Strategize and execute growth for your app

Shipping your app on the Teams marketplace is just the beginning. After shipping, you must meticulously plan how to grow your app and make it a successful product on the marketplace. It drives intended business metrics and helps you realize returns on the investment you made into planning, designing, and building the app.

This document provides high-level guidance about:

  • How you should strategize and execute growth for your app?
  • What decisions you need to make?
  • What levers you can pull?
  • What programs, resources, and guidance you can utilize?

It also includes some proven best practices from the team that crafted the Teams platform and the commercial marketplace itself to make your app successful.

Putting your app’s growth potential into perspective: How much can your app grow?

You probably won't be surprised to hear that not all apps are equal on any marketplace. Teams apps are diverse in terms of use cases fulfilled, personas served, end-user user experience, and user value delivered. As a developer, you can:

  1. Just test waters: Take a foot-in-the door approach where your SaaS backend is used to provide an elevated, ephemeral end-user experience using link unfurling feature to show rich, informative and actionable preview cards whenever URLs from your domain are shared inside Teams, even when the user doesn't have your app installed.

  2. Build a complementary, companion experience to your core web SaaS: Build your Teams app serving as a point solution that can be called add-in, plug-in, or an integration. You can build them for select, frequent, isolated and lightweight use cases relevant to be achieved inside Teams.

  3. Build a collaborative app product line: Provide Teams users a unique, differentiated, rich, familiar, end to end and deeply immersive experience – all contained in Teams and centered around collaboration versus individual productivity. Collaborative apps, a new app pattern, which is designed to bring people, processes, and data together to help users thrive in the hybrid workplace are positioned to transform how people in every organization do more together with the help of ubiquitous software in the flow of work. Collaborative apps offer an experience that’s preferred by the user over other channels where the SaaS app exists and often use one or more of Teams-only platform capabilities such as meeting extensions, Live Share, Graph APIs, message extensions, and so on, to deliver significant user value, on top of table stake scenarios.

Needless to say, the strategy you'll adopt among the options described earlier determines:

  • The resulting user value your app delivers
  • The economic opportunity for your app
  • How you can maximize the ROI from your investments into the app

You aren't necessarily constrained by picking only one out of the above approaches – your investment can start from (a) and move towards (b) and eventually culminate at (c). This document assumes you’ve taken a strategic view of your Teams investment by developing a collaborative app. In such an app, the user is able to get designated jobs seamlessly and preferably done in the flow of their work with full context, without leaving Microsoft Teams. Collaborative apps are the best positioned to win new customer deals for you and upsell or cross-sell to your existing customers. For this reason, this investment has the potential to deliver the highest net new economic opportunity for your business.

Using the guidance in this document, you can grow your collaborative app on Teams and expand differentiated scenarios further. You can also incorporate Teams-first or Teams-only use cases, and devise a go-to-market model that is led by your Teams collaborative app - consequently building a growth flywheel for your business.

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Options for growing your app: Understanding growth models

You can use one or all the three predominant types of SaaS business growth models:

  1. Sales-led growth: Potential customers or sales-qualified leads (SQLs) interact with a sales representative or a customer success representative. It can be through every stage of the buying journey. The interaction can start from understanding your SaaS app’s feature or seeing a demo, result in purchase of your product and last through post-purchase setup and config, sales-led user onboarding, and training by customer success reps on how to use the app.
  2. Marketing-led growth: Prospective customers sign up for a product demo after building perceived value of your product. They consume marketing narratives such as, advertisements, content resources such as, blogs, videos, or downloadable e-books. As a result, a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) is generated for your sales team to convert. Customer retention and monetization are driven by marketing channels, content, and outreach.
  3. Product-led growth: Your SaaS product itself is the main driving force behind customer acquisition, activation, retention, revenue growth, virality, and expansion. It's possible by offering self-serve freemium or free trial options and a straightforward frictionless onboarding process to users. Users can start using the product right away and experience direct product value first-hand with minimal sales, marketing, or customer success personnel from your side interacting with them on the way. Product-qualified leads (PQLs) that is users who have experienced meaningful value using the product are the ones more likely to become paying customers either directly or through upsell or intervention by your salesforce.

As a developer of a collaborative app, you'll benefit from devising a well-rounded strategy that employs all three SaaS business growth models. It helps you grow your Teams app among hundreds of millions of Teams users.

More than point solutions (that is, add-ins and integrations), Teams collaborative apps offer you an opportunity to apply a solid growth strategy to a product line. It's just as you'd do for your core SaaS product for the web browser or native mobile apps.

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What’s needed to grow and succeed on Teams marketplace?

As noted earlier, your Teams collaborative app requires sustained and continuous investments on multiple fronts:

Let's understand why each of these investments matter, what impact it will have on your customers and your business and how you'll execute these at scale.

Product Investments

Product investments encompass feature planning and enhancements to your collaborative app in Teams at regular, committed, and predictable cadences.

Why should you do this? What impact will this have?

  • Teams users consistently get unique, differentiated, and collaborative value through newer, elevated experiences in your app. The value and experience of your app is better inside Teams vs outside Teams.
  • You’re able to deliver a high-quality, bug free experience to end-users and action on incoming user feedback faster.
  • For core, relevant and tablestakes use cases, you’re able to deliver feature parity between your collaborative app in Teams and core SaaS app experience you offer in the browser and native mobile clients (or use Teams app as your offering for mobile audience).
  • You’re able to go beyond parity and leverage the unique context and surface area inside Microsoft 365 to deliver an enhanced, better together productivity experience.
  • You’re able to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. You can use the latest, cutting-edge platform features released to public or in developer preview by Microsoft.

How will you do this? What resources are required?

  • Have dedicated PM, development, and design resources who are upskilled on Teams platform to take ownership of your collaborative app.
  • Ideally, have the same team or part of the same team that builds your core SaaS app for the browser take ownership of your collaborative app.
  • Continuously plan and groom your Teams collaborative app’s roadmap.
  • Tap into known best practices, scenario envisioning muscle, and product-led growth playbook from Teams engineering via developer docs, blogs, and videos.
  • Be on the lookout for new Teams platform features that can impact your app’s end-user experience positively.

Growth Experiments

Growth experiments encompass being agile and continuously making hypotheses-driven tweaks in your collaborative Teams app and GTM execution to positively impact specific success metrics.

Why should you do this? What impact will this have?

  • Continuously monitor what’s happening inside your collaborative app through analytics and measure the value end-users are obtaining.
  • Impact product and business metrics positively. It can be number of app installs, activation rate, task completions, new user retention and churn, referrals, and so on.
  • Use your collaborative app in Teams as a test bed to rapidly ideate, build, release experiences, measure feedback from users and impact on metrics. Then, graduate the app's functionality to your core SaaS app.
  • Rapid, always-on experimentation allows byte-sized tweaks to your app experience, resulting in more control and lesser risk compared to monolithic changes spaced far apart.

How will you do this? What resources are required?

  • Make sure to instrument code and track analytics for your app right from the first version.
  • Upskill your dedicated Teams app crew or your existing SaaS product growth team of PM, development, and design resources on Teams platform to take ownership of this.
  • Continuously plan and groom your Teams collaborative app’s growth experiments backlog with product and growth marketing teams.
  • Tap into comprehensive repository of growth experiment ideas, experiment best practices and product-led growth playbook from Teams engineering via developer docs, blogs, and videos.

Go-to-Market Investments

Go-to-Market investments encompass strategic planning, marketing to build awareness, existing customer activation, new prospects, sales through Teams app and converting marketing and product-qualified leads at scale.

Why should you do this? What impact will this have?

  • Make your collaborative app in Teams successful as a product with direct impact to your business metrics. It's just as you would do for your core SaaS product or app.
  • Acquire new leads, establish footprint in enterprises, increase customer stickiness and renewals, monetize by selling your SaaS subscriptions, build competitiveness in market vs competitors, and launch new, cool, differentiated features through your collaborative app.

How will you do this? What resources are required?

  • Strategically determine the role of the Teams collaborative app in your product portfolio and lay down specific business metrics for the success of this product line.
  • Plan go-to-market and execute across launch, traction and scale stages of growth. Grow your collaborative app on Teams marketplace directly and in association with Microsoft’s go-to-market and field teams.
  • Drive awareness of your collaborative app, generate marketing-qualified leads to convert into sales deal wins.
  • Pilot a product-led growth business model to grow your collaborative app in Teams and learn best practices. Use your collaborative app in Teams to generate product-qualified leads, onboard users through the marketplace and convert leads in paying customers.
  • Plan and agree with Microsoft ISV Success program marketing team ahead in time for your GTM strategy.
  • Utilize GTM playbook, detailed product-led growth and marketing guidance as well as programs from Microsoft.

Monetization Investments

Monetization investments encompass defining role of Teams app in your business and revenue strategy, building product and UX to sell on the Microsoft marketplace and make channel investments to scale revenue growth.

Why should you do this? What impact will this have?

  • Use your collaborative app in Teams for direct revenue through the Microsoft commercial marketplace. It connects you to consumers, enterprise buyers, and a global network of 90,000+ Microsoft cloud resellers, while transacting on Microsoft paper.
  • Expand your sales by selling subscription plans directly from your Microsoft commercial marketplace listing. Offer free trials or freemium experience to get more customer leads and use in-app purchases to upgrade customers. Recurring renewals via the marketplace establish an ongoing revenue stream for your business.

How will you do this? What resources are required?

  • Clearly decide how Teams collaborative app fits your business strategy. Also decide if or when you'll monetize the Teams app product line. Remember that your app must offer unique, differentiated user value to successfully monetize on the Microsoft commercial marketplace
  • Understand how offers on Microsoft commercial marketplace can help deliver business goals through your app.
  • Build transactable marketplace SaaS offer associated with your Teams app. Offer free trial or a freemium experience with in-app purchases to generate leads and optimize conversions.
  • Become channel ready and negotiate reseller partnerships to tap into the global network of Microsoft CSPs for growth.
  • Tap into the robust technical guidance and best practices from Teams engineering to build transact SaaS and new, pilot features to improve the purchase funnel via developer docs, blogs, and videos.
  • Unlock more GTM benefits and CSP channel partnership programs for early-bird apps with live transact SaaS offers.

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See also