March 6, 2019

How should I spend $500/mo to validate an idea?

Here's a scenario: You have a recently launched nights & weekends SaaS product, no paying customers, a (very) few beta users, very little free time.

If you wanted to drive users to this product, and had $500/mo to put towards helping to do this, where would you spend it?

  • Copywriting/content marketing? Blog posts/etc.
  • Ads? (writing+running)
  • Design?
  • What else is out there? (cold email as-a-service?)

Or is none of this worth it yet, and you should just spend nights/weekends sending cold emails and getting first customers that way?

What paid services have worked for you all (if any)?

#marketing #idea-validation

  1. 14

    Hmmm.

    Well, first things first...

    You don't have paying customers. So you (almost certainly) don't have product-market fit yet.

    Spending money on growth won't solve that.

    You need to spend time talking to potential customers.

    Understand the problem you're solving for them. And their objections to your current product.

    Listen to the words they use. Learn what makes them buy.

    Then go out and spend money on marketing.

    If you really need to spend money now, pay an experienced founder to mentor you.

    They can help you focus only on what's important. Which will help with your time constraints.

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Thanks, Louis. You're certainly right about growth before PMF being useless.

      But man, this first step of "talk to potential customers" to find objections and solve problems -- I'm sure there's a mental block here, but this seems easy to say but harder in practice. ;)

      Specifics aside, finding potential customers, getting them to talk to you -- even pre-validation, I'm curious to know if any of that work be augmented by spending money. (Cold email copywriting/review, scraping Linkedin for potential contacts, etc., etc. -- not claiming these are good ideas, just interested in people's experience.)

      And once the idea is validated and it is time to go spend money on marketing, anything specific worked for you?

      Thanks again!

      1. 2

        Specifics aside, finding potential customers, getting them to talk to you -- even pre-validation, I'm curious to know if any of that work be augmented by spending money.

        There are lots of things you could do, and lots of ways you could do those things.

        But your challenge is to work out what few things are important to do, and how to do them properly.

        For $500/month, you won't find an employee who can do that work for you to the level required.

        But you can find an advisor - a founder who has been successful - to help you do only the important things really well.

        This is partly because you don't need help with certain tasks (necessarily), you need help working out which tasks you need help with in the first place!

        Once you know that, it's easy to find great advice/support on how to do those tasks well.

        And once the idea is validated and it is time to go spend money on marketing, anything specific worked for you?

        I'd be happy to help you with that, but it really, really depends on your product. There's no one size fits all solution.

        1. 3

          Ah, I think I follow.

          I'm thinking of spending money as expanding my reach, giving me additional options -- but you're saying the most useful thing at this stage isn't adding additional options, but in reducing them down to what I (specifically) need. And until I know that, expanding the space of options is counter-productive.

          Point well taken ;).

          I'll mull some more, but am curious: Have you seen this done -- paying another founder for guidance? Agree that personal mentorship/advice seems amazingly useful, but hadn't heard about this being a market, unless we're counting the sketchy biz-coach spam I get.

          1. 3

            you're saying the most useful thing at this stage isn't adding additional options, but in reducing them down to what I (specifically) need. And until I know that, expanding the space of options is counter-productive.

            Exactly!

            Have you seen this done -- paying another founder for guidance? Agree that personal mentorship/advice seems amazingly useful, but hadn't heard about this being a market, unless we're counting the sketchy biz-coach spam I get.

            I've seen this happen quite often, yes. Also do it myself semi-regularly.

            It tends to come about informally though - normally a founder will reach out with a specific question ("can I pick your brain about X over a coffee?") and it somehow naturally turns into a more regular thing if it's useful for the founder.

            I think you're right to avoid the professionals though (who advertise their services).

            Take a look in your network/on IH and reach out to some founders you admire. If you are to the point, friendly and ask a genuine question, you'll almost certainly get a response. And then you can take it from there.

            You may not have to pay anything - I'm not suggesting you spend $500/month on a mentor!

            Good luck :)

            1. 1

              Thanks very much, this was helpful. :)

  2. 3

    Better to spend time than money at this stage. Find prospects, get on the phone with them, demo the product, and so on. Get better at demoing/selling. Once you know it works for sure, you can pour the gasoline.

    1. 2

      Thanks! Think you're right, though I was hoping for "one weird trick to validate for cheap without talking to humans!!" ;)

      After this thread, I went on LinkedIn and reached out to two local biz owners in the space I'm targeting -- meeting with them next week.

      (This was weirdly hard to do until I did it, after which it felt insanely obvious.)

  3. 2

    Congratulations on what you've done! It's not easy to get a product launched!

    I agree with a lot of the comments on this tread about running it by some potential customers and getting their feedback. Maybe market it to them as a promotional incentive ("try it free for a month") and you can use them to test the product that way as well. In terms of other ways to drive users to this product, my recommendation would be to start with free marketing first.

    • Create a quick landing page, drive traffic to it via your Facebook page, collect leads and send them on a nice 2-3 email lead nurturing journey. Super easy.

    • Create a Facebook page and update it regularly with relevant content and images. Do the same with Twitter (keep it short), LinkedIn (keep it meaningful) and Instagram (focus on images). Try this for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference. It will take some time and effort but once you can validate your product this way, you can consider paid.

    Thanks!

  4. 2

    Find a relevant tech conference, buy a ticket, and solicit the hell out of it :)

    (I mean, approach people directly and show/talk to them and ask for feedback. Better doing that in person than online IMO.)

    1. 1

      An excellent idea -- hadn't considered it, but seems a great way to use money without tricking myself into thinking it'll be some idea-validation silver bullet. :)

      Thanks, Paul, very much appreciated.

      1. 2

        Heh. Glad to help. I did just that — although I didn't have a ready product at the moment, so it was more about validation than actual sales. On the other side, it was almost ready, so it wasn't validation really (I would've launched it anyway) but just extra reassurance that my product was interesting to the crowd.

        P.S. If you're working full time, you can try ask your employer to send you to a conference at their expense. Double profit!

  5. 1

    Since you have a $500 budget but no time, I'll suggest you to hire a digital marketeer from India or Phillipines.

    For $500, you can get someone to work for you for almost an entire month.

    Let me know if you need any references.

    1. 1

      Thanks! Have you tried this before (using an outside marketer) for an early stage product?

      For my project specifically, I think I'm convinced I need to do some more validation/talking before looking into growth channels, but I'll keep this in mind, and appreciate the offer of references.