Starting your own business is a great idea; you'll be independent, achieve a sense of fulfillment upon your success, and the satisfaction of following your dreams will last you a lifetime.
But if you're going into the SaaS game, you should know that competition has never been fiercer in the cloud software space.
Whether you're selling B2B or B2C, you need to be ready to get in the trenches to start and grow a SaaS company.
To help you start your company the right way, here's the 9-step checklist to bring any SaaS idea to life. Let's go:
1- Ideation and Research
Most resources would suggest finding the idea first and doing research later, but I'll disagree.
Instead of settling on an idea and then trying to validate it through research, you should dig deep into the SaaS space, understand users' and businesses' needs and find an idea during the research.
If you come across a need or a category no one's tapped into yet through your research and ideas, you'll be not one, but at least 5 steps ahead in the growth of your new company.
So, get a pen and a paper and answer these questions first:
▶ What's my expertise, what can I sell naturally?
▶ What are the biggest pain points of a SaaS user or business?
▶ How do these pain points align with my expertise?
▶ How is the competition in these categories?
▶ What is the best product that would differentiate from the competition and solve users' pain points?
✅ Be honest to yourself, if the competition is too high and the market size is small, your chances of making it will be lower. If your idea is limited, find a new one.
✅ See if the users can justify spending money on that pain point. Just because they have a problem, doesn't mean they're willing to solve it.
✅ See if the development of a solution to the need you're going for would be difficult, you need an easy in so the development should be quick.
Once you've got your idea, the next step is to draw your business plan out on paper.
What will you do for the next 6 months, year, 10 years?
How will you bring money into the business, what are your targets?
Having a solid plan for your new company will definitely help instill vision in you as you work on it, and it'll do the same for any co-founders or first-hires you'll employ.
Yes, your plan will be subject to a lot of change as you go but also seeing how you position yourself can help you see what your mistakes are for future planning.
Try to get these on paper:
- Your business: what it is, what's it called, what does it solve
- Your users: who are they, what do they need, how much are they willing to invest
- The market: who's your competition, how big are they, what are their strategies
- The plan: how will you grow, what are the long-term goals, what are the tasks
✅ Again, be honest. Make sure you're planning with the resources you have at hand. You might be still working a day job, or have limited resources, so make sure you're not planning on the best scenario possible.
✅ Easy tasks first. Make sure you're going to get some small wins initially, to have an uptrend with your growth and justify your business early on.
You're not a designer?
We live in 2022 where you can get a freelancer working on any project you have in the next five minutes.
And since you have all your business plan mapped out with the product idea and the user profile, getting a designer to create the exact stuff you need won't be hard.
✅ Write your copy first. To get the best design for your idea, before sending your requests to the designer, write a copy of your homepage, product page, and CTAs. This will help the designer get aligned with what exactly you're trying to communicate.
✅ Look for experience. I wasn't joking when I said go for a designer with SaaS experience. Believe me, it'll get you ahead big time.
Once the designs are in, and you're ready to get your idea to life, you'll need to develop it.
If you're not a developer yourself, you will need to either hire a developer or use no-code development tools to get things going.
Here's our blog post on developing a SaaS through no-code.
But if you're going the developer road, you can again log into the freelancing websites I've just linked and get started.
✅ Look for experience. Web app development can be a difficult task, even though it seems easier than other development tasks. Try to look for an experienced developer.
✅ Make sure you're going to have full control. Just because your product and website are being developed through coding, it doesn't mean you will need a developer to make the smallest change. Make sure you're going to have a little control yourself, whether it is on the website or the product itself.
Once the app is live, you need to make sure everything's working correctly.
Going in and trying everything yourself is one thing; getting an expert perspective is another.
Make sure you have plenty of people trying out your product and seeing if it's generating any value.
✅ Go online. You can ask other SaaS people in existing communities (Reddit, Slack, Facebook) to be your beta testers.
You should already have an idea of your pricing from the second step; because it'll determine your entire growth strategy.
But in this step, you set it live.
✅ Make make you can justify the price of your product to your users by your product's value.
✅ Make sure your user can justify the price of your product to their executives by your product's value.
✅ Choosing a scalable "Start low, grow fast" pricing model can help you big-time getting users in.
7- Going Live - Launch
Now that everything's set, you can launch your product on different platforms and get the first users to flow in.
✅ Compel the first user. Make sure you're clear on your messaging, and your plans for the future, so the users can get in knowing there will be improvements.
✅ Do it fast, do it right. Be well-prepared for the launch, and do all the different platforms simultaneously. It'll help get things going fast.
You have a good, functioning product; and you have a solid website for it.
Make sure you're connecting all of it to your audience.
Choosing a marketing channel and putting together a solid strategy can help you consistently bring in new users.
✅ Focus on a few channels first. Try to perfect a few marketing channels at first, make them work, and move on to a new channel only if you make a new hire or you have automated the primary channels.
✅ Don't be afraid to try. It's important that you're making bold moves with your marketing with campaigns that excite or wow users.
✅ Replicate your competitors. It doesn't always work, but most of the time, there's potential there. Go after your competitors' marketing channels with better campaigns and content.
Congratulations! You now have a SaaS business up and running that needs you to work consistently to grow.
The biggest challenge in starting a SaaS company is to make it grow because according to the Small Business Administration, the failure rate of startups is around 90%.
Everything you did up until this point was to avoid that, and everything you do after this point should be to avoid that too. Go after the working marketing channels, dominate the market with your presence, and offer a great customer experience to avoid failing in the future.
✅ Set realistic goals. Don't expect to grow overnight. Most businesses aren't profitable for a long time, so set realistic goals and grow inch by inch if necessary.
✅ Customer is the priority. A good customer experience can make or break your company. Offer the best support possible, listen to feature requests, fix bugs, and keep communicating to your users about what you're going to do and what they want.
Starting and growing a SaaS business is a tough task, but if you have the right mindset and can make the right decisions, you can make it.