Here is how to build a SaaS product from scratch
1. Find your niche
Choose a problem that you overcame or you haven’t overcome. Question yourself if there are others like you who have come across the same problem? Are you passionate about solving the problem? The desire has to be amply enough to push you 24 hours a day, 7 days week for at least two years with the perseverance to drive through many barriers. “37 Signals” was looking to manage all their internal projects under one place. They couldn’t find the right platform, hence they build their own tool and called it “Basecamp“. Today its used by over 100,000 customers.
2. Look for competitors
It might not be just you looking for a solution. There could be others who are or have solved the problem. In that niche, research all the foremost companies, their product, customer segment and figure out what existing companies are ignoring. Those are your opportunities for you to disrupt them. Not everyone needs a Salesforce CRM. They are expensive, difficult to maintain and could only be afforded by Enterprises. Hence came HubSpot, FreshSales, Zoho etc. Each one has its own niche.
3. Look for customers
Figure out the pain points that the customers are facing with the existing products. Go to their support portal and see what their customers are whining about. Find a new use-case that would excite the customers. Focus on that very thing. That should be your entry strategy into the market, and that should be powerful enough. Don’t assume that Microsoft or Google is the solution to all problem. There is no one size fits all.
4. Validate your Idea
Validate your product approach with at least 30-40 potential users and figure out how to influence them what would they get out of it. It’s not only about what you can offer your customer, but it’s also about why should they use your product. The notion that someone will steal your idea is naive. You are the only one who can build your company. Share it with others, get more feedback in the early stage.
5. Get to work
Once you have the market insight, start working on it. Remember “there is no better time than NOW“. You don’t need the best equipment or the best talent or the best workplace or lots of investors to get started. Most successful entrepreneurs started from their garage, closet or a basement. You don’t need a lot of money or resources to start your business, you just need perseverance. Salman Khan, the found of Khan Academy started recording video tutorials from a small walk-in closet using a blackboard and a mobile camera.
6. Build an MVP
Don’t try to build a world-class product. Instead, build a minimum viable product (MVP). Improve the product over time and keep improving. Build a SaaS product that is working as expected instead of trying to get every feature in the first release. Target the early adopters, they are hungry for new products and innovations. You will get genuine feedback from them. Facebook was a social tool used by college students. Initially, it just had 40 users. As of today, FB has over 2.7 Billion active users.
With each release, test what works and what doesn’t work. A measure is a statistical analysis of your product. How many returning users do you have? how many new acquisitions have you had in the past week? What features is your customer complaining about? What features the customers like the most?
As time passes by more customers leave feedback. And that is your learning opportunity Improve your product using the Learn-Build-Measure loop.Get closer to the customer and that is how you learn.
Zappos customer service never goes thru a phone tree. There is always a human who picks up the call and answers the customers. Their representatives dont have a script to ready. They are offered the authority to talk to customers as they like.
9. Be Lean
Most entrepreneurs make this mistake, once they see a flow of cash and customer growth they doubling down on the team, recruitment and think that their overall growth will double. NO. The company “37 Signals” operate with only 54 employees and their annual revenue is over $78 Million as of 2018. Keep your team and expenses lean.
Your goal must not be to create a product, Create a Brand that has a sense of purpose