Hey Indian SaaS Founders, Are you dreaming big enough and aiming high enough?

I took SaaSy bus to attend SaaSx3, a fun journey networking and ice break session among SaaS founder The sessions were on common challenges from funding to hiring right resources and also instant mini FinTech RoundTable (picture below).

SaasybusThe venue was at Chennai (Mahabalipuram) well described by above tweet and event started with afternoon session by Pallav Nadhani of FusionCharts on Referral Marketing. The discussion started emphasizing needs of marketing starts before existence of the product and continues with product and marketing should not be looked in silos away from the product. One question for SaaS founders is whether their startups are geared to leverage product features to perform self-marketing of the product The session brought some real examples of SaaS firms who have already done this successfully.

The impact of using “Powered by Logo” inside your product features on B2B2C websites that are focused on end user was highlighted and is more effective to target customers from new geographies where your product has not been adopted and are in early stages of entering new geography.

Nemesh of appointy stressed importance of backlinks (two lines of codes in the product), that became part of Google search when someone searched for a tool for appointments. Other suggestions include:

  • Sell lower price plan without option to “White label” product offering. After product is adopted, the lowest price plan can be offered as “Free forever plan” without white label option.
  • Find a WordPress plugin that is active and popular. Buy plugin and add one line in this plugin and publish the plugin.

#OneThing session happened where SaaS founders were asked to share a set of one things that creates significant transformation in their startups.

  • We did not predict, we performed action
  • Upgrade Field on Sales approach to Customer Success approach
  • “Support and train customers for first 45 days increased NPS score” – Think of it as customer Success Channel that is needed in scaling stage.
  • Keep high touch with customer and experiment how to maintain high touch with customers being online and not on-site. Leverage and experiment with cloud telephony, gamification and customer management.

Product Tear Down session where SaaS founders offered their product to be teared down by expert SaaS founder and audience. The experience SaaS founders published guideline template based on which they will provide feedback to brave startup like Zipboard and CanvasFlip and here are comments that apply to lot of startups found here too.

  • You first need to go deep focusing on the right customer segment before going broad.
  • While building a branded website, remember that website home page needs to convey emotional, functional and technical aspirations to connect with your audience. One good example is slack website, it is inspirational.
  • While displaying metrics of your product on the website, show metrics that creates positive impression in mind of prospects. Small number may not create right impression.
  • Remove small irritants. Devil is in details.
  • Does your product features pass Tooth Brush test? Ask, ‘Is this something people use once or twice a day and does it solve a problem?’
  • No right or wrong strategies, only shades of right while building startups.

Product-TearDownPeople who teared down choose right words to share comments to the founder who offered his product for tear down, also adding kind words “Do not become defensive. Their inputs are to improve not to criticize”. SaaS founder in the audience really liked the positive impact of product Tear Down session and followed with asks to #ispirit to have more startups in Product Tear Down sessions and suggestion for virtual Product Tear Down session.

There was another #OneThing session focused on what is one thing that in last 12 months worked well for SaaS startup with Aditya Sangi of Hotelogix , moderated by Prasanna

  • Alliance building approach steps – find complimentary product. Check whether your product adds to their value offering and whether other product have efficient reach to your customer target and whether joint offering creates value for your customer base.
  • Do not keep building a lot of non-core features in to your product and make the world as your competition and end up with no partners.

One attraction in SaaSx#n is story style presentation by Girish of #freshdesk, who genuinely shares learnings from his journey. This time the story had movie effect and learnings from the movie are

  • Everything need not be data driven. You can do things that people would notice and they will notice when things are on high quality bar.
  • Do what is right for customers first. Help sales team to develop focus on customer success by incentivizing to help customers first.
  • Started with sales team of young minds fresh from college and they started with focus on number of agents sold rather than revenue of agents sold. Once they were more customer focused and time arrived to scale, a change was implemented in discussion with sales team to change their focus to revenue earned per sales team member.
  • The importance of alignment between marketing and sales using instances from freshdesk journey.
  • Marketing teams must have targets for sign-ups. Pre-Sales team was useful to prepared customers on the product. He referred to article CREATING A SALES PROCESS FOR YOUR INBOUND LEADS: 150 IS A MAGIC NUMBER
  • Hired fresher’s following hack “Hire them for attitude and you can get them skills”. I liked the fact that the hack was implemented in sales and marketing function and not only in engineering.
  • Similar to other startups, freshdesk also got junks as prospects. They pruned not only junk and also channels where hunk data originated from. More junk arrival from channel lead to removing channel, leading to arrive at list of channels that worked for them.

Girish once again demonstrated that he was a hardcore Rajnikanth fan in real life too by creating a real movie style experiences bringing young talent who accompanied him at the start of #freshdesk journey in sales and marketing on to the stage. He created right impression that success is attributed to team’s effort rather than individual effort. Consider to be special in the days of “Winner takes it all”

Girish complete the movie with some thought provoking questions “Are SaaS founders aiming high?”, “Do you want to be happy with small year on year growth?”

Post by G. Srini, volunteer for iSPIRT

Product Teardown at the “SaaS”y Day at Chennai: Chapter 2 on SaaSx3

The sea breeze was cool. And the SaaSy people went cool as well. Kiruba unleashed some tricks for networking that had the participants engaging in banter, fun and games on the lawn. It also wore off the participants from postprandial somnolence (carb coma) after lunch. The SaaSy bus by then had arrived from Bengaluru, and the participant number swelled to 150 or so.

Using your product as a marketing tool

Pallav Nadhani set the theme for #OneThing discussion involving of Siddharth of Practo, Nemesh of Appointy, and Ankit of AdPushup. He cited examples of MailChimp, which sends annual reports about the number of mails sent through its service, and Rancore, a research organisation that sent reports about Share Point, a Microsoft product for developers. He said that research reports set benchmarks for what works. He spoke of referral marketing and commission paid on referrals to existing customers as strategies to acquire customers without much of a marketing spend. Avlesh of WebEngage said that marketing does not exist in silos away the product. He spoke of incorporating the marketing element inside the product itself.

webengageOne strategy is using the “powered by *product logo*” inside the product to attract more prospects. This was especially used in a novel way. WebEngage chose a customer (of course, after a due diligence) to sell its low-priced product in an unpresent geography. Then the logo was added in the product to attract more customers in the region. The customer acquisition cost is reduced as a result. Nemesh of Appointy (which helps businesses to schedule appointments) has 118,000 customers, all of them acquired at zero cost of marketing. This was done through backlinks (two lines of codes in the product), which would indirectly show up in the Google search when someone searched for a tool for appointments. Ankit spoke of four strategies to customer acquisition without much marketing spend.

The VC speak

Mohan from Norwest said the SaaS multiples have compressed in the United States – it’s five times the revenue now rather than the 10x number that was the norm until sometime ago. He also said that SaaS companies have a history of not making a profit but was confident that it is possible to build a profitable SaaS company in India, which is capital-efficient.

Tarun of Matrix Partners clarified that now the focus has shifted to profitability of SaaS companies rather than growth. He said that growth expectations are tempered according to existing market conditions. Now, liquid capital is not available easily. He agreed that there was a time when growth was the focus when the capital was easily available. Now that capital has shrunk, it’s difficult to have a growth at the cost of profit strategy but the one focused on profits is the best.

Tearing down the product

Frictionless sign-up, a clutter-free website and a shortest path to functional wow! are some of the elements of the SaaS product that is self-serving and sold to remote customers. Three products were at the receiving end … er … learning end from Suresh Sambandam of KissFlow, Bharat, head of UX at Freshdesk, and Shekar Kirani of Accel. While Suresh focused on the sign-up aspects, Bharat gave feedback on design whereas Shekar pinpointed the market focus. Zipboard, Hummingbill and Canvas Flip were the three products that were reviewed on stage.

product etear down

This was easily the most popular segment of the day. There was laughter, there were learnings, there were moments of revelation, and on top of it, the three products wouldn’t have received such an honest feedback elsewhere. Shekar’s advice was worth a weight in gold especially for Zipboard and CanvasFlip. He was laser sharp in identifying the right customer segment and market and the entrepreneurs in the audience were overawed by his clarity.

The audience felt that Product Teardown deserves to be expanded in future editions of SaaSx. Peer feedback is valuable and helps to refine the product to make it efficient to acquire more customers.

The grand finale of the day was Girish making a fantastic presentation on his journey – from $1 million to $5 million. At each stage in the presentation, he called in the team members who worked on identifying a specific problem and explained what worked and what didn’t. What came through was the endeavour that propelled everyone at Freshdesk to work towards a common goal. What made these young guys work like men (and women) possessed is the specialty of the Freshdesk culture. Not much detail can be revealed, as we have to respect the fact that Freshdesk is a funded company. But what Girish said at cocktail was taut: “When I am on stage, if some guy thinks if he can do it, I can also do it, I am happy about it” It is suffice to say those who were at the hall were pumped with inspiration by Girish to think big and if you need that, you have to make it to SaaSx. See you there!

It Was a “SaaS”y Day at Chennai: Chapter 1#SaaSx3

The April sun wasn’t evident at the beach side locale, near the historic town of Mamallapuram, which hold relics of exceptional beauty on its rocks sculpted under the patronage of the Pallava kings. Had it been the early part of last century, in all probability, we could have reached this place in passenger boats sailing through the Buckingham Canal, now condemned to history. It was using this canal route that the national poet Subramanya Bharatiar escaped to Pondicherry to prevent an imminent arrest by the British to endow us with memorable literary gifts in Tamil.

By favourable alignment of choicest factors, Chennai is home to successful SaaS enterprises. To say SaaS is the preserve of Chennai is surely an overstatement. To put it in perspective, it is a worldwide phenomenon and Chennai has made a mark in India. Undoubtedly, the success of Girish Mathrubootham (Freshdesk) has a lot to do with Chennai hailed as the SaaS capital of India, with Suresh Sambandam (KissFlow), Sanjay Parthasarathy (Indix), Krish Subramanian (Chargebee) and Lux (Unmetric) in the elite SaaS league giving an aura to Chennai, not to forget that it was Zoho that made it to the big SaaS league, taking on Salesforce, from Chennai.

At SaaSx3 it was a day filled with peer-to-peer learning, some fun, and a super-duper end. Playbook roundtables, One Thing Series, Product Teardown, and a presentation of “superscaling” (my term!) by Girish as the grand finale completed the agenda. Pallav Nadhani of Fusion Charts and Krish Subramanian of Chargebee (in partnership with Suresh Sambandam of KissFlow) engaged select SaaS startups on a roundtable each. iSPIRT’s agenda of peer-to-peer learning and networking, with the intention of forming a vibrant community of product entrepreneurs, took the form of playbook roundtables where the successful entrepreneurs share the secret of their product success with the product startups. The focus of both the roundtables, where I spent some time in each, was on the product. While Krish focused on taking the product from 0 to $1 million, Pallav chose the marketing as a tool for product’s success.

Find out why the customer chooses your product

Krish spent a considerable time in explaining the key to product success – understanding the persona of the buyer. “Product-market fit is constantly evolving,” he said. The process doesn’t stop with customer acquisition and onboarding but continues with retention of the customer, on what is now called the customer success. Acquiring the customer is a tedious process for which several methods and processes come in handy. The important take-away from this session was understanding the customer’s intent to buy the product. Krish liberally quoted from Chargebee’s experience to explain his perspective – their assumption of why the customer bought Chargebee flipped on its head when they saw the real data on why they did. How to find out? It is best to ask – first through a non-intrusive e-mail followed up by conversations and further e-mail exchanges.

The whole point of the discussion hovered around the 10% conversion rate – of prospects into buyers. But Suresh clarified that it is a benchmark for large enterprises, but the real numbers that convert is the key rather than the percentage if the customers are SMBs.

Krish said that the choice between free trial vs freemium is loaded in favour of freemium. But what usually happens is that the free trial users pump up the numbers (the customer count) but largely the free trial customers don’t turn buyers. The truth is freemium works well but free trial also works. The real answer is it all depends on the product. What also works is adding a “powered by *product logo*.” This has worked WebEngage and Freshdesk. WebEngage had a “powered by *logo*” on its product design (for a cheaper priced version) so that it gets more prospects into the funnel. If the customer is not paying, at least he can be used as a channel for prospecting. Freshdesk used the “powered by *logo*” on all its customer support e-mails (which is actually generated by Freshdesk) sent by the free user in its forever free product.

Another important aspect touched upon was making the pricing transparent and known, especially if the target customers are SMBs in the case of self-servicing SaaS products. If the customer base is large enterprises, the price conversation can happen offline and it is not necessary to provide price information on the website.

Constantly evaluate your customers and look for influencers

When I entered the conversation, Pallav was focusing on why, how and what of the product. He defined customer cohorts as influencers, buyers and users. Pallav’s proposition was a lot deeper – a good product markets itself. But you also ask deeper questions – even the reason why you (your product) exist to answer the other defining aspects of why the product sells (Pallav’s recommendation: view Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle video on why, how, what). The why exists converts simply into what problem is the product solving. But identifying the customer is a continuous evaluation process. Only if you know why you exist can you target the most appropriate buyers for your product so that your solution is aligned to their needs. For targeting customers at the right time, you must understand the customer behaviour a bit deeply. Pallav gave examples of how customer habits can be known from data. His marketing pitch was a bit philosophical quoting Seth Godin, who said, “The valuable forms of marketing are consumed voluntarily” (read Three Changes of Marketing). The network effect is powerful, as Avilesh Singh of WebEngage explained using his product marketing strategy. He said how changing his focus from marketing execs to developers as customers reaped rich dividends.

But, beyond all this, remember the most essential aspect is the product itself, which should be flawless from the customer experience point of view. Then other aspects are built on top of it.

SaaSx3 is here!

It’s that time of the year when some of the most passionate founders of promising startups meet, connect, learn and engage.

It’s that time of the year, when the SaaS quotient of Chennai shoots up the sky.

SaaSx3 is back with a powerful line-up of sessions, and this time we head to the beach.

Saasx3Here are some of the interesting events you can look forward to at SaaSx3:

3 Playbook RoundTables with SaaS CEOs, a must attend session for new founders. This is one of the greatest ways to get some expert pearls of wisdom from some of the finest SaaS leaders.

Round Table #1 : Hands on Workshop on SaaS Metrics, hosted by: Suresh Sambandam, Founder & CEO KiSSFLOW
Round Table #2: Getting Marketing basics Right (for First Timers), Hosted by Pallav Nadhani of Founder/CEO of Fusioncharts
Round Table #3: Going from $1,000 to $100,000 MRR, Hosted by Krish Subramaniam, Co-Founder & CEO, ChargeBee
The One Thing series, a brainchild of SaaSx2 makes an appearance in this edition as well. Watch out as founders talk on the one thing that they would do all over again, the one thing that was the turning point in their startups’ growth, the One Thing that made a difference,

Product Tear Down is a one of a kind event which debuts on the SaaSx this year. A great opportunity for new startups to have their product analysed by an expert panel from various angles such as Opportunity, UI/UX, Funding etc.

Another session you can’t miss is the Inside Story is where Girish talks about how Freshdesk grew from $1m to $5m.

With a Startup Comedy event(yeah, startup) and some fun Networking Games, this edition of the SaaSx3 won’t disappoint.

And not to mention the dinner, drinks and networking.

So here’s the detailed agenda for the meticulous folks.

Register for a spot if you would like to be a part of this fun filled, unconference!

Nuts & Bolts of Marketing & Selling in US for First Timers: A crash course playbook!!

After releasing recently SoftALM and SoftAgile (Agile Project & ALM Tools), we at JamBuster were trying to decide on how to sell these tools in US.  We had sold software services in US earlier, but selling software product to US from India is new to us. So we were looking for some help!

They say- we start seeing things, when we start looking for them.  I noticed an email from Avinash Raghava, the co-founder of iSPIRT Foundation, about a PlayBook on Nuts & Bolts of Marketing & Selling in US for First Timers, in Hyderabad on 27th February. It was to be led by Suresh Sambandam of KiSSFLOW.

Playbook Roundtables are the small, intimate and intense experiential learning sessions that iSPIRT have pioneered.  Suresh is a iSPIRT maven, meaning trusted expert who pass knowledge to others in a pay-forward model. Suresh is a kind of celebrity in selling products or productize services in US from India! He led KiSSFLOW to have more than 10,000+ customers across the globe, in less than 3.5 years. That is absolutely phenomenal success in SaaS world, doing it from India!

Looking at these credentials, I registered for the event and got a quick reply from Chaitanya Chokkareddy of Ozonetel.  Ozonetel was to host the event. Ozonetel offers CloudAgent -a Cloud Call Center Solution that was already successful in India and was also starting on their US go-to-market strategy.  On Saturday morning I met with Vikas & Aditya from FirstHive, who have recently introduced a customer engagement SaaS offering.  I could see this was going to be informative.

Suresh’s presentation was logical, down to earth, like him. He started with timing or relevance of this phase (after Product-Market Fit), followed by knowing your customer through B2B Customers Characterization.  Next focus was on Product, inversion of selling model, freemium vs free trial, and the price.  This is then followed by digital marketing toolset, such as website, SEO, Adwords, Content writing and email marketing. Similarly, Suresh went through step by step in sales, founders and each and every aspect, as available on following presentation: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/ProductNation/nuts-and-bolts-of-marketing-selling-saas-products-to-us-customers-from-india-for-first-timers

Few quick take aways:

  1. SaaS is a tough business, even when done correct.That is evidenced from the fact that 1st $1MM in revenues is almost impossible, while first $10MM is improbable, but if you do pass $10MM, then $50MM is almost inevitable. Hence the lure.
  2. SaaS models lends itself to simpler applications and focus is on
    SOHO / VSB  : no touch
    SMB & Midmarket : low touch
    Enterprise : high touch
  3. For SaaS, traditional model of marketing, sales and products gets inverted. The marketing’s job is to bring horse to pond, the product is the water and sales is understanding what the horse did with water.

I think the success of Playbook was in small size (8-12 companies), along with focus on making it relevant to your business.  While some topics may feel dry on slide, Suresh made them very interactive by first sharing his experience and then asking participants to chip in their experience.  Suresh used these chip-in opportunities for people to get honest feedback. He suggested to Sainath Gupta of AnythingAI to who go through Product Market Fit analysis for his offerings of AI Platform along with Data Science Team as service. In our case, SaaS turns out to be not a path for now, as our solution focuses on end-to-end Agile Application Development platform for teams of 25-2500.

An interesting contribution here comes from Avinash Raghava, who is walking encyclopedia of Indian Software Product ecosystem, its history.  He is focussed on making this even successful from back end, but during the event, he is the source of amazing information on who’s who, what and when!

While registering, I had asked for payment getaway, Chaitanya mentioned that it was a free event. He was surprised that someone from Pune was traveling to Hyderabad for essentially a six hours long workshop.  For me the timing of it and Suresh’s experience was an immense draw.  Turned out the open discussion with fellow product or productize services companies on their way to sell in US and Suresh guiding with refreshing openness really made it icing on the top.

Thank you Suresh for sharing the blue print, that took you 1-2 years to discover through sheer hard work. Thank you Avinash for the event and the fellow product entrepreneurs for such a debates. Thank you iSPIRIT for building this wonderful ecosystem!

I highly recommend all entrepreneurs, whether you are about to or already started or even successful selling in US to attend this and other Playbook Roundtable. I thought these 6 hours saved me at least 100 hours of discovery work. Even more importantly, it is making Indian Product Ecosystem come alive!!!

Guest post by Satish Kamat, Jambuster Technologies

SaaS-y marketing with Nuns: How @ChargeBee used guerilla marketing to promote an unsexy B2B product.

This is the story of how we spiced up our marketing campaign, brought a lot of smiles and drew attention during the recent SaaStr Annual event.


The objective is to create the largest Enterprise Software company from India. This can be accomplished if top entrepreneurs can learn each other and then pass the learning to others.

When doing your job right involves going unnoticed, how do people find out about your product? Managing subscriptions and recurring billing for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies places us in this category. This is the story of our latest efforts to get the word out about Chargebee.

“This is a revolution, there will be a Before Chargebee (B.C.) and an After Disruption (A.D.), in the industry!”

“O.K. but how do we get people’s attention?”

“We play on the B.C. and A.D. theme; this is year 0 for subscription management.”

“O.K. but HOW do we get people’s attention?”

“Let’s have people dressed as evangelists hand-out flyers.”

“Why not sexy nuns?”

“Hmm, na, company image? We’re a billing company, we must stay somewhat serious. ”

“OK, regular nuns? Nuns handing out the 10 Commandments of SaaS?”

“Might work! But how do we go about it?”

Guerilla Marketing Nuns

SaaStr annual would be full of attendees from our target audience; it was approaching fast. We had just a couple weeks to write out the 10 Commandments of SaaS, get our design team to run its magic, print the mini tablets, and find the nuns!

On opening day, we were struck by divine luck, the SaaStr Annual was being held across the street from a Cathedral!! It was meant to be.

Our plan was to distribute the “10 Commandments of SaaS” as flyers. We included the hashtag #SaaS10 hoping this would become a little social media event. As it turned out, we were violating the event regulations by distributing marketing materials without sponsoring the event. We were gently warned by SaaStr folks to keep it out of the venue. In all fairness, they were right and we moved to corner of street to distribute.

But we then ran into another problem; the building’s agreement with the city forbids distribution of materials in front of the venue. We were however, told the sister could stand in the area in front of the conference entrance if we weren’t distributing anything. We had to regroup.

“Let’s print this tablet size?”

“You mean like the actual 10 Commandments?”

On the second day, the sisters were holding tablet sized commandments. And the result was surprising!

When the sisters had been trying to distribute flyers, people thought they were authentic nuns protesting the conference.

By having them hold big tablet sized SaaS Commandments, people realized this was just good fun, and started asking the nuns to take pictures with them. The social media fall-out was much stronger than the first day!

We brought a lot of smiles. More pictures and even more Tweets.

Plus we landed a 90 second interview. 🙂

Prior to the event we were a bit worried that doing something edgy to spread the word about us might affect our corporate image.

As it turns out, this had a hugely positive impact and we had a lot of fun doing it. Your smiles and pictures made us so happy! Thank You!

Here is a quick run-down of the operation :

  • $400 number of dollars spent for costume, printing.
  • A few hours of planning, design & execution.
  • Finding people for the sister act
  • 5000 SaaStr attendees.
  • 3-4 hours of exposure when most folks are walking in.
  • 2000 views. 100 likes. 25 retweets.

And the 10 Commandments :

Be My Valentine

Feeling the buzz from this event’s success, we had 24 hours to complete another marketing tactic if we were to be in time for Valentine’s Day.

Earlier in the month, we had decided we wanted to occupy mind-space. We decided to send a Valentine’s Day card (yes an actual paper card) to 200 start-up C.E.O.s, to grab their attention, and hopefully make them smile.

We created this :


We spent the better part of the afternoon stuffing envelopes, finding mailing addresses, licking stamps, and placing a heart sticker on the back so these wouldn’t be considered “junk mail”.

We managed to ship them all out in time….the only problem is that we have no way to trace the effectiveness of this method. No “open, click-through” stats for snail-mail.

Our next step is to reach out to the 200 people via an email about this blog post to see what the response is. Fingers crossed!

We’re happy to share our tactics but remember the 10th Commandment of SaaS : “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s growth hacks.” 😉

If you think managing recurring revenue, subscriptions and invoicing is a pain in the SaaS, let us help you

Starting-up ? Check out our Launch Plan !

SaaS Pricing and Value Metrics – Lessons from the Top Seeds

Two libraries. One charges you based on the number of books that you pick, while for the other, the rental period forms the basis of its prices.

Now, which one would you prefer to get your books from?

There’s no right or wrong answer in this scenario. What matters here is how you were able to make your choice, with a single criteria.

Both libraries cater to the same audience, with the same service, and the single element that tells them apart (besides their librarians’ temperaments) is their pricing strategy. And this one aspect is enough to determine if the libraries will make a fortune or fall headlong.

Your pricing model and strategy could make-or-break your SaaS business; apart from the tangible monetary consequences, it is one of those intangible yardsticks that have a major share of influence on your customer’s/prospect’s perception of your business.

An article published by the Harvard Business Review in 1992 states that a 1% improvement in pricing leads to a whopping 11.1% hike in the operating profit.

”..in SaaS, pricing is tightly coupled to the product itself, which is different from other types of software and non-tech products where the price is decoupled from the product.” – Lincoln Murphy, Customer Success Evangelist

It is that one thread that’s intertwined with every other facet of your business, right from the product, the marketing strategy, the sales strategy, to the company’s bottom line.

Many SaaS ventures who’ve acknowledged its worth have taken the reins to constantly innovate, experiment, and uncover the ideal pricing strategy for their business models. And among the many differentingredients that they employ in putting together a SaaS pricing model, is the “Value Metric”, which is also the protagonist of this post.

Why it’s worth talking about (and why you should keep reading further):

A value metric (also called a pricing dimension or a pricing axis) is basically the foundation of your pricing model – it is the metric depending on which you set your prices. In our earlier illustration of the two libraries, the number of books and the rental period are the metrics of the corresponding libraries.

Looks effortless, huh? There’s more to it than meets the eye.

The value metric literally decides your pricing strategy. It conveys the value each plan proposes to offer your customers, and gives them a valid reason to fork out money for your product. According to Patrick Campbell (the CEO and co-founder of Price Intelligently), the perfect metric should align with your customers’ needs, grow with them and be easy to wrap one’s mind around.

Select the wrong metric and you risk devaluing your offering. Opt for the right one – your customers would actually be happy to upgrade to the next level, as they understand the value that they’ll be receiving by doing so.

“If you are running a SaaS business (or any other kind of software business), it pays to spend some time thinking about your pricing axes. This represents one of the very powerful levers that are available to you to grow your business. (I am surprised by how often I find this has been ignored.)” – David Skok, five-time entrepreneur and General Partner at Matrix Partners

So let’s give this factor the importance that it deserves, and learn a few tricks from these SaaS guys who got it right.

Lesson 1- The Deceptively Simple Pricing Model:

Take a look at Hubspot’s pricing for instance.

They have segmented their plans according to the number of contacts – a deceptively simple move.

This is why. The metric they’ve resorted to is simple and straightforward – no ifs and buts; no little asterisk marks that point to a list of conditions. And yet, the way it works is nowhere close to simple.

Think about it – with its pricing, Hubspot brings more1 value to its customers (who are essentially marketers and salespeople – leads/contacts are the bread and butter for these folks) by letting them manage more contacts, and in the process, it gets a share of the value generated. Even if a customer doesn’t want to upgrade, their growth still benefits Hubspot through the overage charges (based on the extra contacts). In essence, this model allows for a smooth transition of customers from one pricing level to a higher one.

The customer receives value for what they’re paying, a value that the product had promised to give them in the first place. So for a customer, paying more translates to handling more contacts and making more conversions. Hubspot grows, as the customer’s business grows. A win-win!

Lesson 2 – The Aspirational Quotient and the Unambiguous Metric:

Here’s what Freshdesk’s pricing looks like:

Basically, they have a user-based pricing, “users” referring to customer support agents. And they start with a freemium tier, which encompasses almost all the basic features, but with a tiny tweak.

If you look closer, you’ll notice that the freemium plan limits the number of users to 3. This means that a customer who initially signs up for the free scheme would automatically be moved to a paid plan as soon as their user count goes beyond 3. A changeover that’s as smooth as silk.

Another point to make note of, is how they’ve infused an aspirational quotient in their pricing, so that a lower-tier user looks at the higher tiers with an “I want that!” gaze in their eyes.

Let’s say a startup founder signs up for the Sprout plan, a good place to begin with. Once their customer base starts to scale, they start receiving more support questions, and consequently their help desk requirements start increasing as well.

The first demand would obviously be to accommodate more than 3 support staffs. Apart from that, they would also realise the necessity of certain plan-exclusive features. For example the “Agent Collision Detection” feature (which shows a support agent if another agent is working on a ticket) plays a major role in avoiding embarrassment in front of your customers, and in turn improves the team’s efficiency. So in an effort to equip their customer support soldiers with the best possible ammo, the company automatically moves to the pricier plan.

As you can see, Freshdesk has worked out a simple approach to show the users what they’re missing out on and how they would be gaining more from an upgrade.

Another common value metric for customer support and help desk softwares is the number of support tickets. A customer would never be able to pinpoint the exact number of tickets that would be generated for a given period, and they wouldn’t really be pleased to pay for a metric that’s ambiguous.

The key is to have a pricing strategy that works in the interest of the customers as well as that of the business. Groove’s pricing experimentvalidates this fact. They initially grouped their pricing bundles based on the ticket count (with no limit on users), and it clearly didn’t turn out well. They finally settled with the simplest per user pricing model, and this time, they were right with their strategy.

“If our uniqueness comes from being the simplest, easiest app, then our pricing has to reflect that, too.” – Alex Turnbull, CEO & Founder of Groove

Lesson 3 – The Multi-dimensional pricing and the Choice Paradox:

A similar pattern can be found in the Electronic Signature Software segment as well. There’s Adobe’s eSign, where the pricing is hinged on the number of “seats”, or “users” in the common tongue.

Then there’s DocuSign, which bases its pricing bundles on the number of users and at the same time, restricts the number of documents for the two smaller plans. This way, the customer will move up the pricing ladder when the number of documents exceeds the specified limit. And that’s where the deceptively simple pricing comes into play.

Also, both of these pricing slabs have one other common characteristic: plan-specific features. What’s going on here, is that they’ve added another “dimension” or value metric to their pricing model. Freshdesk’s model belongs to this category as well – by making their plans both user and volume driven, they flaunt a multi-dimensional pricing model.

In a one-dimensional model, by focussing on a single dimension, you’re only narrowing your scope, rendering the other differentiating dimensions useless. In other words, you fail to unearth the full revenue potential of your product.

Chargebee’s earlier pricing model was established on just the number of invoices, with all the features available for all the plans. We then realised the flaw in our approach, and what we were losing out on because of this. Subsequently, we’re working on making certain prominent features exclusive for specific packages, and thus making our pricing model a multi-dimensional one.

A word of caution: Multi-dimensional pricing is good. But overdoing it and incorporating a lot of value metrics in your pricing strategy would only backfire, leading to a “Choice Paradox”, where the prospect gets too confused to decide. Use dimensions that are clear, concise and comprehensible, and know where to stop – keep in mind that the buyer’s decision process has to be as frictionless as possible. David Skok recommends a maximum of 3 pricing axes and suggests 2 axes to be the optimal choice.

Lesson 4 – A few other short pointers:

Among the umpteen slip-ups that companies make while arriving at a pricing strategy, is the fixing on the wrong metric(s); this is one error that could lead to critical damage. A research conducted by PWC showed that SaaS pricing leaders have two things in common when it came to their pricing strategy:

  • Their value metrics are derived from their customers’ perceptions
  • Their strategy is easily intelligible, measurable, and workable

In one of our previous posts, we delved deep into the enigmatic question of “What is the right approach to SaaS pricing?”, which led us to some rather interesting conclusions. This was one of them:

There are two interesting rules to SaaS pricing –

  • NEVER break your promises, stick to what you’ve committed.
  • No pricing strategy is perfect. Always be testing.

An inference from that second point right there – “There’s no one-size-fits-all pricing strategy”.

So there you have it.

Choose the metric that would mean something to your customers, and would justify the price that you’re charging them.

Choose the metric that is tied to the core value of your entire offering/promise.

Choose the metric that would set the scene for a win-win situation. Evaluate, rinse, repeat.

Maybe your best possible value metric (and pricing strategy) is just a turn away.

Guest Post by , ChargeBee

SaaSx Chennai Express – Board this Train Now!

I am Amit – running a SaaS venture Interview Mocha, a pre-employment skill testing company. In this blog I am sharing my learning from SaaSx and how it helped me achieve product-market fit and grow my company fast.

As they say, “a startup’s life is a roller coaster with ups and downs”, this ride has not been easy for me either. Just to talk in numbers, in the first 1.5 yrs of our existence, we were able to add only 22 customers and that too mostly from Pune, our home-ground. While in last 6 months, we have been able to add over 100 customers from 11 different countries. Needless to say – SaaSx has played a major role in helping us achieve this. Hence, I would like to share my journey and learnings from SaaSx with the larger community of SaaS people out there.

My SaaSx journey started when Prasanna advised me to visit SaaSx-1 in Chennai and Avinash was kind enough to allow me immediately. I had one more reason to visit Chennai – to meet Krish (my mentor).  I am happy to thank SaaSx, Prasanna Microsoft, Suresh  Kissflow, Krish ChargeBee and Girish Freshdesk who are constantly acting as a source of knowledge and guidance for me.

Interestingly, I found something common about all of them and you know what that something is…They are all from “SaaSx” and they are all from “Chennai” .

So now I can say that “SaaSx Chennai Express” is changing my (Interview Mocha) life completely and moreover this Chennai Express journey is a lot safer than Shahrukh Khan’s Chennai Express as there is no Tanghaballi (villain) here, only heroes :-)  and you still get your sweetheart Meenamma (Success).

Krish has helped us grow our daily leads from 2 to 10 leads a day. Suresh helped me multiply this number by his personal mentorship and playbook on Nuts and Bolts of Marketing & selling SaaS products to US customers from India for First Timers. Girish’s Talks always makes me think – how this poster boy of Indian SaaS knows all my key problems and their solutions. He narrates everything as if he is my personal mentor helping me sharpen my SaaS business skills.

So, here are the key takeaways, learning and some food for thought from my interactions with these SAAS champs:

1. Focus, Focus and Focus.

Focus on customer pain (mother-problem(s) you are solving that customers care about). Focus all your efforts to solve these problems the best way possible.

2. Your Product has to be Superb.

Customer success, Word of mouth and “Mouth of word” are the key for SaaS products and which is not possible without a superb product. Product is the core – keep it in mind.

3. Product Market Fit.

Your product needs to achieve a product market fit for adding customers quickly and scaling further. This is the first good thing that can happen to your start-up. Product/Market Fit is the degree to which a product satisfies a strong market demand. It has been identified as a first step to building a successful venture in which the company meets early adopters, gather feedback and gauges interest.

4. Cold Calling 2.0 doesn’t work.

Cold calling 2.0 won’t suit your economies for B2B companies with less than $ 2,000 annual revenue per customer. Though cold calling 2.0 is a great predictable way for pipeline generation, however it is not suitable to scale when you are charging very less annually.

5. Do not rely only on Email and Chat Support for closures.

Talk to signups/prospects over phone. We are 100% inbound till a person signs up. Talking to users helped us increase engagement with prospects and in turn more closures. Also, you get the insights that your sales team needs to understand.

6. Founders – Change the work timings if you are targeting US.

Analytics do help you understand customers but nothing better than talking to customer themselves. Quicker responses means more business.

7. SEO and Content Marketing are compulsory.

Content is King  & SEO is the way.  One or other traction methods may work, you can refer the list of all traction methods – google “Bullseye framework traction trumps everything”.

8. SaaS is Software as a Service.

Focus highly on support activities and customer success. Get immediate reply policy as a part of company’s DNA. Remember “Fast is Success”.

9. Understand behavior of SOHO, VSB and SMB for sure.

Each customer segment has its typicality and common needs. Understand their pain points, where they hang out over internet, how they buy, what makes them happy. Targeting big deals from enterprises in initial days may not happen. One funny thing, we have a few fortune 500 companies as our customers paying us $49 p.m. these are SaaS enterprises (business units) and not classic enterprises.

10. A/B testing is the way for SaaS companies.

What works and what works better – don’t assume much. Try A/B every now and then.

11. Tools help.

Start exploiting Mixpanel, Intercom, Moz etc.  being a SaaS player, trust and adopt SaaS.  These tools are helping us a lot in reaching, understanding and communicating with customers.

I consider the above points as extremely important for any SaaS business. I strongly recommend becoming a part of SaaSx community, if you are a SaaS startup in India. Chennai Express passengers/ drivers (Prasanna, Krish, Suresh, Girish, Avlesh, Paras, Avinash and many more) are easy to strike a conversation with, ask any question and receive immediate valuable responses.

Recently, I attended SaaSx-2 and acquired a new set of learnings. But I’ll wait to write on those learnings till I execute them successfully. And yes, looking forward to add 500 more customers before I board SaaSx-3 :-)

Thanks SaaSx Chennai Express. Wishing All the Best to all Indian SaaS Start-ups!

SaaSx2 – The Afterword

SaaSx2 just got over last week, and we’ve been talking to several people who attended about what they liked, what they didn’t, and what they might want more of when we plan SaaSx3.

We have the ratings from the attendees and also several testimonials that we pored through to get these up for you.

Fireside Chat 1 : Aneesh with Ahi & Asha Fireside Chat 2 : Girish with Sumanth Onething Series by Shekhar Kirani Unconference by Dorai Thodla Key Note by Hiten Shah Food and Venue
4.25 4.56 4.02 4.03 3.59 4.23

Positive: I thought it was one of the most relevant events for SaaS startups in India and probably the best one. It was unbelievable how experienced entrepreneurs and VCs were sharing everything from trade secrets to actual numbers. While the main event was great, I am a big fan of the RTs and the Funding RT was very very valuable. I can’t stress that enough. Looking forward to SaaSX3. I know it will be bigger but I hope iSpirt will be able to maintain the quality, personalization, and energy of the event. I found Shekhar Kirani, Karthik (Blume), Girish, Suresh, and Arvind’s inputs far far more valuable and actionable. No wonder iSpirt calls it ‘Playbook’. I think this is what differentiates iSpirt and SaaSX from the all noise on the web. Real SaaS insights for early stage startups. ~Gautam – Scanova

Excellent event. Very well laid out with something of companies at different stages of growth. Enough time and opportunity to engage, network and discuss with participants which often is not the case. Kudos to all experienced and matured entrepreneurs who were gave a very rare peek into their journey with concrete data. Already looking forward to next round of sassyness with more fellow entreprenuers ~Rohan – Evok Analytics

This was one of the best events orchestrated by iSpirt. 10x improvement over the last SaaSx which in itself was very good. Each event and the overall agenda seem to have been very well thought through and I am sure a lot of planning went into it. For me the best part of the agenda was the fireside chat with Girish – simply superb and thanks Girish, for sharing things so openly, things that you would have otherwise never shared. Kudos to the iSpirt team for putting together this very well curated event. Kudos to all the speakers and participants for their dedicated effort and time they put in and who genuinely seem to care about the product ecosystem in general and the SaaS one in particular ~Sanjay Shah – Zapty

A very good event with product centric crowd. The openness with which the speakers put forward their experiences and shared their knowledge was nothing short of exemplary. Great Event. Great People. Hoping for similar event in Bangalore! ~Rishav – RazorPay


SaaSx2 rocked :-)

I have read about startup founders who don’t (or stopped) attend events – justifiably so. In ecosystems where there is now an entire industry of events springing up (i.e. it feels to me that some people’s startup in itself is all about organizing events), it becomes very difficult to separate the wheat from the shaft. Overall, value gets diluted in a bid to make profit. SaaSx2 is in its own class by all standards, hey, not because profit wasn’t the motive, but purely because of the value delivered. I couldn’t have asked for more.


The journey to SaaSx2 started at the Microsoft Ventures office in Bangalore at around 5:16am. All roads lead to Chennai. For the first time, I decided to take a bus ride longer than 3 hours in India. I couldn’t look away from the opportunity to take a bus ride with fellow entrepreneurs. I thought it’ll be fun; and yeah, it was. To ensure we didn’t sleep, Prasanna of Microsoft Ventures made all of us do a quick introduction. All entrepreneurs got a chance to introduce themselves, their startup, why they launched, lessons learned so far and what they intend to learn at SaaSx2.IMG_20151007_160446

SaaSx2 exposed SaaS entrepreneurs to insights and strategies to capture several segments of the market. From targeting “Elephants” (i.e. big clients) to chasing “Rabbits” (small clients), SaaSx2 had all startups covered. You just have to pick the context that applies to you. From Aneesh’s (cofounder and CEO of Capillary Technologies) fire side chat to Girish’s (Founder and CEO of Freshdesk) session and then to Hiten Shah’s closing session, growth tips were just flying around everywhere in the hall. Badass all through. The panellists were real, the “one thing” sessions were direct and insightful. Emm, my secret admiration for the founder of FreshDesk, “Girish Mathrubootham” just rose to another level.


In a buzz word dominating industry, it’s easy to get swamp in grammar instead of reality. So, instead of just using those fancy words like “disrupt”, “pivot”, “grow”, each of the panellists actually went deeply into how to do all of those. From sharing real numbers to walking us through the journey, they couldn’t have delivered more value than that.

At the unconference, entrepreneurs shared some of the issues they have and asked the audience for help. Talk about entrepreneurs seeking help from fellow entrepreneurs.

No sycophancy. No bullshitting. No flattery. SaaSx2 had a floorless execution and is an example of how startup events should be. iSpirt has raised the bar. Beat yourself if you didn’t attend. Rice, Soup Very Plenty (RSVP) – Did I mention that food and beer was all in surplus? Ah, emm, thanks to FreshDesk for the dinner.


And thanks to the point man himself, the man who I think prefers to be at the background, Avinash Raghava :-).

Looking forward to SaaSx3.

Guest Post by Oluwatobi Soyombo, 1Plify

Three Things To Do Before You Launch Your SaaS Startup To Get InBound Leads

There are 3 items you should do quickly, if you are going to launch your SaaS startup or a new product that caters to a new audience.

First, get listed on SaaS marketplaces, Cloud Brokerage Services and Cloud listing providers.

There are over 120 SaaS marketplaces from telcos – AT&T,  T-Mobile and others, to large Cloud Service Providers (AWS, Google, Microsoft, etc.) and other large technology companies (Samsung, DELL, etc.) I would spend at least a few days making sure your SaaS solution gets listed in all these marketplaces under the right categories.

There are between 30 to 40 Cloud Brokerage Services, including Appia, App Carousel, AppDirect, Jamcracker, Appirio, Cloud Nation. Here is a more comprehensive list.

Then ensure that you list on Cloud listing providers such as Capterra, G2Crowd, GetApp, etc. Here is a comprehensive list of Cloud Listing Providers.

Second, focus on Marketplace Listing Optimization (MLO). Like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and App Store Optimization (ASO), MLO will help you rank higher, which drives leads.

How do you Optimize for marketplace listing: Get real customers to review your products, ensure that you are listed in the right categories, Use the right keywords in your description, show screen shots of your application and showcase a good video for demos. I will detail this more in tomorrow’s post.

Third, optimize your customer on-boarding process for these providers. Find out their rake, the incentive cut-off structure and renewal discount rate. Ensure that a customer coming from these solutions is able to be measured, can setup their account quickly and can easily get the first few “tasks”done on your platform.

The first 5 steps to building your own SaaS application

This post is for non developer founders who want to build a SaaS application.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a relatively small market – at $19 Billion in total revenues, it seems large, but compared to $250 Billion of the overall software market it seems minuscule. It has grown from nothing to this large number in the last 10 years. Similar to the eCommerce market, which seems large but is less than 15% of overall retail, the opportunities will start to be in the niches is my prediction.

The big question is when and how will it grow and where are the opportunities. While there are many specialist firms focusing on SaaS alone, the incumbent software companies (the largest of who are Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, etc.) are also making their own investments to move their businesses from selling licensed software to services.

One of the key opportunities I see is that ability for smaller, niche markets to be targeted using SaaS. Since the deployment model, time to value and cost are so much lower now than 10 years ago,  it is easy to build a niche product that can gain rapid fan following among the target customers and *if that customer base* does grow and end up having more budget it can be a lucrative market.

I do get the question often about the steps to build a SaaS business. Even if you dont intend to build a Venture funded business, the economics of SaaS are determined by cost of customer acquisition (CAC) and cost of servicing the customer (developing, operating and maintaining the software).

What I am increasingly starting to see is that most prototypes are either built by a developer founder, or outsourced (by a non technical founder) to “prove that the market exists“.

1. The first step I’d recommend before you start development, is to sign up 15-20 beta customers. Target people you know well who will stick through your crappy alpha, beta and version 1, so you can convince them that the value does exist when you iterate quickly.

For early beta customers, there are many techniques you can use including: a) setting up a launch page and promoting that launch page on social media b) setting up a launch page and buying Google adwords to drive signups and following up with signups via email c) blogging about the topic to share what you know about that market d) interviewing influential users before you launch or e) setup an email newsletter of great content for that industry and have many potential users subscribe to that newsletter.

2. The next step is to create an activity model and user flows.

This step is to ensure that you can know exactly what are the top 3 features you need to implement first which will make your product “must have” to solve the problem for your users.

In fact if you can identify the top feature (just one) that people will come back and use everyday, you should be good to go to the next step. Validate the top feature with your beta customer list, so you are building what they will use.

3. The next step is to create a mockup using wireframes. These are typically good to show the screens your user will go through and the experience as well. I would get a lot of feedback on the list of steps and screens before I build the prototype.

Typically in your first pass stick to under 7 screens would be my suggestion. That’s enough for a 45 second to 1 min “demo” and should give your users a feel for what the app will do. If they ask you for “one” feature that matters more to them than the ones you have, dont mock it up yet, but put it on your list until you have enough users interested.

4. Design your database schema. A database schema is good to share with your developers entities that exist in your application and what their relationship are. I tend to use DB Schema or just Freemind to show to fields without the datatypes.

5. Understand and select your “stack”. Even if you want to outsource your application development I’d recommend you talk to a few developer friends who can educate you on the stacks they use – what the front end languages and libraries would be, what the back end language would be and the database options. You will be more confident when you talk to your outsourcing company and also be able to help make tradeoffs when you need them.

Building Marketing & Sales Engine for Your Global B2B SaaS Product

Recently, India has seen many success stories of product startups in the SaaS category, which are building products for the global market. Here is what we did –

Suresh Sambandam, Founder and CEO of OrangeScape (the company behind KissFlow), in collaboration with the iSPIRT team, conducted the 49th #PlayBookRT on building SaaS products for the world. Sokrati (Pune) played a gracious host for this event, and saw around 14 product entrepreneurs from different cities.

Avinash Raghava introduced Suresh and the RT was kicked off with a round of introduction from all the participants.

Suresh laid out the purpose of the round table and defined the scope. This PlayBookRT was for the B2B SaaS startups with a product that has a global audience. These companies have achieved a product-market fit with a MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) in the range of $1K to $5K. These companies are looking to move the needle to $50K-$100K MRR. Essentially, early startups that are looking to grow at least 110x.

B2B customers need to be segmented with certain metrics. For KissFlow, the number of employees was a key metric to identify customer segments. The segments were –

  • SOHO (<10 employees),
  • Very Small Business (10-50),
  • SMB (50-500),
  • Mid-Market (500-5000) and
  • Enterprises (5000+)

Depending on your product, you may segment the customers by their revenues.

It is unlikely that your product will work across all segments as it is. The sweet spot for KissFlow is the SMB and Mid Market, as the value proposition is stronger for these customers. You have to pick your own sweet spot.

There was some discussion on why Enterprise segment is different from the others. There were multiple views on that. It was discussed that the marketing and sales processes are different for large customers. Their buying process is different too. They want “vendors” to come to them. Often, the product itself doesn’t work. Example – for KissFlow, Enterprise’s would need integration with their existing systems like SAP or Oracle. The SMB or Mid-Market customers do not have such requirements. For enterprises, you may have to package your product as a custom solution. Instead of the entire company, you may find it easier to get your product rolled out in a specific department.

The Mid-Market segment opens a big opportunity in US market. Typically, in the US, $5,000 is the approval limit in this segment. Most of the SaaS products fit in this limit. That makes decision making easier and fast. These companies are willing to spend money on products that help them compete with big guys.

2015-05-30 13.54.47

The discussion then moved on to the core elements of a successful SaaS business.

The role of the product in SaaS is very high. For enterprise products, the product comes at the end of the sales cycle. For SaaS products, the opposite is true. So, your product has to solve a problem.

While product is at the core of your business, marketing comes before the product. Your marketing communication needs to match the product promise.

Before accelerating your marketing, you need to decide on the product positioning. Your product is either a category creator, or provides a novel approach to an existing and well-understood category, or low cost alternative. Often, most of the SaaS businesses will fall in the second or third category. It’s also possible that product positioning could be mix of last two categories. The category creator products are hardest to pull off. The low-cost alternative need not be a low-priced alternative. Being in India, we can enjoy the advantage of low cost structures. Some companies do pass on the cost benefits to the customer via low price. While offering a low price option, it is important to ensure that you are not perceived as a low-quality option.

The next topic of discussion was offering a Freemium product vs Free trial. Often, for SaaS, this choice does not depend on the cost. The general consensus seemed to emerge that a free trial is the best option. Even if it doesn’t cost you much to offer part of the product for free, the effort to convert that free user to being a ‘paid’ user is high. Plus, when the user is ready to pay for the product, the user still may go out to look for other options. There are “free” products that make you pay with say a link to their website. This is not really free as your customers are paying with a different currency.

Like all discussions, this one too took a detour and we discussed about sales for the global customer base. To serve the US market, you need to have a night shift. For KissFlow, the newly signed up customer receives two emails – one automated and one personal email. The automated email is to schedule a demo of the product. KISSFlow has reduced the friction to sign up dramatically. You sign up with just an email. They have a team to find out information about that person based on the email address. All the new leads get assigned to the sales team automatically based on timezones and available bandwidth with the sales team. Each sales person handles about 200 leads per month with an annual contract value of less than $5,000.

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The next topic of discuss was pricing. People visit the homepage and then the ‘pricing’ page. They are qualifying themselves by looking at pricing. There are various ways to price your product. For the well-established category, competition will be a huge influencer in your pricing. You can also price your product based on value offered, though, you need to clearly demonstrate the value of the product. For KissFlow, the anchor was Google Apps. At the start, they focused on a niche of companies who have adopted Google Apps, which costs $5 per user per month. So, they picked the price of $3 per month.

For SaaS companies, raising the prices is usually not a problem. You can grandfather your existing customers who will continue to enjoy the same price, but the newer customers will pay a higher price. The real problem is lowering the prices, as it upsets existing customers. If your customers are not complaining about the prices, you are leaving money on the table and you should raise the price.

You should make users pay every month irrespective of their usage. You shouldn’t have to sell your product every month to the customers. That’s why your customers need to keep paying every month. Setting the expectations also ensures that customers are not thinking about pricing often.

Marketing was the next topic of discussion. Your website is a core marketing asset. You should avoid outsourcing the site development and have an in-house team for updating and maintaining the website.

Your home page should have a crisp headline with some value proposition. Jargon should be avoided. Make it easy for customers to understand and take a decision about your product. You should create a “customers” page for social proof. Highlight your major customers on this page. If you are running a blog, it will have visitors who are not aware about your product. You should create ads for your own product and run them on your blog.

You can use SEO and AdWords to bring the organic and paid traffic. SEO needs a lot of time to ramp up. So, start early with a dedicated team, even if it is a one-person team. AdWords needs a specialist to handle the paid traffic. Here, you can define your key metrics like costs per sign up. AdWords can deliver a sign up at $10-$25 for search and $2-$10 for display ads. These are only sign ups and not conversions. You need to measure conversion to paid subscription. That would be your true cost of customer acquisition.

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You need to have a responsive site as mobile traffic is growing. Even though most business users will sign up for your product with a desktop, they might discover your product on the mobile (maybe while reading a blog). They need to have a good experience when they are on mobile.

You can run re-marketing ads. This will provide you multiple opportunities to reach out to the user. Test out different messaging in the re-targeting. You can do smarter remarketing by finding the users’ point of interaction. For paid ads, start with only the US and then keep adding more countries depending on the quality of the traffic. There was a brief discussion on content marketing, focused on the disciplined approach to creating valuable content that will start delivering results over a period of time.

This was an excellent round table that covered most of the aspects of building SaaS products for the global market.

Contributed by Shashikant Kore, Co-founder of Karooya.

The 5 most important questions to ask before you price your SaaS product

Over the last few weeks I had a chance to review 89 of the companies to understand their free to paid conversion and also a chance to talk to 13 companies. What I learned was that time spent on the pricing page was a key indicator of conversion and you can A/B test your pricing page for colors, position of your highest and lowest prices, number of plans showed, feature listing and your call to action. The names of your pricing plan also has a significant signalling effect on your customer’s perception of your product. I believe the future of SaaS pricing will move from pay-per-usage to pay-for-outcomes.

The most frequent question I get asked about SaaS companies is how to think about pricing for the product. Here are some constructs to think about and 7 questions to ask before you come up with a pricing model or a price for your product.

1. Understanding your customers current solution and options and their “cost per unit of activity” is the most important thing you should do first. For e.g. if you sell a Sales force automation solution, the customer might be using an Excel spreadsheet to track their sales because they dont have too many opportunities. So in their minds the “cost per unit” is zero, since they have already “paid” for Excel.

2. SaaS pricing is a marketing function not finance or operations. If the team that determines the value of your offering to the customer is another them, then it is their responsibility. The reason for this is that value of your product determines how much you can charge, not what customers are willing to pay. Value cannot be determined as a absolute, only relative. Which is why you have to compare it to their current solution.

3. At the early stages (less than 50-100 customers) optimize for more customers and quicker sales cycles not for profit. To get data and buying patterns you need enough data and a meaningful sample size. When you go beyond the early customers, it is time to optimize for LTV and CAC.

Here are the top 7 questions to ask before you come up with a pricing model for your SaaS product.

1. What are the current options for your customer?

Find out how are they solving the problem your product addresses currently and how much does it cost them to do that.

2. What are the different segments of your customers?

Find out if there are different problems your product can solve and the value associated with those problems. That would be the best indicator of

3. What is your goal from your pricing?

It is not always obvious to say that your goal is to get the “most money” or to be the most expensive product. Some companies want to be the 80% functionality at 20% of the cost option. Determine your pricing goal – profitability (after customer acquisition costs), value creation, marketshare, etc.

4. What is your cost of customer acquisition?

For most parts, your cost of development tends to be fixed (if you hire 3 people, you have to pay their salaries regardless of how many features the ship), but the cost of customer acquisition tends to be a variable. So if your costs dont take CAC into account, you will have a model that wont be profitable.

5. What is your sales model?

Linking Sales and Pricing for SaaS

I usually use the price and complexity of sales / marketing on two axes to understand the sales strategy for a SaaS company.

If you are a company with a lower price point and low complexity of sales, you will have to rely on customers to try and buy (freemium) the product on their own and work on obtaining customers at a low cost.

If you are a very complex product or have a complex sales process and your product costs a lot, you will have to hire a field sales team to help you sell.

If however, your product is priced high and your complexity is low then you will build an inside (phone) sales team.

If you have a high complexity product and sales model and low price, your company will die.

Use this model to determine where you want to be and price the product appropriately.

SaaS Metrics for India B2B

When we started selling our Cloud telephony platform, we had very little idea of what metrics to concentrate on. So we just built the product and winged it 🙂

Now after 4 years, we have a pretty good command of what metrics to concentrate on. What works, what doesn’t. Which channels are better and which sales techniques work. We learnt this the hard way and by reading blogs by David Skok, Jason Lemkin and Tom Tunguz. They did provide some benchmarks to go on. But nothing specific to the circumstances in India.

Looking around, we realize that we are in a very special situation. Since we concentrated only on India for our product, we have SaaS revenue from only Indian customers. This gives a nice opportunity to start creating some benchmarks.

Unfortunately there are not many hard numbers out there which can help new India B2B SaaS companies. So in the interest of transparency, we are sharing the SaaS metrics for our Cloudagent product. Some important points:

  • Cloudagent is a contact center product. It is a high touch point product with a big sales cycle.
  • All revenues and numbers are based only on Indian customers. We are in fact one of the very few companies out there serving only Indian customers :). May not hold true this year though.
  • We are doing this as an experiment. Looking at how it goes, we will open up more and more of our numbers, similar to what Buffer did. So be good to us 🙂
  • None of the metrics are set in stone. This is what works for our business and we are all learning. Please comment here our mail me at [email protected] or follow me @nutanc on twitter. Would love to hear your thoughts.
  • We will be updating this page on the 10th of every month. So please check back in to see how our business is doing 🙂

Building a SaaS machine is hard. But once it starts rolling, it is almost like clockwork. The numbers presented are what helped us to fine tune our process. Looking at isolation, each number may not make sense. But the way they all interact to run the SaaS machine is what is most important.


Since a lot of people were asking for the base spreadsheet used to calculate these metrics, I have created a template in Google docs. Feel free to download and use it as you see fit. You can just modify the “blue” numbers with your own numbers and see your metrics. Base Spreadsheet