Successful SaaS companies need a solid ecosystem to survive and thrive. We all have seen success of companies like SalesForce, and know that its not just the software but also the AppExchange, and the development ecosystem which drives the success.
Why traditional reselling model may not work for SaaS?
For several SaaS products, traditional reselling models do not work. That is because of the low monthly price of the software, and hence reselling commissions may not make economic sense. Further, the marketing & sales costs of a SaaS company are so high as a percent of revenues, that a whole range of traditional, global software distribution and reselling channel are unviable for several SaaS companies.
Then how can SaaS companies achieve scale through partnerships? Well, there are always strategic partnerships with complementary solutions. But can there be a sustainable, systematic process like the old traditional reselling/VAR partner model which will give more predictable and consistent results?
SaaS Ecosystem for Developers and Service Providers
The answer lies in building a developer and services ecosystem around your solution. Developers are important because they plug holes in your product for specific customers, which may not be economically viable for you to develop, or may be important to a small section of customers. Service Providers are important because your customer may not find enough time or expertise to use your software and maximize value.
There are other benefits of such an ecosystem:
- Increasing the value of your software to your customers, and hence increasing the lifetime value of the customer.
- Prospective customers will perceive your solution stronger with the ecosystem.
- Ecosystem is a natural brand builder as everyone who is part of the ecosystem is trying to make you successful!
Enabling Ecosystem for Developers
Create a marketplace where developers can create small, valuable solutions to your customers and make money. Facilitate the marketing and sale for those developers. Promote the marketplace and feature interesting solutions in your newsletters and web content. Invest in making the developers successful by providing developer friendly APIs (REST APIs are recommended), detailed documentation and sample code. Dedicate a blog to your developer ecosystem, where you share successes of other developer and even give them application ideas from what you hear from your customers!
Enabling Service Provider Ecosystem
Similarly, enable service providers that can configure, customize, extend, integrate your software, or even use the software in an optimal way to join the ecosystem. Provide best practices and training material to the service providers so that they are successful.
Investing in developing a strong ecosystem is critical to SaaS Marketing Strategy. It will not only increase your lifetime revenues from your customers, but also accelerate sales.