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Don’t sell your SaaS product – gift your audience a positive experience!

01 Oct 2015, Posted by addkraft in Technology marketing

Don’t sell your SaaS product – gift your audience a positive experience of their lifetime!

Gone are the days when Asian Paints sold just paints! Today they offer a wide range of user experiences for sale through their paints. Customers now choose the experience package they prefer – the shades and hues that match their personality, textures and combinations that support them emotionally in the various rooms of their home, and options to experience an online preview of how their painted homes would look like even before they make a decision. Yes, “user experience” has emerged the winner in the race to gain your buyers’ attention. Technology or product features and benefits are no longer attractive terms to SaaS or technology product marketers. Although a few IT folks tend to take marketing discussions to their technical world, as a marketer, my vote is always for user experience.

A common mistake many start-up IT product companies make is to go overboard trying to convince customers about just their product and the core technology, especially if members from IT team are part of the decision-making panel at the customer’s end. Many a time, such attempts fall flat, unless the new product is game-changing innovation. I present one of our recent experiences when we worked on technology marketing for a SaaS start-up company and were successful when we adopted the user experience strategy. You may appreciate and make a note of our conscious decision to avoid details about technology throughout this experience.

A year back, when we pitched for a SaaS project in the travel & logistics segment, we were using tough technical language and detailed specs – the result was a big flop. CIOs and IT leaders from the travel industry turned the sessions into long-winding sessions questioning the technology used and providing advices about alternate technology solutions based on their whims and fancies, but most of the prospective users chose to stay within their comfortable technology zones. We then decided that trying to sell product and technology would only lead to never-ending discussions. We chose an alternate approach.

Today, a year later, we tasted success with fantastic results on another project. Yes, we are just completing an exciting project for a start-up in the GCC region. The start-up provides a certain set of services and products with a unique concept to a target segment. It has both a b2b and b2c focus, targeting an entire population and a set of business buyers. The backbone of the project is a SaaS framework and its technology is wide encompassing with user-friendly services and apps. After 6 months of go-to-market with this project, as a marketer, I am happy to see positive feedback from the business owners and early adopters.

So what did we change, what lesson did we learn, what magic happened through the course of the year?

We made key changes in our product and service positioning and our marketing communications. We consciously avoided focusing our pitch on the advantages of SaaS or the product and service features. We stayed away from terminology jargons and IT/SaaS lingo, which confuse and create mistrust among the target audience.

We instead moved towards a customer-centric and user-persona-based content marketing. As content specialists, we prepared our content marketing briefs after studying our client’s service/product offering and the user/buyer persona. We prepared our content pitch focusing on user experience – how the experience would improve the users’ quality of life, what benefits would it bring to their lives, the convenience and time-saving features of the service, and how the users can feel pride by being part of the user group. In summary, our marketing content spoke about how this service/product would impact their lives positively and benefit the society.

The framework of the product and service pitch was hence built around end-user experience and positive influences, with just a few mentions of the product features. We realized that there are about 100 million ways of connecting with the buyers and gaining their trust, the buyers, instead of forcefully convincing them with just technology and product talk. We then designed the marketing strategy and UX/UI experience, moved on to go-to-market planning and narrowed down the final list of digital marketing techniques that helped immensely in conveying the client’s value proposition to the end users.

To our surprise, there was hardly any instance of long-drawn technology-related discussions, counter-arguments, or suggestions that often kill an otherwise successful pitch. All the query arrows from the IT members were successfully broken by the much-appreciated imagery of the end-user experience, clear value proposition, and strong content writing that blended business strategy with user persona.

I must say here that content writing for technology marketing helped our customers (product owners) significantly. Nailing the final content plan was the central focus for the initial period, where the product management team, digital marketing team, support team, and leadership team were part of the go-to-market content framework evaluation and signoff. Content metrics were monitored with respect to content propagation at each stage – that is, awareness stage, product interest stage, desire-to-buy stage, and so on. Stage-appropriate content was created, published, and communicated to thousands of users, again channeled based on their persona, to deliver the desired results at each stage.

Result
The customer (SaaS product owner) almost immediately began to see positive results when the list of early adopters was surprisingly long. They were attracted by the influence the product would have on their daily life, and not by the Opex or Capex features. The marketing strategy and techniques used were cost effective since not even one sales person was recruited to meet customers in person. The entire sales funnel was handled by digital processes, CRM strategy, and, yes, backend technology.

The customer is now moving on from the acquiring mode to the retaining mode. They are also expanding to neighboring countries and are known as a solid service provider rather than a technology company.

Role of strategic content writing in this success story
Our technology marketing to convince end users was through content marketing. Our content strategy was to deliver personalized content based on the buyers’ persona. Different personas were tracked through CRM and custom-fit content that conveyed the customer’s story and their value proposition were made available to end users. We created virtual user experiences, developed intrinsic value experiences from the designers of the products, built the content package, and shared them with potential buyers. Creating content strategy and content writing – was key – our technology content writers provided innovative content to engage the audience at every stage of buying cycle.

In summary, we never sold SaaS products and their technology advantages; we just marketed customer experience, and yes, answered our end consumer’s questions about how this product can enrich their lives. This strategy spelled success in our current initiative.

A retrospective note:
A few years back, an interesting advertisement for a car caught my attention. A sales person was shooting a barrage of pointers about all the features of a super luxurious car. At the end of this rather exhausting monologue, all that the buyer wanted to know was, “how much mileage would I get per liter?” The sales person stood stumped! It always pays to know what the buyer is looking for and provide just that experience – this will always establish an immediate connect with your buyer.

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