B2B SaaS Pricing

It is great to see this recently released report by Chart Mogul following their research in to over 600 SaaS Pricing Pages.

The whole report is worth reviewing if you are in the B2B SaaS business. Some of the key things I was interested to review include:

Optimal Number of Plans

I’ve always had a gut feeling that 3 was the ideal number of plans. I’m not quite sure where it came from but maybe it was from browsing a number of payment pages when I first looked into offering Subscription.

Anyway this report confirmed that 3 is the most popular number of plans on offer – whether or not that is actually optimal is harder to judge but maybe it is a fair assumption.

Incidentally, when we launched the Cadimage Tools on Subscription we opted for 3 plans!

Free Trials

Free Trials definitely appear the way to go with over 80% of companies offering some sort of free trail.

I was surprised however, that over 60% of free trials request card details up front. This is always an interesting debate as to whether asking for details up front presents another hurdle, however, in a sense it also most likely leads to higher conversion so there are different trade offs to measure.

Freemium

I wrote the other day about my thoughts on Freemium so it was interesting to see that less then 30% offered a Free Plan.

That said, Freemium is used extensively to grow ARR in the $100m – $1B range [ nice range 😉 ]

The reference to this article regarding “Monetizing backwards” still reinforced my thinking though.

Annual vrs Monthly

This one was more surprising especially with regards to the over 40% who don’t offer annual plans. I’m a firm believer that having annual and monthly payment plans help create a natural balance of lowest cost of entry, versus longer term customers.

Though that said, my own experience when introducing ArchiCAD Subscription was that I felt monthly was sufficient. Mainly because the entire exercise was to reduce the barrier to entry, and an annual pan would have been still too costly for the part of the market I was targeting at that stage.

NXT BLD 2020

Earlier in the year I attended BIM live show. When talking to a friend about what I was up to he recommended I attend NXT BLD.

This year – like many conferences and events – NZT BLD turned into an experiment with it being held as a Virtual Conference.

There were a series of 6 Sessions spread over 6 days. I found the daily sessions a great way to attend those that attended me and found it easy to fit into my day.

Obviously it missed the interaction with participants but from a content point of view the delivery was very well done. I enjoyed all the sessions I attended and found them very thought provoking.

All sessions are available on demand for those that register and are definitely worth a watch.

At this stage NXT BLD 2021 is scheduled – in person – for London June 2021.

Based on this years event I hope I can attend 2021 in person and maybe even have an opportunity to show what we are working on.

To be or not to be… Freemium

When I was first thinking about setting up a business I touched briefly on the concept of Freemium.

Now that I am underway with my new business it is now time to give it serious thought.

There are a wide array of articles in relation to freemium, and to boil them all down – there is no one right or wrong way – as always it depends on a number of factors.

Mailchimp for example spent 8 years refining their product and pricing before they felt confident a Freemium offering would be beneficial. While companies like Dropbox, Evernote and Slack embraced Freemium from the beginning and the majority of their success is based on their Freemium model.

That said, businesses that target markets above 100 million, can be quite happy with 1% conversion rates as 1 million paying customers can generate an extremely healthy business.

My general feeling is that it is extremely important to truly understand what customers value in your product before embarking on a Freemium journey. This need not take eight years like Mailchimp, but really understanding and your market for a period of time prevents the guesswork associated with launching Freemium from day one.

Also you don’t need to be worried about not launching, you can always introduce Freemium when the time is right.

This quote from a recent article I read encapsulates my current thinking:

“If implemented right, Freemium can be a long-term revenue driver for businesses. However, this can only be realized by measuring metrics that showcase this strategy’s impact over time.”

Freemium: Playing the Long Game

Freemium is definitely something I want to explore in the future but in the first instance I want to measure and understand value. That said, I will have a Free Trial Version so that at least allows potential customer to access the product before committing.

Business Lessons

October always seems to be a month of reflection for me for a couple of key reasons.

Firstly on a deeply personal level October is the month my mum was born. Unfortunately she left us all too soon over 8 years ago but October is a month full of amazing memories.

Secondly, October is the month Cadimage was formed and so I also think back to a major part of my life and career.

A year ago I wrote a series of posts on the Cadimage Story.

Today I’ve decided to post a few of the lessons I learnt during my time.

I’ve created a page so you can keep track as I post them.

Check back soon for my first post.

Making a start…

Quite often things take longer then expected! But today marks the official start of something new.

Ive been trying to get something off the ground for over 12 months and after a few misguided attempts today marked the incorporation of a new business.

We’ve got a lot ahead of us before we’ll be in a position to talk about it but it is a great feeling to have my own business again.

Today marks the point where various prototypes from the last 6 months get put to the side and we start development of what will hopefully be v1 of our product.

Getting started is always a hump to get over, but while we have lots of challenges ahead of us as we begin to build a new business from the ground up, we now have a single minded goal and focus to aim at.

Architizer

While I’m figuring out what to do with myself I am looking for inspiration in a number of places.

I have some ideas forming and its probably not surprising they are architecture / building industry focused.

I have tried to think outside of the industry to see if what other opportunities there might be but I keep coming back to architecture like some sort of homing beacon.

The Architizer Website is a great resource and I also follow them on instagram as well.

I’ve found there 17 Awesome Apps for Architects and Designers page a place I return after first seeing it a couple of years ago. It is great to see the apps that people are creating but I also use it to see if there are any potential gaps that I might be able to fill.

I can see a couple and am starting to explore and prototype some things to see where this may lead.

The posts on the Architizer instagram channel also provide some very useful inspiration and generate a lot of thoughts around some of my ideas.

What Platform?

This is a tougher question for me as there is no clear cut answer and the ideas I have are spread across all platforms – web / phone / tablet / desktop. All platforms have different pros and cons and also require different development skills.

I’ve been developing web based apps for over 20 years. The original ARCHICADselect Website was powered by early ASP and SQL Database. This evolved over time and became a whole front and back office system integrated with accounting, support, payments, subscriptions.

More recently I have been learning iOS development with Swift and SwiftUI. This has certainly been fun and has been great to see some early ideas come to life on my iPad – even if they are very primitive!

When considering platforms I’m also coming back to business models like subscription and freemium.

Freemium is where you have a Free Version and a [paid] Premium Version of the software. The general idea (and the details should be a post on themselves) is that the Free Product is a marketing Tool to capture as many users as possible and then convert a number of these to paying customers.

A key consideration with regards to Freemium is the “cost to serve” that is, how much does it cost to serve each freemium user. There are many businesses that have failed purely due to the excessive costs associated with supporting their ‘free’ users.

A fairly simplistic view admittedly is that free customers on a “web based” system will have costs that can increase significantly as the number of customers increases. While a piece of software installed on a users iPad has a very margin cost to serve which (should) stay under control with large volumes.

This is not the only consideration but an example of how different platforms can have different affects. Like I say Freemium is a strategy in itself and I’d be jumping the gun a little to be deciding my business model detail without first knowing what I am developing.

In short, this is one area I still need to give considerable thought, though based on some prototypes to date I can at least reduce the options to web or iPad – or ultimately maybe a mix.

Subscription Based

For those of you who know me or are readers of this blog you’ll know I have a passion for creating business models based on recurring revenue – the majority of my consulting projects have been based on this aspect of business.

While Salesforce is generally credited with making Subscription based Software / Software as a Service mainstream, the last 20 years have seen

In the architecture space all the major players have introduced Subscription licensing either in parallel or as a replacement for perpetual based licensing. Cadimage was the first in the world for ArchiCAD and I then went on to lead the GRAPHISOFT SE Introduction of Subscription Worldwide.

Subscription businesses build revenue over the long term so have high cash requirements during the short to medium term. However, the pay off, if executed well, can be very rewarding.

Another advantage is that the cost to get started can be very low if based on a monthly model. This is not to say that sales are or will be easy – value still needs to be delivered at any price – but having a fee based on a period of time reduces risk for the customer.

The flip side of this is of course the ability for customer to stop paying if they don’t see value. Therefore the sales process for a subscription business continues long after the initial purchase.

As a person who has always had a customer centric mindset I see subscription models and the associated customer journeys as compliments to the overall strategy.

“I want the product to be my own IP”

I’m currently Thinking… about a new business and these posts take a look at different aspects and thoughts

While this may seem obvious, it also requires more explanation. With Cadimage we created a series of Tools for ArchiCAD. While the Tools were our IP, our customers also needed to own ArchiCAD before they were even a prospect for us. 

Some estimates indicate there are 3-4 million architects worldwide. Let’s keep it simple and say 2,000,000. If you create a product that you hope will see a 15-25% uptake (tough) you could have 300,000 – 500,000 customers.  But if you rely on that customer already owning a particular piece of software the 2,000,000 total addressable market is considerably reduced.

We found with Cadimage that even simple marketing like Google Ads was fraught with difficulty, as we’d constantly pay for clicks that were worthless as the people didn’t even own ArchiCAD.

I want to create something that can be assessed completely on its own merits and provide value in and of itself. Depending on what we end up deciding it may need to work alongside other software, but I don’t want other software to be a pre-requisite.

While there is huge potential to create add-ons for the different BIM systems other issues we faced was customer expectations that the primary software should “just do that” ie the tools we were delivering were expected “out of the box” this led to many people not investing (even a relatively small amount) to buy tools that could increase their productivity. They would say “the product will do that at some time so I’ll wait” I could never understand people who would prefer to wait in order to increase productivity. 

“I want to build a product business”

I’m currently Thinking… about a new business and these posts take a look at different aspects and thoughts

If you look at business you can sell things or you can sell time – I realise this is reasonably simplistic but I have owned and advised both types of businesses. I find the ability to scale a product business far more compelling as you can scale without the direct correlation to employing staff. 

Don’t get me wrong, it is great to create, build and nurture a strong team, but with a service business the easiest way to scale it to sell more time which requires more staff (again apologies if this is too specific)

If I was interested in the service business I could focus my current consulting business in that direction and think about how I could expand and scale. This isn’t really me, I want to be more hands on creating something tangible (or at least as far as software is tangible!)