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ListingEagle Failure To Soar – A Case Study on a Failed SaaS Project

With the success of some of my recent projects and the income number I will be sharing next week I am always concerned that I present an inaccurate image of someone who has all this online business stuff figured out with few challenges and no failures. Todays case study of a failed SAAS business including all the details in the SaaS dashboard will hopefuly present another picture.

The fact is that some projects are definite successes but I have my share of failures as well! Anytime a project fails to hit the goals I set for it hurts but I am reminded of a favorite quote…

success-consists-of-going-from-failure-to-failure-wihtout-loss-of-enthusiasm-churchill

Today’s post is about the process I used to build ListingEagle.com and the result (or lack thereof) it has achieved.

I as usual reveal as much data as I can including the substantial dashboard that we developed to track all key metrics month over month! Including every good and ugly number!

Stay tuned for next weeks big income report post in which two projects I started after ListingEagle have more than made up for ListingEagle’s disappointing results!

Hopefully the fact I am sharing this story in detail will provide some insights for others looking to launch projects about what worked and what didn’t!

 

The Idea Behind ListingEagle:

When I was selling my FBA business I was having a big problem with hijackers coming onto my listing and stealing sales and potentially hurting the brand. During the sales process I was particularly sensitive to this because we were using a shorter duration multiple and every sale lost was really like losing several sales due to the sale multiple.

So we resorted to my wife checking on the listings and sending cease/desist letters at all hours of the night when she was up with our newborn daughter. We discovered that we were much more successful when we quickly and aggressively responded to a hijacker.

The idea that sparked ListingEagle.com was what if we could be notified as soon as a hijacker was on our listing and follow-up to give us the peace of mind that there was no uncertainty if we were or weren’t hijacked at the present time. We wanted the ability to be more present with us and our kids not thinking about the business and wanted a tool that would do the checking while we weren’t focused on the business.

Amazon Hijacker Definition – An Amazon Hijacker is someone who jumps on your listing claiming to sell the same product, often the product is sold for less and shipped from China. The product quality is often lower and the overall customer experience is worse resulting in your sales being stolen and your brand reputation damaged.

 

Timeline:

Below is the timeline for the development of ListingEagle…

  • Early February 2016 – Idea is born – receive instant notification when a hijacker is on your listing via SMS and email.
  • Mid February 2016 – Concept discussed with other sellers for feedback
  • Mid February 2016 – Developer hired with minimal pre-work. I went with a slightly different approach than any previous effort where I hired an expensive/talented developer and provided the use case I was after but left a lot up to him.
  • Mid February 2016 – Strategic partnership established with affiliates who would help launch the business and not just get earnings for the affiliate sales they drive but a small percentage of all revenue in return for their advice and help with the project.
  • Early March 2016 – Brought a business manager on board leveraging my audience at AuthorityWebsiteIncome.com to get someone who will build the systems and operate the business. A big focus was placed on setting this project up with the Entrepreneur, Manager and Technician and then using systems/data to automate what we could and use the data for improved decisions.
  • Early March 2016 – Launched minimum viable product to beta testers and had 20 people signup with positive feedback.
  • Late March 2016 – With the validation of the MVP we entered into the next phase of development.
  • April 2016 – Development and testing of final version to have it ready for sale was completed. Launch plan was created.
  • Early May 2016 – Launch! 2 podcasts, and 82 paying customers in the door
  • June 2016 – Focused on working with existing clients and recruiting new affiliates, positive feedback received. We also worked on finding a profitable paid traffic plan.

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listingeagle-testimonial-1

  • July 2016 – International expansion to the UK and 2 larger affiliates brought on board, word of mouth starting to work. Paid traffic struggling to work.
  • August 2016 – Legal help and managed services up-sell attempt was not a success.
    • Pivot 1 – In response to Amazon making it harder for hijackers to hijack a listing that has brand registry and based on customer feedback we launched an additional feature where you will be notified as soon as your listing has been suppressed.
  • September 2016 – Launched suppression monitoring with great feedback but no significant impact on sales.
  • October 2016 – Calls with top customers to understand needs and developed new paid traffic funnel with more pain inducing sales page to send paid traffic to.
  • November 2016 – Tested paid traffic campaign that would send people to a more pain inducing sales page and attempt to nurture the lead some to show the benefit of the tool (weak results).

 

By the Numbers

The one aspect of this business that I really enjoy is the data-driven approach to all parts of the business we are able to take.

The business manager did a fantastic job at building out a dashboard which really revealed the success/failure of the business.

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le-customer-graph

le-dashboard

What Worked Well:

  1. Idea – I still believe the peace of mind of knowing your Amazon Listings health is being monitored no matter where you are is a winning one. Notification of a suppressed listing 12hrs before you would normally deal with it can pay for the tool for a few years for some sellers!
  2. Software Development Paying for Talent – Using Shane and paying top dollar definitely was the right decision. The intuition to really “get” what I was after was huge!
  3. Team Structure – The structure adhered to EMyth revisited recommendation of the Entrepreneur (me) Manager (Ian) and Technician (primarily Shane)… this structure and the people on the team worked very well together!
  4. Small Business Model Innovation – Giving influencers in the space more than just an affiliate commission and actually a % of revenue helped to establish ListingEagle as the default tool in the space.
  5. Launch – The launch process worked well with several podcasts and posts driving up the initial sales and getting a solid core group of customers in the door quickly.

 

What Didn’t Work Well:

  1. Paid Traffic – We made multiple attempts to make paid traffic work for us but failed at each attempt.
  2. Finding Scalable Customer Acquisition Channels – Organic traffic was low, paid traffic didn’t convert profitably (not even close), word of mouth and seeding the social conversations was okay but not great. The only reliable customer acquisition strategy was influencer outreach and me getting myself onto podcasts.
  3. Amazon Changed Policy – Amazon changing its policy to fight hijackers, which as a seller I am happy about, decreased the number of sellers who feel the pain.
  4. Repositioning with the pivot to seller suppression monitoring – Our new feature for suppression monitoring was not as successful as I would have liked and I don’t believe we managed it well enough.
  5. Timing – This is a weak reason as I am certain that if the others were addressed the market is still substantial! Right when I was launching ListingEagle.com I believe the interest in Amazon FBA as a strategy to make money from home hit its peak. I believe the opportunity is as good as ever but the barrier to compete is continually getting raised. You can see the interest peaking per Google Trends and traffic according to Alexa for 2 of the biggest tools in the space…

amztracker-growth

junglescout-growth

 

Special Thanks to the Team…

  • Ian – The business manager has done a fantastic job at building up the systems around customer support, managing the monthly dashboard and taking GREAT care with all customers. Contact Ian at Ian@listingeagle.com
  • Shane Labs – Did a fantastic job at developing the tool and guiding me through the process. I am certain if I had gone the more traditional route and used inexpensive developers via UpWork or similar the result would have been ListingEagle.com would not have taken flight. Contact Shane at his blog http://www.sideprojectprofit.com/
  • The advisers who helped provide insight and marketing opportunities were invaluable and the support was very much appreciated!

 

Conclusion:

In the end I believe the problem was not a big enough problem for enough sellers to justify purchasing it and we were unable to reliably reach them with our message. Many customers love the peace of mind but it is not for all FBA sellers and we were unable to successfully segment and focus our marketing on the FBA sellers who would like the peace of mind of a tool monitoring their listings for suppression or hijacker activity.

 

So What is the Future of ListingEagle.com?

The service provides a lot of value to people who use it (especially the suppression monitoring now!) it is extremely well built, very easy to maintain and has very happy customers so we will continue to run lean and aim to slowly grow keeping costs/time to a minimum.

About the Author Jon Haver

I am a 31 year old husband, father of 2, engineer and a huge fan of developing systems to build useful and profitable websites. The reason I build online businesses is to provide financial independence for my family and yours. I am not a GURU but just a regular guy who is grinding out 12+hr days to build a life for my family on terms.
Jon Haver, Online Entrepreneur

Leave a Comment:

3 comments
Duncan says December 8, 2016

Jon, thanks for sharing so many details. I am surprised by your transparency and the fact you are calling this one a failure… it seems like a pretty decent project still with potential still. Looking forward to your income post next week to see what kind of numbers you are teasing us with.

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Travis says December 9, 2016

Great recap! I think the big problem for software developers in the Amazon niche is that Amazon changes their direction at their will or anytime and it sends expensive ripples throughout the space that we all have to react and pay for. It’s very hard to develop software when you don’t ever know which direction the wind is blowing. Hats off to you for trying. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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Rohit Malhotra says December 12, 2016

Hey Jon, thanks for sharing your numbers. It is difficult to run a saas business and make it profitable. It will be interesting to see if you stick around then would you get higher numbers by doing more JV webinars etc.

Rohit I Lifeselfmastery

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