How Can SaaS Companies Fix One Common Mistake in Direct Marketing

You open your eyes.

You can see dust particles dancing in the spotlight of the 3 sunbeams coming from the window and landing on the top of the bedside table.

There lies another surprise. A medium-sized navy blue cardboard box, tied by a lighter blue ribbon, with a white card under the ribbon bow. It has your name written on it. You smile, what a great way to start the day.

You pick up the box and sit on the bed. You start pulling one end of the ribbon and the bow loosens smoothly. You’re excited and happy. You open the box and you see a beautiful watch. Now you can’t stop smiling, you’re feeling special, treasured.

You take it in your hand and admire all the details. When you flip it around you notice that there’s an inscription on the back: “Charlie”.

“Who the hell is Charlie!?”


This is my feeling about most of the B2C emails that I’m getting these days.

Companies, especially Software as a Service ones, spend tons of resources on customer acquisition and in software to know their clients. They hire full teams to work on Social Media and connect with their audience. They brag about their focus on Customer Service to show how they care about their clients.

They do all this and then they mess it all up by sending emails treating us like 9 year-olds. I’ll get there in a minute, but first let me just make something clear.

You see, when signing up for a service, you usually give your consent to receive communications from the company. Soon you start getting emails from them, sometimes as if they were written just for you.

Of course we all know that that’s not the case. They talk directly to you, mentioning your name because you gave that information when signing up, so when you read “Hey Joe!”, you’re actually reading something like “Hey << First Name >> !”. But we get this, and we understand that this must be automated because they’re sending emails to thousands of people.

And since they’re using the information we gave them, they’re showing attention and making efforts to humanize the automatized process while taking no risks of making mistakes because they can only get your name wrong if you’ve told it wrongly yourself.

Kudos to you, SaaS company.

But then these companies mess it up by taking unnecessary risks with personalization.


Why Would You Say That

Returning to those emails I’ve mentioned before, let me show you an example.

I recently upgraded to a paid account for a service I was testing and which I was very satisfied with. The app is great and the company connects with its audience. I was very happy to be a client.

A couple of days after upgrading I got a message from them asking me to answer a survey, as “one of our most active users”.

At that moment, I could count by the fingers of one hand the times I had used their service. If I was one of their most active users, they would have been out of business a long time ago.

So this company that provides a service that I enjoy sends me a message trying to make me feel special by calling me “one of their most active users”. I know that I’m not, so I feel the exact opposite of “special”.

Now I’m feeling like a number in their database, considered dumb and naive enough to fall for a psychological persuasion trick to answer a survey.

And what bothers me the most is that this was totally unnecessary. Had they written a simple line asking me to “answer this survey so we can know more about you and make our service better” I would have taken the time to do it, because I was enjoying the service and the company was showing interest in knowing their client’s opinions, so my admiration for the brand would have increased.

But by including an unnecessary “compliment” that doesn’t correspond to the truth, they’re showing that they know nothing about me, or that they don’t care.

Most people receiving these messages will be smart enough to spot this, resulting in:

  • Decrease of client’s willingness to deepening relationships with the company.
  • Depreciation of the brand’s image.
  • Increase of difficulty for meaningful rapport with clients.
  • Oh, and a 2.7% of response rate to your freaking survey!

While everybody’s egos are getting bigger with all the signaling we’re driven to do in social media, trying to take advantage of this through blatant flattery will backfire on the companies.

Users are better informed than ever and interact with brands and services providers on a daily basis, so a different approach is crucial.


Segmentation as a Solution

Companies have 2 options:

  • Improve segmentation funnels to get trustful and confirmed information about their users.
  • Embrace the fact that generic communication is necessary.

Segmentation is the best solution because it will add value to the relationship and it is not something difficult for a company to do, with all the resources that are nowadays available.

I’m not a data scientist, but if I sneeze I get kleenex ads 3 seconds later all over the place, so don’t tell me you can’t sort out users’ data more effectively.

Analyze the user activity of your service and classify him accordingly.

  • Did << First Name >> used the service once and went MIA? Classify him as a “One-Timer” and send him an email asking what went wrong.
  • Do << First Name >> spends a lot of time actively checking everything but uses the service only sporadically? Classify him as “Potentially Overwhelmed” and send him an email asking if he needs some help with tutorials or to talk with an assistant.
  • Do << First Name >> uses your service like a champ? Classify him as “All-Star” and send him an email thanking him for making it all worth it (and ask him to answer that survey!)

If for some reason this segmentation is not doable, go with generic communication instead.

Users can be demanding, but the big majority is smart enough to understand that it is not possible to have a real person connecting with them 24/7, so just embrace it and don’t fake it by trying to look like something that you’re not.

If you believe that there is nothing worse than generic messages, wait until you see the long-term effects of poorly personalized communication. Spoiler alert: it’s oblivion!

A beautiful package and meaningful content can make wonders for a relationship, but it all can be wasted if it looks meant for someone else.

Pay attention. Segment properly, or don’t at all.

2 thoughts on “How Can SaaS Companies Fix One Common Mistake in Direct Marketing”

  1. Hi Danny!

    Loved this piece. It totally resonates with me and feels a little personal because I’m in charge of marketing at a SaaS company and we do many of the things you mentioned!

    Really cool perspective, now it’s time I make some changes!

    1. Hi Catalina!

      Yes, some tiny changes can result in big improvements. We’re heading towards the personalization of the whole online experience, so these details will make a difference in the near future, so earlier adopters will have an advantage over the rest.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, it’s been wonderful to connect with you! 🙂

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