Yesterday, we covered the basic idea, the company name and the logo in what I’m calling the “Instant Ramen Startup”, which is basically the idea of launching a product quickly and practically spending no (or very little) money.
It has come to my attention that this has been covered in Dan Norris’ book The Seven Day Startup. It seems like a great book and much of his advice I’ll seem to be following, so check it out!
Today was spent working on the MVP which is nearly complete. Within a few hours I’ll have a working product to actually sell and this article will go over how that was implemented and what decisions had allowed me to cut down on dev time significantly.
The technical stack that I decided to use was paramount in cutting down development time for this particular experiment. The web application and interface is programmed in Meteor, a real time web application development framework that sits on NodeJS. It really has allowed me to turn around a minimum viable product in no time. In particular, two packages have made things a lot easier: Aldeed:Autoform and SimpleSchema. Meteor uses MongoDB by default, and SimpleSchema allows you to tie your mongo collections to a particular layout. Autoform looks at the schema and automatically generates insert/update web forms. Our two main data types for this application are prospects and sequences. Prospects are basically email addresses and sequences are collections of emails to send them. Quite simple to program. We just need a script that will measure the timing that you set on your sequences and send out emails to each prospect.
We also want to track opens and replies, so we’re doing two things: injecting images that link back to our Meteor app that mark the email as opened, and we have a PHP script that constantly checks the user’s IMAP server for replies to the email. We inject some hidden short code HTML that contains the message ID for easy parsing as people can randomly change subjects on replies.
The crontab server that handles checking email inboxes for replies as well as sending the emails themselves actually does not run on Node. Prior to developing in Meteor, I had extensive experience in PHP and mail systems in general, so it was much faster for me to just program the checking/sending script in PHP using something like the PHPMailer class.
The first draft of the sequences screen looks like this:
The autoform package recognizes that a sequence is really just an array of HTML strings for the email content and integers for the delay spacing between emails. From there, one line in our template renders the entire input form. We use summernote to render the HTML input boxes and its automatically handled by autoform. We also allow variable substitution in email addresses for some sweet “mail merge” action, and thats a simple regex find and replace done when the emails are sent.
Our prospects screen is pretty simple and just shows an overview of each prospect and where they are in your sequences:
The system uses the bootstrap:tagsinput package to handle tagging, and the system will also add in tags of its own such as “Opened” when the prospect opens your email. The status indicates what step the prospect is on as well as if they’ve replied to an email. All in all, quite simple and only a few lines of code for Meteor.
The dashboard will contain some simple non-visual metrics as far as how many emails have been sent/replied to and what your open percentages are. Nothing too fancy is required to get value out of this project at first. That’s the focus!
Right now I’m testing limiting it by the number of prospects you have in the system. I’m not sure how that will play out, but feel free to leave a note in the comments with your ideas! LeadPilot is coming along great!
Monday (Day 3) we’ll be looking more at our business model and how we can make the most out of launching a product on a Ramen Noodle budget! Stay tuned…
You can view the next article here.
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