I love email marketing tools. But you know what I love even more? Indie email tools. Especially side hustles.
Maybe it's the comraderie of folks who are also balancing 9-5s during the day, energetic offspring in the evening, and trying to get a little more momentum for their business in between. Maybe it's because, even with the constraints, these people are able to build amazingly good tools.
A marketer for SocketLabs, John started GetLeadForms back in late 2018 to scratch his own itch. He wanted to create a multi-step form to (hopefully) capture more qualified inbound leads. The problem? It was really hard to do and the tools that existed to do it lacked a design or features that actually aligned with what a marketer like John actually needed.
That gap - a more sophisticated interactive form tool built specifically for marketers - got the wheels turning until a switch flipped and he went for it.
On a rainy September night I rushed home and created a mockup of what I wanted. The original design is what you see on the home page. It was simple. Just a multi step form that kind of looks like a chat. From there, I interviewed like 30 devs and spent a few weeks just thinking about what it would take to build it.
Sometimes us indie makers get less cred than we deserve because using an indie tool is rarely a handicap. I think John's story illustrates why.
A Focus on Functionality
Indie tools can't afford to push out a cute UI that doesn't actually solve a useful problem and then brute-force growth with a bunch of ad spend. In John's case that deep focus meant that solving the problem was priority #1 and the UI is the last thing he built.
When I say MVP it was super MVP. There was no UI or dashboard to login to create the LeadForms. I had to update three JSON files and upload them to a server, then that would produce the actual LeadForm widget/UI that you see today. But that didn’t matter because I was building these for myself.
It Actually Works
Which means that if an indie tool can't solve the problem, that product's story ends there. If the company exists, the product works. Simple as that. And that's exactly what happened with John's story. After solving the problem he was able to then track the results. And that performance was so solid he knew it could be a thing.
After seeing the results and seeing where I could take the tool, I eventually decided to take it to market. I continued with the approach of building these via JSON and uploading to a server until I had a customer who needed 1,000 of these built. That’s when I built out the UI for v1 of the dashboard (sometime in late 2019).
I can't overstate this point. My favorite moments of building SendView have been those evenings when I get a feature request from a user and can send them an email a couple hours later saying it's ready. John is the same. His roadmap now isn't dictate by what will drive up his valuation, it's what his users need.
From there it has just been a matter of iterating based on feedback while trying to bootstrap this.
Remember the integration between Parcel and SendView? Avi and I - two small, scrappy, indie tools like John's - built that in a couple of evenings.
The Good Stuff
Listen, sometimes that old school boss of yours will insist and the fancy-pants brands they hear about at their favorite conference.
But if you've got the choice and you want to increase lead capture and form conversion, you should give a tool like GetLeadForms a try. Not only is it an awesome platform that'll help solve the neverending challenge of lead capture, you'll be working with the person who built it and have a front row seat to both watch and influence where it goes from here.
Not a bad way to spend your marketing budget if you ask me.
P.S. - Know of someone like him who has built an awesome, email-related tool? Let me know. I'd love to find more of these.