Let’s Catch Up
It’s been a little while since we posted from Tiny Cables. Almost six months.
For those who need a refresher: Tiny Cables is a project launched earlier this year by two software entrepreneurs who were curious about what it takes to launch a physical product. We blogged the process — from concept and sourcing to testing and UPC codes — on this very Medium publication.
We went from concept in February to shipping units in June.
Our most recent post, about product photography, went live during that first week in June. We haven’t published any updates since. The simple truth is that we’ve been busy with our software startup, Benja — we launched an initial coin offering and I wrote a book — and Tiny Cables was moved to the back-burner.
We knew we’d get back to writing and moving the business forward once we had the bandwidth. Here we are. We’re back.
The post today is going to be a bit of a catch-up. I’ll share how sales have gone, discuss what has worked and what hasn’t, and touch on social media and advertising. We’ve got some thoughts on the future of our product line, too, which we’d love to get community feedback on.
Let’s dig in.
First, our sales performance to date.
We’ve generated $958.02 in revenue, about $136 or 17 units per month. That’s one cable every other day.
The bad news: that’s less revenue than I hoped would come from our blogging effort and the construction of our organic marketing operation.
The good news: after the initial launch phase, with almost no effort, sales grew on the strength of search engine optimization and repeat business. That means the blog posts were doing their job, and the product was doing its job. That’s good.
The other good news: we’ve received only positive feedback, received no returns, and we still have plenty of inventory ready to ship.
Even if the top-line revenue number is disappointing, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic.
The problem is this: if we’re doing our best with organic marketing, we need to figure out social and paid marketing. And we have no idea how.
Many of the top brands in the world don’t view social media as a means of promotion — instead, they view Facebook and Twitter as storytelling vehicles. Airbnb shares grand tales of travel adventures, Nike tells stories of people doing the impossible, and Apple amplifies the creative work of its users.
This remains true in the world of consumer electronics and accessories:
You aren’t being sold a phone case in these posts. Instead, you’re being sold adventure and a life where you don’t have to worry about dropping your phone. These are posts crafted to inspire, not scare you about what might happen if you don’t wrap your iPhone in $80 of rubber and plastic.
This is best practice, but how do we inspire while talking about 8", $8 charging cables? No, really, we’re asking.
And when we consider paid marketing, an even more troubling troubling question is revealed: who are we trying to sell to?
Before we can evaluate what makes an effective advertisement, we first have to identify our audience. This is, after all, where the process begins when you place an ad on Facebook, Twitter, or Google.
What should be a simple question is extremely difficult.
So I went back to the beginning.
When we started the company, we believed there to be two core use cases:
- Plugged into a laptop on your desk
- Plugged into a laptop while traveling, like on an airplane or train
I believe both use cases are true but they’re exceptionally difficult use cases to train an advertisement for, so I zoomed out. Who are the people plugging into laptops on desks or while in transit?
My instinct has been to believe software engineers and other technical folk would recognize the value in a quality cable (with a lifetime guarantee) and in the efficiency achieved by de-cluttering a work space. Following that instinct, I assumed our product appealed to owners of Android devices. Ya know, the phone for software engineers.
Surely, I thought, the sales figures would back this up by showing Micro-USB and USB-C cables to be our most popular product.
Not so. All of our top-selling products have been those with a Lightning plug for use with Apple devices. Sigh.
Hoping to find smoke — somewhere, anywhere — that might lead us to fire, I sniffed around our other analytics:
A few things:
- Our top traffic source, which I believed would be direct or search, has been social. There is not any apparent social content driving all of this so I’m at a loss for where this came from.
- Leading e-commerce researchers identified 2016 as the year mobile devices and tablets overtook desktop in terms of traffic. Continuing our habit of bucking every trend and confusing the team, our traffic has come— overwhelmingly —on desktop.
The short of it is this: nothing makes any sense and I have no idea who has been buying Tiny Cables. And that’s a problem, because we want to sell some more Tiny Cables.
This is my first request: if there’s anybody out there who can help us figure this out, we’d really love the help. Tweet us. Otherwise, we’ll start wasting our money aimlessly A/B testing Facebook ads and nobody wants that.
Lions and Tigers and Wireless Chargers, oh my!
I’ve wondered if an expansion of our product offering might be the way to gain traffic, since I can’t remember the last time I personally went to a consumer electronic accessory brand’s website and directly purchased a single item. I don’t think I’ve ever done that.
We could go the easy route, think in terms of vertical integration, and try to own a larger piece of your accessory stack with a killer portable charger or, given the general direction of the market, a wireless charging pad.
We’ve considered trying to get ahead of the USB-C trend (where almost all new laptops have abandoned the USB-A port entirely), consider that airplanes and other public places near-exclusively offer USB-A ports, and sell converter nubs.
But all of this seems like a distraction that doesn’t bring us closer to who the Tiny Cable owner is. The portable charger has nothing to do with the desk-based use case, nobody is bringing a wireless charging pad for use on an airplane, and those converter nubs may actually be a B2B sales effort.
Our cards are on the table. We have a product that works, some happy customers, a little cash in the bank, and some loyal readers.
Where do we go from here?
Tiny Cables is a project by Tommy Goode and Andrew Chapin, two tech startup founders who have no idea how to launch a physical product. We’re blogging the entire experience on the Tiny Cables Medium publication. If you would like to receive updates by e-mail, subscribe to our newsletter at TinyCables.com.
Thank you for reading.