SaaS Branding: What Makes Your Startup Special?

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Summary: What’s special about your startup? Are you unique in a bland way or in a valuable manner? To build a loyal following (or customers, if you wish), SaaS startups need to differentiate themselves in their markets. They have to be special. So, what makes your service special?



BrandingMajority of SaaS founders do not think about branding when building their apps. The assumption here usually is that if they build a good product, then customers will come by themselves. Nothing is further from the truth. Without a strong brand, even the best app solution will struggle in the market.

Let’s talk branding.

We have covered the essentials of SaaS startups, what metrics you should be measuring, how to reduce churn and so on. But we haven’t covered a lot of SaaS marketing strategies. Today, we want to look at branding. The question we will attempt to answer is “What makes a SaaS company special?

But first, let’s start with the basics.

What is Branding?

Branding is simply an overview of what your market or customers think about you and your service/product. It is the image that your startup has in the market. When we drill deeper, branding also includes how the management and team players see and think about the company, its processes, stands and beliefs.

Before you start creating a website or other marketing materials, you need to have your brand in mind. Your brand is what sets you apart from other players offering similar services in the market. It is your identifiable stamp that makes everyone know that a service or product is created by you. Your brand is a mirror of what customers see and think about your company.

How to Identify Your Brand

Branding is not an easy task. When you talk to graphic designers, they will tell you branding is about creating logos and websites using complimenting typography and colors. This is true, in some sense. But more than that, SaaS branding is all about customers and not your company. It is about how you want customers to perceive your service and company in general.

If you do not have a brand, the Harvard Business Review suggests that you ask yourself these three questions:

i) What makes customers choose your services?

ii) What capabilities make you different from your competitors?

iii) How unique is your offer and can it be easily replicated?

Strong brands have “something” extra that their competitors do not have. Look at Apple. If everyone could easily make an iPhone, then Apple’s brand would be eroded. Likewise, if your service can be easily replicated by a garage startup, you will have a difficult time building your brand.

Brand is the difference that customers see in your company when they look at other comparable services available in the market. The difference has to be unique and valuable. There is no brand power in being unique with a product that customers don’t want.

Before you start marketing your brand, you need to internalize and believe in it. Your team should share the beliefs with you. It is easy to market a brand when everyone is enthusiastic and believes in what the company stands for, knows its aspirations and is committed to its goals.

After defining your brand with your team members, it is time to bring the brand to the market.

Unveiling Your Brand

What is the right brand for a SaaS company? Which name should you use? What colors will work for you and how should your logo be? In my opinion, the name, colors and logo do not matter if you know what you stand for.

Most of the time, simplicity works and wins. Colors; pick one. Name; use something people are familiar with. Logo; there is no need to be overly complicated. Use typography if possible.

When unveiling your brand, customers will first see the brand representations. These are the logos, website and other marketing materials. One tip to successful branding is consistency. Let your marketing materials be consistent. Customers should easily identify your company when they see its color or logo.

Consistency should be applied everywhere where your company is interacting with other players and customers in the industry.

However, while having a nice logo, website and the like is good, it may not help you much with winning new customers. The unwritten rule of business is that customers buy value; they don’t buy products/services.  When a customer signs up for your service, he or she is basically paying for the value that the service will provide.

For instance, if your app helps people store documents on the cloud, customers will buy it because of the value they get i.e. knowing that their documents will be backed up on the cloud and can be accessed at any time and from anywhere.

So, what value are you adding to your customers? Are you just another app that helps people to organize their meetings or do you offer more? If the only thing separating you from your competitors is the name of your company, good luck building a strong brand. You need to go an extra mile to differentiate your brand.

For SaaS companies, branding can be done either through your product/service or the customers.

a) Product

If you can build a useful app that is not available in the market, you will quickly build your brand. If you are already in a saturated market, find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Some of the ways through which you can differentiate your service include the pricing model, integration with third party apps, good UI design, self-add add-ons, and so on.

Your service should be stable and meet the needs of your customers. It is important to get regular feedback from your users to know which areas of your service need to be improved.

b)  Service / Customers

How you relate to your customers or users is also crucial to how your company will be perceived. Remember earlier we said your brand is what your customers think about your company. Customer service is where most customers get their brand perception about companies from. Poor customer service will make you struggle to create a good brand.

Take care of your customers and respond to their needs in a timely fashion. The customer is king in the industry where there are other alternative services to choose. Consider the brand value you will get from treating a customer right even if he or she does not end up signing up or renewing an account with you.

Define Your Brand, and then Bring It to the World

Ultimately, what you stand for, your product and customers are responsible for your brand. After defining what makes you different from your competitors and the unique qualities of your company, you can then launch your branding and marketing efforts.

Implementing a branding campaign after defining your qualities will make you stand out from the pack of other SaaS companies offering service X. Remember; you do not want to be “just another company”. You also don’t want to be “no company”. You have to stand for something. You have to be associated with something. You have to be a brand.


Posted on September 27, 2013

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