Did you have an existing audience before FeedbackPanda?
PersonalIy, I didn’t. Before FeedbackPanda, I might have had 200 followers on Twitter, and I wasn’t active there at all. But I wasn’t a teacher either. Danielle had no audience, but she was part of the community and a member of the teacher tribe to which we intended to sell. We understood where the audience was, it just was not aware of our product yet.
What specific moves have helped you build an audience for FeedbackPanda?
Community participation was the biggest part. Enabling other tribe members to share our content that we provided on our blog was very important to us. We engaged with community influencers on Facebook and Instagram, talked to them, gave interviews, and interviewed them ourselves. We became part of our community.
How did you maintain a tight feedback loop with your audience?
In particular, we had a very tight feedback loop with our customers through our customer service chat application. Whenever a customer would reach out with an issue, Danielle or I would make sure their problem was solved quickly, exceeding their expectations, and that we would continue to have a chat even when we had resolved the problem. Lots of very interesting conversations happened through our Intercom integration, and it was worth it: we always had our finger on the pulse of the ESL online teacher community that way.
What was your inspiration to write a book?
When we sold the business two years after founding it for a life-changing amount of money, a wondrous thing happened: all of a sudden, our business was not ours anymore, and we needed to find other things to do. I started writing, and I noticed that I liked that even more than coding! I started a blog in November 2019, and vowed to release one post every week for a year.
To keep me accountable, I started publishing a weekly newsletter as well. After a while, I started compiling the blog posts into an extensive 25,000-word guide, which looked very much like a skeleton version of a full book—and a number of people on Twitter and Indie Hackers suggested that I should write one. Well, at that point I decided to turn it into a “real” book, and Zero to Sold is the result of that.
What specific tactics/strategies have helped you in building a buzz before launch?
In addition to releasing content every week through the blog post, newsletter, and podcast, I shared progress updates wherever I could. I told people when I reached new milestones with email subscribers. I told them when I started engaging editors, and shared the good and the bad of the whole journey. I’d often share screenshots of what I was working on, or I’d talk about what I was concerned with and asked the community for help. A lot of people reacted very positively to being asked their opinion, and I always appreciate getting a second opinion.
Was building an audience for your book any different than your product? What were some noticeable differences if any?
The main difference between writing a book and building a SaaS is that the SaaS grows in public, and changes to it are immediately reflected in customer service workload and churn percentages. You don’t have that luxury with a book, particularly if you offer it in print: if it’s good, it’s good, but if it’s not, it won’t sell. Rapid iteration after releasing a book is much harder than pushing a new version of your software to the cloud.
But in most ways, building an info product and a SaaS product are very similar. You need to find an audience that is willing to pay money for solutions to their critical problems. This concept is the core thread of Zero to Sold, and it worked very well for creating the book as well. In a way, the learnings taught in Zero to Sold all went into making the book happen.