So, Blurt is ten months old this month. Insane!
Sadly, I've not given Blurt the attention it needs the last few months. I've been sidetracked getting some consulting up and running so I can keep my entrepreneurial endeavor going.
And while Blurt has grown and people continue to use it, it has a serious problem. It's a leaky bucket.
I've struggled with churn since launching. It's high. As of today, it's at 24%! 😩
After a number of exit conversations with customers, I attribute it to five reasons:
- Landing page & onboarding — While visually, the landing page might look great (or so I've been told 😅), it does a poor job of communicating the value you'll get from using Blurt. The landing page showcases a mix of its features, but not the value to be had from using it. I think expectations get confused so it's hard for a user to understand Blurt's value. Secondly, the onboarding is weak. It could use better guidance to show how to best use Blurt to get the most value out of it. Pin the tab. Write at least once a week. Etc. "Engaged users don't churn." My hope was that Writing Effort email reminders would keep engagement, but hasn't been the case for most. Alternatively, Chris made a good suggestion I look for Aha! moments. Typically I see good stickiness when someone hits a three day streak. Or if Blurt helps them write something that gets a good public reaction. Could work harder to increase those moments for new users.
- Requiring a credit card to sign up — This either turns people away or causes immediate cancelations. People are curious, but only so much. It's a pretty heavy handed decision and I still feel good about it. Initially I did this namely because it was easier to implement Stripe trials this way. I also wanted to know if it was something people would pay for. Now that I've confirmed that, maybe I'd be wise to not require credit card. I should build a product people happily and willingly pay for after the trial. This may have the added benefit of getting more people giving Blurt a spin too.
- Other stellar note taking apps — People keep notes via other tools (like Notion). Those tools can be accessed anywhere (mobile, desktop, etc.). And because note taking is a more frequent occurrence than longer form writing, Blurt is difficult to fit into a workflow.
- No social layer — As a consumer app, this is typically a requirement. Occasionally Blurt chat has some great conversations, but that's the extent of its social layer. I need to consider some easy valuable ways to get Blurt users interacting with one another. Notifications in app when others hit goals. Streak records and leaderboard. Ability to applaud or cheer on those who hit their goals. I've contemplated writing feedback or real time co-editing, but those are significant efforts. And, there's tools that already do this well.
- Aspirational need — Many people aspire to write more, but don't stick with it. It's bit like a gym membership — we sign up expecting to hit the gym more, but sometimes don't. It's ultimately up to us to find that drive. Changing user behavior—as I'm finding—is difficult. Once people don't stick with their writing effort, it's hard for them to find value in Blurt. There's only so much Blurt can do. Building a solution for an aspirational need is difficult. I think as a bootstrapper, it's wiser to build a solution that quite literally does a job for someone than one that requires them to still do work.
What to do about it?
So, I've got my work cut out for me if I want to fix this leaky bucket. 😅
Or maybe it's time for a pivot. Or a 2.0.
I've contemplated turning Blurt into a browser extension. Taking the best of Blurt out of the web app and into all places we might write on the web: blur, word count goals, progress tracking, streaks and Smart Edit. Through an extension, Blurt isn't competing with other editors. Ideally, it'd bring those features to them. There's plenty of great writing apps out there already. That's not necessarily Blurt's strength. Such an effort would certainly bring new unforeseen challenges. Namely, I'm not even sure if it's possible. And, importantly, I don't know if that's something others really want. Grammarly does some of this already and well. (That could be a sign of a great "fishing spot" but I'd have to find that out.)
Or something else?
Or I can spend my time working on something else.
I've learned so, so much through Blurt these last 10 months. I've personally grown a ton. I'm glad I've stuck with it. Many times I thought of starting something else, but I wanted to see Blurt through.
As a result, I've grown a lot entrepreneurially. Learned so much about business, marketing, and myself. I've met lots of incredibly great people. Blurt has been an incredible experience for me. I don't think I'm giving up on it entirely—myself and others still use it—but I think my focus will shift. The biggest reason for the shift is because of point number five above: building an aspirational need product is difficult for bootstrappers.
Instead, I want to work on something that does a job. I think getting away from an aspirational need to a JTBD product would go a long ways for me as a bootstrapper.
Some characteristics I'm looking for as a bootstrapper:
- Does a job — People hire our products to do a job for them. This typically means: (a) The user knows they have a problem (b) They are resolving that problem but unsatisfactorily. (a) essentially means a market exists. And (b) is indication that the user will have interest in a solution.
- 100 true fans — Consumer is hard for bootstrappers. Consumers are more price sensitive which means we need more of them to make a businesses out of it. It also requires more marketing momentum to garner more attention from people. B2B products, on the other hand, solve very specific problems and businesses have the money to spend on them. This means we need fewer B2B customers. If trying reach 100 true fans, I'm likely looking to build some sort of B2B SaaS.
- Warrants commitment — If someone is going to go ahead and buy an annual plan, I'm doing something right. Will depend on the business model and number of "true fans" needed, but I think this is a good heuristic for determining PMF.
- Defensible — Ideally, I also work on something that produces valuable intangible assets: brand, aesthetic, knowledge, software, a network, or valuable relationships. These are the kinds of things that build a moat and enable stickiness.
- Proper Validation — I'd like to be able to approach building a product that I can properly validate. I shouldn't spend more than three months building and validating it. I should probably try a no-code solution first. Get a landing page up early with survey, etc. In the most ideal scenario, I'm able to get financial commitments before even building it. 😅 We'll see. This time, I'm aiming to do better research (keywords, forums, etc.), be better involved in helping my community, sharing the process and have better conversations about what I'm doing along the way.
The Maker Way pic.twitter.com/VIA4OAhnxx— Corey Gwin (@corey_gwin) May 18, 2018
I'm seeing some pent up opportunities in the no-code space. I love fellow makers and would love to help more there. I'm also seeing the occasional glimmer of new B2B SaaS opportunities given my experiences consulting now.
Ultimately, I'm going to be taking a different approach in the coming days. In the back of my mind, I know if I start something else I’m going to hit similar turning points. But I can’t help but think that I’ve grown so much in 10 months that I might approach things differently. This Seth Godin quote has been stuck in my head since reading it a few months back:
“It doesn’t make any sense to make a key and then run around looking for a lock to open. The only productive solution is to find a lock and then fashion a key. It’s easier to make products and services for the customers you seek to serve than it is to find customers for your products and services.”
— Seth Godin, This is Marketing