If you run a subscription-based SaaS, this guide on user engagement is written just for you. Below, we share guaranteed ways to boost engagement and increase your customer retention levels.
Because you sell a subscription, the future success of your business depends on ongoing user engagement. If your users stop interacting with your product, they’ll eventually stop paying for access to it. You don’t want that. Instead, you want to lengthen the average customer lifespan for as long as possible and that, of course, starts with retention.
The not-so-secret recipe to customer retention includes equal parts engagement and value. Communicating the value of your product is crucial. So is making sure that your customers receive that value from your product.
But this alone won’t bake the cake. You also need to ensure that your customers don’t give up before they solve their problems with your product.
And this is why engagement is so important. By keeping your customers engaged, you’ll ensure that they stick around long enough to solve their problems and see the value of your product. This end result will make both you and your customers happy.
So how do you do it? Below, we’ll share 7 guaranteed ways to forge and strengthen a relationship between you and your customers so they stick around.
1. Know Your Customers
To truly engage your customer, you must first answer two questions: Who and what?
Who is your target customer? How do they identify themselves? What are their basic demographics?
What is your target customer’s problem? What do they need help solving? What do they already know about their problem? What do they need to know about their problem in order to move forward successfully?
To draw an accurate composite of your target customer, you need the help of a customer persona. This is a template that you use to understand who your customers are, including their:
Once you’ve identified this information about your SaaS customer, you can personalize your approach so that you can engage them at every step of their journey with your business, from awareness to purchase to retention to advocacy.
Learn how to create SaaS customer personas (and download a free template) here.
2. Know the Customer’s Journey
A customer journey is a path that your customer takes while interacting with your business. You can create an actual map as an aid to help you visualize how your customers are most likely to interact with your business. This opens up opportunities for optimizing your engagement.
Let’s take a look at a basic customer journey.
Stage 1: Awareness
In this beginning stage of the journey, a customer is just becoming aware of your company. Oftentimes, a customer is also becoming aware of their problem and actively looking for a solution, which is how they stumbled upon your SaaS.
You can engage customers at this stage by educating them about their issues and pointing them in the direction of your solution. This is often the longest part of the customer’s journey, as they may search for multiple possible solutions to their problem. You can maintain top-of-mindedness by continuing to nurture them through emails, social media, webinars, downloadable eBooks, and other forms of content marketing.
Stage 2: Consideration
In this stage, customers are ready to purchase and have narrowed down the selection to maybe a handful of businesses. They’ll compare to see which solution is the best fit for their problem.
Engagement during the consideration stage consists of comparison guides and case studies that allow the customer to truly understand how you’re different from your competitors.
Stage 3: Decision
During the Decision stage, a customer has finally decided to go with your business, which is great. However, not all customers at this stage automatically buy. Something’s holding them back. They just can’t commit. You can engage the hesitant customer at this stage with an extended trial or time-based coupons, but you can also continue sharing the types of content you would share in the consideration stage until they finally build the confidence in you to buy.
Stage 4: Purchase
Immediately after a customer purchases your product, it’s go-time. Now’s not the time to ease off of the gas, content-wise. Instead, you should share even more valuable content. Offer a getting started guide. Give them a tour of your product. Share FAQs. This will ensure that they feel fully supported as they onboard (i.e. get started using your product).
Stage 5: Retention and Advocacy
Once they’ve finally onboarded—a process that may take days, weeks, or even longer—you can hit cruise control for the rest of their journey. That doesn’t mean that you should stop interacting with them.
On the contrary, you should continue to engage with your customers on a regular basis and seek to learn more about them. You can do this by directly interviewing your customers through short surveys or by observing their behavior in your app.
After you learn more about them, you can engage your customers at this level with content that allows them to become power users. This type of content includes user tips and tutorials.
You can also unlock a different level of interaction for these customers, and that’s by asking them to generate their own content for your business.
For example, they can mention your brand on social media with a funny gif or meme to punctuate the post, or they can snap a screenshot or a photo of themselves using your app. This increases social proof for your business and it also exposes your business to prospective customers who happen across their social media posts.
3. Onboard Your New Users Properly
To successfully onboard your new SaaS customers, ditch the product tour. Product tours are like mini-prisons that customers can’t break out of. While the intention behind product tours is awesome, the problem is that a product tour locks a user on a track and forces them to learn at a pace determined by you. But what if your new customer is a returning customer? Or what if they already understand the basics and don’t want to be hand-held?
Product tours are universally hated because they either overwhelm the user with too much information at once or they interrupt the user from doing what they want.
Instead of product tours, there’s a better solution, and it’s called an interactive walkthrough. Here’s a quick rundown of how it works:
An interactive walkthrough starts off by allowing users to pick their own path. You can ask them to segment themselves based on their goals with your product. This allows you to customize the walkthrough experience and not get lost on a detour.
There are several ways to conduct an interactive walkthrough. You can create pop-ups that highlight different features the user may need. Or you can implement a checklist that the user ticks off as they accomplish key steps.
With an interactive walkthrough, your new user can actually start using your product right away without clicking through a boring tour where most of the features may not even apply to them.
However, be sure to give users the option to skip interactive walkthroughs, too. After all, this may not be their first time using your product.
Learn more about effective customer onboarding with this post.
4. Invest in Email Marketing
Did you know that the majority of website visitors leave and never return? A whopping nine out of 10 site visitors are never coming back. That’s not because they don’t want to come back or that they’re a misfit. Instead, they may be a part of your target audience but they just forgot their way back to your website.
You can ensure that your prospective customers always know how to return to your website through email marketing.
Email marketing allows you to engage with your current and prospective customers whenever you want. That’s because your subscribers have given you permission to send them marketing-related emails.
So, how did you get their permission? I thought you’d never ask.
The easiest way to recruit your website visitors onto your email list is through the magic of lead magnets. A lead magnet is a free gift that you give in exchange for your visitor’s permission to market to them. You offer a free gift on your site (on a banner, in a popup, within the text on your blog post, etc.). And in order to receive that gift, the website visitor must first sign up to your email list and give you permission to send marketing emails.
Email marketing is one of the cheapest ways to engage with your customers. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect $36 in return. That’s a huge return on your investment, and worth the time it takes to learn the basics of email marketing.
Here’s a rundown of what you need to know in order to engage in email marketing:
Segment your subscribers. Don’t just send the same email to everyone on your list because your subscribers are diverse. If you have more than one customer type, i.e. people who have different goals for using your product, then you also have different email subscribers. It’s also important to note that you likely have a mix of prospects and current customers on your email list. So, it’s not a good idea to send the same email to both because they’re at different stages of their journey with your SaaS.
Instead, understand who’s on your list and divide them into groups, such as by customer type or purchase history. Then, create customized emails for each of those groups. It’s not that much extra work, but it will result in a higher level of engagement from subscribers who appreciate personalization.
Prioritize value over everything. We’re talking engagement here, not more sales. And if you engage currently, it will actually lead to more sales. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your email, even though it’s called marketing, should not be focused entirely on marketing your product or brand.
Instead, it should be focused on providing your customer with non-stop value. This allows you to gain your customer’s trust and ensure that they get value from your emails. So aim to educate in your emails. Adopt the Gary Vaynerchuk philosophy of “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.” In other words, give, give, give, and then ask. Instead of sale-sy, the majority of your emails should give your customers information that they would gladly pay for. That’s how you know your emails are valuable.
And by offering this level of value, your emails will become a must-read for your subscribers. Hello, engagement.
Here are 10 easy ways to improve your SaaS email marketing strategy.
5. Create a Customer Success Department
One way to ensure the ongoing success of your customers is by developing a customer success department. And if you don’t have the budget to build an entire department, at least designate a few of your customer support team members to this role. Here’s what customer success is and why it’s important:
Customer success isn’t reactive. It doesn’t wait for the customer to act. Instead, this team reaches out to customers proactively, before they encounter a problem, to ensure that they have a smooth and problem-free experience with your product.
Customer success decreases churn that can often arise when customers are frustrated by your product but hesitant to reach out to customer support.
Customer success is also impressive. It conveys the message that you care about your customers.
You can use customer success in multiple ways. For example, you can initiate customer success emails and calls from the start, during new customer onboarding. Personally offer your help in navigating how to use your product.
Also reach out to customers at important milestones when, historically, your customers are more likely to churn. This is a great time to check their temperature and offer your personalized assistance in helping them meet their goals.
To learn more about customer success strategies that you can implement right away, check out this post.
6. Make Self-Help a Priority
Engagement doesn’t have to be human to human. You can also engage your customers by giving them access to a treasure trove of resources that they can access on their own.
Some customers don’t like the idea of interacting with your customer support or customer success departments. Instead, they prefer to help themselves through dilemmas. So, to accommodate these customers, be sure to have self-service options available to them, such as tutorials, guides, frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages, and knowledge bases.
By sharing a catalog of documentation on how to effectively use your product, you will empower your customers. They’ll be more likely to stay engaged with your product instead of giving up on it and taking their business elsewhere.
A knowledge base is like an FAQ page on steroids. FAQs offer quick answers but are usually not a step-by-step process. However, a knowledge base is a tool that customers can use to quickly solve a problem they’ve encountered. This way, they’re not forced to reach out to your customer support and wait for someone on your team to get back to them. A knowledge base offers multiple benefits, such as reduced demand on customer support and increased customer sentiment. And you know what happens when customers are happy? They stay engaged and retained.
Click here for tips on how to create a knowledge base that your customers will love.
7. Focus on Developing Quality Content
When it comes to customer engagement, content is king, queen, and the whole royal court. You need content at each stage of the customer’s journey. But you also need to diversify your content. Don’t just focus all of your intention on blog posts or marketing emails. Also, create content that your customers can interact with in various ways. Here are a few examples:
- Checklists – With checklists, a customer has an ordered list of tasks that need to be completed. You can use checklists to ensure that your customer meets a set goal that they want to accomplish with your product.
- Email Course – An email course is a series of pre-written email lessons that are sent out on set intervals. You can use email to teach your customer something, whether it’s how to use your product or how to solve a dilemma that they’re facing.
- Worksheets and Workbooks – You can create a workbook or single worksheet to accompany a video tutorial or email course. Customers enjoy “adult homework” because it allows them to demonstrate knowledge of the subject matter.
In addition to creating this type of interactive content, you can also facilitate user conversations. Build a community around your product using a social media channel like Facebook or a communication platform like Slack. You can also add a forum to your website to promote conversations and community. By creating a community, you open another way for your customers to engage with your brand and with each other.
Want to reduce customer churn? Attract more customers through word of mouth? Grow your business? Increase profits? Quietly taking over the world? It all starts with boosting user engagement. Don’t wait. Now’s the time to implement the above engagement strategies so that you can retain your SaaS customers for longer.