Bridging the Gap Between Software Development and Marketing

With all of the changes and shifts in technology, has it become software as you knew it, or software as you know it? Software as a service (SaaS) tools are gaining ground against on-premise software requiring a perpetual license, according to a recent Forrester report. This report shows that SaaS budgets rose by 53 percent, while the budgets for on-premise applications dropped by 13 percent. This trend continues to accelerate, as shown by the rapidly expanding SaaS market. For example, a report in Forbes predicted that the SaaS market would reach $12 billion by the end of 2016 and $55 billion within the next 10 years. On-premise software won’t go away anytime soon, but it’s clear your SaaS budget will eventually surpass your on-premise budget.

An examination of the changes SaaS brings typically focuses on the improvements that SaaS can make to an organization’s business operations. However, SaaS will also create a fundamental shift in IT departments, as CIOs discover that the infrastructure, processes, and skills they have developed over the past two decades have become obsolete. Matt Griffiths, former CIO of Biogen, says in an interview by the Society for Information Management, “This is much bigger than just a technology change.” Referring to the shift from on-premise software to SaaS, Griffiths adds, “There’s an entire organizational and cultural shift required to support that change.”

These changes are also affecting the process of software engineering outsourcing and bringing software to market. Bridging the gap between the development and marketing of a SaaS product requires the product manager to own the marketing message, which should be based on marketing requirements. This process involves the following components:

  • Product boundaries
  • Development strategy
  • Marketing strategies
  • Customer onboarding

Product Boundaries

SaasAddict reports that SaaS developers often isolate their product from its marketing strategy, which can be a costly error in the case of nearshore software development. Traditional software involves a certain degree of disconnection between software companies and their customers once the customer purchases the software licenses. Unless the customer needs technical support, they may never need to contact the software company. However, SaaS products require an always-on connection between the developer and its customers that keeps them in constant contact. SaaS products therefore require a development strategy that establishes a connection with the customer as quickly as possible, which the developer should leverage throughout the customer’s life cycle.

SaaS developers must understand the customer boundaries to their product, which typically include factors such as purchase price, mobile access, and login requirements. SaaS customers generally make little distinction between a product, its service, and its support. Developers should therefore design their products to provide a seamless online experience. Software engineering outsourcing teams never settle for merely providing the required features and functions for the product; they also create an online experience that satisfies business, personal, and professional needs. The ultimate objective of this strategy is to drive revenue growth by pushing the three buttons for SaaS growth, including customer acquisition, lifetime value, and network effects.

Development Strategy

The marketing strategy for a SaaS product often involves allowing the product to sell itself. The online connection between the company and its customers provides an opportunity to enable customer self-service, which will reduce costs and accelerate revenue. Innovative and creative product managers can find many ways to use this connection to deliver faster, cheaper service than their competition.

No conflict should exist between the strategies for the development and marketing of a SaaS product. However, the marketing team and development team need to collaborate if such a struggle does arise. This process generally involves identifying the ways in which the software’s features will solve the customer’s pain points and developing user personas for the product.

Marketing Strategies

SaaS marketing strategists understand that optimizing content for social media is essential for improving the online awareness of their product. They also realize that a SaaS product must be an integral part of a social strategy. Furthermore, the product must produce search results by popular search engines that are publicly available. SaaS customers frequently produce content when using their product, including social media profiles and webpages. Product managers can facilitate the creation of these pages as part of the user’s experience, which automatically optimizes these pages for use by social media and search engines.

A SaaS marketing strategy must also account for the fact that e-commerce involves more than just accepting orders over the Internet. E-commerce includes the entire process of streamlining a customer’s online shopping experience, allowing customers to separate shopping from their offline activities. An e-commerce platform must provide automated sales assistance and other automated processes such as the following:

  • Account conversions
  • Billing
  • Collections
  • Contract signing
  • Invoicing
  • Payments
  • Pricing

Free trials can be an effective marketing strategy for SaaS products, although they can be a challenge to implement well. Free trials shorten the sales cycle and facilitate product evaluation. They also help to streamline purchases through the conversion of a trial to the full product. Furthermore, SaaS customers are typically willing to provide inbound sales leads in exchange for a trial product. A free trial also provides the vendor with an opportunity to greatly increase sales through self-service.

Customer Onboarding

SaaS products typically require customers to on board themselves, which requires them to study, understand, and use the product without outside help. This requirement means that product managers must ensure that even non expert users can easily access new features. A superior SaaS product also strongly encourages novices to explore the execution of fundamental tasks, while allowing expert users to customize advanced tasks for greater performance.

Product churning is a business practice in which the vendor sells more of a product than what the customer actually needs. SaaS customers are particularly averse to this practice due to the competitiveness of this market and will quickly switch SaaS providers if they feel victims of churning. Increasing the use of a product is the most effective marketing strategy for reducing churn in SaaS products.

This strategy includes increasing all forms of use, such as casual use, habitual use, and organizational use. All of these forms of use build customer-specific content, which encourages mass personalization of the product and allows the vendor to achieve an economy of scale. One of the biggest advantages of mass personalization is that it protects SaaS vendors from competition. Competitors can theoretically copy every feature of an SaaS product, but they won’t be able to copy a customer’s personal data, which includes business data, preferences, policies, and usage history.

Customers go beyond buying themselves and begin making referrals once a SaaS product reaches the top of its growth pyramid. The customer life cycle begins with each prospective customer, allowing the product to stimulate viral growth by sharing information between prospects and existing customers. However, the process of streamlining information sharing requires the product manager to provide something for customers to share. For example, the critical business analysis can be highly effective for driving the growth of a SaaS product, since a discussion on product use can include a referral.

Tiempo Development performs nearshore software development for businesses in North America. We understand the issues our customers face in developing an SaaS product and bringing it to market. Contact us today to find out what Tiempo can do for you.

About Tiempo Development

At Tiempo, we are making the business of software development easier and more affordable with a unique combination of a nearshore business model, agile methodology, and advanced talent management. Our Development teams engineer powerful technologies that align with the goals and strategies of our customers for both their internal and public-facing development initiatives. Tiempo’s proprietary agile product-lifecycle management framework called Tiempo Quality System or TQS, is composed of principals and best practices that ensure productive client and team interactions. The result is efficient software development that enables Tiempo to support companies in launching software releases sooner – without draining important resources.