This blog post originally appeared in my Mediumblog. This is where I plan to post my thoughts on the industry, share marketing tips that worked for us and do other types of postings are more appropriate for a personal, rather than the corporate blog.
You want your SaaS to be successful. You want it to conquer the world. So you are sitting in your SF headquarter, making plans. You are probably thinking that your Silicon Valley office address gives you a tremendous advantage — you have access to the best talent, ‘smart money’, billionaire mentors and so on. Yet, you might soon find out that your plot for world domination is flawed and hardly any sales come outside US. So, what’s going on?
1. Why localize your SaaS?
So, why even bother? It’s not that everyone doesn’t speak English, there are two real advantages when you localize your SaaS. First, many developing markets grow faster than US. Case in point — India is expected to add 60 million NEW internet users this year. Second, there is a lot less competition in many of these markets, meaning that you’ll acquire new clients faster AND cheaper. In our case (that would be Bitrix24.com) India brings in 1/3 of US revenue, but the cost of acquisition is 1/5th , and we see this in other markets, like Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico. Granted, this is not a universal rule, but it is something to keep in mind, if you what to stretch your marketing dollar. 2. Translation is not enough
Many services erroneously thing that if they want clients in Germany or Russia, all they have to do is add German and Russian languages and perhaps MySaaS.com/de/ru page. Nothing could be further from the truth. In many countries, like the two I just mentioned, there are laws that mandate that certain data absolutely must be stored inside these countries. If you want to sell in Europe, google Directive 95/46/EC . While individual users may not care where their data is stored, banks, municipalities and large corporations do, and these have deep pockets. Complying with local data storage laws is not that hard. Amazon cloud, wh ere we store client’s data, has many data centers and their European ones in Dublin and Frankfurt are fully compliant with these laws. Azure and Google cloud solutions offer similar choice. Likewise, we’ve launched Bitrix24.de service the same day we launched Bitrix24.com, showing our German users that we care about their needs. This matters a lot to your clients outside US.
3. Show me the money
The almighty dollar is your biggest enemy when selling outside US. Most of the world lives with so called ‘soft currencies’ but exchange rates for euros, pounds or yen can fluctuate against dollars quite significantly as well. A few countries (think Venezuela or Argentina) have currency controls, meaning you can’t pay in US Dollars without special permission. Some countries require that you report expenses in foreign currencies using separate tax forms, no matter how small the amount is. We saw our sales or Bitrix24.inand Bitrix24.com.br explode once we switched to using Indian rupees and Brazilian reals for those countries. Our users no longer have to guess how many rupees they’ll have to spend next month for the service 1857 or 2032. Best of all, accepting foreign currencies is extremely easy, most payment processor (BrainTree in our case) offer this service. Once a month they’ll convert your euros, pounds and yuans to dollars and send it to your bank account.
4. Find local partners
Sure you could open office in another country. Yes, you can provide support in Polish. But it’s much, much easier (and much cheaper) to find local partners who will do that for you. These people know how businesses operate in their country. They can meet your prospects in person (never underestimate face to face meetings). They understand what’s important for this market. They can provide quotes and invoices in familiar formats. Partners are awesome. They help your business grow fast.
5. Proximity marketing
We used to be inundates with daily request like “could you please tell us which companies in Croatia are using our services, we’d like to talk to them first”. There were two problems with those. First, we needed to find out who actively used Bitrix24 in Croatia. Second, we’d have to ask permission to be contacted. Then one day these requests stopped. And all we did, we simply place a real time map for Bitrix24 accounts across the globe at the bottom of our main page. Now people could see how many companies near by used our services for themselves. You don’t have copy our idea exactly. You could mention this in a registration email (‘Hi Mark! Thank you for registering with us, you are actually 485th person from London, who signed up this month’). But any proof that someone nearby uses the service has huge influence over people. Hey, 16978 newyorkers can’t be wrong!
So, how did these strategies work for us? US is still #1 in terms of Bitrix24.com registrations, but it’s only 20% of our registrations world wide. Over the past three years, more than 4.5 million people tried Bitrix24. We will soon celebrate 1,000,000 accounts registered across all Bitrix24 domains and one account is one company typically, so that’s not an easy task to achieve in just three years.
We pay less than $10 to get a new client, whereas $30-$50 is considered standard for our industry. We got a ton of free publicity. In many countries we are the only game in town, since no one else is providing free service in their native language. So, who needs Silicon Valley, anyway?