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Launching a Product with Amy Hoy

Amy has been championing an incredibly pragmatic approach to starting and growing small businesses for years, and has a new roadmap plan for creating the tiny seed that grow into the real deal. I'm following along over the next 12 weeks and seeing if I can't make something happen.

Just the other day I was sitting down to think seriously about what I need to do in order to launch a small, focused product as a service. That evening I got an email from Stacking the Bricks about the revamped launch plan guide called launch.ftw. Incredible timing – I decided on the spot that I would be following along live with Stack the Bricks, and tracking my progress here.

The Goal

Gross $ in one year with a product.

At the price of dollars a month you need 667 monthly sales in one year, counting each month is its own sale. With a churn rate of percent, that means over 12 months we need to convert 124 individuals.

Assuming a conversation rate from the site to the mailing list of and from the mailing list of percent, we'll aim for a list that collects 621 email addresses.

Bottom line, we're looking for 56 invoiced users per month, 0.34 new user sales per day, 2 users subscribing to the email list per day, and 11 unique visits per day.

This is acheivable!

The Budget

In terms of budgeting for project returns, this process is a foundation-laying loss-leader process. Very simply put, over 3 months you’ll put in 24 blobs of time (at least) for an expected value of $10k. To make this break even on its own would be booking blobs at $420. My blobs cost significantly more than that, but I think that the foundation has a lot of room to grow.

The Project

Hoy et all lay out a pretty clear explanation of the approach to using market research to develop a Minimally Useful Product, content marketing to build an email list, then an email drip campaign to convert those leads into sales.

Fundamentally you need:

Our thing to sell is going to be Pushbroom. Pushbroom is an open-source analytics analysis tool.

I think another thing that should come into play is a social media strategy. For Pushbroom this will look like a focus on Mastodon – using that as a source for digital ethnographies as well as an avenue for sharing content and driving traffic.

The Product

Hoy defines your launch product as “A SMALL, SHARP THING” which directly addresses one painful aspect of your audiences life. In dealing with this pain, they save 10 to 15 hours of time or money; that is between 1200 — 4000 dollars.

The Launch

Hoy’s Launch is an email drip campaign that is sent to users who’ve subscribed to a mailing list from your website, which is publishing content marketing blog posts. The drip campaign is 4 emails, each sharing a meaningful, helpful thing, and a final email that attempts the conversion to a sale. These will run for any new subscription to your list going forward.

The Content

The content which does the marketing is a set of 5 to 10 documents on your website which each deliver a meaningful, helpful thing to address the pain your users have via the method you’ve determined is the most helpful; we’ll get to this product and user research later on. This content is backed by a landing page that can capture subscriptions, and something Hoy calls the GOODIE which is a free thing one gets as a result of subscribing to the list.

Week Zero

Date: 2023.04.10
Unique Sessions Last 7 Days: 9 / 77
Mailing List: 1 / 621
Subscribed Users: 0 / 124
Active Users: 0 / 56
Invoices Issued: 0 / 667
Gross: $0

Each week we’ll track where our metrics at in terms of our goals, then carry it through after the launch. Page views are almost entirely just me using the skeleton app that already exists, and we already have one person subscribed to the mailing list! It’s my friend Nate.

So this week we’ll be working through Hoy’s user and market research methodology and laying the groundwork for what our product is.

Data: Product & Market Research

The core question we need to generate a useful answer for is:

What do your future customers need?

We need to know what our customers:

  1. actually do
  2. actually talk about
  3. actually complain about
  4. actually read, share, try, recommend
  5. actually buy.

Hoy suggests aiming for a professional audience, where one has some built-in prior knowledge or set or relationships. For the “people in my industry” part, I’m defining my audience as internet professionals who have made a web-based project – probably with some meaningful amount of content. They have some interest at stake in understanding their content, how their own audiences interact with it, and how their work effects their results.

These are bloggers, start-ups, side-projecteers, growth teams, marketing departments, product managers, and agencies. Basically people like me.

The first step is to use our own experience and positionality to generate some initial direction, by quickly and loosely sketching answers to the following questions:

All of my answers boil down to and circle around “knowing what is happening” and answering the question “did that work?“. Simply put, my audience makes money when they can focus their efforts on things that work, and they lose money when they don’t know what worked and what didn’t. The audience does not want to have instrumenting their systems be a huge lift. They do not want a huge complicated thing that hoovers up tons of data and makes the signal hard to find. They do want privacy first, control of their data, and performant tools.

This data is of course coming from my own fingerspitzengefühl from my career working in agencies, freelance projects, and the marketing & growth sides of tech companies – tho to be fair the product sides of tech companies have very similar questions and pains. Hoy notes that starting with finding the marketing need, we need to “build up a corpus of data based on how people in your audience actually behave.”

However, this is enough to get going. We’ll be setting up a more formal system and toolchain for running our digital ethnographies and collecting and analyzing our data in the future to help us iterate. At the very least this will be something I need to use, and it will help with the next thing.

Design: What Are We Gonna Do About It?

Hoy identifies three layers to a product:

The Opportunity

Your true product is always the end result for your customer.

The distinction between “a slight better Basecamp” versus “addressing a real need or problem” is an interesting and subtle one. If there is an extant product with market dominance, but we want to address some specific failings, is that a slightly better product or a different product?

Anyway! We want to think about where the pains overlap with our ability to deliver results. Lets identify the pains our audience has:


Now we can start to figure out to apply our skillset to get someone from the pain to the win.

“People in my industry struggle with [PAIN] but if only [OPPORTUNITY], they could have [WIN].”

Lets give it a shot;

“People in my industry struggle to find the signal in the noise to understand what actions are affecting their results. If only they easily call out the things they care about and understand those relationships, they could clearly see who is doing what how, and associate action with results.


“People in my industry struggle to figure out what they can do to achieve the outcomes they want. If only they could quickly estimate the results of their projects, they would be able to forecast and estimate their future efforts.

These are kind of different things, but certainly related! For instance, with Pushbroom I want an outcome of n issued invoices per month, and the actions I take will be in promoting the content marketing for the service. How can I understand which actions lead to results I want, and how can I estimate the impact of different campaigns? How can I understand how my users are using Pushbroom, and estimate how much use a given feature will get? This is kind of a blending between product analytics and marketing analytics, both of which differ significantly from website analytics offered by services like Plausible.

Hoy says that the key to a successful product is making something that has high impact and high need. Specifically when

it contains some element of urgency, or expense, or big desire, that your audience is aware they have and where smallish changes that are within their control can lead to them feeling big improvements

I think we’ve identified one?

Pushbroom is going to be a small, simple software-as-a-service product on a subscription that helps with minimally invasive, ethics, and rigorous analytics to help you understand what actions are driving outcomes. That’s it! That’s all it does!

This specification basically drive the bulk of the initial product design work. Some additional technical stuff will need to get worked out, but I have 12 weeks to do that and figure it out.

Making Sales

A single post, link, or email just won’t drive sales.

Instead, we start with the coming soon page, and start giving people a reason to visit it and plug in their email address. Then, we publish additional pieces of content that build trust and demonstrate what’s happening inside the product. Hoy argues for a not-separate approach to product design, engineering, and marketing and I really vibe with it.

It won’t be perfect and it might not work, but hey, I need it and it will help with the next one.

Now we’re off to the races – in 12 weeks we’ll be taking subscribers to Pushbroom.

Week One

Everyone in my house got RSV and we spent the whole week at home coughing, taking albuterol, and being screamed at by a toddler.

Week One Take Two

Date: 2023.04.28
Unique Sessions Last 7 Days: 38 / 77
Mailing List: 2 / 621
Subscribed Users: 0 / 124
Active Users: 0 / 56
Invoices Issued: 0 / 667
Gross: $0

Everyone is feeling better and both kid are back in child care. The day job continues apace, and I have some energy to get back into this. According to Hoy’s production calendar, this week we’re doing the following:

The Coming Soon Page

Here’s the coming soon page. We’ve written the copy to address the opportunity, method, and format that we identified in Week Zero. This has an e-mail collection newsletter (which seems to work! We have two now!) which will start building out our list to our goal of 621 people.

Create A Discrete Part Of The Product

This week we wrote the client-side collector script. This is the pointy end of the product, in that it’s what gets included on all of our customers production websites. This thing does all the heavy lifting, and has to be as small and performant as possible. I think I’ve done a good job, and while there’s always room for improvement, this will cover the majority of use cases and clocks in at 1245 bytes. That’s 1.2k. Compare that to Mixpanel’s 57k. Not bad.

Share the Page

I’ve been dropping links to this as I go to my community in the XOXO slack channel, but that’s more about community building that making sales. I’ve got some interest in early deployments through there, but I’m not trying to sell to them. Instead, I’m going to drop a link into a larger invite-only slack for product managers I’m a member of. I put a link to a useful tool I wrote in there and it generated about 300 unique page visits. Impressive.

Since it’s Saturday night, I’m going to draft up a post and schedule it to send Monday 9am. We’ll check back next week to see it got us any traction.

Week Two

Date: 2023.05.07
Unique Sessions Last 7 Days: 6 / 77
Mailing List: 2 / 621
Subscribed Users: 0 / 124
Active Users: 0 / 56
Invoices Issued: 0 / 667
Gross: $0

Week Two saw Dayjob get intense and disrupt my usual routines. There’s always something right? As a reminder, the plan was to:

I managed to get outlines prepped for about 8 peices of content (I was on a roll), prep for two, and right a draft for one. That means to catch up this week and get back on track I still need to:

And that’s on top of next weeks work. We’ll see how that goes!

Coming Next: Week Three