Growth Insights for CEOs

How to Build a SaaS Company

Posted by Stijn Hendrikse

How to build a SAAS company.jpgI was recently engaged to help a software company, Atera, prepare to launch as a global SaaS provider. Having operated for some time, the company sought to remake itself by adopting a new business model. Since new opportunities often emerge from ongoing business activities, this type of transformation is not unusual.

I would like to present here some of the critical elements and steps in the process of getting the Atera SaaS product to the point of launch.

Find the motivation

Unless you have tons of money to play with, the motivation to change direction, which requires a lot of effort, comes from recognizing a major opportunity. The best case unfolds for those who are prepared when it comes along. Atera already had the solution to an industry problem when the CEO recognized an opportunity to satisfy that need in a spectacular way.

He observed that managed services providers (MSPs) use a variety of tools that are either massive and expensive, or that don’t work well together. The market needed one, affordable tool for the job of operating an MSP. Seeing the cloud as an efficient distribution platform and the Internet as a low cost marketing channel, the CEO set out to capitalize on an excellent opportunity to disrupt the market with his solution.

Acquire the Expertise

Even with plenty of motivation, the CEO realized that he needed additional expertise to get from where he was to being ready to launch as a SaaS company. Considering his options, he initiated a search to acquire the resources (in this case, an experienced marketing consultant with SaaS startup experience) to fit this particular opportunity. Once we agreed on the terms of the engagement, things started to happen.

Start with the Basics

Together, we started handing out assignments to articulate what Atera does, customer profiles and unique selling points. Customer research at various stages in the project provided valuable feedback and increased the confidence needed to continue.

From the information gathered, we developed a plan listing everything that was needed to complete the transformation and the steps required to prepare for launch.

Assemble the tools

One of the major tasks was to develop a SaaS website and all of the tools to run a SaaS company, including marketing and analytics (dashboards, nurture campaigns), a billing solution and customer service. Developing a list of what was needed from previous startup engagements allowed Atera to begin implementing the tools right away. By doing so, they bypassed the long process of researching what tools were available, comparing products and the inevitable trial and error that would follow.

Bring in Additional Resources 

As additional needs and problems surfaced, I was able to connect the Atera principals to my ecosystem of professionals in various fields, such as customer service and content development, that we needed to launch a SaaS company.

With those connections, they avoided making some time-consuming mistakes in finding, hiring and engaging the resources themselves.

Trial Launch and Refine the Product

Armed with a new website and business model, Atera carried out a mini-launch in April, 2015. From that, the CEO learned the information that he needed to make necessary refinements to the product and operations. He held off on marketing and determined to sharpen the product a bit more before doing a major launch.

Seeking to measure progress and to better understand the needs of the market, we conducted a number of 1-2 hour interviews with customers. The feedback obtained from those interviews gave Atera much of the information they needed to prioritize product changes and move ahead with confidence. 

Listen to Early Adopters

A critical element in the whole process was the feedback that we obtained through interviews with early adopters who implemented the version of the software released with the trial launch.

Early adopters will often collaborate in return for extra attention and the opportunity to influence the direction of the product. Several of those customers were willing to provide the valuable feedback that we required to proceed with a product that we knew would meet their needs.

Sustain the Passion

The customer interviews also produced some welcome excitement in addition to outstanding customer evidence. “I was amazed by the information that we got and by how positive these customers were,” related the CEO. “The feedback strengthened our belief and passion in what we are doing and generated the content that we are going to use.”

Work within the Budget

The CEO had learned to carefully allocate resources. He was concerned that marketing people are inclined to spend a lot of money. But, we understood the budget constraints and found affordable solutions to the problems. In the end, Atera was able to get to where they are within their budget.

Early Results

Leading up to a major launch in the U.S. and other markets, Atera is expanding outward from their customer base in Israel and Holland. An exciting product, modern SaaS website and excellent reviews are having a positive effect.

“We enjoy a consistent revenue stream with strong month-over-month growth,” related the CEO. “And, we have sales all over the world—the US, UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America and Africa! We knew where we wanted to go but we couldn’t have done it without Stijn. He led and guided us through this whole path.”

A Successful Transformation

The transformation complete, Atera is poised for rapid growth, even market disruption, as a global SaaS company. We looked at the marketing, the company culture, everything. It’s a pure Internet play and that is exactly where they wanted to go. 

The CEO’s instructions to other companies? “I would not hesitate for a minute to engage a consultant like Stijn. He brought us very sophisticated, in-depth marketing methodologies together with SaaS and analytical Internet skills.”

“The bottom line is that Stijn’s leadership and guidance took us from there to where we are now, managing all of the metrics as a real SaaS company.”

Customer Profile

Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Atera Networks seeks to disrupt the market with its affordable management, remote monitoring and service desk SaaS offering for small to mid-size MSPs. Owners short on time, money and software to grow their MSP business use Atera’s all-in-one platform to deliver improved service and double their customer base with existing staff. 


Topics: Case Studies, Fractional CMO

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