Your Software as a Service (SaaS) offering has numerous business and technical advantages over old-school deployment of software solutions. To market and sell your SaaS to microbusinesses and the smaller end of small to medium (SMB) businesses, you need to address these advantages in your product marketing approaches. This will create more successful trials, happier users, and increase renewal rates.
Here are a few strategies (a mix of content and product marketing approaches) that, when done well, can help make your SaaS offerings more palatable to prospects and new customers, drive feature uptake, and keep your offering “essential” and reduce churn. These strategies are relevant whether you are selling a subset of a larger, enterprise service to micro-businesses and smaller SMBs or whether your offering currently only serves smaller firms.
By the way, most of these approaches will work for cloud managed service providers (MSPs) who are building out offerings of white labeled third-party SaaS offerings under their own brand.
1. Emphasize the simplicity, value, and risk-free nature of starting a trial
In your first-touch materials, be they your main web page, landing page from a campaign, blog materials, email, social, or print material you need to show that your SaaS trial offering contains these characteristics:
- Quick signup. Your customer should be able to start using the offering with minimal number of steps, preferably only an email and basic contact information.
- Usable templates, sample data, or easy import of a subset (or all) of your data. Customers learn by what they see immediately after they fire up your service. Do they see sample data or reports–or whatever your SaaS does? Is a step-by-step, “coached” automated data import available, and does it make it clear that your “source” data is not impacted should you decide not to subscribe? Do you provide hints or tools to create sample or dummy data?
- Target zero-help initial task or tasks success. Ensure that the signup and getting started workflow can most often occur with zero interaction with a sales or support staff. Nothing makes a busy small businessperson drop out of the test workflow faster than trial failure in the first few minutes. Make sure they can succeed with at least one or two valuable use cases with no outside help. Just one initial success will likely drive them to spend more time putting the trial through its paces.
- Clear support policies. Make sure pre-sales and post-sales support offerings and packages are clearly articulated. Micro-businesses may or may not have a lot of technical prowess, but they have minimal staff and they may be implementing your service themselves or using a local “on-demand” consultant. Be clear about what help you can and can’t provide to set the proper expectations. And, be clear about up-front implementation help costs will be should they be required. For example, the fact that GoDaddy told me up front the rates they would charge to help me transition a WordPress instance to their hosting made me feel great about their trial, even though I never needed paid consulting help.
- Acknowledging that some prospects will say “no thanks” can increase comfort for a trial sign-up. Clearly and in a positive tone show customers who decide not to proceed that their original data is safe and unchanged and that you safely delete all of their data from your systems. All that they will have risked is time. As an aside, this shows confidence in your offering. You are saying “We are so sure that you’ll like our offering we’re showing you how cleanly you can end it if you disagree with us!”
An example: I have been a customer of Formsite for years (sometimes paid, most times falling to free level) and have never contacted their support team once. What an inexpensive customer I have been, yet I have had a lifetime value to them. Plus, because of my frictionless interactions with their offering I have referred many to their service.
2. Test and retest SaaS pricing pages: Iterative design and multivariant tests
Complicated and never-ending-scrolling price pages can turn all sorts of buyer personas off. But none more than microbusiness and SMBs. They just want to know if their problems are solved.
Many articles have been written about self-serve pricing pages. At the end of the day, understanding your market and using some thoughtful multi-variant testing and customer interviews (paid customers and non-buyers alike) will help you understand what works for your market.
3. Prove data security practices
Even small firms have business, legal, and ethical issues with data security. Microbusinesses and smaller SMBs may not have the scope of concerns about data, either their own or third-party vendor risk, that a large enterprise does. Or maybe they do! Regardless, you need to articulate the privacy and data protection concerns essential to the range of verticals your SaaS supports including any local, regional, national, or industry standards your customers must abide by.
4. In-product coaching and notifications
The finesse with which you design your in-product coaching and notifications based on the role of the user who is logged in will drive usage and satisfaction and likely reduce churn. There is nothing that is more comforting than realizing that a user interface and user interaction is “alive” and working to help a business user accomplish tasks. For those of the generation that remember “Clippy” in Microsoft Word, suffice it to say that there is a new generation of sophistication in implementation and approach. Products such as Pendo need to be thoughtfully integrated into both your trial and fully-paid offerings.
5. Take advantage of the double-edged sword of on-demand provisioning
Some micro-businesses and smaller SMBs want a month-to-month price before jumping into annual pricing. Sure, it may help you, the the vendor, to push annual pricing up front. However, you need to contrast the “I tried this for two months and it was good but not for me, yet I’ll happily refer to others!” with the “Dammit, I tried this for two months and now I am stuck with a years’ fee even though it wasn’t right!” Giving buyers an effortless way to provision more or less may make sense in some smaller markets. To use Formsite as an example again, I personally have up-provisioned and down-provisioned based on my monthly needs. And this flexibility was one of the reasons I have referred them to others. Which leads to…
6. Show the micro-business that you can grow with them
Today’s microbusiness or small SMB may be a bigger SMB tomorrow. Or who knows, maybe transition to an enterprise-size business in the future. By using ongoing coaching in product (see above), regular content communication about relevant markets and other successful customers, and having proper pricing tiers (also see above) your SaaS may be an essential part of the growth engine of a small business!