You’ve got a handful of potentially great SaaS ideas, and one of them has been keeping you up at night. You’re ready to vet these concepts to determine if any of them are worth the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship.
Sitting in a room talking to yourself or ticking off a checklist is NOT the way to vet any SaaS business idea, especially in this vertical, where the focus is on solving problems.
In this post, we’ll give you a step-by-step process on how to vet your SaaS startup ideas like a seasoned entrepreneur. We’re focusing this content on B2B SaaS because that’s our expertise, but much of this process works for consumer products and service providers too.
Where the best saas ideas come from
There’s no single place to find great SaaS ideas. Successful products all have very different origin stories. Let’s take a look at some specific examples.
Born out of frustration
Ecommerce multichannel inventory management platform Skubana was designed by Chad Rubin. At the time he launched Skubana, he had over a thousand SKUs on Amazon, his own site and eBay and he built the tool he needed to manage his inventory.
Simpler, more integrated processes
CoSchedule is a popular marketing tool that helps teams with blog content planning, email content planning, social media promotions, and other digital marketing functions all in one place, eliminating the need for multiple tools. CEO and co-founder Garrett Moon thought of this marketing management software when he asked one simple question: why can’t we do all of these tasks in one place?
Pivoting based on market response
Screenshare video tool Loom grew really big, really quickly. The tool was originally devised for user testing, and when the startup struggled to gain traction and monetized, changing their pricing model, their users helped them realize that the tool had a dozen other use cases. A far quicker and simpler alternative to standard video conferencing, you can record and share screen messages in a chat using Loom. This is an example of a micro SaaS idea that has expanded into a product dubbed “the next Slack.”
Where to find new profitable SaaS ideas
If you’re still in the ideation phase, nothing works better than real life. Do these five things to help you come up with more concepts for your SaaS business:
If you currently own a different type of business (not SaaS), brainstorm. What you can improve for yourself or your customers?
Notice where in your work day you get frustrated. How do your pain points fit into the market? Are other SaaS companies working to solve these pain points already? Is there room for a new player or a micro-SaaS business in this space?
Notice where in your work day you feel like things are taking too long. Where in your workday do you have to pay assistants or employees to do tasks that are unnecessarily tedious or manual? Do existing SaaS applications meet any of these needs? Confirm with research.
Notice which SaaS tools you already use. Which customer relationship management (CRM), social media management, and appointment management tools are you using? How do you communicate with clients, vendors, and other stakeholders? What tools and SaaS platforms do you use for team communication? How do you complete invoicing and other billing tasks? Do you use marketing automation software? Are there better options available? If you see gaps for your own business, they may exist for other businesses like yours.
Hang out with colleagues and friends. Do you notice the same issues in their workflow? Do their concerns change depending on whether they own their businesses? Whether they work as freelancers? The size of the company they work for? Start to identify trends if you can.
How to initially vet and prioritize your SaaS ideas
After you have a handful of SaaS product ideas, it’s time to research your market and the problems ideal customers face. Remember, your startup is only generating SaaS solutions if they solve real problems for actual users.
Understand your market and target customer
You should be able to answer these questions:
Who is your ideal buyer?
Who are your users? (In addition to, or separate from, the decision-maker)
What type of company do you serve? (Industry, company size, location)
What is the size of your addressable market?
Is your market underserved or overserved?
Most likely, you’ve already spent some time tracking your ideal user in their work environment, and this is how you’ve got the idea. If not, you need to shadow a few people who match your ideal customer for at least a few hours each.
Once you have a deep understanding of your target customers and users, it’s time to move onto the addressable market and a marketing strategy.
If the addressable market is too small, that kills your idea right there. If it is hundreds of thousands or even millions of potential customers, then you need to be sure you are building the right type of product for the market size and maturity.
Overserved and mature markets are best served with simplistic products. Think of how small business owners would rather use Canva than Photoshop.
A note on niches
Niche SaaS ideas can be very brilliant, or completely misguided.
It’s easy for entrepreneurs to think of the “Uber of driving instruction” or the “GetYourGuide of dog grooming.” Take a unicorn app and combine it with a new, underserved niche. Just add water. But this isn’t a good business plan.
You need to ask the following question: Does my market niche really need its own solution? If your market niche could easily have their problem solved by using an existing solution with generic branding, then your idea isn’t good enough.
But if your market niche can’t have their problems satisfied with a generic solution because they have unique needs, then you might have a great idea on your hands.
Let’s take email marketing as an example. There are dozens of email marketing tools available. And yet ConvertKit was able to grow very quickly by focusing on content creators. They discovered that bloggers, creatives and course creators couldn’t do the complex sort of email automations they needed inside of an attractive, simplistic UX. So they built it.
ReachStack, an email marketing tool, has an even more specific market niche: they help financial advisors collaborate with the corporate marketers in charge of enabling their marketing. This means that financial advisors can find corporate content, edit it, get their edits approved and send it out to their list of clients and subscribers. Other tools can’t do this. With this niche, the problem requires a new solution, not just the same solution with different branding.
Understand the problem
After you’ve vetted that you have a market worth serving (and that your idea matches the size and maturity of the market), it’s time to understand the problem more intimately. Online market research can help with this step, as well as in-person interviews and spending time with your target customer.
What is the problem that your SaaS product solves?
What are all of the factors that cause this problem?
What is the effect of this problem—what happens when it goes unsolved?
How important is this problem?
What is the assumed result, if the problem is solved?
Sometimes, you’ve stumbled upon the right market, but you’re looking at the wrong problem. During this stage of the vetting process, you should be certain that you are solving a problem that your market needs you to solve. If not, then you need to pivot, before you build.
Later when you're deciding whether or not to build new features, you should use customer feedback software to prioritize ideas and clarify your roadmap. At each and every stage, customer feedback is essential.
Reimagine the solution
Now that you’ve dug deeper into your market and the problem, it’s time to refine your initial SaaS idea. As an example, business travel booking platform TravelPerk initially set out to build a product that would help travel managers incentivize employees to book within their trip budget. When they interviewed travel managers and office managers in charge of business travel, they all said the same thing: “That sounds great, but that is not really the problem I have. My biggest pain point is invoicing.” They discovered that many companies were booking travel on consumer websites, and so they changed course and began building a booking platform to consolidate invoicing as an initial value proposition.
Imagine if they had not gone and sat down with office managers? They would have built the wrong solution.
By now, you may be ready to make a similar shift. If you’re unsure, go back to researching your market and their problems until you’re certain you’re building the right solution.
Questions you should be able to answer at this stage:
Does my idea fully solve the problem I identified?
Does my ideal customer even want me to solve this problem?
Does my ideal customer want me to solve a different problem altogether?
Does my ideal customer want me to solve this problem—but in a different way?
Are you passionate about the idea and the market?
You’ve researched your market. You understand the problem that you need to solve. You’ve come up with a solution that solves this problem.
Now, you need to do some soul searching.
Questions you should be able to answer definitively:
Do I care about the market?
Am I passionate about solving this?
Am I the right person to solve this?
Do I have what it takes to tackle this idea?
Is this the type of business that I want to run?
If this business requires other skill sets (development, sales), how will I acquire or outsource these?
Build a high-fidelity prototype
After you’ve vetted your concept and decided that yes, you are the right person to build it, the next step is to develop a high fidelity prototype.
Former Google designer Jake Knapp developed a 5-day process to do a design sprint that results in a prototype.
You should build your prototype before building your SaaS for two main reasons:
Get feedback from your market
Make changes to your prototype before you build the product
“The big idea with the sprint is to build and test the prototype in just 5 days. It’s kind of like fast forwarding into the future so you can see how customers react before you go through all the time and expense of building a real product.” - Jake Knapp
These are the five essential steps in the design sprint:
Create a map of the problem
Create solutions to the problem
Pick the best solutions
Build one or two realistic prototypes
Test prototypes in one-on-one customer interviews
Your realistic prototype should look just like you want your finished SaaS product to look. You should be able to click on at least a few of the menu items to see the most important feature areas.
Another note on passion: this prototype should make you more excited than a five-year-old kid on Christmas morning.
Get feedback from the market
Meet with your target customers and show them your prototype. Open it up on a mobile phone, tablet or desktop computer—whichever device makes the most sense.
Here are some tips for conducting interviews using your prototype:
Record both the person using the prototype as well as the screen
Tell the interviewee “There are no wrong answers. I’m not testing you, I’m testing my prototype.”
Don’t ask leading questions
Ask simple who / what / where / when / why questions
Write 5 - 10 questions to ask, and allow yourself to ask new questions at the moment
Don’t attempt to take notes, instead focus on listening so you can ask follow up questions right away
Know that interviewing is a skill—you’ll get better as you go along
Ready to start your prototyping process?
DevSquad’s Sprint Zero workshop was designed to walk you through a design sprint in just one day.
You come meet with us in Salt Lake City, and our team conducts a strategy session to go over your market, competitive landscape and more. We help you vet your solution and then we develop a high-fidelity prototype that you can get feedback on before building the MVP. This way, you can be sure you’re building the right solution.