Today’s world of small-business-focused technology has become far too fragmented and focused on implementing technology for the sake of technology. This dynamic is the outcome of a number of factors, including the rise of agile software development, which in some cases has shifted product direction more heavily into the hands of developers.
While this can help drive more rapid innovation and remove perceived corporate red tape, it can also have the unintended side effect of yielding technology features that don’t speak to real SMB customer use cases or solve priority business problems. It can also result in siloed solutions that successfully address single business processes but lack the ability to produce scaled benefits when combined with all the other business functions needed to drive small businesses forward.
With this environment in mind, locally-focused business owners and managers have realized that they are much better served spending their investments on holistic SMB SaaS solutions that help them grow their entire business as a unit, rather than trying to piece together a web of offerings that lack proper integration with each other and often haven’t been developed with nuanced SMB needs in mind. Let’s walk through some best practices for deploying SMB SaaS technology as the go-to tech strategy for today’s small businesses.
Lay Proper Groundwork
The shift to cloud solutions is happening en masse, as local businesses can easily procure SaaS based solutions today versus installing heavy (and often slow) on-premise software of yesteryear. In fact, according to survey data from our Modern Commerce Monitor™ report, 55 percent of SMBs utilize at least one cloud-based service on a monthly basis to manage a critical business process. However, this doesn’t make the selection process any more straightforward.
The stakes are higher for SMBs to purchase new technology with limited time and resources, so offerings should check all the boxes for directly helping them run their type of business. This means highlighting the ways a solution can help them spend less time on non-revenue generating activities, e.g., filling out paperwork, manually handling automatable actions, and make their businesses run more efficiently and profitably.
One-Stop-Shop All the Way
The burden of sifting through dozens of point solutions shouldn’t fall on a locally-focused business owner. SMB SaaS providers have an immense opportunity to deliver the utopia of a one-stop-shop for small businesses and drive significant customer growth and retention. By offering a main SaaS product with add-on options that show the full breadth of a SMB offering and by partnering with other solutions on integrations and connectivity, SMB SaaS companies can offer businesses while enjoying the benefits of scale and loyalty.
For example, an SMB SaaS solution may offer a sales engine as a core offering with email and social marketing and a website builder as add-on options, as well as partner with other businesses offering complementary solutions such as finance or HR. This collective approach delivers scalability, collaboration efficiency, cost reduction and overall operational efficiencies – an ideal combination of benefits that help SMBs gain a competitive edge and run lean yet more profitable operations.
These strategies can also help SMB SaaS providers overcome the potential exposure of consumption-based SaaS, whereby companies can easily turn off a service if it’s not meeting their needs or actually being used. The more connected services that an SMB invests in and benefits from, the harder it will be for them to disconnect from the collective group.
Self-Purchase Should Not Equal Self-Service
One of the conveniences of SMB SaaS technology is that it can usually be bought and installed without the need for implementation support. This allows SMBs to save time and headaches waiting on the phone to trouble-shoot with customer support personnel.
However, it doesn’t mean there should be an absence of customer support to quickly address questions or needs. As a best practice, SMB SaaS providers should offer SMB-specific support teams – which may operate as a subset of their enterprise level support group and are equipped and qualified to meet SMB product-specific needs and questions that arise from usage. There should also be SMB-tailored content and resources available on SMB SaaS providers’ websites to help support their customers on an ongoing basis.
The overall takeaway for addressing today’s small business technology needs is that SMB SaaS has the ability to offer an automated approach to running growth-minded, lean businesses. With a holistic model in mind, the small business community can leverage the scalability and flexibility of cloud-based functionality to run their businesses with time-tested, enterprise-grade tools.
The key is to ensure SMBs are receiving proper guidance and support for implementing a sound SMB SaaS technology strategy that ties in all critical business elements and includes post-implementation training and support for uninterrupted and long-lasting service.
Bill Dinan is president of the Local Search Association (LSA), a not-for-profit association of 300+ media companies, agencies and technology companies that enable enterprises and small businesses to achieve more within local markets. Bringing deep expertise on how local commerce industries are evolving with new technology and business approaches, Dinan has successfully led and grown companies over the last few decades, including WEB.com, Acquisio, Telmetrics and others. You can find him and the LSA on Twitter at @localsearchassoc.