Moving to a SaaS Business Model to Compete with Wix and SquareSpace

SaaS business model

We’ve known for a while now that the market has been changing. Toiling for weeks over the construction of a custom website gets the bills paid, however, these deals are typically once-offs. More importantly, if you land a high paying customer, you need to be in a position to offer them the ongoing services they require following your development project. Your competition is already offering services in a recurring form, and you should too. 

In this article we’re going to cover how to unlock this new revenue stream, so you can provide enterprise-grade services to your highest paying customers under your own brand and domain.

Customers want (much) more than just a website

The switch to a recurring revenue business model blends naturally with the fact that customers want more than just a simple website construction project from you. Serious customers want to develop a trusted business relationship with their digital provider. Typically, these customers are prepared to increase their spending to secure a premium, reliable, performant solution for their needs. If they cannot get this from their existing provider (you), customers will simply go elsewhere, and you will lose the customer or miss out on the bulk of their new spending.

Providing recurring services to your customers has never been more important. Having a reliable and stable web presence is mission critical to serious customers who are willing to invest in legitimate quality. 

Start Thinking of Yourself as a SaaS Provider

One way to move from a single transaction focused business is to develop a secure revenue stream in the form of a SaaS model. The most powerful way to do this is by offering a premium hosting package that acts as the anchor for your customer relationship. They will start to see you as their one stop shop for all of their digital needs. Before approaching your existing customer, think about the bundle of services that you will deliver, is it just hosting? Or maybe hosting plus their software stack maintenance (plug-ins and themes), or maybe a premium hosting option with daily backups and safe storage at a 3rd party site.  Also consider packages combining hosting plus elements of SEO optimization as a bundled package, or increasingly we are seeing companies offering hosting, upgrades, performance reviews, and 1-2 hours of site design per month all as a package. Using hosting as the anchor ensures prompt payment. Including a recurring customer engagement element such as routine site upgrades ensures a positive ongoing relationship.

Automate for Efficiency and Effectiveness

Once you have made the mental switch to add SaaS solutions to your offerings, you now need to focus on delivering this service efficiently and reliably. This is where you need to automate your offerings. You need to automate the creation of new sites, the tasks included in the maintenance packages that you’ll deliver, and the support elements that your customers will receive. If you cannot deliver these services efficiently and effectively, you won’t be able to sustain your business. 

There are technical solutions available like Plesk, GridPane, and cPanel for this, however some attention is required to develop a comprehensive, customer-focused toolset equipped to get customers to embrace your subscriptions without your intervention. To successfully interact with your customer digitally, you will need to offer a modern customer portal experience, with integrated billing, a customer friendly self service interface that hides complex technical details, user friendly dashboards, and mechanisms to enable them to select new services offerings from you.

Emerging Technology Solutions

Emerging platforms such as dollie automate all aspects of delivering a truly scalable, high quality, website on demand service – hosted on Enterprise Grade Infrastructure. All your customers need to do is sign up to a WooCommerce Subscription plan you created and it’s ready to work out of the box. Newer services like also automate many of the technical tasks required to build scalable business on the Cloud using a SaaS model.

Use Templates to Compete with Wix and Squarespace

When building you SaaS offering consider using a template driven model to simplify your sales and support processes. Build a simple library of pre-made site designs to choose from. These premade site designs should be based on the custom builds that you and your team have developed in the past and love selling.  You are creating a bespoke agency-sized version of Squarespace and Wix, that you can now sell directly through your agency website via familiar WooCommerce subscriptions.

For years agencies haven’t been able to offer services to lower budget clients, however now it is easy to offer them a suitable package. Let your customer choose a template to get started with for a monthly fee and from that base product you can upsell maintenance and development packages. To top it off, you can sell special add-ons at high margins that enable the creation of a true tiered offering. Examples of their tiered offerings could include additional market-specific site features, staging sites, and advanced maintenance plans.

Creating a template driven model can be achieved in 3 different ways. 

  • You can use your agency specific templates for internal usage. This means using templates to create a common setup of plugins, themes, and designs for your inhouse junior developers. This massively speeds up your development life cycle. Instead of running the manually tedious setup on each new site, you just perform this action 1 time – while setting up the template.  Then, you can instantly create a new site based on this template. 
  • On your website landing page, offer a small library of pre-made website designs. This creates a Wix-like offering on your website, integrating with WooCommerce Subscriptions. Your selection of pre-made site designs will be hand chosen/created for your market, so you can offer your customers the ideal starting point for their needs. You’ll already know the ins and the outs of these specific sites. This massively reduces the support time but it also allows you to guarantee the quality of the site. Remember, the value of your offering is in the bespoke service you’re providing your customers. You’re providing them a quick functional website of your design, but you’re also developing a relationship with your customer. You become host, developer, consultant, and adviser. You are now in charge of the entire lifecycle of this customer. You’re their trusted Web Confidant! 
  • Enhance your Library of Pre-Made Site designs with installation time customizations. This means, in your pre-made site designs, you can select key information to be collected at site creation time. This can be an email, a phone number, a business address, or even a name. As your customer purchases and launches a site with you, this information will be injected into their newly created site. Their starting point is now a perfectly tailored initial site that they feel immediately comfortable with.

A SaaS Future

The future of the web design businesses will be based on Cloud and Saas business models. Repeatable revenue models are attractive to both your customers and your business. Stable repeatable revenue provides you with a predictable cash flow from which you can build a growth business, without worrying where the next tranche of revenue will come from. Emerging technology capabilities are now offering you the full suite of services required to offer hosting and other value added services using your own brand. Use these services to deepen and enhance the services you offer your clients, while using the SaaS model to deliver balanced economics benefits to you and your customers.

Further reading


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