SaaS | 4 min read

SaaS differentiation outside of product: Distribution

Why should I choose you; SaaS

The SaaS market is a harsh environment these days. It's never been easier to get a SaaS product or feature out the door, so it's incredibly difficult to differentiate for very long. This means that it's crucial to differentiate your SaaS in other ways, outside of just playing a back and forth feature war.

When we launched Userfeed (a product feedback tool built on Intercom) we new it was a fresh perspective on the product feedback/prioritization space because we had experienced, for ourselves, the problem it solved. Within months, we've had multiple companies try to copy certain aspects of our product, or copy other companies that already copied us đŸ˜‚Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Though, none of this has really slowed our growth. Why? Well, we're focusing on three core differentiators outside of what list of features we have:

  • Distribution
  • Brand & Support
  • Grit

In this first post, I want to talk about how we're working to differentiate with distribution processes and strategies.

The big picture: There are many distribution channels for your product (outbound sales, ads, content marketing, etc.), but the most important ones to focus on are:

  • Channels that work the best (duh)
  • Channels that your competition isn't playing in

Something that has worked fairly well for us is content marketing. So, we're doubling down on that channel both in our process, time, and toolset.

Previously we hosted our blog on Medium, because well, it was easy. However, we were missing out on some serious SEO points. Additionally, we didn't have a consistent process for pushing out quality content on a regular basis.

Process and tools: To solve these problems we went with Story Chief (early stage plan; ~$320/year). It solves some of these problems by enabling us to:

  • Host the blog on our domain
  • Post the blog to a number of other channels via integrations (including our Medium blog)
  • Edit our post with real-time SEO and readability recommendations (kinda like Grammarly)
  • Organize and plan with a content calendar

The channel that our competition isn't really playing in is outbound sales (email + social + in-person). It's not an easy channel by any means and some aspects aren't super fun either. It's the deep water of distribution channels. Most people, especially founders, avoid this at all cost. This is my background, and my goal is to always go one step further than my competition. Do what they won't. If you believe in your product/service/vision, this can be a great way to outplay your competition.

Some founders think it's a waste of time or that they'd rather focus on more scalable channels. It may feel that way, but it can pay huge dividends, especially since you're building 1-to-1 connections with your earliest customers. At my previous company, Rigor, we were playing in a space (web performance) where companies were either IPO'd or raising 10s to 100s of millions (we only took an initial ~$250k and never raised again). Our sales team of 3 consistently won accounts against these competitors (that had 50-100 sales reps) within some of the largest brands in the world:

Some of the brands we won over

How? Pound for pound, our ground game (outbound sales) was superior.

Doing this on your own (small bootstrapped business) is a bit harder though, because your time is split between so many different things. So, it's important to find a process and tools to enable me to be as efficient as possible with my time, but also reaching out with quality/relevant/personalized messages to prospects that would likely find value in our product.

Process and tools: To help me do that I recently started using Salesloft again. Wow. What an incredible product! I was one of their first users back when they were just 3 founders (we worked in the same office. The same room to be exact đŸ˜‚), so it's been great to get back into the platform. Since they no longer offer a prospecting tool (email verification and list building on top of LinkedIn), I've started using Snov.io for this ($19/month).

It solves some of these problems by enabling:

  • One click to add a prospect to different lists (I create different list by timezone, so that I reach out at the right times)
  • Automatic verification of email addresses (this was manual before)
  • Email/social media cadence to keep you organized and on time
  • Personalized messages at scale

Continuing to iterate on the product to build valuable tools for your audience and always trying to improve your distribution strategy, are key to differentiation in today's SaaS market. In our next post on the subject, we'll cover how we're focusing on brand and customer support.