Home > Marketing > The hype about SaaS, and other jargon

The hype about SaaS, and other jargon

So Software-as-a-Service — SaaS — has been the hype du jour for about 18 months now. And in 2008, everyone and their mother had a thing for SaaS. “Now SaaS-compliant!”

But hype, after all, is just hype. Software-as-a-Service is nothing more than software where the functionality is online, not living on your PC (or in your server room).

The two most successful SaaS products are Salesforce.com and Skype. Salesforce.com is successful because it takes something difficult–a centralized database that needs to be update every minute–and puts it out on the Web, where companies can instantly access their data. Instead of spending thousands of dollars and several months to set up a CRM system, you can use the one hosted by Salesforce.com, and begin using it right away.

With Skype, you can call (or IM) anyone who also has Skype. And for a low price, you can make calls to regular phone lines too.

These are value propositions for customers, and the only thing that SaaS has to do with it is the delivery method and the functionality. But customers don’t care if it’s SaaS or not. All they care about is whether or not the programs have the functionality they need, whether it works, and whether they find it easy enough to use.

Many companies think “SaaS” by itself will magically start selling their products — this is the reason why so much crappy marketing has been done that uses hypecentric words-du-jour that all mean the same thing: bullshit.

My favorite hype-word right now is “cloud computing” — and even the tech guys who attend cloud computing conferences roll their eyes whenever that phrase is mentioned.

The bigger problem is that companies who use jargon in their marketing material tend to see the world only from the lens of the company, not the point of view of their customers, or any of their other stakeholders. It’s a recipe for an uphill battle in sales, if not downright failure.

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Categories: Marketing
  1. December 23, 2008 at 6:40 am

    I like your point that “SaaS” is as meaningless as “Web 2.0” especially as a selling point, but I have to disagree with your statement that “customers don’t care if it’s SaaS or not.”

    On the side of “I don’t want it SaaS” are the folks who insist that all their data be behind their firewall. Now I realize the SaaS products (including Salesforce) are often available to be installed on-site, but this is typically super-expensive and a special deal (Salesforce).

    This effect has made SaaS an impossibility at my company where source code is posted for review. Qualcomm isn’t going to allow their source code to be posted to our website!

    On the side of “I want it to be SaaS” are the IT departments that want zero-client-install, even if it means an inferior product. It’s easier to support a few finicky servers in virtual machines than to figure out which of the 7452 desktops haven’t been upgraded to v4.2.3 from v4.2.1.

    Still, nice post and I totally agree about these buzz-words.

    P.S. I’ve even heard it said that “Being delivered as SaaS wlil make our company more valuable when it’s sold.” Wowzies.

  2. December 24, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Your blog template is not correctly displayed in the window of my browser! Please fix! I really liked the article, I will read this blog always! I am very interested in software))) +1

  3. December 29, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks for letting me know, Maxim — I looked at my blog on some other monitors and it cut off some of the text. I’ve shortened the title and the tagline of my blog — hope that fixes it!

  4. December 29, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Jason. I agree with many of your points, but I still think it’s about features and benefits, not “SaaS” per se–even in the examples you give.

    For the folks who want or don’t want it to be SaaS, it’s not about whether or not it’s SaaS, but whether or not they get the benefits they want. For one client, protecting the data is the biggest concern. For another, zero-client install is the requirement. While some may perhaps be blinded by the overwhelming light of the phrase “SaaS,” the reality is that the benefits, not the SaaS toggle, is the issue. If there was an acceptable way to get their stuff

    What chaps my hide is that from a marketing perspective, promoting that one’s company is a SaaS provider without saying what the software does is idiotic. Even the people who want zero-client install aren’t going to look at companies that promote themselves SaaS companies; they are going to look at CRM vendors (or whatever software they need), and have “zero-client install” on their list of must-haves.

  5. December 31, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Dave Johnston has a good blogpost about a related issue here: http://onemanlab.com/2008/12/29/saying-nothing-in-stereo-tools-as-novella/

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