In this post, I will share with you 3 wrong mindsets to avoid when marketing a new software solution. These are lessons I have observed throughout my two decades in marketing function. I have worked in three Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies over a span of seven years and have had served a number of clients in the SaaS industry. The challenge we have always faced is how to succeed in “go-to-market” strategy, i.e., how to launch the new software into the market and achieve as many subscribers as possible. We always need quick market penetration. That is the objective, but how?
What is SaaS
Before we go into that, let’s look at what is SaaS. SaaS stands for Software-as-a-Service. It is a cloud-based solution where users access the software application via the internet instead of downloading the software to the desktop PC. For example, we used to have to purchase Microsoft Office from IT retail stores where the package comes with a CD. We have to use the CD to install Microsoft Office into our computers to use the Word or Powerpoint or Excel software. However, Microsoft now offers a cloud solution, the Microsoft Office 365 where you can sign up instantly, pay a monthly subscription and use the application from the internet browser. There are many types of SaaS, ranging from design tools, SEO tools, Office Collaboration tools, Accounting tools, Unified Communications, etc.
Now that you understand what is SaaS, let’s see how you can market SaaS and avoiding the common mistakes.
Wrong Mindset #1 – You focus on perfecting your product
Do not waste time perfecting the product. Every new product has its limitations as development work takes time. As a marketer, do not look at what your software cannot do.
What’s the solution?
What you should focus on is how is that product benefitting customers. Look at its usefulness and set the objective to push the useful product in its simplest, no-frill state to users. What you want to achieve is early adoption, get feedback and buy time to enhance the product to perfection while you acquire your users.
Here’s a word of caution. I do not mean to cover up a product’s limitation and oversell. If you do that you will cause a bad after purchase review as the product will not meet customers’ expectations. What I mean is that most of the time, users do not need a very sophisticated feature packed product. For example, if you develop a drawing software, your software need not have to be as feature rich as Photoshop before you can get the first customer. In fact many people just need a drawing tool and if your drawing tool is simple to use, then that is your unique selling point. Let me give you a real example. The Brushes Redux App allows you to draw very beautiful pictures on iPad but it does not have all the sophisticated features of many applications such as Photoshop. Yet, the Brushes Redux App is well loved by many. If you are the marketer of Brushes App, turn the simplicity to be your unique selling point and promote that as a value proposition, target at users who need simple drawing tools.
Wrong Mindset #2 – You are obsessed with your competitors instead of your customers
In this competitive world with millions of products, whenever you bring a new product to someone, you are likely to meet one who tell you that “Oh there is already a similar product offered by….”.
Look, if you do a search, there are at least 20 Customer Relation Management (CRM) software. Why do you think the second to the twentieth CRM company want to enter the CRM market with their product? Likewise, Google is offering Google Docs when Microsoft Office had already dominated the market.
What’s the solution?
Marketers should recognise that there are always competition. The key to success is not being the first mover or the monopoly. The key to success is identifying areas of needs that are not served. This is the weakness of your competitors. Then penetrate the market by meeting those needs. Build your marketing strategies such that you can better serve your customers in one or some of these areas:
- Channels – If say, for example, you are selling an education software and your competitors have already established good networks among all the schools. That does not mean there is no means for you to penetrate the market. In this digital age, you can still build your brand image and reach your target customers via non-conventional channels. For example, you can leverage on Content Marketing and Affiliate Marketing. Ride on all the online bloggers, the social media platforms to establish your branding.
- Pricing – Very often, the right pricing is what draws and retain customers. Think of how you can make it very easy to get users onboard. When your software is new, you need users. You need to create the network effect such that when one use, the other has to use so as to collaborate. So, launch your product with free trials and referrals promotions.
- Online Resources & Guides – For people to use SaaS, good documentation is key. But go beyond just documentation. Create useful guides to help your users succeed. Then they will stay around, logging into your website, remain a members forever. I would call this online Account Management.
Wrong Mindset #3 – You are worried that your marketing budget is too low
Someone once told me “marketing is a cost center”. Yes, quick market penetration does not come free. If your company has a big marketing budget where you can do lots of advertising, your job will be a lot easier as you can advertise extensively. When there is a lot advertisements, there’s recurring message, it sinks into people’s mind, your product achieve top of mind share, people talk about it, the sales will come in. That said, I was once working in a company where we have annual marketing budget of $3million dollars. I have seen marketing directors not knowing how to optimise the given budget, believing that if they work hard, have lots of activities, spread their budget over as many channels as possible, they will do well. However, that was not true. In fact, after all those spending, we only see declining market share. Why? Because that sort of marketing management is effectively running a business without a good marketing strategy. If you have a good marketing strategy, you can do wonders with $3000. If you have a good marketer, he can bring you some impressive results even with just $300.
What’s the solution?
There are many low cost and yet effective ways to market a software:
- Present at events – join the exhibitions, meet the people, present and give free usage
- Leverage on influencers – portals such as GetApp, Softwareadvice and where people go to look for SaaS solutions. Make sure your product is listed there.
- Leverage on social media – Use hashtags. I assure you that is far more effective that doing SEO and optimizing to be found on Google.
If you avoid these 3 mindsets and focus on the solutions, you will certainly succeed in your go-to-market strategy for your SaaS solution.