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B2B, Customer Success, Guest Posts, Product Management, Retention, SaaS

How top B2B SaaS companies create customer-centric onboarding

Guest post by Shayla Price.

Here’s a major B2B 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 B2B 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, B2B 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

B2B 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 B2B 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 B2B 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 B2B 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, B2B 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, B2B 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.

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

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?

Branding, Guest Posts, Startups

How to win hearts 💕 on @Periscope—when even you find your life boring. ft. @KikiSchirr


Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Edit: Meerkat no longer exists, but I’m keeping Kiki’s guest post as is, because her advice is still relevant to any live video streaming app.

This is a guest blog entry by Kiki Schirr.

First Meerkat was, and now Periscope is taking over the Internet. If you’ve installed either live-streaming video app, chances are you’ve heard the siren call of its audio alert. Have you rushed to your phone to tune in to someone else’s exciting life? “Walking the Great Wall” or “At the top of London’s Ferris Wheel” are clearly going to get the views. How can we, with our more simple lives, possibly compete?

There are three winning strategies for the normal amongst us: friends, foreigners, and fridges.

1. Friends: Tap Your Followers List

Friends are an easy source of likes and follows—possibly the most easy to snag. You know what your friends like, so use those inside jokes and connect with all your Twitter friends like a chimp in a game of Barrels Full of Monkeys.

2. Foreigners: Embrace an International Audience

Foreigners are a little more difficult to attract. You should ask yourself: what aspect of your daily life might seem strange to a foreigner? What about your morning make-up routine? Your drive to the grocery store (from the passenger seat!) or walking through the aisles of a gas station can take on an exotic edge when viewed by someone who’s never stepped foot in your state.

If you’re trying to appeal to foreigners, be sure to use your location in the title. If you speak a foreign language, use key words in multiple tongues. Like “Florida USA drive on a sunny day” or “美国 gas station” Bonus points if you speak Arabic, because doesn’t Periscope make you think 3/4 of the world’s iPhones are in the Middle East?

3: Fridges: Play to Your Unique Strengths

The final “F” is for fridges: the sort of weird, completely absorbing fads that absorb most of the traffic on Periscope. Right now it’s an exploration of fridges, with insightful commentary on which brand of ketchup you prefer. This is where your creativity will have a chance to shine: what can you do that people will find oddly fascinating?

For me, the answer has been drawing. I can draw, sort of, and the slow reveal of a shapeless stack of pencil lines into a recognizable face of some movie starlet has captured more attention than my other videos. Try to capitalize on your talents—like basketball trick shots, turning your eyelids inside out, or burping the National Anthem. Admit it, you’d watch those.

So when you next flip that iPhone camera on, think of the 3 F’s: friends, foreigners, and fridges. You can thank me—by tuning in. I’m Kiki on Periscope, and @kikischirr on Twitter.

Let me know how it works!

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

Content Marketing, Guest Posts

5 Ways to Hack the Blank Page by @VioletaNedkova


Image created by Yasmine Sedky (‏@yazsedky).

This is a guest blog entry by Violeta Nedkova.

Whether you’re writing a report or an article or a short story, you’ve most likely encountered the irrational fear of the stark naked page before you. You might be envisioning a ton of people expecting you to fill it a certain way or you might fear that the well of inspiration is running dry.

Whatever your reason, I’m sure you know this fear is ungrounded. And those of us who have to produce a certain amount of words every week (for money) know that when “the muse” is hiding, you have to hack your way through it. Eventually those hacks become habits.

So let’s see how we can “hack” this…

Take a Walk

I’ve already written about the benefits of walking — it clears your mind and refreshes your memory system. It also gives you fresh ideas and helps you focus. This is why walking meetings are quite productive.

But what if you’re not * required * to take walks? What if — like me — you’re working remotely? Then you have to make walking one of your priorities. Like my friend Carl Hamlet, who walks 3 times a day, every day.

Habits form and settle in a 3-step process called “the habit loop”:

Briefly, the cue is you feeling stuck and staring at the blank page. What’s your response? Probably distracting yourself from your failure, which brings you temporary satisfaction.

Science says, replace the routine for better habits.

So next time you feel stuck, go for a walk and revisit the page once you’re refreshed. That way, the bad habit you previously had becomes a healthy one. Plus, you don’t only get temporary satisfaction, but also a dose of inspiration.

Find a Writing Buddy

A couple of weeks ago I had trouble coming up with content, so my co-founder — Mike Sutton — suggested co-writing every other day. The mere knowledge that someone else is struggling at the same time you are is somewhat comforting. Not to mention at the end of the session you have to report what you’ve managed to accomplish, which motivates you.

It’s mostly necessary for people who struggle with managing their own time. For example, because I’m a remote worker, I work alone at home and sometimes I get carried away with unimportant tasks. There is nobody to “monitor” and guide me, so I end up getting lost.

In this case your writing buddy becomes your compass. It’s even better if they live in the same town and you can arrange a meetup over coffee.

If you’re not that good at meeting people, try an online community. People there are actually very friendly and willing to pair up on projects, so why not check out some Slack groups or create your own!

The image on the left is a list of my favorite slack communities (left) and the channels in my own slack (contentheroes). I created it because I wanted to invite my favorite people and be able to reach out to them anytime.

It goes beyond twitter and skype. People say it’s even replacing IRC at work. I’m not surprised. I can’t even remember what it was like before Slack becoming a part of my every day routine. You won’t either if you try it.


Light Yourself On Fire

Just choose a topic that lights you on fire.

It’s virtually impossible to stay silent when you really care about something. If you get me started on gay rights or genetic engineering, forget it. I’m going to yap until the Sun comes down, and then back up.

When you do something with a lot of passion, you don’t stop to think about what you’re doing. Most importantly, you’re not overthinking it. 

Here’s a quote from Stephen King I just love:

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.

So psych yourself up and write about what moves you. Something controvertial or personally challenging. Even topics that seem dull to others can come alive before you if you feel something.

Make It Visually Appealing

Sometimes you need a little extra to really focus your efforts. For example, when I wrote my first novel (yet to be edited) I had to use multiple methods of outlining, like colorful sticky notes and cork-boards, and so on. The colorful aspect added a fun side to the process and it gave me additional motivation to soldier on through the hard parts (like editing and writer’s block).

Another example is Belle Beth Cooper’s content calendar. She says it helps her visualize how much work she has for the week and how she’s progressing. Not to mention it looks way more fun than regular scheduling.

Indeed, they say visualizing facilitates processes such as memory and learning, so why not use it in your writing process? You can even treat it like a project.

If you don’t have a white board, Trello comes pretty close and it has colorful labels — the digital equivalent of sticky notes. Most of us use it for work anyway, but it’s also useful for side projects and just gathering your thoughts on a subject. Not everyone will want to (or have time to) outline articles, but if it could help you fill that page, it’s worth a shot, no?

See It As It Could Be

I was going to say something cliched like “recognize the blank page for what it is: an illusion of the mind that stands in your way”, or something.

But then I realized it’s not enough to see what it actually is. It’s also important to be able to see things as they could be.


The most amazing innovations in history were things that somebody imagined before they even saw them. They were products of rich imaginations; of minds that could not settle with the way things were, but seeing thing as they could be. This is why we have computers and planes.

Now apply the same logic to the blank page. What could it become?

It could become a thrilling story or something that helps someone. It could reach people you never hoped to reach before. Or it might just reach the right person and before you know it, your vision has become reality.

And that’s the power of the blank page — it holds potential, promise.

Recognizing the blank page as something positive will definitely get you out of your rut because it is only the fear that stops you. When you acknowledge that, you’ll be able to accomplish your goal, which is not just filling the page with words and paragraphs. Your goal is to convey a message. And if that message is understood and maybe even acted on, you’ve succeeded.


Good luck, I know you can do it justice! ☺


Violeta Nedkova is a writer first, marketer second, and entrepreneur overall. She’s the co-founder of Amazemeet and fan of all communities, especially creative ones. She tweets a LOT, consults some, and blogs about startup marketing.

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