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Customer Experience, Product Management, Products, Retention, Startups

Achieving product-market fit should be job #1. By @SueDuris

This is a guest post by Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and CX at M4 Communications.

Every startup wants to succeed. Startups want it bad. They know nine out of 10 startups fail. They want to be that one that succeeds!

They spend all their time first making that great product. And trying to make it better.  They add to it. A new bell here. A new whistle there.

And when they think they have the next big thing that’s going to disrupt the market, they go hunting for capital, trying to get any venture capitalist and angel investor they can to fund them.

“Capital first” is the battle cry so built into the startup community that whichever startup event people attend, the conversation seems to always be about raising money.  

Yet, when a founder does get an investor meeting, typically investors want evidence to support founder claims. They want to see metrics such as monthly and annual recurring revenue, active users, renewal rates, customer acquisition cost, customer lifetime value, and the like.

They also want to know about the market and the customer, in addition to your product. Is the market big enough? Who is your customer? What value do they get from your product? What kind of traction do you have in the marketplace?

Do you know this info?

While startups make their primary focus about raising capital, they place their secondary focus, if at all, on the customer.

Many times I hear startups tell me “I’ll focus on user and customer research after I get funding”.

Too many startup founders feel that getting funding is the magic pill that will solve all of their problems and put them on some fast-track to success.

But, don’t investors want to know about your customer strategy – i.e. how you make money – before they give you money?

Raising capital is very important. But to focus on it first is the wrong approach.

The first thing a startup should do is achieve product-market fit.

It is everything.

It typically determines whether you succeed or fail. It’s what sustains a startup and enables it to grow.

Make something people want.

It seems basic.

Creating a product that doesn’t fit what the market wants is silly. Yet, many do exactly this.

And if a startup doesn’t achieve product-market fit, chances are it will fail.

According to CB Insights, who has been compiling failed startup post-mortems, the #1 reason startups fail is because they don’t achieve product-market fit. This is cited by 42% of CEO’s of failed startups.

According to CB Insights, the #1 reason startups fail is because they don’t achieve product-market fit. Click To Tweet

Product-market fit is hard work and it takes time. There is no doubt about that. Yet, it’s too much work for some founders. They want the glory but not going through all the blood, sweat, and tears to do the work.

This is where things become paradoxical.

These are the same startups that worry about churn.

“We have to eliminate churn,” they say.

But to ultimately reduce churn means you have to first retain your customers, build loyalty and drive customer lifetime value.

So what is product-market fit and why does it matter?

According to Marc Andreessen, product-market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.

He goes on to say product-market fit is the only thing that matters.

When it’s not there you can tell because customers don’t get your value, no one is talking about you, usage isn’t growing, conversions are slow or not at all, etc.

But when it’s there, revenue, usage, and growth are fast.

People crave your product.

People are talking about you, especially your customers.

When your customers advocate and sell for you, you have achieved it, something I call “customer nirvana”.

It’s not a destination. It’s not a journey. It’s a mindset.

When your customers advocate and sell for you, you have achieved customer nirvana. And it’s not a destination. It’s not a journey. It’s a mindset. Click To Tweet

You have to keep on working towards it. You have to give your customer that experience. The experience is the product. And it all starts with product-market fit. And making everything about the customer.

To get to product-market fit, ask yourself:

  • What is the unmet/under met need my company or product is attempting to fulfill?
  • How do I meet that need?
  • What value do I deliver to my customer that enables them to achieve their business outcomes? What is my customer’s WOW or aha moment?

That moment is what gets you to the value. But it isn’t only the value, it’s how quickly you can get to that value. Time-To-Value is key.

You have to know your why – why do they buy from you?

You have to know the what – what is resonating for them that is compelling them to buy from you?

Then you must know the actions and behaviors they have with you that’s helping them be successful.

Knowing your why, and how customers use your product is what will sustain you.

This is THE WORK.

And, you’ve got to do the work if you want to drive revenue, growth and customer lifetime value.

This work will get you to a minimum viable product, which you can use to gain traction, which you can use to get noticed by investors, which will help you get funded.

Having the insights from product-market fit is what drives and sustains growth.

Can product-market fit be measured?

It’s questionable. But there are certain trends you can look for in the product-market fit path.

Retention is the social proof to product-market fit. Other metrics to be watching for product-market fit include NPS, Customer Effort Score (CES), increased sales (upsells, cross-sells, and greater share of wallet). Win-Loss can also hold insights to how healthy product-market fit is.  

I scratch my head when companies don’t focus on retention. They should double-down on it. Yet, for many, it’s an after-thought.

In its 2018 NPS & CX Benchmarks Report, CustomerGauge still finds retention is an issue.

44% of respondents don’t know their customer retention rates, that’s one in three companies don’t know this vital info!

This aligns fairly well to my research that 2/3 of marketing budgets focus on acquisition activities and 1/3 is focused on retention.

This is another head-scratcher.

Companies place more resources on acquisition and feel it is more valuable than retention. Forget about data points from Bain – it costs 6-7 times more to acquire a customer than retain one – or Gartner – 80% of your future profits come from only 20% of your existing customers.

According to Bain, it costs 6-7 times more to acquire a customer than retain one. And according to Gartner, 80% of your future profits come from only 20% of your existing customers. Click To Tweet

There are numerous reasons for the push on acquisition.

This is the culture of the organization and how it measures success. Marketing doesn’t view itself as responsible for Marketing (to this I find fascinating, considering many marketing departments feel they own customer experience). Retention gets passed around so many times that ultimately no one ends up owning it. Investing and analyst communities place high value on acquisition and so CEO’s follow suit to be in lock step. Leaders have number-envy.

Ultimately, retention must be a mindset that is engrained in the culture.

It also troubles me when I hear people say product-market fit is elusive.

Why? How?

You want to determine product-market fit?

Get out there and research. Find people. Ask people. Take the data they give you and identify insights to help you craft your business model. Do the work.

Raising capital is vital. But it should not be the first plan of attack. Startups must make product-market fit job #1. All roads to startup success begin there.

Guest Posts, SaaS, Startups, Teams

5 Strategies to Strengthen Your SaaS Recruiting & Hire the Best Talent by @ShaylaPrice

This is a guest post by Shayla Price, a freelance content marketer.

SaaS recruiting requires a human resources team dedicated to the needs of the company and the job candidates.

If you’re seeking to hire the best talent, your business should take the necessary steps to create a pleasant experience for everyone involved. Sammi Caramela, a contributing writer at Business News Daily, explains:

“Hiring new talent is an inevitable and critical part of being a business leader, and it’s more complicated than just reviewing resumes and conducting interviews.”

Before posting your next job ad, take a moment to craft a plan. Here are five strategies to strengthen your SaaS recruiting process.

1. Determine your hiring needs

Hiring is a collaboration that involves several key stakeholders in your SaaS company. Without the right people at the decision-making table, you may waste time and money searching for candidates.

Depending on the position, you should enlist the help of senior managers, middle managers, and individual contributors. Together with people operations, your whole team can determine the business’s goals for hiring new talent.

Starting to recruit before you understand your team’s needs squanders resources and the candidate’s time. Below is an email I received after an initial interview and confirming a second meeting. The company decided to hire an internal team member for the role.

These types of interactions can ruin your reputation with qualified talent. It shows disorganization within your team and a lack of appreciation for the candidate.

The good news is that these situations are preventable. By designing a hiring plan before posting a job ad, you know exactly how to execute your talent search. You can decide the level of experience, the required skill sets, and the budget for the role.

It’s not in your SaaS’s best interest to begin the recruiting process without a strategy. Collaborate with your team and evaluate the current skill gaps in your workforce.

2. Avoid discounting candidates

Recruiting is an extension of your brand. It reflects how you treat your employees (and customers).

It’s important for your hiring team to approach candidates with respect. If not, you risk destroying your brand’s image and gaining an adversary.

Give candidates the same courtesy you expect from them. This expectation includes arriving to interviews on time, responding to emails in a timely manner, and avoiding combative language in an interview. Michelle Braden, president and CEO of MSBCoach, agrees:

“I have found making people wait when they have a scheduled appointment with you, interviews included, leaves a person feeling devalued and disrespected. Keep this in mind and honor your appointment times.”

Also, be mindful of how you approach the overall interview. Train your team to ask questions from a neutral standpoint, rather from a perspective laced with assumptions.

Don’t ask: I don’t see X tool on your resume. Do you know how to use X tool?
Ask this instead: Are you trained in X tool? If so, tell me more about your experiences.

Negatively-phrased questions puts the candidate in a defensive mode. As a result, you receive poor responses and might possibly make an unfavorable impression

Interviews aren’t just for you to evaluate future employees. Candidates are interviewing your company, too. So make an effort not to embarrass your team.

3. Minimize trial projects

Every SaaS team searches for a skilled candidate who can perform specific job duties. To assess a candidate’s work product, most companies assign a trial project. This assignment allows candidates to showcase their skills, while giving the hiring staff a glimpse into how an applicant approaches a problem.

Trial projects offer value to the recruiting process. Candidates get to see what type of work the job entails, and the hiring team receives confirmation of the individual’s skill level.

However, without specific internal guidelines, trial projects can become a deterrent to recruiting the best talent for your job opening. Through my own experiences, I’ve noticed hiring teams straying away from the purpose of trial projects.

Companies are demanding brand-specific projects that require more than eight hours of work. They are fishing for ideas on current tasks in their pipeline and getting free help from their job candidates. This practice is unethical and drives talented people away.

In the example below, this company asked me to complete four deliverables within two days. They wanted a research process document, content pitch, content outline, and a 300-500 word introduction.

The solution is to minimize your trial projects. Start by defining the purpose of the assignment. What do you want to learn about the candidate? Select one to two skills to test.

Also, move trial projects to the end of your hiring process. Only two to five candidates should be completing an assignment.

Excessive trial projects place an undue burden on the candidate and your team. You can alleviate that pressure by having more focus in your assignment.

4. Give undivided attention

Juggling the responsibilities of hiring top talent is an overwhelming process. From posting on job boards to scheduling interviews, it’s vital that candidates receive your undivided attention.

Distractions ruin the hiring experience. It’s also a sign of disrespect to the candidate. So, what counts as a distraction? It includes anything that interrupts your attention in the interview.

For instance, you don’t want to eat your lunch during a meeting with a job applicant. You also should avoid replying to emails or responding to Slack messages. Here’s expert advice from Hirenami:

“Human touch is crucial. Your hiring department should be responsive to any questions, and guide candidates along the way. Meet them where they are, rather than expecting them to come to you. The smoother the process is for your candidates, the more likely the top talent will be to make it through to the final interview and decision.”

I’ve experienced interviews where the hiring manager walked on a busy street or sat in a loud coworking space. These distractions aren’t helpful. All interviews should take place in a quiet room.

Coach your team about the significance of being mentally present in the interview. By listening with attentive ears, you open the door to the right talent.

5. Be transparent ASAP

Honesty and integrity should be present throughout the entire hiring process. It provides a baseline for your team to measure its performance.

Recruiting isn’t a perfect operation. Unexpected obstacles can halt everything. That’s why your team must develop a plan to resolve these issues.

By doing so, you can allocate your team’s time to more pertinent tasks, and candidates can make better decisions about their job search.

Take a look at the email below. After completing three interviews and a trial project over several weeks, the recruiter informed me the position would be on hold.

These issues can give your business a bad reputation. Candidates leave disgruntled and questioning your team’s transparency. If you’re going to place a position on hold, it’s imperative that you do it before interviewing candidates.

Reduce any unappealing hiring snafus by communicating with candidates frequently. You can provide them with a hiring timeline that outlines every stage of the process, from the number of interviews to potential delays.

More importantly, you never keep the candidate’s job search stagnant. If you’re not going to hire the person, it’s your responsibility to send a follow-up email as soon as possible.

Job candidates understand that unforeseen circumstances can alter the hiring process. When that happens, your team must take action to quickly notify candidates.

Hire with respect

SaaS recruiting is more than resume submissions and phone screens. So, ditch unhealthy habits, like requiring complex trial projects. Instead, strive to offer candidates full transparency. With this strategy, you add respect and dignity to your recruiting process and your brand.

Want to read more about hiring? Check out Omer Molad’s article, Why hiring is the growth hack you never considered.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Churn, Community, Customer Success, Human-to-Human (H2H), Products, Retention, SaaS, Startups

Slack’s community superpower for SaaS is all about churn


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


For SaaS products – whether B2B or B2C – Slack is where it’s at. By which I mean Slack is where your customers are already. But Slack has more going for it than just that. The platform is remarkably well-suited to creating exactly the kind of communities and engagement we’ve been talking about. The kind that fosters loyalty.

Consider:

Subscription-based businesses require strong customer relationships to prevent churn and increase customer lifetime value (the metrics that make or break your business).

Creating a community is one way to strengthen customer relationships and improve loyalty.

This is really – really – about eliminating churn.

Eliminating ‘Champion’ Churn

One of the leading causes of churn, especially for B2B SaaS, is when your ‘champion’ (the person who’s been talking you up to the boss, convincing everyone that you’re the solution they need) leaves. But if the whole team is on Slack? You’re already cultivating relationships with everyone, and they understand the value you bring.

Eliminating Churn among VIP Customers

BubbleIQ reported ZERO churn among the customers they shared Slack channels with. Now, they only began opening up private channels for their VIP customers who were already loyal and engaged, but still. Zero is a good number.

“Most companies rely on email or chat for support — but it turns out that’s a surprisingly high friction method of support for business customers today. Forcing customers through a formal contact form or into a long email thread creates a barrier between you, and makes it difficult to respond quickly to high priority issues.” – BubbleIQ

ProdPad’s Slack Community Experience

ProdPad also has never had a customer churn who was part of their Slack community.

Customers who join our Slack community were not cancelling their ProdPad plans at all. In fact, 99% of our cancellations were (and still are) coming from customers who weren’t part of our community.

In fact, ProdPad published a fantastic 40-minute video about their Slack community, and you should watch it. But I particularly loved what they said about how their Slack channel fostered and strengthened their relationships with their customers.

Andrea Saez, Head of Customer Success, talks about the “happy accidents” she discovered when their Slack community went live.

  • Users were helping other users to troubleshoot issues – out of the goodness of their hearts. So for those of you who might be concerned about the increased pressure put on your Customer Service teams, you might see the opposite effect. Cool, right?
  • The whole ProdPad team became involved and made themselves available to chat and answer questions, even the CEO, which meant that customers were taken care of even if the primary Slack designees weren’t immediately available. The “side effect” of this was that the whole team became more customer-centric, adding “a human touch to everything.”
  • Engagement levels rose – to the point where customers made friends with other customers.

As with any community, moderation was a challenge. They help set expectations with a Welcome Bot named Winston who greets new members and tells them the basics: how to submit feedback and ticket requests, and how to reach ProdPad members, as well as reminding them to be kind. I love the use of automation here!

There are so many good ideas in in this video for how to set up and use your Slack product community. It’s definitely worth the watch.

If you’re considering using Slack for customer support, Robbie Mitchell wrote a comprehensive Playbook for Working with B2B Customers in Slack that I recommend.


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

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

Startups

30 Women Shaping B2B Tech Marketing

In the world of B2B tech marketing, women are making an incredible impact around the world on brands large and small.

From successful marketing campaigns, to leading teams that drive bottom-line results, to development of inventive lead generation tactics–there are no limits to the glass ceilings they are smashing.

Kaleigh Moore interviewed 30 women about their biggest challenge as B2B tech marketers, their thoughts on the B2B tech landscape, and what they’re most proud of.

Here were my insights:

What’s your biggest challenge as a B2B tech marketer?

Getting press for early-stage SaaS startups who don’t have funding.

What’s the biggest shift/change you’re seeing in the B2B tech landscape right now?

Two things: Growth marketing and blended AI.

Growth marketing is the future. CMOs who adapt fastest will be poised to succeed, while those who don’t may find their jobs on the line. The stakes are high. Why the shift? It all hinges upon Customer Experience (CX). Forrester predicts: “30% of companies will see further declines in CX quality and lose a point of growth” in 2018. When growth slows, CEOs look to CMOs to fix it – and if they can’t, they’ll find someone who can: A Growth Marketer.

Forrester qualifies their prediction that blended AI is in our near future by also speculating that it will result in dropping customer satisfaction levels, “as companies drive more traffic to chatbots, self-service, and chat that are not fully optimized to engage customers effectively.”

Essentially, if you use AI/chatbots to replace human interaction, your customers won’t appreciate it. But, if you use AI/chatbots to facilitate human interaction… well, that’s another story altogether.

What’s something you’ve recently accomplished at work that you’re proud of?

I was live on the BBC talking about intersectional feminism for women in tech.

Read insights by other women
💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Churn, Guest Posts, Offboarding, Product Management, Retention, SaaS, Startups

How Transparency in SaaS Offboarding Reduces Churn by @ShaylaPrice

This is a guest post by Shayla Price, a freelance content marketer.

Too often as marketers, we consider churn a bad thing.

So we design our SaaS offboarding process in a way to trap our customers into staying. However, there’s a better way to do it. And that’s with transparency.

You can use offboarding to your advantage by discovering why customers weren’t meeting their desired outcomes. Lincoln Murphy, a customer success consultant, explains:

“The beauty of the SaaS business model is that you have visibility into the behaviors of your customers… and you should use this to reduce your SaaS churn rate. Specifically, you should be looking for signs that your customer is getting ready to leave and then do something to stop it.”

SaaS offboarding is a gut-wrenching reality check to serve your customers better. Below are five ways to add transparency to the process.

Set the Stage with an Offboarding Workflow

Making it difficult for customers to cancel their services is a big no-no. They won’t miraculously stick around because of your unwillingness to let go.

The opposite will happen. Churning customers will leave your business and will feel justified in their decision to do so. On top of that, they may spread the unpleasant news with their social network of friends and family members.

To prevent the public embarrassment, your team should build an offboarding workflow or cancellation workflow. It’s a sequence of steps that a customer must take to cancel their SaaS subscription.

Below is an example from Leadpages. When users want to delete their accounts, they land on a multi-option workflow, allowing them to select a reason for cancellation.

Image Source

Each option counters the customer’s reason for leaving. For instance, selecting “Difficulty of Use,” let’s the user sign up for an educational webinar or contact support. More importantly, there’s always the option to delete the account.

This offboarding workflow mitigates churn by offering a solution to the customer. It also gives your team essential feedback to understand why customers churn. That way, you can go revisit your onboarding process to fill in any gaps in users’ expectations.

Educate with Customer Success

Once users sign up for your product, you can’t leave them stranded as they attempt to figure out your platform. Focusing on customer success entails educating users every step of the way.

Of course, your team wants to be proactive, providing users with video tutorials, ebooks, and one-on-one support. Alan Gleeson, a B2B marketing consultant based in London, adds:

“More established SaaS businesses with enterprise clients will typically have a dedicated team whose job is to ensure that new account signups are onboarded successfully, and that the application is delivering value. They will also identify and nurture internal champions, who can facilitate up-selling and cross-selling, leading to negative churn.”

Customer success should play an integral part in offboarding, too. You don’t want to kick users to the curb just because they want to cancel.

Instead, you want to educate customers. You may have to address why they feel their current needs aren’t being met. Or you may highlight their alternative options if they decide to churn.

This educational approach puts the customers’ needs first. It also doesn’t abruptly end the relationship. Because you never know, the user may decide to buy from your SaaS business again.

Access to Your Cancellation Policy

Ever customer relationship won’t end with users becoming lifelong brand advocates. And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is failing to prepare for cancellations. Some users will want to deactivate their accounts immediately, and others will want a full refund.

While some user scenarios may call for a case-by-case review, most cancellations should follow a standard guideline. The key is to create a cancellation policy and make it easily accessible to your customers—without the unnecessary hassle.

Before developing a policy, you’ll want to consult with a local business advisor or legal professional. Their expertise will ensure you’re not violating any laws and are adhering to common business practices.

The next step is to find a happy medium between your company and the customer. How can you maintain a viable business and satisfy your customers’ expectations?

Whatever the policy, you want it to be accessible to the customer before and after they make a purchase. Post it in a visible area on your website and include the policy somewhere within your app. Here’s an example from PushAssist:

Image Source

Transparency is all about empowering your users to make informed decisions. Customers then can determine what works best for their situation. Making your policy readily available is a part of enhancing the customer experience.

Close the Loop with Feedback Emails

Some SaaS companies treat churn like a taboo topic. If they don’t talk about it, maybe it won’t be a real issue in the future.

Well, that’s the wrong mindset to possess in offboarding. Consider churn a chance to have an honest conversation with your customers.

Depending on your business, this communication may happen over the phone with a customer success rep or via a live chat platform. While these methods are useful, it may trap the user into providing an immediate response. (No one likes being pressured.)

Email marketing helps close the feedback loop with churning customers. You can send a message inquiring about their experience with your product. You also can send multiple emails—without being annoying—if a user fails to respond.

Check out the feedback request email below. Baremetrics doesn’t shy away from asking customers why they decided to cancel.

Image Source

Use email as a tool to gain pertinent details from churning customers. Be straightforward with your ask and keep the request short. You don’t want to bog users down with lots of questions.

Bake Long-Term Value into Your Strategy

While mending parts of your marketing and sales funnel is helpful, it’s only a short-term fix to your long-term challenge. You want to bake your goal of reducing churn into your overall business strategy.

Throughout the entire customer lifecycle, your team should be observing and requesting feedback from your users. This undertaking translates into prompting new users to tell you why they signed up for your product, monitoring usage data to understand the most frequently used product features, and giving users a chance provide candid feedback after churning.

With that information, you open the doors to knowing your customers’ pain points sooner. Then, your team can focus on adding more value. Julia Chen, former content marketing manager at Appcues, offers her insight:

“As long as your product is solving the pain of a customer, there’s a chance that you can keep this customer or get them to come back after they’ve canceled. That’s why it’s so important to have active conversations and to understand what drives their behavior.”

Combating churn means taking a proactive approach to talk with your users. It also requires transparency on how you will use those conversations to their benefit.

Rather than concealing the value-added process from users, be frank and take them along for the journey with blog post updates and in-app notifications.

Improve Your Offboarding Experience

In offboarding, your team can learn how to help both current and future customers. It’s an opportunity to reevaluate your path to achieving customer success.

Take advantage of churn by collecting insight in the offboarding workflow. Just make sure you offer transparency throughout the whole process.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

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

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


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

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

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


Do I really need a bot? 🤖💕

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

Bots can be downright loveable – for everyone.

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

But, do you need one right now?

That depends on your target demographic.

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

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

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

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

Why BAMF Loves Facebook Messenger Bots 📱💕

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Surprising Ways to Use Bots to Increase Sales 🤖📈

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

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

That’s just the tip of the bot-berg.

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

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

TOFU Bots

The mission: Build relationships by educating prospects

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

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

Arri recommends this strategy:

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

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

MOFU Bots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOFU Bots

The Mission: Make the sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arri’s best tips for recovering carts with bots

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

He says this technique can more than quadruple open rates:

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

Arri’s Quick Guide to Better Bots 🤖❤

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

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

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

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

The second most common problem: Not updating the AI.

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

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

“Is this a person or a chatbot?”

That’s the response you want.

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

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

So play by the rules.

5 Steps to a Better Bot 🤖💗

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

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Community, Content Marketing, Startups

How 14,500 marketers are creating the future of content consumption ft. @ZestisApp

Yam Regev is CEO, CMO and Co-Founder of Zest.is, a platform that delivers extremely high-quality content about marketing to marketers. In this interview, he talks about building a company with tribes, launching by word-of-mouth, and the big idea behind Zest that could change content consumption as we know it.

Zest.is addresses a problem we’ve all felt when searching for useful, informative articles online that tell us what we need to know – only to find fluff, misinformation, clickbait, and fake news. Social Media filters, Google’s algorithms and machine learning are currently no match for people who have learned to game these systems and manipulate readers into clicking into useless articles.

The nuts and bolts of Zest are simple. It’s a new-tab Chrome extension where marketers can share and discover high-quality, genuinely informative articles about marketing. All of the content on Zest’s feed is suggested and manually moderated by its marketer community members. In fact, less than one percent of suggested content makes it to the feed – a point of pride for Yam Regev, Zest co-founder, CEO and CMO.

Why sift through content manually instead of just developing better algorithms and machine learning? The thought had crossed their minds – before they dismissed it as just not good enough.

“When we thought of doing it that way, we thought we’d be only creating another manipulatable type of platform, like Google. We needed to create a human-based model, a vote-based type of platform. But even an upvote system can be manipulated, and there’s no guarantee upvoted articles contain valuable content – it can be like a popularity contest. We went to a Seth Godin Ted Talk in 2009, and he talked about the Tribe-based model.”

Seth Godin’s Ted Talk sparked an idea for Yam Regev and his co-founder Idan Yalovich, who didn’t plan on just creating another content curation platform. They wanted to start a much larger movement.

Seth Godin’s Ted Talk sparked an idea for Yam Regev and his co-founder Idan Yalovich, who didn’t plan on just creating another content curation platform. They wanted to start a much larger movement.

Read More on Canva


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My newsletter is strictly about building online communities, in places like Facebook groups and Slack channels (to name but two), around your SaaS product and brand. Communities help promote higher lifetime value, lower churn, happier customers, and – my favorite – customer success. But it’s not enough to just invite people to join. Creating a genuine sense of community is a little more complicated – and that’s what my newsletter is about.

Conversion Rate Optimization, Language-Market Fit, Product Launches, Product Management, Products, Startups

Don’t launch your product without a strong value proposition.

In today’s competitive landscape, brands are continually on a quest for innovation. A lot of research goes into understanding the consumer mind, their wants, and demands. Using such knowledge, companies invest thousands of dollars every day to develop new products.

A Nielsen report shows that almost 3000 new products are launched every year in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) space. Out of these, only 15% are truly successful.

Even if you have created a great product, a lot of its success is dependent on the launch. A product launch is vital because it creates the first impression in your audience’s minds. Here are some of the best tips shared by experts to help you avoid a product launch failure.

Shane Barker asked 32 experts to share their best tips on how to avoid product launch failure…

Here’s my tip:

You don’t want to launch without a strong value proposition. I see this happen far too often when people submit products to me for review (to post on Product Hunt – because that’s how they’re going to launch), I go to their website, and their value proposition does not convey their product’s value. It’s generic, or vague, or not there at all. There’s nothing that tells potential customers, at a glance, why they should be interested in the product or how it helps them solve their pain points. I recommend that anyone looking to launch a product first get the Value Proposition Design book (strategyzer.com/vpd) and work through it. Although there are many ways to work on your value prop, this is my favorite.

Two really good value propositions are on Lyft right now. They have a two-way marketplace, one for drivers, one for riders, and both value propositions are on point. The driver’s value prop is “turn miles into money” and the riders value prop is “meet your 5-star ride.” The first is stronger than the second, in my opinion, but that “meet your 5-star ride” basically tells riders that they will, absolutely, have a great experience.

Read Other Expert Tips on Shane Barker’s Blog

Wish you had someone to tell you if you’re planning your product launch right? Someone who’s done this before – a lot – and knows what it takes to bring SaaS products successfully to market?

Well hello.

I’ve helped hundreds of companies with their product launches – and I am happy to help you, too!

Launch your product with Rocket Fuel! 🚀

Content Marketing, SaaS, Startups, Teams

5 Brands Share Their Content Marketing Process ft. @Buffer, @AdEspresso, @CoSchedule, @Mention, @Hotjar

It’s a hazard of the job for content marketers. When you read or see a piece of high-quality content, you wonder how it got created. You ask yourself, “What does this company do to create great content? Is it great for business too?”

The simple answer is high-quality content serves both audience and business. “It’s written in such an energetic and engaging way that it will trigger the audience to take actions,” says Massimo Chieruzzi, CEO of AdEspresso.

If great content is written in an engaging way it will trigger the audience to take action. Click To Tweet

Nathan Ellering, head of demand generation at CoSchedule, says high-quality content is synonymous with highest-performing content. At his firm, that content includes five distinct characteristics: great topic, well-researched, optimized for search engines, comprehensive plus actionable, and optimized to capture leads.

High-quality content is synonymous with highest-performing content. Click To Tweet

Quality content is “powerful enough to stop people in their tracks, make them think, and debate with themselves or others. It is user-centric, capable of solving a user’s most painful challenges,” according to Hotjar’s Louis Grenier and Fio Dossetto.

Quality content is capable of solving a user's most painful challenges. Click To Tweet

Content marketing strategists from these three brands plus two more willingly shared how they ideate, strategize, and produce that high-quality content, and evaluate its success. Read on to get some tips and insight that you can incorporate into your content marketing process.

Read More on Content Marketing Institute
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