If you build it, they will come… Sometimes loudly and all at once

How launching Paperform did not go to plan, and why it turned out to be a great thing.

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A bit of background

AppSumo reached out to us after seeing us on BetaList to see if we were interested in partnering with them for a promotional deal, and we thought, “What a way to kick-start this thing — heck yes”. An AppSumo deal works like this: we give them coupons for an amazing deal (in our case $39 for a Lifetime Pro account), and they promote that deal to their +800K user base. We both take a cut of the revenue, and everyone wins! With our armoury full of feedback and kickass preparation plans, we were ready to do this thing.

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One Week Before Launch

Rolling with the punches at this point was pivotal in allowing us to make the most of what this really was — a massive opportunity to harness unprecedented interest. So, we kicked into a gear we didn’t know we had to keep up with support, reorganised ourselves at lightning speed, and prioritised the core tasks necessary for the tidal wave we knew was coming.

December 7th — Launch Day…

We had hoped to be hunted further down the track and didn’t bank on it happening so early in the piece — we were looking for momentum, not a single moment. We had something like 2 upvotes when we woke up and ended the day on about 30. Feeling somewhat dejected that Product Hunt hadn’t worked out for us, we decided to reach out to the Product Hunt team and let them know about our experience. A few hours later they wrote back letting us know that we were actually scheduled to be featured the next day. Oh boy.

A Perfect Storm

Due to some lucky timing, we were able to use the AppSumo deal to highlight our Product Hunt listing, and our Product Hunt listing to promote our deal. We finished that first (intentional) launch day with over 1k deals sold and over 640 up-votes on Product Hunt. The cooldown over the next few weeks until the deal ended saw our Product Hunt page reach over 950 up-votes (the most up-voted form service on Product Hunt to date), and several thousand paying customers — the ultimate validation! We could write a book on all the small moments and experiences that went into those few weeks, but it’s best summed up here:

What we learnt

  • Beta testing while necessary, is a little overrated. We learnt more in a week about how our product needed to evolve from paid users than we did in months of beta testing and qualitative interviews with free users. Beta users tend toward the theoretical, paid users need your product to work for them today and they will tell you what they expect. Keep your testing time as limited as possible and get your product into the hands of people who will have a real, vested interest in your product working for them. Even if it’s just a few paying customers, it’s worth it.
  • Big deals are an amazing way to attract early users. A lot of people thought it was a bit weird that we would be happy to give users lifetime access for a marginal fee, but when you have an early stage product having people actually using your product is well worth the cost of supporting them on an ongoing basis.
  • From our experience, users who purchased our lifetime deal are exactly the kind of people we needed. They are forgiving of bugs and lack of features, yet they are vocal about how the product could change to meet their needs. They’re invested in what the product could become, not what it is right now.
  • Listen to your customers! We had a moment in the first week of our promotion where a large amount of our potential customers were complaining about a minor limitation on the deal (a small branding line that said “Powered by Paperform” at the bottom of a form). We decided to act quickly and remove it. In doing so communicated that we were listening, and that we actually care about what matters to our users. It was a small change for a big win.
  • Great support is everything. It has to be number one, and if you’re a founder, director, manager, or anyone at the top level you can’t afford to not spend time getting your hands dirty. Direct contact with your users will show you who they are and what they want. These are the people who are paying for your product — they are the primary factor in your having a business. Without them, you have nothing. Spend time on the ground directly engaging with your users. They will love it and be grateful, and you will find it invaluable. (Side note, Intercom is amazing for managing support).
  • Be honest. Users are in general extremely forgiving (even supportive) if you don’t have what they want or if you have bugs, as long as you communicate with them clearly and honestly, and let them know you are genuinely committed to supporting them. You don’t have to have a solution immediately, but you do have to engage and let them know you are there and you are listening. If they give feature requests, be thankful that they are taking the time to let you know — don’t get frustrated about hearing the same thing over and over again. Make them feel like you’re all on the same team, because you are.
  • Release a public roadmap — be transparent with your users and gain their trust. This will set expectations, and prove a valuable tool when you get a ridiculous amounts of requests to know when features are coming out. You don’t have to put every little thing on it, and obviously don’t ever promise more than you can deliver — that would be a disaster.

What we’d do differently

  • We’d be far more prepared in terms of on-boarding resources, help, FAQs etc. We ended up writing most of these on the fly and the affect it had on support volume was huge every time we made information about our product more accessible.

We want to give a big shout out to Olman Quesada and the AppSumo team who were awesome to partner with, and have really given us a leg up. We highly recommend working with them, especially if you are starting out. Also, the Product Hunt team who got behind us and featured us! It really makes a difference. Most of all, we are blown away by the enthusiasm of our users, and are continually grateful for their support and patience.

Paperform helps anyone easily create beautiful forms online. See paperform.co for more info or start a free trial right now.

Paperform is made with love in Sydney, Australia by power couple Dean and Diony McPherson.

Article originally appeared on paperform.co.

Written by

Co-Founder of Paperform.co. Maker of things. Going grey and loving it.

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