The Ultimate Go-To-Market Guide for SaaS
For SaaS companies about to “go-to-market”, time is of the essence. If you’re funded, you have investors giving you a “runway” time of probably six months to a year to launch and make something happen. If you’re self-funded and bootstrapping, the limit may even be less before you need to start seeing results. Having a ‘go-to-market’ plan that accounts for the limitations you’re facing, your strengths, and aims to get you results as soon as possible is key to organizing your team towards success.
Our team has launched two products now: one the traditional investment, “runway” route and the other more organically and bootstrapped. With both, having that roadmap to users, engagement, profit and growth beyond launch was key to success.
Based on our own experience and that of other SaaS teams, here is a complete “go-to-market” guide for SaaS:
1. Come up with an idea and Build the MVP:
It all starts with an idea. Ideally, the idea will come from a real problem that you or your team has experienced and can solve. Our launch story with Beamer is a perfect example. We needed a way to communicate and engage customers when we launched new features for a product we were building previously. We couldn’t find any solutions that were really a good fit – so we built one! The result was a rough version of Beamer that ended up being a great solution for us. We improved the MVP and went to market to offer it to other teams like ours. Solving problems with a very simple solution that you can easily test and tweak is the best way to introduce a product and test an idea.
Initial mistakes to avoid:
First things first, I think it’s a good idea to cover a few mistakes not to make off the bat and explain them a bit. Looking back, these are things that we would do differently and come up a lot from other teams.
Don’t launch too early:
There can be an eagerness with a new solution to rush to bring the product to market. While time is vital, so is your first impression with customers. Make sure to cross all your t’s and dot your i’s in terms of the presentation and user experience you’re able to deliver. You don’t want to launch too soon with unfinished features, etc. and customers to feel your product is not professional and needs more time. It will be hard to shake that impression and get them back.
Don’t launch too late:
Conversely, it’s never too good to launch too late. There’s a famous phrase by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn:
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
The reality is, even if you think you have the most amazing product, it may not be what the market wants and you will have to learn more than by simply getting out there. Get your product to a working point, a reasonable point and get it in the hands of users ASAP. They will tell you what needs work and you can get real data and feedback to steer you in the right direction. This is much better than spending all your capital on a product that you’re going to have to change.
Go in ready to pivot, keep lean:
For reasons mentioned above, you’re going to need to be ready to make swift changes. Rarely has anyone launched and kept the same product months later. Keep your team small and manageable but also equipped to be able to effectively update your product and marketing and sales plans. The best way to do this is to keep your product a simple MVP – minimum viable product while in the testing phase. Use customers’ feedback to guide your next moves in terms of what you need to build and change. Beamer started as a very simple MVP when we launched in April 2018 and has since become much more complex to fit our customers’ needs.
Get ready to know your customers:
We’ve mentioned a lot about feedback and changes so far. It’s important to be ready to collect feedback and data on how your product is being received right away so you can leverage your early users to improve your product. Some tools you’ll want in place right away are:
- Heatmaps (Hotjar is a great option) to track activity
- Google Analytics to understand user acquisition and behavior
- Support chat to get direct feedback from customers and understand urgent issues
- Feedback from Beamer updates: track open and click rates, reactions, and comments directly from customers
2. Understand your target customers as best as possible
Before you get out there, you have to know who you are after. The better you know them, the easier it will be to find and attract them. The ground zero for this is really just some basic brainstorming internally with your team around your product and the solution it provides. You need to describe your buyer persona and map out their customer journey to start.
- What problems does your product solve?
- Who has these problems?
- What is their job? What company? What industry? What role?
Now you’ve narrowed down who your buyer personas are. Another good place to start from is known competitors: who is similar to your product and who is using those products now? Who do they target and where do they target?
If your problem is more niche, it’s going to be a smaller market but easier to target. If your product is broad, you might have to go up against industry giants or need too many features to fit all the potential customers’ needs. This is the best place to start. As you start interacting with customers, tracking the success of your marketing efforts, and getting feedback will tell you more.
3. Show your value proposition clearly
You need to position your product right to the right customers in order to drive new, relevant users who will actually find your product useful. Messaging is the first impression of your product and the solution it provides – it has to be strong, simple, and easy to understand. The value needs to be immediately recognizable.
The best way for your product marketing team to begin crafting messaging is to take what you understand about who your audience is and what their challenges are and use messaging to position your product as the solution.
Take into consideration the touchpoints with your product and messaging: your website, your landing pages, ads, and the signup process. You want to make sure the value of your product resonates at each step. Of course, be prepared to learn and adjust as you see data come in from your different target personas.
4. Create an outreach strategy
How you’re going to reach your potential customers and do it at scale and efficiently is a huge feat and very important for the success of your launch. There are essentially three ways you can go about it: organic traffic, sales outreach, and paid ads or media.
Driving organic traffic takes time and a lot of effort but can become some of your highest converting traffic and best, most valued source of leads in the long run. It’s best to start sooner than later. To drive traffic organically, you need to create content that is informative, keyword and phrase focused, and tailored to your audiences. You want to be consistent in creating and building a great base of traffic-driving content.
Organic work is best for low-interaction prospects. With organic traffic, you are building a machine to automatically push leads towards taking action and converting to users on your site. You’re bringing them in through content and using CTAs to get them to sign up for your product or newsletter and nurturing them to purchase. All of this can be automated and can become a very valuable, low cost system for your sales team.We started doing two blogs a week for over two years and a big percentage of converting users come in through our content. Consistency is key!
Direct sales outreach:
These customers will require a lot of work from your team but the recognition, credibility and exposure they will bring your product can be transformative. Though it’s a lot of effort, you will want to dedicate part of your team’s time to direct sales outreach to get things moving right away. You will want to target the most valuable customers first. For many SaaS companies, this is usually enterprise level customers. You will need to have certain resources in place like product presentations specific for enterprise customers, complete documentation, etc. This channel is better after your product has been tested by easier clients and is more mature.
Paid ads and media:
Pursuing paid ads and media is something that is typical for invested SaaS startups with an ad budget. No worries if you don’t have one – many SaaS companies start and do well organically and with direct outreach by leading with the product. But ads don’t hurt. Targeting ads and media in places where your potential customers get their information can get you the recognition and market presence you need. Focus on where your personas do their research (Google Search ads, paid media features in industry publications, etc.) for the biggest bang for your buck.
5. Determine your pricing
This stage literally determines your revenue in the long run and, interestingly enough, most SaaS teams only spend 6 hours total determining their pricing strategy. The way you price your product has to make sense for profit and make sense in the eyes of your customer. They have to feel like the value your product is delivering is worth what you are asking monthly or annually. Typically, with SaaS we see a flat monthly rate or a tiered rate for different levels of service. If you can create different service levels with your features, this is a good opportunity to provide a cheaper version of your product while leaving room to upsell. Other ways to price dynamically are by usage (like paying for how much storage you use) or by user. This way, the pricing is tailored for each account’s needs and customers feel they are getting the value and not paying for what they don’t need.
It’s all about your type of product, who your target persona is and what they can afford and what they feel meets the value. Learn more about SaaS pricing models.
6. Convert customers and show value right away:
Once you get leads to convert, you want to show value right away through your product and encourage engagement. You can do this by offering a freemium model of your product, a free trial, or a demo. Read more about the pros and cons of free trials vs demos to decide what’s best for you. With a demo, trial, or freemium, users are actually using your product and seeing the value for themselves by exploring what the features can do for them. To enhance this, have a good, clear onboarding process that shows users how to use your product for the best results.
7. Keep users engaged and grow organically as you go from MVP to product:
Once you’ve got users, the most important thing for SaaS is keeping them month over month – it’s fundamental to your business model and growth. Keeping users from churning out is once of the biggest concerns for new SaaS companies and must be a part of your go-to-market plan as you transition from MVP to your more complete product. To keep users on board, collect and apply their feedback early on to show that your team cares about improving your product for them. Introduce new features, bug fixes, updates, etc. frequently to show users that your product is evolving to meet their needs.
The best way to announce new features and updates is Beamer. Beamer is an in-app changelog that opens within your product as a news feed of all your latest updates for users to explore. They open it by clicking a “What’s New” tab in your navigation or an icon in your interface. You can announce new features, updates, bug fixes, new content, etc. You can add video, GIFs, images, and CTAs to better explain your updates and get users taking action. Beamer can also be a source of feedback: users can leave comments and reactions on updates that your team can keep track of along with opens and clicks on a backend dashboard. Beamer boosts engagement and shows users that your product is changing to always be the solution they need.
If it all has to boil down to one principle in terms of going to market with your product, it’s that you have to lead with your product. There are so many ways to reach customers with funding, without, and things that can change in your resources, but without a product that is meeting the needs of your customers, it won’t be successful. Listening, applying, and evolving constantly while keeping your customers in the loop is the best growth strategy. For the best way to boost engagement and communicate with users, try Beamer.