Clouds gather for another year of growth in 2021: How can SaaS providers stand out?

2020 demonstrated that business continuity relies heavily on cloud solutions. Many organisations had to pivot quickly to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, such as Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams to continue to function, and analyst group Gartner predicts a big couple of years ahead for cloud application services growth. The challenge for SaaS providers now is how to stand out and be heard in a noisy marketplace. We’ve explored four critical factors to consider, below.

A typical challenge for every technology business is to prove to customers and investors that its products can deliver business value. After a year when many organisations have gone either fully or partially virtual, SaaS has come into its own. SaaS companies are not quite pushing at an open door, but they are finding a market that is far more receptive to new ways of working.

A solid communications strategy is therefore going to be critical to generating awareness, and informing and persuading audiences throughout what will be an entirely virtual sales and training process.

How can SaaS vendors stand out in 2021?

  • Get your messaging right

As I highlighted last year, brands need to ‘read the room’ during the pandemic and communicate with empathy, understanding the challenges that their target audiences are experiencing. Unlike much of last year, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This means that messaging may need to adapt for a world that will – at some point this year – emerge from a year of significant disruption. The key thing is to highlight how your product or service will not just enable businesses to operate more efficiently in a remote environment now but also into the medium and long-term too.

  • Get creative – and be authentic

Brands always need to be creative to stand out, but during the pandemic we have seen creativity take a different course – often homespun and within the context of the current situation. Your customers will want to see the real you and the faces behind the brand before they invest their time and money in your product or service. Are your brand heroes and experts front and centre of your campaigns? If not, can they be?

A great example of getting creative around a topic in the context of the pandemic was a campaign Grayling devised and ran for Lloyds Bank in 2020 to highlight the important subject of fraud. We looked at users’ social media profiles to see what potentially compromising information they had put out about themselves and got a barber to slip those personal details into casual conversation during a haircut. The responses from the unsuspecting customers who had just turned up for a haircut were priceless, but it did draw attention to a serious issue. SaaS PR teams should be adopting the same approach: find a critical topic that the company’s solution addresses, explore a human-interest angle to get people to take notice, and execute in a content-rich, newsworthy way.

  • Prioritise customer care

Many brands are still getting used to operating cloud-based tech. Not only will the sales process be virtual, but so will customer care. Chatbots can only get you so far and – with word-of-mouth marketing so important to winning new business – personal and attentive customer service is more important than ever and can help you stand out.

Interactive online conferences and webinars are plentiful, so it is key to innovate, stand out and add value with any webinar or online conference that you run.

  • Demonstrate a higher purpose

One of the big themes around communications even before the pandemic was around brand purpose and corporate social responsibility (CSR). How are you making a difference beyond your day-to-day and how can that be tied back to your product or service? A great example of this in action is Scottish brewer BrewDog, which has dedicated resource to creating hand sanitiser and offered its empty pubs for vaccination stations.

It is going to be very hard to predict how 2021 will pan out, especially the first half of the year. What is clear is that SaaS is going to continue to feature heavily in organisations’ day-to-day as they look at ways to operate more efficiently and productively.

If you need help with your messaging, positioning or with raising your organisation’s profile during 2021, do please get in touch: liz.alexander@grayling.com