June 13, 2016

6 of the Worst Ways to Describe Your SaaS Product

SaaS marketing is anything but easy. You’re promoting a product — er, a service, or a tool, or a platform, or something — that doesn’t lend itself to concise, coherent description. And yet, you desperately need buyers to understand your value proposition. Within five minutes of landing on your site, they should know (1) what you sell, and (2) what it can do for their business.

Backed into a corner by this impossible challenge and by increasing pressure to drive revenue, many marketers resort to product messaging full of inaccurate claims, misleading promises, and equivocal language.

It’s no small wonder that only 6 percent of B2B buyers are “very trusting” of vendor-created content.

Maybe you exaggerate proposed benefits to lure more prospects into the jaws of your web forms. Maybe you pepper landing pages with industry slang to make line-of-business experts feel at home, or gloss over technical features and specifications with empty abstraction. 

B2B marketers often mince words to boost metrics or build rapport where there is none. The result, for buyers, is a crushing sense of bewilderment. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the worst examples and provide healthy alternatives for each.

1. By Mislabeling

On one hand, invention is a constant in the software world, especially when it comes to software-as-a-service. New approaches and new solutions to a particular business problem are constantly emerging and going to market. On the other hand, there are some pretty well-established categories of business software, and if your product fits into one, you should label it accordingly.

CRM is not “pipeline acceleration software.” It is CRM.

A Kanban project management app is not an “agile collaboration system.” It is a project management app.

Marketers like to invent new terms to distinguish their product among competitors. But re-categorization will only alienate you from key buying circles and make it harder for prospects to discern value.

Consider this vendor, who shall not be named, whose slogan is “Everything business, connected.” They bill their product as “complete business management software.” To an unsuspecting site visitor, that means literally nothing. Might as well have gone with, “Software, for your data . . . and stuff.”

Or maybe I stand corrected:

integrated business software

Call it what it is, based on what it does.

If you can’t describe functionality in one, intelligible sentence, you might have a serious problem. Imagine if you took the same approach for your own job. Would your boss pay you to work on projects you can’t even explain . . . with words?

2. With Unsubstantiated Accolades

If you invent a fictional software category, it’s easy to call yourself the world’s number-one product in that category. The same is true if you take an existing category and boil it down to a highly-specific segment.

“We’re the world’s leading provider of Salesforce-integrated, cloud-based time tracking software for mobile sales teams with less than 50 reps.”

Instead of making claims that reflect your aspirations but could never be proven or disproven, you could highlight awards that your software or company has actually won. Maybe a product review site listed you as a top solution, or a consulting firm nominated you for an award. If nothing else, you can try getting some testimonials from current customers. Research from Spiceworks indicates that 97 percent of IT buyers rely on peer recommendations, ratings, and reviews to make a software purchase.  

ALSO READ: 7 Ways  to Get More B2B Product Reviews

3. By Claiming to Be “Innovative”

Innovation is not a dream that wakes you in the night (an idea for a startup!); it is an accomplishment earned through months of research and development, years of listening and responding to customer feedback and trying to build something unique. Think sculpture, not origami.

It’s also not something you should take upon yourself to claim. If your software is innovative, your customers will say so. If it’s not innovative, you’ll risk giving people over-inflated expectations, which will make for a poor customer experience later on . . . and you might be tempted to compensate for poor customer experience with more oblique marketing messages.

4. As a Thing that can “Optimize” Other Things

SaaS marketers often use the word “optimize” to explain what their software can do for a particular business process, department, or goal. E.g. “Our software will help you optimize sales productivity.”

The word optimize means “to make as efficient, perfect, or useful as possible.” It’s a word you shouldn’t use without an explanation, or at least not in good conscience. And most of the time, when you explain how your software can “optimize [X],” you’ll find that you don’t need the word anymore.

Which is more compelling?

This: Optimize sales productivity.

Or this: Identify and prioritize leads with the highest potential value.

The first is an abstraction that tells the buyer nothing about how your software works. The second explains a specific function that will benefit end-users. There’s a time and a place for generalization, but it’s not in your product description.  

While you’re at it, avoid all of the market-y filler words the industry has abused over the past decade:

  • Hassle-Free: When I see this, I get the feeling your product will definitely be a hassle.
  • Next-Generation: As opposed to the antiquated, 21st-century generation of SaaS products?
  • Best-in-Class: According to whom? Avoid this unless you can provide research to support it.
  • Leverage: Is “leverage” more noble than “use?” You don’t sound smarter — just awkward.

5. By Picking a Fight with a Competitor

In many software verticals, the market is dominated by a small handful of leading vendors. Some of these vendors choose to let their product speak for itself. They present information on features, pricing, and support and refer prospects to case studies from real customers. Other vendors go for the jugular.

There are hundreds of SaaS websites, this very moment, proudly promoting a skewed feature comparison chart that pits their software against another, similar solution. Though it may be tempting to discredit your foes, avoid this tactic.

No one falls for these charts; vendors spotlight their own unique features and conveniently fail to mention the unique features of other platforms. There are also ways to falsely diversify features or redefine them to favor your product:

  • Listing “ease of use” as a feature competitors don’t offer
  • Comparing a “basic activity feed” to an “actionable activity feed” (saw this on a product page this week)
  • Listing “deep CRM integration” as an advantage over “basic CRM integration”

Most of your buyers will see through the charade. When they recognize the dishonesty in your approach, they’re more likely to see you as desperate than superior. Even worse, putting a side-by-side comparison on your product page could backfire, leading people to research alternatives they weren’t previously aware of.

Leave the product comparisons to customers, analysts, and unbiased research firms.

6. By Vilifying Sticky Notes and Spreadsheets

The fact that your software can replace sticky notes and spreadsheets isn’t a selling point — at least not a compelling one. Imagine if a car dealer tried to sell you a new vehicle based on the notion that the car can replace walking and biking. Duh. But what about the car? What unique value does it offer, as a car?

What about your software? Everyone knows SaaS can replace paper workflows. That’s because it works from a computer, from the internet, and paper is paper. No one will be impressed by the fact that your software is “digital,” or “automated,” or “centralized,” or “real-time,” because they expect all of those things. If they weren’t aware of the inefficiencies of sticky notes, they’d be shopping for more sticky notes, not reading the product page for a cloud-based project management app.

Besides, sticky notes and spreadsheets have earned their place in the office. People will probably use sticky notes and spreadsheets for the next hundred years, no matter what software hits the market.

* * *

You might think SaaS marketing is difficult, but imagine how difficult it is for buyers to swim through the sea of products — each trumpeting its own novelty and superiority, but few giving a direct of answer to practical questions. 

If the market has taught vendors anything in the past decade, it’s that buyers value honesty. That’s why so many of them are flocking to independent research and review sites — the “yelpification of software buying,” as some call it. If vendors want to regain some of the trust they’ve lost, honest, intelligible product descriptions are a good place to start.

Looking for software? Try our Product Selection Tool