I've been so product-focused that I lost sight of sales. Now I can't afford product development even though we are rich with opportunity. I'm failing at the balancing act. My SaaS product needs attention as do my customers and users. But it leaves me very little time for sales. I'm sure this is a common problem but I'm not sure how to best address it. It's so problematic in fact that my developer is frustrated with the on-again-off-again nature of building this project out. I'm bootstrapping, and the little sales we do have goes right back into development. I can't say I'm a business developer, nor a sales guy, but I get out there and pitch a product I've been building with love for years so I've been able to last a few years. The product keeps getting better and better, and the feedback from customers and users has been wonderful. It's just me and a developer for hire (who also does love the project, but hasn't been interested in equity just yet). I feel this could be more, but don't know how to bridge the gap.
I would start with some growth hacks to increase your sales without raising your costs that much.
1. Social media - provide valuable content related to your SAAS and the industry it targets. Build traction by showing case studies, customer reviews, how customers use your product and how it saves them time & their sanity.
2. Referrals - if you have happy customers who love your product you could create and easy referral program offering your happy customers an incentive for sharing your product. Make this very easy like 1-2 clicks. All the biggest SAAS companies have used this tactic to scale their users rapidly.
3. Create Content - Create valuable content on your website that will laser target your client base in the search engines for the problems they have, and how you can solve them. Along the same lines of the social media content creation... Case studies, how users use your product, videos, reviews, tips & tricks, etc.
I would set aside at least 30 minutes per day and focus on this. Ideally more time will increase sales. But the key is consistency.
I have lots of other ideas how to help here so if you need my help along the way Im just one call away.
If you want to stay bootstrapped, your only source of financing is sales, and only sales. As much as you have to be focused on developing a product of value, you have to consistently be able to feed revenue into the business. Without sales, you're finished. If you can't afford a sales rep, you should wear the sales hat full-time until you scale enough for you to hire a dedicated sales rep. I would consider offering equity to the developer so he's more committed and invested. This requires another form of sales - not to your customers, but to your team members and employees. As a founder, you're always doing sales from every angle.
I think this a great problem you are having!
So first thing first, congratulations on making it thus far!
I understand your frustration. The solution, however is fairly simple. Focus on what matters.
"What matters" does not have a universal answer but a specific one. In you case, I'd start by asking these questions to calibrate your position...
1) What is the return/repurchase/churn of your existing customers?
2) How do new customers find you, from which channels? How do they make the final decision to buy?
3) How dependent are you on the income from this project?
4) Where do you want to carry this thing? In other words, your vision?
5)What is the most important factor in the success of your business?
Instinctively, I would advise with the following approach, but its best to ask more Q's about the business so as not to give a wrong advice. But here it goes:
You can always create better products & keep building as long as you have customers who want to buy; but if you don't have any customers who have a demand for you product, you have zero revenue and no business.
Hi, my name is Janis and I have gone through the situation that you are currently in and I would like to share some of my experience with you to provide you some initial guidance.
First, you need change the way you think about your company. From what I hear, you are reinvesting everything in the product development without having a sound business model. It should be clear that software development is really a never-ending story, so, rather than continuing on focusing on the technical side, you should start with the business side.
This, of course, means that you need to start from scratch. Start by identifying what problem you are solving and for whom. From there on, you should be looking for those, who are your immediate customers - whom you can sell with pretty much a single call. Provided, that you do not have a budget, you should be doing sales calls yourself in the beginning - with each and every sales call, you will either close a new customer or, more importantly, learn why they would not buy. Collect the reasons for not-buying and see what it takes to address those.
Then, depending on the budget required to address the obstacles and given the total addressable market size, it should be a good indication if you should be continuing your business development or no and in what direction.
I am here to help you, if you would like to get more hints and tips to build a sound business strategy and succeed in your business.
One has to do what is good for. If you say you are so product-focused but lost sight of sales, means that you better continue with your product development orientation. The business continuation would be with 3 options:
- find an independent sales guy with similar range of products. Sign a good product protective contract and leave him/her to do the sales job on a commission basis.
- get somebody who is close to you - from the family or friend, share the idea and help him/ her to start sales. As you say "feedback from customers and users has been wonderful", it would not be a problem to start sales activities with low profile and low budget.
- just find a good sales oriented company, with similar types of products. Share your idea / product and with good protective contract, become their product developer, as employee and let them take care for sales.
all the best