- Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter and its rebranding to X provides strategic lessons for B2B SaaS startups.
- Founder-led marketing, as demonstrated by Musk's hands-on approach, can drive growth and brand recognition for small SaaS businesses.
- Effective marketing should blend brand and product marketing, creating a strong brand identity aligned with customer values.
- SaaS startups should be open to rebranding and shifts in direction as their target market evolves or saturates.
- Continuous validation of the target audience and purpose-driven content strategies are essential for organic growth.
- Rebranding involves a deep repositioning of brand values and mission, requiring a strategic approach.
- Focus on select marketing channels and avoid resource dispersion, as seen in Musk's approach, for efficient and focused strategies.
- Purpose-driven branding, agile rebranding, and founder-led marketing are crucial for SaaS startup success, drawing lessons from Musk's Twitter journey.
What Lessons can SaaS Startups take from Twitter's Rebranding to X?
B2B SaaS startups can learn a lot from the controversial acquisition of Twitter by Musk and its rebranding to X. Elon Musk's path to acquiring Twitter was long in the works. By the numbers, he's one of the core users of Twitter and has expressed his love for the platform for years. He doesn't have an account on any other major social network platforms.
Similar to Elon Musk, Gary Vee also pursues his dream of buying the jets. Often, the core users of any brand become fully invested in the brand. In acquiring Twitter, Elon Musk pursued several goals. One of his immediate goals is to protect free speech. He stated that "free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated."
However, this is not the only goal he was pursuing. Elon Musk wanted to realise his long-held vision of creating X platform - the everything app. He said,
"The Twitter name made sense when it was just 140-character messages going back and forth – like birds tweeting – but now you can post almost anything, including several hours of video. In the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world. The Twitter name does not make sense in that context, so we must bid adieu to the bird.”
The redesign of Twitter to X is the first step in this content marketing and brand strategy, aiming for an overall conversion of the platform.
Brand to Rebrand: SaaS Business
The X rebranding wasn't only about a logo change. It started exactly when Musk entered the Twitter premises for the first time. A correct and timely branding campaign is more than just updating your brand identity. It's about re-polishing your beliefs, values, and mission statement. Musk has always dreamed of an everything app - an app where you can call home, express yourself, and conduct transactions. The rebranding to X derived from a massive repositioning that he was going after.
Twitter is merely a social network. X is a financial platform first, social network second. He is targeting a substantial total addressable market in the financial world. X is about to introduce X token, most likely backed by UX dollar, gold, or bitcoin. A new beginning requires a fresh outlook and mindset. Both go hand in hand.
SaaS companies can learn a few key lessons from this costly acquisition, rebranding and repositioning. Here are the outline of the lessons
1. Is a Rebrand Necessary? Yes: Rebranding your business helps you skip competition in your SaaS vertical.
Many companies don't dare to change their route even if they see sales have been plumeting for years. At the end of the day, as a business, you need to serve a growing market. When the demands are diminishing, you need to find a new market to serve. It doesn't mean that you need to go from selling frozen pizza to launching rockets, it means you need to find a neighbouring market that rings true to your mission, values and passion.
If you're driven by this mission of bring joy to when families gather together, and when your frozen pizza business is not growing anymore, you can look into the current growing trends and see what else that can ring true to your mission and passion.
And this is even a pressing exercise for digital businesses. SaaS companies need to constantly asking them this hard question whether they're serving the right market.
2. Small Businesses can rely on founder-led marketing to drive growth
It is a well known that Tesla spends zero on ads. Elon Musk has grown his companies out of his own influence. Founder-led marketing is the best growth strategy for many SaaS startups because the founders know the business and market and their customers very well. Well if you don't, there's something wrong! And essentially the company mission and values are driven from the founders' personal mission and values. Your overall marketing should revolve around business owners getting out ion social media and create awareness for the brand.
3. Your Marketing Strategy should be a mix of brand marketing and product marketing
As your business grows, you can only leverage paid channels to a certain degree, and at some point, you'll hit a growth ceiling because your competitors won't stay inactive.
Most major companies today, at some stage of their growth path, transform into lifestyle brands — promoting a way of being.
A lifestyle brand advocates specific beliefs, values, and a way of living. By adopting them, customers are more likely to embrace their products that support that lifestyle.
You might wonder if this strategy applies to your SaaS business. Well, let's take a look at examples like Mailchimp, Slack, Trello, and Asana.
Great lifestyle brands establish strong association in consumers' mind. Toyota emphasises safety, Mailchimp promotes creativity, Trello focuses on simplicity, and Slack champions collaboration.
awork is an example of a growing startup that leverages brand marketing in their SaaS marketing very well. Their tagline is "For The Joy Of Work" and this mission statement informs all their marketing activities.
This association breeds loyalty, and loyalty leads to longevity.
4. Growing your early-stage SaaS startup is an organic activity and it better be driven from your purpose. SaaS marketing teams need to take a stance.
You need to have a content strategy. Your content strategy is derived from your sense of purpose, vision, and values as well the DNA of your market and pain points of your customers. Twitter under Musk leadership forced many to leave the platform but also attracted many others. Strong brands are not afraid to lead by purpose. When you lead by purpose, you tap into organic mode of growth.
5. Strong brand recognition correlated with having a strong purpose and long-term success
When you draw a line on sand and define boundaries, people around you can deal with you easier because they know what you stand for. Strong brand recognition often is attributed to having clearly defined goals and values and a constant message broadcasted over a long time. Make sure you're known for something otherwise you'll be forgotten soon.
6. SaaS companies and products need to continuously validate their target audience and target market
Certain industries or verticals will be soon saturated and new ones crop up sooner than you think. Small business owners need to constantly question their direct market and target customer. Often SaaS founders think what they identify as a market gap will stay lucrative forever. Often it's a wrong notion. Company rebranding is necessary because your market is changing constantly.
7. Business Growth is about the constant monopolisation of one category and diversification to new verticals and new product segments: always re-evaluate the message
Your strategy then should be to gain a considerable share of a market to gain enough runaway to diversify to new categories. And you need to make sure this becomes a core element of your company cultures and everyone in your team understand well this strategy otherwise it can be really unsettling for your teams the never ending quest to identify new terrain. You need to constantly communicate to your teams and get feedback from team members. Make sure your teams are all aligned because at the end of the day, they are the ones that should do the discovery.
8. Forget all marketing channels like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, TikTok and even email marketing. Don't spread yourself thin. You need lots of resources to market. Digital marketing is all about focus.
Gary Vee has a giant marketing agency and a massive team. Don't try to become him. You can't do it. He started hustling his way up creating youtube videos when no one knew what Youtube is. Then he branched out to Twitter off the reputation he gained on Youtube. You need to grow in one channel and bring your audience to new channels as you expand. But without growing in one channel initially you can't have resources to grow in all channels.
Also if you don't know how to grow in one channel, how can you solve the puzzle of growing in many channels at once? Ignore the FOMO. Focus on one channel that you as SaaS CEO or founder you're most active on.
9. From one marketer to another: rebranding your SaaS isn't about creating new brand identity and brand assets like brand colour, new logo and new icons and colour palette
Rebranding is about understanding what you stand, what your message is, which market you want to serve and who your target customer is and their pain points are. Then about dressing up accordingly to serve the market. If you're invited to a 80 party, you don't want to dress like a 90 punk. You won't get in. Your brand identity should be your last to worry not to first to do. A lot of founders are obsessed with their brand identity because it's a visually appealing exercise. And they want to have a cool logo and business card. But they don't help you alone to grow your business. Sorry!
11. Screw best practices. SaaS companies need to let your mission, vision, values and principles guide the way
You're scrolling up and down on LinkedIn on about the best practices to drive more sales via LinkedIn ad campaign. IF you just used a video instead of image. or if you start your post with a question rather than a normal sentence. Screw all of them. What you stand and true to you, try to broadcast that. At the end of the day, authenticity wins. If your message is golden, it'll be heard even if your video thumbnail is crap!
12. Branding and marketing are different. The former creates your mission and purpose, the later creates business awareness. Use each metric wisely
Your branding should be done by your marketing team. You as the owner, founder, or CEO need to take charge of the rebranding and involve the entire company. This is your chance to align everyone in your startup around a set of strong core mission, vision and values. Branding is not a visual exercise. Branding process helps you shape your company mission and make sure everyone in your team will have a clear and shared understanding of what it means. When you have that, then you can paint your message with a brand identity.
Then you can market that message to your market so people who are aligned with your purpose know that you exist.
13. Your rebranding process doesn't start with a new website design or internal launch
Don't make this mistake.
14. Rebranding exercise shouldn't take you months. It can be done in weeks. Focus on ROI
Elon musk changed the logo of twitter to X on a Sunday night. He tweeted that he needs a new logo design, a lot of people tweeted at him their logo ideas, and he picked one. Your approach to branding must be very agile and refuse to undertake massive many-month rebranding campaigns. if you have a big sitemap in mind, you better harshly prioritise it maximum two pages. At the end of the day, you may need a home page and product page. Like chess that you're forced to take one step at a time, commit to small manageable chunks rather than big rebranding campaigns.
15. Your brand name matters!
Your brand name shouldn't be sexy or vague. it can be simple. Build A Better Agency is a name of an agency that helps agency owners build better agencies. Pick a name that you can find .com for it. That's great for your SEO. Elon Musk picked X.com because he wants to create a global financial platform and he needs an ambitious yet simple name. I believe it's great name for what he has in mind. Pick the right name: everyone should be able to say and spell it easily, and it should be clear what your company does.