Better position yourself to deliver essential benefits to the business
Imagine you’re asked to define “SaaS product marketing.” Would you rate the task as hard or easy?
Before sitting down to write this, I might have said it was easy. But, experienced marketers find it difficult to agree on a definition for “product marketing.”
When you consider the wide spectrum of marketers, that lack of clarity isn’t too surprising. We each carry our own personal experiences and points-of-view.
But, there’s another reason product marketing defies clear definition.
"Product" can mean something broad or specific. And as consumers ourselves, we’re conditioned to think of a product as something physical. “Product” also implies a one-time sale.
Or, at least, a sale that occurs only once in a while.
"In my view, product marketing is the sweet spot between Marketing, Sales and Product. It’s the voice of the product in the market and the voice of the market in the product.” –Tiago Doroana Martins, Product Marketing Manager at Talkdesk"
But are these new software technologies really products?
The clear trend in both B2C and B2B technology over the past three decades has been a move toward software-as-a-service.
Selling a “SaaS” product often requires a subscription-based (OpEx) business model. It’s a model that can be quite lucrative, by the way.
"The market values SaaS companies two to three times higher than their on-premise equivalents." –Boston Consulting Group"
But this creates a disconnect. Through the lens of our own consumer experiences, subscriptions have less in common with a product – and more in common with a service, solution, or an app.
Let’s take a “time out”
Consider for a moment, one of the most transformative product inventions of the last twenty years – the iPhone. This is an interesting point in the conversation for several reasons.
- Though smartphones are physical objects, they helped greatly accelerate the transition away from purchasing crafted, physical products, and toward subscribing to services.
- Consuming services on these multi-purpose devices reduces the need for other physical tech products that might have delivered one or two discrete services. (Anyone remember the Nokia N-Gage?)
- Spare a moment to consider the fate of the wristwatch. We might innately feel that watches aren’t going away anytime soon. But you have to admit that the ubiquity of laptops and smartphones along with a massive shift to people working remotely isn't doing this classic timepiece any favors.
You might use a watch to keep track of the time and improve awareness through alarms. But other than that, its main value prop is aesthetic. And as we know, traditional watch gears are being replaced with tiny computers themselves.
But, I digress.
Boost Your Success in SaaS Product Marketing
Once you accept that services can be products, then you are able to focus on how to improve your SaaS product marketing.
“the rise of product marketing as a profession is closely aligned with the growth of SaaS companies.” –Forbes
So, consider what it might take to make it in SaaS product marketing.
Why would these skills also be useful for SaaS product marketers? Because they help you deliver essential benefits to the business.
Consider focusing on the following:
Understand how a SaaS business makes money
First, it helps to clearly understand how SaaS business models work. Where once you might have been selling physical data center battery backups to a customer once every five years – now it's your mission to convert those customers into subscribers to your “power monitoring services.” That means educating yourself on product development cycles, customer success efforts, and churn rates.
For salespeople in particular, this may require a monumental shift in mindset and daily behaviors. But it’s easy to see why the model is winning out. "Subscription-based SaaS products are expected to represent 45% of the total enterprise software market by 2023." –Boston Consulting Group
Build a trustworthy reputation
Strong communication skills, the ability to positively influence stakeholders, and collaborating with others can be critical toward building a legitimate perception that you're a straight shooter. While naturally charismatic people can be entertaining to interact with, each of your colleagues must make difficult decisions based on information you're providing for them.
So, do your best to gain access to accurate, relevant data that can be shared across your organization.
“Product marketers understand the marketing strategies, customer pain points, and product roadmap, and serve as a focal point to align the different parts of the business around the customer.” –Michelle Syu, Product Marketing Manager at IBM
Learn what makes your customers tick
Though running successful marketing campaigns is certainly paramount – experience with customer-facing roles in the tech industry can be an extraordinary asset.
Remember, once you've converted a prospect into a paying customer, your job performance will be evaluated on how effective you are at retaining that customer over longer stretches of time. That generally requires a fair amount of emotional intelligence along with a dedicated focus on customer success.
"Whether you sell B2C or B2B is irrelevant – you sell to people. Listen to them, understand them, speak their language.” –Sarah Din, VP of Product Marketing at Unbabel
Explain your SaaS value prop in simple terms
Study and internalize your product’s value proposition so that it's easy to understand and explain.
For some SaaS products, this is easier said than done. But that's why communication, copywriting, and content creation skills are also critical. To help prospects better appreciate the value of your SaaS product, work to understand the specific pains it solves for each different kind of customer – and craft stories that help deliver that message effectively.
"Our product marketers are integral to building the narratives that map to our integrated marketing campaigns." -Drift
If you can commit to producing quality content that positions your SaaS product as the natural solution to your customers’ challenges, good results are likely to follow.
Product marketing success often comes down to having the right people with the right blend of skills and experience. Find out how you can build a team that will carry your product from strength to strength in Investing Wisely in Your People: The New Rules of Marketing for 2020 and Beyond