March 14, 2019

Is anybody else struggling with reasons to build something?

The internet is full of advice on how to differentiate your product. This is all great advice but is there something wrong with just building something that (choose one)

  • is just slightly different (not entirely copied)
  • has better UI/UX
  • is more accessible/simpler
  • other small and simple reasons

My confusion comes from this: In almost any market, there are a bunch of products that are doing almost the same thing but are just slightly different.

Has any IndieHacker built something like this? Or do you know any successful businesses that started like this?

  1. 5

    Hey Bogdan,

    Great question. I don't think there's anything "wrong" with building something that is slightly different, etc compared to the competition. In fact, I don't think that you really need some radical new idea just to create a product. In fact, if you can take something that is exactly like what's already out there, but niche it down, you stand to make a better product for that particular niche than the much larger competition ever could. This is commonly referred to as the "land and expand" approach. Become a rockstar in a small segment of the market, then use that momentum and goodwill with others to move into different verticals.

    Here's an example:

    Amazon Web Services was fantastically known to businesses/enterprises. In fact, I worked for a large enterprise that signed a huge contract with AWS back in 2012 to provide a ton of our cloud infrastructure over the next several years. However a little company came along called DigitalOcean. Now, by that time there were a ton of other cloud service providers popping up (Linode, Rackspace/Slicehost, AWS, Azure and a plethora of other "VPS" providers). What DigitalOcean did so damn well is that they catered to the developer. Developers didn't want to have to sift through "pricing tools" just to find out how much they were going to pay. It was simple: $5 per month, we give you a small box and root access. It was brilliant.

    How did they start building their marketing flywheel? After all, it was becoming a noisy space and search traffic was expensive... Then they began content marketing. In fact, search for one of many "How do I set up X on linux?" or "How do I configure nginx and mysql?" and I can almost guarantee you that a result near the top is some sort of DigitalOcean article that walks you through step by step with a bottom call to action to sign up for their service.

    You don't have to be radically different, you just have to be friggen' great for a decent sized group of people that you can market to effectively. (So they should be online, you should know where to find them, and ideally, you should have some sort of rapport with this group).

    Hope this helps!

    Jimmy Lipham

    1. 1

      Hey Jimmy,

      Thanks for your thoughtful answer. I do agree on niching down your product. I was thinking the case if you are already targeting the same target as one of your many competitors.

  2. 2

    I am building a mobile to-do app. Which costs $13 for Pro.

    A to-do app.

    For $13.

    And yet I have a healthy 2% conversion, and some people willing to pay $75 (lifetime subscription) and even $300 (just to support the vision).

    Should I say more?

    1. 1

      I couldn't even imagine that this is possible in a market so saturated by Todo apps.

      I'll read a little more about your story. Would love to pick your brains sometimes on what motivated you to actually build it.

      1. 1

        Yeah, in a world where the most popular game for a while was Flappy Bird, and where the most liked post ever is a picture of an egg, rules don’t work anymore and everything is possible.

        As for the story, it is somewhat summed up in these slides. Not the same without my narration, but they give an overall idea.

  3. 1

    I'm trying to do this for mobile apps. My app does what I want to do much better than my competitors - the UX is better, and the value prop actually works. Unfortunately I am having a hard time getting through the iOS app store due to rule 4.3, which is Spam. They have an auto-generated block during the app review process that looks at your title, keywords, etc. and marks you automatically as a duplicate app. They also have an implicit cap on saturated markets (e.g. flashlights). It's very discouraging if you've spent a lot of time working on something and the iOS app store just keeps shutting you down and doesn't tell you what needs to get done to get approved. Even if I can get approved, I won't be able to get the keywords I want in order for ASO (basically SEO but for app store) so it hurts discoverability.

    If you go with this approach, go with web or Android.

  4. 1

    Many. Just look at how many CRM products there is, maybe over 100.

  5. 1

    You’ll have a tough time growing if you’re like everyone else. Other companies have the advantage of time, expertise and budget over you. They can spend more to acquire a customer. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if you simply copy them what makes you special? Why would anyone lift their butt to make the switch? And if the goal is new customers - then you are still up against the same cost per acquisition problem. Inhave no doubt you could get some customers this way, but scaling would be hard.

  6. 1

    I struggle with that same question sometimes, @cubogdan. These days I'm working on a product review site that's a rejection of everything that I hate about "big media" websites. I cut out the advertisements and slideshows and I made the UI/UX dead simple. But, at heart, it's still a review site in a sea of them.

    The thing that keeps me going is that I made it for myself and I'm learning a lot by working on it. If it doesn't work, I'll be disappointed, but not broken. It's a good experience no matter what.

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