Time to read: 4 minutes

I’ve been thinking through ideas, doing some customer discovery and considering purchasing existing SaaS businesses. In doing so, there have been quite a few learnings and this is my space to share those.

I’ve made all the classic mistakes on product development. Built things without first doing research, without talking to customers, without considering why the problem hasn’t been solved already, etc. This is a singular document I will use to validate products before building. Feel free to use as well.

You might have noticed I also built a site based on Leo Polovets great article about de-risking your startup. That can be found here. While this criteria is great once you have validation I am interested in exploring the phase before that.

Few notes:

  • I am only considering b2b products that charge for access
  • I am only considering things I can feasibly build
    • I am a full stack software engineer but am not well equip to build AI engines or rockets
  • I am not considering things that would take longer than 1 month to build an MVP
    • I have personally found I lose interest and motivation after this phase

My personal manifesto of SaaS can be found here

These learnings came from a combination of my own mistakes and insights from Justin Wilcox. He runs a great site dedicated to this called customerdevlabs.com. You should bookmark that one.

I actually used Justin’s customer interview script to generate some of these questions, some are from my own experience as well.

  1. How would you describe your role as a business owner?
    • This is purposely broad. We are staying as high level as we can to gather information.
    • If you narrow and make assumptions you can end up 1, 5, 50% off of the ideal solution. This compounds over time and ends up in product no one wants.
  2. What does success look like for you?
    • Again staying broad. But ideally in a b2b setting we want to anchor against success. Whatever that looks like.
    • We are trying to learn how this owner thinks about being successful.
  3. What’s the hardest part about achieving that success?
    • Now we are starting to think about problems this owner has in working towards success.
    • Not pitching anything here
    • We are ideally looking for something that is really really hard.
  4. When was the last time you tried to solve that problem?
    • We are ideally looking for something that is a frequent pain. To fit our criteria of something used daily.
  5. Can you tell me about the last time that problem happened?
    • We are trying to wrap our heads around what happens when the problem occurs. Does the business continue on without a major hiccup, are there large issues that come from the inability to solve this problem well, what other data can we gather here?
  6. Why is it a problem for you?
    • Learning how the owner thinks about this problem.
  7. How did you find your current solution?
    • Market research. Does this owner read Twitter? Maybe word of mouth? Or maybe some other channel we don’t even consider.
  8. What’s not ideal about this solution?
    • Looking for pains this owner still has with the existing solution.
  9. What is the biggest challenge you’re facing as a business owner with respect to [INSERT YOUR FIELD HERE, for example, outbound email marketing]?
    • May also go a layer higher by substituting email marketing for growing the business while on the go.
    • You do not want to assume email marketing is a problem. The problem is more around growing the business while on the go, and email marketing is usually a way someone solves this problem.
    • Our assumption to invalidate is other people do not try to grow their business with email marketing while on to go.
    • Business owners might do their outbound email from a desk in their office and then be in the field all day, thus proving a solution to this problem unneccessary.
    • Some of these learnings are enabled by my own experience growing/running a business mainly from my iPhone/iPad. If you catch yourself assuming things based on your own experience you ALWAYS want to double check with non-leading questions to potential customers.
  10. I’m actually exploring a solution in this space. Can I contact you if I find one?
    • Here we are confirming this owner doesn’t hate us and never want to talk to us again.
  11. If I wanted to put a solution to this problem in place, who else would I need to get buy in from?
    • Checking to see how hard it would be to implement a solution. I specifically am not interested in products that would be an enterprise sales cycle of 3+ people to buy in. #noprocurement
  12. I’m trying to get a broad understanding of this problem from a wide range of perspectives. Do you know 1-2 other people in your organization who are also struggling with growing the business while on the go?
    • Here we are trying to understand how others in the organization might think about this problem the owner has. Do they even consider it a problem? What are their thoughts?