Freemium Sales Models for B2B and SaaS

PBWorks

As promised, here is the second tip from Chris Yeh, VP Marketing of PBWorks about freemium sales models for b2b and SaaS.

Knowing of the advantages of free trial / freemium models, I agree that companies that are making the adjustments towards those sales models have an advantage in today’s online market where users can pick their products without a moderator (sales person) and pay for it only it it’s valuable for them

Similarly, Chris believes that the way to business success is establishing a trial for its product. This way customers feel they’re not taking a risk by buying a product but they test it first and understand how the product works before paying for it and this is tremendously important for building up a Successful contemporary business.

In his blog post: Bought vs. Sold (Why Jive is a dinosaur & Dropbox is the future), Chris compares 2 types of companies that have similar revenues achieved it in very different ways. The first company is Jive software and the other is Dropbox.
Jive is a 10 years old traditional enterprise company who spent millions of dollars in marketing and still not profitable and on the other hand there’s the 5 years old Dropbox, who has 40 employees already and a hundred millions in revenue.

To read the full transcription of the video, click here

 
 

Video Transcription:
I’m Chris Yeh. I’m the VP of Marketing for PBworks, which is a SaaS company that does collaboration software for various markets like advertising agencies, law firms and, of course, general business.

Well, it just so happens that I wrote an extensive blog post about this, comparing Jive Software with Dropbox, two companies which, interestingly enough, have almost the same revenues, but have achieved them in very different ways. Jive is a traditional enterprise company that was started almost 10 years ago and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing to get to where they are today and are still not profitable.

On the other hand, we have Dropbox which was started in 2007, has something like forty employees in a hundred million in revenues and so where I really see this going is that you know, certainly the tradition enterprise world still applies to large complex products but the ability to get a trial going, the ability to get people to say, okay I’m not taking a risk by buying this product, I know that it can deliver for me, is tremendously important for building up the business, so somebody like Dropbox or somebody like PBworks who offers the ability for people to really understand how the product works before they have to make a six figure commitment I think and that’s the way to go.

When Not to Waste Your Time on a SaaS Sales Prospect

Target the right prospects

Anthony Iannarino’s sales blog on “All Opportunities Aren’t Created Equal” got me thinking about prioritizing your time, given limited sales and marketing resources.

This is especially important for lean startups and high velocity sales businesses, where there are a relatively high number of prospects as compared to the number of sales and marketing resources.

However, prioritizing your time in a self service sales model is changing as compared to the traditional enterprise model where every prospect requires sales touch. Consider these reasons
why a prospect may not be ‘Mr. Right’ or ‘Mrs. Right’ in the traditional sales model (as mentioned in Anthony’s blog):

#1 – When a Prospect Has No Money. The art world’s ‘starving artist’ is the ‘struggling start-up’ of business. Both may produce beauty, but without a stable income neither is worth bringing
home to your parents.

#2 – When a Prospect Has Too Much Money. They have big ideas and big budgets to make them happen—they just need your software, customized almost beyond recognition; causing too much work and distraction.

#3 – When a Prospect Is Dissimilar. Trust, communication, shared values, and a united vision for achieving goals are all factors of a great relationship.

Interestingly, if you are offering an online, self service trial for your service and have a low touch or zero touch sales model, you may not need to be too concerned about these factors
upfront. You can let customers self qualify through your sales funnel. It is ok to have any of these three customers sign up for a trial. Then actions speak louder than words. When a prospect
is active during the trial and engages with your product as-is, he is probably worth your time.
If, on the other hand your prospect never logs into the free trial or is aggressively calling your support team, it may be worthwhile finding yourself another ‘date’.

3 Outright Strategies to Improve SaaS Customer Success

Outright Image

Totango is now (also) located in Mountain View, CA! Having a new Totango home in California is great and allows me to meet many cutting edge businesses with free trial or freemium business models while here. Today I caught up with Laura Messerschmitt, VP Marketing at Outright. Outright helps small businesses to organize their finances. Over 100,000 users worldwide are tracking the health of their businesses with Outright. Outright is a free service, with a premium product available for a monthly fee. The sales model for Outright is entirely customer driven: the sales process is self-service (zero-touch selling).

What struck me most about Outright is it’s commitment to customer success. Making existing customers successful is the highest priority for the company. In my blog on “customer engagement is key for SaaS” I have written about the importance of increasing customer lifetime value and preventing churn in SaaS business models.

Here are a couple of things Outright is doing to align it’s entire company with it’s customer success (and thus customer lifetime value):

1. Define a customer engagement funnel

Key to customer success is realizing that not all customers are created equal. When a visitor to your website first signs up to your service, you have not yet won a new customer. In fact, a large percentage of sign-ups may never activate the service. I discussed this phenomena in my blog on “3 ways to do cohort analysis on SaaS churn“. In the case of Outright, they have explicitly modeled the different stages in what you might call the “customer engagement funnel”:

Stage 1: Sign-up, user has registered
Stage 2: Activation, in the case of Outright has started using the product
Stage 3: Use, in the case of Outright has continued to use the product over time

While you can get a lot more fancy with this and define further actions and life cycle stages (including those that include up selling and expansion opportunities), just recognizing the difference between a sign-up, an activated user and a truly active user is a huge step in the right direction.

2. Make customer success metrics central to the business

You cannot manage what you cannot measure so the next step for Outright was to develop a dashboard that shows sign-ups, activated users and active users and the conversion ratio between each of these stages. Outright is looking at this on a daily, weekly and monthly basis via cohort analysis to see how the service value which is delivering customers is improving over time. If you want your company to be customer driven, you have to give everybody in the company access to these metrics . Only if you make the customer success metrics central to all your management meetings, will the entire team be laser focused on improving customer success.

3. A customer driven organization chart

The most innovative thing Outright has done is to align their entire organization chart with the different stages in the customer engagement funnel. There is a dedicated team, including product managers, developers and designers, focused on improving the product for those users who have just started using the product. The focus is on making it easier and easier for these customers to help themselves and get more value out of the product. Automated e-mails are sent with helpful tips to help customers along the way. Then there is a separate team, also with its own product managers, developers and designers to improve the value in the service for those customers who are already active.

Thanks so much to Laura for sharing. I am looking forward to check in with Outright again in a couple of months to see how their customer driven organization chart has impacted the key conversion metrics of their customer engagement funnel.