A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.
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Doug Nebeker ("Doug")
The author will always think their product is the 'greatest' and will always wonder why it did not become a 'killer' product.... how does one know when you should throw in the towel and walk away (ouch ..!)?
Friday, March 08, 2013
I've been wondering the same.
It's really difficult to try and figure out whether you should continue with what you've got, or give up and come up with a new product.
If you haven't got (enough) customers now, maybe it's just because you haven't worked hard enough at sales? Or maybe it means your product is just not that appealing?
I'm not sure if it's even possible to know that, without, say, *really* working your ass off doing sales for like 2 years in a row. If you still haven't got enough customers after that, then yeah, I guess it's safe to call it a day and move on.
I get a feeling that, deep down, you just *know* when it's a lost cause. I got to that point fairly early on, realising that (commercially) it was going to be hard to compete without an investment of capital that I didn't have - at least without the benefit of 'viral assistance', which never happened for me.
I'm now debating whether to kill it or to offer it for free as a sort of experiment in seeing if I can bring something new to the market (or at least attract new people in to try out the concept). I'll probably do the latter as it at least justifies keeping the project alive, which can be useful in selling your capability to deliver to prospective employers or startup partners in the future...
Just my thoughts.
"how does one know when you should throw in the towel and walk away (ouch ..!)?"
If you come from a development background (like I do), then you are in for a painful attitude adjustment.
I think i have been beaten down enough and I am finally getting it.
We are trained to think in terms of the product. For us the product is the business. A business oriented individual thinks in terms of the market.
I don't have any empirical data, but I am guessing that a sales and marketing person has a better chance of building a software business than a software developer.
After so many false cycles i think I am finally getting it. The best time to walk away from a product is "before" you build it. If you can't find real people who are willing to really discuss it with you , then there is no point in going further. But we always push this phase into the future. One more feature, one more screen, one more optimization , any thing we can think of to get away from sales.
Here is what i have finally figured out: If I can't find "real" people searching for a product/solution , then I walk away. No abstract markets ,just real people actively looking for something. If I can't find and connect to them , I am out of there. If they are already using something else and they are happy with it, then they probably are no longer searching. If they are searching , then I have a chance. And if they are not willing to talk to me about it before I build it, what makes me think they will talk to me afterwards when the sales pressure is even higher.
"If you build it they will come" has not worked for me.
Sales is where the battle is. And the time to do is before you build the product. Another proof that sales is more important than building is that you can't really outsource it. It is the one constant.
When the sales are not enough to have a profitable business AND you are unable to grow the sales anymore.
Obviously you do not give up the first day the above condition becomes true. Some persistence and patience is needed anyway.
Personally, I have just recently gave up on a product after trying to push the sales for 2 months and not getting anything close to the expected results.
Is two months enough? I would have thought six months would be a reasonable time frame.
Also remember to explore opportunities to pivot and adjust your product.
Monday, March 11, 2013
"After so many false cycles i think I am finally getting it. The best time to walk away from a product is "before" you build it. If you can't find real people who are willing to really discuss it with you , then there is no point in going further. But we always push this phase into the future. One more feature, one more screen, one more optimization , any thing we can think of to get away from sales."
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I've actually had two stints as a professional programmer. The first was many years ago (in the 90s) when I wrote apps for gamers. I made some sales. I was excited. But people lose interest in current games and move on... so my products hit a dead end. I learned from that and vowed never to code for third-party products again.
The second stint was a Windows app that I thought was great, but nobody else did. Well, I made one single sale from it, but I refunded the guy and ditched the website soon after. I vowed never to code an app that already had a crowded market.
My most recent foray was coalde.com where I realised I was making my second mistake again: coding for a crowded market (notepad app). I decided to ditch this quickly after feedback from these very forums. :)
My next two apps... who knows. There's no market for them, but this may just mean they're crap ideas. I doubt it, though. Time will tell.
I'd seriously try & find several people (not friends and family) who say they'd buy the product before starting to code. Your time is never free.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
+1 for Harry
I think a big problem is the internet mindset. Just because we sell online doesn't mean we have to do everything online. Maybe we should try some phone and face to face "selling" before we try do everything online. The other issue is the overcrowded market. Every market seems crowded. I am finding that anyway. The only way to get around that it seems to be very specialized almost to the point of custom work which makes it not a product but a service. You can only sell it to one or two customers.
If you're considering giving up, I'd recommend reading this article first: http://www.sodaware.net/dev/articles/shareware-amateurs-vs-shareware-professionals.htm
Even if your sales are terrible for a long time, that doesn't mean you're doomed to failure forever. It's very unlikely that in the very beginning all the pieces right that need to come together synergistically in order to have success.
I've been working on my SaaS business for two years, and I only have three customers, and I lose money on it every month. I'm not giving up, though, because I know my business and product still have a lot of room for improvement, and my sales are probably only at 0.01% of their potential right now. I still work on my business every day, even though I'm seeing almost no results.
The only time I'll give up is if my business is still losing money and I absolutely can't think of a single thing to try. That's unlikely to ever happen, though. And whenever I feel stuck, it's usually due to a lack of knowledge. So if I can't think of any improvement to make to my business or product, I buy a new marketing, sales, business or programming book and that usually gets the wheels moving again.
So before you throw in the towel, I recommend that you read that article I linked, and ask yourself if you're completely, 100% out of ideas, and if you're absolutely sure your business will never be a success.
Friday, March 15, 2013
"try & find several people (not friends and family) who say they'd buy the product"
Yes, I know. But my next two apps are things I need daily anyway, so I'll release them when done and see. I never code just for others; I always scratch my own itch (as disgusting as that sounds).
Jason, that is such an excellent article (the others on that site are all worth reading too).
Friday, March 15, 2013
I think before you give up on a product you need to ask yourself a few questions.
1) Is there a demand for the product
If you haven't done so already use the Google Adwords tool to see how many monthly searches relevant search terms are getting.
If nobody is searching for your software, could you advertise it on relevant sites?
2) Evaluate your competition
It's hard to be objective but I try to analyse my competition by trying to write an impartial review of the competitors products (for my own use).
There is no guarantee that your competitors are selling any more units than you are, but make sure your product is better than the competition in some valuable way. (i.e. not just it's prettier - something worthwhile i.e. faster, more user-friendly, better features).
Assuming your product is ok, how are you doing in the search rankings for relevant keywords that people are searching for? Unless you're top maybe it's time to do some SEO.
3) Evaluate your website, trial version and ordering process.
Assuming you are getting the traffic but not conversions then you need to take a look at your website as someone who knows nothing about your product.
Are you getting straight to the point and telling them why they should buy your software?
A client's website waffled on about how their company had been established 10 years etc etc but told very little about their product. Moving all that stuff to "About us" and adding some punchy bullet points increased their conversions several fold, and I'm not even that good at writing bullet points!
Is Installation and trialling your product straight fwd? The more hoops people have to go through to try your software the more you will lose.
Make sure that your ordering process is simple and you have a big "call to action".
If you've done all you can to get more traffic, optimised your product and website and you still aren't getting enough sales to make it worth your while then scrap it and start the next project using your experiences to make it a better product.
John W King
Friday, March 29, 2013
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