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GOLD! Ask Me Anything About SaaS ( I'm building my 7th )

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eliquid

( Jason Brown )
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Hello everyone.

A lot of you know me for my digital marketing Gold Thread here on the FLF ( see sig ), as well as other posts in the forum.

What you might not know is that I've successfully built 6 profitable SaaS programs either solely by myself, or with a single partner ( and with no other employees other than VA's ), and that I am working on building my 7th SaaS

I've learned a few things in SaaS over the last 7 years that span:
  • Handling competitors
  • Reducing churn
  • Fraud reduction
  • Technology for SaaS needs
  • Big Data ( billions of new data points daily over years )
  • Increasing LTV
  • APIs
  • Pricing
  • Onboarding
  • Project management
  • Marketing
  • Customer service
  • Partnerships
  • Customer demos/profiles, MVPs, UVP's, ahHa moments, etc
  • many many more things

I've focused all my SaaS programs in the digital marketing space, but I have some ideas for new SaaS programs expanding outside of that for the future.

I can't answer questions related to:
  • Legal - please seek an attorney
  • Specific finance questions about my current or past SaaS programs - I'm not going to divulge other than generalities to the public. I can verify for a mod though if needed.
  • Info on verticals outside of digital marketing - meaning if you have a SaaS for doctors and you ask me a specific medical question, I won't know it if it pertains to doctors or medical
  • LLC vs Scorp Vs etc - This is legal
  • How long is a piece of string type questions

And before anyone asks.. NO, not all 6 SaaS are currently running right now. I closed down the first 5 over the years at different times due to either partner problems or interest died off for me and I rolled into the next SaaS combining ideas to make something new.

For clarification, I am running 1 active SaaS right now and building another ( the 7th ) that is not public atm since it is not finished.

Ask away!


P.S. - Listen, I'm a different type of person. I have very unique views that don't always fit the norm you might have heard elsewhere. What I tell you is what has worked for me and the way I see things from my own personal experience. There are many ways to skin a cat. If you don't agree, that's cool but always think things over for yourself and what will work for you.

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eliquid

( Jason Brown )
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For @c4n - Pricing

This is a complex topic, but I'm going to list out the things I have learned myself...

Have more than 1 price, But never have more than 3

Having more than 3 just makes people nervous and they start to think. You don't want people to think. You just want them to react and purchase.

I generally put the package I want my prospects to buy in the middle, sandwiched between 2 other plans. I also try to make that package standout with a different color or longer format/view.

Similar to the below, but with just 3 instead of 4.



I noticed multiple times that when I had more than 3 price points, "troublesome" customers almost always came from the lowest price tier. This isn't to say that if you have 2 or 3 price points, the customers that require the most hand holding will be your lowest tier.

What I mean is that when I priced my packages as:
  • $19.95
  • $24.95
  • $49.95
  • $99.99
  • $199.99
Almost every ticket opened, email request for XXXX more features, churn, payment skipped, and other troubles came from the customers at the $19.95 tier.

Once we removed that package and those customers churned away, we noticed more than 50% of our tickets and issues with customer vanished too. You'll also sometimes find this if you offer more than 1 payment processing option. As in Paypal + Stripe, or 2checkout + Paypal, etc.

Almost every problematic customer I had resulted from those that opted to pay with Paypal.

In reality, this isn't about dropping your lowest plan or not having Paypal, it's about the quality of customers that come with those options.


Freemium?

Should you go freemium? Only you can decide that.

I think freemium plans should be restricted by time, not features. If you cut off features to me as a trial user, how do I know if I can really use your services? Give me access to everything I can use, but only give it to me for 14-30 days.

Then, you the SaaS owner, need to look at how many people use your free service and then upgrade to a paid plan and determine if any issues are caused from people who tried your product and didn't like it, or if the problem is elsewhere like quality of customers or pricing for your paid plans.

And sometimes you really have to test things out.

My SaaS offers free users a chance to upgrade to a paid plan and receive a bonus when doing so. I send this promo email out at day 25 of their free trial.

I was baffled no one was taking me up on the bonus ( it was a code I could track internally when used ).

I could have threw my hands up in the air and called it quits, but I had to dig in and find out why.
  1. Maybe the users who opt for the free trial are just tire kickers
  2. Maybe the free users realized they don't need my product within the first few days of their trial, so by day 25 my email just isn't worth it to them.
  3. Maybe the email isn't inboxing, so they don't see it
Once I started to dig into data, I realized it could be several things at once.

One thing that shocked me was that the onboarding emails I was using did not hit the inbox of Gmail users.

I tested over and over again and the default template in Intercom was just going to the promo tab for Gmail users. So I decided to make my own template and send out. PERFECTO! in the inbox now.

Then I check my free user stats and most of the free users were not logging in after their first 10 days. They had already decided my SaaS was not for them, so sending out in Day 25 wasn't going to work for most. Moving the promo email to Day 5 would be a better choice as I might be able to get them to "impulse" buy and sign up for a paid account.

You really need to dig into the data and see how you can best work your free trial users because it could be multiple things are happening and just a few tweaks are needed to bring in more paid signups.

Also, if you are dealing with Big Data.. have a plan to discard your free user data when you realize they are no longer logging in or have left your service.


Discounts, Sales, AppSumo and Coupons

I'll preface this by saying I haven't done AppSumo. However, I have some insight into people that have.

I don't believe in sales, coupons, or discounts.

Why cheapen your brand? So you can gain a few more customers?

What happens when you checkout online and see a coupon box? You go look for a coupon, right? Less money for the owner now even though you were going to buy it without the coupon. But because the box was there you learned you could Google for it and maybe find one.

Wanna know why I buy from Namecheap? Because I've become accustomed to using discounts.

When you train your customers to only buy from you when you have a sale or discount, you only hurt yourself. When you need to raise prices or stop using coupons, customers get angry and buy less from you.

How do I know this?

Because I've worked with numerous companies that fell into this trap over the last 20 years online.
  • Local companies that were heavy into coupons and discounts now can't get customers to buy unless they offer another 30% coupon.
  • Companies that signed up for Groupon, got some massive sales with little to no revenue and the customers never came back
  • Working for PaaS that knew this problem was so bad, they invented surprise upgrades as bonuses instead of discounts that hurt brands
  • Watching my competitors get on AppSumo, sell their services as a $19.95 lifetime deal and then 12 months later closing up shop, having to change their plans, or having to shut down parts of their service offers. Normally that $19.95 lifetime deal was something like $49 a month.
  • Watching customers try to input old expire coupons, then begging on customer chat for a new one and getting upset when they find there is no new one and not signing up.
Once you've lower your price, you've told customers you're willing to take less for your brand.

It's much better to offer more value, than to reduce your price. As in offer more of X instead of taking less $$$.

Don't cheapen your brand.

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( Jason Brown )
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Hey Eliquid,

I've been wanting to start my own Saas for a long time.

Do you code yourself and handle the technical stuff hands on (or at least initially like @James Fend) or do you always try to partner with someone and you handle the business and sales?
I've always coded my SaaS programs first by myself. Some of them ended up completed/finished by myself, or finished by a partner. However, I always generally have coded the "idea" first, then either finished on my own or with a partner co-coding... or them finishing it for me.

My biggest problem is the limit on time and energy to learn coding to get to the functional level. But no matter how I slice and dice it, unless I trust the dev completely, it's something I need to do myself.
I feel the same way a lot. However, you have to let this feeling go if you want to grow and have a partner. Trust in your partner is Paramount. Play to your strengths though.. as in can you market well? If so, let someone do the coding while you market. If you try to learn coding and you have gotten nowhere because of time, it will always be this way and you will get nowhere for a long time and potentially miss your opportunity when someone else builds it for themselves.

Any advice when it comes to gauging demand and competition before setting out for a build?
There are lots of ways to do this, but the easiest and simplest is to improve another product or idea and apply your twist to it.

Past that, it's knowing your market really well. There is a reason all of my SaaS programs are in a domain I know extremely well ( digital marketing ). I know the pulse, I am the market because Im the consumer too that has been in the market for 2 decades.

Past that, I would look for your early adopters and talk to them a lot. My early adopters hang out on forums and Reddit. They are also in certain Skype and Slack groups and we go to certain conferences. My early adopters will tell me if they want this product and then with their help, they join and spread the word for me which allows others who are not early adopters to come in. Where are your early adopters?




When you combine all of these, it's hard to miss the mark
  • A domain you know extremely well, where you are the customer too
  • Programs you have competitors in, where you copy and improve their product but also add a twist to it that provides you an "advantage moat"
  • Listening to your early adopters
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( Jason Brown )
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Oh I've been waiting for this one! Thanks for doing this @eliquid, we all have a lot to learn from you i'm sure!
1.) What is your preferred programming language for doing SaaS products? I have been hearing Ruby on Rails is usually the way to go.
My preferred is PHP, but only because I know it like the back of my hand. I can get to a concept quickly, validate, show a working model to others, and start the next task ( which might be to hire someone to code it in another language, but more than likely is to start making money ). PHP was built for the web, so it's my goto for starting out. However, as your needs grow you will need parts done in other languages.

2.) Would you recommend, for someone like myself who is somewhat familiar with the basics of other programming languages (python, fortran, javascript, html, css) to learn another language to undertake the programming myself, or should this be left to the experts?
Each of those areas have their speciality. For example, does your SaaS deal with Machine Learning AI? Python has excellent libs for this. Does your SaaS have critical areas that need the fastest processing possible, then C or C++ backed with Redis or SSDB is excellent for those tasks. Designing the interface.. then HTML, CSS, PHP would be choices on that area.

Personally I like to make everything in PHP, get it making money, and work the kinks out later with new code. Most coders will tell you NOT to approach this the same way, they will tell you to code it right from the beginning. Neither of us is wrong, but I code to make money, not to make "pretty code" that follows some academic standard. Without the validation of money, nothing else matters.

3.) How have your partnerships been structured in the past? I'm currently in negotiation for a partnership. My partner wants a larger percentage as we are pursuing his idea and it is within his industry, however I have a much more technical background and will likely be doing more leg work.
Both of you are valuable. His idea and his domain along with possibly his contacts; your legwork and sweat and also more than likely your upgrading of code and having to hit deadlines. I wouldn't do anything less than 50% each for ownership with an agreement that includes how decisions are made like maybe you are the tie breaker for code issues, he is for features added. This isn't needed because you both should be able to come together, but just in case you might need some help in who has power in what area or speciality to move things faster possibly.

4.) Have you presold any of your previous products? Or any other form of validation? Or did you go straight into building an MVP?
This is both a yes and no.

I haven't purposely done this ( like with a coming soon landing page, kickstarter, etc ). However, because all of my SaaS up to this point have been in digital marketing, it was possible for me to use existing lists, authority, and name to sell it in the same fashion. People found out I had product X, and they just wanted in on it because of their relationship with me.

The first 5 SaaS programs I had were pretty much products that were already existing, but I made them 1000x better. The 6th was something similar to other products, but entirely different and approached solutions differently. The 7th is sorta like the 6th.

Validation wasn't needed with the first 5, but as people learned about the 6th it really caught wind so there was no validation for it until I built it with my partner. However, it personally scratched my own itch so I knew I could pull it off. Now that we make some good MRR and our competitors copy us left and right daily, I feel validated.

Since I can code myself, I generally go right to MVP. If it doesn't work, I've lost my time but not my money ( in paying another person ) and I build it out in sections of MVPs. Meaning, I don't built the full product as a MVP.. but maybe a one function of the product as the MVP. If that one function catches on, I build the next one until I have my beta product, which is a MVP of MVPs.

If you code something and it doesn't catch on, you can always try to sell it on Flippa.

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For @c4n - Technology for SaaS needs

This is a case of where you have to use, what fits your needs. Therefor this post might be a bit vague as everyone will have a different need.

I like to build MVPs. I might build 10 MVPs and only 1 or 2 actually make money. The ones that make money I then push live and tweak as needed.

Therefor I am not properly planning out tech beforehand for each MVP. Why do all that work and spend months on it if it doesn't make money?

But once I get to a point where something is public, tech is very important.

And the truth is, even highly experienced programmers won't know what tech is needed for each part of your SaaS until you hit a problem. Sure they can say they know and quote "Best Practices", but they don't know either until you hit a roadblock, or the path to a roadblock is so clear you see it months before it happens. Even then, months might not be enough time to act.

I'll give you an example.

One of my SaaS products was never meant/intended to handle big data. It just wasn't expected. We had a plan and a system to prevent having big data.

A couple new features roll out, we got a massive amount of customers, new pivots came in, and now we are processing billions of data points daily and storing them for longer for many more customers. In a series of events that took place in less than 30 days, we outgrew our tech in less than 45 days.

It situations like these you can't plan for or know about until they happen. Which is why I don't spend months ahead of time prepping and getting nowhere. Money first, always. Then react if need be because reacting with no money coming in will lead you nowhere.

At that time, we had to change plans.

  • SQL needs sharding now, and what's our shard plan?
  • The processing of data now takes forever, we need a quicker solution. Some code changed from PHP to C++
  • MySQL on any server is getting bombarded, lets offload to Redis certain features which also makes them faster to process
  • As we write more code, more needs to be managed. Here comes git or a git like solution
  • We are spending a shit ton on servers. What data do we keep HOT and which can we keep COLD in something like Amazon Glacier?
  • With so many servers, how to we keep up with updates, upgrades, and security measures?
  • PHP 5 is at EOL now? F*ck. PHP 7 is faster and maintained, however certain libs have to be redone and resintalled too.
  • We do more writes than reads on our data, which is the best solution for that.. that also has less overhead?
  • Do we keep everything in 1 DC, or global? Whats the cost impact?
  • System daemons, cron jobs, or Supervisord? Queues or rolling reserves for data processing? Can ElasticSearch helps us or should be go Hadoop and Apache Spark?
  • Should we cram all it in Amazon Web Services or build our own?
  • Look at this sexy new Go or Rust lib, we should incorporate this even though no one knows Go or Rust.
  • Which feature should be coded next? What has priorities?
  • With some of our customer data on 3rd party platforms, how do we ensure that data is safe? Safer than safe?
  • Sometimes the newest version of something, is the one that breaks the most. I like to stay 1 version behind unless it's a major security issue or the newer version has a benefit I desperately need or want ( like faster processing )

A lot of times it will realistically boil down to what you know and what you are comfortable with. Also, what's actually available to you as well at the time you need it.

Don't worry about what's the "best". Worry about what works for you and you can keep up with.

PHP works for me and I can keep up with it. My partner can work with and keep up with C++. Our data can mingle and interact via SQL and Redis. Neither one of us slows the other down trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.

Issues and problems come up, we work and code around it to fix it. You'll have the EXACT same problems and issues if you spend 13 months planning too. Therefor, get it launched as best you can and as quickly as you can and see if it makes money and what your customers want and what issues you actually face. Then code to fix and improve.

Many times you might have something break or an issue comes up and you realize, it's not actually a problem or it's a problem that can wait 3 months to address safely still while you do more important things.

Generally the simplest solution is actually the right solution for a lot of issues and choices.

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( Jason Brown )
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For @c4n - Increasing LTV

Some of this was touched on in the Reducing churn post, so please read that if skipped.

However, I will touch on other points outside of the churn post here for LTV growth.

I gotta hit lunch, so I'll edit and update here in this post when I get back

-- Saving for later --

-- back --

Ok so increasing LTV is pretty simple in thought.. how do you get more money out of someone?

Well, in a SaaS this happens a lot of times by simply getting the customer to stay longer in your program. Instead of an average of 3 months, get them stay 9 months. Boom, LTV has increased.

How do you keep them on longer? Great question.

  • You gotta make it to where they will experience pain when they leave.

  • You gotta make your SaaS a habit for them in their daily lives.

  • You gotta provide excellent customer service that goes above and beyond your competitors.

  • You have to get them to their ahHa moment and you have to ensure they are not experiencing times where they are a regular member for 7 months but vanish for 40 days without logging in. If you see that, reach out.

The other way is to upsell and cross sell them.

Maybe your lower tiers restrict X and limit Y. Maybe they don't get Z.

You can build in triggers to your software that monitor user behavior and if you notice a user is getting close to their limits, you send off an automated email that offer them an upgrade to a higher plan at a discount if they upgrade in the next 24 hours. Mention how you noticed they were running close to their limit and you would like to help them.

Maybe their plan doesn't allow them to have Z feature, but you notice they have hit that page on your program a few times. Since they don't have it in their plan, all they see is grayed out page with a warning, or a non-working button. No worries, you send off an email asking them if they would like to try it for free for the next 14 days and once they say YES, you enable it for them as a trial.

In 14 days you remind access is going away and if they would like to upgrade to the higher end plan to get the feature. If you have done it right, they will upgrade more than likely.

When users ask to cancel, are you willingly going to let that money just walk away?

For some SaaS offerings, it might make sense that you offer them a lower end plan that is normally not advertised on your site. If you're lowest end public plan is $49.95 and someone cancels stating they can't afford it, offer them a non-public plan that is a little more restricted than the plan they are on, but at a $29.95 price tag.

If they still say no, remind them of what they will lose by cancelling. Maybe they signed up during a promo. If they cancel but come back later, they will lose that promo benefit they once had. You can't keep their data either, so if they sign back up they will need to set up projects again and start all over. If your SaaS falls into this camp, you can offer "paused" or frozen plans. For $9.95 we can freeze your plan and you just can't log back in and add new projects or edit projects. This keeps your subscription in good shape and protects your membership while also reducing your cost and allowing you to come back later.

You might think this is dumb, but I've had people cancel and then come back 2-3 months later. Even 2-3 days later. It happens all the time. Instead of making $0, you could be making something.

Don't believe me? If you are a member of Click Funnels, they do something just like this when you try to cancel. I have a "paused" account at CF for the last 9 months now. It works.

Is this stuff sinking in guys?

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For @c4n - Reducing churn:

I've been working this a lot more recently.

Here is what's funny. If you search the web, you will find a ton of people talking about this and every single one of them have a different way of calculating it and what's an acceptable number for customer churn.

We us Chart Mogul since it integrates with Stripe and I go off their numbers for our customer churn. I look at our numbers and ask myself how do I improve these numbers, not "this is where XYZ person told me I need to be".

Our churn numbers were all over the place. It was hard to really pinpoint why.

You could come up with 1001 reasons why, but only a few actually matter and can be impacted by you.

I started sending out an exit survey when people left. Very very few people would actually fill it out, so it took awhile to get good data I could trust.

I looked in our customer chat logs from Intercom ( another service we use ) and looked at common questions and complaints.

I talked to my partner a lot about conversations he would have with others in Slack or Skype. I would also talk to customers on the phone and email. We combined all this data to spot trends.

While I could list out a 1001 reasons ( hey, Im an INTJ ), it really boiled to some common themes that we could actually impact and wrap our heads around:
  • People could not afford us - Really? Is this a generic nice excuse with a different problem behind it? At $XX.95 a month I couldn't figure out why they couldn't afford us. We had cheaper plans before ( several ), but all the problem clients came from those tiers. My first thought was if you can not afford $XX.95 a month, we just were not the solution for you since we had a lot of troublesome clients from those tiers. Later I realized that maybe we simply need to add more value so that when you canceled it wasn't that you the customer were saving $XX.95 a month, it was you were going to miss out on XYZ that was a great value that would pain you not to have anymore.

  • People didn't know what to do - So our tool breaks new ground. We are almost that tool that is 10 years ahead of it's time almost. Because of that, a lot of people need to be "retrained" in how they look at SEO. A lot of advanced people get it, a lot of beginners or people who just go through the motions don't get it. This is a challenge. When they sign up and get in, they are almost overwhelmed. Overwhelm creates panic and paralysis by analysis. People don't get their ahHa moment, people get frustrated, people then cancel. I've learned that even if you dumb down things for users and give them a ton of videos, they still need hand holding every step of the process and they won't watch the videos anyways most times. Force them to take certain actions if you have to within the design of your program, send them multiple emails on 1 topic if you have to so you can get them to notice and take action. Restrict functions to them until they do X actions, etc.

  • Alienation - I heard a lot of "this looks like a tool for an agency, not someone like me" and various similar type of talk. Not true at all. I wasn't speaking my demo's language, even though I was the demo. As an advanced digital marketer, I made the mistake of talking like one. I worked with my partner to identify our core 3 users. Anymore than 3 and you just can't market well overall. After we decided who our 3 users were, we created customer profiles around them. We named them, gave them job titles, what their boss expected of them daily, what they needed in their job, etc. After some time, we were able to developer onboarding messages ( along with marketing messages such as blog posts, emails, ads, etc ) that were able to touch on all these points. People now felt we really knew and understood them and that we were a fit for them once we showed them why their "type" needed us.

  • People were not having their ahHa moment with us - So what is your ahHa moment for your customer? You know, that point in time when they say, "Oh shit, I get this now.. I see why this product was invented now". You really need to define this and it might be different per customer profile ( see above ). Now, what are the minimum steps needed to get to this moment? For us one step needed was to create a project within our interface.. your first project that is. Lot's of people just were not doing it. You can't have your ahHa with us if you do not create a project, so we creating onboarding to focus on making a project. We also forced our users to create a project as soon as they sign up. They can't do anything else until that project is made. Other people weren't logging in enough their first 30/60/90 days, so we developed onboarding and triggers for emails that addressed that to get them back in and using. I saw people unsubscribing from email communications with us which meant they wouldn't get our blog posts, but more importantly our onboarding and triggered emails, so I created in-app messaging to overcome that and still convey value to them and get them to take action. All in all, you have to almost push certain people into having their ahHa moment sometimes.

  • Creating more value - Yeah, you're X. Your tool does X. However, if that's the only value you have, some people are going to leave once they get their Y from your X. Maybe they will come back in 9 months when they need X again for a side project. You're really good at X, but the user only needs X for 2-3 months for whatever reason. When you add more value, like say training or information.. now the user looks at you as a source of knowledge they can't live without ( if you do it properly ). For example, I might offer a PAID ONLY benefit that paid members get a monthly PDF of info that free users ( the general public ) don't get from us. If my SaaS helps their SEO, my PDF this month might teach them how to get new clients for their SEO agency. See, my SaaS helps them with SEO on a technical level, but my extra value for paid members teaches them the business of SEO which helps them make more money. If you cancel your sub, you don't get these guides which by themselves are worth a lot of money on their own.

    Reducing churn just a small percent means massive LTV gains, which equals more MRR and ARR. The chart below shows LTV recently.



In the blue box, I started working on churn as my sole focus. Since that month the churn has gone down 3 months in a row. Before it was up and down, up and down.

Notice that as churn goes down, LTV goes up.

A customer that was worth $697 before, is now worth over $1900 simply because we lowered churn.

Notice that in Sept to Oct, the churn only moved around 1%, but that created $600+ more revenue PER customer. You only have to move churn a small % to make massive gains.

I know the math on this.. If I can get down to 1.2%, the LTV per customer is in the mid $3k range. I know I can get to 1.2% because I've been there in the past before it moved up the next month. My goal is to get right at 2.00% and keep the churn stable month from month.

I've thought about writing more and more on reducing churn and helping SaaS companies improve their churn rates. Again, just a little adds a lot to the bottom line.

.
 
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For @c4n - Handling competitors:

I never thought I would need to handle competitors. At least not in the way I do now.

How I was raised, I was stuck between the Baby Boomers and Generation Y. I was raised with the thinking "working hard long term" was all I needed, but living in a reality that was actually different as it unfolded in front of me growing up today.

At some point I believed that if I simply worked hard on my product ( or career ), people would just want to hire me and pay me well. Either for my knowledge or my product. I really thought people would love my products so much that competitors would just hand me money for it and buy me out. It took a lot of "real-life" events and FME to change my ingrained teachings.

Instead, my competitors steal and rip me off and don't even give a reach around. It's blatant and rampant. It happens so much I get numb to it.

While this hasn't always been me, this is me today when it comes to competitors..

I'm coming after you and I don't care what I have to do, I will carve my name in your forehead and take everything I can from you. There isn't room for all of us, so you're going down. If you're drowning in a lake and expect me to help you up, I'm sticking a water hose in your mouth at full blast.

If you watch the "Walking Dead", I use to be the early Rick. Today I am the Negan.

Playing nice just doesn't work. Getting along just doesn't work. I've tried multiple ways and different tactics. When you create something new and someone steals it and rips it off and you're the one having to constantly change an industry and others benefit in the billions of dollars while you are struggling to come up in the world, it stings.

If you're my competitor, I feel sorry for you. I got 99 problems but a competitor ain't one.

I don't have hate for my competitors, they are just in my way. Sure I would get salty each time they stole a feature from me, but I've realized with tremendous help from my partner that we are always 12-24 months ahead of each of our competitors and while they spend their time playing catch up, they can't innovate on new features or benefits.

With that thinking, I have been able to grow a lot.

Our competitors can not pivot as quickly. They are in "reactive mode" instead of "innovation mode". We are taking their customers away from them every day. We get looked to as the leaders, while they scramble around. We build moats, while they incorrectly copy features they don't really understand the "why" behind.

I thank my competitors for showing me a profitable niche, but I drown them as quickly as I can afterwards with no mercy whatsoever. It took me a long time to get to this point, but "things are a changin" now.

I focus on innovation now and I try not to look at what they are doing. It's best for mental and physical health. Focus on your projects and not so much what they are releasing. Listen to YOUR customers, not theirs. If you built your product correctly, your product will be different from theirs even though it might be the same similar technology and functionality.

If your competitors are stealing from you and finally trying to upgrade their product after a decade of not doing so, you're doing something right.

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For @c4n - Big Data

This is still a learning process daily.

At some point you realize that you have this ever growing monster that will live on forever and it needs to be cared for. Every day it gets bigger and stronger and you have to plan ahead somewhat on how you will manage it at X phase and XX phase.

The beauty is, it also becomes an advantage moat for you against possible competitors.

My competitors were not leveraging their big data except for the most simple and direct purpose before my SaaS came along. After our SaaS was up and running with our unique spin on EVERYTHING, our competitors starting diving into their big data and trying to push the same things. For a few years though, we had the first mover advantage for those data sets which was a huge help in growing and establishing our SaaS.

There is no right or wrong answer on how you handle big data and what you can do with it.

Our setup is very very simple. If you want to know why, read the above posts I made already.

We started on one server and upgraded it vertically ( in size and power ) as needed. Soon we found ourselves not able to manage that simply ( plus we were outgrowing physical limits that I was comfortable with ).

We then started growing horizontally by sharding with new servers that we could keep light and small, just plug in new ones as needed and spread the data around.

We sharded our data based on a data key that is ever growing. It's basically the ID of a project.

If I really wanted to spend the time and energy, I might have went with a customer shard key, where the ID is the customer. This creates it's own problems though, so nothing is actually "perfect" or one size fits all. You're going to have issues no matter what you do that you will end up coding around. In a customer shard situation, I would have to recode the backend so certain things could be shared. More work which I don't want really.

Our competitors can not handle their big data. If you want to see results for something, you might wait days or even a full week to get an update. They look at their data as a burden that has to complete over days and weeks maybe. We look at our big data as "how can we ensure we provide updates daily, no matter what it takes". Just because your data is big, doesn't mean your customers or results ( or processing ) needs to be slow.

Our big data has to be fast. Therefor we trade off certain things in order to achieve that:
  • We store our data in 1 datacenter so we can use private IPs for fast and free data transfer. If we stored all over, 1 failure could still bust us so why bother? The cost trade off would be too much if we did redundancy in multiple dcs too which would hurt our customers. We do a backup to another DC and provider, but this isn't live data for day to day use... just backup.

  • We monitor how much CPU and RAM our servers are using and this is coded into our scripts. If CPU and RAM is high ( meaning maybe customers are using the system a lot ) we might pause processing our big data for a time when CPU is lower.

  • You need checks in your scripts to ensure data integrity. Last thing you want is to have gone a month collecting a ton of data only to realize it's sitting in JSON files with errors or missing data because of some update elsewhere on your servers or collection. Thats a ton of data to lose or change at once.

  • The data is a gift. Throw an unsupervised AI platform on it and see what it can dig up that your competitors haven't realized. If you don't know how to do this, spend several days a month thinking of how you can use the data and what you might dig up and then try to find it out.

  • You more than likely won't need all the big data, all the time. Figure out what you need all the time and what you can store safely in long term storage that might be slower to get at, but cheaper to store.

  • Sometimes multiple copies of something are fine. Duplication can be fine. However, does it achieve your goals or are you being sloppy? For instance, some of our data is duplicated in Redis, some in JSON text files. Some of this data is already in SQL though. However that SQL server might be at high CPU right now, or slow. The copy in Redis will be fine to use right now and the backup in JSON will too if need be. You need to factor in cost, but sometimes having duplication is perfectly fine IF it solves a need for you.

  • Security is huge concern. Our servers only talk within the internal IP network and none of them have libs or software they don't need. For example, our data servers don't need a webserver or a copy of Python. We lock down the software, libs, and connections. We can't have snoops or security issues.

  • With big data, you have to figure out how you access the data especially if using SQL. You can't have un-needed indexes and keys growing and costing you data storage. You also can't expect to change how you want to pull the data and pull on a non-existent key/index. If you have a lot of data and need to change the schema, you could be looking at hours per server to do this. If you have lots of servers, you're looking at days of work. Sometimes these servers puke and hang while processing.. can you wait it out or do you hard restart and risk losing the data ( well if you are smart you have a backup or course, but now you gotta in-line load that data back into a server, etc ). You could go the cost of replicating the server before hand and working on the clone, only to clone it back to the original when done ( what I personally do ). Again, you have to know WTF you're doing though BEFORE you change stuff.

  • People want to believe this hype that No-SQL is the answer for big data. It's not. SQL just does just fine if setup properly. In your case and situation, you might need No-SQL. Use it if you know for sure you have to have it. Otherwise don't buy into hype for hype sake.

  • Have a plan for offloading big data if you need to. For example, you might need to delete data from a customer that churned. You know how long and hard it is to delete from MySQL normally on big data even if you have the ID/KEY? It can be a long time and it can drag a server down if that server is also processing other things. However, this would also fall under bad design too. A solution would be knowing how to partition a SQL table so a deletion of 1 customers data is instant and almost no processing time. You could also go No-SQL too. Again it boils down to knowing what you need exactly and then knowing how to get it. You don't have to do something because of hype. Again, what do you know and comes easy and is simple for you? Do you know it backwards and forwards? Good, forget about learning something else new and use what's available to you and use it properly.

    Also, you could just spin up a server per customer and then when needed just delete that server. So many ways to skin a cat. Don't fall for hype though.

  • Costs. This can get out of hand quickly. Besides payroll, this might be your largest cost for a SaaS if you do big data. You gotta nail handling of this big data before you end up bankrupt on servers and redundancy and other things that comes with big data. I try to factor in a % myself. If my SaaS makes X revenue, then our hosting/server costs should stay at X% too. If we grow, then the server cost can grow. It should never be above X% though, if it is we have an issue. Maybe we can't avoid the issue, but its an alarm to me that something might be off and need to be rethought and a pivot is needed in that department. You can't have this data eating away profit each month and growing, because it will if left uncheck. Hell, it will if checked. However, you gotta have more revenue coming in to justify it unless its a special situation.



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For @c4n - Fraud reduction:

This one I won't talk too much about.

Mainly because, I might actually develop what I know into a future SaaS. Actually, I've already semi-done it because what I know I built into an API and my current SaaS uses it.

Therefor, I can't give away the secret sauce here.

But I can say this. This was developed before many of the current fraud SaaS companies came onto the scene. This was before processors like Stripe had a fraud feature ( theirs is called Radar ). I don't want to talk too much about how mine works because as you see I have competitors who are validating the market for me and I want to see their mistakes before making mine public and taking my slice.

What I can tell you is this... fraudsters are very smart.

Most of the fraud I find happens when someone is "testing" a credit card. This just might be my personal experience in SaaS. Remember, I don't run ecommerce for myself, so you ecom guys will have a different experience.

But people are not using fraudulent cards to actually use my SaaS. They get a card, sign up to my SaaS and then never use it.. ever.

I suspect they do this to a lot of companies, testing the card "safely" on a 3rd party to see if the charge goes through.. then using it in a situation to buy from ecommerce or as validation for selling the card to another person. We don't get many of these types of transactions, maybe one every few months but its always this pattern of purchasing and not using the SaaS.

So, if you see someone come in and purchase something, but never use it.. you might have a fraudster on your hands.

Another type of fraud I see is "friendlier" where someone signs up and uses our product, but 6 months later stops and tells their card company they don't recognize the charges and they do a charge back for several months at once, after they used our product for months.

This is a bit more serious to me, so we keep data on what every user does whenever they are in our SaaS. I mean everything.

We send this data on to Stripe and we generally win all our disputes. We have a few issues with companies like American Express, but generally we win most of our cases. You need to keep excellent records to battle disputes because losing too many disputes can get your MIDs and merchant processing canceled. You want to win, not lose these cases.

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For @c4n - Onboarding

Man, I love this topic. I've been spending a few months on onboarding alone recently and it has made a drastic improvement. You can see it in the churn post above.

Besides value, I think onboarding is probably the most important thing a SaaS should focus on ( along with churn ).

And to me, onboarding is more than just the training and support you give a new customer.. it's your brand, the demos you target, your value, your first impression to the customer. It has to be nailed down and perfect.

It's qualification, it's purpose, and it's also a way to show customers they want to stick with you so your churn doesn't inflate over the coming months.

Why?

Because customers sign up for all kinds of reasons. Reasons you would you never even think of or comprehend.

I thought we had great onboarding to begin with.. a 7 day email series that walked you through what you needed to do next in our SaaS. We even customized it so that if a user hadn't taken a certain action yet, they got a specific email about it to clarify and reach out if they needed help.

We had videos, emails, blog posts, live chat and I even reached out personally sometimes to offer help and a warm welcome. I got on the phone with customers and did join.me sessions even.

But people still complained they didn't understand X. Why isn't this like competitor Y? Where is this and how do I do Z?

This stuff was covered in the emails and videos though.

So we made better videos and emails. Same problem.

After months of frustration, I kept digging into the data provided by exit surveys and internal tracking we did. I talked to more customers to find out their issues. I watched the help desk and asked myself what was the core of their question they were really asking.

And it started to click with me...

Different people sign up for different reasons. It didn't matter what my sales page said or my ads. People sign up expecting different things and wanting different things that may be wildly different than your UVP and brand message.

Also, different people comprehend things at different times and on different levels.

So how do I determine how to help out these multitudes of people with their varied issues?

The answer is, you have to break them down into buckets of needs.
  • Some customers are just curious about your product. They will sign up no matter what your UVP and sales message is. They are in your demo and are just curious.. kinda like early adopters and first innovators.

  • Some customers are using a competitor and are looking for a change. It may be price, features, customer service, ... anything

  • Some are total newbies to your industry and heard about you via word of mouth. They have almost no clue what they are doing but they heard good things about you and signed up thinking you can help them and be their magic bullet potentially.

  • Some will be your competitors checking you out. Either established competitors or people looking to get into SaaS in the future and compete with you.

  • Within your core set of users, some might be:
    • freelancers or people that do X on the side ( stay at home moms doing this on the weekends )
    • middle managers at an agency looking to improve the efficiency of their department and impress their VP
    • Small business owners that know 0 about this business/industry, but need help regardless
Your users will be different and varied. Some you can help, some you just can't and will have to expect your onboarding will not help 100% of every one coming into your SaaS.

For myself, the last bullet point is where I decided to focus so I made customers profiles of the 3 potentials ( freelancers, middle managers, small business owners ) and I gave them all names, job titles, concerns, needs, wants, desires, etc. I went in deep on who they were and what would help them the most.

I then designed my onboarding around these 3 profiles.
  • In my first email I made sure to point out how my SaaS could help them land more customers ( targeting freelancers )
  • That same first email also went over reporting and how reporting would wow their clients ( the middle manager )
  • It also went in depth about how to spot competitors and use their tactics against them ( the small business owner )
That was just the first email. Every profile got value out of the first email and some got more ( maybe the freelancer also got value from the middle manager section of the email ).

I cut the 7 day series of emails to just 3. I didn't want people to get bombarded with "too much, too soon". Remember, these might be busy people. If you look at your open rates and you see them declining with each progressive email, you know you are doing it wrong somewhere either with value or frequency.

I also went on to define what the "ahHa" moment would be for each profile. You know, the moment they say to themselves, " I get this shit now, I totally want to dive deeper and explore more"

Once defined I had to ask myself, "what are the steps needed for the customer to reach their ahHa?"

This took some time because each profile might have a different ahHa moment. This also means different steps/paths to the ahHa.

On top of it all, you want them to get to ahHa as quickly as possible.

From my data, I realized that if users didn't reach their ahHa within the first 24 hours of signup, I was going to lose them to churn or not sign them up at all ( as a free user upgrading to paid ). It just was not going to happen even with future emails and promos.

I had a ton of that data that spelled it out. The user logs in on day 1, then never comes back. I had to get to ahHa ASAP.

It didn't matter how many videos I made, emails I sent, or help tickets I answered... People were leaving 1 or 2 steps out and therefor not getting to their ahHa.

So I decided to do something radical. I was going to FORCE them to get their ahHa.

So instead of relying on email ( I'll talk later why this is a bad idea ), I was going to force them to take their steps to ahHa on signup. Pretty much when you sign up for my SaaS, you're lead on a forced "tour" of the SaaS where you have to complete a step to get to the next step of the tour. In total there are 7 steps of the tour and each new step I grab your data and complete a project and give you your results, which in turn is your ahHa moment right there in front of you once you sign up. The tour also enables me to show you critical areas of my SaaS and why we do the things we do and what to expect.

In a nutshell, you can not do anything in my SaaS until you complete the tour.

The tour in turns forces you to have your ahHa. It also trains you how and why to use my SaaS. It basically like getting a degree to now use the SaaS. Even if you log out midway through the tour, if you come back you still have to finish it.

The tour also hits my 3 profiles.. you know, the freelancer + middle manager + small business owner. Everyone gets their value, understands how to use, and knows what to expect.

The first email is a bonus to wet their appetite a little more to get them to keep using the product and reinforce why they need us.

So on the first day, many more people are clear and understand my SaaS. They get the steps to ahHa done and then get their ahHa within minutes instead of trying to find it themselves watching a video or reading an email that they will just not do anyways.

I wouldn't rely on email though to do this by itself.

We use Intercom and I love the product for doing triggers on emails, but I noticed that people were not reading and opening the emails. I changed the emails up a lot and it still did not help.

It was only by accident that I discovered that if you use one of their default templates for your emails, more than likely the user isn't even getting them if they use Gmail. Gmail was sending those emails to the promotions tab instead of the inbox!

I tested and tested and tested and finally narrowed it down that I could create my own template for the emails and send out and land in the inbox of Gmail. Now before any new emails are made, I test it several times with different wording, subject lines, images, and templates to ensure nothing is landing in the promotions tab, spam, or any other folder for Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail.

You would think things would just work out of the box, but they don't sometimes:
  • More customers now get my emails
  • More customers get direct value from my emails
  • Customers get their ahHa almost instantly now
  • I reduced my churn by more than half, I now make more per customer

Past that, we keep tabs on users and how frequently they log in, what actions they take in the SaaS, if they unsubscribe to our newsletters ( if so, we put them into in-app messaging so we can still reach them ), etc. Based on their actions and time frames, we trigger out messages to them.

For example:
  • We know the average login frequency for all our customers. If you are outside this range your first XX days, we send out an email asking if you need help along with some bonus material.

  • If you are about to max out your limits ( within X percent ), we might send you an email letting you know the advantages of upgrading to a higher tier account

Sometimes you need to reward customers too.
  • Have someone that is very eager and logins in a lot and is exploring your SaaS? Have your SaaS give them a free upgrade automatically and have your in-app messaging tell them on their next login. This is already a hyper user that potentially loves your product. Now you've helped ingrained them to keep the habit up. They will stay with you longer more than likely

  • At their 3 month mark, give them an upgrade. It will help them appreciate you, get them into the SaaS more, and potentially stay a customer for longer.

  • Someone report a bug to you ( no matter how small ), reward them and upgrade them. They just helped you fix something that will probably help you make more money for longer now that it is fixed. Most unhappy customers will not tell you about an issue and just churn on you, so this is a lifesaver. While this isn't onboarding related, think about a new customer seeing this error and the egg on your face. Now this is fixed and not an issue to you.

Customer service is paramount.

I'm not saying you have to pay more attention to a new customer over an older one, BUT an older customer that has been with you for 12 months and uses your SaaS a lot is more ingrained into having you as habit, than say a customer who has barely used you and just signed up 3 days ago. You want to make both customers happy, but you have to pay special attention to the new customer because their questions more than likely will tell you where you need to improve your SaaS from a "first impression" perspective a lot of times. You need to ask yourself WHY the new customer is needing help and address that issue completely. If not, it's easy for them to cancel and bounce since they really aren't hooked into your SaaS yet.

Your older customer is still important. I am not saying to pick one over the other. Just be mindful of the 2 differences and pay attention where needed.

I could probably go on and on about this, but I would need direct questions in order to help out better.

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For @c4n - APIs

This one is also a bit hard to talk about without a specific question to answer. It will be vague and general because unless I know what you need to know, this is an open ended topic.

However, you should treat your API offering ( if you have one ) as a marketing channel.

This is something users will be interfacing with, and they will more than likely be advanced users. Keep that in mind.

If you play your API offering correctly, you have a channel giving you exposure to the world.

Github, repos, tech people blogging about a tool they built ( and used your API to do so ), directories, etc will now be marketing channels for you in a sense.

Not only that, but why can't you add your own twist to how API's are traditionally done?

Our competitors typically push out an API and give you 1 or 2 languages you can play around with. With those languages they give you 1-2 examples each also on how to use the API.

When our SaaS launched our API, we decided to do it in 10 languages with 8 examples per language.

Why? Because no one else did and we could.

Think about it. There could be someone out there really wanting to build something cool and all they know is Go or C. No one provides them an API at our competitors. We just did though. This guy is going to be a customer for life now. Someone our competitor won't get.

Sounds like small potatoes, but all these differences add up. Remember, I could be hitting mid-$3k LTV per customer soon with the churn rates Im improving just on onboarding alone. Adding in a moat like the API could increase that for certain customers by more than double. Yeah, it's worth it.

We also offer a lot in our API ( feature wise ) our competitors don't. So even if you are not impressed by more languages and examples, you will be by the benefits you get that others simply don't offer.

Most of our competitors offer their API to paid customers. We offer it everyone. Which API do you think will get more usage and coding around it that will also "hook" users in and get them building a habit? When that person is ready to pay, who do you think they will sign up with when ready? Yeah, exactly...

You can't look at the world the same way your competitors do. You literally have to question EVERYTHING you do and how it's done. This is why I might get salty when my competitors copy me because I know they aren't actually doing their jobs, they are stealing from me and other innovative people who break the mold and do the actual work.

However, it's also why I say if you're a competitor to me I feel sorry for you son.. I got 99 problems but a competitor ain't one. Because when you boil it down, these aren't competitors.. they're just copycats trying to stay alive like this guy..



They'll be gone in a few years anyways.

However, something as small and innocent as an API could cause ripples in your industry that lead to tsunami waves later.

Keep stacking those ripples

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Did you also know that in Adwords, you can focus in on Ads in Gmail?

Example:
  • You know your SaaS competitors ( or similar tech SaaS products ) have certain words in their onboarding emails because you use their products yourself

  • You set up Gmail ads in Adwords focusing in on those terms

  • Your ad shows to people getting your competitors emails

  • You tell them why they need you

  • ????

  • Profit
I probably really don't have to go too much into details on why this is great thing for you, do I?

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Perhaps this is a little open ended - but from a high level, what does your early marketing strategy look like? What do you do to get the first, say, 50 users on board?

I've built and managed the builds for a number of SaaS products now and have a strong grasp of the tech side, but still seem to struggle with the marketing.
The first 50/100/200 have been easy for me and it feels a little like cheating.

I've touched a bit above on why, but to put it another way/angle:
  • I have a "small brand" / personality in the digital marketing world, especially with a core group of digital marketers ( SEO's and Affiliates ). So does my current partner. Past partners have too somewhat. This "brand" helps. If Kim Kardashian had a line of makeup come out today, how easy would it be for her to get her first 50 customers? Extremely easy.

  • I've ( up to this point ) worked exclusively in the digital marketing/web vertical for 2 decades myself. My SaaS programs have exclusively been in this too for the past 7 years. By nature I know all the places people like me hang out, our lingo, who the key influencers are, etc. If I didn't have my "brand" name, I easily know where I could get 50 customers quickly because of this domain knowledge. It also helps I'm a marketer too, instead of say an accountant.

  • If I didn't have both of the above, I'd have to talk to key influencers and get them in the door of my product. Then I'd have to keep close relationships with them and improve on their feedback. In the early days of one of my SaaS programs, we had people sign up and use our product that were speakers at digital marketing conferences. We didn't seek these people out, but they found us and used the product and LOVED it. They went on and spoke about us in front of thousands of digital marketers at conferences and shows and we only found out when the tweets, slide decks, and recordings came out from the event. Talk about a lot of free, valuable, targeted advertising that was the best kind possible... word of mouth ( social validation ). This has happened several times for us.

  • Early marketing pushes have also included a lot of content. On our own blog, interviews, podcasts, guest postings, in-depth training guides, etc.

  • If you can make yourself an "expert" ( look at what @Andy Black did here at this forum ), you will have an easier time. What can you do to make yourself the expert starting today?

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So for picking a partner I keep things pretty simple, mostly because I have had some really bad ones in the past.

  • I had partners that once they developed the MVP of the product, pretty much became unreliable. They built it, tested it for a day, then gave me little to no instruction on how to use it and expected me to just market and sell and handle customer service. Which would have been fine, except they "up'd and vanished" and would take days to get back to me if I had questions. This caused issues when we had tech problems. They wanted 50% but only put in the upfront work, none of the backend.

  • I had partners who handled the money ( Paypal account, or other ) and then lied to me about our sales/income and stole from me. I only found out years later when some friends of mine happened to travel and visit one of my old partners and he went into detail about how he stole from me to them thinking they wouldn't tell me.

  • I had partners that ended up never fully committed. They would do everything 40% and never gave it their all. I'm not talking about they would do 2 projects and me to 8 in a week. I mean anything at all they did, it would only come out 40-50%.

  • I had partners that wouldn't put a dime into anything. I would be working and need to invest in something we both agreed on and would go ahead and purchase it myself to keep an early non-profitable company going at the start. Only to find out they were never going to put a dime of their money into it and help with the cost of it.

So after a lot of that ( and more ), I got really defined about what roles I would play in any partnerships and how I would test or deal with possible partners.

A lot of these are my personal preferences and they work for me. They may not work for you. You might not agree with something I agree with.

However, it's not about the specifics of what I post.. it's about having a game plan and thinking through what you need and want. That's what's important in the below.

Here are my thoughts on what worked with my current partnership compared to the ones I had prior:

  • I didn't look for, or even want/need, a partner in the beginning. That's not to say I truly didn't need one. I just wasn't ( at that time ) looking for or considering one. He came to me asking questions about my product, not asking me about a partnership.
    • I wasn't in the mindset "I desperately need someone else", therefore I was able to take my time in finding a good match if it did happen
    • My partner didn't come at me like he wanted to be a partner, he just wanted to help make my product better
    • In partnerships prior, I started out thinking I needed someone to help me which put me in "desperate" mode always looking.

  • I knew a lot about my partner before he became a partner. We were on the same forum, ran in the same circles. Was in the same Skype groups. I interacted with him somewhat and could read all his backstory and gauge some things about him.
    • This was true about some of my prior bad partners too. Although they didn't have much of a history for me to verify and gauge as my current partner did
    • Because I could look back in Skype chats, forum posts, etc.. I had an idea of the type of work ethic and personality he had.

  • Even though it wasn't a trial, the relationship started that way. He offered suggestions to a product I made and he worked on it a lot for a little while. At some point after a few weeks, I suggested we be partners.
    • Notice no agreement was made upfront about being partners until a working relationship began. We never formally agreed on a partnership or trial, but it worked out that way. He offered value upfront and executed and expected nothing in return. He ended up doing a great job and got 50% of the company instead.

  • At some point, I decided I wanted to "test him" a bit. How would he respond to X? Does he care about Y? I wanted to do this when I thought he might be comfortable in the relationship to really get his true reactions.
    • Sometimes I planned to be up late at night just so I could ping him on Skype AND email. I did this at different times and days over a few months randomly. I wanted to see if he would respond or not to issues after hours and late nights. Would he ping me back in a few minutes, hours, or not at all and treat it like, "I only work 9-5"?
    • I did the same thing on the weekends a few times
    • We didn't have defined roles early in the relationship like I did with other partnerships. In other relationships there was a clear "you're the the coder, I'm the marketer" type roles. We didn't really have that. So with that advantage I could lob him issues and questions about marketing and see his mindset and reactions. Same with code issues. I was able to fully see his thought process and what he could take on as issues that might ( and did ) come up in the future of the company. Also same about business issues ( like banking, etc ).

  • There was no sense in doing anything less than 50/50. I don't care you brought this to the table or that. You want someone that can grow your business and handle issues if you can not. Why should they get less than 50% for that, because you think you "invented or started or brought" more upfront to the table? That means nothing in 12 months if the other person helped you grow it and keep it.
    • At one point I even offered/gave my partner 75% of the company so I could work and focus on other things
    • He gave me back the full 50%. That's some trust.
    • Think back yourself to when you were an employee. Did you love getting paid $10 an hour to make someone else rich? No you didn't. Do you want your partner to feel that way too? You might not think they would getting 10% of the company, but that's still ( in my mind ) cheating them out of the potential. Of note, yes 50% only works if there are 2 partners. Obviously you can't have 4 and do 50%

  • Instead of being reactive ( like prior partners ), he was proactive. In past relationships I was always coming up with the ideas, solutions, and future roadmap. It was refreshing to have someone else help in this procedure and even spearhead it.

  • Do you feel that if you walked away for a month, your partner could handle the business? I'm not saying you should walk away for a month. I'm not saying the business would be 100% fine when you came back. However, can you trust your partner to run it and run it to where it wasn't a mess when you got back? Sure some things might slip, but could it sort of run?
    • What if you had to go into rehab for a month?
    • What if you needed to scale back to part time work to help you elderly mother for a month?
    • What if your house burned down and you needed to adjust to that
    • Death in the immediate family, etc
    • You don't know how long it would take you to recover and your state of mind once you thought you bounced back. Can your partner really take things on without you for a while?
    • I'm not talking about automation here, I'm talking making tough calls and business choices

Some of what I posted you won't know until you are rubbing elbows with your partner, but that's why you need a relationship before you start as partners. Kinda like how you would date someone until you knew they were right, and then married them. In all reality, you're essentially in a marriage and the company is your kid.

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@eliquid can you spend some time discussing a potential framework on how to decide on a SaaS concept to pursue. I read your information about how you focused on your industry which was great but how do you sort of guage what your SaaS should do.

Is basing your SaaS on what is currently out in the market for a particular industry enough to run with?

I think Dane discussed interviewing people and asking them which Always seemed kind of ridiculous as customers can’t really tell you what to build.

What is your take on this.
So I touched on several things on your question here:
GOLD - Ask Me Anything About SaaS ( I'm building my 7th )


I think the best loose framework is this:
  • Have domain knowledge
    • Do you have to have this, no. However it will make building your SaaS 10,000x easier and faster
  • Does it fit your core values, mission statement, and who you are?
  • Can you pull this off yourself, or do you need partners?
    • Depending on others is tough sometimes, how much can you pull off yourself initially before bringing on others?
  • Does it make CENTS?
    • Read MJ's book
  • Do you have competition? If no, this could be a bad sign.. but not always.
    • I look for products I like, but don't love.
    • I create the same product, but make it the one I love
    • You gotta add several of your own twists to it to have it standout
  • Build an MVP and see if your beta users love it too
    • Build off their feedback, but only if it aligns with your roadmap of features
  • How big is your market?
    • Be realistic. I own a SaaS in the digital marketing industry. However, not every digital marketer is my customer. Your core market needs to be big enough to provide you profit and not trip over the fact you will have churn
  • Can you grandma or mom understand what you are doing? If no, you need to work on your product and how it helps others
    • Don't focus on the most advanced users of your product, focus on the least advanced


If I think of more or a better way to glue this all together, I'll come back and edit this one post.

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Another great post, thank you. I am amazed on how much insight and improvements come from working with analyzing simple data such as last login or number of logins in X days.

I was wondering how do you determine your core user sets? Do you outright ask them, survey them, is this a best guess, or? I know some services have a "your position: ceo, owner, freelancer, ..." selection at signup.
Probably not the answer you want or looking for, but this where again my "advantage moat" of:
  • Working in the digital marketing industry for the last 20 years
  • Having 5 prior SaaS in digital marketing
  • Me being my own customer
helps me figure this out.

I've been the rookie marketing analyst at an agency, as well as the CMO of a retail operation that sold entirely online. I've been the freelancer on the side and the consultant. I've been the equity partner in charge of marketing for a startup getting funded in Y combinator and a shark tank investor... plus other things within the industry. For this example, it's just all gut because of my experience level.

If I wasn't the above 3 things, yes I would need to survey customers and do a lot of research and thinking about where my early adopters hang out at and follow what they are doing and closely watching them and asking them questions.

For example, say I built a SaaS for accountants. I know nothing about that.

I would need to dig in and find out where they hang out and who they are.
  • I could hire 3-4 accountants on UpWork and then interview for the answers
  • I could talk to my own accountant and ask her about associations she is in and how to reach more people like her
  • I could find forums and online places they hang out ( maybe reddit? )
  • I could talk to a CFO and ask them the levels of financial positions within their industry and how each interacts with the job they do.
The above is the same as I have said before.. where are your early adopters at? Sometimes you have to dig in to find out where they are, then go into that watering hole.

Does that help?

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I was going to do one on customer service, but honestly I am not sure what to share.

I mean, you either have it.. or you don't.

It's either great or awful. I don't recognize any in-between.

I kinda look at it like Net Promoter Scores.. if it's not a 10, then you are doing it totally wrong.

People will sometimes interact with your SaaS on a trial basis. Even if you do not offer a trial, the email they send you ( or ticket in Intercom ) will act as their first impression. If it is great, they might sign up to your SaaS even though it doesn't do 100% of what they need. It's happened in my SaaS tons of times.

Don't make the mistake of having 30 ways to contact you:
  • Email
  • Support Desk
  • Live chat
  • Forum
  • FB page
  • Twitter
  • etc
All that will happen is, someone will reach out and you will miss it. Days will go by. You will be spread too thin.

All contact should come into 1 or 2 systems so that nothing is missed. So you only have to check 1 or 2 "places". The last thing you want is someone needing help in email, another posted for help on your FB page, and someone else has 3 questions in your forum. Something will get missed.

You should strive to answer all help/support needs within 3-4 hours. Nothing is worse than having someone wait for days to get a response from you. It shows them that they don't matter or that you are unorganized and too busy to actually help them. Now and in the future. If I had a choice between SaaS A and SaaS B and both were pretty equal.. however SaaS A took 3 days to answer me and SaaS B took 3 hours, I am going to go with SaaS B even if it has a few less features and a higher price point.

If possible, have a way to "view your customers screen". I can't tell you how many times someone told me something was wrong or not working on their end and I had no clue what they were talking about. Unless you can see what's going on with something like join.me or be able to log into their account specifically ( my SaaS lets me do this, as if I logged in as them ), you will pull your hair out.

I don't give canned answers. Man, I hate when I have an issue with a company and it takes them 3 days to send me a reply and it ends up a canned answer that provides no real answer. Even if it takes me an hour to write out my response and pull in 4-5 images from Jing to help the customer, that's what I do. Sometimes I feel lazy and don't want to do it.. but you will pay for it later when they send in 3 more questions and you spend more time on them than if you just went overboard in the original help ticket. You want to make sure after you talk to the customer they have no other possible questions. Once you answer their question, think 3 questions ahead and answer those as well.

Empower your employees and VA's. They might be able to help you answer a lot of customer service tickets, but have to ask you permission for X or Y. Just give them power to do whatever is needed up to X. X could be anything that pertains to your SaaS. For example, someone might need help and want to evaluate our next highest plan in our SaaS. Empower your agents to allow that to happen for 7 days without having to ask. Empower them to spend up to $X dollars to make the customer happy, no matter what.

Along with the above, have SOPs readily available. Every person in your company should know Standard Operating Procedures for X event and task in your company. Everyone knows what's expected and how, especially when it comes to customer service.

Customer unhappy? Potential customer ask about or wants X feature? What does it take to make them happy? Is it within your empowerment? If so, do it or assign it out to the right person to make happen.

Sometimes people just want to know you will be there. Having great customer service will re-enforce that belief to them.

One thing that makes my SaaS standout is we actually help our customers. No, I don't mean with their questions and issues about our SaaS...

Digital marketers use my SaaS, it's built for digital marketers. I'm a digital marketer too. People use my SaaS for their digital marketing needs. When someone has an issue with my SaaS, I know the real "why" to what they are doing and specifically why they ask the question they have.

The 5 "whys" behind their actual issue, I address too because I know the why behind it all.

I can actually understand their direct issue, and then talk shop with them and offer them my own digital marketing advice to answer their inner why behind the direct issue.

What other SaaS is going to do that?

None of my competitors do. If you write to them and ask them about X feature or Y issue in their SaaS.. they will answer the question directly. Generally with a canned answer and in 1-3 days.

You ask the same in my SaaS, it's generally within 3 hours on average and is a mini essay on the issue itself and the why/reasoning behind it with 2-4 Jing images attached to it. Then we might just go into some helpful advice that will impact your marketing efforts too because we understand why you actually asked that question for the most part.

That turns our "customer service" department into a real "knowledge center". A place where the customer gets extra value. Not just a response.

People pay for that shet man. When they think they want to cancel their plan/account, they know it will be real pain to miss that experience. It will be hard to give that up almost.

Some people have stayed on, just for that access and "knowledge".

It's an advantage moat my competitors just don't have.


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Sorry, I code to make money. Not beautiful code with lots of comments that doesn't do anything.
Well said.

I am a self-taught programmer and until recently I didn't know jack about object-oriented programming, patterns, dependency injection, unit testing... yet I managed to make "comfortable" living according to @eliquid description above.

Customers don't care about any of this. They don't care if your code is well organized and you spent the last 5 weeks writing unit tests and polishing your code. They only care about:
1. does this work?
2. does it solve my need?
3. how much $?

When is the last time you purchased a SaaS because their code was great?

Yes, well organized code will make it easier to maintain and easier for other programmers to edit/upgrade/fix and I do put in effort to make it as organized as I can. But my focus is on features and how to best serve the needs of the customer. They are the one paying your bills.

It's like worrying how your SaaS will perform with 1,000,000 users when you only have 12. Get the sales first, worry about scaling later.
 
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@eliquid

Sorry if the question has already been asked somewhere in the thread (At least I haven't seen it), but what tips can you give on coming up with good niches where you can improve a product?

You said earlier in the thread to stay in your area of competence helps a lot. However, I find that a bit difficult being mainly a developer myself (personally, I haven't had to use SaaS products up to this date for my development, as the tools are mainly open source as you probably know).

What can I do to identify a good niche to start building software products for?

Thanks.
I understand.

It's important to know that I also came from that background.

Here is how my career projected:

1. Pre 1996: odd jobs anyone can do, like working at Target or Sears
2. 1996-1999: developing web sites
3. 1999 - today: programming in Perl and PHP ( called FI back then )
4. 2000 - today: PPC with GoTo
5. 2001 - today: Ranking on Yahoo Directory, Dmoz, Google

So I understand where you are coming from.

If you have no other domain authority or competence, the next best thing to look at it is what interests you a lot?

I hate telling people to follow their passion, and this is not that advice.

However, you will need something to keep you going since you do not have another area of competence. That something will have to be interest, because once you get 6 months into this and get burnt out.. interest will keep you going when drive and motivation go down.

You learn a ton about a subject when you have to teach it. Your SaaS is like the teaching part. With that in mind, what's something you would like to learn a lot about and are interested in that could fit into a SaaS model?

Start with writing down everything you are interested in and would like to learn. Everything

Then go down the list and see which ones could be modeled for SaaS

Then go online to Reddit, forums, and other areas and see what people's needs and complaints are about that smaller list you made ( things you have interest in and would want to learn, that could also be SaaS ).

Example list of things I am interested in and want to learn more about:
1. Maching Learning/AI
2. Crypto Trading
3. Marketing Automation
4. How to train for the IronMan
5. Beaches and traveling

What of those above could be realistically a SaaS product?
1. Machine Learing
2. Crypto
3. Marketing Automation

I can't see training for an IronMan or traveling a SaaS, yet.. so lets run with #1-#3

Now I would go online and see who is having problems with AI, and Crypto trading, and Marketing Automation and I would see what their issues are and how big that space is and where the gaps could be.

Past that, it's up to you which one you pick.

But that would be my process if I did not have authority or competence in a subject/topic.

Sometimes drive and motivation ween. Sometimes you get shiny object syndrome. Sometimes you just feel burnt out. When that happens, you are going to have to rely on something that interest you that you really want to learn for yourself.

Hope that helps

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Thanks for the thread @eliquid! I have a SaaS that I'm currently trying to grow. The biggest challenge for me has been the marketing. Adwords/Bing have been too expensive. What has worked best for me so far are Apple Search Ads (as I also have an app for the SaaS) but even those are not really sustainable in the long term, as they are still too expensive.

What other methods besides PPC have you used to market your products? My plan now is to write a short eBook that I will use to get people in the door, and to turn my site's blog into a valuable newsletter on its own (content marketing).
I touched on this in the above posts in different ways but a lot comes down to:
  • Being a brand or authority in your niche
  • Influencers helping you
  • Affiliate program offering
  • PPC ( Big 3, plus smaller offerings like AdRoll, Twitter, Media Buys, etc )
  • Forum marketing ( see brand and authority )
  • SEO
  • Blog posts
  • Guest posting on other sites
  • Podcasts
  • Interviews
  • Skype and Slack channels
  • FB groups
  • Linkedin and Linkedin ads
  • Tradeshows and conferences ( speaker )
  • eBooks or lead magnets
Think of it like writing a real book or an actor in a new movie. Right before and during the launch, they go on tours for radio and TV stations and they do it nonstop every day. You pretty much need to do the same thing except in the "online world".

About the best thing you can do is to make yourself an authority/expert and build a small community/following around you. @Andy Black is one of the best examples on this forum that I can show. He is regarded as the Adwords Expert here.. ask yourself why that is and then try to figure out how you can do the same in your niche/vertical and get people following you.

Those people will spread your message and be your first success stories that will give you validation.

Like I mentioned before, where are your early adopters at?

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Fantastic post in a great thread, thanks very much for getting this out there.

If someone needed to dive in and learn a set of technology in order to build, first, some MVPs to test out, would php be a good direction? What about frameworks? Or even crazier, what about building MVPs in wordpress?

Just feeling my way here, wanting to settle on one technology direction and take off.
Probably the most documented, noted, and easiest tech stack to start off with ( if you have little to no tech background in this stuff ) is LAMP, which is Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP.

Is it the right one for you? Only you can answer that though.

The LAMP stack is documented 10,000x more than any other, so learning and finding working examples blows the doors off anything else. Once you can handle this for an MVP, then you will need to pivot to something that satisfies your need.

I can not think of a SaaS that would be a MVP from Wordpress, but then again it doesn't mean you couldn't do it. I just haven't thought of a way that Wordpress could handle the needs of a SaaS in the way I think about it.

One way you could use it is to be your members area for your SaaS. Since Wordpress can have DAP, OptimizeMember, Wishlist Member, etc as membership plugins.. you could use that as your members and billing area and then build a SaaS around it.
 
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One last question. It seems lots of people claim you can't build an extremely profitable company without stopping programming yourself and hiring outside programmers so you can focus on the business, etc. I'm a programmer with business experience, and I've had trouble giving up control to other programmers. Tried it, it didn't work. I just like things to be done right and fast. What's your experience here, from a SAAS perspective?
What's extremely profitable?

Do you mean enough to live on yourself comfortably that you own your home ( no mortgage ), your cars, can raise your family, and not have to worry about bills, all debts paid and 6+ months savings in the bank? You can do that on your own.

Are you talking Yachts, supercars, 7 figures in the banks, vacations in the south of france for 6 months at a time and getting to the point you have an IPO? You more then likely won't get there alone.

If you have issues finding a partner ( equity ), you just haven't found the right partner. I will go over this next since it's actually next on my list anyways ( next posting I do ).

Also, have a friend who constantly nags me because my programming isn't 1000% clearly commented and organized, etc for future programmers. Is this typically a huge concern for you when you're building something?
This is complete and utter bullshit. I had 2 partners like this before myself.

Sorry, I code to make money. Not beautiful code with lots of comments that doesn't do anything.

When you hire other programmers and you hire yourself "out of that job", they can do what they want at that point with pretty comments and structure, as long as they are hitting their other objectives and goals and the cash flow is increasing. Until then, don't worry about it.

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I've had to pivot away from the original idea I had for my 7th SaaS due to focusing on SERPWoo ( my 6th SaaS ). Putting more time and energy into SERPWoo was deemed a better choice.

But in doing so, I want to show you something else I do. My 7th SaaS is now going to be something different than I thought it was...

Think about this.

In building your SaaS, you will need to build all kinds of systems and potentially combine ideas too. Ideas that if broke apart, could be their own SaaS as well.

For example, in building your SaaS you might need a fraud detection system for your billing and signup process. Sure, you could sign up to a few of the more expensive services available right now and roll the dice they know what they are doing, OR you could build your own with a weekend's worth of research and trust you know how it works. In doing so, you could also build an API to that fraud system you built and offer it as a separate SaaS offering.

Double work? Distracted focus? It doesn't have to be.

You could simply place it on a few directories, hire someone to promote it a bit with articles, and list it on producthunt and reddit and let it slowly build up a small audience until you can get back to it or hire a partner to run it.

When you add a new feature to your existing SaaS, ask yourself if you can make that feature it's own SaaS and simply build it out and let it off into the wild and see how it does on it's own.

That's "kinda" how my prior SaaS's worked out in a roundabout way and one reason I stayed in digital marketing niche.

What are you an authority of and can build to scratch your own itch?

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For marketing -

SaaS marketing isn't very different from marketing other products. That might be easy for me to say since I've been doing digital marketing for 2 decades now, but the fact is that marketing done right fits tons of niches and verticals.

Probably the biggest difference I have learned with SaaS is that you have to factor in some unique twists:
  • You potentially can afford more per customer in marketing with a SaaS than other types of business
    • Since this is recurring sale, you can look at LTV more predictably than with ecom

  • Customers may churn, but many will come back
    • Do you have a marketing plan to win people back? In my SaaS someone may cancel or quit in month 4, only to come back 3 months later and stay on for 8 months.

  • Unlike a physical product or info product, I can continuously hype up new potential features inside my SaaS. I don't have to rely on emails that don't get opened, or opened but not read. I also don't worry about spam. People see my messages and new features and get excited to stay on longer as I pass more value to them.

  • Speaking your customer's language really helps. Drawing up demographic profiles/customer profiles is important in lots of areas of marketing even for 1 time sales, digital products, and more. However, when you realize that getting profiles right in a SaaS = thousands more dollars per customer over their LTV, getting it right for a 1-time sale on a physical product gets overshadowed.

  • Like many other areas, "me too" competitors will crop up left and right. Maybe not immediately, but they will come for you sooner or later. You guys selling on Amazon know what I mean.
    • Does you brand story help you stand out above your competitors?
    • Is your marketing message helping provide your unique value over your competitors?
    • Have you made yourself the industry expert? If not, your competitor will and they will become the "first mover" in your industry

  • Fish where your tech innovators and early adopters hang out. These might not end up being your core audience in 12 months time, but their influence, usage, feedback, and revenue will help get you off the ground.
    • As an example, our SaaS started off attracting affiliate marketers. Me and my partner had a lot of influence in this niche and many affiliates are doing SEO ( white and blackhat ). They also tend to be on the cutting edge of digital marketing so they tend to be early adopters looking for an advantage over competitors.
    • As my SaaS grew, the buzz these affiliates made in other forums, chats, conferences, and online influenced other people to try our product out. By people I mean credible marketing agencies, big brands, fortune 500 companies, etc.
    • Affiliate are no longer our core audience, but they were the group that helped bring in revenue, provide feedback, and help spread our brand name. These tech innovators and early adopters were critical to us.

  • Be unique in your message. Don't be afraid to stand out or focus in too narrow. Sometimes all you need is to connect with a core group of people. That might mean being unique in a sea of "boring". It might mean really focusing on 1 small group of users now, in order to cast out a wider net to more people later.

  • Are your marketing messages clear enough that your 80 year grandma understands it? If not, can your mom understand it? If you fail both of these, you need to start over. You want even grandma to potentially be your customer, but more importantly you want people to easily understand what it is you do and the value you can provide for them.
 
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Here's trying "the foundation" method to starting.

How would you start from $0?

I gave Leo some tactics and strategy I've come across in my own life that are tested for casual use with friends and relationships based on what I know about the foundation and being an employee for a business.

My theory and tactics are currently untested for starting a business though from $0 though.
I've touched on this a bit in this thread and others.

I'll include the highlights again here ( a few ). When I reference "See Above" below, this is what you should come back to
  • Domain experience
  • Authority position in domain
Neither of those require money. But they do require time and expertise. Putting yourself in an authority position will more than likely require content from you in some form. Again no money is needed though.

Once you get to that level, you will need to be able to have a great idea. One that can bring people into your company for little or no money unless you plan to do it all yourself. Is this optimal? NO. But thats 1 way you could do it with $0 and for some reason wanted to stick to that.

You could also get people to buy in and invest.

You also need to meet CENTS somewhat too.


Some forum recommended books have even stated that money hurts more than helps. My own experience has confirmed this: Other people's money doesn't help. Excess cash has only helped me fail in a spectacular way.
I think cash can help. Do you have to have it? No.

If excess cash caused you to fail, you weren't disciplined at that time in your life when it came to you. This is not a personal dig at you. Most people are this way.

I haven't tried the $0 approach though because I always thought it takes money to start rather than certain critical resources.

I will PM you the theory I have on how to start from nothing if you want to just check it across your experience without answering publicly.
Please PM. Though it might take me days to answer back

You could pollute the SaaS industry overnight with the answer.

You also saw my other thread asking about databases to search for market information. Please answer what you would use for that research.
I don't know of any databases myself. However I did comment if you found someone to do this work and do it right, you would have to pay them more than you offered.

I personally think you don't need any cash to start or experience. You usually don't need much if any experience for most jobs (non-technical and even some technical because they train). Lots of things in life can be learned when taking action because life is a non-linear path.
I somewhat agree, and somewhat disagree.

I fully think you need experience in something to start a SaaS.

I can't start a SaaS helping mothers with ovulation issues if I don't really understand women and ovulation and the WHYs behind it. I could fake knowing, but it will come through in my product eventually.

1. How would you start from $0 without coding?

You may keep your technical experience on directing projects.
I posted some of it above.

2. How would someone get to project completion and first customers?
See above

3. What database would you use for your research?
See above

4. What would you look for in a market to build an industry solution?
See above

5. What would you look for in a product?
See above

6. For non-technical creators would you use a low-code or robust no-code system like bubble.is?
If you rely on 3rd parties, you will fail at some point. They will be the weakest link in your chain. Code your own, on your own platform

If you had no technical experience.

7. Do you think it's possible in 2017 to start with $0 and build a SaaS. Please give a defense if you think so because some people trash the method who are credible.
Yes. I started with no money each time. Is that odd?

No.

I firmly believe that each project pays its own rent from day 1. Therefor no project gets a "loan" or other freebie from another current or prior project. They work and stay in their own silos.

2017 is no different than 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, etc.

If anything, things are cheaper now than then.

If you have no tech experience you can find a tech co-founder or raise money and pay for one that way.

It's not easy or fast, but you didn't include those adjectives in your question.

8. How profitable do you think doing it that way would be? Exit potential? Lifestyle potential? Start to lifestyle change potential?
How you start ( at $0 or $10k ), does not dictate profitability. It also does not predict exit potential or lifestyle or change.

Maybe it does if you took in investment or gave out equity, but it entirely depends on what numbers YOU choose if you do that.

Really want to get a fact check from someone who has done this 7 times differently than Dane Maxwell.

I listed 5 ways I think you can get to a profitable idea in the Saasify thread. There should be many ways to start as well.
Im not for or against Dane.

There are 1,000 ways to cook chili.

You can add peppers, put in noodles, eat it cold or use turkey instead of hamburger, etc.

No matter what you do, you made chili in the end.

You can cook chili with $100 in ingredients, or $0 in ingredients.

There is no recipe for SaaS, just like there really isn't one for chili.

There's only fundamentals.

.
 
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eliquid

( Jason Brown )
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Gonna give it a rest for today folks.

Should be back in a day or 2 to finish up and answer more questions as they roll in.

I wanna make this the greatest SaaS thread on FLF. Help me out and make that happen please.

Also, if you have time, visit my Paid Advertising thread too ( see sig ) and ask questions.
 
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eliquid

( Jason Brown )
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Also,

Once you found your early adopters and you worked out the kinks and bugs, where do you go next to find customers to start off at the next level?

 
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eliquid

( Jason Brown )
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Two questions for you sir!

1) I own a b2b company portal software that hosts company announcements, documents, training, etc and the idea is it's easy to use, non intimidating, way to create a private corporate portal. My competitors are very expensive, time intensive, and have someone that works directly with the company to implement, help with rollout etc. My software has been extremely successful once I get peoples attention and explain it to them, direct selling, etc. However, I do have to do at least 2 or 3 training conference calls. I have no desire to hire "consultants" to do training with my customers - what are your thoughts on this, or anything you may have learned? Does B2B SAAS typically require intensive consulting? I am assuming it's a lot of discovery, learning if these things even can be automated?
Sorry, but my answer my not be what you're looking for. I tend to heavily analyse the word choices people use, so this might throw us both off.

You used the phrase "intensive consulting". So I assume you feel this is what you are doing to close the client after 2-3 training conf. calls.

Here's the thing, if you have to intensively consult someone to win them over and have them pull out their pocket book to hand you money, you haven't hit their pain point yet hard enough OR they haven't had their ahHa moment yet. Even if you hit their ahHa, most times an ahHa moment is worthless without a pain point.. which is something almost no one else tells you.

Something tells me you are missing one or both if things have to be intensive.

Sure, you can be solving a pain point and giving people an ahHa and it still take multiple consultations to get the money. You see this all the time in those guru launches. You know, the ones where Russell Brunson has you go through a 4 part webinar series before making his pitch?

At $4k to get into his mastermind or newest course, you have to hand hold the customer a few times to convince them to sign up.

I know your B2B product is nothing like that, but the concept is still the same. Sometimes you hit the pain point and ahHa and still need to hold their hand a few times. However, that's because your building trust and value. It should be easy and fun. It shouldn't be intense or hard.

If it's hard or intensive, you are missing the pain point or they need to have their ahHa sooner.


2) In the little bit of online advertising I have done, I have estimated my customer acquisition cost to be around $750 (customer that sticks around for atleast 4 months). Theoretically, if I am earning $4000/year per customer, does it not make sense to just constantly reinvest profits back into obtaining new customers via adwords if I am earning $3250/year per customer, as long as my C.A.C stays the same?
That sounds fine. However, you know what's easier and can make you more money? Reinvesting to get more out of your current customer instead of trying to find and win over a new one.

I'd be looking for ways to make them stay on longer, upsell or cross-sale, etc. How can you get more money out of them? Maybe you can offer a training course on how to make their employees happier? IDK because I don't know your market. However it's generally easier to make money from current customers than to find and win over new ones.

How can you increase your MRR or ARR without new customers? Answer that and once you implement it, reinvest in new customers

.
 
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eliquid

( Jason Brown )
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More thoughts on partnerships -

  • I don't judge on, "I did X and you only did Y". Or, "I did X of Z and you only did X of Y". If you are in a good partnership, as long as things are not going out of control, it doesn't matter if you did 9 things in marketing this week and they only did 3 in coding. Not every project or task is equal to another. Also, not every person works at the same speed or thinks in the same way. Also true is that some of us are single and like to be online all day, some of us have family and outside responsibilities. Unless work quality is low or things are half-assed, you don't need to look into this too much.

  • There will be conflicts. See above for some idea of why. You might want to do X, they want to do Y. Handling these issues can be tough. Sometimes you just need to sleep on it or go back and forth on it for days to really get to the core of why you can't agree on the next step. If you do have defined roles, the person in the defined role that gets impacted the most from the choice should have the say so in the choice. If defined roles are not really set, you are either going to have to give and take on both sides or find an alternative. Sometimes you have to kick the can down the road a little bit too.

  • There is no need to micro-manage the partner. They need the flexibility to work on things under their own supervision. That is why they are a partner. If you can't give this freedom to them, they shouldn't be a partner. Sometimes I question what my partner does, but it is not about if I trust them or not, it's more about me being informed or understanding why that choice was made. It's not about I think they are wrong and I need validation now.

    .
 

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