Update 10: SaaS product positioning

By Steven Hylands on May 04, 2020

We’ve come to a point in our journey where we have a good idea of the problem we want to solve for Slack teams — Key information is missed amongst the noise of workplace chat.

While Lowdown has always been about surfacing and bringing awareness to information, we’d previously focused on Slack communities. Positioning ourselves as a tool that helps them keep their audience in the loop and coming back to engage. Our new focus requires a different approach. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working out how to position Lowdown as the solution to our new problem statement.

Enter the expert

As luck would have it April Dunford had just been scheduled in for a remote session with Propel - the pre-accelerator we’re part of. Perfect timing! April has been through the mill starting businesses and become an expert in product positioning. She’s written a great book on positioning that’s well worth your time. I also managed to get a one-on-one session with April and used it as an opportunity to discuss the new direction I had in mind after reading her book. I’d love to share with you what I learnt and how we plan to position Lowdown going forward.

Obviously Awesome book

Position your product around your customer

The book provides a framework to help you think about your products positioning from your ideal customers perspective. To start you must consider what your customer would be doing if you didn’t exist. For us it’s possible they’d instead bring awareness to key information in a more permanent platform like Basecamp or manually create company email updates with a tool like Mailchimp, but most likely they’re doing nothing. If your customer is not trying to solve the problem is can be a big red flag. Perhaps it’s just not painful enough to warrant a solution? However, it’s also possible they aren’t aware that there is a solution to the problem.

Continuing with the framework you’re asked to define your unique product features and the value of them to your customers. You then identify which specific customers care the most about that value. Finally, you work out how to position your product to acquire that market. April proposes three approaches to position a product within a market.

Market positioning approaches

  1. Position to win an existing market
  2. Position to win a subsegment of an existing market
  3. Position to win a market you create

The classic startup advice is to start with number two. Find a niche subset of people within an existing market and position your product as a solution to their specific pain. To date, that’s what we’ve been doing. From day one, we’ve been a newsletter for Slack communities. It’s the obvious thing to do. We provide a recurring email of content you send to your audience. That’s a newsletter, right?

Lowdown is not a newsletter creation tool

What I’ve come to realise is Lowdown is not really a newsletter at all. The value we offer isn’t “easily send a custom email to a group of people”, it’s that we “filter through the noise of chat communication to bring awareness to key information”.

So with this understanding, how do we approach positioning Lowdown in a market? As far as I’m aware, there isn’t an existing niche to target. I concluded that to position Lowdown effectively, we will need to create a new market.

Creating a new market

Creating a new market is often thought to be the most challenging positioning approach as you have to do much more than sell your solution. You first have to help potential customers realise there’s a problem they need to solve. They need to understand the cost of not solving the problem and the value solving it unlocks. You have to convince your potential customers the market deserves to exist. Only once convinced, are they ready to consider hiring your product to solve the problem for them.

The good news is if you can manage to do that you’re well-positioned to acquire the market quickly as you’ll be its leader.

The implications of changing market

The decision to change market affects almost every aspect of your product. For us, that means we need to change our marketing completely. New website messaging is required, and we need to rethink our approach to user acquisition. We also need to be sure the Lowdown app is set up to fit our new market position. Content must be framed in a way that convinces our target audience that there’s a problem worth solving.

We also framed many aspects of Lowdown under the assumption that it was a newsletter product. For example, our pricing follows a similar model to newsletter tools like Mailchimp, priced based on the total number of people subscribed to receive emails, scaling as the subscriber base grows. In our new focus, this doesn’t make as much sense. Our users are more likely to exist at one team size, which won’t change as frequently. They aren’t thinking in terms of subscribers, so framing our pricing in that way is likely to confuse.

Test your positioning

As an early startup, you often lack the data necessary to know if you’re making the right decisions. To solve this, you generally find a way to get that data. We plan to test our positioning with the release of a new marketing site in the coming weeks. Once launched we’ll get it in front of best-fit customers to see if it resonates. Hopefully, we’re heading in the right direction, but it’s, of course, possible we are wrong and will need to rethink our positioning again.

To conclude what you think of our new positioning? I’d love to get your input!

Lowdown is a key information awareness tool for Slack teams. It brings attention to the key Slack posts your team members need to see in focused, automatic email updates.

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Author

Steven Hylands

Steven is a co-founder and CEO here at Lowdown. He's obsessed with finding the signal amongst the noise of real-time chat.

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