If your über-cool SaaS app sells itself, why isn’t it selling? Sooner or later somebody will ask that question, hopefully before the movers come to clean out your office. There are plenty of pitfalls to avoid for any kind of sale, but SaaS marketers face some special challenges. Among the most common:

  • Driving targeted buyers to convert on free trials
  • Getting free trialers to actually try the free trial
  • Convincing them your app is really über cool
  • Convincing them the premium version is even cooler
  • Convincing their bosses your app is worthwhile
  • Convincing decision makers to pay for the premium version
  • Keeping them onboard and using your app
  • Spreading the love to more users in the company
  • Staying ahead of the competition and preventing churn

Let’s take a look at some things you should definitely NOT do, i.e. the dreaded Deal Killers.

seriously this is a saas marketing deal killer

Deal Killer #1 – Missing the Mark

Obviously you need to reach buyers, i.e. people who would benefit from your SaaS app. Slightly more subtle considerations include business size in revenues and number of likely users. If you reach out to small businesses, you had better include a low-priced (or even free) option. If you reach out to enterprises, you had better include a scalable option that integrates with all kinds of business apps. More to the point, your campaigns to these segments should feature those essential messages and not just fluff. Box.com does this right on its pricing page. Reaching the right audience is also a challenge for most SaaS startups. Here’s a list of great places to promote your app.

Deal Killer #2 – Conversion #Fail

The more barriers you include, the lower the conversion rate. FreshBooks has a good landing page for new subscribers. Just a company (it knows this is a B2B play) and an email. That’s it. What else does it do well? It lets you know exactly what to expect on the landing page. Do I need a credit card? No. How much will this ultimately cost? You can continue to use it for free forever, and paid packages start at $19.95 a month. No surprises. And yes, you should include this information in your inbound and outbound campaigns. People care about this stuff.

Deal Killer #3 – Spending Time to Learn

If there’s (only) one thing that drives me nuts, it’s an app that dares me to learn how to use it. This app is so simple and easy to use, a 5th grader can be up and running in minutes. Sorry guys, I don’t want to explore your app. I want to know how to use it before I use it. Again, FreshBooks does a nice job of this with a Tour. No, I don’t want screenshots I have to squint to read. No, I don’t need a live demo from a sales guy. Walk me through the experience in a video, and tell me what I need to do to be successful. And no, don’t make me sign up first to see the video. Put it on your home page.

Deal Killer #4 – Crossing the Spam Line

This one’s kinda tough. On the one hand, you need to make sure I’m actually using your product, otherwise you have zero chance of retaining me as a customer. On the other hand, I don’t want to be bugged by your sales team every day. The real experts at this monitor all customer activity, especially when it comes to app use. If I get stuck on something and stop using your product, it would be helpful if you took notice and sent me some tips or FAQ’s that might help me get over the hump. You’re just reinforcing my frustration if you send me endless generic “how’s it going” emails or persist in trying to sign me up for a follow-up call. “Always be helping” is the operative strategy here.

Deal Killer #5 – All App, No Substance

I know, you’re app is so easy to use, you don’t even need customer support. Tell your customers that, and watch the Benjamins flow out the door. Don’t forget, I’m in this to win something. I want to discover something that will turn things around for myself, my group, my company, etc. I want to be an expert user, not just a user. You need to help me with that. HubSpot is amazing at this. Its Academy is loaded with helpful content, not just how to use HubSpot, but also how to be a better marketer or sales rep. They have user forums and courses so I can develop my skills at my own pace and see tangible results. Very smart.

Deal Killer #6 – Focusing Exclusively on the User

Not all SaaS apps are designed for single users. In fact, most have enterprise or group-level packages designed for scale, collaboration and integration with other business apps. These levels are often a good deal more expensive and require budget approval. Why wouldn’t you communicate with Senior Management in all of your marketing content and campaigns? Make sure your buyer personas include both end users and decision makers, or you will chop off your top end products.

Deal Killer #7 – Focusing Only on the Bottom Line

I can’t say this any better than David Skok does, so here’s his take on SaaS business metrics:

“SaaS, and other recurring revenue businesses are different because the revenue for the service comes over an extended period of time (the customer lifetime). If a customer is happy with the service, they will stick around for a long time, and the profit that can be made from that customer will increase considerably. On the other hand if a customer is unhappy, they will churn quickly, and the business will likely lose money on the investment that they made to acquire that customer…”

So really, SaaS executives should be focusing on customer lifetime value (LTV) and cost to acquire a customer (CAC), in addition to traditional P & L metrics. Why? Because growth and viability depend on attaining and retaining monthly recurring revenue over the long haul. To get there early, and stay there, sales and marketing strategists need to avoid these deal killers and get serious about customer happiness.

Photo credit: huron bikes