What SaaS companies can do right now during COVID-19

A crisis like this is crazy for multiple reasons. 

On one hand you have a massive public health risk that needs to be taken seriously. My family in Italy was first to be hit and I can tell you, where we could be soon is terrifying and the thought hurts. 

And on the other hand, our economy, the one that was booming, has come to, in a normal sense, an immediate halt.

For companies, this poses an interesting issue that I think everyone who has a job at one point thinks about: how do I approach this appropriately? 

We’re worried about people living. We’re worried about the economic consequences. How do we move forward consciously, with empathy, and also look for the opportunity beyond this? 

I think that  is really on the minds of the sales and marketing companies today aside from anyone from the food industry or Amazon which is too busy to even be reading this right now. The rest of us are stuck in this weird space. 

Let’s take a look at SaaS in particular because my focus is helping SaaS companies grow. 

SaaS is crazy because SaaS is accessory to many of these industries that are being heavily impacted and also accessory to some of these companies that are going to experience a massive boom as a result of this crisis. 

I just read this interesting piece that mentions that the SARS outbreak was essentially what launched Alibaba and many of China’s billion-dollar eCommerce companies: a massive and sudden shift to reliance on eCommerce. We’re about to see a similar shift in the United States (Amazon just hired 100,000 people). There is challenge and there is opportunity. 

What’s also crazy about this type of “crisis” is that it is not 9/11. It is a longer period of uncertainty and pressure and risk that is requiring extra measures that hurt companies. It’s not over tomorrow.This is a time of fighting, a time of providing stability, and a time of looking at “Ok, what do we do next?” It’s time to test our current systems. 

There is absolutely room for growth in that for everyone. Together, that’s how we guarantee a brighter future sooner. 

How do SaaS companies and companies in general navigate that?

The first thing I’ve really dealt with with my clients is: “What’s the appropriate thing to say?”

What is the appropriate thing to say on our site, on LinkedIn, in this message, in this email, etc.  The right answer is always: be empathetic and say what you mean. I asked one of my clients to pretend they were at a conference with these potential clients. What would you say in person to each other (if our conferences weren’t canceled) and you were in front of a client that just had to shutter all of their stores and laid off 2,000 employees. Two of my clients support retailers and this is very much the reality for them. 

You have to understand people are scared, the kind of relief they will be given (if any in some cases) is not clear yet, and they need to act fast. HELP people. Don’t sell. Help people. Recognise their challenge and offer to help in a way that is direct and practical. 

We wrote a piece on how influencer marketing can help eCommerce companies and retailers quickly reach new target markets and offered a free audit and consultation with leads and it was quite successful for both leads and my client. 

The gist, at least to me, is simply:

Offer to help those facing challenges. Offer to support those looking at opportunities. 

Where can you help people who are facing challenges?

People who are put into a financial tight space, especially one where jobs and families are on the line, need help. If you can help them, it’s your duty and job to let them know how. Not take them for a goddamn ride, but truly help them and there are so many SaaS companies and products who can right now. I believe in that. Look at Zoom this week. I mean who hasn’t relied on Zoom in that last week. The entire American school system is on Zoom. SaaS has a place in supporting those who are hurting. 

Here is where that age old saying “help don’t sell” comes in. 

Where can you alleviate pain? Where can you alleviate cost or burden? How can you help companies who are needing to make a big shift? Your messaging, social media, content, messages, and emails, should be focused around this if you want to be both empathetic and effective. 

For example, retailers are having to close doors and stay alive for the next two months by surviving on online sales primarily. Many weren’t ready for that. 

How can you help them be ready?

I think I can rattle off 15 SaaS products that could help retailers with that right now including two of my clients. That’s the approach we’re taking and we’re getting a good, honest, positive response. Because life is still scheduled beyond this and companies are just trying to get there along with people. 

Where can you support people pursuing opportunities?

It’s not all bad. Like I mentioned at the beginning, Alibaba and Chinese eCommerce was leveled up in a crisis because when our way of life is compromised, we shift to a new paradigm. We are facing this now. It is right ahead of us. Amazon hired 100,000 workers this week. They paid them $2 per hour (something they were fighting for last year) because the demand on mobile commerce is so incredibly high as a result of this. What does this mean for other sectors? A lot. And SaaS companies need to pay attention to where they fit into this. 

eCommerce is taking off. With Amazon, Walmart, and Target apps and online sites taken over by essential orders, this opens the door for branded sites to come in and attract customers directly. With all of us on social media all the time, this opens the door for brands to interact, build relationships with customers, and sell via social media more than ever. SaaS can support these companies in many different ways. Online collaboration and online education are about to boom. How can SaaS support this need? There are so many different spaces for SaaS companies to step in and help companies take advantage of the unprecedented shifts as well as alleviate the challenges. 

Many SaaS companies are in a unique place to do both. For instance one of my clients supports influencer marketing. They have the chance right now to support eCommerce sites who are about to boom while also helping retailers retain sales online. 

Create truly valuable content around it:

You have to educate, prove your expertise, and provide valuable insight constantly. You should be the expert in your niche as a SaaS company and you should be creating content that positions you as such for companies across industries. You should be a resource especially in a time like this where many are looking for answers. Content is the way to do that now and not now. 

A long, long time ago one client and I sat down and wrote out all our target clients (personas, whatever) and their pain points and biggest questions and we wrote out a huge content schedule based around that. We wrote two blogs a week. Over 90% of our converting leads come from those blogs. No paid ads. No sales cold call/email team. 

I think there’s an opportunity to do that here on a shorter timeline for a lot of SaaS companies. Addressing your potential clients with expert advice on what you already know how to do as they seek new solutions is key. Get heavy on your content strategy and involve a personal touch. Get your team involved and out there in terms of putting face and name on it. People want the support of others right now. 

Be available where they are searching and interactive:

Share that content where it makes sense for your audience right now. For SaaS thought leadership is alive and well and well recepted on: 

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter 
  • Medium
  • a little Quora doesn’t hurt. 

Make sure to get your content out there and in front of those who are searching for your expertise where they are searching. Have your team and leaders repost your content and blogs and have a personal touch. This is vital. We connect with people and leaders and not vague company pages and accounts. So many SaaS companies make this mistake. 

Be personally available: 

Be ready to work with customers directly. A personal conversation goes a long way in these sorts of situations. Many clients are going to want to talk through what they’re currently facing depending on what your service does. Regardless, adding a personal touch and ensuring a direct line of communication can bring some of that security and stability that we’re really craving right now and reassure clients in their plan to move forward whether they’re facing a challenge or an opportunity. Nothing is worse right now than just another form. All client cases are going to be a little different in these times. Your content says you’re the expert, so lead. 

I will probably come back and edit this with examples from my clients as well as include other examples I find interesting. There is one I actually want to bring up that is from an eCommerce company called House of CB I sometimes buy dresses from: 

What do YOU want to hear? Always a good question to ask yourself when getting ready to speak with potential clients or creating content for them always but now especially. 

Just remember in all you do during a unique time like this: Offer to help those facing challenges. Offer to support those looking at opportunities. Let me know what you think. I will probably write a part two or keep adding to this with examples that I think are great of companies doing this and of my own clients.