I learned Ruby on Rails at a coding boot camp a bit over two years ago. Since then, I’ve been playing around with an app idea and in September 2016, I quit my job to pursue it full-time.
That idea is EatHow, a web app that gives you recipes you can make with the food you already have and helps you plan your meals.
Aside from creating a useful, cool app I can call my own, the goal is to build a profitable business I can comfortably live off of.
Right now, there are under 50 users and no revenue. How have I been building an app for over two years and this is all I have? Well, I was teaching myself to program during that time but more importantly, I made one huge mistake.
Since starting EatHow I’ve done zero marketing except for one measly Facebook and Instagram post to my titanic network of 150 friends (I’m a cool guy). If you read just a couple of things on starting an online business you’ll know that this is not a smart approach .
I’m a strong believer in ‘scratch your own itch’ projects. Working on something you really care about makes it much easier to build the product and get through the tough times, especially as a solo founder.
However, I convinced myself that as long as I was doing that, I didn’t have to worry about marketing yet. Some of you are probably in the same boat, but this will only make things harder for you in the long run.
Marketing your product before you have it doesn’t just help you find your first users. It helps refine your message (pitch, value prop, etc) and gather feedback on whether you’re headed in the right direction or not.
Users users users. In the next four weeks I’ll focus mainly on getting 100 paid subscribers.
I’m not looking for crazy growth. Right now, I just need to know if anyone gives a damn and if I’m building the right things.
The good news is, there are at least 19 different channels to look for users. The bad news is, I have no idea which will work and which won’t.
Luckily, the founder of DuckDuckGo and author of Traction, Gabriel Weinberg, has a framework for working through this problem. In short, it involves coming up with one strategy for each channel, picking and testing three, then focusing on the one that works best.
I’ve decided to start with:
SEO Just optimizing your site isn’t enough to get you to the first page of search results. However, it does augment the effects of other channels that are driving traffic to your site. It’s more of a boost for my other marketing efforts than a main driver of traffic.
Online Communities There are three communities in particular I think could be interested in EatHow. Product Hunt because they’re interested in everything, Reddit because they’ve shown interest in this specific idea and Hacker News because they love reading about other startups. Which brings me to my last channel and the reason for this post.
Content Marketing In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about my experiences and approach as I try to build EatHow to ramen profitability. For me, that’s $1600/month. I’ll share revenue and subscriber count as well as how exactly I’m tackling product and growth.
That last tactic has huge benefits — keeping me accountable, helping other entrepreneurs by sharing my experiences, and forcing me to think through exactly what I’m doing in simple terms.
If it seems strange to do this type of content for a consumer product, it is but I’m not looking for tens of thousands of users yet. Right now, I’m looking for people willing to try a new app that hasn’t proven itself, the tech crowd seems like a good place to try.
I will be open about every step, what works and what doesn’t. That’s terrifying but also kind of fun (transparency not failure). Stay tuned for the next update.
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