A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.
We're closed, folks!
Doug Nebeker ("Doug")
Originally I was going to name this thread "Success story" but guess I will wait.
Basically, as most most of you, I started a "business" (I thought it is going to be a business) with a product in hands, crappy web site and a lot of expectations. My target market was ETL and SQL developers. I followed a simple advice - if you are a developer [input your "specialization"] - build for this guys. At the same time I had a full-time job - I was a "star" software engineer in the Fortune 12 (at this time) company.
The idea was, you know, sell the product, build a customer's base, profit. Somehow it didn't work as expected. Customer's base wasn't "building". Sale here and sale there but nothing to write home about.
I tried a thing or two: cross selling, partnership, constant site redesign, occasional adwords campaigns. The only thing I didn't try is abandon this "business" all together. I was actually having a lot of fun. And boy was I right.
There is an element of luck here (I did work hard to make it happen) but about a year ago I was contacted by a large b2b company. Let's say a number one company in the world in one particular area of business. They offered me a couple of gigs, which I did with a bang. And then I offered them to become a data integration broker between them and their clients. I host a SaaS app developed by me right in my web site or, if client wants in, in AWS or Azure. I charge 3 figures/month for each hosted instance and I live happily ever after.
On top this I'm getting "enterprise" sales left and right as well as similarly sized "custom software development" gigs. Believe it or not but a have backlog so I'm on verge of hiring someone to help me.
So, what worked for me:
1. Customer service (by a large margin). I'm answering emails and phone calls as soon as I'm getting them even if I'm on vacation in Paris with my wife. I help people all the way (including writing code for them in some cases) and I don't charge them for support until I get a sale.
2. Professionally looking website with a relevant content. I like what I got and it seems to be working.
3. Pricing structure. I'm not selling cheap.
4. Zero marketing outside of site, crosslinking and email campaigns.
5. Double down on features that matter the most
Thought this thread might help someone.
Saturday, October 03, 2015
> You are doing fantastic
Thanks Scott. So it seems.
The main purpose of this thread was to encourage people somehow. I'm not sure traditional independent "product" businesses can survive but "services" and SaaS (when targeting the right market) might as well be a financial success.
Saturday, October 03, 2015
>There is an element of luck here (I did work hard to make it happen)
"The harder I work, the luckier I get."
Sunday, October 04, 2015
> I know you must have worked extremely hard for many years
You are right. The first commit was in March 2010, but until December 2014 I was mostly pissing off my wife. Not anymore :) She did the website by the way.
I don't know how to survive in the low margin market. I'm a target audience: if I see something that I need I buy it. But when I was looking for the web based email distribution software I was able to find the one with a free tier on my second click. Even their unlimited "enterprise" tier is like 35/month.
Free is definitely hard to compete with, for consumer apps. I recently asked here whether I should drop my price from $19 to $9, and was given the impression that it indicates low-quality and/or people who don't pay $19 probably won't pay $9 either.
Anyway, I tried it a week or so ago, and made 3 x $9 sales (one last night) since doing it:
This is after having ZERO sales for the last few months at $19.
I'm not making a fortune, but it's enough to keep me motivated and to try making further apps. My plan is to have a bundle offer where the user can buy all my apps at a discounted price.
I remember ~2 years ago I was trying to sell a stripped down version of my flagship app for 25 bucks. It (stripped down version) was called "One Click Data Migration Wizard" (don't even ask) . Users were able to migrate data basically from any source to any destination (fIles, spreadsheets, databases, you name it) without any programming.
With no marketing whatsoever the 30-days trial version was downloaded close to 500 times (mostly from download sites). It was limited to 3000 records/datasource (table, file, worksheet, etc).
I know it was used by most at least a couple of times. My tools send a telemetry home (version and last login) unless it is disabled.
I also know it had bugs (most of them were fixed later) but no showstoppers.
Nobody ever bought it. It was a huge letdown.
I'm guessing whoever downloaded it looking at the $25 price sticker were totally ok with 3000 records/datasource + 30 days. Mostly one timers.
On the other hand I'm totally with you. Is something is selling - let it be.
Sorry to be late replying.
First, awesome story and also great looking website - happy for you!
Would you mind expanding a little on this part please:
"They offered me a couple of gigs, which I did with a bang. And then I offered them to become a data integration broker between them and their clients. "
Am I right in presuming that the jobs they had you doing were data integration work? And you basically said, I can do this for you with my company product much more cost effectively?
If not, how did you navigate to offering them a solution - how did you know they needed a solution and how did you get to the right people to talk about it?
How do your customers find you? Are they all clients of this larger company?
2 Bob Frances
Originally they were looking for off the shelf solution which they can customize. I'm in top 3 in Google if you search for "etl framework" so I'm guessing this is how they found me. I did a quick demo on gotomeeting connecting to their live API on the first try which convinced them that it is for real. Also you are right - I offer data integration services which are much more cost effectively compare to competitors. This is how got in and stay in.
Now, my traffic is mostly organic. I don't advertise and my wife is my sale department. I do have a good website though which definitely helps.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.Other recent topics
Powered by FogBugz