People: Al Navas, Sacha Chua, Debbie L.


Al: I have 9pm in Missouri, 10 o'clock Eastern Standard Time, and 7pm Pacific time.

Good evening. I'm Al Navas. I'm in Missouri and I am your co-host for this show #2.

Go ahead Sacha.

Sacha: I'm Sacha Chua, I'm in Toronto and I'm also another co-host and with us today is our special guest Debbie L.

Debbie: Hello.

Al: Hi, Debbie. Welcome very much.

The topic for today is communicating with your clients pre-Helpout and some during the Helpout and we will have a few comments also post-Helpout.

Now we will go to Sacha for some quick tips and comments. Go ahead Sacha.

Sacha: All right. Before we dig into exactly what makes sense to communicate with your clients before and after your Helpouts, let's talk a little bit about the technical details.

You can find your messages from past Helpouts by clicking on your “Helpouts” and choosing “Past Helpouts”. There seems to be a limit sometimes like you can see there. So you might want to keep track of that, or the other thing you can do is you can go to your Google Mail or other mail client, and check there. Again, you may want to set up all filters so that those of us are just labeled.

One thing that might help is if you want to send people a survey, you can use Google Forms to set up that form and submit that information to you in a nice structure. Also, if you want reminders to follow-up with people let's say for example you want to follow-up with them after a month, or after a week, or after their last Helpout, then you might either want to schedule yourself a reminder or you can use Boomerang for Gmail to pop that back into your inbox.

Lastly quick announcement, high resolution images are now available for promotional purposes and you can find them in the Helpouts Discuss Community. Just search bfor high resolution and you should be able to find that. Happy marketing.

You'll find more tips at and on with the show.

Al: On with the show. By the way, that will take you always directly – in fact please bookmark that because that is where Sacha is essentially doing all the crowd sourcing. Thank you everyone.

Once again, I'd like to welcome Debbie L who will continue with her tips about pre-Helpout. Debbie, you're in a new location tonight and welcome again. Thank you very much for accepting our invitation.

Debbie: Yes, thanks. I just wanted to apologize that I'm a little bit blurry and [inaudible]. I'm at my boyfriend's parents in Phoenix where we've just had Thanksgiving dinner. So I think I'm good and round.

So I wanted to share my tips with people about what I do when a Helpout is first booked. As soon as someone books it and I have the opportunity, I go in and I respond to them.

So let's pretend Al has booked a half-hour session with me for one of my Helpouts. I'll write back and say, “Hi Al.” I address them by name, assuming I can guess what their name is from what their name says. And I say, “Hey, we're going to only have a half hour together so I want to find out what topics you're hoping to cover.”

There I'm starting to set expectations. This is really just good customer service, setting expectations, creating a connection with the person, letting them know you're really human and you care. Also I want to make sure that they're serious about having the Helpout and not just a tire-kicker, and to get a heads up of what topics they're thinking about on the off-chance that those topics are over my head.

Because there have been a couple of times where people have written back and said, “Well, I saw you give a Photoshop Helpout and I'm trying to do this really advanced photo retouching.” I have to be like, “Whoa, wait a minute. Mine is listed as Photoshop for beginners. I'm really not great with advanced photo retouching. You may want to find a trainer that better suits your needs.” In that way, I don't waste my time with that person. I don't waste his or her time with me. I don't risk getting a bad rating because I didn't know the answer to the question.

So you're also potentially heading some disaster off at the pass. When my Helpouts were all free–they're currently all paid--I had a lot of tire-kickers. I had a lot of people who booked and didn't show. I would use the same policy with them. “Hello. It looks like you've booked 15 minutes with me. Great! I'm excited to train you. What do you want to learn in that time? It's going to be a really limited time and go really fast.”

I find that if people don't write back, I give them some time, especially if they booked days in advance. Maybe I'll give them a day. Then I write back and I say, “Helpouts is really new and some people are just kind of curious and they're booking Helpouts, but they don't really need help. If you find that you don't need help, let's just cancel this.” Again, you have to find the nicest possible way to say this. I say something like, “If you no longer need help, it would be better to just cancel this so that someone else who does needs help can book my time.”

Then, if I still don't hear from that person and say another half a day or a day goes by, I usually just cancel it. Again that's just for the free ones especially, and so far none of those people ever reschedule. I think they were just your tire-kickers, the people who were excited to book something with someone for free and really didn't intend to follow through. I try to word it in a way that sounds like I do care. Sometimes, a day later, a guy writes me back and he says, “Oh yes. Here's what I wanted to learn.” I say, “Great, thank you so much for taking the time to write me back. I will be well-prepared for our time together.”

It's really just the people who don't write back after a day or two days. You'll have to judge it for yourself, but like I said, I cancel those and never looked back. That's the short version. If people want to throw some questions about some of my technique into the question and answer, I can see the questions. So, throw that in there and I guess, Al, I'll pass it to you until we see some questions.

Sacha: Do you actually end up checking every single one of those messages to see where it is in this process? Or do you have a way of keeping track of which ones are not particularly responsive?

Debbie: Yes. What I used to do was I would go into the screen that says, “Your upcoming Helpouts” and I would refresh it. I don't know if you guys know this, but whenever you have a new message from someone, it lights up in red.

So I can then know, “Oh, okay. The ones that have lit up in red, the guy or girl finally wrote back to me. So this one looks like it's going to be a go,” where I didn't seem to have a message.

I didn't keep a spreadsheet. I don't think I ever had more than a dozen scheduled at a time. I know some people who are giving free Helpouts are way overbooked and I know now that I'm offering paid ones, it would be great to have 12 scheduled. I did one two days ago and I have no upcoming ones now.

I think most people can probably handle what's on the screen, but I agree eventually we'll have to think of a way to handle this a little bit better. But in the old days when I had a full long page of upcoming Helpouts, I was trying to eyeball where were those red links to show that someone have written back to me. I would also look at when was the Helpout happening. So if it looked like it was happening within a day or two, I would open up that message window to check again to see if they have written me back.

Another thing I've learned the hard way is I usually respond to people who haven't booked yet and have questions. I respond to them through Gmail. By default, Gmail will quote the incoming email and it's this like 9-mile long thing with all these Google disclaimers at the bottom and I have to keep remembering to uncheck the quote thing. I hit the checkbox to unquote.

Al: Debbie that's very nice. I do have a question for you. Are you using the tabs in Gmail in order to start to segregate? As the first pass, segregate everything coming in from Helpouts?

Debbie: Yes. I don't use the tabs but I do use the filters. A couple of weeks ago, around the time everything went live, I had built a bunch of filters based on the different emails I was getting through Helpouts. Some were where you have a message or reply, and I was able to filter those one way. Another was I had an email from Helpout support because there was a lot of back and forth with Helpout support at the time. I was able to filter those another way.

I just created a label called “Helpouts” and I had everything filtering there. Google tends to filter all the emails that come through our community or Helpouts Discuss Community into the social tab. Mine are not even going to be in the inbox. I have them going out of the inbox straight into the Helpouts label.

I'm not really using the tabs. I understand I could have made a tab to do that but I'm actually not a Gmail user. All of my Gmail is forwarded to my own domain and then I pick up my email with Thunderbird or with my Android devices. So I'm not a heavy Gmail interface user.

Sacha: One of the things I was curious about, related to getting people to Helpouts and generating traffic, is generating repeat customers, building that relationship. Especially when you shifted from free to paid, were you cultivating that relationship with your past customers? Did you successfully upsell them?

Debbie: Not yet but that's an experiment I just started last week. Of course with the holidays being hot right now, I don't expect many results from my experiment for some time but what I'm doing is--you guys may have heard me mention before--one of my trainings is on a very, very specialized uncommon piece of software. I'm the only trainer in the Helpouts offering it, so it's not Photoshop.

I train this in real life. I do get paid quite a lot to do it because it's specialized. I made a half-hour Helpout for $5 and I say “Hey, if you're curious about getting training in this software, come kick my tires. Come get to know me, come make sure that I know as much as I claim to know, make sure you like my training style. Kick my tires for half hour. Once you're happy with that half hour, I'm going to ask you to book me through another Helpout and I've designed that Helpout to be an up to one hour Helpout at a $1.50 a minute which comes out to $90/hour.”

You're totally right Sacha there. It's the opportunity to do that upselling and it's an experiment I'm just starting where I'm trying to get people in to do this little $5 half hour version and then to say, “Hey, that's really just a tire kicking of me. Now I want you to book over here.” I don't know if people will or won't.

Al: Very good. Thank you. Maybe a follow-up or a similar question. I believe you may have touched on it and I think that we can include this one from B.L. Ochman. Tips. I believe you've already touched on it. What are some of the tips for getting people to the Helpouts, generating traffic? Since it may be relevant to what you're doing, I'll include it here...

Debbie: Yes. This software training that I do is very unique and specialized, and people are sometimes afraid to throw $90/hour or more at someone when they haven't test-driven them. I am actually pushing a lot of traffic to that Helpout. I really want people to try me out because I think if they have a half-hour training with me on this, they're going to fall in love with me and then they're going to be happy to pay at full price.

I am actually running Google AdWords. I'm actually running LinkedIn Ads right now and they are all going to a landing page on my consulting website where I talk about the training that I do. Prominently at the top of the page, I have a place where I say, “Hey, get your first half-hour of training for $5. Come and kick my tires.” And then I send everybody over to Helpouts.

Again, that's an experiment. That's something I'm trying by pushing traffic to Helpouts.

Al: Really this turns out to be pre-Helpout, because typically when we talk about pre-Helpout, it has to do with that short time frame just before you're going to the Helpout. What you're talking about is really the marketing, way ahead of somebody contacting and you're getting ready for that upcoming Helpout in the next half hour or so.

Debbie: Yes. Obviously this is something I'm doing because I know a lot of people are saying, “How are we supposed to get more people to our Helpouts? Should we be pushing our own traffic there?”

In general I'm not sure in the long run that pushing traffic there is going to make sense unless you're trying something like me where what you're doing is kind of more unique. It's harder for the people who are doing computer repair, or Photoshop, or some of these things where multiple people are doing them because then you're sending people to a site where you technically have competition and you may kill your own traffic.

I'm trying something kind of unique with that but I have to tell you, the person who I trained on this software on Wednesday, I said, “By the way, may I ask how you found me?” Thinking maybe she clicked my LinkedIn Ad or my AdWords. I'm throwing so much money at this right now as an experiment.

She goes, “Nope. I went to Helpout and typed the name of the software.”

Sacha: Wow!

Debbie: I was like, “Okay! That's fine too.”

Al: Okay. It was not Photoshop. It was?

Debbie: Yes. This piece of software that I train on is called Axure. It is something people work in UX, user experience interaction design. Again, it's very specialized, it's not common. Most of you will never need to worry about it but for people who are in my day job industry, you are seeing it more and more on job requests. People are looking for people who do what I do and know this software.

I'm getting a whole bunch of young people. Some of them still students, some of them young trying to start their career saying, “I think I need to know this to be able to get a better job.” It feels great to help people do that and improve their careers in the long term. I hope to get paid well for it but it's also great to know that I can share this with people.

Al: That's great. Thank you Debbie.

Sacha: [inaudible] question about, “Has anyone else had make success replying via Gmail? Sometimes it works great and other times it bounces back.”

Some people have reported that if you accidentally changed your reply-to address, then the reply does not work. It has to be from the same address it was sent to and I haven't come across any other circumstances in which it reliably doesn't work.

Any thoughts on that? Al or Debbie?

Debbie: I was just going to say quickly again, I'm not an avid Gmail user. So when I see a Helpout message come in and it's from someone who has not booked with me yet or before, I do specifically go into Gmail just to answer it.

I don't have a different reply-to address set up. So far every time I hit reply it goes through just fine. What I did find originally, I tried replying from the address my Gmail gets forwarded to which is again my own domain and I found that bounce and that couldn't go through.

I found once I went into Gmail, on my Android phone or in the desktop interface, those happen to work for me. What you say about the reply-to thing is interesting. I didn't know if that would affect it.

Al: Thank you. I'll talk a little bit about this because I ran into a problem especially the first week of Helpouts until I understood what was happening, KC.

It seems to be a matter of timing. Timing and syncing between Gmail, the Gmail reply going out and the Helpout system working together. I thought they were one on the same and I get the impression now that they are simply syncing. I could be wrong. If somebody from Helpouts or from the Gmail team is following this on the screen, please confirm for us.

The safest way if I may is to reply directly from your Helpout. That is the safest because otherwise, there seems to be some sort of an issue at time. I wish that I had – at times I should say – I wish that I have a better suggestion right now KC but it does seem to be strictly a synch issue between the two domains if you will.

Debbie: But right now we can only reply through the Helpout system to anybody whose message through a past or upcoming Helpout. Someone who's thinking about booking and sends us a message, I haven't found a place in Helpouts to respond to that. I still have to go into my Gmail. Correct, Al?

Al: As far as I know that is correct. Yes.

Debbie: Okay, thanks.

Al: Following the Helpout, I am conducting everything to make sure that all my replies, or questions, or suggestions get through. Especially if there's likely to be any kind of follow-up. I do reply from the Helpout messaging system.

We are coming up. It's almost 20 after the hour.

Thank you Michelle. L. Michelle Hays says, “This is awesome.” Thank you very much Michelle.

Sacha, before I forget I believe you may have one announcement to make? Maybe two?

Sacha: In addition to the high resolution images being available, since I will be away next month, Damian Harland will be joining us to Helpout with hosting this. So he will be calling in from Australia. He's not available today but you should see him starting next week.

Also if you've got topics that you would like to see in future Helpers Helpout, or if you'd like to volunteer to share your insights and experiments, please feel free to get in touch with Al, or Damien some time during the next month.

Al: Thank you very much.

It is with a little bit of sadness that I'd like to mention that Damien's – we've been informed just minutes before we started the show that Damien's son went to the hospital. Damien, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your entire family for quick recovery.

Thank you very much, Sacha and by the way, have a great vacation. You leave on Monday, I believe. Right?

Sacha: Yes. Anyway we'll see how things go and I look forward to listening to the recordings when we get back.

But enough with the [inaudible]. There are a couple of interesting questions in the Q&A.

Al: Q&A section. Right.

Okay. Let's start off. In fact I'll take this one from Anthony who has been waiting very patiently. Anthony's question is, “Is Google going to do any type of advertising or advertisements for the Helpout service? Or do we have to promote the service by ourselves?” Who would like to fill this up?

Debbie: Well, I don't think any of us know officially. I'm sure we all have guesses but do any of us know the official answer to that?

Al: No.

Sacha: Really, does it matter? It's nice but at the end of the day, if you want your nicely targeted audience, then you can bring them in yourself like Debbie's investing in. Right?

Debbie: I'm trying. It's an experiment.

Sacha: And for me for example I have this banner in my blog, I talk to people. I say, “Hey, think about this Helpout system as a way to conveniently schedule yourself for conversations.”

Don't just wait for customers or even for free sessions for these customers to be handed to you on a plate. Early days, right? We're all figuring this out. Go ahead and go find your own.

Al: Very good point. Anthony might take on this whole thing as that we are all small businessmen if you will. It does require an investment on our part. Debbie is already investing some of her earnings, or maybe all of her earnings, and then some more.

Well. Let's not wait for Google to do it for us. I'm hoping that we all knew coming into this that a lot of it would depend on us as small businessmen if you will. Some as very large business people.

But I think most of us came into this as a small business entity so that's what I suggest. Do not rely on Google doing all the advertisement for us.

Thank you for the question.

Debbie: Yes, and his follow-up question was, “How will people know that the service exists?”

Of course right now they don't and I think that's true for any new launch of any product. Anybody who has ever studied marketing at all – I do a little bit – knows that the first thing a product needs is visibility and awareness. You have to know it exists.

Some of that is up to Google. I hope that they will do more to create visibility and awareness, and a little bit of that will be up to us to spread the word, and hope that the word goes viral, and keep spreading.

Of course I hope Google will do more but we have to assume right now that people don't know. The service has been live for not even a month. I think there's only so much we can expect especially when people are so distracted over the holidays.

Al: Right. This next question is from B.L. Ochman. “One issue is that people are afraid of Hangouts and there really needs to be more education about it in my opinion.”

Thank you, B.L. This seems to be an allergy to Hangouts On Air. Debbie, I don't think you're afraid of them.

Debbie: Not any more, Al.

Al: Well I don't think you were afraid even the first time. Maybe a little bit apprehensive?

Debbie: I was new to it. I wasn't afraid of it but I was new to it. Let's face it, a lot of people get nervous with new things especially when the screen comes up and says, “We're now going to download some plugins.” Sometimes that can turn people off.

There you go.

Al: That's right. Sacha, do you have any comments about that Hangouts On Air? I know Sacha, you're a pro but what kind of advice would you give someone about using Hangouts On Air for promotion, self-promotion, press promotion?

Sacha: Well, it turns out that people are actually pretty friendly. Even though that there is a small group listening in, even if nobody shows up, at the very least, it's a podcast that you can share with other people. If people show up, then it's nice and interactive.

If you find that you're a little bit worried about whether you can moderate and do all those things at the same time, you can do a Hangouts On Air with you as the only person on it, or with you and a selected number of people on it, and then you can just accept other people's input through comments, or Q&A, or something like that.

You can find something that works for you.

Al: Right. In fact, I might even go one step further to round out that reply for Biel, that probably the single best tool that we have to make ourselves known and to help promote ourselves as well as the work of others is Hangouts. It is very simple that I know of no other tool that can help us.

If we have content, if we are honest, if we provide all the transparency that is possible, that it will work. Give it a little bit of time and I think it will work.

Thank you. That was an excellent question, B.L. I believe that Biel has a question regarding bookings. I'll put it up.

Debbie: Yes, that was a great question.

Al: Right. Biel asks, “If a Helpout is booked for one hour and it goes over, do they keep getting charged? Does the client keep getting charged or is it our responsibility as providers to watch the clock and end them?”


Debbie: I can say that I've had a couple of half hour ones that I charge a flat-fee for and I've had them run over and I don't believe they were charged any extra. I've done a couple of 43-minute, half-hour Helpouts for $2.99 or $5 and they weren't charging extra.

However, I would assume and this is just a guess that if that were my per-minute Helpout, I would assume that they're charged for every minute that we stay connected. I think if you're using a flat-fee one, you might want to be more like, “Okay, we've reached the end of our time. If you'd like to book more time with me in the future, please come back and check my availability but our session is now ended.”

I remember last week somebody who's talking about feeling badly about doing that but a doctor doesn't have any problem throwing you out of the office when your time is done. So, don't feel badly about ending an appointment especially if you have a next one to go to.

Al: Just if I may comment quickly. I may set the expectations early on, make sure that it's clear – that it's either 15 or 30 minutes or an hour – and then when the time is up, make sure you have some sort of tracking mechanism and say, “Okay, we have only two or three minutes to go. Let's now talk about wrapping it up.” Would you say that's a good way to handle it, Debbie?

Debbie: Yes. Usually I give people a kind of a countdown warning. I'll say, “Ah, we're 20 minutes into our half-hour Helpout. We've only got about 10 minutes left. What is it really important to you that I cover in those last 10 minutes?” And they'll be like, “Oh, okay. Could you really show me this?” And then as we get closer, “Oh, we're down to five or three minutes now. Are there any last things I can show you and please remember you can always book more time with me. I've put a lot of availability into the calendar, or if you need a special time with me, I'll book some special time with you.”

I'm always reminding people that our time is ending soon but you can always book more with me and to please go back to the Helpouts page and book with me again.

Al: Great. Thank you so much. If there's a short answer B.L...

Debbie: Better have one.

Al: is your responsibility.

Okay, let's keep going. We have only a couple more minutes and give quite a few questions.

I would say that it's okay to run over by a couple of minutes unless somebody has to run because we do have several questions and I'd rather answer them all.

Sacha, did you have something to say? I'm sorry.

Sacha: Applying the same technique. “So we're about to wrap up” and all that stuff.

Yes, we can go a little bit over. I just don't want to go too long over because I want to respect the time of people who might be listening to this afterwards.

Al: Sure.

Sacha: Besides, you've got this lovely process for copying the Q&A outside afterwards and then the community can answer them as a whole.

Al: Right, yes. Okay, let's catch a few in the minute and-a-half to two minutes that we have and it's more of a comment from Biel.

“I love Hangouts On Air and evangelize about them. But it's tough.” Yes it is.

Okay, there was an important one here. Thank you.

Biel agrees actually. She says, “She does several Hangouts On Air week including a YouTube show. It takes time but an audience builds if you promote it.” Very good. It's something along the lines of you build it, they will come.

From Eng Ung in Australia. “What can you expect the holiday traffic to be like over the Christmas holiday as opposed to the ordinary working days?” Who would like to take this one because I don't want to forecast anything happening but it will be interesting for sure.


Debbie: My forecast is that from what I'm doing again which seems to be very aimed at helping people do better at their job, and brush up their resume, and have another skill that they can claim that they have, I actually think I will get some good holiday traffic from people who would use their downtime and maybe the New Year thinking about a new job to want to improve their skills.

I don't think it will explode but I think that people with that mindset will probably do well. I think some of our chefs will do well, I think some of our plumbers will do well, and I think anything unrelated to the holiday season will probably see a bit of a down-tick while it's just not on the forefront of the people's mind.

Al: Excellent, thank you.

Debbie: Just a prediction.

Al: Let's see. What I'm going to do is go ahead and copy the rest of the questions.

Thank you about the background B.L. I will explain it maybe in a careful post regarding it has to do with lighting and setting up the environment.

Some people have in fact commented that my background is too dark and it's kind of forbidding. But I will explain it in my philosophy about it.

Debbie: I think it's very theatrical.

Al: Thank you. That's a very good point. Thank you.

Okay folks, I will copy the remaining questions. Please remember the archive will contain the entire stream of questions and answers including the ones that were answered – the ones that we selected to reply to. Those will be highlighted and when you click on the questions that were asked and addressed during the Hangout, the entire recording will go right to this spot.

To answer your comment Biel about whether this Q&A system is something new. It is a brand new feature. It's not a few weeks old. I've only used it a few times but it is superb.

Would you like to make any closing comments, Debbie?

Debbie: I appreciate you having me on this panel especially two weeks in the row. It's like being on Match Game. I feel like I'm mini-celebrity and I just want to thank you, Al and Sacha, for being our natural leaders in the Helpouts world.

Whether or not I'm on the panel, keep doing these shows. I think they're really helpful.

Al: Thank you for coming. Thank you very much for accepting our invitation and we look forward to having you here again.

Sacha, do you have any closing comments?

Sacha: Yes. If you would like to get to the show notes for this particular episode, you can go to, or at least it will be by the time that all of the stuff is sorted out. and find out more about the next one. Go to

Al: Thank you very much. I will keep Sacha's drawing on screen right now.

I thank everyone for watching in the stream for all your questions and I hope that we were able to reply properly to the questions to provide the right answers.

I will copy the ones that we did not answer and we will post them in a public and shared document on Google Drive.

Everyone, have a very nice evening and we will see you next month with a whole new show #3. Goodnight.

Thank you, everyone.