Building a SaaS business can feel like one long series of experiments. No-one can afford to just keep trying random ideas. My new project using Codigital provides a great engine for the startup community. We can collaborate to find the best ideas about customer onboarding. Everyone who participates in the project will benefit.
Sometimes the SaaS recurring revenue model feels like a variation on an old cliche. Run enough A/B tests on enough scenarios and you will create a unicorn…in the end. Right now some start ups are raising enormous amounts of cash. You could be forgiven for thinking they plan to follow this approach to its logical conclusion. Things are a little harder if you don’t live on the world of multi million dollar seed rounds.
If your cash runway only extends to trying a few ideas, how do you find the best? This month I am trying an experiment to help SaaS companies answer this question. This article outlines the test. Summarises progress to date. And is honest about an important limitation. You will also find this link Sunstone Codigital Onboarding Project . We would love to have your contribution.
Background and the Experiment
I facilitate an awesome group of SaaS startups in Scotland. When we meet the exchange of ideas and experience generates real value for everyone. We also have a slack group. This is a great tool for keeping the the conversation flowing every day. I thought it would be great if we could add more ways for the community to collaborate. Evaluating ideas generated and ranking them is ideal. An old friend recently introduced me to Codigital. A SaaS startup with a product which does just that.
Here’s how it works. Ask an open question and start a project to share ideas. Anyone you invite can suggest an idea as an answer to the question. So far so Quora. Then the clever bits. First any participant can suggest edits to every idea. That means the answers can emerge as a collaboration.
Rating is not by simple upvotes. Participants rank ideas by a series of head to head comparisons. Kind of serial A/B testing. What emerges is a proper evaluation of the merits of each idea. Collaboration and consideration not just favourites or likes.
I love the concept so I decided to give it a try. The discussion topic for my next SaaS Group discussion is customer onboarding. I have set up a Codigital project with this question:
“What are the best ways to onboard SaaS B2B customers?"
Progress and Participation
4. Proactively contact trial lists, offer to run trial with them online
5. No catch all answer. Depends on platform, vertical and general skill of target users
6. Only set up a free trial for people who really want to try it out.
7. Provide free trial period initially
These are in the rank order at the time of writing this post. If you don’t agree then jump in and share your own thoughts. The ideas that rank at the top are always interesting. Sometimes the more innovative ideas lurk further down. Keep an eye out for originality as well as popularity.
The project will remain open for another couple of weeks. I hope it will fuel a great discussion in the SaaS Group. I am looking forward to sharing the results.
After just a few days, the process is already working. We have had 7 ideas from 8 participants. Most of those participants have also taken part in the ranking exercise. The app provides a nice summary which you can see opposite:
The ideas also look promising. This is what we have so far:
1. Demonstrate the service’s value to the business
2. Targeted relevant messages throughout the trial lifetime
3. Put a screencast of a demo trial on your website
Benefits and Limitations
One of the reasons this app attracted me was past experience. My previous firm carried out a project of this type with all UK staff. 15,000 people in all. The topic in that case was applications for the Internet of Things. It gathered over a hundred ideas. More than 10,000 staff were active participants. I was the partner responsible for the project. I learned a whole lot both good and bad. Codigital is the opportunity to put these into practice and deliver even better results.
The openness and flexibility of this approach was a key benefit. We received a much broader range of suggestions. Far more than we could ever have imagined on a traditional project. One of my favourites was right before launch. A junior in the post room offered to create an animation to introduce the concept. His drawing and storyboarding were stunning. Last I heard he was shooting up the ranks in marketing.
We used a different mechanism to score ideas. A sort of virtual stock market. This was great at encouraging participation. Although it did tempt some people to game the system. I think Codigital avoids this risk.
More important, the evaluation did tend to favour the more obvious answers. The top suggestions are top for a reason so this is not entirely a bad thing. But there is a risk of missing the true innovations. The out of the box thinking. As noted above, I will be scouring the list for this type of contribution.
This brings me to the biggest single limitation. Generating and selecting great ideas is difficult. It is only one step in delivering business improvement. Executing those ideas in a real business is what counts. My previous project was fun but frustrating for this reason. Our client didn’t pick up and run with anything we suggested. We didn’t have a plan to help them execute. Result - some great conversations but no real change.
Execute with World Class Small Business Consulting a Startup Can Afford
That is the essence of why small business consulting the Sunstone way is different. My focus is to help startups grow and develop. Not to create great reports.
I will be keeping a close watch on the progress of my project. I will also be working on tools and support. Aiming to help participants take advantage of the ideas generated. I need your help. Please join the project. Share your ideas and collaborate with the great suggestions already contributed. Everyone will benefit.
Kenny Fraser is the Director of Sunstone Communication and a personal investor in startups.