11th May 2021
What is SaaS? Nine things you should know about Software as a Service
Validating your SaaS idea is a key part of the development process – the research you do at this stage will continue to pay off should you find yourself with a workable concept.
We’ve complied some helpful tools for you to use along the way. You may not find all of them relevant to your particular project, but hopefully you’ll find something to save yourself some time. As SaaS founders ourselves, we here at Angle have extensive experience with many of these platforms, so you can best believe we’ll be pointing you in the right direction…
The first stages of idea validation will have you researching your target market, potential competitors, and customer queries. Your best bet is to track down online communities where your target audience is airing grievances, collaborating, or simply engaging with a pre-existing niche that you’re looking to exploit.
Twitter hashtags and Facebook groups are an obvious starting point, but be mindful not to waste too much time here as you’ll likely get just a surface-level impression of your chosen demographic.
It’s likely that the real questions are being asked in more specific communities, which will likely be referenced or linked-to as part of the broader conversation. Keep a record of these whenever they come up, and save your deep-dive for these more specialist forums and messaging boards.
Easily dismissed as nothing more than a giant meme-sharing platform, Reddit‘s eclectic front page hides a wealth of highly-engaged online communities on almost any given topic. You’ll find ‘subreddits’ dedicated exclusively to an industry-leading competitor, providing you with a genuine repository of users’ engagement with pre-established players – and their potential shortcomings.
Reddit can prove daunting for the uninitiated however, so start by browsing r/startups and r/SaaS to get a hang for how the site works. Here you should find lots of general pointers from fellow start-up founders, as well as a receptive audience for bouncing ideas around.
Similarly to Reddit, Quora is a great place to find an engaged community who are keen to chip in with their two cents. Again, this platform covers everything and anything – so hone your search terms for the best results, and consider the different ways in which you may frame the same question to cast as wide a net as possible.
Catering specifically to start-up founders, IdeasWatch is a great place to learn from the experience of others. See what kinds of questions people are asking of themselves and their project, and ask yourself how they might be relevant to your own ambitions. Of course, it’s unlikely that anyone will be giving away too many tricks of the trade to would-be competitors, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will be acting in bad-faith either…
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) may not be your first priority during the validation stage, but as your business grows it will become increasingly important as you fight it out in the Google search rankings.
For now, it’s worth taking the time to do some digging on any and all keywords you can think of associated with your product – doing so will help you better understand how your audience might come to your landing page and eventually become converted leads.
Google Trends and Semrush are user-friendly, giving easily-digestible results as well as suggesting adjacent keywords for you to expand your search. Google Keyword Planner is slightly more involved, as it ties in with your Google Ads profile and is designed for users to bid on ad placements. This is perhaps one step ahead of where you are currently, but getting set up early and familiarised with the process could prove useful down the line.
Now it’s time to use the data you’ve collected on your audience, competitors and keywords to gain better insights as to where your product-market fit might be…
Into the realm of ‘opposition research’; Crunchbase will allow you to find out more about your competitors and their corporate history, from investors and funding to staff and acquisitions. As a paid service, you’ll probably want to make the most of your free trial – so it’s probably one to circle back to once you’ve got a good grasp of what your market and competitors look like.
For a more advanced market research tool, Brand24 can track mentions of both you and your competitors across social media. Crawling Twitter threads and Facebook groups can be time consuming, so if you’re looking to gather that data quickly and efficiently consider at least running the free trial here to condense a vast social media landscape into a more manageable and concise reporting structure.
Typeform is a great tool to have in your back pocket throughout your SaaS journey – as you can generate bespoke, mobile-friendly questionnaires with just a few clicks. In the validation stage, you’ll be able to collect data and feedback from potential users quickly and easily without shelling out for a more involved feature set.
With all of the information coming in at your idea validation stage, you’ll be looking for a way to quickly and intuitively compile information and ideas – even if they’re only half-formed or ‘what-ifs’.
Visual mapping software like Mindmeister could help you collate your ideas and research better than an awkwardly-formatted word doc or excel sheet, and is more presentable on a shared-screen zoom call than other options should that come in handy.
If your initial market research has yielded promising results, then you may want to consider setting up a landing page. This doesn’t have to be a resource-intensive exercise – it will simply be a place to direct prospective clients and showcase your idea. Initially, it will do little more than collect email signups and describe your ambitions driving the development of your product. There are a number of tools out there that will build you a cheap and cheerful landing page –
Unbounce offers a free trail, and as a paid service it is an industry leader, with lots of flexibility. However, there are also options that are completely free, and if you only need the bare minimum to get your idea validated, this is somewhere you could save yourself some money.
For a more ‘bootstrapped’ option, Site123 builds simple and free-to-use landing pages with some nice UX features. Remember – your landing page can simply be an About Us page with some simple imagery and a Call To Action for potential users to register their interest.
Invision is another free-to-use SaaS product focused on enabling you to design your look and brand. Coupled with some of the other suggestions on this page, this can help you test out your brand and UI designs without having to fork out for a freelancer – especially if you’re already creatively minded.
If you’re building up a head of steam, Profitwell can help you optimise your revenue streams, convert users from free trials, and offer related analytics tools. You may not find a use for all of its features straight away, especially if you’re still validating, but it may be useful to get yourself set up for your next steps if you find yourself gaining momentum from the get-go.
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