How to increase conversions in a SaaS application (part 2)

In the previous post, I started the discussion of how SaaS vendors can increase their conversion ratios, defined as:
[Customers that adopted the product] / [Total Prospects]

In this post I shall continue with some more techniques that I have spotted in several products of the global market:

  • Demo account with preloaded data: No matter how good your web site presentation is and how explanatory the product videos are, there is nothing better than giving prospects the opportunity to use the software before they actually buy it. That way, they can see hands-on not what the vendor selected to show them (which are obviously the best parts of their product) but what they are supposed to be doing in their day to day operations. They will have the opportunity to make transactions like they would in real life and actually decide for themselves if this product is better than what they already have or the rest of the competition. Of course, it is crucial that your demo account has access to a meaningful, yet quite generic business model that most of the prospects can understand (even if it is not directly connected with their specific business line). Also, that demo account/system should be frequently updated with new releases and features that you add to your main offering. If that demo environment stays “still”, it is as good as dead. You have to make sure that your product evolution is directly demonstrated in your demo environment. Sure, that is an overhead for your sales team (updating and keeping it up to date) but that’s just the price that you have to pay.

  • Explanatory, contextual help: It is probably not enough to have a demo account in place. If your app has to do with fairly complex business transactions, it may not be so evident how it processes or integrates or implements them (e.g. how do you record a sales lead in a billing system and then convert it to an order and finally how do you create the actual invoice and dispatch the goods, etc.). Having on-line contextual help text, inside your app will help increase the visitor’s first understanding of the product and avoid being “overwhelmed” (which can lead to quitting the app). You can do this inside the application, or you can deploy third-party software to do that for you: Integrating a widget on your web system, can give you the possibility to add contextual help text and other material in each page, separately.

  • Active presence in social media: A SaaS app is by definition a web app. With the booming of social media, more and more applications come “closer” to a social-like style of user interface (Salesforce CRM is good example of this). On the other hand, social media gain more users every day and there doesn’t seem to be an end in this trend. Therefore, the vendor of the SaaS app, should also have a strong social media presence. There are several examples of how social media are used not only to “transmit” sales messages but also keep the users informed of new developments, give a heads-up for scheduled down-times, provide on-line support and building a sense of “community” around the users of the application. I regularly follow @Xero, because I think they are doing a good job at this level and I, too, get some lessons from them; but there are other examples, too.

  • Proof of frequent software updates: An application is only as good as the evolution that it enjoys from its maker. There is no doubt that software bugs exist and (annoying as it may be) we all have to live with them. The question is how quickly a bug is resolved. Apart from bugs, there is also the question of functionality enhancements and new features. In all cases, the prospect must be convinced that software updates happen often enough and for that you’d better be in a position to provide proof. Here are some thoughts: a) You can maintain a “new releases” and/or “issues resolved” blog. b) When you deploy a major release, you probably issue some “release notes”. Keep them public in a blog or a special page of the product web site. c) Use social media to transmit such information, too.

  • Self sign-up feature: After all that “trouble” (!) that the prospect went in, they may be quite ready to buy your solution. You need to be ready to get the customer “right then and there”, while they are hot. If your sales process involves a pre-sales contact through a sales representative, discussion about the SLA that you can offer etc., then you may not be able to exploit the “inertia” that the prospect has gotten while browsing and testing your solution, on-line. For that reason, you need to have in place a “self sign-up” feature where the prospect will be able to activate an account, instantly. Whether you will ask for a credit card deposit, immediately or after a period of time is another story.

    This and the previous post were aiming to show ways that potentially increase the possibilities of a prospect adopting your solution. After that, there is the question of how do you keep these customers; how do you minimize customer churn rates. That is an issue that I will deal with in a next post.
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