July 17, 2017

Shut it down or double-down?


The facts:

  • beta SaaS B2B product targeted towards SaaS companies(pricing around $50/month)

  • 30 beta signups, only 1 user fully integrated their SaaS with my tool(even though it can be done < 30 minutes by a programmer)

  • 0 customers

  • worked 6 months on it full-time

  • not a new idea, i have competitors doing well,even though they are clunky, bad UI, over-complicated except one which also launched a free plan - so the idea is validated

  • the problem it solves is not something urgent, they can continue without solving that issue, but eventually most SaaS will have that sorted out sooner or later

The thing that worries me is that i can't get people to integrate my app, they always postpone the integration until they don't respond to emails anymore.

It's either because lack of trust(I'm in beta and this market is new to me), the problem is not that big enough for the people in my list even though they were overly excited when they signed up or something else. I've tried different things from discounts to free months to increase integration rate with no luck.

Another thing that worries me is that there are a few bootstrapped attempts for this kind of products targeting SaaS and failed.

I haven't done too much getting new beta users, but since I haven't figured out how to make people use my tool, it won't help me much.

Should I double down, start working harder, get first customers and try things like:

  • add a trial period and pricing instead of free beta. Adding a time constraint might speed things up.

  • make somehow the integration easier, but not sure how can i do that, it's already easier than competitors

  • start a blog, launch an ebook and become an authority in the field


Shut it down and try something else, maybe where it doesn't require integration and value is seen in a few hours instead of months or a targeting a bigger more urgent problem, etc

I have until 1 January 2018 to reach $1k/month before getting a job.

  1. 9

    I wonder if you realize that you haven't disclosed your site yet. Part of the problem could be that you value it like a gem and may afraid hat someone would copy it, but that means many don't even have a chance to evaluate your service.

    If you aren't explicitly telling people about your service here, then I doubt that there are enough people out there know about your service. In this case, it would be a shame to just shut it down, wouldn't it?

  2. 3

    First, let me say that I agree with @shockwave. Why aren't you sharing your site? It's nearly impossible for us to give you good feedback without knowing what it is you're working on. I assume you're trying to keep what you're doing a secret, but that's totally at odds with what it takes to make a business succeed. If you're at the point where you're seriously considering shutting down something you worked on for 6 months, I can't see a good reason not to share it.

    Based on what you have shared, I think it's heartening that you have competitors who are doing well. Have you tried finding and talking to any of their customers? Get someone on the phone for 15 minutes. Buy them a gift if you have to. I bet you'll learn a lot, especially since you mention that the market you're in is new to you.

    Also, be aware of the possibility that the 29 beta signups you have who didn't integrate your product are not your ideal customers. This could be a case of needing to find better customers rather than needing to improve your product itself.

    And we've come full circle. You won't find better customers if you aren't in the habit of showing your site to anyone who will listen.

    1. 0

      Thanks csallen for chiming in.

      The reason I'm not sharing it is because I don't want to get my product associated with this post, especially since competitors, influencers and potential customers are following IH... it's not a good business decision share these details at this stage...later, if I continue it or not, totally, but not now before the decision is made.

      However, I can share privately, I'll gladly send you an email if you are kind enough to take a look and share your thoughts about it.


      1. 3

        I won't disclose what you're working on, but having seen your website via the email you sent me, I respectfully disagree. You may know something I don't, but I've talked to ~200 transparent companies in the past year, and I can't think of any solid reasons why transparency would be particularly bad for your business at this stage.

        If anything, this early pre-customer pre-traction stage is the best time to be transparent. You haven't proven you have anything worth stealing, and customers aren't under any sort of illusion that you're much bigger than you are.

        I may be projecting onto you unfairly (apologies if that's the case), but in my experience resistance to sharing this level of detail at this stage is more psychological than practical. It tends to bleed over into a lack of willingness to talk about one's product to potential customers, too.

        Unfortunately, that's the exact opposite of you need to do now. By default, companies die in obscurity. Your goal should be to avoid that fate. That's an extremely difficult challenge to overcome as-is, to say nothing of going in the opposite direction out of fear for what will happen when you put yourself out there.

        I haven't done too much getting new beta users, but since I haven't figured out how to make people use my tool, it won't help me much.

        Get more customers in the door, and talk to more of them. 30 people is not enough to figure out how to get people to use what you've built. It takes some companies 30,000 customers to figure that out.

  3. 3

    It depends on how important your problem domain is, but requiring ~30 minutes upfront for onboarding sounds tough. I'd suspect the bottleneck is in the integration.

    If that's the best you can do, your product might be in a direct-sales software segment, where ARPU should be in >$1k range.

    I would pick one customer, and offer free consulting to work on integration together, either sitting side-by-side or via a video conference, and figure out what the real issue is.

    1. 0

      Most successful competitors charge over $100/month lowest plan, one charging close to $1000/month paid annually, but they are targeting enterprise, I'm targeting small and medium SaaS.

      I didn't want to get into direct sales, but for this kind of product and market it might be required.

      1. 1

        If your onboarding requires 30min of developer's time I'm not sure how well it could work without direct sales. If you do don't want to get into direct sales you should definitely make some light-version-onboarding or some preview or something.

        start a blog, launch an ebook and become an authority in the field

        I'm not sure what the product is, but this step doesn't seem that straightforward, or is it? Meaning I believe there is much more to it to be an authority in the field then "just" writing a blog/ebook.

        Also what @shockwave said - what is your site/product anyways? I believe that way you will get much higher-quality comments and suggestions 😉

        1. 0

          I like the idea of putting out a related product and/or light version with zero integration if that's possible - just as a way to gain some trust.

          Also, if you're competition is selling for a lot more and still making sales, then you may be leaving money on the table by coming in too cheap. If your issue is not price, then being inexpensive doesn't really buy you anything

          Finally, if you're seriously thinking of shutting down, you have nothing to lose by sharing more info.

  4. 0

    I assume that when people sign up, they give you e-mail address.

    So you have e-mail address of 30 people who were interested enough to sign up.

    Contact them.

    Eventually, you should have a well thought-out, automated drip campaign e.g. http://www.yesware.com/blog/drip-campaign-examples/, google "drip campaign" for more).

    But right now you want feedback.

    Send every person an e-mail offering free setup. It's an example of thing that doesn't scale (http://paulgraham.com/ds.html) but what you want at this stage is to learn how people integrate whatever it is that your product does, what might stop them, what are their concerns etc.

    You want to be able to speak to them on the phone so that you can have a conversation.

    You can then use the conversation to ask questions. How did they find you? Why did they sign up? What do they think the biggest value of your product is? Are they evaluating you against competition? etc.

    But people won't just pick up the phone. Offering them something of value (a free integration, done by you) will get them on the phone.

    So your first order of business is to send them an e-mail:

    "Hey there, xxx. I noticed that you signed up for beta of yyy. We want you to succeed so we're currently offering free integration of our product with your system. If you're interested, respond to this e-mail and we schedule preliminary phone call."

    Also read "Mom Test" (my summary: https://blog.kowalczyk.info/dailynotes/note/b4u674cvj43jdajdsukg-summary-of-the-mom-test-book-about-validating-business-ideas) to learn how to talk to people to learn from them.