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Going Under The Covers Of A SaaS Company’s Website For Market Research

A lot of times when reviewing a SaaS company’s website we often stop at just the surface. We review the products, solutions, packaging and services and even the customer testimonials. This can sometimes be enough when making a decision on whether to do business with this company but when performing market research, you need to go a bit deeper.

Under the covers of a SaaS company’s website you can gain additional insight into the maturity level, go to market strategies, and even competitive positioning. Let’s take a look at a few strategies we use to gain some extra competitive intelligence on a company.

Navigation

A company’s strengths are often seen through how they dedicate space within their navigation.  For example, having solutions in the navigation often indicates the company has proven use cases for their services. Having a dedicated team or board link in top navigation often shows a desire to communicate the experience of their team.  Having pricing or packaging often means the company will sell their products via e-commerce while not having those items will often indicate a direct sales go-to-market.

Social Media

There’s some viral outliers, but strong followings are not built overnight. It takes a lot of dedication to grow a social following and often why you’ll hear our team touting a drumbeat marketing strategy – constantly telling your story and beating your drum. Checking in on a SaaS company’s social following is a surefire way to understand how strong their brand is.  Do they have a lot of followers?  When was the last time and how often do they post blogs, Tweet, or post to LinkedIn or Facebook?  Now, don’t expect a SaaS infrastructure service to have a million followers, but maybe compare their following to known leaders in the space to get an idea as to what’s reasonable for that market.

Open Source Community

A lot of SaaS companies may have a community built up around their open source offerings as well. These could be pieces of their architecture that they’ve made available open source or even SDKs, examples or other tools available via their Github profile. Offering this indicates a level of servicing the developer buyer and can also provide insight into the strength of such a following.

Pricing & Packaging

From a market research perspective, comparing companies based on how they package and price products can seem straight forward, but spending a bit of time to go a bit further can be helpful. On a spectrum of ecommerce online sales, to inside sales reps for corporate sales, to full on enterprise sales teams, trying to understand the strategy of the particular SaaS company you’re evaluating is important.  Seldom do companies use all those go-to-market strategies effectively.  Each channel has its own challenges with regard to pricing and packaging, employee training, marketing funnel and lead management, and more… 

Legal & Privacy

A company’s legal terms of use and privacy policies may have a ton of words, but what should you look for? One of the areas that I like to look at is any information around GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). GDPR is a European regulation for data protection and privacy which is designed to empower citizens to control their personal data. There are two main documents you can often find with regards to GDPR and they are:

  1. Data Processing Agreement – articulates the company’s stance as to what data they process and how they’re responsible for it.
  2. Sub Processors – Lists third party processors / software that may process data on behalf of that company (e.g. vendors the company uses to offer its services).

 

The details of these agreements are intricate and require additional expertise I won’t get into here, but having or not having these documents tells me about the maturity of this SaaS company and their potential global footprint.

Schema.org

One thing that I’m truly excited about is the progress of Schema.org and the community at large working diligently towards defining a data schema that can be used to define your business, website, and more in a common format. This is being used on websites to help identify social profiles like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook which may relate to your website, your address, founding team, and more.

SEO friendly frameworks and plugins help produce this data schema for your website which has helped adoption. It’s through adoption of standards like these that the internet becomes more useful and stable. These help power search engines, allow for data research and linking of sites to more powerful and enhanced user experiences. I’ve recently joined the working group at W3C with an eye toward how startups can leverage this linking data to help better represent themselves within their markets as well as understand their markets in general.

Advanced Google Searches

Here’s a fun and easy way to use advanced Google searches to find unique perspectives about a company. Give these a shot next time you’re doing some competitive research:

  • Google’s impression on who might be competitive with a company:
    • “related:example.com”
  • Checkout recent job postings to see how much and what roles a company is hiring for:
    • “Company Name (careers or jobs)”
  • Gain additional perspectives from others from company reviews:
    • “Company Name reviews”
  • Checkout existing customers to get a sense as to who’s the right fit:
    • “Company Name customers”

 

As you can see there’s quite a bit you can learn from a SaaS company’s online presence even though it may not be written directly on the front page.  Going that extra mile with market research helps make sure you’re the most prepared when making your next strategic move.

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