SaaS is the future of software and the subscription model will eventually be the universal model for many software businesses. One of the biggest advantages of the SaaS model for customers is having no affront cost of infrastructure, backup, maintenance, and continuous development.
There is a huge increase in SaaS launches recently due to the radical shift from the on-premise system to the public cloud. This has made many new start-ups to focus on SaaS platforms rather than going for legacy on-premise solutions.
But is it easy to launch a SaaS?
One of the biggest challenges that you may face in a SaaS business is product launch and its marketing to get early traction. It was a lot more difficult in the early days to reach customers, but now with the growth of the internet and social media, reaching to prospect and target groups are easier than those early days. But remember one thing without a good product nothing will work.
For effective marketing and customer acquisition, you should have a solid launch strategy and plan that can give you much early traffic to your site. This cannot happen on a day, you need to plan it a lot early to build engagements, relationships, and trust with your audience.
Advertisement Vs Organic Model
There was a time when the advertisement was the only way to boost your traffic and get leads for your products. But things had radically changed since a couple of years, many product and companies are more and more depending upon the organic way of getting traffic and leads through word of mouth marketing and content-based strategies.
You can still go for an advertisement model if you have enough cash in your hands and have a team to manage AdSense and other advertisements. This includes experts and creative teams for providing digital materials and people to manage campaigns and monitor them. It may require significant money and if you are a bootstrapped start-up with a tight budget this may not be an option to think about.
How much does it cost to launch a saas product?
You can launch it with a limited budget without making much noise or with a million-dollar with flashy events at tech crunch. It all depends on how you want to do it.
Why good content matters?
Since Google updated their algorithm for ranking, content marketing became much more relevant in the SEO space. Higher the informative and relevant your content, the more it will be ranked on search engines.
“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.” – Andrew Davis, marketing speaker & bestselling author
For a start-up operating with a limited budget, the best way to get organic traffic and increase lead generation is to adopt content-based marketing strategies. This can increase audience engagement and create a good relationship by having knowledge-based interactions. In the below section we will discuss a clear winning strategy and 8 steps for a successful SaaS launch and to get early customers without any expensive campaigns.
1. Start engaging in social media and internet communities
Social media and other digital communities like LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and Hacker noon are the best places to connect with your prospects. Identify five such places to start engaging in discussion and post something that incites others in engagement. Many people start this after their launch, this is not the right way. Plan at least 6 months before launch or even the day you start your idea.
Constantly engage in discussions, post something related to your product, and ask questions to drive attention. This will let others know about you and your posts and they will start following you. A place like Twitter, Producthunt, HackerNoon, and Reddit is the best place to find good prospects at early stage of your product.
2. Collect feedback
This is a little tricky. Try to get feedback on the idea and understand what pain they now have in their existing product or use cases randomly from the communities. You can build a survey or polls to understand their reactions and make a good list of must-have features and wow factors on your Wishlist.
You can also identify your prospective user group and ask their opinion on the complexities and pain they have in their current products. But before this exercise, you should have a fair understanding of your product market and the competition you have in that market. This will always make you stronger and more confident about what you are offering to your customers and how you are being different.
3. Create a landing page
Once you are more towards the launch, the next step is to create a landing page. Design a precise landing page with the right technical pitch about what problem you are going to solve and how you are different from others. Give an email box to submit their email to get notified about the launch. Announce some benefits for such early users so that they will be interested.
Just collecting the emails alone will not generate any leads. Create a channel in slack or gitter, invite them in your next email to your channel for regular interactions. In this way, you can ensure that they won’t forget your product when you launch. Involving them will create a huge impact by making them part of your roadmap and feature development.
4. Launch a blog
A blog is the best way to tell stories about your product. Engage users, get feedback, and get opinions. I had seen many blogs where start-ups just write random articles and about company, culture, and practice. But nobody will be interested to hear your corporate events. I advise you to focus on enlightening the audiences about the solutions and align them with your pitch on how your product will solve their pains.
Content is a powerful tool to engage your audience if you use it in the right way. Try to be informative and provide values-based articles rather than random posts. Try to say your progress in your product development once in a while. You can also involve selected groups in your public roadmaps to get their feedback.
5. Launch beta
Once the product is ready after internal testing, next is to have a battle testing with the actual users on the live site. This will make sure that your product will not give negative feedback with real-world users about usability and functionality. This also helps to build a serious early user base who will be probably your first paying customers.
Getting people to test your application sounds easy, but actually, they are investing their valuable time to give feedback and report bugs. So, don’t expect people to do it at free of cost, either you have to pay them or offer them any lifetime discounts. I advise you to give them a lifetime preference because they are the guys who are going to battle test your product before the launch.
6. Early adopter stage
Many people confuse about beta and early adopter, but I suggest you have it separate. Announce an early adopter program so that you can give a better offer without sacrificing your brand image. You can get good traction with offers and discounts for early adopters. This will help you to build a loyal early customer base to have a word of mouth marketing.
Many times, early adopters will be your product ambassadors and word of mouth, they will take your product to the market without much marketing effort. Getting people to use your product in the early stages is the best way to gain good traction but it is a challenge and that is why you should have a convincing proposition for them to accept your offer. You can think about having a timeline for the early adopter program based on your budget and product release strategy.
7. Product launch
I had seen many product launches at great premium events with millions of dollars spending for publicity. It is good to go with such fancy stuff if you have deep pockets and budget. But for a normal bootstrapped start-up; promotion in any such programs or platforms will be out of their budget. So, if you are in a limited budget better not to go with any such premium programs or events.
Ajay Goel, founder of GMass had written an elaborate story about the promoted product launch at Product hunt and how much ROI he had got it from. You can read the article here
8. Referral programs
Finally, how to scale up with referrals. When I say referrals, it doesn’t mean affiliate marketing. Referrals mean you advise your friend or colleague to use the product. Referrals are much powerful than affiliate marketing. Generally, consumers are more likely to buy a product if they are referred by their friends or colleagues. This is where referrals play an important role and you should use your early adopters for referring their colleagues and friends.
Most of the referral management platforms out there in the market are simply an affiliate system with commission models. Normally genuine customers don’t prefer to get a commission, so reward them for inviting their colleagues. If you don’t find the right platform for the referral system don’t hesitate to develop one internally, because the referral system is one of the most sought out ways for getting customers.
According to a Nielsen report, 84% of people go by recommendations from friends and family. If we observe it, word-of-mouth via mobile app referral follows the same trend.
Create a referral loop like Airbnb
A referral loop is the best way to skyrocket your customer acquisition with minimum investment. A referral loop incentivizes customers to refer as many people as possible by offering a reward for each and every new customer that successfully signs up (via referral). There is a great session about how Airbnb used an early referral system to accelerate their growth in their initial time, you can watch it here
You don’t need a million dollars or an expensive launch event to get your first customers, many platforms which we see successful today are grown organically. It is with word of mouth and reference that they got their initial customer base. Build something great and it will sell itself, but that doesn’t mean that you develop something and sit idle, you need to reach your prospects, convince them, and get some early customers.
The launch is just a beginning; it is how you make your product better will decide its future. Keep on innovating and enhancing your product, never focus on your competitors focus on yourself. Moreover, give a human touch in customer interactions, many firms fail here. People are ready to forgive on features and bugs but not on how they are handled.