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What do you do to stay motivated?


#1

Been struggling with motivation and direction lately.

I’m currently running a beta for a SaaS I am attempting to get off the ground. I have ~100 users, yet none have much account activity (some haven’t even tried it after signing up and accepting the beta invitation). I’ve attempted to reach out with hyper-personalized emails, but have been met with silence. (I’ve also tried to reach out to communities on Reddit/HN and am always met with criticism, but that’s another story.)

I have lots of people giving me the "I’ll be an active user when you implement x"—but as it stands now, I don’t know if I should implement x without first having an active user base to help feature prioritization. Since the SaaS is just a developer-focused API, it’s hard to find the reasoning as to why my users are inactive.

Today I received an email from a user bashing me for self-promoting on HN and not having a crucial feature they needed, which I chose put on the back-burner so that I could instead launch the beta early.

Maybe that was the wrong decision? (I launched the beta with what I believed was “good enough.”)

I feel like I’m developing features in a vacuum and like I’m kind of just throwing guesses at what feature I should implement next, hoping that somehow that feature will make users more active.

I want to improve the on-boarding of my product and finish features, but I feel like it’s wasted effort without first having at least a few active users that I can get feedback from.

Not really sure where to go from here.

Any advice?

tldr;
My funnel sucks. Possibly shipped beta too early. I am getting a lot of users in the door, but they’re just hanging out for a bit and then leaving. Attempts to get feedback as to why have failed. Not sure how to prioritize.


#2

I hear you. Don’t get discouraged yet. Not sure how your pricing works, but when people say “I’d be your customer if you just had X,” have you tried getting on the phone and letting them know that if they sign on with you for a year, you’d be happy to develop this feature within X amount of time?

Sometimes that is all it takes.

Recently we had someone ask about a feature we didn’t have. They were talking to multiple companies at the time and said they were shopping around. I talked with my co-founder and we decided it’d be a great addition to the system and got on a call with them again and said essentially: “If we were able to do this for you and waive the custom development cost, would you sign on with us now for 12 months?” The answer was yes.

If people say no, it may be a sign that there other features to focus on building, in which case it’s just a matter of having some more conversations with folks to figure out what to add.


#3

You’ve covered several different issues:

  1. Be careful about self promotion. My rule of thumb is that I only post unrequested info (like a post on HN) that 99% of people would find very very valuable. Never ASK for anything, only OFFER. So you could write a useful article, post that on HN, and then have the article mention your product. I did that recently on a FB group and got 1500 visits. (Now, I only got 2 or 3 signups, BUT no one on the group complained, so I can do back and do that again every month.)

  2. When you say “no requests” from the 100 uesrs: are they using it actively?

  3. A healthy skepticism (burnout) is not a bad thing. Hopefully, of the 100 features you could image, you’ve started with the 5 or 10 that are the most useful. So, if you can’t find some folks that find just those features useful, then revisit whether they are really the most useful 5 or 10 features. Is there ONE feature you could add that would make a huge difference? (I.e., if you created a word processor and it didn’t print-preview or (egads!) print, then that’s a critical feature.

  4. I’d try to focus on high touch contact with a core of 10 or 20 of your most motivated users. Remember,there’s a power law distribution (80/20 rule) here, probably, : 20% of your users are going to get 80% of the value /use out of it. Focus on those 20. They are both motivating and may guide you toward future features.

  5. Beware the squeaky wheel: be careful that this is a large enough sample size that you aren’t creating something that ONLY those 20 users need. You always want to be thinking “Ok, Customer X wants this, but how many OTHER customers want this”


#4

I’ve also tried to reach out to communities on Reddit/HN and am always met with criticism and downvotes.

Larger online communities tend to be toxic. For the sake of one’s mental well-being, I recommend avoiding self-promoting on them.

Do you have any paying customers yet? If not, then I understand the mental anguish. It’s tough. But once you get those first one or two paying customers, it changes your outlook.

I think you released not too long ago, right? It does take time for most of us to land our first customers. It sounds like you’ve discovered all that advice about getting people in advance on a mailing list, blah blah blah, is actually overrated.

Today I received an email from a user bashing me for self-promoting on HN and not having a crucial feature they needed

This is better than receiving no email. At least the user felt engaged enough to write. This is a good chance to practice your diplomacy that you’ll need if your product takes off. That is, how to say no without causing conflict.


#5

@Hannah_Wright, thanks for the advice. Right now, I’m running a free closed beta to gather feedback and get a handling on costs so that I can figure up pricing. I’m not very good on the phone, at least with sales, but I guess I need to change that and not let that stop me.

@Clay_Nichols, I appreciate the comment. I think that I handled self-promotion badly, so will stop that and only do so when I have good information to offer the 99%. I edited the OP to fix the ambiguity for “no requests”—my product is an API, so what I was really saying was no account activity. I have a lot of users, but none of them are actually using the product after being invited. I will continue to try to reach out though and find the reason. It may be that a raw HTTP API is too much for new users, and I need to focus more on language bindings.

@SteveMcLeod, I’m starting to notice that with those communities. I leave feeling low most times after submitting things. I don’t have paying customers yet, but I do have a few companies interested in on-premise licenses later this year when I move out of beta and break out the necessary multi-tenant components to work for a single account. And yes, I released the closed beta in early Dec, so not too long ago. But like you said, I think I was expecting my mailing list to convert into a more active user base, or at least be more vocal. I think I need to change my mindset from thinking just because I have a product people seem to show interest in that people will go out of their way to implement it. I admit my on-boarding isn’t great.

After sleeping on it, I agree with the user that reached out to me: I need to focus on building an admin dashboard and language bindings to make getting started a lot less painful.


#6

I think you’ll find a lot of benefits to talking to your customer, or at least text chat (needs to be realtime).
Think of this as a Bug:

SYMPTOM:
Users not engaging with software

CAUSE:

many possible causes. See below.

Most people (especially) our users do not understand their problem, and especially not our software.

It took me decades to realize this.

So, if they are not using it, you really need to interview them to find out the cause:

They may not know where on the learning ladder, below they are.

They need to travel through this learning ladder:

  1. Have the problem
  2. know they have the problem
  3. realize they could solve it
  4. Recognize the value of solving it (and thus the $ or effort they’ll invest)
  5. understand your solution
  6. implement it

#7

BTW, I think you focus on users getting benefit first (assuming the benefit exceed your cost at some scale) then it’ll give you feedback faster. Also, helping people is really much more motivating than the $$. The $$ is just what you need to make so you have time to help the people. (Nuthin wrong with making money, but it’s really just an Extrinsic Reward).


#8

Thanks, I’ll try to reach out to a few of my users today to try and chat about roadblocks. I do have a live chat feature, but nobody has used it yet. And I agree, I’ve been trying to focus on user benefit from the start—haven’t even discussed pricing with most users (although it’s made clear that I will charge once out of beta) or started to figure up what pricing looks like yet. I need more data to figure up costs. I was talking with a friend last night who has been through what I’m dealing with and they also suggested I work on my funnel; I’m getting users in the door (which is good), but then they’re sitting in the foyer all day and I need to find out why.


#9

Is it keygen.sh we’re talking about? I cannot get there from my corp network currently… probably the AV thinks it is an illegal site.

Or maybe it is just a cert issue:

OCSP Error On Server Certificate (ssl_server_cert_ocsp_check_failed)


#11

Yeah, it’s about Keygen. The cert is issued by Lets Encrypt so I’m not sure why you’re seeing that. I see no issues when running it through validation. Qualys SSL Labs also says it’s A+. Maybe something on your end?

If you have any additional questions, shoot me an email at [email protected].


#12

Certainly. The corp firewall substitutes the cert to decrypt the traffic, and browsers refused to accept this injected cert.

However, I’m not sure why that is not a problem for other domains. That should be a concern if you’re using the same cert for license validation endpoint…

Yeah, about that.

Excellent site. Very trustworthy.

There is a non-starter for me - the requirement for internet connection. My application (not a product yet) is to be installed on unix boxes that may have an exit to internet but via a proxy only - or may not have it at all.(*)

On more introspection, I think that the issue is deeper - I’m plain scared by the complexity of the thing I see on your site. Geez, I only need to assign them named licenses for now - and you have everything. I do not know where to start, what do I need and what I don’t…

I also don’t know how much vendor lock-in will it be? Will I be able to take my data off your system if necessary, and how hard will it be? With the complexity I see I’m inclined to answer “no”.

Maybe you should consider (I’m not saying that my objection is typical, but maybe) a Basic Licensing Howto – e.g. “How to setup a licensing schema one-license-per-desktop” and show the minimal steps required if I’m selling one-time licenses for end users. And then another one for license pool - or whatever you consider the most popular licensing schemas are.

P.S. Also, the license management UI. That one of the potential time-savers - because I would have to implement it myself or do an export to Excel - but I do not see screenshots of it. One time see how to configure a license via UI is better than explaining it.

(*) Actually, there is a way for my code to use an internet-based licensing server, but other questions I mentioned are stopping me from even thinking about it.


#13

@ezekg, have you tried to ask help of psychologist? he/she can help you to gain more resources for your work (there are techniques for business coaching). also why not talk to your wife / close friend?


#14

Hey!
Try to do your best and that is all. Take a chance and try to adverse your product on Facebook. Social network nowadays has a huge influence on peoples mind. So keep to develop your project and everything will be ok.


#15

Hopefully this biz is not your main source of income. Just enjoy life for what it is and take a small break from your SaaS.

Once you are back - try listening to “I’ll be an active user when you implement x”.

A few years ago I was looking for off the shelf licensing library, didn’t find anything and ended up developing my own. Ability to install it on my servers (in opposite to Saas) was a key.


#16

@rfctr, I sent you a message where we can talk further. Thanks for the feedback!

@startrinity, I haven’t—but I do have my wife and a few friends with bootstrapped businesses who I bounce ideas off of and get advice from. (Looking back, this forum probably wasn’t the best place to post my issues on, but hey, no going back now.)

@maximus, it’s not my main form of income, but it has been a huge time investment the past ~9 months getting it off the ground. I’ve bootstrapped it this far, and am looking to turn it into a sustainable business; just struggling through realizing now that the product is done that there’s even more hard work to be done with marketing.

Last night, I sat down and talked with a friend and we looked in-depth at the issues I’m facing with on-boarding, retention and my messaging. I decided to make weekly micro-goals for the next 3-4 weeks to ship a few small features that will help with those. Maybe accomplishing smaller goals will help me stay motivated.


#17

If a product is difficult to explain then one thing I would do is write lots of "How to " articles and publish them on all the places you care for. In the end, everybody needs just a recipe to achieve a task and your articles might just give them the right idea or process.

Writing “How to” articles will make you more passionate about it and will probably give you more motivation. Users can sense this and this might start the feeback loop you need with them.

So set a target to write atleast one “How to” article per week.


#18

Good idea to go back and visit your why? Why did you start this in the 1st place. It helps you to then keep going on the down days. Easier said than done but try not to make it too personal. Business owners tend to become so involved and take each sale or non-sale personally. Try working on this aspect a little as it really helps.
Finally try a gratitude journal or something similar. We are hard-wired to look for negatives so we need a 3-1 ratio of positives (look up Shawn Achor’s Ted Talk on this its awesome!) to balance this out.

And keep getting help and advice where you can.
Good luck with it all
Roann


#19

Advertising a niche developer tool on Facebook is a bad idea IMHO. You would be better setting fire the money (at least it will generate some warmth).


#20

@ezekg how’s your product going since then?


#21

Things are slow, but going good. Trying a few different things right now to make integration easier, like including examples in popular languages like Swift and C#. Actually just pushed a “concierge integration” offer this week, so we’ll see how that goes. Been toying with ads here and there, but put that on pause while I get back into the swing of cold emailing, as that seems to work a little better.

Still struggling with a lot of churn, but slowly figuring out how to reduce that.