The death of the unique feature set, and what it means for your brand
As SaaS grows in popularity and rival companies saturate the market, it has become near impossible to provide unique features in your products. Attempts to do so end with ‘feature creep’ and/or failure.
The unique feature set is a thing of the past (may it rest in peace).
But if your product can’t have unique features, then how do you sell it? You’re selling something that does the same thing as what X many other companies are putting out there.
You can’t win on features
Does this mean that you are restricted to competing on price?
However, your emphasis must shift from creating to optimising. You need both your product and your service to be the most efficient in the market. That once unique feature set is no longer distinctive, but its performance can be. But how do you market that?
You want customers to choose you over dozens of similar providers, so you need to get their attention. It may hurt to think this, but there’s nothing particularly special about your solution vs its competitors. Without unique features, your product can’t stand out. But you can. Your brand? Well, that’s unique to you.
The death of the unique feature set means that you’ll struggle to win customers by promoting your product alone. Instead, you need to promote your brand, your voice and your values.
‘Unless you can pinpoint what makes your business unique in a world of homogeneous competitors, you cannot target your sales’
There’s only one thing that’s truly unique to your company: your people. That’s what you need to sell – your services, and your story.
After all, customers are curious about the people behind your product. Do they stand out for their knowledge and skill set? Or maybe you focus on great user experience? Is your brand synonymous with high customer satisfaction?
Either way, you need to start thinking about the unique feature set your brand holds, rather than your software. Don’t lose sight of the product, but make sure you’re seeing it as part of the bigger brand picture.
So, to grow in this competitive environment, you need to find a USP that relates to your brand.
‘A unique selling proposition is what your business stands for. It’s what sets your business apart from others because of what your business makes a stand about’.
– Joe Putnam, Kissmetrics.com
You need to show your customers that your brand stands for something, and for that particular thing, your brand is the ‘go-to’. Your brand needs to become associated with your values, like Apple with innovation, or Parker Software with customer support.
You’ll become the go-to brand for the service or functionality that you stand for. It’s about building that connection between a customer’s needs and your brand, rather than striving for a unique feature set in your product.
Understand your customer
It’s easy to forget that you’re selling to people, not businesses, even in B2B situations. Your brand identity and USP need to demonstrate an awareness of the personal value and personal risk to potential customers, and address these factors. People respond to emotions and assurance.
To successfully address the emotions of a potential customer when promoting your brand, you must build trust. Your customers need to feel secure in their transaction and relationship with you and your business.
People can always get your product elsewhere. (The unique feature set is dead, remember.) What they can’t get elsewhere is your service, or your quality assurance, or whatever you make your USP.
Show don’t tell
Just telling people that you stand for something doesn’t mean that they’ll believe you. So, instead of telling your customers you’re focused on your USP, provide evidence allowing them to draw that conclusion for themselves.
One way to do this is to build a portfolio of case studies, success stories and glowing reviews – instances where your brand has delivered on the promises you make. Even better, reinforce this service quality with every call you make, every email you send and every action you take.
By providing evidence and backing it up with actions, you’ll quell any doubt in your potential customers, and prove that you’re the best brand for their needs.
Product is secondary to branding?
No matter how great your product, it’s still only one solution of many. So, success comes not from a unique feature set, but from standing out from a brand perspective – even in a market filled with near-identical competitors.
It’s time to take ‘unique’ off its pedestal when it comes to product marketing. In today’s copy-cat market, brands that do things better often (but not always) trump those that did them first.
For you, this means that you need to gear your marketing towards your brand identity, and the values and service that your brand is about. Ultimately, the only thing that the death of the unique feature set means is that you are selling your brand, your personality and values now, instead of your product.