First Failure at Selling an Application Online
2010/09/06 (428 words)

So I guess now is about the time that I write about my first failure. Although I realised that the project was a failure quite a while ago I never wrote anything about it admitting so. I guess this can be considered my cleansing moment.

So about a year ago when everyone was jumping on the Twitter bandwagon I remember reading about a simple app called MyTwitterButler that a .NET developer coded up in a few hours and was selling for $10. It was a desktop app that let you type in words to search for and then would follow users who tweeted those words.

At the time I was looking to improve my .NET skills so I thought that if he can make $50 a day selling that I could write something similar and hopefully regain my initial cost. So over 8 hours or so I wrote a simple twitter follower application which I thought had some better features then MyTwitterButler, bought and tried to sell it. I figured with time and the domain I needed to make about $400 to cover my costs (assuming a $50/hour billing rate). You know what. I didn’t sell a single copy.

Why did it fail? That’s the question I asked myself. It was in the same space, I did all the same marketing tricks others had (adding to blogs, application stores, emailing copies to bloggers) and nothing. You know what I still don’t know. The few people that I did get to use it said it worked pretty well and did what they wanted so it wasn’t lack of functionality.

Just recently I bought and read the excellent Startup Book by Rob Walling. One of the takeaways is that marketing always wins where there are two similar products. When you realise I was trying to compete with MyTwitterButler without considering all the other power twitter clients out there, I can see how I was trying to compete with millions of dollars. With this in mind its not really a surprise I didn’t succeed in my initial goal to cover costs. The other and probably most important thing, is that I didn’t really chase success. Looking back I expected the project to fail, and guess what it did. That said though, at least it was a cheap failure, which are the ones you probably want to have.

EDIT – I just realised I should probably release the source code to this application in the hope that someone finds it useful. I will be doing so over the next few days.