How Tom’s Planner shifted out of status quo and back into a growth mindset

A client success story about overcoming revenue plateaus, challenging assumptions about customers, and finding market opportunities for growth
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“I was like, ‘I think I know who my customers are, so what will this research bring me in terms of actionable insights?’ But Asia convinced me, and I’m super happy that we did the interviews. It gave me a lot better visual of Tom’s Planner user.”

Tom Ummels

CEO & Founder, Tom's Planner


  • Conducted 12 JTBD customer interviews
  • Mapped the top desired outcomes that customers had
  • Identified the top 3 growth opportunities for Tom’s Planner to explore
  • Prioritized growth projects based on order of potential and impact

Services Provided

  • Growth audit of overall business performance and growth operations
  • Jobs-To-Be-Done mapping based on outcomes of customers
  • Pricing research & price sensitivity analysis

The Company

Bringing innovation to Gantt charts

Back in 2007, after years of working as a project manager and civil engineer, Thomas (Tom) Ummels had an itch he needed to scratch. At the time, he was writing a lot of project proposals. As a visual thinker, he knew Gantt charts were the best shortcut for creating and presenting his plans. Unfortunately the only solutions available to him then were tools like Excel and MS Project, which were complex and annoying to use, slowing him down.

When Tom couldn’t ignore the itch any longer, he went to work building and programming a new and improved Gantt chart software from the ground up. In 2009, Tom’s Planner launched and found its perfect audience – people like Tom who craved a simple tool to visually plan and schedule their projects.

By 2023, something else had started to eat at Tom. His business, which had reached organic success in its early days thanks to inclusion in a TechCrunch round-up that caused a spike in inbound traffic, started to plateau.

“I’m an engineer at heart – I really just like to work on the product and build it. I enjoyed the freedom that it was giving me, and I wanted to stay solo. But there are so many opportunities out there, so much low hanging fruit. And the revenue had been plateauing for a couple of years… It was bugging the hell out of me.


I started to dive in [to the numbers] and there was this one graph where I made some calculations about reinvesting part of the revenue back into the business. If I could turn this around to a five or 10% growth year over year, what would that look like?”

What started as a quick calculation is on its way to becoming reality, thanks to the insights and support of DemandMaven. For the first time in a long time, Tom has a clear direction for the growth and marketing of Tom’s Planner and he’s excited about what’s coming.

“It’s like this in dev, too: You want to go from one position to another position, and you have this map in front of you and you can see the position that you want to go to and you know the location where you’re at, but there’s this cover of clouds and you don’t see anything that’s in between. You don’t see the possible roads there are.


And so, when you’re a developer, you start to venture out and just figure things out, and slowly the clouds fade away. And then at some point, you find the perfect route from A to B.

In this case, [working with DemandMaven], it’s the same: the clouds have disappeared, but there are still all these different routes that are there – maybe even more than I thought of! But I think I have a better understanding of the map and can see, ‘Okay, these are three things that I should start with.’”

The Challenge

Too many options for growth

As a solopreneur, Tom has always taken the lead in running his business and making every decision, no matter how large or small. Because his passion naturally lies in product development, he had put marketing on the backburner for years.

“I heard at MicroConf, for instance, ‘Talk to your users, talk to users.’ They also were saying: ‘Marketing, marketing, marketing.’ But I thought I knew what to do – Tom’s Planner was doing really well for a business built by one person so I could choose what I spent my time on. And I know that reaching your target audience has some value, but I like to get up to build code and make cool features. That’s what drives me.”

Watching his business’s growth plateau – and fearing an inevitable decline – Tom knew he had to make a change. Despite lacking a formal background in marketing, he understood there were plenty of growth opportunities out there. He considered changing up his SEO strategy, focusing on his website conversion, even rebranding. But to really narrow down the list and reach his goal of increasing revenue 10% year over year, he would need help. That’s when he found DemandMaven.

“I knew there were all these opportunities and I wanted to know which one to work on first.”

To set his priorities for the coming 6-12 months, he would need a better understanding of current areas for improvement across acquisition, activation, retention, and expansion, as well as recommendations for processes, team structure, and tech stack. He would also need to get a solid picture of his full customer base – their desires, their challenges – and a feel for the way they are actually using the product across industries.

The Solution

Auditing growth for high-priority growth levers

Founded by Asia Organio in 2018, DemandMaven is a strategic growth consulting firm that helps growing companies and startups troubleshoot their growth and find their absolute best growth opportunities. When Asia’s name kept popping up at MicroConf, including in a conversation with the conference’s organizer Rob Walling, Tom felt confident that she could give him the objective outside perspective he was looking for as he figured out his growth strategy.

“On the website, DemandMaven offers a couple of services and the Growth Audit seemed to really match with what I was looking for,” Tom said.

During the Growth Audit, Asia and her team looked deep into Tom’s Planner’s current performance metrics to really understand how the business is operating and what areas are ripe for optimization. The final report details Asia’s thought process and takeaways based on her years of work with high-growth SaaS founders and personalized according to Tom’s goal of keeping his company small and nimble.

“There were questions and angles that Asia used to approach things that I wasn’t familiar with. It was really useful for me to talk things through to get a growth mindset and to get her perspective, which highlighted a couple of things that I hadn’t considered as being important and deprioritized a couple of things that I [previously] thought were important,” Tom further expanded.

One outcome from the process included Tom re-evaluating what actions were high priority – would yield a high impact – and which could be pushed further down the roadmap. When DemandMaven partnered with Tom to run a price sensitivity survey to a group of 100+ active users to gauge their thoughts on the current pricing structure, he was able to validate his assumption that his current pricing was right on the money.

“I like to work solo and want to keep the team small but there’s a lot of opportunities [to pursue]. I could put five things in motion at the same time, but then I would be trying to manage it for years to come. The price sensitivity analysis was really useful in the sense that it gave me one thing less to consider because I seem to be in the [correct] range,” said Tom.

Along the way, Tom became convinced conversations with active Tom’s Planner customers would fill in the final pieces of the puzzle. Especially since from 2009 to 2024 he had mostly only interacted with his customers in a support capacity.

“I was like, ‘I think I know who my customers are, so what will [this research] bring me in terms of actionable insights?’ But Asia convinced me, and I’m super happy that we did [the interviews]. It gave me a lot better visual of the Tom’s Planner user,” said Tom.

Asia and her team conducted a series of 10 Jobs To Be Done (JTBD)-style interviews with a carefully selected group of Tom’s Planner’s users. Not only was the team able to gather honest and objective product feedback, they were able to dig deep and get to the root of why customers were choosing Tom’s Planner over the competition using the JTBD framework. Over the course of the interviews, clear patterns and customer groups started to take shape which were tracked and updated in real-time during the process.

“I knew that it was frustrating to make a Gantt chart when you just had to submit a proposal, so I built this tool. As it turns out, it’s getting used for really big teams’ projects. That makes me consider [the product] in a different light than before.”

The Result

Clear growth priorities and confidence

With DemandMaven’s guidance and support, Tom has settled on three top priorities for the year, including building out a “team plan” with more robust features and pricing to support that user group.

“I have a roadmap for the next year, for sure. And there’s this list of things that probably are best to work on [after that], but I haven’t mapped those out because I just want to get these three things done and then I can shift my horizon further.”

While it’s still early in his implementation phase, his work with DemandMaven led to a major mindset shift that will permanently change the way Tom thinks about his business: From spending all of his time improving the product for existing users, to looking for ways to attract fresh users and spread the Gantt-love to a whole new audience. Now, Tom is seeing all the possibilities in front of him and making more confident decisions about how to spend his time.

“I feel more confident with having a grasp on the situation of Tom’s Planner in relation to growth and marketing and promotion.

One of the biggest lightbulb moments from the process was actually hearing Tom’s Planner customers talk about the desires and struggles that led them to his software in the first place. Scratching his own itch back in 2009 helped him reach a good product-market fit, but in order to keep growing he knows he will need to consider other perspectives.

“What worked before was, ‘How would I think about this? How would I like this?’ And now I have these 10 people and I look at them and wonder, ‘How would they like this?’”

Through consultations with DemandMaven, Tom has also decided to implement several in-product customer feedback opportunities in an effort to reduce churn and improve the overall customer experience.

“I have an AI assistant on Tom’s Planner where you can just enter a description for a project and then it makes a Gantt chart for you. It’s been a good way to catch the attention and convert people, and I’m just curious how people are using it, what they’re doing with it, if they get stuck anywhere.”

Over the next few months, Tom is looking forward to experimenting and executing his strategic plan based on the results from the three initiatives DemandMaven has delivered. We can’t wait to check in with him again at the end of the year to see how his visions have come to life.

If Tom’s story is striking a chord, you might be ready to bring on a growth expert like DemandMaven! Get the clear eyes and strategic action plan you need to change the trajectory of your business.

“I feel more confident with having a grasp on the situation of Tom’s Planner in relation to growth and marketing and promotion.”

Tom Ummels

CEO & Founder, Tom's Planner

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This sh*t ain’t easy, but that’s exactly why we built DemandMaven. We’ll help you find your absolute best growth opportunities based on the “jobs” your customers are hiring the product for. Then, we’ll show you exactly what needs to happen to achieve your goals.