"Message cops" are essential to SaaS success

Marketing people usually pay a lot of attention to consistency. They want to convey the same message, the same value proposition, across all marketing media: the web site, literature, presentations, press releases, etc. And now there are even more places to police: blogs, twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

When I've been in that role, I called myself the "message cop."

Marketing people typically focus only on consistency across marketing material. But at a recent panel on software-as-a-service (SaaS) renewals, Jim Driscoll, the CFO at Kadient, remarked that consistency needs to extend beyond marketing. SaaS companies need to be consistent through all of their interactions with customers. They need to convey the same message from the initial customer presentations, to contracts and financial terms, and through to delivery of the service and support.

He explained that when the promises, obligations, commitments, and delivery are in sync, renewals are much easier to secure.

And if there's inconsistency, it's easy to detect. Customers are dissatisfied, renewals fall, customer acquisition costs rise, and the entire SaaS business model comes under stress.

When these problems surface, some companies respond with a corporate version of the children's game "button, button, who's got the button." The problem, like the button, keeps getting passed from one group to another.

  • Sales executives are promising 99.9 % uptime, but operations can only deliver 98%.
  • The marketing material implies that SaaS customers have the flexibility leave at anytime, but the contract specifies a 3-year obligation.
  • Sales is asking marketing for success stories, but customer support can't find any happy customers.
  • Finance requires payment when the contract is signed, but operations can't deploy the service for 90 days.
  • Customer training has been scaled back, but the product is still too complicated for the user to learn on their own.

In the SaaS world, each department's activities are intimately connected to the others. If marketing, development, legal, finance, sales, support, and operations are in sync, the company can benefit from a virtuous cycle. If not, it fails in a death spiral.

When it comes to building a successful SaaS business, there is no
their problem; there's really only our problem. You can't pass the button; everybody's a "message cop."