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Hey people, as I have written in the past, it is possible to crack $1 Million by building an Online Business. The first step is always to acquire the skills upon which you will build the foundation of your business. For this reason, from times to times, I will be featuring here a series of AMA-style mini-interviews with people who are successful in their industry and will provide insights on how to get started. Most of them originally appeared on the private FB group I have co-founded named “Online Capitalists”. AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything” and is a concept originally appearing on Reddit. Please join the group for valuable information on online entrepreneurship and wealth building.
Today, I am really excited to present to you an AMA featuring Alex Chaidaroglou!
Alex is the co-founder of Altosight, the most accurate price tracking software for brands. He also works as a Performance Marketer at eFrontPro. Occasionally, he works with other startups as a consultant.
Alex and I both started our online journey roughly at the same time, experimenting with content based web properties, and building several profitable mini-sites together.
Since then he has been heavily focusing on SaaS and B2B Marketing. He has tried to launch a couple SaaS on his own and currently he is working with a team to get one off the ground.
Alex shares his learnings about B2B SaaS marketing at his personal blog Weekly Growth and has been mentioned by various publications such as Forbes, OnStartups, ConversionXL, BuzzSumo and more!
So, what questions do you have for him? Shoot away below!
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Question (by Ilias Tsagklis)
Hey Alex, thanks for the AMA. I would like to ask what are the 3-5 Top Resources for someone to get the nuts and bolts of SaaS.. It could be a book, ultimate guide, etc.. Thanks!
Answer (by Alex)
Hi Ilias thanks for the question.
1) The holy grail for SaaS is https://www.saastr.com and its founder’s (Jason Lemkin) Quora profile.
It’s fairly advanced but simply the best.
2) http://www.forentrepreneurs.com has some nice posts, but in most cases he goes way too lengthy and misses the point.
It helped me at my start especially for metrics like CAC, LTV, etc, but now I don’t read it at all.
3) http://labs.openviewpartners.com is a cool one I enjoy reading every now and then. Not mindblowing, but interesting.
4) http://sixteenventures.com is an interesting one for start-mid level but now he rarely posts and he mostly talks about customer success.
5) Although not a SaaS blog per se, http://www.priceintelligently.com/blog is a very interesting blog about pricing and other relevant topics. When I first read it, it blew my mind. I haven’t seen anything else like that.
Question (by Roberto Zanon)
Yo Alex, thanks for joining this AMA. So my question is, what do you think are the top 3 struggles any young SaaS entrepreneur faces the most, and if there’s like a simple road map to overcome those? Thanks a lot!
Answer (by Alex)
Hey Roberto thanks for the question. There are some fundamental differences in difficulties in B2C, SMB and Enterprise SaaS, but I will share some struggles/beliefs that I have found to be true:
1) Every SaaS needs at least 2 (max 3) core founders. One of them needs to be extroverted to do marketing/sales/meetings and the other one needs to be introverted to do product, dev and problem solving. The third one (if there is a 3rd one) should have connections in the space.
Connections to customers, terrific hires, volunteers, whatever. Ideally, all.
It’s very, very hard to do it alone (virtually impossible) without being in a booming city. Even then it’s very hard.
People who join later might get some equity, but the core founders should be 2-3.
2) At first we all start and follow one ideology that is getting recognition at the time (i.e. build and MVP and be lean). We think that we have thought it and it makes sense, but in essence we are following it blindly, because we lack extensive real world experience.
Following and believing a path, any path, blindly is a sure way to get into problems that you are not in the right frame of mind to solve.
The truth is always somewhere in between. Sometimes people want a full product before they buy, sometimes not. Sometimes you can hack it with connections and use early users/customers as social proof to get more.
For example, what if you start a marketing/growth agency, get funding from a VC firm and they bring all their startups to you?
You are into business without an MVP or anything else, but no one told us about that path.
In general, you can hack things and books don’t tell everything.
3) The last thing I’d say is the difficulties of early days.
Working a lot, trying to keep everything together and not drop too many balls. Actually the right phrase is “winging it”.
You did everything right, you have some version of a product live and you even have some monthly customers!
All this time, all this effort for like a total of $400/month…
This looks like a bummer at first, but SaaS is cumulative, so it’s a really long term game, but the business model is the best in existence!
This got lengthy ^^
For the last part, there is no right roadmap to overcome these because every situation is unique.
What I found useful was listening a ton from everyone who would share their story with me (in private because in public the story might change) and thinking a lot trying to analyze situations into simple components and make sense of them.
Question (by Grigoris Vasilopoulos)
Hi there Alex and thank you for your time! So I’d like to ask what are 2 or 3 things you find out to be true during your internet marketing journey that most people would disagree with? Thank you!!
Answer (by Alex)
Hey Grigoris thanks for the question.
I’d say that most of them are under Roberto’s answer. However, to be a little more specific:
1) Getting an Indication Of Interest (IOI) signed for B2B as a sign that the market wants what you have. Just LOL!
This was one of the dumbest mistakes I have made. Every professional is busy, you are an unknown person and you want them not only take their time to try your product, BUT ALSO commit and take time to sign a document for something that doesn’t exist!
Ridiculous. Startups have risks, we can mitigate some of those, but overall they are risky. If someone wants to play safe they better stay out of it.
(Of course some people have done it, only with small businesses and this is like the 1% that confirms it won’t happen)
2) Most people easily fall in the trap of thinking that marketing is simple, some words, post in social media and generally fluffy stuff and by simply reading a few articles they learned marketing.
It’s very important to have knowledge on things like accounting, legal, marketing, some HTML etc, but never believe you are an authority on something outside your core expertise.
If my core expertise is B2B SaaS marketing, I must always stay up to date and have an edge, but I will never claim to know more about accounting than my accountant.
And if it seems that I know more about it than her, then I am an idiot for hiring her and not a more capable person.
Sounds obvious. It isn’t.
Question (by Nasos Psarrakos)
Hi Alex. Thanks for this AMA! Although we have talked much in private. I wanted to ask you some stuff:
- When entering an existing market. What’s the best way to answer to naysayers that try to flame you as a “copycat”?
- Should someone go for “Product Hunt” featuring? Or is it some worthless tactic like being featured on techcrunch. Meaning that you only get exposure for “entrepreneurial” people rather than potential customers.
- How can you find people that would take the time to actually give you feedback and would be willing to tell you the features they would pay for? Any favourite platforms?
(If you can share any success story of yours, that would be fantastic)
Answer (by Alex)
Hey Nasos thanks for the questions 🙂
1) First thing is asking yourself why they call you a copycat and if it’s true (it’s not bad).
No app is exactly the same as another one, so it’s a matter of positioning.
Do you have fewer features than the competition?
Focus on your best one that you do it better than anyone else and frame your app as “an easy to navigate app for everyday people/professionals with only the necessary”.
In that sense you must find a few attributes to differentiate yourself. These can be that you are a lightweight app with less clutter (aka features), more personal support and occasional personal recommendations, maybe proprietary integrations with other apps, etc.
In the end, if they prefer the competition, let them go there. But, if they say you are a copycat, you haven’t managed to differentiate yourself enough.
2) For B2B product hunt doesn’t work (it’s not worth it). For other businesses it might make sense, but still it’s a gamble.
In general, the more connected you are (the more upvotes you can claim) and broader your app’s appeal the better.
Personally, with Weekly Growth, I’d prefer getting featured on ConversionXL than Techcrunch. If you are a VC launching a fund, Techcrunch is more important.
It’s all about where your customers hang out and how you frame it.
If you frame your app as ideal with only the necessary for professionals 25-55 that want stay fit and PH has many people from that audience you might get some good signups.
Or you might not. It’s a gamble for the most part.
3) The key here is to establish a relationship early on without asking them for anything. A great way to do that is lesson 1 here:
In general you want to help them and somehow exchange a couple emails and make a connection. Some people will be more willing some not.
Once you have established a relationship you can send them a personalized email asking them what they want or asking them how they use your platform, what they do before they use it, what after and from that you can think how you can make that better.
Ideally you will jump on a quick skype call with them, but if they prefer email, that’s also fine.
Until you are big, it’s better to do it personalized and without a platform.
Asking them what would they pay for won’t work 9 times out of 10.
Most people don’t know what they want and when pressed they will say something that might not make sense for your product long-term.
Once you have identified how you can make their lives easier by knowing how they use the product, you can tell them “Hey I am thinking of adding this functionality, what do you think?”.
In the end, you can give that functionality for free for a period of time to the users that took the time to help you and the rest charge them a premium for that functionality.
Hope these help, but happy to answer any follow up questions if you have!
P.S. A success story for me would be exiting a B2B SaaS for a hefty number of $$, so not one yet!
Alright, superb questions and answers here! Thank you Alex for taking the time! Stay tuned for some more AMAs coming up! Cheers!