Nicolas Le Roux

@nicolasleroux

Appsumo is the seed round for bootstrapped companies (we made $177,429 in two weeks!)

One year ago, I started working on Botletter, a turnkey solution to send newsletters and drip campaigns on Facebook Messenger.

After graduating, my goal was to expand my knowledge by launching a SaaS and scaling it. As a solo founder, I don’t want to raise money for tons of reasons. Raising money and recruiting an A-team require experience I certainly don’t have yet. I rather prefer to hone my skills by building a great product and growing revenues.

Long story short, bootstrapping a business is great but when it comes to growing it, the struggle hits hard! After 3 months, I eventually got my first customers. The release of the second version of Botletter after 6 months confirmed the product-market fit. Since then, my profit was too low to turn the growth machine on…

“bootstrapped SaaS businesses often take 18 months before they’re profitable enough to be competitive with reasonable wages for the founding team”
— Patrick MacKenzie

As Patrick McKenzie stated, “bootstrapped SaaS businesses often take 18 months before they’re profitable enough to be competitive with reasonable wages for the founding team”. During that time, your marketing budget equals to zero. However, the reality for venture capital-backed SaaS businesses is different as they “are designed to trade cash for growth, which means they’re designed to lose a lot of money upfront while perfecting their model; almost no funded SaaS business ever has failed at that goal”.

To avoid being trapped in a slow “word-of-mouth” growth, you have to find a quick way to get a large amount of money from your first few hundred users. One popular option is offering a “lifetime deal” to your early adopters. Usually, lifetime deals come at a highly discounted price to induce an air draft of new customers.

To run such a deal at scale, you can partner with a distribution firm specialized in promoting tech lifetime deals. The most popular platform is Appsumo. Appsumo is cherry-picking tech products for their community of 1M+ members. I heard about it thanks to Maxime, from the Pixelme team, who put me in touch with Jeff from Appsumo.

Maxime email introduction, thanks again!

The deal is quite simple and is nearly non-negotiable: people can purchase a lifetime deal to use your product for $49. That means that for a highly discounted price, people get a lifetime access to your product. After talking with Jeff, we decided to pull off a pretty generous deal: for $49, you get all Botletter’s features and can send up to 50,000 messages per month. In order to satisfy bigger senders, the deal is stackable. Also, people can add an unlimited number of pages to their account, allowing agencies to buy a large number of coupons (some of them bought up to 20!).

I was even more excited when I discovered that Pixelme made $170,000 in 2 weeks and Lemlist $160,000! You do the math: that’s a huge check for an early-stage startup. If you do your own lifetime deal, you will likely end up with just a few sales and a lot of energy wasted.

In short, Appsumo allows you to multiply your user base, get a significant amount of money and all this with little effort: after a quick call and few emails, everything was ready for the launch!

Also, the Appsumo team will provide you with great feedback in order to make your product look better. For example, Jeff did some suggestions regarding Botletter’s branding and positioning. They also master the art of messaging and will definitely come up with nice taglines to promote your product. Feel free to use them in your future communications!

Botletter got 2743 new users and made $177,429 in two weeks

The Appsumo deal runs for two intense weeks. First, your product is soft launched. The Appsumo team writes an article to present your product on their platform. Even without any promotion, you will get a few hundred people popping up on your website and frantically asking questions. Botletter got 293 comments directly on the Appsumo page.

After one week, the Appsumo team sends an email and features the deal. Here starts the madness: you constantly get more than 100 active users during the whole day 🔥

In the same time, Appsumo promotes the deal through Facebook ads to spice things up! I’m not sure what kind of budget they allocate to each deal but during the whole two weeks, I constantly saw Botletter ads in my Facebook feed. 48H before the end of the deal, a recap email reminds people to get the deal before it’s over.

In the end, sales were astonishing for a one-man show SaaS:

  • 3621 sales and 2743 new users
  • $177,429 revenues in two weeks
  • 10,063 unique visitors
  • A conversion rate of 27,3%
  • I expect the refund rate to reach a maximum of 15% by the end of the refund period (60 days). This is pretty high compared to Pixelme (2.37%), probably due to the fact that people can stack an unlimited number of coupons. Also, due to a calendar hitch, a similar product launched at the beginning of the refund period, probably increasing a bit the number of refund requests.
  • I lose one regular customer who churned to get the lifetime deal 😐However, the organic acquisition increased after the deal thanks to word-of-mouth. I expect to get a few regular customers from organic traffic soon!

Promoting your product on Appsumo is also a good way to get tons of feedback from new users who actually use your product and paid for it. In two weeks, be ready to see your roadmap backlog tenfold!

I especially got inspired by the 1,037 conversations we had with Meghna through Crisp, our customer support solution. Talking to the sumo’lings allowed us to add many feature requests on Botletter’s Public Roadmap. They also voted for the next features they want which helped a lot to prioritize future product updates!

Customer support statistics

After looking back, I would strongly advise bootstrapped businesses to do an Appsumo launch between 6 months and one year of product development, whenever they reach a product-market fit. Doing so, you will get a huge amount of feedback that will help develop key features to beat competitors in the future.

How to prepare your deal to optimize sales

Set up your checkout page

The first part of the job is to build a coupon system for the deal. You provide a list of 10,000 coupons that Appsumo users can purchase and redeem in the app. Each coupon allows them to upgrade.

Botletter’s page to redeem the Appsumo coupons

You also provide a little guide with the steps to redeem the coupons. It has to be the most simple as possible for sumo-lings:

-Click the link above and sign up for an account (If you already have a botletter.com account, just sign in)
-Complete the Botletter onboarding
-Visit the redemption URL (https://www.botletter.com/appsumo) and enter your AppSumo coupon 
-Click the “Redeem coupon” button and you are upgraded!

Nail your landing page

In addition to the Appsumo article, your landing page is really important to convince people to get the deal. Before launching, be sure to refresh the design and work on your value proposition.

Check if your landing page answers the following questions:

  • What problem is your product solving?
  • What is the end-value of using it?
  • For whom is your product made for?
  • What’s needed to start using your product?
  • How much does it cost?

Adding pictures, animations, or a video of your product is usually a good idea to help people understand easily what you offer. Here are few good examples from other SaaS:

Crisp product demonstration
Plutio Landing Page

Don’t forget to add an analytics solution to track your visitors and eventually a Facebook retargeting pixel to improve conversions over time.

Set up a customer support solution and create an FAQ

Your landing page can’t be perfect and you want to be able to quickly answer common questions from potential customers.

I chose Crisp to add a live chat to every Botletter’s pages. Crisp is an affordable and easy to use customer support solution. You can also generate a help desk and use your content there to quickly send answers within the chat.

Creating an FAQ section is mandatory before your Appsumo deal. It will help you save a lot of time by providing answers to many people before they contact you through the chat. Here is how you can come up with a good help section:

  1. Review your past emails and live chat conversations in order to spot recurring questions
  2. Write detailed and straight to the point answers to those questions
  3. Add a “How-to” category with a tutorial for each one of your features

Hire someone to help you handle customer support (optional)

Customer support is key. It was one of the main success factors of Botletter’s deal as you can see in the following comments:

However, customer support takes time. You have to answer all questions by email, through the Appsumo comments or the live chat. If you’re like the Pixelme team and you have a full-time job, you can take a day off or two in order to keep up with the questions.

I was alone working full-time on the deal so it was okay. If you have one or two co-founders, it will definitely be way easier. I eventually hired Meghna who helped me for two nights while I was getting some energy back. As she is based in India and I’m in Portugal, the time difference was perfect to have a customer support constantly available. She did an amazing job, thank you Meghna :)

I met Meghna when I lived in Bangalore, India. If you don’t know anyone, you can easily find someone on Upwork or other freelancing platforms. It will cost you some dollars but it’s definitely worth it!

Create a transparent Public Roadmap

Sumo’lings know that your product is still early stage and may have some limitations. However, they want to know how the product will look like in 6 months — 1 year.

The most efficient products featured on Appsumo usually share a transparent public roadmap. That way, people can see what are the next features coming and eventually can add their requests.

One simple way of creating a public roadmap is through a Trello board. That’s what we did with three different columns:

  • Backlog: list all feature requests you have.
  • In Progress: features you are currently working on.
  • Done: features in production.

Make sure to allow people to share their feature request in a Trello card or through a form. I also activated the “vote” super-power in order to allow people to vote for their favorite features. This is a perfect way to easily prioritize future developments.

Be sure your servers can handle the traffic

This one is obvious but be sure your server can handle an important traffic. Here is our traffic during the two weeks of the Appsumo campaign:

Nothing too fancy but increasing your server’s capacity can avoid a crash that could lower your number of sales!

Encourage people to give you some tacos and share the deal

Appsumo is a community. They trust each other for testing new products. Thus, if sumo-lings give you good ratings (aka “tacos”), you will probably be off to a good start to skyrocketing sales.

Within your customer support solution, do not hesitate to ask people for a five-tacos review when they are happy. Around one-third of the Botletter’s 20 reviews came from just asking people to do it.

What’s next for Botletter

Getting 2742 new customers in 2 weeks is a big deal for a bootstrapped business. After getting tons of product requests, my main focus is to build an A-product. I began tracking the Botletter’s Net Promoter Score, an indicator to measure the satisfaction of your user. My goal is to quickly reach an “excellent” NPS (> 50):

Product Update

Following the Trello public roadmap votes, I already published a product update improving the segmentation capabilities:

✅ Add subscribers to multiple segments
✅ Set a different opt-in for each segment
✅ Create a different Sequence for each segment
✅ Manually add/remove subscribers to a segment
✅ Propose to new subscribers a carousel of up to 10 segments to pick

There is also a new growth tool coming (I’m just waiting for Facebook’s approval to release it). People will be able to receive the Botletter opt-in to subscribe to a newsletter by commenting on a specific post chosen by the page owner. This is the most asked feature and I can’t wait to publish it!

The next six months will be dedicated to product improvements and some integrations with top-notch products such as Jumper.AI or Zapier.

Business model change

The former pricing was generating frustrations. You were able to pay to increase your monthly message limit but doing so, users were charged the same amount regardless if they reached or not the limit, which doesn’t seem fair to me.

Also, the segmentation-related features are more resource intensive. All users don’t always need it so I have decided to create a premium plan to get access to it.

Therefore, Botletter’s new pricing is now quite simple: you pay $0.006 per message sent. No hidden cost. You can unlock the segmentation features for $49 per month and then get a discount per message ($0.005).

Last but not least, the Appsumo campaign revenues will allow me to double down on marketing. My goal is simple, 10x our current acquisition metrics in order to quickly increase recurring revenues.

One other great thing with Appsumo is that they want to build long-term relationships with entrepreneurs. After the end of the deal, they are willing to keep helping companies to grow in the future.

For example, I had the opportunity to chat with Nick, a paid-marketing expert from the Appsumo team. He gave me some insights on how to create and optimize a paid-marketing strategy for Botletter which was highly valuable to me.

In a nutshell, launching on Appsumo is not only about money. It’s a way to reach an amazing community of product enthusiasts and to level up your game by getting actionable feedback from the Appsumo team.

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