Announcing SMS Hooks

I’m going to keep this one short, but I’ve got 2 important things to announce today.

1. Announcing SMSHooks

It’s up, SMSHooks has a landing page! I’ve got a basic pitch, a quick screenshot, and some features spelling out how the service can help businesses.

It’s purposely very basic, but just enough to see what kind of interest there is for businesses who use Chargify, Stripe, and Shopify and want to connect with their customers via SMS.

2. Start Small, Stay Small eBook – A Giveaway

As I mentioned in the previous post, I bought, and quickly read Start Small, Stay Small, the fantastic book by serial entreprenuer Rob Walling.

This book is so chock full of insight, and actionable advice, I want to be able to share it. As such, I will be giving away several extra copies that I bought.

How do I get my copy?!

I offer 2 ways to get yourself a copy of this fantastic resource:

  1. Throw down $19-25 and buy it. Seriously. More than worth the money.
  2. Email me, and give me honest, insightful feedback on my business idea, SMSHooks. I’ll enter everyone who emails me into a drawing and give out a few copies to the winners.
    Note: the feedback does not have to be positive; just honest.

What’s next?

That’s it for this week. I’m happy to have a landing page up, and I’ve already solicited some fantastic feedback. I’m going to continue working to drive traffic to the site, and see how I can help people with their eCommerce businesses.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you, and excited to continue working and sharing my progress.

Week 1 Review

Week 1 is in the books, and I really can’t believe it’s already Friday! I’m consistently amazed at how fast time can go, and how poorly I still estimate how long something will take.

Without further ado, here are the answers to the questions I’m committed to answering weekly.

1. What did you do this week to make your business better for your customers?

This is a difficult question to answer at this stage because the “business” doesn’t really exist. I’m still in the validation phase, and trying to flesh out that I’m going to have a product to sell.

In the short term, that’s a non-answer, but I think it will make things better for the business long-term because I’ll have a better idea of what customers want and need.

2. What have you done to acquire more customers than last week?

As mentioned in my last post, I’m actually talking publicly about the business. I’ve emailed a few people in the space, gotten good feedback, and even got a nice tweet from Alex Turnbull of Groove. This was really exciting for me as the Groove blog was really one of the biggest inspirations for me to start this project.

I also had an interesting bit of feedback on the level of my goal from Peter Cooper — a prolific educator and curator for anyone unfamiliar. His take was that the goal of $1,000 in MRR is too low. He felt that by shooting for a more ambitious target, I may fall short but still land beyond my initial conservative hopes.

This is really something I’m still thinking over. On the one hand, I want to be conservative and have a realistically achievable goal. On the other, I’m still a dreamer and believe that this could turn into more. I’m definitely willing to move on this, but want to hear your opinion as well.

3. What did you do well that you should repeat?

I’m getting more comfortable cold-emailing people, and just putting myself out there. It can be intimidating to offer something up that you’re unsure about, but I’m starting to realize that there really isn’t any downside. Any potential embarrassment I thought I might have felt hasn’t been felt at all.

4. What did you do poorly that you should reduce?

I need to make it easy for people to offer feedback without taking too much of their time. I started to get discouraged when I would email someone and not get an instant response, or when I would publish a post and ask for “feedback” and not receive any.

First – Unless you’re on the mailing list, it wasn’t simple or obvious that I would love to have an email from you. I have since added my email address to the blog layout, and will start asking for emails.

Second – I added Disqus comments to each post to allow readers to post anything they’ve got there.

Finally – I need to start asking specific questions, and offering a way for people to respond quickly and easily. “What do you think?” or “What’s your feedback?” aren’t great questions.

5. What do you hope to do by next week?

I want to find someone who says whether they would pay for this product. I want to reach out to a few firms who develop with Shopify and Stripe to solicit their feedback. I need multiple people to tell me, “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.”

Everything in my bones wants to hop into a console and type: rails new but I’m going to resist until I know that a market exists.

Bonus: What can I do for you?

I’ve spent a lot of time asking things of my reader, but I want to make sure that I’m answering the questions you have. Want to know how I come up with business ideas? Want to know where I’ve fallen on my face before? Want me to help validate your ideas?

Email me! I’m committed to reading and responding to each email I receive (for now).

That’s all I’ve got this week, but plenty more to come.

The Opposite

Confession – This isn’t the first time I started to work on a side project. Like most of you, I have moments — sometimes daily — where I think of a great new idea and imagine it taking off.

Tell me if you’ve ever gone down this path:

  1. Have an idea.
  2. Get super excited.
  3. Lock yourself in a room and start coding. Implement all the awesome features that you’re sure everyone is going to need and love.
  4. Think about telling someone about it, but not feel comfortable because the product isn’t actually “ready.”
  5. Get discouraged because you have no traction (even though nobody knows about it).
  6. Dream about what it would be like to run your own successful business and think that the reason you failed is because the idea was no good to begin with.

…raises hand

I’ve done it. More than … more than twice.

I’m now commited to doing the opposite.

Today, I am telling everyone about my idea without having written a single line of code.

Notifications

In the course of my day job, I work with a lot of younger people; high school, college aged. Over the past 5 years or so, one thing has become more and more apparent: If you want them to know about something, the last thing you should do is email them. Half of the kids told you an old email that they now haven’t checked in 2 years, or they only check it a couple of times a month. Bottom line, email isn’t what they use.

I’m quite the opposite. I use email extensively personally and professionally. I do beleive that as these youngsters grow older, email will become more ubiquitous in their lives, unless of course Slack conquers the world.

Even as an email lover, there are times that it is not the best media, namely notifications. I’ve found that SMS messages work far better for getting information to people quickly and ensuring that they actually see it.

Like most everyone else in the free world, I order a lot online from Amazon. One of my favorite things about the Amazon iOS app is the native shipping notification. It doesn’t require any action, but just tells me that my order has shipped, is out for delivery, delivered, etc.

What if every store could provide real-time, customizable notifications via SMS instead of relying on installation of a native app.

SMS Hooks

So, here’s my big idea. I want to integrate with Shopify, Stripe, Chargify, etc. and provide developers, store owners, or anyone else the ability to quickly and easily pre-make SMS templates and automatically fire them off as events happen.

Scenario:

I order a new pair of tube socks from an online store. Immediately, I get an SMS message:

Hey Kyle! Here's your confirmation #123. Thanks for shopping with Awesome Socks!

A couple of days go by, and boom! Awesome Socks shoots me another…

Good news Kyle, order #123 just shipped! Thanks again, we're thrilled you're our customer.

Quick, simple notifications that I can read immediately and move on with my day.

Scenario #2:

I run a SAAS app, and a big customer’s card is declined when trying to renew. My phone buzzes with the following:

Big Time Customer, LLC's subscription renewal just failed. Your MRR will decrease by $500.

At the same time, Big Time Customer receives:

Your monthly subscription to My Sweet SAAS, LLC has failed. Please check your card information at https://bit.ly/QDh37c to ensure that your serice is not interrupted.

As the SAAS operator, I can now potentially avert a big drop in revenue and ensure that my customers never see a drop in their service, all because I got notified immediately and it didn’t get buried with the other hundred emails I already receive daily.

Scenario #3:

Just kidding, I think you get it. You build SMS templates to be triggered by an event.

No need to worry about old email addresses that aren’t checked any longer. No need to worry about bounces and whitelisting IP addresses to ensure email delivery. Quick, push notifications to the device that most people now have on them at all times, without the need for any app installation.

Time for feedback

OK – I’m ready for it. What do you think?

  1. Sounds awesome!!! When can I put my credit card down?
  2. I don’t know Kyle… sounds a bit far fetched. What else ya got?
  3. Seems OK. Let’s see how this plays out.

Seriously, I want to know what you think. Would you pay for this for your business? Would you set this up for your clients?

My experiement depends on you helping me validate my idea before I dump hours and dollars into building the software.

Thank you!

I’ve already heard from a few of you, and I sincerely appreciate the engagement. I hope to hear from all of you over the course of this venture, and that we can all share ideas to help one another achieve our goals.