I am currently building Brightpod - a cloud-based collaboration software for digital marketing teams. This is where I will share my lessons learnt building a SaaS business, productivity hacks, apps I love and stuff I read about.
I wrote this piece for InformationWeek.
Last year, we saw an opportunity in designing an app for marketing and creative teams, as most of them currently use a general purpose collaboration tool. We wanted to help them grow their business by making it easy to plan, organize and track all their digital marketing projects in one place. With this objective, we set out to build Brightpod.
We planned the design and the features that would be included into the minimum viable product. In addition, we made a list of tools that we would use to help us power-up the app — hosting, marketing, customer engagement, analytics etc. So, while the team was busy developing Brightpod I started trying out a dozen or so tools. I was looking at a set of tools that not only allowed my team members to do their job well, but also which they loved using.
Here are 10 services you should consider when starting a SaaS business:
1. Cloud Hosting: Instead of paying huge upfront fees on a dedicated server why not sign up for Rackspace Cloud or Amazon EC2 and pay on-demand. I prefer Rackspace Cloud as they have a “managed” option where their team will help you set up and monitor your servers, load balancers, cloud databases etc. This frees up your time to focus on your business — build software and engage with customers.
2. Beanstalk App: This is where your code lives. Beanstalk allows designers and developers to store source code, track changes, and collaborate with their team through Git, Subversion and Mercurial version control systems. Wonder how companies update their apps on a daily basis and roll back if something goes wrong? Well, a tool like Beanstalk will allow your team to do just that.
3. KISSMetrics: This will help you analyze how people use your app and how they convert to paying customers. As software designers we build features but seldom analyze how popular it is. A tool like KISSMetrics will easily tell you which features are most popular and who is using them.
I can spend a whole day just reading articles, blog posts and answers on Quora. There are so many topics to read about. I often catch myself bouncing between different topics and I keep telling myself that this is just so not productive. At the end of my reading sprint I just don’t know what I read about. It is like eating a buffet and trying to cramp every thing on your dish. You did consume the food but you feel like shit.
However, I recently have starting reading and doing things in context of my current project(s). For example, during the Brightpod launch I would filter out all information that were NOT related to:
- how a launch should be done
- successful and failed product launches
- what to expect from a launch
- how to get in touch with bloggers
- getting things ready for the launch
- should you send a press release?
Since we have launched my current project is to work with my marketing manager to bring in relevant traffic and manage the conversion funnel. For this I would filter out all information that is NOT related to:
- Online marketing channels
- b2b SaaS conversion metrics
- How to increase traffic and growth
- Building the right landing page
Get the point? Working in context helps me focus. I have also found that I easily digest a piece of content that is in context with what I am doing - maybe, because I am thinking about it and my mind is already on a similar wavelength.
As a startup founder or CEO we have a lot of different things that we need to look at each day. There are times when I come home and wonder where the day went. Did I try to cramp too much in the day? Was I trying to be too ambitious with my tasks? Recently, I have been practicing something and I am calling it the “Minimum Viable Daily Tasks”.
Here is how it works: Choose the minimum amount of work that needs to be done everyday so that you have a big smile on your face when you are heading home in the evening. If you accomplish anything more then it is a bonus. Go treat yourself to a beer :)
I use a personal task manager called Wunderlist (syncs beautifully on all iOS devices) to plan my day (I plan the night before). I then select only one, two or maximum three most important tasks that I want to work on tomorrow. That is it.
For example, today I have the following on my list:
- Start to write a guest post.
- Review & make changes to design on the payments page for Brightpod.
Try it. I can’t guarantee if it will work for you but what I can guarantee is that you will feel much more relaxed, focused and in control everyday. Oh, not to mention the smile while you are ordering that beer.
Let me know how it goes!