Top 5 things that make a SaaS product great

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 12.57.47 PM.pngSelling software can be really easy or really hard and the harsh reality is it depends on the product. Great sales people use to say “I can sell ice to an Eskimo” but today, with the internet, the level of global competition, and a more educated younger generation, the products¬† have to sell themselves. In a world of instant gratification with zero patience, and almost no tolerance for faultiness, the world of continuous development and value-add is here and it is demanded. I will not include what I consider the number one element in the list: it has to be simple to use and easy to navigate because that should be the golden rule for all software. I will focus on the “other” areas that make a product great not only to the customer but for the creator.

Here are my top 5 elements that make a SaaS product great:

1 – Platform, Availability, and Scale

In almost every discussion I have, availability and scale is always a number one concern and “is it a platform” frequently comes into question. Many times the platform question may be for API interfaces or extensions from other platforms since micro-services based architectures are the “in thing”. Questions like:

  • Do you support in place upgrades with zero down time?
  • Are you distributed and support a world wide content delivery network?
  • Can I scale up during peek times?
  • Are all the API’s REST based?

Those questions and more are almost always asked. Remember, eople are putting the IT tasks in your hands and they know the pains of their business and you better be able to answer their questions in their context.

2 – On-boarding

On-boarding needs to be dead simple. A few fields on a form, a verification email, and you should be up and running in minutes. That is the expectation today. If your SaaS product works with data, images, or videos, then uploading those assets need to be just as simple. Searching and managing those assets need to be as intuitive as using a Microsoft Office Application or using your iPhone. If it’s not, you have failed.

3 –Video Library/Training Webinars

Almost every company has a YouTube channel of some sort. But do you have self paced videos showing off your products best features? Do you have videos of your products solving a business user problem? Those are the videos customers look for. This generation searches for videos to figure things out more than ever before. Video is the new encyclopedia and that includes webinars.  Webinars play a big part in building a community around your product. It brings your customers together while giving out the latest and greatest information for how your product can help solve their problems. Recorded webinar videos are also becoming a popular reference for education and should be included in your library.

4 – Self-paced tutorials and gamification

The last two generations, mainly because of online gaming, are conditioned for being rewarded for their accomplishments. From the almost certain participation awards in AYSO and Pop-Warner to ranking systems in games like Call of Duty it is almost expected. Having self paced tutorials and badges for completing work benefits you in two ways:

1 – it entices your customers to really learn and understand your software while getting rewarded and

2 – their badges, certifications, and rewards can be posted to online social profiles like LinkedIn, an instant resume bonus!

5 – Know exactly what your customers are doing

Analytics are so critical in software today you simply can not be competitive without it. Data and the internet of things is quickly proving that big data really is BIG. So big in fact most companies have no idea how to handle the amount of data or make heads or tails of it. This is where having cognitive assistance will differentiate you from your competitors. The companies who can understand this data are the ones with the competitive advantage, they will be the winners. More and more augmented intelligence systems are coming into play – you are probably thinking, don’t you mean “artificial intelligence”? No, I really do mean augmented. I say augmented because as it stands today you most likely won’t let the computer fully make a decision for you. I am talking about serious business impacting decisions like sending out a million emails of $20 off coupons – that could get rather costly. So essentially what systems do today are suggest actions to take and a human makes the final decision – augmented intelligence. Understanding how your customers use your software is extremely important to your success. You can optimize click paths, find best/popular practices, understand customer journeys, and most of all know which features are used most and understand where to further your investment.

Three out of the five items in the list directly impact your customer. The first one directly impacts your customer and potentially their customers. The last one affects your overall product growth and strategy. I could have picked very different topics for my top five but after much reading I think these five are definitely at the top of the list. I know there are many more out there and I would really like to hear what you think should be in the top five!

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