My journey launching a SaaS product

My journey launching a SaaS product
Since writing this article in 2014, I’ve learned a ton. I’m currently running a content marketing experiment for a brand new site, click here to read about the results.

There’s a lot of blog posts out there about how to create a product, launch a product, and grow a product. The problem is that many of those articles talk in the abstract.

You need to come up with a growth strategy, analyze your metrics, find your ideal customer, blah blah blah.

Don’t get me wrong, all of that stuff is incredibly important. But sometimes when I read it, my eyes glaze over.

What helps me is concrete examples of exactly what people are actually doing. That’s why I love Groove’s startup journey blog. It tells me exactly what they have actually done to grow to $100K in revenue, and beyond.

Inspired by Groove, I want to share my own journey here. I recently released a SaaS product, it’s a mobile app builder for WordPress sites called Reactor.

From triumphs to failures, I want to share exactly what we are doing, how it’s working (or not working), and even revenue numbers.

In sharing this information, I want to take you on the journey of launching a product and building a business. Check back each week for updates on how things are going with me.

Hopefully it can help you.

The back story

I co-founded AppPresser in late 2013.

In January of 2014, we launched our first products, which were mobile app building tools for WordPress. It was basically a suite of plugins to help you build a mobile app using your WordPress website.

Our launch was successful, and we grew the business to $30k in monthly revenue in less than a year.

Instead of continuing to grow that product, we released a new SaaS product. (Read about why we did that here.)

It took us about 6 months to build the product.

That brings us to today, which is exactly 10 days after the launch at the time of writing.

Launch

We launched on December 2nd.

Our launch consisted mostly of a short pre-launch email sequence sent to our email list of about 4,500, and social media. We got a couple articles written about us, and a good amount of retweets.

Pre-launch emails/posts

The pre-launch email sequence aimed to deliver quality content that educated people about our new product without selling it. That way, when the product was released, they already knew why they needed it and what the technology was all about.

The emails were accompanied by a blog post. For example, Reactor is built with this incredible framework called Ionic, and we wanted people to understand why that was so cool. We also released a behind the scenes video that ended up being a good teaser.

I wish we had put more effort into this part, because it’s extremely important. But with a small team, you just do your best.

Webinars

We did a couple webinars to show off that product, and people loved them. We had about 300 signups over 2 webinars, and about half of that showed up.

Webinars are great because you get the emails from everyone who signs up, then you can demo your product and answer questions in real time. It was great to see feedback from potential customers before they purchased.

Launch discount

We also offered a launch discount of $59/mo for the $99/mo plan for one year. I’m not a huge fan of discounts, but in this case it was strategic. Our product is new, and it doesn’t have all the features under the sun yet. Getting people in at a discount may encourage them to sign up (and stay) while we are still adding features to the product.

Time of year

It’s probably a terrible time of year to launch, people are buying Christmas presents and otherwise distracted. I wouldn’t recommend it, and I’m sure it is affecting our number. In our case, it was the soonest we could get the product ready.

Numbers

We’ve had over 100 signups so far, those are 14 day free-trial with credit card. Some people have cancelled already, it will be interesting to see how many stick around.

It’s a bit of a struggle to think that 100 purchases of our old product would bring in around $30K this month, and now it’s less than $6K. I’m banking on the fact that we can build back up to $30K/month, and then it will be recurring.

Cancellations

I actually expect a lot of cancellations, because our target customer has changed. The other products were targeted at developers, while Reactor is targeted at non-developers.

I’m not sure if we are at product/market fit, and we haven’t quite found our ideal customer yet. When those two things fall into place, cancellations will not be an issue anymore.

Pre-launch Mistakes

You have to launch a product to find out what mistakes you made pre-launch.

The biggest for me was not doing enough pre-marketing. One of the most important things you can do when creating a new product is marketing it before you launch. I mean way before.

Some people think they should keep their product secret before they launch. We actually did a little of that too. Big mistake.

It takes a long time to build relationships, find marketing channels, and generally get people to care. One of the best ways to get people to care is to get them invested early on.

One example would be to call up a colleague, and ask them what they think of your idea while you’re still building the product. Setting up beta accounts for people is good too, but by that time the product has already taken shape.

Get opinions from colleagues before the product is built. When they see their ideas in your product, they will be much more likely to promote it when you launch.

I didn’t do much of that because I had my head stuck in code building the product, and I didn’t take the time. Our team is small, and I was in a rush to get the product to market, so I let pre-marketing slip.

Goals

Overall I’m incredibly proud of the product we created and I know this is the right move. It is going to take time to get Reactor off the ground, but I’m optimistic.

My short term goal is to get the company back up to $30K in revenue with Reactor in less than 6 months. That is about 500 paying customers.

That would be adding 2-3 customers per day, which seems like a lot right now. I know it’s possible if we find some great customer acquisition channels, but that’s not going to be easy.

What’s next?

I’m going to be exploring different marketing channels and sharing the results.

I’ll be looking at content marketing, ads, an affiliate program, and more. Beyond that, I’ll be talking about customer onboarding, doing products vs. consulting, and my personal struggles and triumphs.

It’s important to note that while I’ve done this before, I’m no expert. That’s part of the reason I want to share this with you, because we all make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from each other.

It will be fun to share the process of building a SaaS product here with you. I plan to share our revenue, conversion metrics, strategies and more, in hopes that it can help other entrepreneurs.

If you have any questions about our launch, or upcoming plans, please let me know in the comments.

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