Software as a Service (SaaS) model has gained significant traction over the last few years. In a SaaS model, a startup allows customers to pay a fee to use a product on a monthly basis. Some popular companies that use the SaaS model include Slack, Dropbox and Trello. Despite the fact that 20% of all startups fail within their first year it’s still worth trying to execute your dreams. If you are a SaaS startup, how can you bootstrap the business and make it a success?
1. Be clear on the problem you want to solve
Ensuring that you are solving a problem that is real is the first step towards making your SaaS startup a success. The idea is to provide the best solution to the right problem. To identify the right problem, evaluate the products that are currently being used. For instance, think of computers and how people accessed books before they came into existence. Libraries were the in thing at the time and when you think about it, what computers did was basically to take care of a job that was already there. The bottom line is – the job that needs to be done will always be the same, it is the solution to those problems that change.
One way to identify jobs that you can find new solutions to is by talking to your customers. Often, you may feel like you are clear on the solution you need to create. However, to remove bias, it’s important to consider the people who will use your services. This will help you understand their problem from their perspective and avoid replication of solutions that they are already using.
2. Run your job-to-be-done idea through your contacts
Before you start developing your product, consider running the idea through your connections. You can create a pre-social media or pre-landing page for your product to be used for them to look at. Usually, the first people to provide feedback will be those that you personally recruit. To engage people, scroll through your Twitter followers, Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and email lists and request their time to discuss the issues you are focusing on.
Ensure that the people you reach out fit within the target audience you intend to serve – in a way, they should have a job-to-be done that your SaaS product can provide a solution to. Your engagement with them should enable you to learn more about the jobs they want to get done and provide some insight into the tools they use to get them done. Repeat this process with at least 50 people so you are clear on your job-to-be-done idea.
3. Identify the best problem and focus on solving it
The best problems are those that you need to solve is the one that makes people’s lives easier. Since your target audience is already getting the job done in some way, providing solutions that are better, such as the ones you are working on, should increase the efficiency with which they get their jobs done. To determine which problem is the best to solve, look out for the roadblock that is causing the problem that users experience in getting what they want to do done.
Also, pay attention to the pain points that your audience repeatedly talk about during the interviews and watch out for the key words they use to describe those pain points. Identifying your customer’s pain points takes you a step closer to creating a product that they will use. It also gives your product a competitive advantage that people will find worthy of their money and time.
To ensure that the problem you are solving is big enough, send your sample audience a survey with one multiple choice and one open-ended question. This will enable you to learn more about your customers and gauge how significant the problem is among your potential customers.
4. Work with potential users to develop a prototype
Consider convening a brief meeting with the potential users you ran your product idea through and over a period of between half an hour to one hour, develop a prototype development workflow together. Begin by putting down the product development steps then turn those into sketches or drawings. After that, allow the conversation on what to create and how to use it flow.
If you are not able to exhaust the process in a single meeting, hold another meeting until a consensus is reached. Beyond the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ to look out for when you achieve the ‘wow’ factor. This is an important part of the prototyping process because this is what will differentiate your solution for others already in the market so customers keep coming back and recommending the service to others.
5. Create an initial product version
Once you are clear about the problem you want to solve, develop an initial version of your product. In this version, narrow your focus to one or two core features that are exceptionally better compared to existing solutions. These are the features that will appeal to your customers and retain them as you build the momentum of your startup product. Aim at being much better than your competitors.
To create product features that wow your potential customers, use the principle with your group of selected participants. Utilizing the first principle you are starting to build your SaaS product or service from the bottom as opposed to just comparing the advantages and disadvantages of existing solutions. This approach allows you to delve deeper into the fundamentals. A company that has used this approach in creating its initial product is Tesla. The company faced was the cost of batteries for electric cars.
The company used the first principle to analyze why the cost of batteries was high and started to get battery materials that would be reassembled to develop a version that is more cost-effective. For mobile or web applications, focus on why your target audience is not able to achieve the results they want using existing solutions rather than focusing on what is not working well with Uber or Airbnb.
6. Build early traction for your new product
Once you’ve maximized the job-to-be-done, customer pain points and expectations in developing your product, you are now ready to validate that you have. To do this, you need to attract more people who share similar needs and interests. A common way of getting people excited about your product is through shipping by product hunt. This involves using bootstrap themes and templates to develop landing pages that capture demand, create an audience then scale your vision.
In doing this, you are able to determine whether your audience will give you time, create awareness on the product you are about to launch, and measuring demand.