Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

6 Ways to Turn Feedback into Your Customer Retention Strategy

Monday, June 26th, 2017

The good (and bad) news is: customers aren’t shy. They’ll tell you exactly how they feel about your business when asked. And, what’s more, dissatisfied customers are pretty loud about it. If you’re in business long enough, you’ll definitely hear their voices.

But, I’m one of those people who like to look at the glass half-full. I believe that all feedback is good feedback because you can use every last bit of criticism to retain more of your customers.

When customers (past and present) tell you what they want, what they like, and especially what they don’t like, it’s a gift. You see, when frustration creeps in, churn is next. But as long as they’re talking to you about it, there’s still an opportunity for you to do something about it.

You can turn that feedback into a powerful customer retention strategy and slow churn to a grinding halt.

By the end of this post, I’m going to make you love feedback. And, not only that, I’m going to show you how to respond to feedback effectively. Let’s get to it.

Here’s a list of ways to get customer feedback.

Different Types of Feedback

Feedback comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of it’s positive, some of it’s negative, but all of it’s beneficial.

Here’s how you’ll most commonly receive customer feedback:

  • Answers to surveys – Surveys conducted on your website, within your app, or via email
  • Reviews of your product – Both on your site and on other sites
  • Blog comments – Both on your site and on other sites
  • Social media comments – Both on your social media page and on other platforms
  • Complaints via customer service – Complaints are always unsolicited, but still helpful

To find feedback that’s not given directly to you, you can use social listening tools like HootSuite or Google Alerts. Always be on the lookout for mentions of your brand and your products on search engines and social media. Chances are high that your customers are talking about you (even if you’re not getting direct feedback on your channels), so make it a plan to actively search for it.

1. Use Feedback to Develop Your Product

For many SaaS, a lot of the customer feedback will be product-centric. You’ll start to notice a trend with the praises and the complaints. There will be features of your product that are universally loved by all. But, on the other hand, you’ll start to see that certain features aren’t quite hitting the mark.

This is what I love about feedback. It shows you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.

So, listen to your customers, and take their comments to heart. Pay attention to the most frequently received feedback and update your product accordingly.

By doing so, you’ll create a better product that’s more in-tune with what your customers are asking for, thereby improving your retention.

But– and this is huge– don’t get so focused on pleasing every customer that you lose yourself as a brand. You’ll go crazy trying to tweak your product to suit every customer. So don’t even try. Instead, focus on the most common criticisms. After you tackle the bigger problems, the smaller problems usually self-correct.

Also, it’s important that all customer comments and complaints are relayed to the management staff. It’s easy for comments and complaints to come into one department and then die there.

Do you receive all of the feedback from customer service, social media, sales, and your tech support in one central location? If not, a lot of important feedback may be falling through the cracks.

2. Be Quick to Respond

Follow up on all feedback.

While feedback can be positive or negative, it’s your follow-up response that can actually make or break the customer’s experience with you. In some cases, your response can determine whether the customer stays or leaves.

If you don’t respond, customers are much more likely to leave with a negative impression of your business. They’ll think that you’re either “too big” to respond to the “little guys” or that you’re out of touch with your customers. Either way, it’s a bad message to send to your customers.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to respond to feedback. A quick, but thoughtful, sentence or two is all it takes to show your customer that you truly value their input.

Be sure to respond in like kind: via email, social media, blog posts, or forums. This is where social listening tools really come in handy. A friendly “Thanks for the feedback! We’ll look into your suggestion” can be a satisfying conclusion for your customer– especially if you mean it!

3. Be Transparent

So, you don’t want to say anything that you don’t mean. If you say that you’re going to consider their suggestion, do so. If you decide to make changes accordingly, circle back around and let the customer know that you’ve done it. This small, but rare, nod to the customer can really boost your retention rates.

Think about it: customers like to know that you listen to them and are willing to act on their feedback. That act will win over your customers.

After you’ve implemented the feedback, broadcast it on all of your outlets. Create a blog post, shout out via social media, send out an email– even make a press release. Be sure to share that your change is a result of customer feedback. Your customers will appreciate your transparency.

4. Use Positive Feedback to Recruit New Customers

Every now and then, you’ll have a customer send you a complimentary email, explaining how your product has helped them change their lives. Whenever you get such positive feedback, jump on this opportunity and look for ways that you can incorporate it into your marketing.

Positive feedback can provide an extra level of credibility and improve your trustworthiness as a brand.

Remember to respond quickly and ask the customer if you may use their words (and their likeness) to promote your product. Most customers won’t have a problem with your request. When you get the go ahead, place their positive feedback everywhere you can– on your website, social media, promotional content, and landing pages. You may even be able to score an interview with the customer for a case study.

5. Incorporate Feedback into Your Upselling

Upselling is great for increasing the lifetime value of your customers. Make upselling a part of your retention strategy by encouraging your current customers to continue buying from you.

I recommend using positive feedback (i.e. testimonials) as part of your upsell marketing. Show how others are using your upgrade product to effectively solve their problem.

Another thing to consider: enable reviews (both good and bad) of your product on your website. Reviews can motivate customers to buy the higher priced product because people trust other people.

6. Show Customers the Ropes

Once you’ve implemented changes in accordance to the feedback, make sure that your customers are not only aware of the changes, but they also feel comfortable with those changes.

Create an email series that highlights the different changes to your product and send it out to your current customers.

Additionally, create an in-app tour of the significant changes that you made to your product.

Radically changing your product (even if it’s for the better) can actually increase churn. No one wants to feel lost using your new and improved product. Combat that by showing your customers how to successfully navigate around your updated product.

Final Thoughts

Thoughtfully employing customer feedback will show customers that you value them. It will have a positive impact on your retention because customers who feel heard are a lot more likely to stick around.

Don’t forget to download this list of ways to ask for customer feedback.

Use These 6 Email Marketing Strategies to Keep Your SaaS Customers Engaged

Monday, June 12th, 2017

One of the most important ways to reach your customers is through email. And you thought email marketing was dead.

According to MarketingSherpa, 72% of customers prefer using email to communicate with companies. That percentage towers over the 17% of customers who prefer communicating via social media.

So, do you have a rock solid email marketing campaign to keep your customers engaged and informed? If you’re like most SaaS out there, I’m guessing the answer is no. But that’s okay, you’re here and we’re going to tackle email marketing together.

Let’s discuss the most important things you need to know about email marketing first, and then we’ll look at the key tips to remember when marketing via email.

Here’s a list of best practices to remember when sending emails to your SaaS customers:

The Benefits of Email Marketing

Why is email marketing so important? It’s all about money.

You may have heard the phrase, “the money’s in the list.” Here’s what that means: Email has a 3800% return on investment. You stand to gain $38 dollars for every $1 spent in email marketing. After you’ve created a list, no matter how small, you can start to nurture your subscribers and turn them into customers. Then, you can keep investing in those customers, and continue to bring in revenue.

What’s even more impressive is that 91% of email subscribers sign up because they want to get promotional emails from the companies. If people are signing up for your list, it’s because they want you to market to them. Don’t be shy.

The biggest benefit of email marketing is that you can continue to stay connected to your audience. The hope is that you’ll eventually woo these subscribers into customers. With a proper email marketing strategy, you’ll definitely stay “top of mind”. This is essential because most people aren’t ready to buy right away, but if you keep nurturing them, one day, they will buy.

For those who have already converted into customers, your emails become gentle reminders to use your product. This is important in the first few days after signing up, because you want your new customers to get in the habit of using your app religiously.

Finally, email marketing is a great way to gather feedback from your audience. You can survey your list periodically or conduct research trials on new products before releasing to the general public.

Understand the Types of Emails to Send

There are six main types of emails that you can send to your audience. Here’s the breakdown:

Welcome

Your welcome email is the first email that you’ll send your new subscriber or user. In this email, you’ll set expectations on when to expect your emails, how often you send emails, and what you’ll discuss in your emails.

The content of your welcome emails will differ, depending on the audience.

If you’re sending a welcome email to someone who’s signed up for your service, you should include a getting started guide, where you discuss how to use your product.

If you’re sending a welcome email to someone who’s signed up for your newsletter but not your product, you should direct them to a landing page with a “best of” list of your best content. If you’ve promised a freebie (i.e. a lead magnet), you’ll also send instructions on how to retrieve it.

Newsletters

Newsletters are informational emails that keep your audience connected to you. You’ll send these emails to your entire list. But I do recommend segmenting for better open rates (more on this later).

Your newsletters should be sent on a frequent and consistent basis (for example, once a week every week).

In these newsletters, you’ll keep subscribers updated on any news concerning your company or your products. You’ll share blog posts. You’ll give them the heads up on any upcoming sales.

Lead nurturing

Lead nurturing is not the same as a newsletter. In lead nurturing, your entire goal is to move the subscriber from prospect to customer. You’ll do this through educational content, such as email courses. You can also use testimonials and case studies to persuade.

Promotional

Promotional emails are a favorite for your users. In these emails, you’ll send news of special discounts, promotions, and sales.

Transactional

Transactional emails are usually triggered by behavior from the subscriber. For example, if the subscriber needs to reset his or her password, you’ll send this type of email automatically. Other transactional emails include upsells, cross-sells, and receipts.

Cart Abandonment

Last but not least is the cart abandonment email. This is the email you should send immediately (within 30 minutes) after a customer leaves without completing a purchase. Approximately 23% of users abandon their carts on purpose in anticipation of a discount. Whether you want to give a discount or not is up to you, but sometimes rescuing a sale is better than not making any profit.

1. Segment Your List

You should always segment your list. Always.

Here are a two stats to remember:

No doubt about it– you should segment your list if you want to get more people to read your content.

If you’re just starting out, here are three important segments to consider:

1 – People who’ve purchased your product.

Send this segment emails of support, promotions, upsells, surveys, discounts, and information about your loyalty referral program.

2 – People who’ve expressed interest in your product but haven’t purchased.

Send this segment case studies, discounts, and webinar invitations.

3 – People who have initiated a trial but haven’t purchased.

Enroll this segment in an email course where you educate them on how to use your product. Towards the end of the trial, send testimonials, case studies, and special discount offers.

Here are a few other ways to segment your list:

By sign up date – Get your new subscribers up to speed and send them your “greatest hits” emails before funneling them into your main newsletter list. This allows you to gently introduce them to your list without throwing them into the deep end.

By app activity – Send emails based on where the user is in their customer journey with you.

By location – Send location-specific emails, such as discounts that coincide with special holidays like 4th of July or Canada Day.

2. Be Mindful of the Preview Text

Are you optimizing your email content for the preview text?

Preview text is the snippet of content that shows what your email is about. Most email marketing services provide a space for you to include your preview text.

So, why is it important?

Preview text allows a reader to determine whether or not to open your email. If your preview text isn’t relevant, then the reader isn’t going to bother opening your email at all. Your preview text needs to compel the reader to open.

Depending on the email provider, you have approximately 90 characters (not words) to persuade the reader. I recommend using this opportunity to ask a question. Questions immediately engage.

Preview text isn’t supported by every email service, but most of the bigger email providers offer it, including Apple Mail, Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo!.

3. Send Emails Frequently

Aim to send out your emails on a frequent and predictable schedule. According to this study, the majority of your email subscribers want to hear from you weekly. If weekly sounds like too much of a commitment, send no less than once a month. Twelve emails in a year is doable for just about any SaaS.

The reason you should send out frequent emails is so that you stay “top of mind” for your subscribers. They should get used to hearing from you often. This will help them remember you when it’s time to finally make that purchase you’ve been nurturing them into buying.

4. Keep Your Emails Short and Sweet

The most effective emails are surprisingly short. You don’t have to spend a lot of time composing lengthy emails. According to Boomerang, the most effective emails are between 50 to 125 words in length.

That’s approximately three paragraphs.

Image Courtesy of Boomerang

Maybe it’s due to our ever-decreasing attention span. Maybe it’s because the inbox is a pretty hostile place where users just want to get in and get out. No matter the reason, the best performing emails are short.

It gives you just enough time to pique your user’s curiosity and invite them to read more.

So, in the case of newsletters, just include an excerpt and invite the user to click over for more information. That way you’ll get users back to your website– a win!

5. Send Valuable Emails

Don’t send emails that are nothing more than glorified status updates. While I do recommend sending your emails on a consistent basis, if there’s nothing to report, then don’t.

You should always send the most valuable content to your subscribers. Your emails should be something that your subscribers look forward to receiving.

6. Mind the Call to Action

Your call to action is crucial for engaging customers. Don’t send an email without purpose. Your emails should direct users to your blog, ask users to sign up for a trial, invite users to a webinar, or encourage them to refer new friends. End every email with what the user should do next. If you don’t, they’ll delete it and move on.

Speaking of which, make sure that you click on the link at the bottom of this post to receive a checklist of emails you should send to your SaaS customers.

Download our list of SaaS email marketing best practices:

Delight with These Automated Customer Service Strategies

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Looking for easy ways to deliver impeccable customer service?

Nothing’s easier than automation. Set it up once, and you’re golden. From triggered emails that keep customers engaged to helpful onboarding emails that guide your visitors into a desired action, there are a ton of fantastic ways to be present for your customers (even when you’re not actually there).

This may sound ironic, but automation can actually forge a more human connection with your customers. The Internet can be cold and unwelcoming. You can counter-balance that by anticipating the needs of your customers and setting up experiences that help them succeed. With just a little planning and foresight, your automated interactions will feel intuitive and even interactive.

Let’s get into the details of how to create these experiences with your customers. We’ll take a look at the best and easiest ways to automate customer service without sounding robotic or disengaged.

Check out this awesome list of automated emails to send to your customers (and when).

Why Use Automation?

Not sure if you should automate your customer service?

At first glance, customer service automation sounds pretty soulless. If your customers don’t actually interact with a real human, how can you deliver a delightful, individualized experience?

That’s a valid question, and here’s the equally valid answer:

Automation allows you to respond to the 21st-century customer– the type who uses the Internet and doesn’t want to wait until for normal business hours for an answer to their question. On the Internet, everything’s open 24 hours a day. There’s no such thing as Monday through Friday business hours.

It’s old school madness to expect your customers to wait hours, or days even, to get in touch with a real human.

By automating your customer service, you can help your customers solve their issues as quickly as possible without waiting on human intervention. According to this study conducted by the Center for Generational Kinetics, the majority of American consumers prefer self-service customer service. A whooping 65% of customers feel positive about both themselves and the company when they can solve a problem without contacting human support.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Most customers, particularly millennials, prefer to avoid human interaction. For a huge portion of your customer base, it’s actually a loss to contact a customer support agent. But that doesn’t mean that you should abandon customer service altogether– instead, make your customer service more self-service friendly. Hello, automated customer service.

Another benefit of automating your customer service is scalability. You’re able to reach many more people when you automate interactions. It’s a lot easier to create one message that can be automatically delivered upon trigger than it is to keep writing that same email over and over again. You’ll free up your customer service staff to focus on the issues that truly need human intervention.

And last, but not least, automating your customer service shows that you care.

Have you ever reached out to a company via email and then… crickets. You didn’t receive a “Hey, we got your email and we’re working on it” response. You sat there wondering, “Did they receive my message? Maybe I should send again…” Don’t banish your customers to this communication purgatory.

When you send a response– even if it’s an automated one– you reassure your customer. You also communicate that you care about the customer’s experience.

Next, let’s discuss how to implement automated customer service in your business.

Anticipate the Needs of Your Customers

When will your customers need your attention or support the most?

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that customer service is reactive. The best customer service is proactive, especially when it comes to automation. If you can anticipate when your customers are most likely to need you, you can create systems to guide the customer into your desired course of action.

Here are two stages when your customers are more likely to need your support:

Before Becoming Customers

The majority of your first-time visitors simply won’t be ready to buy. You’ve got to nurture them from prospect to customer– and you can automate a big chunk of that process.

Whether you offer a free trial or a free lead magnet in hopes of wooing visitors onto your subscriber list, you can use automated systems to invite and then deliver the goods.

Then, you can stay connected to your prospects through ongoing automated email (more on this a little later).

During Onboarding

Once you’ve converted a prospect into a customer, you can use automation to deepen their engagement with your app. Setup trigger emails or messages that help the user find success in using your product. For example, if it’s been a week since the user last logged in, send an email that prompts the user to do so.

The onboarding process is about guiding your customers to success when using your app. Automation can help keep your customers engaged from the very beginning.

Ask yourself this question:

How can you help your customers have an enjoyable and delightful experience with your app?

Get detailed and use these answers to create an almost intuitive customer onboarding experience.

Automatically Route Incoming Emails

Are you segmenting the emails that arrive in your general “help” inbox? If not, you should.

It’s not an efficient use of time to individually sort through every email to figure out which department you should forward the email to. Set up filters and route emails that contain specific keywords or phrases to the right department automatically.

Send a Series of Automated Emails

Email allows you to serve your customers while also staying top of mind. Use email to deliver anticipatory customer service.

Feed a steady stream of helpful emails to your customers. Teach your customers how to use your product– this is a big part of customer service. Offer in-depth tutorials, share how-to videos, and link back to your knowledge base.

Create a series of automated emails, such as a tour of your app, a list of best practices, and common customer uses. Schedule those emails to send at specific intervals that coincide with your free trial, if applicable. Then, set those emails to send whenever someone signs up for your service.

How to Begin Automating Your Customer Service

Get Retained. We’ll help you automate your customer service and increase your customer retention rate. By providing you with actionable insight about your customers, it allows you to rescue those who are in danger of churning. Follow the predictive clues to figure out who you need to reach out to before it’s too late.

If you haven’t already, get your invitation to Retained here now.

Don’t forget to download this list of automated emails to send to your customers.

How to Use Email Remarketing to Boost Your Sales

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

FEATURED_How-to-Use-Email-Remarketing-to-Boost-Your-Sales

You’ve got a great product. You’ve built a website to showcase your product. And you’ve even paid for ads to build awareness for your product on Facebook and Google.

However, you have two major problems:

  1. Your product isn’t selling.
  2. Most consumers don’t buy immediately.

But don’t let that get you down because you’re about to use the powerful tool of email remarketing to change your luck.

Email remarketing improves sales. And it works for a wide variety of consumers — from cart abandoners to just browsers. Use email remarketing to convert the uncommitted.

Ready to learn what it is and how it works? Let’s get started.

What Is Email Remarketing?

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Email remarketing is the strategy of using email to target prospects and get them to buy. You’re probably familiar with it, even if you didn’t know it by name.

Have you ever looked at a product and even added it to your online shopping cart with intentions to buy it? But then you hesitate. You think, Maybe I can find this at a better price somewhere else. Or, Maybe I don’t need this product after all — what if it doesn’t work for me? So, you close the tab and move on. But then, as if by magic, an email pop-ups in your inbox: It says “Hey! You left something in your cart” or “Here’s why you should purchase this product now”.

Sound familiar? That’s an example of email remarketing.

Email remarketing is all about nurturing prospects and motivating them from interest to purchase.

But, although they may sound alike, email remarketing is not the same as email marketing.

In email marketing, you initiate contact. You send automated emails based on your desired schedule. Examples of email marketing include:

  • Weekly scheduled newsletters
  • A pop-up or flash sale
  • Blog post update

In email remarketing, your prospect’s behavior initiates, or triggers, contact. Examples of behavioral triggers include:

  • Cart abandonment (the prospect leaves your website before they can finalize payment)
  • Anniversary (the customer signed up / made a purchase one year ago, and you’re celebrating that milestone)
  • Upcoming renewal needed (your product needs to be renewed)
  • Subscriber hasn’t opened emails in the last 30 days

As you can see, behavioral triggers include both action and inaction.

By sending emails based on the prospect’s behavior, you can create a more compelling invitation to engage. People are more likely to respond when you send out a personalized email based on their activity than if you send out a generic one. For example, sending out an email that says, “hey, you looked at this product, now there’s a sale for it” is much more effective than sending out a generic “hey, we’re having a sale” email.

Email remarketing is wildly effective, but it’s also wildly underused. Only 1 in 5 email marketers use behavioral triggers email remarketing. And that’s why it’s going to be so effective in your marketing efforts.

5 Ways to Use Email Remarketing

Let’s take a closer look at how to use email to remarket to all those otherwise lost sales.

1. Convert Just Browsers

As I mentioned earlier, most people who come to your site won’t buy at first. That’s the bad news. The good news is you can start nurturing those people so that they will eventually buy from you.

The very first step is to get their email. Once you get their email and permission to market to them, you can put them in your nurturing funnel. And not just for generic marketing (i.e. newsletters), you can also use it for super-targeted marketing (we’ll discuss more in the Google section below).

But how do you get their email? Ask, of course, but with an offer that they can’t refuse. One of my favorite suggestions is to offer an instantly delivered promo or coupon code that they can use immediately (not within 24-48 hours).

Once they’ve signed up for your mailing list to get the coupon, automatically enroll them on a nurturing track.

Play up urgency. (Offer a juicy, high value coupon that expires within a few hours.)

Build trust. (This is where traditional email marketing comes in. Use email to share case studies and testimonials to show social proof.)

Here are 10 ways to get a site visitor’s email address.

2. Rescue Cart Abandoners

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By some estimates, cart abandonment is as high as 70%. That means that 7 out of 10 prospects have made it all the way to payment but then decided to leave without completing the purchase. Ouch.

There are a lot of reasons why people abandon carts. Among them are:

  • Unexpected costs (shipping, handling, etc.)
  • Just browsing (window shopping)
  • Technical error (browser, computer crash)
  • Long, complicated checkout process (too many questions)
  • Limited payment options (preferred payment method not available)

But another big reason people abandon carts is to get coupon codes. Some savvy shoppers know that cart abandonment triggers an automated coupon offer.

Why not give the people what they want? And most everyone wants a discount. If you can rescue sales by discounting the price, why not do so? If you discount by 25% to rescue the sale, you’ll at least get 75%. And that’s a whole lot better than 100% of zero.

Use email to remarket to cart abandoners. Send out an email immediately (within the first 60 minutes of a suspected abandonment) that woos the prospect back to complete the sale. Test the offers. Don’t default to 50% if you’ve tested and 25% works just as well.

3. Use Google

Google has a cool feature called Adwords Customer Match. It allows you to target ads to people on your email list. This is how it works:

Upload your subscriber email list. Then, Google will match the email addresses against their user database. If the email you have matches one of their users, you can then set up a campaign to market to them.

But, you’ll need at least 1000 email address matches to start a campaign. That means, if you have 1000 email addresses, but only 800 of them match a Google user, you won’t be able to start the campaign. This is done for privacy concerns.

If you’re able to use this marketing strategy, don’t be afraid to segment your list for the most effective remarketing. I like the idea of segmenting based on who’s already purchased your products. To those who’ve purchased, you can show them ads with a targeted upgrade to boost your sales. And for those who’ve browsed but not purchased, you can show them ads for a free webinar or product demo.

4. Get Them to Open Emails

Email marketing is sending out emails. Email remarketing is sending out those emails again, but this time with more of an incentive for the subscriber to actually read it.

When you send out emails again, you won’t be sending it to your entire list. You’ll only send it out to those who didn’t open the email the first time. Their inaction is a behavioral trigger. But of course, when you send out this time, you want to opt for a different subject line to pique their interest.

Then, there are those who open your emails but didn’t click on the call to action within the email. Target those people, too. Use a different call to action. Make the benefits of clicking obvious. Improve the incentive to click.

As a note, I’d recommend this type of email remarketing when you’re trying to sell a product, but it can also work for promoting your blog posts, webinars, and other causes, too. Just keep in mind that the more you saturate your audience, the less effective it becomes. So, use this technique sparingly for max benefit.

5. Upsell

We can’t talk about boosting sales without talking about upselling. Upselling helps you to make more from a transaction.

When a customer makes a purchase, send out an email offering a complementary or upgraded product at a reduced fee. Explain how this product can benefit the customer, but be careful not to downplay the product that they’ve already purchased from you. If you decide not to upgrade, you don’t want them to feel bad about what they’ve actually purchased.

Best Practices for Email Remarketing

Make sure to do the following when remarketing to your prospects through email:

Do it sooner rather than later.

Send your emails (or ads) as soon as possible in response to the trigger. For example, don’t wait days before you attempt to rescue an abandoned cart. The sooner you respond, the better your results.

Personalize your email (or ad) as much as possible.

If you know their first name, use it. If you know what product they were interested in, include it. Tailor your content to their behavior.

Incentivize action.

Use a promo code where applicable to motivate them to complete the call to action.

Make the call to action obvious.

Your prospect should know exactly what to do next.

Commit to A/B testing.

A/B testing helps you figure out what’s working and what’s not working in your remarketing efforts.

Get an Invite

Before you go, be sure to get an invite to Retained. With Retained, you’ll get special insight into your customers. We’ll identify your most successful customers, and predict those who are likely to churn so you can rescue them in time. Get your invitation here.

Don’t forget to download this list of 10 ways to get your site visitor’s email address.

Best Practices for Creating SaaS Documentation

Monday, February 6th, 2017

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Even the simplest, cleanest SaaS applications have problems that require support. Providing support to your users and customers is a critical part of operating any successful business.

The beauty of a SaaS product, however, is its scalability. You can service thousands of customers with minimal staff. One of the ways you do that is by making a plethora of support documentation available on your website.

Documentation benefits you and your customers in a few important ways.

1. Customers onboard faster

Onboarding is about helping your users find value in your product quickly so they continue to use it (and convert from free to paid tiers or renew their subscription). Documentation doesn’t replace your onboarding process, but it should support it by offering additional information. It’s also available in case new users have questions.

2. Your team operates and scales faster

Documentation can be used as internal training materials to help new employees become familiar with your product. It also reduces the amount of time you or your support team spend answering customer questions. They can quickly link customers to already-prepared documents.

3. B2B clients don’t struggle with employee turnover

Your B2B customers will likely change employees ever so often. If you rely on live trainings, you’ll be forced to repeat your presentation over and over or leave the customer to figure things out on their own (which might incur costs on their end, something you don’t want customers to experience).

4. Reduces the likelihood of churning

Any time you can reduce friction in the customer experience, you reduce the chances of a customer churning. Documentation turns moments of frustration into moments of value.

So how do you create truly valuable documentation?

Download this free checklist to use each time you create a support document.

Prioritize what you create

Naturally, some of your support documentation articles are going to be more valuable than others. Some features, screens or actions are going to be used more often. Many users will have the same problems, while others will experience less popular challenges.

It would be great if you could create all of the documentation at once, but that usually isn’t the case. You can only allot so much time each week or day to this task because there are other tasks that need doing. So you have to prioritize the order of articles you create.

Talk to whoever handles customer support or customer success for your SaaS. What types of questions do they get most often? What types of complaints do they receive? What questions do customers ask with a sense of urgency? What problems do customers have that prevent usage of the application?

Your goal should be to remove as many obstacles as quickly as possible. Prioritize your documentation by targeting the most common problems your customers have, or the most serious problems (like being unable to log into the application).

Craft searchable titles

People don’t search for features. They search for solutions to their problems. Your titles should reflect their concerns so they can easily find answers.

Let’s say you have created a social media scheduling tool. Users need to integrate their social media accounts before they can schedule any posts. Even though you make this feature apparent, some people will inevitably need help. Their problem is urgent because they can’t use the application otherwise.

If you explain this feature in a support document called “Social Media Integration Feature Explained,” your users will have a hard time finding it. Instead, focus on their problem. A better title would be “How do I link my social media account?”

Here’s an excellent example of what not to do. These titles are tough to scan because they all start with the same words, which aren’t even relevant to the search.

saas-documentation-titles

Image source: screensteps.com

Only answer one question at a time

You won’t do your customers any favors if you merge multiple support topics into one article or page. Keep in mind that your users won’t read your documentation for fun. No one will read your documentation page-by-page.

Instead, they’ll search through it when they have a specific problem, so each page’s title needs to clearly relate to the page’s content and nothing else. If you cram too much information into one page, it will be hard to find.

Let’s return to our example of a social media scheduling tool. You might have a comprehensive article on scheduling social media posts for training purposes, but you should also have articles that address individual features. You might have one called “How to schedule a social media post,” one called “How to delete a scheduled social media post,” and “How to edit a scheduled social media post.”

Stay simple and actionable

Like I said, no one reads support documentation for fun. Users will visit those pages on your site only because they have to. At this point, they are already frustrated with your product, so you have to do everything you can to reduce their burden and provide a solution quickly.

You can do this by keeping your support documents simple. Don’t dig into details about why your product functions the way it does. Don’t bore them with unnecessary information. Certainly do not give them a history of how the product used to be, because that would cause confusion.

Be succinct and actionable. Answer direct questions. Put your content into scan-able, digestible chunks so readers can quickly find what they need. If your document explains a multi-step process, style it as a list so the steps are clear.

In short, do whatever you can to reduce the barriers between your users and solutions to their problems. Notice how this MailChimp knowledge base article jumps right into actionable solutions.

mailchimp-knowledge-base

Assign topics to people throughout your organization

As your SaaS grows, you might hire people who are more knowledge than you on certain topics. It’s smart to have documentation written by the expert. For example, you would want someone acutely familiar with the technical side of your product to create documentation around your API.

If you have a customer success team, it’s usually best to let them handle documentation. They are intimately aware of the user experience and customer problems.

Even if you are capable of writing all the necessary topics, I recommend assigning some to your team anyway. Documentation is one of those tasks that’s easy to push to the bottom of your to-do list. When no one really owns the responsibility of doing it, it may never get done. Each week, assign one topic to each person on your team to keep the process moving.

Iterate just like a product

Your documentation is all part of your software-as-a-service. Like any other component of your product, you should refine it over time. Add articles as customers ask questions. Encourage everyone in the organization to take note any time they come across a topic that would be suitable as a help article.

You can expedite your article writing by leaning on your support staff. Have your support team copy you in on conversations with customers. You should be able to lift the solution they provide straight from that conversation to craft an article.

Finally, review your documentation at least yearly. If your product goes through any type of fundamental change, it would be smart to go through every article and make the necessary changes. Sometimes just updating screenshots to your new interface can encourage more engagement with your application.

Use this free checklist to make sure every support document is effective.

Ultimately, documentation helps you retain your customers by pre-providing solutions to their problems. If you want to maximize your retention abilities, get your invitation to Retained today.