Lessons From Launching My First SaaS Business
For the past week or two, I've been hinting, and even talking about a new SaaS business that I've been building.
After quitting Condensr, due to some of the reasons in this article, I decided to finally look into ways of building out what I really wanted to do.
I loved tech, and it's a massive industry that I wanted to be involved in.
SaaS was an amazing business model because you can almost infinitely scale it, whilst having users pay you on a recurring basis.
I looked into some of the things I had experience in and the biggest pointers were pointing at my experience with my marketing agency.
The biggest issue I had when I ran my marketing agency was finding a consistent source of good-quality leads.
This is where Hawk Prospecting was born - my lead generation software.
Hawk Prospecting is a sales prospecting software that helps agencies and salespeople connect with their ideal clients in seconds.
It's the largest B2B data provider with over 2.5 billion+ unique individuals in the database, harboring almost more information than the competition combined.
It helps agencies and salespeople find CEO emails, personal emails, work emails. It helps people find phone numbers, names, social accounts, business info, and personal info on leads & prospects.
Running my marketing agency, there was one thing I said a lot - "I wish there's a software that found emails, numbers, AND social media accounts."
It was taking me 10s of minutes to find all the relevant information on my prospects and so I decided to build the software myself.
I initially thought it would take me 1-2 weeks to build but my first roadblock was that I needed to learn about API integrations which was a nightmare.
Following this, there were other features that were important to build for the functionality of the app.
All of this meant that this 1-2 week deadline had to be pushed back around a week or two.
Finally, I decided to launch Hawk Prospecting to the public yesterday.
The reality was that Hawk Prospecting was ready to launch long before yesterday.
Maybe even a week before yesterday.
I was just scared - scared that I would not be able to find early adopters of the product.
Scared that I'd have to spend too much to acquire users.
Scared that I have built something that no one wants.
My biggest fear was marketing. Even though I had a marketing agency and knew how it all worked, I was scared to spend money, 1000s, without seeing any tangible results.
I've never done marketing for a SaaS product before.
I've heard, multiple times, people saying that if you're building a product to solve your own needs, then this can be considered as some sort of validation.
So instead of wasting my time and spending a month on interviews, I just decided to go ahead and build the product.
I was testing a new strategy with Hawk Prospecting - build an MVP, then testing it with the market.
After all, the essence of the business is not much different than what's on the market - we just do it better.
We provide the largest B2B database, and we cover over 150+ fields of information on leads/prospects, compared to just emails or numbers that other data providers share.
However, this doesn't mean that I did no validation at all.
There's this thing called a 'problem stack rank.'
Essentially, you start off with some problems you think that you're solving and place them all in a survey-like format.
After this, you then send this survey out to people who then agree or disagree with the problems, ranking them in order of importance based on the response of the participants.
I sent this survey around beforehand and realised that I was actually focusing on the right problem, giving me a green light to move on.
The software I used for the stack-rank was called 'OpinionX.'
In order to get over the fears of launching Hawk Prospecting, I did a very simple exercise I had learnt in the book I'm reading 'Atomic Habits.'
The author, James Clear, talks about how small successive wins in your favor add up to form a productive day.
So before the launch, I had a small checklist of tiny actions I had to finish.
- Buying the domain
- Buying the email
- Connecting the domain
- Connecting the email
- Wait for propagation (it's a domain thing)
Finally, came the launch!
Launching was now so much easier than I had anticipated because I had all these other small wins under my belt.
It made me a lot more confident in launching the product because of the experience that I built up right before.
On top of this, I asked myself one simple question.
"If not now, then when?"
If I don't launch my product now, then when will I launch it?
My only barrier was myself and I had to find a way to remove that.
I thought back to the article I wrote on overthinking and just did it.
What happened after the launch?
During the few days that made the build-up to the launch, I was 'too busy' putting together a go-to-market strategy.
This was the strategy I was going to use to put my value proposition in front of my early adopters to get them on board with the product.
The first thing I did was update all my social media accounts (accounts of Hawk Prospecting) by adding the URL in there.
Following this, I signed up for ProductHunt and posted the product - I've never used ProductHunt and so I wasn't expecting much from it.
My go-to-market strategy mainly relied on one or two things:
- Facebook Groups
- Quora questions
I went inside Facebook groups and started to post about Hawk Prospecting, talking about its unique selling points and why it's better than the competitors.
Beforehand, I had joined a ton of groups to do with my early adopters.
Following this, I then started to answer some questions on Quora that were related to my SaaS product.
Quora is a great way to gain exposure - I use it all the time to share my blog around and it works really well.
There's a lot more that can go into the marketing strategy, but it's still being developed.
For example, other things I have outlined in the strategy are cold outreach through Facebook, Linkedin, and email too.
It may be a few weeks or even months before we can start leveraging things such as Facebook or Google advertising.
Results from day 1
I've never been a good 'hype' builder, it's a strategy that I'm terrible at.
Therefore, I didn't try to build up any sort of hype before Hawk Prospecting launched.
As soon as it launched was when the awareness began.
For a business that's less than 24 hours old, we managed to do pretty well.
With almost 10 sign-ups already, I'd say we're on track to building something long-term.
At this stage of the business, it's important to talk to all our users and sign-ups to learn more about them.
We'd have to figure out:
- Why they signed up
- Where they found us
- How they're getting on
- Any suggestions they may have
- If they'll consider upgrading
Getting these questions answered will put us on track to building a product that our audience would love.
After all, it's never about what you think will work, it's about what the target audience wants.
Validating the hypothesis we had made using a real product that users can test is very important.
Day 1 went better than I anticipated, I didn't expect this many people to sign up to the product within the first 24 hours.
When I woke up today and looked at the data for the site, I was slightly shocked and happy that this many people had already signed up based on the small amount of marketing I did.
The most important thing for a startup is to have a consistent growth engine.
There's the paid growth engine, the viral growth engine, and the sticky engine.
With a product like Hawk Prospecting, it's almost impossible to leverage the viral growth engine.
Unlike TikTok, Hawk Prospecting will never be able to grow off of people sharing it with others alone.
It will require a lot more effort to grow a SaaS business like this.
TikTok, on the other hand, is built to thrive off of the viral growth engine. People scroll for hours and hours, find videos they like, and send them to a friend.
Then the friends create an account because they want to see what this is all about, they get hooked in, and then they find something they like which they also share with friends.
The cycle repeats itself and results in exponential growth.
For Hawk Prospecting, however, we're not going to be able to leverage the viral growth engine.
We can focus on the sticky growth engine instead - agencies and salespeople will have to keep coming back to Hawk, especially if the product does exactly what they're looking for.
If we're helping these people and businesses grow, then they would have no reason to leave us - and this is the stage that businesses must reach.
Businesses must reach a point where they can safely say that they help their users perform something better (in our case that is a consistent outreach system leading to sales and profit).
That's the beauty with SaaS products, as long as you can become the superior product, you'll be able to leverage the sticky engine of growth.
Imagine an e-commerce store that sells back-stretchers (this was my first ever business).
The only thing we can really do is offer family discounts for existing customers so they can purchase the product for their family members.
With Hawk Prospecting, we're able to have recurring payments from loyal customers.
On top of this, we're able to add some fuel to the fire by using the paid engine of growth too.
Once we're able to, we can start investing in things such as
- Facebook ads
- Google ads
- YouTube ads
- Bing ads
- Quora ads
- Email marketing
There are many opportunities for a business to grow - it's just how well you're able to find those opportunities and leverage them to your advantage.
On second thought, a product like Hawk Prospecting is also able to grow 'semi-viral.'
Imagine a salesperson gets this product to test it out, it works like a charm, and all of a sudden he shares it with others in his team.
Or better yet, a sales director uses it and realises it's the best thing since sliced bread.
He then purchases the product for everyone on his sales team.
Depending on how big this sales team is, this can be a massive win for Hawk Prospecting.
Overall, launching Hawk Prospecting yesterday was a great experience and the start of something amazing.
Do you have a business that you're launching soon?
Share your thoughts and insights below.
Till next time,