Excited to share that my co-founder Matt (@mc2147) and I recently wrapped up our first 2 customer interviews over phone and Skype!
While we believe in taking a customer-centric approach (personalized emails, in-app surveys and feedback, etc.), interviews weren’t something we thought about until recently. We weren’t sure our customers would be responsive to interviews, mainly because they’re busy Saas founders who often wear multiple hats!
When learning more about marketing this year, we realized that customer interviews could help us deep dive into our users’ experiences and answer questions like:
How were users hearing about us? (Hotjar and Google Analytics don’t always tell the full story)
What pains were they facing that led them to sign up with us?
How were they handling those pains before? Were they able to find a manual solution, or did another app solve any of their issues?
What motivated them to pay for our product?
What are their most common workflows nowadays?
The interviews were surprisingly insightful and fun! Here are a few of the highlights:
We discovered why someone first paid for our product. In their words, "What you see with ProfitKit isn’t what you’re going to get – in a good way 😆". To them, it was clear that we were putting in a lot of effort to improve the product. They saw us as a long-term investment.
We got our first known word-of-mouth referral! This was exciting to hear because I was convinced that it would be at least a while before we’d see this happen.
We realized that we could target another audience besides Saas founders – accountants working for subscription-based businesses.
We learned that some of our features weren’t noticeable enough. One user had no idea that we even had payment recovery features 😅! We took this feedback and recently re-organized the platform to make things more intuitive.
Full disclosure, I think it’s way too early for us to be telling you exactly how to run your interviews (check out Forget the Funnel by @ggia and Stacking the Bricks by @alexhillman and @amyhoy for better tips), but I do want to reflect on what I think worked well.
We’ve been trying to be more in front of our users lately:
In almost all our emails, we mention how users can get on a call with us if they need help. We also provide a link to book a call in our email signature.
Visitors can now schedule a call with us directly on our site (via Calendly) or message us easily through Intercom
We just pushed out an About page that outlines our goals and who we are
The one thing I hear over and over again when it comes to customer interviews is focusing on the customer’s story rather than the customer’s input. While I do believe it can be useful to hear what features customers might want to use in the future, this feedback can sometimes be fleeting and vastly different than what they actually do in the future. It’s often more helpful to understand their past behavior and their customer journey so far.
For example, just understanding our customers’ journeys and pains were enough for us to identify gaps in our workflows and brainstorm new feature ideas.
I believe in treating the interview more like a casual conversation than a full-fledged interview where you’re asking one question after another. I like to think of the interview questions as a way to frame the conversation, and everything else that follows should be organic (follow-up questions, anecdotes, etc.).
This approach definitely helped us build a more personable and friendly relationship with our customers.
We’re hoping to conduct a few more interviews in the coming months. We’re at a stage where I believe our customers’ actions and words will help us improve onboarding, messaging, and positioning.
Please feel free to share your experiences and offer insights -- always happy to learn what’s worked well for other Indie Hackers! 😀
About a week ago, my co-founder Matt (@mc2147) and I received an awesome email from a trialing user. He told us that ProfitKit solved a huge issue his agency faced with calculating weekly expected revenue and saved him hours of work each week.
I was thrilled to hear this because our goal has always been to save our users time and simplify their subscription workflows!
After a brief email exchange, he promptly entered his payment card. At this point I realized that not only had we just gotten an amazing testimonial, but we had also just hit 10 paying customers — a goal that we had set out to achieve by June 30, 2020!
It felt so surreal to hit this goal almost a month early, considering it was something we had been working towards since early February.
While it may not seem like a big achievement to most, for us — as a bootstrapped team of 2 — it absolutely is.
Matt and I officially launched ProfitKit at the end of December 2018, at which point we got 3 paying users within the first month. We got these users from talking to past freelance clients and sharing launch posts on Indie Hackers and Reddit.
I left my full-time job around this time to work on ProfitKit because I had planned to “make the leap” after working in industry for a few years. I always had that entrepreneurial itch, and I knew I would never prioritize my ideas if I worked for another company. Meanwhile, Matt had just started a new full-time role.
Matt’s new full-time job became increasingly more demanding, which led him to work long hours and occasionally on the weekends (which meant less time to work on ProfitKit)
Not knowing how to market ourselves outside of launch posts. We spent some time experimenting with Facebook ads, cold emailing people (though we gave up prematurely after only receiving a few responses), setting up a blog, and writing tutorials as a form of long-term marketing. The blog brought in a lot of traffic, but we didn’t see any conversions
Scope creep – we spent a little too much time refactoring the code and redesigning the overall platform to make it look less like an MVP and more like a professional product. Much of this was due to me learning UX and visual design in tandem with the refactor
I was affected by a sudden, complicated medical condition that required 4 surgeries and lasted 6 months. It was difficult to work for a month and due to the pain, I had to transition to working part-time for the other 5 months (thankfully I’m recovered now!)
At the beginning of 2020, we made a conscious effort to bounce back and spend more time on ProfitKit. Matt negotiated with his company and was luckily able to transition from a full-time job to a part-time contract. I was also feeling much better and was able to work longer hours.
In February, after my final surgery, we made a pact to reach a concrete goal: we’d try our best to reach 10 paying customers by June 30, 2020. If we didn’t reach that goal by then, we’d consider dedicating our time to other ideas.
Since the beginning of this year, we’ve:
Taken a more structured approach to marketing. We’ve done a brand sprint (which forced us to think about positioning and messaging), hosted web surveys on our affiliate blog site and ProfitKit to gather information from visitors, and actively reached out to users asking for feedback. Huge shoutout to Forget the Funnel for helping us along
Engaged more on sites like Indie Hackers, Twitter, and Reddit
Continued to take a very personalized approach with all of our users. We’ve tried our best to listen to their requests and feedback and implement solutions ASAP. I’m so thankful for our users – many have been very supportive, helped us improve the product, and gain more users (e.g., they have recommended we reach out to certain people on Twitter, and they’ve even gotten other people to sign up)
Had more of a “process.” We make a weekly plan every Sunday night and try our best to stick with it. We’ve also reduced the time we spend on emails by coming up with templates for each stage in the customer journey (we do still try to add a personal touch to almost every email)
While we did see a dip in traffic and an increase in delinquencies due to Covid-19, we surprisingly got 2 more paying customers recently, which brings us to our goal of 10 paying customers!
Our next goal is to hit $1,000 MRR, and we have some exciting ideas for marketing that will hopefully make our next 10 users a bit easier to come by. If everything going on in our world smoothes out, maybe we’ll even be there by the end of this year!
It’s been quite the roller coaster ride, but I’m proud of us 2 for making it this far. Thank you IH, for being a huge source of motivation and inspiration – incredibly grateful that a community like this exists.
Excited to share that we just finished migrating our backend servers from Heroku over to AWS and are now saving roughly $105/month!
Why did we decide to migrate?
We’ve been using Heroku for some time now because
We recently revamped our Revenue Metrics page to allow for customizations and include a more comprehensive set of metrics. We’re also actively working on including historical data and various data exports.
What this means is that for certain periods of time, we’re doing a ton of in-memory analytics processing. With these recent changes, our Heroku servers were throwing periodic memory errors while processing data for larger accounts.
While we could have switched to higher memory servers on Heroku, we felt that the change would be too expensive (currently 3 $50/month dynos -> 1 $250/month dyno, a $100 increase). After doing some research, we realized it was time to migrate to AWS. We’d get higher memory servers at a fraction of the cost:
AWS t3.medium instance (1-year Convertible Reserved Instance): 4GB memory at $21.90/month
Heroku Performance M dyno: 2.5GB memory at $250/month
What was the result?
After spending a few days on this migration, we scrapped our 3 $50/month dynos ($150/month) and switched to 1 t3.medium instance with load balancing and auto scaling configured (roughly $45/month).
By saving $105/month, we realized we could finally invest a bit more in ProfitKit and purchase the following:
We’ve wanted the Hotjar Plus plan for a while since it’s been tedious to go in and manually delete recordings on the Free plan. Hotjar has been an invaluable tool for helping us improve our landing page and overall UI/UX.
This year we’re also trying to be more “in front” of our customers. We recently integrated Calendly so visitors/users could schedule a consultation, but we’ve also been eyeing Intercom for a while. It’d be a great way to
Overall, I feel a sense of relief knowing that our servers are more stable, we’re being more efficient with costs, and are finally able to invest in products that will help us grow. Always happy to share my experiences and help the IH community, so please let me know if you guys have any questions 😀
Yesterday we got our highest-volume user, a company with $3M+ ARR and 20,000+ customers.
This was pretty unexpected and huge for us since most of our users and customers have fallen into the $10K - $500K ARR and 100 - 5000 customers ranges.
Turns out it was pretty unexpected and huge for our servers as well 😅 They were timing out, and some data fetches were taking 35+ seconds.
We’ve since pushed a few changes to make the site more usable for larger accounts and have reached out to this user.
I just wanted to share this with the IH community because a year ago, I would have seen this as a huge failure and source of additional stress.
Today however, I see it as a great opportunity to improve our product and proof that we’re doing something right if a company of this size is interested in us. In particular, my co-founder Matt and I think that a recent landing page update might have had something to do with it 😀
I’ve come to realize that a large part of being a productive entrepreneur is your own attitude. It’s been a long process, but I’ve been trying to reframe my way of thinking and see the positive in every situation.
We made a number of design changes to our landing page and UI changes to our app. The result is a leaner and simpler interface that allows for more features without being too complex to navigate.
We also added several features to accompany our calendar such as automated customer emails, SMTP integration and hosted payment collection forms.
Within a couple weeks of our first paying customer, 2 more of our beta users converted!.
We made ProfitKit a very personalized experience for each of them, and let their feedback shape several of our features. The result was that they both decided to sign up for paid plans!
To make Stripe account integration, management and metrics easier for SAAS businesses