Posts Tagged ‘saas’

An Inbound Marketing Funnel Every SaaS Needs

Monday, February 20th, 2017

FEATURED_An-Inbound-Marketing-Funnel-Every-SaaS-Needs

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.

marketing-funnel

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

digital-marketing

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

FEATURED_Best-Practices-for-Creating-SaaS-Documentation

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.

How SaaS Can Harness Influencer Marketing

Monday, January 9th, 2017

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You’re marketing your business, but you’ve become stuck. Maybe you’re trying to break into the scene and don’t have any fans. Maybe you’ve hit a wall and can’t seem to raise your profile.

In either case, you need a boost. You’re already using email marketing or social media marketing. You need something to accelerate your growth and capture more fans and customers.

Influencer marketing is the strategy you need.

Get the bonus content:Use our free pitch template to reach out to potential influencers.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is pretty simple. You’re exposed to it countless times a day in one form or another.

There’s a reason Nike’s Air Jordan is one of the best selling sneakers of all time – it’s been closely linked to basketball legend Michael Jordan (so close it’s named after him). It comes with his endorsement.

And endorsements are a big deal. Kristen Matthews, Director of Marketing at influencer intelligence app GroupHigh says “People are wired to trust a third party recommendation more than someone talking about themselves. Whether it’s a guy at a cocktail party trying to promote himself for a date or a brand trying to convince a consumer that they are the best—it’s all the same.”

According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, we’re far more likely to trust recommendations than any other form of advertising, even if we know the recommendations are part of a marketing program.
influencer-recommendations

Image: marketingcharts.com

Basically, influencer marketing is the leveraging of key leaders to promote your brand. It means using someone else’s audience to grow your own by having the influencer share your content to their fans or make an outright recommendation of your business.

Influencer marketing is leveraging other people’s audiences to help grow your own.

An influencer is someone with an audience that’s similar to your own. If you don’t have much of an audience yet, target influencers who have audiences similar to who you think your audience should be.

How do you find influencers?

You don’t need a giant list of influencers. In fact, due to the majority illusion, you only need a few. Research from the USC Information Sciences Institute found that it only takes a few influential people to create an appearance that everyone is talking about your brand.

This means you don’t have to build a giant list of potential influencers. You should target a small list of people who would make the best symbiotic relationships (part of working with an influencer is providing value to them as well, but more on that in a minute).

Finding influencers isn’t an easy task. 75% of marketers say identifying influential people is the hardest part of performing outreach.
influencer-marketing-challenges

Image: emarketer.com

  1. They’re active – Don’t waste your time on anyone who hasn’t blogged or Tweeted in more than two months. They might be influential, but they aren’t useful if they aren’t engaging with other people.
  1. They aren’t too big – Sorry, Bill Gates isn’t going to plug your B2B SaaS. He won’t respond because you don’t offer anything substantial in return for his time. Instead of going after the biggest fish, approach smaller influencers who are willing to partner for your level of reciprocity. As your audience grows, approach more influential people.
  1. They’re relevant – Sharing a similar audience isn’t enough. An influencer’s brand needs to relate to your brand. For example, a social media scheduling tool would have the same audience as social media manager, but the manager isn’t likely to plug your product because he wants to steer people to his services.
  1. They must have an engaged audience – Potential influencers need to have an audience that actually pays attention to them. There are plenty of “influential” people with thousands of followers (some of which may be fake, purchased accounts), but they never get any likes, comments, shares or retweets. These people aren’t any use to you. Engagement is tough to measure. All you can do is look through the influencers feed to see if fans are active.

Now that you know what makes a good influencer, let’s find some.

Step 1: Start your list with people you already know

There’s a chance you already know of several influential people in your industry who share the same audience. Put them on the list right away. Pitching them will be easier than pitching unknown people because you’re familiar with their work. Add their names, URLs, and Twitter handles to a spreadsheet.

Step 2: Use an influencer scoring index

An influencer scoring index is an application that runs algorithms on different online personas to determine their influence on the web. They aren’t perfect, but they’re good for inspiration. Check out PeerIndex, Followerwonk, Klout and Kred.

Step 3: Search for relevant topics in BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a tool that shows you the most shared pages on the web. Search for a basic topic that an influential person in your niche is sure to have covered. For example, a sales expert must have written something about setting up a sales funnel. You would search for “sales funnel” and see who wrote the most shared articles.

Step 4: Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups

Groups on these two social networks are often run influential people. Even if their creators are not especially influential, they are definitely trying to be influential, which means they’ll be willing to work with you. Search for your niche, join as many groups as you can and poke around.

Step 5: Scour Twitter and follow accounts

Finding influential people on Twitter is simple. First, search for a keyword in the search box. You can use a hashtag if you’re sure an influencer in your niche would have used it. Second, click the “People” filter. This will bring up a list of account. Start investigating and following each.

Step 6: Look at the retweets/shares

Follow people in your industry, even if you don’t think they are influential. Watch who they retweet and share. Do you notice any trends or patterns? Whose name pops up in conversations?

At this point you should have at least five or 10 names on your list. It’s alright if you have a lot more than that, too. All niches are different; some are more popular than others. If you have a lot, pick out the top 10 that are most likely to work with you.

How can you partner with influencers?

Working with influencers is about building a relationship. They’ll expect you to give just as much as you take. The key is to become a valuable person to them.

The best way to open a dialogue with potential influencers is to give them something without asking for any compensation. You could offer free exposure by asking for a quote to fit into your next article. Or you could start with a simple, “Hey I loved your post on [topic], I shared it wherever I could.”

Make sure to find other ways to pop up on your influencer’s radar. For instance, you could go through some of their Twitter history and retweet whatever’s relevant to your audience. You could link to the influencer a few times from your website (then send a quick “Hey, just to let you know” email).

Any correspondence with the influencer should be personal. It’s OK to use a template email to reach out to new people, but customize it considerably for the receiver. Make sure you’re familiar with their work and their brand so you can say meaningful things.

You should be focusing on the top 10 people who can make a difference to your brand, not hundreds of people. So invest time and effort into building new relationships.

Finally, be open with the influencer about your goals. They know how the world works too. They want to grow their brand as well. Tell them that you’re looking to partner with influential people and you’re happy to reciprocate wherever you can.

This free pitch template will help you contact influencers and build relationships.

The Result

Over time, you’ll build a network of VIPs who mean a lot to your brand. You’ll notify them of content before you tell your email list or social fans.

You’ll give them opportunities to comment on your content. You’ll give them chances to test your new features and give feedback before anyone else. You might even give them discounts on your service or commissions on affiliate sales.
In time, your influencers will become partners who genuinely want to grow your brand.

How to Deal With Negative Feedback in Your SaaS

Monday, November 14th, 2016

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You can’t be friends with everyone.

Some people aren’t going to like you. Some customers will walk away disappointed.

These are the realities of running a business. It doesn’t matter how strongly you prioritize customer service and customer success, some customers are going to complain.

Young startups feel this the most. They only have a handful of customers, so a few complaints are a blow to their egos. They can’t turn to a user base of thousands for assurances. Plus, resources are tight. They can’t provide as much of their attention as they would like.

But that doesn’t mean that negative feedback should be ignored.

Your customer service policy should be a carefully designed plan. Download our free guide to learn how to create yours.

All Feedback Is Useful

Anytime a customer or user takes the time to send you feedback, you should rejoice.

Sure, sometimes the customer will be upset. They might even be angry or use unconstructive language.

Just keep in mind that the customer is giving you an opportunity to learn; an opportunity to improve your product. If you can set your ego aside and critically look at your product and business, any bit of feedback can be used to strengthen your SaaS.  

Positive feedback is encouraging, but it rarely helps. You already know what you’re good at. Negative feedback, however, points you at the areas you can improve. A complaint is a big neon sign that says “FIX THIS TO MAKE MORE MONEY.”

You’re likely familiar with the Lean Startup methodology. The build-measure-learn feedback is an exercise most SaaS businesses use to improve their product. User feedback is a big part of the “learn” phase of product iteration.

build-measure-learn-loop

Source: theleanstartup.com

The beauty of software is that you can change the product in response to complaints. So unlike physical products where negative feedback is best minimized and handled quietly, SaaS complaints are a chance to make your product and service better.

Understand the Complaint

Before you can take steps to respond to negative feedback, you have to understand why the customer is complaining. Something made them upset. What triggered the behavior?

In many cases, the original complaint will tell you everything you need.

Let’s say a customer signed up for your payroll software, but didn’t realize that you specialize in helping small businesses. His company is too large and requires elaborate features that you don’t provide. He may label you “ineffective” and “unfinished.”

It’s obvious from his complaint that his challenges are real. He is frustrated because he purchased a product that doesn’t help him. You could dismiss the customer as a poor fit, but that doesn’t help anyone. Instead, use his feedback to improve your marketing (perhaps your website copy) to make your product’s intended use more clear.

In other cases, customers won’t be as clear. They’ll fail to provide details and use general words like “disappointed,” “unprofessional,” and “dissatisfied.” These complaints don’t help you solve the customer’s problem or improve your product.

If you don’t feel that the customer has provided enough information, ask for more. Don’t be condescending or overly suspicious, but don’t admit fault or apologize until you know the full story.

Respond Respectfully

When we’re emotionally investing in something, we have a tendency to take negative feedback to heart. Resist this urge at all costs. Respond to the feedback quickly, but not immediately. Give yourself and the complainer at least two hours to cool off. (Exceptions apply here. If the customer is experiencing severe hardships – like revenue loss – get on the phone.)

Always respond in an intelligent, thoughtful manner. You care what they have to say, so make sure the sentiment comes across.

If you are replying publicly, be especially cautious (email is considered public; it’s easy to forward around). Speak in terms of solutions, not problems. Make sure to thank the customer for the feedback, no matter how much that sentence hurts to write/say. All feedback is a gift.

Sometimes a customer will be wrong. They’ll misremember, misread, or insist that you help them in a ludicrous manner. If you assessed the situation objectively, it’s alright to correct the customer. Don’t feel the need to apologize for everything, but recognize that sometimes it’s smart to rectify a problem that isn’t your fault. In many cases, solving unrelated problems is a big part of customer success.

A few days after you have proposed a solution, follow up with the dissatisfied customer so they understand that you genuinely want to solve their problem. Ask if they have taken your advice or used your solution. Offer further help. If they don’t reply, don’t harass them.

Even if you can’t provide a solution, respond anyway. The service recovery paradox is when a customer thinks better of a company after the company has apologized for a mistake than if the company had never made the mistake in the first place. It doesn’t work for big failures and it doesn’t work repeatedly for the same customer, but a failure on your end does not instantly end a relationship.

service-recovery-paradox

A Harris Poll survey found that responding to negative feedback online is a smart tactic. 33% of people who leave negative reviews online will post a positive review if a company responds, and 34% will delete their original review. The key is to respond quickly, accurately, thoughtfully, and address their complaints.

Improve Your Business

Once you have handled a complaint, your work isn’t finished. You need to catalog them so you can identify patterns.

Complaints will rarely be uniform, but they can often be solved with similar solutions. Let’s return to our example from before – the customer who wasn’t a fit for your payroll software. Perhaps you had another customer who misunderstood your product for accounting software, or a customer who wasn’t aware she could only list 15 employees.

In our example, each complaint is different, but they share a commonality: The customers purchased your software without understanding it. You should adjust your marketing to better educate your customers. This solution won’t help the complainants, but you’ll prevent future problems.

Keep in mind that anytime a customer sends negative feedback, there are several more who choose to say nothing. According to Help Scout, “a typical business hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers.” They’ll think it. They’ll tell their friends. But they won’t come to you. The smart solution is to fix whatever triggered the poor feedback so it stops happening.

Create a Feedback Process

Smart businesses use processes so they don’t solve the same problems over and over.

Create, document and implement a system to deal with negative feedback, especially if you have a large team. The process should tackle negative feedback immediately in a consistent manner.

As CSM Wire suggests, this feedback process should integrate with your customer success team. “The customer success team should also develop a library of standard messaging that can be quickly accessed during an urgent situation. Standard update and maintenance communications can be customized as necessary.”

Feedback is so important, in fact, that seeking feedback should be a part of your process. Social media is a good tool for this, but it’s also smart to build features into your app for immediate communication, like live chat, review prompts, and popup surveys.

You can build a customer service policy that deftly handles negative feedback and turns those customers into loyal fans. Download our guide to learn how.

The Takeaway

The key to handling negative feedback is to not sit idle.

If you receive feedback and fail to address it, the likelihood of churn skyrockets. Even if the problem wasn’t a big deal to the customer, your unwillingness to address it exacerbates the problem. Suddenly the customer feels unappreciated and unvalued. Instead of a polite “I need help” email, the customer publically criticizes your company on social media. Not good.

If you respond to your upset users and continually refine your process for handling feedback, you’ll retain users and squash your churn.

7 Mistakes You’re Making in Retaining Your Customers

Monday, October 17th, 2016

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Does your SaaS have a “leakage” problem?

Retention and churn figures go hand in hand and are key metrics for SaaS, yet knowing what they are and doing something about them are quite different things. Many SaaS are failing miserably when it comes to retention and find themselves in a routine pattern of trying to plug up a leaky boat.

Need a quick retention checklist? Get ours here:

If your SaaS is one of those, you may be making one of these critical mistakes which impact your retention:

#1. Your Key Focus Is Acquisition

When you think of the analogy of a sales funnel, where your new acquisitions come in at the top and the width narrows on the way through as fewer people move all the way through with you, retention problems can be akin to having a hole at the bottom of your funnel.

It doesn’t matter how many new acquisitions you keep pulling in at the top if you have that leakage problem at the bottom.

One of the important things to remember is that churn isn’t the problem, it’s the symptom of something else going on in your business. For example, if your focus is largely acquisition, but you’re then leaving customers to fend for themselves once you’ve got them onboard, there’s a good chance you’ll see this result in churn issues.

Of course you need to give focus to acquisition, but that’s not where your plan should end. Customer success journey mapping is a great strategy for laying out a plan which will give you that holistic view of how the customer moves through your organization, not just a view which says “get them onboard at all costs.”

Client Success looked at journey mapping recently and defined some best practices for preparing maps:

  1. Always look at the journey from the customer perspective.
  2. Identify any handoffs between departments in your customer journey.
  3. Define your customer success milestones.
  4. Share your map with trusted clients and have them validate it.
  5. Measure and optimize regularly.

Journey mapping helps to reinforce that you can’t just put all your efforts into acquisition, then sit back, hoping the customer wants to stick around. As you can see from the Client Success example below, there are touch points that go with each stage so you’ve got to put that work in.

customer-success-journey-map-example-clientsuccess

#2. You’re Not Asking for Engagement

No matter how you look at it, a customer who is not using your product is probably not going to keep paying for it. You might think “oh well, it mustn’t have been the right app for them”, but how would they even know that if they haven’t had the opportunity to try?

Look, we’re bombarded with new information, emails, content and the latest, most exciting new technology constantly. There’s a good chance that someone not in the habit of using your app simply forgets to put it to work, especially when it’s not yet part of their daily ritual. Next thing, they see you billing their credit card, think “oh, that’s right, well I’m not even using that” and they cancel.

You may have been able to prevent this simply by asking for engagement from their very first interaction with you. When Totango did some research on SaaS use, they found around 50% of customers weren’t using the service they were paying for. This immediately puts those people at high risk of cancelling.

You’re not going to win them all, you just can’t. However, you can do your best to engage them while you have them and hopefully ensure that more people become active users.

Some ways of asking for engagement include:

  • Push notifications for apps.
  • Emails encouraging customers to try different features.
  • Phone calls from your customer success team.
  • Incentivizing product tours (for example, Dropbox offers free space for taking their product tour).

 

You need to give yourself the best chance of getting in front of the customer and demonstrating the value of your app.

#3. You’re Not Delivering Value

It could be that your app simply doesn’t deliver what users want. It happens, though hopefully you did enough research before producing it that this simply isn’t the case. The other possibility is that the customer simply doesn’t see the value of your app, a possibility which can certainly happen if you haven’t asked for engagement.

How will the customer realize value if they don’t try it and see it?

It comes back to understanding what your customer success milestones are (those key steps which a customer has to take to see value from your app) and driving engagement so that they reach them.

#4. You’re Inaccessible

How easy is it for your customers to get help or to submit a support ticket? Some SaaS are notoriously difficult, with queries not being followed up unless the customer goes back and asks, or with deciphering how to get help being difficult in the first place.

Most people can’t be bothered spending money on something which they’re going to need help with, but even more so if that help is hard to find.

The solution is to make getting help easy and obvious. The customer shouldn’t have to click around looking or wait for lengthy periods of time for a response.

Part of this is accountability too. From time to time there are always bugs or upgrades happening within an app and being upfront and accessible shows that you’re transparent and probably a trustworthy bet for the customer.

#5. You’re Not Personalizing

Tobin Lehman described failing to personalize the experience as “the biggest” SaaS retention mistake. Why? As he points out, this can be explained using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We’re not buying the software because we want software, we’re buying it to solve a need that we have and for each customer, that need may be different.

“The truth is that your SaaS not only fulfills some tactical or basic needs, it also fills some emotional needs higher up the hierarchy. And in the customer experience many marketers neglect this hidden contract with the consumer that your product is doing more than providing a service. It’s providing an avenue to the experience of this person’s daily life.”

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The suggestion is that your retention process should heavily focus on developing relationships with your customers and being able to offer a personal touch.

Depending on your business model, you may not be able to offer large-scale personal service, but you can make your interactions more personalized by segmenting customers appropriately and keeping your messages to them relevant.

Instead of blanket email blasts, try sending out emails based on behaviors and activities. This helps to convey a message that you “know” your customer better.

#6. You’re Not Proactive

Ideally, you don’t want to be waiting until there is some kind of issue to take action. You need to be monitoring constantly and noticing potential churn issues before they have turned into a full-blown churn event.

For example, are you monitoring for expired or cancelled credit cards? This is a common reason for churn, but by using the right software (such as Retained for any SaaS using Stripe), you can send out early alerts to your customers to remind them to update their credit card details before their next billing cycle.

You should also be monitoring sentiment about your app and general chatter about it (on social media, for example, or through surveying your customers). If there are complaints, comments or requests which come up regularly, you may have an issue that should be addressed early before it turns into a cause for churn.

Another big one is any changes in the pattern of use of the customer. If they were usually a twice weekly user, but have only logged in once over the last month, this reduction in use may indicate they’re not happy anymore and looking to move on. This is where you need to be reaching out and just asking the customer how things are going.

#7. You’re Not Focusing on Features that Matter

It’s almost always the case with SaaS that, over time, you’ll find certain features are much more important to your customers than others. These are your “moneymakers” and are a large part of why the customer decided to sign up with you.

If you’re devoting a whole lot of time to new, extra features, but neglecting any essential fixes or updates to those core features, you’re setting yourself up to annoy customers and trigger churn. Want retention? Devote your main focus to those features which really matter to customers.

Have you nailed customer retention? Grab our free checklist:

Final Thoughts

We all want better customer retention, but remember if you’re experiencing more churn than you’d like, that is not the real problem you have. Churn is a symptom of something else somewhere that you’re not meeting the needs of the customer or not even getting out of the gate there because you haven’t engaged the customer in the first place.

Map out a plan which includes the entire customer journey (not just for acquisition!), and look for ways to better engage or meet their needs. The hope is that your funnel turns into more of a flask, with no significant numbers cancelling.