I asked tons of successful founders what they would do differently with their businesses with the benefit of hindsight.
Check out their answers below.
The mistake we have made is to add new features without ever changing the price of our product. FeedbackPanda has been enriched so much, with extra cost from us but without any additional cost to the customer. Now we are trying to figure out how we can raise the price of the product to match the value that we offer.
If I could redo this year, I would have dedicated all of our marketing efforts and capital towards our SEO strategy. I learned that our audience of paying customers need to be able to trust us, so we need to be seen as reputable on the web. We need people to talk about us, and we need people to find us. In order for that to happen, we have to have a strong, trustworthy presence on search engines.
We still make a lot of mistakes, however the one mistake that sticks out most is that I didn’t have a music production background before we started building out the course curriculum. Trying to market to a user base that you don’t quite understand because you can’t properly empathize with their motivations is a bonehead move. Eventually, I started to reach out to users who purchased our courses and asked them if they would jump on a call with me so I could learn about why the bought the course, what we did well in the courses, and, most importantly, what we did poorly and how we could improve.
We did tons of interviews. We spoke about customer pain points, workflows and listened to their feature requests. Interviews helped us to see a bigger picture. However, we were surprised that they didn't help us with new features. To move forward, we needed the data on how our SaaS MVP was used and by whom. We didn't have internal statistics at first. It was like flying without radar. I can't imagine how we could work without it. Instead of shipping additional features, we should have built a tool for understanding our users from the start.
It was shocking at first to realize how much support was required for a WordPress plugin. It's a single piece of a bigger collection of software, all coded by different people. Most of our support requests mostly have to do with problems with themes that don’t play nice, or other plugins that break our code. Now that we know, we definitely do a lot more testing in terms of trying our plugin on sites with other plugins, other themes, other course software, etc. Rolling out new features is slower, but it saves time in the long run.
When I first started with products almost 10 years ago… I was patterning myself after startups. So my product ideas were targeted toward consumers, which isn't a good idea because consumers generally aren't willing to pay very much for stuff. I later read that "businesses buy on value and consumers buy on price."Angular on Rails actually sells to individuals as opposed to businesses, but the customers buy for business reasons. That's why my video package costs $99, and Spotify only costs $10/mo.
Instead of waiting almost a year to build out our own full digital funnel (marketing and sales), I'd do that from day one. The benefits are clear and evident now, but at the time it was about prioritization — we were growing quickly through referrals and didn't think that we'd need marketing and sales for a while. But referrals are only so scalable given our model.
If I had a do over I would have tried paid acquisition. I always assumed I couldn't compete with games on getting new users via Facebook ads, but I don't actually know that for sure. I also would have tried putting in ads in the app. This was one of the first things the acquirer did once they bought the company.
If I had to start over, I would change the brand of the site. Currently, it's very generic. Your brand plays a huge role in how well your marketing performs.
The main thing I'd do differently is start using a CRM system from day one. When I started growing customers I was simply growing an email list (which I thought was the same thing at the time). I was missing out not only on a lot of leads, but also: (1) people who had purchased from me (using PayPal) but didn't sign up to my email list, (2) people who had emailed me and were in my Google Contacts (but weren't on my list or hadn't purchased), (3) people who had emailed my help desk for pre-sale questions but hadn't purchased yet.
We relied heavily on distribution channels for our first couple years, so it's been hard to ween off it. Occasionally a channel would decide to jack up our commission and totally screw us. This is partially why we aggressively tried to diversify our channels from the beginning, which worked. Sometimes we'd get on a channel that would do well, and other times a channel would kill us on commission so we'd have to shut that channel down the next season. It's stressful. This is why we prefer direct sales.
When I was launching Flystein I seriously underestimated the time and effort it would take to maintain a productive relationship with my co-founder. If I had a chance to start over I'd seriously consider finding a mentor who could mediate between me and my co-founder when we have a disagreement. Alternately, I might try to find a third co-founder to create another point of balance in the decision-making process.
We also tried to scale a little too early, as I mentioned earlier. We recruited partners and focused on growth before we had true product/market fit with a specific customer segment. In the future I would wait until we have strong product/market fit before scaling.