Some files started as a draft months ago, meaning their creation date is not a valid criterion. And other files might get updates long after they get added to the Vault, so those would screw up a timeline of new content added.

So far, we haven't found a way to code a listing that lists pages based on when they were added to a specific folder in Obsidian, i.e. the _notes folder, which is where Gatsby-Garden finds the markdown notes that need to be displayed in the app.

Of course I can set a frontmatter property with the date when I add them to the vault, and that's the current best solution we have, but I know myself: I'm bound to forget to do that over time.

My next best guess is to try with an RSS feed and see if we can embed that.

But that's so... hacky though, isn't it?

If you're a developer and you'd have this issue at hand... What would you do?

What the SFC tech stack looks like

SFC tech stack

Anthony Castrio is the founder of the Indie Worldwide community I mentioned. He seems like a nice chap, and when I saw his photo in the community Slack channel, I saw something familiar.

In a sense, it really is what the SFC stack looks like, in that at the root of it all, are notes - I compose them in Obsidian instead of a notebook, but they are the foundation upon which everything is built.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend and a terrific week ahead!



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DevLog 03 - New perspectives and a potential client

Week 47 | 2022-11-27

In this week's edition:

Bigger-picture thinking, a nice zero-to-one, a different approach to adding notes, and a feature that we can do cool things with

From the founder

Are you thinking big enough, Martin?

These calls I've started having with mentors are proving to be massively effective.

On Monday, I was told that the problem that SFC aims to solve - ups & downs because of inconsistent pipeline activity - is something that even very large corporations struggle with.

In itself that's not news: in every industry and at every level, there will be losses because of lacking performance and consistency. It's one of the banes of business success.

But I hadn't expected for someone from that world, to see a potential product-market fit for the problem that I - and my little MVP app - are trying to solve.

Not that I'm going to brand myself as the sales enablement solution for Capitalism Inc - I very much like my audience of nerds and geeks, founders and startups and SMBs, thank you very much.

But, her opinion caused a nice and useful shift upwards, in the way I think about my avatars, and how that connects to the SEO work we're doing.

I'm learning a lot. Interesting times ahead.

New approach: batch of new notes slated to be added to the vault

I've gotten a bit stuck with the process of adding articles over from my blog each day.

By itself it's easy enough, but looking for articles to link them to, is proving a tough daily chore.

Problem is, I have only 59 articles to link to at the moment, and not all are good targets for the articles I add each day.

I need more from the archive on martinstellar.com to live inside the app, so that I have more options to link to. So instead of adding articles that have outgoing links, I'm just going to take a bunch of articles off the blog, rewrite or edit them, give them tags, and stick them in the Vault.

That way I'll have a larger pool of candidates to choose from each day, and over time I can start adding outgoing links to them. Yes, that creates a new backlog of work, having to revisit the batch and link out from them, but:

Backlog? What backlog. I have 400 articles on my old blog to add to the Vault, so I really don't care whether my backlog looks square or circular - it's basically the same.

"Yeah but Martin, how much time does it cost you each week, to publish a DevLog newsletter?"

A rough estimate is 6 hours, though maybe it's 8 or 10. I don't count the time, and here's why:

Publishing this newsletter has a business purpose, but I'm not doing it for business reasons. If that were the motivator, I wouldn't do it, because I can publish things that are much easier and faster to create, and that actually give me an ROI. No, the reason I publish this - aside from feeling the urge to share the adventure I'm on - is because it's a creative outlet for me. I have fun doing this, in a way that no other business-activity brings me. Some people paint on a Friday evening, but I write a newsletter. It's fun. It fills the well.

Incidentally, it's also a way to do a kind of weekly review, which is something I've always wanted to do, but I never wanted to sit down and do it. But now I do, because it's the byproduct of something that I want to do, with intrinsic motivation.

Pro tip: that's also how you get to actually do the things that you tell yourself you should do: find a way to do something else, that gets you that 'must-do' thing as a byproduct.

Zero to one

It's always nice when something cool happens for the first time. In this case, I was the recipient of a mentoring call, where the mentor said "As I checked out the app, I realised that it might be just for me".

The next day she wrote in: "I have a complex pipeline with many stakeholders for each deal. I need support can we talk?"

I find that utterly fascinating, because in 30 minutes, a completely new connection - whom I met not in order to land a client - qualified themselves as a potential buyer, and ended up scheduling a sales conversation with me. And I never even tried to interest her or sell her on anything - I was there to learn.

If that is what my little build can accomplish, I'm rather excited about the future.

What's new this week at SFC HQ

This week

  • Changed how the search field works. It's now a slash-command, so you just hit / and you type your search. Which is hardly a feature at all, but I wanted it for my own convenience. And then I realised that it actually unlocks all kinds of cool things we can do, so in the future we'll be tinkering with that
  • Got booked for a podcast interview, to take place next week
  • Secured a guest-posting slot, and working on outline and SEO (funny how it takes me back to my copywriter days, to be writing around keywords again

Cool finds

  • Frase - a tool, or rather: a suite of tools, that helps you with SEO, writing headlines, competitor research, writing copy... it can do a lot. Worth checking it out
  • Bearly - very indie, very cool: an AI research app. You hit a keyboard command and get a window that summarises content you found, and then you can ask it questions about the content, or have it write things about it for you. Gotta see it in action to get a better picture.

New in the SalesFlow Coach Vault

For the nerds and the devs

That slash command, where you Type / to search...

Over time, that can become a more built-out slash-menu, similar to what Obsidian or Notion et al have...

What do you think I should do with that?

I've not spent a lot of time thinking about the possibilities (because we only added it week, but also because I don't want to get lost in tinkering with features atm), but I do think it opens up a ton of opossibilities.

Any ideas?

What would you do with it?

Try it out, hit / - what do you think would be a cool way to give that pulldown menu more utility?

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Devlog 02 - Growing up & bigger-picture thinking

Week 46 | 2022-11-19 Sat

In this week's edition: Foundations, votes, pillars... and an apology to all my developer friends

From the founder

There's a definite feel of 'growing up' happening here. Now that we've started with SEO, I'm now finally working on the long-term plan for my business. See, I never used to pay attention to SEO, instead relying on email marketing, networking, referrals and outreach.

And that works, and I've nothing to complain about, but:

It meant that I always lacked an important foundation. Having started working with Audrey on SEO on a daily basis, I'm now confronted daily with a long-term vision & approach to business - and, it's a vision that forces me to think hard about "who exactly is the right person?"

I have all kinds of clarity on that, in terms of the people that I meet with or should work with - but that's 1 on 1, meaning it's a lot easier to know who you're looking for. Especially if you've been learning your people for a decade and a half.

But when you start thinking about the invisible people, those who you haven't met yet, the unseen audience out there, the 1000 true fans hidden in a demographic millions of individuals wide, you have to roll back a lot of what you know, and go back to basic questions.

Who are they? What do they consider succcess? What does low-hanging fruit look like for them? What do they do? What do they charge? How big is their team? Where do they need help? How do they think? What wakes them up at night? What are their challenges and struggles...?

Asking those questions, in function of a product like SFC and an SEO strategy that works, feels like growing up because I'm now finally building an asset that can scale and grow over time, which is something I've never undertaken in any serious way.

What's new this week at SFC HQ

Outreach got "I love the app" from a celebrity

It's nice when you get to the stage of "i just don't give a damn any longer", i.e. when you finally get over yourself, and send outreach to big names.

In this case, it's a fairly well-known business leader I've exchanged emails with. On a whim, I decided to add him to my send list, and his reply was "Love the app!", so that was a nice bit of validation.

Started working on a Pillar page

Some people call it a hub or a content cluster, but basically it comes down to categories. I realised that trying to SEO-optimise all articles would be a long process and because the articles are short, it would be harder to rank them as well.

So instead, we decided to create a pillar page, on Sales and Selling. Nice piece of long-form content on it, related links, SEO the hell out of it... should work.

But then my mentor Rob saw the page, and said:

"That bit about how to not be ghosted by buyers - if I were your audience and I'd see that on a Google search, I'd click that link."

Which makes a lot of sense: being ghosted sucks and it happens to all of us.

Problem is: the answer to "How do I not get ghosted?" is the same answer you get when you ask: "How do I get the eggshells out of my omelette?"

You prevent it from happening in the first place.

And that's going to be a downer for first-time visitors, when they click looking for a solution.

But hey... everybody asks themselves "How do I get more leads?" or "Where do I find buyers?", right?

Well, I have an answer for that - a solution - and it's a workflow called Mine Your Network for Opportunities. So maybe, instead of SEO on a pillar page, maybe I should create a long-form page on the value of your network and why you should mine it and leverage the relationships you've nurtured, and have Audrey SEO that one.

Not sure, fresh idea. I'll put a page together over the weekend, and see how I feel about it on Monday. Discuss with Audrey, and then we'll see what's the best decision.

I'm in love and she just keeps on growing

If you use Obsidian.md, you'll probably enjoy seeing what my graph looks like. If you don't use the app: Obsidian's 'Graph' is a visual representation of all the content in the app, and the way it's all interlinked:

Graph of SalesFlow Coach 2022-11-20

Ain't she pretty? I'll admit that more than once a day, I pull it up on screen, just to zoom in & out, and navigate a bit, just because I like seeing how the things I know are growing into a web of rabbit-holes.

The red nodes btw, those are some of the articles slated for adding to the vault. Purple is workflows, blue is articles. Of which I have another ~400 to add, so that's going to become a nice and big cluster over time.

Kinda calling in the cavalry

Meaning, this time I'm not just doing things under my own steam, hoping that email marketing and social media by themselves will get me results. (In fact, I'm not even doing anything on social media at the moment.

Instead, I've started booking calls on GrowthMentor, to get feedback and recommendations from people other than the usual suspects (friends and peers).

Not that I don't value friends and peers, because I do (do I ever!), but it's very easy to stay in your own social silo, which means you hear advice you've heard (and probably rejected) before.

Speaking with new people gives different ideas, different viewpoints, and fosters new connections and strategies.

Something something social

I'm not a big social media user, but I did find Twitter fun a number of years ago. Made some real good friends.

But then marketers came along, and since 'marketers ruin everything', it's now mostly a game of people trying to game the algorithms, and it's gotten boring.

So I made an account on Mastodon (@martinstellar), because maybe Twitter's troubles will drive more people there, and I can have some fun there the way I used to on Twitter. We'll see, not too fussed.

Cool finds

  • GrowthMentor - Recommended by my buddy Josh Pitzalis, it's a platform where you can book a mentoring call at any time, for free with most mentors. I like it because membership is vetted, so you get this community of extremely helpful and generous people. I joined to help others, but now I've started booking mentoring calls as well, to get new ideas on what to do with SFC
  • SmashingLogo - A tool that automates making a logo and all manner of business assets for the web, using AI. I've not tried this one myself, but I've used similar tools and it looks like a pretty solid piece of kit
  • Not 'something I found this week', but maybe you find it helpful to find him: shoutout to my friend and mentor Robert Gelb. If you're looking for personal guidance from a rather seasoned business mentor, and you can handle straight-talking feedback, maybe have a chat with him.

New in SalesFlow Coach

Added a vote button

On some pages, you can now click "vote" - but instead of your run-of-the-mill upvote/applause button, this is an actual vote, telling me whether I should develop the content you've just been reading, into something longer and bigger.

Point is, I love creating materials and I like diving really deep... but how do I know what content to develop and flesh out?

I let app users tell me, is how:

vote button

It needs a bit of design finesse, but once we start getting more traffic, I think it's going to give me useful data on the way people use the site, when I start seeing votes in my dashboard, and I'm really curious to see which pages people most want me to build out into bigger content-pieces.

This is another reason why things are growing up for me: Having a developer like Kim on my team, who can add features on the fly, feels like having a super-power. And I'm damn lucky, because he's enormously skilled - a real engineer. Most of the time I come up with an idea for a feature, thinking it'll take weeks to implement or might be impossible, he pings me the next day saying it's ready to test. You're my rockstar, Kim!

New content in the Vault

For the nerds and the devs

Guys, I'm sorry. I'm so very, very, very sorry.

For years, I would rant at you folk, give you earfuls, try to get you to stop building more features, and instead just finally get started with marketing for a change!

But... now that I'm building my own thing, I realise:

I was wrong. It's not that developers who build instead of spend time marketing are stupid, or cowards, or stubborn... or that they believe in their own cool thing too much, or that they think a feature is a marketing strategy.

It's that developing is addictive. Like that question from last week: Code = flow?

Binny replied and said that yes, it is, and that it's how he often accidentally builds apps ).

NOW I understand why building so often gets more time than marketing: it's just so goddam much fun!

I too find myself drawn to tinkering with my app and the articles and so on, when really what I ought to be doing, is getting the app in front of people.

So yeah, after many years of not getting it: I stand corrected.

Still: go do a bit of marketing. You're welcome.

Right, I'm off to write that pillar page...



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DevLog 01 - What's all this then?

Week 45 | 2022-11-11 Fri

In this week's edition: What's new at SFC HQ, what all this is about, and what to expect next

From the founder

An amazing year

Hey everyone!

Well... the last year has been pretty amazing. I could never have expected, when I met this developer called Binny in winter of 2021, I'd end up with the beginnings of a tiny little SaaS.

We started meeting weekly, and he helped me get started with Obsidian - initially just because I wanted to start a digital garden for my work and thinking...

I had no intention of publishing my vault, no plan to share a digital garden - I just wanted to use it as a creation tool.

But in December of that year I had a random thought: "Hey let's create a question-set - a decision tree - to help people move their sales forward".

So I created a couple of notes, linked them up, and showed it to a few people - and everyone went: "Huh. That's cool."

So I started adding more notes, installed a mind-mapping extension, and lost myself for weeks, noodling through the intricacies of linking up articles, questions, workflows, and educational content. A lot of fun was had.

Fast-forward to November 2022 😲

My world is quite different from how it was a year ago.

  • Binny effectively became the architect of SFC's tech stack, helping me tons in building an MVP
  • In spring, I realised that to build the app out into something shareable and ready for the public, it would require too much from Binny, so I hired Kim part-time - my first hire!
  • So, I used to be a sole-trader, but now I'm paying team members. And even though Kim started with me 6 months ago, it still feels really weird. Definitely feels like I got an entrepreneur-upgrade
  • My Vault contains 3800 notes, and the process of building it radically improved the way I think about all sorts of stuff
  • As a result, my business is doing even better than before, which has freed up a lot of time for creating more content, and I'm loving spending time on it so damn much!
  • A secondary result of that better thinking, is that I was able to create a number of partnerships, which are either very lucrative, or mutually extremely helpful

In short, it's been a good year, and I'm exceedingly grateful.

A decision: Let's publish a weekly Dev Log newsletter

I'm happy to be writing this newsletter, because for months I couldn't figure out what SFC subscribers should receive in their inbox.

Sending the same daily articles that I send my blog subscribers, that just didn't seem like the right idea.

But then I realised: what if I 'build in private'?

See, I'm conflicted about that BIP thing on social media - I tried it a few times, I like it, it's fun... but at the same time it's such a bandwagon endeavour. Look at me guys, I'm bipping too 🥱

But, I do like sharing progress with people, and when I do, people like it back, especially when I show them what new stuff I've been putting together.

So what if, instead of BIP, I Build In Private? As in: what if I publish a newsletter, a Dev Log, of everything that happened this week at SFC HQ - but I write it for subscribers, and not for social media algorithms?

Well, then you get to read what you're reading right now. Hi!

What to expect going forward

Each week, you'll receive a report with news, cool finds, dev stuff (because I'm a nerd and I like geeking out over nerdy stuff (see: For the devs), and of course:

New articles, workflows, and trainings, everything that got deployed to the Vault over the last week.

But I'll also be sharing insider updates on what we're building, how things are going, whether revenue and monetisation are working, the marketing activities we're trying and probably all kinds of things I haven't thought about yet.

I think they'll generally be shorter than this one, but that's because I wanted to catch you up with how we got to this point.

What was that about revenue?

I'm glad you asked, because yes: how does that work, if SalesFlow Coach is a free, public service?

I'm not a charity, which means it's got to be paid for somehow - so what is my plan for monetisation?

I could run ads, but... no. I'm not all that fond of ad tech, I certainly don't want to sell data for revenue. Hell no.

What about sponsorships? Myeh. Not too big a fan of it either.

Wait, what about a paywall!

Hm, yeah. "You've reached your monthly limit of 5 articles". It's just so... lame, isn't it?

So instead, monetisation will be with memberships.

For now, that's SalesFlow Coach Personal, where I help people with their deals, in a private coaching thread.

(Over time, the price will go up, so if you want to be grandfathered in, you might want to check out that link and see if it's for you)

Starting spring 2023 I plan to start creating premium content such as full-length trainings that will be released every month.

At some point, I'll probably also start a forum.

All of these will be memberships to offers I can do at scale, that provide a lot of value, and that give deeper access to my methodologies, without having to pay my coaching fees.

That's the plan. There's lots to do, so let's start wrapping up this 'From the founder' and look at:

What's new this week at SFC HQ

  • Technically, this is not a 'this week' bit of news but I'm so damn excited, I want to share it with you: Two weeks ago, the fantastically skilled Audrey joined the team. She'll be instrumental in our growth, since she's an SEO specialist, and I'm absolutey thrilled to have her with us. We're finally going to be working on some visibility!
  • I recently made a few changes in my projects, which means I now have a lot more time in my week, to work on new content and do outreach
  • Started this week: an outreach campaign, to share the app with people and get some early users and feedback Initially, that's some 83 people on a list - friends, former clients, a number of readers of my daily articles, leads. You know, people in my world. Once I'm done sending to those good folk, I'll be thinking about whether or not to publish the app on Reddit or ProductHunt or what have you. Not the time to think about it yet.
  • Development of the app is going well - Kim is creating a lot of little tweaks and improvements, some of which are part of the app and some that help with the creation and deployment of content.

Cool finds

  • The first cool find: LevelUp Outsourcing. This is the agency where I hired Kim and Audrey, and if you want to hire the right person but you don't want to deal with sourcing and vetting: That's what LevelUp does for you, and they're stellar at it. If you decide to talk to them, tell Taylor that Martin sent you - she'll take good care of you (and disclaimer: I'll get a discount if you decide to hire through them.).
  • CheatLayer: an AI that builds software and automations... I think 🤔 I've not tested the tool and I've only skimmed the page, but it looks interesting. I'm tying my hands to my keyboard though, because this is the kind of platform that sets my inner tinkerer on fire, and I can't afford to get disctracted from actually developing and promoting SFC.

New in SalesFlow Coach

For the devs

Is this just a me thing, or do you guys also flick over into the Zone, the moment you start working on your project?

Each time I have to tinker with CSS or HTML or Dataview, the switch is almost instant: one moment I'm opening a file, and the next moment nothing exists except me and my doc.

It's similar when working on my Obisidian notes (especially when working with SFC content) except it takes a little longer for the switch to happen.

But the effect is the same: developing things seems to be a trigger for flow states.

(Not that I'm a developer, but I am developing this thing).

So I'm curious:

Do you have a similar experience?

Coding = flow?

That's all for Dev Log #1. If you're reading this: thanks for spending some time with me!



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