Justin McGill
July 30, 2014 7 Comments AUTHOR: Justin McGill CATEGORIES: Entrepreneurship, SaaS

I have started a few different businesses in the past (some successful, some not), consulted with startups, and am now preparing to launch multiple different SaaS apps – I have come to realize just how important the digital marketing potential is to the success of the startup.

There are a few things that need to be done for every new startup, but the right marketing strategy is often not considered or not planned properly by initial “developer focused” founders.

I look at the marketing potential first and foremost, before I even consider spending the time and resources into building an app. If there’s lots of competition, and they are killing it with their online marketing – I’m going to pass on that project entirely.

On the other hand, if the competition isn’t doing anything with their online marketing efforts – then I know there’s potential.

This might be different for some, but for me – I know what my differentiator is. It’s the ability to market something online. So if I am going up against a bunch of other apps or startups who are already doing all the right things with their digital marketing – then the upside for me is limited.

Therefore, I would rather find a new niche where my differentiator will be of significance.

Lets evaluate the potential of a new business opportunity using an imaginary app idea centered around being a project management app specifically for wedding planners.

i-shall-call-it

I know, very creative right? Mind you – I have not even looked into this niche or idea before writing this blog. So, we will find out together if this has any potential. If it does, one of you is free to run with it – I have my hands full. 🙂

The following is what I look at when evaluating if our Wedding Day Planner app has potential:

. Look at What the Competition is Doing

Competition is a good thing as it validates the market you are about to enter. Too much competition though can be tough to work around. I am leery of going forward with an app if there aren’t ANY existing competitors because that means there’s a lot of validation that needs to happen.

First things first, I start by going to Google and looking up the most logical keywords. Since we are creating a task management app for wedding planners, I would Google “project management software for weddings” or “task management app for wedding planners”.

Here’s the results:

wedding-planner-search

These are all one’s I will check out. In addition to the paid ad on the top right. I am really only interested in that one paid ad, as it seems to pertain specifically to wedding planners. Remember, we are going niche and targeting wedding planners (not everyone).

Here’s a list of key potential competitors I uncovered:

Once I have a list of competitors, here are some questions I’ll ask myself:

How many true competitors are there? For me, I’m looking to find less than a handful of competitors. This might really limit me, but I’m after low comp/quick win type products right now.

For our planned app, there are actually SEVERAL more than the five I have listed above. I’m not going to research all of them. I am already getting the indication that maybe there’s too much competition.

What is their pricing? After looking up the competitors, this is the next thing I do. Do any competitors already have dirt cheap pricing? Are any of them free? If there are some that are cheap/free, are they missing anything that people would be willing to pay for?

  • Wedding Wire – Appears to be free. They sell other products related to weddings, so this appears to be their lead generating tool for those products.
  • The Knot – A little more professional of a blog, but the content itself is still short. Limited engagement on their posts.
  • Wedding Happy – They haven’t blogged since last year.
  • Planning Pod – They were blogging weekly, but now it appears monthly.

This would certainly be an area where our app could be better than the competition.

Are they blogging? This is the 1 thing I tell business owners and startups that they need to be doing. I know if the competition is not actively blogging, then I have a major opportunity to leapfrog them online because it usually means they don’t have any content strategy in place at all. If they are blogging, how often? What’s the quality of the content like?

  • Wedding Wire – Almost daily blogging, but the content is low quality and the word count is extremely short. There’s limited engagement on their posts.
  • The Knot – Free download. Like Wedding Wire, they appear to be selling other related products.
  • Wedding Happy – Free download with in-app purchases ($2.99 seems to be the common in-app purchase price).
  • Planning Pod – Have plans ranging from $10 to $60/mo. Appears to be catered specifically to wedding planners, not just people planning their own wedding.

This is certainly discouraging as most of the apps are free due to the fact that the creators are primarily selling other (presumably more profitable) related products.

What are they doing for social media? I’m firstly looking to see what social networks they are and what kind of presence they have. Do they have lots of followers and interaction?

  • Wedding Wire – Over 380k Facebook likes, 200k followers on Twitter, and 1.3k Google+ followers
  • The Knot – Nearly 300k Facebook likes, 160k Twitter followers, 250k Google+ followers
  • Wedding Happy – 3.6k Facebook likes – couldn’t immediately track down Twitter and Google+.
  • Planning Pod – Just 450 likes, only 328 Twitter followers, and 45 Google+ followers.

Quite a shocker here with the amount of fans for Wedding Wire and The Knot. Pinterest would obviously be the major social network for this app.

What content are they working on? Do they have whitepapers? Infographics? Are they guest blogging? Are they capturing email sign-ups?

Minimal quality content across the board here. Though Planning Pod would appear to be the leaders. They even invested in an infographic.

Have they been getting press? Currently, I fire up Google and enter the competitor name.

On a side note, one of my new projects/apps relates to helping startups get press. I’ll talk more about this later, but I’m pretty excited about it. Subscribe to the right if you’re interested in being first to know.

Not much press for any of these companies.

What does their SEO look like? First, I’ll fire up a link analysis tool like Open Site Explorer and see what their domain authority and link counts are as well. Do they have a lot of links? Are they from quality sites? Using a tool like SEMrush.com I can quickly see what keywords they are ranking for as well as purchasing through Adwords. Speaking of keywords, are there any that have decent search volume?

  • Wedding Wire – Domain authority is 89/100 with over 14,000 total root domain backlinks. They rank organically for 172,000 keywords.
  • The Knot – 87/100 domain authority, nearly 9,000 root domain backlinks. They also rank organically for over 172,000 keywords.
  • Wedding Happy – 26/100 domain authority, 45 root domain backlinks and just 15 organic keyword rankings.
  • Planning Pod – 35/100 domain authority, 53 root domain backlinks and 430 organic keyword rankings.

Obviously Wedding Wire and The Knot are tough competitors here. The other two are beatable at this stage though.

Have they received funding? I’ll check out their listing on CrunchBase.com or Angel.co to see if there’s any reference of funding. I don’t put a whole lot of stock in this, as the funds could mean the parent company is launching new products for example, but it could mean they have a large marketing budget.

  • Wedding Wire – $500k seed round in 2007, followed up by a $5.5M Series A, and a whopping $25M Series B.
  • The Knot – No funding received.
  • Wedding Happy – No funding received.
  • Planning Pod – No funding received.

Normally, assuming all of this looks decent and I haven’t run into any major issues, I’ll progress to the next step.

For our sake, I can tell you I will be stopping here. I probably wouldn’t even have gone all the way through this list. Once I saw the list of competitors and the pricing, I would have immediately moved on.

2 What Content Already Exists for This Niche?

Is there a ton of content already produced (SEO industry for example). If so, how well is that content performing? What kind of content in this industry is being talked about often? Can the content be improved upon?Are there key forums or other communities in the niche where people are hanging out and asking questions. If so, what questions are commonly being asked (could lead to an alternate opportunity, but also could allow you to plug the product you plan on making).

What blogs are there in the niche that people read? Do they get comments on their posts? Check out the domain authority of those blogs, as well as who the authors are. Then start making an excel sheet to track.

3 Who are the Influencers in the Niche?

I’m looking for people who I can potentially partner with, offer discounts to, try to get a guest blog on their website, etc. These are people with large followings and their followers are my ideal customers.To find who the influencers are, I head over to BuzzSumo.com and enter the industry or specific keywords. This will generate a list of influencers in the industry. I can quickly access their social profiles from here.

What do they talk about? Are they approachable? What is their website about? How many fans/followers and how engaged are they? What social networks are they on?

Once I have this data, I’ll add them to the aforementioned excel sheet.

Bonus: Is there an automated way I can generate leads?

This one is a bit tricky and is not a make or break, but it certainly is helpful if there’s a way I can generate a leads list to start attacking first. This handy tool can come in handy if the competitors of my app use a “Powered by” or something similar: https://search.nerdydata.com/?homeLogo

Conclusion

Does Wedding Day Planner have potential?

I don’t feel that it does.

For one, there are lots of competitors. Much more than just the four I highlighted in this walkthrough.

The second reason would be that the average lifetime value of a client would be limited. Most competitors are offering free apps (to sell other things).

I don’t have any mathematical formula for this. I am able to quickly size things up (having done this enough) and make a fairly quick decision whether its something I want to do or not, based on the results of the above questions.

In the end, I personally would not pursue this app.

I hope this helps you to better identify opportunities. Are there things that you look for specifically? If you are unsure about your app’s potential or have any questions – contact me and I’ll see if I can help point you in the right direction.

7 Comments

  1. Dave Schneider 3 years ago says:

    Solid thought process Justin. Went through the same thing myself for the SaaS I am launching. I’m a bit concerned about a few competitors, it’s a difficult thing to judge.

    Reply
    • Justin McGill 3 years ago says:

      Thanks @selfmadebm:disqus. It is tough…even if the competition is strong, if someone really has a passion for it and they feel they have a difference maker – I’m sure they can figure out how to make it work. I just prefer to go the route a little less traveled I suppose given that I know anything competitive will require quite a marketing effort.

      On a side note – I have your blog in my Feedly also! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Don Jarrell 3 years ago says:

    Only thing is, Justin, your approach pretty much completely precludes someone from introducing a new category of product or service, where there is no “data” to support the decision.

    Those folks are left to either:

    (1) Lean methodology as excellently encapsulated by Ash Maury from Eric Ries’ work.

    (2) Point zero approach where great creativity meets deep domain knowledge and a bona fide breakthrough product is envisioned and faithfully created. This is sometimes more workable than true Lean methodology in enterprise products where one must have compelling critical mass in the offering and that is sometimes well beyond MVP.

    Reply
    • Justin McGill 3 years ago says:

      You are absolutely right @don_jarrell:disqus. Those need a lot more validating and research then what I go through in this post.

      In fact, I’ll be writing on this soon as I will be discussing my last startup which recently shut down. We thought we validated everything, but it turns out one element was not validated which ultimately led to us needing to shut it down.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Buy Box Experts 1 year ago says:

    There’s a lot of opportunities when you manage a business. You just need to have enough experiences. Managing business means there’s a challenge awaits. But if you have enough talent and skills, you will be able to surpass it all. The opportunity will tag along when your business completes its goals and reach success.
    Buy Box Experts recently posted…Protect Your Brand on AmazonMy Profile

    Reply

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"Justin is the proto-type of a 21st century business leader. Unmatched skills with evolving technology, combined with the social and emotional intelligence required to handle an increasingly advanced consumer." ~ Michael Lambourne of Blend.