Ryan Battles – How to Gain Traction in a Crowded Market – MicroConf 2017

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    • Someone earlier was telling me
      • They’re looking to build a product
      • Interests: programming, selling, kung-fu
      • Programming: Python, and Go
        • Go sounds obscure. You should start a product around that!
          • Then I Googled it. 15 million results
      • Every market is crowded
      • So rarely will you find a product that’s brand new, never done before
        • If it doesn’t exist, there’s usually a reason
    • Harpoon
      • Would show your finances, expenses, forecasted revenue…
      • Shows graphs and charts showing you more information about your business
      • Had a landing page. Lead magnet. Purchased ads
        • 3k signups before launch
        • Had a great launch
        • But
        • They signed up… and then churned. Quickly
        • This wasn’t the tool for them
        • What’s going on?
          • “I don’t want to enter my payment information twice — once into my accounting tool, and then again into your tool”
          • We had to create a product people wanted
      • Googled startups. Rob Walling’s book came up (Start Small Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide To Launching a Startup)
        • Quote from Rob’s book!
          • “Building a general purpose, small-business, online accounting application is a really bad idea for a self funded startup”
        • Similar quote in Justin Jackson’s content
        • We ignored it!
          • We’re going to take on Freshbooks; Harvest; FreeAgent
            • And LOTS more
        • Decided to go ahead anyway
    • Why did we do it?
      • We wanted this tool ourselves
      • None of the existing tools had the goal-tracking features that we wanted
    • We thought we had a “niche”
      • Just focus on solo freelancers
    • Decided to stay simple — just US dollars
      • But our traffic was coming from all over the world
      • Had to add
        • Currencies
        • Number formatting
        • Dates
        • Custom tax names
        • Multiple taxes
        • Multi-lingual invoices
        • In over our heads!
      • Fixed these gradually
    • Started to see growth towards the end of 2015
      • New features were bringing people in
      • Looked like a hockey-stick in 2016!
      • …But wasn’t

 

  • Lesson #1: build what people need

 

      • We didn’t on our first revision. But we got there

 

  • Lesson #2: Find a way to let them know about it

 

    • You probably aren’t the first one to do this
      • No matter what it is
    • Jazz
      • Fixed melody at the start and end, but improvisation in the middle
      • Any instruments, any size of band
      • Building a SaaS is similar
        • Any team size
    • Find AND EMBRACE your unique
    • 1. Be better at solving a problem
      • E.g. email marketing
        • There were a lot of options
          • But Drip was better. Simple. Easy to get started.
    • 2. Be unique in your solution
      • SendGrid — adding some tools that the others don’t have. Unique
    • 3. Leverage your advantage
      • ConvertKit — Nathan was an authority in content marketing, so he incorporated his knowledge into ConvertKit to make it better at solving professional bloggers’ problems
  • “The only assets you have against bigger, wealthier competitors are raw talent and time. Corporate America isn’t as nimble as you” — Gary Vaynerchuk, #AskGaryVee
  • Measure everything
    • Decide scientifically what’s working and what’s not
    • Know what to double down on
    • When we want to test out something new:
      • What is the main idea?
      • What are we hoping to accomplish?
      • How are we hoping to accomplish this?
      • What are we measuring?
      • What is the timeframe?
      • How do we know if it’s a success?
      • What would failure look like?
      • What was the result?
      • What are some key takeaways?
    • We use Basecamp. You can use Notepad. Evernote. Anything
    • Can also use a Gantt chart
  • Recycle as much as possible
    • Say you write a Quora answer
      • Repurpose it as blog post
        • → LinkedIn and Facebook
        • Medium
          • To instagram
            • To twitter
          • To Twitter
          • Quuu
        • Guest post
  • Even though SaaS is crowded, “I still see people executing and just making it happen” – Rob Walling
  • I think you have what it takes to make it happen
    • Just try things
    • Get creative
    • Put yourself out there
  • Q&A
    • “Were you able to get anything from your competitors?”
      • Two schools of thought. Some (like Gary Vee) say I don’t even know what competitors are doing.
      • We keep tabs on a few of our competitors, but we don’t try to match them feature for feature
      • We listen to our customers. If there are patterns in our customers needing things that other tools have
    • “Examples of things you tried that didn’t work well?”
      • Twitter, and Twitter automation
        • Grew our follower base, but didn’t increase signups
        • But it’s worked for others
      • Just have to try stuff
    • “How did you land your first 10 clients and convince them your product was better?”
      • Content marketing and paid ads before we launched
      • Even though many churned, they were still on our email list. So as we improved we could keep them up to date, and won some of them back
      • Our network of friends and colleagues
    • “The recycling idea was amazing. What % of your income/leads/etc comes from that experimental third-party social media / recycled content?”
      • Not a great % yet.
      • We still find the best return for us at this stage is launching a feature and emailing our list about it. As we plug the feature holes, people are waiting for those features, they join. That drives the most sales at this point.
      • But the content marketing / recycling is bringing people into the LIST in the first place. So it’s all kind of circular.

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