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Customer Success

Customer Success, Guest Posts, SaaS

8 Simple Strategies that Shot 4 Powerful SaaS Companies To The Top by @vickyecommerce

Guest post by Victoria Greene, e-commerce brand marketing consultant and freelance writer. Edited by Nichole.

Subscription-based businesses have to stay relevant, continually deliver value, and basically – give their customers every reason to stay. It’s a tall order. And yet, SaaS companies like Spotify, Adobe, Akamai and Shopify nail it.

Every time.

I took a deep dive into the key features, benefits and strategies that make these tools so great – ideas any founders can apply to strengthen their startups.

Spotify

Freemium models aren’t for everyone – in fact, many experts advise against them. But when your product is effective and addictive, Freemium can really work. Especially if the free version includes a ‘success gap’ that can be overcome by spending a reasonable amount.

Spotify does exactly that. It’s effective at delivering what music lovers wish for – an enormous variety of music from every country and every era, and the ability to curate custom playlists. But when you’re using Spotify to set the mood for your dinner party, meditation session, or to get in the zone for concentrated work – ad interruptions are painful.

(BuzzFeed published an aptly titled article: 18 Reasons Spotify Ads Are Worse than Dying a Horrifying, Painful Death)

When you introduce a bit of pain that can be easily removed (with the swipe of a credit card) to enjoy nothing but the perks? Freemium models work very, very well.

But a big part of Spotify’s success is that addictive quality – which doesn’t happen by accident. The company records, analyzes and uses a tremendous amount of user data to generate suggested tracks, create mood-themed playlists, and create new platform features. Take heed of their example and look for ways you can respond to your user’s onsite signals.

SaaS Takeaways:

  • Try a freemium model if your product is effective and addictive, with a subtle element of easily removable pain.
  • Mine user data for potential new add-ons and service features your users will love and that will set you apart from the competition.

Adobe

Adobe products, like Photoshop, used to come in a box, and once you bought that version, you owned it forever. Well, that model stopped panning out (too many pirated copies?), and they went subscription-based. After they’d already established themselves as an industry ‘must-have’ tool.

What makes  Adobe Creative Cloud a ‘must-have’? Not just the fact that so many people grew up using it, but also because the file types are widely accepted. And, with the subscription model, every update adds strength and functionality, which calms some of the irritation from those who’d rather buy once and own by constantly adding value. They make those monthly fees count.

Now anyone, regardless of whether they use a Mac or PC, can access the latest digital design tools for one price. You can even save your design presets across multiple devices, allowing you to jump right in from wherever you are.

The key takeaway from the Adobe model is its usability across a range of devices, without compromising on performance. Take steps to level the playing field in the same way if you want to become a household name.

SaaS Takeaways:

  • Syncing is important — if you become the industry standard, you’ve nailed it. And becoming the industry standard isn’t necessarily about your branding, UI, or UX — it could be down to things like compatibility with other devices and file types.
  • Abode strongly pushes creative partnerships, showing support of their artists and creators. Make sure your marketing inspires and engages your target market.

Akamai

Akamai (Hawaiian for clever) has been a stalwart in the tech industry since its conception (despite the death of one of its founders on 9/11). One-third of the world’s top 500 companies use Akamai systems to protect and distribute their data, but content distribution networks like Akamai also give small business startups access to the world stage, providing customers in different continents with super speedy, responsive sites.

For example, at the 2008 Olympic games, Akamai brought high-quality live streaming of all events to 225 networks worldwide. And for Airbnb, Akamai helps users feel at home with personalized language and location-based content.

SaaS Takeaways:

  • Focus on developing early partnerships with brands, as they could become super valuable referrals in the long run. Landmark customers and partnerships such as BBC iPlayer, Hulu,  Nintendo, Airbnb (and even Adobe) give Akamai prestige.
  • Akamai has been slowly expanding their offerings as their market matured. They are known for their quality and security — sometimes slow and steady wins the race.

Shopify

In comparison to other shopping cart services, Shopify offers high levels of customer support, and Shopify has been largely successful at creating a community around its SaaS product.

Its extensive range of apps allow users to set up automated marketing, inventory management, and recordkeeping tools. This makes the process of creating an online store seem almost fully automated — and they put a lot of money and effort into serving the ecommerce entrepreneurs of the world. A vibrant user community like the one Shopify enjoys helps solidify ties between the brand and its users.

Shopify has also harnessed the latest tech to expand their product offering. Kit, Shopify’s AI marketing coach, offers customer-success oriented advice on topics like composing Facebook posts and effective email marketing.

SaaS Takeaways:

  • The critical takeaway from Shopify is that customer service matters if you want to stand out. You can attribute more value to your product by merely letting people in on the ‘tips and tricks’ of the trade. Good customer support is also a great way to build a thriving community of users who are in it for the long haul
  • Be on the lookout for ways to expand your product offering by filling in customer success gaps. What do customers need to know to be successful with your product?

As well as looking inwards at your own processes and brand, opening up your eyes to the wider SaaS world is a wise move. Keep an eye out for emerging brands as well as household names in order to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Bots, Customer Experience, Customer Success, Sales, Social Media, Startups, Tools

How to Use Facebook Bots to Automate Your Sales Funnel – with @ArriBagah of BAMF 🤖


Although I wholeheartedly endorse connecting with people personally (rather than with automated messages), there is a strong argument to be made in favor of bots that function to get customers what they need a little faster, and a lot easier, than they could with humans alone. With that in mind – bots as Customer Success tools – I give you this fab interview with BAMF’s Arri Bagah – Head of Chatbots. Because this is the next big thing, if you do it right.

Chatbots let businesses communicate with their customers inside of social media messaging apps. Haven’t heard of them? Facebook only made them available just over a year ago.

In this article you’ll learn how to use bots to delight your customers and smooth out the rough patches at every stage of your sales funnel.


Do I really need a bot? 🤖💕

The main appeal of chatbots for businesses is that they’re on 24-7, which means they can answer questions and nurture consumer relationships when humans aren’t available. On the other side, consumers appreciate being able to ask a question and receive an immediate answer, or schedule a consultation in a fraction of the time, or have a funny conversation that helps them decide what to buy.

Bots can be downright loveable – for everyone.

For those reasons, and many more (which we’ll get into), bots are poised to become the next big thing. If you like being in the lead of cresting trends in marketing, you’re going to need one.

But, do you need one right now?

That depends on your target demographic.

According to Arri Bagah, BAMF Media’s Head of Chatbots, the greatest adoption of bots is with consumers between the ages of 18 and 35. But that doesn’t mean older consumers aren’t willing to engage with bots – not by a long shot.

The greatest adoption of bots is with consumers between the ages of 18 and 35. Click To Tweet

“The people who are using chatbots the most right now are super savvy 18-35 year-olds who are not afraid of using new technology. A recent App Annie report showed that the 18-24 year-old demographic spends 8 hours in messaging for every 1.5 hours on email, and the 25-55 age range spends 4 hours on messaging for every 2 hours on email.”

Older consumers are more used to email for communicating with businesses, but the fact that they’re already spending so much time on messaging apps means there’s opportunity there. If your target audience is older, you may have a little time before you really need to consider using bots in your marketing and customer service, but… not much.

Why BAMF Loves Facebook Messenger Bots 📱💕

Social media messaging bots are offered on multiple platforms, but if you have to choose one, Chatbot expert Arri Bagah leans towards Facebook because “that’s where everybody is.” Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion monthly active users worldwide – more than the Facebook app itself.

“If you look at the stats of other messaging apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger comes out on top in terms of how many downloads it has. Last I checked, it was the most downloaded messaging app in the US, with over 70 million downloads.”

That does not mean your business can chat up any of those 1.3 billion users, however. There are rules.

Messenger Bot Rule no. 1: They have to come to you.
Brands can only send promotional messages within 24 hours of a customer initiating a conversation with the business page by messaging it, or by explicitly ‘opting in,’ within the past 24 hours. After the end of that 24 hour window, the business can send one follow-up message to active subscribers. After that, the brand can’t send ads or promotional messages until the consumer interacts with them again. It’s called the 24 + 1 rule.

Messenger Bot Rule no. 2: No email free-for-all.
Businesses can’t download email addresses of their Messenger subscribers.

Messenger Bot Rule no. 3: Users can block you.
Facebook users can block conversations with a tap, giving them ultimate control.

Here’s what Facebook Messenger can do. Messenger can send notifications to users’ phones every time they receive a message. If they don’t have notifications turned on, Facebook will keep prompting them to turn them on. Emails easily get buried, but it’s very difficult to ignore a chat message.

All of these factors result in increased conversion rates, because Messenger only allows you to send promotional messages to people who’ve shown interest in the product. They’re warm leads, if not downright hot.

And users appreciate the extra layers of protection. As Arri says, “Users have more control, which is why people love using the messenger apps over other ways of communicating with brands.”

According to a Facebook-commissioned study by Nielsen, 56 percent of people surveyed would rather message a business than call customer service, and 67 percent expect to message businesses even more over the next two years.

3 Surprising Ways to Use Bots to Increase Sales 🤖📈

Very few people understand what bots can do, especially this early-on. Arri Bagah is at the forefront – his day job is helping companies increase sales with bot campaigns that are so much more than just automated messages.

Because that’s what many early adopter businesses are getting wrong. They only scratch the surface of bot capabilities, using them mostly for customer service.

That’s just the tip of the bot-berg.

Here’s how to do bots right at every stage of your sales funnel – from top (TOFU) to bottom (BOFU) and in-between (MOFU).

Note: Bots cannot be used with personal profiles, only with a Facebook page.

TOFU Bots

The mission: Build relationships by educating prospects

The Top of the Funnel is when prospects are “just browsing” – they’re checking out their options; unsure whether they need something, or even want something. This stage is when a high-value freebie offer can grab attention, but these types of campaigns are usually done through email. Not anymore.

Pro tip: Anything email can do, bots can do better.

Arri recommends this strategy:

  1. Do a quick survey of your Facebook fans to see what your audience wants to learn. Then create a high-value freebie offer around that, like a 5 day e-course.
  2. Create a Facebook post (which you’ll want to ‘promote’) that asks users to comment using a specific keyword to gain access to the free content.
  3. Using the keyword will trigger your bot to ask the user to type in a specific word that explicitly opts them in to receive bot messages from your business. They need this, because you’ll…
  4. Send the 5-day e-course via Messenger bot. Plan for 1 great tip per day.
  5. At the end, have your bot present an offer that will help your prospect take the next logical step toward his or her goal.

Arri warns that whatever you offer should be genuinely valuable to overcome the natural distrust people have about opting in to Messenger. It’s a substantial amount of friction at first, but once you gain their trust with helpful information, they’ll warm up fast.

MOFU Bots

The mission: Help people make purchase decisions faster and answer frequently-asked questions

The middle of the funnel is also called the “evaluation stage,” when prospects are weighing their options, kicking the tires, doing the last bit of research before making the final purchase decision. It’s a great time to share tips and information, and find other ways to provide immediate value – via bot.

On Arri Bagah’s website, he uses the Facebook Messenger widget to automatically ask visitors “How can I help you?” If they respond, they enter into a bot sequence that asks if he can walk them through “a few strategies to help them reduce their Facebook ads cost.”

He says, “you can put people through that sequence and, at the end, recommend a product that would help them move forward to the next steps. And people can ask questions.”

Any questions someone asks that can’t be answered with pre-programmed responses right away are immediately forwarded to Arri in either email or Facebook Messenger. Once Arri answers the question, the user gets a Facebook Messenger notification to check out his reply.

How does this work with a big brand? LEGO’s bot Ralph is a great example of middle-of-funnel bottage.

Ralph takes users through a pre-scripted question-and-answer sequence where users respond via multiple-choice answer. It’s a clever way to circumvent the main issue with bots – it’s hard for them to come up with useful answers to unusual questions. Narrow the scope though, and you have an enjoyable, helpful interaction.

BOFU Bots

The Mission: Make the sale

The bottom of the funnel is where the rubber hits the road – you make the sale, or you don’t.

Arri recommends using bots in a lead nurture sequence that qualifies users, and then leads them to the logical next step: Purchasing. Here’s how:

Let’s say you’ve put someone through a 5-day sequence. By the 5th message, you have pretty much nurtured and built a relationship with them and it’s time to offer the next step.

Not everyone that subscribes to your bot is a qualified lead, but you can use the chatbot to ask questions and see if they are the right fit for your business. If they are a fit, you can send them a link to your webinar or product page. If not, you can simply say thank you.

For example, if you only work with people who have a certain budget, you ask that question and only send the offer to those able to buy. You also have the ability to tag those leads for future promotional content.”  

Another BOFU problem bots can help with is cart abandonment – one of the most common causes of head-desk frustration among e-commerce store owners.

Arri’s best tips for recovering carts with bots

  1. Send the user a message saying ‘Hey, I saw you left a few products here. I’d hate for you to miss out. Would you like to complete your purchase?”
  2. Make your message fun and chatty, low pressure.
  3. An optional step: Offer a limited-time deal to close the sale.

He says this technique can more than quadruple open rates:

“The great thing about using bots for this is that cart abandonment emails usually get a 15 to 20 percent open rate, and even smaller clickthrough rates. With Messenger, open rates are around 90 percent and clickthrough is between 30 and 50 percent.”

Arri’s Quick Guide to Better Bots 🤖❤

Arri Bagah will be the first to tell you that “Most chatbots aren’t that good.”

The most common problem: a failure to communicate like a human being.

When he’s scripting a bot conversation, Arri’s goal is for users to “talk with a brand just as if it was their friend.”

And friends don’t just type text back and forth. They use emojis, GIFs, photos and jokes. They use informal language. They’re funny.

The second most common problem: Not updating the AI.

Bots have artificial intelligence built in which allows you to teach bots to answer questions on the fly. That only works if someone is responsible for regularly updating the AI by first observing how people interact with the bot, recording common questions, and supplying the bot with the answers.

If Arri gets this right, he gets this response from users:

“Is this a person or a chatbot?”

That’s the response you want.

And the third most frequently-seen issue: A lot of people are ignoring the 24 +1 rule.

“I have seen lots of people lately who have gotten their chatbots banned by Facebook because they are not playing by the rules. People are using Messenger like it’s email, constantly sending promotional offers outside of the 24-hours window. Facebook is watching. And this year. more businesses will adopt chatbots than ever before which means they’ll be watching very closely to see who’s trying to take advantage of their users.”

So play by the rules.

5 Steps to a Better Bot 🤖💗

  • Script with personality, using humor, emojis and GIFs where appropriate. Think of your bot like you’re writing for a character, one that’s suited to your audience.
  • Keep a record of bot conversations so you can see what users expect from your bot, what they’re after, and whether or not the bot is able to deliver.
  • Train your bot to answer the most frequently-asked questions, or script the experience around what most people come for (like LEGO does).
  • Always keep your sales funnel stage in mind. What does your user need at the stage they’re in? Useful information that builds the relationship? More detailed information to make a purchase decision? A reminder to finish their purchase? Whatever it is, you can create an automated bot sequence for it.
  • Always, always make it fun.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Content Marketing, Customer Success, Language-Market Fit, Podcasts, Product Management, SaaS

Aligning Content and Product to Empower Your Teams and Customers [Podcast]

99% of the time, success isn’t found within your product – it’s outside in the real world.

Listen in to learn all about:

  • Why aligning content marketing and product management matters for the health and longevity of a SaaS business
  • The “product death cycle
  • What defines your ideal customer and where this definition stands compared to a marketing persona
  • The best ways to get feedback from your ideal customers and the technique of forming questions for them
  • The concept of the success gap by Lincoln Murphy and desired outcome, with examples from retail and SaaS
  • How content marketing plays a role in filling the success gap
  • The value of retaining versus acquiring new customers and why it’s okay to not know immediately who your ideal customer is
  • What it is you need to teach your customers that isn’t how to use your product
  • Why retained customers are valuable and how they lower the cost of acquiring new customers
  • How to find the language-market fit both if you’re just starting out and if you’ve been active for a while

Read More on Marijana Kay’s site
💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Customer Success, Guest Posts, Retention, SaaS

How to Become Indispensable for Your Customers With Customer Success by @ritonium

This is a guest blog entry by Rita Theologi — Growth Agent at 24sessions ⚡ winter addict 💙 professional people watcher 🧐.

The other day I was in a meeting with our Customer Success team and the big question popped:

“How will we become indispensable for our customers?”

When it comes to Customer Success, your product is the means for your customers to achieve their desired outcome. The means, not the reason. What they need from you is to provide them with everything necessary to be successful and achieve this outcome.

Even though we did not reach to a solid answer – also I guess it’s different for every case anyway – there were lots of insights from all team members so I thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts and start a discussion. 😊

When it comes to Customer Success, your product is the means for your customers to achieve their desired outcome. The means, not the reason. Click To Tweet

Related resource: Nichole talks about Desired Outcome in depth in her Everyone Hates Marketers podcast on 4 Vital Things To Do Before Marketing Your New Startup:


So what does it mean to become indispensable?

We use a plethora of tools every day for different tasks and we tend to stick to certain ones. But it’s not necessarily because we can’t do without them. There are so many options for everything, after all. It’s because:

  •  We achieve our desired outcomes
  •  The product blends well with other solutions (ex: how Slack and Zapier integrate with other tools)
  •  The solution becomes a part of our routine

Of course this doesn’t mean we’ll use them eternally, but if a tool ticks all three it’s more likely to stick to it for longer even if a not-so-good experience comes along the way. 😊

So it’s not about becoming indispensable the traditional way but it’s more about your customers not giving up on you by choice.

How Customer Success comes into the frame

A Customer Success Manager is the mediator between product and customer and always leans a bit more on the customer’s side of things. In fact, a successful Customer Success Manager mainly focuses on how their customer will achieve what THEY, the customer, define as success. What’s more, for the latter it might be that this outcome has nothing to do with the product. The product is just a choice they make along the way. That simple.

The good news is that if your customer is successful with your tool, then they’ll become your advocates which is basically like your best salespeople, selling for you indirectly, with immediate results and no cost.

The checklist: does your product tick all three to be indispensable?

✔ Customers meet their desired outcomes

No matter how hard your try to improve your product and offer the best service out there, the real value will come from how it helps your customers achieve their goals. Does your product bring ROI? Do your customers save time and money in the long-term? Of course, building and implementing a customer success strategy is different for every company and there is no one-way road. The only thing that is the same is the end-result: it has to be what your customers use to achieve their desired outcome.

✔ It blends well with other solutions 

It’s essential for your solution to combine smoothly with your customer’s other tools without sacrificing efficiency. This is where a Customer Success Manager works closely with customers to make sure there is no friction. Even though sacrificing your product’s efficiency is a no-no, you may end up offering your customers only half of the capabilities of your product just because they only need half. But no worries. Just make sure it will bring them to number one above and in the future the ground will be set for upselling and expanding your services. 😊

✔ It becomes part of a routine

The more successful your customers will get (and you want them to get as successful as they can) the more concrete their process will be. As soon as your product becomes a steady part of that process your customers will feel comfortable enough to continue using it  and make it solid part of their pipeline. And that is exactly what you want. The more comfortable your customers feel with your product the more unlikely it is that they change a recipe of success.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Churn, Customer Success, Customer Support, Guest Posts, Onboarding, Retention, SaaS

The Most Valuable SaaS Customers Everyone Forgets by @lovevalgeisler

This is a guest blog entry by Val Geisler.

In the world of software, there’s a lot of talk about conversions. Everyone’s high on customer acquisition and lead gen and building a growth team and sales pipelines and ads managers and top-of-funnel and email list building, to name a few.

“Let’s give life to this customer base!” can be heard as the rally cry at sales team meetings around the world.

But there’s a way to grow your MRR without looking at new customers at all.

In fact, the most valuable customer you have is the one who you thought was dead.

Let’s talk through why cancelled customers are your greatest ally in the race to increasing MRR and how you can win them back… for life.

According to research from TARP Worldwide, it’s five times cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new one.

And that goes for cancelled customers too.

Even better news?

I have a game plan you can use to win back those cancelled customers using three under-utilized retention strategies. But before we dive into that, let’s talk about the three kinds of customers to consider winning back (and the scary ones to steer clear of).

Vampires

Let a customer service team get to talking for just a little while and you’ll start to hear stories about customers who sent in dozens of tickets, made daily feature requests, cost the company hours (sometimes dozens and hundreds of hours) in support time, and eventually churned.

These customers are vampires.

They suck the life out of your team and then disappear.

As the founder of Teachery.co, Jason Zook has dealt with his fair share of vampire customers.

“Not all ‘real’ customers are ideal customers. There’s a lot to running a software company and doing customer support, while also running a sustainable business.”

Vampires are customers you can take a hard pass on. Unless they change their habits and come crawling back to you, there’s no need to go chasing after them.

Which brings us to…

Ghosts

As Director of Marketing at Animalz, Jimmy Daly is a time-strapped human with more things to get done in one day than any one person can handle.

So he signed up for TaskRabbit, a task completion service seemingly made for people like Jimmy.

Only problem was…. he was too busy to use it.

“I signed up for TaskRabbit last year, checked it out but never actually used the service. Until I do, I’m in limbo – a segment of users who has expressed interest in TaskRabbit but never really acted on it.”

Customers like Jimmy–those in limbo–should be celebrated. You’ve done the hard work of converting them from casual browser to interested signup. But just because they didn’t convert yet doesn’t mean they won’t ever convert.

As Jimmy said,

“The Internet is a busy place and it’s easy to get distracted.”

So what’s a marketer to do about those customers stuck in limbo?

Are they just ghosts who haunt us daily? Customers who might have been?

No.

While technically a segment of their own, your ghost customers can be a valuable resource in the fight against churn. They won’t impact your true churn numbers (that is, if you use a free trial) but they will impact your win-back rate. Just like…

Zombies

The walking dead, the un-dead, living dead… zombies go by many names (but they rarely say hello!)

And you have zombie customers lurking just around the corner.

They’re the customers who did convert to a paid account. Who were with you for a month, three months, 12 months, 2 years…

They loved your product at one time. But they left.

They’re still out there, the living dead, using another product or still searching for the right fit for them.

Why?

That’s what we need to find out.

Zombies, however can be immune to traditional communication.

Email overload and the onslaught of endless push notifications have made people nearly immune to re-engagement efforts, even if they like the product, but especially if they were “meh” about it in the first place. This noisiness means it’s getting harder and harder to successfully pull users back into your product to help them build a habit of regular usage1

So what’s a business owner to do?

Stand out.

Look, zombie customers are the very best customers you can try to win back. They are already familiar with the platform so they require little onboarding, they likely gave you clues as to how you can win them back, and they’re still out there, waiting to hear from you.

Reviving the un-dead isn’t an easy road, but it can be easier than creating a brand new customer.

Your Scariest Metric

The first thing you need to know to start reactivating already churned customers is what churn is for your business. While the basic formula for churn is always the same: Churn rate = # of customers lost in a period / # of customers at the beginning of the period.

(image courtesy of smile.io)

That period, for almost every purpose, should be Annual.

And SaaS churn rate experts talk often about the “good churn rate” of 7% Annual churn.

That translates to roughly 0.5% monthly churn.

According to Lincoln Murphy,

“This means companies with acceptable churn only lose about 1 out of every 200 customers (or dollars) per month. On the flip side, a high churn rate is the reason you ended [the year] with a whole bunch of new customers… but had about the same amount of revenue.”

And you want more revenue.

If it’s not already, churn will quickly become the top metric you’re discussing in your all-hands meetings. Your team will start to look at retention strategies–ways to keep existing customers happy and out of danger of churning.

Churn matters, yes.

You should care about it and be proactively working toward reducing it.

But how can you get on the offensive line? How can you put some of your team on defense (traditional retention strategies) and flip the script for your offensive line?

Those same retention strategies you use to keep existing customers can be repurposed for those cancelled customers you can still win back.

With that end goal in mind, here are the slight shifts you can make to those traditional retention strategies so that they win over your otherwise lost customers.

Hey, You!

It’s easy to look at managing your customer’s support tickets and feature requests as something you only do with current customers. It’s also easy to look at it as a “one and done” situation. Neil Patel’s retention strategy for support follow up takes a single instance and turns it into a world of care:

A typical service request and solution looks like this:

Customer: We have a problem.

Support Team: I’ve helped you. Have a nice day.

I recommend that you add another layer of follow-up to this process:

Customer: We have a problem.

Support Team: I’ve helped you. Have a nice day.

Bonus Follow-Up: Hey, we helped you a couple weeks ago. How are things going now? Anything else we can help with?

But what would happen if you did that same follow up months later?

“Hey, you submitted a feature request a few months ago when you were a customer of ours. Totally appreciate that you might have found a new solution for X in your business, but I wanted to let you know that we did build exactly what you requested. Here’s the run down and I’d be happy to share more if you’re interested.”

Reaching out to cancelled customers who submitted a feature request for something you’ve recently built can open the flood gates of “new” customers.

Let’s Make a Deal

Around the end of the year you can find inboxes stuffed with offers to “go annual and save!”. One last push to get customers to put the expense on this year’s taxes and lock them in for another year, huh?

And, sure, you’re thinking that you send the offer to your whole email list which contains customers who’ve cancelled so you’re covered, right?

Wrong.

Remember how zombies tend to be immune to traditional messaging?

You have to grab their attention and speak right to them.

So send those upsell emails to your current customers, sure. But draft an entirely separate message for your cancelled customers.

Tell them about product updates, position changes, or any other relevant–and exciting–detail.

Then make them an offer that matters.

The customer success experts at Groove found that upselling is a true power move, if you have the right offer and the right audience.

In the book Marketing Metrics, the authors share a fascinating finding from their research:

The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%.

Check out this graphic for extra emphasis:

While you could argue that cancelled customers are not existing customers, they fall much closer to the Existing Customer than they do New Prospect. After all, they were a customer of yours at one time.

Speak directly to them, not to the masses, and they just might sit up and pay attention to your upsell.

Human With a Capital H

People love to talk about themselves. Ask someone what they’re working on or what inspires them or what they’re most passionate about and you’ll have a friend for life.

Caring about your customers seems obvious but, unfortunately, it’s not.

As a retention strategy, it pays off in dividends to get to know your customers, where they struggle with their business and/or your product.

An advocate for the human experience, Kevin Fontenot has an idea for growing SaaS companies:

While it might not be possible to get to every customer depending on how many users you have, it’s important to have those one-to-one conversations to improve your product and your retention rates.

But what about those cancelled customers?

Guess what? (just guess…)

It’s the same!

Send a message out to a selection of your cancelled customers. Get on the phone with them (Skype or Zoom is best so you can screenshare as needed). Spend actual time talking to actual human customers.

Don’t know where to start?

Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling:

About them:

  1. How would you describe your job title + role at work?
  2. What are you working on right now?
  3. What is the biggest problem you’re facing that keeps you awake at night?

About your product:

  1. What was happening in your world that led you to sign up for [product] previously?
  2. What happened during your trial that convinced you [product] was the right solution at that time?
  3. What were you skeptical or anxious about when you signed up? Is that what ultimately prevented you from using [product] long-term?

Take notes or record and then transcribe the conversation. Use some of the above tactics like following up with an offer (double tactic!). People like to be treated like people, not machines. Act accordingly.

If you’ve followed up with your cancelled customers, cared about their business, and given them a customized offer, you likely have won them back by now.

Keeping them around (again) is all in building the habit.

Build the Habit

James Clear, an expert in habit building with the research pieces to prove it, noted in one of his foundational articles on habits:

In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg explains a simple three-step process that all habits follow. This cycle, known as The Habit Loop, says that each habit consists of…

The Trigger: the event that starts the habit.

The Routine: the behavior that you perform, the habit itself.

The Reward: the benefit that is associated with the behavior.

The image below shows how these three factors work together to build new habits.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
This same cycle can be observed in a common copywriting technique called the Problem-Agitate-Solve formula.

Something happened.

Something else makes that thing stand out.

You get to a solution that rocks.

It’s everywhere from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey to nearly every movie, sitcom, and fiction book ever produced.

If Hollywood can profit off of getting people hooked, you can too.

And since humans are in the constant rat race of either chasing pleasure or avoiding pain, it’s natural that we develop habits around those things we find pleasurable.

Do you know what someone who was a customer before and is giving you a chance again will not find pleasurable?

The same onboarding they’ve already been through once.

Creating customized onboarding for your newly won-back customers can be a beautiful beginning to a restarted relationship.

At Appcues, Ty Mangin regularly waxes poetic about personalized onboarding (it is, after all, what Appcues does best). Ty says,

People will often have different use cases for your product that don’t easily correlate with their role or location. In these instances, giving users the option to choose how they want to get started will steer them in the right direction and minimize the chances of them getting lost in the product.

Coffee is For Closers

Of course, testing your efforts is the only way to know what works. And you should Always Be Testing.

Choose a segment of your cancelled customers and try a few of these techniques.

Record the results and then pick another segment. Find out what’s effective and go all in on that strategy.

Since we started out talking about churn, let’s wrap up with a new measure to check:

Your win-back rate.

Bring that growing number to your weekly all hands meetings. Talk about it in relation to your churn rate (you’re still implementing changes there, right? good.)

And then make sure those customers who came back to life stay that way.

The last thing the world needs is more zombies.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

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

How to Nail the First Step to Scalable SaaS Growth: Customer Research

By Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré & Trevor Hatfield

We’re in the midst of writing our SaaS Growth Playbook – a zero bullshit, actionable guide to growing SaaS businesses that are set up to scale from the start. It’s an ambitious undertaking, because so much has been written about this. Really great books like The Startup Owner’s Manual (currently highlighted and bookmarked past recognition on our desks), The Lean Startup and Lean Analytics, Value Proposition Design, and that whole “Jobs to be Done” thing? Is that a book yet? Because it seems like every founder we’ve spoken with in the last two months can’t stop talking about it.

Yes, there are a lot of good ideas out there. Great ideas, even. But that’s the thing. There are so many ideas. What we’re doing is taking the ideas we know work – because we’ve seen them work time and again in real businesses we’ve consulted for – and explaining them clearly, quickly and actionably. With zero fluff – because ain’t nobody got time for that.

At the core of all of these methodologies (and what we’re writing) is this:

Getting to know your customer really, really well.

And that is hard. For any size business. It’s as hard as it is vitally important, because everything you do, from developing your product, to marketing your product, to creating a brand that drives customers to you – it all starts here.

So few startups get this right.

And established companies? They get this wrong all the time.

Take Campbell’s Soup, for example. Few brands are as established as Campbell’s Soup. That red and white label, immortalized by Andy Warhol no less, is iconic. And they ditched it. Recently (you may have noticed?).

They completely rebranded their labels in an effort to appeal to their new target audience: Millennial moms. So they took inspiration from Pinterest and Tumblr and made these really weird microwavable packets with faces on them.

Weird, right? But that’s what companies do when they want to be “hip” without actually asking the people they’re trying to be “hip” for what they want.

It turns out, Tumblr-like labels didn’t hit the mark. What Millennial moms really wanted was a change inside the can. Clean, whole ingredients. Once Campbell’s realized that, it changed their marketing entirely and the result was refreshingly relevant.

Now, most of us don’t have Campbell’s Soup kind of money. But we can all aspire to do customer research before investing in a re-brand – right folks?

That’s what this is about. Saving money by doing the hard thing first – talking to your customers to find out what they want.

But first, you have to define who, exactly, you need to talk to.

And that starts by developing a hypothesis.

The Hypothetical Customer

“I think my customers are ________. The problem they have that I can solve is _________.”

Go ahead, take a stab at it.

“I think my customers are SaaS founders. The problem they have that I can solve is too much conflicting information and no guarantee that the pages filling up their bookshelves actually work.”

That is our working hypothesis for our book.

If you have a few types of customers you intend to serve, come up with a hypothesis for each segment.

This is the easy part! You’ve created or at least ideated your company with a customer and solution in mind. Now comes the hard part: Validating your hypothesis, or chucking it into the bin.

Most books spend hundreds of pages circling around this topic. We know, we’ve highlighted the good stuff. But what it comes down to is this.

  • List everyone you know who falls into the category of customer you’ve just described. List everyone you don’t know personally, but seem like they would fall into the category of customer you’ve just described. See if you can come up with a list of 20 people.
  • Now, email each of those people and ask to set up a 15 minute call. Or, if they’re local, you can sit down with them in person and buy them a cup of coffee. Make it clear you’re not selling anything, and that you value their expertise and time. And, if you’re shy about asking for a favor, thank them with a Starbucks gift card or trade some of your expertise and time. Reciprocity isn’t just a marketing hack – it’s important in all stages of business.
  • Ask them these three things:
  1. What jobs do you need to do around [what your industry/product/problem is]? Have them walk you through their process and record the exact words they use. For example, if you’re selling an HR solution that helps companies hire qualified people faster online (shoutout to Vervoe!), the tasks a business owner, manager or HR person need to do is create a job posting, sort through resumes, figure out interview questions, and spend hours interviewing people.
  2. What’s hard about those jobs? Let them rant about how hard they work and what grinds their gears, how they’ve failed or got outcomes they didn’t want. Record everything.
  3. If those issues were magically solved – what do they love about their jobs? What would they love about their lives? What would solving that problem allow them to do with that time instead?

Sure, there are a million and more questions you could ask – but these three focus on what jobs these customers need to do, what their pain points are surrounding those jobs, and what their ideal outcomes are.

We’re using a little of the Startup Owner’s Manual, a little Lean, a little Jobs to be Done, a dash of Customer Success – and a lot of experience here.

The answers you gain will start to show you some truths about your hypotheses.

  • You’ll start to see that some kind of ‘ideal customers’ are more ideal than others.
  • You’ll check whether the problems they have match the problems you think they have.
  • You’ll compare the language you use to describe those jobs and problems with the language they use.
  • And you’ll uncover insights you can’t even begin to guess at right now.

You may have to go back to the drawing board and re-write your ideal customer hypothesis – and that’s okay. It’s progress.

And you’ll definitely come away with language you can use for marketing – it’s one of the most valuables takeaways of this exercise.

Don’t be Lazy

Why can’t you just send a survey? Hey, that’s the reaction of most founders, too. Really. If we all agreed to just keep things simple by communicating via text message and Slack, we’d have more time for everything else. But believe us when we say: You need to hear their words.

In person, if possible.

Yes, it takes time and it’s nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. But it’s worth it. People will not tell you on a survey what they will say to your face. They won’t even tell an employee of yours the same thing they’ll tell you, the founder. With an actual conversation, you’ll be able to ask in-the-moment follow-up questions, listen to the tone of their answers and put their words into an emotional context, and most importantly – you’ll be starting a relationship with potentially ideal customers who might become your first customers. Your best customers. Customers that will adopt early and advocate for you.

All of this comes from person-to-person communication. You can’t survey it away.

Keep it Short

A few rules for polite customer research:

  • Keep it short – stick to 15 or 20 minutes. It’s enough to get deep information without scaring people away.
  • Make sure every question you ask is actionable – as in, if you don’t plan to act on the information you get, don’t waste time asking the question.
  • Avoid yes/no questions. The goal is to get voice-of-customer data, which means you need to let them speak and not put words into their mouths.
  • Don’t take anything personally. These people want solutions to their problems, and maybe you have them, but even if you don’t, they’re giving you valuable feedback.
  • Show appreciation somehow. This doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive, but it should be personal and helpful.

Sort Your Answer Pile

In the course of customer research, you’ll speak with people who may have seemed like ideal customers at first, but then clearly were not.

And others who aren’t so clear. They could go either way.

The answers you need most are the ones from your ideal clients, and to make sure you’re sorting the Ideals from the Non-Ideals accurately, ask yourself this:

  • If I gave this person my product/service/solution, could they successfully use it to reach their ideal outcomes.

This is a Customer Success approach that I really like because it sets you up to work with people who are primed and ready to love your product (and tell their friends about it). It’s also a way to avoid The Product Death Cycle of customer churn, panic, product changes and bankruptcy.

Success Potential relies on several different types of “fit” that the customer has to have to be able to use your product/service and reach their ideal outcomes. Types of fit include:

  • Technical – They have or can get the right technology to use your product.
  • Functional – Your product offers the features the customer needs to achieve their ideal outcome.
  • Resource – They have the time, money or manpower to use your product.
  • Competence – They know or can learn what they need to know to be successful with your product.
  • Cultural – They share your core values, without which you wouldn’t work well together.
  • Experience – You are able to deliver your product in the way they need to succeed, like having a Customer Success agent assigned to them if they need a high-touch approach, or clear in-app walkthroughs if they prefer to DIY. It’s about providing an appropriate experience that gives them support, in the way they need to be supported, to succeed.

There are other types of fit too, and you should feel free to build your own list and keep adding to it as you grow. Understanding fit now will go a long way towards preventing churn, and understanding churn when it happens.

You’ll be returning to your customers for feedback again and again – and if you don’t know which customers to ask, that feedback can get you into trouble! That’s why we’re spending a lot of time on laying the foundations that are so important to building a sustainable, scalable business. At the end of the day, it’s not about what you know – it’s who you know, and how well you know them.


Take the growth out of guesswork and get our Playbook to Grow Your Saas Business With Your Customers.

Content Marketing, Customer Development, Customer Success, Diversity, Growth Hacking, Podcasts, Product Management, SaaS, Startups

#EveryoneHatesMarketers: 4 Vital Things To Do Before Marketing Your New Startup [Podcast]

“Today I’m joined by my guest Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré, an esteemed SaaS consultant, customer service evangelist, writer and community moderator. Her work has been featured in leading industry media such as HubSpot, Moz, Copy Hackers, Forbes, Canva and more.

Nichole is going to walk us through the four things you need to do before you can start marketing your startup or new business. Founders tend to skip the basics of marketing foundations, and this crucial step can make or break your business. Listen in for Nichole’s four most important pre-marketing initiatives that you need to know for your startup or to refresh the marketing of an existing business.”

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • The importance of marketing foundations
  • Growth hacking pitfalls
  • Customer development work
  • Resources to identify ideal customers
  • Creating your first value proposition
  • Filling success gaps
  • Recommended reading

Transcript on Everyone Hates Marketers


Take the growth out of guesswork and get our Playbook to Grow Your Saas Business With Your Customers.

Customer Success, Product Management, SaaS

11 Ways to Check Customer Fit for Customer Success

“You know, I’m on the fence for how much you’d benefit from this” – This was the response to an inquiry I sent yesterday to a woman selling a business development course. See, compared to her target audience, I’m a little ahead of the game when it comes to things like identifying my ideal customer, defining my value proposition and honing my messaging to attract and convert. Okay, okay, I could be teaching the business course – but this woman had a different approach and her marketing had been impressively spot-on. I thought I could learn something from her. And her honest response impressed me even more.

Even if I don’t need the course – I will be recommending it to my friends who are at different stages of building their businesses.

Because that is the power of establishing fit – even when you have to tell someone they’re not a good fit.

That business coach was more interested in ensuring that her clients would succeed than in selling another seat in her class. Which makes sense, because her marketing heavily relies on social proof (testimonials from past successful students) and she wouldn’t have those testimonials if she didn’t carefully select students with…

Success potential.

Is she losing money by telling me I’m not a good fit? No. She’s laying the foundation to make even more money, with less effort, by only working with clients who need exactly what she offers.

Now, multiply this story about a million times when it comes to SaaS, because that is where finding customers who are the right fit for what you provide can make or break your company – fast.

If the shoe doesn’t fit… ‘break it in’ and get blisters? (Uh…no)

When we talk about fit, it’s often in the context of company culture – a term co-opted by HR to find employees most likely to do well. You might say, HR uses cultural fit as a tool to predict the success potential of job applicants.

If we start to use fit as a predictor of success potential in general, however, new avenues open up, especially when it comes to identifying the right customers for your product – the ones who’ll use it, love it, and advocate for it. Yes, we are talking about product-market fit, but not in the way you’ve read about it before. We are going to break it down into all the ways a customer must fit to get the best results, and yield the highest lifetime value.

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

Customer Experience, Customer Success, Product Management, SaaS

CES: New Ways SaaS Companies are Using the Customer Effort Metric ft. @Wootric

customer effort score

Effort. We’re taught to praise it, get really good at avoiding it, and really, would rather do without it. Effort is hard and uncomfortable. As human beings, we’ve designed incredible digital tools to reduce effort as much as possible. Today, “user-friendly” isn’t just a selling point anymore, it’s become a basic expectation among customers – to the point that if a task isn’t intuitively easy to complete, consumers will drop the product and go elsewhere.

Effort is a big deal.

So why are most companies not measuring customer effort, or only relegating it to a customer support metric?

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

Customer Development, Customer Experience, Customer Success, SaaS

Customer Feedback Survey Methods are Changing Dramatically – This is How to Keep Up ft. @Wootric

customer feedback
Customer feedback is having a renaissance of sorts – it’s always been “important,” but never has it been so sought after or so foundational to fast-growing businesses. It’s the cornerstone of such methodologies as The Lean Startup and Jobs to be Done, and vital to finding product/market and problem/solution fit.

Established companies are also going back to their customers, because they know that with better feedback, they can improve the customer’s experience, win loyalty, and create brand advocates – even if getting that feedback requires finally transitioning out of legacy systems everyone is ‘used to.’

It’s no wonder that with the sudden attention from high-tech startup founders and CEOs – customer feedback methods are changing. Quickly. They’re becoming faster, easier, less intrusive, more intrinsic, and the ability to decipher the results of that feedback has changed too.

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