SaaS Marketing: Rise of the Growth Copyists?

Let’s be clear… when it comes to your SaaS marketing plan, finding inspiration in the work of others is very different from copying them outright.

The American playwright Wilson Mizner famously said: “If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism. If you copy from two, it’s research.”

So as a SaaS provider, if you copy the pricing pages, free trial sign-up form, viral expansion loops, and follow-up email sequence from several different SaaS vendors, you’re not plagiarizing them… you did “research” and now you’re implementing your learnings, right?

I call shenanigans on that… and here’s why.

SaaS Marketing Plan Best Practices… aren’t always best!

Some would consider you a fool to ignore best practices, but if a particular tactic seems like the right thing to do to engage or convert the customer – and is also in the customer’s best interest – then you do it, best practices be damned!

That means looking deep and longingly into your customer’s eyes and understanding what’s going on behind those baby blues.

What is the customer thinking? What do they need? What’s In It For Them (WIIFT)? This is much easier when you know who your ideal customer is in the first place, BTW.

But c’mon… that’s hard… so you just copy others.

I mean, if it works for other SaaS companies – even if they aren’t in your product category or market position, even if they serve completely different customers than you do – it just *has* to work for you, right?

So you find companies that are successful, look at their site, read their follow-up emails, maybe watch some interviews with their founders, and then you full-on rip them off… often word-for-word and very often pixel-for-pixel!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… and the quickest path to mediocrity

Look, there are reasons lots of SaaS providers copy companies like 37 Signals, Dropbox, KISSMetrics, Yammer, and Workday…

… and that’s because those companies didn’t copy what other SaaS providers were doing!

Instead, those companies thought about the customer and the goals they wanted to achieve and made it happen.

They did things that were innovative not just to be innovative, but to achieve their goals.

They realized that to grow significantly, they had to think not “outside the box,” but rather inside their customer’s head.

Those companies looked to what the customer needed, wanted, and would do to spread the word, and built around that, even if it meant trying something no other SaaS provider had done before!

Growth Hacker or Growth Copyist?

In fact, there’s a fairly noticeable pattern in this business… one SaaS company takes a chance with a different pricing page layout, sales model, new types of viral expansion or a different email follow-up sequence, that chance pays off… and then everyone else starts doing the same thing.

Then, while everyone else is busy copying that thing or trying to “learn” more about it or debate its merits on Quora or, that company moves on to the next thing that will catapult them further forward… and the next thing… and the next thing.

I wonder how many companies consider themselves to be innovative, but won’t do something unless someone Twitter-famous has already tried it?

These companies don’t employ “growth hackers” but rather “growth copyists.”

Companies that are copied are copied for a reason… and the companies that copy, well… there’s a reason no one copies them, right?

Copying shows that you aren’t thinking about your customer and building the process around them… and that’s a recipe for mediocrity.

And you didn’t set out to be mediocre, right?

Let’s grow your SaaS company together

For immediate consultation and advice on growing your SaaS business, schedule at least a 15-minute meeting with me via Clarity. If you feel a more involved engagement is required for me to help you, email me with the specifics of your situation (as much detail as you’re comfortable giving) and we’ll setup a meeting to work through the particulars.


About Lincoln Murphy

I am a Customer Success Consultant focused on Customer Success-driven Growth. I wrote the Customer Success book which you can buy at Amazon. If you need help applying Customer Success-driven Growth principles in your company or would like me to speak at your event, please contact me. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.


  1. Pricing pages are the rare example of a piece of web content that you can’t afford to get wrong out of the gate. Having designed a few of these I can tell you from experience that there is a pretty limited range of design options to take advantage of, and that is because the audience has been conditioned to look for pricing pages in a familiar format.

    Your assertion that the companies referenced as pioneers didn’t copy other providers is accurate, but primarily because when they did it they were pioneering a new way of going to market with transparent pricing and monthly subscription models, often on freemium. Fast forward to today and what they are doing on plans and pricing reflects an evolution of where they started, but if you are putting your pricing page up for the first time you would be foolish to throw that knowledge out and do something different.

    The way the eye scans for content, how people react to relative placement, the graphical cues, and so on are as much a part of the human experience as it is the user experience. I have tried to move far away from the norm and the results were immediately felt, lower trial initiation rates. Maybe I just implemented a bad design, but maybe people are comfortable with a format and presentation because that is what works.

    Lastly, while the plans and pricing page is certainly critical, it is also essential to embed pricing information in your content pages as well as the product for up/cross sell flows. Additional pages like plan comparison and feature grids also drive trial activity much more than people expect because of the way that search engines are presenting content in result pages.


  1. […] It’s one thing to be data-driven and to test scientifically, but it’s quite another thing to come up with something to test (outside of copying others). […]

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