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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Growth Hacking, Startups, Teams

Why Hiring is the Growth Hack You Never Considered by @OmerMolad

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“Growth hacking is about running smart experiments to drive growth within your business.” – Sean Ellis

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the term “growth hacking”, which seems to be everywhere at the moment. Everyone I meet is a growth hacker all of a sudden. But despite a little bit of froth on the milkshake, the hype is very real and it’s here to stay. Here’s why.

First, people will do almost anything to grow their business. For a small business or startup, growth is the difference between life and death.
For a small business or startup, growth is the difference between life and death. Click To Tweet

Second, it’s in our nature to experiment. We try different foods until we figure out what we like and we date different people until we find “the one”. By and large we live life through trial and error and we learn through our experiences.

Experimenting across different traction channels or, in “human language”, trying to find customers in different ways, is a smart way to drive growth. It’s time to take this one step further and create a culture of experimentation by applying a “growth (hacking) mindset throughout the entire business.

The obvious place to start is people – building and growing teams – because there is no better growth engine than a great team.

It’s A People Game

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Ask any investor about the first thing they look for when making an investment decision. It’s the team.

Ask any lender what will always be a deal breaker, regardless of cash flow quality. They’ll say management.

What’s the single biggest factor in job satisfaction? Quality of co-workers.

We’re just humans building products for other humans, either to ease pain or give pleasure.  Everything else is a means to an end.

Yet, while we use words like “obsessed” and evangelist” about getting customers, we don’t tend to think of hiring people in that way. We use very sophisticated methods to find and win customers but tend to be stuck in neutral when it comes to building teams.

At Vervoe, we’re changing that.
At @VervoeHQ, we're changing evangelism around hiring the right team. Click To Tweet

Just like experiments have proven to drive growth, they will also help you hack hiring. You just need to cast aside any long-held views and embrace experimentation.

Here are four dead simple ways to apply a growth (hacking) mindset to hiring and immediately make your business more valuable.

Four Easy Hiring Hacks You Should Start Using

Hiring Hack #1: Ditch the Résumé

Ditch the résumé. Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision.

 

“I think, to me, reality is better than being fake.” – Ice Cube

Hypothesis: Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision.

Still asking candidates for résumés? Go résumé-free for one role.

Résumés are typically used to decide who to interview. Instead, don’t decide, just give everyone a chance. Sound like a waste of time? Actually, it’s faster if you use automated interviews.

This delays the first impression we form about people to after we see them perform. It allows us to focus on what people can do and who they really are, as opposed to what they’ve done previously, which school they went to or how weird their name sounds. Because, honestly, who cares about that stuff.

After you pick the best performers in the interviews, go over their backgrounds and ask yourself whether you would have picked those people out of the résumé pile. Then go over the ones you rejected and see if any of them have fancy résumés that would have made you choose them for an interview.

Be honest.
Hiring Hack: Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision. Click To Tweet

Hiring Hack #2: Don’t Outsource Your Most Sacred Activity

Don’t outsource your more sacred activity.

 

“Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.” – Amy Jo Martin

Hypothesis: There is no value in outsourcing your recruitment.

Do you use a recruitment agency or a headhunter? We’re going to put an end to that and see if it makes any difference.

External recruiters, like most brokers, are the product of information asymmetry. You assume that they have access to better information than you so you pay for that information.

But the internet has made the world flat, we just need to know where to look and how to make it easy for people to find us. You can share your job ad on every social network and ask your own personal and professional network to refer people. Reaching people has never been easier.

If you incorporate hiring hack #1, you won’t need to worry about deciding who to interview, a service traditionally performed by recruitment agencies. All you need to do is get your job in front of enough eyeballs, which is pure marketing.

Now, here’s the real hack. Work out the commission you would have paid the recruitment agency. Let’s say it’s a 20% fee and the role pays $100,000. Now spend every cent of the $20,000 you saved on promoting your job on every major job board, industry board and social network.

Is it money well spent? How many applicants did you get? What about for $2,000? What about for $200?

Sound insane spending that much money to get access to candidates who will all automatically be interviewed anyway? There’s your answer.
Hiring Hack: There is no value in outsourcing your recruitment. Click To Tweet

Hiring Hack #3: Expert Questions Are Better Than Yours

Expert questions are better than yours.

 

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” – Thomas Berger

Hypothesis: Other people ask better interview questions than you.

Wait, what?

If you’re running a business, there is a good chance you’ll have to hire someone into a role you’re not an expert in.

Next time you’re trying to hire someone, use interview questions written by an expert instead of your own. To learn more about how to hire for a role you’re not an expert in, read this.

If you want to do it all online, you can easily choose an interview script from Vervoe’s library.

But the concept is equally applicable offline. Call a friend who’s an expert and pick their brain on how they would hire for the role. Then create a process that aligns with the expert’s recommendation. If the expert thinks the best way to hire a chef is to spend a day in the kitchen together, then that’s what you should do. Speaking of cooking, here’s an omelette story that illustrates this exact point.

You can A/B test within the role itself by randomly interviewing half the candidates using your own questions and half using an expert’s. But I suspect the benefits will be evident even before candidates do the interviews. You’ll know from the quality of the questions whether the expert is improving your approach.
Hiring Hack: Other people ask better interview questions than you. Click To Tweet

Hiring Hack #4: Don’t Ask People to Fit In

Don’t ask people to fit in – cultural fit is overrated.

 

“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

Hypothesis: Cultural fit is overrated.

Talking about your company’s vision, values and culture in your job description is a great way to proactively qualify candidates.

However, instead of asking people to fit in with your culture, look for people who will add to your culture. Ask for cultural contribution and look for people who can improve your team’s cultural fitness.  

The result of this experiment can only be verified after several months of working together. But you’ll see glimpses during the hiring journey. Encourage candidates to tell you what they’ll be bringing to the table. Get creative with your interview questions. And more of all, be open to being challenged.
Hiring Hack: Cultural fit is overrated. Click To Tweet

Time to Start Experimenting

What you do with the results of each experiment is up to you. But I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about hiring and gain insight into the mindset of your candidates, and perhaps even your own.

Let me know how it goes.

Photo Friday

Photo Friday: 6/9/17

Taking Instagram photos is my hobby. In this series, I post a few photos on Friday that I recently took.


 


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Conversion Rate Optimization, E-Commerce

E-Commerce Conversion Psychology How-to Guide ft. @ObjeqtEcomm

The mind is a terrible thing to waste – as a conversion rate expert. E-Commerce conversion psychology & buyer psychology guides everything that we do. You might even say that CROs and shrinks share the same goal: Both seek to understand the human mind to help them find solutions to their problems.

But, of course, we want more than that. We want them to pay for those solutions. And that presents a few psychological hurdles. The act of selling something requires the customer to give up something they value – whether that’s time, personal information, or actual money (which also means the time it takes to acquire it). That’s asking a lot.

You’ll encounter resistance.

And any little thing that makes it harder to purchase will lose you a sale, because they’re already resisting. This means that your job as CRO is both to remove friction, and appeal to your audience’s strongest motivators:

  • Pain
  • Anchoring (+ Placement Psychology)
  • Emotional & Cognitive Needs
  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment/Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Scarcity (+ Loss Aversion)

If those last six look familiar, it’s because they’re Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence, and we’ll be discussing them as they relate to CRO in depth, with actionable takeaways.

Read more on Objeqt


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Customer Experience, Customer Success, Customer Support, UX

8 Innovative Ways to Use CX Metrics to Create Unbeatable Customer Experience ft. @Wootric

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

What we call Customer Experience (CX) is the total effect of each interaction between brand and customer over the course of the entire relationship (and it’s really all about how they feel). Positive feelings = effective CX, whether the interaction happens in a SaaS product, on a social media page, a website, over the phone, in person, or driving on the freeway.

This isn’t the same as User Experience – not at all.

Whereas UX is commonly concerned with evaluation of your product or website – a very limited scope – CX encompasses the entire experience of each customer from end-to-end, including touch points on your website, off your website, offline, on mobile, and person-to-person contact. You need both.

Fortunately, UX can be relatively easy to optimize.

Optimizing CX, on the other hand, can seem like an impossibly large task.

But keep in mind: CX is the sum total of specific, concrete, controllable occurrences. You know exactly when and how your customers interact with your brand, right? (No? You should – if it happens online, it’s all trackable). Your task then becomes understanding which CX metrics to track and how to use those metrics to create unbeatable – unforgettable – customer experiences for all.

Read More on Wootric


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Product Management

Product Managers: Use Design Thinking to Beat the ‘Feature Factory’ by @NikkiElizDemere

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

What is a Feature Factory? It’s a phrase coined by product management consultant John Cutler in response to a software developer friend’s complaint that he was “just sitting in the factory, cranking out features and sending them down the line.”

His barometer for whether you’re working in a “Feature Factory” hinges on whether the impact of your work is measured (or even discussed), and iterated on accordingly. Basically, if all you’re doing is spinning out features, and taking far too little time to consider whether they’re solving core problems for your audience and measure their success or failure, you might be a ‘factory’ worker.

Hopefully you aren’t – and hopefully your competitors are, because the “Factory” system is easy to beat when you take a Design Thinking approach. Remember: Even though they produce a lot of features, Feature Factories aren’t serving their customers well.

This oversight can give you the competitive edge.

“Your product is designed to solve a problem. If you’re adding a feature that doesn’t contribute to the solution, you may be wasting your time and worsening your product in the process.” – Kissmetrics, Why More Features Doesn’t Mean More Success

How to Beat the Feature Factory With Design Thinking

Though methods of putting Design Thinking into practice differ – it’s a creative process, after all – a few central tenets remain true. It’s all about empathy, diversity, and cross-functional collaboration. Fundamentally, it’s a human-centered approach to design, as opposed to a technological/scientific/feature-forward approach.

That means, the ideation process begins by thinking of the humans you’re working to serve.

And that requires a great deal of empathy.

Read more onDigital Surgeons


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Conversion Rate Optimization, E-Commerce

5 Easy Upgrades to Increase Landing Page Conversions ft. @ObjeqtEcomm

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Writing and designing a conversion-powerhouse of a landing page is a science – a shifty, constantly evolving science that is, frankly, hard to pin down. While trends in landing page design may change (and they do), there are a few basic tenets that the most successful ones share that can increase landing page conversions. And they’re not difficult to implement.

You can boost your conversion rates right now, just by putting these 5 basic techniques into place.

Don’t believe me?

We can test it.

Where Landing Pages Go Wrong

Landing pages go wrong primarily because people treat them like:

  • They’re product descriptions (they aren’t)
  • They’re blog posts (they aren’t)
  • They’re white papers (they aren’t)
  • They’re a diner waitress, whose personal motto is “Here’s your lunch. You’ll eat it and you’ll like it.” (they really aren’t)

A landing page is specifically designed for a marketing campaign. Its purpose is to convert leads – that’s it. One purpose, one message. Lets repeat again the purpose – increase landing page conversions.

Think I’m kidding? Landing pages with multiple offers get 266% fewer leads than single offer pages.

When to use a Landing Page

You’ll want to use a landing page (rather than a product page) for each marketing campaign you do – it’s all about getting the customer to engage with your brand.

Read More on Objeqt


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Conversion Rate Optimization, E-Commerce

How to Build a High Converting E-Commerce Checkout Flow ft. @ObjeqtEcomm

Optimizing the e-commerce checkout flow – everything that happens between “add to cart” and the purchase confirmation page – is a science. A science that requires research, study, and of course, testing.

But you’ve got a credit card payment system. Isn’t that enough?

Not if your customers are abandoning their shopping carts. That means you’re hemorrhaging sales from already-motivated customers, often unnecessarily.

Even small gains in optimizing checkout flows can have a big impact:

“An Ecommerce site that I analyzed recently had a payment page where 84.71% of the traffic proceeded to buy. I calculated that if we can increase that to 90%, that would result in 461 more orders and additional $87,175/month. That would be 23.94% growth in revenue. So yes – ‘small’ gains here can be very big.” – Peep Laja, ConversionXL

What is shopping cart / checkout flow?

Shopping cart, e-commerce checkout flow, checkout funnel – whatever term you use, we’re talking about the moment your customer views their cart all the way until they see the “thank you” page at the end of their purchase process. Don’t confuse this with the “sales funnel,” that can begin long before the customer even lands on your website. Checkout flow is the final step.

The customer knows what they want.

They’ve added the product to the cart.

Then, they have two choices: Abandon the cart, or complete the purchase.

You’d be amazed how many motivated customers abandon the cart – or maybe you wouldn’t be. Maybe they’re abandoning your shopping cart and you’re wondering why.

Read More on Objeqt


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Photo Friday

Photo Friday: 5/12/17

Taking Instagram photos is my hobby. In this series, I post a few photos on Friday that I recently took.


 


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Artificial Intelligence, Customer Experience, Customer Success, Customer Support, Emotion

Use Real Emotion with Artificial Intelligence for Positive Customer Experiences by @NikkiElizDemere

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Just yesterday my partner and I hit a snafu: Our bank had not paid our homeowners insurance, resulting in a panic-inducing email titled “your policy has expired.” Adulting in overdrive ensued.

The bank’s call center was a byzantine maze of pre-recorded messages, and it took three calls just to navigate it to the point of talking to a human being. Just when I was contemplating slamming my phone onto the pavement, I finally reached a person. A person who was clearly chagrined that I’d made it through the labyrinth undeterred. What a grump.

Not finding any help there, I then called my insurance company, which connected me directly to a person — a real, live person! — who cheerfully told me she’d contact my bank, sort out the mess, and call me back. And she did.

It was glorious.

This, friends, is why customer service, and in particular automation, has earned such a loathsome reputation.

Customers don’t want to be pitched from bot to bot, like projectiles in a pinball machine.

That doesn’t make us feel like valued customers. That doesn’t make us want to work with the company again, if we have any other choice. And forget about recommending the company to anyone else (at least, anyone we like).

But what if we could change that paradigm? What if we could create automation that was intelligent enough to give us the answers we need, and send us, quickly and efficiently, to the very best human agent capable of solving our problems?

This is the future I see as imminently possible, at least if we use automation intelligently to create more positive, relevant, and enjoyable user experiences.

Forget bots for a moment — let’s talk about people

For automation to be an integral, genuinely helpful, part of customer support (and customer success — we’ll get there), the customer support process needs to be grounded in a basic understanding of what humans need to be happy — and what customers need to be successful.

The first thing to know is: Every problem is emotional.

We tend to take people at their word. They tell us the problem; we logically try to fix it. But, whatever they say the problem is, and however logical the solution, there is always an emotional component. We’re human; emotions are part of everything we do.

When neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people who had sustained brain damage to areas of the brain that generate emotions, he found that the subjects were unable to make even the smallest of decisions. Their logic and reasoning abilities were fully functional, but if they were asked to choose between pasta and risotto for dinner, they couldn’t do it. They couldn’t feel one way or another.

The conclusion: Almost every decision is an emotional one.

What this means for customer service is huge:

If your customer service interaction produces positive emotions, you have the power to generate positive decisions.

Think: making sales, upsells, generating referral traffic — you basically turn customer service into a marketing, sales and retention engine.

All of that potential income is what’s at stake in every customer interaction.

Not sure emotion holds that much purchase power?

A study out of Missouri University of Science and Technology reported that “consumers’ emotional responses” while on e-commerce websites were predictive of purchases. It might seem obvious, but they essentially proved that we buy from stores we enjoy. And there’s no better place to create a joyful experience than customer service.

Positive experience is the start of a positive association, which builds upon itself over time. One transaction or interchange turns into a relationship. Zappos, Wistia, and MailChimp are three companies that have a business approach which accentuates the positive, and, as a result, their customers are both passionate and loyal.” — Walter Chen, co-founder of iDoneThis, for Kissmetrics

Eliminate Pain Points

So how do you create positive emotional experiences? First of all, don’t add to the customer’s pain by forcing them to run the gauntlet of automated options they neither need nor want.

Pain is emotional, and reducing the pain your customers feel will go a long way towards creating a positive experience. Just think how happy I was to find a HUMAN BEING on my first try with my insurance company!

The worst pain is caused by a-thousand-cuts annoyances, and when you can relieve those small irritations, the customer’s experience will be more positive — and studies show those positive experiences are directly linked to customer loyalty and repeat purchases.

Read more on Medium


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