💰 MRR: $6,019 (+48%)
💵 Revenue: $18,535 (+47%)
😊Customer Count: 318 (vs 216)
💔Churn: 2 (vs 1)
📝 Free Email List: 3.3k
format stolen from this post
It began with job boards.
I specifically decided I wanted to start my next SaaS in a market that already had a lot of money in it, so I started doing research.
I figured that if a company could afford to hire employees they must be doing something right! Once I found a company that interested me, I'd research all about their market and competition to see if I could find a hole.
I wanted to see if there was a niche inside the market that wasn't happy with the current offerings, where a bootstrapper could make a play and win!
However, doing this research via job boards was slow, and databases like Crunchbase and Owler cost up to $1,000/year. It was at that point when I wondered if I could turn my research into a product, a paid newsletter of weekly opportunities.
I figured that if I could at least cover the cost of the databases and make a couple thousand in profit on the side, it would be worthwhile.
And so, the idea for a market-research based newsletter for b2b SaaS was born.
The next step was validation. Taking what I had learned from CoderNotes.io, I wanted to do it right this time.
I knew I was going to ask for pre-sales. But first, I had to find out what channels would work for me to reach readers.
So I turned my research into a free blog post and promoted it on various channels, making sure to track the results. Here is the IndieHackers version, which to this day has 22,204 views!
I also tried sharing it on Reddit, Twitter, and in some private founder groups. What I found was that Reddit worked okay (~25 upvotes on /r/entrepreneur), but the other channels worked much better.
I knew that I wanted to pre-sell the newsletter, so I included this paragraph at the bottom of the post:
If you would like (and would pay for) posts like these, reach out to me at [email protected]. I'm giving away another free post just like this one to the people who email me there!
Key takeaway: When looking for qualified leads, you need to give value first, and offer a reason for people to engage with YOU, not the other way around!
I'll touch on how this worked for pre-sales in a minute.
In order to verify my results, I felt that I needed to repeat the test a second time. I wanted to know that I had a reliable way of reaching new readers, not that I could get lucky with a single post.
Key takeaway: Most founders skip trying to find a reliable channel, and go straight into building an MVP. I consider the work I did here, before fully committing to the idea, to be a key reason why I was successful.
I made another post, listening to user feedback by diving even deeper into each market.
At the same time, I was getting inbound leads from the first post I had made. I had set a pre-sales goal ahead of time - After talking to 100 qualified leads, at least 10 would want to pre-order the newsletter for $19 for a month.
Key takeaway: Setting a specific goal ahead of time is key for pre-sales, so you know that you're not cheating yourself. It's too easy to lower your price or the number of sales and trick yourself that you succeeded when you didn't.
After talking to only roughly 35 qualified leads, I had my 10 pre sales, totaling $190. I also had one pre-sale which I decided NOT to count in my pre-sales goal, because I knew that the individual was a friend and supporter of mine. Be wary of that when you're doing pre-sales! Fans don't count, only people who couldn't care less about you personally who are buying the product to solve a need!
Having zoomed past my pre-sales goal, proven that I was building something people wanted to buy, and found two reliable channels I could use to find new readers, I was ready to fully commit to Software Ideas
(If you'd like to read anonymized versions of these pre-sales emails, I've released them all publicly here)
This is the part that founders think is hard. You're probably expecting me to share some "growth hacks" with you, some clever techniques I used to get the name out there.
But why would I need those? You read step three, I had found reliable channels already. When you have that, you just need to put in the work, and growth comes naturally.
Key takeaway: By front-loading all the risky parts of the business by pre-selling and validating channels, growth comes as a natural side-effect!
The only thing to say here is that this is when I started looking at other channels that may lead to more people finding out about Software Ideas. I tried cross-promotion, newsletter sponsorships, podcasts, and more.
I'm still in the middle of learning how to find new channels, but so far what I've learned is that you need to find a channel, test it, and evaluate it. It's no different from finding your first channel, it just happens later on in the lifecycle.
And that's the three-month recap of Software Ideas.