Menaka Shroff led the core team at Box that developed their innovative marketing that drove them upmarket from a low-end freemium service to the leader in the enterprise. She then joined next-generation SaaS leader and made them an enterprise leader in their space, as well as creating the 1000+ attendee Goal Summit. I asked her to tell us a bit about how to build iconic brands. She touched on this at her SaaStr Annual ’16 and ’17 session, but she dives in more below. Let’s learn from the best !
— Jason, ed.
The SaaS market is super hot right now: SaaS companies are hitting the $50 million valuation mark at a faster rate than ever before. A specialized Martech segment itself grew 40% YoY in 2017 with over 5000 different vendors.
As more SaaS companies continue to emerge every week, there’s an urgent need for them to develop messaging that’s well articulated and differentiated from others in the space. After five years of successful messages like “[Something Relatively Difficult] Made Easy or Simple”, “Modernizing [Something That Needs Modernization]” or “[Something That Sucks] Shouldn’t Suck,” the repetitive one-liners can start to lose their initial appeal.
What’s good about these one-liners is that when they were first introduced, they were unique, cool and memorable, but now they’ve become commoditized to the point where your buyer expects them; they’re no longer ways to differentiate you in the space.
So how can we solve the mystery of messaging? I came up with a few easy tips to help you shape your company’s enterprise messaging:
Understand Your Buyer Personas
Good messaging starts with a strong understanding of your buyer—in other words, the person paying for the software. Especially at a rapidly evolving software company, your buyer can constantly change.
Take Box, for instance. In the early days, we focused on promoting the single most important use case, which was “a better FTP,” largely targeting SMB IT Directors. Later, our messaging evolved to focus on simple and secure sharing, targeting the VP of IT buyer at SMB and mid-market companies. Finally, as Box gained more interest from CIOs at enterprise companies, the company naturally drifted its product and marketing message towards enterprise file sharing and content management.
If you’re unsure how to define your buyer personas, try using the DIVA framework: D (Decision Maker), I (Influencer), V (Value Add) and A (Approver). As you go through the buying journey, you’ll need messaging for all the players involved. For instance, your demand gen campaigns may only target D and I, whereas your sales enablement and selling process might require messaging for V and A.
I’ll use Zendesk’s messaging (most of all found publicly) throughout this post as an example of how to do messaging in a great way. Applying the DIVA framework, their buyer personas and core value questions would look something like this:
Tell the Right Story
Once you have your buyer persona in mind, identify important FAQs/key information about your product to shape your messaging:
Ironing out each of these categories becomes way easier when you go through the artful exercise of finding the most compelling one-liner, 25-word and 50-word descriptions to deliver. These top line messages should encapsulate what you do and why you’re the best at it. Make sure you ask yourself: why should my buyer care?
The Messaging Process
Coming up with the right message calls for a lot of iterations, so try to bring two to three key players from different teams, e.g. e-staff, product managers, sales leaders and customer facing individuals, into the brainstorming and review process.
You should also gut check messaging with your customers. I’ve found that talking to 10 customers in person and walking them through the messaging is really fruitful: you’ll definitely get validation if you’re going in the right direction, or if you’ve missed something entirely.
Finally, be patient with your messaging! It takes a good six months for everyone to get fully onboard, including your customers.
I hope this guide helps a few of you develop just the right messaging for your enterprise SaaS company! I’d love to hear your thoughts and any other tips you might have.
Former Marketing Executive at Box