We are preparing to launch AppExpress. As we get closer, we have begun a series of marketing experiments to see where we can connect and catch fire, to see what audiences we can reach and to fine-tune our offering. AppExpress can grow to do many, many things, but we have to focus somewhere initially.
A couple months ago we did some preliminary research with AdWords campaigns to see what people around the world wanted. It turns out that people in developed economies are interested in building online stores. With companies like Shopify doing very well, this is obvious. It is a crowded market but also a huge one and there is room for new entrants. We think we have identified some segments that are not well served by existing solutions and this is one area we want to explore.
In developing countries, people are very interested in software to streamline business processes. People living and working in developed economies do not understand just how paperwork- and labor- intensive business is in the developing world. Many small and medium size businesses maintain paper records and manual systems for everything from Accounting to HR to Sales, etc. For example, our entire accounting system is duplicated in spreadsheets which are printed and each transaction physically signed by two officers of the company before being filed away. This is necessary in case an auditor from the tax authority shows up.
Many of the systems which have been implemented at large enterprises in the developed world, are unsuitable due to price and technology for developing market businesses.
There is a world of opportunity. We think Open Source and AppExpress can play a big role.
It turns out there are growing opportunities for eCommerce in emerging markets too. Here in the Philippines, Shopify is already partnering with Globe My Business to offer eCommerce solutions. Significant challenges remain around shipping and payment and they vary between markets.
To find our market or audience, we must ask:
- What opportunities are out there?
- What can we reasonably address with the technology we have and the expertise we possess?
- What initial target groups can we reach at a reasonable cost?
- What is aligned with our mission and values? What excites us?
Here I draw some inspiration from a podcast by Tim Ferris where he describes a technique for identifying a target a group to focus on initially for audience development.
Tim’s advice is to:
- Start with very focused markets — so small that you can afford to somehow appear ubiquitous to the target group for a time.
- Go after markets you belong to.
- Offer something people want, not something people need.
- Charge more so you get better customers.
- Expand from a strategic base to a larger audience.
That all sounds good to me.
First, we must identify some of the markets or subcultures we belong to. Then we try to identify:
- 3-5 sites they are likely to go to regularly
- 3-5 twitter accounts they are likely to follow
- 3-5 instagram accounts they are likely to follow
- 3-5 podcasts they are likely to subscribe to
So, I have to ask myself, what groups or subcultures do I belong to? And which of these might be candidates for some kind of focused marketing?
I internationalized myself several years ago. I have sought to build a location-independent business to facilitate my dream lifestyle. I am a bit of a digital nomad. I am definitely a bootstrapper and not a “startup” guy — that is I am interested in building a solid business for the long term and not some flash-in-the-pan, VC-funded, all-or-nothing, swing-for-the-fences. I am a Rails developer. I am a foreigner/entrperenur living (at least part-time) in the Philippines. I occasionally do triathalon. I am a lapsed yogi. I enjoy power lifting, sailing and skiing.
Not all of these attributes identify good audiences for AppExpress. However, three do offer some promise:
1) Many digital nomads aspire to operate a location-independent online business.
2) Some segment of bootstrappers seek to build a business primarily online.
3) Some entrepreneurs (some of whom are foreigners) in the Philippines and in ASEAN seek to build ecommerce or online businesses.
I think there is an additional low hanging fruit in the form of established ecommerce businesses in developed markets who are considering changing their technology platform. So I will add this group:
4) eCom Switchers My mission is to help others make more money online to realize their dream of independence through business.
Currently that entails supporting and optimizing large eCommerce and SaaS applications with our staff of expert software developers. These are privately owned businesses with founders who are (we hope) living their dreams.
With AppExpress, something we have undertaken to develop on our own, we can help bootstrappers, nomads and others to launch, grow and build that dream business at a different price point. I dream of thousands of successful businesses running on our platform.
Revisiting our mission therefore helps bring a little focus to our quest. We have identified 3 or 4 target audiences which I can refine further by geography or other segmentation.
Next up is to identify the sites, social media and podcasts through which I can reach our targets.