Photos I took and edited of a beautiful winter sunrise in Treasure Island, Florida.
It’s a hazard of the job for content marketers. When you read or see a piece of high-quality content, you wonder how it got created. You ask yourself, “What does this company do to create great content? Is it great for business too?”
The simple answer is high-quality content serves both audience and business. “It’s written in such an energetic and engaging way that it will trigger the audience to take actions,” says Massimo Chieruzzi, CEO of AdEspresso.If great content is written in an engaging way it will trigger the audience to take action. Click To Tweet
Nathan Ellering, head of demand generation at CoSchedule, says high-quality content is synonymous with highest-performing content. At his firm, that content includes five distinct characteristics: great topic, well-researched, optimized for search engines, comprehensive plus actionable, and optimized to capture leads.High-quality content is synonymous with highest-performing content. Click To Tweet
Quality content is “powerful enough to stop people in their tracks, make them think, and debate with themselves or others. It is user-centric, capable of solving a user’s most painful challenges,” according to Hotjar’s Louis Grenier and Fio Dossetto.Quality content is capable of solving a user's most painful challenges. Click To Tweet
Content marketing strategists from these three brands plus two more willingly shared how they ideate, strategize, and produce that high-quality content, and evaluate its success. Read on to get some tips and insight that you can incorporate into your content marketing process.
“We believe that in 2018, the use of blended AI will help improve sales outcomes and reduce customer servicing costs. But, there are implications.” – Forrester
When it comes to delivering prompt, effective service to customers, human customer support agents have their limitations. For example, for all but the biggest multinational companies, customer service isn’t available 24/7. And even during regular working hours, the supply of sales people, customer success managers and support agents is finite, causing wait times, call abandonment, and dissatisfaction (in other words: bad customer experience).
Artificial Intelligence-powered technology is even more limited – even though it’s available 24/7, even the swiftest systems can’t handle anything more than simple or common inquiries (yet). And when was the last time you called customer service with a simple problem? Too many situations are unique. Try to have your problem solved by an algorithm, and even worse CX ensues.
But do you see what I see?
I see two puzzle pieces coming together. Two halves of a potential whole. Two wrongs making a right.
What if we blend them together?
What is “Growth Marketing” and why should CMOs be gunning for a job title change in 2018? It’s not just a shift in nomenclature, it’s filling an important success gap for both companies and consumers. In short – growth marketing is the future. Those 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).
According to a recent report, Forrester predicts:
“30% of companies will see further declines in CX quality and lose a point of growth” in 2018.
Do you smell blood in the water? Because we do. When growth slows, CEOs look to CMOs to fix it – and if they can’t, they’ll find someone who can: A Growth Marketer.
We’re in the midst of writing our SaaS Growth Playbook – a zero bullshit, actionable guide to growing SaaS businesses that are set up to scale from the start. It’s an ambitious undertaking, because so much has been written about this. Really great books like The Startup Owner’s Manual (currently highlighted and bookmarked past recognition on our desks), The Lean Startup and Lean Analytics, Value Proposition Design, and that whole “Jobs to be Done” thing? Is that a book yet? Because it seems like every founder we’ve spoken with in the last two months can’t stop talking about it.
Yes, there are a lot of good ideas out there. Great ideas, even. But that’s the thing. There are so many ideas. What we’re doing is taking the ideas we know work – because we’ve seen them work time and again in real businesses we’ve consulted for – and explaining them clearly, quickly and actionably. With zero fluff – because ain’t nobody got time for that.
At the core of all of these methodologies (and what we’re writing) is this:
And that is hard. For any size business. It’s as hard as it is vitally important, because everything you do, from developing your product, to marketing your product, to creating a brand that drives customers to you – it all starts here.
So few startups get this right.
And established companies? They get this wrong all the time.
Take Campbell’s Soup, for example. Few brands are as established as Campbell’s Soup. That red and white label, immortalized by Andy Warhol no less, is iconic. And they ditched it. Recently (you may have noticed?).
They completely rebranded their labels in an effort to appeal to their new target audience: Millennial moms. So they took inspiration from Pinterest and Tumblr and made these really weird microwavable packets with faces on them.
Weird, right? But that’s what companies do when they want to be “hip” without actually asking the people they’re trying to be “hip” for what they want.
It turns out, Tumblr-like labels didn’t hit the mark. What Millennial moms really wanted was a change inside the can. Clean, whole ingredients. Once Campbell’s realized that, it changed their marketing entirely and the result was refreshingly relevant.
Now, most of us don’t have Campbell’s Soup kind of money. But we can all aspire to do customer research before investing in a re-brand – right folks?
That’s what this is about. Saving money by doing the hard thing first – talking to your customers to find out what they want.
But first, you have to define who, exactly, you need to talk to.
And that starts by developing a hypothesis.
“I think my customers are ________. The problem they have that I can solve is _________.”
Go ahead, take a stab at it.
“I think my customers are SaaS founders. The problem they have that I can solve is too much conflicting information and no guarantee that the pages filling up their bookshelves actually work.”
That is our working hypothesis for our book.
If you have a few types of customers you intend to serve, come up with a hypothesis for each segment.
This is the easy part! You’ve created or at least ideated your company with a customer and solution in mind. Now comes the hard part: Validating your hypothesis, or chucking it into the bin.
Most books spend hundreds of pages circling around this topic. We know, we’ve highlighted the good stuff. But what it comes down to is this.
Sure, there are a million and more questions you could ask – but these three focus on what jobs these customers need to do, what their pain points are surrounding those jobs, and what their ideal outcomes are.
We’re using a little of the Startup Owner’s Manual, a little Lean, a little Jobs to be Done, a dash of Customer Success – and a lot of experience here.
The answers you gain will start to show you some truths about your hypotheses.
You may have to go back to the drawing board and re-write your ideal customer hypothesis – and that’s okay. It’s progress.
And you’ll definitely come away with language you can use for marketing – it’s one of the most valuables takeaways of this exercise.
Why can’t you just send a survey? Hey, that’s the reaction of most founders, too. Really. If we all agreed to just keep things simple by communicating via text message and Slack, we’d have more time for everything else. But believe us when we say: You need to hear their words.
In person, if possible.
Yes, it takes time and it’s nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. But it’s worth it. People will not tell you on a survey what they will say to your face. They won’t even tell an employee of yours the same thing they’ll tell you, the founder. With an actual conversation, you’ll be able to ask in-the-moment follow-up questions, listen to the tone of their answers and put their words into an emotional context, and most importantly – you’ll be starting a relationship with potentially ideal customers who might become your first customers. Your best customers. Customers that will adopt early and advocate for you.
All of this comes from person-to-person communication. You can’t survey it away.
A few rules for polite customer research:
In the course of customer research, you’ll speak with people who may have seemed like ideal customers at first, but then clearly were not.
And others who aren’t so clear. They could go either way.
The answers you need most are the ones from your ideal clients, and to make sure you’re sorting the Ideals from the Non-Ideals accurately, ask yourself this:
This is a Customer Success approach that I really like because it sets you up to work with people who are primed and ready to love your product (and tell their friends about it). It’s also a way to avoid The Product Death Cycle of customer churn, panic, product changes and bankruptcy.
Success Potential relies on several different types of “fit” that the customer has to have to be able to use your product/service and reach their ideal outcomes. Types of fit include:
There are other types of fit too, and you should feel free to build your own list and keep adding to it as you grow. Understanding fit now will go a long way towards preventing churn, and understanding churn when it happens.
You’ll be returning to your customers for feedback again and again – and if you don’t know which customers to ask, that feedback can get you into trouble! That’s why we’re spending a lot of time on laying the foundations that are so important to building a sustainable, scalable business. At the end of the day, it’s not about what you know – it’s who you know, and how well you know them.
Why is Customer Experience becoming the primary way companies differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market? How does CX pave the way for growth? How do you measure it accurately (and actionably) – and how can you leverage customer feedback for happier customers, more referrals, and more sales?
I asked all of these questions and more of CX experts at the top of their field – and their answers will inspire you.
Customer Experience is inextricably linked to growth – when you give the customers not only what they want, but also what they need in a way that leaves a positive impression, you’re making an investment sure to pay dividends.
“Customer experience drives growth. Data supports this fact. Forrester showed that CX leaders, on average, grow more than 5x faster than CX laggards. The companies that have made CX a priority focus on understanding the customer’s needs and wants and spend a lot of time understanding the journey a customer takes. They ensure the customer voice is heard (either through direct interviews or other opportunities to provide feedback) at each touch point of the customer journey, make sure actionable insights from feedback gets back into processes and close the loop with customers to advise them of the actions they took. They do this because they understand the post-purchase phase of the customer lifecycle is where growth occurs.” – Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, M4 Communications, Inc.
What’s the best way to improve the experiences your customers are having? Opinions differ, even among experts, but everyone agrees that what gets measured gets done.
“An organization should have many tools available to them and not lean on any one of them too heavily. They should look at a combination of CES, NPS, CSAT, loyalty, and emotions metrics. In addition, measurement shouldn’t be taken in a vacuum. Testing and analysis should occur regularly and consistently so you can view trends and then take deep dives to determine the reasons the trends are what they are. This will help you improve your CX performance.” – Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, M4 Communications, Inc.
“If you want to get started with measuring and improving customer experience, I recommend you begin by tracking Net Promoter Score. You’ll get a metric that everyone in the company can rally around improving, and the rich feedback you get from customers will give you guidance on how to do it. Over time you can build a sophisticated customer feedback strategy that incorporates a number of CX metrics, but I advise that you get the ball rolling as soon as possible. There are a number of low cost/no-cost SaaS platforms out there, including Wootric, that can get you started quickly.” – Jessica Pfeifer, Cofounder and Chief Customer Officer, Wootric.
“The Net Promoter System is the most effective way to gauge customer experience at scale. The better your customer experience, the more likely your customers will be brand enthusiasts or promoters. And the more promoters you have, the higher your Net Promoter Score will be.” – Jes Kirkwood, Content & Community Marketer at Autopilot
“The social media sites that have perfected the art of public reviews are the best customer experience gauges available. Yelp is a great example for the service industry, Capterra is a grand example for the software industry. Monitoring those channels is a passive way to manage these gauges. If you want quality, meaningful results, you will have to intentionally drive customer traffic to those platforms. Be brave. Invite them to be honest.” – Joe McCollum, Configio Support/SaaS Consultant
Sure, you can keep customers even if you provide a lackluster experience – if you’re the only game in town. But with competitors coming out of the woodwork, nobody has any market cornered for long. Offering superior CX is the only way to win the kind of loyalty that becomes the mortar paving the road to retention.
“I spend a lot of time with SaaS startup clients whose number-one goal is to improve recurring revenue. What I’m really excited about is a lot of my early stage startup clients are eager to put CX in place now so they are ready for when they scale. They know how vital CX is to corporate growth.” – Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, M4 Communications, Inc.
“Customer experience is one of the two core pillars of customer retention — the thing is, you can’t grow if your customers don’t stick around. Keeping customers around is harder than ever—and delivering an unparalleled customer experience is the only way to win. Today, companies must curate a timely, relevant, and personalized customer journey, nail customer support, and take advantage of every opportunity to surprise and delight.” – Jes Kirkwood, Former Content & Community Marketer at Autopilot
“Efforts toward retention should start early in the customer relationship. At Wootric, we ask our customers the Customer Effort Scorequestion to get feedback on our onboarding process. When we don’t get top marks, we get an opportunity to make things right with the customer immediately and get back on track. All because we reached out and proactively asked for feedback early on.” – Jessica Pfeifer, Cofounder and Chief Customer Officer, Wootric.
Emotion is a vital, yet often underappreciated, component of decision-making – but CX experts know that winning minds isn’t enough. Customer Experience is a game of winning hearts.
“In my experience working in varying industries, customer trust is a byproduct of an amazing customer experience. Whether it’s helping them with a purchase or teaching them how to use software; the make or break is how they feel when they walk away from you. If they walk away with complete trust, that type of experience translates to growth.” – Joe McCollum, Configio Support/SaaS Consultant
“We’ve found that it’s often the accumulation of small annoyances that does the most damage to a customer’s perception of a brand and their loyalty as a purchaser. Frustration metrics (things like rage clicks, error clicks and form abandonment) are a great way to quickly spot and fix major things that are actively blocking customers from achieving their goalsand/or contributing to an overall negative experience.” – Amy Ellis, Marketing & PR at FullStory
“As a Product Designer, I understand that even more than having a great graphic design and program, the product needs to generate an experience that connects customers emotionally with your brand/service/product. Meaningful relationships are created by strong experiences. It’s how customers become allies for the marketing team for both referrals and acquisition.” – Diego Dotta, Developer & CXO at Youper
CX is a quickly-evolving field as new technologies make it easier to create better experiences, track those experiences, and leverage those experiences into engines for retention and growth. What does the near future hold – and what do you need to do to stay on top of the wave?
“I believe that CX will only become more important as it gets easier for newer, more nimble companies to disrupt larger slower companies. Technology will continue to get better at helping companies quickly and easily see where they’re letting down their customers – like causing them frustration and anger, complicating their progress toward their own goals, and missing opportunities to surprise and delight.” – Amy Ellis, Marketing & PR at FullStory
“Right now brands are inundated with CX feedback–social, surveys, support tickets–and it’s all over the place. Companies that take a systematic approach to aggregating and analyzing all of that Voice of the Customer data in one place will have a competitive advantage. AI–in this case a combination of machine learning and natural language processing–is making it possible to glean insights from those thousands of qualitative comments.” – Jessica Pfeifer, Cofounder and Chief Customer Officer, Wootric.
“Companies will need to focus on two areas: 1) Creating consistent omnichannel experiences that cover digital. CX tends to be fragmented which hurts customers and companies. A better approach is to create a consistent experience across channels, and companies miss the boat on digital because they have gaps in their technology. Companies should focus on setting up a strong technological foundation which encompasses the entire customer journey 2) Investing in AI. While current AI applications include chatbots for many tasks (Facebook Messenger currently has over 100,000 chatbots), a common application is to use AI for lower level customer service tasks. At more advanced stages, AI will be invaluable to CX in predicting sales and service behaviors and in augmenting engagement, to name a few.” – Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, M4 Communications, Inc.
“As technology continues to evolve, customer expectations will continue to rise. Delivering a hyper-targeted, personalized customer journey will become standard practice—customers won’t accept anything less. Creative marketers will find unique ways to surprise and delight, setting the bar even higher. Any companies that are already falling behind will struggle to keep up.” – Jes Kirkwood, Content & Community Marketer at Autopilot
“The challenge I have here, in a behavioral health company, is to discover and solve customer issues before they realize it themselves. I also see a need for increased availability – even offline – for when customers need emotional support, which we can do by being proactive using AI and passive data.” – Diego Dotta, Developer & CXO at Youper
“A lot of companies are turning toward value-added membership campaigns. I personally feel these first round of loyalty driven offerings are based too much on the fear of losing market share, less on value added that builds and increases the trust of the consumer. The evolution of CX will force many companies that want to be successful to bite the bullet and put their money where their mouth is. The good news is, the future is bright for the consumer.” – Joe McCollum, Configio Support / SaaS Consultant
From customer success goals to metrics that measure emotion, to carefully planned and tracked customer journeys, Customer Experience reaches into every aspect of how companies relate to their customers. You can look at CX as the end result of how business decisions ultimately affect customers, or you can look at CX as the guiding light that becomes a company-wide compass for customer-facing decisions. Either way, it’s clear: To survive and grow, today’s businesses have align behind the customer experience.
“Today I’m joined by my guest Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré, an esteemed SaaS consultant, customer service evangelist, writer and community moderator. Her work has been featured in leading industry media such as HubSpot, Moz, Copy Hackers, Forbes, Canva and more.
Nichole is going to walk us through the four things you need to do before you can start marketing your startup or new business. Founders tend to skip the basics of marketing foundations, and this crucial step can make or break your business. Listen in for Nichole’s four most important pre-marketing initiatives that you need to know for your startup or to refresh the marketing of an existing business.”
Topics discussed in this episode:
“You know, I’m on the fence for how much you’d benefit from this” – This was the response to an inquiry I sent yesterday to a woman selling a business development course. See, compared to her target audience, I’m a little ahead of the game when it comes to things like identifying my ideal customer, defining my value proposition and honing my messaging to attract and convert. Okay, okay, I could be teaching the business course – but this woman had a different approach and her marketing had been impressively spot-on. I thought I could learn something from her. And her honest response impressed me even more.
Even if I don’t need the course – I will be recommending it to my friends who are at different stages of building their businesses.
Because that is the power of establishing fit – even when you have to tell someone they’re not a good fit.
That business coach was more interested in ensuring that her clients would succeed than in selling another seat in her class. Which makes sense, because her marketing heavily relies on social proof (testimonials from past successful students) and she wouldn’t have those testimonials if she didn’t carefully select students with…
Is she losing money by telling me I’m not a good fit? No. She’s laying the foundation to make even more money, with less effort, by only working with clients who need exactly what she offers.
Now, multiply this story about a million times when it comes to SaaS, because that is where finding customers who are the right fit for what you provide can make or break your company – fast.
When we talk about fit, it’s often in the context of company culture – a term co-opted by HR to find employees most likely to do well. You might say, HR uses cultural fit as a tool to predict the success potential of job applicants.
If we start to use fit as a predictor of success potential in general, however, new avenues open up, especially when it comes to identifying the right customers for your product – the ones who’ll use it, love it, and advocate for it. Yes, we are talking about product-market fit, but not in the way you’ve read about it before. We are going to break it down into all the ways a customer must fit to get the best results, and yield the highest lifetime value.
Effort. We’re taught to praise it, get really good at avoiding it, and really, would rather do without it. Effort is hard and uncomfortable. As human beings, we’ve designed incredible digital tools to reduce effort as much as possible. Today, “user-friendly” isn’t just a selling point anymore, it’s become a basic expectation among customers – to the point that if a task isn’t intuitively easy to complete, consumers will drop the product and go elsewhere.
Effort is a big deal.
So why are most companies not measuring customer effort, or only relegating it to a customer support metric?