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Website Review: 10 Hottest B2B SaaS Companies in 2014

By John McTigue | Small Business

Is it me, or are all websites starting to look the same these days? Certainly in the high-tech sector, especially SaaS companies, most websites seem to be playing copy cat, with huge banners filling your desktop screen and simple messaging with one or two calls to action. I thought it would be interesting to look at the hottest SaaS players, those that are growing rapidly and attracting IPO interest to see what they’re doing with web design. IDG Connect listed 20 Red Hot, Pre-IPO Companies in 2014 B2B Tech. Here, we take a look at the first 10, and will continue with the next 10 in a second post.

Birst

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Birst is a cloud-based enterprise business intelligence (BI) toolkit for analyzing sales, marketing, financial, HR, supply chain and recurring revenue data. The website is attractive, simple and well organized. I love the M & M’s analogy in the first banner image. It conveys the “order out of chaos” message well. I like the H1 “Think Fast,” too. It’s clear what the main benefit of the software is, and the H2, “Enterprise-Caliber BI Born in the Cloud,” reinforces the “what is it?” message and helps you to self-qualify: This software is not for small businesses. My suggestion would be to add more differentiation—how is Birst different from other big enterprise BI players like SAS, IBM, MicroStrategy and Oracle?

Box

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Box.com is a well-known player in the online file sharing industry. It’s a clean, simple design with visitor-friendly navigation, a clear value proposition, “Simple, Secure Sharing From Anwhere,” and a single call-to-action, “Sign Up.” What else do I need to know? I’m not sure how valuable the rest of the homepage content is, but what I want to know is why Box and not Dropbox? It would be helpful to see some comparison reviews and pricing so I can quickly decide whether to join or move on.

Bromium

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Enterprise security software company Bromium also has a big-banner design with a bold statement on the first banner, “The World’s Most Secure Endpoint Solution.” Some proof points would be helpful up front. The banner does nicely illustrate some of the buyer pain points, like “Why be compromised at all?” My suggestion would be to reduce the number of banners to one, unless your metrics tell you people actually engage with the rest of the banners. We find that they usually don’t.

Cloudview

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Cloudview enables you to connect closed circuit TV (CCTV) to the Internet for all kinds of purposes. It’s a nice, simple site, and the homepage graphic nicely illustrates what the system does. I have to admit, I was a bit put off by some of the design features though. The problem is, the entire home page scrolls within a static window bordered by the header and the footer. At any one time, you can only see part of the graphic and messaging, at least on my MacBook Air. At the bottom of the screen, there is a big “Our website uses cookies” warning punctuated with a large exclamation point. I think this may be scaring visitors away, and it’s not really necessary. Nearly all websites use cookiesJust put your warning on your Privacy page like everyone else.

HortonWorks

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At first glance, I was pretty confused by this homepage. HortonWorks does Hadoop, and I didn’t know what that is, so I had to look it up. I imagine buyers know what Hadoop is, so it’s probably not a deal killer. It would be nice to hear why Hadoop is so important and what’s in it for me, the buyer. More focus on the Customer, and less on the Brand and Product is always a good place to start a website.

Kaazing

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Kaazing makes HTML5 Websocket gateways that speed up two-way Internet communication. Again, I didn’t know what that meant, so I had to look it up. You know your buyer personas better than I do, but assuming everybody understands your language may be a mistake. I wouldn’t “dumb it down,” but instead explain how your technology will make people’s lives better. Anyway, the website looks nice and the banner graphics do a nice job of illustrating the main value proposition—SPEED!

Looker

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Looker is another cloud-based business intelligence platform. Are you paying attention Birst? It’s a nice looking design again, but I do have some trouble with the first banner messaging. It’s a bit fluffy for me, and I’m really not sure why I should bother to watch the video. Maybe if you tell me more about what I will learn, that might help. Sorry for piling on, but one more mistake. When sites have “Why” as the first navigation menu item, I wonder why myself. Why am I bothering to visit this website? You should tell me why and what’s in it for me.

Mimecast

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Mimecast does email security (spam etc.), email archiving, email continuity (during outages) and file archiving. I’m having trouble understanding how this is any different from what my email provider does. Are you providing email services? Server software? Both, on the cloud? It’s not clear from the first banner. I like the Case Studies section, but I’m still back at the “what we do” question. Again, as Steve Krug put it so eloquently years ago, Don’t Make Me Think.

Mulesoft

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According to MuleSoft, the company “provides the most widely used integration platform for connecting SaaS and enterprise applications in the cloud and on-premise.” Wow, that’s awesome! The only problem is, I had to drill down to the About Us page to find that explanation of what they do. My advice? Tell me what you do and why it’s good for me. Help me solve my problems. The Gartner announcement is powerful, but not first. Save it for later, once you get buyers to the Consideration stage of the sales funnel.

And finally…

NewVoiceMedia

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Yay! Only 4 banners on the homepage! We have a winner, sorta. OK, props to NewVoiceMedia for spelling out what the service does and the value proposition in the first banner. Good job. Add to that, it also has content for a conversion opportunity. The only problem is the 10 Tips to Deliver Amazing Customer Experience video is hidden on slide No. 3 of the rotating banner. I would create a CTA for it instead and reduce the banners down to one. Don’t make the CTA say “Watch Replay.” That sounds like recycled stuff from a year ago (I hope it’s not). Say “Watch Video Now.”

SaaS Website Design Takeaways

In a nutshell, here’s what we advise all B2B websites to do these days:

  • Minimize the number of rotating banners
  • Focus on messaging—what’s in it for the potential customer?
  • Make sure the “what we do” and value proposition are prominent and near the top of the page
  • Include top-funnel content and CTAs for lead conversion
  • Speak to your buyer personas and explain your technical content and its value
  • Include key differentiators from your competitors
  • Don’t mimic other websites—do something unique!

We’ll see how the next 10 SaaS companies do soon…

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