November 3, 2019

Failed

Liam Elliott @RustStains

After several weeks of email prospecting and doing cold outreach by email and over the phone, I decided that BrewCube would not be a viable business in the specialty coffee market. I thought the value proposition was strong, but prospective customers didn't see it.

The market is incredibly tough to crack, and I couldn't find a reliable way to prospect that was free. I tried some facebook advertising and I could get clicks, but only 2 people added their emails and didn't respond to the email sequence that was sent out.

I also tried cold calling the customers of other businesses in the same industry to ask about the products they were currently using. The person who made the buying decision was almost never present, so it was difficult to unearth any real insights. Too much chasing people around for the kind of business I want to start.

I do have another market in mind that might be interested in the same value proposition and has A LOT more cash to throw around, but I don't think I'm going to pursue it.

Instead, I'm working on something for independent massage therapists. Something about helping small businesses and indie entrepreneurs excites me.

Oh well, you live and you learn.

Cheers,
Liam

  1. 3

    Liam, B2B is always tough, and for this reason alone I always encourage indie hackers to avoid it. I myself had to learn it the hard way. Sending cold emails, setting up drip sequences, doing demos, creating marketing collaterals/lead magnets/funnels, chasing down decision makers, and basically go through the whole B2B sales cycle. This is not something an indie hacker is equipped to do (unless he had prior sales experience).

    That said, it sounds like a neat idea, and my initial guess is that BrewCube would be valuable at least to a few mom-and-pop cafes who don't yet have mobile ordering. Did you try showing them the expected ROI for mobile ordering vs. the cost? Business owners tend to be very logical, and if you present them the facts it might just tilt it in your favor. For me, my previous product was software for dentists -- unfortunately I just couldn't build enough trust/credibility to close them despite passing through all the other hurdles.

    Instead, I'm working on something for independent massage therapists. Something about helping small businesses and indie entrepreneurs excites me.

    Yeah... I'm not sure about this one again, you're about to throw yourself into the B2B snake pit again. You should read about Patrick's experiences trying to sell Appointment Reminder to hairdressers. It's a very tough market to crack. They're busy, inaccessible, they don't understand tech, they don't have money, they don't have money to spend on tech, and they barely understand computers, let alone B2B software.

    Are you sure you want to potentially go through the same experience?

    Sure, you might close them (if you present a strong-enough value proposition). But every customer will be an uphill struggle; there are companies with like $20k MRR who still have to fight for every customer. There's no such thing as "waking up to new subscriptions in the morning" with B2B; you have to hunt down, follow up, and hand-close every B2B customer yourself until you can hire salesmen.

    Is that the vision you have for your startup?

    1. 1

      See I actually don't mind that. I believe that sales hustle is the key to getting any business off the ground quickly, and it's a skill that I want to develop. As far as the indie massage therapists, I have a bit of an unfair advantage that I didn't have with the cafe owners. I have a list of hundreds of independent massage therapists currently paying for a competitors solution with email addresses and phone numbers. I think this is a very high quality list because it proves that they are willing to spend money on a technical solution that makes their lives easier. Prospecting is not an issue for this market, at least I don't think it will be for a while. I could automate the retrieval of the data, but I'd prefer not to spend time on that until I've validated a customer pain and am moving on to sales and development.

  2. 1

    Liam, I have worked with hundreds of massage therapists, mobile therapists to be precise. You can reach out to me if you want to chat. I suspect your solution is a payments solution for massage therapists. Much needed in this industry. However, simplisticallysimple is right, your target market is not tech savvy and not a sophisticated buyer.

    Edit: Ok just took a look at your landing page. Really good concept and very intuitive. However, after 3-4 years in the massage biz, let me tell you that people don't like memberships. Take a look at my home page. Subscription options front and centre. Guess how many choose the discounted subscription offer? Fewer than 5%. Your concept will work, but you will see a ton of churn as subscription is not the answer to increase revenue in this industry. User acquisition and retention is. Hope this helps friend.

    1. 1

      Hey, I'd love to chat. I think you'd have some really valuable insights. I assume your landing page is massagejoy.co.uk . Just took a look and I see what you mean, but I'm a little confused. The page says that the every 2 weeks subscription option is the most popular. How did you arrive at the 5% number you mentioned? Also, have you done any customer development or user testing to determine exactly why people aren't choosing a subscription option?

      1. 2

        Yes you are right that is my website. The 5% number is based on my actual sales figures. This is not a new business but is a well established business in London. The page says 2 weeks subscription is most popular to encourage users to sign up for membership options. However the most popular option is one time bookings. Honestly my life would be easier if people signed up for subscriptions. I've tried every tactic to encourage subscriptions but even if people subscribe it leads to a lot of cancellations. The nature of massage therapy is that you cannot really schedule it months in advance. I hope I explained it clearly, if not feel free to ask me any more questions.

        I can see how independent massage therapists will feel like they need your solution. But experience has shown me that it might not work for them. Hence my view that your churn will be very high when people don't see results after a few months.

        1. 1

          Oh I see, that makes more sense. I don't really see it as a set it and forget it kind of thing on a landing page. Ideally, the massage therapist would try and sell it to their customers like:

          Hey, listen! You're a happy client of mine. I can actually help you pay me less. All you have to do is give me your credit card and commit to a 6 month period and get 20% off. Do you have your wallet on you? I'm basically handing you $120 to keep doing the thing you're already doing. Are you interested?

          Also it seems like there may be a misunderstanding. I don't want to schedule massages months in advance, or at all. I want to help massage therapists sell massage credits. The customer gets a credit when they're charged and chooses if or when to redeem it that month. If they don't, it carries over to the next month. My vision is to help massage therapist know 100%, "oh I have 20 subscriptions so that means an extra $1600 every month I don't have to worry about." $29 (or whatever the price would be) seems like a small price to pay to guarantee $1600/month in income, especially given the volatility of service industry professions.

          Who knows though, it's all just a hypothesis at this point. I won't know anything for sure until I talk to the therapists. I have a preliminary list of 50 leads I generated in a couple hours to contact for customer development interviews. Customer success is important to me, I don't want to just sell subscriptions to my product.

          On an unrelated note, my mom was a massage therapist for 20 years. It was a huge part of my childhood, I'd often spend sick days eating werther's original in her clinic's waiting room. She would also sometimes bring me along when she was doing home visits for friends of hers. Not much of a story but I think it's a narrative that may help these people relate to and humanize the salesperson in me.

          1. 2

            I think you definitely have an angle that could work. The flaw in my system is that subscriptions are fixed (for example once a week, twice a week etc). I think the idea of credits, the way you describe it, has legs. I think you are on to something. Good luck and reach out if you need to bounce off ideas. You can find my email of my website.

            1. 1

              Thank you for all of the valuable feedback. It's nice to hear from someone who's in a similar market. Do you have time for a quick phone call sometime over the next couple weeks?

  3. 1

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

  4. 2

    This comment was deleted 8 months ago.

    1. 1

      The biggest issue with the market I chose is that the feedback loop was very long and demotivating. I had to call cafes to get talking about pains. Often, it wouldn't be possible to talk to the correct person right off the bat. This meant I'd have to screw around and call many times to maybe talk to whoever I was looking for.

      The one thing I did right that I plan to do again this time is talk to competitors customers. They don't even have to be direct competitors of yours. If they sell to the same market that you plan to enter, you can get some valuable insights about how those people buy.

      Another thing that worked well for me was joining the same Facebook groups as my customers. Every day, I got updates about what was happening in their business and what they worried about. Actually, the Facebook groups played a big role in showing me that I chose a shitty market. I saw people talk about products they wanted, and then complain about the $30-$60 monthly price. I decided that they're very price sensitive, so they're not the kind of customers I'd be glad to have.

      The biggest problem I had with the market was finding the right person to talk to. It was difficult. The right person to talk to was whoever made the decision to buy my competitor's product. I don't see that happening this time, as I am selling to solo massage therapists. There is only one person to talk to, and only one person who makes the buying decisions. Either I get in contact with them or don't; there's no need to worry about if they're the correct person to speak with.

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted 8 months ago.

        1. 1

          Totally! I haven't validated yet. Haven't committed to building it either though. I have a large list of massage therapists currently paying for a tech solution that I am using to try and book customer development interviews. My first road block is getting interviews, hoping I can get enough interviews to narrow down the most common pains.