How the Growth of SaaS Makes Life More Difficult for Customers and What to Do About It

October 22, 2018

When I was the sales leader at ion interactive, even our smartest customers sometimes asked me questions that, at the time, seemed pretty clueless. For example, I’d often get calls from prospects asking “So wait, how are you different from Google Analytics?”

In my head (though thankfully never out loud) I’d be screaming: “I just told you! We’re nothing like them. We’re a software that makes a calculator or a logic-driven assessment without code. You can’t do anything like that with Google Analytics!”

I would get off calls like that and immediately go to our homepage. Yes, right there on the homepage it was clear. What our product did, the challenges it solved, who it solved them for, the benefits of it. Clearly spelled out. How could a buyer be confused?

Then, our martech SaaS company was acquired, and I accidentally became a SaaS consultant. Suddenly I was evaluating technology in a way I hadn’t before, and I realized, it’s hard out there for a SaaS customer trying to find specific solutions tailored to their needs. As the SaaS market booms, customers have more options than ever before. Here’s why that’s not necessarily a great thing.

Competition is fierce

There are 6,500+ marketing technology companies alone. There are about 800 in the sales tech landscape. What must there be in finance and operations? And eLearning, and productivity, and BI, and ERP and BPM and on and on?

And what about the SaaS companies we don’t even have on our radar yet? My former business partner, Scott Brinker (ChiefMartec), is the mastermind behind the 6,500+ company martech landscape, and hardly a day goes by when some company founder doesn’t mention to me that his or her marketing tech company isn’t listed on the landscape.

With all this choice, you’d think customers would be able to easily find perfect SaaS solutions. But instead, customers are increasingly overwhelmed by a cluttered market where most of the choices seem the same.

The SaaS landscape has become confusing

Why? Because everyone in the SaaS world, no matter what product they’re selling, is saying the same thing. Let me repeat that: Everyone. Is. Saying. The. Same. Thing.

And when thousands of products are delivering the same message – let’s say, “data-driven, personalized solutions for building relationships” – it puts the customer into panic mode. One product looks so similar to the next, which can be paralyzing for customers who don’t want to waste time and money on a solution that won’t actually meet their needs.

Studies show that having too many choices often whittles away at our decision-making abilities. For example, one study that followed shoppers around a crowded mall for a day found that those who made more purchase decisions were less inclined to make good choices after a busy day of shopping.

And if a day at the mall can zap consumers’ power to make the best choice, imagine the decision fatigue that comes from weeks of pouring through SaaS marketing materials, trying to decode nearly identical messages to intuit what a company actually does. And now imagine your job, or next promotion, is on the line if you don’t pick the right product.

So what’s a SaaS company to do?

The SaaS landscape probably isn’t going to get smaller any time soon, and we probably wouldn’t want it to. But we can empathize with our buyers and anticipate their needs beyond a string of buzzwords.

SaaS vendors should focus on massive differentiation – in their product, in their messaging, in their marketing and their brand. And also, in their sales team. Because people don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems. And so the products with the best sales teams will win for now, along with those who create value, clearly differentiate, forge respectful relationships and best map their product’s benefits to their buyer’s problems, obstacles and goals. The company that can become a clear voice above the noise will be the company that gets the customer.

Anna Talerico


Anna is a SaaS operator who loves giving practical advice about sales, management, company culture, customer success and capital-efficiency. At her former company she led customer-facing teams which included sales, customer success, professional services and product support. When that company was acquired in 2017, she co-founded Beacon9 to help other tech companies chart their successful path forward in these same areas.