Love my work on Instagram? You can bring it home.
Exciting news: You know all of those photos you’ve seen on my Instagram? Due to popular demand, I have now released 40 original prints (and growing) on Society6.
If you’re not familiar with my work, or just need words to describe it, these images fall under the categories of digital photography, digital mashups/collages and digital graffiti.
But for me, they’re windows into my inner INFJ world.
What’s it like in here? It’s magical. Unexpected. Difficult to define. These images are based in reality, but lead you through layers of different realities into magical landscapes and otherly worlds.
And now you can put them on a travel mug – gotta love Society6!
And, if you see something you LOVE on my Instagram – ask me about it. It could be your next wall tapestry.
If you’re focusing most of your resources on acquisition, you’re missing out on one of the greatest growth engines at your disposal.
“Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is,” – Jason Lemkin, venture capitalist and founder of SaaStr
Acquisition may get the ball rolling, but retention is where the big money is. Big, sustainable money that costs less and less to make. And, this alchemy only works when customers achieve the successes with the product or service that they’d hoped for upon signing up.
Statistically, successful customers:
- Spend more money over time
- Are highly likely to consider additional products and services
- Serve as enthusiastic brand advocates that reduce the Cost to Acquire new customers (CAC)
That last point, customer evangelism (aka. brand advocacy), is the most significant benefit of Customer Success and the one that leads to spending less on acquisition efforts, while acquiring more customers.
When your company understands what success means to your customers, then ensures they receive what they need to achieve it, those customers respond – on Facebook, on Twitter, on Yelp, on Linkedin, and in person. They become not just your fans, but your best salespeople, helping your company grow.
But how do you start a customer success program from scratch?
First, let’s start with what customer success really is, because any time a term becomes a “buzzword” it tends to lose its original meaning.
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).
Announcing a new package for startups!
Competition is fierce, and loud, and… everywhere. To get noticed by early adopters, evangelical customers, tech enthusiasts, investors, thought leaders and Silicon Valley insiders, you need a way to reach them that isn’t over-saturated. Something that pushes you into their radar so you can finally reach the great heights your product deserves.
In my Rocket Fuel Package, I offer a way you can get:
- Brand recognition – among your ideal audience
- In front of an engaged audience of thousands of startup enthusiasts
- Your content shared on cutting-edge tech communities like Growth Hackers, Product Hunt, Inbound.org, SaaS.Community and more
- Not just more traffic, but qualified traffic who are more likely to convert to leads
- A quickly growing reputation as a thought leader in your industry
Think of me as an extension of your content marketing team.
“The value Nichole is offering for this price is unbelievable—the Rocket Fuel Package is a steal!”
– Kiki Schirr, CEO of WeKiki
Good content isn’t cheap, and it’s certainly not easy – even if you’re doing it yourself, or trying to save a buck and tasking your non-writerly employees with the job. Time or cash, either way, you’re going to invest to do it right*.
* What’s the point in doing it wrong? Nobody is going to pay attention to bad content, including Google’s web crawler algorithms.
But to make that content work for you, you have to promote it. This is why content promotion is a vital step in your content marketing process.
Producing content alone it isn’t enough to get you noticed, read and shared.
Yet, many companies drop the ball with their content. They put it up on the company blog and sit and wait for people to come – but nobody knows it’s there.
Or, almost as bad, they’ll quit after posting the link on social media for all of their 27 followers to ignore.
Because those followers have been given no reason to pay attention in the first place.
Now – content marketing does work. When you do it right, it can establish your company as a thought leader, increase trust and brand awareness, and nurture leads through your sales funnel.
Content can also provide customer success support for existing customers, helping answer questions and learn to derive more value from your product.
In addition to all of these benefits, good content is a sustainable way to climb Google’s rankings and ensure your website’s place among the firmament (i.e. the top slots of the search engine results page).
Good content doesn’t get dinged or demoted. It builds a following. And the longer you have it up, the better it works as more people see it, read it, love it and share it. For many businesses, quality content marketing is the long but steady path up the mountain to search engine supremacy.
For all of this to work though, you have to get your content out there. And if you’re a startup or relatively new business, your funds are likely allocated elsewhere.
I’ve got you covered – because you don’t need a marketing budget for any of these content promotion strategies. Fair warning: If you’re not investing money, you will need to invest some time. Nothing happens by magic — at least not yet.
As with any customer acquisition, you first have to make sure you’ve got a solid foundation before you get into marketing efforts.
You have to understand your ideal customers and develop a compelling value proposition. Who are they? Where do they hang out? What are their desired outcomes? What words do they use to describe their problems and desired outcomes? What do they expect to get from you? What do they hope to get?
Don’t know? Don’t guess. Ask them.
Based on theyou gather and your product, the next challenge is to come up with a unique value proposition that establishes product-market fit – in the language with which your target market will identify. (Sometimes I refer to this as language-market fit.)
We’re doing some high-level English major work here. We’re talking diction: Word choice. And we’re using it to power your marketing so when a customer for your SaaS startup (or otherwise) hits on your value proposition, they’ll immediately know you are for them.
Image source: Image created by Yasmine Sedky ( ) for Nichole.
A value proposition accomplishes four tasks:
- Defines who your ideal customer is
- States what your product does
- Establishes why you’re unique
- Shows the end benefit
Value propositions are complicated, but when you distill it down, the idea is really simple: To get customers, you have to tell them why they should work with you based on what you uniquely offer that is also important to them.
Now, once you have that foundation, the challenge becomes getting your product in front of your ideal customers.
Perhaps even more than other markets, SaaSpreneurs are looking for thought leaders to tell them how to do things just a bit better. So they’re here, on Quora. They’re on Medium. They’re on blogs like SEOMoz, and sites like Hacker News, ProductHunt, Growth Hackers, Reddit, and LinkedIn.
Which isn’t to say you’ll get equal ROI from each of these outlets. You won’t. And you’ll spread yourself way too thin if you try to hit all of them.
Traction & Growth Channels
This is where “traction channels” come into play, and a very useful tool called the “Bullseye Framework.”
Image source:by Brian Balfour ( )
Traction channels are marketing and distribution channels that focus on customer acquisition.
They’re where you strategically choose to place your content to attract leads.
The secret to traction channels is that most startups use only a few – and there are hundreds (if not thousands).
Most businesses flood just a handful of channels and ignore the rest. They choose the ones they’re most familiar with, but you really can’t know what channel will work best for your product or service, and your audience, until you test.
That’s where the Bullseye Framework comes in – introduced in Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares’ e-book,.
Weinberg and Mares identified 19 different traction channels in their e-book, Traction, including traditional media, social media and various types of marketing.
Here are a few channels from the e-book just to give you an idea:
- Viral marketing – encouraging users to refer other users
- Traditional media outlets & offline ads (tv, radio, print ads)
- SEO / Inbound Marketing
- Engineering as marketing – developing free tools, micro-sites and widgets to drive leads
- Strategic partnerships with other companies
- Existing platforms – i.e. using Facebook or Apple’s App Store, or even Medium to grow your audience
- Speaking engagements
- Community building
The Bullseye Framework is designed to whittle down the list into a few that have the best chance of maximizing your ROI. Because creating really great thought-leadery content requires a significant investment of time, if not money.
Bullseye in a Nutshell, According to Traction
Step 1: Brainstorm at least one idea for how you could use each type of traction channel.
Step 2: Rank your ideas according to which seem most promising, which could possibly work, and which seem unlikely. It might be helpful to give yourself a measurable goal, like which channels are most likely to yield 100,000 users in the first six months after launch (that, incidentally, was Mint’s lofty goal).
Step 3: Prioritize – Choose three channels that seem most promising.
Step 4: Test your three channels with the aim of finding out Cost to Acquire for each channel, how many customers are available through each channel, and whether the customers you are getting through each channel fit into your ideal customer profile.
[I’d watch out for Step 4 though, because some very important channels yield long-lasting, sustainable results, but don’t deliver quick wins. Yes, I’m talking about inbound marketing, content and SEO, as well as some others that can fly well under the radar.]
Step 5: Focus on the most promising channel. Weinberg and Mare recommend focusing on one traction channel at a time, the idea being “At any stage in a startup’s lifecycle, one traction channel dominates in terms of customer acquisition.” But again, they seem to ignore the long-term benefits of building solid content.
I would argue that startups should focus on one traction channel for quick wins, and another for long-term gains.
Here’s my list of traction and growth channels for the SaaS market to test, divided into quick wins and long-term gains.
These channels should be based on the customer.
- – Submit your startup on BetaList to find early adopters for your product and get valuable feedback.
- Contests, giveaways – try
- Events – Launch parties, festivals, conferences –
- is a tool that was created specifically for startups to pitch journalists (though it is a paid resource)
- Introduce your product on – Examples: and .
- Paid Campaigns
- – A tool to promote your content to people in your interest area across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +
- and/or – These two companies use your content to drive traffic to your site by essentially using your articles like ads on other popular websites
- and/or – Offer a deal
- – Launch a video marketing campaign
- Press / PR campaigns
- For media coverage, you can use a website like (HARO) to connect with journalists and bloggers needing sources for future articles. The daily HARO newsletters break down the source requests into categories, so scanning to see if your expertise is a fit is easy (plus, it is free!).
- Mailroom Month teaches you how to get journalists to write about your business, product, startup or idea. They send a reporter to your e-mail with expert advice on how to pitch them — every day for a month.
- – Is your product available (i.e. not just in test mode)? Launch it on Product Hunt, a community where product enthusiasts can easily discover new products.
- Social media – Social media buzz is one of those things that is often more easily said than done. But, companies like have used the simple tactic of giving away free company t-shirts to drive impressive customer acquisition. And even early stage SaaS companies can afford a few t-shirts. (This tip is from , Content & Search Marketing Manager at Chargify.)
- – A new-tab feed of content suggested by marketers, for marketers
Long-term gains, channels usually based on creating high quality, relevant content:
- Submit your product to the app store and/or Google Play
- Organic campaigns
- SEO / Inbound Marketing on your own blog
- Guest posts on other blogs that your ideal customers read
- Re-purpose older content for your site and guest sites
- Podcasts – , and podcast advertising and interviews really are a great way to get in front of an educated, friendly audience.
- Communities to distribute content – be an active member in these communities, don’t just share your content
- Facebook Groups
- Industry-specific communities
- LinkedIn Groups
- – here’s a list of where you can submit your Medium articles
- Slack Groups – here’s a list of
- – A tool to promote your content to people in your interest area across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +
- – A new-tab feed of content suggested by marketers, for marketers
- Integrate with other tools, like , , , or
- Newsletters – Submit your content to curators, here’s a list of
- Social media
I’d recommend using the Bullseye Framework to narrow down this list and find a channel or two that work best for you for both the short and long-term. And try new channels when you’re initial channel stops working.
Ultimately, acquiring SaaS customers requires the same research and strategies as acquiring any other type of customer. The difference lies mostly in where to find them. The SaaS community is an especially active one on forums and online communities like Product Hunt, Growth Hackers, Medium, Quora, and private groups on Slack, Facebook and LinkedIn.
That’s good news, because knowing where to find your customers is half the battle.
The other half is proving your worth.
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).
“Growth hacking is about running smart experiments to drive growth within your business.” – Sean Ellis
If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the term “growth hacking”, which seems to be everywhere at the moment. Everyone I meet is a growth hacker all of a sudden. But despite a little bit of froth on the milkshake, the hype is very real and it’s here to stay. Here’s why.
First, people will do almost anything to grow their business. For a small business or startup, growth is the difference between life and death.
For a small business or startup, growth is the difference between life and death. Click To Tweet
Second, it’s in our nature to experiment. We try different foods until we figure out what we like and we date different people until we find “the one”. By and large we live life through trial and error and we learn through our experiences.
Experimenting across different traction channels or, in “human language”, trying to find customers in different ways, is a smart way to drive growth. It’s time to take this one step further and create a culture of experimentation by applying a “growth (hacking) mindset throughout the entire business.
The obvious place to start is people – building and growing teams – because there is no better growth engine than a great team.
It’s A People Game
“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins
Ask any investor about the first thing they look for when making an investment decision. It’s the team.
Ask any lender what will always be a deal breaker, regardless of cash flow quality. They’ll say management.
What’s the single biggest factor in job satisfaction? Quality of co-workers.
We’re just humans building products for other humans, either to ease pain or give pleasure. Everything else is a means to an end.
Yet, while we use words like “obsessed” and evangelist” about getting customers, we don’t tend to think of hiring people in that way. We use very sophisticated methods to find and win customers but tend to be stuck in neutral when it comes to building teams.
At Vervoe, we’re changing that.
At @VervoeHQ, we're changing evangelism around hiring the right team. Click To Tweet
Just like experiments have proven to drive growth, they will also help you hack hiring. You just need to cast aside any long-held views and embrace experimentation.
Here are four dead simple ways to apply a growth (hacking) mindset to hiring and immediately make your business more valuable.
Four Easy Hiring Hacks You Should Start Using
Hiring Hack #1: Ditch the Résumé
“I think, to me, reality is better than being fake.” – Ice Cube
Hypothesis: Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision.
Still asking candidates for résumés? Go résumé-free for one role.
Résumés are typically used to decide who to interview. Instead, don’t decide, just give everyone a chance. Sound like a waste of time? Actually, it’s faster if you use automated interviews.
This delays the first impression we form about people to after we see them perform. It allows us to focus on what people can do and who they really are, as opposed to what they’ve done previously, which school they went to or how weird their name sounds. Because, honestly, who cares about that stuff.
After you pick the best performers in the interviews, go over their backgrounds and ask yourself whether you would have picked those people out of the résumé pile. Then go over the ones you rejected and see if any of them have fancy résumés that would have made you choose them for an interview.
Hiring Hack #2: Don’t Outsource Your Most Sacred Activity
“Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.” – Amy Jo Martin
Hypothesis: There is no value in outsourcing your recruitment.
Do you use a recruitment agency or a headhunter? We’re going to put an end to that and see if it makes any difference.
External recruiters, like most brokers, are the product of information asymmetry. You assume that they have access to better information than you so you pay for that information.
But the internet has made the world flat, we just need to know where to look and how to make it easy for people to find us. You can share your job ad on every social network and ask your own personal and professional network to refer people. Reaching people has never been easier.
If you incorporate hiring hack #1, you won’t need to worry about deciding who to interview, a service traditionally performed by recruitment agencies. All you need to do is get your job in front of enough eyeballs, which is pure marketing.
Now, here’s the real hack. Work out the commission you would have paid the recruitment agency. Let’s say it’s a 20% fee and the role pays $100,000. Now spend every cent of the $20,000 you saved on promoting your job on every major job board, industry board and social network.
Is it money well spent? How many applicants did you get? What about for $2,000? What about for $200?
Sound insane spending that much money to get access to candidates who will all automatically be interviewed anyway? There’s your answer.
Hiring Hack: There is no value in outsourcing your recruitment. Click To Tweet
Hiring Hack #3: Expert Questions Are Better Than Yours
“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” – Thomas Berger
Hypothesis: Other people ask better interview questions than you.
If you’re running a business, there is a good chance you’ll have to hire someone into a role you’re not an expert in.
Next time you’re trying to hire someone, use interview questions written by an expert instead of your own. To learn more about how to hire for a role you’re not an expert in, read this.
If you want to do it all online, you can easily choose an interview script from Vervoe’s library.
But the concept is equally applicable offline. Call a friend who’s an expert and pick their brain on how they would hire for the role. Then create a process that aligns with the expert’s recommendation. If the expert thinks the best way to hire a chef is to spend a day in the kitchen together, then that’s what you should do. Speaking of cooking, here’s an omelette story that illustrates this exact point.
You can A/B test within the role itself by randomly interviewing half the candidates using your own questions and half using an expert’s. But I suspect the benefits will be evident even before candidates do the interviews. You’ll know from the quality of the questions whether the expert is improving your approach.
Hiring Hack: Other people ask better interview questions than you. Click To Tweet
Hiring Hack #4: Don’t Ask People to Fit In
“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
Hypothesis: Cultural fit is overrated.
Talking about your company’s vision, values and culture in your job description is a great way to proactively qualify candidates.
However, instead of asking people to fit in with your culture, look for people who will add to your culture. Ask for cultural contribution and look for people who can improve your team’s cultural fitness.
The result of this experiment can only be verified after several months of working together. But you’ll see glimpses during the hiring journey. Encourage candidates to tell you what they’ll be bringing to the table. Get creative with your interview questions. And more of all, be open to being challenged.
Hiring Hack: Cultural fit is overrated. Click To Tweet
Time to Start Experimenting
What you do with the results of each experiment is up to you. But I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about hiring and gain insight into the mindset of your candidates, and perhaps even your own.
Let me know how it goes.
Taking Instagram photos is my hobby. In this series, I post a few photos on Friday that I recently took.
Follow me on Instagram for more of my work.
The mind is a terrible thing to waste – as a conversion rate expert. E-Commerce conversion psychology & buyer psychology guides everything that we do. You might even say that CROs and shrinks share the same goal: Both seek to understand the human mind to help them find solutions to their problems.
But, of course, we want more than that. We want them to pay for those solutions. And that presents a few psychological hurdles. The act of selling something requires the customer to give up something they value – whether that’s time, personal information, or actual money (which also means the time it takes to acquire it). That’s asking a lot.
You’ll encounter resistance.
And any little thing that makes it harder to purchase will lose you a sale, because they’re already resisting. This means that your job as CRO is both to remove friction, and appeal to your audience’s strongest motivators:
- Anchoring (+ Placement Psychology)
- Emotional & Cognitive Needs
- Social Proof
- Scarcity (+ Loss Aversion)
If those last six look familiar, it’s because they’re Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence, and we’ll be discussing them as they relate to CRO in depth, with actionable takeaways.
What we call Customer Experience (CX) is the total effect of each interaction between brand and customer over the course of the entire relationship (and it’s really all about how they feel). Positive feelings = effective CX, whether the interaction happens in a SaaS product, on a social media page, a website, over the phone, in person, or driving on the freeway.
This isn’t the same as User Experience – not at all.
Whereas UX is commonly concerned with evaluation of your product or website – a very limited scope – CX encompasses the entire experience of each customer from end-to-end, including touch points on your website, off your website, offline, on mobile, and person-to-person contact. You need both.
Fortunately, UX can be relatively easy to optimize.
Optimizing CX, on the other hand, can seem like an impossibly large task.
But keep in mind: CX is the sum total of specific, concrete, controllable occurrences. You know exactly when and how your customers interact with your brand, right? (No? You should – if it happens online, it’s all trackable). Your task then becomes understanding which CX metrics to track and how to use those metrics to create unbeatable – unforgettable – customer experiences for all.