November 30, 2019

Passed $1.5M ARR + How to get your first customers


We've been working really, really hard on continually improving to be the best possible tool for developers to build web scrapers, and this week we just passed $1.5M ARR. Before I started Scraper API, I was an IH lurker, and I definitely wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for @csallen and his tireless work in building this incredible community. In the spirit of giving back, I've written a short guide on getting your first customers (which is the struggle many Indie Hackers including myself had for a long time):

1. Posting in forums

We ended up getting our first customers by posting on forums like Quora, Reddit, Hacker News, and Indie Hackers. If someone is asking for your product and you respond quickly, this is one of the easiest sales you could ever make!

2. Cold emailing

If I were to go back to the beginning, I would be much more comfortable cold emailing people to sell my product. Remember, if you have a good product, you are actually doing people a favor by getting it in front of people, I am currently paying multiple services $X00 a month because I got a cold email from them and thought "this could definitely help us make more money" or "this could save us a ton of time". If you're building a product that solves a real problem for people, don't be shy they'll be happy to hear from you!

3. Use a chat widget

At least in the beginning, you need to have a chat widget on your site (the Drift widget is free for one agent). You can also download the app onto your phone, so you can immediately engage any customer that shows up to the site. In the beginning you will have so few customers come to your site every month that each one is extremely valuable not only for getting paying customers but also for getting product feedback. Also, your website copy isn't going to be great, so these conversations are really great for helping you refine your pitch to your target market (pay close attention to what words your customers are using and insert those into your website copy). I removed the chat widget after we were getting too much traffic for it to be sustainable, but in the early days the information you get from chatting with your website visitors is super super valuable.

4. Personalize emails to your signups

You can get people's domain names from the email they use to sign up, check out their website and write them a personal email about how your product can help them. The personal touch is something that won't scale, so it will give you a competitive edge over your large competitors who are relying on automated email sequences.

5. Your goal is to make $1

It's really easy to get enamored by things like traffic, compliments, signups, etc. but the only real validation is having someone actually pay you money for your product, even if it's just $1! Don't lose sight of this!

If you have any questions, feel free to post them I'll check this thread for the next week or so!

  1. 1

    Great job!

  2. 1

    You have a generous free tear. Was that always like that our hours did your pricing strategy evolve?

  3. 1

    Thanks for sharing, great Job, that is something you should be proud of. However here is something you missed to write, you should be shameful about. Your API docs are copied from another API, you copied an API of another product even without changing your docs introduction. I remember looking at your product docs back in last year, felt that I read those somewhere else, reverted back and saw them almost exactly the same, even you copied the response code handling and everything else, you probably just changed their pricing and went on spamming forums about your copied idea. It is fine to copy others but at least write your own docs.

    1. 1

      I think you're confusing me with someone else? I wrote all of our docs.

      1. 1

        I've tried your API mid 2018 when it was on early release and my eyes have not lied about the product copy and docs copy of another idea which was long in the market. Well at the end your numbers are looking good so keep up the good work. :)

  4. 1

    Congrats on the milestone Dann!

    We just launched recently and I was looking for a resource like this on how to get the first paid customers. Which channel brought you the most traction when starting out with these techniques?

    1. 1

      Mostly forum posting but that may be because our target audience (developers) spend a lot of time hanging out in online forums. Reddit ads are also super cheap nowadays (10 cent CPCs), so if you have the budget it might make sense to run a few of those in /r/netsec, etc. for Beagle.

      Just a word of unsolicited advice, I think pentesting is one of those things like SSO or accounts receivable management where your product is much more valuable to enterprise customers than it is to SMBs, so you may want to move upmarket as soon as you've validated your idea with a few paying customers.

      1. 1

        Our target audience also largely includes developers and I've spoken to a few of them on Reddit. Which other forums do they hang out on? Hacker News definitely.

        Yeah, reddit ads definitely make sense. I've been mainly hanging out on reddit over the past 2 weeks and finding security guys.

        Yeah, you're right. Enterprise customers are much more valuable for us, but the problem is most enterprise businesses don't host vulnerability data outside their network. That means we'll have to set up on-premise every time for most enterprise clients.

        1. 1

          Yeah, Hacker News, /r/programming, are probably the big ones.

          One thing I will say for enterprise customers is to remember everything has a price. If you get a request from a big customer, don't say no (I did this a lot early on), actually pick the number at which you would be willing to deliver the service even if it sounds crazy (e.g. "that will cost $25k/month"), you'd be surprised sometimes they say yes because for them $25k/month is the cost of 1 full time engineer who may not have the domain expertise you have.

          1. 1

            Thanks Dann! :)

            We'll be sure to not shy away from enterprise customers.

  5. 1

    Hi, an amazing story. I have a question, How much did you spend on marketing when you started?

    1. 0

      None, we just started paid marketing a few months ago for simple stuff like bidding on our company name on Google etc. Responding to forum posts was a really good way to get started and get our first customers! I personally wouldn't recommend doing paid ads to get your first customers unless you know how to do paid ads, because you can easily waste a lot of money on those platforms even if you have a good product if you're not familiar with running paid ads (I actually hired an agency to handle PPC for us because I tried it myself and the results were just not great).

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