It Didn't Work Out

My SaaS attempt didn’t work out. So another failure story? Should I write a bucket list of lessons to be learned, things that went wrong? Well, I could but honestly, there are no apparent reasons for it not working — I mean you could think of various issues but it’s hard to imagine if winding the clock back would put me in a better place about what I was trying — maybe it’ll or maybe it won’t. Here, ‘it’ refers to Blipmetrics, a SaaS application that I was trying to build for content marketers but I failed short of building any momentum with it. “It’s niche, it’s focused, that would have a visible impact on my success”, I thought but it didn’t carry much effect.

It started with talking with people and trying to understand their issues — do they use spreadsheets? Do they have an understanding of how their content marketing is bringing results? I realised there was a problem that I could solve. Marketers can get more value if they knew how they content machinery was working. But the important question was — would people pay for it? Pre-selling was harder than I thought. Out of the few sign ups I had, people wanted to know how it looked before committing any money. But the major point where I faltered was gaining more momentum — having more people interested.

I thought I could write some relevant posts to fetch traffic but it was a poor strategy. I wasn’t good at writing anything relevant to the marketing field and most of my efforts were in vain. It seems the wiser idea here would have been to push for a channel that could be tested fast, not expending time on blogging which entails a fair chance of not working. Paid channels would have been a better fit but I dreaded putting upfront any cash. Signups were pretty slow but I had a few customers that were really interested in what I was building (they came from a newsletter I was unsolicitedly promoted in ).

I continued to work with shipping a MVP as my primary goal. Ah! building software — the easiest part of creating a business. I managed to dumb-down most of the things to exactly what I intended to solve — a way to understand how content is working for marketers. I showed it to few people that were in my list — one was very impressed and was looking forward to using it for their clients, few were not able to grasp how to use those numbers and others wanted some extra features. So what’s next? And there I was, clueless again about my next steps.

“How do I get more people? Are the feature requests that they are are asking just or irrelevant requests? I have one customer who is willing to pay but I don’t have more and I am certainly not creative about getting more users”. It’s a field that I have absolutely no working knowledge of and that’s one dire fact. I tried to take few more steps to getting more users, before just giving up. It wasn’t abrupt or impulsive but triggered from a shitty feeling to work on something that wasn’t going anywhere. Losing interest is a tough pill to swallow — after all, you started something with a passion for making it work.

But I was exhausted and wasn’t keen on doing anything more about it. Should I have tried more? Did I set the wrong foot right from the beginning? I am divided on answers to these questions but there are two things that I knew —

  • My average number of failures exceeded far beyond my average number of successes
  • I was not having any joy in continuing with the product.

I don’t draw a lot of lessons from this episode but I can think there are few rules of thumb that can help (personally, at least).

  • It’s good to pursue an idea very passively (slowly build on feedback and conversations with potential customers)
  • Target an audience whom you are familiar with. If not, that should be the first step.
  • Try to build something that you yourself would find useful.

There is no magic pill to building a great product — many smart people have succeeded with unconventional means. The internet is loaded with advice, frameworks and tips for every step of SaaS journey but there are things that you only understand when you try it out. I tried it out and didn’t work out well but maybe it’ll next time.

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