Every startup goes through a pre-launch stage. During this particular period you set up a foundation for your business that determines whether your product will become a success or fade in oblivion.
Once we’ve started working on a business communication tool, our way at Chanty wasn’t smooth. We’ve faced multiple hurdles during the past several months. Today, we share our own experience and give advice to those entrepreneurs beginning their way to a ‘next big thing’. As a marketing expert I’ll outline some of the lessons our team have learnt regarding business development and marketing.
We’ve realized, love and passion are the main drivers of a startup. When you are passionate about what you are doing, you infect others with your enthusiasm and energy, enabling the whole team to work harder and achieve more.
Are you sure people need the product your are building? Talk to as many people as possible. Discuss your idea on the forums, ask friends and relatives, put together a survey. Do everything to confirm there are real people ready to pay for your future product. While validating the idea of Chanty, we’ve discovered SaaS Growth Hacks – a Facebook community where SaaS owners discuss and share ideas, I highly recommend early stage SaaS owners to join it.
Let’s be honest, the ultimate goal of your startup is to make money. If the issue you are solving for your potential customers is important enough to pay for it, there’s a chance you’ll attract customers’ credit cards. If you’ve realized nobody is ready to open their wallets for the solution you are suggesting, chances are you are moving a wrong direction.
One of the questions you’ll be asked often is “How are you different from your competitors?” Have a good answer in mind along with a convincing competitive advantage. If you haven’t figured out what makes you different, try to narrow the niche down whether it’s based on geolocation, business size or industry. Then become the best in this niche.
Having an investor means faster growth for your startup. Apart from finances, being funded should also grant you an access to multiple important connections. On the other hand going bootstrapped gives you more freedom. You can move at your own pace and focus on the product rather than your pitch to investors. At the pre-launch stage, you’ll have to decide which way you’d like to go. At Chanty we’ve chosen to stay self-funded and independent.
No matter if you are self-funded or bootstrapped, it’s important to hire experts that would not only help kick off your startup, but also bring it to the next level. Unless you know how to code, software engineer is the essential hire if you are building a SaaS startup. Having an in-house team is the best solution, but it’s also the most expensive one. You can consider employing remote freelancers using services like Upwork or even request an exclusive recruitment for your project with services like Daxx.
It’s always a good idea to have a plan. Outlining the step by step strategy will help you and your team understand where you are going, what the priorities for the pre-launch stage are. You may find yourself postponing the beta launch over and over again due to a number of new features you keep adding to the product. That’s why sticking to the initial functionality that you’ve planned for the MVP (minimum viable product) is crucial. This way you won’t get carried away and will be able to meet the deadlines.
You are responsible for your startup and the product you and your team are building. Make sure everyone is on the same page, and you are all moving towards the same goal. Set up weekly meetings to discuss achievements and plans of the team members. It’s essential to explain the product roadmap to your ‘first time in a startup’ colleagues. Remember, there’s a high chance they hear words like ‘beta test’ and ‘public launch’ for the first time.
Putting up a marketing strategy for your startup requires a thorough competitive analysis. By the way, the results of this analysis could turn into great blog articles and attract traffic to your website. At Chanty we have a set of articles (e.g. our experience using Slack alternatives, HipChat alternatives, etc) where we analyze our top rivals.
You can also use tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to receive valuable insights on your competitors and see which marketing channels bring them traffic, what are their top landing pages as well as analyze their backlinks sources. This will give you the basis for your own marketing strategy.
The main goal of your marketing landing page during pre-launch is to collect emails of early adopters. Double check that visitors are motivated to leave an email at your page. Moreover, sign up process should be easy as pie. Forget about complicated multi-fields forms. At Chanty we’ve chosen to employ a simple fill in form with an email field and a ‘Send’ button. We have three sign up forms: at the top, at the bottom and in the middle of our page.
Once the visitor signs up, it’s a great time to ask for even more than just an email. Motivate your early adopters to invite friends or share your invitation via social networks. Our research shows that SaaS startups usually offer moving up the waiting queue. This means receiving an earlier access to the app. Depending on your product, you can make a custom offer – e.g. a free trial for one year or a free lifetime account. Some companies practice Amazon gift cards and certificates for other popular business software as a custom offer for those who ‘share the love’.
Pre-launch stage ends with a beta test. Usually you start off with a private or closed beta where you invite a limited number of users. This way you can test your MVP, collect the first feedback, fix the main bugs and decide which steps to make further. The question is “How do you find beta testers?” We have tried various beta platforms and Betalist turned out to be the best performing platform. You can also check out our in-depth article on how we found our beta testers for Chanty.
While your team of engineers is busy with development it’s time to think of how to attract traffic to your website. We’ve realized, marketing is a non-stop content creating machine these days. If you want to spread a word about your business and start receiving traffic, you have no choice, but constantly produce high quality engaging content. No matter what. Even being a bad writer isn’t an excuse for not creating content. By the way, writing is just one form of content. You can choose the one that works best for you either it’s infographics, slides, videos or audio podcasts.
You’ve probably heard that it’s not enough to produce content. According to Mike Taylor you have to spend twice as much time promoting what you’ve created. Apart from posting your article to all your social accounts, you can also ask your team to share it to their personal accounts, you can reach out to influencers, post answers with a link to an article on Quora, write guest articles and more. Check out this guide on how to promote your content by Moz to get you started.
It’s great to see how your efforts bring the results. Numbers won’t lie. If you see you traffic moving up, that means you are doing it right. Therefore, set up Google Analytics or any other effective business intelligence software tool right after you buy the domain for a website. Set up goals and events tracking, so you know when someone signs up for your beta test and you can keep the conversions under control. Another great free tool that’s hard to overestimate is Yandex Metrica that records your visitors’ behavior on the website. This data helps you improve UX dramatically and increase conversions.
Eventually we all want to make the world a better place. That’s why it’s important to love what you’re doing. During a pre-launch stage make sure that, first off, your product solves an important issue people are struggling with and, secondly, people are ready to pay for your solution. As for the marketing part, consistency is the key. Working on promoting your product every single day will slowly, but steadily bring you the desired results. Good luck with your SaaS product pre-launch and beta test. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. To improve your SaaS business, you can also read our related article the important factors that lead to SaaS growth.
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