Over the past decade, the world of work has transformed beyond recognition. The rise of software as a service (SaaS) products has played a huge part in this transformation. A plethora of industries, from media, telecom, and professional services to retail, banking, and finance, now prefer to use SaaS tools to manage their workflows and deliveries. SaaS has, without a doubt, become the default software-delivery model at an astonishing speed.
Now that the relevance and utility of SaaS tools have been well established, it’s crucial to also understand that SaaS businesses operate in the most dynamic operational setup. They have to constantly gauge what their end users want and work on delivering those software features. If you are on the other side, that is, if you are a SaaS business, you will always be innovating, adapting, and shipping.
There are more than 25,000 SaaS companies in the world. How can you stand out fierce against your competition in such a crowded and potentially saturated market? The answer lies in the mindset. Most SaaS businesses flourish not necessarily because their product is unmatched — in fact, there is a lot of competition — but because they have a system that works, a mindset that seeks to serve their end-users in the best possible manner, and the right people to make it all happen.
Let’s look at some of these mindset shifts that separate a successful SaaS business from an unsuccessful one.
Think Out Of The Box, But Lead On Your Thoughts
One of the most lasting ways of keeping your brand and product in the minds of the customers is by advocating for what it stands for. Thought leadership — CEOs and founders and other C-suite executives sharing their opinions in the news or social media — is a big pull for those in the industry. Many SaaS businesses follow a B2B model. When you are dealing with enterprise customers, it is crucial to strike a chord with their brand values.
Are you working on a SaaS solution for project management in large teams? Then you should be an advocate for the productivity gains of using systems in the workplace. You should share productivity techniques and embrace the brand of “productive workplace” as an extension of your product.
Your growth team is an incredible asset to your SaaS business. Often aligned with the marketing team, your growth hackers can streamline the process of acquiring and retaining customers beyond just sales calls.
First of all, the team will define a metric — often referred to as the North Star Metric — that can encompass and reflect the growth in your top goals for long-term sustainable growth. Most successful SaaS businesses have their metrics well laid out. This helps them direct all their efforts to the achievement of these goals, as measured by the predefined metrics.
From there, growth hacking begins. It involves the use of strategies that encourage heightened activation, like Freemiums or Free Trials, or scalable monetisation techniques like upgrades, add-ons, etc. Most competitive SaaS businesses will tread this carefully – you don’t want to give out too much, but it’s also important to keep your loyal customers interested.
Just like the leadership team’s advocacy of the solution helps build a brand for the SaaS business, a community-led model helps enhance customer loyalty and stickiness unlike anything else. As an example, let’s say your product is productivity software. Now, you may get your community members interested in boosting their usage of the tool by sharing different productivity techniques with them. Engage with them in a conversation about it.
Communities built around a theme are great sources of leads and help foster brand loyalty. Such community chat boards are also an excellent space for word-of-mouth marketing. Your current users are your best salespersons. Communities can help multiply this through a combination of peer-to-peer support, loyalty-building, and lead generation.
Data Drives Decisions
Another very important characteristic of most competitive SaaS businesses is that they continuously capture data and then make use of the data to their advantage. Data informs their decision-making. This is why they have people with knowledge of data science and behavioural economics on their team.
A data-driven approach to strategic decision-making reduces errors, eliminates personal bias, empowers other team members, and instils confidence in everyone by keeping them informed.
Keeping Customers Happy
The underlying goal of all the business efforts is to keep the customers happy. Customer success is a critical metric across the entire customer life cycle. It starts when you’re onboarding the customer. Make the process of getting started with your SaaS tool a smooth one. Customers should be able to set up with a simple login and immediately see the most valuable part of your offer.
Customers should be able to communicate with you to ask their questions across a variety of channels. From chatbots on your website, customer success representatives, and email connections to social media responsiveness, all of this matters a great deal in ensuring customer satisfaction.
Attending to customer feedback and complaints proactively also ensures that your customer churn rate is lower. Everyone knows that the cost of customer acquisition is higher than the cost of customer retention. In fact, customer retention also leads to customer advocacy and referrals, which is a sweet deal. This, in turn, enhances the customer lifetime value because happy customers are less likely to leave you in favour of a competitor. You can upsell and cross-sell – the opportunities for connecting with customers are endless.
Then, there’s another network you build when you are dealing with enterprise customers. This refers to the second-order revenue. Imagine your product was loved by the product manager at a company. When and if they switch jobs, they will advocate for your SaaS tool at the new company as well. This helps you tap into their network. All you had to do was be a good service provider.
Value can be delivered to customers in ways that go beyond your actual product. We are talking about content marketing, or the use of blog posts, videos, graphics, or other content to educate, inform, and thus, empower your target users.
Enterprise customers are always eager to learn more about strategies that can make them better at their jobs, so they always appreciate such information coming their way. You need to target this content well, stay relevant, and in the process, ensure you educate, convert, and delight your existing/potential customers.
Make Payments Easier
Here’s the thing – when SaaS was first introduced, the businesses made all their revenue from subscriptions. Then the payment evolved into being embedded online on their own platforms. Now, the SaaS platforms offer a variety of payment options. There’s the Freemium model, Free Trials, or discounted subscriptions.
For the customer, payment is a stage they need to cross to reach your product. This stage should be the least bothersome for them. They simply want to open a window, sign-up, select a payment mode and timeline that suits them, and not have to think about payments again until the next payment cycle.
Your customers might prefer to pay using different modes across the world. Some prefer direct debit, while others want to use credit cards. Some might be restricted to certain choices due to regulatory laws in their country. Account for all such situations and offer a hassle-free payment experience.
Competitive SaaS businesses are able to reach meteoric growth through consistent performance on one or more of the aspects covered in this blog. There’s no cookie-cutter strategy that works for all businesses. You will need to familiarise yourself with your user base and study them and their aspirations to stay relevant to their changing needs.
Customer success, retention, and stickiness are important for their long-term growth and survival. At the same time, building SaaS tools and constantly improving them is not child’s play. We need to constantly incorporate customer feedback and stakeholder reviews into the product to make it the best it can be. Constant improvements, updates, and feature upgrades are part of the deal.
SaaS companies have managed to do it so well, even in the midst of fierce competition. They are finding their USP, emphasising it with conviction, and connecting with their customers or users at the same time. It’s a tricky balancing act, but with the right team members, it’s possible to build and grow successful SaaS businesses.