At Bebensee IT GmbH, we have developed various SaaS products for startups, medium-sized companies and large corporations. In the process, we have gained a lot of experience and were able to derive and test the following tips.
Understanding the Customer & Pain
One of the most important success factors while developing SaaS products is the focus on the customer at all times. Therefore, the actual target group and its needs need to be understood. To achieve this, it is important to listen carefully to your target group and receive feedback. Nothing is worse than developing a product that nobody wants. What is also interesting in the survey is whether the target group would independently look for a solution, would buy a product, and more importantly, would buy a product from you.
Personas are a handy tool to maintain focus in the process. Hubspot offers a useful tool for this (hubspot.com/make-my-persona). The personas can then be used in the design and implementation of each requirement to better understand the background and benefits. This background information subconsciously has a big impact on how and why requirements are implemented.
Focus On the Essentials (MVP)
Focusing on the essentials sounds trivial at first, but one quickly tends to build functions that are important in the medium term but are not needed for the product launch. The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) should only contain the core functions so that the product is usable from the customer’s point of view. The goal is to get the product into the hands of customers as early as possible in order to get early feedback. This is the only way to validate whether customers actually want to use and pay for the product.
Often, the direction of the product in productive use changes as a result of customer feedback. For example, it is discovered that certain functions have no relevance at all and the product is used differently than intended. However, if overengineering has been done by implementing functions that are not needed, then only time and money have been burned.
The danger of overengineering plays a role not only in the implementation of product features but also in business processes. Before it has been confirmed whether the product will be accepted, too much effort should not be put into automating processes and self-service functions.
Continuous feedback should be an essential part of product development. It helps to define requirements, find errors and validate assumptions. Qualitative discussions with early adopters and feedback functions in the software are suited for collecting feedback.
Feedback should not be implemented individually but collected first. From the feedback pool, functions that are particularly in demand can then be prioritized and implemented. The goal is to develop a product that customers want, not you. It is important to memorize this in the process.
To improve reviews in app stores, it is also a good idea to request a review after successes in the software, e.g. after winning a new customer in a sales software. Otherwise, often rather unhappy users tend to submit reviews.
Feedback is not only obtained actively but also by evaluating user behavior. Key performance indicators (KPIs) can be measured and compared, for example with A/B tests.
Find Early Adopters
Especially in the development of B2B SaaS products, it is helpful to have early adopters who contribute important feedback to the development process and help to finance the development. This removes the risk of developing a product that is not needed. In addition, early adopters can help via reviews and case studies, especially in the early stages of marketing.
When looking for early adopters, it is acceptable to sell something that has not yet been built. However, this should be handled openly and it should be clearly signaled which functions the pilot customer will actually receive for the product launch.
From experience, companies want the software to be ideally embedded in existing business processes. Therefore, especially in the early stages, it should not be overlooked that requirements fit the standard software and do not represent individual processes. It is necessary to generalize so that the product remains interesting for further customers. For example, if an early adopter wants automatic synchronization with an existing CRM system, this could be realized as follows: The SaaS product is extended by a generally valid API, e.g. via REST. Entries can be read, created, modified and deleted automatically via the API. This API does not contain any logic and therefore fits into the concept of a standard software. In the second step, an adapter between the SaaS product and the CRM system is then implemented for the customer. This adapter contains the customer-specific logic, is not a component of the SaaS product and can, for example, automatically synchronize customer data. Since the interface was developed as a standard, any systems (also independently by customers) can be connected.
Create Useful Content
At the latest after the launch, marketing should be in focus. Often, the response at the launch is unsatisfying if a complex marketing campaign has not been launched in advance.
Through content marketing, you can position yourself as a know-how carrier for your target group on the one hand and get new leads through useful content on the other. The prerequisite for this is that the content is useful for your target group. For example, an accounting software SaaS company could write useful blog articles about content such as the structure and content of invoices, keeping a cash book, and booking travel expenses. The articles should be free of advertising messages and only promote the SaaS product discreetly, e.g. by drawing attention at the end to the fact that there is this great SaaS product with which you can keep your cash book digitally in no time or book travel expenses automatically via a receipt upload.
The impressive growth and relevance of SaaS products offers many companies new business opportunities to develop their own SaaS products. It is particularly important to understand the actual target group and their needs at every stage of the process in order to develop a product that will actually be adopted. The product launch validates whether the target group needs the product and the business model takes off. To get feedback as quickly as possible and not waste time and money an MVP should be developed consisting of the minimum core features. Feedback should be continuously collected, sorted and prioritized via feedback functions, surveys and conversations. Requirements can be derived from the feedback, which are continuously expanded in following versions (increments) of the software. To collect important feedback already during the development of the MVP, it is helpful to have early adopters who actively shape the development process, co-finance the development and support it with reviews and case studies, especially in the early stages of marketing. Finally, useful content such as blog articles help to reach new customers. At the same time, the articles should not be pure advertising, but should only promote the product indirectly and support the target group with useful content primarly.
Have you already developed SaaS products and what experience have you gained?