Subscribed Podcast Ep #16: Judy Loehr on SaaS Business App Marketplaces

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Judy Loehr is Partner at CloudApps Venture Partners. Judy has over two decades of experience with business software spanning product, marketing, consulting and business development roles. A part of the early team, she went on to become one of the world’s leading marketing consultants for cloud business application companies. Judy has invested in some of the most successful SaaS companies and now focuses on early-stage cloud business application companies.

We talk to Judy about creative go-to-market strategies and the challenges and strategies for new SaaS business app marketplaces.

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A couple of years ago, you gave a great presentation at our Subscribed conference around creative Go-to-Market strategies. Can you walk us through your three room messaging framework?

My goal was to give companies a very explicit structure that they could follow to develop their own go-to-market positioning because it’s just really hard. People sometimes think they can just go spend an hour and write up a little boilerplate and boom that’s their messaging and it’s just not so.

The messaging just has to be relevant for the target audience. And it has to be in a context that’s important to them in their world. So, the three rooms messaging framework is really meant to give a structure that forces you to first, think about your target audiences, and what’s important to them. Then, create a context that makes you relevant before you ever say a single thing about your product.

For any type of SaaS or subscription business, having a clear go-to-market strategy is critical, because it affects everything from your business model and roadmap, to your pricing and packaging, and which partners you choose. And your corresponding positioning or messaging is critical because it forces you to align all of your executives around this strategy and story. And this can really help accelerate every aspect of your business.

Another area of your focus of late has been the SaaS business app marketplaces. We recently launched Connect where you can find pre-built applications, extensions, interfaces, and tools from partners and developers across the globe…. what role do you see these marketplaces serving for a SaaS company that’s trying to scale? Is it for everybody?

That’s a good question. And unfortunately, the answer is that it is different for everybody. It really comes down to what the business objectives are.

I was part of the team at Salesforce that built the AppExchange and got it out the door in time for Dreamforce 2005. One of the reasons for wanting to do that was that we already had an open API, and we had some great partners who had built very real, very valuable, two-way, integrated solutions with Salesforce and were really making customers successful. And these were in areas that maybe came up as sales objections, or looked like product holes. They really were met beautifully by some of our partners, but because it was just API to API integrations, it was too black box for prospects to really see, touch, feel, believe.

We were trying to have something visible and tangible to show that these are real joint solutions that really do work. That’s the reason for coming up with an app exchange with the categories, and the listings, where you can include screenshots and show this. Then, with customer reviews, you could see testimonials from others who were using the joint solutions. So, it gave customers a lot of confidence. And along the way, it has helped make Salesforce, arguably, the center of the business applications universe.

What are some of the evaluation criteria for early stage SaaS companies who want to partner with a marketplace?

For early stage SaaS companies, resources are limited. The same level of thought that you put into your own product roadmap needs to be put into how you pick your SaaS partners. The only reason to spend any time on a partnership is if you’re going to do it well, and do it right.

So, first and foremost, it’s customer alignment. Which mothership company out there is serving the same customers you serve or want to serve? And by providing a great solution, could you potentially win more and reach more of those customers?

The next lens is what type of joint solution could you build? What would it look like? Is there a way to build something that instead of just giving equivalent values of using the two products side-by-side, gives a 1+1=3 value from the joint solution? That’s really gonna delight customers.

What is the right stage for a SaaS company to start thinking about their own business app marketplace strategy? And what are some of the things they need to consider or put in place?

Timing-wise, you need to have enough room for critical mass, so there’s something there appealing for a group of customers that others will want to reach. Then, it really comes back to your business objectives — Are you trying to extend your product footprint? What sort of extended solutions can you provide to fill holes and extend the product value?

One reason not to do it is just to create a new revenue stream.You really need to separate those. You need to create the value. When you throw up your marketplace with your first 20 – 50 solutions, there’s a lot of customer education and customer marketing that’s needed. And so, it is an investment from the mothership company, to build and establish and drive customer awareness for that marketplace.

Catch Judy’s session at Subscribed 2017 – Register here!

And check out her guide – Nailing your Go-to-Market Positioning here!

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