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Why simplicity is key for SaaS businesses (and how to keep things simple)

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The software world is packed with models, frameworks, schedules, configurations, processes, workflows, travel, blueprints, and so many other business planning growth strategies that make every business consultant’s mouth water. And yet the term I seem to hear most often these days when it comes to strategy—a term so compelling, yet so seemingly unattainable for one growing company after another—is simply “simplicity.” Word play 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 around 2002-2020: “disruption.”

And it’s easy to see why. After all, simplicity is the ideology that keeps disappearing. It’s the ideal partner you always think of, trying to nurture and care for…until one day you walk in the door, and it’s gone. It has let you down (unless you left it first) when ‘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 simplicity became so easy to put aside. Until it wasn’t.

So why do we let simplicity get away? Especially if this is the guiding principle that fuels our SaaS fire in the first place and is so closely tied to running an efficient, results-oriented business? How can you hold onto, nurture and preserve it as your north star, even as your business scales, changes and evolves?

Related: 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 elusive 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, sustainable growth in every corner of your business.

Simplicity should have an impact on:

  1. How you innovate: As your business and customer base matures, it can be appealing to plot every little feature request on your product roadmap (especially the ones coming from your biggest, highest paying customers). But maintaining the balance and prioritizing feedback is critical to your ability to keep innovating, while maintaining the intuitive (dare I say “simple”) product experience your users demand and the NPS scores your executives demand. to expect.

  2. How to market and sell: We see it all the time: As companies scale, products get richer in features and the problems you solve get deeper or broader, and your value proposition evolves too. Ask any seasoned product marketer and they’ll tell you that one of their biggest day-to-day challenges is translating complex speeds and feeds into simple business benefits that salespeople can easily express and prospects can easily understand. Solutions that clearly state how and when they create value and provide an easy buying experience for prospects also drive faster sales cycles, higher average deal sizes, and lower customer acquisition costs (CAC).

  3. How to retain and grow customers: In today’s changing business environment, perhaps nothing is more important than your ability to deliver value after the deal is closed and, as a result, retain and grow your customers. Typically, this starts with onboarding, where clear and concise processes can drive key metrics such as time-to-value (TTV) and user adoption of key features. But it also extends to how you engage your customers throughout their post-sales journey — making it easy for them to access support resources and documentation, connect with your customer success team digitally or in person, more seats, features add or buy or products, and ultimately see the ROI you deliver for them.

Related: 5 Growth Hacks for Your SaaS Businesses

How to keep things simple?

I’ll tell you firsthand that there are few exciting things in life like starting a business from scratch, bringing in your first customers, and then scaling it up into a real, living business. But there are also few challenges like this one. Growth is difficult. Adding people, customers, investors, advisors, features, products, services, solutions, markets, regions – well, you can see how it can easily create a tangled shed of yarn… if you let it.

So, here’s a little advice on how to keep things simple. You probably heard a lot about it when you got relationship advice:

  1. Ask and listen (like, For real listen): No matter what stage of growth your business is in, it’s critical to listen to your customers’ voices. Whether you’re sending surveys, collecting NPS or CSAT scores, requesting product or feature feedback in-app or through a digital community, or using an old-fashioned phone call to understand what’s working (and what’s not), it may be the most important activity that your company can undertake. All that’s more important is making sure you’re really listening and responding to the feedback you receive.

  2. Learn to say ‘no’: Let’s face it, saying “no” is hard, especially when a request comes from one of your highest paying customers. But knowing how and when to say “no” is the only way to keep your product from turning into a bloated, useless mess. Provide clarity and reasoning behind your roadmap. Understand how to ask for clarification, reformulate questions, and provide alternatives. And most importantly, always make sure your customer feels heard, recognized and valued, even if you’re going to say ‘no’.

  3. Know your numbers: Last but certainly not least, learn to leverage your data when making important decisions. Nothing makes it easier to make quick, informed decisions than the facts. And somewhere in all that data you’ve collected are the answers you’re looking for. The more you can leverage it with simple, insightful reports, the easier it will be to turn those insights into smart, decisive actions.

Related: A Quick Checklist for Building SaaS Businesses

It’s hard to keep things simple while growing a business. And when your product is made of millions of lines of code? Well, it could be even harder. But like anything worth having, simplicity is undoubtedly worth fighting for, worth planning for and worth working for – because once it’s gone many others are likely to track things (including your customers).

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