I’m a lead product designer. Working full-time for a SaaS unicorn.
I started a side gig called Conversion Design. I want to help indie hackers and engineers explain the products they are building. Most have great tech and solve painful problems but have a hard time selling them.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was working for 5 years at trivago and the design team had a very data-driven mindset. We were testing and iterating on each pixel movement. Then looked into the data to improve booking conversion metrics.
The same process can be applied to landing pages. In an accessible form for engineers.
My idea is to democratize knowledge. It’s not rocket science. Tools are becoming more accessible (even free) and easy to use.
I did go through a phase at my full-time job where the stress of the routine and lack of growth pushed me to work on my things. Things that I enjoyed doing. There’s no gatekeeping nowadays to stop you from building your own thing.
Then I read Naval’s tweetstorm and became “unemployable” for a while. Thinking that I exchange my time for someone else’s success. It’s a blessing and a curse.
I was heavily inspired by Marketing Examples from Harry which covered marketing in general with some tips for Landing Pages. Also, Zero to Marketing by Andrea writes about growth. I wanted to narrow the focus to websites and from a “growth design” perspective.
There is an entire section on Indie Hackers where people ask if their message is clear or if the design is good. That’s what I did for years at trivago.
Maybe it’s a hint that this is what people want?!
What helped me is to have a plan in place. What are your marketing channels? How can you know if something is working if you don’t measure it?!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
This is my natural habitat as a designer. It’s one of the underrated skills designers don’t realize they have. The first part and arguably the most important one of building a product people want.
I started to brainstorm for WHO this is, and WHY it’s special. USP compared to the competition. Is there even a competition or it’s a new category?
Here is my original elevator pitch.
After research, I realized potential competitors either were entirely quantity-oriented/low-quality content or marketing in general. I wanted to take it from a UX perspective. With a process.
A landing page is also a digital product.
My “unique selling proposition” brainstorming
I build a couple of digital products and analyzed the conversion rate to improve it. Indie hackers could benefit tremendously from that. So I decided to add also a case study into the mix. Real practical examples.
Then I realized I can ask people to Apply and help redesign for FREE online businesses that are interesting to me. We all work on things we don’t like but we get paid for that. For me, this is play, only if I like the product.
Don’t start building until you talked to your potential customer.
You would be surprised but helping others is also therapeutic.
I helped already 3 indie hackers with that and am in the process of writing the case studies.
After designing the wireframe and visual – I coded it visually in Webflow. Used their CMS.
I have to admit it took way longer than expected, like months longer. Because I was writing content myself while being a new dad and starting a new full-time gig that was demanding.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I’m still in the process of soft-launching the product. I learned that big bang launches on Product Hunt can be disappointing or unsustainable.
I launched on Twitter and promoted my content on Indie Hackers, Reddit, and other communities.
Then I created a Twitter profile specific to the product and started sharing flash tips or reduced versions of blog posts or case studies. I got pretty decent traction and still getting followers daily.
Lately, everyone is struggling with social media marketing. I think people seem to be a little burnout post-pandemic. It’s a grind but I know it will pay in the long run.
I’ve set up various touchpoints and techniques to allow people to subscribe. This is important. You need to have an action you want people to take.
My growth chart since launch at end of April
I don’t have expenses except for domain on Namecheap and hosting on Webflow.
That’s the beauty of running a newsletter I guess.
10$ year domain. 192$ year CMS and Hosting. I also pay a monthly subscription with Webflow for using the web development tool: 19$ x month.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Some advice for growth and what helped me is to have a plan in place.
What are your marketing channels? How can you know if something is working if you don’t measure it?!
Aim for the places where your audience is. Ideally, if you built the product the right way you know where they are and you have some fans of your product. If not, do your research. Ping people directly.
Here’s my snippet for a marketing plan that I take as a reference when I make a decision. It’s for my paid version were I offer optimization services and development for a monthly fee. For people that can afford it. I don’t compromise on price.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
It’s a blog/newsletter mixed with the agency model. Since it launched I have had a stable growth trajectory in subscribers and the Google search engine picks up my blog more and more in terms of SEO.
For now, I am not looking actively for paid service clients: my other channels are cold or warm contact founders in my circle of friends and acquaintances. For now, I just focus on building brand awareness and email subscribers. You can make friends also along the way that will support you along the way.
I have multiple tools I’m using to bring data to design decisions before building landing pages and after. I have an idea to build a SaaS specifically for that. Simplicity as USP.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The hardest lesson I learned is that “they don’t come if you build it”. You can have the most amazing product but drown in the noise of products (mediocre sometimes) screaming for attention.
Make sure you have a plan on how to get the word out there. Make it systemic.
I’m a product designer with 10 years of experience offering FREE website designs and still struggling for people to apply. Imagine that.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
As mentioned earlier domain on Namecheap and hosting on Webflow.
Only paid tools.
For the rest, I mostly use free tools like:
- MailerLite as an email tool
- Airtable and Zapier to connect forms and light CRM
- Figma for design
- Notion to document everything and project management
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Almanack of Naval Ravikant
Realize that in the modern age you have absolute leverage to make whatever you want and get wealth and freedom
On Writing Wellby William Zinsser. Learn to write for business, communicate with people, and present what you do.
The 1-Page Marketing Plan by Allan Dib. Don’t go blind and sucked into social media metrics without a plan. What’s the point if you're getting that extra like on Twitter? How is it meaningful for your business? It’s easy to get sucked in the dopamine hit with no value.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Don’t start building until you talked to your potential customer. Maybe this belongs to useful resources but read The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick.
Life is too short to build things that people don’t want or pay for. If you combine a tech stack you’re passionate about and a useful product you hit the jackpot.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Once I grow my business I assume I will need growth designers like me or visual designers in Webflow. For now no.
If you want to chat about building a SaaS together I’m looking for a tech co-founder (preferably Ruby on Rails).
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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