I’ve experienced kind of a rollercoaster recently in my salon scheduling software business. I struggled for a few years to find a way to repeatably generate leads/customers, then in spring/summer of this year I tried a PPC campaign which brought finally brought me consistent leads and a few customers.
I was really excited about my new wins for a while, then as a result of this activity, some things became apparent to me:
- A large percentage of my prospects have a certain must-have feature that I don’t have, and that must-have feature varies wildly from prospect to prospect. (Examples: online booking, POS integration, QuickBooks integration.) These are highly non-trivial things to build, and it’s not like everybody is asking for the same thing. Just a few prospects want each thing, but those prospects who need something I don’t have account for most of my prospects, if that makes sense.
- Most of my prospects don’t seem to have much money. They see a price like $50/mo as a large investment to be pondered over. (I lowered my pricing in reaction.)
- It’s hard to sell software to non-tech-savvy people. The other day I spent like 20 minutes just trying to get a salon owner to figure out how to join my GoToMeeting. Some people have to be spoon-fed every single click and they manage to fuck up the absolute simplest things, and as a result perceive bugs where there are none because they have weird expectations.
These are the new realizations I’ve made. There are also other problems that I’ve known about for a while. I’ll try to list them in order of how big an obstacle they pose.
- Unlike developers, designers and other office workers, stylists and salon owners aren’t on the computer all day. They do use smartphones, but not nearly in the same way we use computers. This makes it hard to reach them.
- Salon owners have a competitive scarcity mindset. They guard their “secrets”. There aren’t local salon owner meetups.
- Salon owners usually don’t view themselves as business owners. They’re technicians who happen to be in possession of a business. Most of them also seem to have an expense mindset as opposed to an investment mindset, which is of course an obstacle to selling.
- Stylists and salon owners are very averse to talking with salespeople on the phone. Most of them don’t really seem to use email in my experience, and in fact many of them don’t even HAVE email.
- I’m not a domain expert in the beauty industry. I don’t want to be, and I’m never going to be.
- What I already do for money (programming) has nothing to do with the beauty industry. My product doesn’t feed my service business and my service doesn’t feed my product business.
- Salons open and close like crazy. I lost a customer today because they just opened their salon and they failed to get it off the ground.
Now I’ll touch on what the future might look like if I were to quit Snip.
In the course of everything I’ve done and read over the last 7 years, I’ve learned a ton. (I’ve been working on Snip for 4.5 years but I’ve been trying to get a product business off the ground for 7 years.) I think if I take everything I’ve learned and apply it to a good idea that doesn’t have as many problems as salon scheduling software, I probably have a decent shot at success.
Here’s what I think I’d do differently this time:
- Pick a product that synergizes with what I already do for money, programming
- Pick a market that spends a lot of time online, searching for solutions to problems
- Pick a market in which I can build an audience that cares about things I have to say
- Pick a market that has money and can pay $X00/mo, not $X0/mo
- Pick a market that has a problem that can be solved with a relatively simple product that won’t take forever to build
- Detect the demand first, then build the list, then sell the product, then build the product (or something roughly like that)
Now if I were to decide for sure to quit Snip, the question would be how the heck to figure out a business idea that meets at least most of those criteria.
Any thoughts of any kind are very welcome and appreciated.