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NOTABLE! Help! How do I sell my SaaS application to HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Maid Service, Yard Care, etc., Companies?

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kody.kendall

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Hi all. I'm a newcomer to the forum, (longtime lurker), but I read through MJ's books for the first time about 3 years ago (they completely shifted my employee, slow-lane wealth accumulation strategy mindset into the fastlane, entrepreneurship mindset).

In short, since then I've been slowly building out my SaaS application part time, while I was working full time as a programmer. I've since started doing this side hustle full time, and now have two companies testing/using this application as their daily workflow driver. (I might be adding a third one here soon).

The application is a Customer Resource Management (CRM) app for small home-services businesses -- for any company that travels to different locations to provide services, usually plumbers, HVAC companies, electricians, etc. This application is a one-stop shop for appointment information tracking, scheduling appointments, keeping track of customer details and job information, providing estimates for work and invoices, and more.

It's developed for both field workers and office workers to access the application and communicate/collaborate on job information and scheduling.

I want to continue to grow and expand this application into a full on, million dollar + yearly recurring revenue SaaS business. I'm just running into some roadblocks of getting new companies and users on the application (let alone getting them to pay me for it).

However, I'm having a hard time finding other companies to use the application, and convincing them to use it. A lot of smaller, service contracting companies are either super old school (meaning they're not comfortable with technology and are intimidated by it), or they're already large enough to where they're using a much more expensive and complicated software program than what I've built.

Here is a short video demo of the features of this application:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VstP2Ub6Tk&feature=youtu.be


Along with the landing page that I've created for it.
.

Please, I would love any advice and feedback. Ultimately, I'd love to turn this into a full fledged startup, but I want to get more customers and have it be a viable business before I bring on investors that will want the whole company.

I also have relevant market and pricing information for some competitors in this field if anyone is interested in seeing that information.
 

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futures97

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@Sebastya great idea, thank you! I'm going to start working on one for one of our existing companies right now.
Hey Kody,

Have you tried offering free trials?

The thing about offering free trials is it allows your prospects to try out your service at no risk...and if you give them enough time to get used to using the application for their business (say 14 days), most will pay after the trial due to wanting to avoid a feeling of loss (incredibly powerful psychological influence technique), along with them getting comfortable and used to the service to the point they feel obligated to keep using it.

(I promote SAAS products as an affiliate marketer, and I would say close to 90% of people who have signed up for my products with a lengthy free trial in 2019 are still paying for it to this day!)
 

LFDY

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The thing about offering free trials is it allows your prospects to try out your service at no risk...and if you give them enough time to get used to using the application for their business (say 14 days), most will pay after the trial due to wanting to avoid a feeling of loss (incredibly powerful psychological influence technique), along with them getting comfortable and used to the service to the point they feel obligated to keep using it.

(I promote SAAS products as an affiliate marketer, and I would say close to 90% of people who have signed up for my products with a lengthy free trial in 2019 are still paying for it to this day!)
nice insight, thanks for sharing!
 

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This is what happens when you have a "build it and they will come" mindset.

Do yourself a favor and go read The Lean Startup.
 

mjb234

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Just an idea, but you could try partnering up with digital agencies that are already working with your target customers.

Companies that are building new websites and marketing strategies for HVAC companies might be able to add more value to their projects by including your CRM services in their packages. It would also ensure you're reaching businesses who are open to trying new technology and improving.
 

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Isn't the point of creating something to make it better than your competitors. How hard would it be to build a service that would be better than the one that big companies are using?

You got your first sale now is the time to make a true productocracy. While learning how to scale and advertise.

Which brings us to the second question did you try advertising?

Of course people won't buy if they don't know about the new and easy to use Customer Resource Management app.
 

rocket99

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I think that if you didn't build it better than your competitors from the beginning you were DOA. If it's not better you should be prepared to offer it for a substantially lower price to entice people to buy it and then raise prices later once you have established a reputation and credible online reviews. Or maybe you can market it as a simple and easy to use software with only the features you really need. We use a field service management software in my business and recently spent $150k to build my own because I found most of the out of the box solutions like Service Fusion or MHelpDesk didn't fit our business. Find out what people's pain points are in using the out of the box software and go about trying to solve those. That's the best way to separate yourself from your competition in my opinion.
 
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kody.kendall

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This is what happens when you have a "build it and they will come" mindset.

Do yourself a favor and go read The Lean Startup.
Thank you, I appreciate your reply to my post. I have read the "Lean Startup", "Nail It Then Scale it", and various other Entrepreneur/Startup books all devoted to agile development, rapid prototyping, and failing fast with small feedback loops during product development.

Which is why I developed this application almost entirely to the two companies that are currently using it.

While I sincerely appreciate your comment, I never built this with the "build it and they will come" mentality, but with the: "I have a company ready to use this, let's build it for this company and iterate the hell out of it" mentality, which is why I have two companies successfully using this as their daily driver.

That's why my question is entirely related to the marketing and sales portion of my business, not to finding a product-market fit (already found), or anything related to product feature development. However, I appreciate the engagement and energy you bring into the discussion! Keep it coming
 
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kody.kendall

kody.kendall

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Isn't the point of creating something to make it better than your competitors. How hard would it be to build a service that would be better than the one that big companies are using?

You got your first sale now is the time to make a true productocracy. While learning how to scale and advertise.

Which brings us to the second question did you try advertising?

Of course people won't buy if they don't know about the new and easy to use Customer Resource Management app.
Thank you for your reply! I really appreciate it.

How hard would it be to build a service that would be better than the one that big companies are using?
It depends on what you mean by "better". In my opinion, my application has strengths that the others don't have -- such as an easier to use and understand interface (when compared with the Quickbooks Field Service application).

I don't have nearly the amount of fully fledged features as many competitors do, however for many of the smaller businesses, I believe my application would completely transform their current manual process of using whiteboards, notebooks, paper forms, and filing cabinets.

According to a Field Service Trends Report by Software Advice in 2018, 40% of the
surveyed businesses had been using Field Service Software. The other 60 percent
were using a combination of Excel, QuickBooks, and/or manual methods like paper
work orders.

Which brings us to the second question did you try advertising?
I've tried a little bit of advertising, however this is not my strong suit! I've tried a little bit of Google Ads, however to be frank, I don't really know what I'm doing. And I was spending a lot of money without a high converting landing page. (See https://homeservice.cloud).

I guess this is where I really am struggling -- I just don't have any marketing and sales savvy cofounders or board members (which would help a ton)!

I've been looking around at different startup accelerators and programs that would help add some more structure and strategy into my current process, but I'm trying to look at all angles before committing to something like that (which is why I'm asking for advice from my favorite online community)
 

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kody.kendall

kody.kendall

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Hey Kody,

Have you tried offering free trials?

The thing about offering free trials is it allows your prospects to try out your service at no risk...and if you give them enough time to get used to using the application for their business (say 14 days), most will pay after the trial due to wanting to avoid a feeling of loss (incredibly powerful psychological influence technique), along with them getting comfortable and used to the service to the point they feel obligated to keep using it.

(I promote SAAS products as an affiliate marketer, and I would say close to 90% of people who have signed up for my products with a lengthy free trial in 2019 are still paying for it to this day!)

I have tried offering the product for free to a handful of companies, however I've found that many of these companies are very slow to change, and are intimidated by doing a complete overhaul of their business processes (even with a free trial).

I guess this is where my lack of sales and marketing experience comes in, I'm just not convincing enough I suppose.
 

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Try and include some sort of referral benefit for those that are already using it, as you mentioned, and as a former plumber myself, a lot of people in the trade are old school, don't like new things, and you will continually come up against this road block.

Word of mouth carries a lot of weight, when your clients can recommend it to other people they know in the industry it will give your SaaS app instant credibility.

Good luck!

Edit* Just to add to this, when I was in the trade, beer was the best traded currency for any favours, but things could be a bit different these days :rofl:
 
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kody.kendall

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I think that if you didn't build it better than your competitors from the beginning you were DOA. If it's not better you should be prepared to offer it for a substantially lower price to entice people to buy it and then raise prices later once you have established a reputation and credible online reviews. Or maybe you can market it as a simple and easy to use software with only the features you really need. We use a field service management software in my business and recently spent $150k to build my own because I found most of the out of the box solutions like Service Fusion or MHelpDesk didn't fit our business. Find out what people's pain points are in using the out of the box software and go about trying to solve those. That's the best way to separate yourself from your competition in my opinion.
I think that if you didn't build it better than your competitors from the beginning you were DOA. If it's not better you should be prepared to offer it for a substantially lower price to entice people to buy it and then raise prices later once you have established a reputation and credible online reviews.
I think this is good advice. My current pricing strategy is much lower than competitors. I wouldn't even be charging a per user fee -- something all competitors are doing. Instead, I was going to try to charge a flat $30/month fee (if paid monthly), or $18.95/month if paid annually.

Or maybe you can market it as a simple and easy to use software with only the features you really need.
This is a great idea! And it's the truth, too. Which is why I've been framing it as being great for smaller, less sophisticated businesses. The competitors products are very complicated to set up and configure correctly. For the leading competitor (ServiceTitan), there is another 3rd party company that specializes in just configuring and setting the software up for the companies that purchase it, and it costs tens of thousands of dollars to pay for this consulting company to set it up.

We use a field service management software in my business and recently spent $150k to build my own because I found most of the out of the box solutions like Service Fusion or MHelpDesk didn't fit our business. Find out what people's pain points are in using the out of the box software and go about trying to solve those. That's the best way to separate yourself from your competition in my opinion.
That is so cool! Do you think you'd be willing to jump on a Zoom call sometime so I can pick your brain and see if I can glean any lessons from that process? I'd be willing to compensate you with an Amazon gift card if so!

I'd love to see what you came up with, or what you learned along the way. I'd also be happy to provide any value I can by consulting/answering any software development questions you may have.
 
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kody.kendall

kody.kendall

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Try and include some sort of referral benefit for those that are already using it, as you mentioned, and as a former plumber myself, a lot of people in the trade are old school, don't like new things, and you will continually come up against this road block.

Word of mouth carries a lot of weight, when your clients can recommend it to other people they know in the industry it will give your SaaS app instant credibility.

Good luck!

Edit* Just to add to this, when I was in the trade, beer was the best traded currency for any favours, but things could be a bit different these days :rofl:
A former plumber myself, a lot of people in the trade are old school, don't like new things, and you will continually come up against this road block.
Yes! You hit it right on the head! When I've talked to people, they are very reluctant to adopt new processes. Can I buy you a beer sometime and show you the application, maybe we could call up some of your old pals? :innocent: :halo:
 

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Yes! You hit it right on the head! When I've talked to people, they are very reluctant to adopt new processes. Can I buy you a beer sometime and show you the application, maybe we could call up some of your old pals? :innocent: :halo:
If you're ever able to make your way Down Under by all means!
 

rocket99

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That is so cool! Do you think you'd be willing to jump on a Zoom call sometime so I can pick your brain and see if I can glean any lessons from that process? I'd be willing to compensate you with an Amazon gift card if so!

I'd love to see what you came up with, or what you learned along the way. I'd also be happy to provide any value I can by consulting/answering any software development questions you may have.
Sure thing. I'd be more than happy to share or answer any questions you may have. No gift card needed :)
I am developing a SaaS business right now which I am almost ready to get bids on from developers, so I may have some questions for you, too!
 

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That's why my question is entirely related to the marketing and sales portion of my business, not to finding a product-market fit (already found)
Do you have paying customers now? Or did you give the product away for free?
If they paid (at a normal price not heavily discounted): well done! How often are they using it? What functionalities are they using? What aren't they using? What are they missing?
Focus on being really good at 1 functionality and then expand. Instead of building a suite of bloated features that nobody has specifically asked for.

You currently do not have product-market fit as you have no direct feedback on how much value it actually brings to customers. If you had product-market fit, you would not have a marketing/sales problem. Focus on understanding what value the paying customers are getting out of it. If you don't have any paying customers.. then you'll need to find one.

SaaS without customers is a hobby not a business.

Hate to be so harsh but I've been down this road many times before. It does indeed sound like you're building something and then hoping they will come.
 

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Are the two companies you do business with in the same industry?

Looking at your home page, it seems like you may want to conquer one niche to start, then expand. At my day job I work with very similar CRM systems for Home Inspection companies, and there are so many small but killer features built into them that are industry specific that make the CRM so much more valuable than a generic solution.

As far as your landing page, if you plan to run ads in the future, I would suggest trying industry specific landing pages if you haven't already. Speaking DIRECTLY to an HVAC company owner's problems rather than throwing generic solutions at someone will be a lot more effective in selling.

As for the site technically, it looks like you show up as "Not Secure" in browsers. In the console I get the error:

Code:
Mixed Content: The page at '<URL>' was loaded over HTTPS, but requested an insecure font '<URL>'. This request has been blocked; the content must be served over HTTPS.
This is usually due to referencing assets or images with the "http" prefix rather than "https".

I think I would also remove this section. I think you're trying to encourage people to buy now because of limited availability, but as a company owner, I would be concerned about buying software from someone who can't scale (but I'm also very technical, so maybe a grain of salt).

34367
 

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kody.kendall

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Do you have paying customers now? Or did you give the product away for free?
If they paid (at a normal price not heavily discounted): well done! How often are they using it? What functionalities are they using? What aren't they using? What are they missing?
Focus on being really good at 1 functionality and then expand. Instead of building a suite of bloated features that nobody has specifically asked for.

You currently do not have product-market fit as you have no direct feedback on how much value it actually brings to customers. If you had product-market fit, you would not have a marketing/sales problem. Focus on understanding what value the paying customers are getting out of it. If you don't have any paying customers.. then you'll need to find one.

SaaS without customers is a hobby not a business.

Hate to be so harsh but I've been down this road many times before. It does indeed sound like you're building something and then hoping they will come.
My first company that I developed most of the features towards was not a paying client. (I've since monetized them though through taking 1% of card transactions that are run through the application).

The second company paid me thousands of dollars (around 16k) to further develop it and give them access to the application. This was a huge win, because it advanced the application significantly, and put immediate cash in my pocket that I still can use to invest into the company.

In total, I have around 26k that I can invest into the company. I'm looking at raising more though. I should be able to survive on personal savings for another 6 months without touching any of the money in my business checking account.

The two companies are using it daily for all their workers. It is their daily driver for all their scheduling, invoicing, and customer record keeping functions. The second company needs reporting built into it, which I'm working on now.

I appreciate the real feedback, I don't want to be delusional and I want to be as closely aligned to reality as possible. Thanks for helping me do so!
 

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Based on my experience so far:

My SaaS deals with this group but in the majroity of cases I don't sell directly to the local service businesses. I sell to agencies and marketers who do all of the steup on behalf of them.

When a local service business does enter my funnel, I contact them and try to do all of the onboarding and setup for them. Then I follow-up at the end of their trial.

I also never approach any of these businesses cold. Tried and couldn't make it work. I focus 100% on inbound. Better to have them coming to you then to go them. Makes the sales process really easy.

To make inbound work look at your competitors and reverse engineer their content strategy. Ahrefs is a great tool to use.

Alslo look to capture existing demand from PPC.
 
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Based on my experience so far:

My SaaS deals with this group but in the majroity of cases I don't sell directly to the local service businesses. I sell to agencies and marketers who do all of the steup on behalf of them.

When a local service business does enter my funnel, I contact them and try to do all of the onboarding and setup for them. Then I follow-up at the end of their trial.

I also never approach any of these businesses cold. Tried and couldn't make it work. I focus 100% on inbound. Better to have them coming to you then to go them. Makes the sales process really easy.

To make inbound work look at your competitors and reverse engineer their content strategy. Ahrefs is a great tool to use.

Alslo look to capture existing demand from PPC.
Thanks for your post, it sounds like you'd also be a great person to talk to about this. I'd love to hear about some of your approaches to finding these digital agencies and marketers who deal with these types of companies. Can I get you on a zoom call in exchange for an Amazon gift card? :cool:
 

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Hi all. I'm a newcomer to the forum, (longtime lurker), but I read through MJ's books for the first time about 3 years ago (they completely shifted my employee, slow-lane wealth accumulation strategy mindset into the fastlane, entrepreneurship mindset).

In short, since then I've been slowly building out my SaaS application part time, while I was working full time as a programmer. I've since started doing this side hustle full time, and now have two companies testing/using this application as their daily workflow driver. (I might be adding a third one here soon).

The application is a Customer Resource Management (CRM) app for small home-services businesses -- for any company that travels to different locations to provide services, usually plumbers, HVAC companies, electricians, etc. This application is a one-stop shop for appointment information tracking, scheduling appointments, keeping track of customer details and job information, providing estimates for work and invoices, and more.

It's developed for both field workers and office workers to access the application and communicate/collaborate on job information and scheduling.

I want to continue to grow and expand this application into a full on, million dollar + yearly recurring revenue SaaS business. I'm just running into some roadblocks of getting new companies and users on the application (let alone getting them to pay me for it).

However, I'm having a hard time finding other companies to use the application, and convincing them to use it. A lot of smaller, service contracting companies are either super old school (meaning they're not comfortable with technology and are intimidated by it), or they're already large enough to where they're using a much more expensive and complicated software program than what I've built.

Here is a short video demo of the features of this application:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VstP2Ub6Tk&feature=youtu.be


Along with the landing page that I've created for it.
.

Please, I would love any advice and feedback. Ultimately, I'd love to turn this into a full fledged startup, but I want to get more customers and have it be a viable business before I bring on investors that will want the whole company.

I also have relevant market and pricing information for some competitors in this field if anyone is interested in seeing that information.
Join a business networking group and attend conferences for the associations of those verticals.
 

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While I sincerely appreciate your comment, I never built this with the "build it and they will come" mentality, but with the: "I have a company ready to use this, let's build it for this company and iterate the hell out of it" mentality, which is why I have two companies successfully using this as their daily driver.
It sounds like you made a SaaS platform out of a custom tailored business software that happened to fit the use case of exactly two companies. Then you've iterated to fit the product further to THEIR needs. It is a safe bet that your next customer will have a hard time fitting INTO the product.

Have you identified who you want to sell to exactly and what their needs are? Is it worth the increase in revenue to add the features to fit those needs? Would you be compromising on the feature set that your current customers are happy with?
You can also try offering to host an instance with the custom feature set that your new customer wants (cloud model). How scalable/profitable are these strategies would be for you to answer.

However, I'm having a hard time finding other companies to use the application, and convincing them to use it. A lot of smaller, service contracting companies are either super old school (meaning they're not comfortable with technology and are intimidated by it), or they're already large enough to where they're using a much more expensive and complicated software program than what I've built.
Interesting paragraph you wrote. Keywords: intimidated (UX), expensive (pricing), sophisticated -I assume this is what you mean by complicated- (product development). A bit of rubber ducking here.

Nice question, got me thinking. Thanks.
 

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I looked at your website's front page and the headline scared me a bit:

RUN YOUR CLEANING SERVICE BUSINESS ON THE CLOUD

DISCLAIMER: I am not your target audience and I have no experience in service businesses like plumbing, electrical, cleaning etc.

However, I feel that if I ran a cleaning business, I wouldn't like the idea of moving it to 'the cloud', it seems scary and revolutionary.

I just want to run a business that makes me money without adding further complications; when I see 'cloud', I think venture capital, funding, high-end technology, more employees, data storage concerns, privacy, hacking, futuristic, big change etc.

I think that if I were a business owner of a cleaning/electrical/plumbing business, I would prefer to keep things plain and simple.

I can see how your software could help me, but your headline/landing page does not communicate it in a simple way that resonates with me (the buyer profile/persona).

Perhaps get rid of the entire 'cloud' concept.

Remember, don't let what YOU want to say, get in the way of what your prospects want to hear.
 

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I looked at your website's front page and the headline scared me a bit:

RUN YOUR CLEANING SERVICE BUSINESS ON THE CLOUD

DISCLAIMER: I am not your target audience and I have no experience in service businesses like plumbing, electrical, cleaning etc.

However, I feel that if I ran a cleaning business, I wouldn't like the idea of moving it to 'the cloud', it seems scary and revolutionary.

I just want to run a business that makes me money without adding further complications; when I see 'cloud', I think venture capital, funding, high-end technology, more employees, data storage concerns, privacy, hacking, futuristic, big change etc.

I think that if I were a business owner of a cleaning/electrical/plumbing business, I would prefer to keep things plain and simple.

I can see how your software could help me, but your headline/landing page does not communicate it in a simple way that resonates with me (the buyer profile/persona).

Perhaps get rid of the entire 'cloud' concept.

Remember, don't let what YOU want to say, get in the way of what your prospects want to hear.
I’d wonder if the average tradesperson even knows what the cloud is.

I was chatting to my barber a few years ago and he asked how my week was going (as they do). As part of my rambling I must have said something about traffic. He just stopped and looked out the window at the road and asked “traffic?”. Doh... my bad. From then on I’ve eradicated traffic from my vocabulary.

Another time I was at a different barber waiting alongside two guys talking about their vans. One guy worked for himself doing deliveries. I ended up chatting to him when it was the other guy‘s turn in the chair.

When it was my turn to get my hair cut I continuing chatting with self-employed delivery van driver. I had my hands under the cover and couldn’t turn my head. I suggested he do some searches on his phone to pretend he was looking to get something delivered from County Kildare to County Dublin. “What would you search for?” I asked while watching him out of the corner of my eye.

He hunched over his phone deep in thought.

It was an interesting challenge trying to talk someone through it without being able to look at them (and without being able to wave my hands!).

The best bit was when this old barber stopped cutting my hair and started throwing suggested searches at the guy.

Curious what people’s takeaways are from those two little stories...
 
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Salt Lake City, UT
It sounds like you made a SaaS platform out of a custom tailored business software that happened to fit the use case of exactly two companies. Then you've iterated to fit the product further to THEIR needs. It is a safe bet that your next customer will have a hard time fitting INTO the product.

Have you identified who you want to sell to exactly and what their needs are? Is it worth the increase in revenue to add the features to fit those needs? Would you be compromising on the feature set that your current customers are happy with?
You can also try offering to host an instance with the custom feature set that your new customer wants (cloud model). How scalable/profitable are these strategies would be for you to answer.


Interesting paragraph you wrote. Keywords: intimidated (UX), expensive (pricing), sophisticated -I assume this is what you mean by complicated- (product development). A bit of rubber ducking here.

Nice question, got me thinking. Thanks.
Great comment, thank you.

One company is an HVAC company, the other is a landscaping company. I've made it pretty easy to customize for different businesses and with the awareness this will likely span different domains.

I've thought a lot about the custom feature development thing. That could be a real foothold in the market, being able to tell individual companies: "I will make a custom feature set for your business."

It will be tricky scaling/maintaining this approach long term, however. I've thought about turning the application into something like WordPress, that can be highly customized through custom software plugins that me and other developers can develop for companies.

That would be a little bit more advanced engineering and would take a while to iterate on and get right, but I could do it. It would just take a while.

I'm also trying to follow the 80/20 principle, so I definitely don't want to go down that software development path until I'm 100% positive it would pay off.

Thanks for the insight and great convo.
 
OP
OP
kody.kendall

kody.kendall

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Sep 4, 2019
16
14
17
Salt Lake City, UT
I looked at your website's front page and the headline scared me a bit:

RUN YOUR CLEANING SERVICE BUSINESS ON THE CLOUD

DISCLAIMER: I am not your target audience and I have no experience in service businesses like plumbing, electrical, cleaning etc.

However, I feel that if I ran a cleaning business, I wouldn't like the idea of moving it to 'the cloud', it seems scary and revolutionary.

I just want to run a business that makes me money without adding further complications; when I see 'cloud', I think venture capital, funding, high-end technology, more employees, data storage concerns, privacy, hacking, futuristic, big change etc.

I think that if I were a business owner of a cleaning/electrical/plumbing business, I would prefer to keep things plain and simple.

I can see how your software could help me, but your headline/landing page does not communicate it in a simple way that resonates with me (the buyer profile/persona).

Perhaps get rid of the entire 'cloud' concept.

Remember, don't let what YOU want to say, get in the way of what your prospects want to hear.
Great insight, thanks for sharing. I may need to do some more primary market research on tradespeople's reaction to the whole "cloud" concept. I do want people to think it's revolutionary and radical.. however maybe that's not the right approach for the current buyer persona, as all the small business tradespeople will be more conservative and old-school.
 

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