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by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

B2B Freemium: Benchmarks & Key Questions

Recently, I had a dialogue with a colleague in Silicon Valley who asked me about my experiences with B2B Freemiums as she thought through new distribution models for her product.  It made me reflect for a moment about some of my more recent experiences about giving away an aspect of my product in the hope of getting more revenue.

Let’s assume we can tie the Freemium to actual revenue production – meaning the systems are built to track and trend that soon to be customer activity from download of software to close of revenue.  With no systems in place, you may as well nix a Freemium strategy in terms of measuring its success!

In my experience, a large majority of my inbound unqualified inquiries (meaning people with interest in my product offer) came from the Freemium offer, although the product offer itself had more B2C characteristics than a traditional B2B sale.  My conversion rate was in line with industry rates that appear to range from 1% to 13% depending on the source.  Here are 5 examples I dug up that could be considered a B2B benchmark for Freemiums:

  • Evernote 5.6% conversion rate on their two year user cohort, but note that the conversion rate on new users is much lower, likely SMB or consumer users.
  • Logmein 3.8% conversion rate, likely SMB users.
  • Heroku 1-2% ratio of paid-to-free users when it was about 50,000 apps in size
  • MailChimp –13% of users paying.  Having competed against MailChimp, their users are likely SMB and consumers.

So let’s say you had 2,000 inquiries/month, of which 2.5% used a Freemium at an average sales price of $10k/month – $500k/month revenue = $6M/yr on a very reduced customer acquisition cost if customers are able to buy via the web.

So that’s pure math…but let’s ask 4 key questions as you develop your B2B Freemium strategy:

1.  Will your buying entity see value in a freemium?

Companies are not as price sensitive as individuals. How large is your average selling price and your buying entity?  In the examples above, I do not have clear average revenue metrics, but by experience, an upper limit of value was in the $30k/yr range or lower – which may be in line with many cloud based applications.

2.  Can you get away with low acquisition and support costs?  Meaning, no support!

3.  Can you use the freemium as a low cost inquiry or cost of acquisition vs. traditional means?  If one were to look at customer acquisition costs, sales cold calling is very expensive/ineffective, targeted marketing less expensive, freemium is the least expensive.

4.   Companies do not virally spread a freemium offering and word of mouth is key.  How will you get others to talk about your freemium outside your community?  Freemium is all about scale, so you’ll need to assess the potential customer segment size for such an offer.

I think it is definitely worth testing the Freemium concept in a B2B environment.

What has your B2B Freemium experience been?

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

4 Steps to help Sales work Marketing Leads to DRIVE REVENUE!

I recently met with a Field Marketing leader for a successful B2B company recently and she had echoed a similar concern that is common in our industry  –  her concern was as follows:

“The marketing leads we give to sales aren’t being worked by sales, so it’s difficult to justify the marketing investment when the marketing leads aren’t closing or being worked.”

Here are 4 points to consider when trying to address the situation she faces – to net it out, it’s ACCOUNTABILITY:

1.       Inspect the lead definitions in the company by segment, by region, and by channel to make sure a qualified marketing lead is indeed qualified from a salesperson’s viewpoint.  It’s imperative marketing understands how sales qualifies and defines their own leads (not inquiries) as a starting point – what definitions they use, how they establish a need – with that definition in hand, it should MATCH what the marketing inside sales team has as a definition.  An outside, independent audit is helpful as it removes any sales/marketing tension with a disinterested 3rd party;  if that is not feasible, doing it directly from marketing to sales is the next best alternative.

2.       Establish a service level agreement with the head of sales on sales ACCEPTED leads (not sales qualified) AND  incent the inside sales team on sales ACCEPTED leads.   This is tricky – most heads of sales would want to know what to expect or count on from marketing as it makes their job easier.  The tricky part is that not all heads of sales understand the need or what an SLA is – particularly sales 1.0 executives.  So there may be significant internal selling on this point not to overlook!

3.       Establish metrics on a per rep basis –  THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP – specifically measure  on a per sales rep basis the quantity of leads that marketing sources, the quantity of leads that sales sources, the close rates and close TIMING for each sourcing category.  With this quantitative information in hand, a more mature discussion can be held with the sales leadership as to what is actually happening with marketing qualified leads.  Your marketing automation platform or Salesforce.com should help with this measuring.  One intangible point here – this data will force conversations, so treat the discussions with the heads of sales respectfully, not as a hammer.  The objective is to improve or close gaps on business challenge areas, not to hammer reps for how you might think of their performance!

4.       Benchmark similar sized company performance so expectations are set at the executive level.  At a tactical level, there is a great alignment opportunity between the head of sales and head of marketing in this scenario that she poses.  In other SaaS environments, according to SiriusDecisions and Marketo, I’ve seen upward to 60% of closed revenue sourced by marketing (note a more typical average for B2B SaaS is in the 18% to 33% range with Marketo pushing the envelope at 60%+).   The head of sales should want to know what marketing’s funnel is as it is less the head of sales team needs to do revenue wise at days end.  The board of directors will also want to know what marketing’s contribution is to revenue.

This lady was impressive, she had all the right business instincts identifying the challenge and just needed a bit more push as what to do next.  What do you find works for you?  Would love to hear a sales person’s perspective!

by Jon Russo Jon Russo No Comments

SaaS: Customer Retention is EVERYTHING!

SaaS – software as a service is a business model that was pioneered in the early 2000s to eliminate the costly software license model.  There are now a handful of global public company comparables with metrics that are published on the performance of these SaaS companies (Salesforce.com, Successfactors) and emerging fast growing companies (Appsense, Eloqua, Marketo, and Qualys to name a few).

An attribute to the SaaS business model is recurring revenue with shorter duration contracts, with resign upsell opportunities that typically range from 0-20% of the annual value.   With shorter duration contracts than that of a typical software license sale, retention of customers in a SaaS model becomes CRITICAL for the organization to make it’s overall annual revenue number.

Here are 5 techniques that I’ve used to help aid in retaining SaaS based customers:

  • Formal interviews with exited customers:  to be done by an external 3rd party to eliminate any survey bias and to get accurate information, you’ll be amazed at what your former customers will say about the onboarding process, their interactions, and the touchpoints they have with the organization.  This will also give a roadmap to win back their business.  I’ve used Primary Intelligence in the past with success.
  • Implement Net Promoter Score with existing customers:   to test periodically how customers see progress in your service offering or where the pain points lie on your customer service side.  This is typically done with larger, global enterprise B2B SaaS companies.  There are newer, more cost effective companies emerging to help smaller SaaS companies to run similar surveys.
  • Study and understand the compensation scheme for how your sales organization gets compensated on new and retention business.  A compensation model that is effective is how Gartner Group compensates their reps on new business and retention business (NACV model is what they call it – ask your rep, he or she will know all about it!)
  • Bundle and drive new feature/functionality around the resign period.  This bundling is key to drive price increases, I’ve had instances of other SaaS companies approaching me for annual renewal increases ‘just because’.  That line of reasoning is difficult to justify!
  • Involve your customers in global customer advisory boards so they can help shape product direction.  Engage your customers in regular field communication via newsletters AND LinkedIn (and opt-in customer forum), thus keeping them in constant contact with new developments on your product so they are always informed and never surprised.

What do you find that works for your organization’s customer retention efforts?