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Top 5 successes and failures from our SaaS product launch

12/06/2022 - written by: Chris Beck

Our top 5 SaaS product launch successes…

1. We achieved double-digit sign-ups and paying customers

We launched Scale8 hoping for feedback on the product from the startup community. It was anticipated that we’d need to target the right audience and perhaps reach out directly to the first 10-20 customers.

It was unexpected to have so many new customers installing and trying out Scale8 in the first few hours after launching.

We believe that our decision to streamline and simplify the signup process and also removing the requirement to enter credit card information helped attract more signups.

2. Nearly 200 GitHub stars on our project

With our sales website linked rather than our GitHub page we were absolutely blown away by the number of people ‘starring’ our project. This was something we had planned to focus on much later in the year. Launch for us was all about the cloud offering that had finally moved out of private beta. The open-source code for our project had been on GitHub for 10 months prior to this announcement and only had a few stars.

GitHub stars
View on GitHub

3. Managed to feature on both Indie Hackers and Product Hunt

Prior to launch we spent some time trying to work out how to let the world know what we’d built. From our research there were only a handful of websites to submit Scale8.

  • Indie Hackers
    • We had already been members for a while and love the community they have created. It is a great source of information to anyone trying to bootstrap and launch a product.
  • Product Hunt
    • It is a fantastic platform for discovering new projects, but we’d largely expected to be buried quite quickly due to the number of projects submitted each day. Remaining on the homepage was our biggest surprise, although it did drive far less traffic than we’d thought it would.
  • Hacker News
    • A very well known and notoriously difficult website to get listed on. We honestly didn't expect our launch to get picked up (and it didn't!). We read some of the tips and tricks, but there just wasn't enough interest, and it was buried quite quickly.

4. Valuable feedback

It was obviously one of our goals to get feedback on our product, but we honestly didn't expect to get as much as we did. This was one of our biggest wins and has given us the confidence that we are building the right thing.

5. Product validation

A major concern was we’d be buried, nobody would check Scale8 out, and we'd have little feedback to work with. All the people who emailed us, wanted to partner with us, starred our project on GitHub and signed up for Scale8 have been an incredible help in validating our idea.

Our top 5 SaaS product launch failures…

1. Failed to gain followers on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social platforms

We failed to link our Twitter and LinkedIn in a prominent place (“Follow us on…”). Furthermore, we didn't build anticipation for our launch or create a customer following prior to it. This has left us with no way to keep all those visitors engaged with our product updates.

2. We took too long to launch Scale8

Our product has been ready since late last year, and we’ve been heavily prioritizing bug fixing (even the smallest of bugs!) rather than launching sooner. Also in hindsight we should have launched our analytics offering before the tag manager. We could have built and launched that in just a few months. Instead, we choose to start with the tag manager not fully appreciating how that would impact our release schedule. Launching earlier could have enabled our customer base and open-source community to help better shape our offering rather than second guess their requirements.

3. Prepare a launch strategy

This could be perhaps our biggest failure as a launch strategy is absolutely key to making sure you maximize that time window when your product is temporarily in view.

In our heads we would have months to tweak and change things, speak to our network, reach out to friends and old colleagues and grow our following. In reality, we had thousands of eyes on our sales website and didn't fully capitalize on it. We winged it and hoped for the best, and now we’ve got a slightly more challenging task ahead of us.

4. Put too much trust in our assumptions

Before even writing a single line of code we spent months doing market research. While we managed to paint a picture of the current landscape and identify opportunities we didn't speak to enough potential customers before starting the project.

While the feedback we had was incredibly positive, and we know site owners have enjoyed using the product thus far, we are now left with a few small pivots in the way we price and offer Scale8. Thankfully there are no major changes required to the project or architecture.

5. Find someone to work with us on marketing sooner

We are now a team of three, but we started the project as just two developers. Neither of us (developers) had ever marketed a SaaS platform before despite building a few of them over the years. Our plan was simple, build -> launch -> market. In reality, marketing Scale8 should have started in parallel with the build.

A landing page with ways to subscribe to our mailing list, Twitter account and LinkedIn page would have been hugely beneficial. We should have been trying to find our first customers earlier on and kept them engaged with the build.

Conclusion

Overall we had some accidental success that has been driven by obsessing over creating a great product with clear demand. There are many things we’d do differently, not just address our top 5 that are listed above.

We’ll be sharing our startup journey on Twitter and LinkedIn, so if you’d like to follow along and help us address our first failure in the list, please follow us. We’ll be sharing everything from our marketing journey to customer & MRR goals being achieved. Our end-goal is to create a blueprint for successfully launching a bootstrapped SaaS platform.

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