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🧠 How to get more SaaS customers (Building 101 #4)

3 strategies to grow your active users and reliably increase MRR.

Hey all,

Welcome to part 4 of Building 101 🎓, this week we’re looking at how you can drive more customers to signup for your products and therefore increase your MRR.

If you didn’t catch part 3 all about building MVPs, then you can read it here. And you’re free to access any of the discussions at any time here.

This week in IdeaHub… 🗓

  1. Iterating like a startup: Learn how top startups deliver growth and how you can apply this to your own products

  2. Keeping customers engaged: Engaged customers are more likely to keep purchasing than those left alone

  3. Building in public: Success drives more success - how telling your product’s story can lead to increased growth

What I’m reading this week… 📚

  • The Lean Startup, Eric Ries (link)

    Relevant for part 1 - iterating like a startup

  • Hooked, Nir Eyal (link)

    Relevant for part 2 - keeping customers engaged

Let’s jump in… ⬇️

Learn to build software products | IdeaHub

1. Iterating like a startup

When most of us decide what to build next, we generally make assumptions based on what we think our customers want. But in reality, this can be very different to what they actually need.

The last few decades of VC-backed tech have ushered in a new way of “validated learning” that we can all apply when building our own products.

How to get your first 100 customers

The build-measure-learn framework for building products

Instead of guessing, we treat our products like science experiments. We continually talk to customers, measure how they use our products and collect data points that we can learn from to decide what to build next.

There are generally two main ways you can start putting this into practice with your own products:

Conduct customer surveys

If customers really love your product, those that get the most value from it will likely be happy to help you improve upon it.

Arrange calls with these customers every few months and ask questions like:

  1. “What’s the one feature you use every day?” - direct

  2. “Did you know about feature [X] that we just released?” - direct

  3. “What’s something you wish the product could do for you?” - indirect

  4. “Explain to me how you would do [X] using the product.” - indirect

Asking direct questions gives you instant feedback on how well your product is communicating its intentions to solve the user’s problems. (It also gives you a free upsell opportunity…😉).

Asking indirect questions helps you continue to gain a deeper understanding of your customer’s needs and if the assumptions you are making are in fact correct.

🚨 Spoiler - they’re probably not…

There’s no better feeling than coming away from a user interview with a list of features you know that, if you build, you can add revenue with a snap of your fingers!

Hint: Offer customers an Amazon gift card for participating in your surveys. This just gets them on a call - once they’re on, they are yours to experiment with…

Don't tempt me frodo

Use product analytics tools

User interviews are great, but we still need to understand how the other 90% of our customers use our products - otherwise, we’re flying blind!

With every change we make, we should also release analytics features that are designed precisely to give us instant feedback on how users are getting along with it.

The best solution for newcomers to product analytics is MixPanel. But in general, for any analytics tool, the approach will be:

  1. Integrate the platform’s SDK into your product’s code.

  2. Write code to trigger events when users visit specific pages or click certain buttons that you consider meaningful.

  3. Include customer attribution data in your tracking events.

  4. Use the platform’s analytics tools to track customer behaviour over time.

Regularly review the data you’re collecting and see if the features you worked so hard on are being used to their full potential.

Being data-driven in your decision-making is the best way to build things customers will actually pay for over the long run.

Learn to build software products | IdeaHub

2. Keeping customers engaged

Keeping customers engaged with your product from the moment they sign up is not only key to preventing them from backing out soon after (or ‘churning’) but also to improving conversion rates when it comes to upsells and add-ons you offer.

Here’s 3 things you can do to increase engagement:

Communicate with your customers

Outside of your product, the best way to achieve this is to start a newsletter. You already have your customer’s email addresses, so tell them about all the cool things you are doing!

For every product update, send out the following emails:

  1. “Here’s what’s coming soon…” (pre-release)

    Include high-quality screenshots and short-form demo videos alongside a limited-time promotional event for early adopters.

  2. “It’s live…” (immediate post-release)

    This lets customers that didn’t convert know that they missed out.

  3. “It’s not too late…” (one week later)

    If your changes were successfully adopted by some of your users, share the analytics you collected and give those that missed out a second chance to convert.

Tip: You can also host yearly online customer conferences where you discuss all the improvements coming in the next year and when customers will be able to get their hands on them.

Start applying gamification

There are also strategies you can apply inside your product to increase engagement on a daily basis.

I always refer to Todoist Karma as the best example of this. At a high-level Todoist is a task tracking tool and ‘Karma’ is a points-based system the platform uses to incentivise users to keep creating and completing tasks.

Todoist Karma is a great example of how to increase product engagement

My Todoist Karma - I’m so close to Master level!

In reality, this can be applied to any product. You decide for yourself what you want your users to optimise, whether that is ‘do more’ of something or ‘minimise’ a statistic relevant to them. Then incentivise them to do so.

It plays right into the wheelhouse of Todoist as their free plan is limited to 5 projects, so incentivising users to create more projects pushes them into a position where they feel they need to upgrade.

Leverage product psychology

The more customers feel like they can see your product evolving, the more you’re convincing them that they are buying into a platform that continues to work for them.

By including a button to manually update to the latest version of their app, Todoist again keeps customers engaged and communicates that the team is constantly at work improving the product for them.

Todoist product updates as engagement

Todoist - Manual version update engagement

This is again a strategy all of us can add to our products with minimal effort (even if the button doesn’t do anything for now other than just refresh the page! 😉).

Learn to build software products | IdeaHub

3. Building in public

Driven by modern media, there is a growing trend among almost all creative sectors that creating content documenting your journey striving towards a goal can make the effort all the more worth the while when you eventually get there.

For us builders, creating content documenting our journey in building out our products is a great way for us to get the word to the wider building community, and our customers.

Here are some of the best places to do that in the tech space:

Twitter

Examples like the one below are rife in the #buildinpublic community - not only does this create hype for your product, but as you can see an established account can use Twitter as a top growth tool:

Reddit

We all know the action is in the comments so leverage these niche communities to drive traffic to your own products.

Ask Redditors to roast your landing pages and post status updates asking for feedback.

But also post useful discussions in targeted niches where your customers are likely to hang out to try to find some more users. GummySearch is awesome for researching niche subreddits.

Take a look at this post on Reddit (link) that, while not entirely related to tech, generated 90 upvotes and 23 comments whilst getting to the top of r/Entrepeneur:

Building in public

Blogging

If socials aren’t for you, you could post on IndieHackers or Dev.to and start writing about your product journey.

Doing this for a while will naturally improve your SEO and provide all the content you need to send those all-important product updates to your customers!

While getting started creating content can seem hard going at first, it pays off in the long run - the sooner you get started the sooner that day will come.

Learn to build software products | IdeaHub

Community products! 👥

Devpages.io

This week we’re taking a look at Devpages.io - the fastest-growing directory of over 340 developer tools curated by developers, for developers.

Finally, stop asking the question “What’s the best tool for [X]” and spending ages scouring StackOverflow and Reddit - just search Devpages instead.

Devpages.io

Devpages.io - the fastest-growing developer tool directory

This is a great resource for anyone learning something new, whether you're taking your first steps on your development journey, or you're a seasoned engineer branching out into new tech.

What’s great about it is that you can easily filter by category or by technology, it includes links directly to the documentation for each tool and tells you if it’s free to use.

The founder is building this out in public over in their newsletter as well as creating content to help power up your programming productivity.

“I would recommend IdeaHub to those who are intrigued by entrepreneurship and want to build their own tech products. It’s helped me understand the full product process from idea generation, validation, building an MVP and the road to first sale.

I find the discussions really exciting and the feedback loop to apply them to my own products is invaluable.”

- Mitchell, Senior Data Engineer (and Indie Hacker…)

Learn to build software products | IdeaHub

P.S. Check out the official IdeaHub Reddit community where you can share ideas with other builders - I’m also taking applications for mods if you are interested in growing the community with me!

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