“I can’t pay your support fee. I’ve sold my house and am living out of my car”.
No one wants to hear this from a client.
At the time, I was working at a web development agency, where we built out bespoke web platforms for new and existing businesses. I was calling to collect his past due balance.
This client had invested his life savings into developing a SaaS platform.
And he didn’t have enough runway to sustain him while he generated revenue.
I felt terrible. I had been project manager of his platform, and had seen how hard he’d been struggling, post launch. Although we had built an epic platform, he wasn’t getting traction.
His story was extreme, but in working with hundreds of founders, not all that unique. Especially with first-time entrepreneurs who didn’t have a background in technology, and had changed careers, hoping to cash in on the SaaS recurring revenue dream.
In 11 years of developing web platforms, I’d had a front row seat to watch those founders succeed or fail. Many of them had quit their jobs and invested their savings into starting their business, just like this client.
What key attribute did founders with successful platforms share? Purpose. Nail your Purpose and you’ll have a much greater chance at succeeding, because Purpose is what great platforms are built on. You find your purpose by asking four questions:
- Who does it help?
- How does it help them?
- Why will they want it?
- Is it worth paying for?
Back to our past due client. His platform was meant to connect crafting enthusiasts online. Launched before Etsy was mainstream, it empowered crafters to post projects, share tutorials and chat about their hobbies. Here’s his platform’s purpose:
- Who it helps: crafting enthusiasts
- How does it help: by creating an online forum they can use to collaborate
- Why will they want it: with heavy competition from other social media sites (e.g. Facebook), and too few unique features to drive mass adoption, they didn’t
- Does it provide enough value: although the service was free, it didn’t
Sadly, two of his four questions had the wrong answers. If he’d known to consider them before he started, he may not have lost his house.
A success story is OFF DAY Trainer, which motivates personal training clients when they’re not in the gym. Clients do well with their trainer in person, but fall off when they’re on their own.
This platform connects trainers with clients through automated text messages. It saves them hours per week, and helps their clients achieve results—a win-win. Here’s OFF DAY’s purpose:
- Who it helps: personal trainers
- How does it help: by motivating clients and creating accountability around their goals
- Will they want it: great personal trainers do this manually. Using OFF DAY Trainer saves them time and helps clients reach their goals
- Value: for less than 2 cents a day, a trainer can connect with up to 100 clients, automatically
You must know, down to the detail, who your platform helps. If needed, create a profile of your ideal user. I’ll write more about that in a future post.
And you must know exactly how it helps them. Outline all the benefits and features of your service, and write them down in detail, as in “Give each client daily personalized attention without having to lift a finger.”
Will your users really want to use it and pay money for it? If there are other solutions, or if it doesn’t offer distinct advantages, you’re going to need a long runway to develop traction while you refine your offering and make it sexy.
Nail your purpose, and your business will have a greater chance of success.
But always have more runway than you think you need, because business never goes according to plan.