SaaS Marketing

SaaS Marketing Tips | Don’t Be CRUD on the Cloud

In this post, I will offer up two SaaS marketing tips to help you achieve Do #3 Accelerate Organic Growth of the Top Ten Dos and Don’ts of SaaS Success where organic growth is defined as revenue generated with zero marginal acquisition cost. In other words, customer self-service. The first marketing tip is to map out the purchase experience from the customer’s point of view from beginning to end: awareness to trial to purchase to use. The second is to let go of any pre-conceptions you may have about the separateness of your SaaS product from other Internet content, yours or otherwise. It’s a mashup world! My reason for combining these two SaaS marketing tips into a single post is that much, if not most of your customers’ online experience related to your product happens outside your product, and even off your website.

SaaS Marketing Tip: Map Out the Purchase Process from Your Customer’s Point of View
In most online businesses, marketers focus on impressions, click-through rates, registrations and leads, while the sales team organizes itself around a pipeline. Each of these metrics provides an important snapshot at a particular stage in the customer lifecycle. However, functional divisions within the company often prevent a integrated view of the entire process. And, metrics are often seen as a measure of business efficiency as opposed to customer success, i.e., marketing converts a visitor to a registered user as opposed to a customer consciously decides that in order to get closer to solving a problem it is worth giving up personal information in exchange for the value received on the other side of the registration form. Create a table that depicts the detailed stages your customers go through before, during and after purchase with particular attention paid to their likely online location and intent at each stage. Then, map out the information they require to progress successfully to the next stage and get closer to achieving their intended goals. Finally, put in place metrics to track end-to-end progress that can be portrayed in a single, integrated view.

SaaS Marketing Tip: Create a Seamless Internet-Product Experience
At its core, the Internet doesn’t really care if you are distributing a Google Ad or an ERP application, it is all just information. In a sense, the same can be said for your customers. They are going about their business, looking for solutions to their problems, and they don’t really care if the answers come in the form of a tweet or a transaction. The imagined lines between content and application and between your website and the rest of the Internet do not exist. Your customers simply surf along, mostly for free, until they reach a point where it is worth their while to shell out something of value (i.e., time, personal information, cash, etc.) to get closer to a solution to the problem at hand. This dynamic is equally true for both B2C and B2B customers. It only varies by the types of problems being solved.

If you’ve done a good job of mapping out your customer’s purchase process, then the next step is to provide exactly the information they need to take each step where and when they need it. Understand that in the earliest stages of awareness, your customers’ goals may only be tangentially related to anything resembling your product and the content you must serve up must be directed at these goals, e.g., entertainment, exploration, general education, etc., and not the much later stage goal of buying your product. Think of your total solution as beginning with that first social media video through your core SaaS offering and onto your support portal. And, align your monetization with the value you deliver along the way, i.e., capture value for value created, where value is broadly defined as what you are demanding of your customers, whether it is time, information or money. Seen in this way, there is little difference between designing a social media video, a registration form, a free trial or a subscription plan. It all amounts to what your customer is willing to fork over for what you are delivering at that stage of the relationship.

Example: Don’t be CRUD on the Cloud
In this example I’m going to show what NOT to do in the hope that a depiction of the worst case scenario will provide as much enlightenment as a positive example.  I created the fun little animation above to help visualize the point.

CRUD is an old-school database acronym that stands for Create, Read, Update, and Delete. This term epitomizes the worst possible approach to SaaS user experience design, i.e., a technology-centric view where the application is completely isolated from the rest of the Internet. Or more plainly, an enterprise client-server application shoved through a browser. In the early days of software, databases  represented a huge leap in efficiency over paper records. But in today’s fast-moving, connected world it just doesn’t add enough value for the customer before, during or after purchase. And, isolation creates unnecessary adoption, training and integration costs. Follow the two SaaS marketing tips above and don’t let this happen to you!

The is the second post in the SaaS Marketing Tips series. Previous posts include the following:

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  • Oliver,

    You are 1000% correct! And, I’m glad you said it. I often tease my friends at salesforce about it. was born in 1999, so the question is can you get away with that today, or was it just a first mover advantage.



  • Wow Paul. When I started this blog, I promised myself I would never censor comments…no matter how unpleasant they may get. So….enjoy.

    The main point of the post is to focus on the customer experience first
    and the technology second, so as to avoid exposing the underlying database structure directly to the user as an isolated record keeping tool, as was so often the habit with client server apps and many SaaS apps today that are derived from them.

    As a marketing tip, it takes no stand on CRUD from an engineering point of view. Your points about CRUD being as basic as the data itself are self-evident as you…uh….clearly state. To be fair, I have edited the line “worst possible approach to SaaS application design” to read “worst possible approach to SaaS user experience design” Perhaps this is where the confusion lies.


  • yup, CRUD = Create, Read, Update, Delete. And it has its roots in data operations. I have news for you though. Nothing changes. Every computer app, whether its networked, peer to peer, database or iPhone local cache with sync, still is CRUD. I’m not sure what you are trying to point out. Except that you have little understanding of either enterprise or web applications software. Doesnt really matter if you are doing timecards, logistics, eCommerce shopping, or a mashup of BI reporting tools with excel, you are still doing CRUD. It is as fundamental as relational modeling. Even diehard object modelers end up doing relational implementations whether they realize it or not. They just get there by different roads. Such a waste of energy.
    Oh well.

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