The SaaS Code: Do Your Prospects Understand You?

by Katie Joll

So I land on a website and I see something like this:

AwesomeSaaS.ly. Creating A Roadmap To Your Deliverables

What?

I scroll down past a list of features which make no sense to me at this point, so I click on the ‘About’ page and see this:

We’re bootstrapping our way to creating disruption in the (XYZ) industry, hacking your pain points with our expert knowledge in (codey word, codey word, codey word).

Huh?!

At this point I give up and leave —which means I’ve actually given that website more of a chance than many other visitors would.

While the example is a bit extreme, the fact is, if a visitor doesn’t understand what your website is about quickly (a rule of thumb is within three or four seconds), then they’re gone.

Some people might try to find out more, probably by looking to your ‘Features’ or ‘About’ page like I did, but so many SaaS websites are failing to communicate clearly in any of these places.

How are you going to get those potential customers to stay and check out your solution? Here are a few tips to help your prospects understand you.

Grab Them Quickly

Value Proposition

This solution is partly website design and partly the language that you use to communicate your message. When a potential customer first lands on your website, they should see a statement of your value proposition in a prominent position (like in the header area, or at least above the fold) which tells them exactly what your SaaS is about.

An effective way to structure your value proposition is simply by combining what your business does with why it does it best.

Here’s a great example from Freshbooks;

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What do they do? Small business accounting.
Why are they the best at what they do? They make it easy for non-accountants and are the only ones designed exclusively for small businesses.

I can’t really overstate the need to communicate what you’re about as simply as possible. An alien should immediately “get” your website, or you should be thinking about your copy along the lines of what “The User Is My Mom” (or “The User is Drunk”) do for UX testing. As they say, “You should design with your mother in mind. If she can’t understand your site, others will struggle as well.”

Know exactly who your customer is first. Get our free worksheet here.

Their Needs, Not Yours

One of the big mistakes made when creating a website is to build it for your own needs rather than those of your ideal client. As the folks at Webpages That Suck will tell you, when looking at your website design and language, refer to these sentences:

  1. The only reason my website exists is to solve my customer’s problems.
  2. What problems do the page I’m looking at solve?

Speak Your Customer’s Language

In a previous role, I worked as an Analyst for a major bank. One of my projects involved devising requests for systems requirements in order to make one of the major software programs easier for front-line bank staff to use.

Now, my understanding of how that program needed to work was limited to “If they click here, I want them to then see this.” I did not understand the background requirements, nor was it my job to do so.

I sat down with a team from IT to go over the brief. They nodded their heads at my specs and muttered a few technical terms.

Finally one of them says, “Well, we can integrate the interface with (unfamiliar codey word).”

I take a beat to process and then say, “So if they click here, will it do this?”

And that folks, is exactly what your customers want from you. Unless your target market is a highly technical crowd who wants to know exactly which interface is getting integrated, your customers just want to know in their own language that your solution will solve their problem.

It is not their job to understand the technical wonders of the SaaS you have created, it is your job to communicate features and benefits in plain language.

What’s in it for me?

When a prospect lands on your website or sees any of your marketing materials, they want to easily be able to find the answers to these questions:

  1. What is it?
  2. Is this meant to be for me? (for example, a small business owner rather than enterprise level)
  3. What’s in it for me?

Getting back to what people first see when they land on your website, “what’s in it for me” should start to be answered in your value proposition, as Weirdly has done in one sentence here:

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Apple is another example of getting to the point of what’s in it for me; a company who offers technology solutions, but who very quickly found mass appeal by using the right language with customers. Just check out this illustration from HelpScout:

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Imagine if they’d gone with the example on the left! I love the iPod and was an early adopter, but had I been presented with “storage for 1GB of MP3s”, I probably would have dismissed it as some technical gadget I didn’t need (hey, this is back when the term “MP3” was still pretty new and the general population barely knew what a GB was).

Most SaaS are now pretty good about listing their features early, but the best ones do a great job of communicating what those mean in terms of benefits to the customer and in language they understand. Guys, some of your features sound really good in theory and I get that you’ve worked hard on them, but WTH do they mean for me?

Sometimes it’s difficult for someone who is very close to a project to separate themselves enough to really capture the language of their target audience. If you’re not sure, go out to your potential users and just ask them—most people will tell you straight up if they don’t understand what you’re about.

Is this for me?

How easily can your ideal client self-select that your product is meant to be for them? In a competitive (and growing) SaaS market, maybe they already know that your competitor has a solution that could work for them, but they want to quickly understand whether yours might too.

No one wants to click around trying to find answers which could be made obvious from the start. Answer the question “who is my solution for?” early and obviously.

Here’s an example from ProjectPulse:

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They’ve managed to fit in above the fold exactly who their product is for. No clicking around, no messing about.

Your Content

Apart from the wording used in your website copy and the simplicity of your layout, is any other content you have really speaking the language of your customer? Sometimes it comes back to that “their needs, not yours” point. If you’re highly technically proficient, it can be tempting to write about what you know in your blog. But is what you know the same thing as what your target audience wants to hear?

You clients want content that teaches them something they need to know, provokes thought, entertains, or tells them a good story. If you over-complicate what goes up on your blog, you run the risk of prospects thinking that your brand can’t be there for them, “This sounds really complicated, perhaps it’s for developers.” (Only fine if your target audience is in fact, developers!). Most SaaS are targeting a much less tech-savvy audience though, such as business owners who just need a good solution to some pain point in their business, and it’s worth remembering that their introduction to you just might be via your blog.

Know exactly who your customer is first. Get our free worksheet here.

Final Thoughts

Your prospects should be able to quickly understand what you do, whether it’s targeted at people like them, and what’s in it for them whenever they land on your website or see any of your marketing materials. They should not have to crack some kind of SaaS code in order to get what you’re about—most simply won’t bother.

Clear communication with prospects will come down to a good combination of savvy website design, use of the customer’s own language, and making sure any other content you have is sending a congruent message. If you’re not sure, just ask them for feedback and their ideas of exactly what they think you’re about.

Do your prospects really understand you?