How to build an audience-driven business | AMA with Arvid Kahl

Published on
August 20th, 2021
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Coder, writer, and entrepreneur Arvid Kahl answered your questions about building a business, from converting free customers to understanding demand.
Arvid Kahl is a coder and the co-founder of Feedback Panda, an online teacher productivity SaaS company he built with his life partner before selling it for a life-changing amount of money.
Kahl’s passionate about helping makers build a business. He published his first book “Zero to Sold” to help entrepreneurs learn how to start, run, and sell a bootstrapped business. His latest publication, “The Embedded Entrepreneur", is a guide to starting and growing a business through building and understanding your audience.

Kahl opened himself up to the Product Hunt community for questions about business and audience building. We shared some of our favorite knowledge gems below.
On converting free customers to paid customers:

One of the best ways to get there is to understand your customers' value metric: what number goes up when they make more money.

Find that number, then find a solid threshold between free and paid. Charge money after they reach this. If no one wants to pay for your product, ask them what you'd need to offer to have them pay.
On founders seeking a co-founder:
Show evidence of your conviction. This is an entrepreneurial aphrodisiac for future customers, partners, and co-founders alike. People LOVE seeing someone building as much as they can even if it's hard.

On makers with no current project:

Grow your curiosity and involvement in the communities you enjoy. Embedded Entrepreneurship is a great way of doing this, as the "business idea" is a consequence, not a prerequisite.
On acquiring customers in your early days:
We made every effort to allow our existing customers to recommend the product to their peers. The more recommendable the product, the more our "outsourced" marketing would scale. So we kept the things that worked: focus on our customers as PEOPLE, building a strong network effect into the product, making user-generated content easily discoverable and usable, highlighting community members, and doing customer support without pretence: showing that we are just people, not a faceless corporation. Humanizing every contact with our customers as much as we could while trying to automate the functional transactions (like billing or solving common problems).

On making wise career choices vs mistakes:
Try a lot of stuff. Saying yes to opportunities even when it wasn't clear what I'd use them for.

The only mistake you can make is not to leverage your unique skill set. It's at the intersection of all the things you're good at where you'll shine the most.

On understanding if you have product demand:

If people don't even care to look at your product, that's pretty bleak. If people are curious about your product, try it out and then fail to convert, that's actually a good sign. It means that they have a real problem that triggered them to check out if your product can help. It didn't, which is why they didn't buy. All you need to do now is to figure out where you need to make changes to map your product onto their existing expectations.

On validating an idea that impacts a community:

Be part of that community as fast as you can.

The only way to understand people's actual challenges and how they tackle them is by observing them. As powerful as our brains are, we are always biased towards our own experiences, and while this is helpful initially, it can limit our understanding of the reality that other people feel.

On handling stress during growth:

If you feel you're overwhelmed, don't dismiss the feeling. Build systems, hire people to help, and make sure you get back to a bearable level of stress. Can't avoid it, but you can manage it.
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