2014 has been a big year, I started a new business, bought a house, and I have a baby on the way.
I grew my business from $0 to $30k/mo, and now I’m starting something totally new (so back to $0 in a way). This post is about reflecting on what went right and what didn’t, hopefully there’s something that will help you.
I’ve also posted the video of my WordSesh presentation with the same name.
Watch the video from my WordSesh Presentation, or read the post below.
Finding a new business partner
In late 2013 I had an idea to start a company, and I needed a technical partner.
Finding a business partner can be difficult, especially a technical one. I didn’t have tons of connections, so I basically had to approach a few people cold turkey.
For the most part people weren’t interested. In the moment you think your idea is so great, who wouldn’t want to be your partner? The reality is that everyone is busy pursuing their own goals, and it’s really hard for other people to see your vision.
I had met Brad Williams at OC WordCamp, where I talked to him in the hall for a few minutes before his presentation. He was really nice to take the time to talk even though he didn’t know me. I didn’t know at the time, but if that hadn’t happened, he probably wouldn’t be my partner today.
Meeting people in person is incredibly important. Go to conferences and meetups as much as you can.
When I had the idea for AppPresser, he was one of the people I approached. Several weeks later, Webdev Studios ended up becoming my partner in AppPresser.
Building product sales to $30k/mo
AppPresser launched in January and we did $18K in the first 3 weeks, then grew that to $30K/mo later in the year.
That is not normal in my experience. Most products start with little to no sales, and slowly build up month after month.
The biggest reason we had strong sales right from the start was that we were doing something new and different. We got a lot of attention because of that, and didn’t have to try super hard at marketing.
Contrast that with a theme company. Everybody is doing themes, so even if your theme is a little more awesome, no one is going to write articles or tweet about it. You’re going to be fighting an uphill battle to get people to care about your product.
Not different for the sake of being different, but better and more interesting. It makes marketing much easier.
Let’s talk about actually building your product before launching.
I’m a big fan of the MVP (minimum viable product). Build out only the most necessary features, then launch quickly. Developing a product for a year without having anyone actually pay for it and use it is a horrible idea. You need feedback from the market, and the sooner you get it the better. You’ll have to change things up in your product, and it’s easier to change things early on.
You also have to consider that after you launch, you won’t have as much time to work on the product.
When you are creating your product, you can develop really fast because you’re just writing code and you don’t have to do anything else. As soon as you launch, you suddenly get tied up with non-development related tasks. Payment issues, website problems, and customer support take a lot of time away from actually building out your product.
Launch fast, but plan for slower development, and changing up your product after launch based on the way customers use it.
Get something out there that works fast, then get feedback and make it better.
It’s really important to get feedback from people who are more experienced than you are. You’d be surprised what you don’t know.
Get this feedback early, BEFORE you build out your product. I know you think your idea is amazing, but it may just need a slight change in direction that will be the difference between success and failure.
Chris Lema is a great resource for this, and there are lots of nice people in the community who will help you out, including me. Hit me up on twitter @scottbolinger I’d be happy to chat.
One thing to keep in mind is that what worked for someone else may not work for you.
Getting to $30K
Getting to $30K in revenue came fairly naturally. We got some articles written about us, and made some strategic partners, but mostly it was just riding off the attention we got early on.
This happens sometimes, but don’t expect it to happen to you. Build your marketing channels early, don’t count on sales to fall from the sky.
If you are struggling building your product sales, we’ll take a look at how you can build up your sales funnel.
Changing everything up
Even though AppPresser sales are stronger than ever, we decided to change everything up.
Basically we knew we could make a better product, and it made good business sense.
Reactor makes more sense as a SaaS product, it’s better for our customers mostly, but recurring revenue is appealing to us as well.
Moving to a SaaS model has not been without it’s struggles.
I’ve been documenting our journey here on this blog, you can read all about our numbers as we go.
Calm seas don’t make good sailors
One of the most interesting things about launching Reactor has been that it feels really hard so far.
Normal product sales are just watching money hit the bank, but a SaaS is this super laborious process of acquiring and onboarding customers, and trying to prevent cancellations.
That has caused me to really step up my game.
When we were building the product, I had to step up my development game. Now I have to step it up in sales, marketing, and optimizing. It’s a whole different thing, and I’m still just getting my feet wet.
I’m definitely learning more from the difficulty of launching this product than I ever learned before.
I think we have a lot of work to do to get our pricing right, refine our product, and reach product/market fit. I’m really excited by how awesome of a product we have, and I strongly believe people are going to love it.
Check back every week to see how our journey is going right here on my blog.