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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, Curation, Guest Posts, Tools

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

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

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

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

But first…

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

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

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

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

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

Finesse Your Facebook Searches

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

How so?

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

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

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

Search Hot Topics On Reddit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subscribe To Industry Newsletters

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

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

Use Existing Content Curation Tools

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

Tools like Crate allow you to find and share content within minutes. By uploading a handful of relevant keywords, you’ll get a feed filled with content to add to your Buffer queue or send out in a newsletter.

Scoop.it is another great curation tool that you can use to quickly and effectively curate your content. Scoop.it is a free site where users can gather information about any topic they want—think Pinterest, but for industry professionals.

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

Find Goodreads in Slack Communities

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

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

Dive Into Your Niche In Industry Forums & Communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email Marketing, Tools, Visual Communication

Here’s How GIFs Can Fire up Your Brand’s Email Open Rates ft. @CloudApp

gifsthatkeepgiving

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

I could watch Patrick Stewart facepalm all day. Through the wonder of GIFs, I’ve actually done just that, going into giggle-fits on every rotation.

Looped hilarity aside, GIFs are quickly spreading beyond Reddit and Tumblr and into mainstream marketing, and for good reason. They’re highly effective at achieving the KPIs every marketer wants: Better open rates, more views, and higher conversions. Also, people love ’em.

Email marketers can especially benefit from adding GIFs to their campaigns. In this post, we’ll cover exactly what you need to know about using GIFs to make your email marketing more convincing — and more fun — than ever before.

Read More on Moz


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Customer Success, Tools, Visual Communication

Words Are Awkward — Respond Faster, Visually, Without Typing a Word of Text ft. @SlackHQ & @CloudApp

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Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Slack-based Customer Success Ideas to Amaze & Delight Your Customers

Slack customer service has been making headlines in tech communities. Some say it’s a crowd-pleaser and a time-saver, others say the opposite. In short: A few forward-thinking companies are using the Slack not just for internal team communication, but also for customer communications.

If you’ve ever gotten into an argument with a significant other via text message, you know that you can’t express everything with words alone.

Words are awkward.

They can be misleading and confusing or imply the wrong sentiment all together. Use too few words, and the reader thinks you’re callous and uncaring. Use too many and they’ll just think you’re weird. Without the benefit of visual aids, vocal inflections and physical gestures, communication, especially between strangers, is tough.

When it comes to customer service and customer success, clear communication is vital. But clarity isn’t the only goal. That communication also has to be fun and engaging. It has to tell the customer “I care about you, your experience, and your success.” And, each communication should make the client stop and think “Wow, I need to tell my friends about this company.”

That’s a tall order to place on faulty words, so some companies are beginning to bring in visual communication tools to use with Slack, like CloudApp.

Read More on SaaScribe


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Content Marketing, Tools, Visual Communication

10 Creative Visual Tools & Where to Share Your Visual Content by @NikkiElizDeMere

Visual-Content-Tools

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Gone are the days when a simple infographic would cut the mustard. Today’s content marketers have to be agile, ready to take on everything from photo editing, to video editing, to creating memes guaranteed to go viral. Considering that many content marketers aren’t designers (or even former film majors) – that’s a considerable challenge. I’ve compiled my favorite tools that make visual content marketing easy for everyone, in nearly every medium. No expertise required.

But wait – there’s more. Creating visual content is only half the battle for marketers – I get that! So at the end of this post is a list of 10 Places to Share Your Designs That Will Bring You Way More Traffic Than Twitter or Facebook.

Happy visualizing!

10 Visual Marketing Design Tools for Non-Designers

1. PicMonkey (for collages & basic photo editing)

1

Picmonkey is a free, web-based photo editor and graphic design tool with a surprising number of ever-changing fonts, trendy color schemes and fun designs to choose from.

2. Placeit (for product mockups)

2

Placeit makes it easy to generate product mockups without Photoshop, and costs far less (one download costs $8, and monthly plans start from $12).

3. Visage (for data visualization)

3

Visage makes it easy to bring great design to data by making it simple to create charts and graphs, and visually design them with colors, fonts, clipart and high-res image backgrounds. You can also use it to super-impose words on background images (many of which are included in the freemium version), or to create infographics.

4. Free Stock Photos (for all of your royalty-free photo needs)

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Free stock photo sites:

  • Unsplash – Adds 10 new royalty-free photos every 10 days, best for breathtaking landscapes, cityscapes and still-lives.
  • Picjumbo – High-res photos, no attribution required for almost all images, best for food pictures.
  • Gratisography – Quirky, fun, provocative images by Ryan McGuire.
  • NewOldStock – A random assortment of vintage photos ranging from the Sphinx to the Rolling Stones, and everything in between.

5. Awesome Screenshot (for annotated screenshots)

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Awesome Screenshot, available on Mozilla, Chrome and Safari, allows you to take screenshots of whole pages or parts of pages and annotate them with shapes – exceptionally useful for critiquing pages and images.

6. Social Image Resizer Tool (easy resizing for those who don’t think in pixels)

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Social Image Resizer Tool makes it extremely easy to resize your images according to where you want to use them. Just upload your image and choose where it’s going – no need to know the pixel count.

7. Dissolve (a resource for video stock footage for commercial use)

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Dissolve has HD quality, royalty-free stock footage available for commercial use, making it easy to create a jaw-dropping video. Footage isn’t free, so expect to pay a few hundred for a 10-20 second clip.

8. Stencil (basic words on image generator for social media)

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Stencil is a Chrome extension that lets you quickly put words on images that are pre-sized for social sharing. $9/month.

9. Imgflip (for making memes)

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ImgFlip is a meme-creating tool that lets you customize font and text, and make GIFs from images or videos.

10. Qzzr (for creating quizzes)

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Qzzr is an app for creating interactive quizzes for free (with basic customization) or $299/year for Pro-level options.

10 Places to Share Your Designs That Will Bring You Way More Traffic Than Twitter or Facebook

As a content marketer, you likely spend as much or more time promoting your content than creating it (or you should be). But with so many content marketers flooding the main arteries of social media, it’s getting harder to get your content noticed, which is why many of us have found much better results from sharing our visual content via these networks.

  1. Pinterest – Some bloggers have cultivated followings of thousands just by using Pinterest, or a combo of Pinterest and Instagram (see The Dabblist). Sharing is free, but there is a science to which kinds of posts do best. They’re image-heavy, informative, and list-centric.
  2. Instagram – Instagram is a powerful tool for visual content marketers, especially for sharing customer-centric photos (pictures about your customers), employee-centric photos (pictures about your employees or CEO) and contest photos.
  3. com/oggl/ – If you use Hipstamatic’s photo effects to stylize your photos, you can share them on Hipstamatic’s community via their app. No one is as likely to appreciate your creative efforts as other creatives, and you might just up your game by getting ideas from your peers.
  4. com – Describing itself for “show and tell for designers,” Dribbble is where you come to really strut your stuff, or get ideas from the best. Top designs get thousands of page views and hundreds of likes.
  5. net – Another showcase site for creative work, Behance also allows you to get peer kudos in the form of thousands of views and hundreds of likes. You can submit your work to several categories, including Branding, Graphic Design, UI/UX and Web Design.
  6. Tumblr – Incredibly sticky with a hip, young audience, Tumblr can be a great resource for marketing to millennials, especially if you’re marketing to a tight niche and have an amusing image.
  7. org – If your design skills are ready to turn pro (and freelance), you might want to check out Designers Couch. It’s like a collection of portfolios for designers, illustrators, web designers, and other visual creatives.
  8. Slideshare – For B2B marketing, Slideshare is a happening place for sharing slides, infographics, and other informative visual materials. Don’t use it for blatant ads, but do use it for publishing exceptional original high-value content.
  9. Vine – With channels like “DIY” and “Gaming,” and a young, tech-savvy demographic, Vine is practically made to foster viral videos. If you’re trying to reach younger millennials, this is where they are. Prepare to entertain them within 6 seconds.
  10. Sub-Reddits & Reddit-Infographics – Finding the best Sub-Reddit for your niche is the hard part (there are so many). Uploading your infographic, meme, GIF or image is the easy part. But watch out for Mod rules like “no more self-promotion.”

Each social media outlet has its own style and its own user demographic, but that just makes them better tools for finding and attracting your target market. But one characteristic rings true for all of them: These are users who love good humor, great visuals, and truly innovative creativity.


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Customer Success, Tools

25 Tools to Integrate Customer Success into Your Business ft. @Segment

image1

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Predict churn, reach out to customers at just the right time, improve retention and increase new sales, upsells and cross-sells—the promises of a robust customer success program are practically a recipe for success. They might even sound too good to be true, but they make fundamental sense. When you provide your customers with the support they need to achieve their desired outcome, your success and their success go hand-in-hand.

That is the philosophy behind “customer success.”

But don’t think of customer success as a handful of tactics to reduce churn. It will serve you much better to embrace customer success as a high-level strategy to accelerate and sustain growth in a competitive market.

With the right stack of tools, integrating customer success practices into your business is relatively easy and painless. Here is a list of our favorite solutions for helping your customers reach their desired outcomes.

Read More on Segment


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Customer Success, Tools

The Customer Success Toolkit – And Why We Shouldn’t Even Call it That

customer success tools

When discussing tools for Customer Success, let’s first address the elephant in the room: Way too many companies approach Customer Success from a tool-first perspective. If you look at Customer Success like it’s something that can be accomplished with the right “stack,” you’re missing the most important part of the picture.

The tools will help you manage Customer Success, but it’s more of a philosophy – one that belongs in the very DNA of your business. For an outstanding definition of everything Customer Success is, and can be, read The Definitive Guide.

As of now, Gainsight is the leader in the very new space of Customer Success Management. The company’s tagline is “The Customer Success Company,” promising reduced churn, more up-sells, and more sales in general. Big claims, but it delivers.

Customers are deeply impressed by Gainsight’s ability to predict churn and help them reach out to customers at just the right times. These genuinely actionable insights come from analyzing several data sources, including product usage, support, billing, as well as marketing and survey data. Then, out of this primordial soup of numbers, Gainsight forms analytics and workflows so customer success teams know what’s happening – and what they should do about it.

This last detail is what has boosted Gainsight into its leading status. As Lincoln Murphy, Customer Success Evangelist at Gainsight says,

“Lots of systems can analyze data and present dashboards; but what do you do with that? How do you ensure all CSMs are working with customers in the same way? From a consistent customer experience to onboarding CSMs, this centralized workflow system powered by customer ‘insights’ is so powerful.”

Gainsight makes it possible to operationalize a rather complex process in ways other products in the category don’t. But with a little elbow grease and the right tools, you can build a customer success stack.

But first, a question: What type of Customer Success do you want to embrace? Lincoln Murphy puts people who say they want customer success into two camps.

“‘Customer Success’ is either a handful of tactics you use to save customers who might churn out… or it’s a high-level strategy used to accelerate and sustain growth over the long-term regardless of market conditions. Customer Success is just glorified Support with some Account Management (Quotas!) thrown in, or it’s a total shift in how you view – and profit from – your relationship with the Customer. Hint: If you’re not looking at it as a high-level strategy, you’re doing it wrong.

If Customer Success really is as important to a business as people say it is – and I believe it’s actually much more important than most people say – than it needs to be operationalized at least as well as other parts of the business. You can’t afford to buy a real Customer Success Management solution? I’d say, you can’t afford not to.

You can't afford to buy a real Customer Success Management solution? You can't afford not to. - Lincoln Murphy Click To Tweet

Are you ready for a change in the paradigm of how you view your business in relation to your customers? Or are you just looking for a new term to boost the morale of your customer service department, or maybe a new way to talk to your sales team about up-sells? These tools will help you do that too – but, from personal experience, I can tell you: Customers can tell the difference. They sense it when their interests are truly your own. They also feel it when you’re out for yourself first.

Customers sense it when their interests are truly your own. They also know when you’re out for yourself first. Click To Tweet

To truly reap the rewards of a customer success program, the end result should be vibrant, active, energized customer advocacy of your product – and that can only happen when the relationships between you and your customers are based more in their successes than your own.

Here are the tools to make that happen.

The Customer Success Toolbox

(Not all of these tools are necessary, and many can be used with each other)

Customer Success Frameworks

Customer success starts with your ideal customer – if those last two words result in a vague mental image of a happy customer, you need this:

  • Ideal Customer Profile Framework – Your Ideal Customer Profile – ICP – dictates (or should dictate) everything from the features and functionality of the SaaS product you build, to the words you use and the emotion you invoke or tap into in your marketing.

Customer Communication

A huge part of customer success is actually talking to and connecting with your customers.

  • GoToMeeting – Work can happen anytime, anywhere. GoToMeeting with HD video conferencing is a simple yet powerful way to collaborate in real time.
  • Intercom – Intercom is one place for every team in an internet business to communicate with customers, personally, at scale—on your website, inside web and mobile apps, and by email.
  • Talkus.io – Chat with your website users from Slack.

Vianney Lecroart, Founder at Talkus.io:

“We started Talkus with a blank page asking ourselves “Slack as a platform? So what would that look like – a help desk designed and created only for Slack?”

It’s a live chat + email helpdesk (phone and SMS support is in alpha) where you never have to leave Slack to talk with your users.

Basically, you have one Slack support channel where your support team is. It works like an email inbox (not like a chat). Each time you have a new request for chat or email, Talkus posts a sentence (ticket) in this channel and it updates the ticket when things happen (someone is handling the request, close the ticket and so on). So if the channel is empty, it means you have nothing to do (congrats!) and if it is full of tickets, good luck!

Here are a few nice things we have:

As you see here, we display users’ weather, location, and local time. It’s really useful to create very personal introduction like if it’s 4AM, “Hello John, how we could help you in the middle of the night?” or if it’s snowing, “Hello, made a snowman today?” You cannot imagine how happy people are when they receive personalized messages.

Since customer support teams never have to leave Slack to do support, it’s much faster to handle a new customer. Change channel, click and chat. The user is slow to answer? Just go back and you’ll receive a slack notification and CMD+K to switch again. No need to switch between your email ticket system, live chat system, Slack, and whatever else you have going on.

You can use all power Slack features. If you chat with a user who has a technical problem, just /invite your dev in the channel so he can directly help. You want to send a file? Just drop it in the channel. You can even use all other Slack integrations, like /giphy!”

Customer Health

How happy (and successful) are your customers with your product? Put your finger on customer pulse with these tools.

  • GoodData – Powered by advanced business intelligence tools and technology, the GoodData platform leads the industry in SaaS Business Intelligence.
  • Wootric – Measure Net Promoter Score inside your web application. It just got easier to improve your product, increase your promoters, and woo your customers.

Lisa Abbott, Director of Marketing at Wootric:

“Wootric is the in-app Net Promoter Score platform for boosting customer happiness. ‘In-app’ is important, because it is often the best way for SaaS businesses to engage with their customers. Our elegant survey delivers off-the-charts response rates (vs. email), and runs automatically for a constant pulse of rich, contextual feedback.

And, with our Javascript or SDK, it is a quick 5-minute install. No need to set up campaigns, or constantly update customer email lists. Our dashboard handles analytics and provides an easy way to close the loop with customers. This means teams can focus on aligning around their customer’s success, and do less NPS administration and number crunching.”

  • Totango – We help you know when your customers are ready to move to the next level, need a little more product coaching, or are doing just dandy.

Kaiser Mulla-Feroze, Chief Marketing Officer at Totango:

“Totango has a unique, differentiated way to manage customers based on a deep understanding of user engagement, service utilization levels, business results and ROI delivered to customers. Totango monitors customers much the same way a Fitbit monitors activity levels and vital signs. Totango’s software then goes a step further to help teams put in place action plans, best practice playbooks, and automated campaigns (e.g., a “get well” plan or an “up-sell” campaign) to improve customer health.”

Customer Support

Ideally, you’ll be able to catch problems before they rise to the level of a customer submitting a support ticket. For those times when you can’t…

  • Desk.com – Customer support software that makes customers happy.
  • Zendesk – Zendesk makes it easy to support customers when they need your help. Zendesk also makes it easy for them to help themselves when they don’t.

Customer Success Training

Because a crack-customer success team doesn’t happen by accident.

  • Learndot – Software that integrates with your existing systems that is designed to train customers to achieve success, fully branded and customized to attract and convert prospects.

Internal / Team Communication

Customer success is a team effort, and team efforts require some coordination.

  • Calendly – Say goodbye to playing phone and email tag for finding the perfect meeting time with Calendly.

Claire Suellentrop, General Manager at Calendly:

“Calendly is a scheduling tool that helps customer success teams scale their efforts and stay proactive. This looks different from team to team, but some of the biggest value-adds we’ve heard from our users include:

Making the onboarding process more efficient, since customer success specialists can offer regular group training calls to clients with similar needs

Giving customers a better experience, since they can book a support or training call at their convenience (no need to wait for confirmation of their proposed time or reach out only during office hours)

Freeing team members from phone and email tag, allowing them to run their day—not be run by it.”

  • Confluence – Create anything your team needs – meeting notes, product requirements, knowledge base articles – on the web so everyone can contribute.
  • Gmail – Google-owned, web-based email service.
  • Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Calendar, etc.) – An all-in-one suite to communicate, store and create.
  • JIRA – JIRA Software offers flexible issue and project tracking with best-in-class agile tooling for software teams.
  • Slack – Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.
  • Targetprocess – Visually manage complex work and focus on the things that matter – Targetprocess gives the visibility and transparency you need across your organization. From Kanban and Scrum to almost any operational process, Targetprocess flexibly adapts to your management approach and organizational structure.

Alena Kuzniatsova, Marketing Director at Targetprocess:

“Targetprocess helps its customers to achieve success by enabling agility: you can use Targetprocess as a project management tool supporting any flavors of Scrum, Kanban and other Agile approaches and the tool adapts to your own processes and workflows. On top of that, Targetprocess is a visual tool which means it gives your superior visibility across projects, programs, teams and departments. The visibility is very important for understanding what is happening in your organization at each given moment and where you can improve. The remarkable flexibility and visibility provided by Targetprocess set it apart from other Agile project management tools.”

Analytics & Metrics

Data-driven doesn’t even begin to cover the importance of tracking data for customer success. These tools make it possible to see what your customers are doing, and where they might be failing.

  • Heap – Heap is web and mobile analytics that automatically captures everything. You can analyze data instantly and retroactively.

Lenny Eskin, Head of Demand Generation at Heap:

“Heap is a new approach to analytics. Whereas other analytics tools require manual tracking code, Heap automatically collects all user interactions such as clicks, form submissions, page views, etc. This lets people get the business insights they need instantly and retroactively, without writing any code. Anyone in an organization can use data to drive their decisions.

Customer Success teams can use Heap to better understand user churn and engagement. Heap provides insights into retention over time, indicators that help predict churn, and potential up-sell opportunities. Every granular detail on a user’s activity is available, which lets Customer Success teams flexibly segment users to truly understand what keeps them engaged.”

  • ChartMogul – Reporting and analytics designed for SaaS and subscription businesses.

Ed Shelley, Direct of Content at ChartMogul

ChartMogul allows subscription businesses to go far beyond simple metrics and reporting. Our powerful set of tools such as Segmentation mean that you can access much deeper insights into your subscription revenue, leading to more informed decisions towards the rapid growth of your business.

Customer Success executives use ChartMogul to give a laser focus to their efforts. Churn analysis tools like Cohorts identify trends and critical periods for customer churn, whilst Segmentation unlocks a range of Customer Success-specific views of the data – for example, correlating product engagement with churn rate.”

  • Popcorn Metrics – Tag and send user events to mixpanel, KISSmetrics, google, Intercom.io, Customer.io, Trak.io, Segment.io (…) without needing developers.  

Paul Boyce, Founder of Popcorn Metrics:

“If there’s one key lesson I wanted to share, it’s this: Build your customer onboarding process with the single goal of helping users become successful in their job, help make it easy for them, and if you can do that – then they’ll become your customer as a natural consequence. Even better, you’ll have customers that you’ve invested time in and started building a trusting relationship that should last a long time – as both yours and their business grows.

Most of the value from event-based customer service tools (like Intercom.io, Mixpanel and Customer.io) depends on knowing what a user has done on your website – and typically that means needing IT to integrate the tools.  

Popcorn Metrics is unique because it replaces the need for developers, with a low-tech point-and-click service to capture and send user data, allowing Customer Success Managers the freedom to use their favorite Customer Success platforms without being constrained by IT resources.  

Rather than being just another metrics platform, Popcorn Metrics is built for Customer Success Managers to capture and send individual user behavior data to multiple Customer Success platforms. We push data to Mixpanel, Intercom.io, Customer.io, Segment.com, and more.” 

Subscription Management

So much of churn happens through failures to renew – in other words, poor subscription management. This tool makes that part easy.

  • Recurly – Subscription billing and recurring billing management. Recurly offers enterprise-class subscription billing for thousands of companies worldwide.
  • Chargify – Streamline your subscription management and recurring billing. Chargify offers tools proven to reduce churn, provide better customer support, and grow recurring revenue.

Adam Feber, Director of Marketing at Chargify:

“Chargify has been in the subscription management space for 7 years, and in that time, we have become experts at what features and functionality it takes to build and grow a successful subscription-based business. Outside of being easy to create your plans, integrate your website/app, and be up-and-running, we give all of your teams tools to succeed.
For example, sales and marketing can quickly spin up campaigns or apply discounts on the fly to close deals faster. Customer success can identify and engage with at-risk or past due accounts to reduce churn. Support can easily locate plan information and billing history, issue credits, process refunds, and make account changes. Management can understand the health the business through a variety of reports and analytics.
And most importantly, your company can scale without having to worry about building or maintaing proprietary code. This allows you to focus resources on serving your customers and growing your business.”

Up-sells & Cross-sells

Ah, the real meat and potatoes of what customer success has to offer. And these tools nail it.

  • Salesforce – Provides on-demand customer relationship management (CRM) software services to help companies with global customer communication.
    • ToutApp – (Records email communication into Salesforce.) ToutApp helps salespeople close more deals and increase productivity with the power of tracking, templates and analytics.

Integrate Your Toolbox

It’s always nice to have everything you need in one place.

  • Segment – Collect user data with one API and send it to hundreds of tools or a data warehouse. Tip: If you think you’ll be interested in investing in a full-blown CSM tool (like Gainsight) in the future, make sure you leverage other tools that have a Segment integration. Then when it’s time to invest in a CSM, Segment will easily integrate your data.

Diana Smith, Director of Marketing at Segment:

Most companies want to use a lot of tools to do different jobs: customer success, email marketing, advertising, analytics. Segment makes it easy to use all these tools without wasting needless time integrating them one by one. Plus, you’ll operate on a consistent dataset in each tool. Integrate Segment. Flip a switch to send data to every new service.

For example, you can use Segment to automatically start sending your website and app data to customer success tools like Gainsight, Preact, Client Success, and Intercom. Or, if you’re more of a DIY kinda gal, our Warehouses product gives you all of the data you need to understand what your customers are doing. You can create custom dashboards on top of your SQL instance showing everyone on an account, the last interactions they had in the product, their overall usage, the marketing channel they came from, and more.”

All-In-One

The full enchilada. All the bells and whistles. The product that practically created the customer success movement as we know it.

  • Gainsight – “The Customer Success company.”

Lincoln Murphy, Customer Success Evangelist at Gainsight:

“When it comes to Customer Success Management, like any other part of the business, you need to be clear on what you’re doing before you select a tool, otherwise you end up shaping your strategy around the tool or selecting bad-fit tools that waste time, energy, and resources to move beyond. You need to have a clear Customer Success strategy, know how that strategy will play out across the customer lifecycle and organizationally, and know what success will look like for your Customer Success Management initiative.

Then you can – and should – operationalize by leveraging technology, and Gainsight is the only true Customer Success Management product on the market, that allows you to fully operationalize across the entire customer lifecycle, and across all customer segments (from very low-touch to super high-touch), from ensuring your customers are achieving their Desired Outcomes and triggering appropriate intervention if they aren’t (or if they could use more seats, add-ons, training, etc.), to ensuring your Customer Success Managers are all working from the same playbook and accurate customer information.”

Customer Success Stacks in Action

How do companies combine these tools in the real-world? I asked a few of my favorite startups to share their stacks.

Product Hunt

According to Ryan Hoover, Founder of Product Hunt, their Customer Success stack is a combination of Respondly and Intercom.

Unbounce

According to Tia Fomenoff, Customer Success Manager at Unbounce, their Customer Success stack is a combination of:

  • Intercom for auto-messages and looking up conversation history/general user data
  • Gmail for some personal inbound account questions
  • Calendly for customers to book meetings with us
  • Slack/Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Calendar, etc.) for team communication
  • Zendesk for ticket management and transparency
  • Recurly for customers’ subscription/billing management
  • Targetprocess for delivering feedback to our Product Team
  • and are just beginning to adopt Totango for customer health

ServiceRocket

According to Kendall Beckelhymer, Customer Success Manager at ServiceRocket, their Customer Success stack is a combination of:

  • Toutapp – Records email communication into Salesforce with my customers and allows me to set follow-up reminders that pop-up in my inbox.  Additionally, I can send out personalized email blasts on specific things that are of interest to all of my customers, like key new releases, events, etc.
  • Google Calendars/GoToMeeting – Most of my days are spent talking to customers either in-person or remotely. Google Calendars is my life and GoToMeeting is the tool we use for remote meetings.
  • Salesforce – To track upcoming renewals, up-sells and account status
  • Desk.com (hooked into SFDC) – This support channel which also pushes into SFDC so the CSM’s can get a single view on their accounts including escalated support tickets.
  • JIRA – To communicate with PM/Engineering team on bugs, new feature requests, etc.
  • Confluence – For internal collaboration and this is also where we host our externally facing documentation.
  • Google Drive – For collaboration with my customers.
  • Learndot  – Big fan of getting my hands dirty to solve problems, getting in our product and putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes is the way to do this. Our product Learndot allows customers to run successful training businesses. If business is good than this is an indicator of our team’s success as well. If business is not good then it’s important to discuss this with our customers as well to brainstorm on initiatives, integrations and features to leverage to move the needle.
  • GoodData – This gives great business analytics dashboards on the overall health of each account  

Proven 

According to Alex Bakula-Davis, Head of Customer Success and Sales at Proven, their Customer Success stack is a combination of:

  • For our CRM we went classic with Salesforce
  • For support we use Zendesk, Zopim (chat), and Yesware for email
  • Customer analytics / tracking we use a combination of Fullstory, Google Analytics, along with some home-made tools that have survived the test of time
  • For Customer Engagement and task management we use Totango
  • We use HubSpot for both customer education (blog posts, FAQs), and for reactivation campaigns (workflow emails for cancelled or dormant accounts)
  • Venngage for infographics (mostly for ROI or usage infographics)
  • Join.me for screen share
  • Last but not least, we use the phones! When in doubt, we try to call customers as we’ve found that it’s the best way to get to the problem, or proactively delight them.

Know your ideal customer. Communicate with your ideal customer. Understand what that customer wants, and track whether or not they’re getting it. Then, help them get more of it. These are the basic tenets of customer success, and when you’re a brand new company, you can achieve them with nothing more high-tech than a phone. But when your business grows, your customer success solutions have to scale with you. That’s when you need a stack of tools designed with your customer’s success in mind.


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

Content Marketing, Data Science, Metrics, Tools

Data Storytelling 101: Helpful Tools for Gathering Ideas, Designing Content & More by @NikkiElizDeMere

data-storytelling

It’s an exciting time to be a content marketer. But it’s also a challenging time.

As more companies continue to jump on the inbound marketing bandwagon, the influx of content seems to be turning into a bit of a traffic jam. And few things have the power to cut through this noise like data storytelling.

Combining the visual appeal of images with the trust engendered by raw data, data storytelling is a force to be reckoned with. Marketers are using data storytelling to support every part of the buyer’s journey, from attraction and consideration to conversion and delight. What better content to offer a consideration-stage buyer than a comparison chart between your services and your competition’s?

Not a data analyst? No worries. Check out the list of tools below. From data collection to design, this roundup of resources is designed to make it easy for anyone to get started with data storytelling.

Read More on HubSpot


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

Customer Development, Tools

Most Useful Tools, Tips & Checklists for Collecting Qualitative Data ft. @sgblank

qualitative-data

Qualitative data – information gathered from ideal customers by open-ended questions – is the foundation of success for startups, SaaS companies, and anyone else who thinks they have a solution to a problem that could potentially make money. Asking real people pertinent questions allows entrepreneurs to avoid making costly assumptions, and most importantly, lays the groundwork for the kind of customer success that leads to retention and the potential for wild, insane, Google-level growth.

Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, authors of The Startup Owner’s Manual, recommend that founders interview 50 potential customers – in 10 to 15 in-person visits per week – which could require contacting 200 customers or more. While we’re sure the data collected from such interactions is worth the time and effort, we also realize that some of your ideal customers are located around the globe, which makes face-to-face time difficult (and expensive).

Here are the most useful tools, tips and checklists we’ve come across for collecting qualitative data without using up all of your frequent flyer miles.

Read More on Inturact


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

Curation, Social Media, Tools

Twitter Stack Used by @NikkiElizDeMere

twitter-stack

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

I have almost 60,000 followers on Twitter (as of February 2017), and while that might not be Lana Del Rey numbers (she’s in the millions), it’s enough for people to ask me which tools I use to manage my Twitter account. If you’re into Growth Marketing or Customer Success, and want to meet other people in your industry, find mentors, market your products and services, or just want in on the conversation, here’s how I do all that and more.


Grow with TribeBoost and FollowerWonk

TribeBoost helps you increase your Twitter followers by monitoring real-time hashtags and keywords that specifically relate to your niche. Then they go one step further by looking at biographical data, location and influence, and automatically follow the most promising leads. You know how it works – to gain followers, first you must follow. What I love about TribeBoost is that it doesn’t unfollow users who follow you back.

FollowerWonk lets me look at who my followers are, where they are, and what they’re talking about, which means I can find people with common interests that much faster. Hey, we might have even met that way.

Automate Twitter with Buffer and IFTTT (or Zapier)

I use Buffer to schedule my Tweets in advance, Start A FIRE to promote my brand and content, and IFTTT to, well… this takes some explaining. IFTTT is a semiacronym for “if this, then that.” You enter an if-then statement, like “If new Twitter follower, then send LinkedIn invitation.” It’s really amazing and can be used for everything from social media to getting alerts on your phone when the book you’ve been waiting for finally hits Kindle. Well worth your time to investigate its possibilities.

Chat with TweetChat and HashTracking

All the best conversations are happening in Twitter these days. It’s the best way to reach other people in your industry, like mentors, bloggers and thought-leaders. TweetChat makes it easy to chat by letting you just enter in a hashtag to follow a conversation. From there, you can save your favorite conversations on FavePages (sorted by date and hashtag) and even share FavePage Stories – all the Tweets in a conversation, curated by you (i.e. you can hide and re-order Tweets as needed).

HashTracking literally optimizes your conversation by telling you stats on the hashtag being used, lists of contributors and influencers, and giving you the ability to create shareable HashTracks™ infographics.

Make it Pretty with Canva and Pablo

I remember the days when 140-characters was all you got – now we’ve got a thousand words we have to come up with! In pictures, I mean. I use Canva and Pablo to create quick images that gain a little more attention for my Tweets.

Share Faster with Pullquote

Pullquote makes it easy for me to Tweet quotes or images from articles I find online. Just highlight the quote, select Tweet from the menu that pops up, enter your thought, tag it, and it’s Tweeted. A content curator’s dream.


Yes, I love my tools, but their sole purpose is this: To make it easier for me to share really interesting, useful content with you. That said, the one thing that I think you should never automate is engagement (I hate automated DMs), but everything else is fair game.

What are your favorite tools? Leave a comment and let me know.


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