Making Sales at Launch by Solving a Common Problem in a Better Way

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

My name is Terry Godier and I'm a developer and marketer from Appleton, Wisconsin. I've been doing internet marketing and building things for about 15 years at this point. What am I working on? UserInsights.

UserInsights is a platform I developed to help fellow indie hackers build websites that users love.

Right now we're focused on providing user testing videos. Our testers go onto your site to accomplish specific goals and actions, and give specific feedback that you've asked for. You get a 5+ minute video of the results with actionable, narrated feedback.

Many people are probably familiar with remote user testing... and there certainly are a lot of really big companies both offering the service and buying these services.

The idea is sound, but the takeaways often aren't. Who wants one hundred 30-minute videos of users meandering around a site?

First of all, I don't have 3,000 minutes to watch these things. Second of all, if I wanted to see what a user does 25 minutes into their session, I've probably already acquired that user and can ask them directly.

Someone who's been on your site for 25 minutes is not giving you fresh takes. They've already got a lot of experience with the product.

So we built UserInsights with that in mind: a streamlined way to ask specific questions about your website and get specific answers for what to change. What we're striving for, though, is to bring the actionable takeaways to everyone.

It's going really, really well. We launched in mid-May 2018 and we're already running hundreds of tests per month.

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What motivated you to get started with UserInsights?

I've launched dozens of projects and consulted with an absolute ton of clients over the years, and what I've found is that the best-converting websites are those that most closely match their users' expectations. Most of what we think of as conversion rate optimization is actually just building a more user-friendly website.

There are dozens of services that show you what users do on your site, but very few that show you why users are doing that. That's where our platform comes in.

If the problem is valuable enough, you can bet there are people out there who figured out a way to make it work. So the value equation is actually solving valuable problems in a more economical way than what is currently being done.

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Of those dozens of projects I launched, most of them failed. I had a system that had me building products that users didn't want, or in a way they didn't understand. Maybe if I started talking to users earlier in that process I'd be off doing something else right now :)

What went into building the initial product?

A lot of late nights, early mornings and weekends. One of my co-founders (and product manager) George Kepnick and I probably spent a total of ~200-250 hours banging this thing out.

What we did differently this time around was we paid super, super careful attention to all of the screens and exactly how they work, how users would use them and what the value was.

We basically began with the deliverables because we knew what kinds of takeaways and feedback we wanted the brands who use our system to get, so we worked backwards from there.

Everything was questioned and on the table for evaluation. Every single decision was made with the focus on helping our brands build better websites. If something didn't do that, it wasn't added.

We also made a very conscious decision to not look at any competing products. In my opinion, if you look at how things are always done, you're missing big opportunities.

Many competitors, I think you'll find, simply do things the same as everyone else because that's the way it's always been done. In contrast, we sat down to do things the way they should be done.

After about a month and a half, we had our product, and it's still pretty much the same product today that we launched with.

How have you attracted users and grown UserInsights?

We kind of accidentally launched on Hacker News. We woke up to being on the front page. That was pretty eye-opening.

We, of course, did Product Hunt (also frontpaged) and have had several reddit hits with our content marketing. We were lucky enough to have some of our content collected into newsletters, too.

Our major effort right now is just showing the product to people. Our content marketing is our primary channel right now and it's focused on illustrating the takeaways you might get from using UserInsights.

We recently published a massive study of Shopify and highlighted 10 fairly major issues that we hadn't seen posted about before in the general run of the mill "conversion rate optimization for Shopify" types of articles.

I do want to recommend being cautious about your launch. It's probably going to be underwhelming. We got quite a bit of traffic, and a few sales for sure, but it dries up quickly. We're focused on non-paid channels currently and most of our revenue is getting put back into onboarding, product management and expansion right now.

As far as numbers, I'm trying to ignore quantitative measurement of the site because there's not an enormous amount of actionable data there. Lots of our traffic is still from social channels and Product Hunt, so it would be difficult to draw any meaningful trends from those spikes.

We're still in the building phase and spending an hour going over visit analytics isn't nearly as good for me as spending an hour talking with a customer or coding or writing. I do keep track of engagement, though, as our retention focus was baked in from the beginning.

What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We began charging from day 1. I had clients I was using the service for, so I was actually the first user.

We use Stripe to capture our payments. We do have to use a lot of PayPal, though, as our testers are paid monthly to their PayPal accounts for any work they've done.

Our first month (a partial month) was something like $500 in revenue. The second month is a few multiples of that, mostly thanks to retention and re-orders placed by our initial customers.

We have something like an 80% re-order rate. A lot of people haven't used a service like this, so they'll get a few tests to begin with, and then once they see the value they immediately order a larger set.

In terms of margins, they are kind of all over the place since we discount for volume. We have to pay our testers. We pay $5 per test (which is actually up to $60 per hour). We're paying more than anyone else in the industry that we've found, but we've got a really great group of folks. It's valuable work and we feel really good about this.

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What are your goals for the future?

We want to build a platform that helps you build websites that users love. To date we've only launched the user feedback videos, and that's not a platform, that's a product. So we're hard at work on delivering the next step, the next tool and the next iteration that turns us into platform mode. It's coming along nicely and should be launched within a couple of months.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

I underestimated (yet again) the difficulty in growing a marketplace. We're essentially a marketplace.

We have 2 distinct roles: testers and brands who buy tests. It's a chicken and egg scenario, so we went after testers first.

Luckily, as I mentioned, we pay very well so it wasn't super difficult to get signups. The problem is activation, so we require all testers to go through a series of steps to get verified. A lot of people aren't able to produce quality videos and that's throttled the growth of the eligible tester pool a little. So we're working through that with some education.

Another pain point was working with PayPal. It took almost a month to get mass payments set up. We had to send payments to all testers by hand. Twice. In the new PayPal interface that's like ten clicks each. It takes hours and hours.

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

In reality, there are no shortcuts or parlor tricks that can help you build a successful software business. Everything that you want is just on the other side of a mountain of hard work. For us, we chose to put that time into the product. I think that's the difference here.

As I mentioned before, it's not about how loud you can be or how pretty your site is. It's about the results you bring. I remember an old adage that says something like, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." I think that has been amended to the more accurate "It's not who you know, it's who trusts you to solve problems."

It's not who you know, it's who trusts you to solve problems.

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I'd recommend focusing on an actual problem and unpacking it as large as you can. Starting a tech company is really hot and cool right now, but building a real business is boring and tried and true.

I see a lot of people recommending that people focus on solving an unsolved problem. Well, I have yet to see a problem that customers weren't already solving with some duct tape method.

If the problem is valuable enough, you can bet there are people out there who figured out a way to make it work. So the value equation is actually solving valuable problems in a more economical way than what is currently being done.

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Where can we go to learn more?

Our site is at https://userinsights.com.

Our blog (full of case studies) is at http://blog.userinsights.com.

Our company Twitter is https://twitter.com/getuserinsights and my personal Twitter is https://twitter.com/terrygseo.

clickinsights , Founder of UserInsights

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