Sep 08

Understanding SaaS Evolution Through the Eyes of A Marketing Guru

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting William Toll to discuss the technology market and its evolution. The last five years have brought an abundance of tech terms to modern business and investor vocabulary. The non-techies among us often find it hard to understand what the code-speak is and what relevancy it holds in our daily lives. One such technical term is SaaS (Software as a service.) SaaS is defined by Wikipedia as “a software delivery model in which software and its associated data are hosted centrally (typically in the (Internetcloud) and are typically accessed by users using a thin client, normally using a web browser over the Internet.” Companies across all industries across the world from banks to bakeries use SaaS to be more nimble, efficient, profitable, & organized.

The proper SaaS solution should always be relevant to the needs of the organization & properly understood in order to add significant value. The beauty of the SaaS market is its ability to be localized and scale across international borders with low cost adjustments to fit each country and markets needs.

A Brief History of SaaS:

Late 90’s ASP (Application Service Providers) US Innovation International Market Few Competitors:

The SaaS market has existed for many years but was only coined as a term post 2000 and has grown exponentially over the last ten years. Before the term SaaS was coined, Application Service Providers was referenced for any service that provided application functionality.  William’s experiences with ASPs dates to 1999 with his work at ValueWeb. ValueWeb was one of the first companies to provide web hosting for small businesses around. It was a pioneer in the e-commerce market & was able to grow globally. At that time ASPs were dominated by US technology companies. Most first movers tended to come from the US.

William recounts a true story of how ValueWeb entered the Japanese market. One of the employees was Japanese and built a manual in Japanese to explain the product and its advantages. As such, ValueWeb was the first product of its kind in Japan. It got the market share simply by making the needed small adjustments to educate & inform. The world was still unaware of service applications and their possibilities.

Early to Mid 2000’s Europe and Asia Catch Up:

SaaS applications are understood and used by more and more businesses across the world. European competitors start to emerge to service every sector of SaaS. Up until 2006 the US was leading the world in the space as European firms were overpricing their products & their products were falling short of expectations.

After 2006 European firms in France Germany and Scandanavia were able to find the perfect pricing and technology to deliver their products abroad. These firms started to heavily invest in promotion, customer acquisition and growth to penetrate the US.  They are now creating a market laden with SaaS competition and products across the world.

Mid 2000’s to Today Fierce Competition within the Cloud:

The emergence of cloud computing as a new and effective delivery model for SaaS spawned a brand new suite of products and services. Cloud computing is defined by Wikipedia as the “delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).” The competition in the SaaS field continues to grow and companies are looking for ways to spread, and gain market share and traction.

This is where companies seeking an advantage have employed the most innovative marketing methods, using inbound marketing techniques, and early evangelists as a way to spread their market presence. The most lucrative and well-compensated early evangelists are a group known as the Clouderati. The Clouderati are a self-made well-known community consisting of 50 content creator experts who live, breathe, and preach about the cloud. Having an early evangelist of the Clouderati as an employee enables the company to have instant credibility, cache, a growing following and increased profits.

The space continues to evolve daily and SaaS companies will continue to differentiate, innovate and revolutionize the way mainstream businesses consume and use applications.

About William Toll:

William is the VP of Marketing at Yottaa, Inc., he has held Marketing and Product Management positions in the Web hosting and Internet infrastructure industry since the late 1990s. He is passionate about helping small and medium sized businesses succeed on the Web. Currently William is driving the marketing strategy and implementation for Yottaa, Inc. Yottaa, The Web Performance Company, provides innovative cloud services enabling its customers to assess, benchmark, monitor and optimize their websites and Web applications for a better performance, user experience and improved ROI.

Most recently William was at the leading managed hosting and cloud services provider, NaviSite. At NaviSite, William was responsible for developing and marketing the company’s hosted product lines, including managed cloud services, managed hosting, managed business applications and shared and dedicated hosting for SMBs. In past positions at companies such as Affinity Internet, Inc., Intermedia.NET, and NTT/VERIO, William was the driving force in launching and enhancing successful SMB focused services including: Shared Hosting services, Microsoft Exchange and hosting add-on services like Online Marketing and Web Design. William received a BA in Marketing from New England College


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