Technology makes the world a new place.
The Internet and the growing adoption of various software to bridge the time zone, geographic, and communication gaps between individuals and entities from around the world have helped to forge a workforce revolution we now know as the “gig economy.”
More and more people are choosing to work for themselves and be their own boss, which explains in part why 100 million startups are being launched each year, 1.35 million of which are tech startups.
And then, there are the below figures, which are expected to rise as the idea of job security is slowly becoming just that – an idea:
- 68% of Australians would like to be their own boss and more than half would give up booze for a month or social media for a week to do so.
- 12.2% of the Australian population is involved with a startup.
- Forbes reported that Intelligence Group studies found that 72% of millennials would like to be their own boss.
Then again, starting a business is no easy feat. If you’re seriously toying with the idea of launching a SaaS or B2B business, here are 9 things you need to know:
1. You need focus
Focus is where most startups have difficulties with.
The temptation to be everyone and to do everything can become overwhelming. It's important to zero in on the tasks you are best suited for, which means hiring the right people to help take the load off.
Keep in mind that focus is also about the need for your startup to hone in on a small niche and work on owning it to achieve the greatest potential for success. If the niche doesn’t work out, look for another one, and another one, until you find what clicks.
Having a tight focus keeps your messaging consistent, allowing you to replicate and scale faster.
2. You need strong listening skills
A problem with some startups is they think their product or service is the “next best thing,” so much so that they fail to consider if there’s even a potential market for it, or if the features they keep adding are useful.
Instead of second-guessing what they want, get feedback from customers that fit your target audience by doing phone interviews or sending out surveys. Then, let those answers guide you on building a product or service that addresses people’s pain points.
Another key is mentorship. Find people whose achievements mirror those you’d like to achieve for yourself. Pick their brains and ask what they’ve learned from their successes or failures, or if given the chance to start all over again, what they would do differently, and why.
3. Never compromise on product quality
Marketing and everything else you do to build brand awareness is useless if your product is faulty. By definition, a quality product addresses clients’ needs and expectations. Therefore, ensure that your product is useful, delivers what it promises, and solves people’s problems first.
Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham advises:
“Assume that anything you’ve made is far short of what it could be. Force yourself, as a sort of intellectual exercise, to keep thinking of improvements.”
With more and more people reading review sites and researching on social networks prior to making a purchase, unhappy customers are your worst nightmare.
4. Build a highly skilled development team
It can’t be emphasized enough – great people make organizations great. If you have a development team with solid skills, you’re in good company. But how do you assemble a world-class development team that kicks ass?
The best way to attract great developers is to allow for both creativity and efficiency which means removing rigid policies that render them less efficient or stifle their creativity. Instead, trust them and treat them the way you would want to be treated.
5. Get your pricing model right
To thrive in a B2B environment, you need a revenue model from the get-go. Offering early adopter perks, such as discounts or credits, is okay, but keep it to a minimum. The moment you hit critical mass in user engagement, you should switch to a more sustainable revenue model.
It's important to note that most startups make the mistake of pricing too low simply because they’re thrilled to have customers. Others may not want to disappoint their customer base while others are just bad at negotiating.
With the popular freemium strategy adopted by many startups, you need to realize that while it's a great way to acquire users, there are inherent risks associated which may result in increased overhead spending, negative product positioning, and overall failure.
6. Seize on word-of-mouth marketing
An early problem for most startups is the lack of a user base, so you should make it a point to build solid relationships with early adopters. Listening to their feedback and feature requests facilitates product enhancement and can help you gain more customers through word-of-mouth marketing.
Acquiring new customers is more expensive than retaining new ones, so make sure every customer you gain is satisfied with your product or service. Make them happy and keep them that way and there's a good chance they become evangelists for your business.
7. Manage content and knowledge
B2B, as opposed to B2C, typically has a longer sales cycle.
Therefore, know your value proposition – how your product or service eases people’s lives – and focus your content to support it. Furthermore, you need to make sure that everyone on your team, from customer support to marketing and sales are on the same page when positioning your business.
To make sure you're able to remove prohibitive team silos, you can use a centralized knowledge management solution like a knowledge base or a wiki.
8. Keep an eye on key metrics
“You can’t improve what you can’t measure,” a quote often attributed to Peter Drucker, is often used when talking about analytics and data-driven processes, and it’s easy to see why it holds water.
However, it's important to remember that while you can easily measure hundreds of different metrics, it's important to measure the right ones that provide real insight into the health of your business as well as its marketing efforts.
9. Service before software
More than the product you offer, making your mark in the B2B SaaS space has a lot to do with how you serve your customers. Software and service go hand in hand, and this entails hard work, the ability to listen well, and service expectations that need to be met.
Launching a B2B or SaaS startup can be exciting; for some, a dream come true. But it’s mostly a long, grueling process – a path fraught with failures. To achieve success, be willing to swallow startup reality hook, line, and sinker and ready to work your ass off for at least 24 months.
Doing startups isn’t a sprint, after all.
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