Building a successful SaaS app requires several features and ingredients that are, much like what my mother calls me, “unique.” Unique to SaaS apps, that is.
So, in this Goji Blog, we’ll outline the ingredients for a successful SaaS application.
Let’s dive in.
Quick Overview of SaaS
Software as a Service (aka, SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model. Some independent vendor or service provider hosts the application, making it accessible to users online (rather than with installation.)
For example, picture editing tools, communication apps, CRMs, calendars—you get it.
And, there are upsides and downsides for the user when it comes to using a SaaS product. So keep these in mind as we go through the important features.
Pros of Using SaaS Products
- Availability and Portability — “BYOD”
- Third-party tackles any technical issues
- Security, compliance, and maintenance included in the fee
- Customizable and easy to monitor and update
- Compatibility with other platforms
- Reliable Performance
- The cost is for a fixed usage period
Cons of Using Saas Products
- Possibly losing access while offline or during Internet disruptions
- Third-party access to commercial data (security concerns)
Ingredients and Features of Successful SaaS Apps
While there is no set recipe for being the next Salesforce, you’re likely going to find the following traits in the most popular SaaS apps.
Successful SaaS App Features: Specific and Relevant Value Proposition
Firstly, as with any app, but especially with B2B SaaS apps, yours should be a solution with a clear value proposition.
Therefore, it should solve a problem integrated with your clients’ infrastructure and very much intertwined with their immediate ROI.
Successful SaaS App Features: Availability and Portability
The whole point of SaaS is to be able to access whatever it is one needs to access from any internet-having situation. So, availability and portability are critical.
Availability means maximizing uptime and reliability. You can achieve it through a proactive engineering team that runs excellent deployment testing and performance monitoring—and catches bugs before users do.
And you can also achieve it with automated system redundancy—ensuring that there’s a backup to keep things running if something fails.
Additionally, portability means there’s applicability on mobile devices, and really, on any system or device relevant to your users. So, for example, in this wild pandemic world, 65% of businesses allow US employees to connect their personal devices to their corporate network.
The line between work-life balance has been officially blurred, and the term “BYOD” (bring your own device—the lesser liked brother of “BYOB”) is officially everywhere. So it’s essential your SaaS app is keeping up with the trend.
Successful SaaS App Features: Security and Regulation Compliance
When you’re storing a company’s precious commercial data, its safety is *the most critical*. A data breach on your end means a data breach on their end, which means a lot of lawsuits everywhere.
So to save on all of that paperwork, it’s essential to embed security–including privacy regulation compliance–into everything you build.
Moreover, there may be many regulations that apply to whatever you do; they could be state-specific, industry-specific, and country-specific (think of the EU’s GDPR.)
Therefore, it’s crucial to adopt SaaS security best practices, such as secure product engineering and deployment, GRC audits, and regular security assessments. By doing so, ensure your clients’ data is safe and sound.
Successful SaaS App Features: Multithreading
Your successful SaaS app should be designed to support multithreading—i.e., a model of program execution that “allows for multiple threads to be created within a process, executing independently but concurrently sharing process resources.”
Since you’ll be serving many users—especially if your product is B2B—multithreading is the thing that enables thousands of users to work in the same application at the same time.
Successful SaaS App Features: A Phenomenal Development Team
There are three essential traits of a fantastic development team: experienced, long-term, and transparent.
So, especially early on—although this is always relevant—it’s critical that you choose a developer under a resource-maximizing mindset, not one of cost-minimization. You want to invest in a fantastic, scalable, and sustainable MVP; one that will gain traction, and fund and inform future development.
However, choosing a developer under a cost-minimization mindset—i.e., the one that gives you the lowest quote—means you might select someone inexperienced or who will build the easy way, but not a quality, sustainable, and scalable product.
And the long-term piece is essential, too—they should work in a transparent process, share your vision, and be invested in the long-term success of your app.
Successful SaaS App Features: Stellar CX
- Ease of Use
UX 101: Your user should have a peaceful and wonderful time navigating your application. Remember the scene from Office Space where he throws the printer out of the window? Yeah—so, not that. So, the app needs to be user-intuitive without compromising the safety of business data.
- Single Sign-on (SSO)
As an employee, one has to remember like 17.38M passwords to get through their day. So implementing a secure Single Sign-on feature is great for the user and efficiency of a business. You can do this either with an SSO identity management system that uses corporate logins and browser identity, or allows users to stay signed in for longer.
- Onboarding Automation, Documentation, and User Support
Because SaaS app functionality can get complex, it’s essential to make usage and onboarding as smooth as possible. So, provide guides that clearly explain your app’s features, feedback system and helpdesk, automated onboarding, and 24/7 support.
- Customization and Flexibility
Consider you may be serving many different kinds of clients. Each might have different needs and approaches to how they do things. Therefore, customization, configurability, and flexibility are critical components of keeping clients happy.
Successful SaaS App Features: A Solid Customer Success Program
A customer success program will enable you to measure KPIs. As a result, you’ll be able to track feature usage, and help your customers take full advantage of your app’s capabilities. So what does a cohesive CS program look like?
Guiding your clients through onboarding, implementation, and/or migration, and providing them with project management support for deployments. And lastly, measuring their success and app usability with specific metrics. A great CS program will increase brand loyalty, reduce churn, and could ultimately lead to organic growth.
Successful SaaS App Features: Knowing Your Market*
(*better than you inadvertently know the words to the 2012 smash hit, “Call Me Maybe”)
We’ll always go back to this point in every Goji Blog. Although, we’ve written at length about assessing and validating your target market.
There’s a direct correlation between aiming at the right target customer, using the correct sales channels, and annual contract value (ACV.) Ergo, by knowing and navigating their target markets well, market leaders have lower customer acquisition costs (CAC) with lower ACVs—while attracting more clients.
They’re able to wisely allocate resources to sell to bigger fish. So, for example, whereas inside sales outreach is most commonly used with ACVs between $1,000-$50,000, field and direct sales are used more commonly with ACVs of <$50,000.
While market leaders stick to industry pricing standards, they also charge by user or usage—which enables them to capture a greater market share (selling both to big and small clients.) And these tactics are so common, actually, that 70% of 639 companies surveyed use these types of pricing and benchmarking strategies.
Successful SaaS App Features: A Cash-efficient Go-to-Market Strategy (Early)
This one’s for you Early Stagers, or for those who need a boost. It’s always important—but especially in the beginning, to be extra cash efficient. Which could mean using a product-led growth (PLG) strategy to increase user acquisition while keeping spending down.
A PLG strategy relies on a bottom-up user adoption based on excellent CX rather than spending a ton of resources on expensive marketing and sales efforts. The less money spent on marketing and sales, the more can be invested in product development during a critical stage of the startup journey.
Sounds great—but how do you make it happen? By being cost-efficient, you could provide an excellent that effectively addresses pain points—at low or no cost. “Freemium” is a relevant model here—where by offering a fantastic product for free, you can build loyalty and reputation, increase satisfaction and referrals, and therefore later convert users to paying customers.
In fact, startups that used a go-to-market strategy based on a well-developed product were found to lower sales and marketing costs below 20% of their ARR. It might take more time to build momentum during initial customer acquisition. However, an early, cash-efficient, go-to-market strategy could enable you to invest in hiring talent that later drives a traditional inside/indirect sales strategy when you’re ready.
Successful SaaS App Features: Intelligence*
*not yours, the app’s.
Cleverbridge gave an excellent explanation about the role of intelligent design in SaaS:
“Artificial Intelligence essentially aggregates large quantities of data – in this case, customer data – and distills it into automatic processes normally accomplished by humans.”
So—what they said. Incorporating AI into your SaaS product enables your app to refine and automate CX processes; we’re talking marketing campaigns, upsells, customer service, training, and onboarding.
For example, using AI in customer service could allow your CS department to take on 30-40% more tickets. And when you factor in that 42% of customers show more interest in purchasing after a positive CS experience—there really does appear to be something to that.
Successful SaaS App Features: Compatibility with Legacy Systems
Last one—and it’s a bit of a doozy. You’re going to encounter many different legacy systems as you serve different types of clients.
An this is complex because you’ll often serve the needs of numerous departments within many different kinds of companies. But, compatibility with legacy systems is a must.
Well, this was a lot. We know. So, it could be beneficial to consult product strategy experts who’ll help you put the theory to the rubber.
Coincidentally, hi, we’re Goji Labs—a product and software development consultancy with experience in designing, “rescuing,” and deploying hundreds of products.
Looking to develop a new app or revamp an existing one?
Have any general questions about who we are and our authority on the subject?
Reach us at GojiLabs.com.
– Goji Labs