How a failed marketing campaign is helping me build a better product

I discover awesome new products and apps on sites like HN every day. Unfortunately, I very rarely revisit these products after I first discover them;  I usually forget that they exist even though it’s possible I could have gotten great value from them. I imagine that this issue is common. People are busy and it’s difficult to keep track of every cool product you discover. Because of this, I wanted to come up with a way to keep Duet fresh in prospective customer’s minds after their initial visit to the site, and hopefully increase the probability that they purchase Duet.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Visitors will be offered 10% off their purchase when the visit the site. The coupon code will be sent via email.
  2. If the user hasn’t used the coupon code in a week, I send them a reminder email.
  3. If the user hasn’t used the coupon code after two weeks, I send them one last reminder email.

This entire process is automated and I make it super simple for people to unsubscribe because I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re getting spam. Here’s an example of one of the automated emails I created for this campaign:

Hey. I’m the developer of Duet Project Management ( I’m just following up because you requested a coupon code, but I noticed you haven’t used it yet. Is there anything that you need help with? Questions about how Duet can help you run your business, it’s pricing, or licensing?

If you don’t think Duet is the right fit for you business, I’d love to hear what is missing for it to be useful for you.

Just in case, here’s the coupon code again: 10-off-duet. This is a limited time offer 🙂


This seemed like a good idea because only people interested in Duet would submit their email address. The follow up emails would remind them about the app and eventually they would make a purchase. Unfortunately the campaign has not worked as intended. It has been running for 5 weeks and it hasn’t had any effect on sales. It has, however, been great in another aspect. At least 10% of the people who receive the follow up emails respond and tell me exactly why they’re not going to be purchasing the app. This is extremely valuable feedback that I can use to make Duet a much better product.

Here’s some of the most common feedback that I’ve received. Each of these items was mentioned by several potential customers.

  • There is no way to view the total hours that have been spent on a project.

    It makes sense that customers would want this functionality because it would provide a quick way to see whether a project is on track and whether it will be completed within the allotted budget. I’m already tracking time for each individual task so it would be extremely simple to add a total for each project.

  • There is no way to submit a partial payment

    The way Duet works now, a client needs to pay an invoice in full. I would have liked to enable partial payments with the first release, but it wasn’t a priority at the time. Now I know it needs to be added soon.

  • I don’t see the Paypal and Stripe payment options in the demo. Are they really available?

    This one isn’t actually an issue with the product. It’s just a limitation of the way I have the online demo set up. I’ll need to make it more clear to potential customers that this functionality exists and provide a way for them to test it.

  • Clients need to be able to create tasks.

    This is actually the most popular feedback I’ve gotten. I had no idea so many people would want this functionality and I wish that I had already added it. I’m hoping to get it added very soon.

  • Does it work with SSL?

    Since one of the benefits of Duet is increased control over your data, it makes sense that my potential customers would want to make sure it works with SSL. Unfortunately the Duet website wasn’t using SSL, so some people were unsure whether the app would work with SSL. This was easily fixed by purchasing an SSL certificate from my host.

  • It looks like crap on mobile. Everything is jumbled up.

    I’ve always known this would be an issue for some people, and I definitely plan to build a mobile version as soon as possible, it’s just a big effort.

I had already received a lot of this feedback, but it was previously delivered as feature suggestions,  i.e. “Hey, you should add the total hours to the project dashboard”.  Now I have people telling me “I’m not buying Duet because it’s missing the total hours on the dashboard”. This helps me prioritize which features need to be added first. In my mind adding total hours was a minor feature that I would get to eventually, but now I know it’s something I need to address soon.

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  • Bob Snyder

    you might look into phone gap for mobile it uses html for screen layout and if you created service for your business logic it could save alot of time. Not as fast as native but as a v1 might work out.

  • Vincent

    Love what you are doing here and honestly wish you success.
    Great to see you are also taking the feedback well.
    I wonder if I can make a million dollar suggestion for you?
    Integrate with WordPress via a plugin to join the two apps, that way you retain standalone version as well 🙂

  • josephjrobison

    Love all your posts, as a potential future customer this helps me understand the support behind the product and track development.

  • Michael

    I have to agree with many of the points made by potential customers. As a customer myself, I’d love for these features to be added! I use Duet everyday in my workflow and some common things I run into are: mobile support, partial payments, ability to send/approve quote, make timer more prominent, and the ability to alphabetically organize client list to name a few.

    You have a great product! I think nurturing the community/customers you already have and taking their suggestions into account will in the end help convert more sales. It’s all about focus. I sure would appreciate the focus on current customers rather than prioritizing a “potential” client. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

  • aamnah

    I just became your customer by using that code.. Looking forward to putting Duet to work!

  • niftysmith

    Don’t give up. I keep coming back to this product because I don’t want to pay a monthly fee. What you have going here looks great, and it looks like if you were to work on current customer requests (partial payments, send/approve quotes, and an alphabetical client list), I’m pretty sure I’m sold. I have given some other apps a try, such as Freshbooks and Nutcache. Neither of those really have done it for me. I will probably be purchasing this app this month sometime because I’m eager to give it a try regardless of what is missing.

    As a letterpress printer, I need a way for clients to approve artwork without me sending files back and forth. It looks like you’ve got File Management abilities on the Features list, which should work for me, though it doesn’t specify if there’s an approve/disapprove option. That would be a fun future feature for folks like me!