SaaS for Dummies. 15 SaaS FAQs + Free Cheat Sheet

With its own slang and jargon, the SaaS industry can be daunting. So, let's make the SaaS world a little easier to understand with these 15 SaaS FAQs. Whether you're new to SaaS or just looking for clear answers to common questions, this SaaS guide is for you.
What is SaaS
SaaS stands for Software as a Service
SaaS is a cloud computing model where software applications are delivered over the internet on a subscription basis

1. What is SaaS and what does it stand for?

SaaS stands for Software as a Service. It is a cloud computing model where software applications are delivered over the internet on a subscription basis. Instead of buying and installing software on individual computers, users can access and use the software through a web browser.

SaaS is one of the three main categories of cloud computing services, along with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).
What are some popular examples of SaaS applications?
2 popular SaaS examples

2. What are some popular examples of SaaS applications?

SaaS has become increasingly popular in many industries. Two popular examples of SaaS applications are Netflix and Spotify.

Netflix is a globally recognized SaaS platform that provides on-demand streaming of movies, TV shows and documentaries to subscribers. It operates on a subscription model.

Another example of a popular SaaS application is Spotify, which provides on-demand music streaming. Like Netflix, Spotify operates as a SaaS platform with features such as subscription-based access, cross-device compatibility, and personalized recommendations.
How does the SaaS model work?
Subscription based
Cloud hosting
Automatic updates

3. How does the SaaS model work and how does it differ from traditional software?

SaaS works differently to traditional software distribution models. Here are some of the differences:
Subscription-based access
In the SaaS model, users or organizations subscribe to the software, typically on a monthly or annual basis. Instead of purchasing a perpetual software license, they pay a recurring fee to use the application.
Cloud hosting
The SaaS application is hosted in the cloud, which means it runs on the provider's servers and infrastructure. So, you don't need to install the software on your local device or maintain server hardware to run it.
Automatic updates
SaaS providers are responsible for maintaining and updating the software. This includes applying security patches, fixing bugs and adding new features. You don't have to worry about updating the software manually.
SaaS solutions are often designed to be easily scalable. Organizations can add or remove users as needed, and the software can accommodate increased usage or additional features without the need for major infrastructure changes.

Check out this in-depth guide to learn more about the SaaS business model.
Get the Free Cheat Sheet here
What are the advantages of SaaS?
Lower upfront costs
Anytime, anywhere access
Cross platform compatibility

4. What are the benefits and advantages of SaaS?

SaaS offers several advantages that have contributed to its widespread adoption across various industries. Here are four key advantages of SaaS:
Lower upfront costs
SaaS eliminates the need for upfront investment in hardware, software licenses, and infrastructure. You pay a recurring subscription fee, which often includes maintenance, updates, and support.
Anytime, anywhere access
SaaS applications can be accessed from any device with an Internet connection and a web browser.
Many SaaS applications offer customization options, allowing you to tailor the software to your specific needs.
Cross-platform compatibility
SaaS solutions typically run on different operating systems and devices, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of platforms.
How does SaaS companies make money?
Subscription model
Tiered pricing
Per user pricing
Usage based pricing
One time setup or onboarding fees
Overage fees
Add ons and integrations
White labelilng
Affiliate programs

5. How do SaaS companies make money and what are some common pricing models?

SaaS providers generate revenue through various strategies:
Subscription model
This is the most common revenue model for SaaS companies. Users pay a recurring subscription fee to access and use the software. Subscriptions can be billed on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The fee often varies based on factors like the number of users, features, or the volume of usage.
Tiered pricing
SaaS providers often offer different subscription tiers with different levels of functionality or features. Higher tier subscriptions have more advanced features and capabilities and are priced accordingly.
Per-user pricing
Some SaaS applications charge based on the number of users who have access to the software. This is common for collaborative and team-oriented tools, where each user's usage can affect the price.
Usage-based pricing
In this model, customers are charged based on their actual use of the software, such as the number of transactions, data storage or data transfer. This is common for SaaS applications such as cloud storage and data analytics.
One-time setup or onboarding fees
SaaS providers may charge a one-time fee for onboarding and setting up the software for a new customer. This fee covers services like data migration, customization, and training.
Overage fees
In some cases, SaaS providers charge additional fees when users exceed certain usage limits or quotas. For example, additional fees may be charged if users exceed their data storage or bandwidth limits.
Add-ons and integrations
SaaS companies often offer additional services or integrations that extend the functionality of their core software. Users can purchase these add-ons to extend the capabilities of the software.
Partnerships and reseller programs
SaaS companies may partner with other companies, such as IT service providers or consultants, who resell the software to their customers. Through these programs, the SaaS provider shares revenue with its partners.
White labeling or branding
Some SaaS companies offer a white-label or branding option, allowing businesses to rebrand the software as their own. These businesses pay a fee for this customization.
Affiliate programs
SaaS providers may have affiliate programs where individuals or businesses earn a commission for referring new customers to the SaaS service.
You may want to check out my comprehensive guide on SaaS pricing for more details.
What are some important SaaS metrics?
Customer acquisition cost
Customer lifetime value
Churn rate
Retention rate
Expansion revenue
Net promoter score

6. What are some of the important metrics in SaaS?

SaaS companies use a variety of metrics to assess their performance. Here are the most important ones:
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
CAC measures the cost of acquiring a new customer. It includes the cost of marketing, sales and other customer acquisition activities.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
CLV estimates the total revenue a customer is expected to generate during their entire relationship with the company. It helps determine the long-term value of customers and informs decisions on customer acquisition and retention strategies.
Churn rate
The churn rate is the percentage of customers who cancel or stop using the SaaS service in a given period. Reducing churn is critical to maintaining a healthy customer base and revenue.
Retention rate
Retention measures the percentage of customers who continue to use the service over a period of time. High retention rates indicate customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Expansion revenue
Expansion revenue tracks the additional revenue generated from existing customers through up-selling, cross-selling or the purchase of additional features or services. It's an important source of growth for SaaS companies.
Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
MRR represents the total recurring revenue generated from subscription fees on a monthly basis. It helps track revenue stability and growth.
Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR)
ARR is the annual equivalent of MRR and provides a view of the annual revenue generated from subscriptions. It's useful for annual planning and forecasting.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS is a metric that gauges customer satisfaction and loyalty by asking customers how likely they are to recommend the SaaS service to others.
While these are some of the important metrics in SaaS, there are many other metrics that are useful to track your success. For more details on SaaS metrics and a free checklist, take a look at my SaaS metrics guide.
Get the Free Cheat Sheet here
What are SaaS Go-To-Market strategies?
Sales led growth
Community led growth
Product led growth
Marketing led growth

7. What are SaaS Go-To-Market strategies?

The Go-To-Market strategy describes your plan for bringing your product or service to market. It is an action plan that outlines all the steps needed to reach customers and gain a competitive advantage. There are several types of SaaS GTM strategies:
Sales-led growth
In this strategy, sales teams take the lead in customer acquisition. Companies rely on direct sales efforts, often involving personalized outreach, demos, and negotiation with potential customers. It's a common approach for enterprise-level SaaS solutions.
Community-led growth
Community-led growth centers around building and nurturing a strong user community. SaaS companies encourage user engagement, user-generated content, and word-of-mouth referrals. This approach can help drive organic growth as satisfied customers advocate for the product.
Product-led growth
Product-led growth is characterized by a strong focus on the product itself. The product is designed to be intuitive, easy to use, and capable of driving adoption without extensive sales or marketing efforts. A freemium model or free trial periods are often part of this strategy.

Product-Led Growth is not something that you artificially engineer.
You need to build the very foundations of the product in a way that incentivizes people to share the product and engage with others within it. Only then will your product lead your growth.

Jakob Knutzen
Co-Founder & CEO at Butter
Marketing-led growth
Marketing-led growth relies on comprehensive marketing efforts to attract and convert potential customers. Digital marketing, content marketing, SEO, social media, and other marketing channels are leveraged to generate leads and drive user acquisition.
Remember, each of these GTM strategies has its advantages and may be more suitable for different types of SaaS products, target audiences, and competitive landscapes. Check out my article to see what’s the best Go-To-Market strategy for your SaaS company.
How are SaaS companies valued?
Recurring revenue
Growth rate
Customer lifetime value
Market size
Competitive positioning
Profitability and margins
CAC and payback period
Management team
Recent funding rounds and valuation
Exit potential

8. How are SaaS companies valued?

Valuation is a complex process. Different investors apply various considerations based on their investment strategies and the specific circumstances of the SaaS company. But, here's a brief overview of how SaaS companies are typically valued:
Recurring revenue
Investors often place a strong emphasis on the company's recurring revenue, which includes MRR and ARR. High and predictable recurring revenue is a positive signal, as it indicates a stable customer base.
Growth rate
SaaS companies with strong growth potential are more attractive to investors. Metrics like revenue growth rate, customer acquisition rate, and expansion revenue are critical in demonstrating the company's growth trajectory.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Investors look at CLV to assess the long-term value of customers. A high CLV suggests that the company can generate substantial revenue from its customer base over time.
Market size and opportunity
The addressable market and the potential for growth within that market play a significant role in valuation. A larger market size with room for expansion can make a SaaS company more attractive to investors.
Competitive positioning
SaaS companies with a unique value proposition, strong differentiation, and a defensible competitive advantage are often valued more highly. This could be through proprietary technology, a strong brand, or a specialized niche.
Profitability and margins
While many SaaS companies prioritize growth over profitability in the early stages, investors also consider the path to profitability and the company's gross margins. Demonstrating a clear path to sustainable profitability is crucial for attracting investors.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and payback period
Investors assess the efficiency of customer acquisition by looking at CAC and the payback period. A lower CAC and a shorter payback period indicate that the company can acquire customers cost-effectively and recoup its investment sooner.
Management team
The experience of the management team is essential. Investors want to see that the team has a track record of successfully scaling a SaaS business.
Recent funding rounds and valuation
Investors often consider the company's valuation in previous funding rounds, as it provides context for the current valuation. A history of increasing valuation can be a positive indicator.
Exit potential
Investors also assess the potential for a profitable exit, such as through acquisition or an initial public offering (IPO). The ability to generate a substantial return on their investment is a key consideration.
What is SaaS, PaaS, IaaS?
SaaS, PaaS and IaaS are the most common cloud computing models
SaaS = Software as a Service
PaaS = Platform as a Service
IaaS = Infrastructure as a service

9. What are SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS?

SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS are three key service models in cloud computing that offer different levels of infrastructure and functionality to users.

SaaS (Software as a Service) is a cloud computing service model where software applications are hosted in the cloud and made available to users over the internet on a subscription basis.

PaaS (Platform as a Service) provides a cloud platform and environment that allows developers to build, deploy, and manage applications. It offers a set of tools and services for application development, such as databases, development frameworks, and application hosting.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) is a cloud service model that provides virtualized computing resources, such as virtual machines, storage, and networking, over the internet. Users have more control over the infrastructure, including operating systems and applications, compared to SaaS and PaaS.

I’ve written a detailed article on SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS where I discuss their differences and give examples of each service model.
Key considerations when choosing a SaaS provider
Functionality and features
Integration capabilities
Support and customer services
Cost and pricing structure
Contract terms
Data ownership and portability
User training
Trial period

10. What are the key considerations when choosing a SaaS provider?

Here are key considerations to keep in mind when evaluating and selecting a SaaS provider:
Functionality and features
Ensure that the SaaS product offers the features you need.
Integration capabilities
Assess whether the SaaS application can integrate with your existing software and systems, such as your CRM, email, or other essential tools.
Support and customer service
Evaluate the quality of customer support and service. Ensure the provider offers responsive customer support to address issues and provide assistance when needed.
Cost and pricing structure
Understand the pricing model, including subscription fees, additional costs for extra users or features, and any potential hidden charges.
Contract terms
Many users skip this part, but I recommend that you read the contract terms carefully. Look for any lock-in periods or exit fees. Ensure that the contract provides the flexibility you need.
Data ownership and portability
Clarify the terms of data ownership and the ability to export your data from the SaaS platform if you decide to switch providers in the future.
User training and documentation
Assess the availability of user training resources and documentation to help your team effectively utilize the software.
Trial period
Whenever possible, take advantage of trial periods or free versions of the SaaS application to test its suitability for your needs.
Get the Free SaaS Cheat Sheet here
What are the potential challenges of using SaaS?
Dependent on internet connection
Data portability
Lack of customization
Vendor lock-in
Customer support issues

11. What are the potential challenges of using SaaS?

We’ve seen the benefits that SaaS offers, but there are also potential challenges associated with its use.
Internet dependency
SaaS applications require a reliable internet connection for access. If the internet goes down or is slow, it can impede your ability to use the software.
Data portability
Some SaaS applications may make it challenging to migrate or export data to another platform. Lock-in with a specific provider can limit your flexibility and options.
Customization limitations
SaaS applications may not be as customizable as on-premises solutions. Users may have to adapt their processes to fit the software's capabilities.
Vendor lock-in
Users can become dependent on a SaaS provider's ecosystem, making it challenging to switch to a different solution or provider without significant effort and potential data migration challenges.
Customer support issues
The responsiveness of customer support can vary among SaaS providers. Inadequate support can lead to frustration and delays in issue resolution—something you don’t want to face.

12. What are some good SaaS resources and guides?

This is my all-in-one resource hub. Here, you'll find video courses, worksheets, bundles, free templates, frameworks, and checklists.

SaaStr is a popular online community and resource hub for SaaS professionals. It offers blog posts, webinars, podcasts, and an annual SaaStr conference.

The SaaS Podcast:
This podcast features in-depth interviews with SaaS founders, executives, and experts who share insights and advice on various aspects of the SaaS business.

A community of SaaS founders, execs and investors.
Why do SaaS Startups fail?
Market fit problems
Poor product development
Inadequate funding
Heavy competition
Insufficient marketing and sales
Churn and customer retention
Lack of scalability
Management problems
Insufficient user onboarding
Changing market dynamics

13. Why do SaaS startups fail?

I've seen many reasons why SaaS startups fail. Here are some of them:
Market fit problems
Lack of product-market fit, where the SaaS solution doesn't address a real customer pain point or meet market demand.
Poor product development
Failing to create a high-quality, user-friendly product that meets customer needs and expectations can result in a lack of user adoption and churn.
Inadequate funding
Running out of capital is a common reason for failure. SaaS startups may underestimate the resources needed to sustain the business during the growth phase.
Heavy competition
Entering a highly competitive market without a unique value proposition or differentiation can make it challenging to gain market share.
Ineffective marketing and sales
Poor marketing strategies, lack of a well-defined sales process, or a mismatch between the product and the target audience can hinder growth. Here’s a Marketing Video Course that I developed which you can use to find the best marketing channels for your business.
Churn and customer retention
High customer churn rates due to inadequate customer support, poor user experience, or pricing issues can negatively impact revenue and growth.
The 2 main reasons SaaS startups fail
Lack of scalability
SaaS solutions that can't scale to meet increased demand or support more users may struggle to grow effectively.
Management and leadership problems
Ineffective leadership, management issues, or a lack of industry expertise within the founding team can contribute to failure.
Ineffective or slow user onboarding
Failing to provide a smooth and intuitive onboarding process can lead to users abandoning the software.
Changing market dynamics
External factors like economic changes or shifts in technology trends can disrupt the SaaS market and affect business viability.
The steps to build a successful SaaS business
Validate your idea
Create Personas
Create the customer journey
Define your Go-To-Market strategy
Implement your marketing strategy

14. What are the steps to build a successful SaaS business?

Based on my personal SaaS experience, I must tell you that building a successful SaaS business involves many small steps. Here’s a high-level overview of the process:
Validate your idea
Begin by conducting market research and validating your idea. Seek feedback from potential users to ensure there's demand for your SaaS product. This will help you refine your concept and reduce the risk of building something no one wants.
Create Personas
Develop detailed user Personas that represent your ideal customers. Understand their needs, pain points, and preferences to tailor your SaaS solution to their specific requirements effectively.
Think about the customer journey
Map out the entire customer journey, from awareness and onboarding to ongoing support and retention. Identify opportunities to provide value at every stage.
Define your Go-To-Market strategy
Define how you will introduce your SaaS product to the market. This includes pricing, distribution channels, and partnerships. A clear strategy will guide your efforts and drive adoption.
Implement your marketing strategy
Execute a comprehensive marketing plan to reach your target audience. Use digital marketing, content creation, social media, and other channels to create awareness and attract users to your SaaS solution.

For more details, check out my ultimate guide for building a successful business.

15. What are the future trends and developments in the SaaS industry?

It’s difficult to make SaaS predictions where a lot of variables play a part. But I’d like to share my personal take on 2 SaaS trends I think we'll see in 2024 and years ahead.
Trend 1: Growing emphasis on SaaS security and data privacy
The first significant trend I anticipate is that SaaS solutions will become more focused on keeping data safe. This shift is happening because people are worried about protecting their information. To adapt, SaaS companies need to make sure their software has strong security features, like locking the digital doors to keep out cyber threats.

So, this growing emphasis on security is super important because it helps users feel safe and ensures that companies are following strict rules to protect user information.
Trend 2: Increasing adoption of low-code and no-code platforms
Another trend that's on the horizon is the rise of low-code and no-code SaaS platforms. Traditional software development can be slow and expensive, making it difficult to keep up with evolving market demands.

Low-code solutions simplify the development process, reducing costs and allowing non-technical users to engage in creating applications. It's like democratizing software development, giving more people a chance to get involved in application development.

Final thoughts

The SaaS world can be confusing with its own terms and jargon. However, as you learned these 15 SaaS FAQs, you will be able to navigate through the SaaS world easier. If you want to create a successful SaaS business yourself, this SaaS Bundle is right for you.

With powerful worksheets, templates, cheat sheets and checklists, you will learn how to build your own, successful business – from validating your idea to getting first customers and scaling your business. Grab the SaaS bundle here: