Here’s an update:
tl;dr We’ve had enough people find us, sign up for the trial, and use us regularly to make this product viable in the long term.
- I forgot just how demotivating it is to release a brand new product, starting with zero customers and zero traffic (my company’s other product is almost ten years old.) I’ve come to realise that the first months are, more than anything, about getting traffic.
- Getting traffic, and then trial customers, and then paid customers is a slow, hard grind. I’ve tempered my initial expectations.
- Nevertheless, Google has started delivering trial users to us. A few things I did 6 months before launch (create landing page, add a link to it on my profile on various websites, add a link to our company website) in preparation probably helped.
- We’ve got high quality leads from a couple of answers on Quora that propose our product as an alternative to our big, absurdly expensive competitor that, ahem, gives a voice to the user.
- Announcements on reddit “here’s my startup” lists were worse than a waste of time; they attracted attention from people who wanted to sell us something.
- Writing personally to each new trial customer has been helpful. A good percentage of them respond.
- Some signups we’ve been getting are way different to my preconceived target audience. In one case I can’t share, amusingly so.
- We’re going all in with content marketing for the next six months. We’re slowly putting together blog posts, case studies, and competitor comparisons we can use for this.
- One of our users has a product that has taken off big time. Their Feature Upvote product page has become extremely active. As a consequence, they’ve become our first power user. We’ve been lucky to get excellent feedback from them on the pain points in Feature Upvote.
- We conducted some usability tests. They were well worth the time. They revealed some awkward aspects of our product that we have improved. I’d like to keep to doing usability tests every couple of months.
- We release updates each week with small improvements. This is good for morale and for having something to post on Facebook and Twitter.
- We’re trying to be disciplined to not just work on the product all the time, but to also work on marketing.
- With a tiny customer base, when a potential customer says, “I’d use it if it just did X”, it’s very tempting to add that feature. It is difficult knowing when to do so.
We initially had a classic SaaS 3-tier pricing model. However, inspired by the approach of @pjc , we’ve changed our pricing to a simple, low model. One price per product, and that gets you everything. No upsells, no tiers. For the time being, at least, that makes life for us much simpler.
As argued by @cliffordoravec, there is no point in building a payment system if you can’t get any people to actually find you and sign up for a trial. So we launched without a payment system in place. As people reach the end of their trial period, we’ve been simply extending it. We are finally adding a payment system, two months in.
Plans from here
I aim to grow our traffic modestly each month, to improve our product a little each month, to increase trial signups each month, and to improve our marketing each month. By “modestly”, I mean we should have 10% or so more customers each month. Like I said earlier, it is a slow, hard grind!