This question originally appeared on Quora: Is it hard to build, market and maintain a web app that makes at least $1,000 a month?
Planning Pod----is our second product to eclipse the $1000/month in revenue, and the answer to the question here is it is EXTREMELY HARD to build, market, and maintain an online product that people will pay for month-over-month. But it's also lots of fun, rewarding as hell, and you will learn more than you ever imagined.
With that said, here are 5 key questions you should ask yourself before spending the hundreds or thousands of hours building out your great idea:
1. Will the product itself or your marketing give you a competitive advantage that will take another competitor more than 2 years to replicate?
This is critical because if your app is fairly simple and straightforward or does not employ some type of technology or process that you can protect via patent, trademark, or copyright (note ... not many Web apps are patentable), then you may soon find many copycats. However, if you have a high search engine ranking or gain favor with industry influencers and publications, these are much harder things for competitors to duplicate.
2. Can the product be sold mainly through marketing or does it require a larger sales and education effort?
As a solopreneur or small shop, you won't have the resources (time, staff, etc.) to sell a product that requires lots of product education or that has a longer sales cycle. So you need to keep in mind in during your product development how much education is required to sell through the product without lot of sales calls, emails, etc. Complicated products are harder to replicate, but they also have a longer sales cycle.
3. What is the churn like in your industry?
Churn will be your #1 enemy in sustaining growth. However, some industries have a much higher churn rate than others. I would advise doing some research first and finding out as much as you can about the brand loyalty among your prospective target audience and then finding customer needs that aren't one-and-done. For example, an app that lets people streamline their processes or organize their data is much more likely to see month-over-month use than an app that lets people take care of a discrete task for which they won't need the app again for a long period.
4. Are you willing to forgo more revenue early on to gain market momentum?
This directly relates to your initial pricing. You shouldn't worry too much about setting the perfect price out of the gate, because most likely you will need to change it. But what you should attend to is making sure you get enough customers into the product so that you see some momentum in your industry and you start to get some good word-of-mouth traffic. So early on it's not a bad idea to underprice your product and try to make up for it in quantity. The other benefit of an initial lower price point is that people are less likely to cancel a product that is relatively cheap (under $20). Once you have a larger customer base with more stable monthly revenues, you can then consider raising your pricing.
5. Are you willing to support your product?
Customer support is a huge deciding factor for many people choosing an online app, especially for less tech-savvy customers. For even simple products, customer support is often one of the biggest investments in time and resources you will make in your product (with product development and marketing the other two big investments). The smart move here is to build lots of self-help into the product in the form of intuitive tools/processes, detailed instructions, how-to videos, support centers, etc. This will dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend emailing and talking with customers about their questions and issues.
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