Posts by admin

Design Thinking: The Continuum of Innovation

d2

Some would vouch that left is more important; others would swear by the right. But which one is more important? We are referring to our brain if you didn’t get the drift. When it comes to creating a product or an innovative solution, what should we be relying on? The left analytical side or the right creative side? There is no definitive answer. What is definitive is “Design Thinking!” Design thinking is a mindset and set of principles that engages both analytical and creative thinking for solving a customer problem. Till now Product Managers have been heavily relying on number crunching to find a solution to a customer problem. But in the current technology landscape, innovation and winning can only come from design thinking- but only if applied appropriately.

Before we delve intoBuyer’s Journey in SaaS Ecosystem’ in our next article, we would like to set the stage for design thinking. And “Why?” you ask?For the simple reason that it is going to push the frontiers of Product Management to deliver breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage.

So what is Design Thinking?

In this age of innovation-hungry and competitive-advantage driven companies, design thinking is an approach to solve customer problems by combining right-brain creative thinking with left-brain analytical thinking. But more than that; it is all about the journey and not the destination.

The customer problem might manifest itself in multiple, unknown and non-linear ways. In the same way, the understanding of the solution would always fall in the realm of ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ and that should be the starting point of innovation.

New age Product Managers should comprehend the core concept of starting with the unknown and learning as they go into the process by playing small but fast bets. The focus of Product Managers should be to start small but with genuine intent on focusing on meeting human needs. The idea is to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and be willing to explore multiple options.

It has always been traditionally perceived that Product Management is supposed to be an analytical role. Product Managers were expected to rely on statistics and numbers to decide on the product they are creating. Product Managers love ‘big’ ideas but they always have been obsessed with analysis. That is the reason why they get trapped in ‘growth gridlock’. If the time to market is to be shortened and the process has to become lean, then just analytical thinking will never work. In this age of SaaS products where time to market is paramount, it’s not just numbers that you can rely on; there is need for empathy-based thinking as well. This is also known as human-centric or design thinking approach. This is true for both enhancing an existing product and creating entirely a new solution/product for customers.

Historically, designers have always focused on improving the look/feel and functionality of products but it was not enough and we know that it’s much more than that. Simply put, it’s non-linear and allows interactive and iterative understanding of a problem or a solution that is both analytical and experiential. The germ of design thinking starts with discovery of the customer’s problem. Since design thinking is option focused, the next step is about researching and understanding of the actual people or users involved. The next step is to ideate on how clearly we understand the problem itself and what are the options to solve it. Once the options are in place, we start experimenting with them and quickly discard any option that doesn’t work or ‘wows’. This takes us to synthesis. We should understand that when creating a product from scratch or adding new features, the option that we choose from experimentation has to be given time to grow, adapt and evolve before it becomes usable. It is an iterative process based on feedback and reflection, as the underlying concept of design thinking is that of being human-centric. Finally the solution needs to evolve and not be stagnant. Otherwise it runs the risk of becoming obsolete.

Competitive advantage doesn’t come overnight as it is a continuous process of adhering to principles ranging from mindset to process which can be aligned and applied to solve complex problems of customers. Competitive advantage through innovation most often occurs within a set of constraints, such as viability, profitability and desirability and that a traditional business-minded rational/analytic approach should be complemented with design thinking.

Customer Journey in B2B SaaS Economy

me

In our previous article B2B SaaS Landscape- The Changing Story, we observed that the persona of the enterprise customer is changing and that they engage with products and solutions across multiple channels and devices in what has become a true omni-channel environment. Today customers have access to more than one channel through which they are able to interact with a brand in multiple ways. Be it using a website, through a mobile app or any social ecosystem, customers have access to various touch-points to discover, learn, evaluate and then take a decision. But it can’t be as simple as it sounds!

That brings us to customer journey and its impact on the B2B SaaS economy. Customer journey is not just about ensuring a positive experience and impression about your product or service. It’s more about the customer’s impression of your product or service rather than what you have built. Customer journey is more than a fancy term or a buzzword; it’s a mandatory requirement for organizations. In today’s über-connected and über-competitive marketplace, it is a critical differentiator for product companies to steal a march over others. Defining the customer journey cannot be done using a boilerplate; it is a combination of data driven analysis and customer empathy driven insights. 

Innovative products, price, design, usability are no more the differentiators in today’s marketplace. They all can be replicated and dramatically improved given the fact that competitors have access to technology and knowhow to leapfrog every one of them. What can’t be replicated is the customer journey as it is not in a snapshot in time but spans the entire trajectory of being a customer. In fact according to a CEI Survey research, 86 percent of consumers said they would be willing to pay more for a better customer journey and experience (Source: Forbes) 

We hope you remember we mentioned “It’s not simple as it sounds.It’s not simplebecause of the discrete disconnected journeys that the enterprise customer is made to go through. These journeys traverse and span multiple touch-points which make managing them very tricky. The complexity of this entire engagement is compounded by the fact that these journeys most often pause and resume when the customer is ready.

Since these journeys are disconnected, it brings about certain randomness in the way B2B SaaS product organizations manage it. In effect, the customer behavior is unpredictable and conversion is inefficient. The channels through which customers engage may be multiple but organizations should strive to make the end-to-end customer journey delightful. It is surely a challenge for most organizations to do a great job when it comes to customer experience management.  If we generalize these disconnected pieces of customer experiences for better management, the Customer Journey Map would look something like this:

There are 4 parts to Customer Journey Management:

  1. Understanding the various touch points & Customer Journey Map for your product
  2. Designing the right experience for each of phases in the Customer Journey
  3. Setting checks and balances to monitor customer experiences (through NPS survey, interviews, mystery shopping etc.)
  4. Efficiently managing and tweaking the journey that was designed to create that ‘wow’ experience

All of the above are equally important as they convert a prospect into customer and then retain them. The designing of the customer journey should be such that all touch-points are given different weightages when it comes to optimizing the interactions. The idea is to tweak the treatment given to each of the touch-points based on interaction volumes for instance. This Customer Journey Map can never be set in stone and needs to be constantly monitored and tuned to optimize it.

B2B SaaS product companies must design a new system of engagement or customer journey to complement their strengths in innovation and value proposition. The engagement must span touch-points to provide a consistent experience that is contextually relevant and based on user personas. In a nutshell:

  • Building a great product experience is no longer a good to have thing, it’s a necessity to survive
  • Customer Journey Management all is about engaging your product and employees with your customers
  • Treat your customers more than numbers – remember, every interaction counts!
  • All of your collective actions as an organization delight the customers
  • Most of the time, people make decisions based on the shared experiences of others 

If your organization’s customer experience management strategy is not working, then probably it’s time to rethink your current strategy around how to delight your customers. And that’s exactly what we are going to discuss in the next post. Stay tuned!

YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN:

Our Book: Mystery to Mastery – Ideation to Productization Playbook

banner2

B2B SaaS Landscape- The Changing Story

b2b

When was the last time you bought an on-premise enterprise software product? We are sure you or your organization still buys them but look at the number of such instances? It has gone down as years have gone by. B2B enterprise software can never be done away with but it has metamorphosed into something else now.

Earlier when Agile Methodology for product development came into the scene, people used spreadsheets to track sprints and velocity. Now, products from companies like Rally have taken over. Do you get our drift? Yes, we are talking about SaaS.

Earlier due to lack of options or the innovation gap, deployment model was never a consideration when choosing a software product. Now we have come to a point wherein even for a business-centric product like ERP, the selection process heavily depends on the deployment model.

The positive perception of organizations on the overall effectiveness of SaaS ERP is the outcome of several technology shifts and mindset re-orientation. Few of the deciding factors that affect SaaS ERP selection are the usual suspects:

  1. Lower Total Cost of Ownership
  2. Lower Up-Front Costs
  3. Ease of Implementation
  4. Reduced Cost and Effort of Upgrades

Never have traditional B2B software business models faced irrelevance in their faces as they are doing now and all because of the rapid transition to the cloud. Some business models are extinct while new ones are rising to replace them. Neither did this change happen overnight nor was it driven by providers. It is in large parts driven by customer demand for this class of enterprise applications, the platform and headache-free infrastructure.

All that we said above is just a prelude to our main point of this discussion: Customer Journey Mapping for SaaS products. If we look closely at the persona of the enterprise customer, they engage with products and solutions across multiple channels and devices in what has become a true Omni-channel environment. Today customers have access to more than one channel through which they are now able to interact with a brand in multiple ways. This also means that the customers’ purchasing paths have become increasingly non-linear. And what better way to walk a mile in the customers’ shoes to experience your product and brand than to use Customer Journey Map? But more on that in our subsequent posts. For starters, let’s focus on the marketing effort that needs to be tailored depending on what stage of the sales-cycle the potential buyer is in. Needless to say, regardless of the type of service your SaaS product offers, customers will come to you through the marketing life-cycle (Awareness > Learn > Try > Buy).

Documented research shows that interactive & personalized content in SaaS product selling is very critical to drawing and converting potential buyers during their purchasing journey. And why is interactive content important, you ask? It cuts through the increasingly disjoint and copious content that the marketing landscape is infamous for. Be it Social Media, Blogs, Videos, Articles, White Papers, Case Studies, Newsletters, Webinar/Webcast or In-person Events, interactive content is much more useful and personal leading to personalized brand engagement and relevant experience delivery. And needless to say, each prospect wants to be treated in a very special manner. And that’s why marketing should focus significantly on ‘personalized’ content. So next time, you send that lead an impassioned email – focus on what the prospect has been using during the trial and how those features can help them rather than a generic email for all prospects.

Stay tuned to know how the marketing life-cycle is undergoing a metamorphosis in the SaaS product environment!