John's recent discussion of how inbound marketing can help SaaS companies survive and grow got me thinking about what's next for a successful SaaS company whose revenues have expanded through consistent inbound marketing.
I see successful SaaS companies evolving into SaaE - (Software as an Ecosystem) companies that offer not only various flavors and strengths of their software, but also offer complimentary 3rd party services and a serve as a platform for 3rd party application development.
Characteristics of a SaaE - Software as an Ecosystem Company
Three criteria classify a SaaE company:
- Software as the Facilitator - whether your business is marketing automation, on-line auctions, or sales automation, software must be core to your business model and must be of the hosted variety. For example, even though Apple offers apps and a technology platform, I would never consider it a SaaE company, primarily because of its core focus on products and product design.
- A Platform for App Development - a SaaE must also build software that offers a broader platform for apps to plug into. Application developers will become functionality extenders of the core software and will allow a SaaE company to maintain focus on foundational elements of its software.
- Varied Service Offerings - a SaaE will also offer a marketplace of implementation services that ranges from configuration, to software support and optimization, to custom development.
Examples of SaaE Companies
With the above criteria in mind, it's useful to review some real-life examples of SaaE companies. eBay, with it's core on-line auction software, it's productivity apps for sellers, and community of resellers willing to sell and market your goods for you on eBay, serves as a good example of a B2C SaaE. Similarly, in the B2B world, HubSpot, with its rapidly evolving marketing automation software, it's burgeoning app marketplace, and it's growing number of partners, offers an excellent example of an early stage B2B SaaE company.
The Marketing Takeaway for SaaE Companies
If you are a CMO or marketing leader at a SaaS company or an early stage SaaE company, you should understand your different audiences and the value they contribute. You will not only be targeting traditional customers but you will also be marketing to potential app developers and and partners. Each of these segments will require unique value propositions. The answer to "What's in in for me?" will be much different for a customer than an app developer or a value-added reseller.
Do you work for a SaaS or SaaE company? Do you think I offer valid differentiators between the two types of companies? Do you think the distinction is even important?