Focus on People, not Features, in 2012 (Happy Holidays!)

For a lot of us, the holidays are a time of reflection.

Looking back on 2011, I’d say this has been one wild and crazy year!

I’ve spent a ton of time working with the best SaaS & Web App companies on the planet to get them more customers.

Save for the occasional social network that gets funding from a Saudi prince, businesses need customers.

Even the cool kids out there are looking for customers.

So what makes some SaaS and Web App companies get customers easier than others?

Here’s the secret…. it’s the way they think about the customer internally.

And the way they think about the customer internally manifests itself in everything they do externally (market-facing).

Whether it’s pricing, revenue modeling, Freemium, or (what I’m focused on in 2012) Free Trials, this holds true.

And the best companies out there – the companies that are really killing it even when they have the same or even a lesser feature-set than you – are doing the same thing.

They treat their customers and would-be customers like human beings.

They’ve figured out the “voice” they want to use based on their goal market position and everything they do – promotion, sales copy, service, training, etc. – revolves around the customer or user as a human being.

From marketing to User Experience, they understand that they’re selling a product not just to a real-life person, but for a real-life person to use.

They don’t write emails that sound like one robot wrote it to another robot.

They take the time to understand how their customer will use the product on a daily basis and strive to make it easier to use every day.

They use direct-response sales copy to connect with the person reading the message, even if they’re selling to Fortune 100 companies.

Pop quiz: Fortune 100 companies are made up of what? You guessed it. People!

You must speak the language of your target market and do so in a way that is congruent with their expectations.

Some markets require you to be more ‘professional’ than others.

But all markets are made up of humans, so speak, write, and interact like one.

This “human-centric” approach must go all the way through your pricing, market segmentation, and of course, in your Free Trials.

One of the really interesting things I’ve found is that the most successful companies don’t think in terms of “users” and instead think of their customers as “members” of their community.

This is a huge mindset-shift that once made, can change everything about your business.

Think about the potential effect on Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) that a shift from user-centric to member-centric thinking, messaging, design, etc. might cause.

When you came up with your pricing versions, for example, were you focused on ‘features’ or were you focused the people that would be buying your product?

You aren’t alone!

Unfortunately, so many of the underlying concepts that SaaS / Web App vendors pull – and make decisions – from carry over from traditional software, even going into 2012.

6 or 7 years after the term SaaS was coined, we’re still doing things like “software” companies.

That makes sense, I guess, since most of the pundits, analysts and “thought leaders” in SaaS come from traditional software backgrounds.

But to really be successful, you need to shift your thinking.

Look beyond software and traditional SaaS to non-software analogs such as subscription services, membership sites, and other recurring / continuity models for inspiration.

When coming up with your pricing, for example, these are the wrong things to think about:

  • Pricing Tier, Version or Bundle
  • Subscription Level
  • Features

Think instead about:

  • Logical groupings of customers
  • Cohorts
  • Levels of experience

Think of them as Membership levels instead of Pricing levels.

This can have a profound effect, but that is just a pricing example.

Think about how this might work in every other part of your business?

How did American Express differentiate itself from traditional Credit or Charge Cards?


Membership has it’s privileges, right?

So, this is the wrong approach:

I’m going to give access to these features at this pricing level.

This is a better approach:

This group of customers will benefit from these features in these ways

Wrong way = Product / Feature Focused

Right way = People / use-case focused

So in 2012, I want you to consider changing your focus from “users” to “members” and see what amazing things can happen.

That is my plan, too.

In fact, I’m changing the Free Trial Dominator program to a Membership program with monthly payments for 2012 right now.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday, whatever it is you celebrate.

I’m a Festivus kinda guy, so our family will bust out the aluminum pole and air our grievances in a couple of days.

Take care,

(972) 200-9317

About Lincoln Murphy

I invented Customer Success. I focus primarily on Customer Engagement. Learn more about me here.