Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

Engaging SaaS Customers with Targeted Content

Monday, September 5th, 2016

FEATURED_Engaging-SaaS-Customers-With-Targeted-Content

When you consider content marketing for your SaaS, what immediately springs to mind?

For many SaaS, content marketing is seen as a lead generation strategy, a way to generate interest and effectively “prove” their expertise to potential customers. This is a great idea, but if you’re not looking at content with a view over your entire customer lifecycle, you’re possibly missing out.

When you think about it, at any given time you have customers who are at various stages of their journey with your SaaS and these customers have different needs and desires when it comes to content.

If your view of content is more of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, you risk becoming irrelevant to those who are at different stages. This is where targeted content comes in…

Need content ideas for your SaaS? Grab our ideas list.

Why Targeted Content?

Targeted content means that you deliver relevant content to the right people at the right time. For example, if account records show a customer just took a certain action with you or reached a particular milestone, you might send them content which pertains to taking the next step.

To get an idea of what content and when, you’ll usually need to create content which falls under each of the phases of a typical SaaS marketing funnel:

Awareness Stage

Awareness or “top of funnel” is the stage where prospects have some kind of problem or need they’re searching for a solution for. They’ve come across your solution either via search or because they’ve heard through the grapevine that you can take care of their problem.

The usual content strategy at this stage is to provide them with a broader view of information that is relevant to their problem, or possibly to help them discover a need they didn’t realize they had (this stage may also be referred to as “discovery”). This is not usually the stage to share deep, analytical information about your solution because the prospect isn’t ready for that yet.

Middle of Funnel

At this point, the prospect is familiar with the problem and probably aware of multiple possible solutions besides yours. They’re in the “consideration” phase, looking into deeper research to determine which solution is going to be the best fit for them.

Middle of funnel content should establish you as an authority within your industry and help guide the prospect through their research. You want to establish trust and provide information specific to your solution, such as what makes you unique.

Content here may also include knowledge base topics or how-to videos; your prospect wants to know how your product works and preferably be able to see it in action to determine whether it is easy to use and has an attractive interface.

Bottom of Funnel

This is the stage where prospects are ready to make their final decision to purchase—the “conversion” stage. They will be looking for evidence that solidifies their decision to go with your SaaS such as social proof, free trials or guided demonstrations.

You might use case studies and testimonials, webinars or “master classes”, all designed to demonstrate the value of your SaaS and how customers can get the best from it. If your SaaS uses a customer success or sales team, you need to be looking at how your content at this stage supports their efforts too.

Retention

This is the next part — the “flask” into which your marketing funnel flows. We like this example as demonstrated by Moz because it is one of the few funnel examples which emphasizes the importance of not forgetting about the next stage of content.

marketing-funnel-2

For SaaS, keeping churn numbers low is a critical metric, so it’s important to make a plan which includes content for retention of current customers. The aim is to keep the customer engaged and continue to deliver something that is of value to them.

Content at this stage might include tips for getting the most of your software, how-tos, user case studies and email newsletters for subscribers.

Start by Tracking

If you want to get better at providing targeted content, you need to begin tracking usage data and segmenting customers based upon activity.

You need to understand your customer behaviors and preferences so that you can create content which is useful and relevant to them. For example, if you notice that current customers reach a certain milestone then tend to go quiet, you can focus on “next-level” content which will help them realize new heights of value.

Of course, this works when you have registered users to track. For prospects who are not yet registered, monitor the analytics for the content you are putting out and figure out what is working for getting people into your free trial. If you’re not sure what content to start with, ask people! You can only track if you’ve started with something…

Some Examples

It’s all very well talking about targeted content marketing in theory, but what does it look like when done well in practice? “Done well” is the caveat to success for any content marketing strategy; with the amount of content already being put out there, yours needs to stand up and count among the noise.

Here are some SaaS-based examples of content at different stages:

CrazyEgg

CrazyEgg uses strategies so simple, they’re genius. If you’re a newb arriving on their website for the first time, this is how you’re greeted:

crazyegg-heatmap

Easy, intriguing and immediately relevant content. Who doesn’t want to know precisely how users are interacting with their website and what they might be able to improve?

This kind of gateway content provides value to the individual immediately and helps to drive awareness of the problems they should be monitoring for. It helps to endear CrazyEgg to prospective customers because they’ve already received something useful which helps to highlight the expertise CrazyEgg can offer.

HubSpot

HubSpot is a regular purveyor of multiple types of content. When it comes to middle-of-funnel, they have got some simple solutions for prospects. Take their marketing automation solutions as an example; if you’ve reached the consideration stage there, you might be offered a quick tour to see what makes it tick. As an aside, they also offer live chat as you go through that process so prospects are able to ask any questions immediately.

hubspot-tour

Netsuite

Do you have some good customer stories to tell? Netsuite makes the most of these to produce some “conversion” content that is relatable to prospects and sells their product well.

netsuite-testimonial

Moz

Moz are another example who are content machines at all levels of the funnel. Their content is a huge asset to them because they continue to deliver valuable insights, including those aimed at people who are at a more advanced stage in their customer lifecycle.

If you’re looking for the next strategy to spice up your results, Moz probably has it either in their blog or included in their in-depth beginner’s guides.

moz-seo

What types of content should your SaaS produce? Check out our list:

Final Thoughts

If you want to make content marketing really work for your SaaS, then taking a targeted approach is a good strategy. While you might get some good hits by blanketing content and aiming at all levels of the funnel, it is much more powerful when you are able to be relevant to the stage the individual customer is at.

Start by knowing the different stages of the marketing funnel and what types of content work for each. Track user activity and content analytics, ask customers what they’re looking for and create more content to suit the stage of the user.

Targeted content is an opportunity which many are now grabbing. Get your SaaS onto it and boost your chances of getting and retaining the right customers.

How Are SaaS Apps Getting Found?

Monday, February 8th, 2016

How-Are-SaaS-Getting-Found-One of the big challenges for any early-stage SaaS is getting found in the sea of other SaaS and technology advances happening daily.

You could be using every possible SEO technique for your website, but SEO alone isn’t going to bring in enough of the right kind of customers in the amount of time you have before funding dries up.

One of the important points to consider in your SaaS marketing is that you want your distribution to be based on the best possible strategies to reach those who fit the profile of your ideal client. You want to be able to target first the areas where those clients hang out so that you’re not wasting time on ineffective strategies. One of your first steps before diving into any marketing is to create those persona/s. Even if you are pressed for time, doing a thorough job of identifying your target persona will be worth it so you aren’t wasting time targeting the wrong areas.

So, once you have those personas sorted, how are you going to reach the right prospects? Here are some of the most effective strategies that SaaS are using right now;

App Directories

There are a multitude of directories out there, but some are better quality than others. Lincoln Murphy wrote about 50 places to promote your app (and then 50 more), but one of the gems to take out of his piece is this “protip”;

app-directories

So, keep those “non-tech” places in mind, but make sure you’re found in the better directories too. As he points out, going through the process of completing all those submission forms will also help you refine your value proposition.

Where to begin? In a scouting various SaaS owners on the web, these directories come up often as being the most useful;

  • Angel.co
  • AlternativeTo.net
  • AppAppeal.com
  • Capterra.com
  • Crunchbase.com
  • FeedMyApp.com
  • GetApp.com
  • G2Crowd.com
  • LaunchingNext.com
  • ReadySaaSGo.com
  • SaaSDirectory.com

There are obviously hundreds of other options available, but those listed have been mentioned often and positively.

[tweetthis]Are app directories the best way to reach your clients? Think about where they can be found.[/tweetthis]

Get Featured

Everyone’s trying to get featured on Product Hunt’s homepage, and while that’s awesome if you succeed, it’s not easy getting chosen since they’re pitched by so many startups. They’re definitely still a good option to try, but in the meantime you should also try to get yourself featured on other sites too.

Groove found that TechCrunch was just as difficult to get featured on, but by reaching out to a number of other outlets (they share their list here), they were soon featured in other places.

Check out that list (which may be a little dated) and come up with your own list of sites to pitch for your SaaS. The best ones to get featured on have these characteristics;

  • Your target audience reads them (so not necessarily just other SaaS or tech-types; your accounting app could be featured on a popular finance or small business blog, for example).
  • They have established a good reputation and are getting strong traffic.
  • They somehow logically relate to you (for example, it could be the blog of a well-known app that you integrate with).

Content

We’re not just talking here about the content on your blog or what you give away as a lead magnet; you need content that goes further than your website to reach a broader audience. Apart from getting yourself featured on other’s websites as discussed previously, get your content up yourself in other places where your target audience can be found.

Free

Free sites that draw a lot of visitors are great, especially if you’ve got a shoestring marketing budget. The downside is that you’ll need to work hard to stand out above everyone else on those sites.

Need some ways to amplify your content? Get our free checklist.

Some free tactics to try:

  • Publishing posts on LinkedIn.
  • Creating engaging SlideShare presentations.
  • Publishing posts on Medium.
  • Video on Vimeo or YouTube, or even quick Vine clips.
  • Posts on Tumblr.
  • Creating and curating collections on Scoop.it.
  • Quora. Answer any questions which relate to something your content covers and post a link to your content in your answer.
  • Syndicate on Business2Community, Bizsugar, B2B Marketing Zone or any other relevant syndication blog.

Paid

There are a number of paid options for boosting your content to a wider audience. You could go the route of sponsored posts on social media platforms (stick to the ones you’ve identified to be the most likely places to find your desired customer), or you could go for paid content distribution through one of the many networks which are now available.

Paid content distribution via a content distribution network (CDN) involves chosen posts from your blog appearing in the “from around the web” or “you may be interested in these” sections which you often find at the bottom of popular blogs. Your post could appear on Huffington Post, CNN, USA Today or a number of other popular sites which allow them in return for revenue from the CDN. If this sounds like something for you, check out Taboola, Outbrain or nRelate which are three of the most popular CDNs.

Partnerships

No SaaS is an island, and you don’t have to do it all on your own. An established partner is a great way of amplifying your reach and broadening your market. You get to leverage their better-known name, larger network and potentially greater sales and marketing resources. A partner could be;

  • An app that yours integrates with.
  • A SaaS who is not in direct competition with you but whose audience is similar to yours. This is especially good if your products are complementary.
  • Channel partners. These are partners who are trained in your product and resell it for their own profit (HubSpot is well-known for this).

Insight Squared describes the following partnership types;

insight-squared

However you decide to establish a partnership relationship, there should be value in it for both sides in order for it to be successful. What is the incentive for your partner to advocate for you?

Email Campaigns

In its simplest form, a partnership could involve someone with a large email list recommending your product to their clients. Lincoln Murphy put together some excellent guidelines on what to do with partnership email campaigns.

It is important in this situation that you establish the goals of your campaign and give some real thought to who you are targeting on their list. What level of membership do they have with your partner? What will appeal to them in terms of benefits and price?

Offers

You could consider offering a deal on a site which offers “daily deals” to visitors. AppSumo is one with a large following who regularly offer deals on products they like themselves. Note that as this write-up from Clickminded states, their clientele are used to being offered a reasonable discount, so things will work out better if you’re prepared to do that.

Of course, AppSumo takes a significant share in the profits of the deal in return, but the benefits of getting a big boost in exposure are the payoff you’re looking for. Deals run for a limited time, but if customers like what they got from you, your SaaS gets talked about and referred to long after the deal is over.

Channel Partnerships

As a general rule, channel partnerships are much more complex to set up, so if you’re at a really early stage, they may be better left until later, when you’re more established and prepared to handle the work involved.

Authorized resellers of your product need to be well-versed in how it works and enabled to resell with the right kind of content and sales materials or mechanisms. Programs generally require structure with a clear path to the benefits for your partner, which takes time to flesh out.

New Breed Marketing suggests you consider these items when deciding if a channel partnership is right for your SaaS;

channel-partnership

Successful channel partnerships re

Get the bonus content: The Content Amplification Checklist
an dedicate someone to managing channel partnerships – if you’re not responsive or easy to deal with, the partner will probably write the whole thing off as too difficult. This is why channel partnerships tend to be better when you’ve already built momentum behind your SaaS and have the time required to establish them properly.

Need some ways to amplify your content? Get our free checklist

Final Thoughts

There are a number of different ways to get your SaaS found which we haven’t covered in this article; paid advertising, content marketing on your website and networking/presenting at events, among others.

The four methods covered here are some of the more effective ways to get your SaaS in front of a larger audience in a shorter amount of time. They are tried and tested by other SaaS with good results.

One of the key things to remember, especially if you are short on time, is to first target the places which are most likely to reach your target audience. Reach is good, but it’s pointless if you’re not reaching the right people.

When you’re an early stage SaaS, moving early to improve your reach will be crucial to secure the growth you need before funds run dry. Try out some of these methods and we’d be interested to know, what has worked the best to get your SaaS found?

Proven Strategies To Boost Customer Loyalty

Monday, January 11th, 2016

FEATURED_Proven-Strategies-To-Boost-Customer-Loyalty

You’ve invested a lot of time and money in building an awesome SaaS. Your product is so cool that once customers try it out they’ll surely be hooked, right?

Unfortunately, no. The average annual SaaS churn rate is between 5 and 7%.

Customers are often not particularly invested in your product beyond ensuring that it does what they need, even if it is cool. They can be a fickle lot, on the lookout for the next big thing that grabs their attention.

Studies have shown that the cost of keeping a customer is about 10% of the cost to gain a new one, so it makes good sense to put effort into keeping the customers you already have and getting them excited about your brand.

Companies like Apple have customers lining up around the block for new products without a huge marketing effort. They engender enviable levels of brand loyalty – what can your business do to get closer to this level?

Get Service Right First

Remember, this is assuming you’ve got a great product which answers the needs of the customer. If your product is amazing but your customer service is shoddy, you will lose a good proportion of your clients out of sheer frustration.

We won’t labor this point – it’s the obvious first step and we covered some strategies for improving the customer experience recently. If you want to build brand loyalty, your business needs to have good service first. This will be the foundation for any other strategy you bring into play…

Get the recipe for an effective loyalty program. Download for free here…

Ask For Engagement

Engagement begins with the customer actually using your product and being able to derive value from it. How many people do you have lurking around inactive on free trials or your first tier of service? Getting proactive about gaining their engagement is important – they’re either loyal or they’re part of the next lot to cancel.

As Lincoln Murphy says, this isn’t the gym. “Engagement is when your customer is realizing value from your Saas”. He further points out that engagement should be seen as a customer issue, not a product issue.

You will not develop loyalty if you don’t first foster engagement. How can you ask for engagement? Here are some examples;

Mention: “Use-case Master Class” webinar

As part of an overall churn-reduction strategy, Mention ran the Masterclass webinar to demonstrate concrete examples of their impact on ROI of users. The webinar also has a forum for users to ask questions.

mention

Zendesk: “The Human Touch”

Zendesk wanted to avoid being the kind of company who only calls when they’re seeking renewal, so they implemented a Customer Account Management (CAM) team on a 12-month schedule of phone calls, emails and check-ins.

This helps curb potential issues, build trust and develop customer loyalty. Customers establish a real relationship with the company and are more likely to refer others.

Dropbox: Incentives

Dropbox has built a multi-billion dollar company without spending a huge amount on advertising. They use incentives quite effectively to gain engagement. Users can earn extra storage space by going through their product tours and completing other activities, such as sharing on social media.

social-media-sites

There are many other examples we could mention to help build engagement: drip email campaigns, consistent social media engagement, video tutorials, contests… The important thing is that you are doing something effective to gain engagement.

[tweetthis]Engagement is when your customer is realizing value from your SaaS[/tweetthis]

Build A Real Connection

Why do brands like Apple produce such raving fans? It’s not just that they love the product: they feel connected to the brand.

Steve Jobs was a master at connecting with customers and getting them to identify themselves with the Apple brand; “The coolest thing about iPod is that your entire music library fits in your pocket”.

Tell your story

Did you know there’s science behind why storytelling works to help gain you loyal customers? Storytelling engages a wandering brain and lights up parts that a factual report doesn’t. It can emotionally engage the listener or reader, causing them to produce oxytocin and impact their behavior.

A compelling story builds a true connection with your customer. Those customers lining up outside Apple stores aren’t just buying a product, they’re connecting with the brand at a personal level. Your story is what makes you relatable to other humans.

Here are some examples:

  • Salesforce tells stories around their customer successes, making real-world examples accessible.
  • HubSpot connects through excellent content, customer stories and immediately connecting with the sentiment of their visitors (“stop interrupting, start connecting”).
  • Intel has done a great job of taking how most people think and feel about technology and injecting it into their everyday lives.

Develop a true understanding of your customer

Do you really know who your customer is? What are their dreams and challenges? If you understand them you can foster loyalty by tying your product to helping them achieve those dreams or overcome those challenges. You can also better focus your stories so they demonstrate those things.

Gregory Ciotti has written a lot on customer loyalty. He makes a great point when he says: “Many marketing campaigns are designed entirely around moving products. What if instead they were designed around moving people?”

To move someone, you need to understand what really spins their wheels; what are their motivators? Conversely, what do they disengage with?

Monitoring your metrics and the reactions to your content are some ways to understand your customer. You need to be able to answer questions about who your customers really are.

monitoring-your-metrics

Image source: Business2Community

Upgrade The Features That Matter

Most SaaS tend to find over time that some features are more important to customers than others. These are known as “sticky” features, because no matter how you upgrade you shouldn’t lose those features!

How can you use sticky features to boost loyalty? By improving on them – giving them more power or better quality. Customers are unlikely to cancel if your best features are made even better.

Most customers also dislike change just for the sake of it, so if you are showing that you understand which features are important to them, it goes a long way toward them supporting you.

Reward Your Customers

Most of us like good surprises, right? Surprise rewards can help businesses create powerful and lasting bonds with customers. ‘Surprise and delight’ strategies are being used more often as part of long-term loyalty builders.

How could your SaaS ‘surprise and delight’?

  • Extra storage.
  • Free upgrades.
  • Discounts.
  • Added features.

Choose something that is relevant to your product and meaningful to your customer. With these types of rewards, you don’t tend to have an initial cost outlay, unlike physical goods. Also, you already know your customer is interested in these rewards because they use your product!

We know rewards and loyalty programs work if they are well-managed. Some businesses argue that they can’t afford them, but there is plenty of documented evidence of businesses increasing revenue from reward programs.

Build an effective loyalty program. Download our free ‘recipe’ here…

Final Thoughts

Customer loyalty begins with your SaaS having a great product, excellent service and a true understanding of your customers.

From there, engagement efforts, building connections with your customers and rewarding them for their business will all help create a brand that engenders trust and loyalty.