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23 Comments

Reached 25 paying subscribers

2 months ago in March (which seems like 10 years ago now) I launched a major new product positioning, turning my product into an API.

In universal product language, my original product served one particular use-case. By turning it into an API it could not only serve that one particular use-case, but also serve a bunch of other use-cases... arguably turning it into a more valuable product.

In March I saw quite a bit of churn. I attribute this to the double-whammy of the COVID19 media peak putting lots of people into disaster-prevention mode, plus the effect of the API repositioning alienating some of my existing customers. (btw, the entire original product is still available to all previous customers, I haven't sunset it, it just lives under its own section of my app now)

The good news is, I made back the loss in MRR shortly after, and have been growing since. Bannerbear now has 25 monthly subscribers and has taken in 17 "one time payments" which is an option I introduced shortly after launching the API.

So I'm pretty happy. I think repositioning into an API has been a really positive move and it's also given me as the product owner a really clear path of where to take things going forward to provide the most value to customers.

What's been the most interesting in the last 2 months has been the response from the #nocode community. I launched a Zapier integration about a month ago and that has been quite successful, as not only are customers signing up and using that integration to automate parts of their business, but people are also out there writing tutorials and giving me a bit of free marketing, which I did not expect at all.

So that's definitely an area I'm going to explore going forwards.

Although 25 subscribers might seem small I've definitely noticed a positive mental boost from reaching this milestone. Honestly getting here was harder than I thought, but now I feel it's easier for me to rationalise the journey ahead - if I can get to 25 subscribers, I can get to 50. If I can get to 50, I can get to 100. And so on.

  1. 4

    Congratulations Jon!

    How did you come up with the branding btw - I'm really digging the logo

    1. 5

      Hey Alex, thanks. I'm never sure how to respond to queries like this.

      I've been designing for the web for 20+ years, so some of it just comes down to experience, trial and error, and developing personal likes and dislikes over time.

      That said, I do think it's easy to replicate the emotional response you might get when you see the Bannerbear branding / site.

      I think people like the branding because I've chosen a bold colour and adopted it as the brand identity, I've deliberately avoided "typical" SaaS design tropes like those abstract illustrations of people or isometric graphics etc, and there are design elements that communicate what Bannerbear is (e.g. the API console) and therefore feel purposeful instead of superfluous.

      I think just using simple principles like that, you almost automatically end up with something that people see as unique and well thought-out.

      The name also helps - when in doubt, try to get some alliteration in your brand name. It's another one of those "simple hacks" that just makes things feel more brandable.

      1. 2

        Thanks for taking the time to reply. The alliteration tips makes so much sense but I’ve never really thought about it before!

        I have a personal vendetta against SaaS companies using abstract people as assets haha. When building and designing attio.com it was one of our number one starting points to guarantee no abstract characters and focus on selling the product.

        Love the logo too by the way - super simple and very memorable!

  2. 1

    Congrats Jon, I've been following you for a long time now, it's really encouraging to see the improvements from the beginning.

  3. 1

    This is a great Milestone. Congrats @yongfook

  4. 1

    Jon, your product is awesome! Congratulations with first dozens of happy customers.

    BannerBear is one rare example of tools I know for what I am really trying to convince some of my customers to approve use-case that would require BannerBear to give it a try.

    So far we have identified 2 impediments to benefit from BannerBear:

    1. Instagram has no official API available for small businesses to fully automatically post images or stories, that would be a great benefit for e-commerce, recruitment business and few others with recurring patterns for posts. I understand this is not something you can change.
    2. Limited trial period. Your current offering is 100 free requests per account, that will be consumed during demo session for the customer. 100 requests are clearly not enough to configure & test the integration, and one can forget about piloting integration with such small limit. I understand you have your rationale behind this model, and also I found a pay-as-you-go plan that I liked most. However, let me please share few ideas that would (likely) motivate some of my clients and me to concider BannerBear:

    a) larger amount of free API calls "in a sandbox" for testing purposes - say, 100 free calls per day; I would go with a "sandbox" that places a bold watermark brand on top of all generated images (similar how photostocks are doing it in their preview images, or free PDF convertors, or other tools) - so nobody will use them in real life (or if they dare to - you will get some free promotion :). This will help marketers, developers and technology brokers like me to build and test solution based on BannerBear;

    b) start a free plan with very strict limits, like "1 template + 1 API call per day" to engage more developers and indie hackers working on their hobby projects and would like to make them more lovely. For instance, I can imagine of few use-cases when BannerBear will be a perfect fit for occasional bloggers: post image with current weather report, currency exchange rate, stock price or some other metric coming from their system, title of their new blog post, etc. I even would mind if a tiny BannerBear branding appears on images generated with this plan, if branding is descrete (like vertically placed URL in a small font). I believe this could engage more users into your product who could develop a habit and one day become true advocates of BannerBear when it comes to building commercial use-case.

    Anyway, good luck, your are building an amazing tool!

  5. 1

    Congrats Jon, looks like a great project! I’m actually in the process of building something for generating image templates within my SaaS, so your solution could save me some time.

    I’ll check it out and may well be interested in chatting about a couple of ideas.

    1. 2

      if you run into any issues or have questions while integrating the API, feel free to reach out any time [email protected]

  6. 1

    Congrats Jon. It was only a matter of time. Now onto 100 🚀

    Curious where did you find your customers? Were they following you on Twitter? DMs on LinkedIn? Cold outreach?

    1. 2

      Thanks :)

      I haven't done any cold outreach.

      The strategy that seems to have worked over the last month plus is to build an integration, write articles / record videos on how to use that integration, then promote that content on twitter, mailing list, etc. Actually quite basic stuff.

      I like this strategy though because it compounds. The more articles I write the bigger the content war-chest gets, which I think is really valuable. It also means there's more to talk about with potential customers when/if I start doing cold outreach.

  7. 1

    Congrats Jon!

    I would like to know more about marketing things. What channels work best for you? How do you find audiences to target? How do you test creatives? How much money already spent on marketing?

    Ars

    1. 1

      I'm a bootstrapped indie hacker with 25 customers so I'm not using any paid marketing channels yet - there's just no budget for it ;)

      I mentioned in another comment in this thread that my focus has mainly been on content marketing - writing tutorials. I think this is a good strategy for me because Bannerbear is an API and you kind of need to be "shown what's possible", if you know what I mean.

      As for how do you find audiences: I'm still navigating this. But as I mentioned in the OP, the response from the #nocode community has been really positive so it's quite likely I'll focus more energy in this space. I guess what I'm saying is... I unfortunately have no strategic lessons to teach in pinpointing audiences and getting things right first time. My approach is much more like: try many things, see what works, double down.

  8. 1

    Great to hear this, Jon. Keep going. 🙌🏻

  9. 1

    Hey @yongfook, it's great to hear about your progress.

    I would love to know more about two things:

    1. What do you think of API-only companies? I started to find others like that such as
      Scraper API, Holiday API, Flight API. They all seem to do really well, but I wonder if the business-critically is the key differentiator.

    2. How was the experience of adding a Zapier integration? Great job on leveraging the #nocode community to boost your product.

    Thanks for sharing your journey :)

    1. 4
      1. I think API-only products are a really good fit for Indiehackers for 3 reasons.
      • (1) API products themselves are quite focused by nature which I think keeps things manageable for a solo developer. They just need to do a few things really, really well.

      • (2) But at the same time, since they are APIs they afford you a lot of breadth and flexibility in terms of who you market to, the different use cases to focus on, and even provide you space to build on top of your own API to either demo different use cases or build your own tools. So there's a lot to explore, which keeps things interesting.

      • (3) Finally I think boutique API services don't really fit well with the VC model. I can't imagine someone going to a VC, pitching the idea for Bannerbear and trying to convince someone that it can become a billion dollar business. But as a "lifestyle" business? I think they are perfect for that. I've seen API products grow into million-dollar ARR businesses.

      So what I'm saying is I think the scale is there for indies and small businesses, but at the same time it's a level of scale that just isn't attractive to VCs so I don't lose sleep over the thought of someone with $50 million in funding swooping in and directly competing. (fingers crossed). I might have to compete with other indies, sure, but that's a more level playing field.

      1. Zapier integration went very smoothly.

      If you have an API-based product to begin with then integrating with these tools like Zapier is just a case of wrestling a bit with their admin panel and learning some of their in-house terminology.

      I didn't have to make any changes to my app to integrate with Zapier, it just uses the same API that any of my other users use (so that's another plus point for API products). Once I had it integrated, there was a visceral "aha!" moment after I realised just how many new things would be possible thanks to the integration. If you have an API-based product it really is a no-brainer to integrate with services like this as soon as possible.

      1. 1

        That's amazing. I love your perspective about how API products can be very effective in our Indie reality.

        Also great to hear about the Zapier integration.

        Thanks for sharing all that!

  10. 1

    Congrats Jon! Been watching you iterate on Bannerbear for while. Super impressed with the latest version, especially the editor interface. What’s the most common use-case you’re seeing? Is it mainly social share meta images or something else?

    1. 2

      I think that's one of the first things people think of, but I don't think that's the most valuable use-case. So I have to do a certain amount of "defensive positioning" to ensure that people don't think that's what the tool is (only) for.

      Users who are getting the most value out of Bannerbear are the ones who are using it to perform frequent automations. Think multiple times a day, or even 1000s of times a day.

      The most common use-cases so far that fit that description are:

      1. Tech startups who have integrated Bannerbear into their own apps, so that it handles the template management / image generation tech for them. This is what I thought would be the main use case but it's turning out to be a more niche segment in these early days. That said, I think this is an important segment, so I will continue to promote Bannerbear to this audience. If you are building an app and you want to do custom image generation (e.g. to generate assets for your users) there are actually a ton of annoying edge cases to solve, especially if you want to offer things like custom fonts, or be able to keep offering new designs etc. You'd end up creating a whole template management / image rendering product inside your product which my product helps you just skip entirely.

      2. Individual users who are automating their visual social media content using Bannerbear and then posting it via Zapier to Buffer. This is what I think is the flagship use-case right now but I want to nudge this slightly and market it to a different scale of user. I think the value proposition for this is definitely there if you're an individual as it can save you several hours per week. But I'd really like to market this use-case to social media managers - people who would set up these automations for their clients. Then I think the value proposition is rock-solid, if you're paying $39 a month for Bannerbear but it's enabling you to scale up your client portfolio and take on 5...10..20 automation clients all paying you say $100-200 per month? It becomes a total no brainer. So the moment I get a customer doing this, I'm going to do a big case study write up and promote it 😅

      There's a 3rd use case that I would like to be common, but so far I don't have any users in this space - ecommerce. This was actually one of my founding pain-points - automating the creation of ecommerce banners, since I used to have a soul-crushing amount of work in a previous job years ago doing this.

      One pattern that's really common nowadays is when a new product is added to your catalogue, you create tons of different types of media. Even just taking instagram stories as one media format, it's a ton of work. A single product with say 5 or 6 product photos can easily turn into 10 or 20 instagram stories with different tempalates that you can post over the course of a month or more. But shop owners don't do this because they are limited by the amount of manual work this involves. You could easily automate this all with Bannerbear and I'm really excited to see the first Bannerbear users who do this.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the insight! Dynamic open graph images is something I've needed in the past and wished there was a service like Bannerbear for. That said, it's probably not something I would have paid more than $10/month for.. You're probably right to focus on social media managers and startups that need to do custom image generation. I'm starting a thing soon where I whip up a new mini-product every weekend. Looking forward to doing one that uses the Bannerbear API in some creative way :)

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