Saturday, December 1, 2018

Your SaaS prospects could be afraid to buy


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If you’re selling or marketing a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, you’ve probably seen

something like this before:

You’re talking with a prospective customer that’s struggling with a broken, outdated system, something they’ve been using for a long time to handle some vital task.  The prospect knows it’s a poor system and they know it’s hurting their organization.



And you’ve shown them your wonderful SaaS solution, they can see how it would be a huge improvement, and… they still don’t buy.

You’d once listed these prospects as “highly qualified” or “ready to buy,” but then they go dormant.  No response to calls, no answers to emails… just radio silence.

What happened?

Fear that something will go wrong getting from the old to the new

It could just be fear.  Your once-hot prospect got cold feet. 

Up until the moment of truth - a decision to OK the purchase - everything had gone exactly as scripted.

Your prospect recognized the flaws in their existing system and they clearly saw the benefits and advantages of your superior alternative.

But then things hit a roadblock.  The prospect is worried about getting from here to there. 

Moving from their existing system to your new system is fraught with peril.  Lots can go wrong with the transition.

  • Inputting data can be difficult and time-consuming.
  • Data can get lost in the transition.
  • Users can get confused.
  • Administrators can get confused.
  • Standard reports might not get prepared.
  • Normal workflows might be interrupted.
  • There may be a gap when neither system is available.


None of this would be good news for your customer. 

Remember that they, like most SaaS buyers, is someone with a full-time job with other responsibilities and a reputation to protect. (See “Your prospect has a day job.”) 

The HR manager doesn’t want to hear from employees that they can’t request vacation days or complete a performance review.

The Finance manager doesn’t want to hear complaints that expense reports can’t be submitted or vendors can’t get paid.

The Sales exec doesn’t want to hear that account reps can’t see their pipeline or track progress on their opportunities.

The warehouse manager doesn’t want to find out that it’s impossible to accurately track inventory.

These folks don’t have the time, the patience, or the thick skin to deal with the complaints and push-back if the move to a new system goes wrong.

Getting prospects past the fear


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No matter how poor their existing system, and no matter how wonderful the promise of your new system, if the customer can’t see themselves getting from the old to the new flawlessly, they might not take the risk. They’ll stick with what they’ve got and what they know, warts and all.



Getting them over that fear doesn’t mean showing them yet more features and functions in your system.  It doesn’t mean pointing out again the costs of their existing system or showing them the extraordinary ROI on your system.  And it has nothing to do with offering a lower price.

Instead, it’s about showing prospective customers that your experts will guide them through a proven, well-structured implementation.  They need to be convinced them that they can rely on you to help them navigate the transition to your new system.

Until prospects trust that you can help them get from where they are now to where they want to be – without things breaking along the way – they’ll hold off on making a decision.  They won’t buy.





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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Are your partnerships useless?


Partnerships can be a good thing for software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. 

They can deliver more value to customers, without requiring lots more work from your internal development team.

For marketers, a partner could provide credibility, broaden exposure, find leads, and even win deals.

That’s if they’re done well.

Too often though, partnerships don’t deliver as promised.  The only thing the company gets from it is a press announcement and a logo for the website.  No visibility, no leads, no customers.

This is especially true when it’s a smaller company partnering with a larger company.  Think partnerships with IBM, salesforce.com, or Oracle.

Sure, these large companies run well-managed partner programs that offer a full menu of joint marketing opportunities.  These programs have attracted thousands of partners. 

And that’s the problem for small companies.  Among the thousands of partners, it’s very tough to get attention. 

When you’re just one small vendor among thousands, their marketing folks can’t afford to spend much time with you.  And their sales folks may not pay much attention either.

Partnerships require work

I don’t mean to say that all partnerships are useless and not worth pursuing.  Done well, in fact, they can be very useful.

To work well, your smaller company needs to actively market itself to the larger partner.  A signed agreement won’t work all by itself. 

Marketing to the partner has a few key objectives:

  • Make it crystal clear to the partner who your product is for.  When they’re pursuing an opportunity, it should be easy for them to recognize when they should bring your solution into the discussion. 


  • Distinguish your product from alternatives.  It should be obvious why they should pitch yours and not someone else’s.

  • Be available as an expert to support the sale.  The partner should be able to rely on you to provide specialized expertise, understand the prospect’s business, and speak their language.

  • Make it easy to sell your product.  The partner wants to know that your solution can help them sell more of their own product.  Don’t get in the way of that goal.


Think about it.  If one of the partner’s sales executives is working with a prospect, their number one goal is to win the account.  If they need to reach into the portfolio of thousands of partners’ solutions to help them win, you want to be sure they reach for your solution, not somebody else’s.

They should have full confidence that by bringing you into the opportunity, they’ll have a much better chance of winning the business. 

Don’t rely on “paper partnerships”

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade here.  Partnerships do have the potential to be helpful to smaller companies. 

But recognize that a signed partnership agreement doesn’t work all by itself.  The signatures and the press announcement are really just the start of the process. 

To be effective, companies need to actively market themselves to the partner.  Along with other prospects, the partners are another important target audience that needs care and attention. 




Monday, October 1, 2018

SaaS Marketing for Start-ups: Don’t just start doing stuff!


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I get it.  You’ve finally built a working product and now you’re ready to get it out into the market.

You want to crank out a press release, put up a website, offer a free trial, execute an email
campaign, buy adwords, or do whatever else you can think of or afford.

Don’t do it.  Or at least don’t do it yet.

If you rush headlong into programs and deliverables, you’ll end up spending a lot of time and maybe a lot of money… but not necessarily winning a lot of paying customers. 

And finding and keeping paying customers -either directly or indirectly – is what marketing is usually all about. 

But getting that done requires two essentials:  a story and a plan.  To be effective, you need both in place before you launch into any programs or create any deliverables. 

You need a story

Your audience needs to know:

1.  who your solution is for
2.  what problem it solves, and
3.  why they should buy it from you.

You need to be able to concisely and consistently convey this in every communication you have with prospective customers. 

Without a compelling story (or “value proposition” if you want to get formal about it), everything you say about your solution on the website, in sales presentations, in emails, in papers and videos, or wherever else you’re pushing out your message will have little impact.

You need a roadmap

You need to have a roadmap to lead prospects through the entire evaluation and purchase process.

For many B2B solutions, the process will involve multiple steps and multiple decision-makers.  And it will probably be interrupted along the way and may not always go into a straight-line.

You’ll need a roadmap that provides deliverables and programs at each step of the process from attracting initial visibility and leads through to winning paying customers.  And don’t forget the “keeping customers” part of the process.  It’s vital to SaaS success.  (See "Your Existing Customers are Prospects Too.")

Without a well-structured plan, you’ll probably end up with gaps and bottlenecks where prospects get stuck and you end up generating lots of visibility, but not collecting many qualified leads, or you collect lots of leads but don’t convert them into paying customers. 

Slow down

I know you’re eager to get out there and do stuff.

But before you launch headlong with a bunch of marketing tactics, first put two essentials in place:  a story and a roadmap.