Validating my Personalised Print Business Aimed At Cycling And Running Enthusiasts.

01/10/2016, 3 minute read.

This post was initially written for Reddit, but I figured other non-Reddit folk might be interested in feeding back too.

Original post…

Hi all. I’m here for some thoughts/feedback/advice on my plan of action for the next 3 months of my startup/side-project. A bit of context…

I run a site called The website turns your exercise data into “artwork”. Using your Strava or Runkeeper exercise data, we aggregate the routes/maps and timings onto print designs that you can personalise and buy. Prints cost £20/$30 and I currently offer free p&p.

The problem is I’ve been running the site for about 2 years but I don’t feel like I’ve reached the point of validation to determine if I should continue with the idea or not. Currently, I have about 16k registered users with this number increasing at a steady rate daily.

The next 3-4 months are my busiest period of the year. A lot of my sales are for “end of year” prints so although Christmas seems like the obvious time for sales to peak, it actually continues well into the new year as folks wait for the 31st December to pass.

An important thing to note; my flagship product - the Multi Route, can’t be gifted. The exercise data is private i.e you have to log into our system with your account details for Strava or Runkeeper to access the data. This makes gifting the product (almost) impossible.

So I’m currently planning my strategy for the best approach to finally validate if the idea is worth carrying on, and would really appreciate some feedback please.

Possible next steps…

Reduce costs, and therefore prices:

For European and Rest of World orders I use a high street printers in London. They produce a fantastically high quality print but each one costs £12. I could find a cheaper provider. My US printer charges $9 per print - it’s much more cost effective. The small paid marketing budget I have is always directed at a US audience for this reason.

New Print Design

I ask each new user if they’d mind filling in a short feedback survey for me. One of the four questions I ask is: “What would you like us to work on next?”. The top response is: “Additional print designs” getting 57% of votes. 2nd place is “More print personalisation options” (49%) and 3rd place: “More data insights” (45%)(to clarify the %’s, it’s a multiple choice question and more than one can be selected). It takes me approx 4 weeks to design, build and ship a new print design onto the website.

I’m not sure if my time is best spent working on a new print design if I’m not confident in the first instance that I’ve even validated the initial idea.

Additional print features

Based on the aforementioned data, my time might be better spent improving the current designs, the personalisation features and the data insights customers can highlight on each. This could be broken down into much more manageable features, than a brand new print design. Suggestions include:

Free or Paid P&P

I currently offer free postage and packaging because I figured that would be a nice sweetener. Friends have told me I’m crazy for doing this. It would be a relatively quick test to see if it increases/decreases sales.

The question is, do I bring down prices of the prints as a result of dropping free shipping?!

Digital Downloads

This seems like a no-brainer. Offering digital downloads of prints for a much lower price, say £5/$7 or something…

Support more platforms: Nike, Garmin etc…

Opening up the funnel (potential customer base) at the start of the process seems like a good idea. The ability to get more people to sign up would be great. The problem is that these other platforms have API’s that aren’t as easy to work with as Strava’s and the design process for a print would therefore be much more “clunky” IMO. Runkeeper, the other platform Sisu supports falls into this category.

I have a very small paid marketing budget of about £150 per month (depending on return) for this project at the moment. My previous efforts have involved running Facebook and Instagram ads. I didn’t have a huge amount of success with these. I’d like to learn more and experiment further with them though. I suspect I need to work harder on my landing pages and messaging for visitors who visit via these sources.

Non-paid marketing

I’ve worked on a few blog posts this year and tried to distribute them as widely as possible. This generated a few signups but no sales unfortunately. I’ve also worked on growing our Instagram account as well as sending a weekly newsletter to existing customers.

The problem here is there seems to just be so many options that it’s slightly overwhelming what to focus on - perhaps that is the takeaway - focus on a single source. Does anyone have any good suggestions for managing/approaching this?

Growth hacks

I had an idea I’ve started to rollout. Strava allows you to create segments. This is a section of a run or ride that you can compete against others on and beat your own time on too. It might be a hill climb, a straight sprint or a lap of a park for example. I’ve started creating segments on popular roads: Rye Lane - Peckham and Regents Canal and calling them “Sisu - Your exercise data as art!”. These are easy to create and I’ve had a reasonable number hits from the ones I’ve created. Each is accompanied with a Google shortened URL for measurement purposes.

So, that’s it. That’s my business, where I’m at and what I’m planning to do over the next few months. However, I do feel that the amount of options for my next steps is stalling me slightly. I hoped writing it down would bring some clarity and it has to a degree, but I’d really appreciate any feedback from experts out there with suggestions on how I can finally validate this idea once and for all.

— End of Reddit post —

I figured it would be useful to post this here as a bit of a record of progress, for myself and for others. I’d like to address this on a semi-regular basis over the next couple of months too - famous last words - but hopefully I can report back progress and improvement in my business. Fingers crossed.