While I was out in San Francisco a few weeks ago meeting with Adobe, I had a chance to sit down with Jason Tinnin of SimpleFlame. We discuss the 2 days as well as a bit about some of his upcoming projects including Tribevita Plus.
Brent: Hey, this is Brent Weaver from bcgurus.com. I'm here today with Jason Tinnin. If you're on our website and you don't know who Jason is, then just close the browser now. Welcome to BC Gurus, Jason.
Jason: Thanks, man. Thanks a lot for having me. I appreciate it.
Brent: So, Jason and I are actually out in San Francisco doing a couple-day visit with Adobe.
Brent: We've been involved in a few of these over the last couple of months to try to help solve some problems...
Jason: That's right.
Brent: ...and try to work through some stuff with Adobe. Obviously, they're a big part of our lives and every partner out there. So, I think it's just going to be nice to share some of that information with the partner community, in general.
Jason: Yeah, agreed. It's been a really great trip. We've made several of these trips out to meet up with them and kind of help Adobe understand the partner network, which is of course a massive asset to Adobe. As a matter of fact, depending on who you ask, it was the biggest asset that they acquired when they acquired Business Catalyst.
So, we've been on here several times. This trip in particular has been really fun because it was the first time in a long time that we've talked about things other than just simply technology and that's it. How this fits into the overall ecosystem that is the partner network and that is, of course, Business Catalyst at its core.
Brent: Just to second that, I think it's the first time that we've been participating with a couple of days of deep dive.
Brent: Where we're not just focused on the glaring problems or the emergency issues, those types of things. I think a couple of other meetings, the March 1 meeting for instance. That was a very reactive...
Brent: There was an explosion in the community. We also had wanted to get in the door and start really working with them, have a seat at the table as a partner, but a lot of those things were very reactive meetings.
Jason: They were.
Brent: This one, to me, was something where we really deep-dove with them, gave them, I think, a good piece of who a partner is.
Jason: That's it.
Brent: What we do on a day-to-day basis.
Jason: I would second that. The March 1st meeting was definitely a, "Uh-oh. We have some issues. We definitely need to address those. We need to bring some partners in to help us understand." We can't forget it. Adobe is a big company. They've got a lot of things going on and we're small businesses, and we can make decisions on the fly and what have you. Adobe is a bit of a different monster in that way. They're a big company. So, the March 1 meeting was really a, "Okay, let's bring you guys in, try to figure out what the problems are. Help us understand them." There's no better way to do that than when it's in person and you can see body language and tone, and irritation and what have you, right? This is really more of a follow-up to that. Granted, it's four and a half months later, and I think we all would have preferred to have that happen sooner.
The reality is, though, again, Adobe is a big company. The meetings this time around, though, were I think a great response to what happened as a result of the March 1 meeting.
Brent: So, what would you say some of the results out of the last two days have been?
Jason: Yeah. The biggest takeaway for me is that we walked away from the last two days with a common framework, for how we'll work together moving forward. When I say "we", meaning the partner network in its entirety, right? We didn't walk away with, "Hey, on every Tuesday we're going to get together and have a coffee," or anything. It wasn't that detailed. But it was more about just this general overall overarching framework that, for the first time, wasn't based around technology alone. So, if you think we came out here to have them fix the bookings engine alone, or fix e-commerce or what have you that definitely wasn't the intention. If it were just that, we would maybe end up with a promise of fixing bookings that isn't going to be fulfilled, and it's because there's never been a common framework with this big asset that Adobe has, which is the partner network.
How do they interact with that, and how do we move forward together with respect to technology, communication, marketing, and all of those fun things that go along with BC?
Brent: Yeah. I've found that a lot of times, we kind of silo parts of BC. Support is just over here in its little space, and then the technology and the hosting and those types of things. I really felt that there was this bigger picture that we began to unfold of how these things interact with each other.
Jason: That's right.
Brent: Like, what is the mindset if you're in support and you're not really getting what you need out of it?
Brent: What's the result of that? What's the net, net of that?
Brent: There are partners like us that we're launching a lot of sites, and so sometimes I feel like we can deal with some of these bigger problems. That roadblock, it might be the deciding factor for somebody that's just kicking the tire of the platform.
Jason: That's exactly right.
Brent: Or if they're a brand new partner, and really getting them to understand that if you hit a roadblock in those situations, what are the ramifications of that.
Brent: Then, developing a framework around addressing those problems on a regular basis.
Jason: Exactly, yep.
Brent: That's really interesting. So, what do you think? I mean, you said earlier that the partner network is the largest asset.
Brent: Do you think Adobe still believes that?
Jason: Well, that's like the common thread, I would say. If I heard anything over the last two days - and let me back up and say it's not just the last two days. It's what I've heard for a very long time. "The partner network is important. The partner network is our biggest asset." It's difficult as a partner, sometimes you don't feel that. You don't see that, right? That's again, some of that "aha" moment. On 4/1 it was like, "Wow. They don't see or feel that. The reason they don't see or feel that is because we're not really investing that much in that at this point. Maybe we should," which again seems very obvious to us, right? We live in it every day. For them it wasn't so obvious. So, although the "aha" moment happened on 4/1, this session was all about, "Now, how do we do that? How do we work with the partner network, moving forward?" Again, what came as a result of that was incredibly healthy.
Brent: Yeah, very much so. If you look at it like they were developing a lot of these ideas and go-to market strategies and all the stuff as Adobe does. They have lots and lots of products.
Brent: But I felt like, in the past, the partners have not been involved in that conversation.
Jason: Well, they haven't been.
Brent: I'm not saying, "Oh, you just need to pull in the Brents and the Jasons of the world, into that conversation and we'll just take care of it for the partner," because I understand how that might look to a lot of the partners.
Brent: But even just having a partner in the room to work through some of their ideas in real-time, talking about how this affects our businesses, how we look at the vision and strategy of Business Catalyst and to try to validate that.
Brent: I think for them, they got something out of a partner literally being in the room with them when they're developing that stuff, as game changing.
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Brent: I don't think they're going to go back to developing stuff in a bubble...
Brent: ...and just pushing it out to the partner to see how they react.
Jason: Right. Yeah.
Brent: So, would you say your overall takeaway was good, bad, or neutral?
Jason: Yeah. The overall takeaway was very good. Again, we have this framework that we're developing with them, right? I consider the time very positive. I think we'll see some traction come from it. The reality is, though, when I see it happen, when I see this framework manifest itself over the next several months or what have you, again, just like any other partner, I'll be much more motivated to actually believe that they received that message fully and this is how we need to work together moving forward.
I think that will happen. I know this may sound and feel a little abstract. Do you know what I mean? It's all like, "What's a framework, and what's this whole thing?" It's kind of the best way we can describe it, at least at this point anyway. But it's this common ground that we'll work from that the tangible pieces of that will be more obvious over the next few months, or what have you.
Jason: So, sorry if it's a little abstract, but we'll go from there.
Brent: Yeah, for sure. So now, Jason, working with Adobe isn't the only thing you do with your time.
Jason: It isn't?
Brent: I know you guys at SimpleFlame. You've had the TribeVita brand.
Brent: I think TribeVita has delivered an amazing value to the community overall.
Brent: I mean, I hear partners talk about how many templates they've purchase. I started doing math on my calculator and it's cool. It's inspiring.
Jason: Yeah, sure.
Brent: I think it's very inspiring for most partners to look at a business model that's on top of this partner network that is successful. But you guys have something new coming out and maybe give me the elevator pitch on that?
Jason: Yeah. Well, they say keep those under 30 seconds, right? I don't know if I can do that. I don't think I've... Yeah. So, anyhow, what we are working on right now... Let me move it back and just say, TribeVita provides templates that are prewired into Business Catalyst that are ready to go. You can come buy them and start projects with them and all of that fun stuff. But when we created TribeVita , we didn't just go, "Hey, let's make templates and toss them out there and see if people will by them," or what have you. It was really more about trying to solve a problem, and it was a problem that we were faced with as we went through our Business Catalyst journey. So, what we found is that most people, when they start a project, they sell it and then there's this period of time where they work on it. We call that "production", right? Then they deliver it. So, if we consider this zero to 100, depending on what you sell and what you do, you open up Photoshop here, with a blank slate, start designing. You get to a point to where you send a JPEG to your customer. Then you have to then code this thing, put content in it.
That is a huge cycle, and depending on what you sell your contracts for, what your hourly rate is, what your skill set is, all of those variables, you either - very simple formula - you make money or you don't make money. If you don't make money, you don't keep doing this. You stop and probably do something else, right. So, what TribeVita did was accelerated the development and design cycle by about 60%.
It didn't make it all the way there, right? But, by probably 60%, which gave you the inherent framework around Business Catalyst to, it's already prewired in. You've got the PSDs. You can design them for your - take the PSDs and skin the template out. But there was still this 40% left that meant that I had to take the PSDs, cut them up still. Wire them into the template.
Sure, it cut the cycle down a bit, but being an entrepreneur myself, I go, "Man..." This thing kept me up at night, like, "How do I solve the other 40% in terms of helping a person go from, instead of just using PSDs to design, present flat JPEGs to their customer, have their customer tell them, "I can't click on this, and don't know what this is..."
You know how customers work, right? They try to click on a JPEG and try to make it work, right - all the way through to production. So, what we did was we actually created currently what we're dubbing as TribeVita Plus. Whether it stays that way or not is another thing, right?
Brent: We're the hard link to that. We're never going to change that. We're going to call it that on BC Gurus forever, no matter what you think.
Jason: We're coining it in a little bit. That's it. I'll never be able to change it. That's exactly right. So, what we did was we created - if you take any of our templates, we actually overlaid a re-skinning engine that actually lets you re-skin the entire template on the fly inside browser. So, what that ends up doing is, is instead of taking a PSD file, skinning it out, then coding the remaining pieces of that skinned-out PSD file and wiring it in - which, depending on your skill set can take anywhere from a day, a couple days, a week, two weeks, it just depends on the skill set - reducing it down to what most people are doing in an hour or two hours. What that ends up meaning is that production life cycle that you go through to build the site. You start with an existing framework and can skin that thing in an hour or two hours...
Jason: ...and reduce that production cycle down to next to nothing. The person who has - and we've all been through this and some of you may still be in this position right now, where we, in our projects, or if we think about our business, we always have your cousin or Jim who owns a repair shop down the street. He wants to have a website and he has $1,500 in his pocket. That's all he has. He may have more like $3,000 in his pocket, but he's only telling you it's 1500.
Brent: I've got a few videos on how to squeeze that extra $1500 out.
Jason: Yeah. That's it, man. This is the guy here for that. Yeah. So, he has $1,500 in his pocket. I can remember when we were taking on $1,500 contracts. First of all, it's like, "Yeah. $1,500 contract, man, let's take that guy," because that equals revenue for my business period. It was next to impossible to make money on that project. The reason is because the production life cycle didn't work.
Brent: It's brutal.
Jason: It was very difficult. So, you either developed custom, you work from a template or what have you. What we just thought was, wouldn't it be interesting if you could actually keep the bulk of the money on a $1,500 contract and actually make money on it for the first time ever or make a majority of the money on it, for the first time ever?
Jason: So, when we built it, it wasn't just, "Hey, cool. Let's go..." Don't get me wrong. We get geeked up over this stuff, right? But it wasn't because we just wanted to make some cool re-skinning engine that sits on top of our templates. It was simply because we never made money on a guy who had $1,000 in his pocket or $1,500 in his pocket. What if we could? It was from that perspective that we actually built the re-skinning engine on top of TribeVita.
Brent: Sure. I've seen it, I've watched you pitch it a few times to some people, and I'm impressed. I'm excited for the community to get their hands on it. I mean, I think that this is a tool - it opens up a whole channel of opportunities for the Business Catalyst partner.
Brent: Just from my own perspective of creating pro content and things like that, to support how this thing goes out to market is something that, the wheels are already turning for me because it does change. You're not necessarily trying to just always filter out those smaller deals. Now there's an actual opportunity to bring those people in.
Jason: That's right.
Brent: The lifetime customer value of, maybe, that $1,500 website, if that business becomes successful, you've got a client for life because you help them out when no other web designer was even able to deliver a high-quality product like that, in that manner. So, I think it's really cool.
Jason: Yeah, thanks.
Brent: I'm extraordinarily excited to see you guys launch it. I'm not going to grill Jason on the when and the how much, or the name.
Jason: Thank God.
Brent: We won't hold him to that either, but I know you guys are working hard on it, no question about that. When it launches, it launches and it's going to be right.
Jason: Yeah. Well, we're spending a lot of time. Some of the BC Guru's followers here are going to be like, "Yeah, I know. We're in beta right now with you. If you hurry up, quit talking about it," or what have you. But, it's really important to us that we get the product right. You know what I mean? You have one shot to make a great first impression and, in addition to that, you just need it to work, fundamentally, right?
Jason: So, we're taking that to heart, making sure that we dot all of our I's and cross all of our T's. We're very, very close at this point, right now. So, one thing I can mention, though, is that we're always looking for people to really test this thing out and beta test it. If you want to, you can drop me an email. What might be better is to drop Mercy an email because I become the bottleneck on these things.
Brent: Yeah, for sure. I would say, we'll throw in a link in the post to tribevita.com. Go to the contact page, just submit a form request.
Jason: Yeah, perfect.
Brent: Say, "Look, I'm interested in talking to you about TribeVita Plus and you guys can take it from there."
Jason: Yeah, thanks, man. Appreciate that.
Brent: Very nice. Well, Jason, we appreciate you taking the time to hang out. This is bcgurus.com. It's been a fruitful two days and I can't speak for Adobe, but I'm excited to watch some of this framework stuff play out over the next couple months and to see how the partner community starts to take in that good stuff.
Jason: Yep, agreed.
Brent: Very cool.
Jason: Thanks, man.
Brent: Well, thank you for joining us at bcgurus.com and stay tuned for more great content.
Jason: Take care.