One of the major challenges facing most startups is planning on how to gain traction especially with their early set of clients. How can startups locate their customers? How can they get customers to appreciate the value of their service? What is the perfect way to create awareness on a minimal budget? Without a doubt, these are the issues just about every startup owner asks.
It is not that straightforward and there is no silver bullet to getting your first significant number of customers. However, here are some simple tips SaaS startups can employ to snag their first 1000 clients and keep the business growing to the founders’ expectation.
Know your ideal customers and craft a persuasive value proposition
Being a startup owner, do you really know your real customers? Do you know where they hang out? What words do they usually use to express their problems and preferred outcomes? Specifically, how do they expect to benefit from your service?
Depending on the qualitative data you collect from these questions, the next step is to develop a unique and compelling value proposition which fits your product in a language that your prospects can identify with. A good value proposition will accomplish the following tasks:
- Defines who your ideal client is
- Outlines what your product/service does
- Shows why you are unique
- Demonstrates the end benefit
In short, it means, to attract customers you have to clearly show them why they should trust your service/product. Now, once you have made that establishment, the challenge becomes getting your services/product in front of your ideal clients.
Marketing and distribution channels
These are channels which mostly focus on customer acquisition. They are where you advantageously choose to place your product/service to attract leads. The secret to marketing and distribution channels is that many startups only utilize a few – and there are thousands of them. They pick the ones they are well familiar with and ignore the rest, which is not very advisable. Here are some channels that startups should consider in their customer acquisition process.
- Give your SaaS product for free – This method is very popular because the feedback obtained from beta users is extremely valuable. For instance, when Slack publicized their limited release in 2013 they invited businesses to take part in the beta release. Slack took advantage of this, and in the first 24 hours more than 8000 businesses had signed up. In short, once you have attracted beta users, you can give them a discount to buy when your product launches.
- Viral marketing – encouraging customers to refer other customers
- Traditional media outlets (radio, TV, print,)
- Social media marketing – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,
- SEO/Inbound marketing
- Strategic partnerships with other companies – When startups and established companies have mutual ambitions, startups can be guided to the market very fast.
- Community building
These are a few of the many marketing methods any SaaS startup can use. However, it’s advisable to come up with at least a single idea on how you can utilize each method to achieve your objective. Rank your ideas based on the method that you deem most promising. For instance, which channel is likely to yield 1000 users in the first three months after launch? Pick 3-5 methods that appear most promising. Test them and focus on the most ideal.
Agreements are essential to scaling up your SaaS startup
Paperwork is a necessary evil, especially for startups. Startups must have legal documents to file incorporation papers, lease documents for their office space, documents to hire their first workforce… and the list goes on. However, besides these typical documents used almost by every standard business, SaaS startups come across other kinds of agreements and contracts in their day-to-day operations. Usually, these are documents signed between a SaaS supplier and a SaaS customer that lays out the terms under which a SaaS product or software can be accessed.
It is so agonizing to imagine the extent to which, lack of these documents can hinder your productivity – particularly when it comes to dealing with your customers. The good thing is that, nowadays, businesses need not send and have contracts and agreements signed manually, whereas there is an alternative of utilizing the expediency of electronic signatures. After all, what innovative business still handles paperwork like they are living in the early days?
As a startup owner, when you sign up with an E-signature solution provider, you can have access to these and more document templates, making it even more convenient for you. Some of the core partnership agreements that SaaS startups must be aware of when executing their day-to-day operations include:
- SaaS partnership agreement – As a startup, partners can play a big role in terms of intensifying your reach and message and expanding your addressable market. Therefore, having conformity on how this partnership will bring a win-win relationship with its partners is very vital for any startup.
- SaaS Service Level agreement (SLA) – A SLA is part of the SaaS agreement and contains details about the accessibility of the SaaS software itself and any related support and maintenance services of the software.
- Channel partner agreement – This is an agreement that is signed between a SaaS vendor and a company that sells products or provides services on behalf of the vendor. Managed service providers, system integrators, Value-added resellers, and distributors are all channel partners.
- SaaS reseller partner agreement – This is an agreement under which a SaaS vendor grants to another business the rights to enter into an agreement with third parties (customers) to provide services related to the software.
- SaaS referral partner agreement – This is an agreement between a SaaS company and another business that aims to refer potential clients to purchase the SaaS software, in exchange for some kind of reward for the referral.
- SaaS OEM agreement – These agreements are meant for a situation where the SaaS software needs to be re-branded for the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) company.
- Profit sharing agreement – Used when a SaaS vendor has hired a company to market a service or product for them.
- Agency agreement template – SaaS startups use this agreement to hire an agent to market or sell their products or services.
- NDA – Before a SaaS agreement is agreed with a customer a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) form need to be signed. This is because SaaS suppliers are usually required to give sensitive information about their software functionality and prices as part of the tendering or sale process.
- Copyright license agreement – SaaS companies, can use this agreement to authorize others to use their intellectual property.
These types of agreements, as you might have noticed, are very crucial to the success of any SaaS startup, especially when it comes to the customer acquisition process. These agreement templates can be easily accessed from most of the e signature service providers. For instance, templates from eSign Genie (a leading e-signature solution) can be easily modified to fit your organization´s needs and help you automate your signature process using online forms and API. Contact renewal workflow notifies you before contract expiration and keeps you ahead of the curve in maximizing the renewals.
Every year thousands of SaaS startups enter the global market. Regardless of if you are a VC-backed enterprise or a self-funded startup, most startups encounter the same issue at the very start; How to get their first clients, first 100 and first 1,000 customers. It may look arduous, but it is easily achievable if you utilize some of the above-proven tricks. Always know that you can make it happen!