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 GrowthHackers.com, 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?