We reached out to Russell Rothstein for a few questions concerning some of the biggest challenges and burning topics we face in the SaaS industry, and lucky for us, he was happy to share his thoughts and insights. The result is a great piece of innovative thinking.
Russell Rothstein is the Founder and CEO of IT Central Station, a crowdsourced platform created to connect enterprise professionals with peers for researching and reviewing technology solutions.
1. It’s no secret that the SaaS market is saturated, as new companies are having very hard time acquiring, retaining and monetizing users. In your view – what are the top 3 mistakes SaaS companies make? What are some key differentiators you recognize in a successful product?
The first mistake is that SaaS companies often scale too early. It is crucial to nail down your product market fit before investing a large amount of money in sales and marketing. You need to understand your product in order to properly position your company for success, which can take time. Otherwise you’re spending a lot of money on marketing and growth hacking that will not generate long term value. On the flip side, Atlassian is an example of the benefits of waiting to scale until the right time, as they were able to grow very quickly without a lot of investment in sales.
In addition, SaaS companies tend not to focus enough energy on customer feedback. Reviews platforms such as IT Central Station, the company I founded, provide valuable product intelligence that can help to know what customers are thinking, which areas need improvement, and how a company is perceived in comparison to the competition. Product reviews are often a first introduction for potential buyers, so early rankings and reviews can help determine long-term success. Interacting with these reviewers and learning from their experiences can build customer loyalty and ameliorate potential concerns, while clarifying what customers value about your solution and what might need to be changed.
Lastly, the enterprise market is where the money is most concentrated, and it isn’t always where SaaS companies focus their efforts. There might be fewer large enterprises than small businesses, but enterprises spend a lot on software. In many cases, the businesses that focus on enterprise are the ones that can get their monetization model working quickly enough to become profitable.
2. Which innovative trends do you recognize in SaaS marketing nowadays?
Decision makers and SaaS buyers spend at least 70% of their buying process researching online before ever engaging with a sales representative. The most innovative trends are the ones that educate buyers, rather than selling to them, during that critical first part of the buying process. When the number one most influential source of content comes from peers, marketers who can leverage this content to educate their prospects early on gain a lot of traction.
3. How do you prepare for a new feature launch and how do you make sure you stand out from your competition?
At IT Central Station, we use agile methodology and A/B testing. We constantly launch new features on our review platform and analyze the data to find out what delivers the best user experience. The quality of our reviews and content helps us stand out from our competitors; our triple authentication process validates that our community of users and the content they provide is real, unbiased and trustworthy. This content ensures that buyers are making the most informed decisions possible.
4. We are flooded with buzzwords lately – VR / AI / Bots… where do you think the software world is heading?
As Marc Andreessen says, software is eating the world. Don’t let the buzzwords confuse you. We are in the early stages of a massive disruption to the industrial world led by software, automation, and computing. We are on the cusp of changes that are larger than the Industrial Revolution. My hope is that we make use of these new technologies to better society and improve humankind.
5. Let us in on some of your secrets… where do you look for innovation? For inspiration and revolutionary ideas?
I read a lot and tend to draw inspiration from the books I’ve read. I’ve found Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Solution to be very influential in my thinking about how to recognize innovation. Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany was our bible when we first started the company. I’m reading now Roland Smart’s The Agile Marketer and find it very insightful. There’s a lot to learn about innovation from outside the world of tech. I’ve recently read biographies of Andrew Carnegie, Genghis Khan, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, all of whom have brought innovation to their world.