Upvotes are not sales! Lessons learned from launching a physical product 🚀🚨📈

This a story about how I launched my second project Push to Deploy and what lessons I learned.

The problem

The solution

So I tried to find something in online shops like Amazon or AliExpress but I couldn’t. Everything was too expensive like $55 or without an USB wire.

So I tried to made my own prototype…

Hardware prototype from a USB keyboard

So I needed to connect 3 keys: Ctrl+Alt+Shift+M into one button.

In Dojo I met Vaibhav Chhabra from Maker's Asylum Mumbai. He is a technical guy who offered me his help. So we bought some pieces in a electronic shop and we started experimenting :)

It kinda worked, and I noticed this is wasn’t something I wanted to use, so I need something different…

Hustle with Chinese suppliers

So I went to Alibaba, there you can buy at least 100 items. It’s a B2B market place and there’s a greater choice of products than AliExpress, which is a B2C market where you can at least 1 item.

So I found in Alibaba the button I wanted but I needed to buy at least one hundred and I wanted just one… What could I do?

💡 I came up with an idea to ask companies to send me one sample and that I could later maybe order some more :)

So instead of writing each one of them on Alibaba via DM, I figured out it could be more effective to find each company’s Skype and contacting them through it. So I created the following spreadsheet…I found the Skype details of the company on the the company’s site.

First Success! 🎁

As soon as I got it, I tried it immediately and it worked! I was so happy! :)

Content of the site

Landing page

I wanted to collect emails to know if people needed it, so I planned a trap: put a fake sale button that redirected the user to write their email.

Thanks Pieter and John for advices about the site, code help and for make it happen.

Pre Launch

So I had like 972 unique visitors and 11 emails pre orders. Not much but not bad.

Launch on Product Hunt 😽

I was retweeted and mentioned by Product Hunt, Ryan Hoover, Niv Dror

So Push to Deploy became #2 product of the day 🎉🎉🎉

And got to the TOP #4 of Best Product of the Week that arrives via Product Hunt’s daily email newsletter 🎉🎉🎉

And launched on Betalist as well.

So I got 8,944 unique visitors and 150 emails of people who wanted to buy it immediately.

At this point I didn’t know how would I make this happen haha 😀

Depression 😰

Never give up! 😤

So my friends Pieter, Marc, Oskar, Lowen and Jeroen inspired me to not gave up and try to make it happen.

Let’s make it happen!

The Goal: I need to make $1000 (50 buttons) in pre orders to start the production on the Chinese factory.

Video 📽

Sale email 📩

The Results ✅

Traffic 📈

Product Hunt 😽

Email conversion rates ✉️

  • 150 emails sent to people who wanna buy
  • 101 people (67%) opened emails
  • 54 people (36%) clicked on buy links
  • 10 people (6.6%) purchased 17 buttons

Total sales $288.58 💰

Money Spent 💸

  • Button delivery: $29.15
  • Digital Ocean hosting: $10
  • PayPal refund fees: $5.1

Total: $77.13

Time spent ⏳

  • Pure time spent: 67:54 hours (tracked by Toggl)

❗️Conclusion ❗️

  • You either need a big market or a big price, or both. You cannot have a product with low margins and a small market — the maths does not work.
  • When you make a niche product for a niche audience, it needs to be high value. If you make a niche product for a niche audience with very low profit => doesn’t work.
  • USB button is not an essential product. It’s just fun. Developers who would want it is pretty small number of people, maybe 50,000 people total addressable market.
  • If you have low profit => you need to attract many people (millions)
  • If you have high profit => you need to build a better product which a few people are willing to pay a premium for

The downsides of a hardware product

  • Continuous cost (warehouse)
  • Low margins (due to shipping)
  • As your sales increase so do your costs
  • So you’d need better margins. Maybe 75%

Other

  • Define a goal what you want to achieve. Like minimum sales revenue.
  • Put progress bar on your site with your goal to give people transparency what’s happening
  • If you are depressed (this is standard situation in startups) and you don’t know what to do with all this unknown — talk with your friend, ask people and don’t give up!

Stay in touch

So this was a failure, but thats ok, i learned all these lessons and will incorporate them in my next project.

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Recently I quit my job and I have one year to get to profitability

Want to see if I reach my goal?

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And if you’re feeling really generous, you can buy me a pack of ramen by sending $2 to my PayPal address or become my Patron