mile 2

The very first product I ever built never got any traction. Zero.

By Boris Glants, TurnKey Co-Founder and CTO

I had been running a software development business for a year or two, and I wanted to try my hand at building my own product. Much of my consulting work consisted of building websites, and naturally, the product I decided to develop was a website builder.

Unfortunately, I approached everything as a programmer rather than as an entrepreneur. At that time, my software consulting business consisted of me answering Craigslist ads and building web applications for my customers. Naturally, I made a ton of mistakes, including:

  • I built the product without talking to any prospective customers. Most of my consulting customers were paying me to create higher end websites and were not interested in doing it themselves. I failed to realize that a very cheap website builder would be dealing with a different market segment which I didn’t understand.
  • I did zero competitor analysis. I took on this challenge about a year after WordPress had launched, and I didn’t even know that the platform existed.
  • When I launched the product after building it during my spare time for about 9 months, it didn’t get any traction. I advertised a bit on Google. The users who signed up actually didn’t end up building any websites. They must have been confused by the interface – but I don’t know for sure, because I didn’t talk to them. Idiotic.
  • I was still doing my paying projects on the side and decided to focus on continuing customer work instead of trying to figure out how to promote the product.
  • I didn’t know how to troubleshoot my product or what to do next. I didn’t ask anyone for help. I gave up.

Knowing everything I know now – having now used WordPress, having used Wix and other website builders – the product I built was pretty close to product-market fit. I just didn’t know how to take it to market or at the very least be thoughtful about its creation.

So here is the lesson. If you are a developer and you’ve built a product, but it’s not getting traction, I have one piece of advice to share. It’s the same advice I wish I could go back in time and give myself:

Go have 100 conversations with your prospective customers and anyone else who has worked in your space, especially salespeople, marketers, and product managers. If you can’t figure out what to do after 100 conversations, give yourself a hall pass and quit. My bet, you’ll have a dozen or more ideas that you can implement to get your product off the ground.

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