Archive for the ‘Retaining Customers’ Category

How SaaS Should Manage Dunning

Monday, June 27th, 2016

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As SaaS your business is built on a recurring revenue model, right? The chances are you’d like that revenue to keep recurring with as few interruptions as possible.

It all sounds quite simpleattach a payment gateway, get subscriptions and (besides your app upgrades and maintenance) wait for the cash to keep rolling in. In reality, things tend to get much more sticky.

What do you do when a customer payment doesn’t go through for whatever reason?

What should you have in place pre-dunning? Grab our checklist here.

What Is Dunning?

“Dunning” is the term used to describe the process of communicating with clients whose transactions have failed prior to their accounts being cancelled.

The primary objective of dunning is always going to be to preserve your revenue sources, but as the whole thing is a communication process, it can serve other purposes too. For example, it can help you promote your app so the customer understands what they’ll miss out on, find out from customers if there is any problem you can help them with and generally help you to foster a relationship with them.

Remember, they’re not necessarily “bad” customers…

Have you ever had to have a credit card cancelled for any reason? What about simply an update to the account details associated with the card? There are a number of reasons why a credit card transaction may be declined and many of them don’t involve “the customer didn’t pay their bill.”

For example:

  • Change of billing address with associated credit card.
  • The credit card expired.
  • The card was cancelled due to fraudulent activity.

It’s worth remembering that you could have many good customers who have a payment issue come up on their credit card and that the dunning (or pre-dunning) process can be worth the effort.

Pre-Dunning?

Yep. Sometimes you know ahead of time that there’s going to be an issue with the payment, right? Like when the expiry date of the card on record is coming up due. Pre-dunning involves sending out emails reminding the customer to update their credit card details ahead of time. It tends to be easier to pre-empt a problem and get the new details rather than chase up failed payments.

There are some tools you can get which automate the pre-dunning and dunning process (such as Stunning for Stripe users). These save you the time and trouble of manually chasing up expiring credit cards or credit card declines by sending out automated emails.

Tips For Managing Dunning

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As mentioned, we highly recommend that you find an automated software to take care of dunning for you. The thing is, unless you’re constantly poking into the accounts side of your business (who has time?), you won’t know someone’s credit card is about to expire ahead of time.

A primary measure of SaaS is churn, and failed payments can be a substantial cause of that churn. The thing is though, just because a customer’s payment has failed doesn’t mean they’ve already churned. For now, they still have an active account which could still be salvaged, which is why it’s important to have that dunning process in the first place.

Give the benefit of the doubt first

Remember all those possible reasons a card can decline? Sometimes it even happens at random and can be resolved simply by trying again later. This means you don’t want to be dealing with the customer in any way which might ruin the relationship.

Hold off on actions such as freezing accounts until you’ve give the customer plenty of opportunity to rectify the situation. Many SaaS are using a period of up to 21 days grace to make contact with the customer and give them the opportunity to get payments going again first. It’s about striking that balance between too lenient and too tough.

What to look for in a dunning system

You already know you want the process automated. It makes sense that you put more focus into growing the business and serving your customers well rather than doing a task which can be handled on autopilot with a few emails.

Here is what you should be looking for in a dunning system:

  • Automatic retries – For all those times when a card declines one minute, but will be accepted the next. You want a system which retries intelligently at times which give you the best chance of recovering revenue.
  • Pre-dunning intelligence – The system should look for things like upcoming credit card expiry and automatically send out emails to remind the customer to update their details.
  • Payment reminder emails – You want customers to be reminded that they have an upcoming payment. If they’ve just cancelled the old credit card, this may be enough of a reminder for them to update their details.
  • Customizable emails – You want to be able to add your own branding and “language” to the emails.
  • Automated dunning emails – When there is a credit card decline, the system should automatically kick in to trigger emails.
  • Automated follow-up – The system should be intelligent enough to know whether the customer responded to the first email and should only send out emails based on need.

This is a minimum list of requirements – you will find that some apps available have a whole lot more features which are useful to add on.

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Best practices for email

Half the battle with sending any kind of email is ensuring it gets opened and read in the first place. If your SaaS wants to manage dunning well, we have a few suggestions for those emails:

  1. Send them from an address which customers are able to reply to if needed. This way you open the dialogue easily for any questions.
  2. Have an obvious subject line (for example: [Name of SaaS] Please update your billing information).
  3. Tell the customer why the transaction failed – it can save the mini-panic moment if you’re telling them it was simply due to an expired card.
  4. If possible, use a direct link to get them to update their billing information. You want to make the process as seamless as possible, so cutting out clicking around and logging in where you can.
  5. Stick to empathetic, professional language. Be clear about what’s happening, but don’t take the tone of “making a demand.”
  6. Let them know when you’ll attempt to collect payment again and what will happen if it is unsuccessful.
  7. Remind them of the value your app delivers for them. You don’t want a customer thinking “meh” after reading your email, you want them to have a sense of urgency about not losing the fantastic benefits you provide them. You could even introduce them to new or upcoming features: “we wouldn’t want you to miss out on …”
  8. Send out more than one email. Crowded inboxes have a habit of burying emails, so your chances are better with multiple communications. We usually send out three across the space of a week.
What should you have in place pre-dunning? Grab our checklist here.

Final Thoughts

Dunning is actually one of the most simple revenue-rescuing strategies you can put in place, especially if you choose the right kind of automated software.

We’d consider dunning activities to be a basic requirement for SaaS who are keen to reduce churn and preserve that recurring revenue.
Remember, your customer hasn’t actually churned yet just because their payment hasn’t gone through. There are a number of legitimate reasons credit card payments fail, so give them the benefit of the doubt, treat them with respect and give them the chance to get back on track.

5 Strategies For Getting Customer Upgrades

Monday, June 13th, 2016

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Your SaaS probably spends a lot of time trying to get new sign-ups, right? Obviously getting people through the door is an important activity, but even more important is what happens once you have them there.

Do you have robust strategies for encouraging your customers to upgrade?

If you’re not getting the upgrades, you’re probably spending a lot of money to see people either exit, or linger on your freemium tier.

It makes sense to do what you can to boost the lifetime value of the customer and ensure you keep them around for longer. After all, it costs much more to acquire a new customer than to hang on to the old ones.

So what can you do? We’ve got a few strategies to help encourage those customer upgrades.

Find out what other SaaS are doing to get upgrades. Grab our tipsheet here.

#1. Master The “Soft Sell”

“Buy our product” hardly ever works unless you’re selling ice cream in a heatwave. This is where the “soft sell” comes in. If you’ve successfully got people signed up to your free trial or freemium tier, the next step is to ensure activation happens.

Activation means that they’ve started to use your software and to realize value from it. It means you’re being proactive about customer success and ensuring that new signups get through key milestones in order to see that all-important value.

Why? Because the soft sell means that customers know and love your product first, even before it’s time to upgrade.

Dropbox is often used as an example, mainly because they are a SaaS who do the soft sell so well. There is no immediate insistence for an upgrade, though most new users will quickly find that they need more space.

Instead, Dropbox has provided users with several ways to earn free space, including “take a tour of Dropbox” – a genius way to ensure new customers know where everything is and how it works.

One of the best ways to work on that soft sell is to ensure that new signups actually are using your product and know how to do so to achieve what they’re looking for. The idea is that you want to quickly become indispensable to them, so that upgrading is simply a natural next step for them.

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#2. Track Usage

When is the perfect time to ask users to upgrade? Of course the answer is going to vary between SaaS, but tracking usage will provide you with a better idea of the optimum time to ask.

Say your product has some kind of built-in limit (for example, Buffer allows ten scheduled social media posts on their free plan). If you are monitoring usage and note that the customer is reaching limits of your free trial or freemium plan, that would be a good time to trigger an email which asks for the upgrade.

You could also trigger emails based on usage – where features which are only available with an upgrade are the logical next step for the customer. Using Buffer again as an example, their analytics tracking is not available on the free or tier two (“Awesome”) plans. Yet for someone who is using them a lot to schedule social media posts for business, analytics may be the next most logical step to ensure they’re optimizing their social media posts.

Tracking usage is about being relevant to the customer. Sure, you could blanket email everyone who is sitting on a certain level and ask for an upgrade. But, segmenting your audience so that only highly relevant messages are sent is going to be much more effective.

#3. Improve Your Activation Funnel

This is about looking at your activation funnel holistically – are there any speed-bumps which need smoothing out? According to Intercom, 40 – 60% of users who sign up for a free trial with your SaaS will use the software once, then never come back. Ouch.

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Source: Intercom

Obviously, you’re never going to get the upgrade if people haven’t activated (AKA seen some value from your product) in the first place.

One method suggested by Kissmetrics to improve your activation funnel is to actually map out what your ideal customer flow looks like. This way, you can very quickly identify any signups who are off-track and reach out to offer assistance.

For example, here’s a flow Kissmetrics mentions for Airbrake:

  1. Signs up for Airbrake.
  2. Indicates which programming language they use.
  3. Installs and deploys a few lines of code in their app.
  4. Captures their first error.
  5. Marks their first error as resolved in their dashboard.

Once you’ve mapped out what your ideal flow looks like, you can also easily identify if there is any particular step where people are falling off. This is where you will want to investigate why – is there something “difficult” about the way it’s set up? Smoothing the activation journey will boost your odds of the customer seeing value and wanting your upgrade.

#4. Pricing Model

Pricing is often a painstaking thought process for SaaS. You don’t want to go so low that you lower the perceived value of your product, but you don’t want to price your ideal customers out at the same time.

When it comes to getting upgrades, the key is to be able to intelligently align user experience with your pricing. What extra features are people willing to pay for? How significantly is their experienced improved by moving to a paid tier?

As Lincoln Murphy points out, pricing really needs to be heavily tied in with value. What your competitors charge may be a consideration, but it shouldn’t be your main consideration. Assuming that you’ve built something which uniquely solves a problem better than others, the value you deliver to customers should be the main pricing consideration.

#5. Features To Encourage Upgrades

Of course features are heavily tied with pricing and with the likelihood that the customer will upgrade. There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to upgrades and SaaS features:

  • You could give them full access to your product on a limited-time free trial. Do your best to ensure that customers fully utilize the free trial and understand and use the various features available to them. Your aim is to have become indispensable to them by the end of the trial so that they are compelled to upgrade.
  • You could limit core functionality at the freemium level. For example, Dropbox limits storage space and Buffer limits the number of social media accounts connected as well as the number of posts which can be scheduled at once. Again, the aim is to give customers enough of a taste of your product features that they simply must upgrade to get unlimited (or less limited) access.
  • You could keep some features specifically for tier upgrades. This is one to be careful about, because how will the customer understand the value of the withheld features? If you take this option, you’re going to need very clear, accessible education options to let customers know (emails, videos, etc.). You’re also going to need to have tested and clearly understood which feature upgrades will be of value to customers, otherwise people will simply remain on the next tier down.
Find out what other SaaS are doing to get upgrades. Grab our tipsheet here.

Final Thoughts

Getting the customer to upgrade is usually the ultimate goal of a SaaS. Hopefully, once they’ve upgraded, you have a devoted user and have increased average customer lifetime value.

There are a number of ways you could encourage customers to upgrade, but one of the critical steps is ensuring that they see value from your product first. People don’t tend to impulse buy a SaaS product – they need to see themselves achieving some kind of goals from them.

Look at your pricing model and features, improve your activation funnel, and track usage so that you can send timely, relevant offers. It is often the “soft sell” which will achieve the upgrade.

Could Company Culture Kill Your SaaS?

Monday, May 30th, 2016

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The company culture at your SaaS can be a huge determinant of whether or not you are successful.

You need a motivated, skilled team who put the customer at the center of what they do in order to grow, but at the same time, to maintain some sanity, teams need to know how to decompress.

Finding the right balance is critical – you don’t want to lean so far toward the stereotype of Silicon Valley party culture that things get out of hand. Instead, you should a culture that is healthy for the longevity of the company and the wellbeing of the team.

How can you promote good team relationships at the same time as growing a successful SaaS?

Need to develop your SaaS values? Grab our free guide.

Case Study: Zenefits

The story of Zenefits became high-profile news recently when it was announced they were laying off 250 people (including the entire enterprise sales team) and had sacked the CEO.

According to a feature in Business Insider, Zenefits has been described as a company that “spiraled out of control” (though there are employees fiercely loyal to the company who say this is an exaggeration).

Zenefits was founded in 2013 as an HR platform for businesses, including dealing with benefits such as insurance. The company grew so rapidly that by Spring 2015 it was valued at $4.5 billion and had raised $583 million.

From there Zenefits grew rapidly; while they began 2015 with 500 employees, by September they had around 1600.

Getting to the cultural aspects of the company, one office “tradition” was to do rounds of shots whenever a milestone happened. This might work out fine while a company is still small and the milestones are at least a day apart, but as an Arizona employee pointed out, pretty soon there was more than one milestone per day and shots were coming out every time.

With the plethora of new hires, many of them recent college graduates, “party central” started to get out of control, with the note below being an actual email that was sent out:

zenefits-email

Source: Business Insider

Is this a sign of what happens when employee growth is so rapid, that perhaps management loses touch with how the culture they created could be magnified?

Adding to Zenefits woes were a couple of more serious allegations:

  1. That salespeople weren’t appropriately licensed according to the regulations of each state. Previously they’d got around this by having licensed managers listen in to calls, but at the rate they grew, managers allegedly weren’t listening to every call anymore.
  2. That team members were running a “macro” to get around California state requirements of 52 hours on a training program. When employees finished sooner, allegedly they would run a macro to keep the program running and appear to log the 52 hour requirement.

Whatever the real facts of the story are, a recently released investigation reported by Fortune cleared the current CEO (former COO) David Sacks of any blame and pinned these more serious allegations on his predecessor.

The company is on a turnaround culture-wise (having banned alcohol, among other things), but the story highlights how what you do with a company culture when small may only magnify with rapid growth.

“Move Slow to Grow Fast”

SaaS expert Jason Lempkin revealed this gem to Insight Squared. What does it mean? You need to know the difference between “operational speed” and “strategic speed.”

SaaS are often under a lot of pressure to grow rapidly, which can lead to decisions made in the name of operational speed. For example, you might rush to make some key hires or to implement some new feature or policy.

The overall goal is always to put yourself in the best position for future success, but as Lempkin says, you need to put more focus on “strategic speed” to do so. This means knowing where you’re going and how to get there quickly, not just moving fast for the sake of speed.

Relating back to Zenefits and culture, the company hired at a very rapid rate which could have been a key contributor to cultural issues – this is something for SaaS to consider. Building a healthy culture is not about “who can I see myself doing shots with?”, but about strategically bringing onboard the people with the skills, attitude and core values which lead to your success.

Building A Successful Culture

Sometimes there’s a bit of a glamorous image of “unreality” around SaaS, especially if ideas of culture are formed around those Silicon Valley stereotypes. Fancy corporate retreats, office parties and personal chefs? All of these kinds of things are window-dressing and certainly won’t fix any ingrained company culture issues.

How can your SaaS keep it real and build a company culture for success? Let’s look at a few tips:

#1. Embrace a set of core values

… and we’re not talking about throwing some trite poster up on the wall of the break room and claiming you have “company values.” There’s a big difference between simply posting values and actually living them.

Truly embracing core values means that they sit at the center of “how we do things around here.” It’s important to decide what these are early, incorporate them into employee training and make sure you’re emphasizing the right things.

For example, if any kind of “balance” or “wellness” are part of your values for employees, but you then glorify only those who are in the office from dawn til dark, you’ve got a dissonance in your values. People will feel that they’re not going to get on in your company unless they too work at all hours.

If “doing the right thing” is a value, but on the side you encourage people to run a macro to get their training hours in, what kind of values are you really living?

#2. Put the customer at the center

It should be a given really, the most successful SaaS are those which keep the customer at the center of what they do and are able to respond quickly to any issues or requests by the customer.

SaaS can run into trouble when the focus is all about the company atmosphere or centered too much on the actual product. You’ve created it for customers so people should be the heart of your focus.

Check out these cultural traits of high-growth SaaS (from Cloud Strategies):

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#3. Make compliance a priority

If there’s anything to be learned from the Zenefits case, it’s that you should never take compliance issues too lightly. If anything, the odd short-cut or overlooked issue while you’re small could spiral into a serious issue as you grow.

Sometimes these things happen, again, in the name of rapid growth for which so many SaaS are feeling the pressure. “Just get it done” doesn’t necessarily promote regulatory compliance.

The short of it? Start out as you mean to continue, whether you are a 5 or 500 person company.

#4. Model from the top

Part of the Zenefits story is that management allegedly joined in the rounds of shots during office hours. This is not to say that celebrating in this way is a bad thing, but you definitely want to be careful about what you model as normal behavior.

Employees will take their cue from management; if your office is all about partying, they’ll do the same.

On the other hand, if you tell others to get out of the office on time but never do yourself, you can very quickly engrain a culture that promotes burnout over wellness. (And it is possible to have a “work hard, play hard” culture without spiralling out of control into either too much partying or unhealthy levels of exhaustion).

This also means developing some kind of accountability for the leaders in your organization. It’s definitely worth checking in regularly and ensuring goals and values are being met.

#5. Give (and get) regular feedback

It’s difficult for employees to know where they’re at if they only rarely receive feedback (or only receive it when something has gone wrong!). Part of “keeping it real” in your SaaS should be scheduling in regular times to give feedback, whether it is group issues presented in meetings, or one-on-one.

Ben Horowitz points out the importance of not neglecting employee one-on-ones: “In the end, the most important thing is that the best ideas, the biggest problems and the most intense employee life issues make their way to the people who can deal with them. One-on-ones are a time-tested way to do that…”

Need to develop your SaaS values? Grab our free guide.

Final Thoughts

An ineffective company culture could prove to be a killer for any SaaS. If strong company values aren’t adhered to and the business loses sight of the customer, things can rapidly get out of control.

While SaaS tend to be under pressure to grow quickly, they still need to be mindful of “strategic speed” as opposed to simply moving very fast. Strategic speed suggests you know where you are going and have a definite plan to get there quickly, instead of a whole lot of frenetic activity which isn’t necessarily conducive with those goals.
Keep it real in your SaaS. Develop a set of core values, put the customer at the center and always model the right behaviors from the top. This way you can develop a SaaS culture for success.

4 SaaS Email Marketing Tips

Monday, May 16th, 2016

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Is your SaaS on top of email marketing?

Most SaaS have some kind of email strategy happening. But in many cases, especially when resources are stretched at the early startup stage, that strategy is not necessarily doing very well.

We’re taking a look at a few of the latest trends as well as tried-and-true tips for improving email marketing in your SaaS.

What’s happening in email marketing now? Grab our tip sheet here.

#1. Get Them Delivered

Now this is one of the “classic” email problems which still holds true (if not more so now): You can have the biggest email list in SaaS history, but if you have issues with deliverability of your emails, you will have poor results from email marketing.

These days, there is much more to deliverability than your spam score. Email providers such as Outlook and Google have much more advanced techniques, primarily based on engagement factors.

Here is a list of those factors from Campaign Monitor:

email-deliverability

As Campaign Monitor points out, these factors send signals with regard to your reputation, both with the individual subscriber and with the email providers that your subscribers use. Email providers are interested in maintaining a good experience for their users, so they are actively working to keep spam out and usher in the emails that are wanted.

The trick is going to be in getting those opens and “good” signals happening, for which there are a few tips you can follow:

  • Use your thank you pages to let subscribers know an email is coming and instruct them to “whitelist” your emails. (Email marketer Ben Settle has been known to use video on his thank you pages to show people how to whitelist).
  • Use compelling subject lines to increase the likelihood of getting opened.
  • Target your emails well to encourage more opens (see point #2).
  • Build a quality email list through opt-in rather than buying or renting lists.
  • Send emails from an authenticated domain.

Old rules you’ve probably heard about still apply, such as keeping your spam score down at the same time. There are certain words which are known to trigger spam filters and should be avoided in your subject lines. Lists are updated all the time, but words such as “free”, “% off”, and “reminder” tend to always be on lists of words to be avoided.

#2. Target Based On User Behavior

As Lincoln Murphy describes, the days of the “email blast” are long gone, and if you’re still blanket-emailing your entire list, you’re doing email marketing wrong.

Email targeting has become increasingly sophisticated and is frankly a tool every SaaS should be using. You want to promote retention, and retention tends to happen through engagement – don’t send out emails which will be irrelevant to certain recipients.

If that happens, you start to “train” people that your emails aren’t relevant, they stop opening them, and then the signal is sent to email providers that your emails aren’t wanted and you’re back to deliverability issues.

Each user moves through your funnel at their own pace, so a much more powerful email strategy is to segment based on user behavior (or stage of the funnel) and email valuable information which is relevant to them for their stage.

Alex Turnbull, CEO and Founder of Groove, describes implementing behavioral trigger emails as “one of the best things we did.” Previously, Groove was sending out the “email blast” of an automation series to all trial users, but results changed when they moved to the “trigger” emails.

Here’s an example (from Optimizely’s post):

email-trigger

Groove noticed a real difference when they sent out these highly relevant, behavioral trigger emails – their conversion of trial users to paid users increased by 10%.

If you need more proof that segmentation works, there is an excellent case study at Sixteen Ventures about how Vero used it to increase conversions of SaaS emails by 450%.

As Tim Watson stated for Smart Insights: “Brands not using behaviour in 2016 will be brands stuck in the past.”

[tweetthis]SaaS not using behavioral segmentation for their email delivery will be stuck in the past.[/tweetthis]

#3. Send Re-Engagement Emails

This is really another segment for your SaaS to be targeting. In fact, we’ve previously written about creating an email sequence to effectively re-engage customers.

What we still often see though, is that a busy SaaS start-up can overlook this group while they engage based on user triggers, answer help tickets, and generally hustle to promote the growth of their business.

It would be a shame to let those users who you’ve worked so hard to obtain quietly exit out the back door.

Did you know that the average inactive rate for any email list is 60%? In terms of SaaS subscribers, many are finding they have “zombie customers”, those who are paying for services but not actively using the software at all.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s always worth looking at your onboarding process too. How are you encouraging users to engage, learn about and use your product? Those trigger-based emails we talked about will probably help too, but otherwise ensure you have sufficient channels available to help the client get the most from your service and drive continual engagement.

Marketing Land points out that you should also take note of frequency (are you sending out so many emails that your customers are becoming fatigued?) and type of email that gets opened. They suggest you find the best-performing of your emails from the past few months and only send that type of email to the disengaged customer.

As for any “zombies”, as Lincoln Murphy points out, do the right thing. If efforts to re-engage via email, over the phone, or even by snail mail come to nothing, refund them and suspend their account.

#4. Optimize For Mobile

Have you checked your analytics lately? What percentage of your emails are being opened on a mobile device?

A “rule” of email marketing is that, besides getting your emails opened, you want people to actually read them and take the action – things that are less likely to happen if your emails are not rendering well to be read on a mobile device.

55% of emails are now opened on a mobile device.

This means that overall, anyone in the business of email marketing in 2016 and beyond needs to be optimizing for mobile use.

Here are a few thoughts on being mobile-friendly:

  • Keep both design and content concise. Screen real estate is small and you don’t want people scrolling forever or waiting for heavy images to load.
  • Have a single, very clear call to action in each email.
  • Use simple, one-column templates.
  • Test, test, test. Check how your emails are rendering on different devices and adjust to optimize.

Basically, the time has long passed where the question was whether to bother with mobile optimization – if you don’t do it, you could find your engagement dropping, then we’re back to step one of this piece.

What’s happening in email marketing now? Grab our tip sheet here.

Final Thoughts

Email marketing is an “old” technique, but a powerful strategy which SaaS should be paying attention to. While platforms you don’t own like social media can change at any moment, your email list is an asset which you can always keep – and it needs to be nurtured.

It’s easy to think you’ve got it covered by sending out a few “blasts” every now and then, especially if you’re busy trying to grow. But, SaaS need to get smarter about email strategy.

Make sure your emails are getting delivered and opened, be relevant and targeted with your audience, look to re-engage users, and ensure you are optimized for mobile.
These are strategies which should see you get better email marketing results for 2016 and beyond.

Social Media Strategies For Educating SaaS Clients

Monday, April 4th, 2016

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Engagement is key for retaining clients and reducing churn. There are a number of ways your SaaS can boost engagement, but an important factor is ensuring that they are educated about your product and able to derive value from it.

Generally speaking, customers don’t know what they don’t know, so as we’ve established previously, education can provide a win-win for the business and the customer.

Social media often tends to be underused by SaaS as a channel for educating customers. While it won’t suit everyone, with 2.3 billion active users worldwide, there’s a good chance you can reach a large number of your customers through social media.

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Source: Smart Insights

What can you be doing to encourage better results with social media? Let’s look at some strategies:

Want good examples of SaaS on social media? Grab our free guide.

Know Your Customer

First up, it’s a difficult task developing an effective social media strategy if you don’t have a clear picture of who your customer is. We’ve discussed previously how you need to be able to identify your customer personas and the key aspects that define individual customer success.

When you’re looking to educate, you will be much more effective if you can speak to those ingrained preferences and produce content that directly addresses how your customer can achieve success.

Choose Your Platform(s) Wisely

A mistake that many companies make is in trying to cover too many social media channels at once, but not having the time to do any of them effectively. You will only harm your brand if your social channels are used inconsistently or ineffectively.

This is another part of knowing your customer; you need to know where they tend to hang out on social media so that you can focus on the one or two channels which will get you best bang for buck.

Social media has not traditionally been a huge push for B2B SaaS, but you may also find that there are less “traditional” platforms which are ideal for your target audience. For example, SlideShare is used by many businesses and can be a great opportunity to educate through engaging presentations, while Medium is another channel frequented by professionals.

Listen First

Rather than jumping into a social media group and blurting or saying what you assume people want to hear on your own channels, spend some time hanging out where your people do and listen to what they’re saying.

Identify themes and common problems/questions so that you can frame up your educational posts in a way that speaks to the needs of the customer. You could also just ask questions at first, for example “what is your biggest challenge with (something that relates to a problem your SaaS solves).”

[tweetthis]SaaS social media: Listen to your target audience, then create a strategy to address needs.[/tweetthis]

Content

If you want to gain engagement from your educational social media content, then it must be insightful, relevant and of high quality. There’s a lot of noise on social media so you are competing for attention with others who may have the same goals as you.

The engagement of customers is better achieved when you’re able to make an emotional connection. This means truly speaking to their issues and desires. You should be finding out what those are by listening in on platforms as suggested in the last section, but other ideas include checking out Quora and Reddit for questions and pain points that come up. Your educational content will probably answer questions like “how do I …” and “how can your SaaS help me to …”, so look at those social platforms with those questions in mind.

Storytelling

Sure, you can deal in purely the cold, hard facts and figures, but neuroscience tells us that’s not the best way to achieve the audience connection you’re looking for. If you want to really grab them and make a lasting impression, weaving storytelling into your educational content is the way to go.

When we are told a story, studies show that more parts of our brain light up and become engaged than if we are processing facts and figures. Imagine what that could mean for your content! If you are able to directly speak to those needs of your customer but do so while crafting a compelling story, you win on engagement and become instantly memorable to the customer.

your brain on stories
Source: xtrii.com

Readability

You can create the most emotion-inducing story to educate your customers, but it’s of no use to you if it doesn’t get read. There are a number of barriers that can put people off consuming content, no matter how well put together it is and these tend to come down to the readability of the post.

It might seem like a lot for a busy, early start-up SaaS to take onboard, but taking the time to ensure that your posts are crafted for readability can pay dividends in terms of engagement.

The “how to” for specific posts will vary according to the platform you use, but here are some general rules for ensuring your content is readable:

  • Use formatting where possible. Change up your text with italics, bolding, underlining and bullet points.
  • Keep paragraphs short and easy to consume. If you’re using slides, stick to one or two key points per slide.
  • Use high quality images. We tend to be drawn to images over text and statistics show that people’s willingness to read a piece of content increases by 80% when colored visuals are included
  • Use images that are sized correctly for the social media platform.
  • Write conversationally and try to have personality!

Readability is a factor that often gets left out in the hustle to produce good content at the same time as growing your SaaS, but if you forget this point, your content creation efforts could be a waste of time. Don’t let yours become a snooze-fest of lengthy paragraphs!

How Does This Look In Practice?

You aim is to grow engagement and retain clients by using social media as a channel for education. Good content strategy is not easy, so let’s look at a couple of examples of SaaS who have met the criteria discussed here…

Shopify

Shopify has been a mega success story on how education can boost current customer engagement while growing their brand and encouraging new sign-ups. Social media has been a big part of their content strategy and they can be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram and Pinterest (whew!).

While they are a large player now, it’s important to remember they didn’t start out that way. They employed a very successful content marketing strategy and were able to grow ten times larger within three years.

If you look at their social media accounts now, you see they tell stories and they educate. A powerful part of that has been in sharing customer success stories. It’s through these real-life examples that others can relate to their own situation.

shopify-facebook

Hubspot

Hubspot is another example of a SaaS which has grown with a large emphasis on content marketing (which is hardly surprising, given that it is their specialty!). They are also across multiple different social media channels educating both clients and prospects, but they are a good example of a SaaS doing well on less traditional channels.

Hubspot was an early adopter of SlideShare and use the channel to produce educational content that is garnering a high level of engagement. They currently have nearly 40,000 followers on SlideShare alone and tend to produce something new once or twice per month, often in tandem with a larger blog post on their website.

hubspot-slideshare

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Final Thoughts

Social media can provide a big opportunity for SaaS to educate and engage customers and prospects, but only if you take the time to know the customer and develop a strategy first.

Social media channels will potentially give you good reach due to their high numbers of active users, but you need to be producing engaging content that elicits emotion from your audience and really speaks the successes they desire.

B2B SaaS have often been slow to create much of a presence on social media, or they are simply creating the token pages to get found. But if you choose the right platforms where your target audience can be found, you can build your brand for customers and deliver quality educational posts that will help their decision to stay with your SaaS.