Growth June 10, 2020

I am about to throw in the towel. Help?

Hakan Aktas @hkanaktas

I cannot get people to open up to me.

We decided that targeting primarily businesses instead of freelancers would bring in more revenue and more feedback. Tried to talk to some people who own or work at such businesses. It's painful.

I have been trying for about 3 weeks now. Tried Facebook groups, Reddit posts, and some unsolicited messages. I'm still at point zero. Nothing. Nada.

Most Facebook groups and subreddits denied my posts right away. They were literally just discussion posts. I did not mention that I have a product, I did not try to advertise. I guess admins/moderators still picked up a smell.

One reddit post got attention from a single person. And they thought I posted at the wrong subreddit. After I explained myself, they provided some of their experience about the topic. It was nice but wasn't exactly what I was looking for.

I got zero valuable feedback in 3 weeks. What am I doing wrong? Are the people that I'm targeting generally hard to reach? Do I look for them in wrong places?

  1. 5

    Hi Hakan, I can feel your frustration. Getting people to take the time and share their experiences is difficult. I've worked on projects with thousands of users and sometimes you only get a handful of responses.

    A few things that came to mind that might be useful:

    • What are you trying to learn from these people that you don't know yourself? If you have no personal experience or insights in the area of your project, it might not be the right one. Running into this same issue at every decision point would be brutal
    • Pay people for their time. If you only need a handful of feedback, offer a $25 Amazon gift card for 30 min of someone's time. That'll change the dynamic
    • Maybe surveys would work? Google Surveys or Surveymonkey have targeting that might get you in front of the audience you want, or maybe you can find a way to ask questions to a general audience to arrive at the same insights
    • Build it anyway
    1. 2

      Beautiful solutions. Nice one @markrabo :)

    2. 1

      Thanks for the detailed response Mark!

      Build it anyway

      I did that a lot. All of them ended up dead.

      Pay people for their time. If you only need a handful of feedback, offer a $25 Amazon gift card for 30 min of someone's time.

      Huh. That sounds good but would it attract some ill-intentioned people as well? How would I weed them out if I come across one?

      What are you trying to learn from these people that you don't know yourself? If you have no personal experience or insights in the area of your project, it might not be the right one. Running into this same issue at every decision point would be brutal

      I wanna learn about their negotiation processes. I know about it in general. I want to find out about the details. Maybe I can find a critical point in the process and pay some more attention to that in both software development and marketing.

      1. 2

        Huh. That sounds good but would it attract some ill-intentioned people as well? How would I weed them out if I come across one?

        Most people are good, but maybe. Either way, at least you’re talking to them, And you can use your judgement at that point.

        Some thing else I’ve done in the past is subscribe to linked in premium for a month so I could send messages to people I’m not connected with. This could give you a way to pre-select people in the industry

  2. 3

    Its easy to get discouraged. Perhaps a little perspective can help. We are in a global pandemic. Many businesses and people are stressed financially. Under normal circumstances people may react differently to your outreach. Timing in life is important. When you feel discouraged, acknowledge we are all living in extraordinary times.

    Tons of great suggestions here from battle tested indie hackers. Remember there is always a down side to trying something. Be optimistic. You know where you are if you do nothing. Try some of the suggestions even if they push you out of your comfort zone. When you do try, be positive and helpful. That's why you built what you built, right? To solve a problem, to help people. If people aren't responding, maybe the pain you are addressing is not that painful. Revisit your assumptions and reassess the value proposition.

    If you are a solo hacker, consider taking on a partner. Get others in the boat. You may still have a bad day but at least there are others around you can lean on for encouragement. If they are not supportive, they are not the right partners. Find people who believe in your product/service/mission. That belief in the goal is what will eventually give you the energy, strength and will to succeed. Hang in there and good luck.

    1. 1

      You're absolutely right, I shouldn't be too hard on myself. It's not easy when I'm on the verge of financial bankruptcy though, but I will work on it.

      Thank you for your support. I appreciate it. 🙏

  3. 3

    Hey Hakan - try asking people for a small investment first before asking for a chat.

    What's worked for me is having prospective users take a short survey that ideally helps them understand a bit more about what you are building. Then at the end of it, ask for their email address so you can follow up with any additional questions you might have. What I found when I've done this is the vast majority of people do share their email, and most who do also follow through and set up a call/interview with me.

    1. 1

      That's a great insight! I have read many times that surveys don't convey enough data and misses the point of contacting prospects. But following through changes that. I will start one today. Thanks!

  4. 1

    How did you decide that there is a market/problem for your service?

  5. 1

    Hi Hakan, I'm very interested in this does it handle payment or I will integrate with my payment gateway I run ourspark.me a freelancing website and I would love to offer this to our freelancers as we don't have access to stripe in Egypt and we been trying to get a payment gateway for 3 months now but bureaucracy never ends

    1. 1

      Hey Ahmed! Thanks for your interest. We do not have a integrated payment gateway yet. It is on our roadmap, but I think it would be at least a few weeks before I can get it ready.

  6. 1

    This is one of the most difficult steps in an entrepreneur. Even the biggest companies need to have traction from something.
    What you need to do is to go to your possible customers offering the service for an extended period of time.
    How do you find your customer? You need to go from small to big, so first think on who are your target audience and start going down until you found a niche.
    When you have identified the niche start seeking for connections where the best for that is Linkedin, but also go door to door if needed. Send cold email. There are multiple ways to connect with your possible clients.

    In conclusion you need to hustle a lot.

    One thing that happen to help early stage entrepreneurs is to find a good mentor who can guide you. There is a lot of people that are able to help you out there that worked on a similar product or focusing in a similar audience.

    1. 1

      Hey Diego! Thanks for you comment. I think we all know about all those things you said, but I feel like when it comes to taking action, we are backing off for some reason. At least I know I do.

      I should get more active on LinkedIn. I basically don't exist there.

      1. 1

        As a founder you are the responsible for your company if people know you people will engage with you.
        What is everyone doing as soon as you receive a contact request in google or a cold email? You go and check in all the social networks to see who is that person.
        As an entrepreneur that is the most valuable thing that you have.

        Someone else just commented too but I would suggest you do a google form and ask for feedback. In my case that didn't work but I have heard a lot of success histories where they were able to engage a lot of customer that way.

  7. 1

    @hkanaktas respect for the work you are doing. I can understand your frustration. I saw a lot of rejection during my sales stint as well. Looks like you have built an offer management tool for negotiation on terms of the offer. Is that a fair understanding?

    Let me ask you some questions:

    1. If you need to sign-up 10 customers today, what does their persona look like?
    2. Do you know where do these folks hangout?
    3. How are you reaching out to them?

    Here is how I would approach this problem. Find out 50 people that fit into target persona. Build a 7 emails sequence and send them emails over the next 4-5 weeks.
    In every email I will share something useful for them and have only one ask (can we chat for 30-mins to understand your business)?

    One of the hacks I did in the past is to say that I'm a college student trying to build a project thesis. I got some responses and was able to chat with 10 people.

    Talking to users is the critical piece in validating your idea. Let me know if I can help you in anyways. Happy to help!

    1. 1

      Hey Sandeep! Thanks for your comment. You understood the current state of the product well. Though we are looking for ways to expand it and add more niche features.

      1. Current persona is architectural firms, engineering firms, and digital agencies that are starting new or have low counts of projects. The definition is kinda abstract because we couldn't validate it yet.
      2. Almost all of them have Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and subreddits.
      3. I have tried posting on Facebook groups and subreddits. Most were denied. A few that got through received little to no attention.

      I also posted on Quora last night, hoping that would get some attention, but nothing so far.

      1. 1

        Understood. Thanks for the context. Probably now is the time to don the student hat and write a cold email from your university ID to individuals. Have a 7 email cadence. Tell them you are a student who is working on a research project.

        This approach worked for me in the past. As such the above groups might be inactive.

        Let me know what do you think.

  8. 1

    Hi @hkanaktas, I was trying to find out what's your product/service? What are you trying to sell in the end (by wanting people to open up to you in the first place)?

    1. 1

      It's Dytto. It's in my profile. Though I wasn't trying to sell it. We are in validation stage yet and I am just trying to chat with people.

  9. 1

    Curious, what is an example of a message that you lead with when you reach out directly? And is this for your product Dytto?

    1. 1

      The post is about Dytto, yes. But to be honest I did not send any direct messages for Dytto yet, don't know why I wrote that.

      To give you a reference point, I tried directly reaching out to people for one of my old initiatives. I remember saying stuff like Hi, I'm working on such and such, and I am curious about your opinion on [some little detail]. Do you have a few minutes to share your opinion? Most of them did not even reply, as expected. I think I sent 8 or 9 messages and only one was eager to help out. This was about a marketplace for digital artists.

      1. 3

        No worries! Thanks for the example.

        I do not claim to be any level of successful at sales, but I think one change you could make to your DMs to increase response is this:

        Make the first interaction about them. Not about you.

        Instead of "Hi, I'm working on ______...."

        try "Hi, I saw your art page, really love the way you draw trees. What's your process like?"

        or "Hi, I saw your art page, really like the layout of your images. What tool did you use for that?"

        Already, this is more conversational and non-salesy (you are not clearly looking to gain something for yourself).

        If they respond, and they probably will since it's exciting to be noticed online - then you can keep the conversation going and eventually say "by the way, I'm working on this tool that might help you save some time doing [ thing we just talked about ]. would you want to test it out?

        Don't even link - just wait for another response. If "sure!" then you're in, and they'll want to give feedback because you have established a relationship (albeit small).

        Hope that helps. This is something I'm trying to practice as well but still am bad at it. It takes more effort but can be fun, and gives better results.

        1. 1

          This makes a ton of sense. I mean, all we need is empathy. I wouldn't want to talk to someone whose first message is about themselves or their product.

          I'll try messaging a few people with this idea. Thanks a lot for your detailed response! 🤘

          1. 1

            No problem! It helps me to put that out in words to. Have to practice what I preach as well.