I spend about half my time working with SaaS companies and the other half working with Web 2.0 startups, and it disturbs me greatly when I see just how little interaction these two communities share. The two things that I see again and again that disturb me the most are a) most SaaS vendors are embarrasingly Web-unsavvy and b) most Web 2.0 vendors prefer to cobble together their own internal business systems out of open-source rather than sign up for really cheap, really good SaaS products and focus on their core business.
OK SaaS vendors, here is a Web-savvy self-test…
(questions in order of increasing difficulty)
a) Can your customers find you on the Web, learn about out on the Web, try you on the Web, and buy you on the Web without any help or physical intervention whatsover? I’m not saying you shouldn’t sell or offer help if it speeds up your pipeline; I’m asking if you didn’t offer help, can they can buy without it. If they can’t, you have inserted unnecessary offline obstacles into online your sales process.
b) All your qualified prospects are on the Web. Are you an expert at online marketing? Are you actively using your Web-based product to increase your organic Google juice? Or, simply paying for SEM. Do you have a real blog and social media strategy? Or, just a lame, uncomfortable attempt at a corporate blog.
c) Your benchmark for usability is not that client-server system you are displacing, it is eBay, Google and Facebook. Is your product so intutitive that traditional training isn’t necessary? Can users discover new capabilties as they go along? Are you creating entertaining, instructional video or just a boring help file to educate users?
d) Is your application Web-aware and cloud friendly? Do you have an open, standards-based approach to integration built on a simple Web services frameworks such as REST and JSON? Do you natively support RSS and widgets? Are you actively cultivating a developer community and crowdsourcing extensions and mashups?
e) Your customer’s customers are on the Web. Does your application reach out to them? Does your application enable more efficient communication and interaction between your customer’s employees and your customer’s customers. And, what about social interaction between customers? Or, are you just lowering TCO by duplicating the capabilities of some legacy client-server system with a browser interface and a multi-tenant database. Sorry salesforce…a truly breakthough idea…but it’s soooo 1996, today’s SaaS vendors can do a lot more.