SaaS (Software as a Service) is a model of software delivery that has evolved significantly over the past decade. Enterprises were quick to adopt the new technology to minimize the high aggregate cost associated with buying traditional software licenses. Not only businesses had to pay large sums of money to acquire software licenses, they also had to pay hefty annual maintenance fees. Every new version usually meant repeating the whole cycle all over again.
SaaS or subscription-based software model was introduced to replace the costly user licenses, just like iTunes and Netflix replaced the need for buying CDs and DVDs. We have reached a point where SaaS is no longer exclusive to big corporations and organizations, allowing SMBs to take advantage of advanced technologies without breaking the bank.
How SaaS Benefits SMBs?
The internet and advancements in technology have leveled the playing field. Cloud-based technologies are no longer reserved for big-budget corporations as small and medium businesses can now access the same technology at a fraction of the cost. There has never been a better time for SMBs to transform themselves into data-driven companies and meet ever changing customer expectations. SMBs can now use cloud-based technologies to their advantage in a number of ways including:
Improve Operational Efficiencies
Since SaaS apps are accessible from anywhere, they improve operational efficiencies by seamlessly integrating with business workflows. This helps streamline operations and boosts productivity. For example, instead of manually creating, printing and sending invoices, accountants can now carry out the same tasks in just a few clicks.
Meet Customer Expectations
Customers have come to expect a lot more than just quality and good customer services. They now seek personalized experiences and expect the brand to recognize their interests. Meeting such changing expectations is very difficult with traditional systems. SaaS solutions on the other hand help SMBs leverage their data and understand their customers in a better way. Analytics applications enable SMBs to learn more about customer behavior such as the sites they visit, the type of products they are interested in and their recent interactions with the brand.
Leverage Existing Data
Data is the king of the trade when it comes to acquiring new customers and retaining the existing base. Data analytics allows SMBs to stay ahead of the curve by anticipating customer expectations and tracking trends. Identifying new insights is extremely important but it doesn’t have to be too difficult. Being able to visualize your data is hugely helpful. So for example, if you map out your excel data, you can precisely determine where your customers are and how to best approach them. However, SMBs need to be crystal clear about their digital transformation objectives before building a digital strategy.
Better Customer Relationship Management
CRMs are no longer exclusive to big businesses and are now within budgets or SMBs. Large businesses used to have an upper hand due to use of technology, while SMBs lacked the resources to nurture and mature customer relationships. CRMs have become more affordable than ever and now cost as low as $25/month. This allows SMBs to expand and mature relationships and significantly improve lead volume and loyalty. Most CRMs also allow using 3rd-party plug-ins, which helps leverage existing IT investment and get more done with existing resources.
A Leveled Playing Field
The SaaS model has leveled the playing field and now SMBs don’t have to hold back due to budget constraints. This allows SMBs to compete with large businesses using technologies such as CRMs, business management, cloud security and analytics solutions. Things in the SaaS world are reasonably priced and you only have to pay for the services you use.
A growing number of software companies have shifted to the SaaS or subscription-based pricing model. A large ecosystem of cloud solution providers means better integration between different apps, allowing SMBs to get more done with fewer resources. SMBs being late comers have another advantage over big companies: they can avoid the mistakes early adopters have already made.
What to Look for in a SaaS Solution?
SMBs need to consider a few factors when selecting any SaaS solution, especially a CRM including:
Most SMBs are looking for cost-effective solutions that don’t break the budget. The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from. SMBs can get all the basic functionality at affordable price while skipping the advanced features that big enterprises need (and pay for). Some of the SaaS solutions are even available for free, but they are not recommended as they may cost a lot down the road.
Any SaaS solution should be easy to learn as it might not be possible for SMBs to arrange expensive training sessions for all users. SaaS solutions that require little to no IT expertise work best for SMBs who have limited resources and want to get started quickly.
There is no one-size-fits-all SaaS solution that can cater needs of all SMBs. SaaS solutions should offer adequate customization options, allowing SMBs to adopt the solution according to their own requirements and work environment.
Most SaaS solutions offer some degree of integration support, but the more the integration support the better. Integration with other solutions and tools allow SMBs to leverage their existing data and get better results without having to use multiple platforms to get the job done.
Since SMBs usually don’t have the kind if IT infrastructure and support staff big enterprises do, they need support to keep their systems up and running. Most SaaS solutions do come up with support, but it might be a good idea to consider opting for premium, round-the-clock support.
Most Popular SaaS Solutions for SMBs
SaaS accounting solutions help SMBs plan and execute accounting activities more efficiently, cut costs and report more accurately. Freshbooks is one of the easiest and most user-friendly accounting solutions designed keeping needs of small businesses in mind. It’s an AIO invoicing and accounting solution for small businesses and comes with powerful features that help automate tasks, including invoicing, expense management and time tracking.
Team members need to collaborate to stay on top of things. Collaboration solutions provide team members with the tools they need to effectively communicate, share documents, get assistance and approvals and stay on the same page throughout the project lifecycle. Monday.com allows small businesses to plan, organize and track everything using a visual collaborative space. It makes it easier to track performance and customize workflows without requiring the users to be IT experts.
BI (Business Intelligence)
BI solutions make it possible for SMBs to produce quality and actionable insights from their data. This helps them better understand customer expectations and how the business is performing. Solutions such as Sisense simplify business analytics and help small businesses innovate radically.
Marketing, Sales and CRM
Marketing solutions help SMBs expand their customer base through engaging marketing campaigns. Although different types of marketing solutions are available for meeting different objectives, most marketing solutions revolve around campaign management and include data collection, event scheduling, branding, lead nurturing, content distribution and conversion tools. HubSpot offers full stack Marketing, Sales and CRM solution that helps SMBs grow and make their marketing and sales workflows better.
Customer Feedback Management and Surveying
Customer feedback or CEM (Customer Experience Management) solutions help businesses organize and track all interactions, allowing them to optimize future interactions and offer personalized experiences. Up-to-date account and profile information and interaction data helps improves customer satisfaction. That’s possible when businesses have a tool to collect customer feedback and extract actionable insights from the collected data.
Solutions such as Yotpo allow SMBs to accelerate growth, increase sales and stand out on the social media and search engines. Survey solutions like Qualtrics Research Core make complex research simpler by allowing businesses to easily create and customize research projects.
CS is an integral part of customer-facing businesses and effectively managing the CS system can be a real challenge for budding businesses. CS support solutions make it easier for SMBs to address customer queries and complaints and respond in a timely manner. Freshdesk is among the most user-friendly and feature-packed CS support solutions that helps streamline customer conversations, automate repetitive tasks and collaborate more effectively. Small businesses on a tight budget can also opt for a live-chat solution like Freshchat, which features a bot to automatically qualify leads and upload them into the CRM.
In addition to Microsoft Office 365, SMBs also have the option of Google’s G Suite, which is an affordable solution that seamlessly integrates with all other G Apps. Microsoft Office 365 is built on its popular MS Office franchise for desktops, while Google takes a browser-centric and cloud-native approach. Google offers simple pricing models for small businesses and includes a variety of services in the G Suite, including office apps, email, voice/video conferencing, calendar, cloud storage and admin controls.
SMBs as well as their customers thrive when they are able to access cloud-based technologies at an affordable price. That’s why an increasing number of SMBs are turning to SaaS platforms to manage their operations more efficiently and meet the changing customer expectations.
A 2015 research study predicted that around 80 percent of US SMBs would adopt cloud-based technologies by 2020, while more than 2/3rd of SMBs are already using modern technologies for the backoffice work. The numbers clearly indicate that now is the best time for SMBs to start transforming themselves into data-driven businesses, gain significant productivity benefits and offer personalized customer experiences.