Posts Tagged ‘saas’

Clinching the SaaS Customer Upgrade

Monday, July 25th, 2016


How many customers does your SaaS have lingering on a freemium product tier? How many trial customers simply never upgrade and go to a paid service?

For every SaaS, clinching the customer upgrade is of utmost importance. It’s about boosting the lifetime value of the customer for your company, as well as hopefully generating loyal users who are advocates for your brand.

We’ve touched on strategies for getting customers to upgrade before, but this time around we want to look at a few extra ideas, such as how getting inside your customer’s head can help you make the sale…

How can SaaS clinch customer upgrades? Grab our checklist here.

Psychology of the Sell

It doesn’t hurt to understand a bit about what goes on inside a customer’s head when it comes to clinching a sale.

ConversionXL published a great piece recently about psychology and lead nurturing. The law of reciprocity was one thing discussed. Quite simply this means that the more you give, the more you are likely to get in return because people like to return the favor. As they state, this is a powerful strategy and should be deeply ingrained into any lead nurturing program.


Source: Content Propulsion

Practically speaking for SaaS, giving might look like all of those tips you provide in your lead nurturing campaigns to help customers achieve success. Look to deliver unique value, something through which a customer could really see results.

How does this relate to clinching upgrades? Reciprocity again. If the customer sees great results from the information or tips you gave them, they’re more likely to want to pay you back by upgrading.


This is another psychological principle outlined in the ConversionXL piece: when we need to make a choice about some product or service, we will usually pick the one we’ve been consciously or subconsciously exposed to the most. Humans favor the familiar.

This proves the importance of those emails you’re regularly sending out, the social media posts and the paid advertising. You can’t afford to take your foot off the gas once a customer signs up because you need to be ensuring that you’re still featuring often in their minds.

Lifecycle Emails

“Lifecycle emails” simply means sending the right email to the right customer at the right time. In terms of clinching customer upgrades, this means being on top of where customers are at with their free trial and which milestones they have or haven’t achieved. (Note: this could also be known as a “behavioral email”, though Totango treats them differently in the image below).

It will be difficult to convince a customer that they should upgrade to the next tier if they’re seeming to struggle with the free trial. Activation is the goal of SaaS here and this means that the customer has taken critical steps or used crucial features to the point where they are realizing value from the product.

If you know when customers haven’t achieved those milestones, this is where lifecycle emails come into play. Not sure how to place the code on your website? Here’s a quick guide. Need to know how to set up a new product? Follow these steps.

Of course the other side of lifecycle emails is getting in when the customer has achieved milestones and seen results. What’s next? Did you know that when you upgrade, you can access (X features and how they help)?


Source: Totango

Use Promotions or Not?

Whether or not to use promotions to encourage upgrades is often debated among SaaS experts. On the one hand, people worry about devaluing the product or having people sign up simply because it’s on promotion, on the other hand, a well-run promotion can help draw a large number of upgrades.

If you’re going to do it, we suggest being very targeted about how you go about it. It would be easy to blast a promotion all over social media then have all-comers sign up, but you probably won’t get the numbers sticking around which you aim to have in the first place.

A more effective way of using promotions can be to segment your current audience based on their activities and make an offer only where it is relevant. For example, you might offer freemium customers who use your product at least twice per week a free one month upgrade to test out additional features. This way, you’re only targeting people for whom your promotion will have relevance.

Reach Out in Person

Many SaaS are reluctant to pick up the phone. You’re busy with a dozen different things in your business and the online nature of SaaS can push more old-fashioned methods further out of mind.

When you think about the standard kind of SaaS onboarding process, it tends to be very low-touch, especially in lower-priced SaaS who are not necessarily targeting an enterprise market. Often the process goes something like: customer signs up to free trial or freemium tier after finding your SaaS through some kind of online marketing, customer receives a few emails telling them how to use the product or giving success tips, trial period ends, customer either signs on or leaves.

It absolutely makes sense to have a process like this because that’s how you get to scale a SaaS, but if you don’t talk to people, how do you know what they’re really thinking or feeling about your product? The advantage of picking up the phone, even for just a sample of your clients is that you get actual immediate feedback. The customer may be more inclined to provide extra feedback which they might not if they’re filling out a survey or typing up comments.

Talking to your customers over the phone is also a good way to build relationships and increase trust. You’re putting an actual concerned voice behind your SaaS and are there to listen to the customer. You get to address any concerns they have and can more easily speak to the advantages of upgrading by relating directly to the customer’s own situation.

Value is Number One

The twenty extra features you provide with an upgrade might seem like good value to you when you consider your development costs, but that does not mean they will equate to value for your customers.

Value is rooted in customer success and may look slightly different for any given customer. The savvy SaaS stays in tune with customer sentiment and understands exactly what their clients are looking for in terms of value. They’re not going to upgrade for the extra twenty features, it’s more likely that they will upgrade for that one feature which signifies value to them because it makes something significantly easier in their lives.

This is where taking the time to reach out in person can yield very useful information. Are there any common themes coming out across your customer base? In a Price Intelligently study for example, they found that the model of allowing extra users on an upgrade is rarely perceived to be where value is found for users. What do users care about instead? Generally measures that impact their bottom line or ability to accurately measure, such as new contacts, extra sales or reporting functions.

For most SaaS, if you build a model based on upgrading for extra users, there is a natural ceiling in terms of number of upgrades that you get. Say your SaaS product is a reporting or analytics tool, how many people in one company realistically need to use it? This is definitely something to consider when creating your pricing tiers.

How can SaaS clinch customer upgrades? Grab our checklist here.

Final Thoughts

There’s no way around it, clinching customer upgrades means a lot of work for SaaS in terms of following through with effective lead nurturing strategies.

The psychology of getting the sale really underpins everything that you do in the pursuit of customer upgrades. Making sure you have sufficient exposure and deliver value with timely lead nurturing efforts is key.

How does your SaaS ensure sign-ups are realizing value?

Product/Market Fit for SaaS

Monday, July 11th, 2016


Most SaaS spend quite a lot of time agonizing over product/market fit. It’s not surprising really, we all know it’s important, yet everyone has their own opinion on what exactly it is and when it has or hasn’t been reached.

Are you a premature self-declarer of product/market fit? There are some commentators (and yes, they have some evidence of this) who claim that this is a rife condition among SaaS. We all know what happens when you’re prematureyou don’t reach the goals you’re really meaning to hit when it comes to growth.

Marc Andreessen is the guy largely credited with posing the term “product/market fit.” His definition: “Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.”

The three main components which fall into the equation for any SaaS are their team, their product and their market. If you agree with Andreessen, market will always win. For example, a terrible team can still do well in a buoyant market, an excellent team with a top product which has no demand in the marketplace will fail, while good teams with an amazing product who have nailed a market demand will do extraordinarily well.

Everyone has an opinion, so let’s look at a few prominent ideas on product/market fit.

Ben Horowitz – Myths of Product Market Fit


Ben Horowitz – Source:

Ben Horowitz is of course a partner and co-founder of the Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm, along with Marc Andreessen. Together they also founded the hugely successful Loudcloud and Opsware, both of which were sold for large sums of money. So, you know, Ben brings solid experience to any discussion about SaaS and product/market fit.

The “myths” we’re talking about here were actually from an excellent article he wrote back in 2010 to debunk some of the popular notions of product/market fit. Largely, what he’s saying is that a popular view of “find product/market fit then raise a stack of cash to build a big company” is often not that simple, even if it would be nice!

What simple tools can you use to test SaaS concepts? Grab our free guide here!

Here’s why:

Product/market fit is often not one big event

There is such a thing as getting only a partial fit and perhaps getting to a more complete fit in stages:

“By the time it got acquired, Opware had achieved product market fit for a category of software called data center automation.But it wasn’t at all obvious that was going to be our destination while we were getting there. We actually achieved product market fit in a number of smaller


We’ve known dozens of other SaaS with similar stories, where they’ve had to “tweak” to find an overall fit as they went along.

Briefly, here are Horowitz’s other three product/market fit myths:

  • “It’s obvious when you have product market fit.” What measure do you use? How do you know? It’s not obvious for most.
  • “Once you achieve product/market fit, you can’t lose it.” Not true and Horowitz experienced this with changes in the cloud services market.
  • “Once you have product/market fit, you don’t have to sweat the competition.” Hey, some of the best markets to be in are the hottest for competition. You’re always going to have to be on your toes.

Product/market fit might happen in a nice tidy line for some SaaS, but for many it is not linear at all. Sometimes it happens in a more circular fashion as SaaS discover that true market fit as they go along.

At the same time, you’re always going to have to be monitoring the market and your competitors. Things can change in the world of technology in a heartbeat, so a good fit today doesn’t mean that won’t change next month!

What If You Don’t Get It Right the First Time?

Many SaaS don’t get product/market fit right straight out of the gate. Joel York suggests adopting “try, try again” as a motto in this instance, though of course you may need to rustle up another funding round.

You don’t want to be in this situation as outlined by Marc Andreessen:

“…you see a surprising number of really well-run startups that have all aspects of operations completely buttoned down, HR policies in place, great sales model, thoroughly thought-through marketing plan, great interview processes, outstanding catered food, 30″ monitors for all the programmers, top tier VCs on the board — heading straight off a cliff due to not ever finding product/market fit.”

There’s often a lot on the line for a SaaS, so if you haven’t quite got product/market fit right, systematically try things based on better customer alignment is a good way to get closer to your fit. As Joel York says:

“In other words, you need to create a continuous loop of SaaS customer feedback and SaaS product development that increases product-market fit on each iteration: listen, build, deliver…listen, build, deliver…try, try, try, again.”


How Do You Know You Have It?

Brad Feld posed some interesting points in his article “The Illusion of Product/Market Fit For SaaS Companies” last year. In his experience, many SaaS are prematurely declaring that they have product/market fit without really having a clear science around the concept.

It’s definitely a buzzword term which gets tossed around Silicon Valley boardrooms a lot, though Feld argues that what many perceive to be product/market fit is merely the illusion of it.

He proposes a hypothesis of product/market fit based upon MRR (monthly recurring revenue), which builds upon the myths identified by Horowitz. See what you thinkwould you agree with these parameters?

$0 MRR: You have no product/market fit. Can’t argue with that!

$1 to $10k MRR: You have the illusion of product/market fit. Someone is paying you for your product but Feld proposes that this level is a long way from true product/market fit. This is where you should keep going with you customer feedback loop and systematically testing.

$10k – $100k MRR: This is the point where raising a series A isn’t so difficult. Feld does warn that if you’re not growing at 10% per month compounded, you haven’t quite got it right just yet.

$100k – $500k MRR: Sweet! However, don’t think you’ve nailed it just yet. According to Feld this is where you can be in danger of thinking you can’t lose product/market fit (myth #3), whereas you could just be one bad sales hire away from doing damage.

$500k – $1 million MRR: Eureka! You have product/market fit, though you are never out of the woods as far as maintaining it. Keep an eye on your growth rates, changes in the market and what your competitors are doing. If you are at this level, there will always be someone else gunning for you.

Feld describes the search for product/market fit as a never-ending quest. Every time you put work into developing a new feature, you are searching to remain relevant, to build that incremental product/market fit.

In other words, like any other business, SaaS cannot afford to rest comfortably, secure in the knowledge that their product/market fit is stable. Remember what happened to American railroad companies in the early 20th century?

It was the classic case of believing that they were in the “railroad business”, therefore automobiles were not a threat. The thing was, really they were in the “transportation business” and developments such as trucks for moving freight and cars that were not stuck to set tracks sent many of them bankrupt. Always be monitoring and innovating!

What simple tools can you use to test SaaS concepts? Grab our free guide here!

Final Thoughts

Ok, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to product/market fit. Those who don’t recognize that perhaps they’ve declared product/market fit too early or only have the illusion of it, can be in danger of a severe wake-up call.

Product/market fit is almost never a linear process; SaaS need to have strong customer feedback loops and be able to systematically test features to reach that fit.

Even if you’ve reached the heights of $500k+ MRR, that’s not a sign to sit back. Keep monitoring the market and your competitors so you don’t go the way of the railroad companies!

How SaaS Should Manage Dunning

Monday, June 27th, 2016


As SaaS your business is built on a recurring revenue model, right? The chances are you’d like that revenue to keep recurring with as few interruptions as possible.

It all sounds quite simpleattach a payment gateway, get subscriptions and (besides your app upgrades and maintenance) wait for the cash to keep rolling in. In reality, things tend to get much more sticky.

What do you do when a customer payment doesn’t go through for whatever reason?

What should you have in place pre-dunning? Grab our checklist here.

What Is Dunning?

“Dunning” is the term used to describe the process of communicating with clients whose transactions have failed prior to their accounts being cancelled.

The primary objective of dunning is always going to be to preserve your revenue sources, but as the whole thing is a communication process, it can serve other purposes too. For example, it can help you promote your app so the customer understands what they’ll miss out on, find out from customers if there is any problem you can help them with and generally help you to foster a relationship with them.

Remember, they’re not necessarily “bad” customers…

Have you ever had to have a credit card cancelled for any reason? What about simply an update to the account details associated with the card? There are a number of reasons why a credit card transaction may be declined and many of them don’t involve “the customer didn’t pay their bill.”

For example:

  • Change of billing address with associated credit card.
  • The credit card expired.
  • The card was cancelled due to fraudulent activity.

It’s worth remembering that you could have many good customers who have a payment issue come up on their credit card and that the dunning (or pre-dunning) process can be worth the effort.


Yep. Sometimes you know ahead of time that there’s going to be an issue with the payment, right? Like when the expiry date of the card on record is coming up due. Pre-dunning involves sending out emails reminding the customer to update their credit card details ahead of time. It tends to be easier to pre-empt a problem and get the new details rather than chase up failed payments.

There are some tools you can get which automate the pre-dunning and dunning process (such as Stunning for Stripe users). These save you the time and trouble of manually chasing up expiring credit cards or credit card declines by sending out automated emails.

Tips For Managing Dunning


As mentioned, we highly recommend that you find an automated software to take care of dunning for you. The thing is, unless you’re constantly poking into the accounts side of your business (who has time?), you won’t know someone’s credit card is about to expire ahead of time.

A primary measure of SaaS is churn, and failed payments can be a substantial cause of that churn. The thing is though, just because a customer’s payment has failed doesn’t mean they’ve already churned. For now, they still have an active account which could still be salvaged, which is why it’s important to have that dunning process in the first place.

Give the benefit of the doubt first

Remember all those possible reasons a card can decline? Sometimes it even happens at random and can be resolved simply by trying again later. This means you don’t want to be dealing with the customer in any way which might ruin the relationship.

Hold off on actions such as freezing accounts until you’ve give the customer plenty of opportunity to rectify the situation. Many SaaS are using a period of up to 21 days grace to make contact with the customer and give them the opportunity to get payments going again first. It’s about striking that balance between too lenient and too tough.

What to look for in a dunning system

You already know you want the process automated. It makes sense that you put more focus into growing the business and serving your customers well rather than doing a task which can be handled on autopilot with a few emails.

Here is what you should be looking for in a dunning system:

  • Automatic retries – For all those times when a card declines one minute, but will be accepted the next. You want a system which retries intelligently at times which give you the best chance of recovering revenue.
  • Pre-dunning intelligence – The system should look for things like upcoming credit card expiry and automatically send out emails to remind the customer to update their details.
  • Payment reminder emails – You want customers to be reminded that they have an upcoming payment. If they’ve just cancelled the old credit card, this may be enough of a reminder for them to update their details.
  • Customizable emails – You want to be able to add your own branding and “language” to the emails.
  • Automated dunning emails – When there is a credit card decline, the system should automatically kick in to trigger emails.
  • Automated follow-up – The system should be intelligent enough to know whether the customer responded to the first email and should only send out emails based on need.

This is a minimum list of requirements – you will find that some apps available have a whole lot more features which are useful to add on.


Best practices for email

Half the battle with sending any kind of email is ensuring it gets opened and read in the first place. If your SaaS wants to manage dunning well, we have a few suggestions for those emails:

  1. Send them from an address which customers are able to reply to if needed. This way you open the dialogue easily for any questions.
  2. Have an obvious subject line (for example: [Name of SaaS] Please update your billing information).
  3. Tell the customer why the transaction failed – it can save the mini-panic moment if you’re telling them it was simply due to an expired card.
  4. If possible, use a direct link to get them to update their billing information. You want to make the process as seamless as possible, so cutting out clicking around and logging in where you can.
  5. Stick to empathetic, professional language. Be clear about what’s happening, but don’t take the tone of “making a demand.”
  6. Let them know when you’ll attempt to collect payment again and what will happen if it is unsuccessful.
  7. Remind them of the value your app delivers for them. You don’t want a customer thinking “meh” after reading your email, you want them to have a sense of urgency about not losing the fantastic benefits you provide them. You could even introduce them to new or upcoming features: “we wouldn’t want you to miss out on …”
  8. Send out more than one email. Crowded inboxes have a habit of burying emails, so your chances are better with multiple communications. We usually send out three across the space of a week.
What should you have in place pre-dunning? Grab our checklist here.

Final Thoughts

Dunning is actually one of the most simple revenue-rescuing strategies you can put in place, especially if you choose the right kind of automated software.

We’d consider dunning activities to be a basic requirement for SaaS who are keen to reduce churn and preserve that recurring revenue.
Remember, your customer hasn’t actually churned yet just because their payment hasn’t gone through. There are a number of legitimate reasons credit card payments fail, so give them the benefit of the doubt, treat them with respect and give them the chance to get back on track.

Could Company Culture Kill Your SaaS?

Monday, May 30th, 2016


The company culture at your SaaS can be a huge determinant of whether or not you are successful.

You need a motivated, skilled team who put the customer at the center of what they do in order to grow, but at the same time, to maintain some sanity, teams need to know how to decompress.

Finding the right balance is critical – you don’t want to lean so far toward the stereotype of Silicon Valley party culture that things get out of hand. Instead, you should a culture that is healthy for the longevity of the company and the wellbeing of the team.

How can you promote good team relationships at the same time as growing a successful SaaS?

Need to develop your SaaS values? Grab our free guide.

Case Study: Zenefits

The story of Zenefits became high-profile news recently when it was announced they were laying off 250 people (including the entire enterprise sales team) and had sacked the CEO.

According to a feature in Business Insider, Zenefits has been described as a company that “spiraled out of control” (though there are employees fiercely loyal to the company who say this is an exaggeration).

Zenefits was founded in 2013 as an HR platform for businesses, including dealing with benefits such as insurance. The company grew so rapidly that by Spring 2015 it was valued at $4.5 billion and had raised $583 million.

From there Zenefits grew rapidly; while they began 2015 with 500 employees, by September they had around 1600.

Getting to the cultural aspects of the company, one office “tradition” was to do rounds of shots whenever a milestone happened. This might work out fine while a company is still small and the milestones are at least a day apart, but as an Arizona employee pointed out, pretty soon there was more than one milestone per day and shots were coming out every time.

With the plethora of new hires, many of them recent college graduates, “party central” started to get out of control, with the note below being an actual email that was sent out:


Source: Business Insider

Is this a sign of what happens when employee growth is so rapid, that perhaps management loses touch with how the culture they created could be magnified?

Adding to Zenefits woes were a couple of more serious allegations:

  1. That salespeople weren’t appropriately licensed according to the regulations of each state. Previously they’d got around this by having licensed managers listen in to calls, but at the rate they grew, managers allegedly weren’t listening to every call anymore.
  2. That team members were running a “macro” to get around California state requirements of 52 hours on a training program. When employees finished sooner, allegedly they would run a macro to keep the program running and appear to log the 52 hour requirement.

Whatever the real facts of the story are, a recently released investigation reported by Fortune cleared the current CEO (former COO) David Sacks of any blame and pinned these more serious allegations on his predecessor.

The company is on a turnaround culture-wise (having banned alcohol, among other things), but the story highlights how what you do with a company culture when small may only magnify with rapid growth.

“Move Slow to Grow Fast”

SaaS expert Jason Lempkin revealed this gem to Insight Squared. What does it mean? You need to know the difference between “operational speed” and “strategic speed.”

SaaS are often under a lot of pressure to grow rapidly, which can lead to decisions made in the name of operational speed. For example, you might rush to make some key hires or to implement some new feature or policy.

The overall goal is always to put yourself in the best position for future success, but as Lempkin says, you need to put more focus on “strategic speed” to do so. This means knowing where you’re going and how to get there quickly, not just moving fast for the sake of speed.

Relating back to Zenefits and culture, the company hired at a very rapid rate which could have been a key contributor to cultural issues – this is something for SaaS to consider. Building a healthy culture is not about “who can I see myself doing shots with?”, but about strategically bringing onboard the people with the skills, attitude and core values which lead to your success.

Building A Successful Culture

Sometimes there’s a bit of a glamorous image of “unreality” around SaaS, especially if ideas of culture are formed around those Silicon Valley stereotypes. Fancy corporate retreats, office parties and personal chefs? All of these kinds of things are window-dressing and certainly won’t fix any ingrained company culture issues.

How can your SaaS keep it real and build a company culture for success? Let’s look at a few tips:

#1. Embrace a set of core values

… and we’re not talking about throwing some trite poster up on the wall of the break room and claiming you have “company values.” There’s a big difference between simply posting values and actually living them.

Truly embracing core values means that they sit at the center of “how we do things around here.” It’s important to decide what these are early, incorporate them into employee training and make sure you’re emphasizing the right things.

For example, if any kind of “balance” or “wellness” are part of your values for employees, but you then glorify only those who are in the office from dawn til dark, you’ve got a dissonance in your values. People will feel that they’re not going to get on in your company unless they too work at all hours.

If “doing the right thing” is a value, but on the side you encourage people to run a macro to get their training hours in, what kind of values are you really living?

#2. Put the customer at the center

It should be a given really, the most successful SaaS are those which keep the customer at the center of what they do and are able to respond quickly to any issues or requests by the customer.

SaaS can run into trouble when the focus is all about the company atmosphere or centered too much on the actual product. You’ve created it for customers so people should be the heart of your focus.

Check out these cultural traits of high-growth SaaS (from Cloud Strategies):


#3. Make compliance a priority

If there’s anything to be learned from the Zenefits case, it’s that you should never take compliance issues too lightly. If anything, the odd short-cut or overlooked issue while you’re small could spiral into a serious issue as you grow.

Sometimes these things happen, again, in the name of rapid growth for which so many SaaS are feeling the pressure. “Just get it done” doesn’t necessarily promote regulatory compliance.

The short of it? Start out as you mean to continue, whether you are a 5 or 500 person company.

#4. Model from the top

Part of the Zenefits story is that management allegedly joined in the rounds of shots during office hours. This is not to say that celebrating in this way is a bad thing, but you definitely want to be careful about what you model as normal behavior.

Employees will take their cue from management; if your office is all about partying, they’ll do the same.

On the other hand, if you tell others to get out of the office on time but never do yourself, you can very quickly engrain a culture that promotes burnout over wellness. (And it is possible to have a “work hard, play hard” culture without spiralling out of control into either too much partying or unhealthy levels of exhaustion).

This also means developing some kind of accountability for the leaders in your organization. It’s definitely worth checking in regularly and ensuring goals and values are being met.

#5. Give (and get) regular feedback

It’s difficult for employees to know where they’re at if they only rarely receive feedback (or only receive it when something has gone wrong!). Part of “keeping it real” in your SaaS should be scheduling in regular times to give feedback, whether it is group issues presented in meetings, or one-on-one.

Ben Horowitz points out the importance of not neglecting employee one-on-ones: “In the end, the most important thing is that the best ideas, the biggest problems and the most intense employee life issues make their way to the people who can deal with them. One-on-ones are a time-tested way to do that…”

Need to develop your SaaS values? Grab our free guide.

Final Thoughts

An ineffective company culture could prove to be a killer for any SaaS. If strong company values aren’t adhered to and the business loses sight of the customer, things can rapidly get out of control.

While SaaS tend to be under pressure to grow quickly, they still need to be mindful of “strategic speed” as opposed to simply moving very fast. Strategic speed suggests you know where you are going and have a definite plan to get there quickly, instead of a whole lot of frenetic activity which isn’t necessarily conducive with those goals.
Keep it real in your SaaS. Develop a set of core values, put the customer at the center and always model the right behaviors from the top. This way you can develop a SaaS culture for success.

5 In-Person Ways To Bring In New SaaS Clients

Monday, May 2nd, 2016


SaaS by their very nature tend to operate almost exclusively in a digital environment. Communication tends to be by email, live chat, social media, contact forms or over the phone, but in-person is much more rare, especially for SaaS not targeting the enterprise level.

However, old-fashioned interpersonal skills definitely have their place, especially for SaaS who are wanting to try different methods to bring in new clients.

There are times when remote communication falls short—it can be misunderstood, missed altogether or filed away for “later.” This is where making strong, personal connections can be a viable alternative.

Here are five ways to get out there and bring onboard clients in-person.

Where can you meet up in 2016? Grab our free conference list here.

#1. Events

Events could cover a broad spectrum of gatherings that your target customers are likely to attend. These could include trade shows, conferences, trainings or niche industry events. Your role there could be as a participant, exhibitor or guest speaker.

[tweetthis]Choose events carefully. How likely is it that your target audience will be there?[/tweetthis]

The Participant

You’re going to want to send someone who is very comfortable in social situations, personable and approachable. Their mission is to get out and meet as many people as possible, preferably people who are in your target group.


  • Many conferences and events publish lists of participants ahead of time. You can always look through that list and target specific people to meet.
  • If you can, arrange to meet with people at the conference before attending. You could always grab coffee during a break or a drink afterwards.
  • Technology can still play a role. Usually you would be handing out business cards, so make it easy for people to get to your website or landing page by including a QR code on the card.

The Exhibitor

Relevant trade shows as well as many big conferences (like SXSW) provide great opportunities to set up a booth as an exhibitor. These can run to a fair bit of money to book and set up, so you do want to be very targeted about only attending events that should have a large number of your ideal clients.

Keren Phillips of Weirdly attended a conference in their HR niche and wrote about what they had learned from the experience. A key point she makes is that you don’t need to spend big to get noticed; the important part is keeping in perspective what you’re trying to achieve.

They needed to look lively and interesting, so they bought some blow-up palms rather than renting expensive potted plants. They needed a big screen to run demos and found that while two days hire would have cost just over $800, buying one cost around $400. They then gave it away as a prize on the last day.


  • Again, send your personable people! It’s about connecting with people on a personal level.
  • Positioning is important. You don’t want to languish in the back corner.
  • Have simple ways to gather sign ups or prospects. For example, Weirdly put together one of their quizzes specifically for the event, tweeted it out, and had people complete it during their talk.
  • Make it fun. Have desirable merchandise and activities that keep people interested.
  • Be able to easily show a full demo and explain the value of your SaaS to prospects.
  • Get to know other exhibitors—they could end up being your customers.
  • See Keren’s tips on nutrition, hydration, clothing and pre-preparation. You may be in for some long days.


Here’s a cool gimmick idea from Weirdly: They hired an artist to do caricatures of anyone who wanted one (which was most people!). The artist drew on the plain side of a heavy card flyer, which also featured Weirdly’s logo, and which had info about their product on the other side.

The Speaker

Whether your SaaS is hosting its own conference or you are speaking at someone else’s event, the important part is that connection you want to make with potential customers. Speaking tends to be more about exposure and personal branding, but it can be a good way to build up a following who could become customers later.


  • Provide relevant, actionable tips and try to get some audience interaction going.
  • Try speaking at events where there are other key players you would like to meet, for example, in order to form partnerships.
  • Make it easy for the audience to find you. Use slides and have website details up.

#2. Get Out To Prospects

If you’re looking to onboard some bigger clients (enterprise, for example), actually getting out and meeting with prospects can be a good strategy.

This gives prospects the chance to ask questions and for you to demonstrate in-person how your SaaS works. From your perspective, actually meeting with someone one-on-one can also give you a much better opportunity to figure out what their needs are and what value looks like to them.

Many early startup SaaS are on very tight budgets and aren’t inclined to travel a lot, but start with your local area, then always plan to meet with prospects when on any incidental travel. Often prospects find it easier to deal with a human face rather than trying to figure everything out remotely.

#3. Complementary Businesses

Which businesses in your area are complementary to yours and target a similar audience to your own?

Get out to those businesses and introduce yourself. Whether you form some kind of affiliate partnership or more of a “gentleman’s agreement” to promote each other, this can be a good way to tap into a new source of ideally targeted customers.

For example, if they are sending out regular newsletters or invoices, you could have an offer for your SaaS included in the email or physical letter. This can be a win-win-win: the other business gets goodwill from customers for offering an extra perk, the customers get a discount offer and you get new customers.

#4. Local Business Groups

Sometimes we forget that there is life happening beyond our computer screens. While digital methods can net you large numbers of customers, it doesn’t hurt to build your personal profile out in the “real” world.

Get involved in your community and join local business groups such as Chambers of Commerce or Young Professionals groups. While you may or may not find ideal customers are members, it’s about building connections—they probably know people who could benefit from your service.

Group members are often well-respected members of their community, so these are great people to get to know. It’s also where you can find out the latest business news for your area—are there new offices being fitted out and businesses coming in who could be good customers?

#5. Business Workshops

There are B2B workshops happening all the time, often hosted by organizations such as BNI. Find clients by being a participant or guest speaker, asking permission to post flyers, or making an offer to workshop participants.

Again, it’s about raising the profile of your SaaS among your target market. The more you are seen out and about (and all over the web), the more likely you are to come to mind when someone is looking for the service you provide.

We recommend you do your homework first though, as in-person meetings and events tend to take up much more of your time and resources than say, inbound marketing or paid advertising. Be very selective about the places you choose based upon the likelihood of finding target customers.


Where can you meet up in 2016? Grab our free conference list here.

Final Thoughts

Getting out to in-person meetings and events can help to grow your SaaS by boosting your profile and by making a personal connection with people. It gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise and really learn about the needs of the prospect.

Try attending events and conferences, joining local business groups, meeting prospects and complementary businesses in-person and having a presence at business workshops.

These things can take up a lot of time, but they can also be a valuable source of personal connections.