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Customer Success

B2B, Customer Development, Customer Experience, Customer Success, Growth Hacking, Product Management, SaaS

There is no better “growth hack” for B2B SaaS than talking with your customers.

B2B SaaS Growth Hacks

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

It sounds simple — but it’s not easy: talking with your customers through every stage of the customer lifecycle.

There’s been a lot said about the value of talking to your customers before you build the product to ensure market fit, but very little said about continuing the conversation past marketing and past the sale.

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

Multiple studies show that CX leads to revenue growth.

CX Drives Sales

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

Decreased cost-to-acquire.

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

Increased customer lifetime value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s also user testing.

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

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

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

Track more than actions, during and after onboarding

Customer Success + Product Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tools that can help:

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

Check in with event trigger-based surveys

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

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

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

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

Finding friction with customer effort scores

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

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

Tools that can help:

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

Wootric

The Game Changer: Have real conversations in your community

Tracking what customers do and asking them what they think at strategic points is a very good start; the trouble is, that’s where most B2B SaaS companies begin and end. But B2B SaaS businesses are subscription-based. They’re in this for the long-haul. They depend on customers sticking around (customer lifetime value! retention!).

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

This is why I so strongly advocate that B2B SaaS companies build social communities around their products. It’s an opportunity to relate to your customers as people.

The bonuses are many. B2B SaaS product communities give you:

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

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

Tools that can help:

  • Facebook
  • Slack
  • Your social community of choice!

Bring it all together now!

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

Customer Happiness

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

Are you ready for that?

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

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

5 steps to rock your value prop for B2B SaaS customer success

5-steps-to-rock-your-value

Use qualitative data to uncover language-market fit

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

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

Customer Success

Customer Success is a complete customer-lifecycle process that helps customers achieve success – whatever success means for them in the real world – with your B2B SaaS so that you can decrease churn, increase revenue, and create an exponentially increasing mountain of new sales. 

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

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

Qualitative Data Research

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Get Started

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

5 Steps

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

1. Identify your ideal customer

Most B2B SaaS companies don’t want to narrow their focus to an ideal customer, but this is critical. After all, how do you know what kind of language to use if you don’t have a clear picture of who you’re talking to? 

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

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

2. Gather qualitative data from current and potential customers.

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

After all, language is the foundation of growth.

Here are four methods you can use to accomplish this:

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

Surveys

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

Why you should talk with “qualified noes”

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

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

The right questions at the right time

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

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

Pre-launch Surveys

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

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

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

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

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

Interviews

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

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

Observation

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

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

Inbound Customer Feedback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

value-prop-canvas

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

Your audience already has.

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

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

4. Update and test your language.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Monitor 

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

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

Conclusion

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

  1. Identify your ideal customer.
  2. Gather qualitative data through the use of surveys, interviews, observation, and inbound customer feedback to validate your language.
  3. Use the Value Proposition Canvas to form your initial value proposition.
  4. Update and test the language on your site.
  5. Monitor.

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

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 💗

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

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 💗

Churn, Customer Success, Quora Answers, Retention, SaaS

“What’s the best strategy you’ve used to decrease churn in your B2B SaaS business?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

I don’t own a SaaS company myself, but I am a consultant for many SaaS companies. What I’ve seen work best for my clients when it comes to churn is to first look at how they’re doing from a Customer Success perspective.

  • Are they attracting customers who have the potential for success with their product?
  • Does their onboarding process get their new customers closer to reaching their ideal outcomes (and does the SaaS business understand what their customers’ ideal outcomes are – because that’s not a given).
  • Has the onboarding process been optimized to help new customers bridge success gaps, celebrate milestones, and trigger red flags for customer success (or customer service) if the new customer runs into trouble?

These first three steps are vital to setting up customers for success.

From there, I recommend not starting from a place of “Why are customers churning?” but rather “Why are my best customers staying?”

Focus on doubling down on what you’re doing well. You can’t afford to divert resources from what people love about your product and company so you can try to plug the holes in your bucket.

Finally, you can look at which customers are leaving (and check whether or not they’re your ideal customers – maybe they should leave), and why they’re leaving.

Then organize the Whys by what you can fix fastest, with the least amount of resources, for the biggest impact, and tackle them one by one.

I also recommend creating a community for your SaaS, whether it’s on Slack (BubbleIQ reported ZERO churn among the customers in their Slack community), Facebook, or it’s a DIY-community that you’ve built, that way you can get super close to your customers.

I originally answered this question on Quora.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Customer Development, Customer Experience, Customer Success, SaaS

5 Sneaky Biases That May Affect Your Customer Insight Analysis

Data is the beating pulse of business, but customer data is more like DNA. Customer data, if we’re using it right, directs how we grow and what we develop. But what happens if that customer data becomes corrupted by our own bias?

We can’t grow or develop in the ways we need to.

But what is bias exactly? Where does it come from?

The most prevalent bias is, perhaps, confirmation bias – seeking out data that confirms our existing beliefs.

In an early study of confirmation bias, young children were asked what features in a sports ball are important to the quality of a player’s serve. Some said size, others said material, some dismissed color as a factor – but once they’d made up their minds, they failed to acknowledge evidence that was contrary to their theory – or explained away evidence that didn’t fit.

But what’s worse, especially for those of us using data to steer our businesses, is that confirmation bias caused them to not generate alternate theories unless someone asked them to. They missed exploring and finding other possibilities.

There are other types of bias too, including:

Algorithmic bias – When the data used to teach an AI machine learning system reflects the implicit values of the humans involved in collecting, selecting and using that data. You might remember the 2015 uproar around Google’s image recognition AI algorithm that auto-tagged photos of black people as gorillas? Yes, that happened. And in 2009, Nikon’s image recognition algorithms consistently asked Asian users if they were blinking.

Survivorship bias – When the data analyzed only comes from success stories.

Sample bias – When the population you collect data from doesn’t accurately reflect the population you’re trying to learn about.

Avoiding bias when gathering, analyzing and acting on data is impossible. Bias creeps in with assumptions, instincts, guesses, and ‘logical’ conclusions – and mostly, we don’t even know they exist until someone without those particular biases point them out.

But, while we can’t escape biases, we can try our best to account for them when we collect, analyze and interpret data.

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

Read More on Wootric
💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

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

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

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:

Customer Success, SaaS

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

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

This includes data like:

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

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

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

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

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

Read More on Wootric

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗