From Avengers Endgame to my first (kind of) successful product

Have you ever felt while reading an article that it would be great to get just a short summary of it to find out if it worth your time to read the whole thing? I had the same feeling while I was traveling home for a long weekend and was trying to catch up on the latest news about Avengers: Endgame.

tl;dr

A bit of background story

I always liked superhero movies, but I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore fan. I watched only the third of Marvel movies in the cinema and at the beginning, I didn’t really follow the timeline. If I didn’t know what to watch on a lazy Sunday night, these movies were an easy option. But, when I started to see the bigger picture and how the actions in one movie affect the other one, I got hooked and I become pretty excited about Endgame. I had mixed feelings after I watched it and I thought that the reason behind this was that I didn’t know all the details about this universe that was necessary to fully understand the story. So while I was traveling home, I had 2 hours to catch up and fill the holes in my version of the Marvel Universe. Of course, I found a ton of articles around this topic but after a while, I felt that they all talk about the same thing. And most of the articles were pretty long. I got bored and started to read just the headlines in them to see if there is anything new I didn’t read in another article. This was the point when it popped into my head, that it would be great to view a highlighted version of the article and consider reading the full article based on the information in that. With a social media background, the story format was the first that came into mind to solve this problem. That’s how the basic idea of Story View born.

Ship it fast

I felt that building a universal platform to solve this problem and test my hypothesis would be really time-consuming and I wanted to ship the tool as soon as possible so I decided to build a WordPress plugin as most of the publishing sites are running on that platform. Creating a WordPress plugin was a thing on my todo list for a really long time so I just got the opportunity to give it a go.

With just a bit of experience in this topic, it was a bit challenging to get started, because for every search I ended up on an existing plugins page instead of the WordPress documentation. I know that there is a plugin for almost everything but I didn’t think that this will make it harder to find the solutions to my problems. After a few days, I found the right keyword combination to get the desired results but at the beginning, it was really frustrating.

It took about two weeks from the first idea to the MVP and at that stage, I was happy with the result. As always, I had so many more things in my list to implement but I decided to keep those in the backlog for a future release.

The target group

I felt that this plugin would be useful to anyone who is running on WordPress and creates longer articles. Travel bloggers, gastro bloggers, tech reviewers, local news sites, etc. Basically, everyone who didn’t use the platform to create a classic website with it was and is in my target group.

The business model

First, I wanted to build a free version of the plugin and a premium one with additional features. Then I realized, that the features I designed to be part of the free version would be enough for most of the users and they would probably never upgrade to the premium version. So I skipped the free version and went with the premium right from the beginning.

Distribution

The biggest premium WordPress plugin market I know is Envato so my first idea was that I’ll distribute my plugin through them. But then I checked the commission rate… This is how it looks like when you are a premium author with the lowest possible commission rate:

learn more about it here

I wasn’t impressed 😂 I made a few searches and found out that Gumroad would be a great fit for me at the beginning. This is how their fees look like with a “free” account:

If you use the Free version of Gumroad, our fee is just 8.5% + 30 cents per transaction. If you get the Premium version of Gumroad for $10(USD)/month, our fee is 3.5% + 30 cents per sale.

To validate my idea, this was a great option for me.

The power of community

This was the first time I truly felt the power of the maker community on Product Hunt. I used Maker Goals to track the bigger milestones of my development process and it got noticed by other makers 😊 This way and with the help of the guys at MFY I had the opportunity to set up a launch offer to make my product more “attractive”. And it worked. Besides, I got more than 200 upvotes (which for me is a lot) I also made 6 sales in the first 2 days after the launch. And that means, I finally made my first $100 with a product I built by myself. Although at the moment the project is heavily underpaid based on the hours I spent on the development, this result made me really happy 😂

As expected, after the first few days the number of visitors and purchases dropped. To stay on the surface I started to get in touch with potential customers via email and other available channels. Basically, I searched for travel bloggers, gastro bloggers, tech bloggers, news sites, etc and checked if they use WordPress. If they did, I sent them a recommendation about my plugin. (you can check the source for “wp-theme” to see if a site runs on WP, or you can use this handy plugin) To date, I contacted more than 100 site owners, but it looks like that there wasn’t any purchase from this source. Probably I had to use a different subject, shorter message and better examples to catch their attention. I already tested a few versions, none of them seemed to work.

What’s next?

I already added a highly requested function to the plugin (custom blocks to display HTML codes and support shortcodes) and I still have more than 10 items on my to-do list that would make it better (AMP stories, tracking, custom font, and background colors, animations, etc). I would like to run some Facebook ads as well to reach a bigger audience because contacting the site owners manually is really time-consuming and looks ineffective at the moment. We’ll see how it turns out.