Community, Customer Success, Emotion, Human-to-Human (H2H), Retention, SaaS

Set the tone of your SaaS community to be like Sunday brunch with friends 🥞☕️


This article was originally sent as an e-mail as part of my newsletter, Sunday Brunch with Nichole: A Weekly Missive on Community Growth


Here’s the thing you may not know about me: SaaS companies hire me to help them build and grow communities around their SaaS products. I don’t advertise this. But they’ve seen me doing community growth at Growth Hackers, Product Hunt, Inbound, and now Zest.is and…

They want in.

Because they know they’ll only get the benefits of a community for their SaaS company if they can manage to build a community that’s more like, well, Sunday brunch at my place.

Or your place. It’s not really the venue that matters.

It’s the chemistry of the people.

The tone.

To get all woo woo on you – the energy.

This is where you come in.

Every Sunday morning, we’re going to talk about building, launching, engaging, and growing online communities for SaaS products.

We’re going to start at the beginning. What is a community? What does it do? How can you set the tone so everyone has a good time, and gets what they came for?

That’s what this very first email is about.

What does a community do?

Communities share ideas, give advice, ask questions, make jokes, support each other’s goals, break bread and bake pies. And community members help their neighbors build everything from barns to businesses. At least, that’s how they work in real life.

Here’s something else you may not know about me: I host gatherings at my house with large groups of creative, brilliant people every Sunday.

We cook, eat, make things together, have deep important conversations and blow bubbles in the pool.

However, It’s a little different when I talk about online communities with SaaS businesses.

Here’s what they hope will happen:

  • Customer retention
  • Upselling opportunities
  • Brand advocacy
  • A ready pool of voice-of-customer data that’s pure gold for sales & marketing

These are great goals, and the best way to achieve them is to create an online community that feels like an offline one.

How can you set the tone of your community to be like a Sunday morning brunch with friends?

Here’s how it works in my house:

If the gathering is large with new people who don’t know each other, introductions are important.

I’ll ask everyone to go around the room, say their names, their pronouns, and fun facts about themselves. This opens up the conversation.

When I know two guests who really should know each other, I introduce them and tell them what they have in common.

Then we have ice-breaker games like Loaded Questions where people have to guess who answered what to questions like:

The first steps toward building an online community are actually very similar.

Incidentally, CRO specialist Talia Wolf, has a new Facebook group called We Optimize where she took my advice and tried this out for her ‘Intro thread.’ But instead of a ‘brunch,’ she went with a tea party.

The responses she got were thoughtful, honest and open – the raw ingredients of real friendships. It gets down to people’s values, rather than “what startup are you at? What do you do?” Much more interesting. Much more engaging. (If you want to see this in action, let me know and I’ll show you the thread.)

Step 1: Know your guests (You got this!)

You’ve already laid the groundwork for genuine connections to happen if you’ve defined your ideal customer, actively market to attract them, and have a customer success process in place to make sure they’re getting what they need. (And if haven’t laid the groundwork yet, don’t worry, we’ll get to this too in an upcoming post.)

Do this, and your customers already have a lot in common. They share the same goals. They want the same things. They share the same values. They’re onboard with your mission.

That is an incredibly powerful place from which to build an active, engaged community.

Step 2: Write down your vision (You already know what it is)

When I throw a party, I have a few specific outcomes in mind. I want everyone to get along really well; I want people with related interests to meet each other; and I want stimulating conversations. It’s about creating an experience for everyone there that’s helpful, inspiring and fun.

Now, my guests know that’s what they’re getting when I send out the invitation. But yours don’t – not yet.

Before you invite your first members, get clear on what kind of community you’re hoping to build, and what experience you’d like their help with creating. What is the purpose of your community? (Tip: That purpose had better be helping your community, not just making more money for your company.)

Next week, I’ll share how to make your online community the place to be for your niche – and it all starts with your initial guest list.

Have yourself a gorgeous day.

P.S. Hit reply and I’m happy to answer all your questions.

Know someone who could benefit from reading this e-mail? Please forward it on!


This article was originally sent as an e-mail as part of my newsletter, Sunday Brunch with Nichole: A Weekly Missive on Community Growth

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Churn, Community, Customer Success, Human-to-Human (H2H), Products, Retention, SaaS, Startups

Slack’s community superpower for SaaS is all about churn


This article was originally sent as an e-mail as part of my newsletter, Sunday Brunch with Nichole: A Weekly Missive on Community Growth


For SaaS products – whether B2B or B2C – Slack is where it’s at. By which I mean Slack is where your customers are already. But Slack has more going for it than just that. The platform is remarkably well-suited to creating exactly the kind of communities and engagement we’ve been talking about. The kind that fosters loyalty.

Consider:

Subscription-based businesses require strong customer relationships to prevent churn and increase customer lifetime value (the metrics that make or break your business).

Creating a community is one way to strengthen customer relationships and improve loyalty.

This is really – really – about eliminating churn.

Eliminating ‘Champion’ Churn

One of the leading causes of churn, especially for B2B SaaS, is when your ‘champion’ (the person who’s been talking you up to the boss, convincing everyone that you’re the solution they need) leaves. But if the whole team is on Slack? You’re already cultivating relationships with everyone, and they understand the value you bring.

Eliminating Churn among VIP Customers

BubbleIQ reported ZERO churn among the customers they shared Slack channels with. Now, they only began opening up private channels for their VIP customers who were already loyal and engaged, but still. Zero is a good number.

“Most companies rely on email or chat for support — but it turns out that’s a surprisingly high friction method of support for business customers today. Forcing customers through a formal contact form or into a long email thread creates a barrier between you, and makes it difficult to respond quickly to high priority issues.” – BubbleIQ

ProdPad’s Slack Community Experience

ProdPad also has never had a customer churn who was part of their Slack community.

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.

In fact, ProdPad published a fantastic 40-minute video about their Slack community, and you should watch it. But I particularly loved what they said about how their Slack channel fostered and strengthened their relationships with their customers.

Andrea Saez, Head of Customer Success, talks about the “happy accidents” she discovered when their Slack community went live.

  • Users were helping other users to troubleshoot issues – out of the goodness of their hearts. So for those of you who might be concerned about the increased pressure put on your Customer Service teams, you might see the opposite effect. Cool, right?
  • The whole ProdPad team became involved and made themselves available to chat and answer questions, even the CEO, which meant that customers were taken care of even if the primary Slack designees weren’t immediately available. The “side effect” of this was that the whole team became more customer-centric, adding “a human touch to everything.”
  • Engagement levels rose – to the point where customers made friends with other customers.

As with any community, moderation was a challenge. They help set expectations with a Welcome Bot named Winston who greets new members and tells them the basics: how to submit feedback and ticket requests, and how to reach ProdPad members, as well as reminding them to be kind. I love the use of automation here!

There are so many good ideas in in this video for how to set up and use your Slack product community. It’s definitely worth the watch.

If you’re considering using Slack for customer support, Robbie Mitchell wrote a comprehensive Playbook for Working with B2B Customers in Slack that I recommend.


This article was originally sent as an e-mail as part of my newsletter, Sunday Brunch with Nichole: A Weekly Missive on Community Growth

If you’d like to receive emails like this one, sign up for my newsletter:


Community, Human-to-Human (H2H), SaaS

#ForgetTheFunnel: [Slide Deck + Video]: Boost your SaaS product with a community that grows itself

From Claire & Gia:

“If anyone could be considered a community-building expert, it’s definitely our friend Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré. Not only has she played an instrumental part in growing the famed Inbound.org, GrowthHackers.com, and Product Hunt communities…she also now maintains several of her own thriving Slack and Facebook communities for SaaS marketers and founders.As members of some of Nichole’s online communities ourselves, we can attest: they’re the most positive, engaged, and fast-growing online spaces for SaaS folks to hang out, learn from each other, and form new friendships.If you’ve considered starting a community as part of your marketing strategy, you’ll 100% want to hear Nichole’s process:”

Watch the 30 minute workshop

Startups

30 Women Shaping B2B Tech Marketing

In the world of B2B tech marketing, women are making an incredible impact around the world on brands large and small.

From successful marketing campaigns, to leading teams that drive bottom-line results, to development of inventive lead generation tactics–there are no limits to the glass ceilings they are smashing.

Kaleigh Moore interviewed 30 women about their biggest challenge as B2B tech marketers, their thoughts on the b2b tech landscape, and what they’re most proud of.

Here were my insights:

What’s your biggest challenge as a B2B tech marketer?

Getting press for early-stage SaaS startups who don’t have funding.

What’s the biggest shift/change you’re seeing in the B2B tech landscape right now?

Two things: Growth marketing and blended AI.

Growth marketing is the future. CMOs who adapt fastest will be poised to succeed, while those who don’t may find their jobs on the line. The stakes are high. Why the shift? It all hinges upon Customer Experience (CX). Forrester predicts: “30% of companies will see further declines in CX quality and lose a point of growth” in 2018. When growth slows, CEOs look to CMOs to fix it – and if they can’t, they’ll find someone who can: A Growth Marketer.

Forrester qualifies their prediction that blended AI is in our near future by also speculating that it will result in dropping customer satisfaction levels, “as companies drive more traffic to chatbots, self-service, and chat that are not fully optimized to engage customers effectively.”

Essentially, if you use AI/chatbots to replace human interaction, your customers won’t appreciate it. But, if you use AI/chatbots to facilitate human interaction… well, that’s another story altogether.

What’s something you’ve recently accomplished at work that you’re proud of?

I was live on the BBC talking about intersectional feminism for women in tech.

Read insights by other women

Product Launches, Product Management, Products, Social Media

How to run a successful product launch on social media (Qchat)

I joined Quuu to co-host a Twitter chat about running successful product launches on social media.

They rounded up the highlights…

Q1 How should you use social media in your product launch?

Our Qchatters all pointed out that social media is key for building awareness around your new product:

“I don’t know if I’m being too obvious here… but awareness! Let your followers know that you have a product coming out.” — Ruben Richardson

“I think social media is a great way to build awareness for a product, you can tease information and build anticipation.” — Georgia Burgoyne

“If it is a launch the part of the funnel is probably awareness. Paid social is key for targeting, especially if it is not a mass market launch. Influencers may also be effective if they are strategically used.” — Brandi Rand

It’s really important to leverage your network:

“A community is one of the most important ways to build and launch a new idea. People are power!” — Daniel Kempe

“You want to reach out to your network and let them know way in advance to see how they can help support you.” — Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

“Find influencers & engage. Build anticipation with a countdown. Include any reputable names you can for social proof — customers, partners, as seen on, etc. What Nichole did with the Hotjar podcast launch was a great example.” — Nicki Laycoax

Nichole also shared some tips on what not to do:

“Don’t spam people. Mass-tweeting/emailing people unsolicited, asking for feedback or upvotes, even if they’ve upvoted similar products in the past isn’t effective. If your timeline is filled with dozens of identical messages, you’re spamming. Be authentic.

“If you’re launching on Product Hunt, do not ask for upvotes anywhere. Feel free to ask for feedback, but asking for upvotes is a big no-no. People should upvote the product because they like it, not because they’re peer pressured into doing so.

“If you’re launching on Product Hunt, link directly to your product page. Linking to “http://producthunt.com” only makes it harder for people to find you and doesn’t have any effect on the algorithm.

“Tools like Thunderclap that shout about your launch are notoriously ineffective — it comes across as spammy, and the super secret algorithm for Product Hunt doesn’t like spammy.”

Read More on Quuu


I offer consulting and promotion for product launches. Please contact me if you are interested in working with me.

Customer Success

Customer Success Analyst: When to Hire Someone Dedicated to the Data

The Customer Success Analyst has evolved to be the go-to person for all the data – or as Marketo put it in their Linkedin job ad, “the primary deliverable of the Customer Success Decision Analyst is to convert our Customer Success operation at Marketo into a highly data-driven business where we can measure, analyze and optimize every aspect of our engagement with our customers.”

This includes data like:

  • Feature usage patterns
  • Maturity scores
  • NPS results
  • Voice of customer qualitative feedback
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Customer experience metrics
  • Capacity models

Among all of the hats that CSM’s wear, the number-crunching, data-heavy, quantitative analyst hat is one of the most time-consuming. But because of the data-savviness this role demands, CS analysts also hold the keys to unlocking incredible potential when your business is scaling up.

The CS analyst role isn’t *just* about collecting data for dashboards and reports (and basing recommendations on that data) though. It complements the Success Operations role, which builds new tools and processes to scale CSM’s everyday activities. As the person navigating multiple platforms for data on a day-to-day business, CS Analysts know how information flows and who needs what information.

For one of Wootric’s customers, Chorus.ai, CS Analysts also take ownership of the technical onboarding process for new or upgrading customers, ensuring “a smooth implementation, including initial and ongoing training for customers.”

It’s a prime position from which to watch for opportunities to make big impacts on the success of customers – and the success of the company. That’s the subtextual expectation: By being in charge of the data, the CS Analyst knows how to use it to find untapped value.

Read More on Wootric


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

Community, Emotion, Network Effect

Member’s-eye View of Inbound’s Sinking Ship

Inbound.org, a community I was part of both personally and professionally, recently announced its end, after a lengthy decline.

There are plenty of people who saw this coming, but are still saddened to see a vital part of the content marketing world go away. I never felt anything negative about Inbound.org. I have the utmost respect for the founders and moderators — they’re awesome people. But Inbound.org didn’t resonate with me emotionally.

There are many post-mortems being written about what people think went wrong with Inbound.org. In Dharmesh Shah’s Farewell to inbound.org post, he attributed its decline to their foundational purpose becoming obsolete.

“We felt there was a need for a ‘Hacker News for Marketers’. . . though the concept of a community is compelling — the core use case of user-curated marketing content is not. My suspicion is that it’s because the way people find and share content has changed a great deal since inbound.org’s inception.”

Ed Fry, former Inbound.org General Manager, cited the “evaporating cooling effect” as a culprit:

“A social phenomenon where the people who stand to offer the most benefit the least (and vice versa), so they leave unless there’s an incentive to stay. So the only true participants are those with another agenda (self-promo etc.) or nothing breakthrough to contribute.”

In fact, Ed Fry says he saw the writing on the wall when founding members stopped being “weekly active users.”

This, incidentally, is something all of us community builders — who are busily recruiting thought leaders — have to consider. What are those thought leaders getting out of the community?

The Network Effect Breakdown

The “network effect” happens when more people join a community and increase the value everyone gets from the community. More people = more value. But that stops working when everyone in the community is there just to post self-promoting links — which is what ended up happening.

I don’t believe self-promotion is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. But…

Inbound.org worked kind of like a marketplace where everyone was promoting their products — to each other. Imagine if everyone on eBay was a seller. It wouldn’t work. Communities that bring in both sellers and buyers work; they work especially well when they give the sellers and buyers a platform to communicate with each other openly and form relationships. But that wasn’t quite happening here. At least, it didn’t feel that way.

For me, this is about emotion

I’ve been thinking about how to use emotion to drive communities, and that’s what — for me — was missing as an inbound.org member and contributor.

Emotions drive behavior.

We feel something, we do something. It’s human nature. If we get an emotional reward from participating in a discussion, we’ll want to participate and start more discussions. If we’re concerned about the future of the planet, we are motivated to recycle.

What emotions motivate your members?

It’s a question well-worth asking.

I’ve been working with sort of an emotional cause-and-effect framework for community building recently that I’ll summarize here:

  • When building a community, start with a purpose — what you want to achieve with the community.
  • Decide which behaviors you need members to perform to meet those goals.
  • Then — this is the part I’m fascinated with — find out which emotions will drive those behaviors, and then…
  • Figure out how to set the stage to generate and amplify those emotions.
  • Plan who does what and how
  • Improve — ie. measure what happened, analyze it, and iterate accordingly

Source: Elements of a Community’s Strategic Plan

Some communities make us feel good — they’re loaded with emotional payoffs. When I contribute to some online communities, I feel appreciated and valued. That motivates me to contribute more. When I participate in other communities, it’s about feeling the camaraderie of like minds, or sharing inspiration.

Other communities make us feel a little anxious — and that serves a purpose too. If we don’t take action and contribute to solving X problem, the world/humanity will be worse off for it. That negative, fear-based emotion also generates action and a reason to come back again and again.

And then there’s the sense of pride, and doing the right thing, that comes with purpose-based communities where you’re banding together to create positive change. That’s a good, motivating feeling too.

Emotions =/ Justifications

You have to interview / have conversations with your most active members to find out what emotions motivate them — and then strategize ways to amplify those emotions to strengthen your community.

“Be careful not to confuse a justification with an emotion. During an interview, a member might say they share advice because they want to be seen and recognized by others. They might say they want to see how other people react to their posts, or they might say they want to appear as an expert. This is useful information, but it’s a justification for what they do; it’s not the emotion that drives the behavior. You need to push beyond these answers to uncover how they feel when they perform these actions.” Refer to the emotions wheel above.” — Identifying possible community strategies.

Emotions drive everything — they always have.

Successful communities (and marketing strategies) aren’t built out of Spock-like logic. They evolve and grow out of human needs to be accepted, appreciated, and feel part of something larger than ourselves.

For me, that’s what inbound.org was missing from a membership perspective.

My question for you: What emotional payoffs do your community members get?

Churn, Offboarding, Product Management, SaaS, Startups

How Transparency in SaaS Offboarding Reduces Churn

Too often as marketers, we consider churn a bad thing.

So we design our SaaS offboarding process in a way to trap our customers into staying. However, there’s a better way to do it. And that’s with transparency.

You can use offboarding to your advantage by discovering why customers weren’t meeting their desired outcomes. Lincoln Murphy, a customer success consultant, explains:

“The beauty of the SaaS business model is that you have visibility into the behaviors of your customers… and you should use this to reduce your SaaS churn rate. Specifically, you should be looking for signs that your customer is getting ready to leave and then do something to stop it.”

SaaS offboarding is a gut-wrenching reality check to serve your customers better. Below are five ways to add transparency to the process.

Set the Stage with an Offboarding Workflow

Making it difficult for customers to cancel their services is a big no-no. They won’t miraculously stick around because of your unwillingness to let go.

The opposite will happen. Churning customers will leave your business and will feel justified in their decision to do so. On top of that, they may spread the unpleasant news with their social network of friends and family members.

To prevent the public embarrassment, your team should build an offboarding workflow or cancellation workflow. It’s a sequence of steps that a customer must take to cancel their SaaS subscription.

Below is an example from Leadpages. When users want to delete their accounts, they land on a multi-option workflow, allowing them to select a reason for cancellation.

Image Source

Each option counters the customer’s reason for leaving. For instance, selecting “Difficulty of Use,” let’s the user sign up for an educational webinar or contact support. More importantly, there’s always the option to delete the account.

This offboarding workflow mitigates churn by offering a solution to the customer. It also gives your team essential feedback to understand why customers churn. That way, you can go revisit your onboarding process to fill in any gaps in users’ expectations.

Educate with Customer Success

Once users sign up for your product, you can’t leave them stranded as they attempt to figure out your platform. Focusing on customer success entails educating users every step of the way.

Of course, your team wants to be proactive, providing users with video tutorials, ebooks, and one-on-one support. Alan Gleeson, a B2B marketing consultant based in London, adds:

“More established SaaS businesses with enterprise clients will typically have a dedicated team whose job is to ensure that new account signups are onboarded successfully, and that the application is delivering value. They will also identify and nurture internal champions, who can facilitate up-selling and cross-selling, leading to negative churn.”

Customer success should play an integral part in offboarding, too. You don’t want to kick users to the curb just because they want to cancel.

Instead, you want to educate customers. You may have to address why they feel their current needs aren’t being met. Or you may highlight their alternative options if they decide to churn.

This educational approach puts the customers’ needs first. It also doesn’t abruptly end the relationship. Because you never know, the user may decide to buy from your SaaS business again.

Access to Your Cancellation Policy

Ever customer relationship won’t end with users becoming lifelong brand advocates. And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is failing to prepare for cancellations. Some users will want to deactivate their accounts immediately, and others will want a full refund.

While some user scenarios may call for a case-by-case review, most cancellations should follow a standard guideline. The key is to create a cancellation policy and make it easily accessible to your customers—without the unnecessary hassle.

Before developing a policy, you’ll want to consult with a local business advisor or legal professional. Their expertise will ensure you’re not violating any laws and are adhering to common business practices.

The next step is to find a happy medium between your company and the customer. How can you maintain a viable business and satisfy your customers’ expectations?

Whatever the policy, you want it to be accessible to the customer before and after they make a purchase. Post it in a visible area on your website and include the policy somewhere within your app. Here’s an example from PushAssist:

Image Source

Transparency is all about empowering your users to make informed decisions. Customers then can determine what works best for their situation. Making your policy readily available is a part of enhancing the customer experience.

Close the Loop with Feedback Emails

Some SaaS companies treat churn like a taboo topic. If they don’t talk about it, maybe it won’t be a real issue in the future.

Well, that’s the wrong mindset to possess in offboarding. Consider churn a chance to have an honest conversation with your customers.

Depending on your business, this communication may happen over the phone with a customer success rep or via a live chat platform. While these methods are useful, it may trap the user into providing an immediate response. (No one likes being pressured.)

Email marketing helps close the feedback loop with churning customers. You can send a message inquiring about their experience with your product. You also can send multiple emails—without being annoying—if a user fails to respond.

Check out the feedback request email below. Baremetrics doesn’t shy away from asking customers why they decided to cancel.

Image Source

Use email as a tool to gain pertinent details from churning customers. Be straightforward with your ask and keep the request short. You don’t want to bog users down with lots of questions.

Bake Long-Term Value into Your Strategy

While mending parts of your marketing and sales funnel is helpful, it’s only a short-term fix to your long-term challenge. You want to bake your goal of reducing churn into your overall business strategy.

Throughout the entire customer lifecycle, your team should be observing and requesting feedback from your users. This undertaking translates into prompting new users to tell you why they signed up for your product, monitoring usage data to understand the most frequently used product features, and giving users a chance provide candid feedback after churning.

With that information, you open the doors to knowing your customers’ pain points sooner. Then, your team can focus on adding more value. Julia Chen, former content marketing manager at Appcues, offers her insight:

“As long as your product is solving the pain of a customer, there’s a chance that you can keep this customer or get them to come back after they’ve canceled. That’s why it’s so important to have active conversations and to understand what drives their behavior.”

Combating churn means taking a proactive approach to talk with your users. It also requires transparency on how you will use those conversations to their benefit.

Rather than concealing the value-added process from users, be frank and take them along for the journey with blog post updates and in-app notifications.

Improve Your Offboarding Experience

In offboarding, your team can learn how to help both current and future customers. It’s an opportunity to reevaluate your path to achieving customer success.

Take advantage of churn by collecting insight in the offboarding workflow. Just make sure you offer transparency throughout the whole process.

Acquisition, SaaS, Webinar

[Webinar] Growth Channels to Acquire SaaS Customers

Freshsales CRM partnered with Nichole Elizabeth (Community Growth, Zest | Moderator, Product Hunt) for a webinar on “Growth Channels to Acquire SaaS Customers” on April 10, 2018. In this webinar, Nichole talks about:

  • Different growth channels to acquire SaaS customers
  • Developing a compelling value proposition
  • Identifying quick wins and long-term channels for growth

Listen on FreshChat

Diversity, Human-to-Human (H2H), Inclusion, Marginalization, Women in Tech Spotlight

20 Women’s Stories on How They Learned to Set Boundaries

I didn’t realize until my late 20s that boundaries were a “thing” you could set. That you could tell someone “no.” Then it took several more years for me to actually start doing it, and only because I was forced to as a result of people hurting me and losing my trust — not because I’d finally gained the ability to set healthy boundaries all by myself.

But we all have our teachers, and those were mine.

Now, in my mid-30s, I can honestly say that I set boundaries.

But I still feel guilty about it.

Someone recently asked me for advice in working with one of their clients, and probably for the first time ever — I declined.

I honestly didn’t have the time. I’ve barely kept up with my own clients in recent months. As much as I love helping people — it’s who I am — I’ve come to a place in my personal and professional life of max capacity. For my own mental, emotional, and entrepreneurial health, I have to say no to things I’d otherwise do without a second thought.

I did feel bad about declining. But I also got over it. And I found that it’s less stressful to say “no” than to sign up to do one more thing on an already toppling list.

As a woman, especially, I think many of us have been socialized to say “yes” and be “nice” and “volunteer to help” when we don’t feel like it. Unless we have a really good excuse, like a broken limb or a fever above 103. That’s how I feel, anyway.

And it shouldn’t have to come to that! Someday, I hope to say “no” without guilt, just because I’d rather spend my day taking pictures of flowers and trees, or scrunching my toes in beach sand.

Today, I’d like to have an honest, open discussion about being a woman and setting boundaries. I asked 20 women to tell me their thoughts on boundary setting. Maybe you’ll find some tips you can use. Maybe you’ll just find camaraderie (because none of us are boundary-setting experts).

And hopefully you will find a bit more strength — because after reading what these women have written to me, I know I have.


Tia Fomenoff, People & Culture at Thinkific

When did you realize that you can set boundaries?
still struggle sometimes with setting boundaries as it’s in my nature to want to help everyone! I have definitely been getting better about this just over the last couple of years — after nearing burnout many times I had to make decisions to not always say yes, and be okay with that. I can’t say I regret any of the times I’ve had to say no so far!

How do you set boundaries in your personal and/or professional life?
I don’t so much worry about this in my personal life — I find it’s easier for me to decide what’s important or not. If I’m ever put in an uncomfortable situation, whether at work or personally, I make sure to be direct, but kind and understanding, as early as I can now. When I was younger, I would often let comments or issues that bothered me slide off to the side instead of deal with them head on, because I felt that was easier. I know now that’s not true — that addressing your concerns quickly helps you avoid the negative snowball effect that can crop up because of unclear communication.


Val Geisler, Systems Strategist for Freelancers

I’m still learning to set boundaries and I find they get tighter the more I practice them. Running a business, being a mom, working online… all of these things required me to set boundaries.

However, I only actually set boundaries when I decided that my personal happiness and wellbeing was the main driver of all of those activities. If I can’t show up as my best self, I’m letting everything drop.

When I set boundaries I’m happier. I’m taking care of myself and, by extension, everyone around me.


Joanna Wiebe, Author, Copywriter, Creator of CopyHackers& Co-Founder & Head of Growth at AirStory

Actually my first reaction to your question was a chuckle — not sure I’ve learned to set boundaries or even realized they’re mine to set. I feel the need to justify my boundaries. As if others have more say over what I do than I have. Setting boundaries means saying no, and I still struggle with that in a major way. So I’m not sure I’ve arrived at a place where I know I can set boundaries. I need to work on that.


Kaleigh Moore, Copywriter

For me, setting boundaries is an ongoing process that I’m still working on. I have a lot of room for improvement.

In my personal and professional life, many of my boundaries are around my time. I’ve become much more protective of how I spend/invest my time — and with whom — so that I’m only doing things that I truly see value in. Often, that means saying no to opportunities, putting hard lines around my availability, and being less of a “yes” person in general. The power of no is incredible for establishing boundaries, and saying it more often has helped me become happier, healthier, and more sane.


Shayla Price, B2B Marketer

I set professional boundaries by stating and reiterating my expectations. In the work environment, it’s important to stay consistent in your actions. Someone will always test your boundaries. So, don’t waver to please others.


Crystal J. Allen, CTO of HausCall, Multicultural Media Wizard

As the CTO of HausCall, it was really important for me to create boundaries for my own sanity. Before I had a team of engineers, it was not uncommon for me to work around the clock on our product. In some ways, that can obviously be good for production — but as a manager, this can easily be a terrible habit to create. When I hired my team and realized how responsible I was for their career growth during their tenure with our company, I felt comfortable establishing healthy boundaries for their success and mine.

Using messaging tools such as Slack allows me to still stay on top of things without work requests, questions and concerns coming directly to my text inbox all the time. The ‘do not disturb’ has also had its fair share of value here!


Emma Siemasko, Founder of Stories by Emma, co-host with Kaleigh Moore of Ask Content Gals

I am REALLY anal and crazy about boundaries, in my personal life and in my business life. I realized I could set boundaries about a year and a half into running my own business (late 20s). I was super burnt out, THOUGHT that I maintained solid boundaries, but kept feeling bulldozed by clients. I just wasn’t very good or deliberate at managing my relationships.

One of the things I did was start creating processes that all clients had to follow. For example, I won’t work with a client unless they schedule a 15 minute call with me first. It seems small, but unless I get the client on the phone, I won’t know if they’re a good fit or if the project is a good fit. It’s also a quick compliance check– if they can’t follow my process at the very beginning, I probably don’t want to work with them. One of the other things I did was only take client meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and never after 4:30 pm. This means that I have “meeting” days but that Monday and Friday are reserved for quite working, or working no my own business.


Kristen Hillery, Editor of the InVision blog

Here I am in my early 30s, and I didn’t realize I could set boundaries until pretty recently. I’ve always equated being a good friend, teammate, and family member with doing whatever anyone asks of me. If someone needs help, you help. If someone’s having a get-together and invites you, you’d better be there. Saying no is rude, so never, ever say no. I think this is a common thing we teach little girls — always be polite and take care of everyone else before you take care of yourself.

The thing about that is that, eventually, you run out of energy. I realized this when I barely made it through the day without falling asleep, because I’d taken my neighbor to the airport at 4am that morning.

She’d texted me the night before: “Hey. Can you give me a ride to the airport tomorrow? At 4am?” Three grimacing emojis.

I said yes, of course, and I showed up at 4am on the dot with my trunk popped. She got in my car and said, “Wow! I can’t believe you actually said yes. My husband is mad at me for asking you because he thought it was really rude. But I told him you said yes!”

I couldn’t stop thinking about that the whole way back home. Why did I say yes? Well, because I thought I couldn’t say no. It was that simple.

The fact that even the askerwas surprised I said yes made me think pretty deeply about my personal boundaries and that they were basically non-existent.

Would saying no to someone result in something terrible happening?

Would it make someone swear me off as a friend? Of course not.

Others say no all the time, and it’s fine. I gave myself “permission” to say no to things I don’t want to do — things that won’t bring me joy or things that just don’t interest me.

It was honestly very difficult to start doing this, but I quickly realized that it meant I had more time and energy to spend doing things I loved. It’s so cliche, but life is just too short to waste your time doing things for the sake of doing things.


Sarah E. Brown, Director of Marketing, Service Rocket

I realized that work boundaries were important in my mid-twenties when I began doing consulting. Learning how to set healthy boundaries with clients and boundaries with others in my life in order to maintain balance as a sole proprietor was incredibly valuable.

In my personal and professional lives, I try to live by the rule of “full body yes,” which my friend Sue Heilbronner turned me on to. The idea is that if something doesn’t feel right on a cellular level, I don’t say yes to it. It’s kept me from some nice-seeming opportunities that I know weren’t right for me (perhaps at that time). It’s an ongoing practice.


Amy E. Dixon, Press Release Queen

I started setting boundaries when I realized I tend to be more loyal to my companies than they ever were to me. I’d been taken for granted and/or taken advantage of, and then tossed aside. I don’t know if I aged out of sucking it up, or stopped being afraid of owning my wellbeing.


Lauren Van Mullem, Copywriter for Coaches

I used to work late into the night and during weekends — and I’d say the most success I’ve had with setting boundaries is to stop doing that. But I’m not great at setting them across the board. I want to help everyone, as much as I can, as much as they’ll let me. For me, the #1 cardinal sin is selfishness, and generosity of spirit is the ultimate good. Recently though, a relative stranger asked me for help, and I gave her all the help I could, even though I didn’t really know her. That opened the floodgates to her asking me to do more and more things for her, and there was no reciprocation. This is not my first rodeo with a narcissist (I’ve been burned before — over-givers attract them like ants to a picnic!), so this time, I recognized the signs early on. And I shut off the giving. Funny thing — as soon as I set ONE boundary with her, she disappeared. Boundaries are magical things!


Whitney Antwine, Digital Marketing Coach & Keynote Speaker

Setting boundaries is a direct reflection of your self-respect; and for me, that came right around the time I turned 30. I made a conscious decision to work 8-hours a day, not keep work email on my phone, and commit to taking a lunch break every day. I still can’t help that feeling of guilt when taking care of myself over my business, but I understand its importance on my well-being. When I’m taken care of, I’m able to focus productive energy on my work.


Natalie Smithson, Digital Innovation Copywriter

I realized I had to set boundaries when children came along. I was fiercely protective over theirboundaries, and it took me a while to recognize I could do the same for myself. I put boundaries in place for my business, which in turn protected me and showed me how effective it is to use them. Now I’ll put up a boundary quicker than you can say ‘Could you just… ?’ and “No” rolls off the tongue with no effort at all.


Holly Wolf, Director of Customer Engagement, Solo Laboratories

I started setting boundaries when I realized that what I gave wasn’t reciprocated on any level. I used to put in long hours, attend events, go the extra mile, but when I asked to leave 30 minutes early, it was a big problem.


Caroline Zeichner, SEO Specialist at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency

Don’t set yourself on fire to keep somebody else warm! If you’re negatively impacting your own well-being for the benefit of others, you’re just hurting yourself in the long run.


Coral Wulff, Onboarding Specialist at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency

Beauty does not equal weakness and kindness does not equal naïveté. I give people the benefit of the doubt that they will be respectful, but the first time a line is crossed, there needs to be action/conversation on my end to ensure where the line lays.


Marijana Kay, Freelance Writer and Content Strategist

I don’t think I realized the importance of setting boundaries until I burnt out at a full-time job and realized I wanted to work for myself. Months after making that transition into running my own small business, my work life and personal life were spilling into each other. I had to draw a line to stop looking at emails at night and not let non-urgent personal matters creep into my working hours. I’m easily distracted, and that cycle was taking up all of my energy. Over time, I’ve gained the ability to block off time for work and put my phone and laptop down when it’s time to focus on my husband, family, friends and hobbies. It’s still a struggle, but I’m getting there.


Tracy Oswald, Leads with Love, Big Change Coach, Keynote Speaker

For me it’s about not rearranging my priorities to respond to everyone else’s “emergencies”. A lot of the time all we have to do is say “No.”. No further explanation is needed.


Alaura Weaver, Content & Story Editor for Inflectionpointradio.org, Copywriter

Your question got me thinking about how my lack of boundaries led me to getting sick with pneumonia and how our limitations are opportunities to create space in our lives. It took a physical and mental collapse to finally give myself permission to stop feeling like I wasn’t trying hard enough. It shouldn’t have to be that way.


Stefanie Grieser, Global Markets, Partnerships & Events at Unbounce

There’s this quote from Nathaniel Branden’s Six Pillars of Self Esteem:

“People with high self-esteem have strong personal boundaries. And practicing strong personal boundaries is one way to build self-esteem.”

I think to set boundaries you have to know yourself really well and be confident in who you are. Sometimes you only really figure out who you are in your late 20s. I saw Michelle Obama speak and I forget exactly what she said, but she talked about the significance of being true to yourself and how that happens later in life.

I most recently went through an exercise of writing down my core values — which are: integrity, curiosity, adventure, passion and perseverance. I know that if something doesn’t align with those values, my boundaries are being pushed.


Thank you to all the women who gave their unvarnished stories of struggles and successes in boundary-setting.

How are you at setting boundaries? When was the first time you discovered that you could? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!