10 Rules of growing a startup from 0 to $2K MRR
Dagobert Renouf has recently grown his startup from 0 to $2K monthly revenue. It was not all roses. Why does nobody want to buy from you from day one, and how to get a steady and growing income? These 10 rules contain the answers Dagobert has found.
1. Wrong, lame or poor marketing is better than no marketing at all.
Logology has 2 co-founders: me and my wife. As a technical person through and through, from the very beginning I was focused on the product. My wife is a designer, she is a source of a unique knowledge set and skills that is behind all Logology business. So basically, she was focused on the product too.
None of us was dealing with marketing in the beginning. And this was our biggest mistake. When we shipped the product it did not matter how perfect it was from a technological point of view, how drastically different it was from anything on the market — just because we had not made a conscious and focused effort to sell it there were no customers to buy it.
It took us almost a year to realise where we were wrong. It was a miserable year with virtually no sales and no revenue — and it all made us doubt if we could make it work.
2. When you first launch your product you almost always launch it to the wrong audience.
When we had this idea to build Logology we basically thought “logo generator but better” because all existing generators frankly suck at delivering anything valuable.
Logos that you get there are extremely generic and have no reflection of your brand whatsoever. But they are super cheap. On the other end of this line are graphic designers who charge from $1000 to whatever they want to create a truly unique experience.
We figured out we could be something in between — with my wife being a very talented designer, we could take her skills of identifying unique features of the brand and automate the whole creation process. The output would be a unique, meaningful logo but way less expensive than hiring a designer.
With this thought in mind, we positioned Logology as a quality alternative to logo generators and targeted the lookalike audience — people who would be interested in logo generator services. It did not work. We spent over $500 on Google ads and got 0 conversion. Why? Because at least 2/3 of people interested in logo generator services are teenage Twitch gamers.
And with all my personal respect to Twitch gamers, they are not our audience. It took us quite a while to figure out who our customers are. Right now we’re focusing on startup founders. They need a personal touch to their branding but they can’t afford to spend extra on professional designers. Feels like we’re a good fit.
3. Your customers will make you rethink who you are.
As we pivoted from “everyone who needs a logo” to startup founders we suddenly realised that we are not an alternative to logo generators. Because our customers don’t use them in general.
We are an automated branding service. That’s what we think about ourselves now. And honestly, it sounds much better to my ear.
4. The best marketing channel is the one where your audience is.
When we figured out who we’re dealing with I started to look around trying to find the best marketing channel to deliver our message to the world. I tried Reddit — it felt like a great choice because there are several subs that connect startup founders. But Reddit is a specific platform — you can’t just jump in and start selling your product there. The community is pretty much agains any sales pitches.
What worked for us — is my post where I explained that we’ve launched a service that helps founders get better branding for less and asked for community feedback.
As browsing and creating logos is free on Logology (you only have to pay for the downloaded file) it was not perceived as a sales pitch. So we got some sales from Reddit. But then traffic stopped — obviously, I can’t post the same story every week.
My next platform of choice was Twitter. And so far, it is the best marketing channel for us. Twitter is definitely a place where our audience is, and the conversion of the traffic from Twitter is way higher than any other.
5. The best sales tactic on Twitter — is not to sell anything.
Though Twitter works wonders for us, I have to admit that this is a very special platform. Like on Reddit the community is pretty much against any sales pitches.
Therefore, if you want to use Twitter as a marketing channel you have to forget about sales and start making friends. Communicate with people, be helpful, be funny, be positive and be very consistent. I spend several hours a day engaging with the community on Twitter. It’s probably a 20h/week job for me now.
6. When you’re building a tech startup you always have to make choices about choices
— how much of everything you’re going to offer to your customers. Do you build a feature that will let them do from here to here, or from here to over there. You constantly choose where you put the limits for customers. And it’s almost impossible to get it right from the very beginning.
First of all, because you just can’t ship all the features at once, you start with the MVP then build upon it. But you also have to figure out where to stop adding things, where these new features don’t contribute anymore to the value and just distract customers.
For Logology it was always a choice about the number of logo versions we offer. A designer will offer you 3–5 quality logos. Logo generators will generate maybe 100 very generic ones. How many are right for us? We constantly run tests, and right now we feel that about 20 versions work the best.
7. Some features that you consider to be a priority might turn out to be absolutely useless for your customers.
There are two ways to figure it out: ask them or test them. In the beginning, we were almost certain customers would want to get exclusive rights on the logos they buy.
It made sense: they came to us because they were not satisfied with the generic approach of logo generators, they needed more unique brand experience, therefore they would love to make sure this unique logo belongs to them. Right? Wong!
We arranged a simple test: offered price options. Pay $100 and just download the file. Pay $400 aour designer will make it unique to your brand so you can have exclusivity. In this case no-one else will be able to use it. Guess what? We have only two customers so far who decided to invest in this more expensive option.
8. The only way to productize the service is to create as many scenarios as you can and store them in the database.
I’ve heard some people talking about productzation in terms of hiring more people to run simple tasks. It is not our experience. I sat for months with my wife, and we worked on splitting the process she uses to create a unique logo for a customer into a series of questions and answers.
What info does she need to create a unique experience? How do the answers impact the result? Then we created as many possible scenarios as we could and put them into the database.
Now, a customer has to fill in a simple questionnaire — and the app offers a logo version based on their answers. This is how I see a productised designer’s service.
9. You will never get anywhere if you only think in terms of sales, churn rate, bounce rate, etc.
Start thinking in terms of revenue. When you understand that you need to get to a certain level of revenue you start seeing a big picture. And you’ll get more creative with your tools of achieving it. You can work on getting more traffic, or you can offer additional services, or you can target other audiences.
Right now, we’re working on a set of logos for small businesses. We hope to expand to other markets to get to the level of revenue we’ll be comfortable with.
10. The most important thing in a startup is relationships.
Build your business with a person you trust and respect as a professional, with someone you’re comfortable with. For me — it’s my wife. I know for certain that what kept us running for a year without customers and what makes us grow today — is our trust in each other.