Growth February 18, 2020

How to build trust with your early stage SaaS?

Volkan Kaya @volkandkaya

We run https://versoly.com, a website builder, and that requires a level of trust above and beyond most early stage SaaS companies.

I came up with some ideas that I think will be helpful for any company.

  • Community (I'm thinking a discord/slack channel where people can get landing page feedback)
  • A place where users can request features and see the roadmap
  • Open uptime tracking
  • /aboutus page
  • More testimonials
  • Showcase of websites
  • More blog posts, we only have 1 at the moment.
  • Changelog when customers login to show we're actively working on the product
  • Monthly meetup to discuss landing pages
  • Knowledge base
  • Better designs, more blocks and templates

Any feedback on the ideas above would be most appreciated.

  1. 9

    Hi @volkandkaya , firstly well done on building an online business with real customers.

    Three words come to my mind: "Honesty", "Patience" and "Persistence".

    But I have a few comments too, which others have mentioned in different forms but I will say them in my words:

    1- It might help you to self-reflect what you are asking here. I think what you are asking (How to build trust with customers) really is the crux of Seth Godin's marketing philosophy (earning the permission of a small hard core group of fans). So you are saying I like to do my marketing right and asking how do I do it.

    2- Ok. Great. I think the next step is to highlight that one big mistake a lot of early stage start-ups make is wanting to be present "everywhere". I have heard this advice over and over again: Pick one marketing channel, stick to it, put all your best effort into it, improve your ROI on it, and then and only then decide whether you want to add one (but no more than one) marketing channel or decide that the first channel didn't work so to move on to a new one (again no more than one). The style of marketing matters just as much as the channel. For example, you can go for indiehackers as your channel, and do it by posting articles or blogs that concerns your specific target audience. So, yes, physical or virtual community building is one method and that community could be one channel but this community will not be about your product, it will be around something that your audience resonates with (e.g. Guinness had to come up with the book of world records to save their beer business!!).

    3- Don't define your business by the first product offering (you are not a web site building business) - as @bismich commented that will get you into a lot of unnecessary competition. Instead, define your business by what your target audience believes in and what "stories" your target audience tell themselves everyday. That is how you will distinguish your "audience" from your "non-audience" and that is how they will start to believe in you as opposed to someone else and that is how they will give you their trust. I read that you say "convert visitors to paid customers". This sounds much better and does much better to get my trust than "Build your static website here". Nobody on the planet says it better than Simon Sinek in his Ted Talk about the difference between Apple which markets by saying "THE WHY" and DeLL which markets by saying "THE WAHT". Avoid the what, stick to the why.

    4- Your own landing page can be improved. Even if this is your best skill set do PAY for two or three other separate independent "marketing and communication" experts (ideally not agencies but individuals whom you can chat with and build a relationship with) to help improve your own landing page and messaging. Different "outsider" views always give you better ideas. For an example, I did not like having to scroll down a bit, then click on an embedded YouTube video on your home page to watch the content, and then find out it is way too long for my patience. Why does it not autoplay? Why not put it next to the big text to avoid scrolling? Also there is ton of data showing people don't watch more than 5 seconds of anything at all, ever, period. Make that an animated high quality 5 second GIF that loads and plays immediately, and inside it, put one single simple message in an animated format: "This is where you build your website that converts, and this is how you do it" - in 5 seconds, really!

    5- Do not compare your service to other services - go back to my comment (3) above and rethink your messaging. There is a classic Microsoft vs. Apple "Marketing Manager" story that MBA students learn: At Microsoft the marketing people keep talking how much better MS products are than Apple's whereas at Apple the marketing people don't even mention or think about any other companies - they think about their audience - the people whose trust they must earn and keep.

    6- If you really do decide to compare yourself with others (and you should have a good reason to do that) then make that a big bold statement (in the form of a comparison) in a well written blog on your site or even in a condensed format on your home page. Google to find out how "Marcus Sheridan" of the Sales Lion earned people's trust (and money) by writing and blogging about his competitors :) - in your space think about leadpages and/or netlify...

    7- Also be honest and very clear about what kind of persons do you want to appeal to? What is their job titles? "Designers", "Bloggers", "Busy Founders", "Developers", etc.? In case of Wix, they appeal to the "Busy but Techie Early Stage Founder" title. In case of Netlify that is definitely "Developers". But don't choose this based on other products, choose this because of your believes and your story.

    Hope these help in some ways...

    1. 1

      Great sharing! Thanks @RaminZaghi
      and great post too @volkandkaya

  2. 5

    Agree with everything , especially showing live examples of customers' websites.

    1. 3

      Thanks, customers are building some really cool sites so just need to ask permission.

  3. 2

    I would say have a specific niche market for your website builder SaaS and narrow your marketing efforts to just that; Just don't label it as website builder because then you are directly competing with Wix , SquareSpace , Wordpress, GoDaddy, Webflow....the list goes on.

    1. 1

      We tried a bunch of headers, most people got confused so we had to add website builder back in :)

      We're taking customers from all of them the companies you listed so we aren't worried about that.

  4. 2

    For me the most important thing would be a showcase. Your templates look great but it would be awesome to see them in action!

    Second, would be an about us - def adds credability

    1. 1

      Thanks for the feedback.

      Now time to implement them :)

  5. 2

    Just curious, what was the idea behind the the name versoly? I think it would do you wonders if you changed it to a more catchy name! Just some constructive feedback!

    1. 2

      Interesting. I find the name catchy, hah. Funny how different brains respond differently to the same thing.

    2. 1

      We want to be more than just landing pages, I think names like that lock you in.

      Verso means

      1. a left-hand page of an open book, or the back of a loose document.
      2. the reverse of something such as a coin or painting.

      So it is loosely related to pages, and we like to think we take the opposite approach to most companies.

  6. 2

    +1 for the about us page. It's often underrated, but it's super valuable to gain trust. Not only for your potential users: Google places more and more value on the about page to determine whether you're a legit business.

    1. 1

      Yeah I really like them, just they're hard to get right :)

  7. 1

    More blog posts! If you build them up over time this content marketing may slowly start to broaden your exposure - same with a knowledge base, they can be the same blog.

    Showcase of websites for sure for validation and a living example of why your site is useful

    Monthly meetup to meet more people and increase engagement with real people and their problems with landing pages - I need to do more of this too!

    Landing page feedback community is a great idea, you might get a following going just for this and then your product is there to nicely put it all into practice!

    1. 2

      Thanks!

      I have a few small engineering as marketing projects similar to https://saaspages.xyz/ I want to build. But to build the initial trust I plan on doing the other things first :)

  8. 1

    Like your thought process @volkandkaya

    I like the last 2 ideas because

    1. Knowledge base - It's important to showcase your users how to navigate a product, at the same time reduce the back & forth of technical support

    2. Better designs, more blocks and templates - Product first. Help your users achieve their goals seamlessly

  9. 1

    One of the best things for trust-building in my experience is to target a lighthouse customer, get them using your service then leverage that story to build credability.

    With my event registration company, we had huge trust reservations at the start because we were processing (and sometimes holding) huge sums of our customers money.

    We got Jason Calacanis using it for LAUNCH! Festival which had Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferris and Peter Thiel speaking at it.

    So when people would pose their reservations, I could always say 'Well Jason Calacanis is using it for LAUNCH festival' and it almost always removed any fear. Then just replicate those lighthouse customers across different verticals.

    So you could focus on getting some notable company to build a site with Versoly, then storytell the shit out of it.

    1. 1

      Wow getting Jason is huge.

      I keep putting off cold outreach to larger clients as I want the product more polished and we're getting paid customers.

      In a few months we will be able to say we host 100s of websites which should be great for building trust.

      1. 1

        If you don't want to target big customers, do a few case studies with video testimonials from smaller customers who have benefited from your service.

        Saying you host 100s of websites doesn't really mean very much and it's easy for anyone to say that. Accounts from real customers are much more relatable and credible.

  10. 1

    Great list! For features, we use Campsite. Pretty cool, check it out: https://growthchannel.kampsite.co

    1. 1

      Nice will have a look at them :)

  11. 1

    Hi Volkan,

    Interesting post and I think you guys made a great builder. I think more testimonials and more blog posts are the best options. It cost time, but unfortunately, that's always the case ;)

    Make testimonials on different website as yours, like Trustpilot or so. The most people trust it more as reviews on the own website. To quickly get more reviews, maybe give people a dicount to stimulate them?

    You can count me on for a review, I will launch my Landingspage soon. I will do it without a dicount ;)

    It could work to write a honest email to all your users. Try to be vulnerable and tell them that you want to expand the features and therefore there are more users needed. In combination with the discount, it could work. I don't know of this work, it's just an idea.

    Host your own webinars. It works insanely good, you can also do it through livestreams on Youtube. Titles like:

    • How I build a landingspage in 30 minutes.
    • How you can validate business Ideas through Versoly.
    • How improve your SEO through Versoly.
      Etc. etc.

    Maybe you can find some podcast or Youtube channels what makes sense in your niche?

    You can send me an email with a link to write a review. koenschilder (a) gmail.com

    1. 1

      Thanks for the detailed feedback.

      Yeah we need to invest more into review sites. Will have to find out how other companies encourage customers to post. Not a fan of discounts, but bonuses might be good.

      Interesting, guest posting on YT channels might work great.

  12. 1

    From a first impression, you're marketing this (ideally) to people who can't code, but the only time you say the buzzword "no code" is in the tiny font at the top. You need to stress that because people who can't code aren't going to spend very long on your site trying to "figure out" if it's best for them.

    I also think that the presentation at the top is quite a bit ... empty. Like there's no real hook or thing I can interact with immediately. If no signup is required, then leverage the hell out of that with a smooth-as-hell onboarding experience that might bring people right up to the line of conversion. I can go into more detail if you like

    1. 1

      Yeah i'm still not sure if i'm sold on the no code part. With low code Versoly is so much more powerful.

      But without code it is still one of the best solutions.

      "presentation at the top is quite a bit " please do expand.

  13. 1

    The only feedback I have to add with this is "time and consistency" will earn you trust as well.

    If we know your project is going to be around for a while then it helps with the trust factor.

    1. 1

      Yeah 100%, we have started noticing the benefits that already.

  14. 1

    Do you resell to another SAAS platform as a license. ? We could use a page builder tool for my SAAS but I cannot use your regular plans since I need it integrated in our own SAAS.

    1. 1

      Not at the moment, but we have had a large amount of interest to use in their SaaS.

      How much would you be willing to pay a year?

    2. 1

      Did you give a try https://paperbits.io?

      1. 1

        I wish the editor was better I have a lot of people who have asked for an editor they can use in their SaaS.

        Do you know anymore?

        1. 1

          What did you mean by the editor was better?

          1. 1

            Wasn't a fan of the UX of the editor.

            1. 1

              We are working on it. It is hard to provide flexibility with styles with out coding css and html. But we will do better. Our editor mostly for designers and developers who do not want to code css and html by hands, just visual editor.

              1. 1

                It's very hard to build a good editor, we're working on it everyday.

                How have tests with users went?

                Until we got real users testing it, it was "unusable".

                1. 1

                  We are in the process but our users complain mostly about functionality. We are working now on set of design blocks and themes.

  15. 1

    Feedback on landing is an awesome idea. This is great if you can open up for your non customers as well to get links and traction

    1. 1

      Yeah I did a post on IHs and got 100+ landing pages to review. Luckily I got some help and we reviewed a lot of them.

  16. 1

    1- What about two communities? One that is free, and one that you get into once you're a paying member so that you create exclusivity for paying customers.
    2- Would be great!
    5- More testimonials are definetly needed, you can count me in btw, i am republishing my site this week
    6- Yes!
    7- That could make things a lot easier if you could find an inbound marketer, writing blogs isn't a easy task for founders who's caught up in all different tasks
    9- Monthly meet ups, you can include it within your community plans
    11- Versoly def needs better designs and more blocks and templates. Only downside I've seen so far

    1. 1

      Thanks for the detailed feedback.

      1. is very interesting :)
      2. Nice!
      3. 100%
      4. Agreed it is one of our weaknesses, it is complex to build templates that are fast and easy to edit. But we're getting better everyday. I think our blog is a nice step up design wise.
  17. 1

    +1 for testimonials and showcase and testimonials that link to live websites.

    Blog posts and or videos that walk me through building a website on Versoly would also be good so I can get a feel for the product before trying it out.

    1. 2

      Good feedback, content is one of our weak points. Normally heads down in development :)

      1. 1

        Hi @volkandkaya +10 on the blog. One of the most important growth hacks for popular web builders is that they made good use of case studies and blogs. In SEO terms, this will become very worthwhile in a few months and bring you constant traffic - if you invest in it. One thing I continually see is new startups writing articles without prior research and ending up wasting efforts on content that does not bring much from search. I am happy to help you with a content strategy for free. Consider it and let me know.

  18. 1

    I would say a combination of personalized emails & content in Customer Success.

    1. 1

      Interesting, I was thinking more middle of the funnel. But you're right we need to invest more after they try and sign up.

      1. 1

        Well, content in Customer Success can be used in a few different stages of the funnel such as Interest, Consideration & Loyalty. Says it's an article or a video about the best CRO method; title ex: "Implementing AIDA using Versoly" and link this content to some best example of sites built using Versoly. This I believe will gain trust from users in multiple stages: the Interest stage (before sign up), Consideration (signed up to a free plan), as well as on Conversion (Customer Success) and Loyalty. Hope this helps. :)