Sanjay is a Travel Technologist and founder of Vervotech. He previously held a VP role at Tavisca and also founded Techspain.
B2B software as a service (SaaS) is quite different from SaaS targeted toward end customers. As you interact with businesses to sell your SaaS, you get many bespoke feature requests. During the early stages, startups tend to develop and incorporate features into their product specifically to attract a handful of large business prospects. In my opinion, this is perhaps the first sign of trouble when it comes to B2B SaaS companies. Speaking from experience, here are some tips to consider if you’re planning to develop a SaaS for B2B in the modern business environment.
1. Define your product boundaries.
Start with the least possible features that can be leveraged and charge customers as early as possible in the journey. Listen to your paying customers when it comes to prioritizing your features and, most importantly, define your product boundaries clearly.
2. Collaborate with existing companies for faster adoption.
Acquiring customers on your own can be painfully slow at times, especially with B2B products. Collaborating with other players in the ecosystem is the easiest way to get access to more relevant leads. Partnerships will not only play a critical role when it comes to acquiring new leads, retaining old customers and extending support but can also help foster seamless integrations with different systems in the network. From my own experience, strategic partnerships with key players can increase your acceptance in the market exponentially.
3. Make integration easy for all customers.
In addition to making your product readily accessible, it’s equally important to ensure that your product can be easily integrated into larger systems quickly and efficiently. Focus on making more integration options available to your customers, research the issues they face while integrating your product and try to ease out their pain points.
4. Focus on qualified feedback from paying customers during the startup years.
Although offering free plans can help in the adoption of your product, one of the major drawbacks such plans can have for companies during the early days of inception is their limited ability to handle customers efficiently. It’s important to have serious paying customers rather than numerous free users that you’re struggling to provide services to.
Experiment with your pricing strategy — and understand your value, assets and present and expected profit margin before you publish it to the world. However, you should publish the pricing of your product on your website at the earliest opportunity to maintain transparency. This should be no later than at the product validation stage, marked by $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR).
5. Structure your team correctly.
If you have experience working in enterprise software, the tech team usually makes up about 80% of the entire organization and stands out as the largest driver for the company. In SaaS, however, team structures are usually very different. You’ll need to grow market-specific customer success teams to address the individual demands and pain points of your customers. It’s important to have a mix of technology, product, customer success, sales and partnerships, operations and marketing teams with leaders who are capable of scaling each of these teams effectively as the overall number of your customers grows.
6. Push marketing toward growth, not sales.
Focus on making your signup process as intuitive as possible with an emphasis on self-service during the onboarding process. Ideally, your growth should be driven by your lead funnel (e.g., organic, paid ads, cold calling, email campaigns and events), which are all marketing activities.
Speaking from experience, a marketing-focused approach, as opposed to a sales-oriented approach, tends to hold greater relevance in the scenario of modern business. Therefore, there should be a gradual shift from an emphasis on sales activities to an increased focus on marketing activities as your organization grows. Focus on creating assets needed for conversions such as case studies, white papers, brochures and product explainer videos, as these can be a huge driver for sales in the long run that can be greatly leveraged by your marketing team.
7. Establish your brand through relevant events, press releases and networking.
Focus on establishing a brand from day one through different events, press releases and individual networks, as these can be extremely crucial toward building your growth teams in the future. Publishing case studies, client testimonials and product videos can seriously amp up the overall score for your website, thus instilling a certain sense of confidence in the minds of your prospects and allowing you to leverage your website as a means of converting leads organically.
8. Smoothly transition the founder’s role as the company grows.
The founder of a startup essentially serves as the lifeblood of the business during its early days, influencing and encompassing all aspects of the company to ensure its smooth operation. The founder must act as a product manager using customer feedback by being actively involved in sales and marketing when the product is in the validation stage, as this allows the leader to maintain greater control over product development. Once the product is validated (I consider $1 million as a validation for any B2B SaaS product), the founder must then shift their focus to customer success, making sure that customers are satisfied and that the product can meet the express needs and demands of the market.
The modern global environment is experiencing dynamic shifts in consumer and business demands. Understanding the factors that drive customer trends in new and emerging markets can provide you with a certain competitive advantage over your competitors. Try to understand your customers, conduct extensive research on your target market, build your team from the ground up and develop strategic partnerships with key players in the industry, and watch your product skyrocket.