Will Smallman, VP of Business Development, shares why SaaS marketers must invest in messaging, brand identity, and digital to stay afloat in the sea of new competitors entering the marketplace.

We recently started working with a Boston-based SaaS start-up who outlined three core challenges:

  1. Their niche industry was becoming too crowded
  2. Their messaging didn’t differentiate them from their competitors
  3. Their brand identity and web presence were indistinct and unremarkable

If you can resonate with that list, you’re in good company (pun intended). We’ve worked with a lot of B2B tech companies – ranging from $4 million in annual revenue to $3 billion – and many of them are confronting the same issues as our new SaaS client.

The Wall Street Journal noted last year that “demand for cloud-computing services remains hot and shows no signs of slowing down.” That demand has birthed SaaS companies in locations far beyond Silicon Valley. Our own D.C./Baltimore metro is home base for a number of established and new SaaS providers. Local cloud computing companies range from a Salesforce office catering to government agencies, to start-ups providing platforms for highly specific industries.

As our Boston client discovered, competition is mounting across the cloud computing continuum. What might have been a niche within the SaaS marketplace three years ago now feels like a crowded space. I’ve personally received more emails from cloud-based lead generation platforms than I can count. The proliferation of these emails suggests that lead gen platforms are now more of a commodity than an innovation.

Assuming your platform really is sound (if it’s not, you might need to consider a job change!) you’ll soon come to the same conclusion as our new client. Without a strong investment in messaging, brand identity, and digital, you will drown in the sea of new competitors entering the marketplace.

Without a strong investment in messaging, brand identity, and digital, you will drown in the sea of new competitors entering the marketplace.

Here’s how we’re confronting these core challenges for our client (If you don’t have the capital to invest in an agency partner, you can begin this process with your internal team):

Crowded Industry

Start this process by answering a simple question: How can my brand address customer needs—without occupying the same space as my competitors? (I said it was simple!)

In the rapidly evolving SaaS marketplace, company leadership will lose sleep over a new design or functionality tweak in a competitor’s platform. They’ll pour scarce resources into staying even with the car next to them. The job of a marketer is to steer onto an empty highway. What if the next lead gen company that emailed me described an innovative new way of locating leads, beyond the usual sortable prospect lists? I might just email them back.

Undifferentiated Messaging

Once you’ve found your ownable space within the marketplace, creating distinct messaging is a whole lot easier.

Begin with your Key Reasons to Believe. What are the three reasons I should believe in your brand? Our clients believe in Fifteen4 because of our staff’s prior experience on internal brand and marketing teams, our deep focus on design, and our ability to form creative partnerships.

Next, identify Critical Support points that act as concrete proof of your reasons to believe.

Finally, use your Key Reasons to Believe and your Critical Support points to form an Outward Facing Expression of your positioning. For us, that expression is “Creativity with Purpose.”

We like to place these three elements in a pyramid format to establish how they inform and support a cohesive brand statement.

Unremarkable Brand Identity and Web Presence

Here comes the really fun part. Once you’ve found that open brand lane for your platform and locked down your messaging, it’s time for the designers to take over. With messaging in hand, great designers can build a visual identity that brings your carefully chosen words vibrantly to life. And once you’ve taken that identity and applied it to a new website, you’re positioned to distance yourself from all those other SaaS platforms.

Being part of a growing industry is a good thing. Being challenged by a rapidly growing set of competitors is a reality. Confronting that challenge as soon as possible is essential to your emergence as a leader in your field.

If you’d like to talk about your own challenges, contact me directly at will.smallman@fiteen4.com.

Will Smallman

Will Smallman

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