All Posts By

Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

Quora Answers, SaaS, Tools

“What are the best SaaS platforms you’ve used? What was great about them?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

Best SaaS Platforms

My criteria for “best” platforms might be a little unorthodox, but here are the factors I take into account:

  1. Usability – how user-friendly is it for its target audience?
  2. Functionality – how much does it make my life easier/better?
  3. Is the company behind it good? – Do they put customer experience first? Are they good people? Are they transparent?

With those criteria in mind, these are the best SaaS platforms I use on a regular basis, recommend often, and really enjoy.

Ahrefs – all-in-one SEO tool

Ahrefs is one of my favorite SEO tools for finding keywords and brainstorming ideas because it has a few features the others don’t. They show estimated traffic for all pages ranking in the top 10 for any keyword phrase, the ranking history of your pages for any keyword, and even have a “content gap” feature that shows what content your competitors rank for, but you don’t.

Ahref SaaS Platform

Airtable – spreadsheet + database

When you need something more than a multi-tab spreadsheet, Airtable is what more and more SaaS folks are using for project planning, sales tracking, drag-and-drop list-making and building custom applications. You can use it for so many things, like CRM and task management, or sorting and filtering customer feedback.

Airtable SaaS Platform

Appcues – user onboarding checklists

Appcues is an in-app user onboarding checklist that engages and guides new users through the onboarding process and deploys NPS surveys. Two very important functions to include in SaaS products! It’s one tool that does just a couple things, but does them really well. And it’s also a cool company that’s devoted to customer success – their blog is amazing.

Appcues SaaS Platform

Basecamp – project management & team communication

Basecamp is not only a great project management tool, with an incredibly user-friendly platform, it’s a very unique SaaS company. Their signal vs. noise blog actively works to tear down the hustle culture, as does their book It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work, with messages that are completely aligned with what their product does: Helping businesses run efficiently and calmly.

Basecamp SaaS Platform

Buffer – social media management platform

Buffer is an ultra-user-friendly staple of social media management. The platform makes what can become a time-suck far more streamlined. I love that they have a “Happiness Team” with a focus on really listening to customers and improving CX as much as possible. I also love their Transparency Dashboard, where they make salaries, revenue, code, diversity and values public.

Buffer SaaS Platform

Hotjar – heatmaps, session recordings

Hotjar, as a tool, was created to tell you what customers are doing on your site, and try to answer the all-important question of why they’re doing it! Using heatmaps, session recordings, conversion funnels, form analysis and customer feedback polls (like NPS), it’s a thorough user analysis and feedback tool. This is another company that gets props for transparency. Their blog is an exercise in radical honesty.

Hotjar SaaS Platform

Hull – real-time B2B customer data platform

Hull.io is on the cutting edge (overused term, I know, but really!) of capturing and analyzing the entire customer journey, even when that data is stored in multiple places, in multiple tools. For data-driven growth teams, it’s an incredibly powerful platform.

Hull.io SaaS Platform

Intercom – customer messaging platform

Intercom easily integrates with your site and/or product enabling in-app messaging, user segmentation, event tracking and message automation. But I’m a customer success advocate, so it’s Intercom’s customer education content that really impresses me. If you’re an autodidact like I am, you can’t not succeed with Intercom because they give you all the information you need.

Intercom SaaS Platform

InVision – Digital product design, workflow & collaboration

The InVision platform is such a beautiful solution for faster product design workflows. You can design a prototype, make it interactive, show it to customers, gather feedback, and simplify the handoff from design to development. And, they’re a genuinely forward-thinking company. InVision’s newsletter regularly ends up in my Swipe file. Shoutout to Kristin Hillery when she was editor for keeping the quality so consistently high, and featuring diversity and inclusion-based topics.

InVision SaaS Platform

Notion – like having all the work apps in one place

We use Notion for The Shine Crew, and we love this platform for collaboration and organization. It’s so useful, whether you’re an individual user or a team (or a Shine Crew) – it has everything you need to organize your life, without a giant stack of tools.

Notion SaaS Platform

Segment – customer data infrastructure

Segment syncs customer data from your favorite tools, puts everything in one dashboard, and enables you to synthesize that data into traits and audiences for more effective and accurate customer personas.

Segment SaaS Platform

Unbounce – landing page, pop-up and sticky bar builder

Everyone I’ve ever met at Unbounce has been so friendly and genuine – it’s really a lovable company. And, the product fills a real need in the market: the ability for anyone, without specialized knowledge, coding or web design tools, to make a professional-looking landing page that converts.

Unbounce SaaS Platform

Wootric – customer feedback collection & measurement

Wootric is a women-founded, women-lead company that is doing some remarkable work using machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve customer experience with smarter qualitative feedback analytics. In short: They give you several modern ways to collect a lot of user feedback, both qualitative and quantitative, in any customer communication channel, analyze it at scale, and take action in your systems of record.

Wootric SaaS Platform: NPS / Net Promoter Score

Vervoe – AI-powered hiring platform

An amazing team and an amazing concept make Vervoe one of my favorite SaaS platforms. They’re actively trying to do away with the resume and make the job search and hiring process easier and faster for everyone involved. Instead of having applicants upload a resume or CV, they offer real-world scenario skills tests and video interviews, so the top performers shine.

Vervoe SaaS Platform

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Customer Development, Customer Success, Language-Market Fit, SaaS

5 steps to rock your value prop for SaaS customer success

5-steps-to-rock-your-value

Use qualitative data to uncover language-market fit

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

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

Customer Success

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

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

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

Qualitative Data Research

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Get Started

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

5 Steps

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

1. Identify your ideal customer

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

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

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

2. Gather qualitative data from current and potential customers.

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

After all, language is the foundation of growth.

Here are four methods you can use to accomplish this:

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

Surveys

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

Why you should talk with “qualified noes”

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

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

The right questions at the right time

You want to ask people who just bought what convinced them to buy, and people who abandoned at the last minute why they changed their mind. 

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

Pre-launch Surveys

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

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

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

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

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

Interviews

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

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

Observation

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

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

Inbound Customer Feedback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use this value proposition worksheet or Strategyzer’s value proposition canvas to get started. (I highly recommend the Value Proposition Design book, I run through it with all my clients.)

value-prop-canvas

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

Your audience already has.

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

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

4. Update and test your language.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Monitor 

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Design

Creatives: How much does what you wear to work matter?

At a recent Design Leadership Forum dinner in New York City, the topic of what you wear to work came up when attendees discussed what it takes to give designers a seat at the table. Educating your organization about the importance of design is a common strategy, but could the clothes you wear play an important role in getting design buy-in?

“Clothes make the man,” as Shakespeare wrote, but that line actually comes from a much earlier Greek proverb: “The man is his clothing.” From togas to tights, fashion makes an impression and not just on other people, but on ourselves.

To dive deeper into this conversation, we spoke with several women designers to get a sense of how they use personal style strategically in their work lives, what challenges they face, and how perceptions of workwear differ for corporate designers on the East and West Coasts.

Read More on InVision

Customer Development, Customer Experience, Product Management, SaaS

How to Tackle the #1 Problem Product Teams Face: Customer Feedback

What’s your biggest problem as a Product Dev professional? Too many demands and not enough time? Limited resources? Oddly enough, none of those topped the list for Hiten Shah’s crowd.

Hiten Shah (of KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, and Quick Sprout fame) recently wrote in his newsletter that “the problems people have on Product teams fall into two main categories: Customer Feedback and Alignment.” This conclusion came after Hiten asked his readers to share their biggest product problems, and in more than 100 replies, those two themes emerged as the leaders.

Wootric helps customers gather, organize, categorize and analyze customer feedback – at volume – every day. And we’ve got a few insights into how Product teams can solve the issues that come with customer-centricity – while improving alignment at the same time.

Let’s go through the problems real Product professionals sent Hiten Shah point by point.

Read More on Wootric

Design

Do you need a creative safe space for your design team?

A space that’s perfect for collaboration and creativity. Source: Inside Design: Yesware.

While it’s not a universal experience (and very much depends on company culture), some designers in corporate environments have restraints put on their creative expression. Those might be physical restraints, like rules against whiteboards and Post-it notes out in the open, or ideological restraints that stop the creative process in its tracks.

Maybe you work in a creative utopia, or maybe you don’t.

But creativity is delicate. It needs room to grow and a nurturing environment to bear fruit.

So we’re dedicating this post to finding ways to establish safe spaces for creativity—and creatives—to thrive in corporate settings.

Physical “safe space” for design

“GlaxoSmithKline, the global pharmaceutical giant, thinks it has found the cure for the drab, inefficient office: fluid spaces where you do what the moment requires, alone or in groups, moving throughout the day. Each employee has a laptop with a built-in “soft phone,” a locker for personal possessions, and maybe one file drawer. That’s it. Even US head Deirdre Connelly doesn’t have an office.” – Inside the New Deskless Office by Frederick E. Allen, Forbes, July 2012

New trends in office design and space usage have cut down on clutter, and often even personal space. Shared workspaces and “hot-desking,” where employees move from desk to desk as needed, might minimize the expense of square footage, but it does come with other costs.

You can’t make, or leave, “messes.”

But designers need room—and possibly rooms—to create. To put their ideas out there and see how, or if, they work together.

There are strong arguments to be made for clean, tidy workspaces that lead to clean, tidy minds. But creative minds are messy, and a few studies shows that creativity spikes in messy environments.

“Forty-eight research subjects came individually to our laboratory, again assigned to messy or tidy rooms. This time, we told subjects to imagine that a Ping-Pong ball factory needed to think of new uses for Ping-Pong balls, and to write down as many ideas as they could. We had independent judges rate the subjects’ answers for degree of creativity, which can be done reliably. Answers rated low in creativity included using Ping-Pong balls for beer pong (a party game that in fact uses Ping-Pong balls, hence the low rating on innovation). Answers rated high in creativity included using Ping-Pong balls as ice cube trays, and attaching them to chair legs to protect floors.

When we analyzed the responses, we found that the subjects in both types of rooms came up with about the same number of ideas, which meant they put about the same effort into the task. Nonetheless, the messy room subjects were more creative, as we expected. Not only were their ideas 28 percent more creative on average, but when we analyzed the ideas that judges scored as “highly creative,” we found a remarkable boost from being in the messy room — these subjects came up with almost five times the number of highly creative responses as did their tidy-room counterparts.”

Designate a physical space that allows you and your team to make a mess. Click To Tweet

Read More on InVision

Customer Success, Mobile, Mobile Apps

“Do push notifications increase retention?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

Do push notifications increase retention? Hah! I spent the first 10 minutes of my morning disabling push notifications AGAIN from my phone (because apparently app ‘updates’ = resetting my notification settings?).

I am not alone, apparently. Andrew Chen said it best: “notification-driven retention sucks.”

In all seriousness though, push notifications only increase retention as much as they are *useful.* Tell me when something is wrong. Tell me when something goes through correctly. Tell me when a friend, or client, contacts me. Tell me when you have a 20% off sale (anything less than 20% I consider spam, let’s be real here).

This morning though, my phone was pinging for no reason I could find at all. Disable. Disable. Disable. Like someone from Facebook should have listened when PostFunnel’s Matt McAllister said “Push notification permissions are a privilege… Users can take them away at any time.”

So I’ve got this crazy idea:

What if we took another look at how we use push notifications, and this time, see it through the lens of Customer Success?

How can we use push notifications to *help* our customers be successful with our product?

Not just ‘ping’ them into submission.

Let’s think about that for a moment, in the context of what your app does, who uses it, and what their ideal real-world outcomes are. Can getting a message at just the right moment help them (not just you) be successful?

Starbucks is doing this really well. If you’ve got the Starbucks rewards app on your phone, they optimize what they send you based on your purchase history, listed preferences, even the local weather, like sending an iced coffee notification when it’s 101 degrees.

And how about a crazier idea – most of the ‘push notifications’ we want to see are the ones alerting us that a personal friend, or a client, or a human (vs. a brand), or a member of a group we’re in, have said something interesting, that we might want to know about, NOW.

That’s right – the most effective push notifications are based on human relationships. Shocker!

This is actually great news when you’re trying to use push notifications to drive retention and engagement, because relationships also drive retention and engagement!

What if you focused on building relationships, say, with a social media community built around your product, and when something of interest is posted in that space, send a push notification to invite users into that conversation? I always want to know what’s happening and who’s saying what in my Facebook groups and Slack channels. That will always get me to click.

But when you start with what your customer needs and wants, they’re not going to spend their mornings like I did – disabling your push notifications!

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Mobile, Mobile Apps

“What are the best practices to optimize retention in a mobile app?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

First, let me state some fun facts.

  • Last year, there were more than 20 million apps on iOS App Store and 3.5 million on Google Play.
  • In 2017, the average person had 80 apps on their smartphone – but, only used half of those apps on a monthly basis.
  • The odds of someone becoming a long-term user are really slim. Only 29% of app users continue using any given app after 3 months.

In that landscape (appscape?), retention is an enormous challenge. And a lot of SaaS companies are trying techniques in Nir Eyal’s Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, using push notifications and emails as “external triggers” to get people to essentially practice going to the app and building positive associations with it. Almost like building muscle memory.

Or an addiction.

But let’s look on the sunny side of the street (while acknowledging that the shady side is really dark) for a moment.

One of the ideas in Hooked that I like most is “habit testing” your product. The Habit Testing process places a lot of emphasis on understanding “Who your devotees are,” in addition to “what part of your product is habit forming, if any” and “why those aspects of your product are habit forming.”

Understanding your customer is where every retention effort should start.

Talking to your best customers to find out why they use your product, how they use it, and when is vitally important. Using that information to tweak your user flow to get your customers to their goals faster and easier is the raw material of retention.

But I would go farther. I recommend interviewing your best customers (or people you believe will be your best customers, if you haven’t yet launched) to find out what they’d really like to do, and how your app moves them closer to that goal.

That goal that lives outside your app.

Let’s take Facebook for example. My goal as a Facebook user is to stay in touch with my friends, feel a sense of community and camaraderie in my groups, and share photos of my cats. Facebook has won my long-term usage by making it easier (mostly) for me to do these things by suggesting “people you may know,” sending notifications when someone posts in one of my groups, and allowing me to upload kitten pics in HD.

And, of course, there are the psychological rewards built in – the dopamine boost of the “notifications” tab, the constant drip of “what will show up on my feed next?!”

But if it didn’t get me closer to my core goals? I could live without Facebook. Happily.

The ways in which you engage your customers should be ways that help them reach their goals. Whether those are emotional goals (I’m bored! I want to see kittens playing in boxes! Hello YouTube!), practical goals (I must budget! Baby needs a new scratching post!), self-improvement goals (I will eat kale at every meal!), or professional goals (I’m going to make Partner in 5 years!).

We can personalize in-app experiences to nudge people towards making real progress. We have that technology. And I predict that, when customers are tired of being manipulated into forming habits that may not be in their best interests, they will gravitate towards apps that are genuinely designed to help them become better versions of themselves.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Customer Development, Customer Experience, Customer Success, Growth Hacking, Product Management, SaaS

There is no better “growth hack” for SaaS than talking with your customers.

Not just when you’re developing or marketing a product, but through every stage of the customer lifecycle.

It sounds simple — but it’s not easy: talking with your customers through every stage of the customer lifecycle. There’s been a lot said about the value of talking to your customers before you build the product to ensure market fit, but very little said about continuing the conversation past marketing and past the sale.

Why do I know talking with your customer is *the* very best predictor of, and contributor to, SaaS business growth? Because creating a constant flow of customer feedback, input, and conversation makes Customer Experience (CX) better.

Multiple studies show that CX leads to revenue growth.

CX also drives brand advocacy (aka. word of mouth), creating a virtual sales army, which leads to:

Decreased cost-to-acquire.

“Customers with the best past experiences spend 140% more than those with the poorest past experiences.” — Harvard Business Review

Increased customer lifetime value.

“Customers with the best past experiences have a 74% chance of remaining a member for at least another year.” — Harvard Business Review

Plus, qualitative customer research leads to making data-informed decisions that streamline product management, ensure customer success, and make marketing and sales far more efficient.

In short, as Laura Klein, author, VP of product, and co-founder of Users Know says,

“User research saves time. Period. When you actually understand what your user needs before you build things, you have a much lower chance of having to go back and rebuild everything after shipping something that nobody uses.”

But what does “talking with your customer” really mean?

It’s not like you’re inviting them over for tea and cookies every week for a casual catch-up (though that would be awesome, and you should do that and invite me).

When we say “talk to your customers,” or “listen to your customers,” I usually mean getting on the phone with them (or better, meeting up with them in person). But, it can also mean sending surveys that include long-form response fields, or building quicker in-app surveys into your roadmap to uncover moments of friction.

And, of course, if you’re earlier in your business, there’s the Lean approach of interviewing dozens of target customers in person and over the phone — groundwork that helps founders (and product developers and marketers) form better hypotheses around what will deliver the best product-market fit.

There’s also user testing.

These are all valid ways of listening to your customers. But I’d like to advocate for doing all of these things and going several steps further. I’m talking about combining all of the above and adding genuine conversations to the mix.

It’s just not input. It’s just not feedback. It’s getting to know your customers as human beings and building relationships with them that drive positive CX far more powerfully than any of these elements could do alone.

So much has been written about interviewing customers prior to developing products that I’d like to focus on how to keep communication lines open after the launch, after customer acquisition, starting with onboarding.

Track more than actions, during and after onboarding

(This is a chart I created for: “Product Managers: Why You Should Include Customer Success Milestones in Your User Flow”)

The first key to ensuring communication stays clear and open is to observe your customers. We communicate far more by our actions than we do verbally, and tracking the actions of your customers, especially (but not limited to) during onboarding can tell you the truths you need to hear.

Tracking customer behavior during onboarding and throughout product use allows you to see:

  • Time to first value (how long is it taking?)
  • Where customers run into trouble and need tech support
  • When customers typically need Customer Success help to reach their desired outcomes
  • Which customers reach their success milestones (the points in their user journeys where they see real progress towards their ideal outcomes)
  • And which customers don’t reach their success milestones

Yes, you want to track how well your customers accomplish the required tasks outlined in your User Flow, but usually, tracking stops there. If they press the right buttons at the right times, if they input the requested information, if they log in relatively regularly, it’s easy to assume customers are happily using your product.

But that’s not always the case. There may be ‘success gaps’ you can’t see that are causing churn. FYI: A ‘success gap’ is “the gap between what you think represents the customers’ successful use of your product and what they think equates to success,” according to Lincoln Murphy.

This is where aptly timed in-app surveys come in handy, which I’ll get to in the next section.

Tools that can help:

  • Appcues for onboarding
  • Intercom for targeted in-app messaging
  • Segment for easily managing your tools without dev

Check in with event trigger-based surveys

While you’re tracking user behaviors, successes and failures, you’ll also want to check in with your users in an unobtrusive way to get their feedback at specific points in their user journeys.

For example, if you identify a page or prompt during onboarding that tends to ‘lose’ people, have a trigger-based in-app AI chatbot pop up and offer to clarify, or transfer them to an agent. (This, incidentally, would have saved my relationship with more than one app! If you hit a ‘wall’ during onboarding, the odds of completing the process and becoming a successful customer are terrible — unless you get timely help).

You can set up event trigger-based surveys to deploy when users spend too much time on a page, ‘click away’ before completing the action, or when they’ve been ‘dormant’ (not logging in) for a while.

By giving customers opportunities to tell you they’re confused, are experiencing failure, aren’t getting the results they’d hoped for, or are suffering from a lack of time/motivation/technical skills etc., you will know who is really at risk of churning in time to save them, and really impress them with your customer service skills.

Finding friction with customer effort scores

Another place where checking in with your customer can really pay off is after the onboarding sequence is complete. It’s a perfect time to ask “How difficult was this?” (aka. A Customer Effort Score survey). The easier a process is, the less friction people experience, and the more likely they will be to complete your desired actions and reach their desired outcomes.

Then, after your new user has had a chance to put your product to work, you should send out a Net Promoter Score survey (NPS) to find out how they *really* feel about your product. Do they like it enough to recommend it to a friend or colleague? That’s an excellent indicator of how well they’re succeeding. And be sure to send an NPS follow-up question to understand the why behind the score.

Tools that can help:

Wootric: For these types of in-app surveys, I recommend Wootric. Their dashboard makes it very easy to understand what you’re seeing, and they do great work with extrapolating insights from qualitative data questions too.

The Game Changer: Have real conversations in your community

Tracking what customers do and asking them what they think at strategic points is a very good start; the trouble is, that’s where most SaaS companies begin and end. But SaaS businesses are subscription-based. They’re in this for the long-haul. They depend on customers sticking around (customer lifetime value! retention!).

And that means you also have to build relationships with your customers.

This is why I so strongly advocate that SaaS companies build social communities around their products. It’s an opportunity to relate to your customers as people.

The bonuses are many. SaaS product communities give you:

  • An on-tap resource of customers who are delighted to answer your questions and give you real-time feedback on everything you do
  • A straight line to your most engaged customers
  • A real-time capability of helping customers in trouble and creating delightful experiences for them, on a public forum, with everyone else watching (warm fuzzies all around!)
  • An opportunity to cultivate a culture around your brand and a genuine community
  • And… it’s possible — ZERO churn!

The most important thing to remember about building a community is that it’s not a one-sided arrangement. This isn’t a place for you to ‘shout into the void’, post blog posts nobody reads, try to ‘sell’ or advertise. It’s a place where you and your customers can come together around your common interests. Human to human.

Tools that can help:

  • Facebook
  • Slack
  • Your social community of choice!

Bring it all together now!

When you are tracking user behavior in your product, identifying predictive patterns of behaviors/successes/failures, locating trouble-spots and offering timely help, checking in with surveys to ask your customers what they think — in their own words and with numerical ratings, AND forging human-to-human relationships in the casual setting of social media groups, you’ll see a few things happen…

  • Your referrals will skyrocket as more customers achieve success
  • Your retention rates will go through the roof
  • Your acquisition and product development spend with become more efficient (as you target the right prospects, and use customer feedback to guide your iterations)
  • And you will grow — fast

Are you ready for that?

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Customer Development, Customer Success, Product Management, SaaS

How Product Experts Use Qualitative Data for Roadmap Planning

Wouldn’t it be great to get customer feedback before there are even customers so you know what new features and products to prioritize?

Yes, we’re talking about gathering feedback from customers who don’t yet exist, for a product that doesn’t yet exist, to create a product that will perform better, sell better, and get rave reviews.

And it’s possible.

It’s just the opposite way Product dev usually works.

The usual way: When evaluating a new product, usually you present the product, a minimum version of the product, or a beta version of the product, to a group of users (or beta testers) and listen to their feedback (qualitative data) and look at their behaviors (behavioral analytics) to see where you’ve succeeded, and where you still need to pick out the bugs. But on brand new features and products that aren’t launched, knowing that customers want and need most is educated guesswork. A series of hypotheses and trials.

We’re going to show you how to leverage qualitative data to build better hypotheses to reach successful new products and features faster.

How can you leverage qualitative data when the product or feature doesn’t exist yet?

You have to talk to customers who don’t exist yet.

Seriously.

When preparing to create a new product or feature, your first task is to speak with potential future customers – people who are a good fit for the solution you’re thinking of building. If you have an existing user base and are planning to introduce a new feature, you can start there by finding groups of people whom you think are likely to need it.

Your goal is to check your assumptions against their real, qualitative feedback – and there is nothing like a two-sided conversation for gaining insights you’d never expect. Schedule calls with at least a dozen people you think will be a good fit, and ask:

  1. What goals, inside and outside of work, are you hoping to accomplish today, this week, and this year?
  2. Tell me about your work process – what do you do exactly?
  3. What frustrates and aggravates you on a regular basis – what are the hurdles between you and getting things done?
  4. What might make reaching your goals easier?

Then, present your product idea and ask if they think it could help them reach their goals and reduce (or eliminate!) the hurdles.

Of course, interviewing individuals doesn’t scale. So when you do have hundreds or thousands of users to poll about a new feature to your existingproduct, you’ll need to gather your qualitative data a little differently.

Read More on Wootric

Photo Friday

Photo Friday: 8/9/18

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



Follow me on Instagram for more of my work. I also have prints for sale.