Continue reading "SaaS Marketing | SaaS Customer Aligment Ebook!"
When your SaaS business is well aligned, your SaaS customers consistently take positive actions that lead to positive business outcomes: they try, they buy, they upgrade and they refer you to a friend. When you are poorly aligned, your SaaS customers consistently take negative actions that lead to negative business outcomes: they bounce, they negotiate, they complain, and they churn.
SaaS businesses develop intimate, long term relationships with their customers. Like many long term relationships, it is founded on a recurring cycle of needs fulfilled and expectations met, or not. And I don’t just mean customer needs and expectations. There are two sides to every relationship. SaaS businesses need to make money as much as SaaS customers need to spend it. SaaS customer alignment means aligning the goals and actions of the SaaS customer with the goals and actions of the SaaS business at every stage of the
Continue reading "SaaS Marketing | SaaS Customer Aligment Ebook!"
Today, I’m excited to announce the launch of Markodojo, my agile marketing management SaaS startup and an entirely new breed of enterprise marketing software. You say: “That’s great Joel, but what’s in it for me?” Well, if you are a marketing manager, please skip to the shameless plug below, then head straight to the Markodojo website and sign up for a 30-day free trial. If you are a SaaS founder or a SaaS startup executive, then stick around for the entire blog post, because I’m going to share some closely held, untold secrets of SaaS product design.
First the plug.
If you are a marketer, then you must check out Markodojo. I guarantee you have not seen any other marketing management software like it. If you are not a marketer, then please do me the small favor of passing this along to everyone you know who works in marketing.
Markodojo marketing management software combines agile principles with the best of CRM, project management, and innovative Internet collaboration to give marketing teams what they have been sorely lacking, a true enterprise app for marketing.
In classic Chaotic Flow style, there is a free 30 day trial and you can buy Markodojo by credit card right inside the app. Check it out!
End of plug.
With that out of the way, I thought I’d use this auspicious occasion to share a little of my own experience over the past year as the Markodojo chief product designer in the hopes that it will prove useful to other SaaS founders and SaaS product executives. You might also want to check out this previous post: Eleven Secrets off SaaS Product Design, because this current post builds on the ideas presented in them with real-world Markodojo examples.
Two Clear Paths to Great SaaS Products
I talked to a lot of entrepreneur friends before starting Markodojo: founders and early employees of companies like Zendesk, Marketo, Salesforce, etc., in whose footsteps I would like Markodojo to follow. In the course of those conversations, two clear paths emerged for creating great SaaS products.
Path #1: Do What You Love…and Hate
This path to great SaaS products was followed by founders who had spent their career in a particular industry sector. Based on their own frustrations with the tools at hand, they struck out to solve the problems they knew all too well.
As the launch date approaches for Markodojo, my agile marketing SaaS startup, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my SaaS experiences have shaped my thinking on agile management, and visa versa. SaaS and agile present complementary aspects that enable a uniquely symbiotic relationship. Agile aims to help businesses increase responsiveness to customer needs, while laying a foundation for continuous improvement. SaaS opens up real-time customer communication and product delivery channels, while simultaneously establishing a long term customer relationship. The high velocity at which SaaS customer value can be understood and then delivered through the SaaS product enables faster, more accurate fulfillment of SaaS customer needs to reduce SaaS churn and drive SaaS growth. IMHO, adopting and mastering agile software development, agile marketing and pretty much agile everything should be a priority of every SaaS business.
A Little Agile History
The roots of agile software development and agile marketing lie in agile manufacturing, lean manufacturing and total quality methodologies. The original total quality goals were very simple: increase quality and improve productivity. Two goals that were seen as opposite were made to be one. As global manufacturers mastered total quality, they upped their game and looked to increase responsiveness to customer needs, while maintaining productivity. Again, two goals that were seen as opposite were made to be one. This is the origin of agile.
Agile software development and agile marketing have followed similar, but unique paths. Buggy software, product delays and death marches were the norm in the 90s. A groundswell formed around the idea of taking the agile principles that had been so successful in manufacturing and applying them to software. Could we turn a death march that produces bugs into an efficient production line that produces quality software? In 2001, this culminated in the publishing of the Agile Software Manifesto. Since then, agile software development has become the industry standard.
Today, we are seeing a similar groundswell around agile marketing. Continue reading "The Missed Opportunity of Agile SaaS"
Finding product-market fit is a central, early stage challenge of every startup. SaaS startups, however, have unique advantages. Unlike consumer Internet products, SaaS products are essential business tools. SaaS customers take them very seriously. SaaS customers want to provide feedback and they want to see that feedback acted upon in a timely fashion. In other words, SaaS customers want product-market fit as much as the SaaS vendor. Unlike offline B2B products, the SaaS product creates an always-on connection between the SaaS company and the SaaS customer. By leveraging that connection, the process of getting and acting upon SaaS customer feedback can be automated and accelerated.
This is the fourth post in a series that explores the importance of SaaS customer alignment. Previous posts in the series have focused on establishing SaaS customer alignment throughout the SaaS customer lifecycle, creating a list of SaaS Customer Alignment Tips along the way. This post continues that list, but take us back to the earliest and arguably most important stage of SaaS customer alignment: finding SaaS product-market fit.
Try, try, try again
There have been many great books and articles written on the topic of product-market fit. Surprisingly though, you are unlikely to find any better advice than Continue reading "Finding SaaS Product-Market Fit"
SaaS businesses develop intimate, long term relationships with their SaaS customers. Keeping that relationship positive and aligned over the years is a real challenge. In fact, many public SaaS companies have yet to turn a profit. If they don’t keep their customers around for years, then all that capital invested in customer acquisition will have gone to waste.
This is the third post in a series that explores the importance of SaaS customer alignment across the SaaS customer lifecycle. The last post examined the challenges of aligning SaaS customer acquisition, resulting in a short a list of SaaS Customer Alignment Tips. This post continues the list of tips into the second half of the SaaS customer lifecycle by examining the challenges of aligning SaaS customer success.
Churn Starts on Day One
It is typical in B2B software for customer acquisition to eat up 50% or more of total costs. In traditional licensed software, that cost is immediately recovered when a deal is closed by the revenue of the deal. There is very little uncertainty about the value of any new contract: it is the margin reaped between license revenue and acquisition costs. In SaaS, however, customer acquisition costs are recovered over time as the customer renews each period. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the value of any new contract, because the customer might cancel early or stick around for years.
The economics of a SaaS contract are like that of buying a stock or a bond, where you make an up front investment based on the promise of future returns. As the future unfolds, the value of that investment has little correlation to the price that you paid. It is determined by how effectively the underlying business manages its future. In SaaS, the work doesn’t end when then deal it is signed. It begins, because churn starts on day one.
SaaS Customer Alignment Tip #7
Don’t Fumble Your Handoffs
Separating hunters and farmers is a common SaaS sales best practice. Deals are closed by an aggressive quota-carrying sales team: the hunters, and then handed over to a more service oriented group of account managers and customer success reps for on-boarding, renewals and up-sell: the farmers. Your SaaS customer has only one SaaS customer life cycle. Every time you hand-off a SaaS customer relationship, you create the opportunity for that SaaS customer to fall through the cracks in your process. Continue reading "Aligning SaaS Customer Success"
SaaS businesses can be overwhelmingly complex. If the multi-tenant, cloud-based technology isn’t enough, there’s the recurring revenue model which creates all kinds of challenges from accounting to sales compensation to funding. Then, there’s the marketing. Getting noticed on the Internet gets harder every year and almost every SaaS product category has a crowded field of competitors. And of course there is mobile, which should come first right? In my own SaaS experience, be it scaling a sales and marketing team, consulting for SaaS startups or bootstrapping my agile marketing SaaS, Markodojo, I find myself returning to a common theme that always cuts through the complexity: SaaS customer alignment.
This is the second post in a series that explores the importance of aligning the goals and actions of the SaaS customer with the goals and actions of the SaaS business. The first post in a series introduced a simple framework for understanding SaaS customer alignment and its many benefits. This post digs deeper into the challenges of achieving SaaS customer alignment in the early stages of the purchase process. Along the way, we kick-off a list of tips to help SaaS businesses improve SaaS customer alignment at every stage of the SaaS customer lifecycle.
Not Everyone Needs Your Stuff
We love our SaaS companies and we love our SaaS products. They’re our babies! But, your baby always looks cuter to you than it does to everyone else. Selling to everyone is one of the biggest causes of poor SaaS customer alignment. Some people just don’t need your stuff, and they will never appreciate the unique qualities of your baby. Selling to everyone is an ill that inflicts many businesses, not just SaaS businesses, because it is baked into the economics. When growth is the primary determinant of SaaS company value, then there is always pressure to expand your available market. Unfortunately, your available market was probably determined a long time ago when your baby was conceived. Expanding your available market generally requires a new product module, a new SaaS product or even a new business unit.
SaaS customer acquisition should focus on maximizing available market penetration, not increasing available market size, and to do that you have to have a very clear picture of your target SaaS customers. Who truly needs your stuff? Why do they need it? What do they get out of it? How many are there? And, how can you reach them? This information goes by a lot of different names: market segments, qualification criteria, pain points, buyer personae, customer profiles, use cases, etc. The important realization is that they are all the same thing in the end: tools that reinforce SaaS customer alignment. The primary difference is in the depth of data; because you tend to have more of it the deeper the SaaS customer proceeds into the purchase process.
SaaS Customer Alignment Tip #1
Create a Common Customer Understanding
Chances are your SaaS Marketing VP has some version of market segments, buyer personae, and lead scores, while your SaaS Sales VP has some version of qualifying criteria and pain points, and your SaaS Product VP has some version of users and use cases. Do they match? Are they shared? Do they use the same language? Continue reading "Aligning SaaS Customer Acquisition"