If you live in the B2B SaaS world then you’ve undoubtedly heard something along the lines of 90% of startups fail. Now, how precisely accurate that number is may occasionally come into question, but my thought is that if you have to question it, hasn’t the point already been made?
Regardless, WAY too many B2B SaaS products fail. Why? Well there are lots of reasons for failure. The most common ones I see as a B2B SaaS consultant are building a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist and premature scaling. However, I feel that the biggest problem by far is that many B2B SaaS products try to do WAY too much. The software is just too complicated.
I want to talk about why this happens so often and what you can do to prevent your B2B SaaS from falling into this trap.
Keeping your SaaS product simple will make everything easier. Unfortunately, keeping things simple can be a real challenge. Take the following quote from a well known innovator as additional proof.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
I couldn’t have said it better myself Leonardo which is why I’m borrowing your quote.
It can be really hard to keep things simple, but it’s always worth it. Everything you do to make your B2B SaaS product successful can benefit from a simpler approach. A simpler approach means a product that is easier to build, market and sell. An example of doing this might be building one feature into your SaaS product instead of three.
But how do I know less is more?
Turns out this topic has been studied before. In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper published a study on choice. In it they found that providing customers with less options reduced selection anxiety and led to more purchases. I’ve seen a very similar effect apply to software for decades.
If you want more customers to get value out of your software than you should consider making your product simpler.
Now let’s talk about how you can leverage these strategies to improve your B2B SaaS product.
Laser Focus on the TOP Problem
To put it simply, most software is trying to do too much which means trying to solve many problems at once. Even if your customers ask for this, most of the time they can’t handle it. It’s similar to trying to do two things at once – you just wind up doing each poorly.
What you should do instead is figure out which of those problems is actually the top problem. The top problem will cause the most pain for the greatest number of people. Meaning that if you build a solution to that problem you will provide the most value with the simplest experience and least amount of effort. Starting to sound more interesting yet?
To identify this top problem make sure your ICP or Ideal Customer Profile is well defined then you’ll need to interview them until the problem categories become clear. Once you know the problem space well, interview enough of them to understand which is the most widespread causing the most negative impact.
I have a strategy I recommend to visualize this called ‘buckets & marbles’. To leverage it, you create a bucket to track when you’ve uncovered a potential problem worth solving. Then, as you continue with interviews, new instances of that problem create marble that goes into the bucket. Eventually, you can sort your buckets by weight to easily identify the top problem.
Once you’ve found it, you’re ready to move on to the next step in the process – workshopping your solution.
Skip The Spinning Rims
One of my favorite lines from the original Ironman movie is when Downey Jr is planning to test his new prototype for the suit. Arguing with his AI assistant (Jarvis) has him utter the phrase “skip the spinning rims” which can be interpreted to mean that we don’t need ALL the features right now because we’re “on the clock”. Love it and couldn’t agree more.
You need to solve your customer’s top problem in a simple, but effective way. Balance what you want to do (all the things) with what they really need (a simple solution). Understand that this process naturally includes a TON of assumptions that are hard to validate outside of practice. This means the further you go BEFORE you test the more likely you are to miss.
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I’d recommend that you define your UVP or Unique Value Proposition by comparing it to how they are trying to solve the problem today. Create the simplest solution that improves upon the existing solution by 2-10X and stop there.
Being able to quantify how much better your solution is than how your customer is trying to solve the problem today is critical. If you can’t quantify it, how are you expecting them to understand how yours is better and why they should use it?
Measure how much more effective (better, faster, cheaper, etc.) your solution aims to be and test it with real customers. Remember, it’s their opinion which really matters (not yours unfortunately).
Now, before we go too far beyond solution design we need to perform some critical testing.
Sell It Before You Build It
Everyone wants to build just about all the time. Despite my efforts as a B2B SaaS consultant this problem is everywhere. B2B SaaS teams everywhere rush into development before critical testing is completed. This leads to a lot of pain down the road and can even sink entire companies. As such, I want you to do things differently.
You need to sell your product BEFORE you build it. Why? Because if you can’t sell it, why would you build it? Since you’re reading this I’m going to assume you have an interest in generating revenue and running a profitable business. If you can’t sell your product those things will never materialize.
Some people get hung up on this topic so allow me to share an example to make this easier to understand. I often get push back on this one to the extent of something along the lines of – “But how can I sell a product I don’t have!?” Think about this through an example. The last time you ate at a restaurant, did you make the waiter or waitress show you the food before you ordered it? No? Well neither did I. The menu description was all I needed to make a PURCHASING decision that binds me to paying for the product.
I recommend you test the combination of your UVP to your ICP in the form of sales conversations, perhaps with those you performed early discovery with or landing pages where you can drive traffic by targeting relevant keywords. Either way, sell some units before you build the product. If you don’t, it could spell disaster for your company down the road.
If your product doesn’t sell, you’ll need to focus on redesigning your value proposition until it does.
Years ago I built the HR tech B2B SaaS product StaffGeek, but before I built it I followed this plan. Here are some of the details for how that went and when I ultimately decided it was time to move forward with additional investments.
StaffGeek incorporates culture into the hiring process as a behavioral assessment. It could help predict whether or not a candidate is a good fit for a company’s culture. This is valuable to organizations because managing turnover and retention is expensive. This was the theory at the time, but it wasn’t yet tested so that was the next step.
Most of our target market customers (ICP) didn’t have a solution. The ones that did used existing platforms that had been around for decades for which there were TONS of complaints. We focused on those complaints (expensive, hard to use, ineffective, etc.) and designed something new. What came out of it was a simpler, easier to use and more cost effective assessment which became our UVP.
Once we had our ICP and UVP lined up, we began testing the strength by attempting to sell it. Without access to a product, we were able to get customers to mail us physical checks to hold a place in line to gain access to the product once it’s ready. That’s how we knew we were on the right track and ready to build.
Most software fails because it’s trying to do too much. To solve this problem you need to be laser focused on just what your customer needs (nothing more) and start there with the simplest (but effective) solution that provides them with a 2-10X ROI however they measure it.
If you follow that plan, you’ll likely realize that everything moves much faster towards the goals you have for building a successful B2B SaaS business.
If you’d like to explore leveraging strategies like these to help your B2B SaaS company find product-market fit faster, feel free to schedule a free strategy session to learn more about what I might be able to do to help you.