Digital subscription

Here is the universal and well acknowledged truth – Digital subscription, or SaaS firms need to focus on conversion – be they B2B or B2C (or both, e.g. Dropbox).

The B2B firms face some unique challenges, which may be alien to B2C firms. For starters, it is well known that B2B firms face a really long, and sometimes arduous, sales cycle. Acquiring free trial user can take longer time than that for B2C firms; the incubation time from free trial to paid user can also be inordinately long. This is just the nature of the B2B business cycle; there are often several stakeholders involved, and the end-user is often not the decision maker. So, how does the conversion journey look for B2B firms?

Hack 1: Build a large top-of-the-funnel: This is a no-brainer. To be able to successfully close a large number of high-value deals, the starting point is to ensure that firms are aware about you, and want to test you out. Marketing has to get a huge number of relevant parties “interested” and “excited” about the product. Now, the difference vis-a-vis the B2C scenario is that the channels for reaching out to different stakeholders may be different. End users may be enticed through relevant ads, or discussions in forums, or content in relevant journals. The purchasing organization (or finance, or business leaders) may need to be approached through different platforms. Some of them would also require a direct contact by a sales rep.

An interesting phenomenon that is emerging in the SaaS space is B2C2B (check here for more details). The end users start trying out the Product as individual users, get hooked onto it, and then eventually influence the organization to procure an enterprise version of the product. Thus, traditional B2C approaches could still help B2B firms create champions in their prospect organizations.

Hack 2: Engage the users: Most B2B service providers rely heavily on C-Suite relationships to gain entry, since they are traditionally the business decision makers. This scenario is fast changing. Business unit heads and sometimes even the end users are beginning to call the shots on service acquisition. It is necessary to build an army of supporters at all levels.

Going back to the B2C2B phenomenon (you can read more here), it is critical for the end users to be excited about the Product. It is critical that they get adequate attention, help, teasers, and excitement to ensure they are 100% backing your product in the internal evaluations.

That apart, the other stakeholders also need to be engaged. While a business leader or Finance team member may not be “hands on” with the product, they do need to be nurtured with relevant content. The content should resonate with the goals of the stakeholder (for e.g. monetary benefits – for the CFO).

Hack 3: Identify the persuadable users: Not all of the prospects will buy – every sales rep worth his salt recognizes this. So, how does one determine where to place the bets? How to prioritize?

Apart from the expected deal size, identifying the customers that are most likely to convert to long-term, paid subscription, is an important activity. These persuadable users, in the context of B2B services, can be hard to discern.

Who is more likely to convert?

Organization A where 4 users use your service for 80 hours a week, OR Organization B where 80 users use your service for a total of 80 hours?

Organization C, with business leaders and C-Suites engaged with you, OR Organization D, that has procurement and end users engaged?

Who is the more persuadable customer? While no single metric can give a clear answer, using them in conjunction is the right step towards identifying the persuadable user.

Hack 4: Informed Marketing: So you’ve created visibility, drawn users into your sales funnel; you have engaged them and have identified the persuadable user. So what’s next? It’s time to focus on the messaging that will nudge the persuadable user into a premium user. While messaging is important at every point of the customer lifecycle, it’s crucial towards the end of trial period. It is essential to tailor the right marketing message based on the user.

The message to be communicated and the mode through which it should be communicated does not need to be based on gut-feel that most sales force representatives tend to rely on. If anything, we staunchly advocate against it. The goldmine of user (or other stakeholder) data that you already have access to, should inform your messaging and marketing activities. Combining the available data with a sound analytical approach will yield returns that most gut-feel approaches are unlikely to deliver.

Would you like to learn more about such an integrated approach? Check out Navik Converter website.

Authored by – Ramakrishnan M – SaaS Maven and Associate Director at Absolutdata and Lavanya Ramanan – SME Analytics & Products at Absolutdata