How To Launch Your First Version SaaS Product?
We understand the effort and time that goes into building a product, but do you understand the effort and time it takes to get people to care enough about your product to buy it? It is a long trek many aspiring entrepreneurs don’t fully consider or understand. In fact, you may have a fantastic, truly unique product and when you release it, you might get nothing but crickets. The growth you envisioned is non-existent, and now you’re second-guessing yourself and wondering what you did wrong.
Is your SaaS product launch ready?
Launch day can feel like the end for the founding team of a startup. However, in reality, it is the beginning. The launch is when your real work starts, and this is the time you need the right sales strategy. Do you have one? But here’s the thing about selling, it always makes us a little nervous. We are creators and builders. Most founders are, too. We go into business because we enjoy building great products, not sell them. But what if I tell you, you shouldn’t have to sell anything to be successful? What if your only strategy was to make your customer as successful as possible? Is your product there yet?
What does launching a product really entail?
Technically, if your product is doing what you wanted it to do, you are ready to launch. If you are lean, your product reflects only what is necessary to validate your concept. This works. But what you're really looking for here with the launch of your product is to get people using your product and gather a lot of feedback from the enthusiastic early adopters.
Now, what if you’re launching a B2B SaaS product? Are you looking for some publicity and a bunch of new customers right? Chances are, not many will notice your launch, and it leads to no new business. If that’s case, don’t be taken aback. Learn from it. The second most likely outcome will be drawing in some early users to try out your product only to discover it's not solving their problems as you envisioned.
But we need to launch to find all this out right? Not necessarily. When you're launching, you must have a clear idea of who your potential customers are and what problems your product is solving for them. Else, you're walking into the arena blindfolded.
Is your product ready to be launched?
They say if you’re not embarrassed to launch your product you’ve waited too long. This is true enough since we can always find things to tweak in our products forever as there’s always some room for improvement. Nevertheless, before you launch, you must have done your homework to figure out what's critical for your early target users. You don't need a lot of users while you are still validating your concept. All you need is a handful to validate your concept. Do not launch before you know for sure your product works for a certain target group, and don’t forget to ascertain whether they are willing to pay for your product.
Think of your MVP as a basic pizza. It doesn’t have to have all the toppings, but you do need to have one solid base and some cheese to demonstrate. Even a slice of the basic pizza does not allow room for shortcuts on anything that could have a significant negative effect on how your users will experience your product. You may have all the functionality in place, but if your users don't know how or understand why they should be using those features, you have failed. In SaaS terms, you should’ve worked not only on technology but also on things like integrations, easy setup, documentation, usability, online guides and a whole bunch of things.
And don’t employ shortcuts like substituting functionality with dummy mockups, or even by doing a ton of manual work behind the scenes. Not if you’re aiming to provide good or even great, user experience, which might lead to positive reviews and many signups, and eventually, happy customers. End of the day, adjust your mindset. Merely putting your product out on display is not going to be enough. No matter how much you like your product, it's not about you. It's about your users.
What you need is the ability to demonstrate value.
In the end, it boils down to providing real value for the users from the moment they start a free trial. While signing up, your users expect your product to solve a certain problem they are currently facing. Your MVP's purpose should be to find the simplest solution for that particular problem, which can demonstrate value. This doesn't mean you build the simplest thing that works, but one which solves some real pain points and your target customers are willing to use.
You may not be there yet. At least, not on a level you'd like to be. That's why most of us haven’t officially launched our products yet and are in some beta state for the last couple of months. But the important thing is to be busy making your way through the checklist and finally get the product out of the door for a wider audience.
Timing is crucial.
I’m sure you’ve been forewarned about this but doesn’t hurt to drive the point in. When you launch too early, your product might not be refined enough to stand out from the crowd. Remind yourself, your MVP shouldn’t be the simplest version of your product, but rather the simplest version of your awesome product. The MVP should still be awesome.
On the other hand, when you wait too long, the market may already be flooded and taken by competitors. Or worse, you could run out of cash with no paying customers in sight.
So finding the balance is key here. Taking shortcuts is quite unavoidable. Just make sure you’re choosing which shortcuts to take carefully. There’s a thin line between a slight inconvenience and pure frustration when it comes to customer experience.
How to launch your first version SaaS product?
Don’t expect people to buy your product unless it is truly revolutionary. Not at first, anyway. When you start your SaaS business, you’ll soon discover that you’re just another product in the universe of fast-paced tech and innovative ideas. Starting out, not many might recognize your company’s name or what you do, so your first job is to get your name out there. There are enough methods to market a SaaS product, from affiliate partnerships and paid advertising, through content marketing and active outreach to media outlets. Experiment with a combination of these methods. Pay close attention to what works for you and know that it might change with time.
Initially, don’t launch publicly
Start by signing up your friends and family. We all start the same way. You don't need to employ any fancy marketing or tech-savviness to reach them. Ask them to provide you feedback on their experience. While this feedback won't necessarily be unbiased, it will nonetheless be wide-ranging, real, and often insightful. These are people who will be willing to spend time carefully thinking about their feedback and delving deeper into the conversations. This is not meant to counter the Lean Startup ‘iterate quickly with customer feedback’ advice. Instead, this is an acknowledgment that there are different types of feedback to look into based on your development stage.
Take the help of quality content
If you’re new to the SaaS Product world, content creation is your best friend. Start a blog and write content that speaks to the people who need or might want your product. It's a great way to grab attention to your brand and product while building you as an authority in your desired space. With a well-run blog, you can pitch your solution and receive immediate feedback, discover and develop relationships within your market, establish yourself as a thought leader and increase your online search-ability. To provide great content, you don’t have to be a great writer. Start generating content and monitor the kind of response you get. Just make sure your articles are in-depth and bring value. At the same time, don’t expect instant results. Running a blog will take a lot of time and effort. Even so, today it’s particularly important for SaaS companies to do content marketing, and it’s even relatively affordable. It’s a marketing strategy which has seen huge growth over the past decade.
Start with beta testing
A great way to get started doing marketing is to launch a beta product. It’s also a good way to learn before the real thing is out there. Build a beta version of your app or software and get it released once it’s bug-free and fully-functioning. Too many SaaS companies delay their launch by continuously adding features they ‘want’ before they release the first version. Once it's in a usable and respectable form, get it to market and let your beta users provide you feedback and help shape the future of the software. There are a lot of advantages to opening up the service in beta. There will be issues, bugs, unnecessarily complicated user flows, and poorly worded text. With the beta, you're telling people that the product isn't done and asking them to be patient with you. It's also a request for feedback and an opportunity to create awareness.
Pitch your Beta version to press
Not all press will care about or even be willing to cover beta products. A lot of the mainstream press will want to write about services which are fully live, have scaled, and are important in the marketplace. However, there are a bunch of sites that like to cover the leading edge, meaning cover betas.
Do your own PR
Doing your PR is a good idea to start with, whether or not you’ve got the budget. After all, nobody knows your business better than you do. You can also spend some time participating in relevant online communities. Start commenting on relevant blog posts, participate in relevant discussion groups, and work on your own blog. Find out where your prospective customers hang out online and work to get coverage in those areas.
Do a bit of everything
There are too many different ways to do your marketing, and it’s not feasible to do them all, especially when you’re just getting started. However, you won't know what works for you, unless you try it. Try them, see how each works for you, and then pick the best performing of the lot. When it comes to marketing, you must try and stretch your budget to a few different advertising channels. Don’t drop all your eggs in one basket. This way, you can tell which marketing channel is giving you the most value. And track your ‘conversions’ to find out which marketing channel has the best conversion rate. A good online campaign should include social media advertising, paid search engine advertising, email marketing, and a PR campaign.
Don’t forget the value of real-life products
This holds true even for a SaaS company. A lot of SaaS companies are sending stickers, or small “thank you” presents to their best or most loyal customers. The last stage in a SaaS product pre-launch stage is the beta stage. By sharing their feedback, early adopters have shaped the future of your product and your business. Make sure you reward them for their time and effort.
You still need to onboard customers to your app, no matter how simple the first version of your SaaS product will be. Chances are the newcomers will stay and convert into paying customers in the future if you do it well.
Always deliver value
While you're launching, your mind is probably gravitating towards itching to make the proverbial million dollars. Resist the temptation, don't chase money and instead re-focus on building value for a million customers. Don’t allow the huge numbers to distract you. Start small. Begin by creating real value for your initial ten customers, then for the next hundred, and keep moving up like that. When you do a great job, your fans will do the rest of the work by bringing in more people, and money will naturally follow. It starts by creating a smooth onboarding process, by taking the call when your customers have a problem, and emailing back soon when they ask you a question, making it a priority to be transparent and publicly apologizing for the mistakes you made and inconveniences you created. All this counts as value. Being responsive and retaining your personal touch is potentially how you can beat bigger, better-funded, more established competitors.
All companies that inhabit the same space are competing aggressively for attention. But great products, with a strong team behind them, sell themselves. The reason certain products are considered great is that they focus on making their customers successful. So, if you've built a great product, half your marketing job is done. Good luck.