Wednesday, May 1, 2019

No one needs your solution unless they have a problem


Let me give this to you straight:  Nobody really cares about your SaaS solution. 

They don’t care how it’s built.  They don’t want to see a demo.  And they don’t want to talk to you
about it.

At least not yet.

No one has any interest in your solution… until they see that they have a problem and they suspect you may be able to solve it.

An obvious, but too common mistake

I know this sounds harsh and painfully obvious.  But then why do so many websites sound like this?

Our world-class (fill in the blank) SaaS solution offers this brilliant function, that brilliant function, and this other brilliant function. It’s way better than somebody else’s solution.  Click here for a free trial/to request a demo/ to talk with a salesperson.

I’m sure that some fraction of visitors that see this description on a website will actually click through.  But it requires that these folks do a lot of work.  They need to figure out for themselves why any of these features matter to them.  They need to make the connection between their problem and this solution. 

And that’s not all they need to do.  They’ll also need to assess whether it’s an urgent problem.  Is it something that they can live with, or does it really need their immediate attention? (See “Your toughest competitor… inertia.”)

When all we talk about is features, features, and features, we’re asking the visitor to do a lot of work on their own.  And by the way, we’re asking them to do all this work in maybe a minute or less.  That’s how much time they’re likely to give with us when they first come to our website.

Why do we force people to work so hard?

I’ll guess at why this happens.  It’s often because we fall in love with our technology.  

We get so wrapped up in the elegant solution we’ve developed, that we forget the problem we built it to solve in the first place.  Or at least we forget that we need to explain the problem to the prospective customer.  

We’re too eager to spew out everything we can say about the solution… even before the person knows what we’re trying to solve.  (See “Demo?  Not so fast.”)

Earning the right to show more

Instead of talking about features, features, and more features, a website would probably generate a lot more engagement – clicks, downloads, trials, whatever – if we marketing folks made it easier for visitors to see the problem we solve.  We should make it easy to see the connection between their problem and our solution.  We shouldn’t rely on the visitor to do that work. 

Before we go into all kinds of detail about our solution, we want the visitor nodding their head and thinking: “Yes, I see I have this problem in my organization, I realize that the way I’m trying to solve it now isn’t working, and I know that it needs immediate attention and I can't ignore it.”

Only then will we have earned the right to show our solution.

Nobody needs a solution until they know they have a problem.




Monday, April 1, 2019

Remind customers why they're paying you


Sorry, I have some bad news. 

If you thought that once you’ve won a deal and brought a new customer on-board your software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, and you’re all done...sorry. 

You’re not done yet.

Winning a new customer is just the start; now you need to keep that customer.

Depending on what it costs you to acquire a customer (CAC), it may take several months – maybe even years – for subscription revenues to recover that cost (LTV/CAC).  If a customer quits before you’ve reached that point, you lose money.  That’s how the SaaS model works.  (See “Nothing simple about SaaS benchmark metrics.”)

A new job for marketers

This requirement to hold on to customers gives marketers a new job, one they didn’t have before SaaS:  marketing to existing customers. 

True confession:  When I worked for companies marketing traditional licensed software, I only thought about existing customers on two occasions: when I needed a customer reference or when I saw them at the annual user conference.

But for SaaS companies, things are different.  It’s essential to remind existing customers why they’re paying for your solution.  Show them how much they’re using it to hire new employees, deliver training courses, handle expense reports, send out email newsletters, or whatever it is you do for your customers. 

I get a regular reminder from Carbonite about how many files they’ve backed up.  That is definitely not something I would pay attention to otherwise. 

Help customers get more value

Even better if you take an extra step and help your customers get more value from the solution.  Show them how to do what they’re doing better.  Share tips & tricks, expert advice, and best practices.  Let them know about enhancements you’ve made to the solution and show them how to use them.

Watch for low activity

If your solution is used primarily by one person in the organization, for example an HR professional, a project manager, or an accounts payable manager, be on the lookout for a sharp drop in activity.  If nobody’s logging in, there’s a problem.  It’s worthwhile finding out if perhaps there’s a new person in the role that might need training. 

Stay in touch

One last bit of advice.  Stay in contact regularly with your customers.  Nothing quite says “I really don’t care about you” than reaching out to them for the first time two days before the subscription expires.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Why free trials don’t always work


There's a reason lots of SaaS companies offer free trials.  Done well, they work.  They can attract paying customers to software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.  

But it doesn’t happen automatically.

There’s nothing about a free trial that magically converts a free trialer into a paying customer.  Getting prospects through that journey isn’t easy… meaning there are lot of ways that free trials can go wrong.

Your prospects are busy

One of the biggest obstacles to converting free trialers into paying customers is that your prospects are busy people.   While they’re juggling lots of priorities, carving out time to work with a trial solution is a challenge.  (See “Your prospect has a day job.”)

Even if you don’t charge to use the solution, working with the free trial will still cost the prospect precious time.  And if there are multiple trialers within the organization, even more time is needed.  (See “A free trial isn’t really free.”) 

Make free trials easier

A few tactics could help. 
  • Focus on key tasks:  When a prospective customer signs up for a free trial, guide them to complete 2 or 3 key tasks.  This should be enough to give them an idea of what the solution does and how to use it.  For most customers, that’s sufficient.  They don’t need, or have time, to go through every single feature in the product.   
  • Quickly show value:  Guide free trialers quickly to features that will “wow” them.  Don’t force them to jump through hoops before they can see how the solution can be helpful to them.
  • Don’t require too much set-up work:  Give the prospective customer a head-start.  For example, include sample data if possible so there’s no need to enter lots of data just to get started.  Starting them off with a blank page can be very intimidating.

  • Show it’s easy to use:  In talking with many free trialers, I’ve learned that most of them just want to see if the solution is easy to learn and use.  They don’t need to see all the features.  They just want to know that it’s something they’ll be comfortable and productive using.


Free trials are not required

Besides a free trial, keep in mind that there are other ways to let prospects see your solution.   Sometimes it’s better to offer something different or alongside the free trial.

An effective demo can show key features of the solution.  And for prospects that aren’t yet ready for a direct interaction with the vendor, a short video of highlights can be enough to give an overview and entice them to see more.  (See “Most demos are useless.”)

A no-obligation/no commitment subscription lets the customer pays for the solution, but they can cancel at any time.  If they’re not using it, they stop paying.

A money-back guarantee goes even further.  If the customer is unhappy after a month or some other designated time period, you send them their money back.

Both of these approaches give the customer the peace of mind to know they won’t be stuck with something they don’t use.


I’m not opposed to free trials.  I’ve seen them work very well at attracting prospects and paying customers, but only when they’re done well.  Otherwise, you’ll find you’re wasting your time and losing business.


Friday, February 1, 2019

Are you forgetting the “service” part of SaaS?


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Ok, let me remind us all of the blatantly obvious: “SaaS” stands for “software-as-service.”   Yup, “service” is right there in the name.

But looking at the way most SaaS solutions are marketed, too often it’s all about the “software”, and
not much about the “service.”

On website, in videos, during customer presentations, and in every other piece of marketing communication, it’s all about the software.  “Look at this feature, look at that feature, look at another feature.”

All this hyping of features reminds me of how we used to market traditional licensed application packages.  That made sense when we were essentially selling a disc full of software.

The buyer expects service with their software

But that’s not what SaaS is, and it’s not what the SaaS buyer expects.

They’re paying a regular subscription fee for access to the software features… and a whole lot more.

They’re expecting help with implementation.  They need to get up & running with the solution.  (See “Your SaaS buyers could be afraid to buy.”)

They’re looking for help with training.  That might include training for administrators and for others in the organization that will be using the solution.

And they’re looking for support.  When they get stuck and run into a problem, they expect that someone from the vendor will help.

Beyond that, a SaaS vendor should actually be providing expert guidance on how customers can get the most from the solution.  They can share tips, best practices, benchmarks, and other help.

So, if this is what SaaS buyers are expecting, this is what SaaS marketing should be promoting.  Talk about your expert guidance and your implementation, training, support services.

Follow the software-as-a-service label: Market your services, not just your features.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New customers can teach you a lot… if you just ask


If you’re marketing and selling a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, feel free to ring a bell or do
whatever it is you do when you win a new deal.

But don’t stop there. 

Those new customers are worth more than just subscription revenue.  They can tell you a lot to help your marketing. 

Think about it.  They’ve just emerged from the evaluation and purchase process, they’ve seen your marketing efforts up close. 

They’re in a good spot to share some useful insights, such as:

  • What did they use before they bought your new solution?
  • Why did they change?  What was wrong with the old system?
  • Where did they find out about your solution?
  • What other solutions did they look at and why did they choose yours?


That’s vital information that can help you market and win even more new customers.


How do you get this information?

But you do need to ask them.  How?

You could conduct a customer survey via a questionnaire. There are lots of methodologies and software or consultants to help here.

Or you could ask your Sales people.  After all, they’ve been intimately involved in the process with the prospect. 

Beware though that Sales may carry a bias.  When asked why a customer bought, you may hear a salesperson explain “it was because of the wonderful relationship established by the salesperson.”

Another approach is to simply talk to small sample of new customers.  Even short conversations with a handful of customers can be useful. 

These can be especially revealing if they’re conducted as conversations, not surveys.  Tee up a few questions (like the ones suggested earlier) and follow wherever the customer takes you. 

Though the handful of interviews from an individual month represent only a small sample size, over the course of a year these should yield valid information.  You’ll gather insights that can help craft effective marketing messages and structure marketing programs that really reach prospects.

Worried about bothering new customers?  In my experience, most customers are happy to talk for a few minutes and share their thoughts.  In fact, they’re often delighted to know that their new vendor actually cares what they think.

I’ve seen these interviews done well by people within the company, though it’s best to have Marketing people call, not Sales.  Using an outside person can also be effective.  (Contact me if you need help.)

When you win a new customer, go ahead and celebrate.  But don’t miss out on the useful information you can gather from them.