Three Types of SaaS Services

I was catching up with a friend who is an engineer a few days ago. We talked about many things under the sun: daycares, ATL United, Atlanta neighborhoods, new SaaS companies, and, of course, products. One re-occurring theme, or as my English teacher put it in high school, motif, is the idea that there is no one right or wrong way to build a company — many of the Simply SaaS interviews touch on this key theme. What worked for one entrepreneur and their company may not work for another. For example, some companies like to sell a few huge deals and let that force the market with the help of powerful case studies. Others want to build a seamless sign on so the user experience is too enticing to do anything else.

There are however best practices and blue prints that can be learned. They are always evolving, especially in the ever changing field of SaaS.

One theme that caught my attention in our conversation was the idea of three types of SaaS services:

  1. Do it for me.
  2. Do it with me.
  3. Get out of my way.

Do it for me. There are two ways I’ve see this happen. First, is off-the-shelf products. Speed and ease are the selling points. A good example of this is SquareSpace. Of course you can deck a SquareSpace theme out, but it’s arguably one of the easiest ways to get a website up and going and have it look good. Canva is another good example. The other way to “do it for me” is with professional services. Opportunities are abundant in sophisticated SaaS products to upsell your existing product, which may or may not be easy to use, with the help of professional services. A side benefit to professional services also includes greater retention and upsell opportunities.

Do it with me. This is a traditional SaaS product over the past 10 years. Once purchased, you now have a tool to help you do your job better. Examples can be anything from Accounting Software like Quickbooks, to Photoshop, to email marketing. When you purchase the software, you’re going to build something with it. It’s going to take time, energy, and discipline to execute it — like learning a new skill. This is arguably the most popular type of SaaS service. As the verticalization of SaaS continues, there are plenty of areas to build great products and businesses in niche industries that require specialized knowledge.

Get out of my way. This could be something as broad as open source. There is very little structure but seemingly infinite ways to utilize the software.

All of these are great ways to look at how you’re building the product. Understanding what type of SaaS service you offer is important; your go-to-market for the first few years will highly be determined by the product. Great entrepreneurs will take all of this into account as they start building.

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