How Top SaaS Companies Use Customer Success to Answer Their Biggest Marketing Problems

December 9, 2016 Tia Fomenoff

How Top SaaS Companies Use Customer Success to Answer Their Biggest Marketing ProblemsEver log on to your computer in the morning and immediately get that sense that you’re drowning? The sheer abundance of information we’re exposed to online can overload even the fastest and most voracious readers—some of which include your prospective customers.

Info overload stawp

While wading through this endless sea of content, I’ve recently read a few amazing articles that speak about how to market to your current customers in order to increase retention and help them continuously succeed—and it got me thinking:

What if we took a look in the other direction?

What if we learned from our most successful customers and used that to speak to our intended audience?

Why waste thousands of dollars and hours trying to figure out what your ideal customers want to hear, when you can look inwards at your own team and customers for marketing inspiration that’s guaranteed to resonate?

Your current users and customer success specialists are your best (and closest) sources for finding out how you should be selling yourself to new ones. In this post, I’ll show you how to dig up the treasure buried right beneath you, then throw you a life raft so you can bring it all home.

Pay attention in pre-sales calls

When curious business owners are first evaluating your offering, they’ll often write or call into the support team first to ask questions. Whether your team then passes them on to a sales representative or answers the questions themselves, pay attention to the top queries that come in.

Do most people worry if they’re able to cancel their monthly subscription at any time? Make sure you make it clear that they can on your checkout page to reduce their worry and increase their chance of converting.

Are enterprise clients most concerned with security, uptime and having access to an account manager? Communicate your top advantages over your competitors on your pricing page.

If your team uncovers frequent deal-breakers that are holding prospects back from signing up (maybe you don’t support the language they need, for example), this would be a good validation to start working with your product team on producing something new—if you’re falling behind, you’ll learn that you need to catch up fast, and if you’d be the first to offer it, you’ll automatically gain a competitive edge.

At ServiceRocket, in pre-sales calls, the marketing team leverages insights from customer reviews to highlight the key features and integrations that current customers are using and loving.

Sr. Manager of Growth Marketing, Sarah E. Brown, spells out why this is important:

“These insights are constantly informing marketing by driving the unique value propositions (UVPs) our customers truly care about and what causes them to use and love our software—this is not just what we THINK they should care about.”

Flip through your FAQs

If you’ve built up a knowledge base to help out your current customers, chances are that folks in the research stage will also be Googling every use case they can think of before making a decision about your product.

Keep a sharp eye on your most visited support pages—if you have common misunderstandings about your product from your current customers, the confusion is likely twofold for somebody new. Break down complicated troubleshooting steps in language that anyone can understand: not only will you be helping your users succeed with your product, you’ll also be reassuring prospects that you have a caring team who puts customers first.

Using the information from your knowledge base, you can address some of the sticking points in a public way and communicate more clearly with people that aren’t yet familiar with what you offer.

MailChimp’s done an amazing job of turning familiar pain points into short guides they offer on their Resources page. You don’t have to be a current customer of theirs to take advantage of their “Common Rookie Mistakes” content, for example:

Mailchimp resource page

And being able to read up on how MailChimp can solve problems differently for you as a blogger vs. a designer will likely get you a few steps ahead right out of the gate in the onboarding process:

Maichimp for bloggers

If these marketing pieces are enough to convince you that MailChimp is right for you, they’ve gained a new customer that’s likely to experience success much faster.

Take a second look at your support tickets

Many members of one marketing team I spoke to are subscribed to receive Zendesk support tickets, so that they stay hyper aware of the issues their users are facing and can discuss how to address them when developing product marketing materials.

Monitoring Twitter in a Slack channel for any questions about the company, product, or brand can also prove to be a real-time source of pain points—as well as positive feedback.

Using the conversations they have with their customers, the team weaves the words they hear to describe their product and company into their marketing efforts.

Taking a closer look at ServiceRocket, their marketing and customer success teams are inextricably linked. As Sarah puts it:

“We wouldn't be able to delight our customers without marketing initiatives including webinars and other content generated to help them achieve their outcomes. In turn, our customer marketing and customer success inform our acquisition efforts.”

A support inquiry will drive them to generate marketing content that can help multple customers and prospects. Using Workplace by Facebook as their corporate communication platform, their support team will post a status update in a group that marketing can leverage to create content aimed at educating and helping more customers at scale.

“It provides rich fodder for ServiceRocket to create content around real problems customers are facing that are barriers to doing their jobs—and it feels great to turn one support ticket response into a scalable self-service resource that will help many."

Stockpile testimonials and NPS ratings

Not all incoming messages are problems! If your team’s doing great work, tickets are often peppered with high fives and off-the-cuff testimonials. When you see some of these great quotes, don’t just stop at saying thank you. Reach back out to your customer and ask for permission to use their words in your marketing material.

At Rentlytics, there’s a constantly evolving document where they keep customer testimonials and quotes. Customer Success interviews each new customer as they're onboarded, and then again once they're up and running.

The full interviews are used for customer case studies, but then they also categorize the best quotes by topic. Permission to use each quote is obtained, and then teams will use it in a variety of ways for their marketing efforts. The quotes are used in blog posts, ebooks, on social media, across the website, and in many more locations.

Here’s an example of one their blog posts featuring testimonials from real customers:

Blog post featuring testimonial

Content Marketing Manager Cara Hogan’s a big fan of keeping everything organized:

“Because we categorize them by topic, it's easy to find exactly the right customer testimonial exactly when you need it.”

Raw, real testimonials can create the solid social proof you need on your next feature launch landing page, or help you sell your next training course.

In fact, one of Joanna Wiebe’s most successful headline copy tests came out of a result of taking exact wording from a customer’s testimonial: she was able to increase conversions by 103% for one of her SaaS clients. Here’s the comparison:

Control

Customer testimonial headline

Winning Headline

Customer testimonial winning headline

Do you send out NPS surveys? (If not, you probably should be!) Add in a question that’s designed to help you find out more about your customers’ purchasing behaviours and motivations for using your product, or how they currently view you, depending on their lifecycle stage.

For example, in our first survey that goes out shortly after first using Thinkific, we ask customers questions like:

What are the top 3 things that persuaded you to use us?
Where exactly did you first hear about us?

And a bit later on, we ask:

How would you describe us to a friend?
What would you miss the most if you could not use us anymore?

Using these insights, we can tweak campaign messaging and use it to help guide some of our marketing (or even product) decisions. The key here is you won’t notice any of this unless you’re actively looking for it!

Customer success can provide you with your best marketing ideas! Always be actively looking so you don’t miss out.

Click to tweet

Here at Thinkific, our marketing team checks in on the NPS feedback that comes in, and everyone at the company (even our CEO, Greg!) spends half of a day answering support tickets each month.

We see this as a valuable opportunity to chat firsthand with our customers and it helps spark ideas about how we can improve in all that we do.

Pick up the good ol’fashioned telephone

Or arrange for a Skype call, or Zoom, or whatever you use. Want to take a more proactive approach to learning your customers’ needs? Reach out regularly to your loyal and successful customers to find out their secrets to success. Using automation tools like Amity or Intercom, set messages to go out to customers who are active in your app and been using it for a while. Or manually look up active accounts and reach out individually.

Nisha Garigarn is the Co-Founder of Croissant, a company that provides membership to 50+ different coworking spaces in four cities. It's a way for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and remote workers to be productive on the go.

This is part of her current process for outreach:

“I'll send a personal e-mail to members that sign up but have not had a chance to check in yet. I'll e-mail asking if they'd like a recommendation for their first workspace. The things that people ask for vary a lot, but there are some common themes that people ask for. For example, a quiet place to take phone calls is a big need! With that information, we now know to highlight the spaces that have phone booths, are quiet, etc. in ad campaigns.”

This is an example of a response she might receive in return:

Email Response

When you have them on the line, start thinking about what could be most useful to know from a marketing perspective. Ask things like:

  • Which problems they hired you to help them solve
  • Which benefits they receive from using your product
  • Who’s involved in the decision-making process for a new purchase
  • How they’d describe the process they go through when making a purchase
  • What other software/tools they use to do their job
  • What medium they prefer to use when learning new things

Don’t forget to record it if it’s not over text—you’ll be busy engaging but don’t want to risk missing out if your customer spits out pure gold. The answers to these questions (and more—get creative!) can help shape the messaging of your ads, guide the creation of sales collateral, and even help you identify some partnerships worth pursuing with other companies that seem to share your ideal types of customers.

To go one step further and create a more formal process for gathering customer insights, you can create user focus groups like they did at Lucidchart, a small-ish (150 employee) tech start-up with 7 million users. According to Sr. Digital Marketing Specialist Micaela Wright-Hansen:

“Lucidchart’s marketing team members often say that it’s both a blessing and a curse to have so many people that love and use their product—since they all have different use cases for it, it can be tough to narrow down how to market it (and to whom)!”

Luckily, their new User Insights Group is hoping to give them a hand. This group is cross-functional and has conducted hundreds of phone interviews over the last few months to gather information on personas. People from the product, marketing, customer success, and other teams all sit in a room to conduct these phone calls. These are real customers that they're talking to and developing deep documentation about.

Customer case Lucidchart

In marketing, they then take that information and tailor their content accordingly.

Micaela explains:

“One of our main persona groups is ‘IT/Engineering’; our UIG group found that they use phrases like ‘existing systems,’ ‘design new solution,’ etc. to describe what they do. We've changed email subject lines, written blog posts, paid ads and other campaign assets to reflect these insights—and we're starting to see very promising results from it.”

Join your own forums and communities

You pour so much time into building up communities for your customers that help them grow and learn—why not make use of them for your own marketing goals?

Having multiple teammates jump right into your customers’ party—whether it’s laid out as a forum, Facebook Group or something else—not only gives you a more reliable and trustworthy image (who doesn’t love support that goes above and beyond?), it can also allow you to gather prime content ideas.

Our private Thinkific Facebook users’ group (Thinkific Studio) was built to connect our course creators, and gives them a space to toss around questions, ideas, share successes and just help each other out overall. We also love interacting with them: using simple prompts, we are able to find out what kinds of content they want to see—whether it’s for our live video content, blog posts, Teach Online TV episodes or even new courses.

Here’s an example from when I was sourcing ideas for our weekly Facebook Live series, Work-it-Wednesday:

Tia Facebook

We then went on to craft the main topic of our next few live videos based on these suggestions!

This is the recording for our segment on Sales Funnels:

Using this approach, you’ll find it hard to run out of content ideas! And even if you’ve touched on a topic before, there are always different ways to look at or communicate the material you’re presenting. Listen to your customers to figure out which points of view are most useful to them.

Provide a little delight that goes a long way

Although swag and other tokens of appreciation are often seen as a customer-first approach, they actually are just as valuable for you as a business (arguably, even moreso) as they are an opportunity to have an excited customer promote you in an authentic way to their own network, at little cost. In the digital age, referrals likely make up a huge percentage of how you obtain new customers.

They’re big on delight at Unbounce—so big, in fact, that it's actually one of their six company core values! Sending out swag is part of providing a delightful experience to their customers, followers and friends.

Unbounce core values

Unbounce brings swag to events they attend, they dole out t-shirts and stickers on social media and often send customers personalized gifts to say thanks or to celebrate a win they've had. This gets people talking raving about their brand and creates loyal fans.

As an effective and low-cost contribution to marketing, however, Community Strategist Hayley Mullen breaks down how it all ties together:

“We've recently started to look at swag more strategically instead of on a case-by-case basis and the reaction we're getting has been great for brand awareness and engagement. We've started up an internal swag marketplace through Shopify to empower employees to send out swag when the opportunity arises and make the process as smooth as possible.

We've expanded our range to include things like dog hoodies(!) and send a personalized note and a prompt to share on social media with the hashtag #unbouncing. Since then, we've had a ton of people filling the hashtag with their swag pics and videos and (shocker) the dog-themed packages have proved to be the most shareable.”

 

Who needs a letter opener when you have a #bostonterrier? #unbouncing

A video posted by Rover (@roverdotcom) on

Hug a CS colleague

They’re the closest links to our dear customers and harboring so. much. knowledge. If you’re ever feeling like it’s too hard to uncover your customers’ motivations, you might just be looking in the wrong place!

Hug a CS colleague

Even if you’re too shy to interact directly with your users, you can simply try talking to the superhero in Customer Success that’s likely sitting across the room (or at least virtually within arm’s length, if you’re remote).

Or, take your Support Manager for coffee one afternoon, and just ask: what problems are they helping your customers solve every day? What’s a heartwarming testimonial they’ve heard this week? You’d be surprised at how many a-ha moments you experience.

The list above certainly isn’t exhaustive and new ideas are constantly appearing. Are you teaming up with your customer success squad or any other departments to help fuel your marketing efforts? How are you working together? I’d love to hear in the comments.

About the Author

Tia Fomenoff

Tia Fomenoff is a twenty-something ENFJ from British Columbia who loves to teach as much as she loves to learn, and is passionate about building relationships. Having worked in a number of industries, Tia’s picked up a bit of know-how along the way—she’s developed expertise in marketing and social media strategy, as well as customer success. Previously at Unbounce and Buffer, Tia is currently the Director of Product Marketing at Thinkific, the all-in-one platform that gives you everything you need to easily create, market, and sell your own online courses. Cheese and bread are her two main food groups.

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