Upvotes are not sales! Lessons learned from launching a physical product 🚀🚨📈

This a story about how I launched my second project Push to Deploy and what lessons I learned.

The problem

When building my first project When to Surf I was struggling all the time to open terminal, copy paste script that deploy my site. I was very lazy to do it every time.

The solution

I wanted to push some physical button to deploy my site and see how it looked like. I didn’t want to run some scripts from the terminal, just hit it and see the result.

So I tried to find something in online shops like Amazon or AliExpress but I couldn’t. Everything was too expensive like $55 or without an USB wire.

So I tried to made my own prototype…

Hardware prototype from a USB keyboard

Michael from Dojo Bali gave me his old USB keyboard for experiments.

So I needed to connect 3 keys: Ctrl+Alt+Shift+M into one button.

In Dojo I met Vaibhav Chhabra from Maker's Asylum Mumbai. He is a technical guy who offered me his help. So we bought some pieces in a electronic shop and we started experimenting :)

It kinda worked, and I noticed this is wasn’t something I wanted to use, so I need something different…

Hustle with Chinese suppliers

So I believed that there was an existing product in China so I decided to research and do all I could to find this button or stop this project altogether.

So I went to Alibaba, there you can buy at least 100 items. It’s a B2B market place and there’s a greater choice of products than AliExpress, which is a B2C market where you can at least 1 item.

So I found in Alibaba the button I wanted but I needed to buy at least one hundred and I wanted just one… What could I do?

💡 I came up with an idea to ask companies to send me one sample and that I could later maybe order some more :)

So instead of writing each one of them on Alibaba via DM, I figured out it could be more effective to find each company’s Skype and contacting them through it. So I created the following spreadsheet…I found the Skype details of the company on the the company’s site.

First Success! 🎁

I negotiated with this company and they sent me one sample, I just paid the delivery and my button arrived!

As soon as I got it, I tried it immediately and it worked! I was so happy! :)

Content of the site

The next step is to show people what this process is about (push button, run script and deploy a site) and even better, this was about a demo.

Landing page

So I bought a domain pushtodeploy.io for $33 and made a simple website based on a free HTML template with a GIF on the front page to immediately show what the product was about.

I wanted to collect emails to know if people needed it, so I planned a trap: put a fake sale button that redirected the user to write their email.

Thanks Pieter and John for advices about the site, code help and for make it happen.

Pre Launch

I showed it to people in my Twitter and Facebook

So I had like 972 unique visitors and 11 emails pre orders. Not much but not bad.

Launch on Product Hunt 😽

So exactly as I did when launching When to Surf, I decided to launch on Sunday midnight San-Francisco time to have more votes.

I was retweeted and mentioned by Product Hunt, Ryan Hoover, Niv Dror

So Push to Deploy became #2 product of the day 🎉🎉🎉

And got to the TOP #4 of Best Product of the Week that arrives via Product Hunt’s daily email newsletter 🎉🎉🎉

And launched on Betalist as well.

So I got 8,944 unique visitors and 150 emails of people who wanted to buy it immediately.

At this point I didn’t know how would I make this happen haha 😀

Here I started to think about delivery, cost price, 3PL companies (3d party logics companies… I even didn’t know this word.), Amazon, PayPal fee and refunds and all this shit.

Depression 😰

I feel like I went to the total unknown. WTF should I do? And where will I I find this companies that will help me deliver these product? How much should I sell to make profit?

Never give up! 😤

So my friends Pieter, Marc, Oskar, Lowen and Jeroen inspired me to not gave up and try to make it happen.

Let’s make it happen!

So I just asked people how to make this happen and some of my friends recommended me EasyShip 3PL company. I called them and they explained me all the costs. I made a basic cost calculation:

The Goal: I need to make $1000 (50 buttons) in pre orders to start the production on the Chinese factory.

Video 📽

I have never done any sales video so this was my first one. My friend Alex helped me shoot a video in Hubud co-working space with his iPhone :)

Sale email 📩

So I made a sale email with this video and send to all my 150 subscribers who decide to buy the button. Marc advised to make the price range to sell more than one button to one person and it worked. Some people bought more than one.

The Results ✅

Traffic 📈

My site got visited by more then 10k unique visitors:

Product Hunt 😽

  • PH votes: 717 (Top #4 weekends launches)

Email conversion rates ✉️

  • 150 emails sent to people who wanna buy
  • 101 people (67%) opened emails
  • 54 people (36%) clicked on buy links
  • 10 people (6.6%) purchased 17 buttons

Total sales $288.58 💰

So I didn’t achieve the goal of $1000 sales and I on 16th of May (on my Birthday) decided to stop this project and I made refund to all :( But it was a cool feeling to keep receiving PayPal notification when some unknown person send me money 🤑

Money Spent 💸

  • Domain: $32.88
  • Button delivery: $29.15
  • Digital Ocean hosting: $10
  • PayPal refund fees: $5.1

Total: $77.13

Time spent ⏳

  • Time period from idea to sales: February 13— May 16
  • Pure time spent: 67:54 hours (tracked by Toggl)

❗️Conclusion ❗️

  • You either need a big market or a big price, or both. You cannot have a product with low margins and a small market — the maths does not work.
  • When you make a niche product for a niche audience, it needs to be high value. If you make a niche product for a niche audience with very low profit => doesn’t work.
  • USB button is not an essential product. It’s just fun. Developers who would want it is pretty small number of people, maybe 50,000 people total addressable market.
  • If you have low profit => you need to attract many people (millions)
  • If you have high profit => you need to build a better product which a few people are willing to pay a premium for

The downsides of a hardware product

  • Upfront cost (buying everything)
  • Continuous cost (warehouse)
  • Low margins (due to shipping)
  • As your sales increase so do your costs
  • So you’d need better margins. Maybe 75%

Other

  • Calculate all your cost before launch and check everything like logistics, PayPal fee, delivery.
  • Define a goal what you want to achieve. Like minimum sales revenue.
  • Put progress bar on your site with your goal to give people transparency what’s happening
  • If you are depressed (this is standard situation in startups) and you don’t know what to do with all this unknown — talk with your friend, ask people and don’t give up!

Stay in touch

So this was a failure, but thats ok, i learned all these lessons and will incorporate them in my next project. If you want to know what my next project will be or want to see me try succeed next time please follow me in Twitter

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