The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

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

Remove ads while supporting the Unscripted philosophy...become an INSIDER.

OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
Awesome thread.



Could you expand on this?

I know that deep learning is the new hotness these days. Besides a little tinkering in TensorFlow's Python libraries, I've got no real idea what's going on in this space. (And that was enough to let me know real quick that I was out of my league in trying to do anything serious with AI for business applications.)

What kind of options are we looking at here? Are there any good off-the-shelf packages? Or is this a case where it's better to go hire a PhD in machine learning to whip up a custom solution?
I'd suggest you take a couple courses on uDemy to get up to speed. That's not a crack at you, but this can get complex quickly with the lingo and thought processes. Again, not a crack but unless you have a good footing in AI it will be hard to wrap your head around it.

If you can take a few courses ( I'd suggest a min of at least 3-4 ), it would be a lot clearer.

There are many lib. for these things. A lot in Python. Several in others. However if you jump into the code without a proper foundation, you will get lost real quick and possibly produce outcomes that aren't valid or comprehensive.

I wouldn't hire someone to code a custom solution. In your shoes I might hire someone to help me with the basics after you do some courses to make sure it's set up right and you get any further questions answered. After that, Id run test code on small samples before jumping into bigger sets.

There are also a lot of 3rd party SaaS solutions too. BigML, Amazon, Bing... many others too where you just pipe in a API or submit a dataset to them and plugin in some variables and such. Again, you would need a good foundation first from a course or 3.

.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Last edited:
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
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.

.
 

c4n

Full throttle
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 30, 2017
212
514
248
Europe
P.s.: while on the subject, I wrote a short "freemium 101" a while ago for those interested.
 

HackVenture

Digital Marketer
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Mar 11, 2011
341
484
236
Planet Earth
Thanks for this thread @eliquid. I'm more of a marketing guy and the sections about tech confuse me a little bit but building a SAAS is high up on my bucket list and I'm definitely looking into going through some of the Udemy courses I've already bought some time in future.

Will definitely be revisiting this thread.
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
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.

.
 
Last edited:

c4n

Full throttle
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 30, 2017
212
514
248
Europe
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.
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
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?

.
 
Last edited:

c4n

Full throttle
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 30, 2017
212
514
248
Europe
Surveying makes sense, I was just asking to see if you have a different approach.

I have a small SaaS website with just a few hundred paid users (more of a hobby born out of necessity than a real business for now, but considering to expand to full time in the future) and I am having a hard time placing most of my users into few categories to better cater them. They all own a website but other than that they seem to come from all shapes, sizes and use cases which I learn about mostly through doing customer support.

I look forward to reading more of your posts.
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
What's the highest ARR you've scaled a SAAS company to?
I can't answer questions related to:
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.
Not interested in sharing this about my own SaaS companies. Sorry.

Hope you understand. I did post that in my first post though.

I have been involved in scaling other companies routinely in the millions per year prior. These have been in lead gen, ecom, training, PaaS, etc.

I've also been involved in activities that have helped generate billions of dollars for specific industries that were tied directly to me. I know at least one person on this forum can probably vouch for the billions part that is a credible and established person here ( @Eskil ).

.
 
Last edited:

ilooley

PARKED
Sep 27, 2015
1
0
7
40
My life revolves around my SAAS, me in the marketing my partner in the helm of the tech. Would love to chat with you. Is there any way to do this? Skype?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
My life revolves around my SAAS, me in the marketing my partner in the helm of the tech. Would love to chat with you. Is there any way to do this? Skype?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Potentially. Yes I have Skype. DM me your Skype handle
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
For @c4n - Project management

This can be a bear sometimes.

I think it really fits into, what's your companys groove? How is each player impacted and what fits them overall as a team?

This can be hard once you have multiple people on your team. It can be hard with just 2 people on your team. At some point you may have to force them ( or yourself ) into a system.


Example:


I have a pretty freestyle way of how I handle projects. I like total control of them and total ownership. Almost dictatorship of my own projects.

I don't mind help and suggestions, but I need to know personally every bit of code in a project I own so I can stay on top of it. Same with projects in marketing and other areas. That's just how I am. I hate when I forget or don't know how something works because it nags at me.

I also like to work on it as I can, when I can, how I can and with what I understand.

That means, if I code in PHP in a linear fashion without OOP and I upload live to the server instead of Git, that's what I do. Is that best for the team, NO.

However, that is what has worked and got stuff done UP TO THIS POINT.

It has to change though. What got me here, doesn't get me to ----------------------------------------> there ( future me/SaaS ).

You may have to test 5-7 different ways to manage projects before you find a good groove that everyone can work with. If you find it doesn't fit everyone, is it fitting 80%? If not, is it still the best tool for the company itself?

Sometimes you have to layer options, like an onion.

For a while, I used Trello. Just couldn't really get use to logging into it and planning and then finishing.

I used Evernote. Same issue as above.

We moved to text files in an app similar to DropBox.

I used Google sheets, still didn't jive.

We moved to Basecamp and this sorta works, but this can get out of hand so you need to stay on top of it.

We even incorporated weekly phone calls on Mondays.

What I found is there will more than likely never be a 1 size fits all solution that handles all projects and all people using it. Some people will need to give and learn the system, and some systems will need to be assisted by other systems as an additional layer.

For example with code, having a Basecamp set up to go over the goals of the new code project. Who is in charge, deadlines, how it impacts the SaaS as a whole. What other scripts it might interact with.. how monitoring happens, etc. But then you need something like Git to keep up with versioning and so that 2 people don't overwrite each other. You might also need Monday phone calls to go over things verbally and other issues and hash them out on the phone.

For marketing, this may look slightly different. You might need Basecamp to set up goals and timed deadlines for when articles ( or materials ) go live. You may also need Monday phone calls to hash out issues in marketing, like topics for next month. On top of that, you may need Google docs or Dropbox to handle outsourcers who may submit articles, content ideas, and research to you for your marketing.

Could you cram a lot of it in Basecamp and call it a day? Sure.

However, there will be times when you need to branch out because of X reason.

Don't look for 1 thing to handle all your solutions. More times than not, you will need to manage multiple apps.

You also need to let people be accountable.


Give ownership to partners or employees. Even contractors and assistants. Set up a framework for success that outlines what the high level is and what they need to do. Tell them what the goal is and what it should look like. Then, let them own it and take care of it like their own baby and get it to that point for you. Have them check in so you can monitor, but let them own it and you just guide and pivot if they need help. At some point, you can let them define what success looks like and the high level too.


Always have 1 deadline for employees and contractors, and another for when it really needs to be done.


Example:
You need to have taxes due on April 15th. However, you are more comfortable with April 1st in case of any issues or problems. You set April 1st as your "this really needs done by" date.

You hand off your taxes to someone else. A bookkeeper or CPA in your company or maybe a 3rd party you source out. You give them a date of March 15th to be done instead of April 1st.

Does it need to be 2 weeks? No.

All you are doing is building in a buffer. Something will always go wrong or need to be adjusted. Something will always need more time to rework once an issue is discovered.

Projects are always better when done early, than late.. right?

If you got your taxes back on April 13th and your CPA tells you that you are missing several receipts and that also you owe more than you thought and you don't have the money saved up for the payment, you are going to be stressed. You have no time to really check the work and dig up the receipts unless you want to spend the next 48 hours doing so ( or just accept it ).

However, if they had it done by March 15th. You'd have 2 weeks to check their work and maybe find an error ( that saves you money ) and also get those receipts dug up before April 1st. Then you'd have another 2 weeks before it was actually due by the IRS. That's sleeping easy at night in my book.

Trust me, what can go wrong.. will go wrong.

Also, an activity will take up as much time as you allow it.

You might hand off your taxes to your CPA on March 1st and think, "shit, it's March 1st, they should have this done by April 1st for sure". Only to find they finish a few days before April 15th. Don't leave projects open ended. Have assigned due dates with quick turnarounds. Even if the turnaround is too soon and the work is only 80% complete.. 80% is better than no due date with the project at 0% or 10% complete.

Always have a way to gauge success on a project.

When is the final project due and how does it interact? What makes it complete? What makes it a success? How do we monitor success or monitor if it actually helped?

You need to know these before you start a project. You don't want to be caught in the middle of 10 projects, all of which don't really help you or add to the bottom line. You might think you know it helps, but only what's measured and monitored gets improved. Everything else is BS.

You want a clear path for each project to know if you should even be working on it ( what is success?, OK is that the success we actually need? ).

It's better ( in my thoughts ) to work on 1 project at 110% attention, that 5 projects in various states of completion and attention. That one project with 110% attention will get done, whereas 5 with various states of completion and attention will take months and be overextended 3x. I try to be single focused in my work which can be drain to others, but it gets done. Sometimes I'm late, but it gets done within ( normally, but not always ) the timeframe expected.

Working on more than one project can lead to all kinds of issues like loss of time and focus because of task switching. It can also let confusion and stress sink in and allows stuff to fall in the cracks.

Each person is different though. If you can really really handle management of multiple projects, do it. But I think this is a rare person that can really pull it off more than the average.


Give priority scores to projects.


You will always come up with ideas. You will always have things break. You will always have projects you want to push out.

What comes first? Who's on second?

You might have 2 projects that you are working on and they need to get pushed out ASAP. Then, you might realize a cool new idea that could be fun to work on. On top of it all, one part of your system has a bug a user told you about and now that part is not functioning and is broke.

What do you work on with so many things in your way now?

At some point you need to assign a score to what is most important and work on the highest score task in your queue.
  • Is what's broke a critical function? Is it really broke or just needs a tweak? Are lots of customers impacted or just 3 because its not a popular benefit? Can it wait 2 weeks to fix? Could you pay someone else to fix it so you can stay on task ( like someone from UpWork ).

  • Will the cool new idea you have triple revenue or reduce costs by a wide margin? Is it a real benefit, or just a cool feature? Did a paying customer bring this up to you, or a free user looking for a freebie? Does the new idea make your SaaS more complex and need hand holding to work ( like depending on an outside API, or adding a lot of cogs to your system that could fail in some way ).

  • The 2 projects you originally were working on, can they be paused? What impact is caused by pausing them and missing the deadline?
Asking questions like these can help you weigh and score each task for importance. Whatever is most important can now be focused on with lots of attention and get completed so you can move to the next project. Hopefully, you won't be spending your time on projects that end up wasting time for you or "cutting in line".

Project management will need to fit you and your company culture. It is also something you need to work on weekly, if not not daily to improve.


Also, make sure your projects fit into your goals.

"Does this help us with increasing revenue?", or "Does this help us reduce churn?". Define the success and make sure you can monitor it. Working on projects that don't help goals should be reconsidered or outsourced if you have the money.

.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
Eliquid, thanks for this super duper thread!

Transferring all my rep!

Do you have any book recommendation or resource on launching and growing a SaaS business?
Thanks,

I don't have any book recommendations on SaaS though. Sorry.

Although SaaS has always been around, it has lately been the "hotness" and buzzword the last few years ( especially this year ). Lots of "new" people are writing about it. I just haven't had time to vet properly all these bandwagon jumpers trying to get in the craze.

Hiten Shah ( Hiten Shah – Medium & https://hitenism.com/ ) would prob. be the only person right now I would even consider looking into in regards to blog posts, books, and material for SaaS. He built Quick Sprout, Crazy Egg, and Kissmetrics and has several years in the game.

.
 

maverick

Aspice, officio fungeris sine spe honoris ampliori
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Oct 26, 2012
395
1,034
369
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.
You can segment people based on the actions they take e.g. the pages they view on your website or the links they click in your emails. For example, you could include 3 pieces of content in your first onboarding email. #1 would be the best resource for a CEO, #2 resource for owner, #3 for a freelancer. Dependent on which resource they click, you can tag them.

Another approach would be to use a tutorial tool such as Appcues. In this example, Canva explains how they use Appcues to provide a better onboarding experience. Again, based on the onboarding option they choose, you can tag customers.

How Canva’s Growth Team Improves Activation +10% [Case Study]

If you have a large enough userbase, run a RFM study + cluster analysis to determine your most valuable customer groups. Then dig into their variables (e.g. demographics/psychographics/whatevergraphics).

RFM (customer value) - Wikipedia
 

maverick

Aspice, officio fungeris sine spe honoris ampliori
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Oct 26, 2012
395
1,034
369
Hi @eliquid
Thanks for the AMA. I have (a subset of related) questions on feature creep.

  • How do you handle your backlog of new features / requests ? (e.g. how do you decide what to build when)
  • How do you detail out your features? Do you write user stories?
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
Hi @eliquid
Thanks for the AMA. I have (a subset of related) questions on feature creep.

  • How do you handle your backlog of new features / requests ? (e.g. how do you decide what to build when)
  • How do you detail out your features? Do you write user stories?
I touched on the new features/request a bit in a former post ( Ask Me Anything - Ask Me Anything About SaaS ( I'm building my 7th ) )

But it comes down to:
  • Do these features/requests impact revenue or churn directly? If not directly, can we measure it if it does indirectly?

  • How many people have requested it? Who are these people.. are they free users or paid users. Long term users or new ones?

  • Will this be complex or simple to add? Can we outsource or build in-house? Does it make us depend on a 3rd party ( APIs )?

  • What's the long-term growing cost of this new feature, if any? Sometimes you add in features that end up gobbling lots of data and resources, which is fine for small data SaaS. At big data though, this can multiply over and over each forward month. There will be a cost involved. How does that cost look in 24 months?

  • If we found out we made a mistake, can this feature be easily disabled without users getting upset and a competitor spinning it off? How ingrained will the user be potentially to it? Would taking this away be simple or complex?

  • Etc

You ask questions and gauge the impact and then everything comes out of that process with a score. Based on that score, you know what should be next.



If it's a feature we thought up, we don't really write out user stories.

Since me and my partners are direct users of the SaaS itself, we know exactly what we want 90% of the time. We do hop on calls and talk in Skype to flesh out or throw around ideas too. Features we dream up aren't formally detailed out like a user story though.

If it's something a user request, we note it and then talk with that user and get more input. We generally also let the user beta it ( not always, but a lot of times ) along with a few others users to get their feedback before rolling out live. Your users will give you great feedback if you let them.

We also go in phases and sprints. Some phases are spent on:

  • Entirely working on things users want.

  • Upgrading and updating the core system and code base

  • "How can we increase profitability" ( for example, Im on a reduction of churn and marketing phase myself right now )

  • Features none of our competitors have, that we wished personally we had in a tool

So sometimes a feature might get worked and jump the queue if it happens to fit into the current phase we are in. But only if it is still high on the list. Something at the bottom of a long list won't jump the queue very much even at this situation.

.
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
So the last few we have left from the original list is:
  • Marketing
  • Customer service
  • Partnerships
  • Customer demos/profiles, MVPs, UVP's, ahHa moments, etc
Which one do you want to know about the most, next?
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
Still holding the churn rate down. Got it pushed a little further. Hopefully I can close the month at 2% even



compare to a few days ago....




I just made money... very quickly and easily.

When you compare it to Sept, I just made an extra $1k per customer on average in less than 30 days pushing my churn rate down by 1.2%
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Last edited:

c4n

Full throttle
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 30, 2017
212
514
248
Europe
Great job, those figures on how CLV increases with churn rate decreasing look awesome and are something I definitely need to look into and try to apply to my business.
 

Andy Black

Figuring it out as I go along!
Staff member
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
May 20, 2014
9,718
40,252
4,306
Ireland
I love your emphasis on aha moments @eliquid.

I get onto 1-2-1 Skype calls asap and keep plugging away till the other person gets their aha moment. Getting to the aha is the sole purpose of the call - not to "close" a sale.

If they become a client at some point in the future then great. If they don't then that's totally fine too - that's one more person out there who can pass that aha on.


How do I create these aha moments? One-to-one. I engage my market in hand-to-hand combat. Diesel and coffee is best. Skype video is close. Ideally I see the whites of their eyes and their body language.

I want to see people sit back slowly nodding.

I want to see their eyes widen as they suddenly "get" it.

... as their entrepreneurial ADD goes into overdrive.

I want them to remember me as the person who gave them that aha moment.


I don't know if I could scale this without having gone hand-to-hand first.
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
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.
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
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?

 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
For marketing also, leverage the work of your competitors when possible.

My SaaS focuses in on digital marketers. I wonder where I can find paid users of similar types of products?

 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
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?

.
 

Steve F

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Sep 14, 2017
92
108
128
Canada
I like total control of my code and work. I was coding before there were any of the popular frameworks in PHP. I did use some PHP frameworks for some time years ago like Cake, Yii, Slim, etc... but I've moved on from them in favor of my own code pieces.
So after reading your post on this, I decided to dig into php a bit a see how it went. Thanks very much for the tip - it was a great week. I got almost halfway through a basic tutorial ("php and mySQL novice to ninja", I know, I know...) and my mind is blown. I love this stuff. It'll take a while but I can see it's the way to go for someone serious about the long haul. I also found out that my day job employer is spending some $20,000 to speed up their wordpress site, which kind of kills the whole "free" thing in my opinion.

Thanks for the shot in the arm.
 
OP
OP
eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
May 29, 2013
1,495
7,296
1,716
Louisville - Kentucky
So after reading your post on this, I decided to dig into php a bit a see how it went. Thanks very much for the tip - it was a great week. I got almost halfway through a basic tutorial ("php and mySQL novice to ninja", I know, I know...) and my mind is blown. I love this stuff. It'll take a while but I can see it's the way to go for someone serious about the long haul. I also found out that my day job employer is spending some $20,000 to speed up their wordpress site, which kind of kills the whole "free" thing in my opinion.

Thanks for the shot in the arm.
Glad it helped
 

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.

Sponsored Offers

  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Lex DeVille's - Advanced Freelance Udemy Courses!
Advanced Upwork Proposals II IS FINALLY LIVE! Here's a look at what's inside: Improved YOU...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE You Are One Call Away From Living Your Dream Life - LightHouse’s Accountability Program ⚡
Here is where you eliminate uncertainty from the future! I wanted to post this image as I...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE KAK’s “Kill Bigger” Incubation Program- With DAILY personal attention.
Hey Guys! I wanted to give a quick update on what this program has become. In its infancy, we...


Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe to become an INSIDER.

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom
AdBlock Detected - Please Disable

Yes, ads can be annoying. But please...

...to support the Unscripted/Fastlane mission (and to respect the immense amount of time needed to manage this forum) please DISABLE your ad-block. Thank you.

I've Disabled AdBlock