My co-founders and I have been building our product for the past year. About 1 month ago, we got our first paying customer.
This felt incredible. Having someone who pays for your product is such a validation. It somehow felt like we had done the hardest part and that it would be pure fun and revenue from now on.
After our first paying customer, we got a few more interested users and two additional paying customers within weeks. If things kept going like this, we’d be ramen-profitable by the end of the year.
But for the past month, no one has upgraded. We’re stuck at 3 paying customers on our beta 5$/month plan.
In this post, I’d like to share what I believe to have done wrong in the past 30 days, which resulted in no additional growth and what I’ll do in the next 30 days.
The goal is to 10x revenue. From 15$ to 150$. This is achievable but it will still be huge progress. Here is how I plan on getting there.
Focus on the long tail
Our startup is solving a new problem: helping busy people to stay in touch through our relationship to-do app. This means many people don’t even know they have the problem and even if they do, they wouldn’t know how to formulate it.
Our early users have searched a product like ours for a while already. These are people that go on Google’s second search result page, read through many Quora threads, skim through Product Hunt and so on…
Here is my 3 step strategy to target those users:
Define which keywords people use
The best way to do this is to ask your current users. Here are a few keywords we got from our users:
- Personal CRM
- Friendship Graph
- Relationship To do App
- PRM (Personal Relationship Manager)
- CRM for individuals
- Executive CRM
Create content and use those keywords
Content creation is like playing the lottery. You’ve got to create a lot of content and will eventually get lucky. Here is what worked well for us:
Blog articles Make sure to repost them on Medium & SubStack. Our most successful article is a list of the top 6 personal CRM apps on Medium. Google seems to have picked it up randomly. My goal is to write one article per week.
Reply to tweets If you can find messages related to what you are building, just reply and offer your solution. Many people are on the lookout for apps on Twitter and it’s easier to rank well for a keyword on Twitter than Google. My goal is to spend an hour or two a week answering tweets.
Get backlinks Take a look at which websites rank high for your specific keywords and reach out to those website owners to ask them if they can add you to their page. While it’s not easy, it has a massive impact to be on a high ranking article.
There are many content networks out there. You want to experiment as much as possible. I’ve recently started to publish podcasts and youtube videos to try those new distribution channels.
Find customers in your network
To achieve my goal, I’ll need to do things that don’t scale, that’s for sure. Reaching out to people in my network is a good example.
If just 1% of my network need our solution, that’s already an additional 2 or 3 customers. The challenge is to figure out who needs our app. Here are a few ideas to find out:
LinkedIn Go through your whole LinkedIn network and check out each contact individually. Do they resemble one of your personas? Then reach out!
Related apps Find related apps and see if there is a way to find who in your network uses this app. In our case, we knew that Superhuman users would be potential power-users for our app. So we searched through our inboxes for emails that contained Sent via Superhuman and reached out to those people.
…And make sure to follow up!
The real challenge is not to reach out the first time, it’s to follow up a second and third time. Gmail resurfaces some emails but that’s not systematic enough. If you struggle with this, I actually recommend you try out our own CRM: Nat.app. It’s the tool I’m using personally to follow up with people. It analyses my inbox and automatically generates a Todo list of contacts I’m losing touch with and should reach back out to.
Ask your users to refer you
Do you have any power-users? Personally reach out to them and ask them if they’d be willing to give you a shout out.
Alternatively, you can pre-write a tweet and add a Share us on Twitter button in your app or in emails you send. We haven’t done this at all but will start doing this asap.
Cold email potential users
Cold emailing is hard and dangerous. If you do it too much, your emails will automatically go to spam. Even though it’s tempting to mass email, don’t. Here is a strategy I’m leveraging to cold email users in a targeted way (one of our personas are startup founders):
- Go on Indie Hacker’s products page and filter to target your specific founder/startup persona
- Scrape the data using a scraping tool.
- Visit each product’s website and write a personal email to the founders that would actually need your product and explain why.
… And don’t forget to follow up
I’m repeating myself because I’m pretty sure that I’ve lost tons of customers just because I did not follow up enough. People are busy and I totally get it that we’re not their priority. We can’t expect them to give us too much attention and we’ll, therefore, have to fight for it.
Build/Acquire simple side products
Indie Hacker already wrote a Twitter thread on how I bought a simple chrome extension for this purpose.
Nathan Ganser (@gansernathan) of@nat_crm bought an old extension, and it's been sending a significant amount of traffic his way ever since. He did a basic search for extensions that were somewhat related to his startup, then reached out to ten of them.— Indie Hackers (@IndieHackers) July 20, 2020
If you can think of a few side apps that are easily built and that relate to your main product. Give it a try!
Our new experiment will be a Chrome extension to send audio messages in Gmail. We hope that this might drive high-quality traffic to our app.
That’s pretty much it regarding my strategies to increase our MRR besides increasing prices (which we’re doing as well!). I’d really love to hear what other founders at the same level are doing to grow and what founders who made it already did to get there! Would love to hear from you!