What makes an effective B2B SaaS website? (Case Study)

Feb 2020
Web Design
Eric Unger

This year, nearly 75% of small businesses will rely on cloud-based software from SaaS (software as a service) providers, like SalesForce, Slack, and Adobe Creative Cloud, just to name a few.

It’s no surprise that thousands of new service software companies have appeared over the last few years, to solve every unique business problem you can imagine. We all use so many software solutions at this point, there are now apps (like Basecamp) designed to replace a bundle of other apps. The goal is to reduce your overall cost & bring everything in your digital world to one central location.

Basecamp pricing

Last week, I came across an article shared on Twitter, written by Zapier - a task automation solution that connects over 1,000 integrated web apps. The article detailed their workflow and internal guidance on “Slack etiquette”. It’s a set of “unwritten rules” for communicating digitally in a workplace group chat - and specifically how they do it. Slack is a very well-known freemium SaaS product that grew to over 1 million users, without a sales team nor any elaborate marketing plan.

While I’m not a “super user” of Slack, I am a part of many work-related Slack teams / group chats, so I found this article pretty interesting, and retweeted it.

A company I had never heard of replied to my tweet and said they have a product that’s more useful, secure, and private than Slack. Plus, it improves productivity and context-switching. Wow! While they didn’t contribute anything to the discussion, I found their idea very intriguing.

After a quick look at their website, I was left confused. I replied to tell them their product doesn’t even apply to me, and that I don’t understand how AirSend could be better for me than Slack and other SaaS apps I use.

They asked for my feedback - so that brings us to this blog post. Here’s my case study on AirSend, and mostly general tips for effective B2B (business-to-business) SaaS websites. This is based on my professional experience as a web consultant & developer, working with dozens of growing businesses, including well-funded tech startups.

Website design & messaging

While the most important element of a website is not solely its visual design or performance, all of these contribute to the only goal - which is to convert visitors into leads or customers. Your overall design (the user interface) plays an important part in incentivizing visitors to take action.

Colours, font choices, and other design elements all contribute to the visitor's first impression, and should always be on-brand. Don’t forget to test your website on mobile devices and tablets too! (even those unusual screen resolutions).

AirSend did a mostly good job of this on the design side, but their messaging and web copy could use some work. I made some small changes to their existing hero section layout & text. My new version is on the right - which of the two is more likely to get you to sign up?

The contrast between both black and white text on the same coloured background often seems too intense. Most of the dark text could be replaced by semi-transparent white text, as I’ve done above.

A B2B software website should convey a feeling of authority & knowledge (bold & confident statements) while also connecting with visitors on a more personal level (slight humour or personal reassurance). And remember, nobody will read a multi-sentence paragraph until after you’ve captured their interest.

Lower on the page, AirSend uses various other call-to-action tag-lines, which is great, but some send mixed messaging. Are they simplifying collaboration and communication, preventing context-switching, or helping my entire business?

Who's it for?

Use Cases & Your Target Market

Be sure your landing page (home page) answers the following five key questions. It should be presented in the simplest and quickest way possible:

1. What problem are you solving for me?
2. How does it solve the problem? (three or four main features)
3. Did it work for anyone else?
4. How much will it cost? (short and long term)
5. Is it designed specifically for me?

This is where I got very confused when I first visited the AirSend website. They list three major features, and which SaaS apps they would replace, on their homepage. The main navigation mentions three specific “use cases” (different than "case studies") for their app. Those are realtors, lawyers, and accountants. I don’t fit into any of these categories.

AirSend has informed me it’s actually made for everyone - but you wouldn’t know it looking at their website. I still like the idea of targeting certain professions, and having a landing page specific to them.

Each of their landing pages is basically a duplicate with a couple of keywords and sentences edited. I would suggest creating videos for each market segment to really speak directly to those visitors. Bonus: the video and landing page content could also be re-used in their digital advertising - Gary Vee style.

NOTE: They have since updated their website to include more categories, however many pages still use the same video & descriptions.

I would suggest changing these to specific customer case studies, or have more general categories, in addition to making it clear that your product can be used by everyone. Though from a marketing standpoint, you can never sell to “everyone” (choose a smaller subset of business owners). But that’s a topic for another blog post.

Social Proof

“Social proof” is a psychological concept where your website visitors trust your brand's offer more under the assumption that others in a similar position are using it. Testimonials and examples of your service in use prove it has been successful to others, and therefore your visitors would be more likely to purchase. Up to 92% of web users will trust a recommendation from someone in a similar (or more successful) position.

Not only does social proof across the web help turn visitors into leads by building trust, it’s also good for SEO (search engine optimization).

So you need to include some testimonials, logos of your customers (if they’re recognizable), endorsements, ratings & reviews. Don’t publish fake reviews or testimonials - this has long-term negative effects on your website search rank, plus your visitors can tell they’re fake.

Another option is to publicly list some of your stats. This could be number of total users, number of people who signed up today (Basecamp does this!), or anything else that shows people are having their problem solved by your service.

To encourage social proof, ask your users to leave honest reviews online (do not incentivize them), or for a genuine testimonial.

AirSend does not have any social proof on any of their pages. I can’t get a feel for who else is using their app, or if anyone likes it.

Make it easy for satisfied users to share your website as well. AirSend could also improve here, because their social sharing data is currently missing (commonly known as “OpenGraph” meta tags). Sharing their URL on social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn results in a blank white box, with no description:

Sharing AirSend's website on Facebook 😕

Clear pricing & call to action

One of the primary factors in considering a new SaaS product is the price. It often makes sense to have a free tier, but you should avoid hiding your pricing deep within an internal page. Being transparent about your monthly terms, add-ons and upsells, right upfront or with a Pricing page, will help to build trust with your website visitors and qualify leads.

HubSpot does a great job of this, carefully categorizing all of their different services and bundles. They have a Pricing link in the navigation, a currency selector on the left, and just three simple price options per product, including an entire tab that explains the limitations of their free tools.

HubSpot Marketing Hub Pricing

In contrast, the AirSend website doesn’t seem to show you the pricing anywhere, aside from mentioning the word “free”. After searching on Google, I finally came across the AirSend pricing page. It turns out the service is partially-free, with some limits. Then they have a second plan that is also free? But normally $7? Not sure. And a $10 per month “Business” plan. But aren’t all of their customers businesses?

So, should you put pricing on your website? All B2B SaaS companies should, unless your service is extremely customized to each user, and/or targeted to large enterprise businesses.

Marketing expert Neil Patel has some great tips on crafting the perfect pricing page, on his blog.

User Experience

After improving the design & text, it’s important to consider the overall User Experience (UX). This includes website performance (speed), mobile optimization, navigation, and use of popups & third-party libraries.

Improving user experience has a lot to do with common sense & general standards. Visitors expect your website to have navigation and logo at the top, be able to scroll vertically to see more relevant information, etc. If any of this is different, you need to outline clear instructions on how they can find the information they need, or you risk a very high bounce rate (high number of users leaving after only landing on the page).

AirSend does a good job of this, but they’re missing a “contact us” link in the main navigation. It seems the only way to get in touch with them is by using their chat box on the bottom right.

Chat windows could be overlooked by the visitor, or live chat may not be their preference in communicating. Either way, you don't want to miss an opportunity to capture a new user! A contact form, or other method to capture visitor information, is a great way to not only close a sale, but retarget users and add them to your mailing list (with permission). AirSend should add a clearly labeled contact page to their website.

Notifications & popup

You should limit the number of notifications and popups that will distract users. It’s nice to have a chat window, but it should not open automatically.

A good alternative to a newsletter / offer popup is just having a small horizontal bar a the very top of the website - it’s noticeable on both desktop & mobile, without being too intrusive:

Your sign up flow

The UX doesn’t stop at your marketing website. The sign up flow is an important part of the overall experience. Most of your call-to-action buttons (Sign Up, Get Started, etc) should all link to the same unified sign-up page.

You should require only a bare minimum of information to get a new user started with your service (ideally just their e-mail address). Even if they don’t complete the entire setup process, it will be useful to have their email address or phone number, so you can follow-up with them and provide support.

As an example, AirSend asks for your name, email address, and new account password to get started. Their sign-up page was quite slow when I first opened it, but the account creation process went smoothly. They could simplify this to just collecting an email address, and then prompting the user to set up the rest of their account in the app. Once inside the app, it’s important to have an optional demo or tour.

And that's it! If you make sure your new SaaS website answers my five key questions and follows all the tips I’ve outlined, you’ll be on the right track to having a very effective tool for all of your marketing campaigns. A functional website is the base of all your successful digital marketing, and it’s your best salesperson, so it’s important to invest the time and effort into getting it right. If you need help, or would like me to review your website like this one, please get in touch.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for reviewing the AirSend website, nor for writing this blog post. These are my own unbiased opinions.

AirSend is a trademark of CodeLathe Technologies Inc., and not affiliated with or endorsed by North Designs.

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