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By understanding client expectations as well as those of the target audience I use creativity, SEO tactics, buyer personas, keyword research, competitive keyword audits, titles and meta description as the backbone of your writing project. 

Tailored to your audience, relevant and helpful that has been researched and written the way people want to read. Factually correct and up-to-date. Easy to understand. Fluff free, using clear structures, short paragraphs and multiple headings. Great content is what people will want to share and these links will result in an even bigger search engine result page boost - bigger than using keyword-optimized content alone. 

With the average reader spending just 8 seconds skimming through an article (Time.com), creating original, valuable and engaging content is vital. Good content brings in audiences, great content generates higher conversion rates. 

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SaaS? Is that the new name for Scandinavian Airlines?

 

If you are anything like me, over 40, raising children, working from home without a brick and mortar job, and a long daily commute where you can read the daily news, you might be wondering what SaaS, B2B, MaaS, and IaaS are. What is the "SaaS Model?" Do I really need to know? You will be surprised that you have probably been using these services for a long time without realizing it. Software as a Service (SaaS) has been part of your life ever since you signed up to Facebook, Dropbox, or G Suite.

It is a service provided by a vendor to an end-user.  Back in 2000, in the old days, if you wanted to use a piece of software, you would make a one-time transaction, buy it outright and install it on your local computer, be it Windows, Mac, or Linux.  The data is stored there, and when you need it elsewhere, you uninstall it or move it. When the software is no longer supported years later, somehow, it still works until it just dies.

Today, software is provided as a service by a vendor, whenever you need it, via a monthly or annual contract, and in some specific cases, by the minute.  The software is not installed on your computer.  It is held on the vendor's servers, and your computer connects to their server.  Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce, and Google Docs are not installed on your machine, they are web-based applications. 

Remember the old days, back in 2000?  Accounting firms were becoming big, and instead of having content (like QuickBooks) on local servers dotted around the country, they set up QuickBooks within an application server on one of their servers.   A thin client (a constrained personal computer) then connects to the application server and streams the content to the client. Just like web apps today. It's easy to use, and the processing happens back at the vendor's servers. All the client does is inputting.

Both vendors and end-users benefit from SaaS.  Vendors can charge recurring rates versus selling one product at a time, ensuring a monthly income, for example.

As an end-user, the following points may be helpful to think about before signing on the dotted line.

 

Cost of setting up

 

No upfront big $ commitment for the end-user.  As the owner of your business, you no longer need to fork out $100 for each of your 30 users in your office ($3,000). Instead, you pay $10 per month for 30 users ($300).  Now you have $2,700 left in the bank to use for other expenses.

"But isn't it more expensive to pay for something monthly over the lifetime of the service vs. buying it outright?"

 

Yes and no.

It's a business decision - give 30 users instant access for $10 each, or spend $3000 upfront.

The cost of maintenance, upgrades, updates, and hiring contractors to carry these out could drive up the price of a one-time purchase even if it seemed cheaper at the time.

Undoubtedly, over the lifetime of the service, you will end up paying more, but as part of the package, you will be getting both maintenance and upgrades, saving you from having to spend more later on additional hiring costs.

 

The vendor

 

If you pick the wrong provider and they stop operating, all your data and functionality can be turned off very quickly.  In reality, 7 out of 10 SaaS start-ups fail. A lot of young entrepreneurs are starting up a lot of new businesses, and no one will disclose they are about to shut down their operations. The minute their servers are turned off, you lose access to the application and everything else they are housing.

Do your due diligence on the vendor.

Is the vendor likely to be in business in 3-5 years and grow with you?  Keep an eye on progress. As you are approaching the maximum number of users, consider what is next.  Some vendors max out at a certain number of users because they have no plan to grow bigger. Even if you only have 5 employees right now and you have no intention to have 20, things could pick up and in a couple of years only to find yourself with 25 employees and a service that only supports 20.  What happens then?  You will need to migrate (more on migration later).  What you really don't want to do is a lengthy migration process when the company is doing well, and the next employee needs to be up and running tomorrow.

 

Speed is everything

 

When you subscribe to SaaS, your internet service needs to be up to speed. At least 20 Mbps with good latency and stable connection. It's no longer browsing the internet, upload/download, and sending e-mails that you will be doing.  Your 30 users will now be hammering your internet connection and expect that the application will work flawlessly without any flakiness.

 

Great expectations

 

Client expectations and service contracts need fine-tuning.  Read the small letters carefully.  A baseline fee is for the minimum service.  If you need training, support, migration help, make sure it's in the contract; otherwise, you will end up having to pay out extra to speak to someone on the phone when you need help. It's no good paying a monthly fee for a service that none of your users can use.

 

Data is everything

 

Ensure you get all the help you can with migrating your data for database solutions. Data migration, even under the best circumstances, can get complicated and messy.

What about leaving the provider?  QuickBooks, Outlook, and database type applications all need exporting.  Previously, back in 2000, you could pull your data out of your locally stored server and take it with you.  It was a messy business with problems, but doable.  When you use SaaS, it's even messier.  You will be storing data on someone else's server, and they may not have ways to get your data out, or at least there is not an easy way to do it.  Companies will try to lock you into their solutions by making it difficult to get data out, or when you do get it out, it's in a format that's difficult to take over to the next provider.  Will you be able to mine your data in 3-5 years from now to take to the next solution?

 

There is more to a technology product, then just using it. We underestimate how complicated SaaS is.  Only because it's sitting on a remote server, it doesn't mean it's simple or intuitive.  Don't just look at it from the point of ease of signing up and getting users up and running.  Migration should be your primary concern.

 

Consider these points before getting into a SaaS venture.  Changing your mind later is not going to be as easy as uninstalling a piece of software from your machine.

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Eight tips to consider as a SaaS start-up owner

 

As an owner of a SaaS company with a great product, you’re eager to get out there and make your mark and be known.  Here are some early-stage mistakes that can hinder your chances of a smooth start.  Read on to learn about:

 

1.  Pricing

2. Financial modeling

3. Leveraging others’ hard work

4. Marketing your product

5. Fundraising essentials

6. Finding your priority markets

7. Avoiding the SaaS graveyard

8. Advertising

 

1.  Don’t give away your product too cheaply

 

Corporations spend millions on software – hard to imagine for most people who will never spend more than a few hundred dollars in their lifetime on software.

Are you underpricing your product because you fear the conversion process or difficult conversations with your customers?  Are you falling short on interaction and customer satisfaction?

Too many start-ups give away their product too cheaply.  You know your product best.  The bugs, the best features, and what’s still missing.  You feel you can’t really ask for the big bucks until it is all perfect.  In all likelihood, it is never going to be perfect. 

Work on your shortcomings and biases and up your price. You have nothing to lose.

 

2. Get your financial model right from the beginning

 

You’ve been doing tons of research, and you’ve based your financial model on SaaStr’s 10% month on month (MoM) rate.  It is what everyone’s talking about in the industry, so it must be a good benchmark, right? 

Consider this. Maybe you started at $0, and at the end of your first year, your monthly recurring revenue (MRR) is $50,000, which is not unheard of and well done. You may have been growing at the rate of 20% MoM during the first year of your operation, some months more, some less.  It is easy to think, “Companies are getting 10% MoM? Is that all? I’ve been doing 20% a month!” sit back and assume it is always going to be like that.

Percentage growth quickly compounds.  Your first year’s vertical cliff is just that.  It is going to be challenging to maintain that upward trend even if you have all the funding and the best marketing tools available to you.

 

Base your forecast on net MRR increases instead of percentage growth.  This will also help you plan for hiring and sales force, among other things.

 

3. Leverage what’s already available to you

 

Do your research and use the great tools available to you already.  Learn from the playbooks of other start-ups.  Many have been opened up. Go to Quora, see the more than 2000 questions and answers from SaaStr’s Jason Lamkin, read the blogs, invest in the conferences.  It is easy to find great answers to your questions. A wealth of information is out there on landing page optimization, marketing pricing, content marketing, or sales team compensation.  Innovate by all means on the product and the user experience, but don’t reinvent the wheel.

 

4.  Latent demand is not product marketing

 

The initial spike in sign-ups and activity on launch was probably due to latent demand.  It is usually short-lived, and your product still needs development after you’ve satisfied the early demanders.  If your product is built around another product (like Slack or billing systems), then it needs to evolve so you can present it to a broader market.

Unless you know that your product is ready to scale up in a large enough market, there is no need to invest in sales and marketing just yet.

Word of mouth is still probably enough and effective in a small market to get you off to a good start.

 

5. Become an expert in fundraising

 

You will probably have to raise funds multiple times as the CEO of a SaaS company.  Become an expert in fundraising early on. It is essential that you get really good at it.

Create a deck. An amazing one. It is time well spent. You can only use your first great impression once.  Consider all aspects of the business and clarify muddy areas you’re unclear about.

Talk to the right number of investors.  Start speaking to 10 to 15 investors and see how many you like and are able to secure.  Talk to more if you need, but don’t blast 100’s of emails out there to anyone you can find on LinkedIn.

 

Be on top of your metrics. Investors want to see a comprehensive set of KPIs, for example, as part of their due diligence. Have it ready.

 

6. All roads lead to the USA

 

Aim to be the category leader of your product.  Every organization will look at the category leader as a default when looking at choices. 

Companies in the USA and Canada alone account for 50% of global software spending.   It is a single language market that is also spoken in other large software markets such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. That’s a lot of customers to ignore, so place them on your priority list even if your local efforts will suffer short term.  Investing your efforts in the USA/Canada markets will give you better returns. Consider setting up or moving your business to the USA, as many companies have done before. It is your business, you alone are the best person to take care of it.

 

7. SaaS graveyard

 

Companies with high CAC (customer acquisition costs) and LTV (lifetime value) aim for large corporations as their customers. Others, with low CAC and LTV, like Squarespace, rely on a referral loop or viral loop to their products. Slack, Dropbox, and ZenDesk have low CAC and high LTV.

Many start-ups end up in the SaaS graveyard as a result of the combination of LTV and high CAC. Aligning your CAC and LTV can get you out.  Increasing your prices or adding layers to the product helps as well as targeting a different type of customer.  If your product has viral potential, some referral loop, leverage it.  If this is not an option, improve the product and the onboarding experience, or find new distribution channels.

 

8. Hold back on paid advertising

 

There is a huge temptation to go off and spend on advertising and acquire new customers fast.  Paid advertising, by default, comes with some waste – waste that can be spent elsewhere in the early days.

Distancing yourself from your competitors of your category in the first couple of years may be beneficial.  Spend your funding on building a first-class product.  Even if you have money to spend, it will never be enough to buy mindshare outright, so spend your available funds on product development. With a first-class product and word of mouth as a marketing tool, you can gain authority and ultimately mindshare.

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Top 3 essential oils for winter wellness

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It’s January. It’s cold in the northern hemisphere.  

 

Summer was a long time ago and your tan disappeared back in October. You already finished that bottle of vitamin C you bought discounted in the hope you won't catch anything your children bring home. What have you been doing since for your immune system to fight infections and keep you healthy during these months?  Not much I hear you say?  Tried everything, nothing worked?

 

Here is my recommendation for the top 3 all-rounder essential oils that everyone should have.

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1.  Lemon (Citrus Limonum)

 

The high limonene content of this oil stimulates the immune system, fights fatigue, eases stress. It's highly effective against infection, both internal and external. The fragrance is distinctively clean, sharp, and citrusy, which turns into a creamier aroma in better qualities. 

 

The oil promotes clarity of thought and purpose while invigorating, enhancing and warming.

 

Blend it with frankincense (Boswelia Thurifera) and use it daily as a preventative and balancing ointment.

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2. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Globus)                       

 

While there are many varieties of eucalyptus, this one is the most favoured for essential oil production. The odour is fresh and powerful with a very strong aroma on all levels, so only a little is ever needed. It is a powerful antiseptic oil and is good for pulmonary problems. Inhaling helps with colds, influenza, sinusitis, sore throats, coughs and bronchitis. 

 

It is a stimulant, cleansing oil not too dissimilar to peppermint but more gentle, with a cooling, refreshing, mint-like smell.

 

Use a drop in your evening bath and enjoy the benefits as you soak.

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3.  Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia/Officinalis)

 

Lavender has been used as a tonic, a sedative, and to heal for thousands of years. It fortifies the body and gently sedates the mind and body while releasing tension. Just a short sniff can calm troubled nerves and depressed spirits. 

 

The odour of lavender is sweet, floral and slightly woody, making it ideal in any blend.

 

Use two drops on your pillow to address insomnia or difficulty falling asleep.

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Basilica Budapest – Europe's best Christmas market to visit this festive season

It is official. Basilica Christmas market has been voted by over 280,000 visitors in an online vote as the “Best in Europe” (European Best Destinations, 2020).

 

What makes people love this market over old favorites Vienna, Prague or Brussels?

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Guests enjoy free concerts, light shows and free entry to the Basilica while savoring festive mulled wine and traditional Hungarian winter dishes. Carefully selected retail shops showcase handmade artisan foods and crafts. Several popular street food vendors set up tent for those who prefer a paneer burger or a plate of BBQed pork. A glimmer of hope for long-suffering husbands or vegetarian friends who would almost certainly stay home.

Visitors are more and more aware of the impact of their travel now than before - gone are the times when gingerbread and mulled wine was the benchmark of a festive fair. Basilica market was voted as “Best for Christmas spirit” and “Best eco-friendly” Christmas market.  Your festive offerings are served on eco-friendly plates along with cups and cutlery, while any food that is left unsold or thrown away is recycled.

The entire family will be able to find something to do and spend a jolly evening browsing the stores and food stalls and letting the younger ones (aged 4-14) enjoy a twirl on the 200 square meter ice skating rink while picking up some original souvenirs to take home. Free light shows delight the crowds every half an hour from 5 pm onwards.

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Expect long queues, big crowds and virtually no parking nearby.  Happy holidays! 

 

Basilica Christmas Market Budapest - Open to visitors from 23 November 2019 to 1 January 2020.

© 2020 created by Mariann Roberts