More and more these days the lines between whether a company is strictly servicing a Business-to-Business market or a Business-to-Consumer market is blurring. Traditional B2B companies that once serviced a small number of large customers are being called on to scale their reach and provide online options to a much larger customer base.
Partly this is because the traditional B2B Customer is changing. The distinction between business user and consumer itself is blending. With an increasing mobile workforce who use smart phones and tablets as well as the practice of Bring-Your-Own-Device, products and services now exist where the user decides whether it’s used for business or personal use, and floats between the two. This customer wants the splash and accessibility that has traditionally been the realm of B2C, while retaining the professionalism and reliability of a B2B offering.
Tech-savvy software companies need to be concerned with providing an online SaaS offering because failing to do so may not just mean not growing; it may also mean losing customers who find better cheaper alternatives. Companies wanting to scale by offering online services need to make sure that costs don’t scale with providing what is often a less expensive per-seat price.
One way to do this is to provide a version of an existing product as a SaaS offering. But in doing so they need to figure out how to offer the same service cheaper, without incurring the same cost structures around sales, service and support that is often associated with a tailored B2B licenced software product.
Though some people think of this is accomplished by dumbing down the product, it’s not. It’s not trying to find the lowest common denominator of services for every possible market. It’s about providing an efficient service that would be of value to that one big customer, and to many more like them. Then the customer’s decisions aren’t around features, they are around cost vs ownership, accessibility and their own business processes.
It requires taking a step back, and building up a detailed user & buyer Persona of a specific market segment rather than looking at customer’s individual needs. It can be helpful to initially model this Persona on an existing face-to-face customer. It can also mean to schedule ongoing face-to-face time with a subset of your online market. You may not be able to talk with all your customers in a SaaS offering, but you can continually reach out to a sampling for research purposes.
Marketing and Sales processes have to be setup with the purpose of shortening sales cycles and making them less reliant on personal. It may mean offering tiers of service, with an easy upgrade path from freemium to professional. Efficiencies can be gained through focusing on streamlining business processes around onboarding and support as well as providing easily customizable options and preferences. The easier the smaller tasks can be done by the customer themselves, then the better you can support many customers with a smaller more effective team.
In the end, the SaaS version of your product will be the best of both worlds; a successful reliable professional online service that is also a business-ready consumable.
Photo Credit: Microsoft Clipart