Written by toomaime
Last Updated 🗓 a month ago
Hey Sam, first of all can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you are working on?
I'm a senior product manager at ucreate - a startup studio in London where we help founders build their tech startups. In my spare time I create and experiment with bootstrapped online side projects - some of which have been acquired.
After selling NoCode in October last year it’s freed up a lot of time. I took a few months of doing anything as it had been quite some time since I hadn’t been working on multiple side projects.
I've more recently been working on improving my own personal brand and recently created v1 of my personal site. From here i’m looking to write more about my personal learnings for the maker community, product management and some other online interests.
I’m also working on building v2 of BetaTesta. BetaTesta allows you receive feedback for your website, app or prototype in minutes for free. Currently i've closed the platform whilst we rebuild it from the ground up and relaunch the platform later this year.
Your product NoCode was recently acquired - can you tell us a little bit about the beginnings of NoCode. How did you get your first users to the site?
My initial inspiration for NoCode came from a fantastic site called Startup Stash, created by Bram Kanstein. The concept was so simple: tiled categories on a landing page providing all the tools and resources you needed to run your startup. This got me thinking.
While building various online side projects over the years, I had accumulated hundreds of various tools and resources held in spreadsheets, notebooks, Evernote, bookmarks etc. So I decided to curate this list and make it available online for other non-technical founders like me.
To validate the concept I built a quick landing page with an email capture form and a mocked up screenshot of the homepage using Canva.
Above is a screen grab from of my very first landing page in 2017 - complete with awful value proposition.
I then managed to get featured on BetaList where I got about 35 signups. I later used those interested early adopters to test my initial prototypes of the site and get feedback on some of my ideas. This approach proved incredibly valuable information and helped validate some of my early assumptions.
A few weeks after publicly launching the site, I was fortunate enough to get featured on Product Hunt. This provided a huge boost of traffic to the site, providing me with a couple hundred email subscribers and loads of constructive feedback to consider.
I also wrote some content about the process of building NoCode as I noticed other makers doing this and I found it extremely helpful and also inadvertently ended up signing up as an early adopter to their products. So I started documenting it on Medium which brought a small about of traffic and a few new signups.
What SEO strategies have worked for you?
If i’m totally honest SEO was something i knew very little about when i first launched NoCode. Looking back i wish i had put more time into SEO and set the groundwork early.
Over time i began to slowly improve the SEO of the platform. Adding the appropriate page descriptions, ALT tags, H1,H2 … headings and improving the meta tags for social sharing. I also then put time into improving the mobile experience after noticing a lot of errors being reported in my Google Search Console. I began to search for keywords and layer them into my content.
By far the best SEO strategy was identifying good quality backlinks to the site. I was fortunate enough to get NoCode on Product Hunt twice in two years which drove a lot of traffic to my site. I wrote content for IndieHackers and a few other sites which also linked back to NoCode - this in turn brought traffic to my site and also improved the credibility of my site on Google and improved my SERP.
Tell us a little bit about the newsletter of NoCode which is one of the core of the product. What tools did you use? And how did you grow the list of subscribers?
I used MailChimp initially as it was so easy to use and had a great free embed tool for gathering email address which i could easily implement on my site using no code. Once my newsletter subscribers increased and I reached the free threshold on MailChimp it was getting pretty expensive. So I jumped ship to Revue which was much more affordable but also had some incredibly useful integrations which allowed to drastically reduce the amount of time it took me to create each newsletter by a matter of hours each week.
To promote the newsletter I added sign up forms to the footer of each page and also at the bottom of all my content on Medium using a hand tool called upscribe. However, i think the number of subscribers increased when i created the members area of the platform. The members area included loads of exclusive discount codes for popular online tools and saas products, access to the private NoCode Slack community channel newsletter and many other perks. Once i packaged all these perks into one members area the number of sign ups shot up.
"Establish your target audience. Who are they? Where do they hang?"
Let’s talk about social media - did you run paid ads? What free social media strategies/hacks did you find very helpful?
No, i didn’t run any paid ads. I was trying to spend as little as possible and didn’t know how to run them in the first place.
I decided to focus on one social media platform as i learned in previous side projects that spreading yourself thin across multiple social media platform is a sure fire way to burn yourself out and not do a good job at either of them. So i chose twitter for two reasons: 1 - it was a platform i was familiar with so there was no learning curve. 2 - this is where a lot of people in and around tech would share, discuss and interact with each other.
Each time i featured a new tool or resource i would tweet them letting them know. I would include a link to back to their feature and also create a nice graphic of their feature on the site. Most of the time they would retweet it and interact with me allowing me to tap into their followers and link back to the site.
What advice would you give someone to acquire his first 100 customers?
Establish your target audience. Who are they? Where do they hang? Find Slack groups, Reddit channels, Quora, online forums, events, FB groups etc. Don’t jump straight in with your proposed solution, speak to them first, provide some value other than your product and then when the time is right propose your solution and reach out to anyone interested and provide a link back to your product.
Once you have those 100 users it’s time to nurture them. Build trust and begin validating some of your assumptions with them. Arrange for video calls, create surveys, show them early versions of your product and get feedback.
Turn these 100 customers into early adopters of your product. Then get that 100 to 1000. I love Kevin Kelly’s “1000 true fans” concept. Check it out.