Does Your SaaS Have a Heart?

So you built a SaaS a while ago in the hope it could replace your full time income. It has always been your dream to work on your own product and now you’re there!

You launched and there were even a few customers but you’re still a long way off your goal.

Family are asking “when is it going to take off?” and you’re starting to wonder that yourself.

In your heart, you know have a great product. It just doesn’t seem to resonate with customers yet.

People ask you how you’re different from your competitors and you just don’t know what to say!

You have all the same features they do! So why do people sign up for their software and not yours?

What do you believe?

Recently I read the tweet storm on overwork and it really surprised me. How a simple (and seemingly sensible) thing can become so controversial.

We’re just not used to strongly held opinions being voiced by successful business owners.

Especially ones that are firmly held & backed up when challenged with differing opinions.

Businesses are usually reputation-protecting, customer-pleasing, profit-focused, corporate machines.

In 2020 it’s still really refreshing to see a business that puts their beliefs before profit.

It’s highly attractive when someone is resolute and decisive. Strong opinions can also be divisive and split opinion, which means people actively spend time thinking about which side they are on.

“You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea.” Victor Hugo

Even if someone doesn’t agree with your opinion, if you guide people through to success enough times then you have respect and following for life.

Getting More Customers

How do firmly held beliefs help with marketing your SaaS?

In a SaaS you’re leading your customers. What are you leading them towards? Success, profit and happiness? Or a collection of confusing features, just because they asked for them.

What makes one SaaS different to the next are the beliefs and values of the founders that created it.

All memorable products stand for something. They don't sit on the fence.

  • 37Signals believes in work/life balance and hates over work
  • ConvertKit believes in teaching everything you know and not charging for the same subscriber on multiple lists
  • believes in the power of building an audience through podcasting and testing lots of show ideas.
  • Claritask believes in a transparent team, including managers!

A SaaS becomes infinitely easier to market when you know what you stand for and start to use that as a compass in your decision making.

Instead of features and benefits think of your beliefs and values.

What Do I Value?

Beliefs are often so buried in our industry experience that it can feel like we don’t have any.

Or perhaps they are so common sense, it feels like everyone shares the same obvious beliefs that we do.

Yet that tweet storm showed us even the most innocuous beliefs are differentiators.

Customers want to know what stance you take in the industry.

They self-identify and want to use things that match their identity.

Does any of your marketing say what stance you take in your industry?

Start to write down some simple beliefs and values about you & your industry and see which you feel most passionate about.

Take a look at some of these examples and their flip sides and see which side you’re on.

  • Transparent teams work better / Confidentiality is key in this industry
  • You should give away free content / Paid products attracts serious customers
  • My brand is friendly and informal / We’re professional at all times
  • We treat all of our customers the same / We prioritise our Enterprise customers
  • We want to see you succeed & outgrow our product / Our plan is to keep you safely dependant on our services
  • My product is low cost / My product offers high quality
  • Our software is simple to use / We’re made for power users

They may seem simple beliefs but they are a good gut-check before you build out any new features.

If your guiding principle is to create a simple product that helps beginners get started in an overwhelmingly complicated industry, is it a good move to add 50 more widgets to your dashboard? No.

Not following your values will lead you to create a product that you don't even like and aren't able to promote.

Check that what you are building is actually aligned with what you truly believe about good work in your industry.

Potential customers WILL ask for things that don’t align with you. It’s OK to say no!

Your software cannot be everything to everyone but it can be something important to some people.

Living The Values

Now you’re thinking more about your values, how do you get those into your product?

The thing that bridges the gap between the values of a founder and the features in their SaaS is a Method.

A method is the heart of your product. If you strip all of the lines of code away, it’s what you’re left with.

It's the data structure that gets you from A to B, even if you’re using pen and paper.

It works like this, think of the job title of your SaaS customer and complete this phrase :-

A good, successful, productive insert job title here :-

Thinks X

Does Y

With Z

These are VMP Statements. Values > Method > Product

  • A value is a personal belief that leads to success.
  • A method is the path you take to live your values.
  • A product helps you carry out your method effectively.

I've made a lot of products over the past 10 years. These resonated with customers the most :-

  • a money-saving challenge with hundreds of members,
  • a minimalistic calendar,
  • a WordPress plugin that helps writers block
  • a Slack app for task delegation
  • a deck of accelerator interview prep cards

They all had a method behind them.

Something I could teach people before they jumped on board with the product.

People can start following your method on paper, get value and become a follower even before they are a customer.

A method gives you something extra to talk about other than specifically the product. Which if you find it hard being a sales person - is an absolute game-changer.

A method is a path to follow that leads them to improvement.

It helps you stand out from the competition and it’s FREE.

We all want to follow a better way of doing something and software just happens to make the method we choose easier.

If we take the example of Claritask working in the project management space :-

Why/Belief - A good project manager builds a transparent team

What/Method - by making all team members share what they are working on including themselves (controversial!)

How/Product - by using Claritask’s ‘Working On’ feature so the team dashboard stays accurate.

Try putting together some Value > Method > Product Statements of your own together and see if you can start to better communicate why you’re building your product and where it will lead your customers.

You can talk about Beliefs & Methods all day without even mentioning your product which is great for not getting burned out on ‘selling’.

As time goes on, the stronger people feel and follow those beliefs and realise the method works, the more they’ll look for a better How. Like a SaaS that's made for it.

  • People can Bullet Journal in any notebook but eventually they’ll buy a Leuchtturm1917 because it’s made for their beliefs & the method.
  • Artists can draw any days of the year but they follow Inktober for the method (structure plus community)
  • You can KonMarie your home for free but eventually people buy the book on decluttering (irony) because we want to do it the ‘right way’
  • Dave Ramsey teaches his ‘Baby Steps’ for free before ever selling a course

Saying 'No' to a feature because it doesn't align with your beliefs is a strong decision that leads you to a better product.

By making a product with more soul and starting to communicate that more in your marketing it will guide you to the customers who say "hell yes, this is for me".