Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the New Breed blog here.
Every SaaS business experiences some challenges as they try to grow. The landscape is constantly evolving, making it difficult to predict the best ways to move the company forward. To help you navigate through this complexity, we identified the top 20 activities best-in-class SaaS companies are doing today to grow their businesses.
1. Cultivate Positive Company Culture
This has less to do with hosting a dynamite office party and everything to do with the perspective and values you cultivate within your workforce. Mutual respect goes a long way toward forging strong and productive alliances. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the need for esteem and belonging are key motivational determinants of our behavior. Lack of recognition is cited as the number-one reason most Americans leave their jobs (ranking above money, conflicting opportunities or a need for increased flexibility). Furthermore, when we feel supported and appreciated, we’re more productive and likely to stick out difficult challenges rather than jump ship.
2. Encourage Innovation
These days, everyone’s talking about the power of grit. According to a plethora of recent studies, grit, more than natural intelligence, is an accurate indicator of an individual’s likelihood of achieving success. Similarly, perspective plays a key role in how we approach new challenges. If you encourage employees to approach obstacles as opportunities for innovation and a chance to collaborate with peers, you’ll actually foster grit and promote teamwork at the same time.
3. Hire the Right People
It’s always good to have smart, qualified people at your company — but it takes more than just technical acumen to be an asset to a team. The “right” person means someone with good qualifications and the kind of personality that will enable them to succeed and adapt in a highly collaborative, tech-driven and client-facing industry.
4. Have Amazing Backend Tech
Having a solid yet malleable technical architecture can do wonders for your business in the long run. No matter how innovative your ideas are, you’ll be crippled if you don’t have the technological capability to realize them. So what makes for amazing backend tech? Make sure your system is scalable, secure, easily integrated with other platforms, has a highly customizable user interface and is capable of conducting automated tests and other touch-free functions.
5. Fast Product Iteration
Growth driven design, or GDD, is founded on the idea that rolling out small changes in real time (rather than a multitude of changes, say, biannually) will help you grow by informing your marketing and sales approach moving forward. This trial-and-error model requires that you pay attention to how customers engage with your product — and quickly respond to any user frustrations. The payoff? You’ll have happier customers and minimize the risk to your business by pinpointing the exact variable that led to a given outcome.
6. Think Strategically
In the same vein, the best B2B SaaS marketers have a comprehensive short-term and long-term strategy to meet their goals. In the example of GDD, a short-term strategy would involve quickly executing a small change, whereas a long-term strategy would entail using data feedback from a multitude of small changes to inform how you grow, how you invest and how you engage with customers in the future.
7. Focus on the Customer Experience
It’s truly a buyer’s market — today’s consumers have more choices and more access to information to inform those choices. The result is that most people already have an idea of what they want before they’re ready to make a buying decision. That leaves you with one area to really shine and demonstrate your integrity as a business — the customer experience. A customer-centric approach to marketing is a win for businesses and consumers alike.
8. Balance Form and Function
Good web design has a whole lot of intention behind it. Think about how you’d like visitors to interact with your site and what kind of experience you’d like them to have. The best design is not only simple and beautiful, it’s also driven by functionality. There’s no point in having a stunning web design if it inhibits engagement with your site or doesn’t help convert visitors into leads.
9. Understand the Market
It’s hard to sell a product if you don’t know who you’re selling to or how big of a market they represent. Different potential buyers will have different pain points — and will be searching for slightly different solutions. If you know who you’re selling to, you’ll be able to speak more directly to their needs and convert more leads into customers. If you know the size of your market, you can also create more accurate business forecasts and predict your ROI for various marketing campaigns.
10. Price it Right
The “freemium” model is a little tricky to master, but works well for SaaS when executed correctly. The freemium idea is that you target the individual first, then they find value in the product and then share it with their peers. It’s important that you’re seeing some kind of value from your free user base (to justify the investment), even if that value isn’t dollar signs. Value can mean referrals and exposure for your brand in the short-term. A successful freemium model will also work toward a long-term goal: forging a link from the individual to a team account, where your sales opportunities live.
11. Reduce Churn
It’s important to adapt to your customers’ schedule and desired level of communication and not expect them to adapt to yours. Customer satisfaction surveys are a great way to get feedback on how you’re doing and make changes accordingly. Be available to prospects and customers on multiple web platforms, so that when they do want to communicate or ask a question, you’re there to help. Email campaigns that offer value in the form of e-books, webinars and infographics are a great way to keep communication open without adding empty clutter to someone’s inbox.
12. Build a Value-Added App
At the heart of value-added services and capabilities is the notion that you can use your industry know-how and connections to provide additional value to your customers — or enable them to do something they would unable to do on their own. The “value-added” refers to any services that you provide in addition to the actual product you are selling. A prime example of this would be a free one-year support warranty attached to the purchase of an electronic or appliance. Most SaaS companies are web-based, so developing a mobile app would be a logical way to add value to your company and convince customers to “stick.”
13. Sync Revenue and Costs
When it comes to finances, the more you know, the better off you’ll be. Raw data and metric-tracking software is your friend in this regard. Know your monthly recurring revenue, customer acquisition cost, cost of sales, average revenue per customer and average customer lifetime value. Once you know these things, you’ll be able to determine if a new lead is worth pursuing or if you’ll see more ROI by nurturing existing customers.
14. Outline a Lifecycle Funnel
To ensure you’re landing the most leads and snagging the most sale opportunities, it’s important to have a system in place for moving visitors through the various stages of the buying process. If you identify separate stages of the buyer’s journey, you’ll be able to determine where a potential customer sits in that process and what kind of interaction they’d be most receptive to. You can also customize Calls-To-Action (or CTAs) to engage, convert and offer reciprocal value to visitors for proceeding down the funnel in a prescribed way.
15. Know the Forecast
Generating business performance forecasts will give you an idea of future numbers, characteristics and trends in your target market — and allow you to estimate what the demand will be for your product (and where to focus your energy). A comprehensive analysis of the market should help you develop a strategy in line with that market and determine how to position yourself therein. In addition, forecasts can help you generate more accurate timelines for projects, so you can deliver on previous promises and know how to structure your sales strategy.
16. Give Gifts
Who doesn’t like getting a gift? Giving prospects a free gift is a great way to generate good will and move them down the funnel. Furthermore, gifts can be given at any stage of the lifecycle as a way to evangelize current customers.
17. Create Quality Content
This is the Inception moment of this list. At this very moment, I’m striving to practice what I’m preaching — essentially, I’m providing you with valuable information on how to provide valuable content to your customer. If that’s too meta to follow, just know this: quality content will not only increase organic traffic to your website, it will also help establish you as an industry thought leader (and source of authority).
18. Offer Product Trials
Product trials are a great way to generate leads in the SaaS industry — especially if you’re selling a tech or data tool. There’s no better way to show prospects what you have to offer than letting them try it for themselves. Just be sure to set them up for success so they walk away with a positive feeling. This might mean scheduling a call before the trial to show them the ropes or providing a video guide for using the product.
19. Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is at content marketing’s core. As you create great content, it’s important to ensure people can access it — and that they want it.You should incorporate SEO both from the beginning of your content strategy development and during the production process itself. Make sure you’re using specific keywords, creating inbound links, writing clear and accurate titles/captions and ensuring speedy page-loading times. All of these things will help your content rank higher on search engines like Google, thus increasing organic traffic to your site.
20. Referral Marketing
Referrals are low cost and are usually primed for a quick sale. Think about a time when you learned about a product from a friend. That friend likely shared their positive experience with the product and maybe even suggested ways in which the product could serve as a solution for you. Because that initial “pitch” is coming from someone you trust, you’re more likely to act on it, propelled down the funnel by their assurance. In SaaS, referral marketing takes the form of incentivized referral programs or a landing page with a built-in referral/share option.