What Is the End-User Era?
The end-user era refers to a new trend in how businesses buy the software. The decisions about which enterprise applications to purchase are shifting from company executives to the employees who will use these tools to do their jobs. In the end-user era, both software makers and the businesses that buy from them are changing the way they operate based on this new reality.
How Product-Led Growth Relates to the End-User Era
In recent years, many software companies have been adapting to the end-user era by changing from a revenue-driven model to a product-led growth strategy. With this strategy, the product itself becomes the company’s primary tool for attracting users. This is because one proven way to lure new customers is to allow people to sample your product for free. Businesses that use the product-led growth model make their products available to the public without charge, in some cases offering a limited-time free trial of their application.
A product-led growth company offers a limited-time free trial of its application with the option to continue use for a fee after the trial ends. The philosophy behind product-led growth is that by letting the public find and use the product for free, they will become comfortable with it and may even come to depend on it. When the free trial period ends, they will be more likely to continue using the product if they have to pay for it.
Product-Led Growth Model
The end-user era is the flipside of the product-led growth model. This means that instead of the company deciding which software tools to buy, it will be the employees who use the software who make the decisions.
There is data to support this theory. A 2019 research report from Gartner estimates that by 2023, 40% of professional workers will make decisions about which business applications their companies buy.
This shift gives employees a lot of power when it comes to choosing software for their companies. Software makers need to recognize this trend and adjust their strategies accordingly.
App makers who are focused on product-led growth are refocusing their efforts and moving away from large sales teams that target C-level executives at their customer companies.
They reason that their software needs to be outstanding and easy to use if they want employees at their enterprise prospect companies to start using it in their day-to-day work. Only after a company’s employees have gotten comfortable with a piece of productivity software will the makers of that software be able to sell it to the company.
How to Build a SaaS Product in the End-User Era
Given that employees play such an important role in deciding which software to buy for their company, here are a few tips to keep in mind when building a B2B SaaS application that will attract employees:
1. Make it free.
In the end-user era, your enterprise customers’ employees will be the ones advocating for your SaaS apps within their organizations. But many of those employees will have no company approval to purchase software, or anything else, directly. If you want to enlist their help in championing your product over others, you’ll need to let them experience the product for free.
A common way to generate revenue for a software company is by providing a basic version of the product for free and then charging for advanced features – this is what Slack does. Slack offers a digital workspace platform with limited features for free, and if an enterprise wants to add more instant-messaging capacity or video calling capability, they need to upgrade to the paid version of Slack.
2. Develop a network effect in your product.
The network effect occurs when a product becomes more valuable to its users as more people use it. Facebook is a good example of this. When Facebook had 100,000 users in its early days, the typical person wouldn’t have found much value in it. The chances were low that the person would’ve known anyone else on Facebook.
Slack also provides an example of this best practice. The more a company’s employees sign up for a Slack account and use the platform regularly, the more useful Slack becomes to each of those employees.
If you’re building a SaaS product, you’ll want to make it appealing to one employee at your prospect’s company so they’ll encourage their colleagues to use it too. Once the user count in that organization reaches a critical mass, many employees will be asking their executives to buy your upgraded “professional” or “enterprise” packages.
3. Develop your product with the end user’s pain in mind.
As a SaaS product team, you need to build your product to solve the end user’s pain points. This might seem obvious, but many enterprise software developers instead focus on creating products that solve the buyer persona’s problems – such as the company’s CIO or a department vice president.
The end-user experience should be a B2B SaaS company’s main priority if they want to succeed in today’s market. To achieve this, they should focus the majority of their efforts on trying to solve the end-user’s problem. This means taking the time to learn about the challenges, concerns, needs, and goals of those employees. Additionally, it means designing a software product that zeroes in on solving one big challenge or helping the employee achieve a single key objective.
Employees don’t start using a B2B app because it does a lot of things fairly well. They sign up to use a business app only if it does at least one thing—something they need—extremely well. To create an exceptional end-user experience, B2B SaaS companies should focus on solving one big problem for their users.