Most would say Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products are almost synonymous with automation. After all, these solutions offer users flexible, streamlined workflows to decrease the burden of otherwise tedious or time-consuming tasks. Why is it, then, that many SaaS businesses fail to fully embrace automation in their own operations?
Automation undoubtedly adds value to any business model and help you to scale a SaaS business, but it can be challenging to implement in your own business if you’re used to doing things a certain way. When assessing the value of their business, some executives may be looking to gauge the worth of an online enterprise to sell. Others are simply looking for growth opportunities. Either way, increasing the efficiency of your internal operations including marketing, growth and sales, is a must if you want your SaaS business to be profitable at scale.
To that end, let’s look at how automation can help add value and what areas of your SaaS business you should consider automating.
One of the greatest benefits of automation is its added potential for scalability. When you automate repetitive tasks, such as those associated with billing and marketing, you are able to manage more products and customers with fewer employees and less time wasted. Since part of the beauty of SaaS – or any cloud-based solutions, really – is its flexible and scalable nature, it would be a shame not to make your business model similarly scalable.
This is particularly important for SaaS businesses because once your products are designed and tested, the main barrier to growth is onboarding loyal customers. Automation can assist here as well, allowing you to make better marketing and account management decisions. With the right tools, you can also offer your clients a seamless experience from discovery to purchase.
Once they are onboarded, automation also allows you to maintain consistent communication and offer 24/7 customer service. This will help keep your customers satisfied and reduce churn. So, let’s look at some practical ways to achieve this in your business.
Automation of Services
While there are some business processes that will always require human intervention, many of the day-to-day functions of a SaaS business can be automated. This will save your teams the time of routine business maintenance and leave more room for innovation.
Some good functions to automate include:
Invoicing and account management
Since many SaaS business models are subscription-based, you will likely handle a lot of repeat payments. And you definitely shouldn’t be contacting customers every month to collect these payments. Ideally, customers should be automatically billed, and they should be able to change billing info and take other actions through a user-friendly portal.
Strong accounting is crucial to make your business more valuable, and your internal reporting will be more pristine if you automate some of the tedious aspects. Among other things, you will need high quality invoicing or client management software to decrease some of the clerical work for your team.
You should look for software that comes with crucial features like time tracking and automatic reporting so clients always know where they stand. Good invoicing software will also check regularly for outdated payment info and alert customers in advance to avoid failed payments. Premeditating most billing functions will make things run more smoothly for you and your clients.
Related to the above, almost all customer interactions can be automated if you approach it right. In addition to payment functions, customers should be able to perform most account management without assistance. Functions like resetting passwords, customizing subscription plans, and monitoring their usage of your service should all be done without your intervention. Some businesses choose to build a customer portal themselves, or you can rely on external platforms.
Customer service can also be automated with the use of FAQs and chatbots. If a customer just needs help with checking out or returns, for example, an automated chat feature on your website should do nicely. However, if you do use chatbots on your site, be sure to have a way to escalate tickets to a human for more complex cases.
For example, using data gathered on your leads, you could segment contacts according to your customer personas and send email marketing campaigns tailored to their preferences and pain points. Depending on what stage a potential customer or existing customer is in the buyer journey, you can also send triggered email campaigns with promotions and discounts to keep them engaged. All of this can be done with automation tools so your marketing teams can focus on more future-facing plans and strategies.
Even content creation can be aided with automation, such as keyword and topic research for blogs or monitoring of social media accounts for mentions of your brand. Even for SaaS companies, blogs and social media are an important way to get your solutions in front of prospects. Plus, once you have your prospects and customers segmented, it’s easier to target their interests with posts and promotions.
Do keep in mind that machine learning algorithms which power AI must be told what to look for. This means you will need to do your market research and get to know your customers before you rely on automation for marketing. But, assuming you have a marketing plan and customer acquisition strategy in place already, it should not be difficult to find the right tools to aid you.
The operative word here is some. Even the best AI-powered security suites should be audited regularly. Employees should also be trained in good cyber hygiene, secure coding practices, etc. to make security a priority in your company culture.
But it’s still good to automate the tedious security tasks in your day-to-day operations, such as updates to your web platform. According to web design expert Gary Stevens of Hosting Canada, you should always look for automated security features in your website builder.
“Some site building apps keep their code private, meaning that any potential cyber criminals have to work harder in order to penetrate a customer’s website. Additionally, when vulnerabilities are found and fixed, your website’s code is automatically updated whether you remember to do it or not,” says Stevens.
Still, at least one piece of security is on you: your password. Stevens writes, “Just like with any CMS, it can be hacked by an automated bit of software that tries different passwords at hyper-speed. The bottom line: you should create a strong password and change it often.” You may want to consult with an expert to better understand how to automate security functions without becoming complacent.
SaaS Automation Tools
There are a lot of SaaS automation tools out there and it’s important you research the right tools for your business, but these are a few automation tools out there to get you started:
SaaS providers are all about increasing the growth potential of their customers’ businesses, and it’s important that they don’t neglect their own growth in the process. Automation is one of the best ways to increase your value by making your business more scalable, increasing your customer reach, and prioritizing efficiency. Practice what you preach and offer your own team the same streamlined solutions you offer your clients. Your employees, customers, and bottom line will thank you.
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