When I speak to growing SaaS firms about how they are differentiating with their subscription billing, I generally hear of one of three problems:
- Difficulties in building new billing scenarios
- Complexities in the manual steps involved in the tracking and billing of usage
- Issues in executing revenue recognition and producing SaaS metrics from the billing
The competitive pressures each firm is under pushes them to innovate in how they deliver their value, and this in turn pushes the team to create the capability to deliver it. Over time, working with the next generation of great SaaS and subscription firms, we have developed the following framework for getting your teams together on how to best tackle these situations.
- Pull together all of the different items you currently bill for.
- Identify which billing items are usage-based vs flat fee.
- Identify where your usage data will come from.
- Identify what type of tier scheme you will be using – step, volume, absolute, or other.
- Identify frequency of billing.
Ahmed Siddiqui and the team at Marqeta, creators of a payment innovation platform that powers prepaid, debit, and credit cards for the world’s leading commerce innovators, went through all of this as they were rapidly growing. Their initial success in crafting unique payment capabilities for their clients created several problems in scaling, with manual hand-offs between the operations, data, and finance teams.
This in turn created a data schema with independent silos of data that lacked integration and only grew in complexity as sales volumes increased from their successful product offerings.
Marqeta’s teams were working well together, but manual steps were leading to 80 hours of effort each month, with an increasing percentage of work for the team responsible for building and issuing the invoices. With sales doubling, the manual effort was doubling at the same pace.
They knew they needed an alternative – one that would work for all the stakeholders:
- Sales – to be able to create billing options to support their clients
- Sales Ops – for scenarios they could quote and price
- Data Operations – for the ability to track usage and patterns to suggest optimal payment strategies
- Controller – to automate the billing and payments of the invoices
- CFO – to have accurate metrics and reporting to share with management to track against the operating plan
After a thorough review of options, Marqeta chose Sage Intacct and its revenue management solution to address their needs. As they went through the billing framework, they found that Sage Intacct could help them on several levels:
- A native API connection to the data warehouse tracking usage provided automatic access to the data needed for billing.
- The ability to create new billing scenarios across different products and different tier schemes gave them flexibility to outmaneuver their competition.
- Having the client relationship managed in one master record, the Contract Master, enabled them to have one view of all the usage and billing to best track and understand customer lifetime value.
- Having all of this native in the financial system provided them with instant revenue recognition plus accurate financial reporting for their Board.
- Real-time dashboards on their key subscription metrics gave different departments one view on information to create a shared consciousness in decision making.
As your business scales, we believe this framework can help you organize your team, analyze how best to compete, and automate tasks. This will allow you to accelerate your pace, increase your wins, and speed cash flow – and at the same time make the job easier for the team.
A great video that illustrates how SaaS companies scale, and Sage Intacct’s unique capabilities in helping them, can be found here.