If you can come to a SaaS business’ website, sign up for their product and enter your credit card information, it’s considered ‘self-serve’.
Tons of companies offer this functionality. A few we use include Google Apps, ZenDesk, & SEOMoz.
A lot of companies don’t offer self-serve. Some non self-serve products we use include salesforce.com and Pardot. We’ll call them traditional SaaS (requiring a manual ‘kick-off’).
We recently created a self-serve product at SalesLoft (we haven’t marketed it yet, but anyone using JobChangeAlerts can now connect their salesforce.com account in the app). It’s self-serve. You can click a link, drop in your credit card, and receive the service.
After a few weeks observing customer behavior, I’ve realized there is a huge difference between self-serve and manual SaaS. Here are my observations:
- Since buyers never talk to sales people, we require a significant # of inbound leads (hundreds) to get to those who will pay.
- The majority of people who come ready to pay are referrals.
- Having a free product to offer makes a huge difference (i.e a way to ‘taste’ how the offering works).
- Users will often email with questions before entering their credit card info.
- Many people will set up calls, commit to using the tool immediately only to not enter there credit card until days later (or sometimes never).
- UX is the lever that improves everything above.
The last point is the one I want to elaborate on. I’ve found that the better you can answer users questions in the system, deliver core value as immediately as possible and hand-hold the user through the app (in-app), the more conversions you’ll receive. When a user understands what the app is all about, why they should use it and exactly what it’s doing, you’ll get more conversions and happy (paying) customers.
Designing around these goals will help get your self-serve SaaS product off the ground quickly.