We Interviewed Josh About Flying Cloud Solutions & Their Journey To Building Go-To Market Strategies & Finding Product Market Fit

Flying Cloud Solutions

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Full Interview Transcription

Steven:

Hi there. I'm Steven. And today I'm speaking with Josh Yavelberg, who is the chief solutions architect at Flying Cloud Solutions. Josh, it's great to have you on. How are you?

Josh Yavelberg:

Oh, it's great to be on. Thank you for having me.

Steven:

Josh, you are the chief solutions architect at Flying Cloud. And I want to get into the new strategies that you guys are employing, and your work with We Advertise Your Business. But first, what is Flying Cloud? And can you tell me a little bit about what you guys do?

Josh Yavelberg:

Yes. We, at Flying Cloud, design innovation. That is a very broad concept, and it is meant as such because we apply design thinking and other strategies to challenges that organizations face. Our sector that we've largely targeted is associations, but we also seek to assist with higher education, other organizations, both government or private sector. The idea of designing innovations is broad. Largely, we've focused on designing innovations centered around learning and professional development strategy, and also even developing courses and looking at things in that level. I bring to this, in my solutions architecture, a palette of different strategies from communities of practice, gamification. Gamification is a really important one for me right now because it's a growing strategy that we are being recognized for, for recent clients like Training Magazine Network and others that we've supported.

Josh Yavelberg:

There's also the focus on the future of innovation models and supporting strategy. So looking at the high level, what is the business strategy for your professional development? How do you drive learning audience or your audience and stakeholders to the goals and outcomes that you are looking for? As well as IT strategy, and how does the IT infrastructure support your growth as an organization? So it's a very broad concept, but we've currently been supporting clients such as the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, and working with trying to promote racial justice across government sector. And looking at others. I mean, there's been a lot of interest in the gamification sector. And again, we look to support that as well.

Josh Yavelberg:

So for Training Mag Network, for instance, we were looking at how do you provide an assisted gamified strategy that increased engagement in online virtual conference events. But we want to see how that extends also into other areas. And with everything that we do, we couple it with research and best practices and try to support the growing field as a whole in furthering these innovative concepts and ideas.

Steven:

All right. Well, thank you for that overview. And I'm just curious, obviously this is a sort of a broad portfolio. But you mentioned specifically like, you help supporting governments, higher education and associations. How did you sort of arrive at that niche?

Josh Yavelberg:

That's interesting. So a lot of that came from my background and the background of my partners, and my growing employee base. So I came from higher education. I have a PhD in higher education in educational technology. And I moved into the association world where I was directing professional development for large associations, with limited resources, as most associations tend to have limited resources. So that was really where I saw a point of intersection between what I want to do and where the market really lies. Because my research was in higher education, I have a lot of innovative concepts for bringing in e-learning and other concepts that relate to the current situation and reality of higher education, which is a shift towards online education, and supporting a lot of these goals, especially in light of COVID 19, where most campuses had to go fully virtual in a matter of days.

Josh Yavelberg:

So these are the kind of problems I like to solve, and my employees like to solve. For IT strategy, my business partner, Frederick Steiner, is a guru with IT and infrastructure. So we couple together, we bring a broad strategy and broad palette of solutions that we can look towards for whatever challenge it might be. And like I said, it's hard to define what specifically we do, because every challenge is unique. And we like to adapt to meet those challenges through design thinking. And design thinking means just starting with the problem, and then working towards what the solution might be, and not pigeonholing ourselves into a specific product or service necessarily, because we won't know until we analyze the problem, what specifically is needed to move that needle forward. And so, we will work to whatever we can suggest, or we will do market research and provide a strategy for moving forward that might be beyond Flying Cloud Solutions, and what we can actually do with our currently small, but really adaptive organization.

Steven:

Okay. And I mean, as you were talking, I was thinking like, okay this sounds like the kind of thing that would be of paramount importance to universities especially, but to everyone during the pandemic. Can you tell me, over the last couple of years, what kind of growth have you guys seen? And what is your approach to growing this company?

Josh Yavelberg:

Well, it's great that you asked that. We are relatively young. And so we recently, in the last quarter, put forward a marketing strategy and really blitzed the market to try to drum up customers and start building our visibility as a company. I started the company several years ago, but it wasn't until I lost my job at the beginning of the pandemic that I was like all in on this strategy, and trying to get this company moving forward as a real thing. And it's seen tremendous growth in the last quarter, partly because of the marketing strategy, but a lot because of the boots on the ground efforts within specific niches and forums to emphasize that we are here, and we are a force that is going to help.

Josh Yavelberg:

So in the last quarter, we've seen five, six clients just jump on board. And there's more in the wings coming on almost daily now. It's a wildfire of interest, which is really great to see. It's a great problem to have. And yeah, so the growth is there. And we're looking to see where we can grow moving forward. So I'm glad that you brought up growth and strategy here because we started with, we are a design solutions. We're focusing on instructional design solutions. Well, that's great. It's really very limiting as to what we actually can do. So we're currently working on broadening our strategy to include more IT, more strategic thinking, more gamification solutions, things that are of interest to us that we would really like to see moving forward, and would like to then find some of these solutions that are replicable.

Josh Yavelberg:

So within the instructional design space, we're already finding solutions specifically with like learning management system platforms linking with community platforms. And there are certain solutions there that can be replicable across different associations that aren't being utilized currently at different associations. So we've designed a solution for one client. We want to see how that might translate to others. And that's one part of our strategy.

Josh Yavelberg:

The other part of our strategy is finding what the new solutions are that we can do similar replication to. So it's really about saying, hey, what's your problem? What's your challenge? And let's see if we can find a solution. And then once we find that solution, we want to grow that solution across other stakeholders and other audiences within the market. So that's where we stand right now. And I feel like that's our growth strategy, is through sort of that mechanism of being open and then finding something that works and then kind moving that forward. And that's a growth strategy that's not unique to us. When you look at big companies like Google, Amazon, even Tesla, they see problems and then they either solve them themselves and then replicate that across different sectors, or they find something that fits that sector and they buy it. It would be great to be in that position, but we'll get there.

Steven:

Yeah, I mean, that's an exciting and I'm sure, sometimes, rather terrifying position to be in. But it certainly sounds like an exciting time at the company. Can you tell me a little bit about your go to market strategy? How did you get involved, get in touch with We Advertise Your Business? And what kind of solutions did they offer?

Josh Yavelberg:

Excellent question. So We Advertise Your Business reached out to us probably at the right time, is one of the bigger things here. Paul and We Advertise Your Business, they reached out to us when we were jumping in saying we need to hit the ground and deal with a real marketing strategy rather than this grassroots effort. So what they did that was great was they set a foundation for our marketing moving forward. The initial push was more like a pilot, but I was very happy with the results of that pilot. It set up a marketing campaign largely tied to LinkedIn, but also set up the foundations with other applications and marketing applications, CRMs, email management, workflows for marketing, things that we did not have at all.

Josh Yavelberg:

And honestly, given all that I'm doing, trying to run a company and develop the company, and wear so many different hats, and also grow employees, it was a challenge for me to actually get my head around a marketing strategy. And put it in the hands of a professional. Don't do it yourself. I always say that to others. And I have to listen to my own words because yes, what We Advertise Your Business did was they set a clear foundation with workflows that I can push on to someone else to do. I can map it out and say, "Hey, can you help me out and hire someone in to manage that workflow now?" And then suggest client meetings and follow up leads and do all the things that take up a couple hours each week when it's set up right. But that will grow, as more and more clients see you, when you become more visible. It becomes a lot to do, but it's very necessary for business.

Josh Yavelberg:

You don't exist without marketing. You literally don't exist. So no one will know you're there. And you can just sit in your room and, I guess, ideate, but who's it going to see? So marketing dollars are very important. That was another thing. It was difficult to sort of part ways because we were just growing and we didn't have a lot of money in the bank at the time. But now we do. So putting forward enough money, a good percentage, towards marketing and just planning for that is something that every company needs to be doing.

Josh Yavelberg:

And honestly, even with not much in the bank at the time, setting this foundation was not expensive. And I was really pleased by the price point that they came in with. For We Advertise Your Business, we came in at the lower price points, because we were just setting up the foundation. But they also offer a range of continued services beyond that 90 days that will help support that strategy moving forward and grow it. And the growth parts of it, we're probably going to come back to them in another quarter to actually realize the growth strategy as we adjust our marketing messaging. So once we get our messaging resolved into a new direction, we'll be focusing on what the next steps are for that marketing strategy.

Josh Yavelberg:

And again, I'm super pleased with the results. They also provide guidance on the side. This is something that was unique to We Advertise Your Business as a partner. They try to partner with you, and not just sell you a bag of goods and then move forward. They hold weekly meetings, just forums where you can come in and ask questions and gain insight into the current marketing field, which is honestly, I thought I knew it. And then I put my toe in there and I said, wow, a lot of technical things that I'm glad I'm getting someone who actually spends their time doing this. Because all the automation features and things that are out there now to make these workflows happen and get your hands out of the cookie jar and replicate your marketing messaging, and get it to different sectors and through different media, it's complicated. And I acknowledge that.

Josh Yavelberg:

And so, even though I've got a fine arts and graphic design background, graphic design does not translate to marketing. It doesn't. So I just let it be and learn from it. But it's good. They're there to teach you and train you and get you onboard with that foundation. And then as you realize you cannot do it yourself, they'll support it moving forward. I think that's a great strategy for them, and it's super helpful for us as a partner. And I really appreciate connecting with them to get our foot out in the marketplace.

Steven:

All right. Well, you're talking about something that took care of some immediate needs that you probably didn't have at the time, or necessarily the entire skillset to focus on in the short term, but also is something that can stay with you as the business grows and scales up. Is that accurate to say?

Josh Yavelberg:

That's accurate to say. There's a whole nother world of marketing software, client management software systems out there for automation, and a lot of other things that just, they're very specific to sales and marketing. And even just the dialogue that we were having, the vocabulary he was using, I'm just going, "Okay. You know what? You're an expert. I can't compete with that. And I don't want to. So thank you for developing this strategy and setting a foundation of moving forward." Same thing with business, I had to let go and start consulting with some business consultants just to say, "Hey, what would be a good strategy moving forward for growing the business? Because I can't replicate myself. And you can't have all the solutions in one place. So if it's going to be a real business, how do we develop a strategy that moves that forward?"

Josh Yavelberg:

So, on all fronts, it's looking at the experts and trying to use them to grow what you can do. And so yes, to your point, the partnership with We Advertise Your Business is solid because it produces that framework to begin with, and then provides you the avenues to support that growth moving forward. And that's important. They might not be the only one out there doing this, but I was glad we connected with them.

Steven:

Yeah. Well, great. I guess my last question is just to look a little bit ahead. I know that you said that you were probably going to be reexamining some of this, and you might not have your set strategy for the rest of 2022 in place right now. But broadly speaking, how do you think you'll be positioning the company this year with this new go to market strategy?

Josh Yavelberg:

So we're currently revamping our marketing messaging. So we're looking at that broader message of, we want to overcome your challenges, whatever they really are, largely focused on IT and still learning design and strategy. But a little bit more broader of a message so that we can emphasize our design thinking methods and things like gamification, which we really want to be in the market for, is to apply our knowledge of that sector. Because gamification is not really a trend. It's here and it's been here. And it's something that people are starting to get a buzz around a little bit more because they're understanding it's about more than just points, badges and leaderboards out there. Obviously we've had to use points, badges and leaderboards, but our research is showing it's more than that. So how do we guide clients as to what gamification really means as design strategy, not as a skin over what you currently have, which is a very different way of thinking about that specifically. So that's one of the things we're trying to push moving forward.

Josh Yavelberg:

IT strategy, also something we're trying to push a little bit more moving forward, and IT solutions. We also have a lot of really interesting, special projects we want to work on. And so, looking at grants and partnering with organizations to investigate some of those other really cool products that we are interested in developing are our solutions moving forward. So over the next 90 days, we are looking at that messaging. Come the second quarter, we'll be really implementing new messaging strategy, probably bringing back on We Advertise Your Business to manage that workflow again, to do a second push, that's less of a prototype, more of now we understand how this works. So now that we've seen how this flows, I think we're now adapting our messaging to sort of grow that.

Josh Yavelberg:

Ideally, we would like to double in size over this year so that next year we're still providing solutions for general challenges, but we want to start transitioning into, hey, this solution worked, where else will it work? And how do we advertise where that's going to go? And who do we need to reach out to specifically to sell that solution? And so that's where we want to be moving to next year, is having some replicable concepts that we can make as products. So that's it, in a nutshell. But the growth has been great so far. And yeah, Flying Cloud Solutions is a reality, and people are taking notice. So that's the important thing.