How to build a failure

It’s my first time building a SaaS business, and I believe I’ve made a grave mistake. I’m building a landing page builder for startups. It’s called Everpage, and feedback has been great so far: “I’d love to use this for my next project!”, “Omg, this is so cool. Going to recommend this to all the clients I write for!”, “I’m sure this will blow up.”, “I LOVE YOU”, “I needed this like YESTERDAY!”, and “I wish I knew about this a month ago.”

But sales are much slower than expected. After talking with customers, I realized that I’m building a product that has 1. no urgency after a certain point, and 2. I’m building it in a crowded market that’s contingent on a very small part of the customer’s timeline:

Customers only need my product if they need a website

My product is only easy to adopt if somebody is actively looking for a landing page. Otherwise, they either 1. don’t need it yet, or 2. don’t want to get a new site due to the effort they put into making their old one.

Marketing something like this is difficult: I either need to be the first thing on peoples’ minds for MVP landing pages, I need to compete with other builders on advertising spend, or I need to convince people to scrap their old websites.

Reflecting on this makes me realize that successful SaaS businesses provide services that can be adopted at broader points in the customer timeline. For instance, people can adopt Intercom at any time once they’re in business:

Customers can adopt Intercom any time once they're in business

They can adopt Basecamp any time they need to manage a project:

Customers can adopt Basecamp any time once they're in business

They can adopt ConvertKit to validate their idea or market their product:

Customers can adopt ConvertKit at any time

They can adopt Typeform to do customer outreach:

Customers can adopt Typeform at any time

And even a business that provides a one-off late stage service is a little less risky:

Businesses with late-stage services have a long time to educate customers

Now take another look at my timeline:

Customers only need my product if they need a website

Basically, I’m learning that some SaaS businesses put themselves in a position where they can play the long game. They focus on converting a customer and growing along with their business, rather than trying to find them at a very short stage in their lifecycle. This means they can also spend more time on differentiating themselves with great UX (what I love to do) and less time getting in front of a customer as soon as that customer enters the market, which is hard for a little indie product like Everpage, even if people really really like using it.1

  1. Early-stage entrepreneurs also need products that are “free or cheap”, so these markets are harder for bootstrapped businesses to serve while still turning a profit. ↩︎