Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Use New Hires to Breathe Life Into Stale Customer Relationships

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Use-New-Hires

On a broad level, you may think you have a clear idea of who your customers are. However, many times when you look at groups of people from a high-level you end up glancing over the unique qualities in individuals. This commonly results in companies that speak in generalities and platitudes. Sadly, doing this means that even though every one of your customers is unique – whether in how they like to be spoken to, or what their personal business goals are, or their lifestyle – you aren’t building personal relationships with them.

The lack of personal connection poses a few big risks, but chief among them is that customers will become unresponsive. For example, when you ask for feedback on a feature, they don’t respond or give monosyllabic answers. Eventually, this unresponsiveness can lead to account cancellation and bitterness.

To nip this problem in the bud and reinvigorate the relationship you can change a few things. You can get rid of the customer – unadvisable – or you can communicate a different message – very difficult – or you can replace yourself – your best choice.

Replacing yourself as the primary customer contact can breathe life into stale customer relationships and save accounts. Once you have new people on board, there are a few ways you can utilize their freshness to salvage customer relationships.

Announcing Fresh Faces

When you bring on a new hire, one of the easiest things you can do is to announce the addition to the team. A simple announcement may pique the interest of a handful of people, but that’s a missed opportunity. Instead, you should make sure that people understand that it’s not just a new hire, but it’s a new chapter. This means emphasizing their past experience and how that experience will result in new features and benefits that customers have been asking for.

For example, say there’s a company that’s been hard at work on a few new features for the past few months. The features are well underway, but they won’t be ready for two more months. It would be foolish to announce the features this early, but the company wants people to know that real progress is being made. A new hire blog post is a great opportunity to do this:

announcing new

Are some of your customer relationships going south? Here’s how to find out if it’s time to assign a new account owner. Get the checklist here.

Troublesome Troubleshooters

A troubling part of any business is unsatisfied customers – once they’ve reached the point where they’re openly discussing their dissatisfaction, there’s very little companies can do. This is because many of the root problems stem from either not finding value in the services provided or from personally disliking the people they’ve worked with at the company. Regrettably, these issues aren’t easily solved. Despite their, new hires can provide the answer.

A great way to use new hires to save the accounts of chronic complainers is to make them the primary point of contact for the customer. For example, if you send an email to one of your customers introducing them to the new hire and explaining that they’re going to be their new point of contact, you have a great opportunity. You can tell them that this new person wants to really make their mark, that you’re only assigning them high-priority customers, and that you wanted to make sure they got introduced by you personally. The new hire can take it from there and – starting from a fresh place – rebuild the customer relationship.

Show the Ropes

When you hire someone new, the first thing you typically do is explain the intricacies of the business, how you work, give them access to company accounts and tools, and get them started on a couple of projects. That’s all well-and-good, but make sure you don’t misuse this occasion!

Every new hire you bring on should be introduced to some of your customers with the request that the customer briefly show them why the product is great. Not only is it an educational opportunity for the new employee to learn more about the business, but it also encourages the customer’s loyalty by making them feel like one of the team. Flattering customers and making them feel like a close confidant is a sure-fire way to convince them to stick around, regardless of any past cynicism or negativity they’ve felt.

Letting Them Speak

It’s inevitable that your team will begin to think similarly over time. Shared experiences have the tendency to influence people in similar ways, without consideration of how people may have thought or felt initially. As a result, new hires have a voice and vantage point that is different than the rest of your company: they have a past that is unbiased by what you’ve already gone through.

You need to give this voice a platform where it can speak to your customers. Open up your social accounts and company blogs and allow new hires to speak freely about joining the company. This doesn’t mean overhauling your company’s voice, but rather showing customers that there are fresh opinions being expressed and the old way of doing things is being challenged. Yes, you should make it clear that these are the thoughts of just one new person in case things don’t change as radically as a post may indicate, but that doesn’t mean you should censor new ideas.

Are some of your customer relationships going south? Here’s how to find out if it’s time to assign a new account owner. Get the checklist here.

Final Thoughts

When you’ve reached the point where customers are openly complaining about your company or your services, it can seem inconceivable that they might transform into champions of what you’re doing. That’s why hiring new people is such a valuable moment. It can breathe new life into relationships and change the dynamic between your company and your customers.

Simple Ways to Keep Your Customers Happy That Work for Everyone

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Simple-Ways

When SaaS companies look at their metrics dashboards there are charts that show how many sales have been closed, how many potential customers are in the pipeline, and how many customers have recently cancelled. These are easily measureable signals, and this ease of measurement results in companies tending to focus on them above all else.

What’s missing with this focus on the numbers, though, is how happy existing customers are. This may seem like a small thing, but customer happiness is one of the most important things a business should be focused on. If a customer is happy and receiving a lot of value from your service, they’ll likely stick around; if a customer is unhappy and the value isn’t clear, they’ll likely leave.
If you take these two principles and chart them out, you end up with a couple of very predictable business outcomes:

Happy Customer Unhappy Customer
Clear Value Growing Business Stagnant Business
Questionable Value Stagnant Business Shrinking Business

To make sure that you stay in the upper-left quadrant, there are a few simple tactics that every business can employ.

Not sure if your customers are happy? There are a few warning signs you should be on the lookout for. Learn what they are now.

How to Make Sure Customers Are Happy

Keep Your Word

When you tell people that you’re going to do something for them, you’d be wise to follow through. This is true on both a personal and business level. The first step towards making sure your customers are happy is by not misleading them with half-truths. Whenever you communicate with your customers and promise them something, you need to follow through on delivering exactly what you promised.

A great example of this is your landing page. When customer first visit your website, they’re likely being greeted with a big, bold promise about how great your service is. Below that, there’s a good chance that you list out the core features and then provide a few testimonials. Not only do you need to make sure that everything you state is true, but you also need to deliver this value as soon after a customer creates an account as possible. If there’s even a whiff of a bait-and-switch, your customer’s happiness will tank.

Delight Your Customers

Every day is a day you can delight your customers. If you think about how your customers typically interact with other companies, it’s likely that they only talk when there’s a problem, when they need to change the status of their account, or when the company is trying to sell them something. The bar is set very low and even the smallest token of free kindness can generate enormous goodwill.

A great example of delighting customers is an open contest for something valuable. You can email a handful of your most dedicated customers and explain that there’s a conference that you have tickets to and that you want to know if they’re interested in them – explain that it’s ‘first come, first serve’ and wait for them to respond enthusiastically. This is a big-ticket example, but there are endless smaller examples like giving a month of free service when there’s a problem with their account. What’s important isn’t that it’s worth a lot of money, but that it’s generous.

Encourage Communication

Nothing breeds unhappiness and resentment as much as not being able to communicate. When a customer reaches out to discuss an urgent issue and doesn’t receive a response until four days later they’re going to be unhappy – no surprise there! What might surprise you are the long-term impacts that this kind of interaction can have on your customer relationship.

encourage-communicationWhen communication breaks down once, it’s an example of something that shouldn’t be repeated. When communication breaks down consistently, it’s fertile soil for the type of unhappiness that leads to cancellations. If you don’t engage customers when they reach out, they will set their expectations incredibly low. Inevitably, when something goes wrong – as it always does – and even the low expectations aren’t met, your customers will head for the door.

Be Something They Can Count On

There’s so much in life that seems undependable, especially when it comes to what you should spend money on. There are hundreds of companies all promising similar things, and all too often they disappear without providing any real value. This transient business culture may make the occasional founder a quick buck, but if you’re trying to build a business that will stand the test of time you need to ensure people can depend on you.

When people visit your website, they need to be greeted with the same value day after day. When they contact you, they need to know that they’ll get a response. Whenever your service will be down for maintenance, they should know about it ahead of time. These are small steps you can take that will build up trust over time until you reach the point where people know intuitively that they can rely on you regardless of whatever else is happening with their businesses.

Frequently Update

You may have started your company a few months ago and seen some immediate success. You reached Product-Market Fit and customers were excited to sign up. Since then, however, you’ve rested on your laurels and let the recurring revenue keep your company afloat with very little effort on your part. There isn’t anything wrong with this on a personal level, but that stagnation will quickly make your customers dissatisfied and unhappy.

This is because even though customers signed up for one big promise, they implicitly expected that you’d be providing more value over time. To deliver this extra value, you need to be updating your services on a constant basis and experimenting with new features. These changes make your service feel more alive and keep your customers excited about the future of working with you.

Not sure if your customers are happy? There are a few warning signs you should be on the lookout for. Learn what they are now.

Final Thoughts

When you don’t have the chance to interact with customers face-to-face because they’re on the other side of the world, it can be incredibly difficult to know whether or not they’re happy and what you can do about it. However, if your customers are unhappy, they’re at risk of cancellation and you need to do something about it. Fortunately, the simple tactics we outlined above to make sure customers are happy can work for any company.

 

How to Get New Customers By Keeping Your Current Ones

Monday, October 5th, 2015

How-to-get-new-customersAs a business owner, one of the first questions you’ll be faced with is, “How do I get new customers?” It might come in the first month, or you might be doing so well that you haven’t had to worry about this problem until two years in. Regardless of when, it will happen.

Conventional wisdom says that the best way to get new customers is to find new people that don’t know about you and convince them that they should give you money. While this does work in many situations, it misses the forest for the trees. In reality, the truth is that the most reliable way to bring in new customers is by keeping your existing customers happy.

to-bring-new-customer-keep-your-existing-customer-happy

How It Works

The reason that keeping your existing customers is so important when trying to grow your business is that the people who are already paying you also happen to be perfectly suited to bringing in new leads. These are people that have bought into what you’re promising and have connections to people with similar needs – they’re the perfect middlemen.

For example, consider Customer A. She’s been a paying subscriber for ten months and has had only good things to say about you. Now, the world won’t end if you stop at making sure she’s satisfied with your products. However, Customer A is connected to Customers B, C, D, E, and F, who all have similar needs and budgets. If only you could get her to make an introduction!

While you might be able to find these people on your own, it’s far simpler to leverage your existing customers. It will take some trial-and-error to figure out the best way to do this, but below are some tried-and-true methods that can get you started.

Method #1: Referrals

The art of influencing one of your customers to pitch another person on your business is called referring. There are a ton of tricks and hacks that people have come up with, but for the vast majority of companies there are only two that we need to be worried about: Guided Referrals and Word of Mouth Referrals.

Guided Referrals

When you have a relationship with someone, you trust their recommendations, and when they tell you that you need to do something you’re going to at least think about doing it. These personal recommendations underpin many areas of business, and it’s likely that this is how you found your first customers as a business owner.

The problem arises, however, when you need to convince a customer to look through their rolodex, pick a name, and then convince that person that they should give you money. It only seems like a tall order because it is – but it’s not impossible.

There are tactics you can try to kickstart this process. The first is by sending personalized emails to your customers with a clear call-to-action asking them to forward the email to five of their contacts. By leveraging the personal relationship that you’ve already built with your customer and by creating emails that are straight to the point, you’ll begin to see new customers coming in.

The second tactic is to use incentives. A great example of a company that used incentivized referrals is Dropbox. As most users of Dropbox know, when you invite a friend to use Dropbox and they create an account, both users are rewarded with extra storage for free. It’s simple, but it’s incredibly effective, and one of the main reasons that Dropbox has been able to successfully grow their customer base to become a $4 billion company

dropbox

Both of these methods require you to look at the fundamentals of your business and examine what can motivate customers to invite their friends and colleagues. It won’t be the same for every company, but through guided trial-and-error you’ll be able to quickly find what will drive your growth engine.

Get the bonus content: Three Email Templates to Increase Referrals

Word of Mouth Referrals

While prompting people to pitch their network can be incredibly effective, there’s nothing so convincing as a simple word-of-mouth referral. Imagine that one of your customers is at a company picnic and runs into someone from another part of the company. As they’re talking, your customer realizes that your offering would be perfect for this new person. So, they say something like, “Oh, I had the same problem – you should sign up for X!” Immediately, the response will be, “What’s X?”

Record scratch.

Unless you’ve put in the effort to create a messaging platform that makes sense, your customers will have no idea how to succinctly describe what you do. Instead, they’ll stammer out an answer, but it’s unlikely that it will be the winning pitch that can close the sale.

To ensure that these word of mouth referrals work you need to make sure that all of your customers understand the core of your product, have a quick one-liner they can share with new people, and can quickly explain what your product really does.

Now, it’s important to note that you’re not going to be able to bring in thousands of customers and put them through a training seminar. While that would probably be a lovely time for you all, you should instead be focused on consistency. This means that every page of your website needs the same tagline, every email needs to include the same one-line summary, and every communication with a customer centers on the same messaging. Over time, this constant barrage will seep into the minds of your customers and they’ll be able to answer the difficult questions at the next company barbeque.

Method #2: Testimonials

Testimonials can be tremendously influential when people are considering whether or not to trust your company with their money. Oftentimes, people find out about your company with no existing personal connection. Either through a Google search, an advertising campaign, or some other inbound lead generator. Unfortunately, as great as this is for your business, many of these leads will disappear if you don’t create some sort of personal connection with your potential customers quickly.

This is where testimonials come in. They’re personal enough that people can find common ground with you, yet impersonal enough that they can be relevant to all of your potential customers. These testimonials need to come from your existing customers, as they’re the only credible sources for the real value your products provide.

How to Get Testimonials

Actually getting your customers to publicly pronounce their love for you can be difficult. Providentially, there’s one trick that works for most businesses: User Feedback.

When your customers send in feedback, it might seem like it’s all complaints, frustration, and requests. However, if you dig a level deeper you’ll see that they’re only writing because they’re passionate about your product. This is the perfect opportunity to ask them to share a testimonial that can be publicized – just be sure to only ask them for their testimonial after you’ve solved their problem.

Where to Put Your Testimonials

Once you have your first few testimonials, you need to figure out where to put them. It may be tempting to send a mass email to every non-paying account holder with a screenshot of the testimonial, but there’s a far simpler, subtle, and effective technique at your disposal.

On Your Website: You own your website and all of your customers will visit it at some point in the signup process. So will most of your prospects. Because of this, your testimonials should play a large role in the content of your landing pages.

While you could spend time worrying about where on your site the testimonials will show up, the location doesn’t matter as much as the content and context of the testimonial. To correctly incorporate testimonials, you first need to pick one or two choice sentences from each testimonial. Alongside each excerpt you should include the name of the customer and a picture or logo if possible. These personal details create a feeling of authenticity around the testimonial and carry a lot of weight with new visitors.

Get the bonus content: Three Email Templates to Increase Referrals

Final Thoughts

Getting new customers can seem like a constant uphill battle – but every battle can be won if approached the right way. In the battle for customers, the key is involving your existing customers in your effort to bring in new ones. Then, once new customers come in, you can use them to bring in even more customers. It’s a virtuous cycle that, once in motion, can’t be broken.

 

7 Ways to Better Educate Customers About Your Lesser-Known Features

Monday, September 21st, 2015

7-ways-to-better-educate

Once you’ve put in the hard work of building a great feature, the next step is making sure your customers know about it. Many customers are unaware of the vast majority of software features that companies offer. Instead, they tend to focus on the three features promised on your primary landing page.

This ignorance shouldn’t dissuade you from trying to educate your customers. On the contrary, the fact that your customer doesn’t know about existing features means that you have the opportunity to show them that they’re eligible to receive a new benefit from a product they’re already paying for – it can be like Christmas in July. Educating your customers is a win-win, with higher customer engagement and greater value for the customers.

To help with this endeavor, we’ve compiled a list of the seven tactics you should try that require very little up-front investment and have a track record of delivering great returns. These tactics fall into two groups: broadcast and interactive.

educating-your-cutomer-is-a-winwin

Get the bonus content: Your Guide to Finding Out if a Feature Is Worth Maintaining

Broadcast:

When educating customers the most straight-forward techniques are borrowed from traditional media. These techniques focus on reaching out to a large audience with the expectation that some of them will learn about things they never knew existed.

Email Sequence

Email continues to be one of the most reliable methods for educating customers. It allows you to reach out to a large audience, while allowing you to communicate personally on a first name basis with each recipient.

To use email to educate your audience, the first tactic you should try is an email sequence focusing on your lesser-known features. By creating an email sequence that has 5 to 7 emails, with each one focused on a single underused feature, you can teach a large volume of information in an efficient and unobtrusive way.

SMS Outreach

As we covered previously, SMS is another incredibly reliable channel for educating customers. By reaching out to individuals on their phones, you can educate them while also maintaining a personable and conversational tone.

 

SMS-outreach

Using SMS can seem like a big investment, but it’s very simple to get started. Start by reaching out with a very lightweight message asking if your customers would be interested in learning about some of the power user features you offer. It’s okay if not every person agrees – but it is important to have them opt-in. Once you have this opt-in, you can then proceed to send them periodic messages every week or so about specific features. Each of these messages should link to landing pages or documentation that more thoroughly teaches on the underappreciated features.

Social Media Posting

One area that many people ignore when educating customers is social media. While many companies use social media to communicate their major features, savvy companies know that it’s equally important to share the word about niche features.

These postings should be brief and the information won’t be for everyone. Despite this, some of these posts will reach the exact right person, who will then become more engaged with your product. This far outweighs the downside of having a few people scroll past your posts.

Interactive:

Contrary to educating via broadcast techniques is creating educational campaigns that are based on interacting with customers. All of these tactics focus on building off of the momentum of previous customer actions and then having your company step in at the perfect time to ensure thorough education.

Landing Page

Landing pages can be incredibly powerful tools for SaaS companies to help in educating customers. When a customer reaches a landing page, it’s an incredibly strong indication that they’re highly interested in what you’re selling. You should be able to take this interest and guide them to an educational environment where they can learn about the nuances of your product.

To do this, take your existing landing page and carve out a section where you can promote educational content on lesser-known features. Then, program your page to rotate through these features. Once you do this, you’ll not only be educating your customers, but learning what kind of messaging attracts your customers. This information will come in handy as you expand your educational initiatives in the future.

Promoting from Major Features

Your customers are spending most of their time using your product in the major features and selling-points. Now that you’re aware of this, it becomes clear that you can use this attention and channel it towards your lesser-known features.

It’s as simple as creating a map of your features and then drawing the right connections. For example, if one of your key features allows customers to quickly send branded invoices, you may want to use that attention and drive it towards a lesser-known feature where customers can setup A/B tests for the copy that accompanies invoices. These connections can make it incredibly simple for you to guide customers to education.

Relaunches

One of the best-kept secrets when trying to educate customers is that if most customers don’t know a feature exists, then they won’t know if you relaunch it. It’s amazing what adding the word “launch” can do to user engagement numbers.

Take a look at your lesser-known features and determine how you can make modest improvements. Then, once you make these small changes, you can send out a message to the existing users that the feature has been updated, you can contact your entire user base by explaining that there’s a new-and-updated feature ready for them to use, and you can communicate with the public and explain that your product has just gotten even better.

Regular Customer Interviews

If you’re a company that is centered on making sure your customers are getting the most out of your product, then there’s a very good chance that you have regular interviews with them. If that’s the case, these check-ins can be invaluable when spreading the word about existing features.

During the course of these conversations, make sure that you find out what their big goals are. Once you know this, you can begin to match their goals to existing features you provide, and then guide the conversation in that direction. Once your customer is aware that a feature exists that can answer their needs, there’s a very high chance that they’ll take the initiative to investigate for themselves.

Get the bonus content: Your Guide to Finding Out if a Feature Is Worth Maintaining

The Wrap Up

No single tactic or technique will educate all of your users on every single one of your features. That’s why it’s so important to try many things, experiment on the messaging and emphasis, and see what your customers respond to. Once you start to see what customers prefer and you have the infrastructure in place to educate your customers, you’ll be able to go beyond a small handful of campaigns and make education a central part of what you do.

Steps to an Email Sequence That Will Re-engage Your Current Customers

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Steps-to-an-Email-Sequence

The first step is getting customers to walk in your door. The second step is getting them to stick around. Since they were interested enough in your services to create an account, this step might seem easy. Unfortunately, as business owners around the world know firsthand, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, losing customers after they’ve already created an account can be more common than successfully signing up new customers. There are an infinite number of reasons ranging from a lack of relevance to what they’re working on, to a high cost, to general forgetfulness about what they’ve signed up for.

effective-email-sequence

Regardless of the reason, there are a few surefire ways to get them to re-engage and get excited about being your customer. If you follow our steps to create a re-engagement email sequence, it won’t solve all of your business problems – but it will alleviate a lot of the pressure you’re under. Why? Because an effective email sequence is the difference between “we have engaged customers” and “we used to have customers.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Step #1: Segment Your Audience

segment-your-audience

As we mentioned above, there are endless reasons that people might become disengaged. Tied to every reason is a call to action perfectly suited for that customer. For example, if someone left because of the high cost, the most effective email sequence to re-engage them will be focused on the tangible value that you provide for them. This connection between why customers leave and what will get them to return is true for nearly all customers.

To use this strategy, however, you need to segment your audience. To do this, begin compiling a list of the reasons people cancel their accounts. Once you have an extensive list, begin to look for commonalities and similar problems. This won’t be a perfect segmentation, but it will give you a starting point that you can use to start meaningful conversations with your customers.

Step #2: Get them to open up one single email.

Once you have a list of four-to-five segments, you reach your first hurdle: get them to open one email. While you may be tempted to start by planning out a grand strategy with seven targeted emails each paired with a corresponding blog post, this is a mistake. Instead, you need to take them from a world where they don’t care about you to a world where you’ve enticed them to open an email you send. It may seem like a small step, but when customers are sitting idle you need to warm them up before you start applying pressure.

This step requires a lot of hands on experimentation, covering everything from subject line variations, to figuring out the right timing, to changing who the sender. For each change, keep in mind that the email should be specifically targeting a very small segment of your disengaged audience. It may be a big investment of time, but each change has the potential to impact the open rate by a few percentage points – which adds up very quickly.

Get the bonus content: 5 Tips to Great Subject Lines That Grab People’s Attention

Step #3: Opt-In To Education

Once they’ve opened that first email, you need to immediately move to pitching them with a series of emails. While you may technically have the right to send them emails without them opting in again, the additional level of opting-in provides a few strong benefits.

First, when a customer opts-in to an email sequence, they are far more likely to open future emails from the same sender. It might seem unlikely, but there is extensive research to back this up. Second, the additional opt-in helps you to optimize your first email and better target your disengaged customers. Third, it helps your customers begin to feel meaningfully re-engaged with your company.

Each of these three benefits may seem small, but when you’re dealing with a long list of customers that have lost interest in you, you need to take an incremental approach. This means that whether it’s testing a subject line or getting them to opt-in to a secondary email sequence, the single digit percentage points carry real weight. These are all small steps, but they add up.

Step #4: Teach them

Now that you’ve hooked your customers with a first email and convinced them to opt-in, you need to reel them in with useful content. Many companies make the mistake of trying to send a series of emails that all heavily feature their own products. While it might get a few people to reactivate their accounts, it’s more likely to get them to hit the unsubscribe button.

Instead of hitting your disengaged customers over the head with promotional emails, use the opportunity to teach them about why they need you. Based on your understanding of the target segment, send emails that bring to mind their core business needs. Then, as you help them improve their businesses, you foster an association between your customers and the utility your brand provides. It’s important to note that this needs to be material they aren’t able to find elsewhere, otherwise it’s going to mentally register as useless spam.

Step #5: Turn that lesson into a promotion for using your product

Once they’ve begun to associate your brand with real utility, the process of re-engaging them with your product becomes much simpler. At this point, they’ve already opted-in to your communications, they’ve taken part in an educational series of emails, and they know that you’re ready and willing to help them. This leads to the end of your email sequence, where you take the built-up goodwill and transform the topic of conversation into one about how much they need to use your product.

This is the most delicate part of the email sequence and much like the first email it will require experimentation. Come up with dozens of potential calls-to-action and test each against each other to find the most compelling.

The End Result

At the end, you’ll have accomplished three big things. First, your customers will be more engaged with your company. Second, your customers will have learned something about what they need. Third, they will associate their need to solve a problem with your business (which solves that problem!).

Combined, these accomplishments mean you’ll have customers that are not only re-engaged but excited about using your product.

Get the bonus content: 5 Tips to Great Subject Lines That Grab People’s Attention