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Selling "Vitamin" B2B Products


#1

For the last few years I’ve been pondering wether to pursue a business idea that always keeps coming back to me. It’s based on an internal tool we had at my last company, since my teammates and I found it very valuable. Since then I’ve thought of a few good additions specially suited for remote companies or teams (which are becoming more and more common). It’s a tool I used almost every day and found valuable, yet at the same time doesn’t really fix a pain for the business. Using Amy Hoy’s (is it?) terminology, it’s more of a vitamin than a pain killer. This mean there’s nobody out there looking for this kind of product (unlike, say, help desk or project management software). Also, it doesn’t produce revenue or save costs. You could say its main benefit is helping your team work better (an example that provides a similar benefit: HipChat).

My question is: does anyone here have experience marketing and selling a product like this to businesses? If so, I’d love your thoughts on the matter (has it been very difficult, would you do it again if you were to start over, etc)


#3

Seems to work for http://slack.com.

I’d guess it depends on the ‘vitamin’, what sort of thing is it?

And an internal tool can provide a lot of value, i.e. a chat tool removes the pain of remote workers, adhoc communication and overflowing email


#4

Oh, absolutely. I know a lot of companies are successfully selling vitamin products. What I wanted to know is if anyone here had experience doing so. On the other hand, tools like Trello, HipChat, etc seem to have a very generous free plan, so even though there are thousands of companies using them, it’s hard to know how much money they’re making, really. I understand it’s easier to “sell” a free vitamin product and then hope for companies to switch to your paid plan (that offers extra features) over time, but that may not be a good strategy if you want to bootstrap.

P.S. You got Slack’s URL wrong, it’s https://slack.com


#5

Fixed the URL… :smile:

What I was saying is that one man’s vitamin is another man’s “OH MY GOD TAKE MY MONEY”.

I wouldn’t classify Slack as a vitamin product in my current team, nor campfire, nor hipchat. Removing the problem of poor communication is a painkiller for us.

The definition of pain killer and vitamin is difficult to make because you could equally say Amy’s product Freckle is simply a vitamin compared with a well organised spreadsheet I’m obviously playing devil’s advocate here.

Vitamin vs Painkiller (for me) is more about measuring the need for your specific customers. For one two man team a shared email box might be fine for support, but for another team a product like http://besnappy.com is an absolute must have. However enough people feel the pain of a shared inbox to want a paid product to solve the problem.

It’s a sliding scale between painkiller and vitamin not an either/or. It’s a framing device to force you ask the hard questions. And also to ask customers.

You just need enough people to want to pay you for your product. What is it?


#6

Very true, @andycroll. You definitely have a point that vitamin and painkiller are totally relative to each customer. I guess I need to do more research on my customers :slight_smile:


#7

Very true. PerfectTablePlan is a vitamin if you are doing a 20 seat dinner party, but a painkiller if you are doing a 2000 seat gala dinner.


#8

Having just launched a vitamin product (https://www.saveemail2box.com), I can attest to some of the challenges when it comes to sales/marketing. Being more of a developer, I wanted to try my hand at building something on top of a product (in this case Box.com) that already had a significant user-base I could leverage. I identified a need and validated it (via Box forums/pre-launch landing page/survey)…the problem is that Box gives so much away for free that the majority of those that said they absolutely needed it, aren’t paying for Box, so it’s hard for them to justify paying for my service.

Since Box has paying customers, I decided to take a (somewhat) calculated risk and pursue it regardless. With the exception of the customers listed on Box’s website, it’s been a bit difficult to pinpoint exactly who and where all of the other paying Box customers may be.

To help ease this, with my pre-launch page and initially offering a free plan I was able to get people through the door…most were just looking around, but simply using their email addresses I was able to identify what markets/roles they are in (e.g. legal, financial, etc.) which in turn helped me to create and refine my target customer profiles. Subsequently in speaking with some of them, I’ve been able to capture additional data around pain points/why they were kicking the tires, so that I can craft my marketing messages as I begin to find/reach out to paying Box customers. Collectively its helped me to look in places on the web I didn’t initially find, and use cases I didn’t think of. From there I’m doing what I can to engage users and short of asking, “Are you a paying Box customer” drive them towards my solution. Not sure if this is working or scalable yet, but it’s worth a try.

Lastly, the other obvious issue with this being a vitamin is that at any moment Box could turn this type of service on and I’ll be back to square one.

In summary, really getting to know your target customers will go a long way in helping to realize if this is something worth pursuing.

Good luck and let me know if I can help in any way.