Maintenance in terms of "Making sure stuff doesn't break" also doesn't have to take a lot of time. January was a bad month for me, and that only took about one hour of firefighting and one hour of (hopefully) preventing the next firefighting.
I actually emailed you in the beginning of '09 after reading about your site in Bob Walsh's MicroISV book. You took the time to send a lengthy and detailed response which was very appreciated.
I recall patio11 speaking about marketing to the educational market but not sur if he covered recurring subscription revenue vs. Flat annual rate or not.
I taught high school CS for ten years and can tell you from personal experience that you are scratching at the surface of a very promising market. Most schools hand out the traditional lesson plan books at the beginning of the year during faculty meetings and in-services. They are a pita to fill out and maintain and frequently change year to year if you are worth your salt
However, I believe your sales would increase dramatically were you to target administrators and department chairs instead of individual teachers. $20 per instructor is well within their annual budget and they are very open to ideas that make day-to-day operations smoother.
Making it possible for parents to view the lesson plans would enable you to engage entire districts without much difficulty.
And then make it work for them. You have a good product.
Most schools have a curriculum director (or someone in that capacity) in charge of coordinating classes, adding and dropping courses, etc. They usually interact with everyone from admins to teachers.
Principals are the decision makers but asst principals do a lot of the implementation.
You'll be able to cold call with no problem. And now's a good time of the year to lay the ground work for 2011-2012.
Here's the key: be functional and very useful. Schools are up to their eyeballs with the latest wiz-bang gadgets.
Your product may qualify under some kind of Federal Grant. Many schools have part/full time people whose job it is to manage grant applications. They'd be able to help you as well.
Are there other similar things that teachers have to deal with, that he could expand into?
Thanks for these posts, by the way--I find them patently inspiring. It's nice to know I'm not the only developer with a million ridiculous project ideas. Keep up the good work!
Fact: you are one guy doing this on your own. And that's the only fact they need to know. Everything beyond that can fabricated to build confidence and brand perception. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not saying you should lie or be dishonest in any way, but their perception of you (and your business) is entirely what you make it out to be. If you say you're doing this as a side project and you're blatantly advertising it as such, you're selling yourself short. Side projects die, and nobody wants to pay for a service that will die in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, if you advertise this as a one-man bootstrapped profitable business that you pour your life and energy into, then you create a whole different perception. People will support that. People will be impressed, and they will talk - as long as you can deliver what is expected. And there's some free word-of-mouth marketing for you. They will also be more understanding if you make mistakes, as long as you accept the blame and correct those mistakes. People are naturally understanding - especially when they're dealing with other people, not a giant faceless bureaucratic machine.
So I say fuck that. Don't hide yourself. Be open. Share your numbers with the world. Tell the world who you are, and tell them you're serious about what you do. If you aren't confident about your product, others will see that - and they won't be confident either. Don't make it a side project, make it your baby. Nobody will love your product if you don't love it first.
I built a product (back in 2008) that was aimed at the education sector for students and teachers to use to study in groups, but alas it never got much traction with large groups like I intended. But it was heavily popular with international users from (mainly) Europe.
I had pretty much 0 luck marketing to school districts or schools, just a few classrooms.
It seems the school district market is a hard nut to crack that I've been wondering how one can angle on..
Thanks a ton for the tips Matt!
On the other side, I think that some people, seeing he is making some money, would feel he's charging too much (or something else). It may not happen, but why take the risk ?
http://planbookedu.com/ - seems to have a better design than the others. The UI of a site really is important to me, and how I perceive the company or outfit, not sure if that is a good thing, but its important. You will attract the more web-savy peeps - IMO
As far as features I added sharing which allows teachers to generate links that they can send to other teachers and embedding which allows teachers to put their planbook right in their website.
Nothing revolutionary, but both helped w/ SEO and increased visibility with target customers.
Or did I mis something?