Managing a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business isn’t trivial. Successful SaaS companies are able to deal with a high volume of leads and turn those into a high volume of loyal customers with fast response and turnaround time.
This is often referred to as the ‘sales and marketing machine’ – a highly optimized, massively scalable and controlled business operation that is capable of:
- Generating, managing and nurturing leads;
- Converting leads into paying customers at high conversion rates;
- Ensuring customer success and preventing churn;
- Continuously increasing the service value, differentiation and offerings.
In order to build a ‘sales and marketing machine,’ companies need to invest in the tools that will get them the business scalability that is required and reduce the learning curve.
Many startups begin with homegrown solutions using spreadsheets and databases (with a bit of integration glue in between). This is sufficient for small scale, but quickly becomes unwieldy as the organization grows. Luckily, there are excellent tools available for SaaS companies to leverage.
Many vendors have a “starter” package, so there is really no excuse not to start building your tool-chest sooner rather than later.
The Customer Life-Cycle
To best understand where the different categories of tools fit, it’s best to look at the various stages of the customer life-cycle, as they evolve from early prospects to mature customers.
At Totango, we use the following customer life-cycle terms:
- Visitor – Anonymous user on the website
- Lead – Person who has expressed some interest in the service. This can be anything from downloading a white paper to signing-up to a trial
- Evaluating – A user (or company) who’s actively evaluating the service usually during a trial period or fermium
- Onboarding – A paying customer in the initial usage period
- Mature – A paying customer who has been loyal to the service beyond the initial usage period
With those definitions in mind, it’s easier to associate solutions and tools to help carry customers through every phase of their life-cycle.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
CRM is a common way to keep a reference of all customers’ life-cycle stages. CRM organizes all contacts’ information and account details in a single database, so it’s vital you select a tool that fits your needs and can grow with you.
Specifically, your CRM software will be the main working software of your inside sales teams as they organize account work mainly during the sales life-cycle phases.
Web analytics tools keep track of visitor activity on your website and various other marketing properties; this is where you keep track of your top-tier leads funnel, measure the initial success of marketing and advertising programs, and work to improve visitors’ experience with your products’ properties.
Mainly the marketing team, though other users in the organization (product team, IT) will need to use it as well.
Select list of Web Analytics solutions
Google Analytics is the most commonly used tool. It’s immensely powerful, feature-rich and free. But there are other good tools your marketing team should look at, such as Clicky, WebTrends that provide additional useful views into visitors’ actions.
Marketing automation takes you beyond basic web-properties and aims to help you interact, build, and cultivate a relationship with leads, so they can ultimately be passed on to your sales team and “convert” to happy customers.
This is your marketing team’s main toy!
A post-marketing (sales & customer success) solution stack for SaaS companies does not exist yet. Enabling the buying process (converting leads), ensuring customer success, and increasing service value, is something that I feel is needed and missing in the market, and this is what we’re building in Totango.
Having all the above tools in place enables marketing, sales and customer success teams to effectively do their jobs and be an integral part of the ‘sales and marketing machine’.
Having said that, it’s crucial to have a single business dashboard available to the executive teams that allows them to monitor the business end-to-end.
The SaaS dashboard should include operational metrics, trends and key business performance indicators (KPI’s), which allow the business owners, get ‘the full picture’ of the business, identify bottlenecks and allow to teams to take appropriate actions.
The SaaS model presents an opportunity to run a predictable and high-volume business. The first step is to put the required business infrastructure in place in order to monitor, analyze and optimize the sales and marketing machine operation continuously.
In coming posts, I’ll discuss in further detail the actual attributes of the SaaS dashboard.