October 11, 2018

Burned out and need advice

I have been working on a personal finance app for Mac and iPhone for quite a while. It's called Savings (savingsapp.com), and the original intention is to create something that is simple, easy to use and elegant.

My partner and I have put in a lot of work polishing the app over the years, but it seems like no matter what we do, the market just isn't responding. I am getting to a point where I feel burned out and unable to continue, because working on something without result simply is not rewarding.

Truth is, we have never done any marketing on the app. As a developer, I actually don't know where to start in terms of marketing. How do we figure out what our customers want? How do we differentiate? We have built something that we love to use ourselves, but that surely doesn't seem to be enough.

What do you guys think about this product? Feel free to be blunt.

Or, do you think it's time that we give up on this concept and move on to something else?


  1. 4

    "we have never done any marketing on the app. As a developer, I actually don't know where to start in terms of marketing. How do we figure out what our customers want?"

    That right there is the issue which I am sure you have figured out. Now, I would ask some questions first:

    1. Who is your Target/Ideal Customer ? Has this question been answered ? If not, you need to work on this part. You cannot say "hey everybody needs to save, so the whole world is our target". That will ensure a sure shot failure of your business.

    2. What "problem" or "pain point" are you solving specifically ? Your landing page says "20% of features that you use 80% of time". I like that but it is not enough. Instead of features, focus on problems and pain points.

    3. Do you have any registered users already on these? Have you done any follow-ups with your existing users ?

    Focus on marketing now. Stop writing any more code. Go find people where you can. Technically savings and finances are a huge market but it is also very competitive and saturated. I am not going to download yet another savings app unless you can show me WHY it will make my life BETTER.

    1. 1

      Thanks, I thought about these questions in depth and here is what I came up with.

      1 Who is your Target/Ideal Customer ? Has this question been answered ? If not, you need to work on this part. You cannot say "hey everybody needs to save, so the whole world is our target". That will ensure a sure shot failure of your business

      Our ideal user is someone who is an avid Mac and iPhone user looking for a native app to manage their personal finance.

      They want to have the convenience of Mint (automatically download transactions) but without the ads. (Note: Bank connect is a feature we will introduce in the next update.)

      As a Mac/iPhone user, they appreciate good design and simplicity, and they want the finance app they use to have the same characteristic.

      The user may not already know the basic concepts in personal account keeping, so they need someone to guide them through the process.

      2 What "problem" or "pain point" are you solving specifically ? Your landing page says "20% of features that you use 80% of time". I like that but it is not enough. Instead of features, focus on problems and pain points.

      First, there is the general problem that we and all personal finance apps solve is:

      • You have accounts everywhere and money coming in and out of accounts all the time. You need something to help you keep track of it all.

      • More than being in control, you want to gain insight into your spending habit, see whether you are getting richer or poorer, with simple to use charts.

      But more importantly, what is different about Savings?

      • Bank connect. you don’t want to have to manually enter every transaction or manually reconcile your accounts. What a pain! With bank connect, the process is fully automated so that you don’t even feel it.

      • Manual control when you need it. easily create manual accounts, enter pending transactions, use your own categories, and batch edit multiple transactions at once. Make your account data just the way you want.

      • No ads. Your privacy is protected. We are not interested in selling your data. We make money simply by charging you for use of the app.

      • Simplicity and design. There are a few apps that do all of the above, but they all have an ugly and complicated user interface. Savings is something that is beautiful, simple, and a pleasure to use.

      3 Do you have any registered users already on these? Have you done any follow-ups with your existing users ?

      We do have a small mailing list of less than 200 people. We have done a survey on what they want, and the result of that survey is reflected in the answers above.

      We should definitely do more. For example, have in-app channel of communication, such as a chat bubble or an interactive message that shows up in the app or on our website.

      1. 1

        I guess you have an specific reason for choose Apple users as your preferred target. But, in the web revolution, why no try to get users over the whole internet?

        You do have a potential difference with other apps and is the capacity of sync the user data over different devices. If you try to reach more users developing a web app or a android app your target will potentially increment.

        Also, I encourage to keep going. Something truly is you already have an app in the market and that is something most people can't say.

        Regards.

        1. 1

          Thanks for your encouragement to keep going. After reading all these comments and thinking for a few days, I think our problem is simply that we need to do marketing. Marketing in the sense of 1) talking to user and 2) tweaking our public facing content and the app itself based on customer feedback.

          Just read a great quote from Patrick McKenzie:

          90% of the results of your business, and somewhere around 90% of the effort, are caused by non-coding activities: dealing with pre-sales inquiries, marketing, SEO, marketing, customer support, marketing, website copywriting, marketing, etc.

          I've always known not to believe that "if you build it they will come." But as a maker, in the midst of all the coding activity, it's easy to forget that I am making that exact mistake.

  2. 2

    Personal finance is a tough space!

    In general, I don't think PFMs make money unless they hit a critical mass. In the case of companies like Mint, they are making money through other backend means.

    If I was you, I would work on a different business model. At $14.99 a year, you would need a lot of paid users to support just one developer. I would give away the app for free to entice users to use it and sell them on something else. Ex, referring to tax accountants and making money from referral fees from the accountants, offering budgeting courses for $xx, etc...

  3. 2

    For what I can see, there is not much difference with others app you can find in the market and there are plenty of it. So, You have now a product, which is excellent, now, think in something disrupting, you should try to make a difference over your competitors, offer something they don't have or do, or make it considerable more simple and enjoyable. About the market, try to think who will be the first person which will use your product. Good luck.

    1. 1

      I agree, thanks for confirming my feeling that we need to find 1-2 differentiating features or not do it at all.

      1. 1

        But it's not just guesswork. Talking to users can help reach to something they really desire. It doesn't mean you just build what they ask from you, but you ask about their problem, and you come up with your unique solution. A good framework for this is a book called The Mom Test. it's about asking quesitons.

  4. 1

    It’s kind of hard to find pricing info or a subscribe button anywhere on the website or the apps. If you’re waiting till they reach the 200 transaction limit you’re missing out on impulse decisions. Maybe even provide an incentive to move to the paid app - a feature.

    Also I can’t find your app on the App Store searching for “Savings”. I would investigate or ask Apple.

    I am using the Hong Kong App Store. Following the links on your website I can download the apps.

  5. 1

    Man, i feel you. I have been in your situation too many times. Its still a struggle for me though. Thing is you to grow, you have to get out of your comfort zone. You have to be nasty sometimes to get attention, in ways that i personally think, am i spamming? Its just how it works and i really dislike this part.

    Im working on a product as side project to “partly” eleviate this problem, for people like us. Just follow my profile and ill announce it here when im going live. Anyway good job in launching, its not the finish line now but just starting.

  6. 1

    When talking to existing, potential or churned users, one thing I'd make sure to ask them is how they currently go about tackling their problems around managing and saving money. Try to understand as much as you can around how they manage money in their lives.

    Also understand what type of person they are. Are they financially savvy people with millions in assets? Or someone struggling with having any savings from their monthly paycheck? Or moms/dads who are managing complex expense/incomes for their family?

    Then you can start talking a bit about your app and openly ask them how it compares to how they do things. Maybe they use Mint, or excel, or just do it in their heads. Or maybe they have different credit card and bank accounts for different types of expenses and income.

    I'm a design researcher by trade so let me know if you need help with drafting an interview/questions guide when talking to your users (via email, chat, video..etc). If you want to try to get a taste in a quick/simple way, I'd be happy to give you some trial user feedback videos for you via our remote user testing service. I just need your iOS app url and a general target user and I can have new users give feedback (screen recording w/ voiceover) while using it.

    1. 1

      I am interested in trying out your service with our app Boximize. Let me know how I can reach you.

      1. 1

        Sure. Feel free to reach me at userlookco [at] gmail and I can help get you setup :)

  7. 1

    You need to make a commitment and get outside of your comfort zone and go talk to your users EVERY SINGLE DAY!

    These include existing customers who love your product, ones who've tried to use it but churned, and LOTS of new potential customers.

    Don't worry about this abstract word called "marketing" for now. Instead, go out and find your customers. Maybe it's on personal finance subreddits, or at local Meetup groups, or even people who just signed up for your product.

    When you talk to them, ask them questions like:

    1. What problem do you think my product solves (assuming they've not seen it before)...or...what problem were you hoping my product could help you solve (assuming they've seen / tried it).

    2. What (if any) part of the product do you get value from?

    3. What is one thing that you are confused about?

    ...etc!

    What you'll likely find is that the problem you think you are trying to help them solve WON'T be the problem they care about or be willing to pay you to solve.

    But if you keep asking, you'll start to get new ideas about how to iterate on Savings and ultimately build something that they love (and get value out of).

    Talking to users isn't hard per se...but just awkward in the beginning while you feel outside of your comfort zone.

    If it would be of any help for you, I'm working on an accountability app that helps you work together with like-minded founders who have the same goal you do (to talk to more users). By working together, I mean that you'll hold each other accountable to get outside of your comfort zone and go talk to users more often!

    If you want to join, download Tribe of Five (www.tribefive.me) and use code "sus-users" to join our 30 day talk-to-more-users challenge.

    I'm eating my own dog food and today was day 1 for my "tribe". As of right now, 4/5 founders in the group checked in, meaning they each invested time out of the day to talk to users!

    Cheers,

    Jonathan

  8. 1

    I'm tempted to try it because it has syncing between MacOS and iOS. However, until today I've never thought of changing from the free desktop app I'm using. This market is a crowded space as you know.

    I think it is hard to rank on the search engine as most people are searching for "accounting" or "bookkeeping" which is dominated by big companies. You appear on the second Google results page for "savings app".

    UberSuggest says it is about $3.97 CPC for that keyword which is expensive for what you charge for your app. https://app.neilpatel.com/en/ubersuggest/keyword_ideas?keyword=savings+app&country=us

    I see the trend in savings apps to have some gimmick like a debit card, interest, payments, or investment.

    I get simplicity but there needs to be a burning problem to be solved or an irresistible benefit to be gained to trigger sales.

    How do we figure out what our customers want? How do we differentiate?

    I suggest you look at the book Value Proposition Design. You can checkout some explainers video on YouTube.

    My product is in a similar position (many alternatives, some free, no burning problem to be solved). I need to talk to customers to see where I can find value and differentiate.

    1. 2

      Thanks for actually trying out the keywords for me! Appreciate your feedback. Yes, need to solve a burning problem for users. And the only way to find out is to ask.

  9. 1

    This is a tough place to be in - but I get it.

    1 - this is not an uncommon feeling for a maker - sometimes we love making things and other times we feel overwhelmed, deflated, like a failure.

    I woke up this morning exhausted and frustrated and wondering why I'm doing this etc. It lead me to ask my question about whether or not I should launch QuickSold.com .

    I am in several groups with makers and they often express being burned out, confused, tired, ready to give up, etc.

    2 - I think at first impression, the app looks clean. if you don't have a group to launch to, it's a bit like the tree in the forest analogy. we've got to focus on building a group of users in a variety of ways - one at a time, even.

    3 - to win users, you've got to start sharing it with people who would be users - or people who would be looking for it - adwords for people searching for this type of app, advertise (or share) on blogs like makingsenseofcents or similar, or fin users of other apps and ask them to switch.. I'm spitballing and hope I'm not being insulting.

    Justin Jackson created https://devmarketing.xyz/ and maybe you'll find it helpful??

    hope I've been helpful and not just captain obvious :)

    Kevin

    1. 1

      Appreciate it Kevin, your comments are spot on.