SaaS marketing problems are customer discovery problems in disguise.

By Marc McDougall

Let’s face it — marketing is a difficult problem to solve.

“We don’t get enough quality leads”Every SaaS Company, Ever

In fact, some would argue it’s the most important problem to solve if you’re a SaaS company that lives and dies by that sweet, sweet MRR.

I regularly attend local meetups where business owners stress that their companies don’t have enough leads coming through the door (or, simply visiting their website).

I’ve learned to respond with this beauty of a one-liner:

what do you mean by “lead”?

It’s rare that I’ll get a response that makes me think of a real person I know in my life.

Common responses (after a brief pause to think), include :

  • “A website visitor.”
  • “A customer.”
  • “Well, I’m a dentist, so anyone with teeth, really.”

Still, none of the responses describe a real person that I can imagine living in the real world.

Here’s my point: if you don’t know exactly who you want to target with your service, then OF COURSE you’re going to run into marketing problems!

Alright…so what do we do about it?

I don’t leave these people hanging though.  They’re usually at events like the ones I attend to learn from others that have had similar problems in the past (I know I’ve certainly had my fair share of marketing problems!).

So, I start them down the road of defining who it is they’re actually trying to target with their offering.

We try to clarify a ton about what their service has to offer:

  • What problem do they solve for people?
  • What kinds of businesses would benefit the most from having this problem solved?
  • In a large organization, who is usually the person in charge of delivering on the kinds of things that your product helps to solve?
  • How does this person tend to think?  What’s important to them for their career?
  • …and then the big one: where do they hangout?  Who has their attention already?

Once we’ve painted a clearer picture of the real human being that we want to target, the marketing problem suddenly solves itself.

It’s literally impossible to try and market to “someone on the internet”, but quite easy to market to “Jane Smith, the CMO of FunCompany, Inc., who loves to browse /r/startups, attends the local Product Hunt meetups, and is subscribed to Verge”.

When you really start to understand who want to reach, you can find where they are (and how to craft a message that will resonate with them), and marketing suddenly becomes actionable.

If your SaaS product is having marketing problems, consider that you might have a customer discovery problem in disguise.