Four Things I Learned From Asking My Customers

Photo by Eleaf is a tool that helps you edge into customer development. It’s a free tool put together by Sean Ellis and Hiten Shah as a way for product owners to easily survey their customers using pre-written questions.

You enter your product name and voila – 8 questions that Sean Ellis has used many times to achieve his massive successes with companies like DropBox, Xobni, LogMeIn and Lookout.

I’ve had this on my to-do list for DotNetInvoice since launched, but wanted to wait until our QuickBooks integration launched, which finally happened last month. I was further spurred into action at MicroConf; one of the key takeaways from the conference was that I need to be talking more to my customers.

So two weeks ago I dove in head first and emailed the survey to all of our customers. The results were surprising…

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Choosing a Domain Name When is Taken

Photo by Kevan

A reader recently emailed with the following question:

I am working with my business partner on building a web application and the domain name I’m looking for is already registered.I have done a ton of searching on the web, including forums like OnStartups and can’t seem to figure out which way is the best. Everyone seems to have contrasting opinions.

I am thinking of other ways to register my applications domain name, and I thought of a few possible solutions:

  • (I saw that 37signals uses this for some of there web apps and liked the idea)

I was wondering if you thought this made a big difference or not.

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You Can’t Make Money Charging $1 Per Month

Photo by Images_of_Money

I recently received the following question from a reader:

[When we spoke at a recent conference] I had been thinking of a $1/month price point [for my product aimed at teachers] to make it a “no-brainer,” and you strongly advised against it, suggesting $5-7 at a minimum.  Are you concerned at all about the fact that teachers could continue using the existing work-around solution? I wonder if I provide enough value to rationalize $5-7. Maybe it would be better for me to find more ways to add value rather than lower my price point?

My Response
Trying to make money selling an app for $1/month is crazy unless your market is gigantic and you have the expertise or the funds to reach them (and even then, support will kill you).

Let’s look at some numbers:

  1. If your goal is a meager $2k per month you need 2k customers.
  2. To begin, that’s a lot of non-technical customers to support for that little money. You’ll still be working a full-time job at that point so it’ll be nights and weekends. Not cool.
  3. To get 2k customers with a 1% conversion rate you’ll need 200k unique visitors (total, not monthly). If you crank really hard on promotion and word of mouth I can imagine you’ll ramp up to 1k-2k uniques per month. Even at 4k per month you’ll be waiting a long time to hit that 200k mark.
  4. These days I’ve been advising people to go up-market and try for $30/month and $50/month price points. What can you build that people would value that much?

In your case you have a hard pricing constraint because teachers don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around to spend on software. But I don’t see any way a niche product can work with a price point of $1/month. Even at $5-7/month it’s going to be extremely difficult to build revenue beyond a few thousand dollars.

MicroConf: Things That Rocked and Things That Could Have Been Better

MicroConf Speakers
Photo by Dave Rodenbaugh

MicroConf Badge

Anytime you spend 3 months planning an event, whether it’s a wedding, a product launch, or a conference, you need a post-mortem. A time to reflect on things that went right and things that needed work.

This post is my post-mortem for MicroConf 2011, which took place last week in Las Vegas, NV.

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“Startup Wisdom” Ebook from Hiten Shah, Noah Kagan, Patrick McKenzie, Myself, and others

Hot off the presses, download a free copy of this 52-page ebook for the price of a Tweet (or a share on Facebook). Visit to make it happen.

Six Startup Marketing Lessons in Six Photos

I snapped each of the following on my iPhone during the past 8 months.

“Wines sell better when we put these orange ‘sale’ tags on them so let’s put one under every bottle!”

Lesson: Too many price reductions diminishes their impact along with the value of your product.

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What the Hell Does a “Business Guy” Do?

Photo by Dan Taylor

I try to hang around with entrepreneurs as much as possible. I dig people with an insatiable desire to create things, and I’m not anywhere close to being cool enough to hang out with painters and musicians.

One term I hear thrown around now and again among technical founders is “business guy” (or gal…except it’s always “guy” when I hear it). This is the mythical person who’s going to swoop in once your app is built and handle all of that business-y stuff.

You know…the stuff we technical founders scoff at as tertiary to our product’s success:

“I don’t need no stinking MBA. I got code to write!”

Code that will be magically catapulted into the hands of millions once the business guy steps in.

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Guest Post for OnStartups: “The 5 Minute Guide To Cheap Startup Advertising”

Photo by Stephen Poff

I’ve written a guest post for OnStartups titled The 5 Minute Guide To Cheap Startup Advertising. If you have a small ad budget and are trying to find inexpensive clicks online it’s probably worth a read. Learn from my mistakes!

It includes strategies/examples for:

  • Niche advertising
  • Google AdWords
  • Facebook ads
  • StumbleUpon ads
  • Reddit ads

Read the complete article here.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Star Wars, Roll Your Own Linkbait Headline, I’m Speaking in Vancouver, and more…

How to Talk to Your Kids About Star Wars – A must see if you have kids and like The Trilogy. “Jar Jar only kicks the puppies he doesn’t eat, Junior!”

Roll Your Own Linkbait Tech Headline – I never tire of these phrase generators. Some of my favorites from this one include:

  • 5-Year-Old Makes 110K On an Annual Holiday With Clever E-Trade Hack
  • Linus Torvalds Goes Missing For 20 Days
  • Torrent of all Zynga Passwords

Let’s Hang in Vancouver – I’m speaking at the Lean Startup Conference in Vancouver, B.C. May 5th and 6th along with Ash Maurya and the authors of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development for Tech Startups.

Learn How Google Works in Gory Detail – Quite an infographic on how Google generates north of $20B per year.

Why Startups Fail: An Analysis of Post-Mortems – The top 20 causes of startup failure based on 32 post-mortems.

The Micropreneur Manifesto: How to Stay Solo, Bleed Passion, and Build Products that Matter

Hot off the press: my Micropreneur Manifesto was just published on Change This, a popular platform for spreading ideas. The manifesto is a look at what I believe are 16 key tenets for success as a solo entrepreneur. It’s more of a high-level view than my typical writings, but hopefully it’s worth your while.

The manifesto is free (no email required), 14-pages in PDF, and was generously formatted by the ChangeThis crew.

An excerpt:

At this moment in history, we as entrepreneurs are able to do something never before conceived: launch a product completely on our own, with no employees and no outside funding, from anywhere in the world.

These single founders creating products for niche markets are known by another name: micropreneurs.

Micropreneurs may write software. They might design themes for a blogging platform. They may produce exquisite wedding invitations, or how-to books. Micropreneurs are agile, inspired, independent, knowledge seekers who can’t live with the 9-to-5 status quo.

Download the manifesto here. And if you enjoy it, share some tweet love!