Friday, January 3, 2020

Taglines are more than a few clever words

There are lots of memorable taglines for consumer products: 

  • Just do it. (Nike)
  • Got milk. (California Milk Producers)
  • Betcha can’t eat just one. (Lays)
But business and technology products have had a fair share of effective taglines as well: 
  • Imagination at work (GE)
  • Think different (Apple)
  • The early salesforce tagline wasn’t even words; just a logo saying “software” with a slash through it.

Each of those short phrases does a lot of work.  They convey something vital about the product or the company.  They come out of a deep understanding of the product or the company and the benefits it delivers.

And the tagline isn’t just something that’s used on a billboard or in a TV ad.  It’s actually reflected in the way products are built, service is delivered, how the company hires, and everything else about the way they do business.

Authentic taglines require deep thinking

I worked with Lotus when they developed a tagline, “Work the web.”  It was featured prominently in a series of ads featuring Dennis Leary.  It made the point that the web was useful for lots more than creating chat rooms, virtual pets, and cat videos. 

The tagline was a clear expression that the web, which was still in its early days, can be a powerful business tool.  It came out of deep thinking and many meetings in which people thought hard about how to carve out a compelling role for Lotus – specifically Notes and Domino - in a rapidly changing market.

The most effective taglines aren’t just dreamed up by a clever marketing team.  Yes, a few creative folks sitting in a room could come up with something cute or catchy, but it’s unlikely to have much meaning to people hearing it or convey anything fundamental about the product or the company.  It will be just a few empty words.

Nor can effective taglines be “borrowed” or adapted from another company.  Grafting on a phrase that isn’t a genuine reflection of a company’s true value proposition or culture is inauthentic and meaningless. 

Taglines aren’t required

Companies can effectively market their solutions without a tagline.  They definitely need a concise and compelling value proposition – a few sentences that clearly explain who should buy their product, what problems they solve, and why someone should pay them money for it.  (See “Two Essentials for SaaS Marketing.”)

But they don’t necessarily need to distill this into a short tagline, a few words that captures the essence of the value proposition.  It can be helpful in ad campaigns or other promotional efforts, but not essential.

Companies and marketing teams that do opt to develop and use a tagline though, should recognize that it’s not an easy task to do it well.  There’s lots of work squeezed into a very few words.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Do you know why your customers buy?

If they’re doing their job, SaaS marketers can tell you how many leads they’re attracting, how many convert into paying customers, where the leads are coming from, and even how much they’re paying for them.

That’s all useful information that should be collected in your CRM system.  You can’t run an effective SaaS marketing program without it. 

But all that data doesn’t really answer an important fundamental question underneath the numbers:  Why do your customers buy your solution?

To break that question down into smaller bits:
  •  What problem are your customers trying to solve?
  • What’s wrong with the solution they had in place before yours?
  • How costly or urgent is the problem?
  • Why did the solution from you and not some other vendor?

Answers to these questions won’t be found in your CRM or marketing automation solution.

You might make some educated guesses based on particular keyword searches or paper downloads.  But that’s exactly what they are:  guesses.  What someone clicked on doesn’t really reveal why they were looking in the first place.

Ask your customers

I’ll suggest a better approach:  talk with your customers.

In particular, talk with customers that have bought recently.  They can still remember what motivated them to evaluate alternatives to their old solution.  They can give you some useful insights into what problem they were trying to solve.

Who shouldn’t ask?

From what I’ve seen, there are a couple of good options when you think about who should be asking new customers about why they bought.

But first let me point out some bad options:

Customer satisfaction surveys:  These surveys can be measure existing customers’ satisfaction with your solution, but they don’t reveal why they bought the solution to begin with.  I also find that the survey approach can be confining, with little opportunity for customers to raise new issues or elaborate.

Customer support:  When a customer is talking with a support agent, they usually trying to get a problem resolved.  They’re really not inclined to chat about why they bought the solution in the first place.

Sales:  Nearly every time I’ve asked a salesperson why the customer bought, I hear some version of this: “Great relationship with the salesperson!”  That may be true, but not really helpful.  It could explain why the deal was closed, but not why the opportunity opened.

Who should ask?

Having worked with lots of companies that interview new customers, I’ve found that the most useful insights come when either of two people ask the questions.

The marketing team:  Someone from marketing can gather useful insights from customers if they ask as a market researcher.  In other words, they should explain to the customer that they’re gathering feedback to help improve the product and the marketing programs. 

They should explain to the customer that they’re not trying to sell the customer anything.  Instead, it should be clear that they are genuinely interested in better understanding the customer’s evaluation and purchase process. 

Outside marketing analyst:  A second option is to bring in an outsider to conduct the customer interviews and prepare the analysis.  This outside expert has no direct interest is selling the customer anything, and sometimes customers are more forthcoming in speaking to a third party about their experience.  (Shameless plug:  Contact me if you need help.)

It’s not a one-time effort

One more bit of advice:  Talking with new customers shouldn’t be a one & done activity.  Collecting input monthly or at least quarterly can help confirm or refine your insights, or it might reveal a shift in the way customers buy. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Are you just talking about marketing or are you actually doing something?

Lots of software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies are thinking and talking about marketing.  They’re
sitting in on webinars, downloading white papers, hiring marketing experts and agencies, and even reading newsletters (like what you’re reading right now.)

If they want to grow, the folks that run these companies know they need marketing: a cost-effective program to generate leads, convert the leads into paying customers, and keep those customers.

They can’t rely on their sales team to bring 100% of their opportunities.  Though it may work in the company’s early stages, it’s tough to make that method scale.

So these executives do lots of research, develop comprehensive plans, even engage with marketing professionals to put in place a well-structured customer acquisition and retention plan.

Marketing gets derailed by shorter term priorities

All of this activity is a good start.  But that’s all it is: a good start.  The research, the plans, the experts only matter if you put them to work.

And that’s where things get complicated, especially for smaller firms eager to grow. 

For companies in this spot, their resources are stretched.  There’s simply too much to do and not enough resources to get it done.

So urgent needs take priority, and the marketing tactics get pushed down the action list:

·      “Yes, we need to prepare customer success stories, but this week we need to prep for 5 demos.”

·      “Yes, we need to coordinate an email campaign, but right now we’re focused on this RFP.”

·      “Yes, we need to get out that quarterly newsletter, but these 2 deals need immediate attention.”

·      “Yes, we need to prepare a webinar for prospective customers, but today we need to [ fill in an urgent item of your choice here.]

Don’t let another year go by

I get it: you’ve got lots of stuff on your plate.

And implementing effective marketing plans takes a sustained commitment.  It doesn’t happen by itself, and there’s no magic, one-time fix. (See “Going viral is over-rated”) 

If you’re serious about growth, spend the time and spend the money it takes to cost-effectively acquire and keep customers.  According to a survey of 378 privately-held SaaS companies, the fastest growing companies spent the most on customer acquisition, and marketing accounted for at least 30% of those costs.   

So, if you’re putting your plans together for next year, now’s the time to commit to marketing.  Not just the planning, but also the doing.  Find resources within your company, bring on new people, or use outside experts. 

I don’t mean to scold you here, but a year from now, you don’t want to look back and regret that you’ve made no real progress.  Start with a marketing plan and then put it into action.