In a previous post I began to discuss the components of crafting a unique value proposition for your SaaS company and why it’s so important to craft this before you start spending money building your next great idea. As I previously mentioned, there are so many people who ‘think’ they have a great idea but in reality someone has usually beat them to the punch. For those cases, you can begin tweaking components of your go-to-market strategy and create a small niche for yourself but it’s not always easy (nor profitable) to take that approach. This blog series will examine some of the factors you can use to create truly unique value. In this first post, I’m starting with ‘your people.’
To be honest, the reason I started with people is because it’s the most overused message in a company’s value proposition—and also the weakest. I once worked with a software company that required every employee to complete 4+ hours of pre-employment testing. The claim: we want to make sure we’re getting the best people for our culture. The reality: it didn’t matter because the product and culture were already broken to begin with. There are many more important ways to demonstrate unique value but here’s five reasons to convince you to remove ‘your people’ as the tip of your spear.
1. It’s Exactly What Your Competitors Are Saying
Your people (not to be confused with subject matter expertise) definitely make up the most important part of your company but that’s exactly what everyone else says. How many sales pitches or commercials have you sat through and heard, “our people are what make us great!” If you have to remind people of that every time you open your mouth (personally or through your marketing department) then there’s a very good chance it’s not true. In my experience, this is a very common symptom of founder’s syndrome.
2. It’s Very Difficult To Measure
Another reason ‘our people’ is a very weak basis for a value proposition is that it’s difficult to measure. One might argue that publishing your employee engagement study on your blog or including the pedigree of each employee on your team page is beneficial. I might also argue that nearly anyone with $70k and some time on their hands can buy a master’s degree and unless you’re showing up on Gallup’s top 40 Organizations Leading the World in Employee Engagement your Survey Monkey data is fairly worthless to the outside world without stronger context.
3. Your Buyer Might Not Care About Your People
In more transactional SaaS transactions your buyers may not care about your people. I can’t remember the last time I engaged with a member of Facebook, Netflix, Slack, or Tinder (if you’re reading this feel free to swipe right; I’m a great chatter) and I use most of those services daily (correctly guess which ones and you’ll be the first to receive my new SaaS Field Manual Roadmap ebook). And to be fair, buyers will begin to care when your service doesn’t work correctly and they do need help. They will also care much more about your people if professional services or support is essential to making your product function.
4. It’s Hard to Market
With inbound marketing, and the tech world in general, buyers are doing a load of research before they even consider reaching out to you. They’re comparison shopping, asking their friends and colleagues, reading reviews, posting on social media…the list goes on and on. Even if you have the most amazing website on the planet, showing a picture of your team on the About Us page isn’t going to increase your conversion ratio. Savvy buyers want to see tangible difference before they’re willing to risk a phone call with a salesperson or adding themselves to your mailing list.
5. People Can Be a PITA
When I got my start in the technology world, I had just left the a two year stint as a DJ working for a major cruise line and was returning shoreside to ‘get a real job’. Where I landed was a fantastic little consulting company in Kearney, Nebraska doing corproate training and providing support for Microsoft Office products. Two incredibly difference jobs but one phrase I remember repeating, “if it wasn’t for these customers my job would be awesome.” That should tell you a little bit about why I’m not well suited to work in support but at a foundational level people can sometimes be a pain in the ass. And I’m not just talking about customers—may even more so about employees. If you say, “we have the best people” but your average employee tenure is two years then (a) I find it hard to believe that kind of churn rate is maintaining the ‘best’ candidates and (b) what may have been the best six months ago may not be best now. If your ‘best’ lead engineer just high tailed it to your competitor they may have just stolen your spot as best.
Because I can easily talk out of both sides of my mouth I’ll use this wrap up to remind you that ‘your people’ are incredible assets and great employees can create great culture and product with the right leadership. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. He says, “When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.”
This perfectly defines my approach to how companies should use ‘your people’ to build your unique value proposition. I’m am 100% in favor of hiring amazing talent, treating them well, making sure they’re happy and healthy and turning them loose to achieve amazing things with your customers. But your customers don’t need to hear about it—they need to experience it. If you’ve truly hired great people then customers and prospects will want to work with them—regardless of being told why.