First thing you need to know before even thinking of SAAS launch is the following:
You are not launching a Hollywood movie, period.
I know you have put your heart and soul into this project and want it to be a blockbuster, but aiming at the fanfare of a Hollywood movie premier is only going to drain your budget with less than stellar results.
The good news is, there’s an alternative way to launch your SAAS, one that I promise you’ll like much better.
There is this book called “Blue Ocean” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, which argues that a company is more likely to succeed by creating a market rather than entering an existing one. You should definitely give this book a read if you haven’t already.
So launching a SAAS in a market that does not exist is already a good starting point for success. You are the founder of the market, so let’s make sure you embrace this idea and turn it into an asset. Here’s how.
1. Make a Great Product
The secret to having a great product is very simple and it’s not even a secret anymore: create something users need, something that is a painkiller, something that makes their heart pound.
Even if your product is ready to launch, it is never too late to iterate and make it better. Find or recruit random target users of your SAAS, show them your product, ask them to use it. Then watch them closely. Ask open questions to help you understand their reactions and feelings. Then turn all of these insights into a list of improvements.
If there are too many, prioritize and implement those you think will bring your SAAS users closer to that “a-ha” moment.
Don’t underestimate real user testing and don’t be afraid of it. Even if the feedback you receive is mostly criticism, it is what will push you forward.
2. Build Excitement Among First Adopters
Once you have a great product, it’s time to lure in your first customers. You are probably wondering where you can find them? How can you persuade them to start using your SAAS? I am going to tell you all of this in a minute.
But first, you need to know exactly who is your target. I don’t want to bombard you with cliche terms like user persona or customer profile (although I personally think it’s a good starting point), but without knowing who is the ideal user for your SAAS, trying to reach out to random people is like shooting in the dark. There are at least a few basic things to know about your user: industry/profession, demographics, location.
Knowing who your user is will help you reach them when they are more likely to listen to you.
Once you know this, make a list of place you can find them;
There is a community for every industry, for every passion and for everything else. Find the communities where your users hang out and join them. Be active and authentic. Share your experience, become a part of the community. And only then sell your SAAS.
A good example is Product Hunt. It’s an invite-only community where you can discover great new products. As a SAAS owner you would definitely want to get on Product Hunt, build some following and connections, which you will then use to promote your product.
Same is true for Linkedin groups, Facebook groups, etc.
This one can be a bit difficult to implement, but if you can guest post on blogs that your audience follows, it would be groundbreaking. And I am not even talking about promotional posts. You need to build trust among your users and there is no better way than becoming a thought leader in a topic they are interested in.
However, if you are not really a good writer or just can’t pull this off, you can still be an active follower by commenting and getting to know other followers of these blogs. Making personal connections will play its role later on.
There are few people who realize just how big of a treasure Quora is. Even fewer people actually capitalize on that. Don’t be like them!
Get on Quora, follow the topics relevant to your SAAS and start answering questions. Be genuine and don’t oversell. If you stick to this strategy for a while, you will start seeing results in no time. Dive deeper into Quora marketing and start implementing it today.
I already mentioned Linkedin Groups as a place to find your users, but you can also connect with them directly on Linkedin. In fact, this is the only social network that is most suitable for SAAS lead generation, as it allows you to search for people with fantastic filters and easily identify prospective customers.
One thing you definitely do NOT want to do is spam them. I know it’s tempting, but resist the urge to send your connections automated messages introducing yourself and your SAAS.
Spend more time building authentic connections, rather then becoming that guy who is “happy to connect”.
Twitter chats are a great way to share your knowledge with the community, as well as promote yourself and your SAAS. Find the most popular twitter chats in your niche and start actively participating in them. This way you will not only get new connections whom you can then invite to try your product but also you can also gently prompt your SAAS as a solution whenever relevant.
3. Go Viral
Easier said than done, I know. But there are a number of techniques to help your product go viral among your target users.
Give users an incentive to share your product
Whatever service your software provides, there is always something you can give away. And what better way to thank your first adopters than some freebies? Obviously your user is not going to share the product with people who don’t care about it, but rather those who are likely to share the same interests or occupation. This means you can reach new potential users through a referral from someone they know and trust, so they will be more likely to give it a try. That’s what SaaS viral marketing is all about, right?
This strategy is used by most startups, e.g. Uber, Dropbox, Uber, etc.
Make sharing super effortless
First of all, make sure your first adopters know you have a referral bonus. Usually large popups do a good job at grabbing attention to big news.
Once you have users attention, provide clear instructions on how they are going to claim their bonus. Give them a clear CTA and a button for easy sharing.
Partner with services your potential users already LOVE!
This might be challenging for small startups with few to 0 connections, but it always makes sense to try and pitch your collaboration idea to the platforms your users already love and use.
For example, if you have created a SAAS for hotel marketers, you can give a away 3 months free membership worth of let’s say $150 or maybe a free 100 page hotel marketing study to readers of a top hospitality blog, like hotelnewsnow.com.
When launching a SaaS you want to reach as many target users as you can, but you also want to make them stay. So once I again I want you to go back to your product, make sure it’s awesome and that your user will love it! Because if they love it, you have very little to do to make it spread.
Take for example Evernote. In their early years, the company made a decision to lay off marketing activities entirely, focusing instead on product development. And as the founder of Evernote once said;
“People who are thinking about things other than making the best product, never make the best product.”