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37 Comments

Have I entered the Long Slow SaaS Ramp of Death?

For those who don't know what the ramp of death is, here's an amazing talk by Gail Goodman on the long slow SaaS ramp of death

But in a nutshell, this illustrates how I'm feeling right now - image via Baremetrics:

https://baremetrics.imgix.net/blog/saas_ramp_of_death.png

The last 4 months have been really awesome. Launched a ton of new features, brought on many new customers, and I'm almost about to hit $3k MRR.

But just in the last week I've noticed things slow down. Traffic is down, new subscribers are down... it all seems a bit quiet.

Partly this is because I have neglected the marketing side a bit for the past 2-3 weeks. And partly this is also one of those situations where if you zoom out, you'll see that it's just part of a natural ebb and flow of activity over the long term (what the right-hand panel of the illustration depicts).

But man, does it feel crappy.

Just sharing with you folks since I'm sure others will know how I feel. This indiehacker life is an emotional rollercoaster!

  1. 7

    I would say the relative peace is a good time to keep pushing features and QoL improvements.

    When growth is happening it's hard to push development while doing support and onboarding.

    The peace will end soon so take advantage of it 😉

  2. 7

    I had 3 months of $0 growth after my first year. It in other words, growth matched churn exactly. I got some help marketing (ads) with an Upwork contractor and have been trending up every month since. Marketing/advertising makes a difference.

    1. 6

      thats awesome! any tips on how to find a good contractor and what they usually cost? dont need cheap, just want an idea of market rate.

      1. 2

        I created a job posting on Upwork.com, went through and invited 8-10 people with good ratings and reasonable rates that had the skills I was looking for, then I interviewed and ranked them based off my notes and their rates. Some were as low as $15/hour, some as high as $125, so the price varied greatly.

        My mistake was going with someone who sounded amazing but wanted to work outside of Upwork, didn't have a website or history of good service on Upwork, and ended up failing to complete the project. I lost some money, but mostly the time lost was the biggest cost (which is why 3 months were flatlined instead of 1). I recommend sticking within Upwork's system where accountability can help ensure a good relationship on both sides.

        1. 2

          Could you share the rate that you finally ended up paying for the service that lead to your good results?

          1. 2

            Marketing consultant charging $75/hour.

    2. 2

      thanks for that :)

  3. 4

    2 to 3 weeks is a blink of an eye, really. You have to play the long game with SaaS, and think about things in terms of months or years. We used to do marketing campaigns that rans for a few weeks at a time, but I realise now that was wasting money as we gave it no time to take effect, nor be able to make any meaningful measures. There are just too many small blips in such a short space of time that it is impossible to pick patterns or trends.

    We now run marketing campaigns for 3 months minimum, and measure along the way, and only make small adjustments as needed. We even have campaigns that have run for 12 months now, and while they gave us no real return in the first few months, we are starting to see the effects now.

    But yes, if you ignore marketing for a while, you will lose momentum, which then takes a LOT of energy to restart again. Think of the small car towing a 747. It is possible, but it takes a lot of energy and careful application of revs for a while to get the behemoth moving. But once you overcome that initial static energy, it takes less energy to keep it moving - but if it rolls to a stop, you have a heck of a lot of work to get it moving again!

    1. 1

      thanks Devan - that's a great analogy! ✈️

  4. 3

    Seasonality is definitely a thing, at least for both of our SaaS's. July and early August are historically slow/off as parents are enjoying the quiet before the storm (school). COVID has bucked some trends so far, so there is no telling what's coming.

    I like to lean on paid ads to try to supplement growth during these times and get in front of people I usually don't with are more organic marketing strategies.

    Been there! I still struggle with overthinking it when we have slow weeks. Try to zoom out and look at quarterly growth.

  5. 3

    We are with you. It is an amazing product. Keep the hustle on.

    Would mind-mapping your current customers help get more customers for that usage?
    I mean learning for what exactly they are using. My 2 cents.

  6. 2

    I find this thread amusing given where you are now - not even close to the ramp of death my man ;-)

  7. 2

    I totally feel you. I find this is the toughest part of being an indie dev.

    Over the summer Doka sales have gone down by a lot and it just really gets to me. Now I see things picking up and I feel my energy coming back. It's not healthy, and I need to find a way to better deal with these swings.

  8. 2

    Dude, I understand, but it's August — slowest economic month

  9. 2

    So, that ramp has a name? I didn't know that. thanks for the link, I learned so much by watching that video.

  10. 2

    Do you have expansion revenue built into your product/pricing? Then you can test a bunch of ways to reduce churn and even with no marketing see the number climb back up and know you're doing something right before you go all out on marketing. There's a great microconf talk where rob walling talks about how he got out of the SaaS ramp of death by doing that with Drip to find PM fit. Basically it took him a few months and sending emails asking people who cancelled the day before why they cancelled.

    I think with Drip he got out of it by changing the positioning from lead generation to marketing automation, both of which are highly fragmented markets. Eventually Drip shifted to an ecommerce CRM and now ranked in the world.

    I think with Bannerbear, you're positioned as an asset management feature, similar to how generating texts, analytics on marketing campaigns is a feature of asset management, a subset of content management. These are all a subset of the PIM -> PXM shift in the last 2-3 years, which is still a highly fragmented market. PIM is projected to grow at ~25% CAGR and it's already an 8 bil market. The reason why PXM is so powerful is that like Bannerbear, it saves 1 person a ton of time, but it also saves a lot of meetings and interactions from happening. Like, a lot. Very valuable for a company.

    Who are your best customers? Is it ecommerce? If it is, see if they're online retail stores and if they are, you might be onto something huge, b/c you're riding the online retail wave that Shopify predicted would happen in 2030 but is happening right now.

    Also you might already be doing this, but a free tier with a "Powered by BannerBear" in the asset will bake in virality for your product. And then take out the "Powered.." after they start handing over money.

    1. 1

      I guess I was being a bit confusing ^. Basically I'm wondering if you're storing and managing the assets for them, or they're doing it on a different platform. If not, my personal opinion is that it may be interesting to see if they want you to take over the management of assets completely. If so, that's huge.

  11. 2

    Welcome!! We spent 6 years at $4k MRR. I wouldn't recommend it, but the slow ramp of death is very real in SaaS.

  12. 2

    I like to compare metrics from week to week on a marketing dashboard. This could be super simple: Clicks, leads, trials, subscriptions, churn, ad spend, etc.

    That way you can spot trends and tendencies from week to week. However, one slow week doesn't necessarily mean that stuff is going bad, maybe it's going stalled and you need to develop a new marketing channel.

  13. 2

    Love the updates Jon! You're an inspiration!

    1. 1

      👀👀👀👀👀👀

  14. 2

    Oh, that's because of marketing.

    I haven't bother to posts or market my free sideproject and I can see the difference... i had between 35k n 33k and now is down half probably.

    Mostly because I am working in something else...

    Simeone commented about people in holidays, that's actually true I feel it every summer and christmas.

    You can see the analytics here

    Good luck buddy!

  15. 2

    I'm in the same b̶o̶a̶t̶ rollercoaster. It feels super crappy in the moment but you have to remember it's the holiday period for normal people. They're not at work, or their managers are not at work, so no one's around to pull the trigger on signing up for a SaaS.

    1. 1

      also a good point - I forgot about this.

  16. 2

    I can relate from a previous experience, it does feel crappy... Keep it up 💪

  17. 1

    It definitely is a rollercoaster in the beginning (read: at least a few years, not months).

    It took us 2.5 years to reach 10k MRR, and then 3 months after that to reach 15k MRR.

    If you build a great product with awesome customer service, your initial set of users will refer to others willingly (even if they don't get paid for it).

    I think of investing heavily in product development and customer service as "marketing and selling" activities too -- as they eventually lead to more sales and growth.

    1. 2

      I wish I had said more about this in the article actually. Maybe I will add some details.

      I've tried to maintain a"fanatical" level of support in the last year. I aim to reply to emails within minutes, even when I'm off the clock at night. This definitely delights customers - I've had more than one person say "woah thanks for the super fast reply" - and I hope works in my favour when / if they recommend me to others.

  18. 1

    Great talk - thanks for sharing

  19. 1

    Could be a seasonal thing. We're deep in summer, Europe takes all of August off, Paris is empty! I'm also seeing a depression in sign ups and new subscriptions as well.

  20. 1

    Jon, just don't panic. We (humans) are horrible at loses and it is called Loss aversion. I follow your journey because you started similarly then my previous product which I sold.

    You are doing great. Just don't panic and remember loss aversion.

  21. 1

    Tricky balance, but steady progress is still progress!

  22. 1

    Eitri: "You understand, boy, you're about to take the full force of a star enter the Long Slow SaaS Ramp of Death. It'll kill you."
    Thor: "Only if I die."

  23. 1

    Partly this is because I have neglected the marketing side a bit for the past 2-3 weeks.

    I feel this! In spite of the siren song of "passive SaaS income" it's amazing how quickly things can slow down if you don't have a systems in place to let you take the foot off the gas.

    Congrats on the $3k MRR milestone though, that's great. Enjoy your rest, and when you get back to it, lemme know if you wanna chat about marketing automation & systems :)

  24. 1

    Have you already started working on your SEO? It takes several months to see results, but once you get the ball rolling part of your growth will be on autopilot.

  25. 1

    I think it's not my field but I'm a bit confused as to what your use case is? Could you explain it in plainer language here? Thank you!

    1. 1

      Social media managers:
      https://www.bannerbear.com/use-cases/social-media-managers/

      Ecommerce stores:
      https://www.bannerbear.com/use-cases/ecommerce/

      Online media (magazines / newspapers):
      https://www.bannerbear.com/use-cases/online-publications/

      Bannerbear helps them perform automated design work.

  26. 1

    It sure does feel crappy. Seeing lower growth rate and roller-coaster like graph of your product's performance. Maybe we just have to go with the flow.

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