April 30, 2019
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 billing solutions 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.
What you are looking for as a SaaS B2B company in terms of features is:
You also need to consider the users of the system:
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.
You’ll need a combination of a Payment Gateway and a Billing Solution and/or a Subscription Analytics Solution.
Here are some of the features you may want to evaluate for your specific business:
Essentially the vendor needs to be able to decouple 3 timelines:
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.
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.
Here’s a couple of examples of common integration scenario’s:
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.