Tag: Saas

Getting to Know Your Customers – A Guide for Marketing SaaS
SaaS Branding

Getting to Know Your Customers – A Guide for Marketing SaaS

Before you create a marketing plan for your SaaS you need to develop a clear idea of who your customers are, what their goals are, and what they need to reach those goals. You may believe that the ideal audience for your product is basically everyone, but you’re doing your business a disservice if you don’t create targeted marketing aimed at the customers most likely to benefit from your software.

A strong marketing campaign enables potential clients to clearly envision how the product and service will help them reach their goals. The most successful marketing campaigns feel as though they are aimed not at a demographic but at each individual within that group.

Before you can create such effective marketing, you need to know who you are selling to. This guide will help you identify your ideal client.

1. Define the Problem

Define the Problem

The search for the ideal client starts close to home. You first have to look at your product and identify the problem that you are solving. Clients buy your product because they have a problem and your product is a solution. The problem may be: I need to make sure my company is compliant with the latest payroll tax regulations, or it may be: I need to communicate with 10,000 subscribers on my email list about the events in my gallery.

If this seems like a high level concept, try breaking it down by listing all the features your software has. What does the software actually do? Each of these features solves a problem by performing a task more efficiently or by automating parts of the process.

2. Identify Broad Categories

Identify Broad Categories

Make a list of the people or businesses who might have this problem. Think broadly. You’ll get to specifics in the next step. List industries or service areas. Think about business size. Are you targeting small businesses, enterprise clients, individuals?

Consider the revenue of your potential customers. If you’re offering a high end product with a high end price tag, you’re going to need a customer with a lot of revenue to be able to afford your software.

3. Narrow Your Focus

Narrow Your Focus

Now you can get specific. Look at those broad categories and think about individuals within those categories who might benefit from your product. Are you aiming at the sales representative or the CEO? How educated is your customer? What kind of technical skills does the customer have? How old is this person?

Does your customer employ people? How many? Are they working on a team? How big is the team? What is the geographic scope of the business?

What are the factors that potential client use to make decisions? Are they focused more on the bottom line or on efficiency? Do they need to get approval from another person or a board of directors to buy your product?

Once you’ve explored all of these questions you should have a clear idea of who your ideal customer is. This could be an individual or an organization as long as it is specific and focused.

4. Aim Your Marketing

Aim Your Marketing

Now that you have your ideal customer profile you can create marketing plans aimed at that specific customer. This will require a little more research from you. Figure out where customers like this congregate online. Are they on LinkedIn or Twitter? Are they spending most of their time on industry-specific sites? If you have existing customers that fit your profile, you can ask them these questions. If not, there’s a wealth of statistical information available online from companies like Kissmetrics.

Once you figure out where your ideal customer hangs out, you can look at how your customer communicates. What buzzwords does he use? What graphics appeal to her? Create your advertising with this in mind.

By maintaining this close focus on your ideal customer, you’ll increase the chances that your advertising reaches people who are ready and willing to buy your product. Of course, other people will see your ads as well, and that’s fine. Even customers who don’t fit your profile can be great customers.

5 Essential Elements of an Effective SaaS Website
SaaS Branding

5 Essential Elements of an Effective SaaS Website

Customers use your website to learn about your company, decide whether your SaaS can help them, interact with your support team, and buy your product. An effective website makes it easy, and maybe even fun, for customers to do these things.

There’s a lot of room for customization of your website, but there are also five essential elements you must have to ensure that your website is effective.

1. Clear Statement of Purpose

Visitors to your website should be able to tell at a glance who you are and what you’re selling. 17 hats, the organizational app for entrepreneurs, does a great job of this.

Clear Statement of Purpose

The first thing you see on their site is a tagline “say goodbye to chaos and hello to organization!” They describe themselves as “the all-in-one business system for entrepreneurs.” In less than 30 seconds you know who their product is for and broadly what it does. They even include a handy infographic, for people who would rather just look at the pictures.

For another great example, look at Salesforce.com. Their home page includes a straightforward headline asking the question “What is Salesforce?” followed by a two sentence answer. The menu to the left is headlined “Solutions For” with entries titled “Small Business” and “Industries.”

Again, a quick glance at the home page lets customers know what the product is and whether its designed for them.

2. Trust Building Elements

Trust Building Elements

People buy from companies they trust. Potential customers will use cues on your website to determine whether you’re trustworthy. These cues can include testimonials from happy customers, certifications from the Better Business Bureau, or security badges.

Let’s look again at SalesForce. The center of their homescreen namedrops a satisfied client who happens to also be a leader in their industry. The hope is that users will think: If this product works for that well known company, it will probably work for mine.

Intuit actually goes so far as to provide a “security” tab on their site, where they explain how their company protects your data. They also include security badges from Norton and Truste.

3. Compelling Call to Action

Compelling Call to Action

A call to action tells users what they should do next. Do you want them to sign up for a free trial? Subscribe to your software? Contact you for more information? Getting them to your site is only half the battle. You have to convince them to take action once they get there.

Salesforce, 17hats, and almost every other SaaS website out there, uses call to action buttons. The button is prominently placed on the home page. They tend to be in bright colors, like orange or lime green, that stand out from the rest of the page.

Your action button can say almost anything from “try it now” to “start for free,” as long as the customer understands that clicking the button will enable them to further explore the software.

4. Contact Information

Contact Information

Responsive customer service is a key factor in the SaaS model. In order for customers to feel confident that you will provide service and support to meet their needs, they have to know how to contact you.

At minimum, you should provide an email address. You might also include live chat options, a phone number, or an online forum where customers can post their questions.

Whatever contact information you provide, make sure that it is easy to find on your page. Don’t bury it three levels deep in a menu. Intuit includes a support tab as one of the four tabs on their home page. Salesforce lists an 800 number in the header of their home page, accompanied by a contact link that opens a email contact form.

5. Easy Payment Processing

Easy Payment Processing

Nothing is more annoying than wanting to buy a product and not being able to do so. Make sure that the process for purchasing your product is clear. Your action buttons can help here, by enticing customers to start your free trial or contact your sales team.

If you have a pricing page, you can include “sign up” or “buy now” buttons for each service level. MailChimp does a good job of this. Most of their site asks customers to sign up for their free version, but if you click through to the pricing page, you find “sign up now” buttons on the premium packages.

Define Your Brand Through Pricing
SaaS Branding

Define Your Brand Through Pricing

The price you should charge for your SaaS product may seem like a foregone conclusion. You charge what the market can support, which means that you charge about the same as your competitors.

While not technically wrong, this simplistic view may result in lost revenue. Your pricing strategy can send customers powerful signals about your product, and pricing considerations should be part of your brand strategy.

To develop a pricing strategy that works, you should consider both internal and external factors affecting your business. This involves looking inward at your company as well as outward at the existing market. If either one changes too much, you may need to reevaluate your strategy.

Even if you start out with an effective strategy, you’ll likely need to adjust it multiple times over the life of your business to account for your growth and changes in the market. Here are some points to consider as you develop your initial pricing strategy and reexamine existing strategies.

Identifying Goals

Identifying Goals

Before you set a pricing strategy you need to develop a clear idea of how your company will fit into the market. Do you want to be a high-end provider or an affordable option? Do you have the infrastructure to handle a high number of clients? Do you have the staff to handle high end clients who will expect a higher level of service?

Knowing where you want to be in the market and what you can afford to offer can serve as a starting point for your pricing strategy, but it can’t be the only factor you consider.

Charging What You’re Worth

When figuring out how to set the price for your software, it may seem obvious that you should charge as little as possible. After all, customers want to save money. If you charge less, you’ll be lowering one of the hurdles that customers have to overcome to purchase your product. By this logic, lower prices should equal more customers. But there are other factors to consider.

Studies have shown that people tend to equate high prices with high quality. So setting your prices too low may send a signal to customers that you’re offering a lower quality product than your competitors. If your prices are significantly lower, customers may wonder where you cut corners to achieve those bargain basement prices.

When figuring out how to price your product take into account the value you’re providing to customers. If your product makes their business more efficient, you’re likely saving them money. Your pricing should reflect that. And your marketing should too. Communicating your value to potential customers will likely make them more willing to pay what your product is actually worth.

Look at Your Competitors

Look at Your Competitors

Now that you’ve looked inward at what your business can afford and what the product is worth it’s time to look outward at the market. Identify other companies offering similar products or services. Do they have different pricing for different levels of service? Do they offer packages? Are you offering something new or different that could demand a higher price?

Implementing Tiered Pricing

Once you’ve identified a price point, you’re still not quite done. Keep in mind that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. Many SaaS companies, including SalesForce and HubSpot, offer tiered pricing based on the size of the organization buying the service and the level of functionality the client needs.

This is a great way to expand your market share, because it allows you to serve the needs of enterprise clients without scaring away smaller businesses who might not be able to afford, and probably don’t even need, the full package. Tiered pricing also opens you up to future upselling. You’ll be able to grow with a client by offering them what they need when they need it.

Freemium

Freemium

Finally, no discussion about pricing SaaS is complete without talking about Freemium models. Freemium is a pricing model under which you give away a basic software package for free and then charge for added features.

MailChimp is a good example of a SaaS company using a Freemium model. Mailchimp lets users send up to 12, 000 emails to up to 2,000 subscribers every month for free. That seems like a lot of emails at first, but MailChimp is banking on the fact that businesses grow and so do mailing lists. When a user wants to expand beyond these caps or if they want services that make their email campaigns more effective, like marketing automation, the user must pay to unlock the features.

Giving your product away for free might seem like a losing strategy, but Freemium has long been a recognized practice in the SaaS industry. It works because it encourages users to become invested in your product. They convert themselves, by becoming dependent on the services you provide. They also already trust your company, so when they need software solutions, they’ll look to your company first.

Other considerations

Pricing is a complex decision matrix. Every company is in some way unique, and will need to consider different factors to reach an effective pricing strategy. Ultimately, the true test of whether a pricing strategy is right for your business, is whether people are willing to pay the price you’ve set for your product.

A-guide-to-deciding-when-and-how-to-offer-a-free-trial-of-your-SaaS
SaaS Branding

A Guide to Deciding When and How to Offer a Free Trial of Your SaaS

The free trial has long been a part of the SaaS marketing and sales arsenal. Many companies including SalesForce.com, Citrix: Go to Meeting, and Concur offer free trials. Yet according to Totango, which does an annual study of trends in SaaS conversion, about 37 percent of SaaS companies choose not to offer a free trial. Workday is one of them.

Is a free trial right for my SaaS?

Is a free trial right for my SaaS?

There’s no universal answer to this. SaaS businesses should take into account several variables to make the decision. Ask yourself:

  • Is my software intuitive and easy to use?
  • Will potential clients see the value of the software immediately?
  • Can I afford to support back-end operations for clients who haven’t paid me yet?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then a free trial will probably help sell your software to customers. If you answered no to any (or all) you might want to explore other options like preview videos, demos, or blog posts.

How long should my free trial be?

How long should my free trial be?

Again, there’s no easy answer to this. In fact, it’s been a matter of hot debate in recent years. Conventional wisdom says 30 days.

  • Is my software complex enough that it takes time to understand?
  • Do some functions of my software (like payroll) happen on a bi-weekly or monthly basis?
  • Can I afford a longer sales cycle?

If you answered yes all of these questions then a 30 day trial may be right for your software. If you answered no to any then a shorter trial may be right for you. Try offering a 14 day trial instead. This shortens your sales cycle and helps users maintain a sense of urgency. If your software is exceptionally simple or its value is transparent on minimal use, then you might even reduce your trial to 7 days. Skype is one example of a company that does this.

Short trials may not be right for all users, even if they’re generally a good fit for your product. In those cases you can offer potential clients a trial extension. A good time to offer an extension is when a potential client is getting close to the end of a free trial but has not yet converted.

How do I convince potential clients to try the product?

Offering a free trial does not guarantee that every visitor to your web site will try your product. Just because something is free doesn’t mean people want it.

  • Have I made the free trail difficult to find on my website?
  • Is it difficult for potential clients to understand what the product does?
  • Am I asking trial users for a credit card up front?

If you answered yes (or maybe) to any of these questions, you may need to rethink your strategy. Your website should always feature a prominent call to action, usually in the form of a button. You don’t have to use the words “free trial” because “test drive” or “try it now” work just as well, but make sure the trial is front and center on your website. Pair your action button with a clear description of what your product does, focusing on how it can solve a problem for your potential client. Fancy features don’t mean anything if a client can’t visualize how they’ll apply to his business.

As for credit cards, it seems obvious that getting a credit card from your potential client is a good idea, that way when a potential client is ready to convert, you’ve removed a step in the process. But not so fast. Requiring a credit card can scare users away. They may worry that you’re one of those businesses that is just waiting for the minute the free trial to run out so you can drop a huge charge on their credit card before they remember to cancel the trial. The jury is still out on this issue. You’ll have to decide based on conversion analytics.

But how do I turn free trials into sales?

But how do I turn free trials into sales?

Not every user who downloads a free trial will buy your product. Some will abandon the trial after a few days. Others will let the trial expire without doing anything at all.

It may be hard to tell why customers dropped out without analytics and some basic follow-up in the form of customer responses or surveys, but once you have that information ask yourself.

  • Does my product have the functionality the user was looking for?
  • Does the user have the basic technical skills and equipment to run my software?
  • Is the price point right for the user?

If you answered yes to all of these questions and the user still isn’t converting you may have a problem of communication. The goal of a free trial is to let the software sell itself by getting customers to engage with it in a hands-on way. They may need guidance on how to do that, or direction on where to find the most valuable tools for their business.

Communicate with your potential clients throughout their free trial. Don’t just send a welcome email. Show them where to find blogs, videos, and step-by-step guides that direct them to the most useful or impressive elements of your software. Offer a demo. The product should sell itself, but you can help.

Ultimately, the free trial is a conversion tool. If offering a free trial isn’t helping you convert customers, or if it ends up costing more money than it’s worth, buck the trend and start charging up front.

4 ways to build trust with potential and existing clients
SaaS Branding

4 Ways to Build Trust with Potential and Existing Clients

Trust is the backbone of any relationship and that’s especially true for the relationship between SaaS companies and their clients. Consider the range of sensitive information your SaaS may be handling if you provide HR, CRM, or Sales Force Automation software. The success of your client’s business depends on whether your product works, and whether it delivers on the promises you’ve made to the client.

In the client’s mind it might seem safer to keep that information and those functions in-house, where their business has at least the illusion of control. For a potential client to be willing to take the plunge with your software, they have to trust you and the product. Here are 4 ways to build trust from initial contact through follow-up.

1. Craft a trustworthy website

Craft-a-trustworthy-website

What makes a website appear trustworthy? First let potential clients know that your website is secure. Include security certificates, credit card symbols, and affiliations such as Better Business Bureau membership prominently on your website.

If possible, include testimonials and logos from satisfied customers. One way that potential clients assess whether a business is trustworthy is by looking for other businesses that use and trust the product.

Offer plenty of information. People tend to fear what they don’t know, so offer as much information as possible about your product and service to help potential clients make informed decisions.

Including these elements will help you set the groundwork for trust, but customer service is what really seals the deal, which brings us to our second tip.

2. Be available

Be available

SaaS stands for software as a service. Don’t make the mistake of focusing exclusively on the software and neglecting the service element. You need to be available to answer questions for potential clients and convert them into paying clients.

Provide clients and potential clients with a selection of ways to contact you. Live Chat is a great way to engage customers because it allows them to ask questions while on your site and without having to pick up the phone.

That being said, some people are more comfortable if they can hear a human voice, so provide a phone number that someone will actually answer. If you can’t answer every call, make sure you return phone calls in a timely manner.

Of course, email is the old standby. Even though it’s less immediate than the other contact methods, it has the advantage of being available to clients 24-7, even on holidays.

3. Offer a free trail

Offer a free trail

It seems counterintuitive to give your product away for free, but free trials have become the standard in the SaaS industry. They are huge trust builders for potential clients because a free trial allows the client to actually engage with the product and make sure it works for their business.

Ideally, a free trial lasts somewhere between 14 and 30 days. Longer than 30 days and you may lose the sense of urgency that encourages potential clients to actually explore the product, less than 14 days and they may not feel they know the product well enough to make a decision.

Stay in contact with the potential client throughout the trail period. Make sure they know how to reach you if they have questions and give them plenty of opportunities to buy.

Most importantly, when they are ready to convert, make sure it is easy for them to do so. There is nothing more frustrating than having to jump through hoops to give someone your money.

4. Keep in Contact

Keep in Contact

The structure of the SaaS industry means that, retaining clients is more valuable than landing new clients. If you have one client who pays you $100 a month for your product and sticks with you for three years, it’s better than 30 clients who pay their hundred and then close their accounts at the end of the first month.

To keep clients you have to keep building trust. That means you keep the lines of communication open. Check in with clients periodically to make sure they’re happy with the product and your service. If you find that they’re not, find out why not, and do what you can to fix it.

Building trust with clients takes time, and different clients will need different levels of engagement to feel secure, but it’s time and effort well spent. A client who trusts you and has faith in your product, is a client who will stick with you for the long-haul.