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Elevating your SaaS Business Beyond the Cloud

In today's world, software as a service (SaaS) has proven itself a lucrative market, with platforms such as Office 365 and Salesforce leading the charge to provide corporate users with simple, easy solutions to logistical woes. By directly managing the hosting and delivery of critical applications, SaaS enterprises  provide numerous advantages in terms of management and integration with the cloud. Offering immediate cloud deployment and use, SaaS is not only efficient, but cost effective, reducing expenses in information technology for countless enterprises while continuing to provide the fully featured applications they demand.

That said, with such potential in this technology, the market has become somewhat saturated, with many options to choose from for individual consumers. As a result, differentiating your digital business will be the key to building a loyal customer base.

In a similar fashion, when marketing a SaaS venture, it's important to keep in mind that your competition comes not only from others in the same space, but also legacy software developers. Accordingly, the focus should be placed primarily on how it works versus what it does. Most customers likely already have old software that accomplishes the same task, so what your value proposition needs to emphasize is the advantages stemming from the delivery of your product and the limitless opportunities for innovation.

 

Exhibit Compatibility with Customer Jobs

For most potential clients, the biggest concern is whether switching to your platform will pose any issues for their day to day operations. For example, if you were to switch from the Microsoft Office desktop client to Office 365 after many years on the standard application suite, you would find yourself accustomed to a certain standard of functionality, including the editing features and tools available for use. If Office 365 did  not include a critical feature in Excel, for example, it would be a net downgrade from the previous version of Office, and leave many customers unsatisfied. In fact, this is a particular issue when it comes to the Web client for Office, forcing desktop users to download and install the suite manually to gain full access to the feature set. This conundrum has lead many within the corporate world to eye a switch to Google's entirely web-based G-Suite, which includes many critical features provided by Office and compatibility with legacy file types in a package designed for cloud service delivery.

As a result of this dynamic, avoiding the churn resulting from incompatibility with customer pains has become a priority in the realm of cloud computing. This means that addressing the issue requires a certain level of authenticity in terms of marketing the product, and ensuring a seamless transition from legacy software to your SaaS offering. In a market where switching providers simply requires cancelling a subscription and signing up for another elsewhere, this line of thinking is particularly vital.

In order to demonstrate a developmental attitude for your business model, it would be beneficial to place a focus on the added value SaaS delivers for any business, whether it be a start-up or a conglomerate. A great example of this would be the live nature of the software, with updates taking but a refresh to install. For businesses who've grown tired of managing constant yearly updates to software for the latest features, having a live alternative is extremely enticing, given the implied savings in manpower following cloud migration. On top of that, the ability to essentially outsource the pains and headaches of overseeing a large part of IT operations to a professional service will draw attention from businesses and individual consumers seeking to maximise productivity.

 

Allow Users to Sample your Offering

Functioning as the original "carrot" of sorts that draws consumer attention, providing a free trial or demo of your service allows potential clients to experience the advantages and conveniences of SaaS first-hand. A sales representative cold-calling or emailing current business owners may result in some number of subscriptions, but in this business, letting the product speak for itself is the strongest possible marketing strategy. Using this strategy of customer-initiated service, leads can be easily generated without having to devote extensive resources to marketing your offering across platforms.

Furthermore, the use of demos and free trials allows the user to sample your software at no risk to either party. This allows the concept of buyer's remorse to be momentarily removed from the equation, making the user more likely to purchase a subscription if they enjoy the trial.  

Alternatively, if a demo or free trial doesn't seem sufficiently enticing, a freemium option could also bring attention to your service. By guaranteeing certain base functionalities for free, potential customers can have a certain portion of their needs met and depend on your service to accomplish tasks. As a result, while some may choose to remain on the free tier, a significant number of users who use your offering avidly will be enticed to buy a license.  A good example of this would be Canva, an image editing platform. Giving users extensive options for content creation on their free plan, it gives each user the opportunity to experience the great benefit the service provides, while leaving more advanced features on the paid plan. These would include scheduling posts for social media, greatly expanded cloud storage access and advanced tools that cut time spent editing. The Canva model exceptionally illustrates the effectiveness of trials and freemium because while it may seem that the initial offering is enough for the customer's needs,  the benefits of upgrading to the premium tier are so great that going back would seem ridiculous. In other words, your business should look to attract customers with a risk-free introduction to your software and retain them with indispensable features that come at a price. 

In fact, you could also sell ad space on your service and provide a clean, no-nonsense interface to those who choose to sign up for the premium tier. By adding a new stream of revenue stemming from the customer segment where you aren't making any money, you'll end up recouping any and all losses incurred from the introduction of this model. 

Demonstrate your Reliability

The biggest concern for a prospective SaaS consumer is that it cannot be fixed autonomously, and that users are depending on the company to address outages and technical difficulties. In theory, considering all the software operates in a cloud environment, SaaS could indeed create some concerns related to business autonomy. For example, if a firm relied on cloud storage to access important files and there was a service outage, clients would be rightly furious at your perceived unreliability and perhaps even seek a competitor.

When addressing possible outages concerns, most SaaS businesses strive for the gold standard of the "Five Nines", meaning a 99.999% uptime guarantee for all but 5.25 minutes per year. Reliability of this caliber is certainly the goal for all service providers, but achieving it is only necessary depending on the type of business you find yourself serving. For example, it would be far more important to have the Five Nines when serving the government or medical community than if you were operating in a lower-intensity industry such as entertainment or media. While it may take time to build the infrastructure necessary to deliver such reliability, there is an upside in the fact that SaaS businesses with proven records of consistent uptime can eventually charge higher premiums.

Providing an uptime guarantee is a net benefit to both the business and the consumer, provided it can be met. However, no one tech product or service is perfect, and issues stemming from technical flaws or difficulties with the server provider could still hurt your SaaS service. That's why it's also important to highlight your commitment to timely and communicative customer support. In the event of a serious outage, clients will rush to get in touch with you, seeking answers and reassurance. With a proper dedication to customer service, contingency strategies can be executed in an efficient and effective manner to preserve your relationship with the client.

Highlight the Customer Experience

One of the defining aspects of any SaaS business is the "service" aspect, and how you manage relationships with your client. The fast paced nature of offering live, always-online software requires constant monitoring of customer insights in order to determine what will be necessary in future updates. Companies who refuse to put in the effort to keep up with customers and gather feedback are seen as out of touch, which in many ways is a death sentence for any new venture in the modern tech market. This means that going forward, it's important to build a service delivery model that highlights the fact that your team is up to that task.

For example, when managing the license of a client, take the time to check in with them through some kind of routine review system. Most businesses, using push notifications or pop-ups, request the user input a star rating or give a small amount of feedback. This has a particular advantage over most client-based software as it creates a direct link between the user and developer, who can collect insights for the rollout of the next update.

This type of customer interaction is precisely what allows SaaS businesses to rise above their client-based competitors. While legacy systems often require external websites to be visited or customer input collected indirectly through support tickets, your live service has the advantage of being able to directly solicit feedback and provide assistance to the customer. This advantage plays directly to the apprehension some may have about switching to SaaS, giving them the attention they may need in the early days to get started, as well as the opportunity to communicate their thoughts directly to the provider. 

In addition to the advantages of provided customer input, increased interaction will allow you to cultivate a reputation for your team as dedicated to quality service. In such a competitive market, being known for timely responses to user criticism and comments will allow your venture to stand out from the rest, even having the potential to be highlighted by industry publications. 

Focus on Simplicity

The greatest strength of SaaS is the fact that it doesn't need to be set up or relentlessly integrated and updated. Billing your software as being "all live, all the time" holds significant appeal to prospective clients in not only the corporate world, but also individual consumers who seek to spend more time getting things done and less time configuring their system.

Prioritizing the angle of simplicity in SaaS marketing is critical to gaining clients, particularly when it comes to software used for critical tasks. For example, Enterprise Resource Planning (or ERP) is essential for the corporate user, tracking the status of business commitments and the resources employed to meet them. That said, managing it is not a simple task, with applications split in different departments from accounting to sales and customer service. Full consolidation of ERP is certainly possible, but the cost and time commitment needed to do so is far too daunting for the average company. Accordingly, with the help of the Oracle Cloud infrastructure, Deloitte developed the SuperLedger, a platform that unifies, tracks and analyzes financial information to facilitate management. By providing a centralized, live platform for financials and analysis, the SuperLedger allows for systems to be seamlessly integrated and automates low-level tasks with reduced human error. This positioning of the SuperLedger as the great integrator is entirely thanks to its SaaS delivery mode. As the model allows the program to overlay over existing systems in little time and be similarly effective to fully consolidated ERP systems, it acts as a testament to the benefits of live, externally hosted software.

Security is Critical

One of the most common concerns many users have of cloud adoption is the potential for malicious action including data theft or losses incurred from outages. According to security consulting firm Zeguro, over one third of surveyed companies reported experiencing a data breach in the past twelve months, cementing the fact that having a viable cyber security strategy is absolutely essential when developing a SaaS venture. 

An example of a step your SaaS business can take to secure user data is to install a framework to make sure third-party application access can be controlled and eliminated if found to be malicious. Considering most SaaS offerings allow integration with accounts on other services such as Google and Facebook, the likelihood of intrusion may increase if the auxiliary account isn't effectively secured. A similar situation also manifests itself if another device is connected. In that case, the solution could be to impose a limit on how many devices can be connected to an account or perhaps which browsers/operating systems can connect in order to bolster security. That way, untrusted devices can be barred from interacting with the service.

Another common step taken by SaaS services is to craft a plan to prevent and/or respond to DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. Carried out by a network of hijacked computers, a DDOS attack generally aims to overload the servers by simultaneously connecting en masse. Considering that delivery of the service is the number one priority of a SaaS venture, many malicious actors deliberately target these services to cause downtime and losses. For example, to protect against this increasingly prevalent threat, many companies choose to install specialized security measures such as Cloudflare, who protect against DDOS attacks by individually vetting user connections before allowing them access. With even high-profile clients making use of their service including IBM and Doordash, their brand has become quite recognizable in the realm of cybersecurity. Guaranteeing that level of security to users will likely make them feel more comfortable joining your service and trusting you with their operations.

In short, by making security a cornerstone of your SaaS business, you're likely to draw more attention from apprehensive customers, whether they be a privacy-conscious individual or a business looking to secure sensitive information. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Make apparent the fact that your service offering addresses the critical issues facing potential clients.
  • Give prospective users the opportunity to sample your service at no risk; A freemium model or service demo is the most effective way of doing so.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to providing consistent, available service. Earn their trust by informing clients of your extensive customer support structure.
  • As you build your brand, make attentiveness to the customer a priority. Emphasize that providing the Service is as important as providing the software.
  • When marketing your SaaS venture, put simplicity at the front of your campaign. Potential clients are looking to improve productivity and cut costs, not for in-app gimmicks.
  • Place data security at the heart of your operations. Stress that as clients migrate to the cloud, they need not sacrifice any security.
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