Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) really is an amazing delivery model for software in that it better aligns interests of vendors and customers compared with installed software that requires a large, up-front fee. In reality, the monthly or annual fees for SaaS make it so that the vendor is financing the customer due to the fact that the customer needs to hang around long enough to become profitable. If you sell a large enterprise installed product and the customer isn’t happy, it can still be profitable (though isn’t good business practice). With SaaS, if you have difficulty on-boarding the customer and making them successful, they can walk away.
A hidden problem with SaaS is the on-boarding and switching costs relative to the cost of the solution don’t usually match up.
Think about it: if you charge $1,000/month for a SaaS product, you need to be able to make customers successful with almost no effort, otherwise you need to have additional implementation fees for thousands of dollars, driving up the pain of switching, increasing the sales cycle, and increasing the non-scalable labor aspect of the business. Many SaaS companies don’t adequately account for the on-boarding costs to their business model as well as how it impacts the amount of time it takes for a customer to become profitable. SaaS is a more capital intensive model for entrepreneurs compared to installed software.
My challenge for entrepreneurs is to incorporate the on-boarding costs into their model and really think about how they can remove the enormous friction that comes with switching over to their system.