Browsing Category

SaaS

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.

Product Management, SaaS, Startups

What sets you apart? It’s probably not what you think. ft. @rrhoover

what-sets-you-apart

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

When I ask clients what sets them apart, what I hear from most is a lengthy list of features.

Variations on: “Our product does this, that, and the other thing.”

I hate to shoot them down, because they’re all really proud of what they’ve accomplished. Their products are, in fact, excellent at what they do. But here’s the problem with using features as differentiators:

Features can be copied.

Android phones are copying iPhones (and vice versa).

Google Cloud Storage is copying Dropbox and Box, or is it the other way around?

Germany’s Samwer brothers made their fortunes by blatantly copying existing web companies, including Airbnb and Pinterest, and selling the businesses back to their originators or other interested parties.

If you’ve made something, someone else can and will copy it. But, what they can’t copy is you.

“Oh, but I don’t want my business to be about me; I want it to be about my [product/customers/mission trips to Zambia].”

You’re on the right track with this train of thought. This post on CopyHackers says it best, “Potential clients aren’t interested in you. They want to hear what’s in it for them.” But one of the most important benefits customers get from purchasing your product is the expertise, experience, connections, and even personality behind it – your expertise, experience, connections and personality.

Give your brand a face

Some people are deeply hesitant, if not downright suspicious or fearful, of associating their names and faces with their companies. They believe their brands should speak for themselves, which isn’t a terrible idea. It’s just hard to achieve for startups and newer companies. This mindset also misses out on an opportunity.

It is much easier for an individual to become a recognized and respected thought-leader than it is for a corporation.

Consider this:

When Sean Ellis started GrowthHackers.com, he already had a large personal following and authority. He has earned his place as a thought-leader in the field with years of freely sharing valuable insights.

If someone else had tried to start a Growth Hackers community, they could copy the website’s basic premise of up-voting and commenting – but they could never duplicate Sean Ellis.

Similarly, the vibrant Product Hunt community has a duplicable up-vote and comment system, but getting another Ryan Hoover with all of his experience and Silicon Valley buy-in to run the show is unlikely.

Breaking the mold with community

When you consider what truly sets you apart – it has to be something no one else can copy. Knowledge, personal authority, established presence in the community, insider information, in-depth knowledge earned over years, and the community of engaged followers who gravitate to you.

Hubspot, for example, is an outstanding company that makes inbound marketing, content creation, segmentation and tracking easy. But even its sophisticated system will likely generate copycats in the coming years. What these latecomers won’t be able to replicate, however, is Hubspot’s strong community of inbound true-believers at Inbound.org.

Be the first – no one can take that away

You don’t have to invent something brand new to be the unforgettable first (though it helps). Being the first to introduce (or at least vocally adopt) a trend can also establish your reputation as a leader. Buffer beat just about everyone to being a “transparent” company. They’ve become famous for their “default to transparency” values and are credited for starting the movement.

In Running Lean, author Ash Maurya calls these differentiators “unfair advantages”:

A real unfair advantage is one that cannot easily be copied or bought.

On the list are:

  • Difficult-to-achieve capabilities – think of how Google has dominated the search market by constantly making improvements to be the best.
  • Community – the people who not only follow you, but add value for each other.
  • Dream team – it doesn’t have to be all about one person; your differentiator may be how you harness the considerable talents of others.
  • Exclusive access to a segment of customers
  • Reputation
  • Experience & insider knowledge

Once you’ve identified your unfair advantage, you’ve taken the first step towards building a company that may be copied, but will never be matched.

5 fun things to do with your differentiator

Now that you’ve identified your differentiator, or “unfair advantage,” it’s time to use it. You can:

  1. Use it in your unique value proposition.
  2. Include it in your supporting copy.
  3. Add it to the “About Us” section (with a benefits-focus on the customer, of course!).
  4. Let it inspire your social media strategy.
  5. Let it be the leading voice in your content, positioning you and your company as a thought-leader in your industry.

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

Customer Development, SaaS, Startups

Should you use growth tactics that don’t scale? by @NikkiElizDeMere

growth-tactics-that-dont-scale

Last week, my friend received a charming hand-written note from a monthly wine club she recently joined. It was addressed by hand, the welcome note was written by her personal “wine concierge,” and it contained four $30 Off coupons to give to friends.

But what impressed me (and my friend, since she’s a copywriter) is the words in that handwritten note.

“We are a new company and growing fast.”

“Please help us continue to grow by sharing these referral cards with friends – you’ll earn free vino if they join.”

With that simple call-to-action asking the recipient to share the referral cards with friends (for free wine – who doesn’t love that?), Bright Cellars delivered a customer development tactic that may not scale, but will definitely help them grow.

Read More on SEMrush


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

Customer Success, SaaS

The Right Way to Reduce Your Churn Rate by @NikkiElizDeMere

Some customers are past saving. They’ve made their decision to leave, and they’ll be out just as soon as they can find the “cancel” button.

Of course you don’t want them to leave — nor do you want more customers following suit.

To prevent more customers from leaving, you need to ask yourself tough questions: How did your churned customer get to that point? And once they’re at that point, is there anything you can do to save the account?

Read More on HubSpot


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

Customer Development, Customer Success, SaaS

Two Mistakes I See SaaS Founders Make All The Time by @NikkiElizDeMere

mistakes-saas-founders-make

Software as a Service, and any subscription-based business model for that matter, relies on customers who stick with them. Attracting the “sticky” kind of customer is a science, some might even say an art. And the stakes for perfecting the acquisition of long-term, high-yield customers are high – they’ll make or break your business.

So why do I see SaaS founders making the same two mistakes over and over again?

Hook, line and sinker

You know who doesn’t make these two mistakes? A fisherman. A fisherman goes out knowing exactly the type of fish he wants to catch. He comes prepared with the correct type of fishing reel to catch his fish. He chooses from among hundreds of types of fishing lures and bait, finding the exact combination most likely to appeal to his fish. According to Field and Stream, you can find a lure that catches fish, “specified right down to size and color.” Then, he finds the part of the stream, river, brook, or ocean where his prey is most likely to be, according to the time of year and weather conditions.

This leads me to the first mistake far too many SaaS founders make:

1. You don’t identify your ideal customer

Oh, there are variations. There are a number of SaaS founders who think they’ve identified their target customer, but haven’t done enough homework to flesh out the details. It’s like saying you’re going after trout, but do you want rainbow trout? Brook trout? Brown trout? Cutthroat trout? Did you know Ireland has more types of trout than anywhere else in the world?

And each type of trout has its own lifecycle, feeding habits, and habitat.

You can’t just say you want trout and expect to catch one. You need to know the details.

You can’t just say your target audience is women, between the ages of 25 to 35. You need to know what their problems are, what frustrates them, what they love, and what outcome they would most like to the problem you’re uniquely prepared to solve.

Lincoln Murphy has a theory about why so many founders fail to ID their target – he thinks that people forget that they can choose their customers. I would add that many business owners have a “beggars can’t be choosers” mentality and fear excluding potential buyers by targeting one group too specifically.

However, unless you’re attempting to become the next Amazon or Apple, chances are your product won’t appeal to everyone equally. This isn’t a liability, it’s an opportunity. Business that are able to become leaders in their niches do very, very well.

Meet your ideal customer

There are many methods and theories for how to create customer profiles and buyer personas. Many require you to go into incredible depth of detail, fleshing out your target’s family role, religion, hair color, ethnic background, geographic location, house or apartment, favorite celebrity trend-setter, shoe size.

I appreciate what a well-developed buyer persona can offer businesses. Advertising Andy in his size 10 Birkenstocks can be a useful rallying point for the different teams responsible for attracting, acquiring, retaining and delighting his segment.

But I recommend starting by finding out the information that is most pertinent to what you have to offer and what business problem you’re trying to solve (Retention? Lifetime value? Creating brand advocates?).

Picture the best customer you’ve ever had:

      1. What was that customer’s industry?
      2. What problem did that customer need to solve?
      3. What was at stake for that customer if they didn’t solve their problem?
      4. What did that customer appreciate about your solution?
      5. How long did that customer stay with you (and if they left, why?).
      6. What other solutions did that customer try before coming to you? How did they find you?
      7. What was the thing that tipped them over the edge into conversion?
      8. Do they ask your customer service team a lot of questions – or rarely make contact?
      9. Have they referred more business your way, or agreed to upsells and cross-sells?
      10. How exactly have they experienced success/value from your product?

The answers to these 10 questions are a recipe for who your customers are, where you can find them, and what is likely to appeal to them most. You won’t get this information by guessing, which leads me to the second most common mistake SaaS founders make.

2. You don’t talk to your ideal customer

There is a right way and a wrong way to talk to your customers, but many SaaS founders don’t talk at all. That’s definitely the wrong way! Here’s another wrong way:

If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. – Henry Ford

While you can’t rely on your customers to come up with their own solutions, it is important to ask them questions and listen to what they are, and aren’t saying.

Focus on understanding their problems, the severity of their problems, and the contexts of those problems.

What is their workflow?

Ask questions about their desires and find out what drives them. Their goals probably have nothing to do with your product, but your product could be exactly what they need to reach their goals of saving time (to spend more time with their families), working more efficiently (to experience less frustrating and impress their bosses), or whatever it is.

Ask them where they look to find answers – do they Google problems? Do they ask their co-workers?

Ask your best customers if you can speak with them for 20 minutes to find out how you can better meet their needs – most will be more than happy to comply. Be sure to take word-for-word notes, since your copywriters may want to use the exact language of your customers in their conversion copy.

So much valuable information can only be gleaned through customer interviews. Yet most founders are reluctant to “bother” people. But here’s the thing: When the purpose of your questions is to create a better solution, improve the user experience, and essentially make your customer’s lives easier – they’ll be glad you asked (and impressed by your commitment to customer service).

The information you gain from your customers can be used to refine your marketing and sales tactics, strengthen your customer success efforts and drastically improve retention. The trick is to ask the right questions of the right people.


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

Customer Success, SaaS

Trying to acquire the wrong customer? by @NikkiElizDeMere

trying-to-aquire-the-wrong-customer

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“Customer Success starts with acquiring the right customers.”
Lincoln Murphy, SixteenVentures

For some companies, defining their ideal customer is easy. If you make an app that tracks fertility, for example, your target market is very specific: women between the ages of 25 to 35, who are in long-term relationships, are likely college educated and who make a decent income. From that demographic foundation alone, you can derive enough information to inspire several complete marketing strategies.

But many of us, whether we own large companies, small businesses, or are solo acts, have a number of audiences we could appeal to. The trouble starts when we choose one, and choose poorly.

Don’t try to milk a steer – where businesses go wrong

The number one mistake I see SaaS founders make is failing to identify their ideal customers from the beginning.

If you haven’t defined your ideal customer, you won’t have the information you need to attract the leads who will become your best customers – the ones who love what you do, are a perfect fit for your service, and who will enjoy every minute of their customer experience with you.

Instead, you’ll get a grab bag of some happy customers, and some unhappy customers who will waste your time and drive you nuts when you attempt to deliver the kind of experience or results they want.

When you define your customer from the start, you can:

  • Improve retention,
  • Increase profitability,
  • And Grow faster thanks to referrals from delighted consumers.

The alternative is spinning your wheels dealing with the consumer equivalent of bad relationships – they’ll try to change you, complain about you, and never really love you. This is your business; it ain’t no country song! Stop trying to milk a steer, cowboy. It’s time to find your herd.

Of course, many businesses think they have identified their target markets, but they don’t realize they’ve done so incorrectly until:

  • Acquisition rates remain low
  • Retention rates don’t rise (and no customer success initiatives seem to work)
  • Sales cycles last too long
  • Customer service is overwhelmed with requests
  • Customers keep asking for services you don’t provide, or different features

What usually happens is the “target market” was based on an educated guess. Nearly every business starts out that way, but keep in mind – most businesses fail within their first year too!

How to ID your ideal customer

You’ll be starting from one of two places:

  1. Your business already has customers
  2. Your business is brand new, or still in the “idea” stage, and you don’t have any or many customers

Your business already has customers: If you already have customers, then you’ve probably noticed that some are awesome! Some are exactly the kind of customer you wish you could multiply by the thousands. Make a list of these customers, and then devote some time to analyzing who they are, what they are trying to accomplish, and why your product is such a good fit. What are their demographic details? Are there common personality traits (as in – they make decisions quickly, or they want all the facts before making a decision but are then extremely loyal)?

When creating this list and analyzing your best customers, be sure that they are in fact customers who are achieving their goals with your product. The customer who has been with you the longest but hasn’t logged-in in a year is not the kind of consumer you want to attract (he’s probably forgotten about the auto-renewal on his credit card).

Use the information you’ve gathered to begin building a detailed buyer profile, but don’t stop there. You’ll want to double-check your findings by actually interviewing a few of your best clients to find insights into their user experience you’ll never hear otherwise.

In these interviews, it’s crucial to find out why these customers looked for a solution and decided on yours, and why they’re still with you. Use the answers to these “why?” questions to validate your value propositions and develop customer-facing content and marketing campaigns.

Your business is brand-new: The questions you have to ask remain the same; the difference is that you don’t have a ready-made segment to survey.

One common self-inflicted roadblock is assuming that defining your ideal customer too early will limit your business. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Lincoln Murphy says,

“I think people forget that you actually get to choose your customers. You get to choose who you want to do business with. SO creating an Ideal Customer Profile isn’t limiting…it’s empowering!”

Moreover, this isn’t a one-time-only decision that will forever determine who you go after. Your ideal customer is going to be a (slowly) moving target, depending on what goals you want to achieve.

Now that we’ve leaped those hurdles, here’s how to start defining your target niche.

Begin by asking yourself:

  • What problems does your product/service solve?
  • Who has that problem?
  • Who really needs to solve that problem or their lives will be RUINED? (It’s not just the problem, it’s the severity of the problem!)
  • Will this customer immediately find value in your product/service once they buy it (and by “value,” I mean make progress towards their personal or professional goals)

Once you have a general idea of who has the problem you’re able to solve, it’s time to reach out to real people who fit that profile. This is where you’ll get into a Customer Development approach by using qualitative data gleaned from real-people interviews to get the details on your target market.

Then, make sure you’re targeting the right people by defining the wrong people.

Ask yourself:

  • What type of customer would need the most help and customer support?
  • What type of customer is unlikely to see the value in your product/service immediately?
  • What type of customer won’t be able to make progress towards their goals if and when they buy your product?

By defining who your product isn’t for, you’ll get a better idea of who your product is for.

Target Acquired: What’s Next?

Once you understand who your ideal customer is – and isn’t – you’ll be able to derive insights into how best to reach them, how to express your value proposition, and how to deliver what they need once they’ve signed up. You’ll be able to refine your acquisition process so new customers can realize value faster, which leads to retention as well as upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Essentially, knowing your ideal customer is the foundation of the rest of your business, and as your business grows, your ability to fine-tune your segmentation will grow with it.

Which makes the next step optimization. Make that your next hundred steps, because optimization is more about the journey than the destination.

As your “ideal” customers begin to come in, you’ll want to put analytics in place to tell you how they found you, who they are, what their customer lifetime value (LTV) is, and what actions they take that correlate with greater or lesser LTV. You may also want to look at which types of customers are your loudest advocates, or who are so engaged with your brand that they’ve become integral parts of your social media communities.

With this information, you can change your marketing strategies to attract certain types of customers, or refine your onboarding process to encourage desired actions that correlate with reduced churn.

Don’t be Surprised

Don’t be surprised if your ideal customer doesn’t make up the majority of your current user base – they probably don’t. Once you begin optimizing to attract and retain them, however, you’ll see their numbers grow as the numbers of your less-than-ideal customers shrink (and hopefully disappear).


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

Customer Success, SaaS

Customer Success for Dummies – What Every SaaS Startup Founder Should Know by @NikkiElizDeMere

customer-success-for-dummies

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Like most good advice, customer success sounds really simple, but gets complicated once you want to implement it in your own business. So instead of waxing poetical on its many virtues (and there are many), let’s take the For Dummies approach and drill down into what really counts:How customer success will help you take over the world!

Kidding! Kind of. Not really.

The definition of customer success is:

“A proactive, holistic, and organization-level approach that leverages technology and real-enough-time visibility into customer health (not just usage data, but any contextual inputs) to ensure your customers – including those who directly use (users, administrators, etc.) and those who benefit from the use of your product – continually and increasingly receive value from your product over the course of their lifetime as a customer.”

– Lincoln Murphy, Sixteen Ventures

Read More on SignupLab


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

Customer Success, SaaS

10 Ways to Grow Your SaaS with Customer Success by @NikkiElizDeMere

Customer Success isn’t just a way to retain clients – it’s the most potent way to grow your SaaS business. Here are ten Customer Success techniques you can use to spend less on marketing, make more money on sales, and keep your clients happy in the process.

1) Forget the new clients – current clients are gold

New clients are expensive! Their buyers’ journeys are long and paved with your company’s dollar bills.

Current customers, on the other hand, become more cost-efficient with each subscription cycle, reducing churn and raising profit margins. It’s not only about renewals though – current clients are more likely to purchase additional services and upgrades.

2) Make every customer a good customer

There will always be pain-in-the-neck clients, but you have the power to make each one of your customers a “good” customer. At least by Lincoln Murphy’s definition: “Good customers are those that continually realize value from your product.”

To achieve this, you’ll need a combo of accurate targeting and customer success to bring the right clients to you and keep them happy.

3) You care, they share – it’s karma in action

When you take action to help your customers be successful with your product, they’ll want more of your products. They’ll also want to tell their friends and business associates about your products.

They’ll not only share your useful eBooks and blog posts and social media interactions, but will also become your evangelists, saving you money on marketing.

Read More on TribeBoost


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

Customer Success, SaaS

SaaS retention opportunities are hidden within the Customer Success Gap. ft. @LincolnMurphy

You know that space, perhaps a vast expanse or a narrow gorge, between what your customer wants to have happen, and what your product actually delivers? Lincoln Murphy coined a term for this – he calls it the “Success Gap.

But in between your customer’s desired outcome…

1

And what your product does…

Is a space brimful of opportunities.

But it’s also where many companies run into trouble.

As Murphy says – you might think you have one gap to bridge, but you actually have two. The first gap is between your product’s functionality and your customers’ hopes. The second gap is between what you assume your customers’ successful use of your product is – and what success means to them. Watch out for that step, because it’s a doozy.

2

What a customer’s success looks like to you (don’t be fooled)

Let’s say you’re tracking customer usage of your product (as you should be) and you notice that a customer is following all of the patterns that you’ve seen make for a successful, long-term, happy client. That doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a gap. Even if they are completing all the tasks, do you really know whether they’re reaching their desired outcome?

What if their desired outcome is out of your control – and far outside the scope of your product?

You might be thinking, “well, then there’s nothing I can do. Not my problem.”

Oh, but it is your problem! It’s your problem to solve. Because that’s where the opportunities live.

See, while you may be selling a product, that’s not what your customers are buying. They’re buying a desired outcome, and if they don’t get that desired outcome, they feel like they’ve wasted their money.

Therefore, if your customers are using your product, it behooves you to know whether they are finding success with it – by their definition – and if not, you have a chance to help.

Opportunities in the gap

This is where customer success content can make a huge difference. Let’s say your company is an e-newsletter service that captures email signups and lets users create simple newsletters with templates. Your customer Robin sends out a newsletter every month for six months, but his open rates are dismal because his newsletters are staggeringly boring!

Robin might be faithfully using your product, but that’s a far cry from getting the kind of engagement he dreamed of when he signed up.

If you’ve set up the right data, maybe you can target exactly what is going awry for your less-than-successful customers and create a content strategy around that. But, even if you don’t have that kind of data set up, you can think in terms of “What does my customer need to do his or her job better?” Create content around that, and you’re narrowing the gap.

But, content isn’t the only way to bring the two sides together. You could also develop additional services, add-ons, or partnerships. Maybe better templates that include grammar-checks and suggestions for how to craft titles for higher open rates? Maybe you form a partnership with a copywriting company to do a webinar on writing attention-grabbing copy?

3

Use that success gap as a jumping-off point for ideas to make your customer go “Oh? Yeah!”

I think Lincoln Murphy sums it up best: “If you know a customer is not achieving their Desired Outcome, either automatically or because the customer self-reports, don’t just let that stand… give them something to do, read, watch, or otherwise learn to improve the result next time.”

But I would add this: People are busy, distracted, and have other priorities. Because of this, we want solutions delivered on a silver platter and we’re willing to pay for the privilege. So don’t stop at instruction delivered by webinar, blog, email or newsletter – find ways to build these success lessons into the product itself.

4


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

Product Management, SaaS

Your Product Does a Lot – But Your Customers are Flummoxed by @NikkiElizDeMere

your-product-does-alot

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Excel, the spreadsheet program from Microsoft that has become ubiquitous in businesses everywhere, does just about everything. I bet, if you knew the right formula to insert into a cell, it would even make breakfast (I don’t guarantee it would be a good breakfast).

The problem with Excel is not how much it does, but how much training it takes to learn to use it. Companies offer sit-down classes in it for goodness sake! In some circles, it’s a resume boost just to say you know how to work the thing.

Microsoft may be able to get away with that kind of rubbish, but if you’re a SaaS company in 2015, your customers expect an intuitive interface they can use in seconds. And that means, even if your product does a lot and makes breakfast too, you have to be very careful with how you introduce your customers to your product’s capabilities.

Worst Practices for Deploying “Deep” Features

Before the customer hits the “Buy” button, you should, of course, tell them about all the wonderful things your product can do – for them. Most companies list every single feature, because gosh-darnit, they’ve worked hard to put them there and they’re proud of each and every one of them. But a more effective marketing tactic is to divide your customers into segments, find out what each segment’s needs are, and emphasize the features that would solve those specific sets of problems.

Once the prospect becomes a customer, the gradual unveiling of features (original, new, and upcoming) should really begin. Here’s hownot to do it:

  • Poorly-timed email blasts – Your customer doesn’t care about data export unless they first have data. So make sure you’ve set your emails to auto-deploy when their related features are used, so the new/additional feature you’re promoting makes sense in a real-world context.
  • FAQ – Leaving the explanation and promotion of features to your FAQ page, help sections, or even customer service means that users only become aware of them when they’re already frustrated. Frustrated people aren’t receptive to new ideas, as a rule. They just want their immediate problems solved.

Much Better Practices for Deploying “Deep” Features

The most effective way to introduce features is with a gradual deployment of messages to promote features when they become the most useful. As stated above, you could do this with automated emails pre-set to send when specific actions are performed.

Or, some platforms allow you to send a different pop-up message within the app itself after a certain number of sessions. When the user logs in for his or her third time, that might be when you introduce keyboard shortcuts. After they’ve been your customer for three months, you might introduce them to how your product integrates with another solution.

If you have the choice between automated emails and in-app notifications, go with in-app – that’s when your customers will be most receptive to suggestions on how to be even more successful with your product.

Intercom reports seeing a ten-fold increase in communications from in-app messages over email announcements.

All of this is predicated on how well you’ve come to know your customers, and how well you keep track of their progress, successes, goals and failures. Yes, once again, we’re talking about customer success. Aren’t we always?


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