The product in question: a better new tab for your Chrome browser
What we learned: #s! News you can use! Predictions of your future!
Knotable is an app about sharing knotes — social productivity, one might say. It’s a big, huge complicated platform and, man, is it amazing. Now to launch such a thing…requires some savoir faire. We didn’t have much. So we decided let’s break it into a bunch of products and just launch them one by one. You can check out the big Microsoft-killer platform at http://beta.knotable.com but in this post we’ll focus on one little piece of the suite: a thing for Chrome.
First product: Knotes for Chrome, an extension that turns your new tab into a beautiful notepad. Easy to understand, handy to use, easy to get going, not too competitive a product space. Woo! (I mean, who launches things first in the Chrome store?)
First launch… ProductHunt? Nah, too scary. Too many cool kids on there. Our friends are watching that daily. Instead: let’s try the crappy paid sites like BetaList! They charge $99 to post right away. (They also take submissions and theoretically post them “eventually” if you don’t pay. We submitted an early prototype nearly a *year* earlier; they never posted it.)
OK, so we paid and launched there. What happened?
Oops. We forgot to put a tracker in the Chrome Store. Mental note. You can throw Google Analytics nearly anywhere and it helps. All our internal tools were useless when we went live with this. We had added metrics stuff at the end of the dev process.
OK how about the Chrome extension itself. Let’s dive into the analytics!
Forgot that too.
OK well the actual web app that sits behind the Chrome Extension — where users can click in and do fancy, detailed stuff — that had some tracking.
241 visits that day. 500 total-ish.
How about just, like, our homepage site?
Maybe like 500–600 visitors over 2 days. $99 for 500 visitors… Google Search ads might have done better. Facebook would probably beat that by 50% too. OK, well did people sign up?
How were we tracking that? We have a weekly email that dumps out new user counts, on May 27th it said:
59 new users from this
We paid like $100 and got like oh…60 installs. Plus we learned a dangerous lesson — sometimes the subscribers to these lists will turn around and submit you in other places…places you aren’t ready for. We noticed this happened to another app that was featured there. Glad that didn’t happen to us.
Next up: Reddit! (Well, HackerNews).
No upvotes and nobody gave a crap. Lesson: nerds read this site and you knew that already. They like to see infrastructure, languages, libraries, and sci-fi. Not “collaboration tools”, or at least not ours.
Now for some real stuff.
OK, ProductHunt. We carefully timed it. Watched other posts for a while. Submitted at the earliest possible time and gently encouraged our friends to upvote us… In fact we wrote up the lessons from this before →
We only got 248 upvotes (where were you, friends?). But that was quite a lot more visits than we had previously seen:
1710 homepage visits and 577 sessions in our web app — the most we had ever had by far.
The comments were marginally useful.
We finished in the top ten — not the top three.
Why didn’t we win? A theory: the way to win the daily contest is a) to be a huge company or b) to make a product that designers like (many PHers are design people) and certainly c) to launch during European morning (12 midnight Pacific is when you want to go live so the Europeans can wake up and vote for you. If you are ahead when East Coast wakes up…you will sail.)
Surprise! Fringe benefits!
PH puts you in collections. So quite by surprise we were in the “good stuff for Chrome” collection and got some more attention, and if you are a winner of your day you get to be in their email the next day featuring your victory…and that gets you some juice. So PH is made to reward and encourage folks that submit there. Bravo, lads.
But it’s not a lot of users.
307 new users from this
That’s more than we got upvotes. And more than half of the visitors signed up.
Learnings for us: the product held up OK and nothing too terrible happened. We are ready for more people to check this out.
So then I email my buddy John Biggs from Techcrunch. I actually know him and have known him for ages, been on panels he organized, invited him to talk at my conferences… I emailed him like 10 times. I emailed a few other press types that I know as well. Not a ton of reactions from folks. Eventually, Biggs sends me this hilarious form email he sends everyone even though I had carefully crafted my email to answer all his stuff.
He then sits on the email for quite some time…two weeks? And finally one day boom. He does one of those quick TC posts — just a one liner in the main feed.
600 shares for that story. (Average. Another “hey here’s some product” post recently did 515.)
Now this had some impact.
Two thousand visitors and one thousand sessions in the app.
805 new users from this
2.5 times the users added as ProductHunt from a really forgettable one-liner story in TC.
We are starting to notice something. Betalist users were utter punters. PH users were product nerds — not real user prospects; TC users are “business guys” (powerpoint people at startups…not necessarily highly influential or visionary in any respect…just people who ‘work at startups’). Hmm.
We notice something else: TC is powerful validation. “You were in Techcrunch? OK we’ll try it…”
So a friend had introduced me to some folks at Google and we have a “hangout” with the guy in charge of the Chrome store. He’s like “we can support you.” He puts us on the Chrome Store “featured” section and goes away on vacation for seeming 3 weeks.
I get an email alert everytime someone signs up for Knotable. When we get featured in the store this goes bananas.
We had been measuring just homepage and use of the web app (the thing that sits behind the extension, where maybe 1/3 of users click in and do stuff in a given session.) But now we have stats on the app itself — the chrome extension — and you can really see the power of the Chrome Store compared to mere “PR”:
Thousands of sessions per day. The first few days yield a pretty good bounce, and it continues for several week:
Now here we have noticed a few things:
- that jewel box on the top of the Chrome Store is friggin’ awesome
- the users are very global. Not tech-savvy nerds at all. Just normal human beings trying new stuff
- we should have planned better for the user load. Servers are crawling…yikes.
So we return to our cave and work away. Work, work, work.
The seasons and the outside world
Back to school rolls around. Suddenly we are getting hundreds of users from the Chrome store again.
The Chrome store features us again, in a less prominent way, as “new and updated”. Has 1/10th the impact of the big feature.
So the “new signups by marketing event” score at this point:
- the Chrome Store at this point is 3,000 vs.
- TechCrunch is 1,000 vs.
- ProductHunt is 300.
We notice something really cool about the Chrome extension now: it’s very sticky and high engagement. Have 30–40% sessions per day. People are taking notes, multiple notes, etc. Neat. Most apps have 1% of their users or less visiting daily.
One more press thing: Lifehacker.
Along the way we ping maybe 30 journalists at various times via email or Twitter. After all this throat-clearing with “tech people”, really the only and best place to review and write about Knotes is Lifehacker. Why haven’t they done it yet?
Favorable post Monday morning hits near noon. Perfect timing. The writer was gunning for impact. 9am Pacific, noon Eastern… 6k views to the story that day, 15k by the next Monday.
On our direct “properties” the result is nothing crazy. But on the Chrome Store, you see Lifehacker readers go directly there and get the thing.
On the weekend we are one of their top downloads and they post again. It seems as if a third of people who read the post then download the extension. Wild!
The Lifehacker post also seems to have a lot of staying power. People are still reading and clicking through it — this did not happen AT ALL with the Techcrunch or ProductHunt items. Lifehacker is clearly better designed to be evergreen content, channeling its readers around from new stories and SEO-landing pages to their deeper content. Kudos, Lifehacker.
Anyway — nearly 2,000 new user accounts in a few days there and this continues to be a busy week of sign ups.
The next step: turn our first “real editorial” press coverage into a longer better story for more folks to write about and engage on. The “Stores” and “techies” have had a look and been favorable enough.
But we aren’t a “Oh my god this product is growing insanely!!!” app.
Nor are we a “I can’t believe something invented this!” app.
Instead, we fit in an area where people are always tinkering and experimenting with new ways to be organized, work together, take notes and projects and to do lists to the next level. So our prediction is the coverage will be “Hey check out this neat, new, better, handy way to take knotes (ahem, notes) in…[Chrome, Firefox, Android, iOS, New Tab, URL bar, drop downs, voice activated, on the watch, on the lock screen, on the notifications tray, in a keyboard, etc etc.]”
We now have a quarter million knotes on the Knotable platform. Some of them are probably pretty important for some people.
Stay tuned for more as we get some more zeroes behind all these numbers.
Meanwhile, go get Knotes for Chrome.