The Definitive Guide to Positioning Your SaaS Brand
Do you find yourself attracting perfectly qualified customers or is your base in a constant state of churn?
Because the first stage in a SaaS product’s lifecycle involves identifying a problem and how your SaaS provides a solution to the problem, many SaaS companies focus only on the tech, developing a culture that doesn’t understand or believe that much in branding. Firstly, because they believe the product will sell itself, but also because when moving from pre-startup to startup, SaaS companies generally focus on engineering revenue by focusing exclusively on marketing activities that can be tracked, analyzed and optimized, instead of some more intangible activities like building the brand.
In spite of all that, the most successful SaaS companies understand that Brand Positioning is one of the most effective methods for getting your ideal audience to pay attention, sign up, and stay with you long term, because you’ve planted a flag and claimed your unique place in the crowded market.
So, how do you develop this mystical Brand Positioning for your SaaS? Let’s take a closer look:
First things first, what, exactly, is Positioning?
We like this description from David Aaker:
…the part of the brand identity and value proposition that is to be actively communicated to the target audience. Thus the brand position, which should demonstrate an advantage over competitor brands, represents current communication objectives.
It’s easy to see that Brand Positioning is about creating and claiming a unique “Position” for your brand in the mind of the consumer. Then reinforcing that position through the strategic use of key messaging. I think we can all agree that to be unique, your Positioning MUST be different from that of your competitors. This is especially true in the SaaS world where competitive messages cross over between solutions otherwise thought to be completely different. At its core, positioning is simply “what you want to be known for.”
Wait a minute, isn’t this just marketing speak?
Here’s where it gets really exciting for strategists like us: Brand Positioning, just like all your brand attributes and development, is completely different from marketing because marketing is merely tactical execution, while branding is strategic development, which uncovers exactly who your organization is. Yes, I said “who.” More on that shortly. No doubt you’ve been subjected to endless commentary about how your market has become too crowded and there’s no space for newcomers, blah, blah, blah.
Yes, it’s true that the SaaS ecosystem is crowded but, in our experience, SaaS companies are driven by problem solvers so, let’s understand the problem and just get busy solving it, OK?
Danielle Blumnethal puts it this way:
Branding the organization is inevitable . . .Simply by virtue of existing and interacting with others, the organization is branding itself. Therefore, branding is going to happen whether the process is managed or not. The choice is only whether to approach the brand proactively, or ignore and deny it and hope that the issue goes away.
Sounds like a problem, right? Scott Mackin puts it this way:
Luckily, for most of your competitors ‘branding’ is what’s happening to their company while they’re too busy adding new features, raising money or “growth-hacking.”
Now, it sounds like an opportunity, too!
Just like you, everyone else in the SaaS space has been exposed to a world of data-driven marketing. While they’re all focusing only on what’s measurable, as leaders, you need to embrace the human dimension of your companies.
The reason this is so difficult for SaaS businesses (and the reason it represents such an exciting opportunity) is that most SaaS companies are “product-first companies” with amazing products and incredible engineering teams. The result is marketing efforts that focus exclusively on marketing activity that can be tracked, analyzed and optimized while brand building is ignored.
But, companies who have invested in building their brand develop market familiarity, which leads to credibility and trust. The increased brand recognition this creates means people are more likely to buy their product or service. In a nutshell, a great brand provides the foundation for differentiation, competitive advantage, brand recognition and ultimately, brand loyalty and advocacy.
The opposite is also true, however, if people don’t recognize your brand, they’re unlikely to purchase from you until you’ve proven yourself. Your brand has to go through developing familiarity, credibility, and trust, which requires an investment in time, focus, and finance. Get it right, however, and your audience will seek your brand out, not the other way around.
Forget What You’ve Heard: Consistency and Frequency are Not Enough
See, brands get their power from values. It’s not enough to be frequent and consistent with brand promotion, although frequency and consistency are both vital. Values also play a vital role. And while many marketers have figured out that it’s smart to associate their brands with values, it’s the reverse that is most often missed — the fact that authentic brands actually come from values.
When correctly developed, an organization’s brand reflects the organization’s values. It stems from identity. It flows from what the company truly is, at its core. That’s good news because developing an organization’s brand is a chance to humanize the company, showing “who” the organization is at its authentic self. Just keep in mind that it still has to be your company’s actual self — it has to be genuine. The truth is, a brand is only as good as the organization is. Customers are smart; they can always tell when a brand isn’t based on values. Brands not based on values have a hollow ring to them, they lack the personal feel necessary for people to connect emotionally.
Begin Thinking of Your SaaS Company as a Person
In order for your customers to connect emotionally with your company, especially in the digital environment required for the first contact with a SaaS, you need to do the same thing you’d do if you, as an individual, wanted to connect emotionally with another individual. You’d show them who you are. To get started, understand how your customers relate to your brand. Begin forming an authenticity for the organization that will become more real as you humanize the company.
By thinking of your organization as a person, with values, you make it more approachable, and personal, which helps you overcome the following:
- People know how to talk to people; people don’t know how to talk to organizations (that’s why they invented corporate-speak, which you must avoid!)
- Organizations are like crowds, and crowds are impersonal — they tend to yell rather than communicate
- An organization’s instincts for survival are different than an individual’s — a person’s first instinct for survival is to connect with people, not so for an organization
Develop your Core Values
To find your company’s values, you’ll need to ask: What is the character of the organization? Its personality? Is it technology-driven, dedicated to always knowing the newest information and being on the cutting edge? Or is it conservative — steadfast and reliable? Is the company collaborative, considering its clients as partners instead of consumers? Is it proactive? Quality-focused?
Dig deep when developing these attributes but, remember, it’s vital to be honest. A SaaS company’s character traits can be somewhat aspirational (in fact, these types of traits connect in more meaningful ways with audiences), but you should only list these traits if they’re truly central to the company’s way of doing business. Remember, these aren’t just Values — they’re Core Values. Above all, when considering Core Values, it’s helpful to strive for traits that are simple, believable, and unassailable.
Understand Your Brand Personality
While your Core Values define what the company is, its principals and beliefs, Personality is about the way in which the organization’s Character manifests itself — what the company does, its behaviors, its tone of voice, its messaging. Personality is about action.
In your business interactions, what does your company do when it is at its best? If the company’s Core Values include innovation (which most SaaS companies do!), then maybe your company’s Personality is proactive. Maybe it’s forward-thinking. If, on the other hand, the company is customer-focused, then its Personality might be friendly, supportive, and helpful. Some of the Personality traits you come up with during this process won’t be important to the true essence of the company. Just as we looked at Core Values when defining the organization, what you should be looking for here are the core elements of the company’s Personality.
These elements — those at the very center of the organization, that ultimately define the way it behaves day-to-day — are the ones you’ll want to focus on.
Done right, Brand Personality can act as a sustainable point of differentiation for your SaaS. Think of Steve Jobs. His strong personal personality carried over as the Personality for the entire organization. Not every SaaS has a Steve Jobs at the helm, though and, in fact, it can be much better if you don’t. Most organizations do just fine building a Personality out of the combined values of the people in the organization.
Think of the awesome messaging, voice and tone you experience with MailChimp. It’s unmistakable and speaks to a specific type of audience personality by exposing the company’s own personality.
With a Brand Personality that visible to customers, it should become the way that everyone in the organization acts and speaks. It becomes the guide for external and internal communications and all company interactions. Think how much easier that will make your life, never having to decide the tone or message for your communication materials. It’s all laid out. If you decide that one of the organization’s Brand Personality traits is “friendly,” then you’ll be able to judge all your communications — advertising, executive speeches, internal memos, website copy — for “friendliness.” If it doesn’t sound friendly, you know it doesn’t fit your brand personality.
Your Unique, Defensible Positioning
Positioning can take several forms, but the main purpose of positioning is to supply a reason to buy, a difference that will give the customer a reason to pay attention. It’s how you differentiate your brand in the mind of the customer. Your Positioning must be unique, and not something anyone else in your client’s market is saying.
It’s important to look beyond the obvious when Positioning your SaaS company. You’ll need to do a bit of competitive analysis to gain an understanding of how your direct and indirect competition are Positioned. What messages are they using, where, what opportunities are they leaving exposed, etc. Since a SaaS organization typically offers a service rather than a product, you may think the “magic ingredient” doesn’t apply, but think again. Isn’t it possible to add a special ingredient to customer service, for example, to bring it above the norm?
If you’re not the leader in your main area of focus (which can happen as a SaaS matures and more competition enters the market), is there something else your customer cares about that you can be the leader in? If you’re not a specialist in the obvious, can you be a specialist in the not so obvious? You get the idea. There are many things you do, right now, that none of your customers do (or are talking about) that you can do to assist your Ideal Customer, which in turn becomes a benefit you can promote.
Be careful, though, if one of your competitors already claims a position you want, you can’t have it. If they’re already claiming to be No. 1 in installation support in your market, for example, you can’t claim it. Even if you can prove that you are No. 1, no one will hear you. Or you’ll just look bad and confuse your audience. But, if no one else in your market is claiming to be the integration specialists, even though you both may be integration specialists, you can claim it.
What makes us qualified to tell you how to position your business?
We started Whiterock | Reid because we understand the power of branding in elevating a business above the pack and offering a unique and powerful message to a specific market. We’re entrepreneurs, too, and we got tired of seeing designers selling struggling entrepreneurs a logo instead of a brand and pretending it would help them focus their message and develop new business.
It simply doesn’t work that way, you’ve got to give your prospects a reason to want to work with you.
How do you do that?
Run up a flag, tell them what you stand for, show them your personality and very clearly define what makes you different and better able to solve their unique problems. It takes understanding and definition, personality and values and, of course, positioning, and that’s just the start. Without defining your brand foundation, don’t even think about a logo or color scheme.
So, how do you run up this brand flag? We start with Positioning. Let’s get at this.
Using this proven process, Whiterock | Rock has developed brand Positioning for small and large businesses, SaaS companies, non-profits, consultants, and service businesses, government departments, and tech companies across North America and Australasia. Following this same technique, you can develop an effective, professional and authentic SaaS brand Positioning communicating your message both internally and externally. You’ll be well on the way to developing a brand that targets the right clients and generates more revenue with less stress. Plus, your employees will have a sense of identity and a renewed passion for success.
One last thought before we begin.
Positioning is really scary. You’ll second-guess this process a bunch of times based on your survival instinct and desire to avoid loss of business. It will feel counterintuitive that you can achieve growth, stability, and profits by saying no to some of the clients you have been working with. It will certainly make you question whether you really are an expert.
All of that is OK. Just accept that this is normal, and, to your benefit, understand that this is the single biggest thing that keeps about 80% of people who are thinking about positioning their business stuck in their current situation.
We’ve developed a workbook that you can download at the end of this article, which will give you all of the exercises and worksheets together in one place. Give yourself some time and effort and you can become one of the 20% who develop a unique, differentiated and in-demand brand!
STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR WHO
You started this business for a reason. If you’re one of the lucky few, you recognized that you had a skill set that matched a very specific problem in the market. If that’s you, great! You’re ahead of most. More likely, you finished school, got a job, developed some experience and expertise and, then, whether deliberately or not, you found yourself out of a job and in need of an income. Solution; start a business doing what you know. This is a typical way for many entrepreneurs to “end up” in business without the definition and understanding of their reasons. It’s also a recipe for disaster.
Your first step should be to deconstruct the value in what you provide and define specifically who stands to benefit the most. Avoid the trap of talking to yourself here, you need to focus on the customer. If you can completely and accurately define the value in what you provide, and then target those specific clients who benefit from that value, you can begin defining your ideal client. A great place to start is with your current client list. To be clear, we’re not going to develop more of the type of clients you currently have, we’re going to improve on this knowledge and target a higher-value subset of them. First, however, you’ve got to understand them.
- So, take a look at the clients you’ve done work for in the last 12 months or, in the case of pre-startups, the people with the problem you can solve. Now, really commit to deciding which one’s were the most fun to work with. These may or may not have been the most profitable so, you’ll have to dig deep on this one. Ask yourself why they were enjoyable. What was it they did that made them fun to work with? Were they easy-going? Committed to your onboarding process? Didn’t question your recommendations? Took your advice? Actually followed through, set up the solution, and performed the required work? What else?
Got a favorite client in mind? Pick no more than two or three here. Let’s move on.
- Once you have picked your favorite client from the last 12 months, and defined what made them so much fun to work with, we’re going to turn the process inwards. Now, let’s take a look at what you did for them. If you have delivered true value to this client, they’re likely spreading the word. But, if you defined them as a favorite client and, upon reflection, you didn’t really deliver value to their business, we’ve got some work to do. So, what did you do to help their cause? What value did you bring to them? Did you increase their sales? Improve their processes for efficiency? Help them target a new market? Implement a highly-effective hiring practice? What did they get out of the deal?
Do you have a complete understanding of the value your clients received? This is vital, don’t rush this step.
Now, taking the most fun clients from the first bullet, confirm that they were the same clients that received the value from the second bullet. See, when your clients perceive the value that they receive as greater then the money they paid, they will love working with you and spread the word. So, the key to spreading a brand message is to focus on clients who love working with you and value what you do. And the way to only work with clients who value you, is to get very specific in defining them and how they stand to benefit from what you offer. These are the clients that you will then aim to deliver massive value to.
Now, let’s bring them to life, give them a name, define how they look, what they feel and their needs, wants and desires so you end up with a human being you can target your marketing, message and user experience to.
First, define their demographics.
- Marital Status
- Spouse / Partner Name – Kids
Now, before going any further, give your client a name. It could be Sally or John or Frederick, it doesn’t matter. Just choose a name that suits your client avatar. And, if your client is a from a specific background, add a last name that makes sense, too. John Smith brings a different vision to mind than Maria Lopez, for example. We’re trying to bring this person to life as much as possible.
Now, identify their back story (Problems)
- Where are they in life?
- Where is their work situation?
- What is happening that qualifies them to be a profile for you?
- What challenges are they having?
Next, let’s decide their needs and why
- What do they need to solve their challenges?
- What can you give them that will help them overcome them?
Finally, we want to define how you exceed their needs
- How do you go beyond meeting their needs?
- Is there something that you can do uniquely for them?
Congratulations, now you have a client avatar. Now, go back and look at the clients you most enjoyed working with, and the clients you provided the most value for and see where this avatar differs. In many cases, you will need to perform this exercise two or even three times to end up with complete coverage of your ideal clients.
STEP 2: FIND YOUR POINT OF DIFFERENTIATION
There are many different ways to differentiate your business and in most cases, simply developing your positioning on a combination of who you serve and what you do, or a solution to a problem will be enough to set you apart from your competition in your clients’ and prospects’ minds. Of course, that’s most cases and we’re not settling for just good enough here. We’re here to develop a completely unique point of differentiation that actually speaks to your prospects, their needs, wants, and desires and elevates you above the pack in your market.
Most importantly, however, you must make your positioning completely unique and avoid crossing over anything that someone else is claiming. This is vital, even if you can legitimately claim the same thing, if they claimed it first, you MUST move on to something different. The last thing you want to do is drive traffic to your competition.
This is how the race-to-the-bottom, lowest-price-wins wars begin. Don’t worry though, there’s no-one just like you, that does business just like you or that uses the exact same processes as you. You definitely have a point of differentiation, we just need to uncover it.
There are several ways you can differentiate your business:
- A personal approach to creating the results you promise.
- A personal philosophy or “angle” on the expensive problem you solve.
- A particular capability or skill that you use to create results for your clients.
Whatever you decide, it’s vital that your point of differentiation adds to and improves the value of your positioning and isn’t just some random element that’s unrelated to your value proposition and positioning. Even more importantly, it absolutely cannot decrease the value in your primary value proposition.
To get started on this exercise, do a little sleuthing on other companies who do something similar to you.
Let’s be clear, we’re definitely not saying you should copy your competitors, that would achieve the exact opposite of what we’re trying to achieve. You’re simply educating yourselves on how other companies are describing themselves. How are they positioning their businesses? How do they differentiate themselves from other companies?
When you’re looking at the competition, keep the following in mind:
- Competition and other, related businesses in your niche or market is a GOOD THING. It definitively qualifies that there are prospects and clients who can support your business.
- Don’t believe the hype. Just because someone else says something on their website or brochure, doesn’t mean they’re actually succeeding at doing it. All businesses try to look established and capable and successful online. You will too. So don’t believe the hype and get intimidated by what others are saying.
- You may find your core positioning looks the same or very similar to one of your competition. In this case, you have to get down and dirty on defining your point of differentiation. It’s what will allow you to stand out in a crowded market.
Next, it’s time to develop your selling points. Armed with your newly developed understanding of your competitive landscape, it’s time to generate some differentiation points. Keep in mind, this can be a personal approach, philosophy, or capability that sets your business apart from others.
- Do you have a different approach to that of your competitors?
- What philosophical aspect of your work creates benefit or value for your clients?
- Do you have an “unfair advantage” over others who solve similar problems based on abilities?
Working through these questions will help you generate an understanding of what you do and how it’s different from others.
Finally, you just need to go through your list of potential differentiators and decide on the strongest and most unique point of differentiation your business brings to your market, and the one you can defend.
Pro Tip: Continually Refine and Define
Once you’ve worked through the Positioning exercises, you’ll need to refine things. Sometimes you get excited by more than one differentiator and add them all or other times you struggle to pick one so you settle on a weak one. Now is the time to refine things and make sure you’ve got it right. Start by asking the following questions:
- What is our current Positioning, do we own that space and do we want to keep it?
- If we don’t want to keep our current Positioning, what Position do we want to target and can we legitimately own it?
- Who do we have to compete with for our Positioning — can someone else say the same thing and, if they do, can we defend it?
- Do we have the resources to back up our Positioning in the event that we are challenged?
- Does our Positioning have longevity? Are we comfortable running up this flag for the long term.
- Does our Positioning represent genuine value for our target market? If not, go back to step 1.
STEP 3: WRITE THE POSITIONING STATEMENT
This step will test your understanding of your client AND your brand. We will be using knowledge of our brand values, and personality as well as an understanding of the tone and voice used. Finally, we will wrap all those elements in with our clients’ needs, wants, fears and desires to produce a positioning statement that describes exactly how we provide value, who we provide value to and why.
When developing your positioning, you have several different styles of approach depending on your abilities and understanding. We develop all four different versions of Positioning statement for each branding engagement because we believe it is important to have positioning statements for multiple scenarios to ensure the brand message is translated regardless of environment. It is vital, however, that the message remain the same, only the vocabulary will change.
To keep things easy, we recommend reading the different versions of Positioning statement construction and deciding which one you can easily develop for your own brand. Remember, we’re striving for progress, not perfection here.
The first version of positioning statement that you should always write is a Classic formulation as follows:
(Brand Name) provides (what you do) to (customer type(s)) in a (voice) and (voice) environment while helping them (feel) and giving them (impact).
Sounds pretty complete, right? It is. It covers everything required in a positioning statement and many big name brands do well with just this formula. However, often the reason those big brands do fine with a statement formulated in this structure is because their Voice, Feel and Impact are all very big and audacious. In reality, most smaller companies can’t achieve the same level of impact with this structure and the result sounds a little flat and stale. If that’s the case with yours, read on and take a look at the other types of Positioning statements you can develop.
The next one, Alternate Positioning, is completely customized for the client, based on the research and in-person discussions we have during the branding process. For those of you following along and completing these exercises for your own brands, this is your opportunity to push the boundaries. No limits, no formula, just say what you can prove and live in the biggest, most audacious way possible. Consider the benefits to the client of working with you, consider if you can say we are the “leader” in anything, consider the excitement you want your clients to feel when they read your positioning statement. Go crazy and have fun, this one’s all you!
Pro Tip: Reverse Engineer the Alternate Positioning
When we develop four positioning statements for clients, we’ve found it’s often best to leave the Alternate Positioning statement until last. This allows you to thoroughly define the three, formula-based positioning statements using a clear pathway via the formulas. This will give you a better understanding of the elements within the formulas and can also jolt your subconscious into action to offer up ideas you would’t have otherwise found.
If you don’t come up with a great Alternate Positioning statement the first time around, or any of the statements for that matter, put it aside and move on to something else. Without fail, when our minds are left to their own devices, our subconscious will deliver solutions to problems we never would have thought of in the moment.
The third version of Positioning statement is usually the most difficult to develop but the most powerful. Named the Onliness Statement, this formula was developed by Marty Neumeier and presented in his book, The Brand Gap, as a way to define a “we are the only …. to do….” style of positoning. It’s vital, when developing this positioning, that you understand your point(s) of differentiation completely.
This version is designed as a run-on sentence and uses a series of prompts as follows:
- WHAT: The only (what you do)
- HOW: that (what makes you unique)
- WHO: for (customer/communities served)
- WHY: (customer pain point/challenge)
- WHEN: (trends that affect you / your clients)
Hint: break this down to it’s most simple elements and approach them one at a time. Here are some hints on how to develop your Positioning using this formula:
- What: This is really basic, just what you do.
- How: This is your X Factor, what makes you unique and different.
- For: Also straightforward, you have to know who your customers are.
- Where: This is simply the cities and the areas you operate.
- Why: Why are you doing what you do, what problems are you solving, how are you helping your clients.
- When: This is the power behind this Positioning. When refers to the trends that are powering the movement.
When you can tap into a trend or a movement like “sustainable living,” “carbon neutral” etc, your positioning becomes much more powerful!
Finally, we have the Elevator Pitch. If you have worked through at least the Classic Positioning and the Onliness Statement, this one will be a breeze! The formula to develop your Elevator Pitch looks like this:
(Product/Service) is a (general, relatable tool/service) that allows (adjectives + target user) to (value proposition).
Note: You don’t need to complete all four types today!
To prevent any issues with dynamism in our positioning statements when we do client brands, we develop all four different types. However, don’t feel like you have to accomplish that right off the bat. Instead, choose one and just get it done, you can always return to create the others as you need them. Even at Whiterock | Reid, we dedicate several days to defining each of these for clients. It’s not supposed to be easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.
STEP 4: DEVELOP AN ACTION PLAN
This is where we put the rubber to the road and move from exercises to reality. By developing an action plan, you’ll find yourself gaining a better understanding of your Positioning and it will evolve from a tool to attract clients into the core of your company’s reason for being. Putting a plan behind your Positioning will give you something to embrace, a clear plan that makes the Positioning believable and achievable.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What actions do we have to take to ensure our Positioning is successful? (For example, do we need to invest in technology.)
- How can we be certain that our Ideal Customer will recognize our Positioning? (For example, do we need to increase our ad spend?)
- What checks will we put in place to ensure our Positioning is staying visible to our target market? (For example, do we need processes to monitor and benchmark recognition and progress.)
Finally, assign the people who will perform each of these steps, what they need to do and when they need to do it. Enlist help from colleagues, friends or family if needed, just make yourself accountable. This Positioning needs to live in every touch point you have in your business so, don’t water down its efficacy by not taking it seriously.
STEP 5: VALIDATE YOUR FINDINGS
It is vital, at this stage, to test your assumptions before going live with this Positioning. Everything you’ve done until now has been based on our own assumptions (based on experience) about your clients and their needs, goals, fears and desires.
But, what if you’re wrong?
Before you go public with these assumptions and base your business and brand building decisions on them, it’s wise to test them first, with people you can trust.
The process for doing this is quite simple. There are dozens of paid services for creating completely custom surveys but, for a one-time survey, we recommend Survey Monkey. In a complete branding engagement, where we develop brand values, brand personality, desired perceptions, and value propositions, we would list all of those things in a variety of multiple choice and “disagree” to “agree” sliding scales.
In the case of just Positioning, you can simply put your client definitions and Positioning statement in a series of two or three questions and send it off. We’ve included a few sample questions to get you started.
Pro Tip: Confidentiality is key
When we work through validation on behalf of a client, we personally conduct the surveys via telephone, however, if you’re performing the survey yourself, it’s important to make them confidential to ensure legitimate results. We don’t even include a spot for our clients’ customers to fill in their name or email so their answers are never linked to their company or personal names. Why is this important? The last thing we want here is “yes-men” telling us a bunch of baloney that they think we want to hear. Give them their privacy and ask for their candid opinions. Your brand will be stronger for it.
In the workbook, we’ve included a simple email script you can use when contacting your clients to request their participation. Remember, be honest with your clients about what you’re doing and why. It’s them who stand to benefit from your business being stronger.
Once you’ve completed surveying your existing clients, look to speak to people who know your business well, such as suppliers or even investors. Your goal should be to gather between 20 and 30 responses. Survey Monkey gives you a break down of the results, allowing you to easily pinpoint places where your assumptions were off.
Finally, if your assumptions weren’t right on the money, go back and work through this again. Your Positioning is central to your brand success so it has to be genuine, authentic and defensible. Take the time now and you’ll reap the rewards later.
What’s Your Value Proposition?
Your Value Proposition, Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, all boil down to this: the results the customer receives from the value provided. It’s not enough to provide value — in order to create powerful customer relationships and strong brands, the customer also has to receive results.
In order for your Value Proposition to really work hard, it has to be stated in a clear, succinct phrase or sentence that can be used in marketing.
Value Proposition vs. Positioning
While the point of Positioning is to provide a reason to buy, the point of a Value Proposition is to communicate results. In the big scheme of things, they can often be the same thing, according to Jack Trout, the father of Positioning. And sometimes it just helps to look at things from a different angle.
For example, when Domino’s Pizza first entered the pizza market in Michigan in the 1960’s, they were the first to offer home delivery of pizza. “Home delivery pizza” was their reason to buy, their Position in the fast food market. It definitely differentiated them and made them stand out among the other pizza shops at that time, very few of which were delivering.
But Domino’s understood that they also needed to communicate results to their customers, so their Value Proposition became their battle cry: “Fresh, hot pizza, delivered to your door, in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free.” Those are real results that customers receive from the value Domino’s provides. The Value Proposition takes things just a bit farther, making the Positioning more valuable, too.
Now, here’s where things get interesting. The Domino’s guarantee was ended in 1993 due to concerns over drivers breaking traffic laws and putting themselves and others at risk trying to fulfill the guarantee and, in 2008, the company again advertised a 30-minute delivery time in the U.S.; the fine print in the material stated the time as merely an “estimate.” The reduction in perceived value by adding a caveat to your Value Proposition is massive!
Let’s avoid having to add caveat’s to our Value Proposition. What real results do your customer’s receive from the value you provide?
Are You ready?
Positioning is just one of the pillars of building a brand. It’s a big and difficult process BUT, it’s also one of the most effective ways you can attract your ideal clients and reduce churn.
If you haven’t already done so, along with your Positioning, you should plan to complete similar exercises to define your Brand Character and Personality, Core Values, Brand Message, Desired Perceptions, and Unique Value Proposition to develop your complete brand. Added to your positioning, these elements will have you ready to develop a visual identity to display your unique value to the world.
Let’s be honest, that’s an awful lot of wasted effort if it just stays in your workbook and doesn’t make its way into your day to day marketing and messaging. Just as you see the big B2C companies spending their marketing dollars activating their brand through producing content and promoting their brand values, activating your brand in the SaaS world is similar. But, instead of spending money on deploying marketing tactics or campaigns, you need to filter your brand through everything you do. This approach results in an almost entirely inbound strategy focused on providing value to your audience. Not only does this reduce marketing spend and make each marketing dollar more effective, the resulting buy-in develops more engaged customers and, ultimately, more loyal advocates. By constantly referring to your brand attributes and foundation to apply your messaging to every marketing channel and customer touchpoint, you will develop your brand in your customers’ mind that is completely aligned with the brand identity you are seeking.
Working on your SaaS brand is not a one-and-done proposition. Especially in a startup environment, where companies need to pivot and update at the drop of a hat, in response to market pressures, increased competition or, even new technology and associated benefits, your brand is something you should be working on at each of the four major lifecycle stages of your company. Your Positioning is what makes you different, and memorable. It stands for one unique element, something no one else can say, that will give your organization a competitive edge. It gives value to the brand. This is probably the most coveted element of a successful brand. It is the element that absolutely makes your brand a leader. Get your Brand Positioning right and you’ll see it reinvigorate the sales staff and the company moving forward. It is the position your brand will take in the marketplace that absolutely resonates with the customer. Often, it can actually change the way the company does business. Focus on developing your own unique space, plant your flag and you’ll rapidly find yourself with your own unique audience.
We know, this was a long guide, but instead of sneaking off for well-earned a nap, here’s what we think you should do right now:
- Bookmark this article. Seriously. Bookmark it. Go. Now. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Download your copy of the workbook below, which includes all the worksheets and instructions you’ll need to work through this process start to finish and actually have something to show for it.
- Put on a strong pot of coffee.
- Get to work!
Yes, it’s a little overwhelming, but everything worth having is.
I sincerely hope you got a lot out of this guide. Let us know what you thought and don’t hesitate to ask for help or input in the comments!