Hope you all had a good start to the week! And if you haven't joined the SaaS Manual live community, feel free to join here: https://discord.gg/gGTD6eX - it is so cool to see how many wonderful people joined so far.
If you haven't signed up for SaaS Manual yet, you can do so below:
Now, let's dive into what went into the launch of SaaS Manual. Let me share everything that I did to get ready, the launch, and what I did after the launch.
Over the years, I have been part of several product launches. It always has been a really exciting time, we'd work really really hard on the next great idea or feature. We'd work day and night, trying to create something perfect which customers would love. This created a really strong feeling of togetherness and shared mission. I loved it.
There is also another side to launching. Every other launch I have been part of had pretty much the exact same pattern (with different absolute ranges). So, let me share the launch metrics of the SaaS Manual website to give you an idea.
You'll see, there was a clear spike during the launch and then it dropped. When you work extremely hard, day and night, for weeks to launch a new product, you will very likely get this type of graph. You might be hit by a wave of endorphins "woohoo, so many people love my product" before you get struck by depression as your metrics are in freefall "oh nooo, why are there no new customers anymore?". This is normal, you should expect it and it is good practice to be mentally ready for this.
Launches are a lot of fun - and - Launches won't create a sustained inflow of new customers most of the time. They are good and bad. To create a sustainable inflow of new customers and to retain existing customers, you need to continuously invest and build strong relationships with your users.
For SaaS Manual I decided to use the "launch" as a mechanism to validate "the market". My plan was simple:
We often focus on simple numbers such as website visitors or sign-ups. And then we proudly announce that hundreds or even thousands of people signed up after a launch (I do this as well 🙈). This is good, but it often doesn't tell an accurate or even useful story. Launch metrics often spike and then drop back to almost the same metrics as before launch.
So what are useful metrics?
For SaaS Manual a really useful metric for the launch was the conversion rate between website visits and signups. Between launch and today, this has been hovering around 20%. In the first launch days, it was 25%. That is a good conversion rate. This metric told me that something in the message was resonating with people because one in four or five people decided to join the SaaS Manual journey.
If this number was a lot lower, say 2%, I would either have had a bad product, a bad landing page, or the wrong audience. In the long run, I will add another metric: Retention. Because next to having a high conversion it is important that people stay with your product. There is no value in having thousands of people signing up for your service but not using it. I will cover this in a future post, once retention becomes relevant.
Next to monitoring your launch metrics, it also helps to simply listen to feedback from people who find you or your product. The approach I take for building any type of business is that of building relationships with the people who are interested in the work I do. Listening to your users will give you a really good idea of their "feelings" towards your product.
Product Hunt is a wonderful website/community where you can share and discover new products. Every day a list of new discoveries is promoted on the main Product Hunt page, and people can vote for their favorite products. Based on those votes, you go up or down in your rank on this list. Generally, you can expect a lot of positive feedback and a good number of website visits when you launch your new product there.
I planned to launch SaaS Manual on Product Hunt based on the great and friendly community it has. I also thought about Reddit and Hackernews but decided to go with Product Hunt as the main place to announce SaaS Manual. For the actual announcement I mostly followed the steps which Pieter Levels described in his great book "The Bootstrappers Manual - a.k.a. Make".
Before I share what I did, head over to the SaaS Manual Product Hunt page and have a look for yourself. See what patterns you find and what ideas you get for your own launch.
When you launch on Product Hunt, simply make sure that you post your product at 00:00:01 PST (local time San Francisco). This is when the new list for the day gets initialized and when votes will start counting. You will simply have a headstart to other products if you launch in time.
You need to come up with a short and concise summary of your Product Hunt posting. I used the following:
SaaS Manual teaches you how to build commercial software services that are production-ready, scalable, maintainable, and secure. It teaches you all of this from scratch.
If there is one thing to focus on, it is this: write the message from the perspective of your customer. Your customer needs to learn what they will get our of this, why they should join or sign up. Make it about how their life will improve, what you can do for them, how your product will help them to become a better human. And write this with a tone which feels good to you, don't try to be someone else.
Next to the summary, it is also good if you post an initial comment on your Product Hunt page. I simply copied the format which Pieter Levels proposed:
I wrote the comment beforehand so I could tweak and not be stressed out about launch timing. You can already pre-post the comment when you schedule your launch at a specific day.
You also need to create an icon and some background images. I am not a graphic designer but have used tools like Photoshop or Sketch extensively. So I made something which resonated with me. The background was a randomly generated collection of triangles. I had this idea to maybe fill them in with color eventually as SaaS Manual grows. I also asked my partner in crime, Victoria for feedback since she is a graphic designer. So if you know someone who is familiar with graphic design, ask for their opinion or feedback.
I made all assets available on GitHub. Head there if you are curious.
After those preparations, I scheduled the launch and just waited for it to happen.
As soon as SaaS Manual went live on Product Hunt, I reached out to a few friends on Twitter and WhatsApp. I asked them if they would be so kind to upvote SaaS Manual to give it a bit of an initial boost. In total, I asked about 10 people. These friends were pretty much all living in different places, some in Europe, some in the US. From hereon I just let it happen and was ready to respond to any messages, comments, or other forms of people reaching out.
As soon as SaaS Manual was announced, I saw that people signed up to the list. And yep, this gave the endorphin rush I described earlier, it was awesome. A bunch of folks reacted to my tweets on my personal account and on the SaaS Manual account. I was surprised how little comments I received on the Product Hunt page and I don't know why that was the case. Did SaaS Manual not leave room for questions? Was it all clear? This didn't seem to influence the voting activity though.
Next to really nice individuals reaching out, I also got contacted by two business who promised me to get my Product Hunt listing to position #1-#5. Their respective price was $100 and $2500. I contemplated for a few minutes whether I should do this (the cheap version), but I decided not to. Why? Because I am totally transparent with what I am doing with SaaS Manual and I felt that cheating my way to #1 was just not right. This does make me wonder how many products try to cheat their way up.
In retrospect, the launch was a success. I reached my soft goal of 500 subscribers within the first few days and the conversion rate (visit to signup) was solid. You can see all the launch metrics here. I managed to announce SaaS Manual without going entirely crazy and stressed out. And still, there is a lot of work ahead, wohoo. Really, this is just the beginning.
We finally covered most topics about the SaaS Manual launch. This means that it now is time to start building the actual SaaS Manual service. In the coming update, I will share the steps I am taking to create the first version of the new SaaS Manual website.
If this sounds confusing, it kind of is: The current site was an experiment, running on Notion to see if there is interest. That experiment was a success and now I will show how to actually build a SaaS product, https://saasmanual.com.
Follow me on Twitter if you are curious about more regular updates on SaaS Manual. And as usual, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback, questions, or comments. I am especially curious about whether there are any topics you'd like me to cover regarding the initial launch of SaaS Manual.