The SaaS economy has been steadily growing with more companies offering their products or services under the software-as-a-service model. According to Gartner’s forecasts, SaaS revenues are set to grow to $121 billion by 2021 and $141 billion by 2022.
SaaS companies deal with customers in a setup that may not be similar to what traditional businesses are accustomed to. The approaches in attracting customers that work with conventional businesses may not be as effective when it comes to marketing SaaS solutions, conducting sales, and providing excellent customer care.
Managing customers from a SaaS perspective
SaaS companies rely on digital communication to reach out to customers and deal with them whenever there are complaints and other concerns. This may appear advantageous in many aspects, but it can also create challenges.
For one, it is difficult to establish trust and convince potential customers to accept what is being offered. And even once a connection has been established, it is not uncommon for leads to ‘get stuck’ in the customer relationship management (CRM) level unattended and not taken advantage of. There’s also the familiar situation of low-quality leads that get bumped up to sales calls just to fill a quota, resulting in wasted time for sales reps and the degradation of sales productivity.
Even SaaS companies that employ the freemium model do not always get the supposed benefits of having free users that can be converted into premium or paying customers.
The challenges of the freemium model
Most SaaS companies turn to the freemium model to attract potential customers and take them in the middle of the sales funnel. It is one of the most effective ways to convince customers to try a product while making them easy targets for further sales campaigns.
Harvard Business School Professor Vineet Kumar says that “freemium is more successful than 30-day free trials or other limited-term offers because customers have become wary of cumbersome cancellation processes and find indefinite free access more compelling.”
The problem with this model, however, is that many companies tend to be mostly passive after customers decide to avail of their freemium product or service. They no longer exert additional effort to encourage customers to upgrade to premium, hoping it would be a logical next choice.
A survey by Databox reveals that the highest freemium to premium conversion rate experienced by an overwhelming majority of businesses are only at around 3 percent to 10 percent.
There is a clear need to push for more strategically aggressive campaigns to convince consumers to become paying customers. Even with limited features under a freemium model, SaaS companies still spend considerable resources to deliver continuous services to non-paying customers. If they fail to deliver reliable freemium services, they risk stirring negative publicity, which will most likely throw a wrench on the entire marketing and sales campaign.
This is where an AI-powered marketing and sales solution Exceed.ai proves useful. It implements effective marketing playbooks to enhance lead qualification, reactivate dormant leads, and convert leads into qualified sales opportunities.
Its intelligent bots that run on emails and websites are designed to boost the quality of top-funnel leads while increasing conversion rates. It also seamlessly implements automatic customer renewals to optimize CSM productivity. Moreover, it engages in conversational nurturing to boost the identification of SQLs by up to three times.
How AI automates customer engagement
Essentially, lead qualification is about attracting and converting prospects into potential buyers. Leads can be classified into three major types: the information qualified lead (IQL), marketing qualified lead (MQL), and sales qualified lead (SQL).
Artificial intelligence can be useful in qualifying all types of leads. In the case of IQLs, AI is useful in analyzing big data to target customers and automating the deployment of online ads, promo offerings, and other approaches to draw the attention of potential customers. For MQL and SQL, a solution like Exceed.ai can provide palpable benefits.
Exceed.ai facilitates the automation of lead qualification to transform leads into sales opportunities. AI-driven virtual assistants operate 24/7 to engage qualified prospects in two-way human-like conversations via SMS, chat, or email. Applying a proactive approach, the AI assistant draws on CRM info and historical user data to personalize the conversation with leads and provide them with the information or content that matches their place in the funnel. Once the AI assistant has qualified a lead for a sales call it goes ahead and schedules that call with a sales rep entirely autonomously, though an integration with the sales team calendars.
AI is used to automate processes that would have taken a long time for humans to attend to. It hastens the identification of potential customers who express real interest in what a company is trying to sell. At the same time, it eliminates leads that are unlikely to result in sales, particularly those that have been unresponsive to earlier attempts for engagement or interaction.
Once the leads are qualified, they are elevated to the sales call stage, wherein human sales reps are taking over.
Real-world success stories
A number of companies can attest to the effectiveness of AI in driving marketing and sales.
Monday.com reported a 35 percent increase in sales rep productivity as the company eliminated repetitive tasks and minimized the number of unqualified leads. With Exceed’s AI automation the company was able to allocate more time and resources on deal closing instead of dealing with tasks that do not require constant human attention and decision-making.
ClearShift shared that they achieved a 25 percent increase in sales-ready leads. Through Exceed.ai’s automated lead qualification, the company limited its exposure to poor quality leads and spent more time on converting qualified buyers.
DemandBase attained a 19.5 percent rise in the average quota per sales dev representative. The AI-powered solution of Exceed.ai has helped the company in bolstering its pipeline and scaling customer experiences.
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AI-based lead qualification doubtlessly delivers solid advantages to SaaS companies. As demonstrated by Exceed.ai’s solution, it is possible to considerably increase sales-ready leads to generate more revenues without having to raise customer acquisition cost (CAC). The challenges of turning profit from a largely freemium-based business model can be addressed effectively with an artificial intelligence-driven system created by those who have actual experiences in SaaS marketing and sales.