This is Episode 2 in our “Let’s Grow a SaaS” series.
Don’t Skip the Montage!
In the last post I gave you the overview of what this series is about. But now it’s time to get down to business.
We’re rounding out the initial research phase of our branding process. I have a love/hate relationship with this part. It’s not the most fun thing to do, it can be tedious, and a lot of the time I just want to jump into the fun stuff and skimp on this area. It’s definitely not the glamorous part of launching a successful product. This is usually where the director cues the montage so no one leaves the theatre. You don’t want to watch Rocky run up and down those steps for hours. You just want to see him at the top all tired and triumphant. Or, if you are Fedex, you could cut the montage entirely—I love this ad campaign, by the way.
But the montage is the most important part of the process. And good research is the beginning of that montage and the foundation that you are building everything on.
What You Get From Research
Let’s face it, everything in business involves some degree of risk and there are no guarantees. But good business owners will do everything that they can to mitigate those risks. Good research will:
- Help you find and focus on your ideal customer.
- Give you insights into what your customer cares about and what their problems are.
- Help you determine if you’re trying to solve a problem that your customer would actually pay to make go away, or if it’s just in your mind and in reality, no one else cares that much.
- Tell you what kind of competition you will be facing.
- Reveal many of your potential obstacles.
- Help you find a marketable price point and give you an idea of how profitable you might be (or might not be).
Living on a Prayer
And now you’ve got Bon Jovi in your head. You’re welcome.
Launching blindly and praying for success is, unfortunately, the more common approach. We’re addicted to instant gratification and tend to be allergic to doing the hard things. But it’s a lot riskier to operate this way and there’s no way to repeat it next time, so don’t count on it for long term success. The “throw something at the wall and see what sticks” method has its place—but we call it “testing” not strategy, and it should be treated as part of your on-going research.
Doing the Work
There’s a metric ton of tools and “how to” articles online about how to do research and tools that can help you, so I’m not going to get into too much detail here. But I will talk about some of the key things that we looked at for this project.
Even if we are already familiar with a client/market/or project, we will still make it a point to write down the obvious things. If anything, it helps to make sure everyone is on the same page and will often uncover minute details that would have otherwise been overlooked.
Consider Your Starting Point
You need to know where you are if you want to plan a route to your destination. Since our client’s app is technically already on the market, it would be a waste not to use that data. We looked at:
- Current marketing and success: This will tell you if you need to pivot, push, or put down. Pivoting- making small adjustments to things that are somewhat working or have good potential. Pushing- add fuel to a fire when something is already succeeding. Put down- well, this would be to take it out back and put it out of everyone’s misery. This one can be painful sometimes, but it’s often necessary for growth. The goal here is not to re-invent the wheel with your marketing, just make sure it’s rolling in the right direction.
- Current paying customers: Already having paying customers is a HUGE step forward in validating your idea. Business ideas are a dime a dozen—I had 3 before I finished my first cup of coffee this morning—but ideas that customers are willing to pay for are worth significantly more.
- Customer acquisition costs, profit margins, and current expenses: I’ve mentioned before that we look at the bigger picture first, this is a good example of where this is beneficial. By knowing their financials, we can make sure we are providing a good value to them while also helping to find creative ways to increase their overall profits. If you want to dig into that topic a little more, here’s an article that I published on the subject a few months ago. Knowing these numbers also helps you find a starting place for your marketing budgets.
Think About Who Your Ideal Customer Is.
Assuming that you are making things human people to buy, it’s wise to find out as much as you can about your ideal human person. Not just so you can sell to them, but also so you can make sure that what you make is something they truly want/need. Audience Ops just published a great “how-to” article on this topic.
Some things we considered and still looking into are:
- What business will benefit from our app? Who is the person that makes the buying decisions in that business? What are their motivations for buying our type of product? Your answers will impact how you approach everything in your business, not just design and marketing.
- What problems does our customer have that our app solves? What are their pain points? What potential reasons would they have for not buying our app?
- Where do they spend their time? This will help us get in front of them so they can actually see our product.
Is The End-User Different from the Customer?
Cartoons are a good example of this type of scenario. The end-user was traditionally a child, but children don’t have money. You need to appeal to their parents because they are the actual customers (remember, the customer holds the money.) Pixar has mastered this scenario over the last 15 or so years by making cartoons that kids love but have enough “adult-ness” that their parents like them too. Or at least, can sit through a 2-hour feature without going mad.
By solving problems for your end-users, you are also solving problems for your customers. For us, the end-users are the teachers and parents, but the customer is actually the school. If you’re in the same boat, then you need to go through the previous questions again and focus on your end-user.
Who is your competition?
How are you setting yourself apart from them? Is it just your price point or are there other benefits for them to choose your product? Don’t try to compete solely on price, you can’t. Instead, compete on value. In the race to the bottom, there are no winners.
Competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it means that there is a market for your product. But you need to be aware of the other guys, learn from their mistakes, and differentiate yourself.
Plan for Obstacles
Are there any potential problems that you might need to prepare for? They could be technical inabilities, not having enough money or time for r&d, or gatekeepers to your customers (like Apple’s app store).
Play the Long Game
Creating something that lasts doesn’t happen over night. It takes time, it takes work, and you have to be willing to hustle. But doing the hard things now, before you’ve already invested a lot in a particular direction, is so much easier than having to backtrack and start over later on.
Take you time.
Do the work.
You can thank me later 😉