4 Things Lesley Did Starting a Successful SaaS

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Maker: Lesley Best Place to Find Her: Twitter or her website where she blogs about the making of her no-code tool called Newsletter Glue.

Have you ever launched something and it not go as you expect. Nothing is more frustrating and demoralizing then when you create something that nobody wants. 

I’ve done this and felt it. And so has Lesley Sim. But what I found so impressive about Lesley is how she learned from it and took a different approach that led to a successful product breakout that she is proud of. One that is driving revenue and growing. 

Here I had the chance to talk to her about it and she shares many things she did different the second time around. I learned from these and I hope you do to. 

How can you increase the odds that you make something people want?

Four thing you we will cover to help you build and launch a SaaS product successfully.

  1. Building for yourself AKA scratching your own itch (is something I write about how to leverage this in The Lean Side Project) is one of the best reasons to keep something going or start. here it led to an actual product
  2. Understand with detail what exactly is the problem. It’s okay if you don’t know when you launch v1, but knowing exactly what will increase your odds that someone actually wants the thing you made
  3. How to address the distribution problem. What you can do about and when you should start thinking about it in your product making journey. 
  4. Understand who exactly is having the problem. If you don’t know talking to your first users to understand where in their journey might they need your product.

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your story and journey into no-code products.

LS: My background is in marketing, which I’ve done in some form for the past 10+ years. This includes B2B marketing for the government, a global ad agency, and running my own digital agency for the past 4 years.

Towards the end of 2019, I became really burnt out. I fired a bunch of clients and used the free time to try to build software instead.

I personally hate writing code and have no interest in becoming a developer. So I knew I’d have to team up with a technical co-founder. I partnered up with Ahmed whom I met on Indie Hackers, and we’ve been working together ever since.

One of the best things about no-code tools is that you don’t have to wait for a developer to code something for you. In my case, I’d already been using page builders for years in WordPress, so I was able to design and build our website and blog theme from scratch using a page and theme builder called Thrive Themes.

I consider WordPress and WordPress plugins to be no-code tools as well. Non-technical people have been using them to build complex databases, membership sites and eCommerce sites for years – even before the term “no-code” was popularized!

2. Can you tell us about your no-code tool Newsletter Glue? What is your story about it?

LS: When I first teamed up with my co-founder, it was for a membership plugin he’d already built. 

It hadn’t been built with a specific target audience or use case in mind, so getting traction was very difficult. To make matters worse, neither of us had an audience.

We failed to even get people to try the free plugin and were planning to shut down.

But there was a tiny feature inside the plugin, which lets you send posts as emails to subscribers, which I had been using for my own newsletter.

If we shut down, I knew I would miss that feature and didn’t know where to find a replacement.

That made me realise there was an opportunity there… And so we pivoted, and turned the membership plugin into a newsletter plugin – Newsletter Glue was born!

Once we committed to Newsletter Glue, I knew I had to do everything differently. From day 0, I built in public. I posted in IndieHackers and on Facebook groups, I built a Twitter following, read and applied the Mom Test, and more.

The experience was completely different. The plugin got much more interest and traction from the start. And I made lots more friends in both the no-code and WordPress community.

Growth has been far from meteoric, but since I couldn’t even get 1 free user the first time round for the membership plugin, I really appreciate the fact that we now have dozens of happy paying customers with Newsletter Glue!

3. What are the main problems you are trying to address with this plugin?

LS:

There are two types of users we serve:

Bloggers

These guys write articles online and rely mainly on SEO to get found. They might send a weekly roundup newsletter and hop between WordPress and their email service provider to do that. This experience is usually very painful and takes hours. Either that, or they get lazy and don’t send newsletters at all and their readers forget about them after a while.

With us, they don’t have to go back and forth between platforms. They can build and send newsletters without leaving WordPress. This saves hours and is honestly just a more pleasant experience.

Newsletter writers

Many of our newsletter writers come from Substack. They all want a permanent online home for their newsletter, rather than a rented one on Substack.

Or they might have been sending out their newsletter with Mailchimp for years and want their body of work (aka their newsletter archive) to sit on their personal website so that it’s discoverable on Google.

With Newsletter Glue, they can do that really easily. And their newsletter issues have an archive and a nice URL just the way blog posts do.

  1. How does it work? What is the common stack of tools you recommend for Makers to use your tool. 

LS:

  • WordPress (obvs!)
  • Newsletter Glue (that’s us!)
  • An email service provider (we connect to: Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, MailerLite, Sendinblue, GetResponse, Campaign Monitor and Sendy)
  1. Can you share your experience using it or any other customer success stories?

LS:

Here are two customer stories:

How Gutenberg Times increased traffic and saved hours with Newsletter Glue.

How the Website Flip migrated from Substack to WordPress and 10x-ed web audience.

6. Can you give any insights to your framework for building your next thing? How do you decide what to build? (example: scratching your own itch, etc)


LS: Aside from the common stuff which people often talk about, the one important thing that isn’t commonly mentioned is that you need to build for people you like.

For example, if you’re building an invoicing system for accountants, but you hate accountants and find them really boring, it’ll be very very very hard to succeed. Simply because you don’t like spending time with accountants and won’t be able to get the insights necessary to build a good product for them.

Just because you see an opportunity, doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Any product that’s successful is the result of you spending hours obsessing over the product, the customers and the business. So if you don’t like it, it’s unlikely you’ll have the appetite to spend those hours, which simply makes it much harder to succeed. And of course, the inverse is true too.

In my case, I already love newsletters and subscribe to way too many. This gives me an unfair advantage because I love talking with my customers, discovering their newsletters (I subscribe to many of my own customers’ newsletters) and nerding out about the technical details around newsletters. I read articles on ESPs in my free time!

7. Where do you see Makers/Startups/Businesses missing opportunity? Or what common mistakes have you made that you have learned from?

LS: As I mentioned earlier, the biggest mistakes I made from the first plugin was not building in public from day 1, and not talking to customers and validating ideas.

8. What is your strategy for marketing and getting the word out about your product?


LS: I tweet a lot and joined lots of private Slack communities. Both these things opened lots of doors for me. I’ve joined lots of podcasts, been featured in newsletters (like this one!), spoken at events and so much more simply as a result of tweeting.

9. When building anything there is always something unexpected that occured. What parts did you get stuck and learn most from?


LS: Every part is painful. I don’t really think there’s a single specific point at which we got more stuck than normal.

I think it’s helpful to zoom in and out mentally between short and long term. A lot of our problems seem incredibly frustrating in the short term, but when I zoom out into the long term, I always feel enthusiastic and bullish about our future.

And that either perks me up and allows me to keep working through the problem, or makes me feel less guilty about taking a break for the day.

10. Please provide what links to your project website, your twitter, where can people return the love? Where they can check out about you and your latest product launch:


Newsletter Glue: newsletterglue.com
Twitter: twitter.com/NewsletterGlue
They might also enjoy checking out our changelog where we post updates on every release we make: newsletterglue.com/changelog

Hi👋🏼, I'm Michael.

The maker of this site

michael novotny and no code to make and launch a side project

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