“Retention is your number one strategy for profitability. Churn is public enemy number one.”
~ Neil Patel (Crazy Egg article)
Want to keep your customers? Perhaps it’s the most rhetorical question you’ve ever read.
How will retention marketing change in 2018?
I’ve been writing almost entirely for (and about) SaaS companies, so the subject of keeping paying customers onboard and satisfied is golden. Plus, I had just finished reading Anne Janzer’s great book, Subscription Marketing, where she dives deep into the topic and smartly categorizes it as “value nurturing.”
Part of my response to Ben’s question was:
“I’ll answer with my SaaS copywriter hat on and say marketers will work to make their content and communications more focused on the needs of the individual. Marketing decisions, largely made automatically, will respond to behavioral triggers to enable the brand to be more helpful and responsive to the client’s needs.”
You can read the entire response as well as insights from the experts on the PostFunnel post.
In Epic Content Marketing, author Joe Pulizzi writes, “Goals to keep customers longer, happier and/or spending more are the most noble content marketing objectives.”
Let’s dig even further into best practices for subscription renewal. I’ll expand beyond content marketing and present SaaS retention strategies from a variety of experts.
Deliver a graceful onboarding experience
The first app experience customers have with your software will have a significant effect on the relationship going forward. So the best investment you can make to increase customer retention is to develop a thoughtful onboarding experience.
Your challenge is to help the customer achieve success quickly.
Effective onboarding calls for providing ample resources to facilitate the process of getting started while taking care not to overwhelm your new customer.
In an article about customer onboarding on the Kissmetrics blog, Shayla Price offers onboarding tips including:
- Make the first call-to-action quick and painless.
- Avoid overwhelm by aiming for small progressive wins.
- Send a personalized message inviting them to talk to a rep.
- Create a short “getting started” video.
- Create an onboarding email sequence.
- Test what is and isn’t working.
Make help easily and instantly accessible
Put yourself in the mindset of the customer with the understanding they’re likely to experience little pains and frustrations along their journey. Be prepared to help them on the spot or as quickly as possible.
Your customer should not have to work hard to get help—or wonder how. Make it easy to reach a knowledgeable assistant via live chat, a support widget, or phone number. Make sure such options are easily accessible across your website. Also take care to create a thorough and helpful FAQ page or section for those that prefer self-service.
Zoom.us covers all the bases to ensure customers will quickly get help when needed. Their website’s footer offers robust resources. “Get Help” offers three options for fast access and a “help” prompt is persistent in the footer.
Make sure the customer is “H.E.A.R.D.”
Now hear this: when customers experience a problem, you need to make sure they are “HEARD.” I read about the acronym (and other tips presented in this article) on a great post about SaaS retention strategies on the Groove blog.
The HEARD formula comes from Disney Institute and means:
- Hear—More specifically, listen. Give the customer the opportunity to tell their complete story, without interrupting.
- Empathize—Validate the customer’s feelings with empathetic phrases such as “If I were in your shoes…” and “I’d be frustrated too.” Demonstrate an authentic willingness to help the customer.
- Apologize—Never underestimate the power of a sincere apology. It may be what the customer wants most.
- Resolve—Ask the customer, “What can I do to make this right?” Make sure employees are empowered to take fast action and the issue is resolved as quickly as possible
- Diagnose—Examine why the customer had a problem and focus on fixing it so it doesn’t continue to happen.
Focus on customer success
“Customer Success is when your customer achieves their desired outcome through their interactions with your company.”
~ Lincoln Murphy (Sixteen Ventures)
As a SaaS provider, it’s important to understand customer service and customer success are not the same. A focus on customer success should help create an enthusiastic clientele that renews, buys more over time and refers new customers.
Your focus on customer success should be perpetually proactive. Helping your customers utilize your SaaS solution to its fullest is key to earning subscription renewals.
Create a customer success team tasked with examining and refining the entire customer process and lifecycle. Require account managers to identify customers who aren’t using the software frequently and work with them to identify their goals and needs.
The customer success team should look at common customer issues such as product features, the user interface, and support materials.
Be proactive with email
Customers are far more likely to cancel their subscription than contact your company to complain. A smart practice is to identify customers that have stopped using your software and send email encouraging them to tell you about their issues and offering to help get them back on track.
You’ll also want to remind customers of the value proposition your SaaS product delivers. Use email marketing, social media, your website and other client touchpoints to re-iterate the value of using your software.
Neil Patel says, “A value proposition that was successful in attracting a client should be the same value proposition that is successful in retaining the client.”
Follow-up on every interaction
Go the extra mile after helping your customers solve a problem by making sure they’re satisfied. Rather than fulfilling a service request and saying “goodbye and good luck,” follow-up soon after.
Call or email a week or so after the interaction to find out if things are going well and if there is any further assistance you can offer.
Deliver helpful tips
When a customer uses your SaaS solution to achieve a milestone, why not send them email to congratulate them and offer even more help?
Automate an email saying “Hey, wasn’t that easy? Did you know we offer (fill in the blank with helpful resources)? Would you like to learn more?
You could offer any or all types of content you believe will be helpful…
- Blog posts
- Customer forums
- Customer success stories
- Best practices or industry research
It’s simple. Use content to add more value and keep more customers.
Happy customers share their experiences with friends and colleagues. Go out of your way to foster happiness and goodwill with unsolicited expressions of your appreciation.
As part of your SaaS renewal process, send email to thank your customers and consider taking your appreciation a step further with small gifts or bonus offers.
Follow this one simple rule to design an onboarding flow that works: your users should never be left wondering what to do next, or why.
- Reinforce value
- Reduce customer effort
- Make the customer feel cared for
Here’s a big idea I read about on the Crazy Egg blog:
Automatically upgrade your customer’s account. This could be the ultimate customer appreciation gift and go a long, long way toward winning loyalty.
Imagine your customer suddenly receives an email or call to learn you’ve bumped their plan to a higher level with more powerful features. Doing so may cost you nothing, produce amazing retention, and create enthusiastic brand advocates.
Reward customers with a loyalty program
A smart extension of the idea above is to create a loyalty program. It need not be expensive or complicated. Simply conceive ways to deliver rewards with discounts, value-added bonuses, or special “members only” content.
You may want to consider “gamifying” the experience. That is, add an element of fun, goal-setting and even competition by recognizing (and scoring) progress toward a goal. Doing so may inspire customers to use your software more often or vigorously.
Upsell your service
Here’s another nugget from SaaS marketer extraordinaire Neil Patel. He says, “It’s time to start viewing upsells as a retention strategy.” Smart stuff.
Upselling shouldn’t be thought of as greedy move, but a win-win. Your customers get more from your solution. Yes, of course, you earn more, but more importantly, you win an even more loyal client by engaging your client at a deeper level.
Upgrade your service
There’s little or no chance you operate in a no-compete zone. Competitors are always gunning for your clients aiming to offer more value in terms of features, service, and possibly, price.
What can you do? Expand the value of your service by upgrading it. Delight your existing customers by adding icing to the cake and forever satiating their appetite for more. Try to release new versions that offer more—and refrain from hiking your fees when you do. Simply make your customers aware the SaaS they subscribe to got better and they’ll enjoy the benefits automatically.
The more you’re able to connect with customers, the more opportunity you have to nurture the relationship. If you’re building your community on social media (as you should be), follow your customers and interact when appropriate.
Let them know you care about their business and lives. Make yourself that much more available to them. And, of course, listen. Use social media to gather feedback about your customers and keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. Quick and concerned responses to any complaints or problems will go a long way toward winning loyalty.
Conduct Net Promoter Score surveys
Net Promoter Score® (the intellectual property of NetPromoter.com) measures customer experience and predicts business growth. The metric has proven to provide a core measurement for gauging customer satisfaction.
Groove Results conducts Net Promoter surveys each quarter to determine how many of its customers are promoters and gather reasons why customers do or don’t recommend their SaaS solution.
Develop an early warning system
Develop a risk assessment process and early warning system based on critical metrics (e.g. login activity, adoption, customer satisfaction scores). Setup dashboards enabling reps to track critical renewal information.
The goal is to remain aware of which customers are (and are not) getting value from their subscription. Escalate the customer case when usage dips and alert the proper players to take action.
Conduct exit interviews
While there is so much you can do to retain customers, some churn is inevitable. However, losing a customer can and should be a valuable learning experience.
Connect with those planning to cancel—or those who have. Perhaps not everyone will be willing to talk, but some will gladly answer your questions and provide feedback.
Don’t beg to retain them. Simply, do what you can to learn more about their successes and failures with your solution. What you learn may prove invaluable for creating more value for existing customers, improving retention and further refining your SaaS retention strategies and practices.
Special thanks to the experts whose tips I’ve used in this article including Neil Patel, Shayla Price, Len Markidan, and Lincoln Murphy. Helpful blog posts for inspiring the list of SaaS retention strategies included Post Funnel, Crazy Egg, Kissmetrics, Groove, Disney Institute, Sixteen Ventures, and Sirius Decisions.