3 SaaS Essentials

A significant number of elements combine to create a great SaaS solution. There isn’t a definitive feature set that guarantees success, there are however some fundamentals that appeal to both B2B and B2C buyers, regardless of cost and target market.

Before drilling down into specifics, advanced features and key differentiators it is important your solution has the fundamentals covered. In this short article, you will be introduced to 3 fundamental features of successful SaaS solutions.

All SaaS solutions should…


Have a test drive option

The ability to try before you buy has become synonymous with SaaS solutions. The modern day sales process and ever-increasing amount of competition mean potential customers want to trial a solution in some form before they commit to purchasing.

There is no one definitive way to provide a trial, a test drive can take a number of forms including;


Time Limited Trial

Providing full access to the product for a limited period of time (e.g. 14 days). When implementing the Time Limited trial you need to ensure there is enough time for potential customers to complete key actions. Consider setting up prompts to push specific actions that highlight key benefits. For example, Accountancy Software providers may push users to process an invoice, whilst Social Marketing Software could push users to connect at least one social profile and schedule a post during setup.  


Feature Limited Trial

Providing a scaled-down version of the full SaaS solution. The success of Feature Limited trials relies on providing a sufficient amount of value within the available features, whilst leaving added value and other core features locked. Hootsuite offers a free account that enables users to utilise the core functionality of posting, scheduling and reviewing messages whilst more advanced features, such as bulk scheduling and customised analytics are only available within paid versions.   


User Limited

User Limited trials are often implemented by B2B SaaS organisations. When selling to teams/ departments a User Limited trial provides a way to offer full functionality whilst limiting usage to key decision makers.

For example a HR Software provider targeting recruitment agencies, may allow up to three users during a trial period. During the trial, these three users will be carefully nurtured in order to maximise the possibility of closing the deal in which all recruiters at the agency will become users.  


Data limited

Data Limited trials work by providing a set amount of storage within a system before requiring a purchase. The free amount of data should be enough for users to have gained a significant understanding of the system. CRM SaaS solutions often allow users to have a specific number of contacts for free, with a requirement to upgrade when the quota is reached. The challenge is striking a balance between perceived usage and the data limit.  


Advert Inclusive

Frequently used by gaming apps, Advert Inclusive editions allow users to have full access to all features in a version populated with advertisements. Advert populated editions enable an organisation to generate additional revenue within their free version whilst allowing users to fully trial their solution. The adverts approach is not suitable for all SaaS sectors, particularly those operating B2B. The inclusion of adverts can cheapen a user’s perception of the product.


Branding Inclusive

Branding Inclusive free trials are a great way for a SaaS business to get people using a product in addition to furthering their reach. Branding Inclusive trials often prevent customisation or the ability to add additional information to outputted work from the system.

For example an invoicing solution could offer a Branding Inclusive version where every invoice raised features a footer promoting their product;

e.g. ‘Invoice generated by Saastronauts Invoice Solution’.

MailChimp utilised a Branding Inclusive approach on their free edition where a badge had to be included within emails.

The majority of free trials will adopt a hybrid approach in which multiple variables will be packaged dependant on the product (e.g. 14 day trial, limited to one login).

In addition to the main free trial models there are numerous sub-categories and approaches that can be adapted, including;


The Freemium model

Often a scaled back, limited or advertisement inclusive version of the full SaaS solution. The Freemium model enables potential customers to trial a solution for an extended amount of time. The key to the Freemium approach is to provide enough value up until a tipping point by which time the user clearly understands the benefits and is prepared to pay.


Free Trial, credit/ debit card required

A potential customer can access a free trial if they provide credit/ debit card details. Payment is often taken after a set amount of time. Adding the requirement to enter payment details pre-trial is likely to reduce the total volume of trials but can increase the number of conversions by filtering out tyre kickers.

Investment in Customer Success and Support during trial periods for key prospects can pay dividends in the long run. Use in-app messaging and email automation, in addition to your CRM to identify priority leads, reach out accordingly.


Be intuitive

It is vital all SaaS solutions are well designed and easy to use. Providing human support to users is expensive, even more so during the trial period. Therefore it is important Customer Success and Support employees are not inundated with unnecessary requests on how to navigate a system.

With attention spans short and competitors offering free trials, a well built and easy navigate system is likely to close more deals than a more powerful system that is hard to use. An easy to use and intuitive system is much a easier and far more cost effective way to scale a business and increase revenue.


Low adoption/ switching costs

The cost of adoption/ switching to a new solution is often overlooked by new startups. High switching costs (time, resource, money) can outweigh the perceived value of a new system. Low switching costs are of particular importance to data driven systems such as CRM, email or Accounting solutions.

Consider a recruitment agency that has a database with tens of thousands of candidates and clients. This data is the backbone of their business, if the information cannot be cost effectively transferred to the proposed new solution it is unlikely the deal will go ahead.

Conduct research into which systems customers are likely to migrate from, work with your developers to ensure information can be accurately transferred. Defining a working process and keeping new customers informed during the transfer is key to a lasting and profitable relationship.


There are of course exceptions to every rule, has your organisation gone onto to achieve success without the above essentials? What else do you consider a SaaS product essential?

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