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 💗

Community, Diversity, Human-to-Human (H2H), Inclusion, Marginalization, Social Media, Women in Tech

Don’t tweet in a bubble: why & how to diversify your feed

Birds of a feather tend to flock together, but that’s why they call them ‘bird-brains.’ Here’s how, and why, to diversify your Twitter feed.

Twitter Stats & Social Facts

Tech doesn’t just have a diversity problem in the workforce – tech workers and leaders often live in an online social bubble of, well, men. Mostly white men.

When the echo chamber of our tech community continues into our online social communities, it’s too easy to find yourself in a homogenous bubble that is so large and opaque that it eclipses the world outside of it.

And that is dangerous to us as people, as world citizens, as tech makers and users.

Yes, the Twitter feed diversity problem is real.

Not-so-fun fact: Elon Musk didn’t follow a single woman on Twitter until October of 2016 – and only then because a Motherboard article called him out on it. Musk isn’t alone. The Guardian looked at the Twitter accounts of several male tech leaders and found that they followed between 2 and 11 times as many men as women. The CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, for instance, followed 238 men and 29 women at last count (also in 2016).

And that’s just the male to female ratio. They didn’t even touch on people of color or the LGBTQ communities.

When you consider that most founders of tech startups in America are white, and the average white American only has one black friend (75% of white Americans don’t have any black friends), it’s clear that not only do most of us in tech live and work in our bubble – we’re so far in it that it’s hard for some to imagine how to climb out.

I suggest starting to diversify your life and work by inviting in different ideas and opinions on Twitter. No, it’s not going to fix the diversity problem in tech or lead to world peace. But at least it’s a start.

How can you diversify your feed?

As with making most changes, awareness is the first step.

Check yourself

It’s easy to look at the list of people you follow on Twitter and feel fairly satisfied that you do have a diverse group. The human mind is funny that way. We see what we expect to see. Try this app, Proporti.onl, to see how your feed really stacks up. If you’re surprised by your results and feel like you’ve got a long way to go, that’s okay – I’m still working on diversifying my feed, too!

Consider all types of diversity

Diversity doesn’t just mean ethnicity or the spectrum of LGBTQ – it’s also about cultural diversity. People who believe, think and act differently than you. That isn’t to say you should befriend people who don’t share (or who are actively against) your core values. But try to recognize and respect other ways of being.

Don’t just add – listen

James Governor, co-founder of RedMonk, wrote about his effort to diversify his Twitter feed and made a very important point:

It’s not enough to add people who are different than you – you also have to listen to them. And that’s not always comfortable.

“You will certainly find yourself challenged. […] Question your assumptions. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll be smarter for it, and learn crucial lessons in empathy. Sometimes it’s the little things.”

The benefits are worth the effort. When you listen with an open mind to what different people are saying (and yes, complaining about) you gain insight into how to treat people with more sensitivity and communicate more effectively.

As James Governor also says, “following a broader range of people means that suddenly – surprise! – it’s a lot easier to find amazing speakers for tech events.”

Perhaps, most importantly for us in tech, this is an exercise in empathy. When we have empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – we build better products, better user experiences, and better relationships in and outside of work.

Not sure where to start? Here’s my shortlist of diverse voices who are sure to add unique, smart perspectives to your feed

Community

A community breakup from both sides – it’s a good vibes kind of mutual breakup

You might see, or hear, that I’m leaving Zest.is – the innovative marketing content stream that is co-distilled by marketers. It’s true. I am. It’s a cause I believe in (better content for all! Hand-picked!), people I genuinely like, and a community of peers I respect.

It’s like one of those break-ups where you remain friends, because you’reboth really great people, and it just didn’t work.

But, in the interest of examining the question of when to leave a community, I’m not going to leave my story at that. This also isn’t a blame game – not at all.

Here’s what happened.

Zest’s brand voice has extremely tight parameters that I could never quite jam myself into. I tried. I failed, a lot. And I had some ideas I thought were great (20+ years of experience will do that to a person) but the Zest team rarely agreed. My writing style is devoid of exclamation points and buzzing excitement – which are Zest trademarks. I’m just not that perky, folks.

I felt like I was trying to cram my square-pegged self into a lemon-shaped hole, and it wasn’t working. They knew it, I knew it.

Leaving was a mutual decision – and not in the way people say “oh, it was mutual” when it clearly wasn’t. Mutual for realsies. I wasn’t a good fit for what they needed; they weren’t a good fit for the value I could provide.

And when that happens, sometimes it takes a little while to diagnose. That in-between time feels terrible, like you’re constantly failing, like you suddenly know nothing and can do nothing right. It felt like there was a blanket put over my fire, because I’m so passionate about what I do.

These are the symptoms of bad fit.

When there’s bad fit, you’re not the only one who suffers. Your manager, your team, your community all suffer. It’s better for everyone to part ways.

This isn’t about how Zest did me wrong. They didn’t. It is about how to make the right decision about moving on from a startup, or community, or any relationship that you love when you’ve reached an impasse.

If you’re in a community or a job or a relationship – whatever it is – and your gut feeling is that it isn’t working out, you’re probably right, and it’s nobody’s fault.

I only have nice things to say about Zest. They’re good people. In many ways, it’s like losing a really good friend. I felt that close, and I still love what they stand for and what they’re doing.


A word or two from Yam, Zest’s CEO

Sometimes you fell in love with someone but you can’t put your finger exactly on the reason of why you fell in love with that individual.

This is not the case here. I fell in love with Nichole in the moment she suggested her first content in Zest.

It was love from first suggestion.

After that, we built together her job description and kicked off our partnership.

Working together as a team is the equivalent of living together, right? You have your ups, your downs, you need to show flexibility, carness, be mindful and take the full responsibility for each other.

We excelled in most of the above, but what we did not excelled in, felt like something we can’t overcome at this point of time.

Eventually, like in many other breakups, it’s not a case of “it’s not you it’s me”, nor “it’s not me it’s you”. In this case it’s a timing issue. Timing reflects on where Zest is today, where its brand maturity is and also, where I’m as a CEO is on this axis of timing.

Nichole, is our first love. I appreciate her as a person and as a professional.

I’m sure that our yellow brick roads will cross each other’s again at a later stage.

It’s a good vibes kind of a mutual breakup.

Love you so much, Nichole, and wishing a tonnnnn of luck and good karma in your next adventure/s

Yam Regev

Co-Founder and CEO

Zest.is

Customer Success, Onboarding, SaaS

“What are some of the best marketing strategies for SaaS?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

There’s no one SaaS marketing strategy that will win the day all by its lonesome self. A good strategy will perform best when grounded in a holistic, company-wide commitment to customer success.

With that in mind, here’s my ‘recipe’ of sorts:

  • Analyze what your customers need to succeed with you (aka. Their ‘success potential’) and check for customer fit. This will help you target your ideal customers – the ones who need your product, can succeed with your product, and will probably love your product.
  • Create a customer-centric onboarding (not product centric) process that moves the customer closer to their ideal outcomes. Ie. rather than just teaching them how to use the tool, move them through the process of using your tool to get measurably closer to reaching their goal (and then celebrate every milestone so *they* know they’re getting closer to their ideal outcomes!). In-app messaging, with tools like Intercom, are ideal for this.
  • Drive engagement through Customer Success. This can be done with the SaaS marketing journey that Trevor Hatfield and I devised. Inbound marketing alone isn’t sufficient for SaaS; it leaves out a vitally important part of the equation. Writing customer success content (content that helps customers reach their ideal outcomes) is the other part, because successful customers increase referrals and decrease acquisition costs.
  • Reactivate “ghost” customers and light a fire under your retention efforts.
  • Design a solid offboarding experience to win back customers who are considering canceling (they haven’t churned yet!). Consider creating an ‘offboarding workflow’ that asks the user what their reason is for wanting to cancel, then presents a solution – like educational content or contacting support – as an alternative to cancellation.

Yeah, none of these fall under the typical marketing purview, I know. But, in my opinion, these are the steps you need to take to build the kind of sustainable, customer-centric business that’s so beloved, your customers will do your marketing for you. (Don’t worry Marketing department, they won’t take your jobs – just make them easier!)

I also wrote extensively on about how to acquire SaaS customers.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

SaaS

“Which resources can you recommend for reading about SaaS marketing?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

As a SaaS consultant and professional content curator, I have an enormous reading list for SaaS. These resources are among my favorite and give much fuller, more complete and nuanced perspectives on SaaS.

Both Sides of the Table – Covers entrepreneurship, startup lessons, venture capital and inside scoops on startups making the news.

Founder/CEO of Reforge, formerly VP of Growth at HubSpot, Brian Balfour doesn’t ‘blog’ – he writes essays, and they’re amazing.

Brian Halligan – CEO at HubSpot, Author of Inbound Marketing book, MIT Sr. Lecturer.

Chaotic Flow – Blog and lots of ebooks about everything SaaS, penned by Joel York.

Copy Hackers – Not exactly SaaS, but it’s a great resource for SaaS copywriting tips.

Forget The Funnel – Gia Laudi and Claire Sullentrop are independent consultants and advisors for places like Unbounce and Calendly. Every week, they send weekly video workshops on marketing.

Hiten started Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics and Quick Sprout – 3 good reasons to read everything he writes (plus titles like “Growth hacking was invented with a mint julep and two beers.”

Intercom’s blog has beautiful original art and really high quality articles that are fun to read.

Inturact – Wake up. Kick SaaS. Repeat.

Advice from the founder of WP Engine and Smart Bear Software, Jason Cohen.

Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré – This one’s mine – but that can still be a favorite, right?

OkDork – Posts and podcast from Chief Sumo (at Sumo & AppSumo) Noah Kagan.

Open View – Most posts are on growing, scaling and managing.

Price Intelligently – This blog specializes in pricing page teardowns that are some of my favorite content on the web.

Product Habits – Lots of “how big-name company did it” type articles, all well written.

Reforge – This blog focuses entirely on growth, who’s doing it and how to do it better.

Sixteen Ventures – All things Customer Success.

The Angel VC – Angel investor Christoph Janz’ thoughts on startups, SaaS and early stage investing.

Tomasz Tunguz is a venture capitalist at Redpoint and peppers his posts with marvelous graphs.

[I would love to add more women and non-binary people to this list, please reach out if you know of any who have amazing blogs about SaaS!]

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Churn, Customer Success, Quora Answers, Retention, SaaS

“What’s the best strategy you’ve used to decrease churn in your SaaS business?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

I don’t own a SaaS company myself, but I am a consultant for many SaaS companies. What I’ve seen work best for my clients when it comes to churn is to first look at how they’re doing from a Customer Success perspective.

  • Are they attracting customers who have the potential for success with their product?
  • Does their onboarding process get their new customers closer to reaching their ideal outcomes (and does the SaaS business understand what their customers’ ideal outcomes are – because that’s not a given).
  • Has the onboarding process been optimized to help new customers bridge success gaps, celebrate milestones, and trigger red flags for customer success (or customer service) if the new customer runs into trouble?

These first three steps are vital to setting up customers for success.

From there, I recommend not starting from a place of “Why are customers churning?” but rather “Why are my best customers staying?”

Focus on doubling down on what you’re doing well. You can’t afford to divert resources from what people love about your product and company so you can try to plug the holes in your bucket.

Finally, you can look at which customers are leaving (and check whether or not they’re your ideal customers – maybe they should leave), and why they’re leaving.

Then organize the Whys by what you can fix fastest, with the least amount of resources, for the biggest impact, and tackle them one by one.

I also recommend creating a community for your SaaS, whether it’s on Slack (BubbleIQ reported ZERO churn among the customers in their Slack community), Facebook, or it’s a DIY-community that you’ve built, that way you can get super close to your customers.

I originally answered this question on Quora.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Customer Experience

5 Ways to Break Down the Data Silos that Hurt Customer Experience

Do you have a data silo problem?

  • Do customers complain of having to explain everything about their business to sales, and then to customer success, and then again to customer support?
  • Is customer support hearing about the same issues, over and over again, that aren’t being addressed by product?

Those are just two of the most frequent symptoms of data silos. Here are some more, reported to us by our friends at Segment.

  • Inability to answer complex questions about your customer journey.
  • Inability to quantify the impact of a given campaign against down-funnel, often offline conversations (like Salesforce lead status updates).
  • Inability to affect targeting criteria in a given channel based on interactions that occurred in another (ie. you’re spamming users across channels when they’ve already converted or signaled their preferences in another.

What do all of these silo symptoms have in common? They all damage customer experience, and they all result from data not being shared between teams and departments.

Read More on Wootric
💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Books, Giveaways

The 10 Most Inspirational Startup Books I’ve Read GIVEAWAY

I have an extensive personal library of books on startups and… if you’ve read a few yourself… you know some are better than others. Well, I’m giving away ten books that have personally inspired me the most, and I think they’ll do the same for you.

Want in?

There are four ways to enter, and yes, you can use ALL of them!

Not-so-fine-print:

To participate you must be in the U.S. because figuring out international contest legalities is really complicated.

A winner will be drawn at random. The more points you have, the better chance you have to win.

Inspirational Startup Book Bundle Giveaway


Playbook to Grow Your SaaS Business With Your Customers
by Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré & Trevor Hatfield

Announcing a Zero bullshit, actionable AF guide to growing SaaS businesses with your customers. We’re still working on this book, but you’ll get a free copy when it’s out!


Love YourSelf Like Your Life Depends on It
by Kamal Ravikant

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It got me thinking about the importance of self-love – because we can’t do the hard work of building a business without it.

From the description:

“In December of 2011, I gave a talk to an audience of scientists, Pentagon officials, politicians, and CEOs on the secret of life and how I’d figured it out the previous summer. Afterwards, people came up individually and told me how much what I’d shared meant to them. This book is based on the truth I spoke about. It’s something I learned from within myself, something I believed saved me. And more than that, the way I set about to do it. This is a collection of thoughts on what I learned, what worked, what didn’t. Where I succeed and importantly, where I fail daily. The truth is to love yourself with the same intensity you would use to pull yourself up if you were hanging off a cliff with your fingers. As if your life depended upon it. Once you get going, it’s not hard to do. Just takes commitment and I’ll share how I did it. It’s been transformative for me. I know it will be transformative for you as well.”


Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace
by Jessica Bennett

This is such an important read no matter what gender you are. Everyone should become more aware of what underrepresented groups go through in the workplace, because it’s not always obvious (even though it’s always felt).

From the description:

Part manual, part manifesto, Feminist Fight Club is a hilarious yet incisive guide to navigating subtle sexism at work, providing real-life career advice and humorous reinforcement for a new generation of professional women.

It was a fight club—but without the fighting and without the men. Every month, the women would huddle in a friend’s apartment to share sexist job frustrations and trade tips for how best to tackle them. Once upon a time, you might have called them a consciousness-raising group. But the problems of today’s working world are more subtle, less pronounced, harder to identify—and harder to prove—than those of their foremothers. These women weren’t just there to vent. They needed battle tactics. And so the fight club was born.

Hard-hitting and entertaining, Feminist Fight Club blends personal stories with research, statistics, and no-bullsh*t expert advice. Bennett offers a new vocabulary for the sexist workplace archetypes women encounter everyday—such as the Manterrupter who talks over female colleagues in meetings or the Himitator who appropriates their ideas—and provides practical hacks for navigating other gender landmines in today’s working world. With original illustrations, Feminist Mad Libs, a Negotiation Cheat Sheet, and fascinating historical research, Feminist Fight Club tackles both the external (sexist) and internal (self-sabotaging) behaviors that plague women in the workplace—as well as the system that perpetuates them.


Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley
by Emily Chang

Brotopia is a reminder (like we need one) to help uplift women in tech and a very interesting window into how Silicon Valley became the culture it is today.

From the description:

Silicon Valley is a modern utopia where anyone can change the world. Unless you’re a woman.

For women in tech, Silicon Valley is not a fantasyland of unicorns, virtual reality rainbows, and 3D-printed lollipops, where millions of dollars grow on trees. It’s a “Brotopia,” where men hold all the cards and make all the rules. Vastly outnumbered, women face toxic workplaces rife with discrimination and sexual harassment, where investors take meetings in hot tubs and network at sex parties.

In this powerful exposé, Bloomberg TV journalist Emily Chang reveals how Silicon Valley got so sexist despite its utopian ideals, why bro culture endures despite decades of companies claiming the moral high ground (Don’t Be Evil! Connect the World!)–and how women are finally starting to speak out and fight back.

Drawing on her deep network of Silicon Valley insiders, Chang opens the boardroom doors of male-dominated venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins, the subject of Ellen Pao’s high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit, and Sequoia, where a partner once famously said they “won’t lower their standards” just to hire women. Interviews with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer–who got their start at Google, where just one in five engineers is a woman–reveal just how hard it is to crack the Silicon Ceiling. And Chang shows how women such as former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, entrepreneur Niniane Wang, and game developer Brianna Wu, have risked their careers and sometimes their lives to pave a way for other women.

Silicon Valley’s aggressive, misogynistic, work-at-all costs culture has shut women out of the greatest wealth creation in the history of the world. It’s time to break up the boys’ club. Emily Chang shows us how to fix this toxic culture–to bring down Brotopia, once and for all.


Buzzing Communities
by Richard Millington

Richard Millington from FeverBee wrote this book and, as a community builder and consultant myself, I can say it’s absolutely brilliant. I’ve recommended this book multiple times and now I’m giving it away!

From the description:

Buzzing Communities cuts through the fluff to offer a clear process for creating thriving online communities. This book combines a century of proven science, dozens of real-life examples, practical tips, and trusted community-building methods. This step-by-step guide includes a lifecycle for tracking your progress and a framework for managing your organization’s community efforts. This book will help you to:

  • Understand what the members of your community really want.
  • Dramatically increase the number of newcomers that become regulars.
  • Avoid the mistakes most organizations make when they try to build online communities.
  • Develop a fantastic, user-friendly website for your members.
  • Grow your online community to critical mass and beyond
  • Keep members engaged and active in your community.
  • Measure the community’s return on investment and explain the benefits to your organization.

Content Inc.
by Joe Pulizzi

The idea of finding your “content tilt” really spoke to me in this one. If you’ve been trying to use inbound marketing/content to bring people in to your business and haven’t seen results, read this book.

From the description:

A pioneer of content marketing, Pulizzi has cracked the code when it comes to the power of content in a world where marketers still hold fast to traditional models that no longer work. In Content Inc., he breaks down the business-startup process into six steps, making it simple for you to visualize, launch, and monetize your own business. These steps are:

  • The “Sweet Spot”: Identify the intersection of your unique competency and your personal passion
  • Content Tilting: Determine how you can “tilt” your sweet spot to find a place where little or no competition exists
  • Building the Base: Establish your number-one channel for disseminating content (blog, podcast, YouTube, etc.)
  • Harvesting Audience: Use social-media and SEO to convert one-time visitors into long-term subscribers
  • Diversification: Grow your business by expanding into multiple delivery channels
  • Monetization: Now that your expertise is established, you can begin charging money for your products or services

This model has worked wonders for Pulizzi and countless other examples detailed in the book. Connect these six pieces like a puzzle, and before you know it, you’ll be running your own profitable, scalable business.

Pulizzi walks you step by step through the process, based on his own success (and failures) and real-world multi-million dollar examples from multiple industries and countries. Whether you’re seeking to start a brand-new business or drive innovation in an existing one, Content Inc. provides everything you need to reverse-engineer the traditional entrepreneurial model for better, more sustainable success.


Dear Client: This Book Will Teach You How to Get What You Want from Creative People
by Bonnie Siegler

Working with creatives is something we all do, but on a fundamental level, the communication skills covered in this book will help you with business and LIFE. You’ll be using these tools on everyone from your designer to your dog, and they will thank you for it. Well, your dog will at least look appreciative.

From the description:

In a world where every business, brand, product, and service needs a strong visual identity, it’s critical for clients and creative professionals to work together. And the key to success, as with any relationship, is communication. In Dear Client, award-winning graphic designer Bonnie Siegler offers an invaluable step-by-step guide to how to talk so creatives will listen, and how to listen when creatives talk.

Written as a series of honest, friendly lessons—“Know What You Like,” “Decide Who Will Decide,” “Focus Groups Suck,” “Don’t Say ‘Make It Yellow,’ Say ‘Make It Sunny,’” “Serve Lunch During Lunchtime Meetings”—it shows exactly how to deal with the subjectivity, emotional pitfalls, and occasional chaos of a creative partnership. Here’s how to articulate your visual goals and set a clear, consistent direction. How to give feedback that works and avoid words that inhibit creative thinking. How to be open to something you didn’t imagine. And most of all, how to have fun, save money, and get the results you want.


The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
by Steve Blank

I’ve given this book away so many times, usually to people I’m working with, because it puts us all on the same page of knowing what’s important and why. I think it should be required reading for any business owner.

From the description:

More than 100,000 entrepreneurs rely on this book for detailed, step-by-step instructions on building successful, scalable, profitable startups.  The National Science Foundation pays hundreds of startup teams each year to follow the process outlined in the book, and it’s taught at Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia and more than 100 other leading universities worldwide.  Why?

The Startup Owner’s Manual guides you, step-by-step, as you put the Customer Development process to work. This method was created by renowned Silicon Valley startup expert Steve Blank, acknowledged catalyst of the “Lean Startup” movement, and tested and refined by him for more than a decade.

This 608-page how-to guide includes over 100 charts, graphs, and diagrams, plus 77 valuable checklists that guide you as you drive your company toward profitability.


Value Proposition Design
by Alexander Osterwalder

Before you build the product, as you’re building the product, and after you’ve built the product – you have to know, and be able to explain, the value you’re really bringing to your customer. Go through this book page by page, step by step, and you’ll come out with a perfect value proposition that speaks to your ideal customers.

From the description:

Value Proposition Design is for anyone who has been frustrated by new product meetings based on hunches and intuitions; it’s for anyone who has watched an expensive new product launch fail in the market. The book will help you understand the patterns of great value propositions, get closer to customers, and avoid wasting time with ideas that won’t work. You’ll learn the simple process of designing and testing value propositions, that perfectly match customers’ needs and desires.

In addition the book gives you exclusive access to an online companion on Strategyzer.com. You will be able to assess your work, learn from peers, and download pdfs, checklists, and more.


Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World
by Rand Fishkin

I love Rand Fishkin. He is so transparent about his journey, his successes, and his failures – to say his story is inspiring doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. He’s a man who has always tried to do right by people and built his company based on those values. But there are all of these other pressures that you can’t foresee until you’re in them… okay, I’m not going to get into spoilers. Just read it.

From the description:

Everyone knows how a startup story is supposed to go: A young, brilliant entrepreneur has a cool idea, drops out of college, defies the doubters, overcomes all odds, makes billions, and becomes the envy of the technology world.

This is not that story.


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Acquisition, Customer Experience, Emotion, Human-to-Human (H2H), Product Management, Products, Retention, SaaS

9 Empathy Exercises that Help Product Teams Improve CX

9 Empathy Exercises for Product Managers

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. For Product Managers looking to improve customer experience (CX), that definition translates to doing more than understanding the user’s pain points, but also looking at the emotional landscape of what it’s like to use the product – when it is working, and when it isn’t working.

Empathetic Product Managers ask themselves:

    • How does using the product make the customer feel?
    • How does the customer want to feel when using your product? What would be the best possible emotional outcome for them?
    • How do I ensure the product developers understand and take the customers’ needs into consideration in their process?

The answers to those questions affect every facet of business, from acquisition to retention. It’s how, through CX, you can generate rapid growth through word-of-mouth recommendations, and sustain your success with customers who never want to leave.

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