20 Proven Steps to Growing a SaaS Startup from Scratch

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    Home / Growth / 20 Proven Steps to Growing a SaaS Startup from Scratch

    "You have to crawl before you run."

    This has been taught to us, telling us that we should be patient and take baby steps instead of rushing.

    But what is even the definition of "rushing" or "baby steps" nowadays, right?

    We are living in different times now. What is trending now didn't exist a couple of years ago. What was trending last week is already outdated.

    AI, technology, and social media speeded up our lives, but I still hear some people saying:

    I don't agree.

    Now we have tips and tricks to trick time. Now, we don't have to wait to grow.

    But of course, I am not talking about daily growth. I am here to talk about fast and steady SaaS business model growth.

    So, for you to have a surprisingly satisfying growth rate, I will explain how to grow a SaaS product from 0 to 1 in six phases:

    • Phase #1 - Creating the Right Business/Product - set yourself up for success
    • Phase #2 - Getting Your First Customers
    • Phase #3 - Scaling Your SaaS Business
    • Phase #4 - Addressing Retention and Churn
    • Phase #5 - Penetrating New/Adjacent Markets
    • Phase #6 - Iterate, Improve, Grow

    Having a total of 20 steps, I will explain how each phase differs from one another, and how you can use the steps to your advantage to build a lovely customer base in no time.

    Let's start with the first phase:

    Phase #1 - Creating the Right Business/Product - set yourself up for success

    🧐 Do you have an idea in mind?

    🤨 If you do, did you check if anyone already turned that idea into a product?

    📈 How many competitors do you have?

    🕵️ Can you quickly come up with details about your idea?

    Those questions will help you see whether your idea is worth elaborating on. Let's dig into each one:

    1- Finding the right idea and the right team

    In case you don't have an idea yet, or if you feel like you need a better idea, I got you covered.

    But it's very difficult to make a complete product and grow it all by yourself.

    Therefore, you need to gather a great team, slowly but steadily. Here is a guide by the New York Times on how to gather a small business team, and here are the initial teems you will need:

    • An operations team
    • A product team
    • A development team
    • A marketing team
    • A sales team
    • And a customer success team

    Initially, all those teams will consist of only one or two people, but as you grow, your team will grow as well.

    But what will you do before you have enough people to do each task in-house?

    2- Finding your 3rd party helpers

    The answer to the question right above the header, is the header itself.

    You need to get help from 3rd party tools, because:

    • They are usually cheaper and faster than building a team,
    • They don't require extra development,
    • Can help you with tips, tricks, and templates.

    And most tools nowadays don't even require the tiniest bit of technical knowledge. As long as you know how to move the mouse cursor on the screen, the tools will teach the rest to you. Here is a list of the most useful 32 no-code tools for SaaS businesses.

    So now, you have two types of teams: your human team, and your digital team.

    It's time to dive into the market.

    3- Finding your product-market fit

    You probably did in-depth research about your idea, whether or not people are looking for a solution to the problem you solve, and how many competitors you have.

    Now it's time to learn about product-market fit.

    Remember, people don't buy products. They buy experiences and solutions. If you have a chatbot app, you don't sell a chatbot app, you sell easy and instant communication.

    And you should also set up the following growth metrics to always remain up-to-date in your market:

    • NPS score,
    • Churn rates,
    • Growth rate,
    • Market share.

    4- Fill in the details

    The rest of the process before starting to get customers is building the actual product.

    👉 Coming up with a pricing plan and testing it is probably the most critical step among all pre-launch steps, because once you change it, people might lose interest. Here you can find out how to strategize your pricing.

    👉 Then comes UX/UI testing. Keeping up with popular UX/UI patterns and creating a smooth customer experience and customer journey is crucial, but testing and making sure that you are on the right track before launch is even more important.


    Now you are ready to launch your product.

    Phase #2 - Getting Your First Customers

    Don't forget, you are selling a solution, not a product. Therefore, you can't go with the traditional "bragging about the product and create brand awareness" technique. Marketing a SaaS company is a bit more time-taking, and a tiny bit more complex - if you don't know how.

    But I am here to teach you how.

    5- Use your network

    Your first customers might not come directly from your community, but by spreading the word that you have launched, you will definitely find some innovators along the path.

    Therefore, you should ask fellow entrepreneurs and founders to help you out by helping you promote your product on their networks.

    And also, you should do the same on your own social profiles and platforms.

    6- Use online communities

    While your network will be your biggest help along the way, you should never underestimate the power of organic signups through social platforms.

    Thus, don't forget to promote your product on:

    And any other platform you feel confident about is related to your niche.

    7- Set up a content marketing and advertising plan

    As soon as you are done with instant promotion, you should set up your long-term marketing strategy.

    According to HubSpot, the most popular ones are:

    • Content marketing,
    • Product Trials,
    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO),
    • Referral marketing,
    • Google Ads,
    • Co-Marketing,
    • Retargeting.

    Here you can find the rest of the guide to creating a stunning growth strategy.

    8- Experiment with discounts/promotions

    Going from the innovators phase to the early adopters and early majority phases, you need another driver than "just existing."

    So, you should promote your launch discounts to attract customers that aren't so sure, but would want to stick with you for the price.

    The best part about those people is that if you actually gain their trust and turn them into loyal customers, they will become organic promoters and spread the word about you to their communities. 

    Phase #3 - Scaling Your SaaS Business

    By now, you have the basics complete. That's why it's time to start going into more detail about your business's fine needs to lure potential customers deeper into the sales cycle.

    9- Do you offer self-serve onboarding yet?

    All marketing efforts have one common goal: getting the customer to learn about the tool so that they can make a purchase.

    The marketing team deals with the first part, but the "making a purchase" part needs more refined user experience elements so that customers can like you better than your competitors.

    The easiest and most effective way to both acquire qualified customers and retain current customers is by keeping them in a loop.

    Let me show you an example:

    This small UX element keeps customers informed, engaged, and excited all at the same time.

    10- Mirror mirror on the wall, how do I grow organically at all?

    The answer is: SEO and backlinks.

    Any SaaS company needs backlinks to get organic traffic - thus, organic signups.

    People need to find you in their search results, you have to be visible on SERP results if you want to oıtgrow your competitors and become a trademark in what you do.

    Here is a great hub by Ahrefs to teach you the basics of SEO and get your organic growth game going.

    But SEO is not all:

    11- Did you elaborate on your first marketing channels and attempts?

    By far, you probably have some content published, some ads up and running, and acquired some customers.

    And also, you set up an analytics tool even before you launched so that you could gain insights.

    Now it's time to use all the data you gathered.

    In other words, now it is time to interpret all the numbers and feedback that you collected from your audience, through your tools.

    Here is a guide about which SaaS Growth metrics to look at and how to use them.

    Phase #4 - Addressing Retention and Churn

    As we are speaking of metrics, there are two types of metrics that are more important than any other:

    1. Churn metrics,
    2. Retention metrics.

    One is your best friend, and one is your nemesis. That's why you need to know about the following three points to fight all kinds of churn and increase all kinds of retention:

    12- How are your customer-related teams?

    Happy teams, happy customers. Life just works this way.

    You can't expect to have a high customer retention rate unless you have a high employee retention rate. So, try to give your customer success and customer support teams the encouragement for them to encourage customers the right way.

    13- How are your customers?

    image source

    Now that you have your team happy, you are ready to focus on your customers.

    It's time to check your customer health score and customer engagement score.

    Also, did you start getting any feedback yet?

    14- What are the most common complaints and compliments?

    There is more to do with customer feedback than figuring out how to upgrade your product. You can also group the feedback according to similarity, and see what your biggest strengths and weaknesses are in the eye of the customer.

    Doing so will allow you to work on your customer churn rate easily, and find the easiest path to negative churn.

    Phase #5 - Penetrating New/Adjacent Markets

    By far, you found your market, your customers, how to scale, and how the customers feel about you. Now, you need to find new opportunities in order to keep growing.

    15- The market changes, and so do your competitors

    I know that you did your market research and have a clear idea about what the user demands from you. But neither these demands nor the market is evergreen, and your competitors know it.

    Keep a close eye on the competitors to be able to see trends and changes before they go viral.

    But, watching your competitors is not the only thing you can (or should) do: 

    16- How about changing the market yourself?

    Be. An. Innovator. Not. A. Follower.

    Your competitors already are what they are, don't try to replicate them. Instead, focus on the problems they can't quite solve.

    Don't reinvent the wheel, but come up with a replacement. Invent a jet.

    17- It's time to localize and go international

    Are your services available overseas?

    How many giant SaaS companies do you know that don't provide their services in languages other than English?

    According to CSA research's findings, people won't buy anything they can't read. Most people value personalization, and providing service in their native language is the most general personalization you can do for them.

    localize figures

    Phase #6 - Iterate, Improve, Grow

    As much as it sounds like a burden, you will have to repeat the same steps again and again throughout your journey. Each time you repeat a step, you will have a chance to see how different it is from the last time, and how much you have changed.

    18- Never underestimate the power of KPIs

    Metrics, metrics, metrics, metrics...

    From the beginning to the end, metrics are important. When you start, you need metrics to estimate. When you are valued, you are valued according to what your metrics say.

    When you exit, the metrics will say when and how much.

    If you go down, the metrics will tell you what you have done wrong and what you should do next time.

    Well, if you have been paying attention to metrics, you probably won't go down anyways.

    I mentioned this before, but here is a great guide to using growth metrics correctly.

    19- Do you need help from others, or yourself?

    You have done almost everything that can be done to accelerate the speed of growth of your SaaS company. All that's left is to fill in the blanks.

    • Do you need help from any other tool? 
    • Is there a trend you missed?
    • Do you need to add new members to a certain team?
    • Or do you feel like you could replace your spreadsheets with tools?

    Getting help from yourself can be done in many different ways. Hubspot, for instance, had an amazing way of convincing people they needed HubSpot.

    20- To remain the best you have to become the best again and again

    You have lots of data, lots of feedback, and lots of comments. You can also reach the comments about your competitors through platforms like G2 and Capterra, and see what people actually want.

    To remain the best, you should:

    • Always be a step ahead and never fall behind,
    • Be an innovator, not a follower,
    • Be aware of the fact that social proof is stronger than any other marketing method, but the other marketing methods are the means to gain social proof.

    Long Story Short

    There are six basic phases during growth:

    1. The establishment
    2. The market
    3. The opportunities
    4. The people
    5. The competitors
    6. The repetition

    The sixth phase summarizes it all: you have to build a company and keep building new things on top of what you have to grow.

    On your way, you will learn about metrics, methods, and best practices. And that's how you grow a business from zero to one in a short time.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How fast can a SaaS company grow?

    Usually, an average early-stage SaaS company grows 4.4% per month, which adds up to a 68.0% yearly growth.

    How do I get more customers for SaaS?

    There are two ways to attract more customers: paid marketing, or organic growth. No matter which suits your niche better, you should analyze your acquisition costs and reasons in order to find what exactly works best for you.

    What is the number one way to quickly grow your SaaS startup?

    If you manage to go viral, you will grow quicker than most companies do. But if the chances of your company going viral and becoming a trend itself is low, you should focus on SEO and customer base building.

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