March 21, 2022
Writing

How to Get Your First 100 SaaS Customers In 5 Easy Steps

What I learned as a SaaS copywriter building and scaling products for solo founders and startups.

This post was first published on The StartUp - A medium publication

Did you just launch your product and you’re finding it difficult to find your first 100 customers?

Or perhaps, you were lucky and did find your first 100 customers but your churn rates went incredibly high after that?

Tick tock — and every second of every single day there’s a “new founder” somewhere with a “mind-blowing” idea to revolutionize the SaaS market.

Well, that’s awesome I must say.

Everyone wants a piece of the 123 billion U.S dollars pie sitting on the SaaS industry’s dining table. Everyone with their forks, knives, and spoons — all trying to get some. I want some — that’s why I’m a SaaS copywriter.

You want some — that’s why this article piqued your interest.

And the whole existence of SaaS is to solve world problems — well not exactly like the avengers’ style, but with software. Hence, Software as A Service.

You name any problem in SaaS — and I’ll bet you 100 quid there’s a solution somewhere, either popular enough for you to find or perhaps lurking in the shadows — only if you look hard enough.

But hey, do any of us really want to endlessly scour the internet for hours just to find a single solution?

Humm, I’d think NO!

Well, that’s the problem SaaS startups face. They’ve got a great product, but getting customers is a big hassle for them.

Using the lingo, it’s called Customer Acquisition and it looks like this 👇.

Image via 123Reg Blog

Now looking at that, you see it’s a lot of stages before the actual purchase.

And also, any fall-off before the purchase means you didn’t convert. So, what that means is, if your leads and prospects are not turning to customers, you’ve got a problem. Wonder why that’s a problem?

Well, for starters, every day, about 100 different SaaS products are being launched on Product Hunt — alone.

That’s a lot!

And that’s just one of many — there are others like Angelist, Hacker News, The Startup Pitch, Launching Next, Feed My App, Beta Bound, etc.

Your leads have lots of options to choose from when it comes to SaaS products, but what many new founders failed to realize is:

For your product to stand out, you need to have identified a Unique Value Proposition (UVP).

At every stage you interact with a customer, there should be a common driving factor that makes your product stand out.

And that is your Unique Value Proposition (UVP).

With this, you’re telling your audience that you’ve identified a problem they’re facing, and now you have a solution.

Quoting Peep Laja of CXL while talking about How to Create A Unique Value Proposition:

“A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. It’s the primary reason a prospect should buy from you.

It’s also the #1 thing that determines whether people will bother reading more about your product or hit the back button. On your site, your value proposition is the main thing you need to test — if you get it right, it will be a huge boost.”

This is your key to winning the hearts of potential customers.

Include it everywhere and anywhere you get the chance to showcase your product.

  • Pricing Page
  • Homepage
  • Facebook Ads
  • Emails… etc.

Everywhere you know your potential customers will be looking at — put it there.

Take these big guys in the industry for example:

Hunter.io makes good use of their UVP by promising to help you “find professional email addresses in seconds”.

Zoom aims to redefine what it means to have meetings — “Engage new audiences, elevate customer experiences, and get more done together with our all-in-one communications platform”.

Duolingo makes learning any language you want for free — “Learn a language for free. Forever”.

Back to you the new founder — you’re probably wondering, how do I do this?

Well, here is how.

When you’re communicating the unique value proposition of your SaaS product, have it at the back of your mind that it’s not about how fantastic your product is.

Instead, consider how it makes their lives easier and better in the most convenient way possible.

At first, I didn’t quite understand the practical importance of the unique value proposition until I read Growth Marketing by Julian Shapiro (@julian on Twitter) — worth the read if you’re interested.

One thing I picked up was what he called the “The Growth Funnel”.

He broke this down into 5 stages:

Then went ahead to define it like this:

“This is the journey a customer takes through their experience interacting with your company: you acquire them as a lead, you convert them into a customer, then you keep them engaged to maximize their lifetime revenue. Finally, you compel them to refer others to generate even more leads.”

Here’s the fun part they won’t tell you as a new founder.

For you to get your first 100 SaaS customers, you need to have a growth funnel — but you can’t have a growth funnel without first identifying the unique value proposition of your product.

The value your product provides and promises to your potential customer is what can either make or break you.

As a SaaS copywriter for a couple of years now, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with a good amount of SaaS products.

And I’ve come to see why some founders succeed with their product, and some don’t — no matter how fascinating their products were.

Just like every SaaS copywriter in the industry, before taking on a project, you get a walk around on how the product works.

Also, their preferred ideal customer profile, buyer persona, and all sorts.

After being in loads of meetings with lots of these new founders, I noticed a common thing that later turned into a big problem.

New founders understand their products best and expect their customers should do the same

This is a big red flag and it’s the biggest mistake any new founder can make.

As much as all the technical jargon makes sense to you, your average user out there doesn’t care about it.

Instead, your first step to bridge the gap between you and potential customers is by creating a buyer persona.

And that’s the first step.

1. Create A Buyer Persona

Having a mental image of your preferred customer is what I recommend all new founders to have before even developing a product.

A buyer persona in this case is you picturing who you’d be comfortable sitting across with, listening to their problems, and showing how you can help.

Take, for instance, let’s say you have a product in mind — an Instagram hashtag analytics tool.

For this, you have lots of ideal markets —

  • Content creators looking to expand their reach and visibility.
  • Real estate companies hoping to market their brands to customers looking for good homes
  • New fashion brands releasing different modern styles to catch the eye of their targeted audience etc.

But here, let’s go for content creators.

The problem in the market: Instagram content creators complain of how difficult and time-consuming it is to find the perfect hashtags for their posts.

Solution: They need a tool that provides befitting hashtags for each of their posts to increase their reach and engagement.

Simpler terms, organic increase in visibility, reach, and engagement on Instagram.

Here’s how your buyer’s persona would look like on paper:

Here’s how you interpret it in person to make it relatable:

*For a demo, you can have a friend or colleague stand/sit with or across you so it’s more of a conversation… Trust me, it helps*

  • Hi everyone, meet Janet McCarlson.
  • She’s a Model and Hair Stylist.
  • When she’s not busy at work, she likes taking photos of street fashion and posting on Instagram.
  • Janet wants to be a full-time Instagram content creator and influencer in the fashion niche.
  • She follows some of the popular influencers in the niche and wishes to be like them someday.
  • Even with her busy schedule, she tries uploading content at least 3 times a week.
  • After a while, she noticed that she wasn’t getting enough engagement on her content.
  • But no matter what she tried — whether it’s using hashtags, asking for shout-outs, or joining follows trains, none was working for her.
  • One day she was looking up ways which she could use to improve her engagement and found an Instagram hashtag analytics tool.
  • The tool promises to help increase her engagement, visibility, and reach by giving her proper hashtags for each of her posts.
  • At first, she wasn’t sure the tool would help because she felt she had tried everything.
  • But then she went through their content and felt they understood her problem.
  • Janet signed up for the free one-month trial.
  • After a week of using <product name>, her engagements increased by 75.4%.
  • By the end of the trial, she had increased her overall reach, engagement, and visibility by 432%.
  • Now Janet loves <your product name>, confident about it, and is willing to pay for it because it solves her problem.

Now, you might want to spice it up a little depending on your preference but you get the idea I’m driving at…

Nonetheless, by creating and interpreting your buyer persona this way, you are a step closer to understanding how potential customers interact with your product.

With this, you can move to the next step of creating a clear customer journey roadmap.

2. Create An Effective Customer Journey Roadmap

If there’s one thing copywriting has taught me, it’s how to communicate effectively in the most basic human way possible.

However, most of these new founders don’t understand that aspect of “effective communication”.

At least not to the level that’s helpful.

And this is not their fault — rather, it’s due to how they’ve worked so much on and with their product to the extent where they know everything it does to the smallest bits.

Or to rephrase, they feel they know how it should help people based on their understanding — which is good.

But then, your potential customers don’t understand what your product does and why it’s important to them.

Before working with clients, I ask them if they have a customer journey roadmap.

Well, not most understand how it should be — or rather, how they should do it.

But here’s how I define it:

“Customer experience roadmap is the interaction a potential customer has with the product at every level of the customer’s journey to understand the unique value proposition it offers”.

According to Kasey Panetta of Gartner in an article on How to create an effective customer journey roadmap, “Eighty-two percent of organizations have created a customer journey map, but only 47% are using those maps effectively.”

With such low numbers, you should get an idea of why so many SaaS companies are struggling.

As a result, creating a customer journey roadmap gets your foot in the door without your prospects slamming it on your face before you get the chance to talk.

How to Create A Customer Journey Roadmap

In creating your customer journey roadmap, look at it as a detailed breakdown of your customer acquisition funnel.

Well, that’s what it is.

Typically, the journey of a customer is divided into 5 different stages namely: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention, and Advocacy.

Here’s a simple process to help you out:

  • Talk to your customers
  • Understand their needs
  • Map out their journey according to your buyer persona
  • Align your goals with your customers’ journey
  • Set up improvements plans
  • Set milestones and use quantitative metrics to measure your results

When you piece it all together, you should have a framework that tackles the stages of customer acquisition.

Here’s an example:

Customer journey, and customer experience map

With a careful look at this roadmap, you’d notice how content is one of the key driving factors at each stage of the customer journey.

And Personally, content marketing and copywriting are one of the most effective ways I’ve found of converting leads to prospects and finally customers.

You probably might say I’m biased with that, but take a look at these stats 👇

In a recent survey that Alina Petrova of Semrush conducted, 1,500 marketers from different countries analyzed 17,000 content marketing positions from 2019 to 2020 and they discovered some amazing results.

  • Over 80% preferred producing blog posts.

  • Companies are prioritizing content creation with an increase from 53% to 81% in content writing outsourcing.

  • 69% of content created is for Top of the Funnel (ToFU), which implies that attracting traffic and generating quality leads is their primary goal.

  • Also, more companies are spending more on content marketing than they usually do.

Quoting Alina —

“Businesses are increasing their content marketing budgets. In order to achieve their content marketing goals, organizations are increasing their spending across the board — and expect to continue to do so in 2021. As an indicator, 47% of the respondents now spend more than $10k on their annual content marketing output, compared to just 38% in 2019.”

Back to it, you see it’s just facts over feelings at this point.

With content marketing and copywriting in place, you’re able to pass your message directly to your ideal customer and answer all questions they might have.

As a potential customer looking for what products are on the market to solve my problems — the copy you have on your website is a deal-breaker.

It’s what determines if you’ll convert your leads or not.

But don’t take it from me, — take it from Garrett Hughes of Unbounce on how they’ve captured 1 billion conversions:

“One way lots of us make up for the difficulties of optimization is by getting better at other aspects of marketing. We employ best practices — tactics for writing conversion-focused copy, or placing calls to action at just the right spot.”

Garrett even goes further to confirm this:

We’ve verified that your landing page copy is twice as important to conversion rates as your design. (That doesn’t mean the design isn’t crucial, too, but you’ll wanna make sure your copy is especially persuasive.)

This gives you an insight into where your priorities should be. It doesn’t mean having a good design is bad, but having a crappy copy can’t be excused — unlike a crappy design.

But keep in mind, while writing your copy, your message doesn’t have to be complicated in any way.

Keep your copy simple and free of technical jargon.

Yeah, these guys get it

Personally, when working with clients, I’ve found the AIDCA technique to be the best for writing copy.

It’s more like the AIDA technique — but with a little addition.

If you’ve read this far, then it worked on you.

Here’s is how it looks:

A — Attention: Grab potential customers’ attention to the product.

I — Interest: Make them interested in what you have to offer by proffering a solution to their problems.

D — Desire: Show them why your product is “better for them” than the competitor’s product.

C — Confidence: Create a sense of confidence in your product as people won’t buy what they don’t trust.

A — Action: Make them take an action right now — free trials, newsletters sign-ups, demos are a good start before they purchase.

With this technique, you can easily move your leads to prospects and finally customers.

Now, this will only work after you’ve identified your ideal buyer persona — and then, created a clear customer journey roadmap.

With all these in place, your message becomes clearer and easy to digest to take it to the next step.

3. Start Promoting…

Not a lot of new founders in SaaS understand the process of entering the market.

For some, they neglect the earlier steps and go right into promoting their products without having a good customer journey map.

As a new founder in the SaaS market, what you should understand is people are only after solutions.

That’s all — nothing else.

And with that, you only get customers if you provide working solutions, not with ads on Facebook or Google ads.

Now, using your customer journey roadmap, you should know where your customers hang out — and that’s where your promotion should take place.

When you think about it, it makes just so much sense to talk to people who will listen to you — rather than convincing those who wouldn’t.

In promoting your product, you can either use a free or paid form of advertising.

If you’re going to use the free method of advertising — forms such, content marketing and cold email outreach works well, but it takes a lot of time.

However, I’d recommend using a paid form of advertising on the platform(s) your potential customers are most active on.

Paid advertising — if done well — helps you get the traction you want quicker and easier, especially in your first year.

This is because you’re not trying to figure out if they’ll like your type of product or not. Instead, the platform you’re using already has the data to help put your product in front of potential customers.

Take for instance, if you are to promote the earlier product, Instagram Hashtag Analytics tool — your first thought will be using Instagram Ads and targeting content creators.

Something like this 👇

Or perhaps you want to expand and see how you can get in front of a larger audience with people who are looking for your key phrases or related ones on google.

Then you can use google ads.

Now, for the most part in this step, you’d have to come to notice that it’s more about the traction and making your product known.

When you succeed in getting this, your next move is converting those leads into customers.

To make the best use of this, you have to know that your audience might be skeptical at first since they don’t know much about your product.

This is why, in most cases with my clients, I recommend they offer any of these:

  • Demo or
  • Free trials

Personally, free trials give the best results — and that’s what I’ll be talking about in the next step.

4. Follow It Up with A Free Trial

When it comes to launching products with free trials, most SaaS founders who have been in the space for a while seem to understand this part.

Yeah, seem to understand — not fully understand.

For some, it’s their first time launching their product — for others, it’s not.

When using free trials as your major form of converting your leads to potential customers, you need to understand that your audience is skeptical.

Take this and let it stick, “consider your audience will be skeptical about your product until they purchase”.

Why should you consider them as being skeptical?

Well for starters, an estimation of 11,000 SaaS companies is operating worldwide, and those are only the ones accounted for.

Several others are coming up every day, which should tell you the competition is fierce. Hence, leaving your prospects with plenty of options to choose from.

This makes it a priority for you as a new founder to find a way to show your potential customers how you’re trying to solve their problems.

Big SaaS companies like Hootsuite for example still prefer to use free trials compared to demos.

Why’s that?

Well, the concept of a free trial is to remove the risk barrier most prospective customers face before buying a product.

This allows you as a new founder to eliminate all doubts — while helping them make an informed decision.

Nonetheless, before creating a free trial, you need to go back to your customer journey roadmap to be able to make the right decisions on the length of the free trial.

Taking Hootsuite again as our example, a 30-day free trial is what they’ve decided to work with.

Now, this 30-day free trial didn’t just come off the top of their head.

Or maybe it did — that’s genius if it did.

Rather, it’s influenced by a series of factors that you as a new founder also need to consider.

Here are some of the key factors that should guide you in creating the perfect free trial length:

  • Analyze customer usability before and after the onboarding process.
  • Measure the average time it takes for customers to understand the product.
  • Compare feature limitations with user’s satisfaction and interest.
  • Determine how different types of trial length affects your sales cycle.

With all these factors, you should be able to decide what length is best for your SaaS product.

Personally, for most of the products I’ve worked with, the 30-day trial converts the best — especially for B2B applications.

Which might make you ask — Why should I create a 30-day trial if my product is simple to use?

As I always say, only your customers decide if your product is easy to use or not. If it’s not easy for your customers, it most definitely can’t be easy for you.

Hence why 30 days is enough for most users to decide to move to a paid version or not.

When you allow prospective customers to opt-in for a 30-day trial, you’re able to:

  • Drive better conversions
  • Understand customers’ expectations and how to meet them
  • Build personal relationships on providing working solutions
  • Optimize user experience; and
  • Improve retention while reducing churn rates.

With all of these, you have enough feedback and data to make the next step which is the most important one — and that is:

5. Converting free users into paid ones.

This is by far the single most important thing to a new SaaS founder. Well, not just new founders, practically everyone at this point in the SaaS industry.

And that is making profits.

No matter how you might try to sugarcoat it, no one wants to put together a team, work on it for months with countless sleepless nights, and then not get rewarded.

No one wants that.

The concept of SaaS is providing applicable solutions for everyone. As a result, its sustainability is built on how much revenue is available to keep it running.

This is why lots of people take different approaches when they get to this stage.

But what most fail to realize is, people don’t pay for products, they pay for solutions.

So, if you’re not building a workable solution that’s easy to use, all efforts put in the previous steps will be futile.

Let’s go back to our Instagram hashtag analytics tool example — and for this, you want to convert your trial users to paid.

The first barrier is making sure all prospective customers understand how to effectively use the Instagram hashtag analytics tool after the 30-day trial.

Kicking off, you can start with segmenting the blog sections with topics aimed at how to use <your tool> to solve this kind of problem.

Topic ideas could be:

  • How to achieve organic growth by getting your Instagram posts in the Top posts
  • Complete guide on using Instagram hashtags for organic growth
  • How to find the best niche hashtags for your Instagram posts in 5 mins.

Now, to take this up a notch, you pair it perfectly with your free trial, and here’s how to make it work.

When a prospect signs up for a free trial, there’s a process called the onboarding process.

The onboarding process is where you show your free trial how to use your product, and what each feature does to help solve their problems.

More like your tour guide — buy online.

In every step of the onboarding, make sure there are at least 2–3 blog posts that cover some of your key features extensively.

After this, you should have an indoctrination sequence that spans 30 days.

This Indoctrination sequence is more like your onboarding process, but longer and specific.

With this, you send your trial users an email every day for 30 days, explaining and showing examples of how to use your product to get their desired results.

This way, they are not just organically growing their Instagram but also understanding how to make the best use of your product.

After they are done with the 30-day trial, they ideally have results at this point that’s enough to convert them into a paying customer.

And there you have it — your customer!

There are also different ways you could achieve this if you don’t want to go all out by using blogs.

Take another example from Neil Patel.

Neil Patel uses his YouTube and blog to convert potential customers into paying ones by teaching them Search Engine Optimization and how to use his tool — Ubersuggest for it.

With YouTube, he has an SEO course that teaches you “how to get a flood of online traffic without spending $1 day!

For his blog, he goes in-depth on how to use Ubersuggest to solve common SEO problems.

Take this article for example — How to use Lucrative Keywords in Question Form to Answer Users’ Queries

If perhaps you’re a trial user or paid, and you come across this article here’s what happens.

As you scroll down and read through the article, you’re introduced to how to better use Ubersuggest for this purpose.

So, do you get the idea?

It’s more about making your users understand your product and how to use it to solve their problems.

Also, one popular thing common in SaaS I think because you’re a new product, you need to beat down the price lower than their competitors.

Although, that might attract users at first, if what they get can’t match up to what they had, they won’t mind returning.

You have to know that, no matter how low your SaaS product costs, if it’s not benefitting enough, people won’t mind paying a higher price for a better one.

And there you have it, all I’ve learned as a SaaS copywriter about getting your first 100 SaaS customers.

But hey… Let’s Recap

For you to be able to create a successful SaaS product, you need first to identify a problem that needs a solution — and then create it.

Half the time, lots of founders create solutions to problems that don’t exist. And in some cases, problems are personal to them but want to generalize them.

Not saying this is bad…

I mean, it’s totally fine to create a product for yourself to make things easier. But it doesn’t work like that in business.

Rather, try using this simple process before starting your next product:

  • Identify a problem in the market.
  • Look for an audience facing that problem — and make sure it’s in good quantity.
  • Proffer a working solution and run a market survey on your already identified audience.
  • Collate your survey of the market and use it to readjust your solution
  • Do another survey with your adjusted solution for your audience.
  • Compare your results and use them to identify the stages your potential customers are.
  • Create different buyer personas for each stage.
  • Use your buyer persona to create a close estimate of your customer journey roadmap
  • Now, you can develop your product.

Here’s an infographic to make it simple:

If you’re able to figure out at least 80% of this before launching your product, your chances are significantly higher for success.

As you go on, the more you understand what your customers want, the more rewarding it’ll be for both your long and short-term goals.

And if you’ve read this far, then I’m sure you must have gained something — so please put it to use.

PS: If perhaps you need content or copy that communicates your message clearer to your audience, feel free to visit my website or simply reach out to me and tell me how you want me to help.

Ready to create engaging content that drives more users to your SaaS?