SaaS software is a cloud-hosted, online version of an application that you access through a connected device and which you pay for based on its usage. Financial advantages of SaaS for small business can be substantial especially for startups or companies with lean cash flow.
Basically requiring just a web browser to use compared to software you install on your PC, SaaS significantly reduces capital outlay and operating costs including purchasing of perpetual software licenses.
You also get a fully on-demand software available anytime, anywhere with no worries of downtimes, hang ups, and crashes – things more likely to happen on your end in your machine.
In this comprehensive guide on SaaS for small business, we take a look at the following aspects in detail:
What should be your priority SaaS solutions if you are a small and starting business? The right choice of your initial technology stack can be vital as you should start your business on solid footing with the right tools and without overpaying for features you won’t use. You don’t have to stack up on all popular SaaS solutions; it wouldn’t be practical and it would definitely be expensive.
On average small businesses will use only around three to five apps to jumpstart their business. Later on, you can add more apps as your business expands or as your situation calls for it. Plus, many vendors have flexible plans that allow you to scale up your use of their software as your business grows.
To help you pick best solutions we divided our list into three groups, depending on the type of your company and your development potential:
As a startup with a small team you only need to have the essential SaaS tools that will allow you to quickly hit the ground running. Here are SaaS solutions that work great even with very small teams:
Online collaboration apps will allow you to capture and share files; work with your team wherever they; and chat, message or connect with them from whatever device, ensuring that you and your team are on the loop and on the same page.
Recommended solution: Monday.com, formerly dapulse, features a single hub that syncs all project data for easy and highly visible collaboration and communication between teams and team members.
You need to have your financials in order and an accounting software will help you automate financial management, reduce expenses, and report accurately on your financial activities.
Recommended solution: FreshBooks is a lean and mean small business app designed to streamline complex accounting processes including online invoicing, expense tracking, time tracking, reporting, taxes and payments.
You may be taking in more specialized or complicated projects and a good PM solution can assist you in every stage of the project lifecycle.
Recommended solution: Wrike, a popular project management platform renowned for its 3-pane dashboard view that lets you see the big picture and details at once, includes a collaboration platform on the same interface.
Today’s cloud communication software offers tools to let you connect, work, and link with your employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders, anytime and anywhere with whatever connected device.
Recommended solution: Slack brings all your communication together with real-time messaging, archiving, and search. You can have all your team communication in one place that is instantly searchable and always available.
CRM includes applications to help you build strong relationships with your customers, boost conversations, and improve revenue rates based on customer data coming from multiple interaction channels.
Recommended solution: HubSpot CRM is a free but robust CRM built on top of the HubSpot sales, marketing and service suite, which helps you manage the entire customer journey.
Having a dedicated document management software harnesses digital technologies that let you go totally paperless when creating, processing, publishing, sharing, filing, organizing, and accessing documents.
Recommended solution: G Suite is Google’s widely used productivity platform for documents, spreadsheets, cloud storage, email, collaboration and search.
If you’re into online selling and retailing, and e-commerce software will help you manage all aspects of your online business including adding or removing products, handling inventory, calculating taxes and other details needed to fulfill orders for a website.
Recommended solution: Vend is a POS and e-commerce solution designed to help retailers manage their inventory, track and organize customer data, process online payments, and generate analytics and reports.
This software solution helps you create a website and manage its content. It also comes with variety of publishing options, built-in text editors, filtering and indexing features, SEO and metadata functionality.
Recommended solution: WordPress is the most popular website creator and content management system with a user-friendly backend, plenty of third-party plugins, and backed by an active global community of developers.
This automates scheduling your appointments and online bookings and syncs them with whatever calendar and device you use. It will provide notifications and reminders for your important activities and schedules for the whole week, month or even year.
Recommended solution: SimplyBook.me streamlines scheduling and booking procedures and is accessible from mobile devices and PCs, allowing you to set schedules and make bookings anytime from any location.
Marketers use this tool to get information about customers’ preferences and feedback on social networks, and apply marketing and content enhancements to respond to and engage with customers.
Recommended solution: Zoho Social provides keyword tracking, social media metrics, real-time monitoring and a host of other features to help you get the pulse of your customers and audience on social media platforms.
After your business has successfully passed the startup stage (2+ years) and is experiencing operational growth, adding new personnel, and handling more customers you should consider some extra SaaS solutions that will allow you to automate some processes such as: handling clients, marketing or managing employees. Here are some solutions you may want to try out:
A collection of web systems and apps designed for campaign management and resource optimization, and offer features such as data collection, branding, event scheduling, content distribution, and lead nurturing and converting.
Recommended solution: Hubspot Marketing provides tools for personalized and targeted marketing, content optimization, mobile and social media marketing, as well as analytics.
The solution can scale across diverse audiences and can automate email tracking and newsletter delivery, designing and sharing of newsletters, creation of permission-based mailing lists, and inbound lead generation.
Recommended solution: Wix ShoutOut lets you create, send, and share promotions to your subscribers, and lets you track views and clicks, build subscriber base, manage contacts, and engage prospects in social media.
You need to provide more robust customer support if your customer base is expanding and a dedicated help desk software will help you address and resolve customer issues more efficiently across multiple channels.
Recommended solution: Zendesk is the most widely used cloud help desk consisting of ticket management, chat, call center and knowledge base modules.
When you have employees, a payroll system should be in place to ensure accurate payment and taxes as well as compliance with benefits and other regulations. Most payroll systems integrate with Accounting or HR solutions.
Recommended solution: Gusto combines payroll, benefits administration, HR and compliance features in a scalable suite.
Managing your workforce is the function of an HR software. It streamlines human resource management including recruitment, screening, hiring, evaluation, onboarding, training, and education. It also makes sure that HR and labor laws are followed.
Recommended solution: BambooHR is designed for small and medium businesses to manage their online human resource needs including applicant tracking, employee onboarding, benefits management and reporting.
Sales automation solutions enables you to standardize sales processes and tasks, speeding up the tracking of your sales lifecycles and helping you accomplish your goals on schedule.
Recommended solution: HubSpot Sales is part of the HubSpot suite that focuses on sales automation, pipeline management and CRM.
LMS is built to help you orient, train, and further educate your employees to keep them engaged, knowledgeable, and updated of company policies, work roles and responsibilities, and business activities.
Recommended solution: Litmos is an affordable and easy-to-use collaborative learning platform that include features for course creation and delivery, certification, gamification, and course selling.
Companies use this software to supervise and keep tab of the activities and work schedules of remote technicians and field service personnel. It allows you to access customer data, manage service orders, and do route planning, among others, for more efficiency at less cost.
Recommended solution: ProntoForms automates mobile workflows and makes it easy for remote workers to collect data on a mobile device, access company data in the field, and automatically share results and information
Some SaaS solutions are industry-specific, meaning they offer features and automation designed for your particular industry, be it a dental clinic, gym, restaurant or a boutique. If you own one of those then you should definitely check out some dedicated solutions:
You would need an inventory management software to efficiently track inventory levels, sales processes, orders, and deliveries. It offers an improved way to organize inventory information compared to spreadsheets or paper.
Recommended solution: Zoho Inventory is part of the popular Zoho suite designed to help you automate order fulfillment and inventory, track deliveries and, in general, make smarter business decisions.
The solution helps you automate the process of planning, marketing, organizing, and analyzing promotional events, including conducting real-time surveys to get customer feedback.
Recommended solution: Eventbrite is a fully customizable event planning platform with intuitive tools that helps you save time and increase event sales regardless of the size and complexity of the event.
This lets you efficiently manage your restaurant business including frontend activities like order tracking and seating, and backend processes such as accounting, inventory, and employee scheduling and payroll.
Recommended solution: Toast POS is a cloud and tablet-based restaurant management solution that has tons of functionalities that include POS, reporting, credit card processing, CRM, gift and loyalty, online ordering, labor management, and inventory..
Used with hardware devices like cash register, computer, or tablet, this solution lets you input products, determine cost, and close the sale. It can also handle inventory, sales reporting, analytics, and customer and employee management.
Recommended solution: Square allows you to take payments using your mobile devices and can be implemented on the counter or on-the-go with its magstripe reader and real-time sales and inventory tracker.
Developed for contractors and construction companies to help them in important areas such as planning, scheduling, field service management, project estimating, design, accounting, and portfolio management, to name some.
Recommended solution: CoConstruct offers unrestrained customization to meet the specific operating needs of clients, builders, and design-build firms looking for a flexible tool to manage diverse activities, designs, or materials.
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More and more companies are adopting cloud technology through the SaaS model because it has proven to be a viable and practical alternative to traditional methods of software delivery and deployment. Server rooms and traditional software installation, management and maintenance have been taken over by SaaS cloud solutions. More than cost savings, an increasing number of SMBs have been adopting cloud solutions due to their ease of use and the efficiency they bring. Why are SMBs embracing SaaS software solutions? One study has shown that companies have realized other competitive advantages of cloud technology beyond cost reduction.
Here are the key benefits of SaaS software for small business:
It’s not hard to understand why SaaS software is becoming the preferred solution for small business. SaaS provides features and capabilities that give SMBs a competitive edge while leveling the playing field with enterprises and larger corporations. SMBs need not invest in expensive IT systems and infrastructure but simply pay for subscription, and they’re right off the bat with tools that enable them to compete in a cutthroat business environment.
You may also want to learn the state of the SaaS landscape today with our extensive analysis of the 2019 SaaS Market Industry Report.
You already know about the benefits of SaaS listed above. But what particular features you should be looking for in a SaaS solution for your company? Our advice is to focus on the following aspects:
These should all be common characteristics of SaaS solutions that your small businesses can really take advantage of. When visiting SaaS sites you’ll notice that vendors go all out in emphasizing their product’s small business-friendly features and pricing, a situation that bodes well for you. They have come to realize the importance and potential of small businesses, and that fact that SMBs are the biggest users and adopters of SaaS today.
While everything looks rosy for the industry, there are some issues that have cropped up with SaaS solutions mainly centered around the fact that the software, and everything that supports it, is managed by an external company. As you can see from the image above, SaaS virtually takes over the entire ecosystem (orange color) as compared to those under your scope (blue color). This SaaS setup has led to the following:
Many of these SaaS issues, however, have steadily been addressed in recent years, making SaaS solutions even more dependable, reliable, and secure today. Vendors usually have to ensure high standards because customers can easily look for other SaaS providers with so many quality ones available in the market.
It’s usually a good idea to stay on top of the latest SaaS trends, simply because the innovations, such as the advent of artificial intelligence, are constantly reshaping the market, and you don’t want to be left behind with an old solution that doesn’t keep up with technology developments.It will go a long way and give you an immediate advantage by staying up-to-date with the latest SaaS trends. Here’s what trends you should be watching for in 2020 and beyond:
SaaS is there to give you the means to move your business forward in today’s digital connected world. Despite having limited budgets, small businesses using cloud platforms get access to professional support and the latest technology, giving them much needed solutions to optimize their operations and make them competitive.
Statistics has shown the wide acceptance and adoption of cloud and SaaS technology by SMBs, seeing that there is no reason not to try them. The compelling factors for SaaS use – affordability and flexibility – are also primary benefits that small businesses have taken advantage of since these translate to savings, more opportunities, and an agile organization able to weather business challenges.
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