$0 CAC, 1,000 email subscribers, and a 56% open rate... here's how
here's how you can do it too...
I recently have been building a weekly startup idea newsletter called ExplodingIdeas.co and got my first 1,000 subscribers in 12 days!
I used 0 paid ads! All subscribers were totally free!
Fast forward to the end for the takeaways...
Since January I have been testing out new side hustle/business ideas. I essentially start with a landing page (coded in nextjs) and try out different ideas on the landing page template i’ve built. The landing page has a high conversion rate so I just templatized it for all the different ideas I tested.
Here are some of the business ideas I've tested since January.
Podcast advertising marketplace
AI Chrome Extension
NFT analytics website SaaS
Discord newsletter signup bot
I killed all of those ideas. None of them had the momentum that I hoped for to consider success. The AI chrome extension went viral on reddit and indie hackers but it was hype driven and I only got around 150 active users (about 1,100 web visitors). For the other ideas I got a couple signups here and there but nothing overwhelming, til now.
Disclosure: I have had a couple successful bootstrapped businesses in the past. I sold one, and still hold the other. The one that I currently hold takes advantage of a market inefficiency that I was able to identify through market research 5 years ago. I tested it with $50 and it’s now pretty sizable. When testing new ideas I fully bootstrap them, meaning I’m not propping them up with money I've made in other areas of my life, I find that gives a false sense of success that is unsustainable. Instead, I give myself a budget of under $1000 to test the market and I do not promote to users of other businesses I have. The product needs to stand 100% on its own and be bootstrappable. This product specifically was tested for $60.07. I bought Gsuite, an email address, 2 web domains (wasn’t sure which to go with). I did all the art design etc. myself mostly using the free tier on midjourney AI. I went to college for music so i’m not a school trained programmer, I just learned design, code etc. online over the last few years.
Basically I am always looking for new ideas to test and potentially build businesses around. I subscribe to trends, meetglimpse, trendhunter, semrush etc.
My biggest issue with the current players out there is that for me they lean into content that I don’t care about (pushing their facebook communities, community member interviews etc) and the content is just not strong enough. The amount of market research I do on a project by project basis is way deeper than these products offer. I need deep research with serious thought behind it if I'm going to test a new idea, not surface level ideas with 5 minutes of research.
A few years ago I worked for a large fortune 500 corporate company and at one point the CEO backed one of my business ideas internally (I got no equity unfortunately). I was then promoted to focus 100% of my time at the company writing business proposals about different market opportunities we could exploit and would pitch them at a sporadic cadence to the Chief Counsel and executive team. So I've done market research before for myself successfully, as well as for a major organization successfully. (for those wondering, I started at that company as a temp, I learned how to put together market research from reading a lot of books, interviews, youtube and just listening in company meetings).
So I decided to test this new idea out to see if others were interested too. I essentially decided I could provide market research on business ideas in emerging niches and put it out for people to read.
To test the idea I went into side hustle Facebook groups and posted about the site. Some of the communities on Facebook are super large, though they’re mostly unengaged.
I decided to make the logo when shared yellow so that when it’s on someone's newsfeed they notice it immediately. I hoped that would increase engagement a bit. I also tried posting memes with my content but that didn’t work super well as it looked too much like an ad.
I posted about the website in about 10 facebook groups and got 37 signups by the next day. The facebook groups had 50k-100k members.
Over the next week I took about an hour each day to join Facebook groups relating to side hustles, online businesses etc. and would make some posts. This quickly started getting momentum.
I had a business friend whom I sometimes collaborate with share on indiehackers and reddit, he sometimes helps me on projects and is considering joining this project.
This technique of posting in groups and forums was pretty successful. People naturally engaged and checked out the website.
This amounted to getting 1,000 subscribers in the first 12 days.
Why it worked
So here’s why I think it worked…
Appeals to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Economic downturn beneficiary
So #1 I find the best ideas historically appeal to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This means your product should appeal to helping people find love, making money or another core fundamental need that humans desire. In this case, people want to make more money so they may want to create a new business or side hustle.
#2 is that whenever there’s an economic downturn these hierarchical needs become exacerbated. Meaning, people lose their jobs and so they must figure out how to make more money. Downturns impact people's fundamental needs. They may no longer be able to afford their house, they may struggle to put food on the table etc. It’s harsh but there is an obvious shift in attention whenever there is an economic downturn.
#3 There’s a large population that has an interest in building a side hustle and/or business. I had a successful software website in the past that I bootstrapped and had instant product market fit on Reddit but the biggest issue was that it had such a limited TAM. It was too niche to a fault. This really limited the amount of attention it was able to get. Therefore I had to get out of it. This has the potential to appeal to a greater audience.
If you want to bootstrap something you need high momentum.
I read a book by LA Reid (music executive) who talked about signing Justin Bieber and that being the first time in his career he felt momentum like that. Kids would show up in troves at the mall for a chance to see Bieber. LA Reid had been working in music for 10+ years prior to this point. The natural pull that the world had towards Bieber was something he never experienced before.
The goal is to strive for the same feelings in your business. The world should pull for it. It should not be a push from your end, but a pull from their end.
This is just a matter of re-rolling the dice. Don't settle for boring ideas that are slogs and the world doesn't care about. The world will tell you when you have something epic. I've had multiple profitable online businesses and the common theme is the ones that takeoff always cost <$100 to get product/market fit and take only a few weeks to get there.
Sometimes my ego gets hurt when I put out an idea and no one likes it. Or I went way too over budget putting it together. But at the end of the day self awareness is your best friend and by holding onto a bad idea to save an ego you're the one that pays for it sooner or later (either in time or in money).
Anyways, pursue momentum driven ideas. Keep re-rolling until you hit something where you can feel the momentum.