I Built A Website Chat Tool & Grew It To $30K ARR

Ruben Buijs
Founder, Boei
$2.54K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
Boei
from Utrecht, Netherlands
started March 2020
$2,535
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
358K
alexa rank
266
followers
21
subs
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I Built A Website Chat Tool & Grew It To $30K ARR

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello everyone! My name is Ruben, and I'm the founder of Boei. I started Boei during coronavirus as an all-in-one solution to connect with your customers, even when you're not around.

One of the most significant issues I always noticed was how hard brands made it for their customers to interact with their company. Instead of reaching out to their customers in the places they already hang out, they would ask customers to go out of their way to receive services or information.

However, Boei changes this framework. Instead of being forced to fill out a contact form, customers can choose to contact via their favorite social channels like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, eliminating the time they would have to spend waiting for a company to reply to an e-mail or log on to their online chat! Furthermore, this widget easily integrates with your already existing website and can even have a couple of widgets inside it like a feedback widget or newsletter signup.

I've experimented with tons of programming experiments since I was 12 years old and still enjoy it to this day (throw on a bit of house music, and there's nothing I can't tackle!). While I had the idea for Boei brewing for a while, I assumed no one would be interested in this idea or want to use it. I couldn't have found myself more wrong!

One of the hubs I sell Boei through is called the AppSumo marketplace. In just ten months, I've made a gross profit of over $20,000! With over 2,088 customers and growing, I know it's just the start of the growth of Boei.

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As Boei continues to grow, I hear from businesses and audiences worldwide. Everyone from small entrepreneurs to big corporations finds Boei to be an essential component for their sales funnel and customer service strategy.

The best part is connecting with my customers individually to help find the right solutions and fits for their needs. It's not only helped create a more successful relationship with each client, but I've been able to receive incredible feedback to create an even stronger program. Knowing how helpful Boei has been to my clients makes the journey completely worth it!

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

You know when you see a problem and think, "There has to be a better solution than what's currently being offered?" That's exactly how I felt about live chats.

Gather feedback, try out your ideas and don't be afraid to make mistakes.

My friends and I have never enjoyed using live chats. While they offer themselves as a solution to chat directly with a company, they have some pretty significant downsides such as:

  • Sometimes you don't get a reply from the company after submitting all of your information, meaning you have to go back and try again to hear from a company.
  • To chat with that company, you have to keep a tab with the chat open and keep checking back for updates or sit on the screen staring at the chat for a response.
  • If you do end up getting a reply, but you didn't switch back to the tab quick enough, the agent chatting with you may already be gone, leading you to have to start the process all over again!

All I could constantly think about is how we already have communication technology that we use and enjoy without any of the similar problems that I've mentioned above. So why not integrate WhatsApp, Twitter DMs, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, and more to make it easier to build a relationship with your customers instead of forcing them to communicate on your terms?

That's why Boei was born, to offer an alternative to what already exists on the market, to strengthen customer service, and help companies stand out from their competitors.

For example, when I was eating lunch last week, I had someone message me on WhatsApp. This notification went straight to my phone, so I received the information instantly. It was a client who had signed up for a service and needed some support. Through WhatsApp, I was able to resolve the issues within 5 minutes.

Later, when I noticed a similar account was created with her name, I used the same contact method (her WhatsApp number) to ensure everything was fine and that it wasn't a duplicate account. It turns out she made an account for a friend. Not only did having the option to connect create a personal relationship, but it also sped up the time it took to resolve issues on both ends, leaving both the customer and business happier and more productive.

Creating Boei was a lot of fun for me because I genuinely enjoy programming. I've been developing since I was twelve years old and have built and run e-commerce websites for video games, created small-business software, and programmed many websites. In addition, I have been working at Accenture and Ernst & Young as a Managing Consultant for the past eight years. So while I had the experience making the software, my main concern was marketing. With programming, I know how everything works. However, with marketing, the results do not always match the initial plan.

Regardless, I pushed forward with developing the application and published it on IndieHackers, where it initially caught traction. I found an increasing number of people who liked the solution, wanted to use it and were willing to pay for it.

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Eventually, I was approached about offering a lifetime deal, which I had never considered beforehand, but was interested in pursuing. While it didn't quite pan out on that platform, I was able to join AppSumo and offer the same lifetime deal, which has been where Boei has found most of its success.

While Boei is already Bootstrapped, I may consider applying for a seed fund to raise capital and focus full-time on marketing and development for an entire year. However, that's not necessary at the moment. For now, costs are quite low, and I'm able to focus on updating Boei alongside my full-time job.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Development has always been a fun and easy process for me. I can even remember twenty years ago when I used to code in Notepad, write everything by hand, and spend so many hours developing everything myself. However, thanks to the great PHP framework of Laravel, I don't have to start from scratch every time and can focus on business logic.

For the backend, I took a completely different approach than I normally do. I started writing the code API-first to make the front-end and backend talk. I used Vue.js for the front-end because it worked well with Laravel. While I had some initial trouble setting up the front end to collaborate with the backend, resources like Stackoverflow and Google made it easy to find a solution.

I built the landing page in Laravel which came out nicely. But, I found that my messaging wasn't coming across the right way. When I posted it in several locations to receive feedback, the most common issue was that most people didn't understand what Boei was and what it could do. I took that feedback and have continuously improved the wording and messaging as best as I can.

Next, I had to figure out how to get a ton of people interested. I started with the most popular avenue - Facebook advertising. Unfortunately, while I was able to gather a large amount of interest, it didn't result in many signups. Plus, the sign-ups I did have, didn't use the product, which makes me believe it might have been fake or bots.

This is something I've seen so much in general. For that reason, I have a ton of countries blocked in my campaigns because they drove 90% of the traffic and costs without actually becoming active users of my products.

Boei was started as a free product (and I still offer a free version), but I knew I wanted to start making money and further investing in the software. At that point, I began to offer a paid plan, alongside the free one, without building out the payment system. When customers started to ask how to upgrade, I spent that day building the payment mechanism, ultimately using Stripe to offer a paid version of Boei.

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I've tried other online advertising methods, even posting on Reddit a few times. I saw success on one post that received around 40 people signing up in just a few minutes. However, eventually, I was met with radio silence as I had been blocked from posting because I was breaking their rules. Whoops! While I tried playing fair and paying for Reddit advertising (for that particular subreddit), it never panned out the same way. However, that's the beauty of creating a business. It's all about trying, learning, readjusting, and pushing forward.

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Describe the process of launching the business.

Unlike many businesses with a strict launching process and strategy, I've found my approach to be a lot more flexible. I take it day by day, analyzing feedback and changing my course of action based on what makes the most sense.

Of course, the most important considerations I had to think about before launching was the project's financing. I haven't participated in any crowdfunding or Kickstarter campaigns to raise funds. Instead, I've paid for everything out of pocket. However, this is because the costs for me were relatively low.

There were a few accounts that I had to open that I considered the bare minimum to start, including a server at Digital Ocean, Zapier account, Mailgun, and Google Business account. The cost for these services was low, primarily because I already use some of these platforms for my other projects, which results in reduced costs.

However, the highest cost I found with launching my business was my opportunity cost. Since this business is a solo venture, it's up to me to choose how I spend my hours. Therefore, it's important to me to divide my time and find a balance between working on an update for Boei, building something new, working on my other projects, and spending time enjoying hobbies or hanging with family and friends.

Thankfully learning how to automate most of my repetitive tasks and focusing on high-level priorities in my business, such as integrating new features and working with clients, has helped me spend my time as wisely as possible.

There are two big lessons I've learned during the launching process of Boei, including:

  • Ask For Feedback: I've learned to be open to feedback and continue to ask for it as much as possible. What's been incredible is that most Boei’s customers are vocal about what they think, which helps my platform ultimately succeed.
  • Distribute Attention: If you launch a landing page but don't have visitors, your product will not succeed. While you could work to improve your product, you need to have a solid roadmap. I use ProductLift to manage feedback and prioritize a product roadmap. It's easy for customers to find and engage in the process of improving the platform, even allowing you to say "no" in a friendly way. For example, if someone posts an idea, but no one votes for it or responds - it's not a popular idea. This helps me to prioritize what's essential to update or improve.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

While I excel in the programming world, I'm not great in the marketing aspect. Most of my growth is through AppSumo and Dealify. However, I've been trying to find more ways to attract and retain customers. Unfortunately, not all of them have panned out so well.

For example, I used Facebook advertisements for a while and received many signups but discontinued them due to the lack of quality leads. LinkedIn was a similar story, where I spent a lot of money advertising without seeing any concrete results.

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Currently, I find that Google advertisements are running and garnering a ton of free users. While this is exciting, I hope to be able to make that channel more profitable and convert customers through this process.

Don't be discouraged if it doesn't seem like it's happening fast enough for your business.

I've been trying to focus on my SEO through creating a blog and documentation, but it can be tricky to do it just right and focus on the proper keywords so that people can easily find my product.

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I have created a WordPress Plugin that is also generating some leads. This also makes it easy for people to set up Boei on their WordPress site. There is some sort of SEO on WordPress that I need to crack a bit better so that people can more easily find the plugin.

One thing that has helped is building my custom-made tracking software instead of relying on Google analytics. This helps me to understand the conversion cycle of my customers, allowing me to know how customers are finding my website, what pages they visit, and how they ultimately end up signing up. In addition, this helps me to track trends and make future edits or changes to pages that aren't trending or catching "dead end" pages. The other metrics I watch include the number of signups, active users, people viewing my website, paid conversions, and total revenue.

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The most success I've found with my past ventures was by focusing on my reputation. In my past business selling video games online, I found that the more positive reviews I could receive, the more sales I would make. When products look similar, ratings are really what will bump your product to the front of customers' minds. I'll often send emails offering a small gift in exchange for a review of Boei. And it works, think Capterra, AppSumo, Google, and TrustPilot.

I regularly send out a newsletter to all users, even those who have used the product in the past and don't anymore. I always include any new integrations and new features of Boei to garner more interest, especially since I'm consistently building new features and integrations for my system. For example, I recently built an integration with WeChat, now offering customers this integration through Boei.

Similar messages I post on Twitter, but they don’t seem to attract a lot of attention.

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I've tried to expand my reach by being interviewed in the Taming Tech podcast. While this process was a little intimidating, it was so much fun to do and step outside my comfort zone. Plus, Boei has also been featured on Youtube videos such as Alston's and Exploradores de Martech.

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My goals for attracting and retaining customers moving forward include:

  • Focusing on self-service instead of answering repetitive questions by providing tutorials, FAQs and improving the information I have online.
  • Adding tons of new features and integrations to eventually become the Zapier of front-end communication.
  • Focusing on building more website conversions through on-page SEO and off-page SEO through methods like chatting with WordPress podcasters/Youtubers to create an episode about Boei or linking back through Facebook groups or Twitter chats.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Boei has been doing quite well and is very profitable. As I had mentioned previously, in 10 months, I found myself making over 20k with an average MMR of 2535 USD through the AppSumo marketplace by offering customers a lifetime deal.

I've been focusing on constantly improving the services that Boei can provide through the ideas and feedback I receive from my current customers. You would be surprised how many ways you can expand your product when you simply ask those who already use it what problems they face in their business or for feedback on how my products are working for them.

My long-term goal for Boei is to become the Zapier of customer contact. When a business wants to offer multiple channels, I want Boei to be at the top of mind for companies because I'll be able to provide exactly what they need.

Success is not going to happen overnight. You'll find yourself investing a ton of time and effort to reach the goals you've set for your business.

Besides gaining more customers through additional services and add-ons, I'm working to find a more sustainable and predictable business model. While the lifetime deals are great, I find that the MMR is a little too fluctuating, which is why I'm focusing on moving into recurring subscriptions in the future. Regardless, I believe that I will continue to see growth for Boei this year and in the future.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Three things stick out to me, including:

  1. A successful business is about more than just creating something: I remember once I was in Bolivia in Salar de Uyuni in a nice pizzeria and saw this saying on the wall, "Build And They Will Come." While it sounds good in theory when you build an online offering – who will come? This is true for building a successful business. You need more than just an idea. It is all about execution.
  2. It doesn't have to be perfect, and you'll always have technical debt: I remember, some 15 years back, I wasted so many hours in the past writing a "framework" for an e-commerce store. I remember at some points rewriting the code every week with different class names to make it just a bit faster and such. However, the client was not very happy with the slow progress on the functional part.
  3. Work hard, be smart, and have patience: Success is not going to happen overnight. You'll find yourself investing a ton of time and effort to reach the goals you've set for your business. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't seem like it's happening fast enough for your business.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

There are a bunch of tools that make my daily life and business easier. A few I use regularly include:

  • Mailchimp: I use Mailchimp for sending newsletters, growing an email list, and staying in touch with customers.
  • ProductLift: ProductLift is my favorite application for managing feedback and roadmaps.
  • Zapier & Pabbly: Both of these applications make it easier to connect webhooks with other services.
  • FreshDesk: I use their free account for managing emails. I'm still on the hunt for an excellent all-channel tool that combines e-mail, WhatsApp, telegrams, and more.
  • Airtable: Airtable is great for simple forms and some automation.
  • Google Workspace: I primarily use Google Workspace for email services.
  • Calendly: Calendly is an easy way to connect with clients and potential prospects to plan a meeting
  • Updown: Updown is an excellent application for uptime monitoring.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

While many people thrive on reading books, I'm not particularly fond of reading. I think I'm too spoiled by the instant gratification of Twitter and online messages, so reading an entire book is not something I enjoy doing.

While I do find myself spending time researching and reading how to do something, If I'm unfamiliar with a process, this is the only time I dive into reading. However, the biggest thing I've learned is that you can read all the books and listen to all of the podcasts, but it doesn't compare to just doing the work. Acting instead of reading.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

As I mentioned, Boei was created because I saw a problem and had an idea for the solution. When you're just starting, you want to consider what you're doing and who you're doing it for. Ask yourself a few questions like:

  • Do you know your target audience and what you want to solve?
  • How are you providing value to your ideal customers?
  • Do you have the tools and roadmap to create that solution yourself?
  • Have you gathered feedback from your ideal audience to ensure your solutions line up with what they want or need?

Gather feedback, try out your ideas, and don't be afraid to make mistakes or take a new direction with your products or services. And just start!

Last but not least, make sure to add Boei to your website to increase conversions

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Ruben Buijs   Founder of Boei
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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