December 31, 2019

Niches & Comfort Zones (December retrospective)

Viesturs Marnauza @viestursm

Summary

I decided to switch focus from marketing to product development this month as some feedback from early users revealed major usability issues in the prototype. Another reason for the switch was that I was feeling exhausted from messaging people and writing articles - solving some more technical challenges seems to have been just what I needed to recharge my batteries.

The plan for January is to gather more feedback from potential users to be able to decide with some confidence on how to move forward with the project. Either I'm able to find a marketable position for the product, or I have to start working on something else. I'll have to figure this out in February.

Comfort Zones

It seemed that in late November and early December I had successfully moved out of the (really cosy) comfort zone of mostly developing the product and pushed myself more out in the public, where the challenge was finding people to talk to me about the product. At some point, however, it became apparent that I had found a new comfort zone for myself in (who would've thought) content marketing!

I wrote several tutorials for Gleebeam and started posting regularly on Twitter, LinkedIn and IndieHackers. This was pretty great for three things:

  1. Testing and documenting product use-cases,
  2. Building an audience, slowly but steadily,
  3. Driving hundreds of people to check out Gleebeam.

What this wasn't good for, however, was sign-ups and feedback from users who might actually need the product. The solution is, I believe, nothing other than to leave my new comfort zone and push myself further towards doing the uncomfortable - sending emails or direct messages to specific people that I think could be interested in trying Gleebeam to increase my understanding of their needs from dashboard software.

Niches

The idea behind Gleebeam appealed to me to a large extent because it seemed like Gleebeam would be a product for a small niche. The niche would be so small that few or none of the big players would already have, or would be inclined to make, similar products. I'd have a small number of customers but enough to break even, and then, if necessary, look for ways to expand further. Some initial competitor and SEO research seemed to validate this idea, though it also made me worry whether anyone is actually in any explicit way looking for the solution Gleebeam now provides.

I still believe there are customers out there for Gleebeam. The only thing I'm worried about is whether the niche is not too small - so small that it's extremely difficult to find these customers. I've been thinking about this increasingly more in December. I have to conduct significantly more user interviews to gauge how potential users feel about Gleebeam and see where future opportunities for the app might be. I currently believe that these people could be sales, HR, or communications managers in companies of 5-50 employees.

Next Steps

Now that the usability problems I found will be fixed, I'll try to gather more feedback from Gleebeam's current users and expand my efforts to reach more people in a more targeted way. Sometime during February, I will have to decide whether to pivot towards a more full-featured data dashboard solution or to start working on other ideas.

I'll attempt to send 100 emails or other direct messages to a targeted audience in January. Of these, I hope that 10 will result in conversations about Gleebeam or the general dashboard needs of these people.

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