PFL's SaaS Brand Strategy Success Story

Innovate or die has never been more true in our age of digital transformation, when established service-based businesses need to evolve into a contemporary SaaS business or quickly become irrelevant, at best. Read about how PFL used SaaS Brand Strategy to avoid the dreaded innovator's dilemma to evolve from Service to Software.

Ryan Kopperud
September 28, 2021

The problem:

The evolution from a services business to a contemporary SaaS business presents challenges in how a team tells and sells its story. PFL began as a print shop in Livingston, MT in 1996, but over time, they transformed into a premier solution for businesses to nurture customers via direct mail.

Even though PFL was a pace-setter in direct mail marketing, and attempted to own it through a category they named Tactile Marketing Automation, they didn’t see their category resonate with customers. And they struggled to make headway in an overcrowded sea of physical goods and “gift” providers.

“I could see the power of PFL as a tool, but had a problem selling it internally to leadership, because their messaging just didn’t communicate the extent of what it did or what it would allow our company to accomplish.” - An Anonymous Fortune 1000 PFL Customer

With hundreds of companies specializing in on-demand printing, swag management, and direct mail, PFL needed to set themselves apart. More importantly, they needed to align their business strategy around a category that communicated the value and uniqueness of their offering.

Too often, businesses are so close to their day-to-day, it becomes hard to zoom out. And when it’s hard to zoom out, it becomes impossible to know with certainty that who they are, what they’re saying, and what they’re doing, are all correct and internally aligned.

Because of this, PFL was dissatisfied with their category, overwhelmed by their opportunity, and feeling misaligned internally.

The solution:

Enter DRMG. A neutral third-party with one goal: to help PFL unlock a new way to look at their market, their category, and their business. Over the course of an eight-week collaboration with the PFL team, DRMG talked to customers, leadership team members, and researched the market in depth, in order to develop the HX category: Hybrid Experience.

While PFL specializes in direct mail, the crucial learning was that their business enables its customers to garner the attention of their prospects, in a society where attention is a massive scarcity. This allowed PFL to see their business in an entirely new way—as an essential broker in the Attention Economy. A crucial bridge between the digital and physical worlds.

Not only did PFL walk away with a new category and strategy, but they felt empowered to capture opportunities that align perfectly with who they are as a business, and what their software enables. They were able to tell a distinctive story in a unique and powerful way that connected them to more and better customers. And they were able to forge ahead with their sales, marketing, and product teams fully aligned. Here’s how PFL President, Nick Runyon felt about the impact of DRMG’s work on PFL:

“Working with DRMG was absolutely eye-opening for us, and allowed us to see our business like never before. In just two months, we came out the other side feeling aligned as a business, positioned in our market, and connected to our customers.

We’re already seeing wins along the sales pipeline from the work we collaborated with DRMG on. In fact, the messaging connected so well with our customers that we’re now actually aligning our product roadmap around the messaging and feedback from our customers.”

The RISE process:

DRMG led PFL through a four-part, proprietary RISE process. In a series of two-week steps, the teams collaboratively evolved PFL’s category and position in the market, and in the process, DRMG delivered a slew of assets to enable PFL to effectively execute on their new SaaS brand strategy. Here’s a short breakdown of the RISE process, and the impact at each step.

R: Research
Through a series of interviews, workshops, and one-on-one conversations with PFL customers, DRMG collected information to uncover problems, gather language, and diagnose PFL’s most crucial opportunities.

I: Insights
DRMG distilled that data into a series of in-depth insights for PFL inspired by their own words and the words of their customer. Most importantly, that the best way to earn attention in our information-overloaded environment is offline, not online. Along with this key insight, they received a fully refurbished positioning platform and a concretely written version of the problem they’re solving.

S: Story
As the backdrop for PFL’s place in the world emerged, the next step was to convert research and insights into a crystallized story. In building PFL’s SaaS brand strategy, DRMG provided them with brand themes, messaging baselines, and a POV-style manifesto to help strategically align the entire business and its purpose.

E: Execution
In the final stage DRMG helped PFL bring it all together. With research, insights, and a story all at the ready, the last step of the RISE process was to enable the PFL team to execute their new category and brand strategy. This included a view of the competitive landscape (and how PFL stood apart), an internal launch deck to message the strategy and align the entire business, coaching on using their shiny new category, and a collaborative plan of action to effectively implement it going forward.

Hear about the project on Episode 3 of The SaaS Brand Strategy Show


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