Last week, we committed to continuing the Tiny Cables story as we navigate the challenges of building an effective sales and marketing machine. We sold a few cables after we launched but the buzz has worn off — it’s time to figure out how to keep revenue flowing.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one.
For Tiny Cables, the problem is clear: we don’t know who our primary customer is or how they use our product. As we dug in last week, we realized our analytics tell a story much different than we expected. Rather than Android-loving developer types, we have been selling to a lot of iPhone users.
There are a lot of ways to go about identifying the primary customer. We decided to go for the low-hanging fruit: we sent out a tweet and an e-mail to everybody on our list.
Between our 1,075 Twitter followers and 1,676 newsletter subscribers, we received 12 replies. Oh, and 13 unsubscribes from our newsletter. C’est la vie.
Here’s a selection of my favorite replies and what we learned from each:
The one that revealed a use-case I hadn’t considered:
… As for USB-C, the Nintendo Switch is completely built around that from the controllers down to charging. So if you’d like to advertise to gamers, the Nintendo Switch is an excellent example of an on the go device that needs some tiny cables …
I haven’t personally owned a video game console since 2011 and I’m completely out of touch with the video game world, so this one caught me off guard.
This is a perfect case for why entrepreneurs should have a business partner and speak to as many people about their effort as possible: your scope as an individual is limited, and personal bias is very, very real. You’re not exposed to as many viewpoints as you think and even if you are, there’s a difference between awareness of a viewpoint and internalizing/understanding them.
I also learned the Nintendo Switch is pretty cool.
The one that compared long cables to a television show on CBS:
For the most part I use them just as much at my desk as I do plugged into my computer on set while I’m on the road. I use them for external hard drives USB-C -> USB-C, and to charge my phone. USB-C -> Lightning.
The best part is that their size guarantees I’ll never lend them out. These cables are personal, clearly meant to be a utility and not to be shared or passed around. People like long cables in the same way they like ‘Little Sheldon’. Doesn’t take much thought. You see a cable, plug it in, and eventually it tears or you leave it at work or someone’s house, buy a new overpriced one for $10 at a gas station, and if you’re lucky enough to bend it at the right angle so it works for a little bit, it’ll either fall a part after a few days or electrocute you.
I guess if I had to classify tiny cables, I’d say that you guys are a niche product, meant for people who have most likely seen citizen kane (or at least claim to have seen it), but have never seen little sheldon.
This made me laugh.
While the point, on the surface, comes across as a compliment — indicating that Tiny is solving a problem for the person who cares — it actually underscores the problem: our value proposition requires thought. The value prop isn’t readily apparent, and we need to do a better job of communicating that. We need to illuminate the pain-points and eliminate barriers to understanding.
The one that made me want to dust off old psych textbooks:
… what you have not shown me is an image of “the clean lines created between my Mac and my device” and how this looks within a professional, independent/entrepreneurial workspace. …
… TinyCables can help me do what I really need: “De-Clutter My Life” because LONG cables don’t bring me value… Long cables confuse my brain because, when I’m working on my computer, my brain should be focusing ONLY on my most important project… NOT on adjusting around a bunch of long cables… they just distract my brain from what I’m trying to produce. …
Another customer chimed in on Twitter and agreed with the de-clutter angle:
This one is obvious — we know this is an angle but we haven’t pushed our copy or efforts to hit that audience.
The one that fits the use-case we expected when we launched:
I only have two USB-C ports in my life: the one on my XPS 15, and the one on my OnePlus 5. The cable connects the two. Nothing else. I use it for internet tethering in places where I don’t want to broadcast my hotspot, or if I want to charge my phone while giving my computer internet. I also use it for Android app development …
This one felt good. At least we know our assumptions weren’t totally off-base.
The one that hates our LEGO photoshoot:
Legos… I have 4 children… they do Lego stop-motion movies; I’ve been subjected to Lego movies… you get the picture… Is this what you want me thinking when I’m looking at your product?
The e-mail went on to make a few other points, including questions about the Tiny Cables logo and brand, all of which were valid.
We thought our LEGO photoshoot would make us stand out — no other electronics accessory company has figurines posing with the product — and drive home the size connection between tiny cables and tiny figurines. Doesn’t seem like we made the desired impression. Instead, we drove (at least one) reader to think about stepping on LEGOs in the dark when he thinks about Tiny Cables. Swing and a miss.
What We Learned
Our original expected use-case exists and those customers find value in what we’re doing. We received a positive signal that we don’t need to look elsewhere, we just need to figure out how to find these people.
That said, there are strong use-cases outside of what we expected. The Nintendo Switch user and creative who has to carry around external hard drives are great, especially since they should be easier to find with online display advertising.
Before we dig into advertising, though, we need to up our product photography game. This photo works — kind of — but we need to do a more professional version that illustrates the organizational/de-cluttering benefit:
The good news is that there’s a strong community of organizers and blogs about de-cluttering workspaces — that gives us another target audience.
Our next two action steps:
- Coordinate some new photography, both for advertisements and the product listing pages.
- Start scoping out our four core audiences: developers, videographer/digital agency types, Nintendo Switch users, and organizers. Learn where they live online and what best practice is for companies who sell to them.
More next week.
HUGE thank you to those who e-mailed in. All of you offered valuable insights, whether they were one-line replies or 1,000-word tangents. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.
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.