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Look, I don’t know the full backstory behind your SAAS firm or its marketing.

I don’t know how long it took you to get from beta to full launch. No idea what your three-year product roadmap looks like. Don’t know what your product’s benefits are.

But I do know this: your SAAS company’s marketing isn’t working.

At least, it’s not working as well as it could be.

Because your marketing is narcissistic.

Reality and a Little Bit of Context

Okay, here’s the reality. I know your marketing isn’t working because a) every company is a little narcissistic, and b) you’re reading this article, so, at the very least, your marketing probably isn’t perfect.

Concerning your SAAS company’s narcissism: it’s an unavoidable consequence of being an organization made up of limited human beings. We have physical needs. We’re trained from birth to pursue them. We’re dependent on fulfilling them to survive. So it’s no surprise that we tend to be a little bit self-focused. And it’s no surprise that the companies we create (and their marketing strategies) reflect that reality.

Concerning the fact that your marketing isn’t perfect: nothing is (except maybe the final season of Breaking Bad). Just like any SAAS offering, no marketing strategy has ever reached an end stage of perfection. There are always tweaks to be made, always tensions to be managed, always metrics to crunch and improve upon.

So, your marketing isn’t working the way you want it to. Welcome to the club – we’re glad to have you. If you’re marketing for SASS companies, you’ll need to come to terms with the fact that absolute perfection isn’t possible. But striving after it is the best way forward.

To that end, here are the biggest changes to make to your SAAS marketing. They all involve messaging.

Focus more on the customer.

Pull up your website, take a hard look at the vernacular you’re using, and make sure your company isn’t an obvious narcissist. What’s the tagline on your homepage say? Is it, “We’ve been proudly providing information security software since 2000″? Are the menu items things like “Our Service”, “Our Features”, and “Our Pricing?”

That’s got to change. When businesses talk exclusively about themselves, people tune out. It’s far better to phrase things in terms that relate to the customer: “Software to help you do x”, for example. Second person pronouns (you / your / you’re) are way more engaging.

Have you avoided self-referential language? Good – most SAAS companies have, which is a plus. The software world has been on the user-centric bandwagon for a while, so you should have a nice head start on your messaging, especially compared to other tech industries. But if you’ve avoided obvious narcissism, there are plenty of subtler points of self-focus that will ultimately shape your success.

Focus on the right benefits.

This is really the crux of all your marketing: finding out what benefits your users actually care about, and then making them known.

If you’ve taken Marketing 101 (or absorbed the equivalent through a combination of Gary V posts and multiple seasons of Mad Men), you know the importance of communicating benefits instead of features. A quick recap: features are what your software does. Benefits are why your software’s valuable. Users care much more about the latter.

But that’s only Level One.

The true difficulty isn’t in marketing benefits; it’s in marketing the right benefits.

Let’s say you sell easy-install anti-virus software for businesses, for example. What value does your software bring?

  • It’s easy to setup and manage.
  • Because it’s easy to set up and manage, it’s better at protecting devices from viruses.
  • Because it protects devices from viruses, businesses will be more productive and avoid downtime.
  • Because businesses avoid downtime, they’ll make more money.
  • Because businesses make more money, business stakeholders will be able to have nicer lifestyles with cooler things.
  • Because business stakeholders will be able to have nicer lifestyles with cooler things, people will think more of them.

Should you focus on the benefit of an easy setup? Or should you trumpet the benefit of public opinion? The reality is that there is no “absolute” benefit; every benefit, at least partly, is only a function in support of another benefit somewhere down the line.

If you’re thinking, “Come on, that’s going a little too far,” – well, yeah, you’re probably right. But far-out benefits are exactly what luxury brands have tapped into. People buy a Rolex to look impressive, not to keep time. For some brands, the benefit customers care about is five steps removed from a product’s function.

The key is in identifying the benefit that users will care most about, and then showcasing it in messaging. Admittedly, for SAAS offerings, the core benefit tends to be closely tied to the software’s functionality.

But here’s the trick: the only way to identify the most impactful benefit is to test messaging against data.

Most SAAS companies think they know what benefit their users care most about (“Oh, people definitely buy our antivirus software because it’s easy to set up”). If that’s you, you might be right. But without data (surveys, A/B tests, etc.), there’s no way to be sure. Don’t assume the benefit you value most is what your users value most. Design your messaging (and your software) toward data-backed benefits, not toward personal preference.

Avoid speaking in jargon.

A lot of the time, SAAS businesses are built on jargon. Sometimes, it catches on. At New North, we’ll “Zoom” each other for meetings, or check our “R2R” in our task management software. When we communicate internally, that all makes sense. But for people who don’t use our software, it’s Greek.

Here’s the thing: most people probably don’t use your software. Coming up with nifty nomenclature for your product’s features is fine (and a little cool). But when you’re communicating with potential customers or users, don’t assume they know what you’re talking about. Actually, assume they don’t.

The reality is that jargon is like an inside joke that nobody gets. It doesn’t make any sense and it kind of makes people feel bad. Not a great recipe for new business.

Avoid it, and be as clear as you can.

Good News: You Can Do This.

No, SAAS marketing perfection isn’t possible. Yes, you’ll always be tweaking your messaging. Quick-fix perfection doesn’t exist, but the more you focus on putting your customer at the center of your marketing, the better off you’ll be.

You can do better marketing, and focusing on your customer is the key. Channels will change and tactics will come and go, but customer-centric messaging will win on any platform, always. It’s the key to SAAS marketing.

Want help? Objectively stepping into your customer’s shoes can be hard, especially when you’re trying to read the label from inside the bottle of your software and industry. We’re here for you. We’ve worked with SAAS companies like yours to put customers at the center of messaging, to remove jargon, and to identify the right benefits of your software offering to focus on – the ones that customers care about as backed by data.

After all, a big part of better messaging is getting an outside, objective perspective on how to center the customer as the hero in your story.