Evaluating a Subscription Billing and Financial Management Solution for B2B SaaS

September 10, 2019

Evaluating a Subscription Billing and Financial Management Solution for B2B SaaS

If you are a software company that operates on a recurring fee basis, chances are you’ve run into the limitations of the 100s of payments platforms out there. Many of which offer recurring billing but not necessarily have the flexibility a B2B SaaS company needs or lacking the subscription management and reporting features, let alone the financial reporting that can cause headaches. Here’s a short guide into the world of billing for B2B software companies.

Things to consider

What you should be looking for in payments platforms for a SaaS B2B company in terms of features is:

  • Payment processing that works for your customer’s geography
  • Subscription Management & Billing that is flexible enough to cover all of your subscription and billing situations whether that is advance billing, add-ons, upgrades, discounts or coupons, etc.
  • Analysis & Reporting that gives you insight into what customer segments are growing or churning, revenue recognition, etc.
  • Integrations: subscriptions and billing should not be a silo in your company, it needs to feed information to your sales team, customer success team, finance team, support team and the tools they use.

You also need to consider the users of the system:

  • Your sales and success reps: if you have a sales team that needs to create subscriptions after they have closed a deal, they need to be able to easily work to do this.
  • Your finance and operations team needs to be able to review and manage your billing.
  • Your product team may need to integrate it
  • Your customers need to be able to see their usage, their invoices and potentially make adjustments to their plan like upgrading/downgrading/canceling or ordering more.

Types of Vendors

Payment Gateways: these are the companies that actually process your payments and store your customer’s payment information such as credit card number etc. These usually charge between 1.4% and 2.9% of the transaction amount. Examples are Stripe and Braintree but there are more than 50 vendors in this market, some of which focus on a specific geography or currency. Some of them have their own billing system, most don’t.

Billing Solutions: these are the companies that provide a way for you to track your subscriptions. They integrate with Payment Gateways to charge customers or send them an invoice with payment instructions. G2Crowd lists 300+ vendors.

Subscription Billing Solutions: these are the companies that focus specifically on recurring payments and situations where your customer does not create a one-off transaction but needs to be charged based on their usage of your product. There are about 50 vendors in this space. However, this includes a bunch of software that is geared towards time tracking and professional services billing.

Subscription Billing Solutions for B2B SaaS: these companies cater to the SaaS companies who sell subscriptions to their software product. Professional services are usually not the majority of their revenue. These billing solutions offer functionality to create products or plans, add-ons, manage upgrading/downgrading, price adjustments and provide reporting of SaaS metrics such as MRR, Churn, etc. This is a rather select club of vendors such as Chargeover, Recurly, Chargify, Chargebee, Billforward.

Subscription Analytics Solutions: these companies will work with any of the billing solution providers or payment gateways to provide analysis and reporting about your subscriptions. If you’re not satisfied with the reporting features of the billing solution or the payment gateway you are using, these companies offer the flexibility of a stand-alone reporting and analysis engine. Examples are Chartmogul, Baremetrics.

Strategies

You’ll need a combination of a Payment Gateway and a Billing Solution and/or a Subscription Analytics Solution.

  1. Payment Gateway API only: when your business is rather complex and existing billing solutions don’t cut it, or when you need something simple and don’t want to pay for a billing solution, you can build it yourself and use the Payment Gateway’s API to process payments.
  2. Payment Gateway + Billing Solution: when the Billing Solution has everything you need.
  3. Payment Gateway + Analytics Solution: when you want to build the subscription management part yourself but need standardised reporting.
  4. Payment Gateway + Billing Solution + Analytics Solution: when you are a number cruncher and need the full suite.

Payments Platforms features

Here are some of the features you may want to evaluate for your specific business:

  • Payments
    • Integration with payment gateways
    • Manual payments based on invoice and payment instructions
  • Flexible subscription billing:
    • Ability to create subscription plans, add-ons, service packs, …
    • Ability to invoice subscription (in advance or in arrears)
    • Ability to invoice one-off professional services
    • Ability to use multiple currencies
    • Ability to discount subscriptions or professional services
    • Ability to brand your invoice
    • Ability to add a custom invoice or receipt number
    • Ability to add custom fields to your customer or invoice
    • Ability to meter usage and trigger invoicing
    • Ability to import existing subscriptions
  • Customer Portal
    • Integration with your product
    • Web-view of invoice with a payment link
  • Reporting
    • Ability to see recurring vs. non-recurring billing
    • Ability to see MRR, churn, upgrades over time
    • Ability to segment metrics according to product, plan
    • Ability to segment metrics according to custom customer field (industry, type, …)
  • Revenue recognition
    • Monthly
    • Pro-rated for changes

A note on flexible subscription billing and revenue recognition

Essentially the vendor needs to be able to decouple 3 timelines:

  • Subscription start and end
  • Billing cycle: advance or in arrears, with custom intervals (yearly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, …)
  • Recognition cycle: irrespective of your billing cycle the recognition needs to happen as you render services

All of this needs to happen correctly for business events such as upgrades, downgrades, plan changes from monthly to annual, cancellations, price changes, discounts and for different types of revenues: product vs professional services revenue.

View the complete comparison of payments platforms for SaaS companies

Integrate payments platforms for SaaS

Another thing to keep in mind is how well a billing platform can be integrated not only with your SaaS product but also with other apps in your sales stack, e.g. to sync data with CRM, accounting platform, internal communication channel, and other cloud tools.

Although having native integrations is a huge benefit, it should not really restrict your choice when subscribing to a payment platform. You can use integration platforms, e.g. Blendr.io, to integrate a billing solution into your technology stack.

payments platforms for SaaS integration

 

Here’s a couple of examples of common integration scenario’s of payments platforms for SaaS companies:

Billing solution – Slack: alert your sales team in Slack when there is a new subscription or subscription upgrade.

Billing solution – CRM: create a new company, customer and a deal in your CRM when customers purchase or upgrade their subscriptions.

Billing solution – accounting software: automatically create an invoice for each subscription.

Billing solution – dashboarding / reporting: send data on your subscriptions, transactions, recurring customers to a dashboarding or reporting tool for deep analytics.

Need to integrate payments platforms to your technology stack?

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