It's hard to get somewhere if you don't know where you're going, and most SaaS entrepreneurs I know start off for the first many years fumbling blindly through the forest. Some succeed despite themselves, others have assistance from people who have walked or been guided down this path before, but most fail.
So let me show you your path and outline the skills you'll need to walk that path.
Step by step, the process of developing your SaaS intertwines almost all aspects of business building, software development, customer acquisition and activation, and the aspects of minimizing attrition. Since many of the steps in this process overlap one another, it wouldn't make sense to write the book in order of the steps.
But clearly, you will need to know your path and how everything fits together. So in this section, I have outlined your process from start to finish and explained the principles of each area so you know where to start and where to go as you progress through the rest of the chapters.
Validating your business is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do. It's so important that this book has an entire chapter on product validation. If you don't validate your idea, then your chance of success is absolutely minimal. I don't mean one in ten, I mean that you have more like one in one hundred thousand chance of being successful. A lot of people reading this book will know that they already have a market waiting for them and can test that market. For example, if you run a digital agency and have an idea for a new product that you can't find online right now for a niche market, it's so easy to validate your market. But if you have a good idea and get started building it without testing, you're probably just throwing your money away. Be sure not to skip the Validation chapter!
Before you can begin validating your product though, you have to understand what kind of sale it will be. Is this the kind of sale that you will get by marketing your product on the internet, by calling people and going to trade shows, or by distributing through an existing channel? Is this a business to business (B2B) sale or a business to consumer (B2C) sale? There are so many questions that help you determine who you're reaching, how you're reaching them, and if you really have a product market fit (PMF). Understanding who you're selling to, how your sales are done, and why people will buy your product are critical elements in forming your first hypotheses in your validation process.
Once you have some amount of product validation, the more the better, then and only then, can you move on to the next steps.
To review, your process will be:
Are you selling B2B or B2C?
Do you sell via Direct Sales vs Marketing-based sales?
Once you have validated the product, then it's time to get started marketing it.
"Wait a minute... don't we have to build the thing first?" you may be asking.
No. A SaaS business is a sales and marketing business. You need to start marketing first for a number of reasons.
It's going to take a lot of time for your website to start ranking, so if you're planning on people finding you to make a purchase, you need to get that website and some content live as soon as possible.
You need to know what people respond to best, and it's going to take some serious time to figure that out.
Communities don't just spring up out of nowhere, someone has to build them. If you're going to get great feedback, you need to know where to go to get the people and start collecting them.
How are you going to email all your raving fans if you have no emails? Where are you going to get these emails? If you think you can just buy them and that's going to work, think again. You have to gain trust, and that takes time.
Your first idea isn't going to be perfect, so get ready to talk to a ton of people to figure out the best ways to do things. What people you ask? Well, now you see why you need to start marketing right away.
Launch your website
Find the hook
Release your SaaS
May want to consider a Lifetime Deal
PR + Advertising
Grow your SaaS
Podcasts - sponsoring and getting on the circuit
Support your customers
Grow your business and make money
Grow user base
Increase team size
Grow market share
Scale your company
Every business is different, and things change a lot depending your system, your customers, and much, much more. But the process noted above is what I have seen more often than anything else. Most of the steps will be followed one way or another anyway.