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SaaS CRM platforms for subscription billing

Many considerations go into a successful business model for your product and/or service. Deciding to shift to subscription billing requires a great deal of thought into everything from successful payment processing to subscription functionality. Once these considerations have been fully vetted, the decision turns to exactly what platform is going to best serve your needs.

There are dozens of platforms in the marketplace today, each with their own set of tools and functionality. Some of the larger companies in the subscription space are firms like Zuora, Vindicia, Recurly and Chargebee.

Where to begin your research

One of the first places to begin researching alternative platforms, especially those platforms that tailor their sales effort away from the enterprise market, is to visit review sites such as Capterra, Serchen or G2.

These sites can be useful as they provide general summaries of many platforms relating to your search on things like pricing, features and benefits and competitors. In addition, these sites provide reviews from users of the platforms for you to review and evaluate. Just remember: These sites are driving leads for platforms evaluated on their site which means you can’t necessarily trust the rankings to indicate the best solution for your needs.

Also, there are many blogs and editorial or content sites can be helpful as well. Once all your research in complete and you’ve narrowed your choice to a handful of platforms, sign-up for trials with the platforms you’re considering and engage their support teams. This is truly the best way to see if a platform will meet your needs or not.

Build vs. buy

The alternative to “buying” a SaaS subscription platform is to build it yourself. It’s likely there is no outside service that will meet all your requirements perfectly. There are always compromises regardless of the direction you ultimately travel. Below are two of the most important areas of consideration when making the decision to buy or build your subscription marketing platform:

Speed to Market

  • The fastest way to market will nearly always be to outsource your subscription management to an external platform. One of the greatest benefits of a 3rd party platform is its ability to deliver a “canned” approach to subscriptions. The word “canned” is not meant as a pejorative, but instead as a well-worn, tried and true approach to marketing subscription products.
  • Most of the features you need will be available within the platform, but concessions will most likely need to be made.
  • If you’re new to subscription marketing and are unsure as to whether or not the model will work for you, buying is most likely the right short-term decision for you. You can prove out your concept quickly with little friction. If it turns out subscriptions are the way forward, and you’re committed to building your own subscription CRM toolset, you’ll be more confident in the decision understanding the economic benefits of the model.

Cost Comparison

  • One of main reasons SaaS platforms have been successful is due to their low cost of entry. Pricing models vary based upon the number of users, the number of records, functionality entitlement or any combination thereof. More recently, many platforms have moved to a usage-based model where the cost to begin using the platform is extremely small, but costs grow significantly as your success, and your business, grow.
  • The costs of an outside platform, while specific and quantifiable, can be more expensive once your business begins to grow. If this calculus pushed you toward a decision to build, make sure that you’ve considered ALL the costs of building an internal tool. These costs are more than just the payroll associated with developing and maintaining the system. You must consider the maintenance and hardware costs associated with the development of your subscription platform. Even if you’re using personnel that already exist at your company, there is the opportunity cost, i.e., ‘what else could my developers be working on, that must be taken into account.

Costs relating to any decision can be more than monetary and can be very difficult to quantify and envision when you’re at the beginning of a new business model. You will never have perfect numbers, but if you’ve done your due diligence, both internal and external, you’ll be in a better place to confidently make the call that aligns best with your business needs.

This is by no means an exhaustive of all topics to consider when looking at the buy vs. build decision. There’s also security, up-time, flexibility of the product, financial viability of your partners, etc. In the end, these decisions are complex processes and require the careful consideration given any other major business decision.

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