Tencent Entrepreneur Zhang Xingliang: Three Transformations of SaaS Products


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Zhang Xingliang, the founder of EC, gives the impression that he is very active in thinking and has strong logical ability.

On the day Leifeng.com and Zhang Xingliang met, the reason for the disbandment of salesforce China sparked various speculations and discussions in the circle. Many industry insiders found Zhang Xingliang and wanted to hear his opinion.

“It is meaningless for local CRM to stare at Salesforce competition. In 2021, Salesforce’s revenue is 21.25 billion US dollars, and the Chinese market is only 180 million, of which more than 80% are orders from foreign companies’ branches in China, and China’s CRM is known as a 100 billion market. Work hard Product innovation and good service for domestic enterprises are the real big market.” He said bluntly.

That afternoon, he posted a circle of friends: “The apprentice is far from surpassing the master. Don’t be self-confident, continue to work hard to make the product well, the rest is not important.”

Making good products has always been Zhang Xingliang’s insistence, which is also a typical trait of Tencent entrepreneurs. Looking back at the past experience of EC as a SaaS product, it has always been inextricably linked with Tencent: Zhang Xingliang worked in Tencent’s to B business in his early years; in the early days of his business, Tencent invested in EC; in the past two years, under the background of cloud ecological integration, Zhang Xingliang It also cooperates closely with Tencent in product business.


An experience 20 years ago:

2B products not only have user value, but more importantly, commercial value

The first story of Zhang Xingliang and Tencent can be traced back to 20 years ago.

On September 9, 2003, Tencent released “Tencent Communication” (RTX) at the Kerry Center in Beijing. This is a TO B real-time communication product, and it is also Tencent’s first show in the to B market. At that time, it was one of Tencent’s three major products, and it invested no less than 100 million in three years to promote corporate instant messaging.

At the beginning of the new year in 2004, Tencent had 90,000 registered users, and many large enterprises such as Xinjiang Mobile, Sinopec Northwest Branch, and TCL became RTX users, and the person in charge behind the product was Zhang Xingliang.

“Internally, we attach great importance to RTX,” Zhang Xingliang recalled to Leifeng.com. At that time, Tencent’s logo had three circles, red, blue and yellow, representing Tencent’s three wishes: the corporate market, the business market, and the personal market. “At that time, everyone thought that RTX would go public independently.”

But sadly, this product later failed. Looking back on the review, Zhang Xingliang admitted that the RTX of the year was the same as that faced by many office collaboration software today, “The enterprise is a need, but not a pain point. If there is no use, it is difficult to obtain value-added realization on it.”

The experience of RTX has also influenced Zhang Xingliang’s product concept: products in the to B market must not only have user value and be loved by customers, but also find commercial value that can be realized.

Later, Zhang Xingliang started his own business as an EC, and put forward the slogan of “connection changes business”. EC SCRM breaks the status quo that CRM is only a management software, and makes it a business system. It uses socialized and intelligent technology to help enterprises open up the whole process of customer acquisition-transaction-repurchase-operation, improving sales transaction efficiency and improving corporate performance. .

Specifically, it is divided into three steps: first, to gather leads, EC helps companies to gather business opportunities from all advertising channels and social networking sites and allocate them automatically; secondly, to filter business opportunities, it will tell you the business opportunities before sales follow-up. situation, help you filter out invalid communications and improve the efficiency of sales follow-up; finally, automated sales, EC promotes the sales process through intelligence, such as formulating follow-up plans, automatically pushing and reminding sales to follow up customers, thereby helping sales improve the transaction rate . In addition, the management of the enterprise can check the customer situation, ROI, performance progress and other business conditions in real time, so that they can “know” in advance.

In terms of user value, EC has greatly improved the work efficiency of sales and freed up sales time; in terms of commercial value, EC has actually improved the transaction efficiency of enterprises and improved the performance of enterprises, so that enterprises are more willing to pay for them.

An investment 10 years ago:

Insight into the essence, SaaS is a product-oriented business model

When the concept of helping companies achieve performance meets the wave of mobile Internet, this directly promotes the second story between EC and Tencent.

Around 2011, the mobile Internet began to sweep the entire industry. More and more people used social tools such as QQ and WeChat, and their work and life gradually shifted to online.

Zhang Xingliang was also keenly aware of this change, and took the lead in proposing the concept of SCRM (social customer relationship management) in the industry, emphasizing that CRM should connect with the outside world and help companies achieve performance, not just an internal sales management tool. And enabled the domain name of scrm.com, and at the same time received tens of millions of yuan in A round of investment from Tencent, and then UF invested another round.

With the continuous development of the market and changes in customer needs, the CRM industry has begun to differentiate into two factions. One faction invests heavily in self-developed PaaS platforms and focuses on serving large enterprises with customized needs; the other faction still focuses on standardized products and focuses on serving high-growth companies. .

Zhang Xingliang’s position has always been very clear. He believes that the essence of SaaS is a product-oriented business model. If a lot of money is invested in customization, it will become a traditional software business, which has deviated from the SaaS business model.

Zhang Xingliang said: “SaaS is a standardized product, one version for the entire network, so a lot of R&D costs are required at the beginning, but this cost has a marginal effect. With the increasing number of customers, the profitability of SaaS will become stronger and stronger, etc. After cost recovery, SaaS will become a high-margin business, which is a typical Internet model.”

In Zhang Xingliang’s view, after Alibaba, Tencent and other big platforms have done PaaS, vertical category SaaS companies doing PaaS by themselves are just like technology manufacturers building their own IDC computer rooms.

“It’s like we need to drink a glass of water on the road, but we carry a large bucket of water with us. It’s heavy and tiring, and it’s not cost-effective, because all the big factories have set up water stations along the way, and we can actually stop and pick them up at any time. Water.” Zhang Xingliang added.

For some SaaS companies in China, Zhang Xingliang believes that part of the reason is that they imitated salesforce’s way of doing SaaS first and then PaaS.

“This is the real reason why Salesforce did PaaS in the past.” Zhang Xingliang said frankly. In 2019, Zhang Xingliang visited the Salesforce headquarters in the United States, which gave him a deeper understanding of the development of Salesforce.

Salesforce went public in 2004. At that time, the cloud ecosystem was not rich, and the cloud infrastructure such as AWS was not yet perfect. The upstream and downstream were a bunch of software. He needed to turn all these software functions into SaaS, so he had to end up doing PaaS in person. With the gradual improvement of cloud infrastructure such as AWS and the rich SaaS ecosystem, Salesforce’s focus has shifted to SaaS connections.

If you don’t do PaaS, how can you meet the needs of customers in different industries? Zhang Xingliang’s strategy is to strengthen the connection with upstream and downstream manufacturers through investment, mergers and acquisitions and strategic cooperation, and establish a “small ecology” of EC.

In 2016, EC joined hands with Maida Digital to set up an industrial fund, invested in and acquired a number of companies such as Xuebang ERP, Zhubaoyi, etc., and launched all-scenario integrated solutions in education, finance, taxation, jewelry and other industries to meet the digital needs of customers.

For example, in the education industry, front-end customers use EC to gather business opportunities from the entire network, and automatically transfer them to the EC customer database. The system intelligently follows up and promotes the transformation of student sources in an orderly manner; Xuebang ERP; finally, the student operation service is completed through EC+ enterprise WeChat to build a private domain.

The combination of several products forms a digital operation system for the whole process of education and training that is ready to use and easy to use.

A current collaboration:

The cloud era has come, SaaS portfolio will replace traditional customized services

In October last year, Gartner put forward “assembled applications” in the top ten strategic technology trends of the year, predicting that by 2024, the trend of new SaaS and custom application design will be “assembleable API-first or API-only”, declaring ” The coming of the API’ economy.

Subsequently, Tencent Cloud announced the establishment of the “HiFlow Scenario Connector” to solve the problems of multi-system connection, multi-application switching and data automation in the corporate office scenario through a system, which gave EC more opportunities for SaaS ecosystem partners to interconnect.

However, EC did not stop there. In July this year, EC and Tencent Weida launched a solution based on the individual needs of customers, officially launching a combined digital solution.

On the one hand, EC can use platform cooperation to reduce customization costs while meeting the individual needs of customers; Overtaking corners in the CRM market.

For example, taking a technology company as an example, EC uses standard products to meet their needs in sales management, but for its channel management needs, it is a customized service. EC has launched Weida to help them build a flexible and efficient channel ecosystem , and communicates with EC without trace to help this technology company manage its channels while making performance.

In addition to the technology industry, EC’s “out-of-the-box, flexible combination” solution has helped many industries such as education, taxation, catering, and jewelry to achieve personalized services such as channel management, membership marketing, distribution, and group purchases. Zhang Xingliang believes that this low-code combined SaaS can completely subvert traditional customization and will become the mainstream of enterprise digitalization.

However, there are also many SaaS companies who are not interested in cloud manufacturers building ecosystems, and worry that cloud manufacturers stretch their hands and feet too long and their technologies will be copied and copied.

20 years ago, Zhang Xingliang’s experience in making enterprise products at Tencent inspired him to start a business; 10 years ago, when Tencent launched WeChat and other social software, EC also took advantage of the opportunity to go deep into the SCRM track; now, when Tencent strategically deploys the cloud ecosystem , EC took the lead to build a higher product barrier and a wider market moat.

These three stories not only outline several important time nodes in the development of EC, but also can see from the side that Tencent is like an aircraft carrier, and the impact it brings to the To B industry is shallow or deep. With the continuous surging of the digital wave, there will be more and more explorers who will use the light from the big ship to light the lights and write new stories in the field of To B.

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