October 24, 2019

A search engine to find new customers

Chris McCormick @chr15m

Since joining Indie Hackers I've shipped a few small apps and done a couple of Product Hunt launches, and one problem that comes up each time is how to find those elusive first customers.

tl:dr; I built an open source search engine to help you find new customers.

Advice from people who have successfully bootstrapped includes cold-emails, building an audience before you launch, launching on PH and HN, and other early growth strategies. As a developer lacking sales and marketing skills I've found these activities hard to carry out, and not great for getting results. PH and HN launches carry a reputational risk and can fizzle out, even if the product is actually useful to people who aren't on those platforms.

Luckily there is a different approach. A solution that has worked for bootstrappers like @adriaanvanrossum of Simple Analytics, and @rchase of Hostifi. They found customers on social media by searching for people who were talking about the problem their app solves. This approach seems to work well for people like me who don't want to be "salesy" or do cold calls.

So I went looking for a something I could use to do this.

When I found Syften by indie hacker @akfaew I thought maybe this was a good solution, but their focus is on monitoring your existing brand:

Monitor mentions of your product, blog, website, email address or nickname.

I also found that their notification based workflow did not work for me. I wanted something with a tighter feedback loop. [Incidentally I have shared this feedback with them and I hope it's useful. Whilst Syften wasn't the right fit for me, you should certainly check it out - it's a deep product with a lot of options for search.]

The thing is, my apps each solve a problem, so what I really wanted was a simple dashboard of recent posts by people who have that problem. That way I could reach out to those people directly and say "Hey, I have a solution that might work for you."

What I really wanted was the dashboard that Adriaan shared in his tweet for growing Simple Analytics. He was finding people who were specifically looking for privacy focused analytics already so he could help them out.

Well, to cut a long story short, I couldn't find an app that did this, so I built it. Introducing CustomerFind:

https://customerfind.net/

Inspired by the image in Adriaan's tweet, I've hacked together a prototype of an open source search engine to help you find new customers. It's based off a fork of Searx, an existing open source meta-search engine.

If you give the beta a try I would really appreciate your feedback. 🙏

Thanks for reading!

  1. 3

    This is a really good idea Chris. Agree that IH and PH for many products are often not the places to find early users. But finding people on social who are showing some intent is.

    Will certainly give it a try, and give Syften a look as well.

    1. 1

      Thanks Ernie! Do let me know any feedback you have, it would be invaluable at this point.

  2. 2

    Your feedback was indeed valuable, thank you for that. But just to clear up an inconsistency, we do also say: "Monitor Your Niche and Gather New Leads".

    So far our biggest problem was that nobody read the documentation and thus was unable to take advantage of our advanced filters. Good luck with your take on this problem!

    1. 2

      Good point, I see that now further down in the front page documentation.

      Your blog Medium post on writing better filters is good. I think the fact that it's hard to design good filters is a user interface problem not a user knowledge problem. I think you should make your user interface more interactive so that people can immediately see the results of using your filters with a tighter feedback loop. Its annoying to use an external tool to write filters and its annoying to wait for notification email/Slack hours later to see if they worked.

      If my approach gets any traction I would be interested in teaming up with you guys in some way. Will let you know if it works out. Best of luck to you too!

  3. 1

    I think this was a great idea. I tried it out now. I don't see any results. Did you decide to drop this project?

    1. 3

      Unfortunately Twitter started blocking the server that was making requests. Highly recommend you check out Syften by @akfaew!

    2. 2

      Hey, I got the search engine back online again and I am currently working on updates. Hope you get a chance to try it! https://customerfind.net/

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