November 5th, 2009 by Seth Kenvin
The past five weeks I’ve been taking an evening class on how to market & sell software-as-service or “SaaS” (the second “a” stands for “a” but for some reason it appeals to me more to leave that out). It’s the term for leveraging the Internet such that customers use their web browsers access software functionality hosted and maintained by vendors like us. It is the model that Market7 practices. Having worked this way for a couple of years now, the class has provided good opportunity to reflect on some of the advantages of this model, both for us and our customers, compared to my prior experience of customers physically taking on and managing technology products.
So far for us, two particular great advantages stand out:
Immediate responsiveness to customers’ needs and interests.
Market7 provides an expanding array of functionality to serve as a single resource for all of the ways people work together in the production of rich media, spanning the whole duration from conceptualization to approving final deliverables, and encompassing every mode of collaboration from strategizing about content to tactical logistics arrangements. So, at any moment, there is typically on the order of a dozen initiatives we are contemplating for introduction, mostly based on how our users and prospects tell us what they want. The SaaS model allows us to consider such initiatives flexibly, and to implement them rapidly. Instead of months or even years between releases, with the burdens of customers having to implement the changes on their own premises, we are able to deliver new functionality every few weeks (sometimes more than once within a week), and what’s new becomes seamlessly available to our customers, ready for them when they’re ready to discover it, without disrupting how they’re already using our software.
Just last night we released some new functionality after accelerating its development because two prospects had been requesting our growth in that particular area. One of those prospects has already become a customer, and we are advancing in our work with the other one to refine our future roadmap in this functional area, hoping to land them soon as well. That new functionality will be demonstrated in an upcoming blog post within the next few days. Later today we have a meeting with a long-time (by standards of a 2-year old company) customer that is eager to see some new developments in a different aspect of our offering on which we have just started some development. While that effort is in process, and a week or two from availability, we’ll be able to use a browser and the Internet to indicate the progress we’re already making towards this goal.
Granular scalability so customers can start at level comfortable to them, and vendors can leverage success towards expansion.
We endeavor to make our software as intuitive as possible, with the most basic features obviously positioned and based on familiar motifs, plus a lot of explanatory resources integrated within and provided as supplements as new users start. Combined with there not being requirements to install, configure and maintain code, it is easy for our customers and for us, when they get started with use of video.Market7 at any level of usage. Many opt to start by trying for a single project and then consider expansion with success. We would love for them all to start big, but our track record of success in these expansion trajectories is a good one. One of the customers we’re visiting today, that actually started with a pretty substantial commitment, has scaled up to three times their original subscription level in one year of use. By usage scaling granularly, we are able to land paying customers without the arduous sales cycles of deals that must start large, our customers can economically get a feel for how well we work for them, and we can both easily grow our work together over time (with the added benefit of our being able to be immediately responsive when their usage spurs great ideas of what else we should be doing).