accelerator : 4 Lessons Learned from Going Upmarket in a SaaS-Based Business
Optimum Talent recently launched their new, bilingual career management portal, which is a cloud-based platform powered by our very own, CareerJSM. CareerJSM is a technology start-up that started out providing online job search support to universities and colleges across the country.
Mike Bacchus, Chief Executive Officer of Optimum Talent, said, “It took us over a year to find the right partner. There were a lot of options, but we didn’t want to go to market with the same old thing. We wanted something unique. Something our clients hadn’t seen before and that we could customize to meet their needs. We found that in CareerJSM.”
Knowing that CareerJSM shifted their focus to the larger, enterprise client model, we wanted to spend some time with Jeffrey Doucet, CEO of CareerJSM, to see what they learned from the shift and what their key takeaways were for other SaaS entrepreneurs who may be considering doing the same.
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“We took a bit of a contrarian approach with our SaaS company. Most startups don’t go from smaller, simpler clients to one bigger customer but we’ve found that it’s been a fantastic move for us for a number of reasons,” Doucet said. “While a lot of startups focus on a growth strategy that encourages them to focus on reaching a high volume of customers quickly, we have found that working closely with a large enterprise allows us to focus on product market fit innovate together.
The proof is often in the pudding and in this case, for the CareerJSM team, it’s in the ability to gain access to 120+ consultants, all of whom will provide product feedback, through just one client rather than trying to find 120+ responsive individual clients. Having access to this much feedback is mission critical and, according to Doucet, product feedback is your most important capital.
We asked Doucet to boil down his lessons learned into four key takeaways and here’s what he shared with us.
1. Selling an Enterprise Product as a Startup
Doucet says that you really need to own that you’re a startup and use that to your advantage. When you’re a startup that is pretending to be a much larger company, the expectations are much higher across the board. It leaves you open to awkward situations or conversations during due diligence so it’s best to be honest right out of the gate.
Doucet added, “We’ve found that our large, enterprise clients appreciate our transparency and openness and it’s allowed us to go above and beyond on areas like customer success as they know we’re small and we have a lot to prove.”
In short: be open, be honest and create emotional relationships with your clients and customers. By doing so, you’ll see less churn, get more feedback and more testimonials.
2. Pricing an Enterprise-Based Product
It can take a long time, especially in a brand new market, to figure out the best pricing model for your customer base. For CareerJSM, it meant aligning their incentives with their customer’s incentives. CareerJSM shifted their pricing to a shared success model whereby they make money when their customers make money.
Doucet adds, “Too many companies can get hung up on what other SaaS-based businesses are doing rather than focusing on what their customers want. When you change the focus to align incentives, the customer is generally happier with the arrangement.”
3. Transparency, Oversharing & Involvement with a Large Customer
When it comes to working with large customers, Doucet says that they really appreciate the oversharing of data and updates as well as full transparency around product development and feedback loops. For CareerJSM, they send over new product updates, based on client feedback of course, over to their customers to ask, “Here’s a new feature – what do you think?” before deploying it.
Doucet adds, “We involve our customer at every point. It helps us to build better software and it brings the customer along for the journey. We see tremendous buy-in from our customers when we do this as they feel like they are a part of the product development process.”
4. Other Side Effects from Working with a Large Enterprise Client
Doucet had a few other benefits that they’ve seen from going upmarket. They are receiving a lot more feedback from their clients, as well as their user base, which allows them to collect more data on what’s working and what isn’t. This is critical to modifying or shifting the product to always be customer relevant.
When you’re working in a traditional SaaS model, where your price may be a bit lower, it’s easy for customers to cancel their accounts without providing feedback or giving a reason why. At the enterprise level, that cancellation process looks a lot different and there is much more feedback provided on the way out.
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For CareerJSM, shifting their focus to enterprise clients has worked out really well for them across the board. We’re pleased to hear how it’s working for them and we can’t wait to see where they take CareerJSM next!