Onboarding: Make it as easy and smooth as possible for clients to get started after signinup. Show them exactly where and how to start.
Documentation & FAQ: Create tons of it. If a client has a question, thy should be able to resolve it through your documentation for the most part. Don't let little simple questions to come to you EVERY time.
Setup a Support Ticket system and only answer via emails/support ticket for questions that cannot be resolved via your documentation. If a client is not aware of documentation, point them to it before answering the same question again and again.
Get a decent smartphone and answer the tickets/email through that. You could even do it sitting at your desk or during lunch break
If you absolutely need to schedule phone calls, schedule them during lunch break and find a relatively quiet place where you can talk. If not quiet enough, tell the client that you are travelling and they may hear background noise. As long as it is not a screeching train, clients won't mind specially if you already told them.
Hustle. Do whatever it takes to get the first few clients except illegal activity of course. You may have to cross a few lines at work (lying about lunch plans etc) but I personally think those are reasonable to do.
Props to you that would be my full time pay.
Was going to ask what generates the money but after visiting the site I could probably guess.
Did want to point out in mobile the "view more listings" button could use a margin-top.
Nice layout. The red for sale tag is catchy.
Search / filter
pages for Model s, x, 3
New vehicle notification alert
How did you get this off the ground marketing wise?
I hired a copy guy for the content ( he's good and gave me title tags)
I hounded users on FB and this tesla motors forum until they banned / changed my profile setting so i can't message private owners to list with me. Then i set up new ID and changed tactics on getting for sale listings from private owners( they have a forum page for it)
For support tickets I use and highly recommend helpscout - it's cheap, and works well. The android and iOS apps need some work, but it's possible to do basic issue management from mobile.
I know Paypal has its Instant Payment Notification API, were they ping your server once a payment has gone through, I assume Stripe has something similar.
I was just wondering if there's a simple API, that can handle payments through both Paypal and Stripe etc.
The fact that Paypal keeps most of their fee if you have to issue a refund does suck, but that is a separate issue: the interfaces are both very straightforward.
They have an api as well, but I've seen most people use their landing page/buy product page more than anything.
please note that for us ( we are b2b ) customers prefer to use paypal.
Some things B2B require actual phone calls. At my last job, I'd go out to my car in the parking lot to take/make calls.
Now that I'm at a different gig where I take the bus to work, it's more difficult to find a quiet spot to talk. Sometimes I find myself talking to prospective clients in the stairwell :-)
All in all, you'll find that most businesses are quite accommodating as long as they know you will respond. My mantra has become "when in doubt, Communicate."
All of codegeek's points make sense, especially automation, getting a good helpdesk (we can hook you up @ https://www.reamaze.com), and hustling. I wouldn't worry too much about perfecting documentation, unless it's an integral part of your project, like if you're heavy on your customers using your APIs.
Customers initially are going to be hard to come by, so every single potential lead that lands on your site and contacts you are extremely important. Always follow up on customers, as soon as possible. Keeping up a good rapport with them especially those that are using your project, would help immensely when time comes to get them to do some co-marketing with you.
Spend the early mornings before work prospecting and reaching out to potential customers. If you're on the west coast, even better because you can conduct sales calls with east coast people who are already at work.
After work, you can check-in and see if anyone got back to you.
Track it all in a Trello board or spreadsheet.
I highly recommend reading Predictable Revenue and putting as many of its practices in place as you can.
Yet, I believe that you are absolutely right. We should fight our inclination to see everything as a nail for the hammer that we master. The ROI on automating everything from the outset is not worth it, and if the business flops, it's just wasted effort. Worse yet, it's a missed opportunity for learning about the customers and about the domain.
So yes, do things that don't scale. If and when you get in the air, profile the business processes and only then automate the bottlenecks. It's the only sane way when you think about it.
A prospective customer/client is usually more comfortable with someone who keeps up an open line of communication than having it automated away by forms, FAQs, etc. For many industries, they expect the hands-on approach and this can be the way you get business over other competitors.
I'm not kidding when I say that simply being friendly has won me business.
But those things shouldn't (and needn't) come at the expense of not doing real sales.
If you look at recent successful B2B tech companies (I'm talking IPOs or true unicorns), you'll likely find most of them had a strong sales focus early on. Notable exceptions would be very dev-focused products such as GitHub & Twilio.
Thanks for the book recommendation.
It's interesting that you say not to automate everything. I somewhat agree, except for the payment side of things -- isn't Stripe/PayPal really low friction and simply to get in place?
Also, if people can sign-up with stripe online they're also going to expect to be able to cancel, view billing history, and print invoices online. That stuff takes a little more work.
Some of this is dependent on OP's actual product, target market, and pricing. I think its better to start with a high-touch approach. Act as their account manager, hand-hold them through the onboarding process, let them know they can contact you for anything from billing to tech support.
I like the high touch approach: it keeps you personally connected to the customer until such a time as you wish to automate away that interaction and just chase sales (but obviously still providing a great service.)
Thanks a bunch, mate.
In business: make it, make it better, make it better again, ..repeat until it's popular enough that it's painful to operate, automate it
However, if you're in B2B, the client would need to trust you, as in meeting you, the sales process, even training. What I would do is not automating the sales process, but the leads process: so you don't waste time in leads that are just passing by or checking out your product. With those you could arrange a meeting and then perhaps close the sale.
After you get some clients, you could hire someone to do the sales process you can't do. Or, if you have some savings, you can hire right away and ignore the previous paragraph.
Another option would be to have a sales co-founder, but that's another story.
Automate lead generation! learn from your potential customers, improve your product and perfect your sales->setup->training->support process.
Once you do all this, and satisfied customers are pouring in, then find a way to scale.
- Tactically: you don't need to respond to emails M-F 9-5. Yes, that's when many B2B customers are working, but they don't know what timezone you are in, and it's not uncommon to have a delay in answering emails. Just be sure to answer emails before work and after work.
- Create lots of FAQs (using https://helpsite.io – shameless plug) so you aren't answering the same questions over and over.
- (Actually you'll still have to answer many of those questions, but at least you'll have a quick link you can send them)
- Focus more on inbound marketing (creating blog posts, SEO, AdWords, etc.) rather than outbound sales, which requires a much higher amount of active work that you can't do with a full-time job.
Support was a little bit more tricky, however. The only solution we found here, other than outsourcing to an Upworker, was to try to minimise support. Make your help docs as useful as possible and spend time on improving error messages.
I would also advise you to switch to working on the project full-time as soon as you can afford to. Our growth went through the roof (we'd spent around 3 years getting to £1k MRR and tripled that in the first full-time month). Some reasons why? We could spend time with our customers and focus on improving our metrics, the stuff that you just can't automate away. We also began treating it more as a business and valued our own time spent on the project more, which resulted in increasing our prices and getting across our value proposition better.
Our approach has been approaching people or businesses in similar fields or related industries, and pitching the products to them and getting them them to sign up as affiliates. It reduces our income quite a bit and we make very little off it, but instead of us trying to reach the people they know and are in contact with all on our own, we effectively use them and benefit from them doing our marketing. They are keen to do it, since they have a good incentive to do so. Se make it worth their while. The long term goal is building up a brand, and then profiting off of that. In the meantime, everybody wins if they generate sales, but we dont have expensives if there isnt.
And yes, we met with potential affiliates during our lunch breaks, or after hours, etc. A couple were also generated through friends, family, and social group contacts.
Use your lunch hour.
Sell to businesses outside your time zone before and after work.
Hire a part time sales person.
Improve your online signup flow.
It also plays into the R&D stage where the dynamic of participating in forum posts and irc/slack chats is a whole other experience. There's a forum or two where I tend to post a question at night, and don't even look at it till the next morning because I know nobody's going to really get to it till then (my time, in Israel).
The hard part with this setup is getting motivated after a full day of work, family, etc. Pushing before/after work is perfect in terms of time, but not in terms of energy. Burnout/fatigue becomes a tougher challenge. That's really a whole other subject though...
If they won't, you'll need to keep it as a side project while you're working for them, unless you're okay with relinquishing some rights to it.
I was contacted with a purchase offer, did some negotiation, and ended up selling it several weeks later.
I realize this isn't the sort of sales you were asking about in the title, but figured it might be useful information. If anyone has questions, I'm happy to answer them.
Edit: it seems so - https://github.com/rdegges/ipify-api/blob/master/api/get_ip....
You have a busy schedule and so does your client, first thing is to not automate if you're starting out because you have to design out the system you're going to use gradually. I've tried straight-out automation but just like code most times you have to tear it down a couple times.
I recommend trying to figure how to get people to reject their current software or their current ways if not using software and use yours and find a common theme you can talk about to other prospective customers because I think that will be the main bulk of your sales and marketing efforts as we live in more software-saturated times.
I agree with a lot of the advice here and in particular I've just started building out the knowledge base in Intercom to mitigate some of the support queries.
Sales is tough but can be worth it. I've spent lunch hours walking round the business park where I work on the phone and those calls have led to multiple other leads where I've been working with a consultant rather than the end client. Putting the time in does help.
One thing I would say: be honest that the app is a side project whilst you grow it. I've found customers very understanding and willing to accommodate calls at specific times or accepting of slight delays in support queries.
Never really had time to promote it and Adwords is just an expensive game unless one has data on conversion rates and can accurately calculate a CPA. So, it's kinda trundled along with me tinkering in spare time - upgrading the code base but not really developing it.
Recently did a Slack integration which has noticeably increased traffic (1-2 trial signups per day) and that's driving more development requests and encouraging me to blog a bit more, promote on social etc.
I've also been working with some HR consultants who are selling to their clients. Long term plans are to build our more of a basic HRIS rather than just focus on absence management. Waiting for Digital Ocean to launch their object storage so I can see what that looks like versus S3 or similar.
Main challenge is to balance time between feature requests and marketing. One of the suggestions I received here many years ago was to "internationalise" the language so need to have landing page which is more US-oriented e.g. PTO management.
 https://pasteboard.co/GDUbwPA.png QTD numbers from Stripe. So just over a month.
- Extremely responsive and flexible with customer's requests. We've implemented some features overnight in response to a customer query. Turns out, some of the features have helped us with revenue growth :)
- Honesty. Even though you might lose a subscription in the short run, word of mouth helps to win back a lot more. It's delightful to break your rules if it eases a cash strapped customer. We frame such "thank-you" e-mails for motivation.
The goodwill garnered has helped us grow by word of mouth.
My latest tool has been just building a huge checklist of (mostly) passive things I can do to drum up business and focusing on just two or three of them every week: https://github.com/karllhughes/side-project-marketing
This helps me stay focused.
Then, you have to use your lunch hour or anytime you can sneak away to get the deal done.
That's if you have a budget.
If you don't, I like the idea of hiring a sales person.
P.S. I wrote a book on branding and marketing. If anyone reading this want a free .pdf copy, feel free to email me at email@example.com
Funnel leads to book demos on those afternoons you are free then follow up in your lunch breaks when back at work.
You could argue with a full time job you aren't available enough yet to be there to support B2B customers. It might be worth the 10% pay cut to take a half day each week if you truly want to give this a go.
Seriously, B2B sales tend to require "touch", and it's often reasonable for sales to require as much or more man-hours than developing the actual product.
Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with its author.
Even for the sake of accumulating debt, it may not be wise (who knows when you'll need to take a loan for groceries, tuition, etc.)
I really hate how this attitude is so abundant, and rarely comes from somebody who knows what it is to live check-to-check, already be maxed out on loans, support a family, and still build something on the side.
I did this, quit my job and ran my startup idea full-time, without enough funding, and I have a family and a mortgage. I loved it, and I regret it, and I don't regret it, all at the same time. I had some savings, but I've used it all. I've been going full-time for a lot longer than I thought I could, but I have to get a job again. My startup is making money but not enough to pay the founders, and it will be a while before we can go full-time again. I underestimated how long bootstrapping takes, and I've since watched other people underestimate how long bootstrapping takes.
It has been more fulfilling to go full time. I'm doing exactly what I want, and I'm responsible for my own success or failure. I have learned more than I would have by doing the side project on the side. We did run our project on the side for a couple years, and it was really frustrating. Going full time was a huge breath of fresh air, and a lot more fun than adding 20-40 hours a week on top of a 40+ hour full time job. I've also have a lot more time for my family, it just came at the cost of not having a lot of money for my family.
My main takeaway from having tried this is next time I'm going to do more preparation and have a runway in place before I quit and go full-time. Whether it's savings or VC funding or whatever, not having control over the end of the runway has been a mistake.
I had some blind spots & weaknesses I didn't know about beforehand, and an overly optimistic outlook. The other people on my team admit to the same. We wouldn't have learned those things if we hadn't quit & gone full time, and learning this stuff is super valuable. But I can see now more clearly why so many entrepreneurs say that big mistakes are inevitable and why so many people talk about businesses really taking 10 years to get off the ground, rather than 1 or 2.
I have started doing some consulting, and it's super helpful money-wise, but takes a lot of energy away from the startup idea. I find that consulting for 20 billable hours a week is roughly equivalent to working 40 hours at a full time job. With a family, that doesn't leave a ton of time to work on the startup.
When I do it again, I will look for at least 2 years of runway before I go whole hog, whether that's savings or VC funding. It's also a good idea to find your family's minimum comfortable burn rate (with wiggle room for emergencies). It might be less or more than you think.
Also it's important to have a good sense of how you get customers. I'm still working on that, but I truly had no clue when we started. It's a lot harder to get the word out than I thought, the internet is extremely noisy, attention is extremely scarce, and using the internet for advertising has changed considerably just in the last 5 years. Next time I will probably try to bootstrap to cost-neutral revenue before going full time. We quit our jobs before we were making any money, and just built the product for a while. It has been awesome in many ways, but we'd be in a better spot if we'd started selling sooner and waited until we had revenue to go full time.
Edit: Stripe is not US only, but the countries that they support is very limited. Not recommended if your product has worldwide customers.
As a German citizen I cannot use Subscriptions with Paypal for my company for example.