Sunday, December 20, 2015

B2B SaaS pricing model based on pure customer success

When we launched SignupLab we had dozens of different SaaS pricing strategies to choose from. We could have copied subscription plans directly from typical sales CRM solutions based on amount of users. Or we could have provided a transaction based model, where volume of API or integration requests defines the price. Or perhaps implementing a simple feature based model where more advanced features are available only for premium customers.

But more we were studying the options, more clear it became: Almost all SaaS pricing models are based on limitations, while we wanted to think more about opportunities. For us it’s important that any company from small startup with couple of customers to a mature SaaS company with thousands of enterprise customers could use our service without obstacles in costs.

The biggest problem for us was that SaaS companies are very unpredictable. They might grow rapidly in many different ways, not necessarily in revenue. With SignupLab our customers can process sign-ups, track user activities, send onboarding sales letters, manage subscriptions and store archived sales data. We couldn’t define our pricing with any of these because relative changes from one month to another can be incredibly huge.

The only true meter is our customer’s success, which is connected to our value proposition: "Convert sign-ups to paying customers". Therefore it became very clear that we have to offer SignupLab based on the amount of converted customers.

This gives a perfect win-win: We are able to bill more if our customers succeed to convert their signed up users to paying customers with SignupLab's tools. Sign-up nurturing, free trial onboarding, user tracking and other activities driven by a growing sales team can be executed without limitations.

Customer success, pure and simple.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

B2B SaaS startup: How to get the first customers?

Every day dozens of new B2B SaaS products enter to global markets. Since I launched my first SaaS startup at 2008 the competition has gone wild. No matter are you self-funded startup or VC-backed enterprise, everyone faces the same question at the beginning: How to get your first customers.

After reading a collection of interesting articles about creating B2B startup sales from scratch (listed at the end of this post), I could summarise the most popular advises into these:
  • Makes sure that your product is unique, not necessarily perfect. Build the product that you really need (based on your own knowhow), not what you think that other people might need.
  • Charge from day one and don't trust your free users. In B2B business it’s easy to get friends and colleagues excited about new concepts. It’s also surprisingly easy to get free users to "kick the tires". But the real challenge is to get the first paying customers from companies that you have never heard before.
  • Keep noise across internet (blogs, tweets, comments), even if it feels slow at the beginning. Amount of Twitter followers doesn’t really matter, the popularity comes one step at the time and grows like a snowball.
  • It’s B2B: Outbound marketing is not dead. Create lead lists, send cold emails, make cold calls. You can also reach people directly via Twitter or LinkedIn. The first customers always take more time and effort than what they bring money - don’t be afraid to invest your time for sales at the beginning.
  • Do not pay for advertisement. The first row of customers is unpredictable and guides you to find the stronger value proposition. Paid ads are only for established products with existing customer base, steady sales pipeline and marketing that is based on experience.
  • Integrate to find partners. When new startup and established enterprise have mutual goals, startup can be pulled to the market very fast. Almost all established B2B products have partner programs for startups that wish to integrate with them.

Advises are based on following articles:

Idea to $5,000/mo in Recurring Revenue in 5 Months (Baremetrics)

How we grew from $0 to $25,000/month in 12 months (Baremetrics)

How a Startup Got Customers to Pay $6000 Each Before Launch (ConversionAid)

5 Early Wins That Got Our SaaS Startup 1,000 Beta Users (Groove)

7 Lessons We Learned Going from Zero to $30k/Month in Under a Year (Groove)

What are the typical top sources of customers for early-stage SaaS companies? (Quora)

How does a non-funded B2B SaaS startup go about reaching out and acquiring customers? (Reddit)

How do SaaS startups acquire their first customer? (Quora)

How do you sell SaaS products to enterprise customers? (Quora)

First enterprise customers – revenue or user engagement? (Beyond VC)

Why do companies buy anything from B2B startups? (Mukund Mohan)

The road to your first 20 B2B customers (SoundCloud, The SaaS Revolution Show)

B2B Startup’s 11 Steps To The First 1,000 Ideal Prospects (Pipetop Blog)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Customer success is not science for SaaS startups

SaaS customer success is a foggy trend with many different definitions and solutions. At the end of the day it's not complicated at all: If your customers don't succeed with your product, you will not succeed in your business.

This is true especially for early stage SaaS startups seeking their strongest story and value. Customers are able to evaluate new SaaS products easier than ever, but they also have power to leave at any moment after sign-up and between subscription renewals. High churn rate is one of the biggest fears of any new SaaS startup.

SaaS business is also full of hidden pitfalls. Early adopters and rapidly growing sign-up figures might mislead SaaS founders to think that their product is already strong enough. Only long term customer success can expose was the hype based on true value of the product or just catchy headlines in social media. That's why it's important to manage, measure and understand your customer success since the very beginning.

How can customer success tools help a small SaaS startup to create better value? 

There are countless aspects to consider in customer success from product development to sales and customer support, as listed for example in Customer Success: The Definitive Guide by Sixteen Ventures. Because it's such a wide concept, for early startups customer success is often just a mindset instead of practical tools or processes. The problem is that a mindset is mostly based on assumptions, not real data. To get the real data, you need systematic tools.

Early stage startups with only few customers need very practical tools compared to more established SaaS companies with thousands of daily users. Most of the customer success solutions actually focus on latter with scientific algorithms or customer health analysis. This kind of statistical approach is mostly useless for recently launched products.

Instead of high volume based statistical analysis, startups need effective processes.

This is where a simple customer success software can make difference. Instead of data science, startup founders need simple insights to understand how current customers are using their SaaS products. These insights can expose what are the barriers where onboarding fails and customers end to churn. Typical customer success insights include for example:
  • Real-time user tracking and customer profiles with activity levels 
  • Automated SaaS onboarding processes and funnels based on users’ behavior 
  • SaaS overviews that combine data from different apps of your sales stack
You may already use tools such as for customer support communications, Insigthly as a sales CRM or Stripe analysis tools for SaaS metrics. But to get combined customer overview across these services you might want to have a look at our product, SignupLab - a simple CRM and customer success tool for SaaS startups.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The most annoying trend in SaaS

It’s happening everywhere. Visit a website, sign up for a new service or just return back to your favourite web app. The moment you enter there’s a super-friendly chat box saying “Hey dude, great to see you here! How can I help you?”.

No, you cannot help me. I came here to do my thing, I don’t need your help for that. I didn’t have any problem until your chat box disrupted me.

Live chat has become one of the most popular ways to provide better customer support for SaaS users. But allowing customers to chat with your experts is not the same as forcing your customers to see slimy short messages jumping on screen when least needed.

Customer success in SaaS doesn’t require constant messaging. It actually doesn’t require contacting at all if everything rolls smoothly. Only when customer is having a moment of hesitation, that’s the point when a live chat could come into picture.

But let’s remember the paradox: Customer’s hesitation is exactly what SaaS companies should avoid in their apps - customer’s question is typically caused by bad usability or missing feature. A chat box is a poor fix for that.

There's only one cure: Make your app better. Hide your customer support live chat and expose it only when it’s really needed! It’s a great tool when used correctly, but overdoing it only pisses the customers off.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How to drive freemium and trial-based SaaS sales with SignupLab

SaaS sales, especially in B2B services, are typically managed with the two most common pricing strategies: Freemium or Free Trial. This is a short introduction how to setup the tools and signup processes in SignupLab for these two different approaches. Before getting into actual process, let’s define what data we need to manage. This is the built-in data model in SignupLab.

  • Signup is an individual person who signed up to your SaaS service. Signup record can posses also company details, and it can connect multiple users together if needed (multiuser environments). Signups can be contacted with Activity Rules and many other features of SignupLab.
  • Customer is an account record, typically a company. Customer account can consist of multiple users and subscriptions. Also customers can have Activity Rules and many other features for contacting and driving your SaaS sales.
  • Subscription is a recurring sale, typically paid with credit card. Subscription can have monthly charge and one-time fees, defined by Plan. Subscription consists of payment periods (for example monthly or annual). Subscriptions are always connected to customer accounts.

SignupLab can have many different sources to pull this data. Signup and user details can be tracked directly from website forms or updated with user tracking code inside your SaaS app (SignupLab API, JavaScript or Customers, Subscriptions and Plans can be synced directly from billing systems, such as Stripe or Recurly. You may also connect help desk tickets or MailChimp email lists to this process. SignupLab connects the dots between all of these data sources and provides simple dashboards where you can focus on optimising the sales.


For freemium strategy we recommend our users to manage free users as Signups and convert them into Customers when the first subscription is paid. This way the split is very clear: Customer pays, Signup doesn’t. Also the targets are clear - your aim is to convert Signups into Customers. All dashboards and metrics in SignupLab are built to support this.Signups can be listed on Current and Past lists - for free plans this mean that if your user is active, it’s seen on Current list. If free user has not returned to use your service for a while, it’s expired and moved into past Signups automatically. For this you can define a trigger: Every time when user is seen, expiration date is postponed (for example 30 days from current). This keeps your Signups listing always up-to-date.

Paying customers can be managed without hassle; sync directly from billing and just enjoy the SaaS metrics! Integrations and SignupLab API updates can automatically check that all Signups that ended to a paid subscription are converted from Signups to Customers.

Free trial

Free trial has typically specified amount of days until expired. Signup and user tracking tools provide one simple parameter called “expires” which is defined as days. Set example expires to 21 in JavaScript or API call if you provide a three week free trial. This way your trial users appear on Current Signups list over the first three weeks. If user is not converted within 21 days into Customer, it’s moved under Past Signups.

Customer listing work similar way as in other models as well: Define or sync your plans & subscriptions and roll on.

Non-free trial

Well, this is a rare one, but exists sometimes. In case of non-free trial you probably want to track all your users only under Customers list. The same applies here as in other models as well: Sync your customers from billing into SignupLab’s Plans and Subscriptions, and that’s it. Customers with active subscriptions are shown under current customers and ended under past customers. No rocket science.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What is the best CRM for SaaS businesses?

Sign-ups, conversions and recurring revenue. There's no business like SaaS business. Yet plenty of SaaS companies are executing their sales processes on regular CRM based on transactional or consultative sales, such as Salesforce, Pipedrive or Insigthly. This leads to following issues:

Lead-Contact-Opportunity vs.

Although it's possible to manage the SaaS sales structure with an old fashioned Lead-Contact-Opportunity model, the limitations are exposed in onboarding automation and opportunity's revenue model. Signup-Customer-Subscription model is more about automated onboarding, user conversions and recurring revenue than cold calling, contacting and transactional fees. That's why a CRM for SaaS must be built on full automation and subscription management - supported with smart sales bots for behaviour based contacting instead of contact or deal database for traditional customer relationship management.

Contact details vs. user's activity profile

Regular CRM process was evolving during the era of cold calling when coffee was for closers only. That's why the most important data in a sales CRM is lead's or customer's contact numbers and conversations. For SaaS companies conversations are also important, but instead of customer's contact details we want to see customer's activity inside our SaaS products. We talk about users, not contacts. User activity information allows SaaS salespeople to recognize and proactively reduce churn already before user leaves trial or cancels subscription.

Transactional revenue charts vs. SaaS metrics

The most obvious difference between regular CRM and SaaS CRM is the revenue model: License based fees vs. Recurring revenue. How to define SaaS metrics if your CRM is based on transactional opportunities or fee based deals? Monthly recurring revenue - that is the core of SaaS business and everything must be built to support it. Otherwise it becomes very difficult to calculate the real value of your customers and growth.
We are on the mission to make the SaaS sales smarter with - a CRM for B2B SaaS companies. Here are the key differences as we see them between regular CRM and CRM for SaaS:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Onboard SaaS users with MailChimp email lists and SignupLab rule engine

SignupLab can be integrated easily with MailChimp. This helps you to create a seamless SaaS user onboarding process together with SignupLab's Web-to-Signup and Activity Rule features:
  1. SignupLab’s Web-to-Signup feature allows you to create a webform to place on your website. Your website visitors can then enter their names, email addresses, and other basic information to create a signup record directly in SingupLab.
  2. Connect SignupLab and MailChimp under SignupLab's Setup / Integrations view. When connection is created, SignupLab automatically checks which users are already subscribed to your email lists and updates this data under your current users' profiles.
  3. Activity Rule is a template for a group of emails and tasks, which can be applied to signed up users. When MailChimp is properly integrated you will also see a selection of email lists when creating or editing Activity Rules.
  4. If you need  to subscribe users manually to email lists, simply click any of the user profiles open in SignupLab and click Edit. Add or remove email lists and click Save.
If you are not a SignupLab customer yet, check out our free 14-day trial!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

SaaS startup essentials: The best SaaS blogs and news sites

ConversionAid podcasts.
Learn from founders & entrepreneurs how to create software that sells

Streamlined angles on turbulent technologies

One of the biggest sources of SaaS startup news and articles

Venture capitalist at redpoint - a lot of great SaaS blog posts

Weekly collection of SaaS news and articles by customer success software Amity

Updated collection of SaaS articles

Digital software as a service magazine

Lessons on startup growth by Baremetrics

Stories of a SaaS company's journey from 0 to $500k monthly revenue

Feed of SaaS articles, blog posts, news etc.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

SaaS startup hack: Creating an email list of 1000 signup invitations

Getting the first signups is a challenging task for any new SaaS startup. Using inbound marketing is a natural way to increase traffic, but sometimes it's also useful to utilize the old fashion outbound email marketing.

The big question is how to create effectively a list of valid contacts? Buying an email list is out of the question, they are only for spammers. Creating your own lead list is the safest bet.

This is a process that I've learned while working in many early-stage SaaS companies. It takes a bit technical work but for those who know something about programming it should be fairly easy to implement:

1) Find potential customers
Check out LinkedIn, Twitter, (earlier known as Jigsaw). Find the interesting people and collect their names and company names manually into a simple text file.

2) Create a flat file (CSV)
Make the text file look like this, each contact on their own row:

"First name","Last name","Company name"
"John","Smith","Acme Ltd"

3) Code a script that posts the "company name" to Bing Search API and fetches the first website found (in 90% of cases it's the company's website).

With the found domain name (parsed from website address) generate an email address: After generating the addresses your flat file should look like this:

"First name","Last name","Company name","website","email address"
"John","Smith","Acme Ltd","",""

4) Walk through the email list and check manually for invalid addresses. It should be reasonably fast because it's all in one simple list. Click each company website to find out that they really exist. This takes some time, but you don't want to receive tons of bounce messages back to your inbox.

Now you have a valid list and you can start sending the invitations! For example Insightly has a mass emailing feature and it connects nicely with SignupLab - you can track the process from emails all the way to sign-ups and user onboarding!

Send emails in well targeted segments. If you for example collect a list of 1000 email addresses, make sure that you know what are the roles of those people and what kind of message they really would be interested in.

The best part is that once you have the script and process running, you can easily repeat it as many times as you are able to find new contacts.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Creating an awesome sales solution for SaaS companies

SaaS business is getting into mature age. The best practices and proven processes are able to provide well known business management frameworks that can be implemented within different SaaS enterprises. There is for example many different subscription management solutionsto manage billing, as well as a bunch of different SaaS metrics to measure your success.
But this all is still far away from the maturity level that we can see on many other areas of software industry. One of the constantly evolving areas is SaaS sales management. Finding a comprehensive sales automation software for SaaS business is very difficult: Traditional business metrics simply fail to capture the key factors that drive SaaS performance.
HubSpotKissMetricsMixpanel and many other modern online analytic tools focus on marketing instead of sales. These services provide tools for actions that happen before a potential customer signs up to a SaaS app. Most of the SaaS providers must run their sales on common CRM software, such as Pipedrive, or Salesforce.
This inspired us to launch SignupLab - a sales automation software that is designed by SaaS salespeople and targeted to SaaS salespeople. The process of SignupLab starts from the signup and continues all the way to the closed deal and recurring sales.
SignupLab measures your users’ movements, triggers the automated sales activities as well as calls your salespeople into action when needed. It's a sales software that speaks the language of SaaS. It provides a fully automated sales system that allows your people from sales to product development and business management to optimise customer onboardings and sales processes.
There are naturally some existing services that come close to this, such as TotangoEvergageor Amity. But these current solutions are either designed by rocket scientists or they lack the features that modern SaaS providers require. That's why we believe that it's a perfect time to create the most powerful yet simple and easy-to-use SaaS sales automation solution for this rapidly growing industry.