Step by Step Guide for Launching a New SaaS Product
The way SaaS products are launched has changed.
In the past, SaaS products were typically announced to decision-makers within niche vertical markets.
The rising popularity of product-led growth (PLG) – where focus is placed on attracting the end user – means SaaS product launches are larger and take more planning than ever before. They can also be more complicated.
This goes for both a new product launch or an added feature launch.
If you’re approaching a launch, here’s a 5-step plan to help guide your process and increase your chances of success.
Step #1: Decide on a pricing model
Before announcing a SaaS product launch, it’s important to nail down a pricing model.
Your prospects will be comparing your pricing to that of your competitors. Your pricing model shouldn’t deter your prospects from engaging your product, but should also reflect the value of your brand and product.
There are four common pricing models:
1. Timed free trial
Today, users want to experience a product before committing. One way to do this is through a timed free trial. During the trial period, the user can assess if the product meets their needs.
From the perspective of the SaaS company, a timed free trial offers an opportunity to move prospects down the sales funnel and convert them to paying customers.
Pros of a timed free trial:
- Allows users to explore your product’s value and features before committing.
- Creates a defined period of time for you to support onboarding and value creation.
Cons of a timed free trial:
- A free trial period isn’t free for the vendor. Overhead costs still continue even with user engagement.
- If your product is complicated or difficult to set up, this can deter users from signing up.
2. Free tier offering (freemium)
A free tier offering, or freemium, is when a vendor offers the basic features of its SaaS product for free.
In this model, the main goal is to sign up prospects for a trial period. This requires less upfront commitment from prospects and offers an opportunity for them to become familiar with the product.
As prospects are using the freemium version, marketing efforts can then be targeted and focused on upselling to the premium version. The goal is to ultimately convert freemium customers to paying ones.
Pros of a freemium:
- Easier to build user trust and organically demonstrate the value of your product.
- Can make for an easy and quick onboarding process. Customers can be moved down the funnel through upselling.
Cons of a freemium:
- Users can resist moving to a paid subscription. If your product is perceived as “free” it can harm your brand.
- Overhead costs can be higher as freemium may not convert users to paid subscribers.
- It can be more difficult to control user abandonment if users can simply stop using the product without having to cancel it.
3. Tiered pricing
Next, we have tiered pricing. This paid subscription model is one of the most popular because it can appeal to different buyer needs. Marketing can be targeted based on different user packages.
This pricing model is usually packaged on a per-feature and per-user basis. As the volume of users and features increases, the value becomes stronger.
Pros of paid subscriptions:
- Straightforward buying process where the customer can identify the package that best suits their needs.
- Upselling is simpler, since it’s based on what features (or how many seats) a company needs.
Cons of paid subscriptions:
- Smaller businesses may not have the budget for larger subscriptions, resulting in them not entering the sales funnel at all
- Too many tiers with a full list of features can be overwhelming to potential customers.
4. Usage-based pricing
This model is growing in popularity, especially for certain PLG motions. In this scenario, users pay for products based their consumption or usage rates, rather than on the number of seats they need.
Usage-based pricing (UBP) is ideal for products that don’t scale well as more people purchase seats – like APIs, AI or automations. The model also means customers can begin at a low pricepoint and increase their spend as they gain more value over time.
As OpenView explains:
Since you aren’t limiting the number of users who can access your software, your customers are able to find new use cases—which leads to more long-term success and higher lifetime value. We’ve seen as much as a 10x ratio in the number of users in an account for usage-based software companies relative to their seat-based peers.
Examples of a companies using UBP include Twilio and Zapier. Twilio offers a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) model with discounts for volume or usage commitments. Zapier charges based on the number of tasks (or Zaps) a customer account performs. In both cases, pricing isn’t linked to the number of users.
Pros of usage-based pricing:
- No limit to the number of users means the possibility of limitless expansion.
- Price is directly tied to the value a customer experiences.
- By exposing more users to a product, it can mean better longterm success or higher lifetime value.
Cons of usage-based pricing:
- Not as predictable as subscription based pricing.
- Difficult to accurately forecast how much usage there will be.
- Not as straightforward as a traditional SaaS pricing model.
Step #2: Do user testing and gather feedback
Testing your product and gathering feedback will inform the next steps in a SaaS product launch plan.
Product testing – also known as beta testing – is when feedback is gathered from a select group of individuals who represent your target market as they use your product.
There are several user testing services available to help with this, such as Userfeel.
SaaS product testing helps ensure product quality through validation activities. It often includes testing items like:
- Data integration
- Overall performance
Feedback should include identifying both friction points and user “a-ha” moments.
“A ha” moments are those moments when a user understands and experiences the full value of a product.
Here are a few ways you can identify user “a-ha” moments:
- Observe users interacting with your product and watch for moments of delight
- Identify patterns in user behavior, such as repeat use of a specific feature or repeat watching of an onboarding video
When speaking about how to identify “a-ha” moments, Pocus’ Head of Marketing, Sandy Mangat, said during this interview:
“It was a lot of user research. We asked a lot of questions about what are the things that you love about this product? What are the aspects that click for you? It was a lot of discussion. Running user research, interviews…actually going on Zoom and watching our users as they went through the product and noticing, oh, someone did this thing, and then they had this moment of delight.”
Step #3: Build up an audience
If you launch a SaaS product but no one is aware of, your launch will fall flat. Instead, it’s important to build an audience in advance of your product launch and get potential users interested.
An audience can also provide valuable insight and first reactions to your product before it’s launched.
There are several ways to build an audience:
1. Create a Community
An example of a company that has successfully built a community is Pocus.
Pocus is a product-led sales (PLS) platform that empowers sales teams to prioritize the best opportunities and take the right action, without engineering support.
The company built their community prior to launching their product by running an invite-only Slack channel. On the Slack channel, Pocus provides members with useful and unique information, free events and a place to discuss the ins and outs of PLS.
To access the Pocus Slack channel, visitors must register their email. This also helps the company build an email list:
Through their Slack channel, Pocus has built their brand as a value-driven leader in the PLS company and developed an audience that they can launch their products to.
2. Launch an exclusive newsletter
An example of a company that’s been successful with this is Backlinko.
Founded by Brian Dean in 2012, Backlinko is a platform that offers self-directed SEO courses.
Prior to launching his courses, Dean created interest by offering an exclusive email newsletter with unique value for his audience. (This also evolved into his famous Exploding Topics, an online trend analysis platform that combs and analyzes millions of web searches, mentions and conversations, and converts them to actionable insights into new ideas before they take off.)
Brian Dean also limits enrolment and runs a waitlist before each cohort is opened, which further grows his newsletter:
With a large newsletter list in place, Backlinko has an audience to launch new courses and features to.
3. Begin showing your product
Once your audience starts building, creating an interactive product demo is a good way of showing off your product and capturing the interest of potential users.
The benefit of an interactive product demo is that your product doesn’t need to be fully ready in order to make one. Instead, you can provide prospects with an interactive experience, while not exposing them to all functionality or backend features.
In addition to providing a sneak peak, this form of demo can also solicit valuable feedback before a full launch.
Step #4: Consider if you want to do a full launch or beta launch
There isn’t just one way to launch a product. You can either do a full product launch or a beta launch.
Both have their strengths and weaknesses depending on your company goals.
What is a full SaaS product launch?
A full launch is when a product is released to the general public without exclusivity. To have a full launch, make sure all beta testing and product walk-throughts have been conducted.
A full launch has its pros and cons.
- Pros of a full launch: Exposes your product to a broader user base right away.
- Cons of a full launch: If there are bugs in your product, this can affect your entire user pool, which can negatively impact brand authority.
What is a SaaS beta launch?
Rather than offering your product to the general public, a beta launch allows a closed or private group of interested users to explore your product.
A beta launch works well if you offer it on an exclusive basis. This creates a sense of public urgency and excitement about your product.
To entice beta users, incentivize feedback with giveaways and rewards. This can include:
- Free subscriptions for a certain number of days, weeks or months
- Gift cards
- Early bird pricing
- Exclusive community perks for founding members
A beta launch has its pros and cons:
- Pros of a beta launch: Users get the inside scoop on your product and have the opportunity to offer feedback – creating emotional value and enhancing community.
- Cons of a beta launch: Lead time to full market is extended. This can give competitors a lead on the market share.
Step #5: Start promoting your product
If you’ve followed these steps, you’ve technically been promoting your product already. But now’s the time to ramp that up.
To do this, there are many options:
1. Create blog posts
Blogs provide your audience with valuable information and, if written with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind, can organically drive traffic to your website.
You can also use blogs to show prospects the value of your SaaS product and how it will solve their problems.
Ahrefs does this well by showcasing their products in many of their blog posts. They do it in a way that offers helpful advice and value to readers – so it doesn’t come across as salesy. Check out this blog post for an example.
2. Run PPC and paid social ads
Paid ads are a popular way to promote your product. Include visuals like screenshots, videos or gifs to demonstrate your product’s value. Paid ads can get expensive, so it’s important to use them in complement with other promotion strategies.
3. Launch an email campaign
If you’ve been building a newsletter list, now is the time to share your product with your audience. Offer a discount or time-sensitive offer to reward your audience’s loyalty.
4. Create a product demo
Another tactic to promote your product is to create an interactive demo. Adding a product tour to your website it a popular way of doing this.
Citrix offers a clickthrough product demo on their website to showcase how their Citrix Analytics for Security works. This enables prospects to get an interactive sneak peak without getting full access to the platform – which would be both overwhelming for new users, as well as not appropriately configured for a realistic experience.
5. Post on product boards
Lastly, try posting your product on platforms like Product Hunt. Product Hunt is a website that curates new products including the latest mobile apps, websites and technology platforms.
Ideally, on Product Hunt, you want to make sure your product is pushed to the top five products listed. This means that you’ll automatically get more visibility in the community, increasing the likelihood of more upvotes.
The more upvotes you have, the more likely you’ll stay in the top five.
Being in the top five also means you’ll be featured in Product Hunt’s email newsletter which goes out to hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
To achieve the top five, here are a few strategies:
- Make sure your website is clean with a simple UI
- Be active on Product Hunt prior to listing your product
- Identify potential influential users
- Use social media to promote your product listing on Product Hunt
- Add a Product Hunt widget to your website