So it's been almost 3 years now since I started ploi.io, and what a ride has it been. In this article I will share my experiences on this journey. What I encountered, partnerships, which tools I used and most importantly; what I learned from managing a SaaS.
If you're not familiar with my start on ploi.io, have a read on my medium article here where I describe how the start went after launch: https://medium.com/ploi-io/why-i-started-creating-ploi-io-f2fe16dfb09a
A year after launch
A year after the launch (basically after the time from my article above) I struggled really hard. I had some solid users that loved Ploi and used it, however I was missing traction. In fact, the first launch on ProductHunt failed miserably.
It only got 12 upvotes and there was no interaction at all, I tried everything, asking friends to upvote and reply, but I was holding back on that as well as it felt strange to do so. (Other products didn't seem to do that either, and they sky-rocketed like its nothing)
Joining Facebook groups
At this point I tried to do something else, I started joining Facebook groups with my personal Facebook account. Facebook groups like "Server management", "WordPress developers" or "Laravel developer", I joined around 20/30 groups. I started posting and repeating posts asking feedback just specifically for the homepage, what they thought of the design, I didn't specifically ask them to signup and try, just focussing on the homepage. This gave some traction and mouth to mouth advertisement.
Back to the drawing board
We tried Facebook, Google and Twitter ads, but we didn't have experience to get enough traction from it, so we decided to not do that anymore for a while.
I was doing everything at the same time, developing like crazy and trying to market this product. Obviously I failed on the marketing part, so I just decided at this point to completely drop the marketing for a while, and focus on the development. We released a lot nice new features to make the developers life easier.
Then, suddenly, June 2019 our revenue doubled itself (it still didn't paid up against the man hours, but it was awesome!) Till this day it is not quite clear to me what made this happen, I am almost sure it got traction because people started talking about ploi.io more and more.
After that, it was uphill from there. People loved the product and finally got to know about it. It also put a lot more pressure on our customer support, but more on that later.
At this point we just went with the flow, we didn't focus much on marketing and just kept tweeting new updates or information about our features.
The first partnership happened with UpCloud in December 2018, they were the first to contact us about an official partnership. This was a big deal for us, we were still quite small at that time. Nonetheless we'd agree, UpCloud was new for us and they made a great impression. We even helped them getting an investment to grow UpCloud even further.
Besides UpCloud, we also got in touch with Hetzner, DigitalOcean and Linode. I can even remember I tried to get in touch with Vultr back in 2018 to get a partnership, they never replied to that, sadly.
The most important thing I learned from a SaaS is doing customer support, this is something that should be at the top of your list when you're doing SaaS. Without customer support: no success.
With ploi.io, we offer quite a few channels to get in touch with us. Last summer we did decide to close the support platform on ploi.io itself for non-paying users. We noticed the non-paying users actually demanded the most time and expected the most. Only paying users will be able to create support tickets with us and get decent response times.
Something you get to deal with a SaaS is money, and the MRR (monthly recurring revenue). I can be really short about this;
Don't stare yourself blind on the revenue, it'll drive you crazy. In the first few months/years a good solid product is way more important. Besides that, it should never be about the money. It should be about the strength of your application to solve a problem that users have. Only then, will you be able to grow in revenue.
Where there's a problem, theres solutions. We are well aware of our competitors, however, we do not try to look at them much, of course, when we started we researched them to get inspiration. We follow our own road, listen to your feedback and go from there.
That being said, we do respect our competitors a lot. They work hard, they do their best in this hard world as well.
Don't think we're stopping here. We've got so much great stuff coming for ploi.io and we also recently released our white labeling service Ploi Core.
If you only look at our roadmap you can see there's much planned and in the works. Please keep checking this!
Also follow us on social media, we post regularly!
Below you will find a list of the tools and hardware I use.
The tools & hardware I use nowadays
Having tools like live-chat makes managing your SaaS much easier. In here, I'll show you a list I used, and still use now.
- Buffer - I use Buffer to do the ploi.io social media, it posts to Twitter and Facebook automatically which takes a lot of work out of my hands of manually doing it.
- Crisp - This is the livechat software we use to communicate with our "potential" customers, we've come to the conclusion that the conversion is much higher when using livechat.
- Documentator - This is the tool we use to document our API documentation in, its a product by our selfs as well.
- Discord - Discord is a community platform like Slack where you can easily chat and discuss with each other. We use Discord for ploi.io to give support, talk about ploi or any other programming language.
- LaraBug - LaraBug is a free exception tool tracker for Laravel projects. We use this to track errors in ploi and fix them right away once we receive a new exception.
- UpVoty - UpVoty is a tool we use to track our user feedback in, we've received a lot of suggestions and feature requests already through this tool and it has proven itself as a steady tool to collect feedback in.
- PhpStorm - PhpStorm is my go-to IDE to develop. I've tried others like VSCode or sublime, but I was unable to get used to them.
- Tower - We use Tower for GIT, a great tool to manage your GIT projects in.
- Pixelmator Pro - When we do new banners, or images, we use Pixelmator Pro to create these in.
- Postman - We use postman to manually test our API in.
- Gsuite - We use Gsuite for emailing.
- Macbook Pro 16" 2019 for development
- Philips 499P9H 49" widescreen monitor
- Airpods Pro
- Electric stand/sit desk from Office Centre
- IKEA office chairs
- Notepad to quickly write down todos in (yes, I do this very often when a user submits something to me quickly so I can come back to that later easily or transfer it to one of our systems)