Building a SaaS Business Is Like Playing Baseball

If you’re a baseball fan, we’re entering the most wonderful time of the year: MLB playoffs and the World Series. In business, we use so many metaphors from baseball, and with the season upon us, we realized how much building a SaaS business is like playing baseball. Step into the batter’s box, and get ready for our pitch. Hey, batta, batta…

SaaS Is a Numbers Game

If you’ve read Michael Lewis’ infamous book Moneyball (far better than watching the movie), you know that he pointed out how critical thinking around metrics ultimately revolutionized baseball, and ultimately all modern sports. The best SaaS operations thrive on measurement, using a variety of metrics to improve and grow. SaaS numbers always tell a story — the health of the business is in the numbers.

To Fill Seats, Give Fans a Reason to Show Up

Your SaaS product matters a great deal. It has to do its job and provide a good experience. If either of those cornerstones fails, there will be fewer fans showing up.

Building a SaaS Business Is a Grind

Like baseball (and life), in SaaS you have to show up every day. Downtime? Not really an option — you have to keep pushing forward. When you ease up, someone will gladly take your spot. We’re continuously improving our products and optimizing our marketing and sales. It’s a (rewarding) grind.

Small Ball Can Win

Swinging for the fences is hard. Building a unicorn is rare. But showing up every day, striving for 1% better every day, compounds growth. A string of a few singles scores as much as one home run. In baseball, it’s common for home run hitters to strike out often. That’s not good!

You Can’t Win ‘Em All

With SaaS, you’ll never make everyone happy. The goal is to find provide the best possible fit for customers, knowing that some will be too small (or too big)and your product can’t check every requirement box for everyone. Losing a few deals along the way should provide lessons.

Budgets Force Trade-Offs

Like having a salary cap, your SaaS organization probably won’t have unlimited funding. You’ll need to decide where to invest your money for the best impact. Delivering a noteworthy customer experience means good software, value, and service. And we’re all limited by the “iron triangle” of trade-offs — good, fast, or cheap, pick any two.

Protect and Reward Your MVPs

When you have stars on your team, you need to do your best to keep them around. Brain drain in SaaS slows every aspect of the game. For example, your lead developer knows about your technical debt and can be instrumental in addressing it later. Reward your best team members using the things they like most: recognition, bonuses, room to roam, and career investment.

You Have to Experiment to Get Better

We often talk about experimentation at Webapper. We use it for conversion rate optimization (CRO) ourselves, and ultimately we’ll use it in our product development too. That is, we will split-test features among our users. Incremental improvements add up over time.

Sometimes You’re on Offense, Sometimes Defense

We’ve been part of projects that were growing fast, and others where churn became a problem. When you’re growing, you’re on offense. You pile on resources to expand and continue. But when you find increase in churn, you need to pause momentarily and defend. For example, you may have a bug that’s annoying a group of users — they simply go elsewhere. Stop and fix the bug! We once had a focused bug fix sprint that completely changed the business trajectory.

You Need a Really Good Farm System

We could pick on a few Major League Baseball teams who are perennially out of contention (but we’ll leave them alone, for now). What you’d find if you looked into it is that they’re not developing talent in their own farm system, just buying players on the market. It’s more powerful to build talent from within. We believe in promoting sales development representatives (SDRs), for example, to business development representatives (BDRs), and subsequently, BDRs to account executives. These team members are far more likely to help you grow and expand, purely from experience of your SaaS and your company culture.

Competition Plays Hard Ball

You have competition. Whether it’s a spreadsheet or a multinational SaaS rival, there’s already a way to do whatever you’ve built into your SaaS solution. And competitors will fight you over pricing, functionality, reputation, and more. Be ready to compete every day.

You Need a Great Closer

Sales is the lifeblood of SaaS growth. We’ve been with a SaaS product that demoed well, but only the CEO could really close. Obviously, scaling was difficult. You need a great closer (or more than one when you scale), someone who knows how to align with the right customers and help them see the light…

You Have to Run Down Ground Balls

On occasion, you’ll hear of new trends, opportunities, and problems. Accordingly, plan to invest resources in market analysis, product research & development, and customer service. You don’t have to chase down every ground ball but you need to watch for them regularly and follow up on important ones. For example, it can be embarrassing if a major new competitor enters your market and you’re unaware.

Every SaaS Business Faces a Few Curve Balls

(Bad) stuff happens. Whether it’s a cloud outage, a problematic release, or a cashflow crunch, you need to work toward being resilient. Multi-cloud delivery? Better QA and DevOps? A credit line at the bank? Think about solutions to problems before they arise (or plan for their recurrence if they already happened).

Building a SaaS Business Is Like Playing Baseball

Put me in, coach. I’m ready to play! Building SaaS can indeed be fun. Despite curve balls and wild pitches, you can still make a play. Competition should help you develop skills and improve your approach. Are you ready to step up to the plate now?

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