How to organically validate your SaaS or micro-SaaS idea before you build it

Gumroad Validation

This is a simple guide on how to come up with a saas or micro saas idea and organically validate it quickly (i.e. get customers to pay you for it). 

The difference between saas and micro saas is the niche size. Micro saas businesses target a super small niche community or problem space. Some examples of micro saas businesses include Gumspy, Writesonic, and about 50% of the products shipped on Product Hunt.

There are many elaborate guides on developing and validating winning ideas. However, some of these are focused on idea generation rather than validation. There’s plenty of room for competition in the saas and micro-saas space. This is provided you have a unique selling point and an unfair advantage. It’s pretty simple to determine whether the market is interested in what you’re offering.

Generate the idea

Coming up with a good SaaS idea can be difficult if you’re trying to reinvent the wheel. Otherwise, they’re not as hard as you make them out to be. In fact, they’re everywhere. Below are the same resources I use for inspiration. I rarely ever come up with ideas without first searching one of the resources below for inspiration:

Screen your idea

Once you’ve decided on an idea it’s best to run it through the ‘Will it fly’ process by Pat Flynn. Some ideas just aren’t suitable for us. If your brilliant idea includes developing an app and you’ve never written a line of code I’d suggest moving on from that idea. 

The ‘Will it fly’ process has key questions you should ask yourself before getting too excited. 

  • First, you need to think about your future and how your idea supports or invalidates the life you want. This is called the airport test.
    • Imagine in five years' time you’re sitting at an airport and you bump into an old friend who asks about your life.
    • Is this wonderful idea/business a topic of conversation?
    • Are you happy?
    • Which memories would appear? 
  • Next, we want to make sure we’re a good fit for this business. This test is called a shark tank test:
    • What can you bring to the table that no one else can?
    • What is your unfair advantage? 

Pat Flynn dives deeper into this but the main point is to determine whether the idea (or business model) will be a good fit for you. More often than not you’ll realize you don’t truly care about the idea and you don’t have an unfair advantage.

So what exactly does an unfair advantage look like?

  • Having strong relationships with marketing managers at finance companies > Makes it easy to get backlinks on a lot of blogs if you build something in the finance space. 
  • Working at an SEO agency for 5 years > You now have a variety of knowledge and resources to build and rank your own sites.
  • Working as a developer in a startup that went public > You’re likely a really good engineer who can be trusted to work with other people or reliably build your own products.
  • Data scientist at IBM > You’re a great fit to be teaching others about data science because you’re a trusted authority in the niche.

If you can’t think of your unfair advantage then you need to spend time learning a skill. Alternatively, you could build genuine relationships with decision-makers. It’s hard to compete in the SaaS world without an unfair advantage.

Understand the problem, customer, and solution

Now is the time to map out your customer persona. It’s important to understand the problem you’re solving and the audience you’re targeting. The four simple questions below will get you closer to narrowing down on your idea. For the purpose of this example we’re going to use Writesonic (GPT-3 powered copywriting micro SaaS business):

  1. What are the problem you're solving and the people you're serving (the market)
    1. Marketers and copywriters struggle to find inspiration
    2. Marketers and copywriters get writer’s block
    3. Writing marketing copy is hard and takes time
  2. What is the distribution channel to reach customers
    1. Product Hunt
    2. Reddit
    3. Marketing and Copywriting Facebook Groups 
    4. Marketing Newsletters
    5. Organic Search
    6. Twitter 
    7. Facebook
    8. Marketing/Copywriting newsletters
  3. What is the monetization model you use to make money
    1. Tiered pricing model
      1. Free
      2. $10/m
      3. $35/m
      4. $180/m business tier
  4. What is the solution to the problem (your product or service)
    1. GPT-3 powered marketing copy 
    2. The user enters their non-formatted text blurb and the GPT-3 powered tool used AI to generate marketing copy in the standard copywriting formats
    3. Users choose what they're struggling with, and the tool guides them to the solution

Build a landing page

Okay, so we have the problem-based idea, the audience, the channels to reach them, and the solution. Now we need to create a landing page to promote our business and see if anyone bites. 

I usually validate all ideas using Carrd. It’s easy and the template  I use can be duplicated many times over. Here’s an example of one of my sites using a Carrd template.

Follow the below steps:

  1. Create a Carrd pro account (yes it's $49 one-off payment but you’ll get way more value out of it).
  2. Purchase this template and send it to your Carrd account. You can build your own template but this will save you a lot of time.
  3. Once the template reaches your Carrd account duplicate it and never touch the original so it can be used for other projects ideas.
  4. Jump onto canva and create a logo using the free logos provided.
  5. Import your logo.
  6. Update the copy with your idea and use step 3 for inspiration. Also, you can actually use or Writesonic to do this if you want.
  7. Sign up for gumroad and create a pre-sale campaign.
  8. Create an attractive one-time subscription for pre-sales (e.g. $19).
  9. Add the copy from the site to the pre-sale campaign on Gumroad.
  10. Add a ‘widget’ to Carrd and connect it to Gumroad using the existing easy integration feature.
  11. Purchase a domain name.
  12. Connect it to carrd.
  13. Test the site works.

Organically promote your business

Now the site is ready you can start promoting it in various places to see how the market reacts. In step 3 the distribution channels should determine where to look, however, we’re going to get specific. 

An easy method is to find relevant subreddits using Anvaka (Github tool) or Subreddit Stats. A great place to start is with r/copywriting and r/artificialintelligence since they’re both related to the product we’re building. 

Using the Anvaka tool we get the following results when typing in r/copywriting:

subreddit spider graph for copywriting

The tool provides a spider map of all the connected subreddits that users are active in. The highlighted ones are the most relevant.

You can create some insightful or high-value posts such as the following:

  • ‘I’m creating a tool that can write all your copy, would anyone actually use this?’
  • ‘What does everything think of using AI to get our copy written faster?’
  • ‘It’s time to scratch my own itch, I’m creating a tool that writes marketing copy using GPT-3. What are the biggest problems you face writing marketing copy? I’ll build a solution for it

Reddit is pretty brutal these days so make sure the post is genuine and only plug your link in the comments or in the post if it’s necessary. If people are interested they’ll ask for the link.

Other great places to post are r/entrepreuerridealong and r/business_ideas. These subreddits expect people to share their ideas and you’ll likely make some sales straight off the bat. I also suggest posting in some Facebook groups as well just for good measure.

Assess the results

This part should be pretty obvious. If a handful of people purchase access then your idea has been validated and now execution is up to you. 

I hope I've convinced you to validate before you decide to build your product. Good luck!

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