This story is split into several pieces, because I tried to keep all the important details. I decided to split it into several steps: from 0 to 10 users, from 10 to 100 users and from 100 to 1000 users.
In this story I don’t tell much about myself, so I’d recommend you to read the “About” page first to know a little about my background and how it helped me to create this project from the ground up. Read the About section.
That might sound strange, but this project and adventurous business journey has started from the book “Think and Grow Rich”. I think it won’t be too much to say – this book definitely inspires and opens the horizons for your consciousness. I read it in December, 2015, almost fanatically followed the practical advices described there, and got a realization that I am finally capable of building an online software business that I’ve been dreaming about for several years.
I knew that to build a software, which would be really useful for someone, I have to define in which area I will be looking for problems, and I have to talk to real people with real businesses in that area.
At that moment I’ve already been having clientele in eCommerce and building custom stuff for WordPress and WooCommerce users for 5 years, so I decided to follow that route and to look for the issues in the WordPress / WooCommerce area, which I was already working in.
I started surfing through different boards, forums and blogs, trying to gather the feedback from WooCommerce users, to understand what this platform is lacking and what value it’s providing really well.
Accidentally I found the WooCommerce Ideas board, which was the essence of feedback and feature requests for WooCommerce platform that I was looking for. Thousands of WooCommerce users were posting their feature requests there and voting for them. The most requested ones (only a few) were implemented by the WooCommerce team. And other ones were pure treasures for developers like me. Because any of those requests are posted and voted for by WooCommerce storeowners, meaning they really need those features. And I wanted to be the person who brings them the solutions.
I started looking through every thread there trying to find the feature request that is not already taken by someone and that still has many votes and comments inside. Finally, somewhere on the 3rd or 4th page, i’ve found this:
(back then, when I first bumped into this thread, it had 38 votes only)
My teachers taught that the successful idea should be validated first by real paying customers, only then built. But to get real customers I need to show them something, at least the demo of the tool, right?
I had to research this topic of funnels, upsells and downsells in eCommerce deep enough first, to know what I am going to work with. And to understand what exactly the audience needs, how it should look and work like for them to be highly useful. I had to think through the UI aspect of the tool from both frond-end (customer side) and back-end (storeowner side). And to think through the technical side as well. How to make upsells work with different payment gateways like PayPal, Stripe, Braintree or other. Will it require an integration for each separate gateway or only a single integration for all? All that required a research.
For several days I’ve been testing and comparing different other eCommerce platforms which were having features like “one click upsells” and funnels already built in. I watched feedback videos on youtube, analyzed the UI of the existing solutions and tried to understand how to make the best and simplest UI for my tool. Then I put all my ideas into a few simple HTML pages, that were acting like a demo funnel: product > checkout > one time offer 1 (upsell) > one time offer 2 (downsell) > thank you page. Made the screenshots of these pages, wrote a good description for them and compiled all this into a PDF file to showcase my possible solution to everyone.
Here is how it looked like:
(i still have a full version of this sketch available here, if you want to take a look)
Next, I got a free account in MailChimp and put up the ultra simple sign-up form, where I offered a 50% early bird discount to everyone, who would leave me the email and some feedback for the upcoming plugin.
In the first 3-4 days I got 5 people subscribed. Everyone received a welcome email and some questions from me. I had to know what are they thinking about the sketch. I had a couple Skype calls with them to find out even deeper what solution they need. The first guys (the team of 3 actually), I talked to, offered me $200 instantly for a lifetime license of my not-yet-existing product. I was thrilled! That was a clear sign to me that people are willing to pay for this solution. And most of them were asking when the plugin will be ready and where to buy it.
That was a time for me to build the first real usable version based on the sketch and feedback I received. The minimal viable product.
To be honest, this step for me looked like the scene from “The Social Network” movie, where Mark is building the first version of The Facebook. Just days of non-stop coding where you pause to sleep and to eat something 🙂
It took me 2 weeks and almost 100 hours in this “work mode” to build the first working beta version of the WooCommerce One Click Upsells & Downsells that only contained the Stripe integration. I sent it to the first several users and got the first payments from them.
Since each of the popular payment methods required individual integration, I have planned to integrate One Click Upsells with PayPal, Braintree and Authorize.Net in the next couple months.
Also I started getting 1, 2 or 3 new subscribers to my list every day. I was sending them a sketch first, then the access to the demo site with the plugin installed. I was receiving more and more feedback, which I was sorting and trying to prioritize. Then the second letter to them was the offer, where I asked them to pay. At that moment I had no website, no sales page, no ads, no email automations. Just a little sign-up form with an early bird offer and a couple of prepared emails that I was sending out manually every day. Anyways, in the first 2 months I got 12 paying users. And I was doing all this usually in the evenings, because my days were filled up with my consulting and custom development work.
I think that is a great introduction to the story 🙂 In the next part of this article I am going to tell you about the second step that got One Click Upsells from 10 users to 100 users. How I was improving it, building the licenses and updates server, rolling out the first update and having first support issues 🙂
If you like this story or want to share your thoughts, please leave your comments below.