:: By Ved Raj, ValueCoders ::
A business application that is sold as a service is categorized under the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model.
Such applications are hosted in the cloud and can be used online. Costs of servers, machines and data hosting are significantly reduced, with the use of cloud computing. The SaaS model is continuously growing as more and more businesses are embracing online tools and are comfortable with the idea of the cloud.
Advantages of SaaS
1. The model provides the option of subscription-based services, which saves the users an upfront licensing fee (typically a large amount). The initial fee of traditional software products is much higher as compared to SaaS products.
2. The SaaS product does not need to be installed on the computer. All one needs is an Internet connection and a Web browser, which also works well for those working remotely.
Here are some important steps in building a successful SaaS business:
There are some important considerations while setting up the architecture of the SaaS-based product:
1. The architecture of a SaaS-based product must be compatible with the cloud. The product must be able to cater to a large number of users and customers. The database and software of each of the SaaS user is utilized and a unique database for each user is maintained.
2. Data sensitivity is one of the key concerns while developing a SaaS-based product. Sharing the app with multiple users, runs the risk of the data going into wrong hands. It must be ensured that sensitive data access is restricted to its owners only.
3. A SaaS-based product is a service used by the individual user and must be simple to use and should have an in-built support mechanism.
4. The model offers a huge opportunity to extend various types of services to the users. This can be done through customized services and third-party integrations. The product should be built in such a way, that it is customizable and can be integrated with third-party applications.
2. Web Application Deployment
Once the basic architecture of a SaaS product is ready, it needs to be tested and deployed. Operating systems and apps provided by cloud solution companies are used for application deployment. A SaaS-based product does not require infrastructure, the way a traditional software does. This reduces the hardware and staff requirements to build and maintain such a product. Cloud hosting services are helpful in providing the necessary support and maintenance services.
3. Customer Service
Prompt customer service is the key to the success of a SaaS business. Accurate query resolution is essential for customer retention. A toll free number and a responsive support team is crucial. Businesses would be wise to offer self-service help as well, such as live chat, online scheduling and document sharing, peer Q&A and more.
Leveraging a helpdesk solution like Zendesk is also a consideration to make as companies are able to handle tickets in a more streamlined fashion while recording valuable insights on their customers, which can be used for retention purposes.
The sign-up process on the application must be simple and the payment process must be smooth. The overall user experience of the app should be a key area of focus. Simplified billing and reporting also helps win more customers. The app should enable customers to import and use data from third-party applications.
4. Effective Marketing
Once the app is built and deployed, it is important to market it, using the appropriate channels. A blog that provides useful information through content, infographics and videos, is useful for search engine optimization as well as user engagement. Regular content should also be propagated through social media channels and guest blogs. Email and database marketing is useful for reaching out to potential customers directly and achieving the desired level of conversions, as well as improving retention efforts as companies can target subscribers based on their behaviors and understand when they might be ready to churn.
An affiliate marketing program is a very useful activity to grow the business and take it to the next level. A lucrative program that incentivizes the users, to refer the product is very useful in adding to the marketing efforts.
Building A Team
Every SaaS-based product requires a core technical team to build and maintain it. Besides that, a support team, a sales team and a marketing team are essential. The support team helps in resolving customer queries. The marketing team ensures proper product promotions and constant in-flow of relevant leads. The sales team makes sure the leads are converted to revenue generating customers.
Innovation is at the heart of a SaaS-based business. Adding new features and communicating about them to users is very important. The user experience and design of the actual product should be updated regularly to ensure customer engagement and retention. Being present on mobile platforms like iOS and Android is the need of the hour for SaaS applications. Using the latest development tools and methodologies help in faster development and maintenance.
The right strategies to build a SaaS application that works well for the customers, can bring tremendous results. Consistent efforts on innovation, quality and performance of the application is a must.
Ved Raj is a business enthusiast. He writes about startups, remote teams and outsourcing. He is the marketing manager at ValueCoders, a leading provider of remote development teams.