How to Validate Your Micro SaaS Idea

November 15, 2020

You have a Micro-SaaS idea. Now what?

Someone I was speaking to recently (funnily enough, to hire for DelightChat, but we instead talked about his startup aspirations and what to do next) posed this question to me - "How do I validate my SaaS idea before building the product?"

Does anyone need your SaaS idea?

There are several ways to go about this, and depending on your idea, the depth of idea validation required might differ.

The framework below will help you understand the depth of idea validation you might need to conduct.

Is the problem real?

If you are working on an all new problem statement for which there are no existing competitors or alternatives, then answering this question is where you need to spend most amount of effort.

The problem is real. Is my solution genuinely needed?

If the problem statement you are working on is derivative of existing solutions, then what you really need to validate is the unique value proposition that you bring to the table.

Your unique value proposition could be anything that end users would care enough about to pick you v/s an alternative.

  • Existing solutions are confusing and difficult to use. You might focus on simple and easy UX. Startups often do this to incumbents.
  • Existing solutions are extremely expensive. You might build an affordable alternative for the masses. Crisp Chat does that to Intercom.
  • Existing solutions are missing key features that a subset of users really care about. You could build those features and target that subset of users specifically. ConvertKit did that to MailChimp with their focus on creators.

For every unique value proposition, you need to validate whether the need is real.

This means, you need to interview potential users and find out if they are indeed facing trouble using a clunky tool. Or if they are indeed not buying a software they really need only because they can't afford it. Perhaps they settled for a cheaper alternative that's not as good?

(I talk about where to find users to talk to in the next section.)

My solution is genuinely needed. Are there enough people who need it?

Suppose you validated your idea - the problem is real, and people seem to want your solution with its unique value proposition.

That still doesn't mean you should go ahead and build it. The next step is to figure out whether your problem is a tiny niche, or is it big enough to become a viable business.

Because if your idea is only needed by 10 or 100 people in the world, you won't be able to create a viable business out of it.

As a rule of thumb, you should be able to find that your idea has 1000s of users who need it. And out of those 1000s, a few hundred might become your customer and help you generate a meaningful income.

Find real users for your SaaS idea

Create a sign up landing page or form that your target users would need to fill up. You can count filling that form up as validation that they want your app.

The real question is - Where do you find these users?

Use Google Adwords to find users via intent

Google's search engine is the best place to find users for your product ideas.

Install a tool like Keywords Everywhere and buy $10 of credits (will last you a year). Type the keywords in the search bar and observe the type of results, and the volume for those keywords.

Here's what I found when searching for "live chat software".

Here's another example and the basis for many tools like Veed, Kapwing, Invideo and others - "online video editor".

The volume for this keyword is significantly higher than "live chat software", but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. A lot of users searching for "online video editor" are consumers who are looking for a free tool or a one-off specific task. Whereas "live chat software" is almost always searched for by serious companies or users looking to add a widget to their website or app.

In general, the keywords you need to target will follow the Pain-Point SEO framework.

Once you find a keyword that you can target via Google Ads, send the traffic to a landing page (you could build a one-pager using Carrd) and get sign-ups. Try and set up 1:1 calls with each and every one of them and ask them why they signed up.

Use Facebook Ads to find users via interest

If you are great at using Facebook Ads to target audiences via interest, then go ahead and craft an ad that speaks to your target user.

Use clear wording to highlight the #1 pain point that you think is the reason people will sign up for your product. Send them to a one-pager landing page. collect their emails and then try to have conversations with them.

Go hunting on Reddit

Reddit is a fantastic place to find users grouped by interest. For example, a great place to test a new habit tracker app idea would be on the Get Disciplined Subreddit, where people are actively trying to build better habits.

Similarly for a Shopify app idea, you could post in the Shopify Subreddit which has close to a 100,000 members.

You don't even need to post - use Reddit's search function and find mentions of keywords within the Subreddit. DM those users and try to have a 1:1 to validate your idea.

Join a Facebook group

Just like Reddit, a lot of people grouped by interests already hang out on Facebook, and it's called a group.

Here's a Facebook group you should join if your idea is to build something for Notion power users, or maybe for students who use Notion to manage their studies.

Become a Slack group member

Now that you think about it, there's actually tons of places where users hang out. Slack groups is another such place.

For example - If I were building tools for remote workers, I would join the Remote Indian slack group and pose useful questions, DM users based on their comments, and get into 1:1 conversations.

Find niche places where your users hang out

I think by now you get the general flow of where I'm going with these examples.

Where do your users hang out? Go hang out there with them.

Your users could be

  • on Twitter - use Twitter's search to find and DM users who made tweets with specific keywords.
  • on LinkedIn - make a connection request and get on a 1:1.
  • in a niche forum - such as Shopify's Community forums where you could find merchants, app and theme developers alike discussing problems and solutions.
  • on Discord - afaik works similar to Slack groups.

The internet is SO VAST that there's bound to be dozens of places where your target users hang out.

And if you are unable to find any such place, either you need to go deeper or find out quickly if users for your idea don't exist.

How to talk to potential users of your SaaS

I've told you a lot of things that you SHOULD do. Here's one that you should not do - Don't ask anyone if they need your SaaS idea.

Confused? Well, if you ask people if they want, I'll quote Henry Ford on this “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

For you to really validate your idea, the questions you need to ask potential users need to be

  • directly talking about the pain points they face
  • uncovering the context under which they face their problem
  • what those users are doing to currently address the problem

If they are using existing solutions, which ones? If they aren't using any solution, are they solving the problem manually by hand or using a spreadsheet? How much time do they spend solving this problem? Does it happen once in a while, or frequently? Is it a dull pain point that they can ignore and continue their business without solving it, or do they need a painkiller?

At this point, I'll stop and ask you to read The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. It's hands-down the best book for any aspiring entrepreneur trying to learn how to talk to users and validate their ideas. The book takes 4 hours to read, but these lessons will serve you a lifetime.

How to really validate your Micro SaaS idea

Personally, I think while you can talk to users all you want, the only 100% foolproof way to validate a SaaS idea, or any idea for that matter, is real world behaviour.

What constitutes real world behaviour?

  • People spending X hours per week solving the problem manually
  • Companies spending $Y per month on solutions that solve their problem

(I've used people and companies interchangeably)

Read more about this on Justin Jackson's blog.

There's a real world behaviour stronger than the ones mentioned above.

The best way to validate your SaaS idea is by building a simple version of the product that sufficiently demonstrates the unique value proposition that you offer.

Originally this concept was called Minimum Viable Product (MVP), but a lot of people think an MVP just needs to have 1 feature and that it can be a shitty experience to use an MVP product.

Hence, I prefer the Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) approach. It's an MVP that's not shitty. It's an MVP that solves the #1 problem or value proposition that you are offering, in the tiniest way possible, but well enough that those people will continue using your solution and might even start paying a small fee for using it.

I will talk in-depth about how to build an MLP in the next chapter.

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Finding Micro SaaS Ideas in 2021

Coming up with micro-SaaS business and app ideas that you can build to realise your dreams.
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