There hasn’t been much activity here lately, so I’m posting my “year in review” post here instead of on my blog. Hopefully it will provoke some discussion.
(If you are newish to this forum, Feature Upvote is my B2B SaaS product that offers feature request tracking.)
First, a chart. Here’s our MRR growth for the year, with the dollar amounts hidden (gotta keep some things private!)
On average MRR this year has grown at about 20% per month. Admittedly, this was from a low start. I’m expecting growth to slow down soon to a more sustainable rate.
This might be the only time I’ll publicly post Feature Upvote’s MRR chart, partly because it is unlikely to ever look this good again.
I learnt what our target market is
Our target market is product managers.
Last year I was targeting small software companies. At MicroConf Europe in late 2017 a fellow software business owner told me my target market should be product managers. It turns out he knows what he is talking about.
Over the course of 2018, we achieved that all-important “product/market fit”. We did this by changing our targeting to product managers.
I learnt that LinkedIn has value for B2B products
A good LinkedIn company profile gives credibility.
Until this year I didn’t really understand the value of LinkedIn. Then came an email from a potential customer (who happens to be a product manager):
I like your product a lot. However I’m having trouble selling the solution to our management compared to UserVoice … LinkedIn says there is only 1 employee at the company and that the company is 9 months old.
This helped me discover that potential customers often do their “CYA” research via LinkedIn.
So I improved our LinkedIn profile, dispelling potential doubts and describing the history of my company, which has been running since 2008.
Was this worthwhile? Yes. LinkedIn shows me who visits our profile. Many of our paying customers visit our LinkedIn profile before signing up.
I learnt not to do guest blog posts
Because I’m too reluctant to do the necessary cold emailing.
My major marketing strategy for the first half of 2018 was to contribute guest posts to a range of blogs. I managed only to write three posts for two blogs, and in both cases I know the owners of the blogs. (Thanks @andy and @ian!)
When it comes to contacting people I don’t know, I have a reluctance I find hard to overcome. Deep down I’m an introverted developer who is happiest when writing code all day.
For six months my todo list had a task I kept postponing: “reach out to blogs targeted to our market”. Finally I accepted I was never going to do it.
I learnt to hire a content specialist
For the last few months a freelance content specialist has been working with us (hi @smokingpun!). It has made an enormous difference. I recommend this as a very good use of your marketing budget.
I strongly believe that creating lots of good content is an ideal marketing strategy for most early stage software products. Content makes the all-important god we call “Google Search Results Page One” happy. Content tells website visitors whether your product is for them. Content convinces them to try your product, and to buy your product. Content assuages doubts and imparts confidence.
Problem was, I was struggling to keep creating good content. So I asked a specialist to help. And help she did. Most of what you now read on our site has been written and rewritten by our content specialist. Much of the rewritten content is based on customer feedback and surveys.
I learnt we have a lot of competitors
For some reason, friends love to tell me when they discover a competitor of ours. It seems every month I hear of yet another competitor.
Each time this happens I feel despondent and wonder if there is any hope for the product. Then I remind myself that:
- the presence of competitors helps to validate the market.
- my competitors probably have the same feelings of doubt and despondency when they hear of us.
- we should focus on what customers say to us and not what our competitors are doing, nor how many competitors we have.
Launching a SaaS can be done by almost anyone with software development skills and using close to zero funds. Therefore the number of competitors for any proven SaaS product will keep rising. That’s a reality I try to accept.