Strategy as the default answer: principles before tactics

Eugenio Monforte

What if I told you there was a powerful way to solve problems? A way so obvious that most of the time we don’t even consider it.

This is my idea to approach the clarification of the context of a SaaS indie company and thus favor the chances of success, prioritizing correctly.

One issue: get more customers

The context of this story was that of a small company (created about 10 years ago) with a Saas model that a year ago was in a clear stagnation: the same number for both new and lapsed customers.

The pandemic had deeply affected its customers, which obviously complicated its situation, bringing it to a critical point. But then it had not recovered after things had started to get back to normal, and by now things were more than worrying.

Faced with this situation, the questions were obvious:

  1. Do we focus on getting more customers or on keeping them from leaving? The total number of customers was very low, so the logical answer was to focus on attracting more customers.
  2. So, how do we bring in more customers? where do we go to find them? We came up with a lot of generic ideas.

We came up with a lot of generic ideas:

  • Features that would make it possible to sell ourselves as more useful - the most expensive alternative, which we didn’t even get to implement because doing so required upgrading the framework with which the base functionality had been made (that upgrade we did do),
  • Repeat marketing initiatives from previous years (many),
  • Advertising campaigns,
  • Changing the marketing pages,
  • New blog content…

After completing the framework upgrade… we were back to where we were before, but we had lost almost one full year. The result of that functionality for the business was still the same. And we still didn’t know what to target to get customers.

At this point I decided to raise the need to establish a business strategy that would help us to clarify our strengths as a product and thus be able to highlight them and differentiate ourselves in the market.

By defining what market niche we were going to target (customers), and with what (features), it made it easier for us to think about how to do it: all the ideas we had were almost automatically filtered according to the impact they could have to achieve the objective.

Another issue: fragile platform

Despite having a faster platform in terms of performance (due to a great work of several years), in that moment another issue started to appear: the platform was crashing every now and then.

This new problem complicated us fundamentally, because we couldn’t highlight any kind of usability as a value for potential and current customers: if the software cannot be used there is no value to be delivered.

After a thorough investigation we realized that the database had performance issues when making queries because it were made on the total of historical records.

There we wondered about the sense of keeping in the production database the data of customers who hadn’t been with us for more than 5 years. Always keeping in mind that it’s an indie software company with less than 10 team members.

We decided to go further and only take into account data from current customers plus all those who have been with us since the pandemic broke out (about 3 years), everything else should be somewhere else.

A meta-solution to the problems

You probably noticed that in both cases we used the same idea: define a strategy that will help us work the problem.

Both when having to define the marketing focus and when making infrastructure or development decisions, choosing a strategy makes the job easier because it helps to prioritize clearly: in the first case it helps us to focus on the characteristics of the niche we want to serve (and how), while in the second case it reduces the field of work tremendously by reducing the number of records to be taken into account.

Having defined strategies for dealing with problems at a high level first also helps to create work systems that in turn consolidate work methodologies and dynamics.

How has been your experience making decisions in your indie Saas? Any experience to share? Write to me (email in my About page)