Product Development October 9, 2020

The hard part about indie making is not the making

Mario @logicalicy

Hey IH! 👋

I'm a product person, so maybe this comes less naturally to me. The hardest part I've found about indie making so far is everything but the making: the marketing, spreading the word and finding the right channel/audience. It's often alluded to by successful makers, "find your big niche" or "understand your target audience really, really well". I can build digital products with ease but I find this the hard bit.

Is your low growth ascribed to not having found that channel yet, a leaky funnel or just a non-existent problem? I have had lukewarm success on this front, in validating ideas so far in my 6 months of indie making. I'm learning daily though and gaining know-how on how to engage users, experimenting with different channels, etc.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Would be keen to hear what you think and your experiences! 🙏

  1. 8

    I've been doing research on this front for almost 2 years (check out ZeroToUsers.com).

    Basically you're right. The hard part is the distribution. But it's doable. I've been experimenting with a few channels and some flat out fail, some succeed immediately, and for some it's too early to tell. My main challenge is to know how much should I focus on a particular channel before "giving up" and going to the next one. For example, nowadays I'm trying to go to HARO and send submissions to queries relevant to business. From past experience, I know journalists take around a week or so to write/publish the article, so it's too early to tell (if you don't know this though, it's easy to give up after 3 days).

    1. 2

      Thanks @zerotousers, I've started to follow your work recently, really good stuff.

      My main challenge is to know how much should I focus on a particular channel before "giving up" and going to the next one.

      I agree, this one's hard to gauge. There are tonnes of channels to explore (one only needs to see the range covered by Traction by Weinberg/Mares) but it's hard to know when one's worth exploring further or not...! 🤔

      1. 3

        Yeah, with HARO (and similar two-sided marketplaces), I think it definitely helps to be on the other side. That's what I'm trying right now, to submit a pitch (as a journalist) similar to the ones I apply on, and see/analyze my "competition" :)

  2. 3

    You're 100% right! That's why I started Zero to Marketing 🙂

  3. 3

    It boils down to this: find a way to be useful or helpful to someone. Some founders skip that part and just want to be loved, which is much harder when you are neither useful nor helpful. Help pays the bills. Look for people who will accept your help; better, look for people who will pay for your help.

  4. 2

    No thoughts other than "you are 100% correct." Well put.

  5. 2

    Very true, I have built many products over the years just to find out that the building was the easy part.

    That's why building the "final" product should come after we have figured and validated the problem, segment, channel and the solution in a very non-scalable way, but it's easier said than done :)

  6. 2

    Building products are only a part of the equation. It's a component in a business but not the business itself.

    Spending all your time building the product is like spending all the time building a car engine and hoping itll magically put itself in a body with wheels. Then expecting after that to happen the car to meet all the safety standards, be relevant to the consumer, and market itself.

    It makes absolutely no sense. I think the internet has created an illusion that people gravitate towards working products if they're simply built, I don't know why this is, it would be absolutely absurd to believe in the physical world.

    I am guilty of it myself. I think it first starts with awareness of this fact and changing your overall perspective. The fact that you can build gives you an advantage in that you can create prototypes quickly, this is cool, but again only a part of the equation.

    1. 2

      Specifically to answer your question yes I haven't found the traction channel yet to take https://storycreatorapp.com to the next level.

      This type of product needs volume and YTD I have 4k signups which are not enough for traction. The source of these signups is also very sporadic.

      Here is what I plan to do about it.

      • First switching my perspective on how things are vs how I want them to be

      • Narrowing things down to the simplest form possible (meaning narrowing product scope, narrowing the channels to test, narrowing on the features advertised, narrowing on the customer, etc)

      • Testing vigorously and adapting smartly (testing Instagram ADs, doing some content, and cold outreach seeing what works and doesn't)

      • Locking into a channel that works and creating transparency (let's say direct outreach brings on a new customer, then knowing how many hours spent, knowing how many messages sent to get that customer gives me a gauge of my CAC. If my CAC is 4 hours per day for a $20 mo customer then the CAC is expensive. I could spend 20 hours per week getting 5 customers at $100 additional revenue. Then I could spend time putting that $100 into ads and finding a CAC where I eventually break even. Then from there, I can keep improving acquisition before dying)

      1. 2

        Thanks for sharing and your comments here, this is great. I'm equally impressed about your product and admire your ambition for it.

        Here is what I plan to do about it.

        This metrics awareness sounds like the way to go to systematise the growth (bring science into the equation). And the different angles you're exploring reminds me of this blogpost, where the founders pulled different levers to continue their growth: https://canny.io/blog/how-we-built-a-1m-arr-saas-startup/

        1. 2

          I am reading this article. It's awesome and well structured. Thanks for sharing.

    2. 1

      Spending all your time building the product is like spending all the time building a car engine and hoping it'll magically put itself in a body with wheels.

      Word. Reminds me of @arvidkahl saying:

      This approach is putting the cart before the horse. It’s the wrong way around. If we build our product first and then ask who might want to buy it, we’re leaving a lot to chance.

  7. 2

    This is fantastic. We are going through this right now with http://hellobenji.com. We have had really great feedback from the small number of beta and mailing list users we've talked with. They've all been very excited about where we are headed. Although once it comes to converting on those... it has been a bit of a black box!

    We've been trying a few combinations between blog seo, a few ad spots to test some wording and see what people are searching for to find us, and finally trying to work through some partnerships/affiliates to hopefully drive more specific traffic to us.

    We are very early, although it is definitely hard to not get frustrated and intimidated when your conversion is very low. I'd love to know how other people are working through these frustrations and where to look next!

  8. 2

    Building a business is a lot different than making a product, that's for sure.

    1. 2

      You've done a great job at that. I've spent hours coding https://storycreatorapp.com but I struggle to break through because my energy has been fully allocated towards that.

      I think if we were to look at where your time was spent and where my time was spent over the past year. I would say you were on the frontline building traction while I was in the dark building as a result I am fighting hard to stay afloat.

      This is a great lesson and I think you also learned some hard lessons in your first venture. It's great to be able to share this contrast as what is important for success.

      That said it's a long game and I am happy with the product I've built. It will be a powerful mousetrap once I gain traction. At the end of the day as time goes on and I hire folks the codebase I currently have will eventually become something completely new.

      So all the building is redundant at the end of the day. This is why it's critical to focus on traction first. Every founder will make mistakes in many different areas, keep moving forward when you do. Also, try and make mistakes fast so you can learn fast and move on.

      1. 2

        Hey man! Have a few ideas how you can scale your outbound messaging, looks like your ICP is agencies or Youtube creators (I worked in enterprise sales at InVision and Zendesk) - pm if you’d like some resources sent your way

        1. 1

          Definitely would appreciate that. I am focused on social media content creators on Instagram, brand coaches, online coaches, and some agencies who work with these types.

          Love InVision -- a great product. You can connect with me on Twitter if you would like https://twitter.com/michaelaubry

  9. 1

    I have the exact opposite. Feel free to reach out.

  10. 1

    I think there two sides to this coin -

    You def don't want to spend all your time building and not showing/testing you work with people. However you also want to spend the time required to build a quality product. For example what happens when you have a good product fit but your product isn't good enough to establish trust from the users end to give it a go. I truly believe that MVP's need to be a well built and thought out, even if they take a bit longer to build.

    A friend of mine who spent months building out his mvp that ended up being shelved told me not to spend more than a week on building the product. However I don't know if I agree with that. Guess we'll find out.

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