Things to do before getting your first customer
As an entrepreneur, you may hold the attitude that you can do it all on your own. This is a common misconception that the owners of new startups have in the early days of their ventures. As is so often the case in life, you need help. For you, help will come in the form of useful products and tools.
When you begin to build your business, you may find yourself becoming overwhelmed. While your idea may be rock solid, its implementation can be difficult or, at best, incredibly time-consuming. Here are several tools that will help you along the way.
This one is a no-brainer. You have to find a place for your product to live. When you are shopping for virtual real estate, keep in mind that you will be making a living here; you are not setting up camp for a week and moving on.
You do not need to break the bank to pay for hosting, but you should choose a provider that will let you build upon your foundation. There is a variety of hosting options to choose from. Some of the more popular for SaaS sites are Digital Ocean, Rackspace, and Media Temple.
Hosted Code Repository
As a SaaS, the asset you undoubtedly hold most valuable is your code. The protection of your code should be a priority. A version control system or hosted code repository can help to ensure that your code isn’t broken or deleted when you release something new. Your options include Bitbucket, Gitlab, and Github.
You will come to rely heavily on a good code framework rather than developing every line from scratch. The framework tool you utilize will depend on the coding language that you choose. If you are writing in PHP, Symfony, Laravel, and Cake PHP are stable choices. Rails is excellent for Ruby, and Django is the best choice for Python.
Right now, you may think that you will be keeping track of bugs and other customer issues via Basecamp or email. You’ll soon find this to be tedious. You can download tools and host them yourself, or you can choose a hosted solution like Sifter or Lighthouse.
How many emails do you plan to send on any given day? Let’s think for a moment. You will send an email to:
- New subscribers
- When onboarding customers to your product
- Alert users that their free trial is over
- Weekly summaries
There are hundreds of reasons why you will send emails. Using a service to take care of your emails will help to ensure that those emails get where they are supposed to go. Take a look at Mandrill and see what the tool can do for you.
Billing and Payment
Once you decide to release your product to the public, you will most likely charge your customers a monthly or yearly subscription fee. You could build your own auto-billing software, but why would you want to?
Keep in mind that some auto-billing systems do not take payments for you. Stripe does. The service also acts as a payment gateway.
Like with any business, your customers will make or break you. There’s nothing wrong with using email as a form of customer support in the beginning, but you’ll quickly outgrow its usefulness.
Our favorite customer support tool is Groove. Not only does the app capture email queries, but it turns them into a ticket. When you begin to explore all that Groove can do for you, you see that it provides a widget, includes a support tab, tracks your average response time, and more. Other than outsourcing your customer support needs, you won’t find anything better than Groove.
Of course, no two SaaS companies are the same. You may find that you need more or fewer tools than those we have listed to run your business successfully and help it grow. One thing is for sure: You cannot go at it alone.
No matter how adept at coding you are, there is only so much time in the day. When you start spreading yourself too thin, you suffer, and your business suffers. Take the help where you can get it! Chances are that you do not have thousands of dollars to hire employees, but you do have the money to utilize these tools.