Ask a few people to name five B2B SaaS applications, and assuming they can come up with that many, you’re likely to hear a few familiar names repeatedly - apps like Slack, Salesforce, DocuSign, G Suite, DropBox, HubSpot, Shopify and a handful of others have attracted and retained massive user bases.But the reality is that the B2B SaaS market consists of thousands of applications you’ve never heard of. Many are niche solutions that may never cross your path unless you’re in their target market. Many others, however, are vying for breakout success mirroring that of the brands listed above.
What does it take for a B2B SaaS application to achieve that kind of market penetration? A good bit of capital, amazing management and great marketing certainly don’t hurt, but what about the apps themselves? What qualities do the best ones have in common and what can we learn from them?
They play well with others
There isn’t a successful B2B SaaS platform on the market that doesn’t at least promise to make their users more efficient - and the best ones actually do. One of the primary drivers of that efficiency is integration with other applications and platforms like Oracle, IBM and AWS.
In business, data is everywhere. If it happens, it can be captured and measured - and often is. The problem most companies face isn’t a lack of data - it’s the fact that it’s coming from a whole bunch of different places and is disjointed. . Sure, someone could pull the numbers and mash ‘em up in a spreadsheet, but that’s both slow and labor intensive. If organizations don’t get actionable data in near-real-time, it’s likely that the opportunity it indicates will have passed by the time it’s discovered.
That’s where integration comes in.
“Operational efficiency through automation” is the key phrase here. Well-executed integrations save time and money by connecting data from disparate systems, thus eliminating manual data manipulation while delivering trusted, consistent and current insights.
They're intuitive and pleasant to use
User experience (UX) is also a key factor in overall efficiency and appeal of a B2B SaaS application. At a high level, UX refers to the emotion, intuition and connection a user feels when using a site or product. Anyone who’s ever had to deal with bad UX understands the value of it intuitively. It’s quite simple, really, people tend not to perform well when they hate what they’re doing.
Within the ‘softer’ science of user experience lies the more concrete concept of usability, which is essentially how user-friendly a product is. The impact of usability can be measured in terms of how long it takes users to complete a given task, and as they say, “time is money.”
Overall, investing in UX might not seem very important when you first start developing a B2B SaaS application product, but before you move it from “high-priority” to “nice to have” consider the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) findings that improving usability can reduce your development and support costs and increase both sales and revenue per customer.
They deliver value
There are three major considerations when it comes to pricing: what you charge (price), how you charge (pricing model), and return on investment. If you miss big on any of those, it won’t really matter how awesome your B2B SaaS application is.
Do your research up front. Unless you’re sitting on buckets of cash, you don’t have a lot of runway to figure out how to take off once you’re barreling down the software development path.
Learn about your target buyers’ wants and needs - one of which is likely to be the sense of control that comes from providing a few (but not too many) options to choose from (e.g. monthly vs. yearly plans).
And finally, focus on ROI - can you demonstrate it with case studies or some sort of tool that shows the direct bottom-line impact for your existing clients? It’s hard for any business to walk away from a product that keeps them in the black.
There's an app for that
I’ll spare you the “mobile first” lecture and just say that developing a corresponding mobile app for iOs and Android may be worth the effort and expense.
Whether we like it or not, we expect and frequently avail ourselves of the ability to get stuff done when and where we can, and mobile apps are major facilitators of that kind of flexibility.
You may hear people say that a responsive Web application is just as good as a native mobile app - and while a Web app is certainly a lot cheaper, you should carefully consider the needs of your users before you go that route.
Do your users need the ability to work offline? Is a rich, high-polish UX something your users will appreciate or benefit from? Are user loyalty and frequency of use key to your success? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those there’s a strong possibility that a native app should be in your future.
It’s not uncommon for start-up types to be concerned about protecting their idea before they’ve even built a prototype or proof of concept. But ask any seasoned founder and/or investor and he or she will likely tell you that obsessing over intellectual property theft is a sign of inexperience.
Why, you ask?
Because ideas are a-dime-a-dozen. Everybody has great ideas. The thing that’s NOT common, though, is execution. Very few people have the steady hand and foresight to execute their idea for a B2B SaaS application in a way that sets it up for long-term success.
Hopefully this post offers some valuable insight into the things you should be considering in order to increase the chances that your B2B SaaS application will grow from idea to well-executed success.