In this post, (first published on Antavo blog by Andy Nemes, head of sales of Antavo), Andy list 7 things they tried to grow their company with so that you too will be brave to experiment, maybe try what they tried and learn from their successes and failures.
You want to be the one who will do it. You want to prove to your employees, colleagues, friends and family that you are able to crack it.
And when you really want something, you try a lot of things, right?
We experimented with enthusiasm, and since it sometimes worked, we are doing well, thank you.
But some of our trials failed miserably.
I wanted to write about these failures so you would know that it’s okay to try and fail. As solutions are limited, you can cross one out if it doesn’t work, and focus on all the others.
But before that let me tell you where we are coming from.
Not from Silicon Valley.
Not even from the US. The majority of our team is from a tiny dot on the world map, called Hungary. While we do have US advisors and UK investors, none of us on the leadership team is a native English speaker. Despite all of this, we knew from the beginning that we need to think globally if we want to be successful.
Our early-stage company never lacked time and effort (rather a strategy with proof of results) to earn customers. And we built up Antavo from scratch.
Here are some of our failed experiments.
Fail #1. Localization
Have you ever wanted something so badly that you did things before it was the right time? This is called premature scaling.
We let our customers build contest apps on our platform in 27 languages. Plus, we translated the platform into 4 languages other than English.
It was a mistake. Translating something occasionally for only one customer isn’t worth it, because from our perspective it slowed us down.
And the revenue from the countries of the two other languages was never outstanding.
Fail #2. Distributed development team
After Seedcamp invested in our company the founding team moved to London. But our CEO was deeply involved in the product development.
Unfortunately the long-distance relationship didn’t work that well. Our development slowed down.
Our CEO might have had been less involved, but back then we didn’t have the resources to hire anyone else. Otherwise he could have traveled more to keep track of the development in Hungary.
I know companies like Buffer or GrooveHQ who work remotely and do it smoothly, but we were never really prepared for it.
Fail #3. Country managers
To conquer the world, we partnered up with country managers in Asia, Europe and South-America on a revenue share basis. They were responsible for sales, translations and first-line support.
We shouldn’t have done that. Back then there was no product-market fit yet. Traction was also relatively modest, making it hard to motivate partners on a pure revenue-share basis. Building supporting functionalities slowed product development down, we simply didn’t have enough resources to work efficiently with the country managers.
And we were not good at finding the right partners, even though we did our best after we teamed up with them.
Fail #4. Referral program
We built a tool to motivate our customers to invite their friends to use Antavo. Like Dropbox did.
Well, it didn’t work out. Why? Because we had a relatively low active user base at the time of release and our communication around it wasn’t strong enough. In addition when you are dealing with small businesses, you may have no customers with wide reach, i.e. real influencers.
At least we learned that people use our tool because they actually need it, and not because a friend invited them.
Fail #5. App directories
We wanted to get into large directories and deal with sites like AppSumo, Rewardlii or GrooveHQ.
We couldn’t. We didn’t receive a single reply from any one of them. (Was our pitch weak? Was our product weak? We will never know.) And we got close to zero customers from those where we were listed.
The only exception was HuddleBuy, which is a great company to work with.
To make your life easier, here is a list of potential software perk directories we have collected.
Fail #6. Customer thank-you cards
We thought we would send out thank-you cards to our customers on Valentine’s Day. We read somewhere that it’s so personal and engaging. (Maybe we read it on the website of a card-sending company? Dammit!)
Well. You know what happened. We sent out a vast number of cards and received a single thank you Tweet. (Thank for the Tweet buddy!)
The copy was wrong? The intention was wrong? Our customers are heartless people? Or they are too shy to share their happiness?
For sure some of them had wrong billing details when they paid us…
We sent mails to our customers’ billing addresses, some of which were incorrectly given at checkout.
Fail #7. Tech-conferences
We attended some great conferences when we were starting out. As we are a technology company, we thought we’d go to tech conferences. We would go to the presenters, introduce ourselves and follow up.
Nothing happened. What were we expecting? A single meeting at a conference? It just didn’t cut it.
Since then we go to conferences to present only, except Social Media Marketing World and other very focused events. (This year it was a blast. Zsuzsa, our CMO knows a lot of people there who are in the same place as us and were glad to meet them.)
Are these failures?
These are experiments that certainly failed.
Yes, experiments cost you money, time and effort, but you might never find your path if you don’t cross over some possibilities.
If you want to get ideas for experiments, read this post on growth hacking from Andrew Dumont of MOZ. Since then he built a startup and sold it. He must know a thing or two.
Where we failed you might succeed.
The referral program worked for Dropbox. And Buffer built an extremely successful remote development team.
Just get out there.