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In an increasingly crowded market, how can companies ensure their SaaS offerings stand out from the pack?

Entering a new decade, it’s easy to forget just how quickly the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model has evolved over the past 10 years. The rise of cloud-based software has helped to redefine the enterprise workplace, unleashing truly mobile and collaborative workforces and new customer-facing interactions. It’s also democratised IT management and stimulated a shift in technology adoption that’s transformed the way companies buy and consume products and services.

Looking ahead, the global SaaS market looks set to experience continued fast-paced growth. According to Gartner, public cloud services alone is set to increase by 17 percent around the world to $266.4 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, the integration of AI with SaaS platforms looks set to propel additional market expansion, as more and more enterprises seize the opportunities on offer to cost-effectively automate internal operations, boost productivity, and speed up delivery of personalised services.

This should be music to the ears of organisations considering entering the as-a-service market, as well as existing providers preparing to update and evolve their SaaS offering.

Standing out in a crowded marketplace

Almost two-thirds of companies operating in the SaaS space today were formed in the last decade, and the number of new entrants continues to accelerate. With a growing number of organisations looking to benefit from the reduced costs, scalability and convenience offered by SaaS, it’s no surprise that new market entrants are keen to capitalise on the burgeoning opportunities.

And it’s not just MSPs themselves that have spotted the opportunities ahead. Private equity firms, flush with cash, are throwing their hats into the ring. The number of MSP acquisitions in recent months has accelerated – and this shows no signs of slowing down.

Standing out from the crowd will require building strong relationships with customers that can be leveraged to identify value-added transactions and evolve service offerings in line with changing business needs. This is especially relevant where private equity firms are acquiring multiple MSPs, rolling them up together and then reducing pricing to capture market share. This puts pricing pressure on independent MSPs, and suddenly it becomes a race to the bottom.

What’s needed is a laser-like focusing on differentiating with the best customer experience. Actively communicate your feature changes and improvements through regular updates that ensure customers recognise you’re responsive to their evolving needs.

Staying close to customers through regular account reviews will also generate opportunities to deliver strategic consultancy and impart in-depth knowledge that improves their operations. The aim of the game is to become a partner that provides value-added above and beyond the product portfolio on offer.

Finally, utilise BI and analytics to reinvent your pricing models. Tailoring pricing to individual customers will further demonstrate the truly collaborative nature of your relationship and discourage any temptation to consider switching providers.

Deliver seamless customer experiences

Every step of your customer’s journey, from first sales interaction to onboarding and ongoing support, needs to be easy and seamless to navigate. Because, if you’re not delivering a holistic service that is responsive, accurate and timely, no customer will commit to a long term relationship.

An effective onboarding process that is manageable, intuitive and interactive should include actional walk-throughs of key features and functionality. You will also need to provide a help centre and additional resources, plus a checklist for users to work through.

Utilising PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) tools will help ensure you’re able to gain complete visibility and control of your customers’ environments and can institute process improvements to serve them better.

From automating routine tasks to enabling accurate billing, the effective management of support issues, and keeping track of SLA performance, customer satisfaction depends upon your ability to deliver more than just promises.

Make your service convenient, integrated and tailored to industries

Ensuring your platforms can be readily integrated with tools customers are already using will make it easier for them to augment their internal processes with your services and products in a cost-effective manner.

In recent years there’s been a growing trend towards SaaS companies moving away from delivering a broad range of business functions and focusing instead on the delivery of vertical-specific software solutions built for clear industry niches.

These new ‘industry cloud’ propositions incorporate pre-defined metrics and KPIs that help organisations in specific sectors address daily and long-term process and performance challenges. Focused on the concept of customer success, these solutions often incorporate industry-specific data governance capabilities and tailored features that can be easily adapted to the demands of the user base.

Providing opportunities to create new ecosystems, featuring partner organisations, moving into the delivery of vertical SaaS platforms opens the door to co-marketing opportunities and the incorporation of new technology features through the utilisation of APIs.

Refresh your approach to marketing

Delivering content that meets the need of prospective and existing customers is the key to retaining your market position and becoming a recognised industry leader. From content marketing that showcases your expertise and builds brand awareness to adopting good digital marketing tactics designed to boost audiences in a wider range of geographies, aligning your marketing activities and messages to specific buyer personas will yield positive outcomes for your business.

By keeping your finger on the pulse of the current challenges customers in your target market are facing, you’ll be able to refine your offering and educate current and potential customers on how your solutions solve their problem. To build ‘stickiness’, initiate portals that enable customers to share successes and best practice with peers, gain access to subject matter experts and acquire new knowledge. Indeed, building a user-group community is once again becoming central to initiating stronger customer bonds and more informed relationship strategies that generate value-add for everyone involved.

You’re probably already familiar with the often-stated stat that acquiring a new customer is up to seven times more expensive than retaining an existing one. But there’s one instance where that isn’t true: customer referrals.

By leveraging the loyalty and enthusiasm of your existing client base, you can add new revenue streams to your business at a minimal per-customer cost. Creating a referral program is cheap, sustainable, and requires relatively low effort compared to complex, multi-channel marketing campaigns. By creating a simple, rewarding referral program, you can turn your best customers into your most vocal and passionate fans. In doing so, you not only increase the return on investment from every customer, but you can grow your client base without increasing your marketing spend. And since everyone involved gets something out of it, referrals can increase customer satisfaction, too.

Today’s customers want to have personal relationships with the companies they do business with. To thrive and survive in an increasingly competitive landscape, SaaS businesses must strive to cultivate strong, collaborative and strategic relationships that are personalised to every client. That means delivering clearer communications, one-to-one check-ins, and better, more timely, insights. Ultimately, unifying personalised solutions with technological innovations and consistent service delivery that demonstrates you’re paying attention will be the key to maintaining your position in a market that’s characterised by constant disruption.

Source – Craig Fulton

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