The Elements of SaaS Soul: Context

First in a series on SaaS Soul. Soul requires boundaries in which truth can emerge by establishing context. Without constraints there are unlimited options. Without guardrails, the process becomes susceptible to sliding into well-worn ruts that feel more comfortable, less risky, more conventional. Happy crap.

By
DRMG
|
March 1, 2023

“The best ideas are accidents within a controlled context.” – Nick Cave 

The thing with soul is it’s not what you lead with, it’s what leads you, and that’s what makes it a competitive advantage. 

There is a deeper truth to most businesses that people, especially employees, sense. But founders and/or leadership won’t or can’t find the right words to express that truth, as they are too ingrained in category conventions and too fearful of the unknown/not on a spreadsheet to appear different, resigned to grind it out on the sacrificial altar of incremental product improvements. 

The businesses that people want to work for and do business with have this truth, this idea, at the center of their existence, which is why we call it soul. A large part of SaaS Brand Strategy is based on discovering, excavating, and activating that truth. 

Our work for Mainstreet leveraged their imperative to support small businesses as they are central to a community’s prosperity. For DashLX (nee PWR Lab), we learned the truth wasn’t grounded in just quality of life, but as a life saver. For PFL, the insight was around people feeling appreciated and not obligated. 

What is missing for most companies to activate this truth with conviction is a structured framework to identify and define that truth in a way that leadership trusts that it is, well, true, and not some manufactured feel good happy crap for the sake of happy crap. 

That is essentially why Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ proved to be so popular (but less than useful) because he brought some structure to the process of discovering a deeper meaning to business, a method to the madness. But as we’ve mentioned before (and still maintain), academics have the luxury of building frameworks by reverse engineering what already exists. 

How do you establish it without that retro-active luxury of using other people’s work as examples?

You have to set boundaries in which this truth can emerge by establishing context. Without constraints there are unlimited options. Without guardrails, the process becomes susceptible to sliding into well-worn ruts that feel more comfortable, less risky, more conventional. Happy crap.

The essence of strategy is sacrifice. Context is also an act of reduction. Through it we distill the important elements and sacrifice any distractions in order to ensure focus. Focus is potent, as when done correctly it is memorable, repeatable, aspirational, and a bit emotional.  

In SaaS Brand Strategy, we also apply a framework to the process to establish constraints and context, formed through four insights: 

  1. What is the Big Change in the World? What trend or market disruption proximate to your focus is impacting the market at a macro level? 
  2. What is the business problem you solve related to that?  What is the related business problem your company addresses? Why does that matter? More…
  3. Whom do we serve? Your ICP+. This is positioning 101: What do you do, who is it for? Empathy is a key element of soul.
  4. What is the Super Power you give your customers when you solve the problem related to the big change in the world?

These exercises are designed to place guardrails around the idea. The tighter the constraints the more potent the truth, the more acute and actionable the insight.  Before you dig into your super powers, the POV narrative, the position, the messaging all cascade from this context

Orson Wells said, “The enemy of arts is the absence of limitations.” Or as Leonardo de Vinci pronounced, “Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom.” 

When we say sell with soul, we mean add art to your science, some emotion to your rational, some meaning to your markets. 

-DRMG

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