A step-by-step guide of how I would build a SaaS company right now – part 4

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A step-by-step guide of how I would build a SaaS company right now – part 4


Part 1 Part 2 Part 2.5 Part 3

Things get busy when you’re executing on everything you’re writing about.

This is part 4 of 5.

1.Start with your revenue and monetization plan (are you targeting a sector that has money and can/will pay – Part 1)

2.Align yourself with others in your space (cheapest way to get traction/credibility – Part 2)

2.5 – Process, process, process – Start one, refine it, continually improve it – Part 2.5

  1. Work on road mapping your product to align with what complements your partnerships (cheapest distribution) – Part 3

4. Work on building a marketing strategy that can help expose and align your brand while strengthening its recognition with your partners (will this make us both look good)

5.Build customer advocates along the way, tell their stories (lead with examples)

In other words, don’t piss off your partners.

Before we dive into this head first it’s come up in past posts.

Your clients are your partners, your platforms that you integrate with are your partners, anyone who shares something about your platform, product, whatever are your partners.

Imagine if you have a reputation to keep up, because you do.

If one of your partners has plans to do something that is similar to what you’re doing, don’t go through with that partnership. If you play in the same space and you complement each other, go for it. This is what NDAs are for with clauses against copying one another.

If you find yourself at the point where your product has expanded past it’s initial borders and now starts to creep into what your partner does, don’t expect massive support.

So what’s the strategy play?

Work a connection and ask. Yeah I know, not much of a strategy, but it seriously works. If you learn to approach people in a certain way they almost always share too much information. People by and large are really excited about what their companies do. You just have to put them at ease in order to get that information out of them. This is much easier once you have an NDA in place, people are pretty forthcoming with what they are working on and what their goals are.

When you are working on something that integrates, look to connect to someone inside the company that sets up clients, work with them to understand best practices etc. This saves you a lot of time when you are building and working on features.

Hint on this they will also tell you what people need the most help setting up – this is a gold mine for industry information.

Platform Partners

A platform partner is someone that you integrate with anything from a sign in with google to pushing an email address to a list in Facebook. If you built the integration, praise the holy hell out of why the integration is so great.

Every platform partner is a “product launch” treat it as one. When you decide to integrate with a partner, use the vision of your reason for integration as the blueprint for sharing awesomeness with people.

What makes them look good?

I know this is hard for people, repeat after me, “It’s not about my company, it’s about what I can do to make your company look good or accomplish something.” Sales isn’t sales anymore, it’s marketing, and marketing is all about storytelling which is actually customer experience, so you need to tell the “story” about how working with your platform partner has enabled you to do awesome things for your Client Partners. Bonus the client probably is their customer too in most cases which actually allows you to create a mini case study/story for them.

Imagine if your company basically wrote a case study for a platform partner as a result of how you integrate, what company in their right mind wouldn’t help share that on social media and social channels, maybe even their blog or a link to their newsletter.

You’ve just managed to create content that benefits your company, your partner platform’s company, your client via providing them exposure, and you’ve amplified the spread of your content.

Why write another boring case study that only focuses on your product – there’s no incentive for your platform partner to share it – use your noggin to work smarter, not harder.

When you’re small, you are always looking to get on and remain on your partner’s radar. You also want to align as much as possible to leverage their brand and reach.

What’s in it for them?

What every company wants – more exposure that leads to more revenue. If you integrate with a specific platform and you call out results when combining them (assuming your story is great) drive them that traffic, allow people to find out more about them ON YOUR WEBSITE – push that traffic to them.

This does two things – 1. It makes your life easier when you’re dealing with simplified integrations and 2. It makes you look like a revenue source which will bump you up on the priority list when opportunities come up.

If you go to any large website – say shopify etc, you’ll see a list of agencies that they farm out work to, want to hit the top of that agency list – drive the most traffic to shopify. You want to be a top app in their app store, talk great about their platform whenever possible.

It’s that simple, people reward relationships that benefit them. Show a benefit.

Look, I get it, this seems so simple, but really, think about all the conversations you have with sales people telling you what their platform and features enable instead of simply asking what would be on your wishlist of things that would be amazing for blank then explaining how your product solves for them.

If you did your research, you can always walk people into the answer you’re looking for. Always. It’s all about positioning your questions and sprinkling leading questions every so often to direct them back to the answer you want to hear them say.

The same goes for working with partners, always be positioning to be top of mind.

How to make them look amazing without trying

Ok so this is a bit of a lie, people always think their product is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s not.

The key to making people look good, is being overly humble and grateful. Honestly, I watched this terrible display of ass kissing and brown nosing from people around me at large companies, the polished act literally worked every time. Everyone likes a little bit of a suckup. Our partners loved it.

So instead of trying, don’t. Build content meant to benefit you indirectly.

Put your platform partners first and slide the business to them. Then share that out on social media. If an article is shared by you about one of your partners, at the very least it will be reshared by the person in charge of partnerships. Make this person your friend, always promote their content on things like LinkedIn, shoot them the love, people like it when you’re top of mind.

And now the actionable parts.

How to build internal advocates at partner companies

This really isn’t overly hard –

  1. Go to LinkedIn
  2. Follow the company
  3. Follow people active in the company
  4. Follow people on the marketing team
  5. Follow people on the partnership team
  6. Be genuine
  7. Find people that the partnership team comments on
  8. Follow them
  9. Follow their companies
  10. Say nice things
  11. Be genuine

Rinse and repeat.

If you do this correctly, you’ll work your way down to having a good list and rapport with those that are part of the partnership team, those on the marketing team and a few content writers for those companies, when you comment, your company will not be top of mind along with your name, keep this shit up.

Consistency is how to make this happen.

How to ensure you’re top of mind always

Want to be top of mind, do good work. Again, not super complicated, but it does take time and the results aren’t immediate.

As stated above, go out of your way to make people at your partner companies feel good. This could be retweeting the company’s tweet, commenting on an employees posts as relevant, anything you can to ensure that your company is popping up in and around the types of activities that

Client Partners

These are your customers – find ways to make them shine and amplify their messages on your website, on social media, etc.

Some people look at this as a double edge sword where you’re sharing the clients you work with, fear not good companies already know using tools like BuiltWith. It’s all about maintaining the relationship.

What makes them look good?

Back to part 1 for the refresher:

Companies buy things for one of these reasons, hopefully all 4.

  1. It saves them time (reduces friction or replaces a time consuming task)
  2. Makes/saves them money (creates revenue/ adds value that lets them win business)
  3. Adoption is simple for their workforce (is easy to incorporate into an existing workflow and anyone can use it/cost of switching in relearning)
  4. Adds transparency and allows for bigger insights (provides data)

Make sure that whoever your contact is at your customer account that is in charge of running your software looks like a f*cking rockstar.

What does this mean? Build trust, work through implementation fully, support and fill in gaps initially, and be a source of knowledge on best practices for getting the most out of your software.

This isn’t sales, this is customer success and a vested interest in ensuring that 1-4 from above go off without a hitch.

I can’t stress this enough – in most companies, no one has a vested interest in seeing someone succeed in most roles – they don’t care. Often when you get to the top of your domain, you’re making it up as you go along.

Knowing this, be the partner that helps the person making it up as they go along to achieve massive success and empower them to make decisions based on what you’re product can unlock, whether that’s more time, increased budget, better company insights, or something even better, unlocking some external understanding via data in the market.

What’s in it for them?

It’s all about them. Treat them like your only client.

SaaS is a bit of a misnomer in that it treats large swaths of customers the same and bigger customers usually get better prices. Interestingly enough, in the early days of getting customers signed on, pricing per customer could be wildly different because it’s all about perceived value.

If you can learn to ask the right questions – you can strip through all the bullshit and start figuring out what success looks like to the company, what’s accomplishable, and what you can do as a company to ensure that your lead contact looks like a genius.

If you do this right, you start asking questions to determine what will expand their budget – with that comes a bigger piece of the pie for you as the company selling in.

Think about your product as being make or break for them. You really should be in regular contact with the companies using your product, trust it’s easy to tell when a company really doesn’t care.

The truth is, when people like me are talking to clients, we have a good amount of sway in deciding what products people want to work with to accomplish workflow goals. Because we’re a trusted entity when it comes to wanting to align our outcomes.

Be that person, be the expert, stay connected, make yourself available.

How to make them look amazing without trying

This is a talent, but anyone can learn it. Align your goals with the goals of your lead contact.

It’s really that simple. What you want doesn’t matter. What the client wants, needs to be narrowly focused to give yourself the best chance of success. Ask what their boss looks for in a program, what would unlock more resources, staff, budget, etc.

Back from the process post 2.5 when we talked about how important understanding your own internal processes are, the same goes for your clients. When you know what their process looks like and how you can add value through your product to build a better process or free up resources you’ll find a lot of success.

Your success is predicated on your main contact thriving when you know what they are being graded on and you focus on working with them to improve their internal processes to make their lives easier, you win.

How to build internal advocates at partner companies

Be human, relate to their role. In my earlier advice I said you should know your industry down pat. I really do believe this. When you can talk from a place of expertise having played an active role, you can define the role your product will play in an existing workflow.

You want to structure everything around the internal employees goals relative to the company’s goals. What does this mean?

It means that your contact has internal goals for their department and the executive team has goals for the department as a whole, these often are different. Inter department there are goals for process and workflow. Executive level goals are more general revenue and or results.

The workflow and process bits the executive team doesn’t really care about, they only care that it’s working to produce the numbers needed.

How to ensure you’re top of mind always

Be present. Your goal is to make a friend. Connect with them on LinkedIn, support their posts, go above and beyond to help them help their company grow. Take interest in their success. Most people don’t stay at companies for that long anymore, create a great impression and you’ll get repeat business. Create an amazing impression and people will recommend you to other companies.

Most high level people go to conferences with other high level people in the same field. Your product and your reputation will travel with them.

Bonus Group – Partner Partners

Partner marketing is the most cost effective way to grow your user base. When you’re starting out and usually when you’re humming along the one thing that keeps coming up on the regular is lack of resources.

There are tons of smaller complementary companies out there all trying to grow, everyone is in the same position, literally everyone. Find ways to build your network to connect to people that are similarly situated, you gain insights, advice, and a great peer network when you’re rolling out projects. It even allows you to form amazing partnerships.

The Takeaway

The best marketing is word of mouth.

The best way to get word of mouth is to be humble.

The best way to be humble is to put the needs of your partners first.

Business is a marathon not a sprint try your best to be good to those around you.

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