Ryan SearsCo-Founder at SurveySnap & LAUNCH! Annapolis
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Founder, Creative, UX & Graphic Designer, Coder, Advisor to Startups and Small Businesses. I help companies go from Idea to Revenue.



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I co-founded a SaaS company and have advised several other SaaS startups. We thoroughly validated our product before writing the 1st line of code. It saved us a ton of cash and time because we made a pivot before development, despite being veteran domain experts of our target market.

I consistently see startups gloss over the validation step and proceed to waste $50k - $100k in development (and re-development) costs validating their product when it can be figured out before the expensive development phase... Take your time and do this RIGHT!

There is not much in the question about what you already have (i.e: target market, research, clickable mockups, etc.) So I am going to assume you just have an idea.

I give an educational talk called “Idea to Revenue: 5 Steps to Validating your Startup Product”. It is quite an involved topic so for the sake of this answer I will give an outline of the ‘How To’ without the examples and ‘Why To’ explanations. Contact me for more details or help with your specific scenario.

----- The 5 Steps -----

#1: Idea - Brainstorming & Research
Research
- Identify competitors (crunchbase, google, app store, etc..)
- Does your idea exist already? (Google Patents)
- Can you do it better, faster, cheaper?
Brainstorm - Identify huge opportunities to disrupt the market
- How are people addressing the problem now?
- What disruptive technologies can solve the problem?
- Where is the competition missing the mark?
- See non-competitive products for more ideas

#2: Plan - Narrowing the Focus of your Product
- Document your Assumptions
- UX hypothesis
- Goals for the product
- Define the MVP
- What features are required to sell the product?
- Connect the functionality to the product goals
- Define metrics for success
- Define customer personas

#3: Sketch - How to Use a Quick Drawing to Determine the Interface
- Create a sitemap of the product
- Use pen/pad to sketch the interface
- Design whole tasks that testers can complete
- Show the connections between the screens (information architecture)

#4: Clickable Mockups - Create a Realistic Demo of How the Product will Look and Work
- To create a realistic interface use the following tools to mockup flat designs for each screen that you sketched (*hint: use real copy)
- Desktop: photoshop/sketch or axure or a similar program
- Mobile: AppCooker or Proto.io or a similar program
- Use Invisionapp.com to connect the flat designs so that the user can click/tap on the buttons and transition from screen to screen. This will give the tester a ‘real enough’ experience to complete tasks and answer questions about its viability

#5: Customer Testing - Getting Real World Feedback
- Use Questionnaires and Interviews
- Collect qualitative and quantitative data to prove or disprove your assumptions for each persona from step #2
- Repeat the Design/Learn feedback loop until the testers can consistently complete the tasks that you have mocked up. Additionally the quantitative data should suggest that the product will solve a significant enough pain point that they will pay for it.
- You can find testers in your network, linkedin, facebook, twitter. Just ask people for their valued feedback on a new and exciting product :)
- I received a 51% response rate on a Linkedin feedback campaign. I am happy to share the how that works and the exact templates if you contact me.

This is a down-and-dirty overview of how to validate your SaaS product. As mentioned above there are more details, examples and explanations but if you follow this outline you will be ahead of the game. Feel free to contact me for further help.

Cheers,

--Ryan


I am a startup founder and have faced this exact scenario several times in the past. I have also advised dozens of other startups and given public talks on the subject of going from 'idea to revenue'.

The good news is that you are doing the right thing. Getting customer feedback is extremely important when validating your product.

I ran a Linkedin feedback campaign for our product that got a 51.22% response rate. Below, I have listed the process that I used, the results received and the exact template I used to break the ice.

--------Process:
1. Make a list of high-level executives at companies in your target market. High-level is important because some people at that level love to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs. They also sometimes refer you to someone below them in the company who will typically follow through with you because their boss said to.

2. Send an Inmail message (see example below) through Linkedin to each of them.
You must personalize the note with their first name & a short comment about their profile so they know it is not spam. I put << >> around what you should personalize.
Choose a subject of “Expertise Request” for the reason for contacting them. (Linkedin gives you this option when sending an Inmail message).

3. Once they responded I sent them a very short message thanking them and included a link to a one-page website explaining the product. I also asked them to fill out a google form with 5 questions. I sent 1 follow up message to each respondent if they did not fill out the form after 1 week.

-------- Example:
<<Ross>>,

We are working on a new iPad application for security system integrators. <<You seem entrepreneurial>> and given your experience with security, I think your insight would be particularly helpful.

I certainly admire your immersion in the space and would love to get your general feedback on what we are doing. I would be grateful for your time.

Do you mind if I send you a link?

Thank you!

Regards,

-Ryan

--------- Results:
Linkedin Messages Sent: 41
Message Replies: 21
Feedback forms completed: 5

I also followed up with the respondents and made 1 sale when the product was ready. I also got a high-level advisor from this campaign.

Good luck and let me know if I can answer any further questions on the subject.

--Ryan


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