Content Marketing, Conversion Rate Optimization, Customer Experience

The Customer Journey Mapping Guide to Getting Started ft. @Wootric

A customer journey map is a diagram of all the places customers come into contact with your brand, online or off. Each of these touchpoints influences the customer, and by analyzing customer behavior, feelings and motivations around each touchpoint, you can begin to identify opportunities to establish more positive relationships by giving customers what they need at any given stage of their journey.

The goal of journey mapping is to gain a deeper understanding of your customer, how they interact with your brand, and how each interaction affects your relationship. It’s also a way to ensure that the brand experience remains consistent for each customer across touchpoints.

“With the number of touchpoints a customer has with a brand increasing with the proliferation of technologies and channels, the need to create a consistent experience is critically important.” – McKinsey & Company

But the big picture goal is why there is so much buzz around customer journey maps now:

Customer journey maps can move you towards more conversions, greater customer loyalty, and improved customer experience from end to end (or from end to forever, if your subscription-based and there’s no bottom to your sales funnel).

But customer journey maps can be complicated to create, and their results can be difficult to track and interpret from end to end. Many businesses are tempted to ignore it altogether in favor of lower-hanging fruit to increase conversions.

However, that hesitancy to use journey maps is quickly disappearing as more companies are seeing the results from properly mapping their customer journeys.

And, if your company is struggling with the question: “Why aren’t customers completing (or repeating) purchases?” – there is no better time to create the map that will lead you to that answer.

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Customer Experience

Customer Experience Quotes from Experts on the Cutting Edge ft. @Wootric

“Customer experience” is a phrase that is generating increasing amounts of buzz. It’s grown from a philosophical understanding of the effect of customer/brand interactions into a metric to track, a goal to obtain.

We’ve collected customer experience quotes, definitions and statistics from industry sources to help you understand the power of improving CX.

What is Customer Experience?

“Customer Experience is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.” – Harvard Business Review’s Adam Richardson in Understanding Customer Experience.

Forrester puts it in even more amorphous terms: “Customer Experience is how customers perceive their interaction with your company.”

The first definition gives companies the illusion of control over CX – after all, you can manipulate engagement metrics, study touchpoints. But Forrester throws a monkey wrench into the works. Because CX isn’t about you. It’s about the customers – and their perceptions of you.

The expert CX quotes we’ve gathered explore Customer Experience from all of these angles and show just how much impact results when brands and customers align.

The CX Status Quo(te) Roundup

Sections:

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Customer Experience, Customer Success, Customer Support, SaaS

The Loyalty Metric: A Brief History of Net Promoter Score and How to Use it in Practice Today ft. @Wootric

More than two-thirds of the Fortune 1000 list currently use Net Promoter Score, a customer loyalty metric introduced by Fred Reichheld in a 2003 Harvard Business Review article, “The One Number You Need to Grow.”

One number. And to get to that one number, you only have to ask one question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this [product/brand/company/service]?”

Anyone who scores 0-6 is considered a Detractor. Passives rate 7 and 8. Promoters are those who score 9s and 10s – extremely likely to recommend.

The Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting Detractors from Promoters. Scores can range anywhere from -100 to 100. It couldn’t be simpler, or more powerful.

Since 2003, the popularity of that one number has grown exponentially, spawning specialty apps to track it and spurring researchers to study it. The most recent study by Temkin Group of 10,000 U.S. consumers showed a direct connection between NPS and customer loyalty across 20 industries. In 291 companies, NPS was highly correlated to the likelihood of repeat purchases from existing customers. In fact, promoters across those 20 industries were 92% more likely to make more purchases than detractors (not surprising), were 9 times more likely to try new offerings, and 5 times more likely to repurchase. Promoters were also 7 times more likely than Detractors to forgive companies if they made a mistake.

Loyalty is lucrative.

The ability to measure and improve it is imperative. And that’s where NPS comes into play.

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Content Marketing, Social Media

Party blogging with work-life balance: How a love for parties helped Jessica Lighter (@Celebrationsty) find her calling

Brands like Pier 1 and Target regularly find Jessica Lighter, of The Celebration Stylist, through her Instagram posts. In fact, despite her accomplishments as a party planner and blogger, she says the community she’s made on Instagram is what she’s proudest of. Here she talks about how she built a following of thirty-thousand highly engaged followers.

“I always had all these fun business ideas but I never had an audience for them. I knew if only people saw the things I could create, they would appreciate them and support them, but finding an audience was the hardest part. And what’s a business without buyers right?”

Jessica Lighter has always been a woman of many talents. Creativity isn’t something she does, it’s who she is. Trying to find a job that encompassed her many talents wasn’t easy; as she says “They don’t offer ‘party throwing’ as a college major.” But in high school she worked at a mall store that specialized in children’s birthday parties, and while she didn’t expect that to become her career path, it sort of did.

She went on to open her own party store, but when she and her husband decided to have children, her focus changed. She closed the store and planned occasional parties for families around the neighborhood, working events around the schedule of a stay-at-home mother. Then she began posting pictures of these parties on Instagram.

“I had a personal (but not private) Instagram account, like most people do, and one day I got a couple of random strangers following me. It dawned on me almost instantly that somehow I needed to grow my Instagram account and THAT would be my audience.”

Growing her Instagram following became her focus. She knew she could find an audience there and maybe even people to buy her products. Not only that, but “People that were interested and invested in my journey and what I would create.”

She says it was the exact solution she needed.

“No matter what I decided to do, I needed people to know about it if I was going to make it work on my own.”

Instagram fascinated Jessica. She saw businesses and brands using it as practically their only medium for growth. Jessica has devoted a lot of time to studying how to build a business through Instagram, and along the way, she discovered that she also enjoyed writing, which made blogging about her parties a natural evolution.

“There have definitely been points where I felt I was failing at life, but it all sort of funneled into this. And this lets me stay home with my daughter, write, create – all of which I like to do. A lot of people think they can’t make a career out of what they love to do, but I’m here to tell you, you can. You might just not know how yet.”

Jessica says she had no idea before she started that there were companies, big ones, that would pay other people to create images for them.

Today, Jessica as The Celebration Stylist works with brands like Target, Shutterfly and Pier 1 to create styled party shoots for her blog and Instagram, in addition to planning parties for local clients. It’s a system that’s working so well for her that she says she isn’t accepting new clients at this point – she’s earning enough and is able to give her two-year-old all the attention she needs (which, being a two-year-old, is a lot!).

Unlike so many entrepreneurs, Jessica Lighter isn’t all about the hustle. Her priorities are her daughter, work-life balance, and spending what time she has (while her daughter is napping) doing what she loves. Not a bad way to do business, if you ask me.

In this interview, Jessica Lighter shares how she built an Instagram following of more than 30,000 highly engaged followers, works with big-name brands, and is starting a community of party-loving creatives all on social media.

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Conversion Rate Optimization

Buyer Personas for E-Commerce Customer Research ft. @ObjeqtEcomm

A buyer persona (aka. user persona, customer persona) is an avatar that represents the aggregate of your target customers. The persona answers the questions: Who is my ideal customer? What do they want, in life, at work, at home? What do they need? What are they trying to accomplish? What goals drive their behavior? What are they looking for that I can provide?

These are the million-dollar questions for any business, because without these answers, you won’t achieve product-market fit.

For e-commerce businesses especially, having a thoroughly fleshed out buyer persona is vitally important, because it’s not enough to only understand what your customer needs and wants on the surface, you need to understand their entire psychology to create and sell your products effectively.

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Customer Success, Quora Answers, SaaS

“Is it a good idea to switch the monthly plans with quarterly to reduce the churn rate in an SaaS business?” Answer by @NikkiElizDemere

Churn isn’t caused by sending the bill, or having a quarterly or monthly plan. You could ask subscribers “Are you still in? Want out? You sure?” every single day and if they are making real, tangible progress towards achieving their desired outcomes with your product, they’ll say “Dude, don’t be so insecure. I freakin’ love you.”

Or something to that effect.

Thing is, they’ll stay with you for one reason, and one reason only: If your product is helping them achieve their goals (and doing it better/faster than your competitors).

Now, it would be lovely if churn was as simple as that. It almost is, but there’s another component to the issue.

Do the customers who are churning have the potential to succeed in the first place?

Think of churn as a symptom, not the disease, and it’s usually caused by customers who either don’t have Success Potential or aren’t reaching their Desired Outcomes.So instead of A/B testing your plan cycle, focus on checking whether customers who are churning have success potential in the first place (Lincoln Murphy has a very handy checklist in the second article), and if they don’t, it means your marketing may be attracting the wrong people and/or your sales team may be selling to the wrong people.

If the churning customers do seem to have success potential, then you’re going to have to dig deep (ie. voice of customer data, surveys, interviews) to find out what these “ideal” customers aren’t getting from you that they need.

I originally answered this question on Quora.

Read Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré's answer to Is it a good idea to switch the monthly plans with quarterly to reduce the churn rate in an SaaS business? on Quora


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Quora Answers, SaaS

“How do I acquire SaaS customers?” Answer by @NikkiElizDemere

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 the qualitative data you 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 (
@yazsedky) for Nichole.

A value proposition accomplishes four tasks:

  1. Defines who your ideal customer is
  2. States what your product does
  3. Establishes why you’re unique
  4. 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.

They’re everywhere.

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: Strategize, Test, Measure: The Bullseye Framework by Brian Balfour (@bbalfour)

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, Traction.

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.

Quick-win channels:

  • BetaList – Submit your startup on BetaList to find early adopters for your product and get valuable feedback.
  • Contests, giveaways – try Wishpond
  • Events – Launch parties, festivals, conferences – 32 examples of marketing using events
  • JustReachOut is a tool that was created specifically for startups to pitch journalists (though it is a paid resource)
  • Introduce your product on Medium – Examples: Welcome to Glitchand Introducing Yo Stories.
  • Paid Campaigns
  • Press / PR campaigns
    • For media coverage, you can use a website like Help A Reporter (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.
  • Product Hunt – 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 InVision 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 Kate Harvey, Content & Search Marketing Manager at Chargify.)
  • Zest.isA new-tab feed of content suggested by marketers, for marketers

Long-term gains, channels usually based on creating high quality, relevant content:

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.

I originally answered this question on Quora.

Read Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré's answer to How do I acquire SaaS customers? on Quora


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Community, Product Management

“Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré on creating a customer-centric community for your product” ft. @Autopilotus

Building a community around your product can be both a quick win and longer term customer retention strategy.

They’re easy to create—as simple as a setting up a Slack channel or Facebook group. Plus, they’re a powerful asset not only for customers, but also for your marketing, support, success, and product teams.

Above all else, they’re a way to prove that you really are customer-centric—because the whole point is that you’re right there to answer their questions, share ideas with them, listen to their suggestions, and give them a place to communicate with each other about how they’re using your product.

ProdPad has been having great success with their Slack channel. Their UX team uses it to share mockups and sketches for things they’re working on, find suitable users for research and interviews, and collect voice-of-customer data. But that’s nothing compared to what it has done for their customer retention.

As ProdPad’s Head of Growth Nandini Jammi notes, “Slack has quietly become our strongest retention channel at ProdPad.”

“As time passed, we started seeing a pattern we really liked: Customers who join our Slack community were not cancelling their ProdPad plans at all. In fact, 99% of our cancellations were (and still are) coming from customers who weren’t part of our community.”

But they’re not seeing results because someone took 5 minutes to set up a Slack channel. They’re seeing results because of how they’re using it: They’re committed to transparency, have a policy of “never saying no” to a customer, and log every single conversation as customer feedback because it’s important to them.

“We can handle all kinds of feedback because we engage with it and actively work to find our solutions for our customers.”

How to create a customer-centric product community

1. Establish your philosophical framework

You need every member of your team to understand what your community is—and, just as importantly, what it isn’t. ProdPad’s community works because they’re 100% committed to transparency and welcome the customer into their process. Yes, you’re doing this to drive retention and referrals. But if you aren’t primarily doing this to help your customers succeed with your product, you won’t achieve either of those outcomes.

Another question to ask yourself is, what you want to accomplish with your community? Do you want to increase retention by supporting existing customers? Or, do you want to create a space that helps you attract and acquire ideal customers? For example, Pieter Levels, founder of NomadList, created a Slack community that was only loosely tied to NomadList, but cleverly targeted ideal users. It now has nearly 10,000 members, 3,000 of whom are active on a monthly basis.

Fun fact: Growth Hackers began as a community for Qualaroo, and Inbound.org began as a community for HubSpot. Don’t be surprised if your community takes on a life of its own!

2. Choose your platform

The type of community you choose depends on your intended users and your bandwidth. B2B SaaS companies might find that their target customers are already on Slack, making it a natural platform for their branded community. Other demographics barely know what Slack is, but are on Facebook all the time.

If it aligns with your goals and you’re able to allocate the resources, you can even develop your own community and give it a home on your website. If you go down that path, you’ll reap the rewards of increased brand awareness, SEO, and customer loyalty.

As with any kind of marketing, go where your target users already are.

3. Set up your community

To create a community on Slack or Facebook, follow these instructions:

If you plan to develop your own community, take inspiration from these DIY communities:

4. Set expectations

Part of customer success is setting expectations—and you’ll want to set expectations with your customers early on when creating a product community.

The expectations you’ll need to set will differ from platform to platform. For example, Facebook groups benefit from having a set of conduct rules pinned to the top of the page. That way people know what is and isn’t allowed. (Hint: Be prepared to enforce those rules by booting people out.)

Slack presents other challenges. Because Slack enables instant messaging, people tend to expect instant responses. If you have the bandwidth to respond right away, good for you! If you can’t, do like this company did and say so.

“To counter unrealistic availability expectations, we laid out a couple of ground rules together with our clients, such as nobody needs to always answer right away. Although more direct than email, everybody should see Slack as an asynchronous means of communication,” wrote Christian Weyer, Partner, Crispy Mountain.

5. Promote your community

Slack communities and Facebook groups both require users to be “invited” (or at least approved) by admins. The easiest way to discover users to invite is to promote a signup form.

Typeform is an easy, free service that creates simple forms. You’ll only need a few fields: name, email (so you can send the invite), links to online profiles, and why the person wants to join. Check out this guide to integrating Typeform and Slack.

This  is a segment from Autopilot’s blog, 11 Winning Retention Tactics from 11 Remarkable Marketers.

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Customer Success

Top 40 Customer Success Influencers via @tenfold

“As Software-as-a-Service becomes more and more commonplace throughout the world, it’s important to know who exactly is shaping the evolution of this space. In order to make this list, and evaluate everyone on a level playing field, our content team used a metric called True Reach, devised by clear, to rank all of our influencers. While that was our guiding metric, we also included their overall influencer rating (in terms of how influential they are to their own audience), total audience size, and engagement score to paint a full picture of each influencer. We hope you find this document useful, and learn whatever you can from this group of influencers.”

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Social Media

Mixing Lifestyle Photography & Business

Event planner Rachel Senner makes business personal by promoting her work and herself at the same time – through lifestyle photography. The result, an experience that looks like so much fun her followers can’t wait to work with her.

Vendors at a pop-up shop party seem to sprout overnight, like mushrooms. 🍄 It looks so simple. Name the date, find a place, then invite a bunch of shops to set up tables, tents and displays.

But when it’s the first event you’ve ever planned, and you have to convince those vendors that it will be worth their time to come?

As Rachel Senner remembers her first pop-up shop party, it was less fungi-like ease, and more like giving birth: “Hundreds of phone calls, elbow grease, blood, sweat, tears and prayers. I was ready to quit.”

Rachel had just opened the proverbial shutters of her event planning business, Senner of Attention, and took on the pop-up shop party with the help of friend and photographer Meghan of Chicka Artistica Photography.

“We found a venue (The Chase Center on the Riverfront) and immediately got to work. I created a logo on Canva (which, by the way, I use Canva for pretty much all the graphic designs I do for events; that website saved my life!) for the Pop-up Shop Party, which served as the face of our project. As we gained vendors we would post their logos with the event logo to gain momentum for the event.”

Like Rachel you can create your own event logo in Canva using templates like Script BluePeach Circle or the Snow Pink Flower Floral.

The event not only kicked off a partnership that would help build Rachel’s business grow, but it was also a landmark moment – it’s how she got her first 100 attendees.Rachel says, “I heard a lot of ‘No’ before I ever heard a ‘Yes’. Business owners are smart. They want a great return on investment, and to trust what seemed like a couple of newbie kids with their money and time took a big leap of faith.

When those vendors started showing up and setting up their products, and thanking us for allowing them to be there, I felt like I could do anything.

Those first vendors will always have a special place in my heart. They were the start of something really big.”

In this article, Rachel breaks down how she uses social media (and print media) to grow her business, why promoting yourself is key to promoting event planning, and her unique approach to event design.

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