How to launch a B2B SaaS product?
Dec 17, 2014
This is the first post in the series of posts documenting our experience in launching a new SaaS product in the B2B market.
So you’re interested in learning how to launch a SaaS product? We are too! What could be better than shipping? Whether you're an entrepreneur, or a product manager in an established company, chances are that you will be faced with a situation where you need to get the product out of the door. It turns out, there’s quite a few things you need to have sorted out before you’re ready to launch.
This series of blog posts documents our experiences from bringing our product to the market. Read on to find out what we’ll be learning from the process as were doing it.
So what does launching a product actually mean?
Technically speaking, you are ready to launch when your product is doing what you wanted it to do. If you are lean you have built only what is necessary for the validation of your concept. That’s great. But what you really want to achieve with the launch your product is that you want to get people using your product and to get plenty of feedback from your enthusiastic early adopters.
What’s your likely outcome from launching a B2B SaaS product? You get some publicity and a couple of new customers, right? Wrong. The most likely outcome is that no-one notices your launch and it doesn’t lead to any new business. Would you be shocked? Well don’t be, learn from it.
The second most likely outcome is that you'll get some early users to try out your product only to find out that it's not solving any of their problems. But you need to launch in order to find out, right? Not really. When you're launching, you should already know who your potential customers are and what problems your product is solving. Otherwise you're throwing dart blindfolded.
Is your product ready to be launched?
There’s a saying
“If you’re not embarrassed to launch your product you’ve waited too long"
Which holds some truth as you could tweak your product forever as there’s always some improvements to do. However, before you launch, you should do your homework with your early adopters to figure out what's essential for your early target users. While you are still validating your concept, you don't need a lot of users. You can do your validation with just a handful of them. You shouldn't launch before you have some proof that your product works a certain target group, and most importantly, they are willing to pay for you product.
I like to think of MVP as a slice of cake. You don't need to have the whole cake but you do need to have one solid slice to demonstrate.
A solid slice does not make shortcuts on anything that might have a significant negative effect on how your users are experiencing your product. It doesn't help much if you have all the functionality in place but your users don't know how or why they should be using those features. In SaaS terms, you'd need to have spent time not only on technology, but also on things like easy setup, integrations, usability, documentation and online guides - a whole stack of things.
Just like with a cake - take one layer off and the whole experience may be ruined.
For the record, this is not our first MVP. This is not the MVP that we showed to our first potential customers. Back then we didn’t hesitate to use mockups to represent real implementation. We were selling slideware. That’s the way it ought to be done. But, this time we can't substitute functionality with dummy mockups, or do a ton of manual work behind the scenes (well, we still do some). Not if we want to provide good (even if not great yet) user experience, which could leave to positive reviews and lots of signups, and eventually to happy customers.
We should also adjust our mindset. Simply putting our product on display is not going to cut it. No matter how much we like our product. This time it's not about us, it's about them.
What we need is the ability to demonstrate value
It really boils down to being able to provide real value for the users from the moment they start a free trial. When signing up to your product, they expect your product to solve some problem that they are currently experiencing. Not all problems but at least one, which is important enough. The purpose of MVP is to find a simplest solution that can demonstrate value for that particular problem. That doesn't imply you should build the simplest thing that works, but one that your target customers are actually willing to use, and which solves some real pain points.
We're not quite there yet, not at least on a level we'd like us to be. That's why we haven't officially launched our product and we've been in some sort of beta state for the last 6 months. But we're busy in making our way through the jungle to make the milestone of getting the product out of the door for a wider audience.
In the next post, I will be digging deeper to the laundry list of activities one should have checked before the the big day, including
Polishing your website design and copywriting
Setting up your onboarding process and drip emails
Setting up your analytics
Promoting your launch
Stay tuned for real experiences from the battlefield as we're getting our product out of the door.