Customer engagement is important for the growth of any business. In the SaaS world, engagement is the difference between respectable growth and unacceptable churn.
Unsurprisingly, research has found that the number one reason for churn in the SaaS industry is lack of product use. The customer’s relationship with the company is also a factor. Both of these suggest that customer engagement should be a priority for your SaaS.
In the noisy world of technology, how can your SaaS build customer engagement? We’re going to take a look at some simple, yet effective strategies…
Think about this (unfortunately common) scenario: You sign up for a trial version of software somewhere in the middle of your busy day. You get an acknowledgement email with a login and you plan on exploring it more thoroughly when you have time.
What happens later? You forget – it becomes another thing on your long list of tasks. You don’t even notice that you’ve never heard another word from the software company until some random email arrives from a name you don’t recognize. Muttering about receiving so much spam, you hit the delete button…
And that, folks, is what will happen to your SaaS if you don’t set a pattern of regular communication. Ideally, you want people to know who you are, anticipate that you will be communicating with them and actually take notice of your communications.
If your customers hear from you about as often as a new Star Wars movie is released, or only when you want to sell them something, they’ll switch off pretty quickly. (Unless you’re as highly anticipated as Star Wars – are you?).
There’s never an easy answer when it comes to email. It’s not something you can “set and forget” if you want your customers to engage with you. We’ve suggested previously to take a proactive rather than reactive approach and to maintain a focus on the customer’s needs. This requires you to email regularly to see better results.
If you’ve got past the hurdle of creating a regular schedule and actually writing the emails, Drip has 5 rules for profitable email marketing:
Assuming you’ve managed to avoid Gmail’s “Promotions” folder and are front and center in the inbox, how are you going to get your emails opened and read?
Your subject line is what leads people to open your emails. If you want to know the most effective subject lines for your business, test them! Play around with different types of subject lines and keep a spreadsheet showing which did the best for opens.
You should also monitor content type and subject matter to see what your audience wants. Monitor click-through rates with your email analytics, but also look at page analytics to see how long people are hanging around and where they are going next on your website.
Your message packs a bigger punch when it is well-targeted instead of a blanket broadcast. How could this look? You could set up emails to go out based upon the action taken by the customer.
For example, if they have set up their first invoice using your accounting software, you could acknowledge that and invite them to check out a quick video on how to create invoice templates.
Audience segmentation is also important if you want to separate your disengaged customers and send them a sequence of emails for re-engagement.
Being present in the places where your customers want to engage with you is a good strategy. Social media can increase your touch points and the visibility of your SaaS. However, like any other form of communication, consistency is key if you want it to be effective for engagement.
Social media works well if you are in tune with your audience and produce content which keeps them engaged. A good example from SaaS is Hootsuite’s “Game of Thrones” themed video. This was popular with their audience for being entertaining and tapping into pop culture.
How many different practical applications does your product have? Brainstorm and present them in the form of content such as video libraries, webinars and free training.
To take this a step further, get permission to use actual case studies from your satisfied customers. Case studies are good for providing a relatable story and giving your customers social proof of the efficacy of your product.
Share Your Culture
Rather than being another faceless company, inject some personality into your brand by sharing what goes on behind the scenes and stories about your people, products and brand identity.
Hootsuite’s Game of Thrones video mentioned above was more than just a play on pop culture, it told their audience that like them, the staff of Hootsuite are Game of Thrones fans too. Remember, your customers are human, which means that they identify with the human aspects of your brand rather than its fancy software.
Salesforce has been a leading example of storytelling in the SaaS world. Their “How To Become A Customer Company” series of videos, blogs, ebooks and customer events not only shares their culture, but provides valuable insights for their customers on improving customer service.
Storytelling has been shown to engage more parts of the brain than simply sharing data does. Studies have also shown that positive emotions toward a brand have a greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust or any other brand attributes.
Ask For Feedback
Tracking data is a great way to measure engagement, but sometimes it’s more helpful to ask customers directly for their feedback. The good news is that if they’re prepared to provide you with feedback, they are investing themselves in your brand and feeling a sense of ownership.
Kissmetrics looked for the 5 best ways to get customer feedback and came up with these:
- Feedback boxes
- Reach out directly
- User activity
- Usability tests.
If you’re going to use either of the first two, where the customer needs to actually fill something out for you, keep it as simple as possible. It’s always better to allow room for them to freely type feedback in a text box rather than only allow prescribed answers. On the other hand, only ask what you really need to know with surveys and avoid being a serial surveyor. Otherwise you are more likely to annoy rather than engage…
Reaching out directly can provide you with valuable feedback that you wouldn’t otherwise receive. It’s also a great way of building rapport with clients and providing that ‘human’ touch. You may not have the bandwidth to call large numbers of clients, but be sure to engage with power users and schedule regular time to make calls.
Make Special Offers
Keep your customers eager by building in rewards, offers or pleasant surprises into your engagement program. We already know that rewards and loyalty programs work. As a SaaS, these programs could be as simple as offering free upgrades or percentage discounts. You could also offer free features or the chance to try new features first.
Freshbooks is known for surprising customers, often sending cake to new customers for their birthdays. This goes along with a commitment to great customer support – a random surprise is not going to help engagement if your service stinks!
Freshbooks cake. Image source: Bryan Dort on Flickr
Keeping your customers engaged isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair. You must listen, be flexible and stay consistent with your communication.
Injecting personality into your brand and creating more personable experiences for customers will help boost both engagement and loyalty to your brand.
Venturebeat sums it up well with this quote:
“For consumers, subscription connects them with the best brands, products and services they love and need over a certain period of time. Those brands have to truly resonate with consumers, which is why they’re willing to commit to a recurring payment.”