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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.


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 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 (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.


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.

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.

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).


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, 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…


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?


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…


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.


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

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?


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.

Community, Content Marketing, Curation, Guest Posts, Tools

Six Underrated Ways For Startups To Curate Great Content by @TheCoolestCool

One of the keys to great content marketing is the ability to curate great content. Click To Tweet

There are myriad approaches to content curation, from leveraging Facebook and Twitter to using tools created specifically for content curation. Some strategies, like trolling your LinkedIn feed, are old hat; others are still relatively unknown and underrated.

Let’s fix that. I’ve taken the time to write up six underrated ways for your startup to curate great content that your competition is likely ignoring.

But first…

I want to ensure that you understand the role of content curation and what it means. In my ultimate guide to content curation I describe the process as follows:

“Content curation is the act of finding information and resources that your audience would find value in and sharing it through appropriate marketing channels.”

The important thing to note about curation is that it is not content creation. (I’ve also written an article that outlines the differences between curation and creation and why both play important roles in the content marketing mix.)

You see, content creation is like the role of an artist, while content curation is like the role of an art gallery—one creates the art, the other determines which pieces to display. This difference often leads startups to undervalue content curation when in reality it can play just as big a role in driving results.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way… Let’s talk about some of those underrated content curation ideas that could give you an edge over the competition:

Finesse Your Facebook Searches

Facebook is a staple in content curation, with thousands of content marketers flocking to the site to find hot topics and trending articles in their industries. But you can optimize your curation process by making a tiny tweak to the way you search for content.

How so?

Instead of doing a Facebook search and browsing the first results that pop up, do your search and then click “Links” at the top:

It’s as simple as that. By finessing your search, you’ll get results from relevant, share-worthy sources instead of photos and memes. In the example above, I searched for Bitcoin-related content and sorted the results by Links rather than People, Posts, Videos or Pages. As a result, I got articles from top sites like Business Insider and the Wall Street Journal.

Some marketers undervalue Facebook search, but I’m a believer that it could eventually give Google and Bing a run for their money. But that’s a topic for another blog post. 😉

Search Hot Topics On Reddit

Reddit has always been the ugly duckling of the content curation world—and the marketing world as a whole. The site can be confusing at first, and there are a lot of incorrect assumptions flying around about its marketing potential.

But when used correctly, Reddit can give you the edge on your competition. You see, most people think Reddit is simply a place to upload a handful of memes, submit links to their website, run a few ads, and hope you’ll be successful. In reality, the world of Reddit marketing is a lot more complex.

For starters, Redditors hate marketing. As a Redditor myself, I can tell you that I’m 100% with the folks who hate marketing, because most marketers who use Reddit to promote their brands do so really, really badly.

Which is why I’m a huge advocate of two simple steps when it comes to curation:

  1. Understand the community’s interests
  2. Look for content that is on the rise or already popular

To start this process, visit a subreddit and sort the content by top posts, which will help you understand what your audience wants. For example, if you dive into the subreddit /r/Futurology and sort by top posts, you’ll see this:

Now, ignoring the ad at the top, those first three posts are quite interesting if you want to connect with people who are passionate about the future. To me, these results present three obvious opportunities: (1) share these exact articles, (2) visit their source websites (Vox, Inverse) to find more content worth sharing, and (3) look for articles on these topics and brands (clearly Google should be on your radar).

Another way to leverage Reddit as a curation source is to ask Redditors straight up: Where do you find your best content? What are the best newsletters for someone interested in XYZ to subscribe to? Podcasts? Blogs? You get the idea… You might be surprised how helpful communities are to people simply looking for resources.

Subscribe To Industry Newsletters

Just like a magazine subscription, an industry newsletter subscription delivers niche content straight to your inbox. Once you’ve subscribed to a number of newsletters that are relevant to you and your audience, you’ll be regularly receiving articles to share on your social networks.

The key to leveraging industry newsletters as a content curation tactic is finding a few that aren’t necessarily subscribed to by the masses. Look for industry newsletters with fewer than 1,000 subscribers so there’s less of a chance that your audience is already receiving their content.  

Use Existing Content Curation Tools

Content curation tools have recently blown up, and rightfully so. These tools make it 10 times easier to discover and distribute content that your audience would find interesting.

Tools like Crate allow you to find and share content within minutes. By uploading a handful of relevant keywords, you’ll get a feed filled with content to add to your Buffer queue or send out in a newsletter. is another great curation tool that you can use to quickly and effectively curate your content. is a free site where users can gather information about any topic they want—think Pinterest, but for industry professionals.

Want more? Here’s a list of my favorite content curation tools for your curation toolkit.

Find Goodreads in Slack Communities

Slack communities are filled with passionate people discussing everything from the latest tech to last night’s football game. That means these communities are a great place to find interesting content on just about any topic.

In many Slack communities, there’s a channel dedicated solely to goodreads, making it easy for you to find content worth sharing on your own networks. To take it a step further, some communities even have channels where members are asked to share their content. While this isn’t a thing in all communities, if you can find one where people are encouraged to #ShamelessPlug, why not leverage this opportunity to find content for sharing—and to share your own content?

Dive Into Your Niche In Industry Forums & Communities

Yes, I know that forums and online bulletin boards are straight out of the ’90s, but I’m here to tell you that they are just as relevant today as they were back then. In fact, it’s possible that they’re even more relevant now—because they are more focused.

Passionate people talking about their passions with other passionate people. That’s the best and only way to describe the current landscape of online industry forums.

As such, they’re gold mines for new content—after all, they are filled with people sharing content assets that they believe others LIKE THEM will find interesting.

So if you’re targeting chefs, why not join a forum for chefs and see what they’re sharing with one another? If you’re targeting small business owners, it only makes sense to join a small business forum and see what type of content they’re sharing.

If you want concrete examples, take a close look at Inbound, Designer News, Hacker News and GrowthHackers—all communities that marketers and startups often rely on to find interesting content. Here’s the rundown of what each site is all about:

And trust me when I say this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to forums you can leverage for content curation.

Curation Isn’t Easy. But It Doesn’t Have To Be Draining.

Take this list of underrated content curation resources and go uncover some awesome content to share with your audience. Ideally, you’ll end up with a consistent stream of content that you can rely on month after month (and make your life easier!).

I know firsthand that content curation isn’t easy…that’s why I built Crate. I also know that content curation is one of those things you get better at the more you do it. So wherever you choose to troll for content, keep at it, and know that great content can come from anywhere.

On that note, I’d LOVE to hear your underrated sources for curating content! Did any of these help you, or do you know of a strategy that I might be overlooking?

Let me know in the comments or get in touch over Twitter.

Customer Success, Guest Posts, Product Management, Retention, SaaS

How Top SaaS Companies Create Customer-Centric Onboarding by @ShaylaPrice

Here’s a major SaaS growth challenge: How do teams ensure customer success from the onset?

With the goal to quickly convert new customers into loyal advocates, it’s easy for SaaS teams to forget what’s important. In this case, it’s onboarding.

Seen as just another to-do, teams neglect how crucial onboarding benefits the customer. Yes, they activated their accounts. But can you get customers to their desired outcomes?

Too often, SaaS companies marvel in their own products, from an eye-appealing user interface to near-perfect functionality. That’s only part of the equation.

Onboarding leads you from acquisition to retention. So it’s time to shift your focus to where it belongs—the customer.

Follow these five steps to achieve a customer-centric onboarding flow.

1. Score the Aha! Moment (Early)

Life is all about precious moments. People like remembering their first awkward kiss, the time they visited Disneyland with friends, and when their first-born kid peed on the floor.

Whether it’s embarrassing, sad, or joyful, certain moments define our lives and stay etched in our memory bank. The same principle applies to customer success.

Customers will recall their first interactions with your brand. Therefore, you should make that moment special. And the best way to do that is to help the user achieve value, or the Aha! Moment, as soon as possible.

“The customers need to understand your uniqueness, the costs, and benefits of the product…If the customer sees the core value of your product immediately, if they understand how it’s going to help them, they are far more likely to continue using it,” writes Gabriela Tanuri, a content analyst at Pipz.

Every company defines an engaged user differently. Maybe your users must complete three tasks in one week, or invite five friends to your app within 15 days. For instance, Dropbox considers users reaching the Aha! Moment when they put at least one file in one folder on one device.

Work with your team to unlock product value during the onboarding process. Users want to succeed—make it happen promptly.

2. Bake Success Into Your Messaging

SaaS businesses do an effective job at gaining potential customers’ attention. Teams spend lots of time designing creative display ads, developing witty copy for their homepages, and writing hilarious emails. The branding is dynamic and worth sharing on social.

Yet, once customers enter the onboarding stage, the brand personality wanes. Customers get dull messages with technical jargon.

On top of that, the messaging only informs the customer about a feature or provides access to an upcoming how-to guide.

When learning something new, customers seek validation that they’re doing things the right way. They need that recognition to move forward.

So treat onboarding like a celebration. When customers achieve a milestone, let them know and award them with personalized messages.

Mailchimp knows how to celebrate customer success. Right before customers send a campaign, they see an image that builds the anticipation, even the copy screams excitement —“This is your moment of glory.” Then, once the user sends the campaign, Mailchimp gives the user a virtual high five.

Image Source

If customer milestones aren’t acknowledged, users may feel like they’re failing. They start second-guessing their actions and the value of your tool. Keep them on the right track with messages that praise their activity.

3. Identify & Remedy User Gaps

It’s impossible to see all the gaps in your onboarding process before launching. And if you focused on finding every imperfection, you would never ship the product.

To identify gaps, start by monitoring user behavior over time. Are there increases in new user inactivity? Do customers stop opening onboarding emails after the third message? Is there an influx of similar support issues?

The next step is to fix the problem. Let’s say new user activity drops by 25% on the fifth day after signing up. You may want to lure customers back to your app with a nurturing email on the third or fourth day.

“Users should never wonder what to do next. Often this is best achieved by holding the customer’s hand and walking them straight to whatever they consider success. This can be done with popups, tooltips, or a guided tutorial that only shows the user what they need to see,” states Dennis Hammer, a content strategist at Audience Ops.

Slack is well-known for its guided tutorials in the onboarding process. Customers get short descriptions about each feature. There’s even an opt out link if users feel comfortable moving forward without guidance. These tutorials ensure users attain success.

Image Source

Don’t freak out about onboarding gaps. Instead, take action to fix the mishaps and get back to delivering value to your customers.

4. Be Available for Questions

Building a worthwhile product is important for your SaaS. If your application sucked, no one would bother purchasing it. However, it’s not the only thing that matters.

Teams sometimes forget that no matter what your SaaS product does, you’re still in the service business. Your primary objective is to build amazing customer experiences. And one of the tenets to achieve that goal is offer superior customer support before, during, and after onboarding.

Of course, you’re nice to customers and respond to their concerns. But another key ingredient is accessibility.

What annoys customers the most is signing up for a product and not having multiple channels and times to access your team members. Either customer support is only accessible by email, or you only respond to questions from Monday morning to Friday afternoon. It’s frustrating to the user who wants a solution now.

So what should you? Make yourself available on several channels. For your SaaS, that may include investing in live chat software to answer customer inquiries. Or you may need to expand your phone support times by three extra hours on the weekends.

You can streamline the support system for the customer, too. For example, Trello customers who are signed into their accounts can send a help message with their names and email addresses already pre-filled.

Onboarding is a critical stage. If customers feel helpless, they may decide to churn. Gather the right tools to make the experience convenient for them.

5. Evaluate Customer Milestones

It’s a completely normal process: Set a goal. Take action. Measure the progress. Adjust and repeat.

Whether it’s fear of failure or a forgotten step, SaaS teams skip over measuring their customers’ progress. It’s the only way to know if the customer is reaching their desired outcome and is fully buying into your brand promise.

So revisit those customer milestones. Are users accomplishing them? How often? What can your team do to make the process easier?

Understanding where users fall on the milestone spectrum gives your team insight on how to drive them toward becoming a power user or brand advocate.

“Keeping this ‘success milestone’ way of thinking after they become a customer—or are otherwise past the customer onboarding process – will allow you to surface upsell/cross-sell offers, as well as advocacy requests, at the perfect time so you’re more likely to get a positive result,” says Lincoln Murphy.

Experimentation is vital as well. Try breaking your onboarding into separate workflows, or customizing onboarding based on specific user segments. You may learn that certain customers need concierge onboarding.

The Customer Takes Center Stage

While these insights don’t reach the level of rocket science, SaaS teams often undervalue and overlook them. You possess the power to get customers to their desired solution. So start giving the customer your undivided attention in the onboarding process.

Growth Hacking, Guest Posts, Startups, Teams

Why Hiring is the Growth Hack You Never Considered by @OmerMolad

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“Growth hacking is about running smart experiments to drive growth within your business.” – Sean Ellis

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the term “growth hacking”, which seems to be everywhere at the moment. Everyone I meet is a growth hacker all of a sudden. But despite a little bit of froth on the milkshake, the hype is very real and it’s here to stay. Here’s why.

First, people will do almost anything to grow their business. For a small business or startup, growth is the difference between life and death.
For a small business or startup, growth is the difference between life and death. Click To Tweet

Second, it’s in our nature to experiment. We try different foods until we figure out what we like and we date different people until we find “the one”. By and large we live life through trial and error and we learn through our experiences.

Experimenting across different traction channels or, in “human language”, trying to find customers in different ways, is a smart way to drive growth. It’s time to take this one step further and create a culture of experimentation by applying a “growth (hacking) mindset throughout the entire business.

The obvious place to start is people – building and growing teams – because there is no better growth engine than a great team.

It’s A People Game

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Ask any investor about the first thing they look for when making an investment decision. It’s the team.

Ask any lender what will always be a deal breaker, regardless of cash flow quality. They’ll say management.

What’s the single biggest factor in job satisfaction? Quality of co-workers.

We’re just humans building products for other humans, either to ease pain or give pleasure.  Everything else is a means to an end.

Yet, while we use words like “obsessed” and evangelist” about getting customers, we don’t tend to think of hiring people in that way. We use very sophisticated methods to find and win customers but tend to be stuck in neutral when it comes to building teams.

At Vervoe, we’re changing that.
At @VervoeHQ, we're changing evangelism around hiring the right team. Click To Tweet

Just like experiments have proven to drive growth, they will also help you hack hiring. You just need to cast aside any long-held views and embrace experimentation.

Here are four dead simple ways to apply a growth (hacking) mindset to hiring and immediately make your business more valuable.

Four Easy Hiring Hacks You Should Start Using

Hiring Hack #1: Ditch the Résumé

Ditch the résumé. Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision.


“I think, to me, reality is better than being fake.” – Ice Cube

Hypothesis: Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision.

Still asking candidates for résumés? Go résumé-free for one role.

Résumés are typically used to decide who to interview. Instead, don’t decide, just give everyone a chance. Sound like a waste of time? Actually, it’s faster if you use automated interviews.

This delays the first impression we form about people to after we see them perform. It allows us to focus on what people can do and who they really are, as opposed to what they’ve done previously, which school they went to or how weird their name sounds. Because, honestly, who cares about that stuff.

After you pick the best performers in the interviews, go over their backgrounds and ask yourself whether you would have picked those people out of the résumé pile. Then go over the ones you rejected and see if any of them have fancy résumés that would have made you choose them for an interview.

Be honest.
Hiring Hack: Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision. Click To Tweet

Hiring Hack #2: Don’t Outsource Your Most Sacred Activity

Don’t outsource your more sacred activity.


“Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.” – Amy Jo Martin

Hypothesis: There is no value in outsourcing your recruitment.

Do you use a recruitment agency or a headhunter? We’re going to put an end to that and see if it makes any difference.

External recruiters, like most brokers, are the product of information asymmetry. You assume that they have access to better information than you so you pay for that information.

But the internet has made the world flat, we just need to know where to look and how to make it easy for people to find us. You can share your job ad on every social network and ask your own personal and professional network to refer people. Reaching people has never been easier.

If you incorporate hiring hack #1, you won’t need to worry about deciding who to interview, a service traditionally performed by recruitment agencies. All you need to do is get your job in front of enough eyeballs, which is pure marketing.

Now, here’s the real hack. Work out the commission you would have paid the recruitment agency. Let’s say it’s a 20% fee and the role pays $100,000. Now spend every cent of the $20,000 you saved on promoting your job on every major job board, industry board and social network.

Is it money well spent? How many applicants did you get? What about for $2,000? What about for $200?

Sound insane spending that much money to get access to candidates who will all automatically be interviewed anyway? There’s your answer.
Hiring Hack: There is no value in outsourcing your recruitment. Click To Tweet

Hiring Hack #3: Expert Questions Are Better Than Yours

Expert questions are better than yours.


“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” – Thomas Berger

Hypothesis: Other people ask better interview questions than you.

Wait, what?

If you’re running a business, there is a good chance you’ll have to hire someone into a role you’re not an expert in.

Next time you’re trying to hire someone, use interview questions written by an expert instead of your own. To learn more about how to hire for a role you’re not an expert in, read this.

If you want to do it all online, you can easily choose an interview script from Vervoe’s library.

But the concept is equally applicable offline. Call a friend who’s an expert and pick their brain on how they would hire for the role. Then create a process that aligns with the expert’s recommendation. If the expert thinks the best way to hire a chef is to spend a day in the kitchen together, then that’s what you should do. Speaking of cooking, here’s an omelette story that illustrates this exact point.

You can A/B test within the role itself by randomly interviewing half the candidates using your own questions and half using an expert’s. But I suspect the benefits will be evident even before candidates do the interviews. You’ll know from the quality of the questions whether the expert is improving your approach.
Hiring Hack: Other people ask better interview questions than you. Click To Tweet

Hiring Hack #4: Don’t Ask People to Fit In

Don’t ask people to fit in – cultural fit is overrated.


“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

Hypothesis: Cultural fit is overrated.

Talking about your company’s vision, values and culture in your job description is a great way to proactively qualify candidates.

However, instead of asking people to fit in with your culture, look for people who will add to your culture. Ask for cultural contribution and look for people who can improve your team’s cultural fitness.  

The result of this experiment can only be verified after several months of working together. But you’ll see glimpses during the hiring journey. Encourage candidates to tell you what they’ll be bringing to the table. Get creative with your interview questions. And more of all, be open to being challenged.
Hiring Hack: Cultural fit is overrated. Click To Tweet

Time to Start Experimenting

What you do with the results of each experiment is up to you. But I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about hiring and gain insight into the mindset of your candidates, and perhaps even your own.

Let me know how it goes.

Creativity, Guest Posts

In the Age of Entrepreneurship, Being Multipassionate Is Your Greatest Advantage ft. @VioletaNedkova


Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Everyone wants to have their own business nowadays, but not everybody stays in business. Startup founders, app makers, solopreneurs, coaches, etc. Only a small percentage of us make it to the second year and that’s not because of stamina or savvy or luck or timing. I think many of the ones who make it are multipassionate creatives.

Correct me if I’m wrong but…

Running your own business is like having five full-time jobs at once – copywriting, marketing, design, etc. That’s a lot of roles for a single person!

I had the pleasure of meeting a founder the other day who – in his words – has a new obsession every other day. That doesn’t mean he changes his job or anything, just that he alternates between things in his free time. Now, I bet my hat he has original ideas every other day because those come from unusual combinations of different elements.

Multipassionality used to be sort of strange and shameful, but now it’s a faunt of amazing ideas and creative businesses. Why “choose” one career path when you can pursue all of your passions and bundle them up nicely and call it a business?! It’s not enough to have a “fun business idea” anymore; a lot of people crave for lifestyle businesses today.

Being a Multipassionate doesn’t just mean having many passions and skills. It also means coming up with original ideas that get you ahead of the competition. It’s great to be able to take care of multiple aspects of your business at once, but it’s even better to create a UNIQUE lifestyle business that is conceived from various passions.

You can literally take your knowledge from every industry you worked in and every hobby you ever had and apply it in your current venture. If I hadn’t learned to use Photoshop in high school to make fan fiction banners, I wouldn’t be able to make my own graphics now. If I hadn’t been interested in photography and life coaching and UX, I wouldn’t understand my people’s needs. And if I hadn’t been passionate about a lot of things, I would have never thought that marketing could be as creative as we are

Multipassionality can be your greatest asset if you allow yourself to look at it that way.

Perhaps a story will portray my point better…

There was a girl who loved to buy vintage clothes. She was at the thrift shop every other day, rummaging for hidden gold. On the surface she was too big a rebel to ever amount to anything – she couldn’t keep a job, she didn’t believe in institutions, and her friends were low lives and bikers and hippies who thought were better than everyone else.

But she had so much passion for things! She was into photography for a while, which then morphed with her passion for vintage clothing and compelled her to start an eBay store. She had been bored with every single job before that – nothing was every stimulating enough to keep her interested for long, but this time, she had found her match.

A true Multipassionate would relate to that instantly – nothing ever being challenging enough, but then you find that one thing that is always stimulating and that allows you to grow beyond your personal ceiling, and you’re in love and committed to see it through.

So the girl grew her store, selling vintage clothes, working tirelessly and learning as she went along. Her love for photography came in handy and her passion bled into customer feedback and styling and social media. She started the store of necessity, but the work was so fulfilling and challenging that she ended up transforming it into a fashion empire.

I am talking about Sophia Amoruso: CEO of Nasty Gal, author of #GIRLBOSS, and role model of every woman who’s starting her own business today.

What did you think of the story? Did you feel sorry for the girl or did you relate to her? I bet you thought it would end up being inspirational – coming from me – or maybe you know the story by heart already because it’s truly a modern inspiration.

My point is, one passion will not give you the skills you need to start your own business. A few passions, on the other hand, will give you something that’s much more valuable, something that could one day become your greatest ally…


Multipassionality doesn’t just give you a competitive advantage, original ideas, and the ability to do a thousand jobs at once. It mostly gives you a chance to design a business and a lifestyle that is uniquely yours. Successful entrepreneurs like Marie Forleo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Regina Anaejionu are great examples because the only way you can copy their businesses is to become them! I call it “personal business” because it springs from the life and work experience of the creator. That’s what we are – CREATORS!

You don’t have to write fiction novels or screenplays or make custom jewelry to create something new. Your “art” can be your business.

Now, over to you –

Whether you’ve been scared to unleash the full force of your Multipassionality because you’d be mocked or ignored or called a flaky dabbler, I hope you’ll reconsider. As Marie Forleo puts it, Only you have that special gift that the world needs.

We are not outliers! There are more of us than you know. If you look at One Woman Shop’s interview series with Multipassionate women, you’ll realize some of the women you love and admire are just like you! Women like Jess Lively and Sarah Von Bargen. I bet my hat that Kathleen Shannon is one, too. You can tell someone’s a Multipassionate by the uniqueness of everything they create and put out there. 

It can be scary to take on the world, but you don’t have to do it alone either.

There are people out there who encourage Multipassionates to take a stand and accept our Nature as strength, not weakness. Emilie Wapnick’s TED talk speaks to every one of us when she says we don’t have to choose one thing. Barbara Sher’s book Refuse to Choose really hits every heart string with her Scanner’s theory. (Basically, she says that being a Scanner, as she calls it, is nothing wrong. It’s an advantage!)

Whether you’re a Multipassionate or you’re friends with one, please join us. We need acceptance and to be more outspoken and confident about this issue. Because there’s another thing I’ll probably leave for another article – women are generally less confident than men. As a result, a lot of Multipassionate women stay hidden while Multipassionate men – called “polymaths” – have taken all the credit throughout the ages.

Fellow ladies, let’s be LOUD and PROUD about all that we are. Let’s show the world how diverse and passionate we can be. OK?

Are you Multipassionate? What’s your take on Multipassionality?

Let me know in the comments! 🙂

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

Guest Posts, Marginalization

Transgender Life of Visibility


This is a guest blog entry by Ramona Knives.

Transgender Day of Visibility, which was celebrated on 31 March, 2016, has what would seem to be a very important message that is two-fold: to bring to light transgressions and issues that transgender people face while also casting a spotlight on us, as many Americans appear to be under the assumption that they have yet to meet a transgender person. Dig deeper, though, and you will find that quite a number of transgender individuals on social media are actually pretty disillusioned with the idea of the holiday.

While a “holiday” to bring light to our issues sounds like a reasonably decent idea, what does such a day bring to the table for those of us who are hyper visible 365 days of the year? As a black trans woman who is out to the general public, I am extremely visible every single day. When I leave the house, all eyes are on me. Even when I make no attempt to dress up or stand out in any way, I will always be the centre of attention. Not a single pedestrian fails to take notice of me as I walk down the street, and every vehicle that passes by features an uncomfortable glance from at least one of its passengers. That, unfortunately, would be a good day for me as far as public reactions go. I have also dealt with catcalls, physical harassment, bricks and rocks thrown at me from moving cars, and even worse. In fact, during a short break while writing this article, this writer was grossly sexually harassed on a bus stop, when a man stalked me on a corner and repeatedly yelled in my face offering money for sex despite my walking away multiple times. Since the day I first came out last October, I have become acutely aware of just how visible I am in society. It has just become a part of my regular everyday life to suffer through a level of street harassment. I really have to wonder just how much I would benefit from a day that revolves around granting me even more visibility than usual when I would rather just be able to blend in and be invisible for once.

Another thing to consider is just how much trans feminine people need increased visibility on a national scale. Are we not already the talk of the nation? It seems that every “anti-LGBT” legislative bill, which is really just a coded way of saying anti-transgender, bubbles up to the surface of national discourse in a way that never ceases to bring about the most vile of bigoted opinions about trans people. Each day, Caitlyn Jenner says something absolutely ridiculous, which seems to have given cisgender people the excuse to dismiss, misgender, and insult a trans woman when it is not their lane to do so, and this has given these people a way to act like trans advocates at face value while distilling their anti-trans rhetoric in a more easily digestible and accusable way. The biggest fear in America in 2016 is not mass gun violence, or the police state, but the misguided and frankly untrue idea that trans women are just predatory men who want to sexually assault young white cisgender women. Even transgender men are doing their best to hurt our own argument against these outrageous claims by flooding social media with images of themselves in women’s restrooms and playing on those same scare tactics, bragging about how they have to share a woman’s restroom with the wives and daughters of senators.

After the mass passage of gay marriage legislation, which was deemed the most important fight for all “LGBT” people within most of our community, we trans people were assured by cisgender gay community leaders that they would then work on fixing some of the issues that have plagued us forever, like restroom legislation, more access to hormone therapy, easier paths towards transition, and an overall reduction in state sanctioned bigotry against us. Allow me to be one of many trans feminine people to tell you that this has simply not been the case. The fight for our rights has been completely minimized by the gay community, which on its face should logically be our greatest ally. In an age where legal and public discrimination against trans people, particularly trans women, is an an astonishing high, there has never been less support in our favour. Increased visibility of our issues will not help us when no one wants to help us to begin with.

In 2016, we should be fighting for our trans siblings every day, not just one day.

Content Marketing, Guest Posts

Content that Captivates: The Power of Interactive Content by @KaitlynKirkaldy


Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

This is a guest blog entry by Kaitlyn Kirkaldy.

At this point, you’ve probably heard that consumer attention spans are now shorter than that of a goldfish. While you might get sick of the comparison, the point remains important: The shift to mobile has changed how we consume content.

As content marketers, our first instinct might be to freak out a little. Collectively, let’s all take a deep breath. While shortened attention spans might make our jobs more challenging, it doesn’t make them obsolete. It’s more of an evolution – something to be excited about. It’s up to us to create content that immediately captures attention, that stands out in the fleeting moments of attention we receive.

The Evolution of Interactive Content

With awareness of micro-moments – Google’s term for the seconds consumers spend using their smartphones to take various actions – increasing, marketers have experimented with new tactics to capture attention immediately.

One answer? Interactive content. One study found that interactive content better educates customers, putting its effectiveness at 93 percent compared to 70 percent for static content. That makes sense – it’s the moderated discussion style of learning versus the memorize-the-information-for-a-test approach. Like a mutually beneficial discussion, interactive content better educates viewers because it helps the brain process information in a busy environment (in our case, the Internet).

If the educational benefits aren’t enough to convince you, consider this: Consumers actually like interactive content. Ninety-one percent of buyers prefer it to static content, which gives you the window you need to further engage them beyond the initial micro-moment. Interactive content lengthens the digital conversation they have with your brand. Consumers typically spend very little time on a landing page – 55 percent of them will leave in fewer than 15 seconds. Interactive content not only keeps them there longer, but allows you to better measure exactly how long they stayed on the page, what they clicked on, and how they engaged.

Using Interactive Content

Interactive content provides viewers with something more powerful than a static landing page or another listicle blog post. There are numerous great use-cases for interactive content that will not only drive results, but diversify how we spend our days as content marketers.


Retail brands, not typically known for content marketing, can actually use interactive content effectively with pieces like personal style quizzes, complete-the-look features, and shoppable video. Added bonus: marketers can collect valuable, self-declared data from this kind of content even if the shopper doesn’t convert.


CPG brands often use coupons, videos, and recipes on their sites. All of these forms of static content can be adapted and made interactive. Consumers can unlock coupons and recipes by taking a fun quiz to find out what kind of Oreo they are, for example. Interactive video can give a product demo that asks questions of viewers along the way.


Interactive content increases the fun factor of B2B marketing. Interactive infographics help companies qualify leads by engaging them and collecting profiling data. Marketers can do the same with interactive video. Product hunts help leads find exactly what they came looking for, reducing bounce rates.

Interactive content can power marketing success when used effectively, because it will educate, and engage your customers while moving them further along in the customer decision journey. Ninety-one percent of non-engaged customers become dissatisfied – but engaged customers are 4x more likely to appreciate a brand’s outreach and 7x more likely to claim offers from the brand. We can’t ignore those numbers any longer. The next time you’re in your content planning session, challenge yourself to think: Would this capture attention in eight seconds? If not, consider making it interactive and see what it does for your marketing.

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

Community, Guest Posts

The 6 Secrets to Building a Thriving Community From Scratch by @roypovar


Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

This is a guest blog entry by Roy Povarchik.

Building a community from scratch is a challenge every startup faces, but which not all startups fully understand.

Here’s what most people think a community manager’s life looks like:

“You wake up, hang out on Facebook all day long, answer some emails, say the word ‘Awesome,’ ‘Thank you’ and ‘Appreciate’ 200 times a day and send stickers. Send tons of stickers.”

While some of those action items do come into play, building a thriving community is much harder than you’d think.

Here’s a good way to try to grasp what building a community really feels like:

Imagine you have to engineer a person that will be persuasive, likable, able to throw a successful party, and can get people motivated. 

Then you have to prove all these characteristics again and again. From scratch. All day, every day.

Being a community manager means you have to get people to gather, create conversations, participate, acknowledge and engage around your brand while maintaining a consistent voice, and even personality, for your community.

Here’s how Sprout Social details the workflow of a community manager:

  • 40% having conversations with communities or prospects
  • 20% building visibility and credibility as “Sprout Sarah” by attending Twitter chats and moderating #SproutChat
  • 15% researching opportunities to connect with new people
  • 15% blogging on external sites
  • 10% analyzing efforts driving the most traffic
  • 10% making friends with everyone in the office (social butterfly)

Doesn’t seem so easy now, right?

The biggest challenge to building a community is that most of the advice out there sounds great, but it actually isn’t that helpful when you’re just starting out – when no one is engaging with you or cares that you’re alive.

Community Manager Workflow

Community Manager Workflow

Here are a few top tips community managers shared on Buffer:

  1. “Everything you do as a community builder should be about the community. Everything.”
  2. “Engage and check in with your community often. Actions speak louder than words.”
  3. “You have to set your metrics for success. Social platforms are similar, but can be used for very different things.”
  4.  “Relationships BETWEEN members. A space where people feel safe to contribute.”

Still, those are only things you can act on once you already have a community.

So how do you turn your communal online space from population YOU into a thriving community?

Here are 6 of my most actionable, hard-won tips to help you take the first steps into building a living, breathing, engaged and engaging community (and no one else is talking about them).

How To Start Your Very Own  Thriving Community

1. Base your community on a need, not a product.

I will make this point as bluntly as possible so we can get it out of our way: Nobody cares about your product.

It’s that simple. Crazy, right?

People join groups or communities for one reason alone – to address their own needs.

If you were able to read your potential community members’ sub-conscious, they would say one of two things:

  1. Will joining this community make me better at what I want to be better at?
  2. Will joining this community help me achieve something I want to achieve?

The simple truth is that people only want to do things that serve their interests and empower them.

But don’t just take my word for it. Run a simple test.

For the sake of the test, let’s pretend that you are the CMO of a SaaS company with a platform that produces conversion rate optimization test results (so you don’t have to do the math yourself). Lets call it “Convertify.” In order to start a discussion with your target audience, you decide to create two Facebook groups to bring them all together.

Open two Facebook groups:

  1. Call the first one “Convertify”.
  2. Call the second one: ‘SaaS Conversion Optimization professionals’

Post a simple “hello” status update to welcome your new visitors and post 2-3 useful links in the following week.

What you’ll see in the next two weeks is that, even though you’ve been posting the same content on both groups, the second one will get more “add me” requests.

Why? because it hints at a true benefit.

The second group answers both internal questions clearly:

  1. Will joining this community make me better at what I want to be better at?  Yes, I can learn from experts.
  2. Will joining this community help me achieve something I want to achieve? Yes, I want to be better at conversion optimization.

Target your communities around their needs. Not your product.

2. At the beginning, it’s all about one-on-one engagement

In his famous TED talk, Derek Sivers demonstrates how to start a movement through a video of a dancing guy in a music festival.

The thrust of the video (spoiler alert!) is that the most important member of a group is not the leader, but the first follower.

The first follower is the one that actually validates what the leader is doing, and seeds the beginning of a community.

Without the first follower, the leader isn’t a leader; he’s just a crazy guy talking to himself in a room.

This step is not about “engaging with your community members.”

It’s about choosing your first followers carefully and starting your conversation with them.

But how do you start?

If you’ve ever tried to build a community, you know that simply posting great content and asking questions doesn’t really do the trick.

You’ve been there: You invited people in, wrote a public status update and nothing happened.

Here’s the real secret no one is telling you:

You are not going to get your first significant follower just by trying to engage with everyone and hoping one will stick. No.

Do your research. Find target prospects you think will be beneficial to your community and start engaging with them on a one-on-one basis.

You can use email, Skype, Facebook Messenger, whatever you want. The initial nurturing of those first followers will probably take place in a private channel in one-on-one conversations.

Through personal engagement you will get a chance to really know them, bond over the real stuff and open a communication channel built on trust.

It's all about the one-on-one

It’s all about the one-on-one.

That personal connection is the only way to really know your audience and get them to genuinely care about your goal – your reason for building the community.

Now, you want to build that direct communication channel with as many relevant people as you can, but without sacrificing the quality of your conversations.

Let them in on your plans, decisions that need to be made etc. Really give them the VIP insiders treatment.

After a while, you can start asking them to Like, Upvote, help others or whatever it is your community will be about.

This is how you will get your initial community traction and encourage community ambassadors.

3. Help your community members to be successful


“People will join your community only if it will make them better at what they want to be better at.”

It goes much deeper than simply choosing a name for your community.

You want to reach out publicly and privately to your community members and help them out in any way they need.

If it’s by posting relevant content that answers hot topics in your niche, encourage people to ask questions and make sure you get them the help they need.

Try getting users to share their challenges (if they talk to you in private, recommend they post it publicly) and do your best to answer them. Even if it requires more research on your end.

The reason people do the same things over and over again is because they know it will get them an expected result.

If they’ll know that engaging with your community will help them overcome challenges, or solve a problem, they will start engaging with your community more often.

More than that, when people feel that a community is extremely helpful to them, they will feel the urge to give back more.

Which brings us to the next section.

4. Refer your community members to one another

In his book: “Tribes: we need you to lead us,” Seth Godin defines a tribe as:

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

This last part, “a way to communicate,” is the key to developing a real thriving community.

For a community to go big, its community members have to be able to expand beyond what the community manager is doing, which they can do by engaging with each other directly.

If you are waiting for it to happen organically, it will either take a lot of time, or it won’t happen at all.

In the last section, I wrote about “helping your community.”

Helping your community, doesn’t always mean you are the one giving all of the answers. Sometimes, it’s about referring one community member to another.

By doing so, you encourage greater engagement within your group while empowering group members who will feel more valuable as the “experts” of the moment. People engage more where they feel valued.

Get your community members to engage

Get your community members to engage.

You can do this just by letting someone know that another community member is really good at a certain topic and looping the other person in. You can refer to content they wrote or suggest they should talk, etc.

Once your community members engage with one another naturally, you will have a lot of conversations going on at once, and also a lot more initiatives that you didn’t initiate yourself.

Your job then becomes to moderate your highly functional group.

5. At first, hack user participation in early stages

Nothing ‘just happens’ right? It’s not how the world works.

Same goes for your community’s engagement growth.

This is where you combine all 4 previous sections.

To jump-start your community, you’re going to need to work behind the scenes to motivate your first followers to engage.

  • This can be done by finding a good piece of content and asking them to share it instead of you.
  • Or, perhaps someone asks a question that you can mention to another community member and privately ask them to reply.
  • It can be by giving credit for things that community members are doing and emphasizing their work more than yours etc.

Then new members will feel like they are joining something that is already established. They’ll have role models to learn how the group works, and they will start mimicking and elaborating on what they see. Fake it ’til you make it.

All of this takes a lot of time and effort. That’s why it’s a full time job.

6. Rules and restrictions are the key to a happy quality community

Having rules is what sets apart noisy unhealthy communities from ones with meaning that thrive.

The reason people keep coming back to a specific community is because they know they will gain a specific value from it.

It’s the same as building a business: the more focused you are, the more high paying clients you’ll get.

If you don’t have any rules, you’ll see that your group will lose focus really fast – and with focus goes value.

This is how groups become full of spam, or become dominated by members who only promote their interests rather than engaging with others.

The right rules will keep these negative tendencies in check. Even if your members aren’t happy about them at the beginning, they will learn to appreciate them.

Rules will help you manage the conversation, expectations and quality of your group – which in turn, will help you create more valuable engagement. You know how to continue by now, right?

Here are some rules that I find helpful:

  1. You can introduce yourself, but not promote yourself
  2. Always be polite
  3. If you have any financial interests, always give full disclosure
  4. Repeating topics should be in their own, designated threads
  5. If you can help, then help
  6. No off-topics

It’s very simple, nothing too weird or harsh, but will deliver a more focused, higher quality, community engagement.

In Conclusion

Building a community is a combination of being attentive to your audience, empowering them, finding the right niche, and promoting a lot of people’s skills.

Some might say that being a good community manager is something that can’t be taught.

I tend to agree.

But even if you have that quality in you, you will need the right tactics and time to build a thriving community.

Tell me: what kind of community are you trying to build?