Simple SaaS Messaging Definitions

It's the middle of January, which means most companies are fresh off of their annual planning processes and are a couple of weeks into their assault on their newly minted goals. For SaaS marketers, lead projections and conversion rate goals swim through our heads. A new year always brings with it new marketing projects, new marketing channels to test, new growth strategies to employ. 

Maybe your company underperformed last year. Maybe you play in a crowded market, where it's difficult to understand the nuances between product offerings. Maybe your start up is still looking to find that first replicable customer acquisition channel. Whatever the reason, one of the things I hear most consistently this time of year is "We need some help with our messaging."

The good news is that most of the time that I hear this, the person saying it is correct. The bad news is that aside from the general notion of "needing help with our messaging," there's typically a lot of confusion around what this actually means or how to implement new messaging successfully. "Positioning" may mean something entirely different to someone in product than it does to someone in sales. Let alone the CEO. And then we'll need an updated tagline, and we should think about our value proposition design. What's the difference between value proposition and positioning again?

You get the idea.

The point here is not that your team can't understand and intelligently think about these aspects of your business. They can. But without a common definition of each item and sense of your businesses needs, it becomes very difficult to identify and effectively roll out new messaging. Messaging that drives revenue results.

The following are my simple definitions of some key terms that may be relevant to SaaS companies as they consider their company's messaging.

Value Proposition(s) - The value you are promising to deliver to your customer. Put yourself in your customers' shoes - what value are you hoping this product provides to you? Your value proposition provides the foundation for the rest of your messaging work. The process of identifying your value proposition should consist of gathering inputs from internal employees, customers, and prospects whenever possible. 

Positioning - Positioning is less concerned with value delivered to the customer, and more concerned with how your product is viewed relative to other similar products or brands in the market. How are you different? How do you best compete and win? What are your product's core competencies? Any car can drive you from point A to point B (the value prop), but are you selling a Kia or a Masserati?

Key Messages - Key messages are specific attributes or outcomes that you associate with your product or brand. These key messages should be supportive of your value prop, especially when you look at them collectively. Marketing can help in prioritizing the importance of these messages, and should also own copywriting. I find it's best to keep it to a handful of key messages at the most.

One Simple Thing (OST) -  I was introduced to the notion of "One Simple Thing" by David Skok and Mike Troiano's article, and I love it. It's essentially on oversimplification of what your product offers - but it's useful in the sense that it helps your product be categorized on your terms, rather than relying on the consumer to categorize your product as they see fit. For example, the OST Apple brought the iPod to market with was "1000 songs in your pocket." Consumers immediately understood it was a portable music player - and the magic of the device - in just five words. 

Tagline - A tagline is a slogan that's memorable and used consistently so that it will come to be associated with your brand. Think of Nike's "Just do it."

Heritage story - How your company came to be. Your heritage story can be an important aspect of your messaging because it will always be unique to your business and defensible.

About us story - Who your company is today.

Pulling these items together is a relatively comprehensive process that's worth doing right. Doing this successfully will lead to your messaging more directly resonating with prospects, which will in turn lead to more customers and revenue for your business. But while the process should be thorough, all of these items should be able to be delivered in 2 pages of text. That will help ensure that the new messaging is easily digested and adopted - when a consistent and compelling message is delivered, your business comes off as more credible.

Best yet, tightening up your messaging is a great exercise to rally your team around. Almost everyone has an opinion on these matters, and these discussions always result in some healthy debate. Harness this energy in a positive manner by running A/B tests highlighting different key messages, and let the data make the decisions for you.