Why simplicity is crucial for SaaS companies (and how to keep things simple)

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The world of software is full of models, frameworks, schematics, configurations, processes, workflows, journeys, blueprints, and so many other business planning growth strategies that make every business consultant’s mouth water. And yet, the term I hear most often when it comes to strategy these days, a term so compelling, yet seemingly so out of reach for the achievements of one growth company after another, is simply “simplicity.” Intentional pun.

You see, simplicity itself is arguably THE underlying principle and North Star that guides every SaaS founder’s visionary approach to starting a company in the first place, even more so than our old favorite term circa 2002-2020: “disruption” .

And it’s easy to see why. After all, simplicity is the ideology that keeps escaping. It’s the ideal partner you’re always thinking about, trying to nurture and care for…until one day you walk in the door and they’re gone. He dumped you (unless you dumped him first) when “real life” took over, or in this case, real customers, real feature requests, real product feedback, real churn issues, or real cash flow issues. Simplicity suddenly became so easy to let go of. Until it wasn’t.

So why do we let simplicity slip away? Especially since it’s the guiding principle that fuels our SaaS in the first place and is so closely related to running an efficient, results-oriented business? How can you hold on to it, nurture it, and keep it your North Star, even as your business grows, changes, and evolves?

Related: Building Success: Insights from 7 Leading SaaS Companies

Why simplicity matters

When you really dig into a SaaS business and its metrics, simplicity is more than just an intangible term or guiding principle. Simplicity, in fact, is and should always be very tangible: tied to real tactics, real results, and real metrics that can be correlated to efficient, lasting growth in every corner of your business.

Simplicity must impact:

  1. How you innovate: As your company and customer base mature, it can be attractive to map out every little feature request on your product roadmap (especially the ones that come from your biggest, highest-paying customers). But maintaining balance and prioritizing feedback is critical to your ability to continue to innovate while maintaining the intuitive (dare I say “simple”) product experience your users demand and the NPS scores your executives expect.

  2. How you market and sell: We see it all the time: As companies scale, products become more feature-rich, and the problems it solves get deeper or broader, their value proposition evolves as well. Ask any seasoned product marketer and they’ll tell you that one of their biggest challenges on a day-to-day basis is turning complex speeds and fonts into simple business benefits that sales reps can easily vocalize and prospects can easily understand. Solutions that clearly articulate how and when they create value and provide an easy buying experience for prospects also deliver faster sales cycles, higher average deal sizes, and lower customer acquisition costs (CAC) for you.

  3. How to retain and grow customers: Perhaps nothing is more important in today’s changing business climate than your ability to deliver value after the deal is closed and, as a result, retain and grow your customers. This typically starts at onboarding, where clear and concise processes can drive key metrics like time-to-value (TTV) and user adoption of key features. But it also extends to how you engage with your customers throughout their entire post-sales process, making it easy for them to access support resources and documentation, engage digitally or in person with your customer success team, adding or buying more seats, features, or products and ultimately seeing the ROI you’re delivering for them.

Related: 5 Growth Hacks for Your SaaS Businesses

How to keep things simple

I’ll tell you firsthand that there are very few thrills in life like starting a business from scratch, getting your first customers, and then turning it into a real, living business. But there are also very few challenges like this. Growth is hard. Adding people, customers, investors, advisors, features, products, services, solutions, markets, geographies, well, you can see how you can easily create a barn of tangled yarn… if you let it.

So, here’s a little tip on how to keep things simple. You’ve probably heard a lot of these when receiving relationship advice:

  1. Ask and listen (like, Really listen): No matter what stage of growth your business is in, listening to the voice of your customers is critical. Whether you’re sending out surveys, collecting NPS or CSAT scores, soliciting feedback on products or features in the app or through a digital community, or taking advantage of a good traditional phone call to understand what works (and what doesn’t), it’s perhaps the most important activity that your company can undertake. The single most important thing is to make sure you’re really listening and responding to feedback as you receive it.

  2. Learn to say no.” Let’s face it: saying “no” is hard, especially when a request comes from one of your highest paying clients. But knowing how and when to say “no” is the only way to keep your product from becoming a bloated, unusable mess. Have clarity and reasoning behind your roadmap. Understand how to ask for clarification, rephrase questions and offer alternatives. And most importantly, even if you’re going to say “no,” always make sure your customer feels heard, acknowledged, and appreciated.

  3. Know your numbers: Last but not least, learn how to leverage your data when making important decisions. Nothing makes it easier to make quick, informed decisions than 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 action.

Related: A Quick Checklist for Building SaaS Businesses

Keeping things simple while growing a business is hard. And when your product is made of millions of lines of code? Well, it can be even more difficult. But like anything worth having, simplicity is certainly worth striving for, worth planning for, and worth working for, because once it’s gone, a lot of other things (including your customers) are likely to lose it. follow.

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