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Glider Bikes to SaaS Success

Finding paths to successful business model transformations

Owen, my youngest, is a typical 3 1/2 year old boy, energetic, physical and fearless. He's been riding on a glider bike for the last year, and loves to blast down hills with his feet in the air, scaring the daylights out of his Dad.

For those of you unfamiliar with glider bikes, it's basically a pedal-less two-wheeler that you propel like a scooter with your feet. I've been watching him scoot around on his glider wondering how he would do with pedals, would he need training wheels at all?? Would he be faster than his three older siblings at getting on a "real" two-wheeler? (They all transitioned from training wheels between the ages 5 and 6, one with virtual ease, one with a few tries and one with six months of struggle.)

On Tuesday last week, the answer became clear. Owen said, "Can I ride Addie's bike?" I said, okay sure. Owen hopped on, I gave him a little push and he was off pedaling, with the balance already second nature. Amazing, a 3 1/2 and riding a two-wheeler already without any teaching, no back-breaking run-alongs, no leaning the wrong way for balance.

What did I learn? First I kicked myself for not having glider bikes for the other three, oh well. Second I marveled at the effectiveness of learning balance and pedaling separately, and how it eased the transition in a way that training wheels fail miserably at. Third, I learned that the boy is crazy fearless, but I kinda already knew that from his accumulated trips to urgent care and many other sorties in playgrounds and parks.

This episode got me thinking about transitions, especially ISV to SaaS transformations, and how to ease the pain and difficulty. Certainly, doing this requires a good deal of fearlessness and courage to change mindset, organization and tactics, as I've written about extensively. However, I think most organizations can find a glider bike or two to help speed the transition and avoid losing organizational balance in the process.

For example, one client of mine who has been incredibly successful with this transition was already selling their product in subscription mode 90+% of the time. Perpetual to subscription is a huge and often challenging business problem. However, for this client, it became a glider bike to SaaS. Pricing drives many sales and customer behaviors; my client rode this glider right into the SaaS model.

Another glider bike to SaaS might be your go-to market model. Do you focus on customers getting a taste of your product through download or guided demos? This focus on direct product experience can be your glider bike to SaaS success.

What other glider bikes are out there to help speed this business transition? Would love to hear your stories...

In the meantime, Owen is now riding his new orange "Tony Hawk" bike, stopping and starting on his own, and having a blast. Oh if all of our business and life transitions were this easy!

More Stories By Ken Rutsky

Ken Rutsky is a Product and Service Marketing Consultant, and has spent 20+ years in the industry, launching his first Internet services while at Netscape from 1995-99. Since then, he has been CMO at several start-ups and ran Network Security Marketing at McAfee. Ken launched McAfee's Secure Web Protection Service, and his time as a consultant has included the launch of Nimsoft's Nimsoft On Demand service. Today, he is laser-focused on helping ISVs and start-ups understand how to bridge from the world of products to SaaS Services with their mindset, organization and go-to-market tactics. Follow him on Twitter @jayrutz, on Linkedin at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kenrutsky, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/KJR-Associates/224894750772.

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