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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Freebie/trial strategy for increasing product awareness?

Hi all,

I'm still pushing my new site (link: http://tinyurl.com/kpqlbos ) and finding it quite difficult to spread the word, despite doing the things people usually recommend (i.e. a regular blog, contributing on related blogs, tweeting, Facebook page and so on).  Part of this is due to having to dip into freelance work to help fund my own lifestyle and provide a working budget to take the service through to profitability.

I would imagine a good number of us here have had some success from offering free trials, and I wondered whether those trials resulted in any additional publicity, backlinks, constructive feedback and so on?  I've found difficulty getting noticed, although I accept that sometimes it is simply a matter of being patient.  However, I feel frustrated that perhaps I could be doing a (lot) more...

I'm still improving the site and I have a list of things I'd like to adjust or enhance, but rather than just do what I think is right it would be nice to see more people using it (even if on a free basis) so that I can find out what works and what doesn't work for those people.  In other words, let customers drive the improvements rather than my own biased judgement.

The only downside is that each free trial actually results in a cost - not just a lost sale - for each user tester, so I have to be careful that I don't end up driving the service into the ground.  So I want to put a limit on any free trial (say, a single user test 'on the house' and a follow up discount code should the trialist want to make more use of the servcie).  Anyone tried this approach?

Last thing is that I am open to the ideas of bringing someone else in to help grow the concept and product.  I believe that it has a lot of potential but I'm also just one guy with strengths and weaknesses and would value a second person to spread the load and compliment my own capabilities.  Has anyone any advice/tips for finding such a person?

OK, bit of a rambling post, this one, but there's a great deal of experience lurking on this forum and I wish to (as the saying goes) 'stand on the shoulders of giants'....
John Clark Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Ah you fixed the gradient, site looks really nice now.

Your execution seems great overall, much better than the typical small outfit, and it has always looked like a useful service. I agree that without substantial capitalization you can't afford to be covering the cost of free trials indefinitely without converting to real sales since you are selling a labor based service and so there are definite costs.

So, like you I am at a loss to come up with a suggestion other than keep with it and try to get people aware. Have any issues come up in feedback from people whose site's have been evaluated?

Maybe a blog with usability tips and case studies and try to get google karma that way. I don't know if this would fix things of course, I'm a bit reluctant to make suggestions at this point knowing that previous advice hasn't gotten you the results you were hoping for. Wouldn't want to have you off doing busy work and have it not work as well.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Have the people who have gotten one review gotten another one? Or do they leave after one? That's probably an important piece of data to look at.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Just one point because I was too distracted by this to investigate your site further:

As you hover over the navigation buttons, the web page shifts by half the width of the vertical scroll-bar if you're moving from a page that has one to a page that doesn't.

I think its the same problem as I described in this stackoverflow question: http://stackoverflow.com/q/7423706/63965 the answer was just a simple CSS fix.

To close, I don't think other users will necessarily be so distracted by this, its just it had been bugging me with my own website.
Phil Fearon Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I think that for this type of service you may be better of re-running a good sample website test for potential customers, than actually offering a free go.

This might only need be in the form of a few screenshots, but it would be good if it was like some sort of slideshow, it needn't be truly interactive.

This sample might also give your potential customers new ideas about the things they should be testing and why its a good idea to have testing like this. That is, make sure the sample test picks up one or two issues that, if the website had gone live, would have been a severe annoyance to website visitors (probably best not to make it catastrophic though).
Phil Fearon Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Could you do a free version where people get reviews in exchange for giving reviews?

Otherwise, how's the adwords market for this?
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Another thought, I suspect your market has other players. Could you differentiate by turning the business model on it's head? For example you could structure it like 99 designs where the customer makes a deposit and the a single payout goes to the individual who gives the best feedback?
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Thanks, folks.  I like that last suggestion - I'll certainly look into it. 

To be honest, I'm at a bit of a crossroads with the site - it's working well and the feedback I've had from the customers that have used it has been almost exclusively positive.  From a tester point of view, a few have had some issues with the java-based screen recorder, but an improved version is in the pipeline.  Beyond that, it's difficult to judge how successful it's likely to be (or not) as it's not really receiving that much traffic yet.  I think that this is partly due to the newness of the site (it's only just starting to get Google traffic, having just emerged from the 'sandbox') but also from the fact that it hasn't been reviewed or featured anywhere (beyond a couple of minor mentions).

I'll look into the css issue -hadn't noticed it myself but I am certain that there will be a few little gremlins like this throughout, as the site is pretty css heavy and invariably the odd glitch crops up.  Which browser were you using?

The next feature I'll be adding soon (next week if not the one following) is templating - which should address one of the blockers to using such a site, which is that it;s actually quite difficult to create a meaningful user test from scratch without some guidance.  By providing a clutch of 'starter' templates which can then be edited, it should be easier to get good tests with less effort.

I've also got to expand on the charting element - it's one of the (current) USPs - the fact that you can click a single button and get a custom PDF user feedback report showing charts of the discrete question responses - you can read about it here: http://bit.ly/o2EPSi

But, thanks again for all the help - this forum has proven itself to be a great place to get feedback on the feedback site, as it were - and not always the sugar-coated kind!

The offer of free tests to BoS@JOS members stands - I'll happily cover the testing fee to get more feedback and if you like the results, all I ask is you shout it out from all social media platforms as loud as you can... but failing that, just remembering us if you ever have user testing needs (instead of going to the competition ;-)

After all, we're the only user testing site powered by haggis & whisky...

John Clark Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Hmmm.... haggis & whisky... good combo. Unfortunately the last time I had them together I also had a large amount of Red wine. Scottish & French booze doesn't seem to mix too well!
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Thee shalt ne'er mix the grape and the grain...

Anyway, any takers for freebie tests whilst I'm feeling generous?  Or do you want to wait until the templating is in place?
John Clark Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Hi John,
  I think the main problem could be lack of traffic as you have already stated.

My app is also very new and getting any media coverage is tough for "un-interesting" or "done to death" applications.

Have you tried listing on  the web app directories?

Generating traffic is my number one goal. For me it is easy to give a free account as there is no real cost in giving away like you mentioned.

I would keep building the traffic
-submit to directories
-submit to article directories

Also, there is something like Appsumo, where you partner with other web apps.

I just keep asking this question to myself
"If my app is good enough, what is it I need to do next?"

And the answer that immediately pops, "Tell as many people as you can!"

I am very much in the same boat for my second product :) so don't have many ideas.

Recently (just 1 week ago) I released personal edition of my software for just $5 (every week incrementing like Great Clips does when it opens a new store)

Let see if that produces any traction.
nj Send private email
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
If you need more visibility, one thing you could try is to talk more on your blog about user testing in general, instead on being so much focused on your product. Creating a product on the matter it is likely that you know a lot about the topic, and this would be a way to create interesting, articulated, and hence well indexed contents.

You actually did this once with your "5 tips for effective user testing" - I would insist on that line.
Pietro Polsinelli Send private email
Thursday, September 22, 2011
On the subject of traffic. You could try Robosoft. It doesn't immediately sound like a great fit since your desktop app is dependant on the web app but it can provide seo benefits regardless.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Out of curiosity: why did you wrap your website's address with TinyURL in your first post?
Richard Kimble Send private email
Friday, September 23, 2011
Sometimes people here do that so that the discussion (which is of sensitive business issues) doesn't come up on searches that customers might do for the site itself. This can have benefits. A customer seeing him talking about business not being as good as he hoped might wonder if the business is going down or something and avoid doing business.

He does have the link in his signature, but signature links would show up only in a link:url search and not a plaintext one.
Scott Send private email
Friday, September 23, 2011
Exactly what Scott said.  Thanks, I was just about to say something along similar lines but you said it far more eloquently than I would have...
John Clark Send private email
Friday, September 23, 2011
I see. Very smart thinking. Love these forums! :)
Richard Kimble Send private email
Friday, September 23, 2011

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