April 3, 2017

Keep expanding user base or start charging?

Hello IndieHackers!

About a couple of weeks ago I made https://everydaycheck.com public. It's a minimalist habit tracker. It's ridiculously simple, you add some habits, and try to create beautiful chains by doing the tasks EVERY DAY. I have lots of ideas, of course, but the core idea is already there and it works.

I shared the link in a couple of reddit communities and one of the posts literally exploded ( https://www.reddit.com/r/getdisciplined/comments/60akoi/method_thought_i_owed_this_subreddit_a_lot_so_im/ ). It got me over 2.500 visits and over 800 signups. Of those, about 80-100 people come back every day to use the app. I think it's a very good ratio and it's helped me fix a lot of small issues and get feedback from the users. It has certainly validated the idea.

At this point, I have a dilemma. I believe the app is too simple to charge for it but at the same time I don't want to keep investing too much time on it if I cannot make any benefit from it. With the validated idea I kind of want to validate the 'business' itself.

I'm hesitant between:

  1. Wait for a month to see how many users are still using it almost daily, while trying to grow the user base.

  2. Start charging now. (how much/model to be decided)

  3. Send an email to everyone on the database asking straight out, would you pay for this and how much?

Ideas on how/how much to charge are also welcome!

Thanks!


  1. 9

    Staying in B2C, one model that might work is a Freemium across the log-keeping dimension:

    1. Free: streaks are all reset at the start of the month.

    2. Paid: keep your entire history.

    1. 2

      nice idea there, thanks!!

  2. 2

    I think it's always a good idea to talk to your customers, so I think charging for it out of nowhere (#2) is the wrong way forward. Both #1 or #3 seem viable, but if you choose #3 I would advise having the monetization questions be a small subset of a broader conversation around how they found your tool, what they use it for, how it has impacted their life, how likely they are to recommend it to someone else, what is missing, and finally, would they be willing to pay for it if all of the missing features were added. If so, how much?

    An alternative monetization method could be to cross-sell into other products or services. For example, depending on your own comfort coaching around discipline and accountability, you could offer 1-on-1 or 1-to-many coaching services, partner with an expert to offer paid course, host a paid online conference with expert panels around productivity and accountability, etc. Basically, you keep the core product free while up-selling existing users into other services that they self-select into.

    Just brainstorming here, but if you decide to charge, I would recommend considering giving 60-90 days notice and offering existing users a "forever free" plan if they refer five friends. The friends all get a month free or something and the early adopter ends up never having to pay. Just a thought...

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Hey! Thanks for the thoughts here!

      I agree with #3, I just want to keep it very short though. The problem with #1 is that I'm not validating people would pay for it at all, and so I might be wasting my time going in the wrong direction. I'd rather have 1 paying customer than 100 daily users!

      I guess another problem I'll have to face is to go from a free plan to actually charge, that's why your last paragraph sounds reasonable!

      thanks again!

  3. 2

    I think you should work on making your product addictive, what you explained above shows that you have a 10% daily users, try and get that up. some examples:

    • Send daily Reminder emails

    • create a mobile version

    • create a browser plugin

    Basically, use whatever tactic to increase the use and stickiness of your app. If you get that number up to 50% of daily users come back. Then charge, use the freemium method @hsribei mentioned above. Some will drop off but you know you have a valuable product that people will stick around for

    Read this book Hooked for ideas on creating a sticky product:

    https://www.amazon.com/Hooked-How-Build-Habit-Forming-Products-ebook/dp/B00LMGLXTS

    Hopefully this helps

    1. 1

      thanks! I don't think the 10% is a particularly bad ratio, most of the people just used the app and then didn't come back, but it's true that I should work on getting them to come back and get the habit to use the app :p

      what do you exactly devise for the browser plugin?

      thanks for the feedback!

  4. 2

    Send an email to everyone on the database asking straight out, would you pay for this and how much?

    https://www.indiehackers.com/businesses/wallabag-it

    Most of respondents said they'd pay less than €5. I didn't listen to them, because I really think that a service like wallabag.it can charge €20 per year. I ended up deciding on €12 per year. (Less than a coffee per month!)

    1. 3

      in other words, "don't send that email" :p

  5. 2

    I think it only makes sense to keep a service free if either (a) there's some kind of network-effect/virality that will cause it to grow exponentially and that wouldn't work once you charge for it or (b) you think there's a good chance you'll want to keep it free forever. If neither of those apply, I think you want to start monetizing it as early as you can because that's the only real way to validate the idea.

    Having said that, I'd start by reaching out to people. Email might work, but with only ~100 active users, I'd guess you won't get too many responses and the responses you do get will be pretty unhelpful. I know it's not fun, but I'd try to talk to some of those people on the phone. That will let you learn more about your potential users. What are their backgrounds? What problems are they facing (don't limit yourself just to problems your app currently solves)? What approaches have they been using to solve those problems prior to finding your product? How much would it be worth to them to have those problems solved?

    If you really think your app is too simple to charge for it, that might be a good fit for freemium. Let people use the current version for free, but maybe during your customer research phone calls you'll learn about some more substantial functionality that people would be happy to pay for.

    One other thought: individual consumers don't value their time/productivity very highly. Businesses don't make that mistake because they know exactly how much each employee costs them. If you really want to get people to pay you, I'd go after businesses. You could keep the individual version free, but have a paid version that a business can use to set goals for employees and encourage good work habits. There are definitely challenges selling to businesses (it's not just about having the best product, especially with larger businesses) but they're way less price sensitive.

    Good luck!

    1. 2

      hey thanks for your answer!

      I agree I should charge and see if anyone would pay at all as soon as possible. I think I'll just develop one little feature that can have huge impact in the app, and add the payment form together with it and see how people reacts. Or maybe email everyone with the excuse of the new feature asking about if they'd pay at all.

      You are right about the B2B-targetted projects being better, however, I don't think this level of simplicity would apply to businesses. There's a lot of really advanced tooling and huge competition in the field :P

      thanks!

      1. 3

        You may be right about B2B (I certainly don't know anything about this space) but I have seen incredibly basic software sold to really large companies. I'm not saying the sales process would necessarily be easy, but don't let competition scare you away from going after B2B customers.

        Two anecdotes:

        #1 - My company makes a CRM. There were already dozens of very successful CRM companies before we launched, and most of them have way more features than we do. Some companies need really powerful software and aren't a good fit for us, but we managed to find >12,000 users across >5,000 businesses paying us each month. Some businesses value simplicity.

        #2 - I know the founders of another SaaS company that make a really simple product to help businesses manage productivity. From what I can tell about your product, it's roughly the same level of complexity (or it was when they started anyway). They've managed to sell into several giant companies. Sure, there are a ton of other products that can do the same thing and much more, but these giant companies aren't using those products. Either they're too expensive, or (more likely) so complicated that no one at the company would actually want to use it. So instead they buy this much simpler thing.

        The key seems to be how you position it. If you say "here's a tool to let you track things you're working on" a business might not care. But if you say "you're paying an average of $100k for each employee you have, and they're all X% less effective than they could be. My app will bridge that gap and generate an extra $Y worth of value per employee per year" then it doesn't matter if the app is basic.

        Selling to the enterprise is a pretty massive undertaking, so I totally get if you don't want to do it, but don't let competition scare you away.

        1. 2

          Pretty nice new perspective you bring into the table. Great point about how in the end it all depends on how you sell it. I could certainly find ways and include basic features to make it relevant from a business point of view. However, it sounds a little bit like it should be sold as a 'micromanaging' app, and the trend right now seems to be the opposite... I'll think about it, definately. I'm curious, can you share a link to that relatively simple SaaS company you speak of?

          1. 2

            I'd prefer not to share their name publicly just because I'm not sure if anything they've told me is meant to stay private. But if you email me at tyler@lessannoyingcrm.com I can give you a bit more background.

            I can see how your app could be viewed as micromanaging in the wrong light, but I think there's a much more positive angle to take. Employees find work much more rewarding if they're learning, growing, and they see advancement opportunities ahead of them. I wasn't imagining that your app would be used to track the mundane day-to-day stuff (like "did you fill out your TPS reports), but more the big-picture personal development stuff.

            For example, I'm helping some of my employees right now get more comfortable talking to customers, and I've suggested some ways for them to practice. It would be kind of cool to have a mentorship tool that would let me set some goals/exercises for them to try out, and they would have a way to keep track of whether they're following through. I think the employees would really appreciate something like that, and it would be a great way for management to groom future leaders.

          2. 2

            The book The Power of Habit already made the case for the benefit of institutional habits, so there might be "habits-savvy" managers and CEOs out there already who might find it hard for their employees to stick to certain routines.

            This post is a great read and also illustrates how a nuance in pricing influences commitment, and can lead to a new software becoming a program inside a company instead of just another toy to play with: https://m.signalvnoise.com/how-we-generated-712-076-64-in-revenue-with-two-people-in-a-little-over-two-years-8c4af36ed1f1

            Know Your Company is a habit-forming software for companies (specifically around employee feedback), so yours might be useful as well.

            1. 3

              wow great hsribei! Thanks for the feedback and links!