December 16, 2019

Real Talk Time

Jon Yongfook @yongfook

It's been a while since I updated my milestones on IH so this one will be a big one!

It'll also be a real one. Got some good and bad things to report.

Although I currently have 2 products under the mojosaas banner, I've really only been focused on one for the last month, which is Previewmojo. And I really, really want to make it succeed - it solves a pain point I've felt countless times, and it does it quite well, and it's in a space that I personally find very interesting (automated design).

https://www.previewmojo.com

First, lets talk about the good.

  1. Stronger Focus

In the last month I've refocused Previewmojo towards higher tier clients. My target is websites that have 100+ pages. If you're managing a site of that size, open graph image creation and management becomes a real issue. So it's been a positive thing to be able to visualize who my target customers are (publications, ecommerce sites) and to recognize who it isn't (small sites, e.g. startups) at least from a paying client perspective.

  1. Shopify integration

I've spent a good bit of time over the last couple of weeks getting the product compliant for the Shopify App Store, which went live last week. I see ecommerce sites as one of the primary use cases for Previewmojo, so the closer I can align with large pockets of those types of users the better.

https://www.previewmojo.com/resources/shopify-and-wordpress-plugins-launched/

  1. Healthy sign up rate and great feedback

I've been pretty happy with the sign up rate. I'm getting a good conversion of new users (< 10 per day) on a trickle of traffic from a few different sources, based on a homepage that I haven't touched since launch (some work to do there!). In addition, I've had some really awesome feedback, feature requests, general back-and-forth from early users with genuine use cases (e.g. managing a site with lots of pages). So that's been really positive to experience.

Now lets talk about the not so good...

I'm not going to hit my end of year goal of $1k MRR.

Previewmojo hasn't had any new paying customers in 3 weeks. Part of that is because the product is new and I'm not getting a critical mass of new users signing up. Part of that is because I've raised my prices and I still need to realign my marketing efforts around targeting those higher value customers.

In startup parlance, I'm struggling with product market fit. Hardcore marketers understand what open graph images are, but the idea that they can be created on-the-fly based on page data is, I think, quite a tech-geek concept to grasp. It doesn't sound like a real thing. So I'm having a double-whammy problem of finding those hardcore marketers, plus difficulty in communicating the core value proposition.

So where do I go from here?

Well first of all, I need to realign towards my North Star again.

The North Star is your ultimate vision for where you want your product to go, and the ultimate vision of the value you want to deliver to your customers.

For me, I want Previewmojo to generate the most insanely awesome looking open graph image designs. So awesome, that other people ask "wow who does your design for these OG images?" and one of my customers replies "it's done automatically by previewmojo!".

That's the North Star.

In order to get there, I am going to have to do a whole bunch of work that looks nothing like the work I've been doing for the last 3 weeks. Lately I've been focused on distribution - building the shopify app, the wordpress plugin, the referral programme. None of that has anything to do with design. So up next is some hardcore focus on adding more designs to the theme catalogue. Currently there's about... 7. There should be 70.

Secondly, I'm going to need to branch out into related areas that my customer base will more easily understand. On-the-fly open graph image generation is awesome once you grok it... but not many non-tech people grok it. However, there's a reason I didn't call my app "opengraphmojo". From the start I intended the app to create multiple types of graphic asset, based on your website page data. FB ad banners, IG stories - there's a lot of potential parallel use cases. I'm going to be exploring that space.

Thirdly, today I launched a referral programme. For a while I've been banging the drum of "don't price your product too cheaply" and "don't target other indie hackers" - which I still firmly believe, for paid accounts. That said, lots of successful SaaS startups will target higher end clients for paid accounts... but generate some sort of marketing value from free accounts. Well duh Jon, that's called Freemium.

So now there's a 100% free plan on Previewmojo, that you can "top up" by referring other users. It'll be an interesting experiment at the very least!

https://www.previewmojo.com/the-free-plan/

This has been my biggest IH post ever. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for an early Christmas drink or two!

  1. 5

    Don’t get too down on not making any sales the past 3 weeks. I’ve found this time of year is incredibly hard for most B2B SaaS. Shortly after the new year I bet you’ll see sales start to tick up.

    1. 1

      You're right in terms of general B2B seasonality - things do lull around the holidays. Still, I shouldn't get complacent - seasonality aside I still haven't reached product / market fit yet.

  2. 4

    I think this is a great product and if I was regularly posting content I’d likely be a customer. Maybe some point in the near future.

    In your post, I don’t understand why none of your next steps is go and get customers.

    Is adding designs going to help you at this point? Is branching out into other products (banner images etc) going to get more people on board? I doubt it.

    You have something that solves a real problem for people posting a lot of content. When you say your customer base doesn’t get it, I disagree - it’s a very non tech problem. It’s a total pain in the ass creating the social images if you’re no good at design and don’t have time. Your only options are suffer it or outsource.

    I think you need to pick a niche and start emailing, tweeting, getting coverage in that niches email newsletters etc etc.

    Forget the other stuff for now and just network, have conversations and sell.

    1. 2

      Hi Paul, that's not one of my next steps because it's already one of my current steps.

      I've been reaching out directly to ecommerce stores, showing them a "before and after" if they used Previewmojo. It's one of my current core sales strategies for larger ecommerce customers.

      e.g.

      https://app.previewmojo.com/sites/LRr0XKv5762Pgmyonj/before_after

      I've built a whole load of pages like that and am in discussions with marketing teams from various ecommerce sites.

      1. 1

        Ah - apologies it sounded like you were listing your next steps in the post. Great to hear you’re focused on selling and I love the before and after examples.

        1. 1

          No worries. Well, there’s a strategy in place at least :) it hasn’t netted any customers yet though, so we shall see if this bears fruit.

  3. 3

    You are damn inspiring and reading about your ups and downs, its good to know everything is not rainbows on day 1. I checked your products that you built over the year and feel they were pretty good and on the spot. Now that you have fixated on one thing and giving it your entire focus, i'm sure you will hit your goal pretty soon!

    1. 2

      Thank you! You are also an inspiration - congrats on the success of visalist.io!

  4. 3

    Killing it with content at least.

    We had similar goals and problems.

    I wanted to hit 100 customers = 1.5k MRR by end of year

    But we need to work on messaging and onboarding.

    We need more designs, we should have 150+ blocks not 70.

    We're also looking at how we can use freemium to boost growth/revenue.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. 3

    fantastic post, congrats on the good, sympathies on the bad. i feel like you're going thru the classic thing of building your ideal solution first before really nailing your target audience, which ofc is a little bit people like you, but you do want to be broader than that. you're also in the business of educating people on something they don't know they need, instead of stealing share from existing needs and spending. it'll take a while. i feel like the shopify move will be very good for you, seen multiple IHers have great success there. have faith and keep it up!

  6. 2

    Nice work! Love the concept. Got a few unsolicited thoughts:

    We already have contract marketers in-place and part of their job is to create these images for OG & Twitter. buutttt... they can always be better :)

    The before and after images on your website are kick-ass. That was a "wow" moment for me. We either need PreivewMojo or I need our peeps to make better preview images. They use Adobe Spark.

    This is not a knock but just a bit of background from a marketer that is also Indie SaaS founder: Before seeing your website & image, our og image quality probably didn't even crack my top 50 list of problems that needed to be solved. Hardcore marketers or marketers that aren't founders may feel different.

    Your decision of going after hardcore marketers vs pro-sumers is a tough one. Obviously, if you can go upstream, do that. One concern is that hardcore marketers may already have the skills, people, or tools to do this on their own. This feels like a quick, easy, & impactful win for us marketers that don't have those things. Either way, it sounds like you are navigating all of this with tact so I am sure you will test it and figure it out.

    At Wavve, we also offer a design tool that helps marketers spit out a social video post. Regarding your "There are 7... There should be 70.": The # of design/template styles never affected our conversion rate. BUT, it was a great way to engage our email list & free users. So just be careful spending a ton of time loading up dozens of templates until you know you have found your magic blend of market + offering + pricing + features.

    Oh.. and wish I had thought of this! :)

    1. 1

      Thank you Baird, always great to hear the experiences of founders who have tackled similar territory!

  7. 2

    Thanks for sharing Jon!

  8. 2

    Can it be available on WordPress plugins so that I can plug to my WordPress sites just like social media sharing buttons

      1. 1

        Thank you

  9. 2

    I think you're heading into a great future here. Focussing on the available templates and getting the low-volume customers with your freemium/referral combo sounds like a very smart choice.

    I personally looked into your product for my blog, and while I loved the features, the price was not justifiable for someone starting out with a blog. Will reconsider with the new plan :)

    Thanks for sharing all of this. I really like the thought you're putting into the business and how it is perceived.

  10. 1

    Imo North Star is not a vision - vision is a vision, as simple as that. The North Star should be a quantitative KPI (there's a reason it's a North Star m e t r i c ;) ), not a wish - for example, the number of websites using PM, or the number of previews generated - something you can optimize for.

    1. 1

      I think it depends where you learned that term from. No one person owns it, so the definition is somewhat fluid. You're talking about NSM, which is not what I'm talking about.

      For me, working in enterprise the "North Star" was somewhat allegorical to "the mission". It wasn't a goal or metric unto itself, it was a mission statement or ultimate product vision - something you used to sense-check and make sure your decisions were driving the product / business in the right direction.

      As a definition, this makes sense to me as "north star" is of course a nautical reference for navigation. It's not a waypoint or something you actually reach, it's a compass bearing.

      It's important to make the distinction between a North Star and goals. I feel that you are talking about goals. The journey towards your North Star is accomplished by the setting and achieving of goals. You can't have one without the other.

      1. 1

        Imo you are trying to introduce a new name for 'Vision' which is an existing business term that basically defines what your company is all about in a rather distant future, it's something inspirational, motivational, that sets direction with a fat marker. The mission is more about 'the why', so why your company exists, not how it will look like in years from now. North Star metric is also an existing business term, it's a KPI you choose to track and optimize for because you assume or know company growth is aligned with that KPIs growth. Now, you can set goals measured in time for your North Star metric, but NSM is not a goal per se.
        The reason I am arguing here is that I find associating north star with something that is not meant to measure misleading. Also, I think the actual metric could help you more than the vision, which is cool but doesn't help with the decision making process that much.

        1. 1

          if you do a quick google search for "north star vision" you'll see that this is not a new thing I'm trying to introduce.

          I understand what the NSM is, I see its value, and thank you for bringing it into the discussion. But I disagree that the metaphor of a "north star" wholly belongs to the "north star metric" term, which people have only been using for a couple of years it seems.

          Further back and forth on semantics like this doesn't seem like a productive use of time, frankly.

  11. 1

    Love the transparency. I am going to sign up for the free plan. :)

  12. 1

    Hi Jon Yongfook,

    I wish you all the best with building your business to $100,00 ARR. That would be awesome to see :)

    I'm currently working on product launch to help developers showcase their products. I saw you had two awesome projects on the homepage, votemojo and previewmojo. Would you willing to showcase these products?

    Hope to hear from you!

    Mido

  13. -1

    This comment has been voted down. Click to show.

    1. 1

      I think I'm perhaps diluting my presence on IH, but that doesn't matter much as my target market doesn't live here.

      As for design / coding efforts, I'm using git submodules to reuse code across the mojo products, so there's no extra effort being created there really. Don't worry, I have somewhat thought this through ;)

      1. 0

        I wasn't talking about IH.

        I was thinking about backlinks, number of visitors (a ranking signal for any search engine), number of website updated and quantity of content (another ranking signal), branding (three weak brands instead of a bit stronger one. By the way, you should use the word mojo as a prefix or a suffix, not both, consistency in design and branding matters. ) and quite frankly the design, which could be improved a lot with the extra effort that you aren't putting in right.

        "Don't worry, I have somewhat thought this through ;) " it sounds a pretty arrogant thing to say considering the results you got until this moment. Don't worry, the next time I will join the crowd and tell you how you are doing an amazing job and are granted to succeed ;)

        1. 3

          That's some grade A startupsplainin' there Luqa.

          I dunno dude, I just see the sites as having different audiences. Mojosaas.com is just a place to share about the journey, as and when I feel like updating. It's something for other founders to look at.

          Previewmojo.com is a product, and the content there is all product-related and targeted towards customers of the product.

          I suppose you could do it all on the same site, but then again, it's not uncommon for folks to have separate company and product websites (especially for multi-product companies). Certainly not uncommon enough for you to be so agitated about it?

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