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Making the SaaS model work for you as a vendor

By Leo Valiquette

“Software as a service (SaaS, typically pronounced [sæs]), sometimes referred to as ‘software on demand,’ is software that is deployed over the Internet and/or is deployed to run behind a firewall on a local area network or personal computer. With SaaS, a provider licenses an application to customers either as a service on demand, through a subscription, in a ‘pay-as-you-go’ model, or (increasingly) at no charge when there is opportunity to generate revenue from streams other than the user, such as from advertisement or user list sales.”

Wikipedia

Offering customers this option versus the traditional model of selling boxes of CDs in shrink wrap is a “price of admission capability for software companies these days,” Rob Bell, director of service operation and corporate IT for Kinaxis, said at OCRI’s #smarTALKS event last night.

Bell was part of a panel that included Marc Brule, vice president of client services at Halogen Software, Aydin Mirzaee, co-CEO of ChideIT, and moderator Jeff Bennett, CEO and partner at ServiceVantage Corp. They discussed the transition from the industry’s traditional revenue model to a co-hosted SaaS model.

The key message? The SaaS model puts software vendors closer than ever before to the end users of their products. This is a paradigm shift that, perhaps paradoxically, creates fresh challenges and new ways to get it wrong even as it provides some distinct benefits for both users and vendors.

Here are the Top 10 takeaways from the discussion:

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Creative, emotional, evocative: Getting the attention of overwhelmed consumers

By Leo Valiquette

Do you remember that Knorr commercial about how it had reduced sodium in its packaged side dishes?

Global advertising agency DDB Worldwide took a clever approach to promote a relatively humdrum message by portraying the perspective of that one individual unhappy about sodium reduction. It came up with an ad that features a despondent little salt shaker neglected at the family dinner table who trudges out of the house into a cold dark world.

Such creativity, says Jeff Swystun, is the most powerful force in business, especially in today’s world where technology has fuelled social interaction between consumers and the brands they use like never before. In this new reality, advertisers and marketers can no longer afford to focus on connecting people to brands. They must instead focus on connecting people to people.

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Marketing tips from that big bold brand we call Canada

By Leo Valiquette

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) is one of Canada’s leading marketing organizations, tasked with making the most of the fact that, when it comes to having a globally recognized brand in the international tourism industry, Canada ranks number one.

CTC president and CEO Michele McKenzie spoke at the Ottawa Chamber’s monthly Eggs n’ Icons breakfast this morning about how the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver served as a platform for promoting that brand to the world and how, in the Olympics’ “afterglow,” the challenge remains on how to capitalize on all that positive press.

International tourism is a huge and growing market. According to McKenzie, emerging economies are firing shots across the bow of traditional, more established tourism destinations that must scramble to maintain market share, redefine their messaging and ensure their brand remains visible in markets such as Brazil, China and Korea. These emerging markets are experiencing dramatic growth in the volume of outbound travellers versus “traditional” sources of foreign tourists, such as France, Germany and Great Britain.

While Canada has experienced steady growth in the volume of foreign visitors, 80 per cent of our tourism industry remains driven by domestic tourists. While this is a rich and valued customer base, McKenzie acknowledged, and rightly so, that it is limited, especially compared to a market such as China, which expects to have 100 million (yes, that number is correct) outbound tourists heading to international destinations by 2020.

As a big brand with a premium product to sell, we need to put ourselves on the radar of these huge new customer segments. As with any business, we can’t afford to keep most of our eggs in one basket. Market diversification is crucial to long-term sustainability.

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Should Amy Chua consider any publicity good publicity?

By Leo Valiquette

More often than not, clients of inmedia will set their sights on coverage in a flagship business publication like the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s or Fortune. Sometimes a client has a story that would appeal to such a prestigious publication, other times they do not. There is also the matter of whether such publications fit the bill as Tier One media targets for a specific client, but that’s a different post.

Regardless of the respect commanded by such publications, their writers and editors, struggling with fewer resources and tightened budgets, are as prone as anyone else to occasional inaccuracies and errors in their work. Perhaps they even, on occasion, fall prey to temptation and give their copy a little extra sensationalist spin to grab the attention of fickle readers.

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Facebook: ‘Irrational exuberance’ all over again?

By Leo Valiquette

The verdict is still out as to whether Goldman Sachs’ investment in Facebook heralds an IPO, but the $50 billion valuation it places on the popular social media platform is nonetheless a scary portent.

While Alex blogged last week about what this deal could mean for those who use Facebook and other social media tools for work and play, I couldn’t help but think that history may be repeating itself.

Late last week, CFRA’s John Budden and Rob Snow discussed the logistics around Goldman Sachs’ “special purpose vehicle” intended to skirt around the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission’s 500-shareholder rule. Rob characterized the US$500 million being put into Facebook by Goldman Sachs and Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies as a venture capital round, for lack of a better term.

“It’s just a staggering multiple for a private company,” Budden said of the lofty valuation the investment places on Facebook. Consider that $50 billion against the hard numbers: For 2009, Facebook had revenues of around US$777 million and net income of around $200 million.

“It has the feelings of the bubble that we experienced in year 2000, but it is different in character,” Budden said.

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