Relationships Matter

As for the headline, I assure you that I'm not channeling Dr. Phil.

I'm actually thinking of an ad run by McGraw-Hill many years ago to explain the value of advertising. As you can see, a very skeptical prospect is saying, "I don't know who you are, I don't know your company... Now what was it you wanted to sell me?"

Fast forward to the present and to the particular challenge of selling a SaaS solution, and our grouchy friend could have added a few more items to his list:
  • I should entrust you with providing applications that are critical to my business
  • I should expect you to protect sensitive information
  • I should believe your promises to regularly enhance the solution
  • I should maintain a long-term relationship with you.
To satisfy this skeptical prospect, you need to establish a high level of trust. By its nature, SaaS is not a one-time transaction; it's a long-term relationship.

So how do we marketing people build that relationship and establish trust?

There are several things we can do with prospective customers who are evaluating solutions, including:
  • Win "trust by association." That is, show that other companies, particularly those with a high-profile and good reputation in their industry, are using your solution with success. Case studies and endorsements are obvious vehicles.
  • Show the roadmap. Let prospects know where you're going, and importantly, show that you have a track record of delivering as promised.
  • Build an engaging brand, something that prospective customers are attracted to and want to be associated with. Of course, lead generation and lead cultivation are important, but don't neglect the need to build a strong, positive perception in the market.
Once prospects sign on as customers, the marketing job doesn't end:
  • Build a community. Establish a venue where customers can share their experience with others. This venue can be a restricted-access web site or more traditional customer conferences.
  • Keep customers informed. Let them know about new enhancements and encourage them to take advantage of them.
  • Share your success with them. Let customers know of your progress and solicit their input. Customer advisory boards, for example, can be effective. Give customers a sense of investment in your success.
Remember that with a SaaS solution you're not simply marketing and selling a technology fix for a particular problem. You are actually earning the right to be a critical part of the customer's business. You're building a long-term relationship.