new saas product

In the Beginning [why I’m writing this]

Before I get started documenting my marketing journey for Propfire, I think it makes sense for me to explain why I’ve decided to do this and why should care about reading what I’ve got to say.

First a little background about my SaaS product – Propfire.

Propfire is a software tool to help freelancers and consultants create proposals that faster and easier to use than Google Docs or the other proposal creation tools currently on the market.

Speed and flexibility were my main reasons for creating another proposal tool in an already crowded market. I wanted a tool that would enable me (and my target market) to create custom proposals on the fly, without having to work with the kind of frustrating design editors that the existing tools have.

I wanted users to be able to focus all of their energy on creating the best content possible without having to worry about designing. Because, at the end of the day, proposals are won based on content (like deliverables, price, timing) and relationships, not on design.

Having worked as a digital consultant for many years, I personally felt the pain of creating proposals, so at the very least, I knew that I would create a tool that I could use myself to alleviate my own pain point. And of course, there were already a lot of proposal creation tools out there, so I knew that there was an existing market to tap into to and that I wasn’t the only one facing this particular pain point.

One incident really pushed me towards developing Propfire.

A friend of mine who has been doing web design and digital marketing freelance work for nearly a decade asked me to review a proposal she was going to send to a client. This was the first time I’d be seeing a proposal of hers (we just recently had met) and I assumed that it would be super polished and on target.

I was wrong.

Everything needed to be modified, from the format to the content to the actual pricing. It was bad.

What really surprised me was that my friend had been getting work for many years (which proves that relationships are much more important than proposals for getting work) without having a clue of how to write an effective, professional proposal. (Yes, I helped rewrite her entire proposal.)

 Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

The fist step to creating any product is to identify a problem that needs solving and the potential demand for your solution. Ideally, you’d want to generate a simple landing page and build a list of potential users before doing any development. The last thing you want to do is to invest a lot of money into a product that no one really wants to use.

In my case, I new that I could create a pretty good MVP by myself (you can read more about that here). Since I didn’t need to invest money in development I decided to just build the tool and then market it.

Was that a mistake?

I’m really not sure. But in my case, I think it’s what I had to do to get the project off the ground. First off, I don’t think I could have properly explained the product without actually building it. Secondly, since I’m not a professional developer, I wanted a real life project to learn how to code an app — and this one was perfect.

So I got to go through the process of building a complete, data driven, web application (html, css, javascript, php, mysql) and come out with a completed saas project to boot.

Full disclosure: I did end up spending a few hundred dollars on a freelance developer to help me set up my registration and subscription process — but hey, nothing in life is for free (right?).

Just to be clear, my development work did not end when I created my initial MVP.

Since then, about 3 months already, I’ve made some additions and changes to Propfire based on some user feedback and updated thinking, which I think greatly enhance the product and add tremendous value to it.

The development process never really ends…

Getting users

Now that I had my product, it was time to get some users.

My first step was to create a marketing website, which I did on WordPress. Since that’s part of my expertise, building the site wasn’t difficult. Choosing the right design was.

I did what every good web designer would do — I looked for other websites with designs that I liked, and copied the best parts of them.

At this time I’ve redesigned the site twice and reworked the marketing copy around a dozen times. And the process continues. Does it ever really end?

Ok, so I had a product and a marketing website — great news, but not so great if no ones using the product.

How would I get users for Propfire?

The initial Plan

Many saas founders rely on their existing network to generate their initial users. Considering that most of the people in my network are not potential customers, relying on my network for users was not an option.

That doesn’t mean that my network was totally useless. It just wasn’t right for getting Propfire users.

So I decided that I’d get my followers using these tactics:

  1. Cold email outreach
  2. Content distribution or guest posting
  3. Social Media
  4. SEO

Paid advertising was not in my initial plan for 2 reasons:

  1. I didn’t have enough of a budget
  2. I didn’t want to waste money on ads before finding some degree of product market fit. In other words, I wanted users to help me flesh out and improve the product — and most importantly, I wanted to make sure that people actually wanted to use my product.

Since I mentioned product marketing fit, it’s worth digging in to it a bit more since it’s vital to the success of any saas product.

Marc Andreessen defined the term as follows: “Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.”

Basically, product market fit means that there is demand for your particular product and that people actually find it valuable and worth using (and paying for). It’s a fancy term to describe the obvious: you need to create a product that people want to use.

Even though I knew that I had a created a good product, I needed to find out if people actually would pay to use it.

I felt that I could get enough users to get me past the initial validation stage organically.

In the next few blog posts I’ll go through each of the tactics I used (and continue to use) and tell you the pros and cons of each.

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