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The software world is filled to the brim with models, frameworks, schemas, configurations, processes, workflows, journeys, blueprints, and so many other business planning growth strategies that will make any business consultant’s mouth water. And yet the term I seem to hear most often when it comes to strategy these days—a term so compelling yet so seemingly unattainable for one growing company after another—is quite simple “Simplicity.” pun intended.
You see, simplicity itself may be THE underlying principle and the North Star that guides every SaaS founder’s visionary approach to starting a business – even more so than our old favorite term circa 2002-2020: “disruption”.
And it’s easy to see why. After all, simplicity is the ideology that keeps getting away with it. It’s the ideal partner you always think about, that you try to nurture and nurture… until one day you walk in the door and it’s gone. It left you (unless you left it first) than “real life” took over, or in this case – real customers, real feature requests, real product feedback, real churn problems, or real cash flow problems. Suddenly it was so easy to push simplicity aside. Until it wasn’t.
So why do we let simplicity get away? Especially when it’s the guiding principle that fuels our SaaS fire in the first place and is so closely tied to running an efficient, results-driven business? How can you hold on to it, nurture it, and keep it as your North Star even as your business grows, changes, and evolves?
Also see: Building Success: Insights from 7 Leading SaaS Companies
Why simplicity matters
When you really delve into a SaaS business and its metrics, simplicity is more than just an intangible term or guiding principle. Simplicity is and should always be very tangible – coupled with real tactics, real results and real metrics that can be correlated to efficient, lasting growth in every area of your business.
Simplicity should affect:
How to innovate: As your business and customer base mature, it can be tempting to include every little feature request in your product roadmap (especially those from your largest and highest paying customers). But maintaining balance and prioritizing feedback is critical to your ability to continue to innovate while maintaining the intuitive (dare I say “simple”) product experience your users demand and the NPS scores your executives demand expect.
How to market and sell: We see it all the time—as companies scale, products become more feature-rich, and the problems they solve get deeper or broader, so does your value proposition. Ask any seasoned product marketer and they will tell you that one of their biggest daily challenges is translating complex speeds and feeds into simple business benefits that sales reps can easily voice and prospects can easily understand. Solutions that clearly articulate how and when they create value and provide potential customers with an easy shopping experience will also give you faster sales cycles, higher average transaction sizes, and lower customer acquisition costs (CAC).
How to retain and win customers: Perhaps in today’s changing business climate, nothing is more important than your ability to deliver post-deal value and, as a result, retain and grow your customers. This typically begins with onboarding, where clear and concise processes can drive key metrics like time-to-value (TTV) and user adoption of key capabilities. But it also extends to how you engage your customers throughout their post-sales journey—making it easier for them to access support resources and documentation, connecting with your customer success team either digitally or in person, adding more seats and features or buy or products and ultimately see the ROI you deliver for them.
See Also: 5 Growth Hacks for Your SaaS Business
How to keep things simple
I’ll tell you first hand that there are very few exciting things in life like starting a business from scratch, attracting your first clients and scaling it into a real, vibrant business. But there are also very few challenges like this. growth is hard. Adding people, customers, investors, advisors, functions, products, services, solutions, markets, regions—well, you can see how clutter can easily be created…if you let it.
So, here’s a little advice on how to keep things simple. You’ve probably heard a lot of these if you’ve sought relationship advice:
Ask and listen (like, Yes, really Listen): No matter what stage of growth your business is in, hearing the voice of your customers is crucial. Whether you’re sending out surveys, collecting NPS or CSAT scores, getting product or feature feedback in-app or through a digital community, or using a good old-fashioned phone call to understand what’s working (and what’s not), it might be this Best important activity your company can do. What is more important is that you really listen and act on the feedback as soon as you receive it.
Learning to say “no”: Let’s face it – saying “no” is hard, especially when a request comes from one of your highest-paid customers. But knowing how and when to say “no” is the only way to keep your product from becoming a bloated, useless mess. Provide clarity and reasoning behind your roadmap. Understand how to ask for clarification, rephrase questions and offer alternatives. And most importantly, even if you say “no,” always make sure your customer feels heard, recognized, and valued.
Know Your Numbers: Finally, learn to use your data when making important decisions. Nothing makes it easier to make quick and informed decisions than the facts. And somewhere in all of that data you’ve gathered are the answers you’re looking for. The more you can leverage it with simple, insightful reports, the easier it will be to convert those insights into intelligent, decisive action.
See also: A quick checklist for building SaaS businesses
It’s difficult to keep things simple and build a business at the same time. What if your product consists of millions of lines of code? Well, it can be even more difficult. But like anything worth having, simplicity is undoubtedly worth fighting for, planning for, and working for—because once it’s gone, many other things (including your customers) are likely to follow.