August 25, 2022
Messaging

A 7-step framework for developing SaaS messaging

Learn how to create SaaS messaging that speaks to customer needs, demand attention, and converts buyers with this 7-step framework.

Brands like Pipedrive and Gong stand out in crowded marketplaces not because they offer superior products, but because they effectively resonate with customer challenges, desires, and emotions.

SaaS messaging is your key to building a brand that connects with your customer. It’s how you successfully differentiate your offering to appeal to a specific target audience.

In this article, you’ll learn a seven-step framework for crafting effective SaaS messaging, complete with real-world examples to draw inspiration.

1. Gather real-world insights from your ICPs 

Developing customer personas and ICPs (ideal customer profiles) is an important first step in understanding your audience’s firmographics and demographics.

More critical to SaaS messaging development, however, is knowing what they want (and how they want it).

The main things you need to know before developing an ICP include some straightforward answers to the following questions:

  • What are the top pain points your audience wants to solve?
  • What goals do your customers have?
  • What progress are they looking to make?
  • How does your audience think about the problems you solve?
  • How are customers assessing vendors?
  • What are your ICP’s main objections or doubts during the customer journey?

To achieve this level of depth, you’ll need to engage in customer research.

Start with a review of your current customer base, segmenting those whom you’d define as “best-fit” customers. These are the buyers to focus on during your research process. 

Traditional methods of capturing this information (such as one-on-one customer interviews and the classic build-measure-learn feedback loop) are helpful, but largely too slow for today’s fast-paced environments.

Move quickly and gain a competitive advantage over your competitors by executing B2B buyer intelligence surveys. These asynchronous surveys are quicker and easier to quantify.

Use qualitative research to dive deep into questions around challenges and pain points. Ask broad questions like “What is your biggest challenge when it comes to X?”

Use quantitative research to validate assumptions around priorities and goals. For instance, if you know that your product solves a number of audience challenges, you could ask a question for each “How important is it to you to solve X?” 

This feedback can help you rank and prioritize pain point messaging (messaging that speaks directly to the challenges customers face and that your product solves).

2. Get semantic with voice-of-customer research 

Effective SaaS messaging is all about the choice and use of specific words and phrases to resonate with customer emotions.

Voice-of-customer (VOC) research is the process of uncovering customer needs and wants and then using verbatim extracts from their answers.

VOC research involves three primary steps:

  1. Surveys to identify customer needs in their own words;
  2. Grouping and prioritization of those needs;
  3. Segmenting needs and perceived benefits by audience.

Conversion copywriter Joel Klettke used VOC research to recreate the copy for HubSpot’s website.

Klettke used email surveys and reviews on sites like Capterra and G2 to capture customer comments.

Screenshot of Customer Review and Feedback
This review highlights the product’s time-saving benefit

Then, he used a simple framework to classify and group these comments by needs, themes, and products.

The comment “I have time for double the work now” was identified as an important statement that addressed the need for efficiency as it relates to HubSpot’s content planner product.

Using the three customer segments identified below, Klettke allocated the customer needs he’d identified to each audience.

Screenshot of Customer Segments
Analyzing customer segments helps narrow down customer needs

This voice of customer research ultimately led to the heading “Grow your business like a team twice your size,” used on a HubSpot landing page.

Screenshot of HubSpot Landing Page
Hubspot’s landing page gets to the heart of buyer pain points

Use voice-of-customer research to identify critical customer needs in the actual words your buyers use, then use these terms in your copy to connect directly with the emotional decision-making centers of prospective customers.

3. Find your differentiator through competitive analysis 

Most SaaS brands promise the same outcomes: save time, drive revenue, cut costs, or scale your team.

Messaging like this doesn’t stand out. It says what everyone else is saying.

Screenshot of SendinBlue Homepage
Generic sales buzzphrases make it hard to stand out

Competitive analysis is your key to understanding how other market occupants communicate with their customers, not so you can duplicate, but so you can differentiate.

How to run a successful competitive analysis

Begin by comparing competitor messaging, paying particular attention to the value propositions they’re communicating.

Look at:

  1. Features. List the features each competitor offers and highlight which are the same as yours, and which differ (whether they have a feature you don’t have or vice versa).
  2. Value propositions. What are they communicating as the main reasons for choosing their product or brand over a competitor?
  3. Brand voice. This goes beyond looking at what they say, but how they say it. Brand voice and style can be an effective way to appeal to audience segments. Are they relaxed, casual, and humorous? Serious and professional? 

You’ll likely find many similarities across brands, and you’ll recognize the problem customers face: distinguishing one product’s benefits from another can be an improbable task.

This is good news for you; the more homogenous your industry sector, the easier it will be to differentiate and stand out.

Next, dive deeper into value propositions across competitors (including your own).

Chris Goward of WiderFunnel analyzes three aspects that demonstrate the efficacy of competitor value props in comparison to yours.

Screenshot of Value Preposition across competitors
Identifying your POPs and PODs will strengthen your UVP

Points of Parity (POPs) are the features you and all of your competitors offer. They are important to your prospects (that’s why you’ve built them), but they aren’t what sets you apart. This is likely where many of your competitors will focus their messaging.

Points of Irrelevance (POIs) are the features you offer that customers aren’t particularly interested in (or don’t even use). We aren’t going to focus heavily on these.

Points of Difference (PODs) are where you can win. These are the features you offer that are important to your prospects, but not offered by your competitors. 

Effective SaaS messaging will be based around your PODs, but should not be solely feature-based.

4. Build your UVP around solutions, not features 

Today’s SaaS verticals are too saturated to sell on features alone. In most spaces (CRM, email marketing, and project management, to name three), your competitors offer similar products, targeting the same benefits and customer results.

Even if you do launch a new, innovative feature, it’s only a matter of months until your competitors implement something similar, and you’ve lost your competitive edge.

Your key to winning here is a radical differentiation strategy that looks beyond features and prioritizes customer pains and gains.

Brainstorm your UVP (unique value proposition) using Karolina Kurcwald’s value prop canvas model.

Screenshot of Karolina Kurcwald’s value prop canvas model
Link your customer profile with your SaaS’s value proposition

We’ll assume in this case that you’ve developed ideal customer profiles, specified jobs to be done, and engaged in customer research to detail pains and gains.

The remainder of the process, then, is to map your products to customer jobs-to-be-done and describe how they relieve pains and create gains.

Take Gumroad, a platform for creators to sell courses, photography, music, and more.

In their case, the left side of the above model would look something like:

  • Customer jobs: Sell my creations.
  • Pains: Getting paid for creative work comes with a number of hurdles.
  • Gains: Making more money as a creator.

By mapping their offering directly onto these jobs, pains, and gains, Gumroad avoids technical product jargon and jumps straight to the point in their home page copy.

Screenshot of Gumroad Homepage
Gumroad’s homepage copy speaks specifically to their audience

Notice that Gumroad’s messaging tells readers exactly who they are for: creators.

ConverKit takes a similar approach:

Screenshot of Convertkit Homepage
ConvertKit clearly knows its audience

Note what happens when the UVP is underdeveloped. Examples like this, however, reach too far in an attempt to capture a large market, and ultimately fail to connect with any audience segment.

Screenshot of Robly Homepage
Building a product for “everyone” is often counterproductive

Defining your UVP will likely result in a list of several pains and gains, depending on the complexity of your product.

In this case, it's crucial to prioritize using a messaging hierarchy. Here, the most critical customer pain informs which message takes the top position, and so on.

Take Apple.

Their primary messaging style (and what best serves their audience) is confident, yet approachable. This takes precedence over messaging that is friendly and supportive.

Screenshot of Apple’s messaging architecture
Apple’s messaging hierarchy supports their brand and benefits customers

Decide which pains and gains are most critical to your audience and ensure your messaging addresses those first.

5. Break your UVP into specific benefits 

Your UVP should be present throughout your messaging, including how you describe your product features, benefits, and how they connect to customer pains and gains.

Take Toggl Hire, a candidate screening platform.

Screenshot of Toggl Hire Homepage
Toggl Hire’s homepage copy puts their UVP front and center

Their homepage hero copy speaks to two value propositions. The first is about finding the right candidates. Secondary to that is the need to do so fast. All of their messaging speaks to one of those needs: hiring quality or hiring speed.

Below the fold, Toggl Hire speaks to its skills testing feature, referring to it as a “magic quality filter,” speaking to the hiring quality need. They also communicate how this filter works automatically, speaking to the hiring speed need.

Screenshot of Toggl Hire Recruitment Process on their Homepage
Toggle Hire’s UVP is a common thread throughout the homepage copy

Toggl Hire covers more specific product features related to the same message.

Pre-built test templates help customers get set up quickly (speed), hard and soft skills questions filter out best-fit applicants (quality), and automated candidate screening and rejection make quality testing simple (both speed and quality).

Screenshot of Toggl Hire Pre-built test templates
Toggl Hire connects their UVP to their features

Map your value propositions over to each of your features (focusing only on Points of Parity and Points of Difference) to maintain consistency across messaging and ensure prospective customers understand how your product’s features will impact their lives postively.

6. Use semiotics to connect directly with customer motivations 

Semiotics is the study and interpretation of signs and symbols, particularly as it relates to the subconscious connection with human emotion.

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman speaks on how subconscious interpretation relies not on information but on emotion, using System 1 (our emotional system) rather than System 2 (our rational system) to create these impressions.

Although we might think System 2 helps us make rational decisions, it’s not so. Emotional System 1 calls the shots here: it’s the source of our beliefs, and it deliberates all rational choices of System 2.

Your feelings and impressions are influenced by the world around you [. . .] and especially by all the non-verbal symbols your brain interprets, packages, and creates meaning from.

In marketing, semiotics applies to the use of both symbols (colors, shapes, and logo design), as well as the choice of specific wording. For SaaS messaging, we’ll focus more on the written element.

To conduct a semiotic analysis, you must identify two components:

  1. The signifier (the form of the sign);
  2. The signified (the concept the sign represents).

In messaging, the signifier is a specific word or phrase. Your job here, then, is to identify the best words to represent a concept you’d like to communicate.

Take Gong, a revenue intelligence platform.

On Gong’s home page, there are a number of symbols to which we could apply semiotic analysis (their logo, their choice of hero image, etc.).

Let’s focus on the H1 copy, “Unlock reality. Fuel your revenue engine.”

Screenshot of Gong’s Home Page
Bring your SaaS messaging to life with imagery

The first phrase implies that in order to access something important (in this case, “reality”, symbolizing truth and accurate data), one needs some form of key. This wording choice subtly implies that Gong is a “key” without which the customer’s goal (reality) cannot be reached.

The second phrase uses descriptive imagery (“fuel,” “engine”) to elicit sentiments of speed and competition. The use of this vehicular metaphor also plays nicely with the previous use of the word “unlock.”

On the whole, the semiotic meaning of Gong’s message is compelling: Gong helps you access the truth, go fast, and win the race against your competitors.

Think carefully about the images your messaging creates in potential buyers’ minds and choose words that visually convey your understanding of their pains and the solution your SaaS offers.

7. Get a dummy run-in with B2B message testing 

Yes, your messaging strategy is built on a foundation of customer research and differentiation, but until you put those marketing messages in front of a real-life audience, you won’t know for sure what works.

The typical approach (launching with your best bet, running an A/B test or two, and choosing the option that delivers the best conversion rates) isn’t sufficient. Even if you can establish that one elevator pitch works better than another, you still won’t know why

This test-iterate-repeat process is cumbersome, and SaaS companies relying on this approach risk losing market potential (you only have one shot at making a first impression).

Get ahead of the curve by engaging in message testing before you take it to market.

Messaging testing helps SaaS businesses identify:

  • What customers find unclear about your marketing campaigns;
  • How they interpret your features, benefits, and functionality;
  • Which benefits they’re most interested in;
  • How your brand messaging makes them feel.

Using a B2B SaaS messaging platform like Wynter, measure the effectiveness of your messages in five areas:

  1. Clarity. How easy is it for customers to understand what you’re communicating?
  2. Relevance. How closely does your message align with their challenges and priorities?
  3. Value. How much do they want your product, and how much does your messaging motivate them to take action?
  4. Differentiation. Is it obvious why a customer should choose you over a competitor?
  5. Brand. Are you presenting an image consistent with your intention?

Your message testing process should cover all five categories, using a combination of Likert-scale (1-5) and open-ended, qualitative questions designed to elicit long-form answers such as:

  • What is unclear about what you’ve just read?
  • In what ways does this align (or not) with your current priorities?
  • What is your initial reaction when you read this page?
  • What makes you want to book a demo (or not)?
  • How does this product seem different from other options?

Differentiate your product with clear SaaS messaging

The strongest SaaS marketing strategy is one that’s grounded in deep customer research and analysis of the competitive landscape. 

But even with a great messaging framework and detailed semiotic analysis, you’ll never know what customers think of your SaaS messaging until you ask them.

Our B2B message testing tool puts your messaging in front of a real-life B2B audience, allowing you to access insightful feedback into customer impressions before going live.

Sign up for free today, and find out what your customers really think.

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