Growth September 15, 2020

The ugly side of slow growth

Anton Bacaj @Tony

I've been doing the "things that don't scale" for over 4 weeks now. It's quite hard to get users, paying users are not even on the radar currently.

People often sign-up and leave, never even trying the product. Makes me wonder what happened? In this case I have tried reaching out through email, personally to each single sign-up with 0 replies.

I've been on reddit, twitter, answering questions and listing on other SaaS forums with no luck.

So far, 30 sign-ups 0 paying users, 2 users who tried it and left. What's interesting is I have not received any feedback yet. Maybe I'm missing something, personally I am using the product for my own use cases and it is working as I would expect.

-- Update added link to the product: https://usetrove.io

Perhaps my users expect it to do something it currently isn't.
Till next time!

  1. 16

    Yeah this sucks but it's not uncommon. The problem you have right now is lack of scale. it seems really bad probably but having zero paying customers out of 30 is totally normal.

    I am at a rate of about 1.5% paying customers from everyone who signs up at SongBox.

    At my last day job company we had close to 2 million user accounts and the level of engagement was really really low.

    People sign up to things on a whim; it doesn't really mean anything to sign up to something. In my opinion its only a very small step from coming to your site and bouncing completely.

    Just try to get the numbers up. If you have a few hundred signups and still no feedback or conversions then maybe start to worry then.

    but 30 signups is nothing, and 4 weeks is nothing.

    It is really f*cking hard this Indie Hacker game lol

    1. 2

      So true. The numbers are too low to take a call.

    2. 2

      Yea agreed, in many ways the few signups is a sign that I am probably not reaching enough people in the first place.

    3. 1

      How do you pick your channels early on?

  2. 7

    Hey Anton, few comments:

    1. I think the market your targeting isn't very big, so it's going to be hard finding customers in general. As others have mentioned, try to find your ideal customer persona to help understand who your customers are, what problems they have and the solutions they seek, and where they hang out.
    2. I've done a bunch of web scraping in the past with selenium, probably 5 or 10 scraping projects over the years, but even for me, scraping is an occasional activity. It's a hack to get data I need every once in a while. So that means I'm not an ideal customer because for me to try your product, I would have to have a current scraping problem at the exact time that I discover your product. You need to find customers who have ongoing, continuous scraping needs – that's your ideal customer. I suspect that most of your visitors so far are like me – I visited your site because I've done scraping before and I was curious but I don't have any scraping needs right now.
    3. Setting up a scraper takes work. Why not make it easier by presenting recipes or pre-built solutions? Talk to customers and see what they need, and the build it for them. Then see if they become paying customers. Some ideas: scraping Amazon listings, Apple/Google Store listings, Ebay, Yelp, social media sites, financial data, etc. Also by putting these examples and recipes on your site, you can help your visitors really visualize the potential. I'm not your ideal customer, but if you had a scraping recipe that was interesting, I might be inclined to try it out even though I don't have a scraping need at the moment.
    4. Take this with a grain of salt because I'm not your ideal customer, but when I was scraping data, my goal was to get data into some sort of format (e.g. CSV, JSON, etc.), so when I see your website going from URL to HTML response, that only gets me half way there. And for me the hard part in selenium was always finding the right selectors to extract data in a way that was most robust/least brittle, and then compiling/exporting the data into a usable format.

    Hope this helps, and good luck!

    1. 5

      By the way, here are some things I've scraped in the past to give you an idea:

      • When I was selling ebooks on Amazon, I scraped keyword search rankings for myself and competitors, and also review/ratings data for reporting and competitive analysis.
      • When I worked at a mobile app business, I scraped data to generate financial/operational reports from multiple sources including the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Adwords, Google Analytics and probably a few others I'm missing. Some of this was data scraping, most of it was automating the process of generating and downloading reports.
      • When I worked as an investor, I did several scraping projects to gather financial data that was available on the web but lacking an API.
      1. 1

        This is a really useful and generous response

  3. 6

    It's not just jou. And no just SaaS.

    When starting out, everything happens at a snail's pace and nothing seems to move the needle. Especially if you don't have an existing and significant online following. Until you hit a critical mass, when a self-sustaining chain reaction kicks in and pretty much anything you throw at the wall sticks.

    1. 2

      That does sound like an exciting phase to be in.

      1. 1

        Yeah, I'm still very far myself from the self-sustaining phase.

  4. 3

    I see this problem all the time

    Don't build anything until you have talked to people about their problems
    At the very least be a domain expert who can highlight the problems with existing solutions.
    Then build something that solves their problems = immediate customers with $$$

    I am in the market for scraping solutions and I didn't bother signing up to even test because I can't even differentiate your offering from 20 others.

  5. 3

    I am on a similar stage too with my product, Designtack and out of all the people I consulted, everyone reminded of one thing that we forget.

    The slow saas ramp of death. Search about it or take a look at this article.

    Your product is great and maybe you can improve a bit on your landing page too. But also, don't be hard on yourself because I also think 3-4 weeks is too early to judge. You need to be consistent with marketing and have patience (which is a really hard thing to have as an indiehacker).

  6. 2

    I could be in your target group, as I regularly do some scraping and am always annoyed on how time consuming it is.

    From reading this post and seeing your website I feel like you didn't ask enough for feedback yet.

    Some quick thoughts:

    • general value proposition looks good to me
    • I want to see a concrete example or a playground before believing that it works as well as advertised
    • the pricing wouldn't work at all for me because I have one-off needs (instead of rrgular/recurring) and I would need the freedom to have more requests
    1. 1

      Thanks for that feedback.

      Would you be open to buying credits then? Trying to see what would make sense in terms of pricing for your case.

  7. 2

    "slow growth"
    I hear ya

    How many years has this IHer been at this?
    "4 weeks now"

    👀

    👀

    👀

    4...
    WEEKS???

    Where's your patience?

    If it were easy, everyone would be doing it

    You'll figure it out as long as you stay in the game long enough to not quit

  8. 2

    What I see as a space for improvement : content of your product page. I checked trove and articulu and both have one thing in common : information about product is very little, I would say , your approach to build product page is very minimalistic. IMHO that does not help and can be serious inhibitor of sales. Hope that can help you a bit. Good luck ! :)

  9. 2

    Hi Anton,

    I have hired developers in the past to help me scrape information, and I'm interseted in doing it again, but I don't really understand it.

    I don't fully understand what "Zero-setup web scraping with fast proxies, headless browsers and the infrastructure to scale" means. I just want data that's easy to access.

    Perhaps I'm not your ideal customer, but this would be much more intersting to me if you provided some use cases.

    For example, how could it be used for lead gen, SEO, content creation, etc.

    Some info I'm interested in is:

    List of all the courses on sites like Teachable, Thinkific and Podia.
    Scraping the top 10 projects on Product Hunt each day for the last year.
    Provide all the heading and alt tags for the top ten SERP results for a given keyword.
    Finding email addresses for a spreadsheet of websites.

    From your landing page, it's clear you are focused on developers and people who understand this. However, there are many others that could use this that probably don't understand it well.

    I hope that helps.
    John

  10. 2

    Man, I felt this so hard recently! We launched, got signups, but no one was responding to our emails for feedback. Only when we added a paywall after a free trial did we start getting some signups (we were charging $2.99 per month) and that gave us some signal that this could be useful for people.

  11. 2

    Try to find a few people who will love your product. Ideally people you know and will be able to give you feedback directly. If your product is not yet good enought, make it better. If you can't find users who would give you feedback, try to find someone who needs your product and offer to set everything up for them and help them for free, this can give you more insight.

    In OrgPad, we started by developing it for us and using it immediately. After three months, I got the server finally running, so people could create some data in it finally. @KamilaHerkova was using it immediately to prepare for some school exams and pointing out what needs to be improved. After next three months, we added users and personal data, and it started to be good enought, so we convinced three friends to start using it, giving us amazing feedback which we often addressed in a few minutes. Over next six months, we grew to maybe 25 friends plus 25 people they convinced to used the product, and we finally launched.

    We are growing slowly ever since, currently having over 1000 users. We are in very tight contact with our users, getting amazing feedback and frequently fixing problems super quickly. We also have some super fanatics who go everywhere and convince others to use it, etc. Finding people like this is hard but they will allow you to grow at the beginning. Btw. maybe 20% of people who sign up will actually us our product for anything, and I would quality maybe 5% as frequent users. But there are still people who spend 10-30 hours of real time work (not just having the app opened, actually actively doing something all this time) in last three months which is amazing.

  12. 2

    I took a look at Trove, really clear landing page. Not sure if you're doing this, just wanted to offer a suggestion:

    So many founders tend to only advertise their product, but not the output of your product.

    In Trove's case, I think you'd find many acquisition channels opening up to you if you do this (btw, if you need a bigger list of channels, see my profile bio link):

    • FB Groups: Just posting a link = spammy. But posting a video on "Scraping 100 Google search results in 10 seconds" (or even a set of pics), with an URL to your product on the bottom right corner of the picture/video = way better

    Basically content like this can be shared in all sorts of communities.

    It's nice when you have an early set of users that you could talk to and find out HOW they're using your product. Well in your case you don't even have to talk to in order to see for what purposes they're using you. There are 543043020 reasons for scraping. And there are 54305340 audiences that (don't yet realize) what they're doing can be done with scraping. That opens up a lot of opportunities.

    Just a food for thought.

    1. 1

      Yea seems to be a good recommendation, will have to think more about this.

  13. 2

    You need to think who is your customer.
    I think its clear that your customers are developers.

    remember development its just 50% you need to find out who will be your customer and make some relevant content or buy ads somewhere.

    there are so many ways to do marketing to this product that I can think of:

    1. Create tutorials on youtube
    2. Post tutorials on relevant fb groups
    3. reddit - there are many programming groups there.

    And please if you can add also Python examples.

    1. 2

      I like this approach - helping others first, will probably try a few of these.

  14. 2

    Mentioning "Do things that don't scale" immediately brought to my mind: PG quoting his cofounder Robert Morris "We've been working on this startup for a month and it's still not done!"
    https://blog.ycombinator.com/paul-graham-startup-school-radio-interview/
    Early days, keep going! 📈

  15. 2

    I didn't sign up, but what is the start for free option? Free for life or free trial?... When I go to the pricing plan it just says to get started for free, I click the button takes me to sign-up... Just wondering what to expect once I've signed up... And if what happens after would put me off?

    1. 1

      Good point, I'll add what the free plan includes!

      1. 1

        It could be better that way as you could use it as a way to get people's emails and then follow up with them with some sort of automated email campaign, could experiment and see if it works any better :) just discussion

  16. 2

    I think sometimes you got to chase for feedback too! Setting up calls and stuff is one good way

  17. 2

    Hey Anton, I totally feel how painful that lack of feedback loop can be!

    A few thoughts that might be helpful:

    1 - Pacing is key. In the grand scheme of things, 4 weeks is a pretty short period of time. Keep the long view in perspective here!

    2 - Doing things that don't scale only works if the things you're doing are the right things. So I'm curious what that actually looks like for you. What do your audience interactions look like? Can you post some examples? What else are you doing?

    3 - Expecting users to tell you what's wrong with your product is an unfair expectation. They're already putting in work to try it. Now you want them to explain themselves too? Remember, people are busy, and focused on their problems. You have to earn feedback.

    4 - A product like yours seems like the kind of thing that solves a pain that happens at a very specific time for a user. Most folks don't walk through the world needing to scrape stuff, so even when presented with a tool that does it well, the problem becomes "well..what do I do with this NOW?" and if they don't have a project that needs it NOW they get distracted by literally anything else and forget about you.

    I'd def be curious about your answers to #2, cuz I have some ideas for what you could do but I'm not sure what you've already been up to!

    1. 1

      I agree, it is still early - sometimes it feels like the work we put it in isn't getting the attention we thought it would.

      For #2 it has been mainly posting replies on reddit where people are struggling to find /scrape data on the web. I have posted on a few listing pages such as Betapage, g2.com and a few others.

      I'm thinking I need to really target SEO and start blogging, but it isn't clear yet where the audience hangs out.

      1. 1

        Listings on directories can help once you've built momentum, but leaderboards and directories are typically not useful for building the initial momentum. Here's a bit more about why.

        Can you post examples of your reddit comments?

  18. 2

    I've been there. Made a B2B SaaS targeted at email marketers but growth was very difficult. Turns out that email marketers are very difficult and expensive to target.

    I think your idea has a similar problem. There are a lot of people that probably need a good scraping service, but those same types of people probably don't consume normal advertising social media channels.

    Maybe you can setup a free webinar or training on how to build a simple webscraper? In that training, you can go do a proof of concept but then go over all the difficulties people encounter when running their own scraper. Then you can try to upsell your product. Things like that can really help you talk to people that have a problem you can solve.

    Good luck!

    1. 2

      Agreed, the channels are hard to discover early on!

  19. 2

    I know this is a nitpick, but have you tried your website in the desktop Safari browser? The 'feature' boxes are way too tall and therefore the site looks broken. Just thought I'd point it out in case it's putting some people off!

    1. 1

      Hey Colin, good call out gonna fix this - exactly what I need is feedback :)

  20. 2

    The problem may be in type of users you are interacting with. Have you wonder what is your perfect type of user? If so, where is he handing out? Maybe you can get an email to him somehow?

    For start cold emails are the best but you have to know that the prospect will have the problem your product solves.

    If some channel does not work, try a different one.
    And don't give up! :)

  21. 1

    Hey Anton, thanks for sharing that

    You've got an interesting project and I'm in your target audience. I used to scrape a lot, a lot of data.

    I'd say I have two use scenarios:

    1. Scrape under few thousands pages
      It's really nothing, can be done easily right in the developer console in the browser. Click-Click-Click + fetch + jquery and 1000 pages become a massive JSON

    Here I don't see use of usetrove

    1. Processing 10k+ pages a day/hour/minute

    I'd get a proxy/tor to process these amount. I don't want to stick to single provider as it would be a single point of failure.

    This scenario is way way to expensive

    1. Regular scrapping of few thousands of pages, very tricky ones. Say website is pushing captcha here and there but data is really precious. That a scenario where I'd pay. But effectively it's like paying for the elite proxy. But as to me it's a little bit expensive but considerable

    I hope that mind dump would help you

  22. 1

    I didn't launch yet, so I am not talking out of experience, but from what I see with friends. What you are going through is really common, I think it is more common than most people think. I know people who have sales / registration rate below 5% (some of them are around 0.5%). Also, you literately just launched, just be persistent and patient and always read on methods to improve your organic marketing. For feedback, why dont you reach out to friends, they don't have to be actual potential users to provide feedback. Also, a quick overview, I am not developer, but I feel that the look and feel of your landing page could be improved. Good luck and stay strong.

    1. 1

      Thanks for pointing that out, what would you suggest - is it missing more images?

      The product itself is an API so I could add examples of the output and inputs.

      1. 1

        Yes add an example definitely, make your landing page more catchy to the eye, you can use templates to avoid costs. Then you can put more technical stuff in the second part of the landing page. Good luck and please let me know when you are finished to have a second look.

  23. 1

    Before doing all the leg-work of talking with people I think you should consider investing some time in improving your marketing.

    I haven't signed up, but from skimming your marketing home page I have no idea what your service is about other than "it's a web scrapping SaaS".

    People don't read, they scan. They don't care about your product. If they have to put some effort into understanding what Trove is about they will simply leave. You have to simplify your communication and make it baby-food: no chewing necessary.

  24. 1

    Can you share URL to your SaaS, so we can check it out? Or, at least, share more information about it?

    Maybe, you could find the users where they are and incentivize them to try your service and give you feedback.

      1. 1

        Very nice! I like it.

        However, it's a bit specialized and so you need to get a lot of users to get a few active.

    1. 1

      With localazy.com, we found great developers on Upwork and paid them to integrate our service into their app and provide us with the feedback.

      Many of them felt in love with our service and became regular users.

      However, as we paid them and it was a job for them, we received detailed and valueable feedback that shaped the service.

  25. 1

    Hey! What is your product?

    1. 1

      Hey it's here forgot to post it :) https://usetrove.io/

      1. 1

        It's very nice and the product is usefull!

        Maybe you just have to find your target audience, because is a very tech product.

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