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.
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:
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).
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:
Klettke used email surveys and reviews on sites like Capterra and G2 to capture customer comments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Begin by comparing competitor messaging, paying particular attention to the value propositions they’re communicating.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
Notice that Gumroad’s messaging tells readers exactly who they are for: creators.
ConverKit takes a similar approach:
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.
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.
Their primary messaging style (and what best serves their audience) is confident, yet approachable. This takes precedence over messaging that is friendly and supportive.
Decide which pains and gains are most critical to your audience and ensure your messaging addresses those first.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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:
Using a B2B SaaS messaging platform like Wynter, measure the effectiveness of your messages in five areas:
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:
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.