September 15th 2017

Struggling to get market adoption for your amazing product? Here are some hints.

Image Dylan Touhey

Hard Truths + Remedies for SaaS Marketing: Part Four

This is the fourth post in my series. To start from the beginning,click here.

Over the past few years, we've helped clients like Google sell their software to Fortune 500s. One of the most common marketing challenges we see are enterprise software companies who have built an amazing product, but have little adoption in their market.

Here are a few of the big insights we've learned about selling enterprise SaaS products.

1. It might take much longer than you expect

To be truthful, selling consumer products can be a lot more fun than products with large enterprise price tags. All the cool stuff you learn about — such as boosting conversion rates with A/B tests or watching sales soar after you launch a creative email campaign — they have faster results with small consumer products.

Enterprise is a much harder game. The research process for buying is very complex. Consumers will find and compare you to your competitors. They will want to know about exact features — not just sales language.

2. Sell to power

It's very hard to sell to both a marketing director and CTO at the same time. They have different pain points they are trying to solve. Most importantly, they are judged by different criteria for being good at their jobs.

People, especially in large organizations, are self-motivated.

Here's a breakdown of different buyers and how you can influence them.

In general, C-suite executives do not necessarily care about features and product capabilities.

After all, that's the concern of practitioners, which we talk about next. The C-suite buyer typically cares about...

  • Driving rapid growth
  • Finding technology to improve competitive differentiation
  • Leveraging core assets to boost profits
  • Increasing overall sales and leads

Unlike practitioners, who are motivated by specific features and product capabilities, the C-Suite audience generally need to hear a sales message that talks about the measurable financial value the product offers.

The practitioner wants...

Marketing managers, directors, and analysts are practitioners. They are more interested in features and product capabilities as they try to picture how the product will practically fit into their work life. The practitioner typically cares about...

  • Simplifying complex tasks and minimizing work
  • Demonstrating their results to upper management
  • Product integrations, deep specs, and granular capabilities

For example, a web developer who needs to find a new shopping cart software may be interested in hearing that your eCommerce solution integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics. If the solution did not integrate, this would mean two weeks of changing tracking tags and setting up conversion funnels.

In contrast, the CTO is looking at the long-term. She doesn't necessarily care if the solution integrates with Google Analytics — she is willing to invest a few weeks of her development team's time in changing tags if the solution has long-term ROI.

If you want more advice on this topic, I recommend the book Selling to Zebras. I've taken the idea of "selling to power" from there and seen the principles work very well in the real-world. More about selling to Zebras here.

3. Keep your growth metrics simple

One of the biggest issues we've seen with SaaS companies is pushing publish. There are always new tools to implement, new UI changes, new websites, and lots of ideas. But it's also easy to never get much done.

Here's a basic framework we use. We've kept it generic as your business will have its own metrics and goals.

First, pick a big goal

Let's say our fictional SaaS company wants to grow from 3,000 to 5,000 paying subscribers in six months.

It's easy to get distracted. It's fine to adapt and roll with changes but you should make sure that you focus on these four essential categories (based on Dave McClure's framework, a startup philosopher and growth expert). Dave's framework is more suited to large consumer startups, so we've tweaked it to fit our clients. Read the original post here .

If you want to hit your big goal, you need to be executing tactics for these four stages:

Acquisition: Help prospects find you and consider your product as a solution.

Activation: Turn those visitors or leads generated from your acquisition tactics into free trials, loyal blog readers, email subscribers, and interested leads in the pipeline.

Retention: For those blog readers not ready to buy yet, you need to keep them as potential customers down the road. You need the free trial users to actually login and use the product. You need those who got to know you in acquisition and activation to start developing brand loyalty.

Revenue: Leads need to give you their credit card, and free trials need to convert. The key is dividing your resources. If you are a young company, perhaps it is wise to focus more on acquisition— that's your call. But you should at least spend some time analyzing the weakest parts of your funnel and investing in fixing those areas.

It's important to demystify how marketing actually works. People need to hear about you (acquisition), they need to then be sold on the value of taking the desired action (activation), they need to be retained, and your customers need to be analyzed to identify new revenue and upsell opportunities.

If you are having trouble, it's likely that you are ignoring one of those stages.

What part of the funnel does your company excel at? Which part could be improved? I'd love to hear your voice. You can email me and tell me about your company at or hit us up on Twitter @onenetinc.

Categories: ALL, Marketing


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