Quality has been in my mind a lot this week. One way or another I have seen and heard some great stuff. And I was also frustrated and challenged by the bad things. At the end I felt I had a little bit of clarity. Real quality is three elements. Function, context and time. And it matters above all else.
For example, I spoke at a conference on Enterprise Mobility Management on Thursday. I was pleasantly surprised by the clarity and quality of the early speakers. A few hours later I was listening to the car radio. A discussion about sustainable fashion. The show included the bald statement that good quality can only be found in expensive brands. What rubbish. Why broadcast nonsense like this.
On another car journey I spent a couple of hours chatting to my old boss. I learned everything about leadership to deliver quality from Jeff. We had a great conversation. I was able to reflect on some simple truths about quality that apply in every aspect of business and life.
It just has to do the job. Well. Style never beats substance. In every walk of life that means engineering. A complex professional service needs to be engineered just as much as a Formula 1 car. Engineering is a continuous process. Make your product as good as it can be. Then improve it every day.
Put the right thing in the right place in the right way. Great design flows and links together. The elements feed off each other. As well as each individual piece standing out.
I am watching the US Open Golf from Chambers Bay as I write this. The course is carved out of an old gravel pit on the shores of Puget Sound in Washington. It could look artificial or industrial. Instead Robert Trent Jones has created a natural, wild links. Just enough nurture to make it playable and no more. Awesome.
Quality also reflects and advances its place in history and society. The best is timeless yet of its own time. I have written before about the co-working space I sometimes use in Govan. In its glory days the building was the head office of Fairfield’s. One of the great clyde shipyards. Today the ground floor is a heritage centre which reflects the era when this was the engineering centre of the world. Everything in its own time.
Whatever your business, quality should always be front of mind. Our connected world means everyone is competing against the best in the world. This is a great thing for mankind. Good enough is never enough. Only the best will thrive and we will all benefit.
Small Business Consulting
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Selling services is a relationship not a process. SaaS companies are great at the data and the detail. It is time to step back and look at the whole board. I call this Customer Centric SaaS. At heart it means looking at lifetime value to the customer as well as measuring LTV for your company.
John Hornell Quantify Workshop
We had a great discussion this week in the awesome Fairfields Govan Co-working space run by Rookieoven. John Hornell from Quantify gave an excellent workshop on startup marketing and lead generation. The companies there asked insightful questions and we all learned.
These events always leave me challenging my own thinking. There is a huge body of advice and evidence about startup sales & marketing. How to build a process. An engine. A machine.
Something is Missing
Data driven experiments. Testing and iteration. Careful management through each stage of the funnel. Seen through the microscope this all makes sense. But I have had a nagging feeling for a while that something is missing.
The problem is simple. SaaS is a service (the clue is in the name). I have been selling services all my professional life. And none of it feels like this.
Most of that time I have been in big business consulting. I remember talking to the CFO of a major client. He was in role reversal. Asking me about my business for once. His question was: “How do you plan when you never sell the same product twice?” It is a query which reveals an important truth. The basic components of a service may be the same. But no two services are identical.
Consider a less complex service. A haircut say. You it in the same chair. The same stylist uses the same scissors and shampoo. It feels like you have the same conversation. Yet no two experiences are exact matches.
To Infinity And Beyond
So a traditional service "sale" is not a process with an end point. It is not so much an end to end process. More a case of To infinity and beyond.
Services are a relationship not a process. Don’t think about a linear set of discrete tasks. A better image is quantum mechanics. A complex web of interactions where the balance can be in several places at the same time. In a service relationship the same team might be marketing, selling, delivering, upselling and preventing churn. All in parallel. Each acting and reacting to every other element.
Small Business Consulting: What Does This Mean For A SaaS Startup?
How might this operate in SaaS? I would advocate a new approach. i call it Customer Centric SaaS. Don’t misunderstand me. Many of the techniques we use today are still valid. Measuring and testing is an essential part of your armoury. But there is more.
Customer Centric Saas means:
My favourite way of describing this is putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Step back and look at the whole board. From the other side, the customer position. Pull yourself out of the detailed metrics and ask how you can fix the problem not just the symptoms.
Finish with a call to action is one of those details every growth advisor recommends. I prefer to suggest this is a call to think. Subscribe below if you want regular updates on the best SaaS thinking.
The Customer Onboarding Project is making good progress. Please join in to help some awesome SaaS companies grow. Lets continue leveraging the power of the community beyond the ideas. Each business needs to find the right specific execution plan. Join Sunstone to be part of that process.
Our SaaS Group project on Customer Onboarding is going well. The numbers of participants, ideas and votes have all doubled in the past two weeks. I am enjoying seeing the engagement and the ideas. Check them out by following the link in the text and make your contribution. The more ideas and votes we get into the mix the better. You will be helping some great SaaS companies.
Stimulate Some New Ideas
There have been a couple of great items to stimulate thoughts this week. SaaScribe is becoming an excellent source for new ideas. This article looks at the possible benefits of concierge onboarding. Even in SME SaaS this can be a practical and cost effective option. I am also looking forward to reading the latest book from the folks at Intercom. Titled Customer Engagement, it looks full of useful ideas. Something for the weekend!
Generating great ideas is part of a process. Planning and execution are also needed. So what’s next? How can the output make a real difference to real businesses?
SaaS Scotland Group Workshop
For me I know the first step will be cracking discussion when the SaaS Scotland Group meets on 22 June. This is a fantastic group of founders. All are passionate and committed. Putting their whole focus into their businesses. Feedback and even more new ideas will fizz around the room. Everyone in the group will go away with some specifics and execute what works best for their situation.
Therein you have both the problem and the solution. Advice is general but answers are specific. You need to find the right idea and execute in the right way for your business, right now, in this context. That’s why my focus is world class small business consulting a startup can afford. Templates don’t work. The challenge is to replicate specific one to one advice. Tailored to the exact needs of each company.
The Customer Onboarding project is harnessing the community to power up ideas. Part of the Sunstone mission will be to continue doing that. I want to strengthen the follow up as well so here’s my plan.
I hear some people don’t live in Scotland. We have plenty of space but until you get here you can also contact me via Klets for a free chat. Just follow this link.
Small Business Consulting Help With Execution
Choose Your Own Action
My goal is to make this work for as many startups as possible. Building a business using the SaaS recurring revenue model is tough. But selling SaaS to SMEs is a great business opportunity. I believe sharing as a community can help grow and build SaaS businesses. That’s what this is about.
I am a bit rubbish at calls to action so let me finish with a choice instead. After reading this you can do one or more of these:
Kenny Fraser is the Director of Sunstone Communication and a personal investor in startups.