4 Questions to Answer for a Deeper SaaS Story

by Nate Fleming

Get to the human insight faster—even for highly complex products.

So, you’re facing the music. Despite its industry-changing potential, your SaaS product’s story is just not resonating with your target audience. Rather than doubling down on convincing a group of software laypeople why they should care about your in-the-weeds, technical capabilities (we trust you, it’s impressive), you should be putting on your empathy hat. 

Asking questions is a great place to start. Whether you’re asking yourself, your data, or your customers themselves, the human insight that will set you free lives within the answer to the right question. Here are 4 empathetic questions to get you on the way to a deeper, more empathetic SaaS story:

1. What current context makes your service more valuable today than 5 years ago?

Life and culture evolve. Taking the bigger context of time into account will have a profound effect on the way you read your data—and how you listen to what it’s telling you. Take the work we did with Slack, for example.

Email was once a novelty to workers everywhere for the immediate communication access it provided offices for the first time—without it, there’d be no such term as “snail mail.” At the time, email was celebrated as a welcome technological advancement. Until things got out of control. Junk mail, broken threads, files too big to send or that take forever to download...even just the sheer volume of emails coming in on a daily basis became a major issue.

Cue, Slack: a software brand with an opportunity to exist in a communication white space at just the right time.

2. What bad place can your product liberate users from?

Really taking a walk in your customer’s shoes means going a step further than creating a sense of place...it means living in it. For Slack, that place was Email Hell—a real place with which too many people were painfully familiar. Being trapped there meant kissing your time, productivity, sense of accomplishment and worst of all, happiness, goodbye. The opportunity to free workers from that nightmare? Yep. That was Slack’s goal.

As the hero of its SaaS story, Slack provided an escape from Email Hell, transporting users into a place where they could reclaim their happiness—we called that place Euphoria. To no longer suffer the slings and arrows of the daily email gauntlet, but rather feel the joy of actually getting things done.

And we applied the same principles in our work with OutSystems when they needed to introduce a new product category to an audience (developers) who repeatedly found themselves trapped in an angry flood of in-your-face marketing pitches for new development platforms. Liberating them from that place meant meeting them where they were by learning to speak their language, which we discovered to be humor. By bringing on improv actors to joke with each other the way real developers do, we showed the audience that OutSystems understands them and could provide relief from the grip of software skepticism.

3. Are you treating qualitative data like an ugly duckling? (Don't!)

Empathy is a crucial ingredient in effective storytelling. And it is difficult—if not impossible—to truly see through the eyes of your audience with a research strategy based primarily on sifting through numbers. Data tells a story, and you’ll need to follow the trails it points you down to get the full picture. That means leaning into your qualitative data. When we began working with Slack on a brand awareness campaign, we needed to understand what early users were saying. By aggregating a large volume of posts across multiple platforms that mentioned Slack and analyzing them for recurring words and phrases, the story became clear. People who were talking about Slack were madly “in love.” And they were very specific as to why. The most common themes? Fewer emails, fewer meetings, and higher productivity.

And it’s not just Slack that taught us this one—we also relied heavily on qualitative data for insights when we gave Confirmation a new identity and website. For an expanding brand that lacked a strategic foundation, we conducted interviews with auditors to help us get the inside scoop on how the brand’s competitive landscape. The insights we gathered set us up to develop a new brand strategy, positioning the audience (auditors) as detectives in search of truth through the use of Confirmation’s platform.

4. How are you leveraging all perspectives?

Eventually, your data is going to lead you to fork in the road. Multiple paths may lead you to varying levels of success and growth, but it will be up to you to decide on the best direction to steer your story. Making the right choice that will put your business at the least amount of risk will require leaving room for outside perspectives to challenge your ideas and offer different ideas.

At redpepper, we’ve been around the block enough to know the value in out-of-the-box thinking and collaboration. That’s why we bring our clients along on the journey toward the solution. We built a unique new way to quickly develop and explore concepts with our clients—by bringing together our innovation lab process and the fluid idea sharing that is at the heart of any strong software product. It’s called Sprint Concepting (and here's how we do it).

Through workshops, creative shares and strategy sessions, we worked closely with the Slack team to help them nail their story and become a household name in the SaaS market. Need more details? We’ll Slack them to you.

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