Mary Burko

Mary Burko

Content Writer, Researcher

As a cloud-based service, Software as a Service (SaaS) lets you access and update applications through your internet browser instead of downloading them on your desktop PC or business network. Among the numerous business apps available are office software, unified communications, and a wide range of other business-related software. SaaS provides online access to and use of cloud-based applications.

Importance of Choosing the Right Subscription Model

Your SaaS product's subscription model is crucial for increasing revenue, ensuring customer satisfaction, and achieving sustainable growth. The subscription model determines how you charge your customers, how they access your product, and how they perceive the value of your service. The right model aligns with your business goals, market demand, and user behavior, providing a balance between profitability and user acquisition.

Types of SaaS Subscription Models

Flat-Rate Pricing

In flat-rate pricing, customers are able to access all the SaaS product's features for a set price. This model is straightforward, with no variations in price regardless of usage or number of users.


  • Easy to understand and manage
  • Predictable revenue stream
  • Simple billing process


  • May not be cost-effective for all users
  • Can lead to overpaying for low-usage customers
  • Limited flexibility in pricing options

Tiered Pricing

Tiered pricing involves offering multiple subscription levels, each with different features, capabilities, or limits. The tiers can be chosen by customers based on their needs and budgets. Typically, higher tiers offer more advanced features or greater usage limits.


  • Offers flexibility for different customer segments
  • Encourages upselling as customers grow
  • Can capture a broader market


  • More complex to manage and communicate
  • Potential for customer confusion with too many options
  • Risk of mispricing tiers

Per-User Pricing

Per-user pricing charges customers based on the number of users who access the service. Each user account incurs a set fee, making it easy to scale the cost as the customer's team grows.


  • Scales with the customer's business
  • Simple and transparent billing
  • Aligns cost with usage


  • Can become expensive for large teams
  • Might discourage adding new users
  • Potentially lower revenue if user growth is slow

Per-Feature Pricing

Per-feature pricing charges customers based on the specific features they use. Customers can customize their subscription by selecting the features they need, paying only for what they use.


  • Highly customizable for customer needs
  • Can increase perceived value
  • Encourages incremental feature adoption


  • Complex pricing structure
  • Difficult to manage and communicate
  • Risk of customers underutilizing the product

Usage-Based Pricing

Usage-based pricing, also known as pay-as-you-go, charges customers based on how much they use the service. This could be measured in various ways, such as data volume, transactions, or API calls.


  • Directly aligns cost with value received
  • Attractive for variable usage patterns
  • Can drive higher usage and revenue


  • Revenue can be unpredictable
  • Difficult for customers to estimate costs
  • Can lead to customer anxiety over potential charges

Freemium Model

With a freemium model, the SaaS product comes with a basic free version and an optional premium version. It aims to convert free users into paying customers by attracting a large user base.


  • Low barrier to entry for new users
  • Can generate a large user base quickly
  • Opportunities for upselling to premium features


  • Requires a clear value proposition to convert users
  • Free users may never convert to paying customers
  • Can strain resources if free usage is high

Subscription Models: Things to Consider

Target Market

Identify Customer Segments: Determine the specific needs and financial capabilities of different customer groups.

Pricing Sensitivity: Understand how price-sensitive your target market is.

Value Perception: Ensure the subscription model aligns with how your target market perceives value.

Product Complexity

Feature Set: Assess the range and complexity of features your product offers.

Scalability Needs: Consider if the product needs to scale with the user's growth or usage.

Integration Requirements: Evaluate if your product needs to integrate with other tools and how this affects pricing.

Customer Usage Patterns

Usage Frequency: Analyze how often customers will use the product.

Usage Volume: Determine if customers will have varying levels of usage that require different pricing tiers.

User Growth: Consider if customers are likely to add more users over time, affecting pricing models like per-user pricing.

Competitive Landscape

Market Standards: Research common pricing models used by competitors.

Differentiation: Find ways to differentiate your pricing model to offer a unique value proposition.

Competitive Advantage: Ensure your pricing model leverages your product’s strengths compared to competitors.

Examples of Successful SaaS Companies and Their Models

HubSpot - Freemium Model

HubSpot uses a freemium model to provide marketing, sales, and customer service services. It offers free tools for CRM, email marketing, forms, and more, allowing small businesses to start using the platform with no initial cost. Businesses can upgrade to paid plans as they grow and need more advanced features such as marketing automation, custom reporting, and enhanced support. This strategy has enabled HubSpot to build a large user base and effectively convert free users into paying customers.

Zoom - Usage-Based Pricing

Zoom, a leading video conferencing platform, employs a usage-based pricing model. While it offers a free plan with time and participant limits on meetings, its paid plans are tiered based on the number of hosts and additional features like extended meeting durations, cloud recording, and webinar capabilities. Zoom's cost model aligns directly with usage and needs, so it can cater to a wide range of customers.

Salesforce - Tiered Pricing

Salesforce, a dominant player in customer relationship management (CRM), uses a tiered pricing model. It offers several subscription tiers with varying levels of functionality, from basic CRM tools to comprehensive sales, service, and marketing solutions. Different types of business sizes and complexity can be met by each tier. This approach has enabled Salesforce to capture a broad market segment, from small businesses to large corporations, driving significant revenue growth and market penetration.

See our Pricing for your own SaaS solution

Transitioning Between Models

Reasons to Switch

Market Demand: Changes in customer needs or market trends may necessitate a new pricing approach.

Revenue Growth: A different model may better capture the value your product provides and drive higher revenue.

Competitive Pressure: Competitors’ pricing strategies may force a reevaluation of your own model.

Product Evolution: As your product matures and adds more features, a new model may align better with its value proposition.

Steps to Transition

Evaluate Current Performance: Analyze the effectiveness of your current pricing model.

Market Research: Study competitors and gather customer feedback to identify the best alternative model.

Plan the Transition: Develop a detailed plan outlining the new pricing structure, communication strategy, and timeline.

Pilot Testing: Test the new model with a small segment of customers to gather data and make adjustments.

Customer Communication: Clearly inform customers about the upcoming changes, the benefits, and how it affects them.

Implementation: Roll out the new pricing model across the customer base, ensuring smooth operational adjustments.

Potential Challenges and Solutions

Customer Pushback: Customers may resist change. Solution: Offer incentives or grandfather pricing for existing users to ease the transition.

Revenue Fluctuations: Switching models might lead to temporary revenue drops. Solution: Carefully monitor financial performance and adjust as needed.

Operational Complexity: Implementing a new model can be operationally challenging. Solution: Invest in proper training and tools to manage the new model efficiently.

Final Thoughts

Recap of Key Points

  • Different SaaS subscription models include flat-rate pricing, tiered pricing, per-user pricing, per-feature pricing, usage-based pricing, and freemium models.
  • Each model has distinct pros and cons, suitable for varying market demands and business needs.
  • Key factors in choosing a subscription model include target market, product complexity, customer usage patterns, and competitive landscape.
  • Successful companies like HubSpot, Zoom, and Salesforce have effectively implemented various models to grow their businesses.

Selecting the right SaaS subscription model is crucial for aligning with your business goals, market demands, and customer expectations. It requires careful evaluation, flexibility, and willingness to adapt as your product and market evolve. Optimising your pricing strategy to drive sustainable growth and customer satisfaction requires understanding each model's strengths and limitations.

Frequently asked questions

The best subscription model for startups often depends on the product and target market. However, the freemium model is a popular choice as it allows startups to attract a large user base quickly by offering a free basic version of their product. As free users see the value in premium features, they will become paying customers, building brand awareness and customer loyalty.

Evaluate key metrics such as customer acquisition costs, churn rates, customer feedback, and revenue growth. If you notice stagnation or decline in these areas, it may indicate that your current pricing model is not effectively capturing value or meeting market needs. Conduct market research and consider testing alternative models with a small customer segment before making a full transition.

Common challenges include customer resistance to change, potential revenue fluctuations, and operational complexities. Customers may push back against new pricing structures, especially if they feel they're getting less value or paying more. To mitigate this, clearly communicate the benefits and consider offering incentives or transitional pricing. Monitor financial performance closely to manage revenue impacts and ensure your team is well-trained and equipped to handle the new model’s operational requirements.

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