Search results for

retention

Customer Success, Onboarding, SaaS

“What are some of the best marketing strategies for B2B SaaS?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

There’s no one B2B 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 💗

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.

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

Community, Customer Success, Emotion, Human-to-Human (H2H), Retention, SaaS

Set the tone of your SaaS community to be like Sunday brunch with friends 🥞☕️

Set the tone of your SaaS community


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


Here’s the thing you may not know about me: SaaS companies hire me to help them build and grow communities around their SaaS products. I don’t advertise this. But they’ve seen me doing community growth at Growth Hackers, Product Hunt, Inbound, and now Zest.is and…

They want in.

Because they know they’ll only get the benefits of a community for their SaaS company if they can manage to build a community that’s more like, well, Sunday brunch at my place.

Or your place. It’s not really the venue that matters.

It’s the chemistry of the people.

The tone.

To get all woo woo on you – the energy.

This is where you come in.

Every Sunday morning, we’re going to talk about building, launching, engaging, and growing online communities for SaaS products.

We’re going to start at the beginning. What is a community? What does it do? How can you set the tone so everyone has a good time, and gets what they came for?

That’s what this very first email is about.

What does a community do?

Communities share ideas, give advice, ask questions, make jokes, support each other’s goals, break bread and bake pies. And community members help their neighbors build everything from barns to businesses. At least, that’s how they work in real life.

Here’s something else you may not know about me: I host gatherings at my house with large groups of creative, brilliant people every Sunday.

We cook, eat, make things together, have deep important conversations and blow bubbles in the pool.

Sunday get-togethers

However, It’s a little different when I talk about online communities with SaaS businesses.

Here’s what they hope will happen:

  • Customer retention
  • Upselling opportunities
  • Brand advocacy
  • A ready pool of voice-of-customer data that’s pure gold for sales & marketing

These are great goals, and the best way to achieve them is to create an online community that feels like an offline one.

How can you set the tone of your SaaS community to be like a Sunday morning brunch with friends?

Here’s how it works in my house:

If the gathering is large with new people who don’t know each other, introductions are important.

I’ll ask everyone to go around the room, say their names, their pronouns, and fun facts about themselves. This opens up the conversation.

When I know two guests who really should know each other, I introduce them and tell them what they have in common.

Then we have ice-breaker games like Loaded Questions where people have to guess who answered what to questions like:

Loaded Questions

The first steps toward building an online community are actually very similar.

Incidentally, CRO specialist Talia Wolf, has a new Facebook group called We Optimize where she took my advice and tried this out for her ‘Intro thread.’ But instead of a ‘brunch,’ she went with a tea party.

Talia Wolf

The responses she got were thoughtful, honest and open – the raw ingredients of real friendships. It gets down to people’s values, rather than “what startup are you at? What do you do?” Much more interesting. Much more engaging. (If you want to see this in action, let me know and I’ll show you the thread.)

Step 1: Know your guests (You got this!)

You’ve already laid the groundwork for genuine connections to happen if you’ve defined your ideal customer, actively market to attract them, and have a customer success process in place to make sure they’re getting what they need. (And if haven’t laid the groundwork yet, don’t worry, we’ll get to this too in an upcoming post.)

Do this, and your customers already have a lot in common. They share the same goals. They want the same things. They share the same values. They’re onboard with your mission.

That is an incredibly powerful place from which to build an active, engaged community.

Step 2: Write down your vision (You already know what it is)

When I throw a party, I have a few specific outcomes in mind. I want everyone to get along really well; I want people with related interests to meet each other; and I want stimulating conversations. It’s about creating an experience for everyone there that’s helpful, inspiring and fun.

Now, my guests know that’s what they’re getting when I send out the invitation. But yours don’t – not yet.

Before you invite your first members, get clear on what kind of community you’re hoping to build, and what experience you’d like their help with creating. What is the purpose of your community? (Tip: That purpose had better be helping your community, not just making more money for your company.)

Next week, I’ll share how to make your online community the place to be for your niche – and it all starts with your initial guest list.

kitten tea party

Have yourself a gorgeous day.

P.S. Hit reply and I’m happy to answer all your questions.

Know someone who could benefit from reading this e-mail? Please forward it on!


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

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

Churn, Customer Success, Customer Support, Guest Posts, Onboarding, Retention, SaaS

The Most Valuable SaaS Customers Everyone Forgets by @lovevalgeisler

This is a guest blog entry by Val Geisler.

In the world of software, there’s a lot of talk about conversions. Everyone’s high on customer acquisition and lead gen and building a growth team and sales pipelines and ads managers and top-of-funnel and email list building, to name a few.

“Let’s give life to this customer base!” can be heard as the rally cry at sales team meetings around the world.

But there’s a way to grow your MRR without looking at new customers at all.

In fact, the most valuable customer you have is the one who you thought was dead.

Let’s talk through why cancelled customers are your greatest ally in the race to increasing MRR and how you can win them back… for life.

According to research from TARP Worldwide, it’s five times cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new one.

And that goes for cancelled customers too.

Even better news?

I have a game plan you can use to win back those cancelled customers using three under-utilized retention strategies. But before we dive into that, let’s talk about the three kinds of customers to consider winning back (and the scary ones to steer clear of).

Vampires

Let a customer service team get to talking for just a little while and you’ll start to hear stories about customers who sent in dozens of tickets, made daily feature requests, cost the company hours (sometimes dozens and hundreds of hours) in support time, and eventually churned.

These customers are vampires.

They suck the life out of your team and then disappear.

As the founder of Teachery.co, Jason Zook has dealt with his fair share of vampire customers.

“Not all ‘real’ customers are ideal customers. There’s a lot to running a software company and doing customer support, while also running a sustainable business.”

Vampires are customers you can take a hard pass on. Unless they change their habits and come crawling back to you, there’s no need to go chasing after them.

Which brings us to…

Ghosts

As Director of Marketing at Animalz, Jimmy Daly is a time-strapped human with more things to get done in one day than any one person can handle.

So he signed up for TaskRabbit, a task completion service seemingly made for people like Jimmy.

Only problem was…. he was too busy to use it.

“I signed up for TaskRabbit last year, checked it out but never actually used the service. Until I do, I’m in limbo – a segment of users who has expressed interest in TaskRabbit but never really acted on it.”

Customers like Jimmy–those in limbo–should be celebrated. You’ve done the hard work of converting them from casual browser to interested signup. But just because they didn’t convert yet doesn’t mean they won’t ever convert.

As Jimmy said,

“The Internet is a busy place and it’s easy to get distracted.”

So what’s a marketer to do about those customers stuck in limbo?

Are they just ghosts who haunt us daily? Customers who might have been?

No.

While technically a segment of their own, your ghost customers can be a valuable resource in the fight against churn. They won’t impact your true churn numbers (that is, if you use a free trial) but they will impact your win-back rate. Just like…

Zombies

The walking dead, the un-dead, living dead… zombies go by many names (but they rarely say hello!)

And you have zombie customers lurking just around the corner.

They’re the customers who did convert to a paid account. Who were with you for a month, three months, 12 months, 2 years…

They loved your product at one time. But they left.

They’re still out there, the living dead, using another product or still searching for the right fit for them.

Why?

That’s what we need to find out.

Zombies, however can be immune to traditional communication.

Email overload and the onslaught of endless push notifications have made people nearly immune to re-engagement efforts, even if they like the product, but especially if they were “meh” about it in the first place. This noisiness means it’s getting harder and harder to successfully pull users back into your product to help them build a habit of regular usage1

So what’s a business owner to do?

Stand out.

Look, zombie customers are the very best customers you can try to win back. They are already familiar with the platform so they require little onboarding, they likely gave you clues as to how you can win them back, and they’re still out there, waiting to hear from you.

Reviving the un-dead isn’t an easy road, but it can be easier than creating a brand new customer.

Your Scariest Metric

The first thing you need to know to start reactivating already churned customers is what churn is for your business. While the basic formula for churn is always the same: Churn rate = # of customers lost in a period / # of customers at the beginning of the period.

(image courtesy of smile.io)

That period, for almost every purpose, should be Annual.

And SaaS churn rate experts talk often about the “good churn rate” of 7% Annual churn.

That translates to roughly 0.5% monthly churn.

According to Lincoln Murphy,

“This means companies with acceptable churn only lose about 1 out of every 200 customers (or dollars) per month. On the flip side, a high churn rate is the reason you ended [the year] with a whole bunch of new customers… but had about the same amount of revenue.”

And you want more revenue.

If it’s not already, churn will quickly become the top metric you’re discussing in your all-hands meetings. Your team will start to look at retention strategies–ways to keep existing customers happy and out of danger of churning.

Churn matters, yes.

You should care about it and be proactively working toward reducing it.

But how can you get on the offensive line? How can you put some of your team on defense (traditional retention strategies) and flip the script for your offensive line?

Those same retention strategies you use to keep existing customers can be repurposed for those cancelled customers you can still win back.

With that end goal in mind, here are the slight shifts you can make to those traditional retention strategies so that they win over your otherwise lost customers.

Hey, You!

It’s easy to look at managing your customer’s support tickets and feature requests as something you only do with current customers. It’s also easy to look at it as a “one and done” situation. Neil Patel’s retention strategy for support follow up takes a single instance and turns it into a world of care:

A typical service request and solution looks like this:

Customer: We have a problem.

Support Team: I’ve helped you. Have a nice day.

I recommend that you add another layer of follow-up to this process:

Customer: We have a problem.

Support Team: I’ve helped you. Have a nice day.

Bonus Follow-Up: Hey, we helped you a couple weeks ago. How are things going now? Anything else we can help with?

But what would happen if you did that same follow up months later?

“Hey, you submitted a feature request a few months ago when you were a customer of ours. Totally appreciate that you might have found a new solution for X in your business, but I wanted to let you know that we did build exactly what you requested. Here’s the run down and I’d be happy to share more if you’re interested.”

Reaching out to cancelled customers who submitted a feature request for something you’ve recently built can open the flood gates of “new” customers.

Let’s Make a Deal

Around the end of the year you can find inboxes stuffed with offers to “go annual and save!”. One last push to get customers to put the expense on this year’s taxes and lock them in for another year, huh?

And, sure, you’re thinking that you send the offer to your whole email list which contains customers who’ve cancelled so you’re covered, right?

Wrong.

Remember how zombies tend to be immune to traditional messaging?

You have to grab their attention and speak right to them.

So send those upsell emails to your current customers, sure. But draft an entirely separate message for your cancelled customers.

Tell them about product updates, position changes, or any other relevant–and exciting–detail.

Then make them an offer that matters.

The customer success experts at Groove found that upselling is a true power move, if you have the right offer and the right audience.

In the book Marketing Metrics, the authors share a fascinating finding from their research:

The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%.

Check out this graphic for extra emphasis:

While you could argue that cancelled customers are not existing customers, they fall much closer to the Existing Customer than they do New Prospect. After all, they were a customer of yours at one time.

Speak directly to them, not to the masses, and they just might sit up and pay attention to your upsell.

Human With a Capital H

People love to talk about themselves. Ask someone what they’re working on or what inspires them or what they’re most passionate about and you’ll have a friend for life.

Caring about your customers seems obvious but, unfortunately, it’s not.

As a retention strategy, it pays off in dividends to get to know your customers, where they struggle with their business and/or your product.

An advocate for the human experience, Kevin Fontenot has an idea for growing SaaS companies:

While it might not be possible to get to every customer depending on how many users you have, it’s important to have those one-to-one conversations to improve your product and your retention rates.

But what about those cancelled customers?

Guess what? (just guess…)

It’s the same!

Send a message out to a selection of your cancelled customers. Get on the phone with them (Skype or Zoom is best so you can screenshare as needed). Spend actual time talking to actual human customers.

Don’t know where to start?

Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling:

About them:

  1. How would you describe your job title + role at work?
  2. What are you working on right now?
  3. What is the biggest problem you’re facing that keeps you awake at night?

About your product:

  1. What was happening in your world that led you to sign up for [product] previously?
  2. What happened during your trial that convinced you [product] was the right solution at that time?
  3. What were you skeptical or anxious about when you signed up? Is that what ultimately prevented you from using [product] long-term?

Take notes or record and then transcribe the conversation. Use some of the above tactics like following up with an offer (double tactic!). People like to be treated like people, not machines. Act accordingly.

If you’ve followed up with your cancelled customers, cared about their business, and given them a customized offer, you likely have won them back by now.

Keeping them around (again) is all in building the habit.

Build the Habit

James Clear, an expert in habit building with the research pieces to prove it, noted in one of his foundational articles on habits:

In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg explains a simple three-step process that all habits follow. This cycle, known as The Habit Loop, says that each habit consists of…

The Trigger: the event that starts the habit.

The Routine: the behavior that you perform, the habit itself.

The Reward: the benefit that is associated with the behavior.

The image below shows how these three factors work together to build new habits.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
This same cycle can be observed in a common copywriting technique called the Problem-Agitate-Solve formula.

Something happened.

Something else makes that thing stand out.

You get to a solution that rocks.

It’s everywhere from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey to nearly every movie, sitcom, and fiction book ever produced.

If Hollywood can profit off of getting people hooked, you can too.

And since humans are in the constant rat race of either chasing pleasure or avoiding pain, it’s natural that we develop habits around those things we find pleasurable.

Do you know what someone who was a customer before and is giving you a chance again will not find pleasurable?

The same onboarding they’ve already been through once.

Creating customized onboarding for your newly won-back customers can be a beautiful beginning to a restarted relationship.

At Appcues, Ty Mangin regularly waxes poetic about personalized onboarding (it is, after all, what Appcues does best). Ty says,

People will often have different use cases for your product that don’t easily correlate with their role or location. In these instances, giving users the option to choose how they want to get started will steer them in the right direction and minimize the chances of them getting lost in the product.

Coffee is For Closers

Of course, testing your efforts is the only way to know what works. And you should Always Be Testing.

Choose a segment of your cancelled customers and try a few of these techniques.

Record the results and then pick another segment. Find out what’s effective and go all in on that strategy.

Since we started out talking about churn, let’s wrap up with a new measure to check:

Your win-back rate.

Bring that growing number to your weekly all hands meetings. Talk about it in relation to your churn rate (you’re still implementing changes there, right? good.)

And then make sure those customers who came back to life stay that way.

The last thing the world needs is more zombies.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Customer Experience, SaaS

Tips on Improving Customer Experience from Six CX Experts [Roundup]

Why is Customer Experience becoming the primary way companies differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market? How does CX pave the way for growth? How do you measure it accurately (and actionably) – and how can you leverage customer feedback for happier customers, more referrals, and more sales?

I asked all of these questions and more of CX experts at the top of their field – and their answers will inspire you.

Customer Experience Experts on Growth

Customer Experience is inextricably linked to growth – when you give the customers not only what they want, but also what they need in a way that leaves a positive impression, you’re making an investment sure to pay dividends.

“Customer experience drives growth. Data supports this fact. Forrester showed that CX leaders, on average, grow more than 5x faster than CX laggards. The companies that have made CX a priority focus on understanding the customer’s needs and wants and spend a lot of time understanding the journey a customer takes. They ensure the customer voice is heard (either through direct interviews or other opportunities to provide feedback) at each touch point of the customer journey, make sure actionable insights from feedback gets back into processes and close the loop with customers to advise them of the actions they took. They do this because they understand the post-purchase phase of the customer lifecycle is where growth occurs.” – Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, M4 Communications, Inc.

Customer Experience Experts on Tracking CX Metrics

What’s the best way to improve the experiences your customers are having? Opinions differ, even among experts, but everyone agrees that what gets measured gets done.

“An organization should have many tools available to them and not lean on any one of them too heavily. They should look at a combination of CES, NPS, CSAT, loyalty, and emotions metrics. In addition, measurement shouldn’t be taken in a vacuum. Testing and analysis should occur regularly and consistently so you can view trends and then take deep dives to determine the reasons the trends are what they are. This will help you improve your CX performance.” – Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, M4 Communications, Inc.

“If you want to get started with measuring and improving customer experience, I recommend you begin by tracking Net Promoter Score. You’ll get a metric that everyone in the company can rally around improving, and the rich feedback you get from customers will give you guidance on how to do it.  Over time you can build a sophisticated customer feedback strategy that incorporates a number of CX metrics, but I advise that you get the ball rolling as soon as possible. There are a number of low cost/no-cost SaaS platforms out there, including Wootric, that can get you started quickly.” – Jessica Pfeifer, Cofounder and Chief Customer Officer, Wootric.

The Net Promoter System is the most effective way to gauge customer experience at scale. The better your customer experience, the more likely your customers will be brand enthusiasts or promoters. And the more promoters you have, the higher your Net Promoter Score will be.” – Jes Kirkwood, Content & Community Marketer at Autopilot

The social media sites that have perfected the art of public reviews are the best customer experience gauges available.  Yelp is a great example for the service industry, Capterra is a grand example for the software industry.  Monitoring those channels is a passive way to manage these gauges.  If you want quality, meaningful results, you will have to intentionally drive customer traffic to those platforms. Be brave. Invite them to be honest.” – Joe McCollum, Configio Support/SaaS Consultant

Customer Experience Experts on Retention

Sure, you can keep customers even if you provide a lackluster experience – if you’re the only game in town. But with competitors coming out of the woodwork, nobody has any market cornered for long. Offering superior CX is the only way to win the kind of loyalty that becomes the mortar paving the road to retention.

“I spend a lot of time with SaaS startup clients whose number-one goal is to improve recurring revenue. What I’m really excited about is a lot of my early stage startup clients are eager to put CX in place now so they are ready for when they scale. They know how vital CX is to corporate growth.” – Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, M4 Communications, Inc.

“Customer experience is one of the two core pillars of customer retention — the thing is, you can’t grow if your customers don’t stick around. Keeping customers around is harder than ever—and delivering an unparalleled customer experience is the only way to win. Today, companies must curate a timely, relevant, and personalized customer journey, nail customer support, and take advantage of every opportunity to surprise and delight.” – Jes Kirkwood, Former Content & Community Marketer at Autopilot

Efforts toward retention should start early in the customer relationship. At Wootric, we ask our customers the Customer Effort Scorequestion to get feedback on our onboarding process. When we don’t get top marks, we get an opportunity to make things right with the customer immediately and get back on track. All because we reached out and proactively asked for feedback early on.” – Jessica Pfeifer, Cofounder and Chief Customer Officer, Wootric.

Customer Experience Experts on Leveraging Emotion

Emotion is a vital, yet often underappreciated, component of decision-making – but CX experts know that winning minds isn’t enough. Customer Experience is a game of winning hearts.

“In my experience working in varying industries, customer trust is a byproduct of an amazing customer experience. Whether it’s helping them with a purchase or teaching them how to use software; the make or break is how they feel when they walk away from you. If they walk away with complete trust, that type of experience translates to growth.” – Joe McCollum, Configio Support/SaaS Consultant

“We’ve found that it’s often the accumulation of small annoyances that does the most damage to a customer’s perception of a brand and their loyalty as a purchaser. Frustration metrics (things like rage clicks, error clicks and form abandonment) are a great way to quickly spot and fix major things that are actively blocking customers from achieving their goalsand/or contributing to an overall negative experience.” – Amy Ellis, Marketing & PR at FullStory

“As a Product Designer, I understand that even more than having a great graphic design and program, the product needs to generate an experience that connects customers emotionally with your brand/service/product. Meaningful relationships are created by strong experiences. It’s how customers become allies for the marketing team for both referrals and acquisition.” – Diego Dotta, Developer & CXO at Youper

Customer Experience Experts on The Future

CX is a quickly-evolving field as new technologies make it easier to create better experiences, track those experiences, and leverage those experiences into engines for retention and growth. What does the near future hold – and what do you need to do to stay on top of the wave?

“I believe that CX will only become more important as it gets easier for newer, more nimble companies to disrupt larger slower companies. Technology will continue to get better at helping companies quickly and easily see where they’re letting down their customers – like causing them frustration and anger, complicating their progress toward their own goals, and missing opportunities to surprise and delight.” – Amy Ellis, Marketing & PR at FullStory

“Right now brands are inundated with CX feedback–social, surveys, support tickets–and it’s all over the place. Companies that take a systematic approach to aggregating and analyzing all of that Voice of the Customer data in one place will have a competitive advantage.  AI–in this case a combination of machine learning and natural language processing–is making it possible to glean insights from those thousands of qualitative comments.” – Jessica Pfeifer, Cofounder and Chief Customer Officer, Wootric.

“Companies will need to focus on two areas: 1) Creating consistent omnichannel experiences that cover digital. CX tends to be fragmented which hurts customers and companies. A better approach is to create a consistent experience across channels, and companies miss the boat on digital because they have gaps in their technology. Companies should focus on setting up a strong technological foundation which encompasses the entire customer journey 2) Investing in AI. While current AI applications include chatbots for many tasks (Facebook Messenger currently has over 100,000 chatbots), a common application is to use AI for lower level customer service tasks. At more advanced stages, AI will be invaluable to CX in predicting sales and service behaviors and in augmenting engagement, to name a few.” – Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, M4 Communications, Inc.

“As technology continues to evolve, customer expectations will continue to rise. Delivering a hyper-targeted, personalized customer journey will become standard practice—customers won’t accept anything less. Creative marketers will find unique ways to surprise and delight, setting the bar even higher. Any companies that are already falling behind will struggle to keep up.” – Jes Kirkwood, Content & Community Marketer at Autopilot

“The challenge I have here, in a behavioral health company, is to discover and solve customer issues before they realize it themselves. I also see a need for increased availability – even offline – for when customers need emotional support, which we can do by being proactive using AI and passive data.” – Diego Dotta, Developer & CXO at Youper

A lot of companies are turning toward value-added membership campaigns. I personally feel these first round of loyalty driven offerings are based too much on the fear of losing market share, less on value added that builds and increases the trust of the consumer. The evolution of CX will force many companies that want to be successful to bite the bullet and put their money where their mouth is. The good news is, the future is bright for the consumer.” – Joe McCollum, Configio Support  / SaaS Consultant

Experts Agree: The Future is About Using Technology to Serve Customers Better

From customer success goals to metrics that measure emotion, to carefully planned and tracked customer journeys, Customer Experience reaches into every aspect of how companies relate to their customers. You can look at CX as the end result of how business decisions ultimately affect customers, or you can look at CX as the guiding light that becomes a company-wide compass for customer-facing decisions. Either way, it’s clear: To survive and grow, today’s businesses have align behind the customer experience.

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

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

How top B2B SaaS companies create customer-centric onboarding

Guest post by Shayla Price.

Here’s a major B2B SaaS growth challenge: How do teams ensure customer success from the onset?

With the goal to quickly convert new customers into loyal advocates, it’s easy for B2B SaaS teams to forget what’s important. In this case, it’s onboarding.

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

Too often, B2B SaaS companies marvel in their own products, from an eye-appealing user interface to near-perfect functionality. That’s only part of the equation.

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

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

1. Score the Aha! Moment (Early)

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Bake Success Into Your Messaging

B2B SaaS businesses do an effective job at gaining potential customers’ attention. Teams spend lots of time designing creative display ads, developing witty copy for their homepages, and writing hilarious emails. The branding is dynamic and worth sharing on social.

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

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

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

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

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

Image Source

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

3. Identify & Remedy User Gaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Be Available for Questions

Building a worthwhile product is important for your B2B SaaS. If your application sucked, no one would bother purchasing it. However, it’s not the only thing that matters.

Teams sometimes forget that no matter what your B2B SaaS product does, you’re still in the service business. Your primary objective is to build amazing customer experiences. And one of the tenets to achieve that goal is offer superior customer support before, during, and after onboarding.

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

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

So what should you? Make yourself available on several channels. For your B2B SaaS, that may include investing in live chat software to answer customer inquiries. Or you may need to expand your phone support times by three extra hours on the weekends.

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

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

5. Evaluate Customer Milestones

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

Whether it’s fear of failure or a forgotten step, B2B SaaS teams skip over measuring their customers’ progress. It’s the only way to know if the customer is reaching their desired outcome and is fully buying into your brand promise.

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

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

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

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

The Customer Takes Center Stage

While these insights don’t reach the level of rocket science, B2B SaaS teams often undervalue and overlook them. You possess the power to get customers to their desired solution. So start giving the customer your undivided attention in the onboarding process.

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

Content Marketing, Startups

Startup Founders, This is How to Do Content Marketing from Day 1

Want your website to summit the search engine results page? You need a blog. Want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry? A blog can make your name. Need to provide content that nurtures leads and gives current customers what they need to be successful with your product? All of that can be done with a blog.

This isn’t news.

You know you need a blog. And, by now, you’ve probably figured out that just having a blog isn’t enough to get any of the above results. It has to be good.

Scratch that.

“Good, unique content. Problem is, almost everyone can get here. They really can. It’s not a high bar, a high barrier to entry to say you need good, unique content. . . . If you can’t consistently say, ‘We’re the best result that a searcher could find in the search results,’ well then, guess what? You’re not going to have an opportunity to rank.” — Rand Fishkin, Why Good Unique Content Needs to Die — Whiteboard Friday

It has to be great.

But even Level-Great content is becoming saturated because the secret is out. Content is the key to:

  • Build brand recognition — 71% of all respondents who maintain blogs for a business report that they have increased their visibility within their industries through their blogs.
  • Establish leadership in your space — In 2016, 36% of Fortune 500 companies have a public blog.
  • Boost acquisition — 77% lift in median monthly leads occurs to businesses with over 51 blog articles.
  • Improve retention — “A business’ best protection against churn is a Customer Success team armed with a content marketing strategy.”

Unbounce figured this out almost immediately. In an interview, Unbounce Co-Founder Rick Perreault said, “We started marketing the day we started coding.” What did that marketing look like? One marketing employee who focused on creating high-ranking blog content that produced significant and consistent value to the reader.

You know all this. You’re sitting there thinking “Yeah, I know, content is king, quality is king, we’ve got a pair of kings and our content STILL isn’t getting us to Page 1.”

The problem is: You’re creating all of this quality content without a cohesive SEO strategy in place. A strategy that leverages your great, big body of content to achieve the most effect.

We’re not talking about a list of keywords here.

But to understand the kind of strategy we’re suggesting, you’re going to need a brief history lesson.

Read More on HubSpot’s “Think Growth”


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

Customer Experience

Customer Experience Quotes from Experts on the Cutting Edge ft. @Wootric

“Customer experience” is a phrase that is generating increasing amounts of buzz. It’s grown from a philosophical understanding of the effect of customer/brand interactions into a metric to track, a goal to obtain.

We’ve collected customer experience quotes, definitions and statistics from industry sources to help you understand the power of improving CX.

What is Customer Experience?

“Customer Experience is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.” – Harvard Business Review’s Adam Richardson in Understanding Customer Experience.

Forrester puts it in even more amorphous terms: “Customer Experience is how customers perceive their interaction with your company.”

The first definition gives companies the illusion of control over CX – after all, you can manipulate engagement metrics, study touchpoints. But Forrester throws a monkey wrench into the works. Because CX isn’t about you. It’s about the customers – and their perceptions of you.

The expert CX quotes we’ve gathered explore Customer Experience from all of these angles and show just how much impact results when brands and customers align.

The CX Status Quo(te) Roundup

Sections:

Read More on Wootric


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

Community, Product Management

“Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré on creating a customer-centric community for your product” ft. @Autopilotus

Building a community around your product can be both a quick win and longer term customer retention strategy.

They’re easy to create—as simple as a setting up a Slack channel or Facebook group. Plus, they’re a powerful asset not only for customers, but also for your marketing, support, success, and product teams.

Above all else, they’re a way to prove that you really are customer-centric—because the whole point is that you’re right there to answer their questions, share ideas with them, listen to their suggestions, and give them a place to communicate with each other about how they’re using your product.

ProdPad has been having great success with their Slack channel. Their UX team uses it to share mockups and sketches for things they’re working on, find suitable users for research and interviews, and collect voice-of-customer data. But that’s nothing compared to what it has done for their customer retention.

As ProdPad’s Head of Growth Nandini Jammi notes, “Slack has quietly become our strongest retention channel at ProdPad.”

“As time passed, we started seeing a pattern we really liked: Customers who join our Slack community were not cancelling their ProdPad plans at all. In fact, 99% of our cancellations were (and still are) coming from customers who weren’t part of our community.”

But they’re not seeing results because someone took 5 minutes to set up a Slack channel. They’re seeing results because of how they’re using it: They’re committed to transparency, have a policy of “never saying no” to a customer, and log every single conversation as customer feedback because it’s important to them.

“We can handle all kinds of feedback because we engage with it and actively work to find our solutions for our customers.”

How to create a customer-centric product community

1. Establish your philosophical framework

You need every member of your team to understand what your community is—and, just as importantly, what it isn’t. ProdPad’s community works because they’re 100% committed to transparency and welcome the customer into their process. Yes, you’re doing this to drive retention and referrals. But if you aren’t primarily doing this to help your customers succeed with your product, you won’t achieve either of those outcomes.

Another question to ask yourself is, what you want to accomplish with your community? Do you want to increase retention by supporting existing customers? Or, do you want to create a space that helps you attract and acquire ideal customers? For example, Pieter Levels, founder of NomadList, created a Slack community that was only loosely tied to NomadList, but cleverly targeted ideal users. It now has nearly 10,000 members, 3,000 of whom are active on a monthly basis.

Fun fact: Growth Hackers began as a community for Qualaroo, and Inbound.org began as a community for HubSpot. Don’t be surprised if your community takes on a life of its own!

2. Choose your platform

The type of community you choose depends on your intended users and your bandwidth. B2B SaaS companies might find that their target customers are already on Slack, making it a natural platform for their branded community. Other demographics barely know what Slack is, but are on Facebook all the time.

If it aligns with your goals and you’re able to allocate the resources, you can even develop your own community and give it a home on your website. If you go down that path, you’ll reap the rewards of increased brand awareness, SEO, and customer loyalty.

As with any kind of marketing, go where your target users already are.

3. Set up your community

To create a community on Slack or Facebook, follow these instructions:

If you plan to develop your own community, take inspiration from these DIY communities:

4. Set expectations

Part of customer success is setting expectations—and you’ll want to set expectations with your customers early on when creating a product community.

The expectations you’ll need to set will differ from platform to platform. For example, Facebook groups benefit from having a set of conduct rules pinned to the top of the page. That way people know what is and isn’t allowed. (Hint: Be prepared to enforce those rules by booting people out.)

Slack presents other challenges. Because Slack enables instant messaging, people tend to expect instant responses. If you have the bandwidth to respond right away, good for you! If you can’t, do like this company did and say so.

“To counter unrealistic availability expectations, we laid out a couple of ground rules together with our clients, such as nobody needs to always answer right away. Although more direct than email, everybody should see Slack as an asynchronous means of communication,” wrote Christian Weyer, Partner, Crispy Mountain.

5. Promote your community

Slack communities and Facebook groups both require users to be “invited” (or at least approved) by admins. The easiest way to discover users to invite is to promote a signup form.

Typeform is an easy, free service that creates simple forms. You’ll only need a few fields: name, email (so you can send the invite), links to online profiles, and why the person wants to join. Check out this guide to integrating Typeform and Slack.

This  is a segment from Autopilot’s blog, 11 Winning Retention Tactics from 11 Remarkable Marketers.

Read More on Autopilot


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

Conversion Rate Optimization

3 Extremely Complicated Steps to a Customer Journey Map that Actually Works ft. @ObjeqtEcomm

Customer journey maps have the potential to be the best tool your marketing department has – or a colossal waste of time. There are plenty of articles out there that will tell you how to build a customer journey map in “3 easy steps.” Those don’t work, at least not by our standards.

If your customer journey map isn’t moving you towards more conversions and awesome retention rates, it’s a waste of paper.

The way most people do customer journey maps looks like this: Bring your ‘best and brightest’ into a room for three hours, play “this is who we think our buyer personas are,” “this is what we think they’re feeling,” and follow it up with “these are where our touchpoints are.” In other words, it’s “brainstorming” with insufficient research. You’re not creating a map, you’re having an office party. And the customer journey map is the party game.

Lame.

Do I sound harsh? Good. Because customer journey maps done wrong really burns my biscuits.

They have so much potential to be useful.

Actionable. Energizing. Even inspiring.

But to be truly useful, you have to approach them from the foundation of research, grounded in real, verifiable customer data. And that’s the step too many people miss, because it’s just not as much fun.

Forget fun – this is marketing strategy.

When a customer journey map does its job, it becomes a tool that lets you (and your marketing team) visualize your relationship with your target customer from first eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room encounter to mutually fulfilling partnership.

It shows the most likely places to meet your target, what they need there (depending on which stage of the sales funnel they’re in), what they get there currently, and where mismatches in expectations and desired outcomes may be losing them.

If this sounds like I’m describing more than just a customer journey map, you’re absolutely right.

This definition is much simpler:

“a customer journey map is merely an illustration or diagram of all the places (touchpoints) your customers come into contact with your company online or off.”

To make your journey map actionable, it can’t be merely an illustration of touchpoints. It has to illuminate the relationship, in its entirety. It has to pay attention to not only where prospects are, but what they need – and how to give that outcome to them in a way that moves them closer to your desired destination.

This journey map will become your visual cheat-sheet to understanding your customer on a deep, meaningful, actionable level.

It’s not simple. But there are three steps.

Read More on Objeqt


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