Differentiation is not Dead: Use Content Marketing to Differentiate your company from the Competition
We’ve all heard the (supposed) bad news: SaaS differentiation is now so difficult that it’s become a nearly obsolete tactic. And to be fair, it’s understandable that so many people feel this way. After all, copycatting successful ideas is so prevalent that it’s practically a cottage industry in and of itself. This creates a real problem for new software startups because it means that building a great, new product is no longer enough.
To be successful in today’s marketplace, a SaaS company needs to have a stellar product and a solid strategy for selling it to the market. CEOs — often highly analytical people — are forced to wade through the nether regions of creative marketing just to keep up. For these data-driven savants who can’t understand why the numbers alone don’t sell their product, doing so can be a disorienting or even frustrating experience.
But the reality is that in many cases, they don’t even go there. To combat this, software companies must take creative content marketing more seriously. In fact, using just a few basic content marketing strategies can go a long way towards creating that all-important brand differentiation.
Embrace emotive SaaS Marketing
Understand the need to hire talented content marketers, and then get out of their way. Good SaaS CEOs often make the former a priority, but fail to follow through on the latter.
These well-meaning CEOs are proud of their product and have a specific vision for marketing it. While that intimate, almost personal relationship with the product is useful when building it, this often does more harm than good when selling it. Often, it results in a marketing strategy which consists of hiring talented marketers and then telling them to “sell the numbers”.
This is problematic for a number of reasons. For starters, many software companies generally sell to non-technical people. These people don’t usually grasp the intricacies and meanings behind the numbers being shown to them; instead, they rely on gut reaction to make their final decisions.
Google it: there’s tons of research demonstrating the fact that when a company chooses between multiple SaaS options, emotion plays a significant (if not primary) role in the final decision-making process.
What does this mean?
It means that users aren’t really all that impressed by the gears making the machine run; it’s about the problem it solves or the benefit it gives them.
Although this is a frustrating, even counterintuitive reality for a data-driven B2B company, it’s still the truth. Don’t hire talented marketers and then handicap them by dictating a “numbers only” strategy; hire talented marketers who appreciate the intricacies of your product and then let their imaginations run wild with its potential emotive value to create winning marketing content.
Be mindful of the sales funnel
By now, there’s a pretty well-defined content strategy playbook. The internet is awash with white papers, landing pages and blogs. There was a time when these tools were all that was necessary to reach and convince SaaS leads. Unfortunately, those days are long gone.
Thinking about content marketing simply in terms of its form is a recipe for mediocrity. Instead, companies today should build their content marketing around the different stages of their sales funnel. In other words: by being mindful of its function. Spend time thinking critically about the type(s) of content which will be most effective at each stage of the buying journey.
This is where having a talented team of creative marketing people can really pay dividends.
Consider this scenario. An early stage lead is deciding between several brands; each with excellent, data-driven literature. Because of this, their initial process of elimination is more than likely to be based on trust. Now ask yourself: how is this trust conveyed by your company?
Give it some thought, but however it’s done, the answer is definitely not going to be “through a white paper or infographic touting that additional feature the competition doesn’t have”.
Your best ammunition in these situations is talented marketers — unfettered from a directive to keep things about the numbers — to creatively solve that problem. Now for the golden secret: that’s a process which should be repeated during every stage of the funnel.
Remember: Business is always about people
B2B software is very data-driven, but that doesn’t change the fundamental truth that business has been, and always will be, primarily about people.
Don’t get me wrong — numbers do matter. I’m not suggesting they don’t. But there is an additional layer which, in a world replete with facts and figures, offers a much more effective path to differentiation based on emotive content marketing. Hiring talented marketers — and then giving them the freedom to bring the story behind the numbers to life — is an essential tool to jumpstarting growth. It’s the best way to reach the people behind the products.