Growth stalled. Losing market share. Advice needed.

People say "don't care about competition, focus on your users," but that doesn't apply to every market.

Especially not when your market is well-networked, well-connected, and -- most crucially -- your product category is front-facing (think, for instance, a live-chat widget where you can instantly identify which company the majority of customers in a market are using).

When your customers see others are using another company in droves, people like to follow the crowd and see what the hype is all about, and ultimately they churn.

With other product categories, it's a bit more contained/hidden (say, accounting software or email marketing software), so you can exploit the arbitrage a little more, but not with front-facing products.

Admittedly I take responsibility for my product not being up to par with the competition -- this is the reality of the free market. And I understand that.

It just feels like they'll always have more resources: more dollars to throw at product development, more brains to squeeze for a particular problem, more man hours to spare, so even if I work at my best pace (as a solo founder), I'll still lose market share and fall behind no matter what.

I might have sadly picked a "winner takes most" market where social proof is pretty much equivalent to product merit.

  1. 6

    if it's winner takes most, then there's still room for a small business.
    You can be cheaper, you can be pared down, you can be simple.

    1. 3

      I think I already am, not even intentionally.

      In general, people want good not cheap though.

      I'm ramen profitable, so I'm default-alive instead of default-dead, but I'll soon be default-dead if I can't crack the code on this.

      Thank you though, Andrew, for your feedback!

  2. 5

    I think you should pick an area to focus on winning e.g.

    • Price
    • Product (Most features/simplest to use)
    • Support

    If you're the best in one of those areas you should be able to win a x% of the market. Being a solo founder you'll know and understand the software better than your competitors support agents so you can normally do well on that front.

    Alternatively niche down and build the best X for Y e.g. doctors/lawyers/accountants and add features specific to their job type into your product that your competition won't for a more general product.

    Good luck!

  3. 5

    I don't know what pricing tiers you have.

    But one tactical approach you can try, not sure it will work or not -

    Add a higher premium tier with a few extra features.

    And grandfather all existing customers into it.

    They will "feel" they are paying the same money for more features, which can possibly reduce churn.
    And entice other people into the lower tiers.

    Worth a shot if you're in danger of going default-dead.

    Feel free to DM me if you want to brainstorm more possible ideas.

  4. 5

    This is just anecdotal(and all the details might not be correct. Memories can be fuzzy after all with how long ago this was.) and might not impact your situation at all. But I remember a while back, Mailchimp and CampaignMonitor were going head to head and CampaignMonitor was liked a lot more in the circles I was in because you could white label it if required and it worked well. And it was an email service, after all so who cared as long as your emails were correctly delivered. Everything else was unimportant.

    That was till Mailchimp tied up with a few well-known designers and had them design newsletter templates. It might have been other factors coming together but literally, everyone started talking about Mailchimp. Designers were onboard because famous designers were using it, and ordinary users loved the free beautiful designs.

    It was at that point CampaignMonitor disappeared almost overnight. I do not have any inside knowledge on how significant impact it had on them. But at least for me, from that point onward, I did not hear anyone talk about anything other than Mailchimp when it came to newsletters, and then they slowly expanded from there.

    So you might have to try something like that. Do something to catch the attention of the people who have the potential to drive your product adoption in an area people usually do not think about.

    1. 1

      So you might have to try something like that. Do something to catch the attention of the people who have the potential to drive your product adoption in an area people usually do not think about.

      Worth a shot. I'll think about that. Thank you!

  5. 4

    Most solo founders I've encountered started building their audience at the same time they built their products. In this sense, they have a core fanbase that helps promote and stays loyal.

    1. 2

      You have a point there.

      I've fallen back a lot on my marketing just working on my backlog of feature requests.

  6. 3

    "Growth stalled. Losing market share"

    It's happened to me. And I see it time and time again. Always (always!) with sole founders. They reach the business plateau and can't figure how to break the startup glass ceiling that's needed if they want to move on to the next level of the game.

    Trust me. I have battle scars along the lines of the anecdote below re CampaignMonitor.

    You are ticking along quite nicely. You have a lovely indie/sole-founder revenue for months or even years.

    And then slowly-slowly, the churn begins. An aggressive and much better-funded competitor has noticed you and thinks to themselves and their Rottweiler investors, "yeah, we're gonna have a bit of that".

    And one day, you wake up, and the drip-drip of churn is now also a "why would we use your service when there is [mega startup] out there".

    Trust me. Do not get anal about competitors and pricing. Someone recently asked how to web-scrape all their competitor prices every hour 24*7! WTF, don't be so stupid - this way lies paranoia and being afraid to move or do anything.

    But do keep an eye on the big picture and what other players are doing. Carry out monthly casual monitoring. And either accept that one day (which may be years away), you might get sunk in the wake of a passing mega-startup. Or get yourself onto Microacquire and take a nice well-earned exit. Or find other ways to grow into something that can become bigger and more stable.

    It is this exact niche I support with my advisory/mentoring. But you don't need to pay my silly retainer. Just be sensible and accept that you are riding a lifestyle business for as long as you can. It may not be forever, so ensure you start another overlapping startup at some point to take its place. And enjoy the whole journey, without worrying about bigger competitors sweeping in. That is the Indie game.

    Or, realise it's time to get off the Indie ride, put on a pair of grown-up pants and start figuring how to become that mega-startup yourself.

    1. 3

      Lol. So your advice is... "It is what it is?"

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