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

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

The problem

When building my first project When to Surf I was struggling all the time to open terminal, copy paste script that deploy my site. I was very lazy to do it every time.

The solution

I wanted to push some physical button to deploy my site and see how it looked like. I didn’t want to run some scripts from the terminal, just hit it and see the result.

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

Michael from Dojo Bali gave me his old USB keyboard for experiments.

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

In Dojo I met Vaibhav Chhabra from Maker's Asylum Mumba 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 believed that there was an existing product in China so I decided to research and do all I could to find this button or stop this project altogether.

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! 🎁

I negotiated with this company and they sent me one sample, I just paid the delivery and my button arrived!

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

Content of the site

The next step is to show people what this process is about (push button, run script and deploy a site) and even better, this was about a demo.

Landing page

So I bought a domain pushtodeploy.iofor $33 and made a simple website based on a free HTML template with a GIF on the front page to immediately show what the product was about.

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

I showed it to people in my Twitterand Facebook](http://facebook.com/andreyazimov

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

Launch on Product Hunt 😽

So exactly as I did when launching When to Surf,I decided to launch on Sunday midnight San-Francisco time to have more votes.

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](https://betalist.com/startups/push-to-deploy 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 😀

Here I started to think about delivery, cost price, 3PL companies (3d party logics companies… I even didn’t know this word.), Amazon, PayPal fee and refunds and all this shit.

Depression

I feel like I went to the total unknown. WTF should I do? And where will I I find this companies that will help me deliver these product? How much should I sell to make profit?

Never give up! 😤

So my friends Pieter, [Marc](https://twitter.com/marckohlbrugge, Oskar, [Lowen](https://twitter.com/flowen_nl and Jeroen inspired me to not gave up and try to make it happen.

Let’s make it happen!

So I just asked people how to make this happen and some of my friends recommended me EasyShip3PL) company. I called them and they explained me all the costs. I made a basic cost calculation:

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

Video

I have never done any sales video so this was my first one. My friend Alex helped me shoot a video in Hubud co-working space with his iPhone :)

Sale email 📩

So I made a sale email with this video and send to all my 150 subscribers who decide to buy the button. Marc](https://twitter.com/marckohlbrugge advised to make the price range to sell more than one button to one person and it worked. Some people bought more than one.

The Results ✅

Traffic 📈

My site got visited by more then 10k unique visitors:

Product Hunt

  • PH votes: 717 (Top #4 weekends launches)

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 $288.5 💰

So I didn’t achieve the goal of$100 sales and I on 16th of May (on my Birthday) decided to stop this project and I made refund to all :( But it was a cool feeling to keep receiving PayPal notification when some unknown person send me money 🤑

Money Spent

  • Domain: $32.88

  • Button delivery: $29.15

  • Digital Ocean hosting: $10

  • PayPal refund fees: $5.1 Total: $77.1

Time spent ⏳

  • Time period from idea to sales: February 13— May 16

  • 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

  • Upfront cost (buying everything)

  • Continuous cost (warehouse)

  • Low margins (due to shipping)

  • As your sales increase so do your costs

  • So you’d need better margins. Maybe 75%

Othe

  • Calculate all your cost before launch and check everything like logistics, PayPal fee, delivery.

  • 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.


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

Want to see if I reach my goal?

And follow me in Twitter

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