Why does your SaaS product exist?
No matter what industry your product serves, no matter how niche the market is—odds are it exists to be the solution to a problem your customers are facing.
At first, it’s easy for smaller SaaS businesses to give customers plenty of attention to ensure the problem is being solved. After all, you don’t have many customers, and you know they’ll only stick with you if you can keep them happy. But as you continue to sign more and more contracts, it becomes less feasible to give each one of them individual attention, and losing a few of them to churn becomes less scary.
It’s all too common for scaling businesses to develop tunnel vision, hyper-focusing on new growth and forgetting the initial ‘why’. After some time, the business may only be thinking about selling its product rather than continuing to solve its customers’ problems. That's not to say it's stopped caring—it's just lost sight of its original mission.
This might mean:
- allowing a leader’s personal preference to be the main driver of the vision for the product,
- overthinking or overdesigning features instead of releasing them when they’re ready, or
- focusing only on what can be done to bring in new revenue.
If this sounds like your SaaS business, don’t worry—you’re not alone. But getting back on that problem-solving path may require a company-wide shift of not only mindset but also internal processes.
I sat down with two successful SaaS leaders to get some of their best tips for making sure their products continue to solve their customers’ problems. Here are some of the points they had to share.
1. Don’t let revenue be your biggest priority
For Raza Hasan, President and CEO of TimeSolv, it’s really about making the customer number one—even over profit.
“I was listening to a Jeff Bezos interview from 2004 and one of his answers struck a big chord with me: ‘I'm here to focus on my customers’ needs. If I can solve their problems better than anybody else out there, I don't need to focus on my business model or profitability’,” Hasan shares.
He continues: “When a company has a purpose beyond making money, something noble the whole team believes in, then the whole team unites to accomplish that as the goal.”
Hasan is a big believer in that team mindset: employees working as one to solve a customer’s problem together. TimeSolv places a big importance on creating a culture that promotes working toward the bigger goal as a team.
He likens his business mentality to playing sports.
“When people are playing sports, they do it wholeheartedly. When the ball shows up, you dive for it. So, we run our business as this sports analogy—we’re a team with this goal of helping other people, and we're going to help each other out in order to help those other people.”
2. Make sure you’re really listening
Meanwhile, Todd Blankenbecler, President and CEO of EasyRx, has seen some other business leaders make the mistake of discounting customer feedback. He acknowledges taking feedback is not always easy, especially if the customer tells you something you don’t want to hear, but he asserts truly listening is the foundation for continued problem-solving.
“The hardest part sometimes is just to listen. If you pay attention, you can get a clear direction of where you need to take the development of your product to solve the problem of your prospect or customer,” says Blankenbecler.
He recommends getting out to industry events like conferences and trade shows. This opportunity to engage customers in an informal conversation about their work allows you to easily identify future problems that your product can help solve.
But to get the whole team in the habit of truly listening, Blankenbecler, too, believes it needs to become ingrained in the company culture. Employees need to be looking for any and every opportunity to listen to customers’ needs.
He explains: “From the CEO level, it starts with getting the message out to the team—it really needs to be a cultural thing. So when a sales rep is doing a demo, it's not just about showing up and presenting the software. They should be paying attention to the questions. Any question the prospect asks is an opportunity to probe more; they're trying to tell you something by asking you a question. This is also true for support techs, trainers, marketers, anyone who interacts with customers, really. It's vital to listen, listen, listen.”
3. Hire sales reps who really know what they’re talking about
For vertical SaaS businesses—software that solves niche problems in specific industries—it’s especially important to have a team of people who know the industry inside and out.
TimeSolv is an example of one such business: it provides a time tracking and billing software solution for attorneys and law firms. And, while any good sales representative could—and should—learn as much as possible about the challenges of their target market, it’s different from having firsthand knowledge.
And for Hasan, this is one key differentiator which allows TimeSolv to solve its customers’ problems better than any alternative platform out there.
“We don't hire salespeople who are just experts in selling. We hire people who are experts in how a law firm operates,” he says. “We’ve hired people who have worked at law firms for a number of years, specifically with regards to billing.”
Because TimeSolv’s sales representatives have experienced the problems that come with law firm billing themselves, they know the types of solutions that may or may not make sense for their customers. They’re able to take a more in-depth approach than someone who joined the company first and learned the industry later.
4. Small features can make a big impact
When designing a new problem-solving feature, it’s tempting to wait until it’s absolutely perfect before it sees the light of day. It’s easy to feel like you can’t effectively solve a problem with a half-baked solution.
But that’s not always true.
Many larger problems are made up of a combination of many micro-problems. Blankenbecler advises against allowing yourself to get too caught up in perfectionism or in the bigger picture—there can be immense value in solving the problem one step at a time.
“Don’t be afraid to make little iterations while you’re working on big new features,” he says.
If you’re working on a big feature to address a large-scale customer problem, but deployment is still some months away, take a look at what you’ve developed so far. Is there a component of that feature that's ready and could solve a micro-problem?
“Users may click on a particular screen 250 times a day,” says Blankenbecler. “If you can save a click or if you make a button bigger—sometimes we might want to skip over these simple changes because they're not the sexy new, big features, but little features can be powerful, too.”
Solving customers’ problems will help you gain long-term recurring revenue
If your business is too focused on, well, business, it might work to attract new customers for now. But if you’re not continuing to solve those customers’ problems, neither they nor their recurring revenue will stick around for the long term.
Both Hasan and Blankenbecler believe the problem-solving mindset needs to start at the top and make its way into the culture of the business.
So, once you’re able to make that shift, you’ll be delivering on the promise you made when your customers signed on with you. And, when you make customers happy by delivering on that promise, you could encourage them to spend up to 140% more—without even needing to make the revenue aspect your first priority.
But, of course, to have happy customers, you need to solve their problems.