Product Development February 18, 2020

Building a Micro-SaaS - Part One: Starting the Journey

James @mcfdn

Welcome to part one of the Building a Micro-SaaS series! This is an opening article that will introduce the product, talk about first steps and set us up for the rest of the series. Thanks for joining; I hope you'll stick around.

I'm going to start by saying that this is going to be a learning experience for all of us — I am by no means an expert in launching online businesses (quite the opposite actually). It should, however, be an enjoyable learning experience for us all.

My vision for the series is to document every step of the way in building adsoup.co — a display advertising platform that caters to indie software makers looking to promote their products. Here are some of my planned topics:

  • The problem and reasoning
  • Planning
  • Tech stack considerations
  • Individual feature design & development
  • Marketing

In my eyes, if it's a success then hopefully there will be some actionable takeaways for people looking to launch their own Micro-SaaS. If it's a failure, then perhaps it will act as a guide on how not to build a Micro-SaaS. Only time will tell.

Finally, I think it's worth mentioning that my background is in software development, so many of the articles may have a more technical bias. I'll try and keep this to a minimum to benefit as wide of an audience as possible. I think that's enough of an introduction, so let's begin...

A solution to a problem

So you've just launched your hot new SaaS - how are you going to market it? Newsletters? Social media? Monthly sacrifices to the black box that is Google? There are plenty of directories that makers can submit their software for others to find, but many of these rely on users visiting and browsing the directory. What about those who don't know about Product Hunt, or don't realise they need your product to actively look for it?

Adsoup aims to solve these issues by pushing awareness of a product from beyond the confines of a discovery platform and out into the wilderness of the Internet. In a nutshell, makers can add their product, build a creative (ad) and promote it on a CPM basis. On the flip side, publishers can earn by displaying these promotions alongside their content.

More than just an advertising platform?

At first glance, Adsoup may seem like an advertising platform. Well, in some regards it will be, at its core. The value proposition, however, will lie in how it caters specifically to online software businesses — for both the advertising and publishing aspects. This proposition will be met in several ways, all of which will be explored as the series progresses.

From launch, the aim will be to onboard as many diverse software products onto the platform and an army of excellent publishers to drive awareness. Starting small and steady allows a level of flexibility that you just can't achieve if you go all-in on the biggest, coolest functionality.

Where to begin?

So we've defined the problem, and we've touched on how Adsoup will attempt to solve it. Where on earth to begin? Well, in typical fashion, Adsoup has entered the world as many fledgeling SaaS products do — as a simple pre-launch landing page with an email signup form. This is a common strategy as it carries the following benefits:

  • Allows gauging of interest without actually building the product;
  • Supports the gathering of feedback from the target audience before committing to anything major;
  • Gives the option of promoting the product and generating hype through newsletters.

Not disregarding the above, the main reason we're collecting pre-launch signups is to try and counter the dreaded chicken and egg problem. As a sort of marketplace, the platform will be dependent on both "buyers" (advertisers) and "sellers" (publishers). Without a decent number of both, the platform simply won't work. Of course, there are other tactics we can employ to offset this problem, some of which we'll explore at a later date.

Lastly, with such a heavy reliance on email at the early stages of our product, it makes sense to squeeze every bit of value out of each signup. One way in which we can do this is by introducing a referral scheme. We'll be exploring this in the next issue of the series.

Up next...

That about concludes the first article in the Building a Micro-SaaS series.
Now that you're a devoted reader, please don't hesitate to get in touch on Twitter if you have any feedback, or if there's anything specific you would like me to cover in future instalments. Next time we'll cover the implementation of the landing page, with special consideration to the newsletter referral system. This is a custom build on top of Mailchimp, so make sure to keep an eye out for that!

I want Adsoup to be a formidable tool available to all types of indie makers, and to achieve that we'll need a community of amazing people. If the product sounds like something you'd be interested in, please do signup at adsoup.co. All pre-launch signups receive a 12.5% CPM rate improvement. That means a 12.5% CPM discount if you're advertising your product, and a 12.5% increase in earnings if you're a publisher.

*This article was originally posted on dev.to.

  1. 1

    I don't understand your proposition value.

    • What is the main difference between you and makerads.xyz for example?
    • What makes your curation better than a mass promotion from Google display network?
  2. 1

    Just signed up! 🙌

    You wrote that you'd like to gauge interest to build this two-sided marketplace - but how do you know how many "buyers" vs. how many "sellers" sign up to your platform? Why not ask them right away when they sign up? :) This might also make it easier to send them more targeted newsletter updates...

    1. 1

      Thanks for the support and feedback!

      That's a good point - I'll add an option to the signup form for users to select.