It’s not uncommon for people to see someone successful and ask “I wonder how they did it?”
If you are looking for some good SaaS examples of success, background on how Christopher built Snappa is a great place to start.
This is the reason why I wrote about how I started my freelance writing business, and it’s why we wanted to talk to a successful B2B business leader and hear about their experience.
Snappa is an incredible user-friendly design tool with pre-made templates of everything from Facebook cover photos to infographics. You can switch out any of the design elements in the template, add your own, upload logos and images, and access thousands of free, high-quality stock photos.
Snappa was founded just recently in 2015, and is a fantastic example of how a great idea can scale into a successful business.
Before Snappa, Christopher was a co-founder of BootstrapBay, which was a marketplace for website themes and templates that grew to create more than 150,000 in revenue between its launch in April 2014 and the end of 2016.
He’d developed the name after doing keyword research and finding a huge need in a neglected keyword: bootstrap templates. Armed with that information, he and his business partner were off and running.
Within just two years, BootstrapBay (which was sold in 2016) led to the inspiration for Snappa.
A major part of the growth strategy for BootstrapBay was content marketing, and a task that Christopher was in charge with. The blog posts themselves weren’t much of a problem, but the design elements were what stumped him, even when using design creation software like Photoshop.
“Coming up with a design was very difficult,” he said. “I wasted a ton of time trying to find stock photos and graphics I could use for the designs. The whole process was just so painful!”
Tired of wasting time, he started looking for a graphic design tool geared towards marketers and small businesses. He wanted something to create featured images for blog posts or YouTube channel art quickly without sacrificing quality or needing to hire a designer.
He couldn’t find it, though, because it didn’t exist. At least not yet.
“I didn’t find anything that suited my needs, and I figured there was a big opportunity to create it ourselves.”
And with that, Snappa was born.
All SaaS companies—and all businesses period, for that matter— will have obstacles in their way.
For some, that may be funding, and others will experience some growing pains. For Snappa, one of the biggest challenges they faced was a pretty common one: technical complications.
“We had a lot of technical obstacles to overcome in the early days. Since we were working with very experimental technology, a lot of the product was hacked together. Weeks after launching the initial product, we realized that we needed to completely rewrite the codebase in order to add some of the major features that people were requesting. For the first year or so, it felt like every time we took two steps forward, we’d have to take one step backwards.”
This is something that most SaaS businesses face in some form of another. Though progress felt slow moving, there was still clear progress.
This is important, because many business owners would throw in the towel and say “forget it, it didn’t work.” The founders of Snappa did not.
They also came across another common obstacle: a low price point that limited their marketing budget.
The Pro version of Snappa is just $10 a month when paid annually, so a lot of subscriptions are needed in order to make the business profitable.
“At such a low price point, paid advertising was not possible which meant we needed to rely 100% on free marketing channels like content marketing, SEO, and social media. Although these channels are very effective, they do take some time to get going.”
Fortunately, Christopher’s hands-on experience with the content marketing for BootstrapBay gave him the tools he needed to get Snappa’s marketing up-and-running as quickly as possible.
Standing out from the SaaS competition can happen with smart branding, great marketing, and even finding the right niche.
For Snappa, this came from being focused on the ease of use and accessibility—something their competitors either weren’t doing, or weren’t doing well.
“The #1 thing that we focused on from day one (and still to this day) is ease of use. Although there are many other graphic design tools on the market, many of them are trying to replicate Photoshop. Customers love Snappa because of how easy and quick it is to create graphics.”
“We also have all-inclusive pricing. This means that every template and stock photo included in Snappa is 100% free to use so you don’t need to worry about added costs throughout the month.
Finally, we added direct integrations with Facebook, Twitter and Buffer so you could share your designs on social media without ever leaving the platform. This was highly useful for our target audience of content marketers and social media managers.”
Not only is Snappa’s interface exceptionally easy to use (it blew my mind the first time I used it), it’s also easy to download or upload the designs, and its affordable pricing makes it accessible to businesses of all sizes.
Sometimes, the only way to learn is through experience—yours or someone else’s. The one thing Christopher said he wishes he knew before launching Snappa was that it would take longer than expected, and that this was totally normal.
“I wish I knew that everything would take longer than expected. After speaking with other software founders (and founders in general), this seems to be par for the course though.”
“There’s nothing I could have really changed but knowing this would have been helpful from a psychological and from a planning perspective. In the early days, we put a ton of pressure to achieve certain milestones within a specific time frame and it took a toll on our moods when we couldn’t deliver. As we’ve progressed, we’ve learned to appreciate the journey a little more and not be as consumed with growing/building as quickly as possible.”
Christopher’s advice for other people looking to start a B2B SaaS business reflects his own success with Snappa.
He recommends making sure that your product is a “must have” and not a “nice to have,” and he recommends doing this before you put enormous time and energy into its creation.
This is what he did when creating Snappa and focused on ease of use with the tool; he created something that he needed, knowing other business owners and marketers would need it to. And if you need it, you’ll pay for it.
He also has great advice about pricing and churn that all potential B2B or SaaS businesses should follow:
“Think long and hard about pricing and churn. Having a higher priced product with expansion revenue will make it much easier to scale in the long run. The same goes for products with inherently lower churn. If your customers are highly dependent on your product for running their business (think of tools like Slack and Basecamp), they’ll be much less likely to churn out.”
Thanks to Christopher for taking the time to share his story and advice with us!