Posts Tagged ‘Business’

How to Get Incredible Customer Testimonials

Monday, April 17th, 2017

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Need testimonials but not sure how to get them?

Pull up a seat. That’s exactly what we’re discussing in this post.

You know that testimonials play a huge role in the success of your business. Testimonials provide social proof. Testimonials show that not only have people used your product, but that they endorse your product.

For these reasons, testimonials are so much more convincing than your own marketing. People trust proven results, not glitzy promises.

But here’s the problem: testimonials are hard to come by. Even when people are happy with your product, they probably won’t reach out to you saying, “Hey, I want to leave a testimonial for your product.”

So, the burden rests on you to not only find people who are willing to offer testimonials, but also source the right testimonials to convert your prospects.

Mission impossible? Absolutely not. You can find incredible testimonials for your product, and I’m going to show you how. Let’s get started.

What Makes a Testimonial Incredible?

Not all testimonials are created equal.

A vague testimonial like, “I love this product” doesn’t do much to persuade a prospective customer. It doesn’t answer the all-important why?.

An over-the-top testimonial like, “This product is the best thing ever created in the history of the universe” is not effective, either. It sounds a little too enthusiastic, and prospects will immediately disregard it unless the claim is backed up by facts.

These types of testimonials are wonderful for boosting your ego, but don’t do much to push your products.

Let’s take a look at the four requirements of a quality, customer-converting testimonial.

It’s got to be credible. Your testimonials need to look like they come from actual customers and not your marketing team (it happens). Attaching photos to your testimonials is a great way to create a sense of a credibility. If you have video testimonials, that’s even better for establishing credibility. Also, make sure that you link to their business website or social media for extra credibility points.

It needs to be consumable. A testimonial doesn’t have to be short, but it should be snackable. Think of your average customer. Chances are they’re busy, they’re stressed out, and they’re trying to find the right solution for their problem, but they don’t know whether to try your product or go with the tempting offer of your competitor. They need to see testimonials that get straight to the point and answer their hesitations. Select testimonials that do just that.

It should be specific. Vague testimonials need not apply. Instead of showcasing ego-boosters on your website, social media, and email campaigns, use testimonials that give insight into what problem your product solves. “I’ve gained X amount of hours a day since using this product” is an example of a specific testimonial. In one sentence, this testimonial highlights a key benefit to using your product.

It must be relatable. The testimonials should come from people who look like the rest of your audience. Choose testimonials from people who share the same job function, or a pain point that’s similar to your target customer. Prospective customers want to hear from others that they can relate to. This can make the biggest impact on their decision to choose your product.

So, you may be thinking, That’s all great, but how do you find people who are willing to give these credible, consumable, specific, and relatable testimonials? And once you find them, how do you avoid getting vague or over-the-top testimonials?

I’m glad you asked. Let’s talk about how to get the best testimonials for your brand. I’ll break it down into two parts: asking for testimonials and then finding testimonials that already exist.

Here’s a checklist for getting incredible customer testimonials.

1. How to Ask for Testimonials

When you need to beef up your testimonials page, here’s how to find willing endorsements:

Via Email

Your email list is the perfect place to find testimonials for your product. If you’ve segmented your list into prospects and customers, consider emailing your current customers and asking for testimonials.

But don’t just ask for a testimonial.

A lot of people shy away from giving testimonials because they don’t know what to say. It’s a lot of pressure.

So, instead of asking for a testimonial, call it feedback. And then prompt them. A few questions you may want to ask:

  • What has been the biggest benefit of using our product?
  • What results have you seen since purchasing our product?
  • What would you tell other people about our product?

You can also reach out to trial users who haven’t become full-fledged customers yet. In your welcome email, ask for feedback:

  • Why did you sign up for our service?

This immediate request for feedback comes at a time when the user is very engaged in your product, so you’ll score a lot more answers.

When you receive feedback that you can use in a testimonial, shoot over another email asking for permission to publish their words as a testimonial. Keep it casual but grateful, for example, “Hey, thanks so much for your feedback. It was outstanding. I’d love to use your feedback in a testimonial. Here’s what I’ll use on my site: [their testimonial]. Would you mind?”

Chances are, they’ll agree.

Over Social Media

Ask for testimonials over social media. Here are a couple of ideas you can try:

On your Facebook business page, create a tab for collecting reviews.

Run a video contest where you ask users to explain why they love your product. You can offer a prize to the most creative video, but give everyone who participates a reward (such as a discount code, a free upgrade, or a free consultation).

In Your App

Prompt for reviews at the appropriate time during the user’s lifecycle. You should time your ask to coincide with maximum engagement, for example after the user has tested your product but is still invested enough to leave feedback.

2. How to Find Existing Testimonials

You don’t have to solicit all testimonials. Some testimonials exist without you prodding them. Here’s how to find them:

Monitor Your Name

Use a tool to monitor every mention of your business or products. There are a ton of social media monitoring tools you can choose from, such as HootSuite, TweetReach, and Social Mention. When you find people who have a positive review of your product, reach out to them. Ask if they’ll provide a testimonial that you can use on your site.

Review Sites/ Forums

Stalk sites and message boards populated by your users. When you see a positive review or shout out, reach out to that person and ask for a testimonial.

But, even though it’s tempting, don’t copy and paste any reviews you find on third-party sites. These reviews are owned by the user and licensed to the site that they are on, so you could get in legal trouble if you lift these reviews and place them directly on your site.

Your Blog

If you have a blog, the comments section can be the perfect place to find glowing customer testimonials. As a courtesy, you can also contact the commenter before displaying their comments as a testimonial.

Where to Display Testimonials

Now that you have testimonials, let’s discuss where to place them for maximum impact. While you may have a dedicated testimonial page, I suggest that you also place testimonials other places, too. That’s because not every prospect will see your dedicated testimonials page.

On Your Home Page

Proudly display testimonials on your home page. Think of ways you can incorporate testimonials to nudge on-the-fence prospects into trying your product.

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Image Courtesy of Canva

On Your Social Media Page

Integrate testimonials into your cover photo on your social media account.

On Paid Advertisements

Incorporate testimonials in your marketing campaigns on search engines and social media.

On Your “About Us” Page

Spice up your “About” page with testimonials that increase trust.

On Your “Contact Us” Page

Instill confidence before they contact you by posting up a few testimonials on your contact us page.

On a Dedicated Testimonial Page

How can I forget the dedicated testimonial page? Even if not everyone will venture over to see it, it’s still a good idea to have one if you’ve collected at least one dozen testimonials that meet the four requirements we discussed above.

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Image Courtesy of Docusign

Additional Resources

Check out these extra resources before you go:

Don’t forget to download this customer testimonial checklist!

How to Use Email Remarketing to Boost Your Sales

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

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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.

How to Prevent Free Trial Abuse

Monday, March 6th, 2017

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If you’re like most SaaS products, you offer a free trial to new users. Research from Chart Mogul found that 97% of SaaS companies offer free trials, but only 39% offer a forever free tier. This shows that most companies use free trials to usher users into paid accounts.

There will always be people who never intend to buy your product and just want to get something for free. You’ll never be able to completely stop free trial abusers, but those people were never going to be customers anyway. It’s just something we have to deal with.

Nevertheless, it’s important to deter free trial abusers as best you can.

Free download: How Long Should You Make Your Free Trial?

What makes a SaaS product easy to abuse?

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Some SaaS products are easier to abuse than others. You’ll attract more abusers if your tool meets any of these criteria.

  • The product is a low-touch tool (meaning anyone can sign up to your service without speaking to one of your representatives).
  • The product is consumer-facing (meaning you sell to people, not businesses).
  • Setting up an account is lightning fast.
  • Setting up an account does not require clicking a confirmation link in the user’s email account or in a mobile phone text message.
  • The product does not require any advanced or time-consuming integrations with other products; no special code needs to be created or an API accessed.
  • The product doesn’t require significant customizations or data imports.
  • The product can be used effectively immediately after sign up.

If your product meets any of those criteria, try changing something so it becomes less appealing to habitual abusers.

Understanding abuse

Your first step is to look at abuse critically, not personally. If people are abusing your free trial, it doesn’t mean they want to cause you harm. It usually means you don’t understand what they find valuable. What you see as abuse points are actually the customer’s value points.

Customer success expert Lincoln Murphy says it nicely: “So these ‘abuse points’ are where value is realized by the customer, at least from a functional standpoint; in this case, the functional standpoint is that they completed the ‘job to be done’ with the product.”

For instance, let’s say you charge $99/month for your product. You notice that the same users keep signing up with dummy email addresses and using your 30 day free trial. There is a chance that these users aren’t unwilling to pay you anything, but that usually isn’t the case. What these users are telling you is that they don’t believe your product is worth $99/month.

In this example, you can fix the problem by adjusting your pricing model, changing your free trial period, or improving your product so it provides better value. You should also find ways to demonstrate the product’s value so users understand the potential. You may even want to speak with one of the abusers to see what it is about the product that has caused their behavior.

Require a credit card

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Many SaaS products allow users to create an account and use the tool with just an email address. After the free trial period, the account locks and requests that the user input a credit card to pay and continue using the product. At this point, some people will use a new email address to setup a new account with your SaaS and continue working for another free month (or however long your trial is).

You can work around this a bit by requiring a credit card when the user originally signed up. Notify the user that you won’t charge the card until the end of the free trial period, but that you need one immediately.

Another method is to lock certain features behind a credit card requirement. For example, an online store platform might allow users to experiment with features and set up their store for free, but launching the store (making it public) requires payment.

People who intend to buy the product (if they like it) should have no problem with this. If they decide the product isn’t for them, they’ll just go through your cancellation process. But users who never intend to buy the product at all will be deterred.

Will this requirement turn off some legitimate users? Yes, it may deter some people who honestly wanted to evaluate your product and ultimately reduce your number of signups, but not as much as you think.

Neil Patel, founder of Quicksprout, ran an experiment where he offered users A) a free trial with a credit card, or B) paid from the start with a money back guarantee. People preferred the free trial, even though it required a credit card at the start.

Requiring a credit card can improve your lead quality because you know your users are willing to pay. You’ll have to decide if a loss of those people is greater than a loss of potential abusers.

Create barriers for new account

Your other option is to create barriers that are difficult for users to overcome twice. Here are some ideas.

1. Require a mobile phone number

Most people only have one mobile phone number. They may live or work with someone who will let them use theirs, but there’s a limit to that. It’s possible to set up Google Voice numbers and forwarding, but that takes a lot of effort. When the user inputs a phone number, require that they return the confirmation code you send by text message.

2. Track user IP addresses

Set up an alert that shows if multiple accounts are created from the same IP address. This isn’t foolproof because some networks will show the same IP address for everyone using it. If you discover multiple accounts with the same address, you should do more investigating to see if they’re using the account in a similar way (same brand name, for instance).

3. Place a cookie on the user’s computer

You can install a cookie on the user’s computer that your application will check for during the account creation process. If your app recognizes the cookie, it should prompt the user to log into their other account. Cookies won’t stop everyone because they can be easily removed, but this tactic will impede users who don’t know how to clear their browser.

Change your app

If you’ve implemented any of those strategies but you still have problems with abusers, you can switch from a paid tier model to a paid usage model.

An example of this model is MailChimp. MailChimp allows anyone to use their service for free until they have 2,000 subscribers. After 2,000, the account begins to charge a fee that rises as the number of subscribers increase.

In this case, the whole point of MailChimp is to communicate with their subscribers. Users naturally want more subscribers. It’s possible to spread a subscriber list across a series of accounts so each account is beneath the free limit, but that would require a tremendous amount of work and organization on the user’s part. It’s easier to pay the fee.

Download this free resource to determine the proper length for your free trial.

If you can find a way to structure your pricing model so users only pay for what they use, you can closely tie the product’s value with honest use.

An Inbound Marketing Funnel Every SaaS Needs

Monday, February 20th, 2017

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The Internet is a big place. Advertising to the right people is difficult and expensive. Instead of reaching out to your potential customers, it’s smarter to let them find you. That’s called inbound marketing.

But there’s more to inbound marketing than blogging. Creating content isn’t enough unless you capture that traffic, qualify it, and turn it into sales for your SaaS.

A marketing funnel is a simple concept. It’s a visual representation of how prospective customers interact with your business and eventually become actual customers.

Think of a funnel’s shape. It’s wider at the top than it is at the bottom. Lots of people will be exposed to your marketing materials (the top of the funnel), but only a few will become customers (the narrow bottom of the funnel).

“You aren’t limited to using your funnel strictly for signing up and/or purchasing,” says Kissmetrics. “You can put funnels all over your website to see how visitors move through a specific website flow.”

In a perfect world, everyone who becomes exposed to your marketing materials would become a customer. But that just isn’t the case. Some people aren’t right for your product or service. Some people never planned to buy anyway. A marketing funnel will help you capture more people and identify who is most likely to buy your product.

A basic inbound marketing funnel has three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

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Use this list of ways to qualify your leads and identify which customers are ready for your sales team.

Stage 1: Awareness

This is the beginning of your funnel, when prospective buyers become aware of their own problem and learning how it can be solved. At this point, the prospect isn’t ready to buy, so he isn’t willing to read sales copy or promotional materials. He wants solutions to his problems. If you try to sell to the prospective customer at this point, you’ll only turn him off.

The key is to capture your prospect by offering content that offers solutions. You can do this in a lot of ways, including blog posts, eBooks, email courses, reports, whitepapers, interviews, videos, podcasts, or anything else you think he’ll like.

When you’re creating content, make sure you do it with a clear understanding of your customer. Serve content in the format they prefer so they’ll be more likely to give it their attention. Figure out their problems and then create solutions that address them.

Stage 2: Consideration

At this stage in the funnel, the prospect is well aware of his problem and the need for a solution, but he doesn’t know which solution is right. He’s still exploring.

At this point, you need to make yourself a powerful resource in the prospect’s life so he automatically looks to you for answers. You can do this by getting him to sign up to your email list. Your website content should be optimized to capture as many sign-ups as possible.

There are lots of ways to collect leads. You can add sign-up boxes to your sidebars, the bottom of blog posts, toaster “popup” widgets, and whole-site overlays. Generally speaking, however, you will capture the most sign-ups by giving something in return.

Create a piece of specialty content that can only be delivered once the prospect surrenders his email address. This is called a lead magnet. (OptinMonster has some great examples.) Most people give away reports, eBooks, email courses, etc. Again, figure out what your audience wants the most and serve that.

Once a prospect signs up for your email list, they are considered a lead. Continue to deliver problem-solving content to your email list. This is called lead nurturing. Over time, you’ll establish yourself as an authority on your topic. The prospect will consider you someone who has added value to his life.

Stage 3: Decision

Eventually, the prospect will be ready to make a purchase. They’ll understand their problem and the type of solution they need. At this point, your job is to convince the prospect that your solution is the one they need to buy.

But how do you tell when a prospect is ready to make a decision? You need to qualify your leads with the right types of content and a deft use of your email marketing software.

Your email tool should offer a way to tag or segment your subscribers. The goal is to serve content that a buyer would be most interested in to identify him from the pool of subscribers.

Here’s an example:

Each week, you send a link to a new blog post to your whole list of subscribers (this is the lead nurturing). But you also send a link to an article you’ve written that compares your product to your main competitors. A prospect who is in the decision stage would be interested in reading that type of content.

In this example, you would set your email marketing tool to tag anyone who clicks on the competitor comparison as a “hot lead.” Once you’ve given them time (about a day) to read the content, you or your salesperson would reach out to the subscriber personally to start your sales process.

Other than competitor comparisons, here are types of content that can be used to identify subscribers who are in the decision-making stage.

  • Product/solution comparisons
  • Personal consultations
  • Product demonstrations
  • Webinars
  • Product trials
  • Customer case studies
  • Product/specification literature

If you’ve created quality content and qualified your leads well, your sales job should be pretty much over. Your inbound funnel would have provided all of the education. Your task is to explain to the customer that you’re available to solve their problem right now and how to get started.

The best parts of an inbound marketing funnel

The greatest advantage to an inbound funnel that relies on content to move prospects toward the sale is that the ROI is fantastic. Once you’ve built the funnel, it will require the occasional tweak and improvement, but it can last forever. Day after day, more people will find your content, become a subscriber, get nurtured by your content, and eventually respond to your sales messages.

The more quality content you create, the more avenues your prospects will have to find your business (this is called “widening the funnel”). If you commit to a consistent schedule of creating one piece of content each week, you’ll quickly create lots of ways for prospects to become aware of your business.

Improving the effectiveness of a marketing funnel is done in two ways:

  1. Capturing more people into the funnel. This is done by creating more publically available content and optimizing your website to capture leads.
  2. Optimizing how many people make it to the bottom. This is done by serving your email list well and smartly identifying who is most likely to buy.

Secondly, an inbound funnel (unlike a traditional sales funnel) can be automated to a great extent. Yes, you’ll have to create the content yourself (unless you outsource it), but the other components can be automated so you can make more content.

For instance, your website will automatically capture leads through your sign-up forms and lead magnets. Once subscribers join your list, you can set your email marketing tool to begin dripping a series of emails that nurture the prospect, culminating with content for prospects in the decision-making stage. Once you qualify your leads with specialty content, your email tool automatically begins a sales sequence that encourages the prospect to message or call you.

Download this list of ways to target which of your subscribers are ready for your salespeople.

Expanding your funnel

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You can use other marketing tactics to bring traffic into your funnel. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other tools. For instance, you might post on social media or buy Facebook or Google ads that point to specialty pieces of content, not product pages. You could guest blog on authority websites, have influencers plug your content, or use retargeting ads to bring old traffic back for another look.
I’ll leave you with this last piece of advice when it comes to building an inbound marketing funnel: Create the best content you possibly can and you’ll attract the most people.

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.