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Metrics, SaaS, Startups

Why Every Team Needs Quantitative Goals ft. @UseNotion

whyeveryteamneedsquantitivegoals

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

The mistake I see most often: Companies hit a million or two in revenue, and not every department has quantitative goals. Sales always has a goal – but does marketing? What are their quantitative goals in customer success? What are engineering’s quantitative goals it has to hit this quarter? Do you have a point system? Do you have a card system? Most marketers are like ‘I don’t have a lead commit, I just have a budget.’ We’re not in that world anymore. We all have to set measurable goals.

– Jason Lemkin, founder of SaaSTr, Metrics that Matter Webinar, April 26th 2016

Jason Lemkin, venture capitalist and founder of SaaSTr, says the biggest mistake he sees with companies in the start-up phase ($1mm – $2mm ARR) is not that they don’t track CAC or LTV or one single metric, but rather that each division, from sales to marketing to product to customer success, and even engineering, don’t have specific quantitative goals.

In short, each department needs to find their key metric to drive success in order to keep getting better.

And, while Lemkin doesn’t go into the specifics for each department, his rule of thumb is crystal clear:

Figure out a goal for every department. Most importantly, set a baseline based on what you know, then drive that up or down.

Sales has always been driven by metrics and quotas. Why not other departments? With the data gathering and tracking technology we have at our disposal, there’s no excuse not to try and optimize every process, every department and every team.

Here are some suggestions for success metrics — Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — that make sense for the key players in your start-up phase company: Engineering, Product, Customer Service, and Marketing.

Read More on Notion


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SaaS

SaaS Marketing Journey

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 8.11.05 AM
Here’s a SaaS Marketing Journey that I developed with Katy Katz and Trevor Hatfield at Inturact. Learn more about it in Katy’s e-book, Strategic Marketing Tactics for SaaS Companies.

“It became apparent to us that when it comes to digital marketing for SaaS, the inbound model just doesn’t cut it. We locked ourselves in a room and went through many variations of the key strategies that should be included in SaaS marketing (there were lots of post-its and cups of coffee involved). And we came up with this model to highlight some important variations from traditional inbound marketing: 1) Customer success content is imperative to the consideration and decision phases, 2) the decision phase never really ends in SaaS, and 3) delight should be woven into your entire marketing strategy.”

— Katy Katz

Customer Success, SaaS, Sales

What To Do After You Close The Sale: Why Acquisition Is Good, But Retention Pays Better

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

When you make a sale, what is the first thing on your to do list? Happy dance? Happy hour? A night out on the town?

May I make a suggestion?

How about making another sale? And another, and another.

This isn’t a fast-talking sales technique or a short-lived marketing gimmick; it’s the result of customer success done well. When you have a robust customer success program, you can start celebrating multiple sales within much shorter periods of time.

As you know, the new customer sales journey is a long and arduous road. But the current customer sales journey? It’s like a quick trip down to the market to pick up a carton of milk – at least in comparison. Numerous studies show that current customers are far more likely to buy again than prospective customers are to buy the first time. Customer success capitalizes on this, and so can you.

Read More on Drift


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Success, SaaS

11 Articles on Customer Success that Will Change Your Business by @NikkiElizDeMere

11-Articles-on-Customer-Success-that-Will-Change-Your-Business

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Really, if you followed the advice in just one of these articles, your business would change for the better – in real, measurable ways. I’m talking about increasing acquisition and retention, and turning your Customer Lifetime Value charts into something that looks like an artistic rendering of Jack’s magic beanstalk.

These aren’t empty promises. They can be backed up with hard data, like this article from Shopify and RJ Metrics: What Sets Top Performing E-commerce Companies Apart? Customer Success is heavily focused on retention, and companies that nail retention grow faster than their competitors by leaps and bounds – making 2.5x more than other companies within their first three years, primarily by marketing to existing customers. Marketing to existing customers only works if those customers are A) Happy, and B) Have already achieved success.

Forbes called Customer Success “The Best Kept Secret of Hyper-Growth Startups” – an article that begins with an even more impressive number, supplied by venture capitalist Jason Lemkin: “Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is.”

But what is success, exactly? Is it satisfaction? Is it happiness? Is it something else entirely? To answer that question, we turn to Lincoln Murphy, the man who coined the phrase “Customer Success” in the first place, and then spent roughly 6300 words defining it. Surprisingly, it’s not an eBook. It’s a blog post. One that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Customer Success in SaaS – and then some. Read Customer Success: The Definitive Guide here. Highlights include:

Customer Success has its roots in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) world and my original definition was very much SaaS-centric.

But since then, companies that are not SaaS, or even technology companies at all, have recognized the transformative power of Customer Success and embraced it as their new operating model.

If you aren’t familiar with exactly how Customer Success is transformative, I’ll lay that out for you below in great detail in this guide.

Simply put; No Customer Success = No Your Success.

If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering “Well, okay then – how do I start?” I’ve written a few thousand words on that topic myself, including: Customer Success for Dummies – What Every SaaS Startup Founder Should Know, with sections like “how customer success works, with real, actionable tips.”

It’s the real, actionable tips that are missing from many discussions about Customer Success. The one you have to begin with, however, is this:

Identify your ideal customer.

This is where Customer Success and Customer Development come together, because both require that you answer the same essential questions:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Why are they here?
  • What are they trying to accomplish?

You can read more about the intersections of Success and Development here.

From there, you have to take a long, hard look at your product to find out where Success Gaps may exist that you need to bridge. A Success Gap is the space between what your product does, and what your ideal client needs to accomplish. For example, if your SaaS product handles mass email communications – your customer’s success isn’t sending those emails, it’s in their open rates. To fill that Success Gap and ensure that your client is achieving his or her desired outcome, you might want to host a webinar on writing email titles that guarantee higher open rates.

Get it? Not quite? Don’t worry, Lincoln Murphy is ready and waiting to explain why the Success Gap is “A Huge Opportunity You Haven’t Considered.”

Now that you’ve identified your ideal customer and uncovered potential Success Gaps, it’s time to create Success Milestones.

As a wise manager once said: What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done.

These Milestones should, ideally, be built into your app so that users can track their own successes (and your sales team and/or success team can keep tabs on their progress as well). Typically though, companies get this backwards.

If you think Success Milestones look like this…

Trial Sale Onboarding Use Upsell Renewal

We need to talk.

Those are YOUR milestones! They track your success, not your customers’! Each of your customers might have their own set of Milestones, and it’s your job to ensure they can track their progress towards reaching them, whatever they may be.

Even if it’s:

Buy product Send emails people love in less time Get home in time for daughter’s soccer game

If you’re still confused as to exactly how this tracking works, Jason Lemkin explains “Client Success owns the customer from point of inception (sometimes pre-close) all the way through the entire life and lifecycle of the customer. Sales closes the customer, and Customer (or Client) Success takes it from there.” Considering Jason Lemkin founded and grew EchoSign within a scant few years, it’s advice well worth heeding.

Need the Cliff’s Notes version? Totango claims to have developed “The Simplest Guide you will ever Find” to Customer Success. I think they may be right. In 12 slides, they take you from what the Customer Success process should look like, what trouble signs to look for, and how to maximize Lifetime Value.

If you still have to sell the idea to the Higher-Ups, you’ll need one more link: The Real ROI of Customer Success Management: Expanded Revenue, Preserved Revenue, and New Bookings. Alternately, you could sell it as a new and improved marketing program.

Here are a few fun catchphrases to use in your pitch meeting from Gainsight’s Why Customer Success is the New Marketing.

“triple digit retention numbers”

“turning customers into advocates and creating new revenue streams”

And, “These numbers tell us that building a marketing program around customer success is arguably more profitable than acquisition programs for mature businesses. In fact, the data shows that it’s a 5x more cost- effective use of your time.”

It’s compelling stuff. Once you understand what Customer Success is, and what it can do for your business, it’s hard not to love it. After all, when you do it right, your customers will love you.


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Content Marketing, Customer Development, Customer Success, Product Management, SaaS

Free E-Book by @NikkiElizDeMere: How to Align SaaS Content Marketing and Product Management

success

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

You’ve seen the studies – companies that retain customers grow bigger and faster than companies focused solely on customer acquisition. You can fill your funnel to the brim, but if your onboarding process acts like a leaky sieve, you’ll never have enough revenue to build and grow sustainably.

The good news? You have everything you need, right now, to create a sustainable system for acquiring and retaining your ideal customers.

It’s not a magic formula. It’s just two people: Your content marketer and your product manager. Working together.

We hear you. We understand every objection rattling off in your head about the crazy – COMPLETELY CRACKERS! – notion that content marketers could actually help your product development department:

  • Do better work, more efficiently
  • Be less distracted by support tickets
  • Align behind a single, shining vision of your ideal customer
  • Produce products, features, and updates that result in retention and growth
  • And have more fun

These are wild claims to be sure, so allow us to present you with a 3-part paper that will show you how your content creators and product developers can join forces to build the kind of business you’ve envisioned all along: A business with the right products, successful customers, and zero limits.

Read More on Inturact


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Development, SaaS

Who Owns SaaS Customer Development? ft. @sgblank & @CindyAlvarez

who-owns-saas-customer-dev

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“I have seen startups fail because founders were either too prideful or just plain shy (find a +1 to help!) to connect in meaningful ways with customers – potential or actual.”

– Amazon Customer review of Lean Customer Development by Cindy Alvarez

Don’t you love Amazon user reviews? They tell the unvarnished truth (unless, of course, the reviewer you’re reading happens to be the author’s BFF). This one, in particular, nails one truth that every founder interested in Lean methodology and customer development must face: You’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there.

Not in a metaphorical sense. I mean this quite literally.

Yourself. Out. There.

You, the founder, are the key ingredient. Your vision is more important than any other part of your nascent company, which is why you – not an intern, not your product developer, not your assistant, not your head of marketing – have to be the one listening to your customers.

I know. I know. You are so busy. You’re trying to run a company, after all! And I’m here saying you have to be the one on the phone, on the street, or in the Skype session, gathering qualitative data.

What am I, nuts?

Well, if I am, I’m no crazier than Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, co-authors of The Startup Owner’s Manual. According to them, this is precisely how new companies, and established companies creating new products, are growing intelligently and sustainably, while avoiding the pitfalls that have spelled disaster for the thousands of companies that fail each year.

If the definition of customer development is asking your customers for input that helps you develop the solution they’ve been hoping for – who better than the founder to lead the charge? By learning from your customers, on the ground, what they need most, your vision can and will change – for the better.

Why should I conduct customer development interviews when I know what my customer wants already?

In The Startup Owner’s Manual, the authors make a list of “9 Deadly Sins” that qualitative data is uniquely able to absolve, including…

  • Assuming “I know What the Customer Wants”
  • The “I Know What Features to Build” Flaw
  • Emphasis on Execution Instead of Hypotheses, Testing, Learning, and Iteration

Blank and Dorf recommend founders create a set of business model hypotheses for how they envision their businesses working, and physically go out and ask people in their target market for insights:

Of all the lessons of Customer Development, the importance of getting out of the building and into conversations with your customers is the most critical. Only by moving away from the comforts of your conference room to truly engage with and listen to your customers can you learn in depth about their problems, product features they believe will solve those problems, and the process in their company for recommending, approving and purchasing products.

The road to bankruptcy is littered with founders who thought they knew what people wanted, but never bothered to test their hypotheses. It’s a completely unnecessary risk, especially when avoiding these pitfalls is as simple as finding the answers to three questions:

  1. Do you really understand the customer’s problem, in its entirety, within their everyday context?
  2. Is the problem severe enough that people are highly motivated to solve it?
  3. Will they care enough about the problem to tell their friends?

To find the answers to this list, you’ll need to do a few things:

First, identify your ideal customer – the customer who has a severe pain they’d do anything to solve, and who is willing to pay you real money to solve it. Bonus points if this customer has been so desperate that they’ve hacked together a stop-gap solution on their own already.

Then, ask your ideal customers open-ended questions that lead you to these insights:

When you collect and use qualitative data correctly to inform their product designs and marketing strategies, you’ll have the information you need to produce a product that people need and want, finding problem/solution fit (and product/market fit too).


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Development, Customer Success, SaaS

5 Steps To Rock Your Value Prop for SaaS Customer Success ft. @MorganB

5-steps-to-rock-your-value

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Special thanks to Morgan Brown for contributing insights. ❤️

Use qualitative data to uncover language-market fit

When the right words appear in front of the right people, it’s like the copy from your page joins a conversation already happening in the minds of your prospects. It becomes a dialogue of “I wish I had this” and “Do you wish you had this? Let me show you how you can get it.” The conversation continues from there, sometimes with other people, like user reviewers, chiming in just at the right moment. Sometimes with your marketer sending an email that is so perfectly timed your prospects wonder if you’re reading their minds.

In this conversation, your job is to convey a simple message of the value you have to offer. But, crafting that message is anything but simple. It all starts with…

Customer Success

Customer Success is a complete customer-lifecycle process that helps customers achieve success – whatever success means for them in the real world – with your SaaS so that you can decrease churn, increase revenue, and create an exponentially increasing mountain of new sales. 

I’m not over-promising. When you nail Customer Success, those are the results.

This process begins with qualitative data research: Real feedback from real users. This research can help you form a unique value proposition to attract your ideal customers from the very beginning so that you (and they) can start achieving Customer Success, and all of the results that come with it.

Qualitative Data Research

At best, analytics can tell you what is happening, but they can never tell you exactly why. They can tell you a channel is underperforming or a page has a high bounce rate but those are symptoms, and you can either guess at the root causes or you can conduct qualitative research to get meaningful answers. When you’re investing time and money into growing a business, guessing becomes expensive. Running A/B tests or trying new things based on your own intuition or your team’s brainstorming without getting outside of the building is an easy way to waste time and money. 

In fact, this is how many startups fail – or make fools of themselves. Remember the fiasco when iTunes gave everyone the latest U2 album?

When you try to guess what to improve upon or how to fix what’s wrong, it’s not just that you might waste time getting to what ultimately works, it’s that you might not ever make the change that really matters. As people, we’re great at coming up with options and ideas based on the combination of things we “see” or understand, but we’re not good at identifying the factors that may be completely off our radar. 

As Donald Rumsfeld famously said, we’re not good at dealing with the “unknown unknowns.” Unfortunately, it can often be those unknown unknowns that are holding back Customer Success. And we’d never get to the answers ourselves. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, we usually can’t identify the dog that’s not barking. So research isn’t just about speeding up the process of finding wins—it’s essential to finding them in the first place.

Qualitative research breaks down into a few key buckets: surveying, interviewing and observing, and inbound analysis. 

Let’s Get Started

Here’s five steps you can use to gather, analyze and utilize qualitative research to continually improve your language —and ultimately rock your value prop:

5 Steps

  1. Identify your ideal customer
  2. Gather qualitative data from existing and potential customers
  3. Form a unique value proposition to begin establishing language-market fit
  4. Update and test your language
  5. Monitor

1. Identify your ideal customer

Most SaaS companies don’t want to narrow their focus to an ideal customer, but this is critical. After all, how do you know what kind of language to use if you don’t have a clear picture of who you’re talking to? 

Think you can write a sales page that appeals to everyone? Think again. Copywriters know that effective copy, the copy that converts into action, must be highly targeted on just one persona (or, at most, two – but they don’t recommend it!).

You can start identifying your ideal customer by using Lincoln Murphy’s Ideal Customer Profile Framework.

We’ll wait here while you do that.

2. Gather qualitative data from current and potential customers.

Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, you need to determine how the market perceives their problems and your product through the language that you’re currently using on your website and marketing materials. 

After all, language is the foundation of growth.

Here are four methods you can use to accomplish this:

  1. Surveys
  2. Interviews
  3. Observation
  4. Inbound Customer Feedback

Surveys

 This is pretty straightforward. Implement regular surveying of both website visitors and customer segments via onsite and email-based surveys. These include product/market fit, customer satisfaction, net promoter scores, demographic/psychographic profiles, product features and more. 

Why you should talk with “qualified noes”

Onsite surveying is great, but you can also end up getting feedback from people who aren’t your customers – ie. unqualified leads. This is not the feedback you want. Instead, focus on surveying the “qualified noes” (the people who are qualified but decided against buying anyway.) These are the people that can unlock real insights to improve your customer acquisition efforts.

There are two parts to talking to qualified noes: part one is asking your questions within the context of the right parts of the user experience to talk to qualified visitors; part two is asking the right questions. 

The right questions at the right time

You want to ask people who just bought what convinced them to buy, and people who abandoned at the last minute why they changed their mind. All of this is detailed well in this article about “golden questions” with Conversion Rate Experts and Sean Ellis.

Custom surveys via email are another important part of qualitative feedback. Ideally you have a regular survey that goes out to your user base on an interval—say every quarter—that asks the same set of questions about overall satisfaction, demographic data and more. This helps you understand if your product is improving or not, and how your user base is evolving. 

Pre-launch Surveys

In addition to regular surveys, you should survey your customers occasionally about new features or initiatives you’re thinking of launching. These can be stand alone, one-off surveys sent from time to time.

Targeting these to the right people is essential to get meaningful feedback.

For instance you don’t want to send new product feature surveys to users who haven’t logged in recently – if they don’t care about your old features, they aren’t likely to invest interest in the new ones. 

You can get a lot more detail about how to survey users in Qualaroo’s Marketer’s Guide to Surveying Users.

Surveys are great for aggregate qualitative data, but they often only collect data around the issues you think are important—after all your team is writing the questions. So they are not always the best at getting to unknown unknowns. Free-form fields can help here, but they’re not as good as interviews and observing users. 

Interviews

Interviews, such as those done in usability studies, ethnographic research and customer development provide a much richer profile of users. They also help uncover unknown opportunities and issues. The key to interviews is to ensure you’re not leading the interviewee, and are able to elicit the insights and information you’re looking for. Interviewing is a skill, and whether it’s for usability research or customer development, knowing the right questions to ask and being able to put subjects at ease are critical to making the sessions valuable. 

Ash Mayura does a great job of outlining the specifics to customer development issues in Running Lean and includes a specific format and question recommendations to help you get the most out of the interviews. Of course it’s critical that you’re interviewing the right types of people—people who are like the customers you are trying to attract or retain.

Observation

Beyond interviews, observation can be really valuable as well. Especially when it comes to usability it studies and ethnographic research, simply watching people interact with your product or service is highly instructive. You can do this remotely, with tools like UserTesting.com and Inspectlet, or you can do it in-person with some of the user testing studies outlined in Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. 

Ethnographic research has you observing users in their actual environment with your product. Watching someone work all day and then pick up their phone to use your app, or login to your service while trying to manage their leads, etc. is an incredibly illuminating experience that not only provides great context to understand how your users think about and use your product in relation to the rest of their lives, but it also creates a great deal of user empathy which is essential in creating new features, campaigns, etc. 

Inbound Customer Feedback

Combining these individual deep dives with other qualitative feedback can help provide context to results and analytics data. All of this is proactive research led by the organization, but you also have a great deal of qualitative inbound data that you can take advantage of.

Complaints, support tickets, phone calls, posts on social media, reviews and chat logs are all founts of qualitative data that can be mined for insights. They can be structured, through tools like UserVoice, or they can be mined from unstructured data like support logs or Twitter mentions. 

While most inbound customer feedback is simply used to manage complaints and triage issues, the growth team can use this feedback to find new opportunities for features and campaigns that can lead to growth. One of my favorite examples of this is from Bryan Eisenberg, who likes to show how different the language is in e-commerce product descriptions and the consumer reviews of the same product. By mining these reviews, e-commerce companies can find inspiration for everything from ad and landing page copy to new marketing channels to pursue.

User research is an important and rich area of opportunity for businesses. Most of the opportunity is squandered by a lack of action. As usability expert Jakob Nielsen said, even talking to just five users can lead to big insights and wins. By combining surveys, interviews, observations, and analysis of inbound customer feedback, growth teams can find brand new opportunities that can lead to big wins for their business.

3. Form a unique value proposition to begin establishing language-market fit.

As pointed out by Peep Laja on ConversionXL, your value proposition is the number-one thing you need to get right — and to test. It is a promise of the value to be delivered to the customer. It should be in the language of the customer and should join the conversation that’s already taking place.

To do this, you first have to understand what your customer needs (and what they’d like to gain), what their jobs are, and what their biggest pain points are. Don’t try to guess – use qualitative data gained from interviews and surveys of your ideal customers.

Then, look at what your product does, what benefits/gains it offers, and what pain points it relieves.

Where the two lists intersect is where you have problem/solution fit. And each “fit” becomes an ingredient of your value proposition.

Use this value proposition worksheet or Strategyzer’s value proposition canvas to get started.

value-prop-canvas

Of course, when filling out the value proposition canvas, you’ll have to condense your users’ answers in order to make a list to compare and contrast with what your product offers. But don’t throw away the complete responses from your interviewees. This chart will help you find problem/solution fit (aka. product/market fit) and let you know exactly which benefits to highlight for your audience, but it won’t tell you which words to use that fit your audience.

Your audience already has.

Within the responses your interviewees give you are perfect little sound bites, snippets of sentences, or possible full paragraphs, that precisely express – in the raw language of your users – what your customers need, want and fear. Use these sound bites as they are (correcting only grammar and punctuation if necessary) in your copy.

When your copy – even your value proposition – captures the diction, tone, and feel of your target audience, they’ll recognize it as quickly as you recognize your own signature on a check. And it will speak to them.

4. Update and test your language.

Now that you’ve collected your qualitative data and put it to use in a working value proposition, it’s time to update the language on your landing pages. 

You’ll need to continue to test your value proposition, so form a hypothesis for an A/B test and start testing to determine which variation has a greater positive impact on Customer Success metrics.

A/B testing may be simple, but it’s powerful. Much like the observation technique of gathering qualitative data, a good A/B test measures the real-world behavior of your customers.

Which metrics to look at depends on your goal. Is it lowering Cost to Acquire a new customer (CAC)? Is it monthly recurring revenue, or annual recurring revenue? Is it retaining customers after a typical “drop-off” point in your onboarding process?

Once you’ve chosen a metric and have a hypothesis – which can be as simple as “I think the new language will increase conversions on this page by 25%” – set up an A/B test to find out if you’re meeting your goal. If not, make one change and try again.

You may find that the issue isn’t your language but its presentation, so if you are confident in your value proposition and your on-page copy, you might try having your web design team change the placement of the text, the font, the color, etc. Don’t make lots of changes all at once, unless the page is brand new or severely underperforming. You need a benchmark to compare the new with the old.

5. Monitor 

The problem with A/B testing is that it doesn’t tell you why you’re getting the results you are, which is where qualitative data comes into play yet again. Once you’ve noticed that version B actually performs worse than version A, you can use on-page open-ended survey questions, or interviews, or any of the other qualitative data gathering methods to ask your customers “Hey, what about this page isn’t working for you?”

Then, iterate based on their responses and repeat the A/B testing cycle until you’ve optimized your value prop, or page, or onboarding process for customer success.

Conclusion

Qualitative data is at the heart of Customer Success initiatives – after all, how can you help customers achieve their successes unless you’ve first asked them what they are. With the foundation of insights ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ you can build an empire.

  1. Identify your ideal customer by using Lincoln Murphy’s Ideal Customer Profile Framework.
  2. Gather qualitative data through the use of surveys, interviews, observation, and inbound customer feedback to validate your language.
  3. Use this value proposition worksheet to form your value proposition.
  4. Update and test the language on your site. 
  5. Monitor.

Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Content Marketing, Customer Success, SaaS

Inbound Marketing Alone Isn’t Sufficient for SaaS Customer Success by @NikkiElizDeMere

inbound-marketing

If you ask an inbound marketer, inbound marketing is not only the best thing since sliced bread – it’s the saving grace of marketing in general. Now, I will admit to having some bias towards Inbound. I think it works a helluva lot better for today’s customers who are becoming increasingly resistant to the “hard sell” tactics of outbound marketing.

But, it’s not the be-all and end-all, everything-you-need, one-stop-shop for SaaS success.

Not even if you do it really, really well.

Inbound’s strengths are in supporting the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision-making stages of the buyer’s journey. At its best, it reaches out to ideal customers, reels them in with genuinely helpful content, warms them up, and gently nudges them towards clicking the “Buy” button.

“What else is there?” you might well ask.

All of the stages inbound marketing typically addresses are about acquisition, which is great. You need to acquire customers or you won’t have a business.

But you also need to retain customers – or you won’t grow your business.

Ah, yes. Retention.

Inbound Marketing doesn’t do much, if anything, for retention – but your content strategy, together with your onboarding process, should.

Because your goal isn’t just to attract and convert customers. You have to keep them too.

Life after the Buy button

Inbound marketing – to date – has been about making that initial sale. But with more and more SaaS companies coming online with subscription-based models, SaaS content has to include retention strategies.

Let’s strip the jargon for a second. What I mean by “retention strategies” is:

  • Building relationships with your customers based on trust
  • Earning that trust with a solid track-record of supporting customer goals from the beginning
  • Managing expectations, so you don’t over-sell and under-deliver
  • And setting customers up for success in the real-world

It sounds good, right? But in most companies, this outline would likely find some pushback. Management, in most cases, is very fond of evaluating their sales teams, and gauging the success of their companies, based off of revenue – not Lifetime Value.

What’s the difference?

Revenue is the amount of money you make in a month, a quarter, or a year.

Lifetime value is the dollars-and-cents number you can attribute to each of your customers, both in terms of what they pay in recurring subscription dues, and in terms of the business they bring to the table over the entire time they are your customer. Think cross-sells, up-sells and referrals.

It’s too easy to see the $20K you make from a new customer, and miss the slow and steady $5K that drips in from your existing customers – but if you only focus on those shiny new customers…

  • You’ll pay more to acquire that short-term sale (it costs far more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one)
  • You’ll make less revenue in the long-term
  • And, you’ll grow more slowly – unless you are able to retain the customers you make

When all of your customer acquisition effort and budget is spent just trying to replace existing customers who’ve left, growth is sluggish – if it happens at all.

Lincoln Murphy sums it up in this equation:

Anti-Growth Math: 1-1+1=1

Focusing efforts (and budget) on Lifetime Value (LTV) requires a substantial shift in mindset. But, when you nail retention, you’ll find that acquisition rates rise, and revenue?

It. Blows. Up.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Here’s some stats from a Drift article on The Power Of Marketing To Your Existing Customers:

  • According to Bain and Co., a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 25% to 95%.
  • In a study of over 500 SaaS companies, Patrick Campbell, CEO and Founder of ProfitWell, found that increasing retention had a 6.71% impact on a company’s bottom line – compared with acquisition, which only had a 3.32% impact.
  • Gartner Group found that, on average, 80% of a company’s future profits come from 20% of their existing customers.

The Customer Success Equation: 1+153162562939000+Their_Friends=A Lot

How do you retain a customer?

Let me put it to you this way:

    • If your goal is to have more people find your website and buy your products through Facebook ads
      • And there’s a company that sells Facebook ads… (Note: This is where most companies stop – once they’ve found product/customer fit)
      • And that company not only sells you Facebook ads but also teaches you how to create highly-effective Facebook ads…
      • Then, you actually succeed in having more people find your website and buy your products via Facebook.

Are you likely to leave that company? No!

That, at least, is the theory driving AdEspresso’s customer retention efforts. Since success for their customers isn’t actually the act of placing an ad on Facebook – they’ve gone one extra step to ensure that customers learn how to get the very best results from their ads by launching the AdEspresso Academy. Their academy doesn’t fit into the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision-making stages of Inbound Marketing – that is, it isn’t focused on bringing in new customers, instead it’s focused on keeping the ones they have. By investing in the real-world successes their clients care about most, their retention rates soar, as do their referrals.

And, by producing so much genuinely helpful content, they attract new clients who want to learn how to improve their Facebook ads – who then find the AdEspresso product that helps them do just that.

Hubspot has the same model, offering Inbound Marketing certifications for free and introducing marketers to their impressive platform at the same time.

Hubspot also builds in success markers into their onboarding process, so that new clients can easily keep track of how they’re doing – and get help if they’re not meeting their own benchmarks.

This is customer success in action. This is retention in the making.

This is why SaaS content marketing is different than SaaS inbound marketing. SaaS content marketing is different than SaaS inbound marketing. Click To Tweet

When every user has an entire World-Wide Web of choices, you have to compete based on the one factor that really counts: Do you have what it takes to help that user achieve his or her desired outcome?


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

SaaS

The 4 Types of Churn, and Why Cancellation Isn’t One of Them ft. @Inturact

churn

Churn is what you don’t want. It’s customers leaving you. Saying yes, then saying “Ah, changed my mind.” It’s the breakup we don’t see coming (if only we’d seen the signs sooner!), and it not only hurts our egos, it hurts our businesses.

But simply saying “churn is when customers leave” oversimplifies the situation. If we examine the timing and causes of churn, we can come up with solutions that can stop churn in its tracks (and even reverse it).

Read More on Inturact


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Success, SaaS

The Natural, Logical, Inescapable Way to Make Sales with Free Trials by @NikkiElizDeMere

the-natural-logical-way-to-make-sales

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

One of my freelancer friends has a problem with billing on time. It drives her nuts; it drives her clients nuts; it’s a recurring problem for which she prays for a solution every 30 days. How cool would it be if she signed up for a Free Trial of new accounting software, hopped on the phone with a Customer Success agent, explained why billing is so darn difficult for her, and had the Customer Success agent walk her through the process of solving her problem?

Would she convert into a paying customer?

Try and stop her.

Now, step back and think for a minute because this is a very different way of running a Free Trial. Let’s look at how most Free Trials operate:

  1. Customer signs up for the free trial and signs in to use the product.
  2. Customer glances over the instructions, but doesn’t really pay attention since he or she expects your product to be more intuitive than a toaster.
  3. Customer doesn’t make the connection between what your product does and the problem they need to solve.
  4. Customer leaves and never comes back.
  5. Your CEO wonders why.

The first major drop-off for app users, including Free Trial users, is after their first or second login, which makes this beginning stage crucial. Yet most SaaS companies use the self-serve model for their Free Trials, which means users are on their own – unless they reach out to customer service. Most don’t. Most quit.

The SaaS Onboarding lesson that applies to Free Trials

There was a fascinating article recently about how Groove addressed this issue in their onboarding process. Their churn rate was uncomfortably high, so they began tracking user behavior to find patterns that predicted churn. Then, as soon as a user entered into one of those patterns, a Customer Success representative would reach out and offer help. For example, one predictive action was taking too much time to complete a task (indicating the user was having trouble).

Groove created an automated email that triggered after a set number of minutes saying “Hey Bill, I got an alert that you might be having some trouble integrating your Twitter account with Groove. If so, I’d love to help. Just reply to this email and let me know. Thanks, Adam.” These emails generated a 26% response rate, and of the users who completed the process, 40% were still customers after 30 days.

Whether you’re optimizing your onboarding process or developing your Free Trial, tracking user behavior and looking for predictive actions is vital to catching users before they fall.

Tracking, milestones, and redefining the Demo

Three Customer Success tactics are usually missing from Free Trials (and make all the difference).

  1. Getting to know what success means to the customer.
  2. Setting milestones marking progress towards success.
  3. Tracking progress proactively.

By setting up users to take meaningful actions towards their individual goals during their Free Trials, you’re ensuring that the next logical step after the trial ends is to become a paying customer.

Some of this you can automate, like asking Free Trial subscribers to answer a short open-ended question survey about their desired outcomes for using your product. But from there, you’ll want a real human to help users define a goal and plot milestone markers to show how much progress is being made. By including interactive milestones, you’re providing a constant reminder of just how much value the user receives from your product.

This is where a Demo comes in – but not your grandfather’s Demo. Often, a Demo is seen as an alternative to a Free Trial, an “either/or” option. But if a product Demo is used not to introduce a product in a general way, but to forge the link between how the product works and what the individual user specifically needs to accomplish, it can be a highly effective customer success tool. During the Demo, you can ask questions of the user, define goals, set markers, and walk them through how to successfully use your product and track their own progress.

But wait – there’s more. Not only should you build into your Free Trial system a way for users to mark their progress, you’ll also need to track their progress on the sales/customer success side. Once again, you’re looking for behaviors predictive of churn. By monitoring user actions, your success agents can step in and help when needed.

Support your Free Trial with content

Content works well to support every stage of the buyer’s journey, but is especially useful in strengthening your Free Trial. With a robust educational content strategy, visitors will come into your trial already having a very good idea of what your product can do for them, making them much warmer leads. Try drafting a content strategy around blogs, newsletters, videos, downloadable guides, Ask Me Anything sessions and webinars that show how customers are using your product to achieve great things. Sometimes all a prospect needs to sign up is an idea of what is possible.


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.