15 Most Common SaaS Revenue Models and Cost Structures

SaaS Revenue Models


In the SaaS industry, your success depends on two things: understanding and executing the right revenue model for your SaaS business and pricing it correctly. 

But with so many different models to choose from, it’s hard to know which one is best for you.

According to a recent study, up to 27% of SaaS businesses still rely on their judgment when it comes to pricing their SaaS solutions. This is a risky approach—without an understanding of the SaaS revenue models and cost structures, it’s impossible to determine the price point that will maximize your profits.

Understanding the key characteristics of each type of SaaS model – as well as their associated costs – can help you make an informed decision about how much you should charge for your product or service.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some common SaaS revenue models and cost structures so that you can understand what works best for your business goals.


What Are SaaS Revenue Models?


SaaS revenue models are a set of pricing strategies that SaaS businesses use to generate income from their software solutions. 

A good revenue model should be able to calculate how much it will cost to deliver a SaaS solution and how much income is expected from each sale. This helps you determine the best price point for your SaaS tool in order to maximize profits while still delivering value to your customers.

A SaaS revenue model should not be confused with a revenue stream and business model. 

A revenue stream is the source of income for a business and can refer to any type of revenue model such as an advertising or subscription-based model. A business model is an overall concept of how the company will make money.


Types of SaaS Revenue Models


There are several different types of SaaS revenue models you should consider when creating a pricing plan for your business.


1. Ad-based revenue model


An ad-based revenue model for SaaS is a business strategy that uses digital advertisements as a primary source of profits. 

This approach involves creating targeted ads tailored to the needs and interests of a particular audience, or even individual users.

The advertisements might be displayed on the product’s interface, or in emails sent to subscribers. 

In some cases, companies may also integrate third-party advertisements into their applications and websites to diversify their income sources.

Ad-based revenues can provide a steady stream of income over time and are an excellent way for SaaS products to monetize their services without adding direct costs to customers.


2. Affiliate revenue model


An Affiliate revenue model for SaaS is a type of internet marketing where the affiliate, or partner, earns a commission each time someone refers a customer to the vendor’s service. This is done through compensation for leads, registrations, or even purchases which occur through one’s own online platform.

An affiliate will use direct or indirect linking tactics to drive potential customers from their website to that of the vendor, and thus benefit financially every time a sale is made. 

This type of marketing has become increasingly popular within the SaaS industry due to its flexibility and effectiveness in gaining new customers while also offering an incentive to partners who choose to promote their services.


3. Channel sales (or indirect sales)


Channel sales, sometimes referred to as indirect sales, allows SaaS companies to extend their reach by forming strategic partnerships with distributors, value-added resellers (VARs), integrators and other third parties.

This type of revenue model makes it easier for SaaS companies to market their products to the end user. With multiple connection points made available through this partnership setup, SaaS providers gain greater access to the customer base by leveraging existing relationships between customers and channel partners.

Notable advantages include increased visibility, more directed marketing efforts, and reduced costs associated with traditional direct selling methods. Consequently, businesses using channel sales can drive higher returns and generate more leads while expanding brand awareness in the marketplace.


4. Direct sales


Direct sales for SaaS is a strategic way of selling products directly to customers. 

This type of revenue model involves reaching out to potential customers, offering demonstrations, and then closing them on the benefits and features of the software. It requires having a professional attitude, knowledge of the software, and the ability to engage customers through outreach and communication.

Direct sales model is great for SaaS companies because it takes advantage of both traditional sales practices such as face-to-face meetings with prospects and technology-driven approaches such as calls, emails, webinars, and text messages to initiate contact.

Furthermore, the direct sales model allows SaaS providers to customize their product presentations according to each customer’s needs while simultaneously building relationships with each individual client.


5. Freemium model


A freemium model for SaaS, in its simplest form, provides a basic version of an application available to customers free of charge. 

The idea is that if the customer invests their time and energy into learning the features and abilities of the product – and finds it useful – they will be more likely to eventually purchase a premium version with additional features.

Recent data show freemium offerings generate about 8-10% conversion rate

Notable advantages of this model are that it helps convert prospects into paying customers, increases brand awareness and can be used as an effective way to incentivize customers to upgrade their subscription.

For example, a business using a freemium SaaS for project management may start off with the basic package but, as their team grows and their needs become more complex, they might upgrade to the premium plan which includes advanced reporting tools or integration with third-party applications.

Thus, by making the initial access cost nothing, the company encourages organic growth in users and can see which services are most appealing to their customers.


6. Paid courses


Paid courses as a revenue model for SaaS is an interesting, relatively new concept in the software space. 

By selling online tutorials and lessons on how to use their tools and services, SaaS companies can monetize their customer base beyond the subscription-based pricing models they typically rely on. 

Doing so allows businesses to tap into additional sources of income and turn casual users into long-term customers by teaching them exactly how to leverage their products.

Moreover, providing courses allows people to learn more about the features of the tool, helping create trust and loyalty with customers who feel better equipped with resources that ensure successful usage – providing larger returns in the long run.


7. The product is free, but the services aren’t


This popular revenue model for SaaS businesses allows you to build customer loyalty and base by offering a core product for no charge. 

With this model, you can add on additional paid services or features to offer their customers more value and further enhance their experience.

This approach also allows software providers to test the waters with their product offerings and adjust features as needed, without having to ask users to pay upfront.

Additionally, offering a combination of free and premium options helps maintain user engagement and lowers the barrier for customers who may want only certain functions – allowing them to upgrade over time as needed. 

Through this combination of options, SaaS providers can gain traction within their market while maintaining a sustainable revenue structure.


8. Custom integration or development work


Custom integration or development work for SaaS is a great way to generate recurring revenue, often alongside other subscription models.

The essence of this model is that companies can hire experts to specifically tailor their SaaS solution and bridge any technology gaps they have or adapt the software to fit in with existing systems they already own to increase overall efficiency and productivity.

This type of customization helps enhance customer experience by tailoring specific features and integrations, plus the service provider receives ongoing revenues as product usage increases over time.

Additionally, providing custom integration services provides an opportunity to build long-term relationships with customers who might eventually convert into subscribers anyway.


9. Premium support


This model is based on providing extra services to SaaS customers. It can include an array of features such as enhanced technical support, educational resources access, priority updates and more. 

Generally, these additional features are worth paying for in terms of offering increased value to customers and thus generate additional revenues for SaaS businesses.

Premium support helps SaaS companies both increase customer acquisition rates as well as keep their current clients engaged so that they continue using the service for a longer period of time.


10. Premium onboarding


Premium onboarding enables SaaS businesses to significantly increase customer subscriptions and reduce customer churn. By offering premium onboarding services, you can stand out from your competitors and provide more personalized products and services to customers.

For instance, your customers can get one-on-one support from experienced professionals that can help them quickly understand your tool and system capabilities, while also guiding them through the process of setting up key features.

This approach also allows you to identify possible problems or issues that may arise during the onboarding experience before they become roadblocks. In this way, premium onboarding not only provides valuable service to customers, but also helps to build long-term relationships with them.


11. Retail sales


Retail sale revenue model allows businesses to offer subscription packages to customers in order to access their service. The consumer can purchase these services either in individual or bulk quantities with additional features, depending on their needs.

By charging per user or per service, you are able to generate and predict predictable revenue streams with relative accuracy and stability. This not only makes the process more efficient but also allows you to manage your resources better, helping you create a more sustainable business.


12. Subscription revenue model


A subscription revenue model provides a steady stream of predictable income and allows users to access products or services on a regular basis. 

It’s important to note that the subscription business model requires you to provide ongoing customer value and ongoing customer engagement in order to succeed, as customers can easily unsubscribe if they don’t feel like they are getting value for their money.

Additionally, you can benefit from economies of scale, which makes scaling up much easier than with other business models. 

You must also monitor customer satisfaction closely in order to ensure high customer retention rates and increased long-term profitability. Subscription revenue models present an attractive option for companies looking to capitalize on digital trends while having the ability to retain ongoing customers.


13. Transactional revenue model


Under this model, customers are charged a fee as soon as they subscribe and every time they use certain features of the service or application. 

This allows you to generate revenue without having to commit to any long-term contracts.

Furthermore, it makes it easier for you to adjust your pricing structure based on usage patterns and demand. In addition, the transactional model gives you flexibility over cost and an easy way to upsell customers with extra services that may be more beneficial than a flat-rate subscription.


14. Web Sales (Self-Service Transaction)


The web sales revenue model utilizes web visitors directly, resulting in immediate cash flow due to the fact that self-service transactions can take place on a website. The convenience of this method allows customers to purchase solutions quickly and effectively while also reducing costs on the part of the vendor.

This model involves selling access to an online platform, typically on an ongoing subscription basis, that provides users with access to web-based applications they can use to increase efficiency and productivity.

Subscriptions often include other benefits such as free upgrades, customer support, training materials and unlimited use of the applications available through the platform.

Web sales provide companies with predictable monthly income from customers who pay for ongoing access in advance. As new users sign on, companies are able to grow their user base exponentially without increasing their overhead costs or staff.


15. Upsells


 Upselling is a popular revenue mode where customers are offered an additional product or service alongside the one they’re already purchasing. 

This can include higher-level plans, closer support, discounts on extra features, or special add-ons. It allows them to increase the value of their purchase while also increasing the profitability of their business as well.

Upselling can be done both online and offline, helping businesses to benefit from multiple revenue sources in a short amount of time. Not only does it increase revenues for companies, but it also enhances customer retention through increased loyalty and satisfaction.

To upsell SaaS effectively, businesses must strive to incorporate upsells that are reasonably priced and relevant to the customer’s needs. In this way, valuable features can be provided without overcharging customers which then leads to repeat sales and more ongoing revenue streams over time.


Different Types of Cost Structures


SaaS businesses can have two types of costs – variable costs and fixed costs. 

Variable costs are those which change depending on production levels – such as material inputs or labor costs – while fixed costs remain the same regardless of production levels – such as rent payments or utilities bills. It’s important for you to understand these two types of costs in order to properly set prices for their products or services and maximize profits.


Variable Costs


Variable costs refer to those which fluctuate depending on production levels; this could include things like raw materials, labor hours, or transportation fees. 

When setting prices for your SaaS tool it’s important to factor in these variable costs so you don’t end up losing money in the long run. 

Consider factors such as supply chain efficiency, inventory management, quality control standards, and other factors when calculating your variable costs. 


Fixed Costs


Fixed Costs refer to those which remain the same regardless of production levels. 

These might include rent payments, utility bills, insurance premiums, loan payments etcetera. These types of expenses need to be taken into consideration when setting prices for your products or services so you don’t end up running at a loss after taking them into account.

It’s also important to consider any potential increases in fixed cost over time; if you anticipate an increase then you should adjust your pricing accordingly in order not to lose out on potential profits.


Marketing and Advertising Expenses 


Marketing and advertising expenses can also have an impact on profitability if they aren’t managed correctly. It’s important for you to measure the return on investment (ROI) from any marketing activities you undertake so you can determine whether it’s worth investing more money into them or not.

You should also target your marketing campaigns toward specific audiences in order to ensure that you get maximum results from your efforts while minimizing spending where possible. 


Maximizing SaaS Revenue Through Initial Sale, Retention and Expansion Strategies


The SaaS revenue model is composed of three distinct phases—initial sale, retention, and expansion—each of which plays a vital role in driving growth performance. 

Below we will discuss the importance of each phase and the strategies that can be used to maximize your SaaS revenue.


Initial Sale


The success of any business depends on its ability to generate revenue from initial sales. 

It is crucial to understand what factors determine successful initial sales so that you can create a strategy that meets customers’ needs while generating maximum revenues. 

An effective strategy should include things like competitive pricing, identifying target markets, providing excellent customer service, and offering customizable solutions that meet customers’ specific requirements. Additionally, it is important to ensure that customers have a positive onboarding experience in order to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.




A successful business must also focus on long-term retention strategies in order to generate recurring revenues and build relationships with existing customers. 

To achieve this goal, businesses should focus on providing an exceptional customer experience by offering personalized services that meet customer needs. 

Additionally, businesses should look for ways to increase customer engagement through loyalty programs or rewards systems. 

Finally, it is important to anticipate common challenges in retaining customers and develop solutions to address them such as using automation tools or increasing customer support resources.


Expansion Revenue


Upsells and cross-sells are two methods used by companies to increase growth performance and drive expansion revenue. 

Companies should analyze their net negative churn rate—the rate at which new revenue generated from upsells exceeds lost revenue from downsells—to measure their growth performance over time. 

To improve net negative churn rate and drive expansion revenue, businesses should focus on creating personalized offers based on customer data points such as usage history or product preferences. 

Additionally, businesses should develop strategies such as offering discounts or free trials/upgrades in order to attract new customers while also encouraging existing customers to purchase additional products/services.


Final Thoughts


Revenue models and cost structures are essential elements in running a successful business; understanding both can help you set competitive prices and manage your marketing budget effectively so that you get maximum ROI from all your efforts. By taking into account variable costs such as raw materials, labor hours, and more when setting prices you can ensure that you won’t be losing out financially by undercharging customers.

Similarly, by considering fixed costs such as rent payments etcetera it ensures that you won’t be running at a loss even if sales aren’t high enough due to other factors such as seasonality.

Finally targeting your marketing campaigns towards specific audiences allows you to maximize results while minimizing spending where possible. This ensures that every penny spent goes towards generating maximum returns for your SaaS business thus helping boost profitability overall!

Generating growth performance, meanwhile, requires a comprehensive approach involving all three phases of the SaaS model—initial sale, retention, and expansion—each of which is essential for maximizing SaaS revenue over time. 

By focusing on pricing strategies for initial sales as well as long-term retention strategies such as providing excellent customer service or developing loyalty programs; companies can not only increase customer satisfaction but also generate more recurring revenues from existing customers through upsells and cross-sells.

Ultimately, taking a holistic approach towards optimizing the SaaS revenue model will help companies maximize their growth potential while achieving greater success in the long run!

Don’t forget to check out our blog for more tips on growing your SaaS business.


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Ken Moo