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Emotion

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

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


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.

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 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:

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.

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.

Have yourself a gorgeous day.

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

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


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

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Community, Emotion, Network Effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Network Effect Breakdown

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

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

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

For me, this is about emotion

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

Emotions drive behavior.

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

What emotions motivate your members?

It’s a question well-worth asking.

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

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

Source: Elements of a Community’s Strategic Plan

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

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

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

Emotions =/ Justifications

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

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

Emotions drive everything — they always have.

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

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

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

Customer Experience, Customer Success, Emotion, Products, Retention, SaaS, Startups

A Completely Different way to Look at Customer Fit for SaaS Startups ft. @LincolnMurphy

There are so many ways businesses segment customers, and many of them are useless: demographics, location, purchasing histories, size of company, how much the customer pays, and so many more.

But there’s one method of segmentation that tends to be overlooked. And overlooking it will lead, invariably, to churn.

It’s called Appropriate Experience (AX). And I guarantee it’s not what you think.

What is Appropriate Experience?

Appropriate Experience is an extremely customer-centric idea, because it’s all about them. The customers. Their experience. But this isn’t “customer experience.” Forget CX and customer satisfaction. No, no. This is completely different.

Appropriate Experience is about how the customer needs to be treated and supported by you so they can reach their desired outcome.

But what is it really – in practice?

For SaaS, a good example of Appropriate Experience might be customers who need high-touch customer support vs. low-touch. Maybe the customer’s Appropriate Experience is self-service, because they have the expertise and technical abilities to figure out most things for themselves. Or maybe the customer’s Appropriate Experience requires some hand-holding, a designated customer-success manager and 24-7 help desk.

Lincoln Murphy, who championed AX, explains it this way:

You see, a customer has a required outcome. A thing that they need to achieve… And they have a way that they need to achieve that Appropriate Experience. That Appropriate Experience – AX as I call it – goes across the entire customer lifecycle.

He mentions Appropriate Experience within the context of the checklist he recommends using to see whether a customer has “success potential.”

Here’s that checklist (view full descriptions on his article about success potential.)

  • Technical fit
  • Functional fit
  • Cultural fit
  • Competence fit
  • Experience fit
  • Resource fit

In many ways, Appropriate Experience (aka. Experience fit) is the flip-side of Resource fit. Resource fit asks the customer if they can spare the resources to put in the time/money/manpower to succeed with the product. Experience fit asks you – the SaaS company – the same question.

The question you need to ask yourself is…

Do you have the resources to ensure that this customer has the experience they need to reach their ideal outcome?

What experience are you able and willing to provide?

You may not have the resources to serve customers who need the high-touch approach.

And that means that you can’t give that particular customer segment their Appropriate Experience, and they won’t be successful with you.

You can’t afford not to identify your customer segments by the experience they require.

Yes, that also means you can’t afford to keep customer segments to whom you can’t deliver an Appropriate Experience. Even if they’re paying you.

It sounds crazy to turn away good money, I know.

But these are people who will never be satisfied with what you offer. They won’t refer you business. They’re highly likely to leave lackluster reviews. And they will churn – after wasting a tremendous amount of your time and resources trying to make them happy when that was never gonna happen.

What happens when you segment your customers and find that a lot of them could use a different experience? Well, then it’s…

Problem-solving time

When you use Appropriate Experience as a factor in customer segmentation, you may find that a large part of your customers demand a type of experience you’re not currently providing.

Uh oh.

You have a few options.

You might consider expanding your services and scaling to meet that need.

If this is a possibility, you’ll want to first survey that segment and ask them what experience would most help them achieve their desired outcomes. But when you do, keep Lincoln Murphy’s checklist in mind. Are these customers who have success potential, if only they had a slightly different experience?

Also keep in mind that Appropriate Experience isn’t limited to how much help a customer gets. It’s not just a high-touch/low-touch issue. If my desired outcome is to go out to dinner with my significant other for a romantic evening, there is a very specific experience I need to achieve that, and Burger King isn’t going to do the job. Think holistically.

Another option, of course, is to not scale or change the experience you provide. You could decide to focus on the customer segment whose Appropriate Experience matches what you’re prepared to offer.

Both are actually good options.

The only bad option is accepting the business of someone you can’t really serve.


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Branding, Content Marketing, Conversion Rate Optimization, Creativity, Emotion, Visual Communication

Why weird works: copywriter @KiraHug on branding with personality

Conversion copywriter and podcast host Kira Hug talks about her journey to build her brand and why strategically-crafted visuals are so important for connecting with the right people.

“This might sound strange coming from a copywriter – who should, presumably, eat, sleep and poop words – but I love me some visuals.”

Kira Hug isn’t just any copywriter. She’s a conversion copywriter – which means her specialty is writing words that spur and inspire readers to take action. If you’re selling a product or service and want to talk your ideal customers into buying them, Kira is the person behind the scenes making that happen with landing pages, sales pages, and email campaigns.

This work requires her to get inside people’s minds, take on different brand voices, and play upon just the right mix of pains, fears and desires that cause people to act.

It also requires a strong grasp of how to use an entire brand experience to attract and connect with ideal customers – and much of that experience is created through visuals. Visuals are never to be underestimated.

But that’s an idea that runs contrary to the philosophy of many writers – we’re biased. Our art is the written word. However, Kira didn’t grow up as the ‘writer’ in the family. Her identity was ‘the artist.’

“My sister was the smarty pants. I embraced my artistic side and wore the ‘artist’ label very happily. That followed me into college. But I realized, I can’t be a fine artist and live the life I want, so I pursued graphic design.”

As Kira worked toward her B.F.A. in Fine Arts in Visual Communication, she found herself attracted to advertising classes, which led to an advertising design internship.

That’s where things really started to click for me. You get to be creative, and there’s strategy, words, and visuals and psychology behind it. I remember thinking that this is the best thing ever.

Of course, the challenge all new graduates face is finding a job in the ‘real world’ doing what you love. Which rarely, if ever, happens fresh off of campus. With no job prospects in sight, Kira took a leap of faith and moved to New York City, a lifelong goal.

“I didn’t plan well in terms of having a job before I moved there. I just did it. So I took the first job I could find at Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s management training program. I cringed at taking it. It was so different from the cool, art-design job I’d envisioned, and I was embarrassed by it.”

For nine months, Kira sold car insurance and rental cars, spending down time washing cars “in a parking garage that smelled like urine, in a pencil skirt.”

But at the same time she was learning how to tap into the selling power of words.

Over the next several years, Kira took many different jobs – glamorous jobs at places like Estee Lauder’s store design department, hard jobs in marketing for non-profits, even jobs in event planning. If she didn’t feel like she was growing, learning, and feeling challenged, she’d move onto the next thing.

After Kira had her first child, she needed a little more control over her work schedule. She began working for a fast-growing startup as CMO, which allowed her to build her reputation in the company as well as her own business on the side at the same time.

All with a newborn baby. Is Kira Hug secretly Wonder Woman?

Possibly. She does have more alter-egos than the average copywriter. But that’s all part of her brand strategy.

In this interview, Kira Hug tells us how she built her solo copywriting business and how her artistic background informs everything she does, from her own blog, to her copy, to her delightfully quirky business strategy.

Read More on Canva


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Artificial Intelligence, Customer Experience, Customer Success, Customer Support, Emotion

Use Real Emotion with Artificial Intelligence for Positive Customer Experiences by @NikkiElizDemere

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Just yesterday my partner and I hit a snafu: Our bank had not paid our homeowners insurance, resulting in a panic-inducing email titled “your policy has expired.” Adulting in overdrive ensued.

The bank’s call center was a byzantine maze of pre-recorded messages, and it took three calls just to navigate it to the point of talking to a human being. Just when I was contemplating slamming my phone onto the pavement, I finally reached a person. A person who was clearly chagrined that I’d made it through the labyrinth undeterred. What a grump.

Not finding any help there, I then called my insurance company, which connected me directly to a person — a real, live person! — who cheerfully told me she’d contact my bank, sort out the mess, and call me back. And she did.

It was glorious.

This, friends, is why customer service, and in particular automation, has earned such a loathsome reputation.

Customers don’t want to be pitched from bot to bot, like projectiles in a pinball machine.

That doesn’t make us feel like valued customers. That doesn’t make us want to work with the company again, if we have any other choice. And forget about recommending the company to anyone else (at least, anyone we like).

But what if we could change that paradigm? What if we could create automation that was intelligent enough to give us the answers we need, and send us, quickly and efficiently, to the very best human agent capable of solving our problems?

This is the future I see as imminently possible, at least if we use automation intelligently to create more positive, relevant, and enjoyable user experiences.

Forget bots for a moment — let’s talk about people

For automation to be an integral, genuinely helpful, part of customer support (and customer success — we’ll get there), the customer support process needs to be grounded in a basic understanding of what humans need to be happy — and what customers need to be successful.

The first thing to know is: Every problem is emotional.

We tend to take people at their word. They tell us the problem; we logically try to fix it. But, whatever they say the problem is, and however logical the solution, there is always an emotional component. We’re human; emotions are part of everything we do.

When neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people who had sustained brain damage to areas of the brain that generate emotions, he found that the subjects were unable to make even the smallest of decisions. Their logic and reasoning abilities were fully functional, but if they were asked to choose between pasta and risotto for dinner, they couldn’t do it. They couldn’t feel one way or another.

The conclusion: Almost every decision is an emotional one.

What this means for customer service is huge:

If your customer service interaction produces positive emotions, you have the power to generate positive decisions.

Think: making sales, upsells, generating referral traffic — you basically turn customer service into a marketing, sales and retention engine.

All of that potential income is what’s at stake in every customer interaction.

Not sure emotion holds that much purchase power?

A study out of Missouri University of Science and Technology reported that “consumers’ emotional responses” while on e-commerce websites were predictive of purchases. It might seem obvious, but they essentially proved that we buy from stores we enjoy. And there’s no better place to create a joyful experience than customer service.

Positive experience is the start of a positive association, which builds upon itself over time. One transaction or interchange turns into a relationship. Zappos, Wistia, and MailChimp are three companies that have a business approach which accentuates the positive, and, as a result, their customers are both passionate and loyal.” — Walter Chen, co-founder of iDoneThis, for Kissmetrics

Eliminate Pain Points

So how do you create positive emotional experiences? First of all, don’t add to the customer’s pain by forcing them to run the gauntlet of automated options they neither need nor want.

Pain is emotional, and reducing the pain your customers feel will go a long way towards creating a positive experience. Just think how happy I was to find a HUMAN BEING on my first try with my insurance company!

The worst pain is caused by a-thousand-cuts annoyances, and when you can relieve those small irritations, the customer’s experience will be more positive — and studies show those positive experiences are directly linked to customer loyalty and repeat purchases.

Read more on Medium


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Conversion Rate Optimization, E-Commerce, Emotion

Colors & Conversions in E-Commerce Design ft. @ObjeqtEcomm

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

The psychology of color is a subject of strong disagreement in marketing. We know we need it, and we’d like there to be a list of rules to follow that remain the same in all instances – but there isn’t. Color preference, associations, and color cause and effect, vary widely between individuals and cultures.

So, what we’re left with is what we’ve always been left with

We have to design based on close research of our target audience – and that goes for colors too.

That’s not to say that there aren’t valuable guidelines for color selection that are grounded in science – there are (and they’re outlined below).

Here is what we know, what we think, and what has been proven to work when it comes to color and conversion in e-commerce design.

Read More on Objeqt


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Conversion Rate Optimization, Emotion

3 Tried and Tested Emotional Triggers that Increase Conversion Rates ft. @TaliaGw

I don’t know about you, but every “fun” purchase I make is an emotional roller coaster. There’s the thrill of hunting for just the right thing. The greater thrill of finding it. And then – if it’s on sale – Game on. I have to have it. NOW! Before someone else gets it! Last one? Oh no! Typing in my credit card number as fast as my fingers can fly. Phew! Okay, it’s being shipped. **Breathe**

And all of that happens before the object of desire even arrives. I don’t even know if it will fit, but my desires are fueled with dreams of mass admiration and glory.

Hey, your buyer’s journey may be different (you might not be as vain), but it’s probably not that different. Why? Because we’re all human here, we’re all impacted by emotion. Would impulse purchases happen on planet Vulcan?

Nope. Here on Earth? Oh yes.

Emotion is inextricably tied to decision-making, and therefore conversion. It’s been scientifically proven a number of times.

Time number one:

When neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people who had sustained brain damage to areas of the brain that generate emotions, they were unable to make even the smallest of decisions. They still had logic and reasoning, but if they were asked to choose between pasta and risotto for dinner, they couldn’t do it.

Time number two:

Researchers at UCLA and George Washington University created two types of ads, one with facts and figures, which they called “logical persuasion” or “LP״, and one with fun, vague, or sexy scenes which they termed “non-rational influence” or “NI.”

They found that the brain regions involved in decision-making and emotional processing had significantly higher activity when participants looked at the logical persuasion ads. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately for CROs, these are the same brain regions responsible for inhibiting responses, like impulse purchases.

The non-rational influence ads, on the other hand, didn’t cause any major activity in those brain regions, suggesting that they lead to less behavioral inhibition – and less restraint when there’s a “Buy” button involved.

Time number three:

A study out of Missouri University of Science and Technology said that “atmospheric cues” – the web interface and the “look and feel” of design features of e-commerce stores – affect buyer behavior. In fact, the researchers posited that “consumers’ emotional responses” were predictive of whether they would buy. This study might seem a little obvious – a richer, more interactive environment produces more positive emotions which produces higher intentions to purchase. In plain English, we buy from stores we enjoy. Since emotion is clearly super-glued to the decision-making process, there are two questions that I’m burning to ask:

  1. Why has it taken us this long to try and measure it?
  2. Why are we only now finding ways to use it?!

The only answer I have is that it’s only been recently that technology and psychological awareness have come together to make measuring and manipulating emotion more possible now than it has ever been.

We’re swimming in the swell of a wave that hasn’t even crested yet because our understanding of human emotion is in its infancy. Paddle fast my friends – you don’t want this wave to pass you by.

Read More on @TaliaGw’s GetUplift.co


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Experience, Customer Success, Emotion

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Emotion to Drive Customer Loyalty ft. @Wootric

dont-underestimate-the-power

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Emotion is coming to the forefront of Customer Experience (CX) management, not because it’s warm and fuzzy, and not because leveraging feelings is devilishly manipulative, but because when you use emotion to drive your CX efforts, it becomes a powerful differentiator.

More companies are getting better at the functional basics of customer experience, like responding in a timely manner to questions, streamlining the purchase process, and smoothing out onboarding (not to mention creating a decent product) – which means they need something unique to offer that separates them from their competition.

What is the most unique, even unforgettable thing you can offer? The way you make your customers feel. It’s for this reason the bar for CX is inching up.

The fact that understanding and influencing emotion is a vital ingredient for business success is not surprising — it has been the heart and soul of brand efforts. It is also the foundation of the emotion-recognition techniques (measuring physiological responses) currently in pilot for some retailers and old-school ethnographic research. Forrester 2017 Predictions: Dynamics That Will Shape The Future In The Age Of The Customer

 
Emotion not only carries the ability to define your company in a sea of competitors, it can also inspire viral word of mouth marketing from people who love you and want to express that to a large audience, whether because they’re influencers with their own followers, or reviewers.

Read More on Wootric


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.