If you’re like most SaaS companies, there are probably 20+ companies in your category that are just like you.
In 2019, offering a cloud solution with a subscription model is no longer new, unique, or exciting. Simply being a SaaS company isn’t a differentiator. It’s now the mainstream. It’s just expected.
You’re no longer just competing with the “old way” of doing things; those obsolete, legacy enterprise solutions that the vast majority of customers already moved on from years ago.
Now, you’re competing with both new and established SaaS solutions that are all claiming to be “The #1 Solution for X”. All of that noise makes it makes extremely difficult for customers to figure out how to choose which solution will be the best for their specific needs.
The key to cutting through all of that noise and winning more customers is to develop a positioning strategy that is guided by data and centered entirely around the needs of your customers.
Why your positioning strategy will determine the fate of your company
As a growth marketer, I understand why positioning is so crucial for a company’s success. My job, as is the job of any growth marketer, is to find the angle and provide the right marketing strategy.
Our clients’ job is to develop a great product.
Once these two things come together the end goal is finding customers who need that product, and convince them to buy it. In other words, we have to help our clients answer this fundamental question:
“Why should someone choose your product, and not any other option?”
The answer to this question is what positioning is all about. Your answer to this question will not only help you develop your positioning strategy, it will also determine the success or failure of your entire company.
Yes, it’s that important.
If you answer this question wrong, it won’t matter how great or innovative your product is, how many “pivots” you do, how many mentions you get in the press, or how big your marketing budget is. If people aren’t buying your product then you have failed as a company.
You will just end up just being one of those 20+ companies in your industry contributing to all the noise. Andyou will fail to acquire new customers because you have failed to give them a compelling reason to buy from you (and not your competitors).
Why most SaaS companies never rise above the noise
Over the years, I’ve noticed one major obstacle that prevents many SaaS and tech companies from standing out and successfully acquiring customers, even though they have a great product.
It’s the inability to accept the painful truth that...
Customers don’t care about you.
They only care about how you can make their life better.
Even if you wholeheartedly believe that your product is the best, you have to ask yourself what it is the best at doing: Is it the best at having the lowest price? Is it the best at having superior technical specs that you and your team can brag about? Is it the best at having unique or novel features that customers don’t really care about?
Or, is it the best at helping your customers get what they truly want; a shortcut to a better life?
Standing out isn’t enough. You have to stand in a way that actually matters to your customers. At the end of the day, you can either position your SaaS product according to what you think is awesome about it OR how it makes your customer’s life better.
The first option is what most companies choose, regardless of industry. The second option is what the mostsuccessful companies choose. This insight is the key to cutting through the noise, getting customers to care about you, and achieving long-term success.
When you can achieve clarity about how to position your product in a crowded marketplace, you will see:
Dramatic increases in response and conversion rates
Increased ROI on each marketing dollar you spend
Your buying cycle shortened to days, rather than weeks or months
The ability to scale quickly and profitably
A clear “North Star” to align every department in your company around
The ability to set your ego aside and put the customer first is crucial. Talk to them about their pain points and sell them on your product as a way to make their life easier. If you can accomplish that, then there’s going to be little that can stop you.
The essential components of a successful SaaS positioning strategy
It’s hard to position your company against your competitors when your product does the same thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The right positioning strategy can help you stand out among the crowd, even if your product isn’t much different from what’s already out there.
When creating your positioning strategy, ask yourself these questions:
Who are the customers that you’re targeting?
What is the ultimate outcome they are trying to achieve?
Why do all the other solutions fail to achieve this outcome?
How will your solution help make your customers lives easier?
Can you prove it?
If you get these components right, you immediately cut through all the noise and can easily be found by the customers that are desperate to do business with you. Rather than ignoring or being irritated by your marketing, they will breathe a sigh of relief, and thank you for doing them a huge favor.
They no longer have to waste time researching and trying different solutions, only to be forced to start their search all over again when those solutions inevitably fail. Your marketing becomes a valuable resource, rather than a nuisance.
I call this approach “Beacon Positioning,” partially because I’m a fiery redhead, but mostly because it accelerates revenue growth!
5 simple steps to develop your beacon positioning
Developing your own Beacon Positioning strategy will take time, but it’s not impossible. Even if you’ve never worked in brand positioning before these five steps can help.
1. Develop a “data-driven mindset”
Guesswork, intuition, and gut instinct will inevitably lead you astray. Commit to basing all of your positioning and marketing decisions on data, not guesswork.
This means setting aside your biases, opinions, and preconceived notions. Let the data you gather from your customers guide you every step of the way. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to positioning, messaging, or marketing. What works for another company in your industry or category may not work for you.
Every company has a unique product that meets the unique needs of a unique segment of customers. For this reason, I believe that there is room in the marketplace for everyone! While there may not be room for 20+ copy-cat companies that all sell identical products, every company can find a positioning strategy that sets them apart. However, the only way to know which strategy is right for your company is to conduct tests, measure the results, and adjust accordingly.
2. Gain a thorough understanding of your customers
Don’t assume you know which outcomes your customers desire, what prevents them from achieving those outcomes, or how that makes them feel. The only way to be certain is to go straight to the source.
That means gathering insights not only from your CRM, salespeople, and customer success teams, but also by conducting one-on-one conversations directly with customers.
The goal of this step is to discover the following information:
Who your customers are
Why those options failed to achieve their desired outcomes
How they spend their time
What about your company and/or product initially caught their attention
What their desired outcomes are
What concerns, hesitations, or objections they had before deciding to buy from you
What impact they expected from achieving those outcomes
Who else is involved in the decision-making process
What caused them to begin searching for a product that could achieve those outcomes
What about your sales pitch was the most convincing, and with whom
What alternative options they’ve tried so far
What factors contributed most to a deal being closed
Once you’ve gathered this data, you can begin segmenting customers based on your company’s goals. For example, if you are a startup company that needs to gain legitimacy from having large, enterprise accounts that you can list as clients in your marketing materials, your definition of an “ideal customer” may have nothing to do with profitability.
Even if those large, enterprise accounts may not be very profitable, you may determine that having them on your list of clients can help you establish your brand in the marketplace and attract many other, smaller clients that are highly profitable.
However, if you are an established company, your criteria for what an ideal customer is may be centered entirely around things such as profitability, fast sales cycles, how easy a customer is to work with, how low their average churn rate is, how high their average lifetime value is, etc.
Once you have determined who your ideal customers are (those customers that you want more of), you can use the insights you gathered to begin aligning your positioning, marketing, and product development strategies to specifically serve and attract more of them.
TIP: Learn how to create a customer profile that converts leads and download our FREE audience persona template.
3. Know your product inside and out
If you aren’t able to fully understand your product and explain it in a clear, simple way that anyone can understand, neither will your employees, partners, vendors, or customers.
What product category do you fit in? What kind of customers do you serve? These are just the basic questions you should be asking yourself. Once you understand your position in the marketplace you can begin to fine-tune things to gain a deeper understanding.
Pinpointing what makes your product better than competitors is great for selling, but acknowledging your weaknesses and creating talking points to counter them is better. Think like a customer thinks and prepare the marketing to address those issues.
4. View your competition through your customers’ eyes
It’s important to know what alternative solutions are out there competing with you for your customers’ attention.
Not only will this information help you position yourself in a way that sets you apart, it will also help you understand exactly what it is about your competitors that customers dislike, so you can laser-focus on those areas in your product development, positioning, marketing, and sales.
Consider these questions when doing competitor analysis:
Who are your direct competitors (companies within your industry or product category)?
Who are your indirect competitors (alternative options outside of your industry or product category)?
What do customers like and dislike about these alternative options?
Reading online customer reviews is a great source for this kind of information.
Which outcomes do these alternative options help your customers achieve that you don’t?
Which outcomes do you help your customers achieve that they don’t?
What is your competitor’s current positioning and marketing strategy, and how do you anticipate it changing in the future?
Observe their product release notes, new product announcements, merger/acquisition announcements, feature requests from customers, etc.
If you think this step isn’t important you’re wrong. The most successful companies make it their mission to know their competitors inside and out. Even the competitors you assume can’t give you a run for your money should be considered. Anyone can be a threat.
5. Measure your positioning strategy based on sales data
The end goal of brand positioning is to drive sales. You’d be missing a huge opportunity if you didn’t utilize all the in-house customer data your BDR’s have collected over the years.
Use the answers to the following questions to measure the effectiveness of your positioning strategy, and then adjust accordingly:
How many leads do you generate each month, and from which sources?
What percentage of qualified leads convert to paying customers?
How long does it take to close a deal?
What is your churn rate?
What is your average cost to acquire each customer?
What is the average lifetime value of each customer?
These are all indicators of whether you have positioned your company in a way that is relevant and compelling to the kinds of customers you want to attract more of. The numbers don’t lie. If these questions show that your strategy isn’t working, don’t panic, just correct the course.
Next steps for your brand positioning strategy
Once you begin implementing your positioning strategy (fine-tuning your messaging, advertising campaigns, and marketing materials, redesigning your website, etc.) based on the data you’ve gathered, you should start seeing immediate improvements in every area of your business.
Conversion rates will increase, you will see a spike in your marketing ROI, you will begin attracting more of your ideal customers, and those customers will not only be more loyal, they will also continue to purchase from you repeatedly, and tell all of their friends about you.
However, the work doesn’t end there. You must constantly look for ways to improve how you help customers achieve their desired outcomes. Not only will this further differentiate you from the competition, it will also accelerate your revenue and profitability, break down silos within your company, align every department in your company toward this new “North Star”, and ensure your long-term success.
Jumpstart your brand positioning strategy with the right insights. Learn how G2 Buyer Intent data can help.
Yasmine is a growth marketing strategist at Market 8 - a full funnel growth optimization agency based in Miami, with a remote setting (just because talent can’t be found in one postal code!). She is in charge of positioning and marketing strategy for SaaS and tech (and non-tech!) companies.