Thiyagarajan Maruthavanan is a co-founder and partner at Upekkhaa SaaS Accelerator where he has worked with over 100 early stage startups.
In the dynamic and messy B2B SaaS world, an exceptional product that your customer falls in love with is the key differentiator. However, creating a product that will wow your customers and keep them hooked is extremely difficult for budding founders. What helps is understanding your desired buyer persona and creating a product that solves their biggest pain points. Every problem statement and product is unique, so it is crucial to take the time to find the right approach.
After interacting with hundreds of founders, I learned a few essential product lessons. Here’s how to build a product your customer will want to keep buying.
1. Talk to customers, competitors and others.
The secret to building a successful SaaS product lies in communicating with the other stakeholders of your ecosystem. For example, talking to customers in your ICP (Ideal Customer Persona) can help you understand if the problem exists for a larger audience segment. It also allows you to better understand customer pain points. In addition, it can be a facilitator for building customer loyalty and creating trust.
Just like talking to customers, talking to your competitors can open up a new perspective for you. They can provide valuable insight into the shortcomings of your business model. These insights can help you refine your product and strategies and differentiate your product. You identify gaps in the market and see how they position themselves.
While your customers and competitors are top-notch entities, dealing with other stakeholders such as employees or investors is just as important. It is almost impossible to possess all the knowledge needed to run a successful and sustainable startup. It is always wise to lean on people with a more in-depth knowledge of the subject. They can help you understand what works for your product and what doesn’t. By leveraging their expertise, you can identify opportunities and risks that you may have missed.
2. Prioritize a common problem of great value.
While it’s a dream to be the one and only hero to all evil, even Batman has limitations. It can be a good decision to commit to solving a critical and common customer problem for a significant amount of time. It allows you to focus on a single problem and understand it completely.
By prioritizing a single issue, you can differentiate yourself and establish yourself as a domain expert. You build a lasting relationship with your customers. However, choosing the right problem to solve is a crucial aspect. Analyze and solve problems with a more comprehensive foundation that matches your vision and capabilities. Ultimately, the success of this approach depends on a continued commitment to delivering the best solution.
3. Position products explicitly to avoid category errors.
When selling, the perception of your product is crucial. Effective product positioning can help a startup differentiate itself from its competitors and effectively communicate its value proposition. It can help the startup establish its brand identity, build a strong reputation in the market and gain a competitive advantage.
Identifying the correct positioning can feel like a confusing puzzle. However, adhering to some basic principles can make this task easier. To determine the right position, you need to consider two important factors: category and differentiation of the product. To determine the optimal category, select a descriptor known to your ideal customer profile. Overall, narrow positioning can help you establish a strong market presence and avoid losing out on sales.
4. Design to enjoy and reduce the time to wow moments.
One of the critical factors in retaining customers is making your product a habit. It can help you maintain customer loyalty and reduce customer churn. The more customers use your product, the more likely they are to incorporate it into their daily routine. Therefore, you need to identify your customer’s day-to-day problems and provide an accurate solution.
You need to understand your customer’s behavior to make your product a habit. This requires understanding your customer’s preferences and lifestyle patterns. You also need to understand your competitor’s product to differentiate your product and offer better value. Understanding all of these industries will help you create a product that is an integral part of their routine. This in turn will lead to a higher ARR (Annual Return on Revenue) and positive word of mouth.
5. Repeat, rinse and repeat. You won’t get it right the first time.
Many roadblocks hinder the journey to success and it is essential to remain flexible and adaptable. The early days of any startup are characterized by experimentation and uncertainty. It is not uncommon for the product to undergo significant changes in the early stages. It is often at this point that you really understand the value of your product and how it meets customer needs. Always look for feedback and remember that numbers have power. If a larger segment points to the same problem in your product, consider an iteration.
That said, changes in product development require a larger resource pool. You should only allocate the resources if you are confident that they can drive growth and customer satisfaction. It’s crucial to strike a balance between being open to feedback and making strategic decisions that align with your long-term vision. That is why it is essential to remain flexible, but wise to remain relevant in a rapidly changing market.
If you don’t understand who you are building for, what you are making will be a painting for the blind. Knowing customers well through direct conversations (at least 50), talking to competitors (at least 20) and stakeholders to understand how customers make buying decisions will help shape a great product.
Narrow positioning makes it easy to send them to customers and not waste sales cycles. Designing wow moments and ensuring it is used repeatedly creates the possibility of the product becoming tacky and improving retention to a negative level. A crucial muscle to build as a product leader patiently goes through several iterations of this cycle.