Why it’s hard to copy People®
Lots of software companies do things backwards.
They start by developing a cool product, chock full of ingenious technology and clever algorithms. Only later do they to try to figure out why somebody would actually pay them money for it.
That’s when companies will sometimes bring in someone like me. Before they can market and sell the product, they need to sort through all the techno-gadgetry.
They need a translator. Over many years in marketing roles for technology companies, I’ve developed a skill for translating cool techy features into valuable benefits and advantages. I help transform detailed descriptions of “how a solution is built” into a compelling case for “why a buyer should care.”
That’s especially important for software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. They’re usually selling to people without a technical background. These folks don’t care how a solution works; they want to know what it does.
At the risk of giving away trade secrets, essentially I help SaaS companies answer a few simple questions:
- Who is this product for?
- What problem does it solve for them?
- Why should they buy it from us?
People® started with an understanding of HR professionals’ frustrations and aspirations
This is not how it went with People. My experience with Sat and his team was not at all like my experience with most SaaS companies.
In my first meetings with Sat, he didn’t even show me the product or any of the cool features.
As we talked about how to put together an effective marketing strategy, the product just wasn’t the most important thing on his mind.
In fact, at the time the product wasn’t even ready for a proper demo.
Instead, we talked about more important things.
Our discussion was all about the fundamental values behind the product:
HR administrators at small and mid-sized companies are frustrated. Too much of their time is spent keeping records and managing paper. Equipped with an effective solution and freed from that administrivia, these ambitious professionals can have a much greater impact on the success of their organization.
We talked about the background of these HR professionals, the organizations they work in, their frustrations and aspirations.
Fundamental principles guide everything the company does
Right from the outset, Sat and his team had a clear picture of these folks. They knew exactly who should be buying the solution and why. The solution’s core value wasn’t an after-thought. It was baked in from the beginning.
This thinking is behind the “explosive reports,” the “missions,” and every other element in the product. They’re all meant to help the HR professional make a more significant contribution.
And by the way, this value isn’t just baked into the software; it’s baked into the entire company. It guides People’s training, customer support, operations, and sales & marketing. It’s even reflected in the way the company hires and manages its own employees.
This solid foundation – a deeply-held understanding of the buyer – is hard to copy.
Of course, other companies can knock-off People’s individual features or mimic the marketing messages. But cosmetic imitations can’t take the place of a core value proposition, a well-considered approach that guides everything they do.
Keeping the guiding principles front & center
For a marketing professional like me, People presents a different kind of challenge. My task isn’t to craft a compelling value proposition after the fact. There’s no need to wrap an attractive bow around the technology… after it’s been built.
The core message and value has been there since the start.
Instead, the challenge is to keep those guiding principles front and center whenever we talk with customers. Don’t hide them under lots of talk about “our new this and our new that.”
Sure, nifty new features are exciting and we’re proud of them. But the HR professionals we serve honestly don’t really care what matters to us.
They want to know why the new features matter to them. How does it help them have greater impact on the success of their organization? That’s why People® was built in the first place.
My job is to be a pestering imp, perched on the shoulders of Sat and the team. I’m whispering a consistent message: Keep telling the founding story everywhere, all the time, in everything we do.
About the author
Peter Cohen is principal of SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors. Throughout his many years of experience, he has learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.
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