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 B2B 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

💗 Check out Nichole’s services for B2B SaaS startups 💗

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 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.

Community, Diversity, Human-to-Human (H2H), Inclusion, Marginalization, Social Media, Women in Tech

Don’t tweet in a bubble: why & how to diversify your feed

Birds of a feather tend to flock together, but that’s why they call them ‘bird-brains.’ Here’s how, and why, to diversify your Twitter feed.

Twitter Stats & Social Facts

Tech doesn’t just have a diversity problem in the workforce – tech workers and leaders often live in an online social bubble of, well, men. Mostly white men.

When the echo chamber of our tech community continues into our online social communities, it’s too easy to find yourself in a homogenous bubble that is so large and opaque that it eclipses the world outside of it.

And that is dangerous to us as people, as world citizens, as tech makers and users.

Yes, the Twitter feed diversity problem is real.

Not-so-fun fact: Elon Musk didn’t follow a single woman on Twitter until October of 2016 – and only then because a Motherboard article called him out on it. Musk isn’t alone. The Guardian looked at the Twitter accounts of several male tech leaders and found that they followed between 2 and 11 times as many men as women. The CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, for instance, followed 238 men and 29 women at last count (also in 2016).

And that’s just the male to female ratio. They didn’t even touch on people of color or the LGBTQ communities.

When you consider that most founders of tech startups in America are white, and the average white American only has one black friend (75% of white Americans don’t have any black friends), it’s clear that not only do most of us in tech live and work in our bubble – we’re so far in it that it’s hard for some to imagine how to climb out.

I suggest starting to diversify your life and work by inviting in different ideas and opinions on Twitter. No, it’s not going to fix the diversity problem in tech or lead to world peace. But at least it’s a start.

How can you diversify your feed?

As with making most changes, awareness is the first step.

Check yourself

It’s easy to look at the list of people you follow on Twitter and feel fairly satisfied that you do have a diverse group. The human mind is funny that way. We see what we expect to see. Try this app, Proporti.onl, to see how your feed really stacks up. If you’re surprised by your results and feel like you’ve got a long way to go, that’s okay – I’m still working on diversifying my feed, too!

Consider all types of diversity

Diversity doesn’t just mean ethnicity or the spectrum of LGBTQ – it’s also about cultural diversity. People who believe, think and act differently than you. That isn’t to say you should befriend people who don’t share (or who are actively against) your core values. But try to recognize and respect other ways of being.

Don’t just add – listen

James Governor, co-founder of RedMonk, wrote about his effort to diversify his Twitter feed and made a very important point:

It’s not enough to add people who are different than you – you also have to listen to them. And that’s not always comfortable.

“You will certainly find yourself challenged. […] Question your assumptions. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll be smarter for it, and learn crucial lessons in empathy. Sometimes it’s the little things.”

The benefits are worth the effort. When you listen with an open mind to what different people are saying (and yes, complaining about) you gain insight into how to treat people with more sensitivity and communicate more effectively.

As James Governor also says, “following a broader range of people means that suddenly – surprise! – it’s a lot easier to find amazing speakers for tech events.”

Perhaps, most importantly for us in tech, this is an exercise in empathy. When we have empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – we build better products, better user experiences, and better relationships in and outside of work.

Not sure where to start? Here’s my shortlist of diverse voices who are sure to add unique, smart perspectives to your feed

Community

A community breakup from both sides – it’s a good vibes kind of mutual breakup

You might see, or hear, that I’m leaving Zest.is – the innovative marketing content stream that is co-distilled by marketers. It’s true. I am. It’s a cause I believe in (better content for all! Hand-picked!), people I genuinely like, and a community of peers I respect.

It’s like one of those break-ups where you remain friends, because you’reboth really great people, and it just didn’t work.

But, in the interest of examining the question of when to leave a community, I’m not going to leave my story at that. This also isn’t a blame game – not at all.

Here’s what happened.

Zest’s brand voice has extremely tight parameters that I could never quite jam myself into. I tried. I failed, a lot. And I had some ideas I thought were great (20+ years of experience will do that to a person) but the Zest team rarely agreed. My writing style is devoid of exclamation points and buzzing excitement – which are Zest trademarks. I’m just not that perky, folks.

I felt like I was trying to cram my square-pegged self into a lemon-shaped hole, and it wasn’t working. They knew it, I knew it.

Leaving was a mutual decision – and not in the way people say “oh, it was mutual” when it clearly wasn’t. Mutual for realsies. I wasn’t a good fit for what they needed; they weren’t a good fit for the value I could provide.

And when that happens, sometimes it takes a little while to diagnose. That in-between time feels terrible, like you’re constantly failing, like you suddenly know nothing and can do nothing right. It felt like there was a blanket put over my fire, because I’m so passionate about what I do.

These are the symptoms of bad fit.

When there’s bad fit, you’re not the only one who suffers. Your manager, your team, your community all suffer. It’s better for everyone to part ways.

This isn’t about how Zest did me wrong. They didn’t. It is about how to make the right decision about moving on from a startup, or community, or any relationship that you love when you’ve reached an impasse.

If you’re in a community or a job or a relationship – whatever it is – and your gut feeling is that it isn’t working out, you’re probably right, and it’s nobody’s fault.

I only have nice things to say about Zest. They’re good people. In many ways, it’s like losing a really good friend. I felt that close, and I still love what they stand for and what they’re doing.


A word or two from Yam, Zest’s CEO

Sometimes you fell in love with someone but you can’t put your finger exactly on the reason of why you fell in love with that individual.

This is not the case here. I fell in love with Nichole in the moment she suggested her first content in Zest.

It was love from first suggestion.

After that, we built together her job description and kicked off our partnership.

Working together as a team is the equivalent of living together, right? You have your ups, your downs, you need to show flexibility, carness, be mindful and take the full responsibility for each other.

We excelled in most of the above, but what we did not excelled in, felt like something we can’t overcome at this point of time.

Eventually, like in many other breakups, it’s not a case of “it’s not you it’s me”, nor “it’s not me it’s you”. In this case it’s a timing issue. Timing reflects on where Zest is today, where its brand maturity is and also, where I’m as a CEO is on this axis of timing.

Nichole, is our first love. I appreciate her as a person and as a professional.

I’m sure that our yellow brick roads will cross each other’s again at a later stage.

It’s a good vibes kind of a mutual breakup.

Love you so much, Nichole, and wishing a tonnnnn of luck and good karma in your next adventure/s

Yam Regev

Co-Founder and CEO

Zest.is

Customer Success, Onboarding, SaaS

“What are some of the best marketing strategies for B2B SaaS?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

There’s no one B2B SaaS marketing strategy that will win the day all by its lonesome self. A good strategy will perform best when grounded in a holistic, company-wide commitment to customer success.

With that in mind, here’s my ‘recipe’ of sorts:

  • Analyze what your customers need to succeed with you (aka. Their ‘success potential’) and check for customer fit. This will help you target your ideal customers – the ones who need your product, can succeed with your product, and will probably love your product.
  • Create a customer-centric onboarding (not product centric) process that moves the customer closer to their ideal outcomes. Ie. rather than just teaching them how to use the tool, move them through the process of using your tool to get measurably closer to reaching their goal (and then celebrate every milestone so *they* know they’re getting closer to their ideal outcomes!). In-app messaging, with tools like Intercom, are ideal for this.
  • Drive engagement through Customer Success. This can be done with the SaaS marketing journey that Trevor Hatfield and I devised. Inbound marketing alone isn’t sufficient for SaaS; it leaves out a vitally important part of the equation. Writing customer success content (content that helps customers reach their ideal outcomes) is the other part, because successful customers increase referrals and decrease acquisition costs.
  • Reactivate “ghost” customers and light a fire under your retention efforts.
  • Design a solid offboarding experience to win back customers who are considering canceling (they haven’t churned yet!). Consider creating an ‘offboarding workflow’ that asks the user what their reason is for wanting to cancel, then presents a solution – like educational content or contacting support – as an alternative to cancellation.

Yeah, none of these fall under the typical marketing purview, I know. But, in my opinion, these are the steps you need to take to build the kind of sustainable, customer-centric business that’s so beloved, your customers will do your marketing for you. (Don’t worry Marketing department, they won’t take your jobs – just make them easier!)

I also wrote extensively on about how to acquire SaaS customers.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗