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SaaS Go To Market – Why Experience Rules

This is my fourth blog in my series on Bridging to SaaS Success and today I’d like to focus on Go To Market Strategy.

Once we have shifted our mindset from product to serviceand ourorganization from linear to circular, we must now bridge our go to market strategy, objectives and tactics from Evaluation to Experience.

Today’s customer has little patience for White Papers, datasheets, detailed feature function product specs and the like. They may attend a webinar, but the next step is experience. Even for large organizations with complex buying behavior, the expecation of SaaS is easy, accessible and meaningful experience of the service, either through demonstration instances, trial or freemium models.

In a post in November 2010 entitled, “Meet the New Enterprise Customer, He’s a Lot Like the Old Enterprise Customer” , Ben Horowitz of Andreesson Horowitz concluded;

“If you are selling to consumers or companies that behave like consumers, then moving away from the old channel models may make perfect sense. However, if you plan to sell to a large enterprise, keep in mind that the new boss is the same as the old boss.”

And while Ben’s point on having to manage a buying process is spot on, this blog has been bandied about by others as evidence that we should cling to the old enterprise sales and marketing model. This interpretation is just WRONG. It ignores the fundamental shift from product to service.

Service organization knows this first hand that services are evaluated via experience, not spec sheets, RFPs and lab evaluation. SaaS providers who replicate and cling to today’s software Go To Market model are doomed to LONG sales cycles and MISSED opportunity.

One infrastructure ISV who launched their SaaS offering experienced this first hand. Initially, they continued their sales and marketing model of stringent business and lead qualification before trial approval. For every 100 trial requests, they approved less than 10, with an average qualification period of 2 months. This stringent qualification gave them a close rate of about 2 in 100 trial requests, as 20% of trials closed.

When they experimented with a much loosened qualification, where ~30% of the 100 requests were granted in an average of 2 weeks an amazing thing happened. Their conversion rate per 100 request shot up from 2 to 6, an incredible result, meaning the “less qualified” leads that experienced the product actually converted at the same rate as the previous model. This means that for every 100 leads in the old model, they were throwing away 4 deals!!! Not only that, they shortened their sales cycle, and are now leveraging their SaaS trials to sell their on-Premise solutions as well.

The mindset and tactical shift from Evaluation to Experience marketing and selling can payoff like this in any market segment. However, to reap the full benefits and scale of a SaaS model, providers must take a long hard look at all pieces of the marketing mix, from pricing to channel to promotion and messaging, to competition and company organization.

This brings me full circle to the post that started this series. In order to be a successful SaaS provider, organizations must not only build a great service, but they must shift their:

  • Mindset from Product to Service
  • Organization from Linear to Circular
  • Go to market strategy and tactics from Evaluation to Experience.

With that, the Bridge to SaaS Success can generate revenues, share and valuation that meets and exceeds our most aggressive goals.

Happy Bridging,
Ken

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