First – What is SAAS??
SAAS is huge, and it IS changing what you do and how you do it. SAAS is Software As A Service, a collective term for anything that you can do online where you used to have to buy, install and manage software packages on your computer(s). If you made the move from Outlook to GMail/YahooMail/Hotmail, you started using SAAS. If you moved your accounting from MYOB or Reckon to Xero, you started using SAAS.
Second – Why SAAS?
Software As A Service provides you with the tools, facilities, functions that you need via the internet – while someone else does all the maintenance, management, backups, security, etc etc etc. You’ll nearly always pay a monthly fee for the privilege, although there are other charging models of course.
SAAS can give you exactly what you need to run an efficient, effective, low-cost business where you can start small and grow as you need to. Take up the lowest-cost plan, and as you need more, you simply change to the next plan up (and pay a bit more). Perfect for systems to grow as you grow.
What Can SAAS Do For Me?
Well, the world is your oyster. There are literally thousands of SAAS providers covering an immense array of tools and functions. Just a few examples that might pique your interest;
- Accounting – see Xero for a completely-online small business accounting system. Invoices (including automated followups of unpaid ones), payroll, superannuation, bank-account feeds & reconciliations, BAS reports, contacts.
- Webmail – if you are still using Outlook on a desktop to do your email, it’s time to think again. Yes, the transition is a pain. But switch to an online-only email system like the business version of GMail and you open up possibilities that allow you to integrate with all sorts of other things. Plus you have easy access from anywhere on anything (internet-connected, of course!). And usually better anti-spam, anti-virus protection.
- Contact Management – looking for somewhere that keeps track of your customers and potential customers? CRM (Customer Relationship Managment) services store the usual info (name, address, email, phone) but also notes about each conversation, you can automatically store any emails to/from them too, and even classify as Leads (possibly interested), Prospects (actively interested) and Customers (purchased) then add auto-reminders to prompt you to get in touch at appropriate times. Lots more to CRM… Insightly is a great example.
- Image & Video Editing – save on graphic design costs with DIY online tools that make it easy AND look good! For example, Stencil for fast & effective social-media graphics, Rocketium to make short attention-grabbing videos for your website or social media outlets.
- Surveys – find out what your customers ACTUALLY think or want! Survey services are not only easy-access for the people you want to survey, but they help guide you to get meaningful results. SurveyMonkey is a popular one, but upcomers like SparkChart are pushing the boundaries.
- Webpage Customiser – so you have a website already. What if you could easily make it adapt your webpages according to who is looking at them, when, and why? Without changing the webpages… So you send an email out to a selected group of potential customers, and when they click that email to visit your website, it greets them with “Good Morning Sally!” This is what Unless does.
- Email Campaigns – you’ll have seen a lot about growing your email list so you can market to them. There are quite a few services that make this easy and automate in fabulous ways to save you time AND make you more effective. Automatic personalisation (“Hi Bob…”), automatic removal of invalid emails, automatic recording of who opened what when and clicked on what. Automatic grouping of contacts into whatever categories you choose (customers-who-bought-x, customers-who-visited-website-did-not-buy, etc).
These just scratch the surface of what you could do in your business to grow it and manage it – the old ‘doing more with less’. SAAS offers you great potential to extend what you do, save you time, save you costs, and scale up as your business needs more. Keep your eyes peeled, there’s a good chance that there are tools out there now that could make a big difference to your business!