SaaS is the wave of the future in software, in companies large and small. In fact, the experts at Gartner tell us that even the largest companies (over $1 billion in revenue) will be adopting SaaS solutions for the majority of their software needs by 2020.
Local marketing automation systems are going SaaS now as well. But along the way, you have to watch out for vendors who are yet to make — or perhaps never really intended to make — the full transition to SaaS.
Here are five ways to tell if a local marketing automation solution is “half-SaaSed.”
- There’s a setup fee. Vendors who haven’t yet figured out how to provision new customer instances fast and efficiently, may need to customize their base software to fit the unique needs of each new customer. Why should you care? Because if there are hidden customizations, then updates and enhancements down the road are going to cost time in regression testing, to make sure those unique features aren’t affected. That’s a cost to you—in time for sure, and perhaps in dollars as well.
- You can’t adjust or configure the interface yourself — or if you can, the flexibility is limited to logos and colors. Real SaaS solutions allow you to tailor the workflow, interface, and roles/permissions to meet your organization’s unique needs. If you don’t have this flexibility and control, then it may be that your platform may not be a good fit from the start, and will likely grow more and more uncomfortable over time.
- You can’t install and adjust templates easily yourself. This is where the SaaS rubber meets the local marketing road in this category. A true SaaS solution will allow your marketing designers to build templates themselves – and even to install them directly from an InDesign file. And every aspect of the user experience should be configurable, without the need for a development team or a development cycle.
- The best way to test for this is to ask for a template composition guide, and then to provide the vendor with a sample piece of creative in the format that guide suggests. If they can’t turnaround an install on a same-day/next day basis, you’ve got reason to probe further.
- The product doesn’t have clear, definitive pricing. If all you can find is a “request quote” form on the vendor’s website, you’ve got reason to believe that the solution isn’t truly SaaS. That’s because a big part of the promise of SaaS is to tie price directly to the source of value. Don’t settle for off-line price quotes; look for a plan that allows you to calculate your subscription costs for the solution from day one through the end of your contract period.
- This is not to say that price negotiation isn’t a part of the game. But that game should be played on a field that’s well defined.
- The pace of updates is uneven, unpredictable, or worse, non-existent. Another big promise of SaaS is that the solution will grow more powerful and flexible over time, with new features and enhancements introduced at no cost to the customer. Ask for a track record of recent releases, and compare the cadence of these with the vendor’s roadmap for the year ahead. If either the track record or the roadmap isn’t available, then once again, concern may be warranted.
With the advent and maturation of SaaS business models, great advantages are now available to customers in terms of functionality, efficiency, stability, security and more. But the evolution to SaaS takes serious, sustained investment and commitment from vendors. Make sure those investments have been made—and made wholly—to avoid getting entangled in a “half-SaaS” relationship.
Learn how SaaS local marketing systems help the top performing brands improve marketing consistency, distribute creative assets to their franchisees or dealers and increase efficiencies in studio production.