When it comes to SaaS marketing, promoting your products carries unique challenges. Your target buyers are extremely sophisticated professionals at the helm of major enterprises who need more time to consider an inherently complex product. Even if they have the final say over what their department purchases, long sales cycles coupled with this complexity calls for product positioning that can speak louder and clearer than the competition.
SaaS marketers face an increasingly crowded marketplace where decision-makers don't get a free trial for enterprise-grade solutions or a simple sales process that doesn't need much support. As seasoned marketing professionals specializing in SaaS products, here are our recommendations for brand positioning and SaaS marketing.
What is Market Positioning?
Market positioning is ultimately why a potential customer would choose your product over similar ones.
Positioning statements generally utilize this type of example formula: "(Brand Name) provides (what you do) to (customer type(s)) in a (voice) and (voice) environment while helping them (feel) and giving them (impact)."
To flesh out this positioning statement with a hypothetical SaaS company: "EmailTech provides automated and secure email management solutions to large organizations with ease and peace of mind."
EmailTech offers automation of a tedious and granular, but important, function to a defined customer group (large organizations) that offers both security and an easy user experience. Of course, this positioning statement could be further honed based on a handful of industries or a specific niche that EmailTech caters to. For instance, LAIRE focuses on SaaS marketing, while there are other marketing agencies that focus on retail products or a specific vertical like automotive or travel.
Let's say EmailTech has a specific industry bent. They could change their positioning statement to, "EmailTech provides automated and secure email management solutions tailored to the beauty industry with ease and peace of mind."
A VP of marketing at a major global beauty brand could consider any email marketing SaaS, but EmailTech would stand out to them because the rest of their market positioning is focused around the particular needs of the beauty industry, like short product shelf life and needing efficient tools for collaborating with beauty influencers.
It would factor into EmailTech's overall branding. This positioning statement is less vague than highlighting "large organizations''.
But since large brands often have multiple managers involved in SaaS purchasing decisions, which one is ultimately being marketed to? What are you trying to communicate to them that makes your SaaS product different from the millions of others out there?
"EmailTech provides automated and secure email management solutions tailored to the beauty industry with military-grade encryption, but is just as easy to use as your favorite lipstick."
If the brand's CTO was ultimately making the purchasing decision, perhaps more detail would be given to the encryption and security details. While a marketing executive would have some degree of tech-savviness, they're likely not on the same page as the IT department. Selling them on the security aspects could differentiate EmailTech from competitors that don't offer this degree of encryption, but the marketing executive wants a product that just makes their job easier while offering the other functionalities they need.
Referencing a product the brand is likely to sell helps in speaking to them, and quickly illustrates that it is easy to use. The other positioning statements use a more authoritative tone, this one is slightly friendly and playful. The right tone to use will vary by brand: enterprise-grade SaaS copy need not always sound incredibly authoritative.
Questions You Need to Ask When Devising a Positioning Strategy
Brand positioning is a challenge for every product and service, and SaaS marketing requires additional considerations given its comparatively longer customer journey to other types of software. As shown in the positioning statement example, your statement needs to do more than simply state what your product is. It's all about how your product stands out in the market, especially in an extremely crowded market where differentiation is even more crucial.
Positioning is more than just a statement, though. It needs to factor into your overall marketing strategy. When marketing SaaS products and devising how you position your brand, you need to ask the following questions.
- Who are the customers you’re targeting? Start by breaking down your target customers into categories or attributes that can be easily defined, such as company size, location, or industry. If your brand serves multiple types of clients that can't be easily "boxed in" like this, take a look at what kind of clients you normally work with-- or the kind you WANT to work with. Take note of their attributes and what differentiates them from one another.
- What is the ultimate outcome they are trying to achieve? Think of the people you would need to reach within the organizations you are targeting. What do they do at their jobs? Why would they need your SaaS product for it? Beyond carrying out a certain function for that organization, WHAT are they trying to ultimately do? Going back to the EmailTech example, let's say one of the beauty brands they work with just wants to sell nail polish. But are they selling to individuals, retailers, wholesalers, or all of these groups if not some of them? Is their goal to prevent email from going to spam filters, increasing sales through those emails, or complying with email marketing regulations in multiple countries they sell to?
- Why do all other solutions fail to achieve this outcome? Think of the pain points that your target clients are likely to have with their existing solutions: it's slow. The UX is horrible and too hard to understand. It's missing some kind of functionality that requires third-party add-ons and makes it harder to use. It can't be customized enough. Find out what your target customer despises, and position your brand around how your solution does the exact opposite.
- How will your solution help make your customers' lives easier? This is ultimately why executives and managers sign up for SaaS products because your product does something that makes their jobs easier. First, find out what is making their jobs hard. Then effectively communicate why your solution is capable of removing those bottlenecks.
- Can you prove it? This is already tricky when enterprise-grade SaaS usually doesn't have a free trial the way that small business programs often do. Thus, you will need a significant amount of tractable proof that your product works. Work with your existing clients by putting together case studies, testimonials, and use case videos, blogs, and whitepapers that go into great detail on the problem your SaaS solved for the organization. Did it produce amazing results? Cut down on operating expenses? A happy client will usually be extremely agreeable in helping you prove that your product works, and collaborate on testimonial content that helps convince prospective clients to work with you.
Best Practices for SaaS Product Market Positioning
Positioning is difficult. It frequently must evolve as your brand matures, as does the ever-changing needs of the market. Taking on any kind of B2B marketing is a challenge, and brand positioning is no exception. Keep these best practices in mind when you're looking to position your product to solve a specific problem and define your niche.
Approach your market positioning with a data-driven mindset.
Data always trounces speculation or sales-y talk. When using data to make claims about your product, target industries, and verticals, is the source an authoritative one? Is the data relevant to the question at hand? In terms of how you're going to market to a specific client set, use your research to make data-driven decisions. Going back to the EmailTech SaaS example, internal data on their own use cases could demonstrate a very different reality than the one they are marketing--such as focusing on UX instead of pure functionality when the latter is more of a concern to current users. Always go with data instead of gut instinct.
Have a thorough understanding of your target customer.
This helpful graph outlines questions you should ask your target customer. Start with this group of questions to determine how they would walk through your sales process, what their needs are, how your solution is both the same and different than what's currently on the market, and why they would want yours instead of the competition. Specifically, understand your target customer's needs and pain points with their average day at work.
Know your product inside and out.
SaaS products tend to be complex, and this means they are inherently difficult to market because it's impossible to explain every single feature and functionality without overwhelming the prospective client. But even as you hone your messaging, it's integral to be familiar with your own product in order to effectively sell it. Try the program out before sales calls. Imagine that you are in your target customer's shoes and think about how you would use it in their particular role and organization. You don't need to take on a tech support role, but be prepared to show them how to use certain tools, features, and functionalities.
View the competition through your customer’s eyes.
If you were your target customer, how would you see a competing product? Is it easy to use? Does it provide the customization and functionality needed to get their job done? Would it make their life easier, or does it provide just enough of what they need yet falls short of some necessary features? Put yourself in the customer's shoes and think about these factors.
Think of your SaaS company as a person.
If your company was a sentient being, what would it be like? Are you thinking of a wizened and kindly professor, an important head of state everyone listens to, or that cool friend who always has the latest gadgets? This will set the tone in your branding, positioning, and messaging irrespective of what an individual salesperson or team does to market the product. By thinking of your SaaS company as a person, it helps you see how customers and the outside world also perceive it. A brand that people perceive as "fun" as opposed to "authoritative" is likely to require different strategies from the sales team.
Develop your core values.
Organizations create mission statements and define core values that let the general public know what they stand for. Ultimately, customer-facing company policy and internal policy (the employer brand) would also reflect these core values. For instance, a company that prioritizes sustainability and makes a commitment to environmental stewardship would communicate this on its website. It would include causes supported, and a detailed explanation of how the company lives out these values (such as allowing remote work and limiting business travel). Competitors may not be doing the same, and this kind of clear definition of core values can help with positioning. A good example of this would be Tom's Shoes, which became known for donating a pair of shoes to someone in need with each purchase. Philanthropy became effective brand positioning.
Understand your brand personality.
While core values of a brand can contribute to brand personality, this ultimately stems from thinking of your brand as a real person and how people would perceive them. Is your brand considered open and available, or known for being inaccessible? Fun and friendly, or strictly business? Brand personality develops and evolves over time, but understanding it now helps cement its position in the market and how this personality can be properly demonstrated to current and potential clients.
Continually refine and define.
Brands will start with a broad group of target clients, then gradually refine this group as market forces shift, technology marches on, and other factors will cause messaging to further hone and needs to shift in turn. Going back to the EmailTech example, it's highly probable for a SaaS company to start out simply marketing to one specific role or department in large organizations then further refine their focus to very specific industries, sub-industries, locations, or other attributes.
In this case, they started with large organizations then focused on the beauty industry. It's perfectly natural for brands to evolve and then refine, or even completely redefine, their messaging and brand position once it becomes apparent which markets and niches they are the best fit to serve.
The LAIRE team is comprised of digital marketing experts who specifically speak SaaS. We understand the unique challenges that SaaS marketers face in growing a brand and steadily attaining more paying enterprise users. You can learn more with our free SaaS Marketing Checklist that will provide your team with a solid digital marketing foundation tailored to SaaS products in today's technological landscape.