The SaaS market is constantly growing and as anyone who is a developer of a SaaS product today knows, you will find yourselves facing thousands of SaaS companies, new and old, who are all trying to create solutions to every possible business need and otherwise. Even in markets where there is a much higher barrier to entry such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, we are seeing huge levels of competition all around.
The SaaS Re-Creation Life Cycle
For those of you developing a SaaS or digital project, you are probably used to the concept of working towards an MVP, one that can showcase the beginning stages of your future, soon to be completed, value offering. At any stage of development, high touch interaction is what your customers deserve and expect, and you most certainly want to provide nothing less.
These early stages can find you scrambling to create an MVP that is at the very least a way for you to validate your right to exist and will be your stepping stone towards the future of your business. You have a pretty good idea of what you want your core business to be and you believe that it’s just a matter of time before your hypothesis becomes a validated product market fit.
But how do you know what your customers really need/want before you even have any customers? And what if you do have customers, but your initial customer base isn’t reflective of the market overall or if your initial product market fit shifts or expands? Then what? Do you start from scratch, reuse, rebuild or recycle? In other words, do you pivot or try to salvage what you already have? These are all legitimate questions that every SaaS development company faces as it scales and grows.
SaaS companies have two main focal points that essentially work together and will ultimately lead to their success (or failure). These two interconnected parts are your Development team and your Sales & Marketing. I personally like to view these two departments as two trains, running on parallel tracks, connected by a chain in the middle. The R&D and Sales & Marketing trains need to pick up steam synchronously and to keep pace with one another throughout the length of their SaaS development journey. Should one train get too far ahead of, or fall behind the other, the connection will break, and they will ultimately lose their way or be left behind.
Over the years, I have seen many startups lose their inter-department connection and have watched what happens when this lack of synchronicity between connected parts of a product’s development occurs. On the one end, I have seen development teams forge ahead with their platform, full steam ahead, launching features, developing and coding and having product launches, only to find out that they forgot to check in with their customers along the way, and have left them 10km back standing on the platform. I have also watched companies sell their hearts and souls, pushing a product and solution that seems just too good to be true, only to prove to their investors and customers that indeed it is. The product never caught up to the promise, which ultimately led to drained resources and a muddied reputation.
The interconnectivity of these two trains are reflective of a successful SaaS development journey and will oftentimes prove to be the key to recurring successful feature development, leading to new customers and a product’s scale and growth.
Develop. Test. Reassess.
So let’s delve into the three parts of what I refer to as the “SaaS Re-Creation Lifecycle” and see how we can approach each one successfully from an R&D and Sales perspective, throughout each step of the recurring SaaS development cycle.
Sales: By knowing who your customers are at every stage of the journey, you will guarantee traction and enthusiasm from your growing customer base. At pre-traction and traction stages of your development, your customers will most likely be tech enthusiasts, investors and visionaries. They GET you and they want to be a part of your vision. Your focus will be on an MVP that can offer your customers the beginning of what your bigger offering will look like.
R&D: Interest and purchasing are key elements to this part of your customer lifecycle. As you scale you stay focused on converting pragmatists into paying customers. These customers will be your window into the development you focus on at every stage of your SaaS’ journey. Through the implementation of user advocacy, becoming industry leaders and forging strategic partnerships, you will be able to stay focused on your core product development and customer needs and that will become evident in your product market fit.
Sales: Customer Service starts with Service. Find out what your customers are saying and predict your churn rate before it happens. Keep your customers informed. Start by sending out great onboarding emails and continue by constantly reminding people of your great offering. Sure, they may already know you’re great. But reminders are worth a million times more when it comes from the creators.
And don’t forget to use data…
People aren’t always aware of their own needs or behavior so keep track of data to understand and connect with your customers. Subdivide your customers based on needs, then segment and identify. Are you paying attention to your ‘visitor to lead’ conversions via newsletter subscribers, LinkedIn Page followers or post likes? What about your leads that convert to opportunities: Where are your demo requests coming from? And finally, how successful are you at turning a lead into a customer?
Remember to create the right online content for engaging and sharing knowledge. Share your experience and expertise to gain respect and trust for your product.
R&D: Is your customer’s needs and feedback being Implemented? And what about your onboarding process? Many customers can be lost at this point if the onboarding becomes tedious or lacks flow. Those early customers love you and have patience, but as you scale, your new customers are looking for value and they want it yesterday.
The development team is the front line of development and are the enablers of solutions and decisions being made based on function, scalability, client needs and data. They need to be quick on the draw and be the ones to implement the ongoing hypotheses that are being presented. So if there are glitches in your onboarding or the product lacks that personal touch, now is the time to find out more. What defines a conversion point for you at each stage of your SaaS development?
All of this is part of your company’s data and you will slowly learn to read it and understand what it means. The data has been collected and the customers are talking…if you are ready to listen.
Reassess and Rebuild
Sales: Understand what success means to your customer, not just to you. Expansion and renewal means targeting the market and expanding your offering. If your customer cares about the bottom line, then that’s your calling. Don’t ignore that ask. Did you collect feedback? Great. Then let’s use that to divide and conquer. Don’t give up and remember to listen. Now go out there and customize their experiences. Be human and personalize.
R&D: Don’t let critical information fall between the cracks. Customer support will need data that was collected during implementation and that data is critical for every stage of onboarding. Your customer success is also feeding you data which you should be using to refine and validate your methods.
At the end of every development cycle you will be the ones who were responsible for refining the customer experience and you are all well aware of who from your team was most in contact, and should be in contact going forward, with the customer and when. You probably know by now how to make the most of this data, breaking it down to even more granular data at each stage of the life cycle.
In order to meet market standards and succeed in today’s ever-changing market, you will need to be ready for your customers. Being aware of what your customers want and need and being able to offer them a smooth customer journey is a key factor in your company’s future success. By personalizing and customizing the customer journey right from the get-go, you are differentiating yourself from the competition. Especially during the Covid pandemic where customers need to be onboarded quickly and efficiently, you will need to be ready to help them achieve their goals.
Always remember never to go too far in your development journey before you are certain that you are adhering to the basics of your development roadmap and that your customers are along for the journey. Use easy to implement solutions to scale up quickly and easily. And if you need to scale back, then do so. Three steps forward and two steps back will still get you where you’re going.
Here at Frontegg we believe in helping you focus on your core business instead of spending unnecessary time on developing the generic aspects of SaaS Development. By allowing you to focus on your core business, you can easily and quickly move forwards with your development and get the feedback you need and want and validate your hypotheses all while focusing on enhancing your SaaS offering.