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Community, Customer Success, SaaS

SaaS founders: you have six months to go from scattered to hyper growth — GO! 🚀

If that was the challenge, could you do it? Would you even know where to start? And could you keep your momentum up the whole way, positive that you’re making the best possible choices?

Well, if you can — then you should be teaching this Mastermind instead of me! (Seriously, hit me up on Twitter, I’d love for you to be a workshop teacher for future masterminds).

But for everyone else, getting your product from that hazy, aspirational, trying-to-do-everything-at-once pre-launch place all the way through the nitty-gritty groundwork that leads to growth…

The kind of growth companies like Drift, Hotjar, AutoPilot and InVision have had…

(And yes, I’m name-dropping those companies for a reason — I’ve worked with all of them.)

It’s hard! Hard to do on your own, hard to prioritize, hard to know what will work (and what to do when it doesn’t work).

And when you actually do start to grow, it gets harder.

And more confusing. And more expensive, and time-consuming, and soon your entire world is your startup and its crumbling under the pressure…

Breathe.

Successful SaaS startup founders either have experienced a lot of failure already, or they had help. And help is what I’m offering with the Customer Obsession Mastermind, which I’m co-hosting with Marketer / Brander / Copywriter / Story-teller extraordinaire, Alaura Weaver.

In six months, starting January 2019, we’re taking a select group of SaaS founders through everything — EVERYTHING- they need to:

  • Develop a product customers will love (product-market fit!)
  • Successfully launch that product and bring it to market
  • Create a sales funnel that works, supported by marketing that speaks to your ideal customers
  • Build in Customer Success measures from the start to generate retention and referrals
  • Lay the foundation for a strong business that keeps getting better

Sure, there are books that tell you how to do all of these things (I’ve read them, they’ve got great ideas). But no book will say “normally this is what people do, but in your situation, you should try this…”

And that’s where a Mastermind group led by consultants top SaaS companies hire to help them grow comes in handy.

If you’re wondering “Okay, Nichole — what qualifies you to lead a Mastermind?”

Here are my bona fides:

I am a SaaS Growth Consultant and Customer Success Evangelist. I’ve been working with communities and top startups for more than 10 years (like Segment, Hotjar, Copy Hackers, Autopilot, Vervoe, Wootric, Appcues, InVision, HubSpot, Drift, ChartMogul, Notion, Product Plan, Growth Hackers, Product Hunt… you get the idea), and — outside of these startups — I’ve seen too many early-stage SaaS startups fail for entirely avoidable reasons. Mostly regarding language-market fit and customer success. Which is why this Mastermind is “customer-obsessed,” because your success begins and ends with their success.

Alaura Weaver and I are hand-selecting each member of the group right now — and if you want in, apply NOW! These slots are filling up fast, not everyone who applies will be accepted, because we only want serious SaaS founders who can commit to quite a lot of work.

Yeah, this isn’t one of those Mastermind groups where you just talk at each other once a month, and maybe do a little homework in your spare time. Make a vision board or something.

No.

We push you to succeed. We give you real tasks and deadlines (and a LOT of support!) that you have to do because your business depends on it.

Going from scattered to growth in sixmonths is a big promise, and we aim to keep it.

Intrigued?

Read more about our Customer Obsession Mastermind for SaaS Founders.

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

Books, Community, Diversity, LGBTQ, Marginalization, SaaS

Summer reading list for building your community 📖


It’s exactly the right time to hole up with a good book.

There’s nothing like spending a quiet summer Sunday morning reading by the pool, in the park, on the beach, or in the hammock in your own backyard. I take a highlighter and pen with me because I’m usually reading business books, but that doesn’t take away from the pleasure of being outdoors and letting your mind wander across the pages.

Lately, I’ve been reading several really good books about building communities and thought I’d share them with you.


Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities
by Richard Millington

Buzzing Communities was written in 2012 by FeverBee’s Richard Millington, whose work on community building is outstanding. In fact, he’s even inspired the topics of one or two of my newsletter missives! It’s a quick read at 300 pages, and that’s because there is very little fluff. You might run into trouble trying to highlight ‘the good stuff’ in this book because there’s just so much of it. He covers community strategy, growth, content, moderation, influence and relationships, events and activities, business integration, ROI and UX.


Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities
by Amy Jo Kim

Community Building on the Web came out in The Year 2000 (eons ago, right?), but the core of what makes communities work hasn’t changed since, oh, year ONE, so it’s still on target when it comes to the basics. I enjoy reading the insights in here about how the early communities, like Yahoo, iVillage, eBay and AncientSites attracted and retained their followings. You’ll basically meet the grandmamas of the communities we know and love today, and you can see how what worked then has evolved into what works now. Think of it as a history book.


The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation
by Jono Bacon

Jono Bacon is a highly respected consultant on community strategy and this book is almost like hiring him to tell you EVERYTHING. Almost. He goes over how to recruit and motivate members to be active participants and how to use them as a resource for marketing and fresh ideas. All while making your community a resource that helps them do their work faster and easier. He also goes into how to track progress on community goals, and how to handle conflict, two thorny issues in community management that can never get enough page time in my books.


The Body is Not an Apology
by Sonya Renee Taylor

This is my favorite book of the year so far! And its message should be at the core of all communities. 💗

Humans are a varied and divergent bunch with all manner of beliefs, morals, and bodies. Systems of oppression thrive off our inability to make peace with difference and injure the relationship we have with our own bodies. The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems.

World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we act from this truth on a global scale, we usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world–for us all.


Connecting to Change The World
by Peter Plastrik, Madeleine Taylor, John Cleveland

Nonprofit and philanthropic organizations are under increasing pressure to do more and to do better to increase and improve productivity with fewer resources. Social entrepreneurs, community-minded leaders, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropists now recognize that to achieve greater impact they must adopt a network-centric approach to solving difficult problems. Building networks of like-minded organizations and people offers them a way to weave together and create strong alliances that get better leverage, performance, and results than any single organization is able to do.

While the advantages of such networks are clear, there are few resources that offer easily understandable, field-tested information on how to form and manage social-impact networks. Drawn from the authors’ deep experience with more than thirty successful network projects, Connecting to Change the World provides the frameworks, practical advice, case studies, and expert knowledge needed to build better performing networks. Readers will gain greater confidence and ability to anticipate challenges and opportunities.

Easily understandable and full of actionable advice, Connecting to Change the World is an informative guide to creating collaborative solutions to tackle the most difficult challenges society faces.


Fierce Loyalty
by Sarah Robinson

Building and sustaining a fiercely loyal community of clients, customers and raving fans is critical for success in today’s turbulent marketplace. Organizations, both corporate and non-profit, that are thriving have discovered a secret – the underlying DNA shared by all wildly successful communities. Fierce Loyalty unlocks this secret DNA and lays out a clear model that any organization of any size can follow. Business strategist Sarah Robinson helps you break down the process and gives you clear, specific steps for creating and maintaining a fiercely loyal, wildly successful community and put it squarely in the center of your business plan. Drawing on her own extensive experience as well as her research into the inner working of some of the most successful communities around, Sarah de-mystifies the process and gives you exactly what you need to make Fierce Loyalty happen in your organization.


Systems Thinking for Social Change
by David Peter Stroh

Donors, leaders of nonprofits, and public policy makers usually have the best of intentions to serve society and improve social conditions. But often their solutions fall far short of what they want to accomplish and what is truly needed. Moreover, the answers they propose and fund often produce the opposite of what they want over time. We end up with temporary shelters that increase homelessness, drug busts that increase drug-related crime, or food aid that increases starvation.

How do these unintended consequences come about and how can we avoid them? By applying conventional thinking to complex social problems, we often perpetuate the very problems we try so hard to solve, but it is possible to think differently, and get different results.

Systems Thinking for Social Change enables readers to contribute more effectively to society by helping them understand what systems thinking is and why it is so important in their work. It also gives concrete guidance on how to incorporate systems thinking in problem solving, decision making, and strategic planning without becoming a technical expert.

Systems thinking leader David Stroh walks readers through techniques he has used to help people improve their efforts to end homelessness, improve public health, strengthen education, design a system for early childhood development, protect child welfare, develop rural economies, facilitate the reentry of formerly incarcerated people into society, resolve identity-based conflicts, and more.

The result is a highly readable, effective guide to understanding systems and using that knowledge to get the results you want.


Quiet – The Power of Introverts
by Susan Cain

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts (including me!). They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.


If you run across a community building book I should read, please let me know. 📖☕

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Community, LGBTQ, Marginalization, SaaS

SaaS startups: Let’s support LGBTQ communities, and not just for Pride.


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


Pride Month is an opportunity to open up conversations about improving inclusivity – not just in our online communities, but for our employees and customers too. As I’ve mentioned in previous emails, I run an LGBTQ community, I am bi, and have been with my girlfriend for almost 8 years. But even if I wasn’t part of the LGBTQ community, I would be advocating for inclusivity, because LGBTQ rights are human rights.

Humans, however, are notoriously flawed, and the road to inclusivity is packed with potholes. It’s not an easy road, even for those of us walking it every day. I am constantly listening and learning from my marginalized friends. I’m constantly making mistakes. And I am constantly trying to improve.

That’s all we can ask, really. To have the desire to be more inclusive, to listen more carefully, and to constantly improve. Personally, I’d write that straight into company policy, if I had my way.

Some things your SaaS biz can do to support LGBTQ diversity and inclusion:

  • Train staff on the full spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity, including the LGBTQ vocabulary so everyone knows the correct terms.
  • Provide sensitivity training that is up to date, and not just about racism and sexism. Tip: Learn from Starbucks recent foray into sensitivity training what worked and what didn’t.

“They told us we need to be ‘color brave’ instead of color blind and it was the whitest thing I’ve ever heard,’ she said, describing a journal and discussion portion held mid-way through the session. ‘Me and my coworkers of color felt uncomfortable the entire time.’” – Alicia, a Starbucks employee, quoted in Time

  • Don’t obligate your marginalized staff to help train employees who aren’t marginalized (it’s not their job!) – but, be open to their input. Being open to input could have helped Starbucks avoid the above.
  • Offer equal benefits packages for everyone. Some health insurance providers don’t provide benefits that LGBTQ employees need.
  • Diversify your network by introducing yourself to people who don’t look like you. This action is on the micro/personal level, but it can have a big impact on who gets hired, recommended and promoted in tech.
  • Become aware of who does the “office housework” (ie. it’s usually women), and create a rotation system. Things like taking meeting minutes, cleaning up the break room, collecting money for a birthday gift.
  • Advocate with amplification. When a woman makes a good point or brings up a good idea in a meeting, often a man in the meeting will say the same thing (afterwards) and take the credit. This happens a lot, especially in tech. So when a woman makes a good point, do like these White House staffers did and build on the idea so it keeps progressing and is properly attributed to its rightful source.
  • Donate to LGBTQ foundations to show your support. Some suggestions below!

Where to donate to support LGBTQ communities in tech year-round:

  • The Body is Not an Apology an international movement committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment.
  • Lesbians Who Tech – the largest gathering for women in tech in California, and the largest LGBTQ professional event in the world
  • Trans*H4CK – tackles social problems experienced by the Trans community by developing new and useful open source tech products that benefit the trans and gender non conforming communities
  • Start Out – connects and educates LGBTQ entrepreneurs to empower great leaders and businesses.
  • Out in Tech – provides resources and mentorship to ensure career access for LGBTQ youth and provide web services for LGBTQ activists around the world.
  • Trans Tech Social – an incubator for LGBTQ Talent focusing on providing resources, support and community.

My Pride Month reading list:


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

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

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

Delightfully unconventional women-written newsletters in marketing & tech 💌

I’m subscribed to more than one-hundred newsletters – not kidding, I’m a curator. It’s my passion. There are so many newsletters out there for marketers right now. Nearly every startup and entrepreneur in the field has a newsletter to offer. Of course they do. We’re marketers. We know newsletters work as part of our long and glorious sales funnels.

These women-written newsletters are on my can’t-miss list. I try to read them every time. I look forward to reading them, because each one not only has immediately useful value to offer, each one is really fun to read. And, their perspectives are refreshingly unique and unconventional, because these women think deeply about their subjects and don’t shy away stating their opinions.

I love that.

Also, fair warning: I added my own newsletter at the end. It’s all about building communities around SaaS products, and if you’re into that, then hopefully it will make *your* can’t miss list.

Marketing

WordWeaver // Alaura Weaver
I’ve included some of the best copywriters in tech on this list, but what sets Alaura Weaver apart is her unique story-fueled content and copywriting, as well as her commitment to only work with businesses who are legitimately trying to make the world better in some way. Her newsletter is tightly packed with insights into how to use storytelling and powerful language to create human connection that helps businesses sell and grow.

Inkwell // Autumn Tompkins
Copywriter and editor Autumn Tompkins focuses on copy, content, and editing for artists and creatives – a notoriously difficult industry, both to work in and to write for. She brings the stories behind the art to vivid life, attracting clients and building relationships (that attract more clients). Her newsletter includes her best tips for writing creative and effective copy, and it’s so good, that a lot of other copywriters I know read it too.

Copy Hackers // Joanna Wiebe
Joanna Wiebe made a commitment early on to give away her very best information. It’s how CopyHackers began, and why it’s become the go-to resource for professional copywriters interested in honing their craft, or getting a quick refresher on what headline copy works best. Each newsletter she sends contains a mind-blowing insight that you can use right now – it’s how she ‘trains’ us all to open every one of her emails. They’re always so good. Also, notice her writing style. She keeps you hanging on…

Every…

word.

Forget The Funnel // Claire Suellentrop & Gia Laudi
Forget The Funnel is for marketers at product-first tech companies – it’s a weekly series of free, 30-minute workshops designed to help tech marketers “get out of the weeds, think strategically, and be a more effective SaaS marketer.” These 30-minute workshops are not fluff, and you can tell that by their impressive list of workshop leaders, like Talia Wolf, Joanna Wiebe, Ross Simmonds – and oh yeah, me. Really didn’t mean to plug myself, but you’ll see me on the list, and I didn’t want this to get awkward…

GetUplift // Talia Wolf
If we’ve spoken for more than 5 minutes, I’ve probably mentioned how much I LOVE Talia’s newsletters from GetUplift. That’s how much I talk about this conversion optimization newsletter! I’ve used these as inspiration for my own writing more than once, because her writing style is so personal, so fun, so interesting and always informative, pulling insights from her own experiences (which ensures the content is always fresh).

Katie Martell
Unapologetic marketing truth-teller Katie Martell will be the first to tell you – in a bright red banner across her home page – that this is “the world’s best newsletter about marketing, business, and life.” She’s got some stiff competition there, but I won’t argue. This curated newsletter is really good.

Yeah Write Club // Kaleigh Moore
Copywriter Kaleigh Moore’s first newsletter was A Cup of Copy, which included beautifully-written advice for new and seasoned copywriters on writing better copy, and on building a writing business you love. Her Yeah Write Club is completely different – it’s interviews with working writers at the tops of their fields, book recommendations and even writing opportunities. I love both, but those interviews are fabulous.

Strictly Tech

Sarah Doody
Sarah Doody is an entrepreneur, UX designer, consultant, writer and speaker. Her weekly UX newsletter is a compilation of her personal experiences in UX design, curated articles, UX tips and prompts to get UX teams talking.

Femgineer // Poornima Vijayashanker
Femgineer promotes inclusivity in the tech industry, which is already pretty great (and much needed). The newsletter is an outstanding source of inspiration, practical advice and free weekly lessons for people of all backgrounds learning tech.

MarketHer // Jes Kirkwood
MarketHer helps female tech marketers grow their careers, and the newsletter (hover over the pop-up chat on the bottom right to find the Subscribe button – it’s a little hard to find) shares real stories from women working at companies like Eventbrite, Glassdoor and HubSpot.

Product Talk // Teresa Torres
Product Talk is all about product development – from learning much-needed insights about your customers, to conducting experiments and measuring their impact. It’s not strictly a newsletter, but subscribing will ensure you get their latest posts in your inbox, and they’re all really good.

Women in Product
Founded by senior women product leaders in Silicon Valley, Women in Product is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in product management. Not only can you subscribe for their news and updates, they also have a Facebook community with over 9,000 members (of which I’m one).

Women 2.0
Women2 is focused on closing gender gaps and increasing diversity and inclusion in tech. Their articles often focus on female-founded, early-stage companies, as well as “the future of tech and startups.” One glance at their home page lets you know what kind of content you can expect – topics like “speaking out about equal pay” and “an introvert’s guide to collaboration.”

Whackadoodles // Emma Siemasko
Written by a content marketing specialist, Whackadoodles isn’t strictly about content or marketing; it’s more about living a better business life. It’s a great read for writers, marketers and entrepreneurs.

Other

The Good Trade: The Daily Good
A 30 second read of good things to listen, follow, visit, browse and read—delivered to your inbox each morning. Curated by and for women.

And…mine:

Sunday Brunch by Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

My newsletter is strictly about building online communities, in places like Facebook groups and Slack channels (to name but two), around your SaaS product and brand. Communities help promote higher lifetime value, lower churn, happier customers, and – my favorite – customer success. But it’s not enough to just invite people to join. Creating a genuine sense of community is a little more complicated – and that’s what my newsletter is about.

Subscribe below! Are you thinking of starting a newsletter? Let’s talk about what makes the BEST newsletters out there. Leave a comment and let’s chat.

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

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

Set the tone of your SaaS community


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


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

They want in.

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

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

It’s the chemistry of the people.

The tone.

To get all woo woo on you – the energy.

This is where you come in.

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

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

That’s what this very first email is about.

What does a community do?

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

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

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

Sunday get-togethers

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

Here’s what they hope will happen:

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

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

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

Here’s how it works in my house:

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

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

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

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

Loaded Questions

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

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

Talia Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kitten tea party

Have yourself a gorgeous day.

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

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


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

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

Slack’s community superpower for SaaS is all about churn


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


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

Consider:

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

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

This is really – really – about eliminating churn.

Eliminating ‘Champion’ Churn

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

Eliminating Churn among VIP Customers

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

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

ProdPad’s Slack Community Experience

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

Customers who join our Slack community were not cancelling their ProdPad plans at all. In fact, 99% of our cancellations were (and still are) coming from customers who weren’t part of our community.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

From Claire & Gia:

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

Watch the 30 minute workshop

I teach SaaS founders how to build, engage, and grow communities around their products. I am happy to help you with your community, too, just send me an email at nikki.elizabeth [at] gmail if you are interested in potentially working with me.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Community, Emotion, Network Effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Network Effect Breakdown

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

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

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

For me, this is about emotion

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

Emotions drive behavior.

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

What emotions motivate your members?

It’s a question well-worth asking.

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

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

Source: Elements of a Community’s Strategic Plan

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

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

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

Emotions =/ Justifications

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

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

Emotions drive everything — they always have.

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

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

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


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My newsletter is strictly about building online communities, in places like Facebook groups and Slack channels (to name but two), around your SaaS product and brand. Communities help promote higher lifetime value, lower churn, happier customers, and – my favorite – customer success. But it’s not enough to just invite people to join. Creating a genuine sense of community is a little more complicated – and that’s what my newsletter is about.