Launch your B2B SaaS startup with a powerful Go-to-market strategy
14 important topics you need to know about successfully launching your B2B SaaS product with a powerful go-to-market strategy.
After you’ve successfully validated your business idea and you’ve gathered enough conviction about your product, it’s time to launch your B2B SaaS startup.
To maximize the chance of success, you should work on a powerful go-to-market strategy that helps you to acquire and activate enough leads to kickstart your SaaS growth flywheel.
Hubspot defines a go-to-market strategy (GTM) as “a step-by-step plan created to successfully launch a product to market”. What it means is that your GTM strategy defines how you literally connect your product with your potential customers.
Your go-to-market strategy covers the questions around...
How do you communicate your value proposition to the market (brand messaging & sales messaging)
How do you sell the product to your ICP and make them happy (product-led vs. sales-led)
What growth channels & growth activities work best for your product
How do you make money (pricing strategy)
...and is one of the 3 core elements of your SaaS Growth Strategy.
Today, I will share with you 14 important topics you need to know about successfully launching your B2B SaaS product with a powerful go-to-market strategy.
Successfully launch your B2B SaaS
#1 Validated your idea with a waitlist
Actually, before you spend lots of time and money on building your product, you should validate your business idea. Validating your idea can help you save a lot of your resources in building something no one actually needs.
Check out those 2 articles on how to validate your business idea in a very short amount of time:
How to validate your business idea, before building your product, wasting money and time
Syed Hemu Rahman’s playbook for Building and Launching a Startup in 30 Days
Define up front what a successful MVP looks like (success metric) for you and write it down. For instance, a successful MVP for your B2B SaaS could be defined as follows:
a waitlist of #100 B2B customers (prosumer or SMB market)
10% of waitlist sign-ups sold a special pre-launch Lifetime Deal
20% of all interviewed companies signed a letter of intent
So when you validate your idea properly, you shouldn’t start with 0 customers. You should have at least a couple of promising leads in your pipeline.
If you’re testing your business idea with a waiting list, think about adding the following features to your process:
an incentive to refer other companies to you (e.g. refer 3 other companies and get a special Lifetime Deal)
creating a community of highly engaged sign-ups & potential brand ambassadors (Discord Channel, Slack Channel, Whatsapp Group)
following and sharing your company on Social Media
#2 Launching is a stage, NOT a one-time event
After you’ve validated your idea, you will make the decision if you continue with the idea and invest time and money to actually build the product or start testing another idea.
Once you’ve decided to build your product and launch it, a lot of startups now spend months building the product without talking to customers and getting early feedback. They think they need to build the perfect product in undercover stealth mode and once the product seems to be ready, they push the launch button and hope for success. As TK Kader describes it in his video about Go-To-Market Launch Plan For A New SaaS Product, lots of startup founders thinking about launching their startup in a very linear way (vs. a multi-threaded way).
So launching is not just...
... launching your product on Indiehackers, Product Hunt or Appsumo or...
... that customers can now sign up on our website and test your product or...
... that you've started to spend money on Google and Facebook ads
Of course, all of those things are part of launching, but launching your startup should not just be one single launch event. So it's important to see launching as a stage, rather than a single event.
So try to engage with your customers as early as possible, get their feedback asap, and maximize the chance you are building something your ideal customers really want. A great way is to build an engaged audience from the beginning and continuously launch your latest product to them (more in #4).
#3 Know your ideal customer profile's BIG problem
One part of validating your business idea (#1) is to draft your first version of your ideal customer profile (ICP). The best way to do so is by doing customer interviews, surveys, and job shadowing.
I'm referring to a great model by Myk Pono (Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): How To Create A Comprehensive Customer Profile) that says, that your ICP feels the pain, has a fit to your product, and is ready to buy.
👉 ICP = Pain + Fit + Readiness
Define your ideal customer profile and the niche you are going after. The more precise and clearer you are on your niche, the easier it gets for you to know your customer needs and the BIG FIUU problem (frequent, important, urgent & underserved) you are going to solve for them.
Ideally, the problem is frequent, important, urgent & underserved. This means if you are going to solve their problem (with your solution), your product is actually valuable for them, meaning they are willing to pay for it.
#4 Build an (engaged) audience from the beginning
Validating your business idea, having ongoing launches, and knowing the pain points and challenges of your audience lead you to build an (engaged) audience from the beginning.
After you’ve analyzed the market and know the segment you want to serve with your product, you can already start to engage with them. The good thing about engaging with your audience from the beginning is, that your audience is normally interested in the overall problem you’re trying to solve. This means you can grow an engaged audience without having the final product.
You will learn about their challenges, problems, goals, wishes and at the same time start growing your own audience, even if you don't have a product ready to use.
Great ways to build an audience are mailing lists, Facebook groups, Slack Channels, Content on Twitter or Linkedin, or running a Youtube channel or your own blog.
Share relevant content for your ideal customer persona, especially around the problem you are trying to solve for them. Also when you are doing your market research and customers interviews, don't forget to invite them to your mailing list.
Another way is to build your product in public, which means you are sharing frequent updates on your journey. This could be sharing learnings from your interviews (e.g. on Twitter, Linkedin...), first product mockups, product demos, or public product roadmaps. The goal is to get early feedback (and later convert those warm leads into paying customers).
I can highly recommend the article Build in Public: The New Era of Transparency in Startups by Growsurf
#5 Draft your Brand Message (Golden Circle)
The brand messaging and your sales messaging are the 2 key pillars for your company communication.
Your brand messaging is your unique view and positioning of:
how do you see the market on a higher level (big picture)?
why do you want to serve the market (your motivation)?
why now? What are macro trends in our society supporting your business?
Talking about the purpose of the company (The WHY) and passion for the topic of your business are effective pr strategies. A great starting point for powerful brand messaging can be the Golden Circle (WHY/HOW/WHAT) of Simon Sinek.
So here is an example of how it could look like for the Creator Economy
Creator Economy is booming. More people than ever are following their passion and building micro-businesses. There are more than 50 million independent content creators, curators, and community builders and it’s one of the top dream jobs of the younger generation. We believe independent creators are the SMBs of the future.
With more creators becoming full-time creators (their main job), there is a growing demand for specialized tools helping creators to start, grow, engage and monetize their audience.
We want to support independent entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and turn their passion into a business.
#6 Focus on selling Values, not Features
The next step is to turn your value proposition into a powerful sales message. Your sales messaging is the foundation for all your growth activities (landing page, ads copy, emails, phone calls, sales demos, etc.).
A good way to work on it is to start with the big problem of your ICP and what it means if they don’t solve it and then talk about the values of your product and how you can solve it.
So when it comes to all customer-facing communication, it’s crucial to focus on selling the values and benefits of your products and not on the features. No one cares about how many features you have, what technology you are using, or if you have a patent on it.
People care about how you can help them to solve their problems and what they get from using your product (outcomes).
Wes Bush said
“When drafting your copy, always focus on the superpower your product will allow others to achieve in their own life. You want your customer to be the hero for choosing to use your product.”
'In order for digital creators to monetize their audiences with paid products (like courses, programs, or coachings), they need to connect and pay for lots of different tools (Zoom, Paypal, Shopify, Calendly, Mailchimp, Teachable, etc.). That's currently the only way for them to sell (premium) digital products and turn their audience into a successful online business. We enable digital creators to make more money online by just using one single tool.'
Once your value proposition and the way you communicate your value to customers are clear, you should think about your sales strategy (product-led vs. sales-led), your growth channels, and the customer onboarding journey.
#7 Positioning & sales strategy (product-led vs. sales led)
Different segments in the market need different sales strategies.
Selling accounting software to a big corporate client needs a different positioning and a different sales strategy than selling accounting software to early-stage tech startups.
That’s why you need to position yourself in the market and also look at how the competition is positioning itself. It helps you to find out how you can differentiate against your competition.
Depending on your positioning, you need to decide on product-led growth (self-service) or sales-led growth. Maybe also a hybrid model makes sense for you (later stage) when you start to expand up-market (hunting bigger accounts) or down-market (hunting smaller accounts).
You can try to segment the market and position yourself based on 2 main dimensions (for B2B SaaS):
Customer size (Consumers, Prosumers, SMBs, Mid-market, Enterprise)
Pricing (low-cost vs. premium player)
Check out TK Kader’s Video (Go To Market Plan - 6 Steps to Creating a Go-to-Market Plan) in which he also illustrates how to position yourself in the market.
Getting specific on your pricing strategy is also part of that. Most important is to know your value metric and define the right pricing around it. Ideally your revenue scales with the value metric (e.g. the more emails sent, the higher the pricing). Check out 10 tips on your SaaS pricing.
#8 Test Growth channels & growth activities
Knowing who you want to serve (your ICP), how to speak to them (brand message, sales message, value proposition) and how to sell them your product (sales strategy), you can now start testing out different growth channels (have a look at 16 B2B SaaS Growth Channels).
There are lots of different growth channels and for every (early-stage) startup it’s important to start experimenting with new growth channels and hopefully find the ones that bring new customers. After testing, you should spend your energy and resources only on the ones that impact traction for your business (and stop the ones that don‘t).
Also, make sure to set yourself ambitious goals (can highly recommend using OKRs as a framework) and align your team on specific growth activities they need to deliver every week. Discuss those activities in your weekly (or monthly) meetings.
Growth goals can be for example:
3000 website traffic per week
30 new sign-ups every week
20% conversion to active user/ sales-demos
1 new paying customer every week
Growth activities can be for example:
2 blog posts every week
100 cold emails every week
1 webinar every month
#9 Work on Activation (Customer Journey)
Once you’ve figured out how you can get new sign-ups for your product (for product-led) or new leads in your pipeline (for sales-led), you should (latest) start to work on a smooth activation.
Map out the touchpoints (customer journey) of your customers. For product-led this mostly means working on a smooth onboarding process to get the customer as fast as possible to the AHA moment (to reduce the time to value). For sales-led it’s about getting new leads to jump on a sales demo with you and having a great field sales meeting (if you target larger accounts).
Learn more about Activation in Master your SaaS Growth Flywheel (AARRR Funnel).
#10 Leverage virality features & referrals
Think early about how you can grow by leveraging your existing audience and first users.
There are 2 main sources on how to get referrals - number 1 is asking your customers for referrals (using a powerful referral program), number 2 is making use of viral features in your product.
Not asking your existing customers for referrals is one of the most common mistakes in B2B SaaS Growth. So make sure you frequently ask your customers for referrals and even incentivize them to do so.
What’s important about a referral marketing program:
customer segmentation: Track your customers’ NPS score and product usage and only target your happy customers
timing & frequency: ask your customers for referrals at the right time (not straight after the signup, give them some time to experience your product and become a happy customers). Think about triggers in your customer journey where customers are happy with your product and willing to refer your product.
referral incentive: What is the referral bonus (cash vs. free product usage vs. other perks) and who gets the bonus when? Make sure it’s transparent and use a two-sided referral program and incentivize both parties (the referrer and referred) - check out some referral program examples
communication & messaging: Figure out the right messaging and best channels (in-product, email, phone...) to ask for referrals; create rules on when (triggers) and how often you ask for referrals
technical implementation & tools: referral tracking and referral bonus payout
To make use of viral features, Olof Mathé (How to master product virality) gives you a great overview of the different types of virality features:
Network effects —> The more users of the product, the higher the value of the product. Good examples are Social media platforms (Linkedin or Facebook) or Chat Apps (Whatsapp, Slack), or peer-to-peer payments (Paypal).
Value virality —> Users spread the word about your product but simply use the product. Good examples are e-signature tools (Docusign, Hellosign) or collaborating on design boards (Miro), or sending emails (Mailchimp, Superhuman) - mostly combined with a 'powered by' badge
Exposure Virality —> Your users show your product to others to show off (because it’s cool and social status). Good examples are NFTs (e.g. Cyrptopunks) or education badges (e.g. Hubspot Academy, Udemy Courses).
Invites & Referrals —> Your users get rewarded to invite others to your product (mostly used with discount codes or free usage). Good examples are Dropbox (free storage) and Uber (free rides).
#11 Analytics & Tracking of core KPIs
Make sure you can measure relevant information about your growth channel performance (e.g. views, conversions, ad spent...) and also about the behavior of your customers. So make sure you can measure at least:
Website traffic (Google Analytics)
Conversions to Sign-Ups
Core activities within the product (especially the one when users get active)
Onboarding activities (opened the welcome email, watched academy video, joined product webinar..)
Also analyzing how your customer behaves on your website can help to optimize your landing page. Tools like Hotjar can help you do so.
So for product-led B2B startups start to track your funnel:
Active User (PQL)
For sales-led B2B startups start to track:
Of course, this is the minimum you should track. Over time, when your company grows you can start to track more in-depth funnels.
#12 Get customer feedback early
Once you have your first customers using your product, you should start to actively ask for their feedback. Here are a few ideas on how you can get customer feedback in the early stage:
Build a focus group of around 10 brand ambassador/ beta users (e.g. a Slack Channel)
Offer weekly customer feedback sessions
Send out surveys (e.g. NPS Score)
Send personalized emails (from the CEO)
Call your customers
#13 Iterate based on metrics and customer feedback
Based on the metrics you’re collecting but also based on customer feedback, you can start to optimize your product, but also work on your go-to-market strategy and optimize all steps.
Don’t worry if your first attempts don’t look super healthy. Getting your first 100 paying customers is not about showing that you can scale healthy (CLV/CAC >3)
#14 Set ambitious goals (OKRs)
Last but not least, you should set ambitious growth goals for your B2B SaaS business. Use a framework like OKRs to set and track goals. Schedule weekly meetings where the whole team comes together and has a look at the goals and your performance.
I can highly recommend using Kanban Boards to plan your To-dos together with your team - check out Monday.com, Notion.so, or Jira.
Grow your business with a powerful strategy
Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of the SaaS Growth Strategy Worksheet.
References: This article is inspired by Wes Bush (How to acquire B2B SaaS customers), TK Kader (Go-To-Market Launch Plan For A New SaaS Product), TK Kader (Go To Market Plan - 6 Steps to Creating a Go-to-Market Plan) & Baremetrics (How to Create an Effective Go-To-Market Strategy for Your SaaS Product).
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