When to launch your SaaS startup
[notice]I’m continuing from my post about building our SaaS startup in WordPress. Be sure to read the first part before this.[/notice]
I’ve run through our process of building. How we use a feedback engine to drive our journey towards product market fit.
I’ve also talked about the importance of a Minimum Viable Product and how you can evolve this gradually and without bloat.
The question remains: When should I launch my startup?
My answer to this is: you shouldn’t. When we first built our WordPress product (the pre-cursor to YoGrow) I asked other members of PostStatus about the best time to launch. I asked if I should make a big deal of it.
There was a unanimous No – Just put it out there.
Real artists ship. Steve Jobs
I can see why. First off, let’s re-cap the importance of MVP.
You should be exploring the customer problem in an elementary way. This means you are not committed to high risk. You can discover your market and customers problems. This will inform your understanding of the product-market-fit and the product requirements.
As mentioned in the previous post: Life’s too short to build something no-one wants.
From this initial MVP you can develop piece-meal, adding features that focus on the problem.
So, put your basic MVP out there and then add to it. You’re feedback will inform your development roadmap.
The product will be basic and raw. You’ll want to fix it. As you add more features your early adopters will get more involved. It’s important not to underestimate this focused feedback.
People are forgiving and like to help. Include them in the conversation. Share your growth pangs and successes.
You should also be prepared for the tumbleweed. You may have spent a lot of time on the project but this will be one of many distractions that other people may come across. Their attention will be limited and their enthusiasm muted.
Do not expect a fanfare.
That said, there are fantastic pre-launch promotional tools out there. Sites that display early stage startups and beta applications. Take advantage of these. Take advantage of all the marketing you can get.
Many of the lean startup advocates talk about the 50% rule. This emphasises the importance of developing marketing traction alongside developing your product.
Your service will need to acquire new users. It’s discoverability will be a product of the quality of the product and it’s visibility. This 50% rule helps nurture the marketing from the get-go to grow your traction.
WordPress as a Traction Engine
It goes without saying that WordPress excels at content marketing.
By documenting your journey on a blog you can gather feedback, grow your inbound traffic, grow email subscribers and such like.
Content marketing for early stage startups deserves a whole blog post. The key is to be transparent, provide value to your readers and know your audience.
One of the problems we’ve faced on the Raison blog is that we originally wrote for a developer-centric audience. We’ve had to work hard on the YoGrow blog to write content that is of value to e-commerce store owners.
Measure all the things!
It’s really important to measure your marketing efforts. Set some basic KPIs so you have targets. These can be adjusted but lay a foundation for you to work upon.
One of the benefits of the WordPress ecosystem is the range of existing integrations at your disposal. You can get started quickly and with minimal development.
This is great for both fifty percents. For your product insights and your traction insights.
Our marketing effort has mainly been focused on Content Marketing. We’ve been using Google Analytics, Tractionboard and Positionally for our insights.
It’s a very simple setup. Google Analytics gives us a breakdown of traffic and site usage. GA is very thorough and we can drill down to find very specific data as and when required.
Positionly gives us an insight into our SERP rankings and how well our SEO is doing. The way Google search positions work means this service is an indicator of our progress and by no means definitive. We find it useful and it’s also revealed a few technical hitches which could have had long-term damage to our SEO.
For our marketing tests we’ve found a tool called Tractionboard to be really useful. This service is also an early-stage startup and it’s been fascinating to see their progress.
Their tool shows a breakdown of your inbound traffic sources and how these visitors pass through your sales funnel.
One of the best tools we’ve been using is Segment. This service is a single interface for your analytics.
Once integrated with Segment you can then plug into a range of other services. Segment captures the identities and events of your users and syndicates it out to the services you choose.
This is a huge development time save. It also means your data is consistent across multiple services.
We use Segment to hook into a number of services including Kilometre.io. This is another early stage startup. They offers custom dashboards which can provide customer insights, like usage and logins by date.
Critically these tools can help reveal your blind spots. There are unknown unknowns. Things you don’t know you don’t know. The more you look the more you can find. These insights help create a better product-market-fit.
In these two posts I hope I’ve answered why WordPress is an ideal platform to build your SaaS with.
I’ve also been stressing how a SaaS mentality will change the way you approach all your business.
Using customer insights and feedback you can refine your offering and create more value. This is something that all businesses strive to do, whether a SaaS product, agency or the cafe down the street.
When you talk you repeat what you know. When you listen you may learn something new.
So, as we are repeatably told at Entrepreneurial Spark – Fail Fast. Fail Smart. Remember failure is guaranteed. Mitigate it with feedback and insight. Use it to make a better product.