SaaS businesses will see more competition appearing in their niche over time. As more players are going to fight for the same client, conversion cost will grow dramatically leaving many SaaS businesses with lower margins.
Instead of focussing your effort only on paid channels and making your business more vulnerable to market changes, you should diversify towards more sustainable channels of user acquisition, like content marketing and community-building.
Some SaaS startups are turning communities into revenue generating machines as more users see a clear value proposition in it on top of a good product. So how can you benefit?
4,530% is the average ROI that a community can generate for a business. Sounds impressive, right?
How to build a loyal SaaS community?
There are multiple channels and tools that can help you execute your community-building strategy. In this article, I’d like to focus on the four I believe are the most effective ones and accessible to all SaaS businesses. You will also get a few ideas on how to promote your community to get more traction in the beginning. So let’s get started!
Conduct regular webinars for customers
Using a SaaS tool is like learning a new language – people have to achieve certain milestones to see the progress and to get there you have to establish routines and learn regularly.
If you want your users to achieve results with your SaaS tool, you have to help them reach their milestones faster for a higher product adoption. By conducting product webinars and sharing your industry know-how, you can teach how to use your tool and equip your users with more industry skills they are looking for online.
Sounds reasonable, but you need more context, right? So let’s see this strategy in action!
Keap, a marketing automation tool, uses product webinars to educate customers who buy different product plans of the Keap product – lite, pro, max, and more.
While the webinars address a marketer’s challenges, the webinar content is delivered in connection to resolving those challenges using their marketing automation tool.
Another example is Vidyard, an online video hosting tool, offering On-Demand training sessions for users. The training content is structured in the way to help users achieve key milestones critical to successful tool adoption.
Userpilot, a product adoption tool, hosts monthly ‘webinar swaps’ together with other complementary tools in the same niche, they also have their communities targeting the same audience.
The rules are simple: Userpilot hosts a webinar of a guest for their community, followed by a webinar in the partner's community. That way, they not only provide more diverse content for their own audience from other expert guests, but also get access to new communities in their niche.
Facebook group for SaaS community building
Instead of learning how to resolve a problem and making costly mistakes, one can learn from the experience of others who have been there and done that. Facebook groups have become a key place for the SaaS industry to connect, exchange experience, and get advice.
A number of SaaS companies have been addressing these needs by launching Facebook groups.
Check out how the Ahrefs’ group, Ahrefs Insider, on Facebook helps Ahrefs users to connect and improve their SEO with the help of the community. Case in point – support agents probably won’t help answer the majority of the questions that require a lot of insider knowledge and experience in the field.
From the beginning, Ahrefs’ users can benefit from the experience of power users in the community, power users can prove and show their expertise to other experts in the field, bounce ideas, and take something useful out of the discussion. This all makes participation a rewarding experience.
Here is another reason you should consider for starting your own Facebook group. Users can churn in some instances not because they don’t know how to use your SaaS product, but because using the tool doesn’t bring years of domain experience or give answers to difficult questions. Community does and that’s why growing it consistently will have a positive effect on user adoption and retention.
Slack group in SaaS community-building
Slack groups have some advantages against Facebook communities. As Slack is a real time chat platform, users tend to check messages more often and, as a result, it drives higher engagement.
You should try out the Slack group if you want to make conversations more structured. With Slack, you can create separate channels for discussions with different purposes.
The majority of Slack groups you will find online are invite-only – you have to be invited by other members or admins. It means you have to find out about the group from your industry friends or apply through a form online.
For example, Juro has been using Slack to build a community of lawyers, grow awareness around the tool targeting this group of professionals, and convert hot leads into customers without involving salesmen.
Protip: By exporting Slack messages to spreadsheets, your product team can analyze what real users are talking about, what their current challenges are, and identify hidden market needs for new product features. Listening and analyzing your customers needs is never too much!
Create certification programs
If your B2B SaaS tool is designed for professionals who want to excel at their work, certification programs can be the right fit for your community-building initiatives. By making certification programs available to your users, you can contribute to their growth as professionals and position your company as a thought leader in the industry.
Certification programs are also a great way to put a word-of-mouth strategy in action. To make it easier for users to brag about their achievements, you can send certificates and badges for your users to post on their social media after they complete your course.
Certification programs are also sparking competition. Would you allow yourself to lag behind your colleagues? For some SaaS businesses operating in ever-changing industries such as sales and marketing, this can be a great tool to build trust among users and engage the community.
Check out how Reply.io is using sales courses to attract their target audience – sales executives and cold outreach specialists.
Certification programs can also be applied to martech SaaS. Get a quick search across your LinkedIn contacts from the marketing field. It won’t take long to discover that at least some of them mention the completion of various certification programs on their LinkedIn profile.
How to promote your SaaS community?
Getting an idea on how to create a SaaS community is just the first step. You also have to actively promote it to gain traction and get more users to review your product and spread the word about it. Here are some of the ideas you can use for the promotion side.
Make it exclusive
By making the group invite-only, you can get more users asking to join. People tend to have what they can’t have right away. That’s how the Clubhouse app went viral.
Also, an invitation-only requirement will help attract more active users who will contribute with value to the community, not just numbers.
When talking about certification programs or webinars, by inviting only relevant prospects you can stand out from a tone of similar free materials available online. By offering huge value with your content to customers, you can get more users to use your tool because of the recommendations of engaged community members.
Create a separate landing page
As groups are usually invite-only, it is worth creating a landing page where users can apply to be added to the group. Having such a page makes your community-building initiative discoverable online – for example, to people searching for such groups on Google or bloggers who want to link to the group in their articles. You can consider using Leadpages or its alternatives as a tool for a quick landing page launch.
Make sure you bring up some social proof to increase the sign up rate. For example, Product School is emphasizing the size of the group – 60,000 project managers that have already joined their Slack community for product managers.
Invite by email and newsletter
If you want to keep your webinars, groups, or certification programs open only to vetted prospects, you can use cold outreach and newsletters to reach such contacts. Use newsletters to send an announcement about your group launch or upcoming webinars to specific lead segments on your list.
Users you want to invite are not yet on your mailing list? Consider running an outreach campaign with personalized messages to reach potential clients and influencers who can not only become your clients, but can also spread the word about your initiative. If you’re new to email outreach and are looking for ideas, Hunter has a comprehensive directory of email outreach templates you can use.
Here are a few things to remember when creating an outreach email:
- Make it sound exclusive – emphasize the fact you are inviting only a small group of people and the reason why you want to invite that particular prospect.
- Show how special they are – improve on communication with potential customers by making a small compliment about your users’ achievements. Consider creating a separate personalization line for it after making a thorough research about your prospects.
- Make your mass emails mistake-free – make sure you verify the emails one-by-one to avoid ridiculous mistakes in company names, greetings and personalization lines.
- Look out for details such as an extra space between a personalization element and the rest of the sentence. The extra space is a frequent mistake salespeople make that prospects can easily spot.
- Find a tool that does the job – you can choose among dozens of free mass email services to get started with your campaign.
Promote through existing content
Use your key blog content attracting the biggest number of visitors every month and converting the most paid users to promote your community initiative. Include banners, non-intrusive pop ups, and hello bars – choose whatever format you find appropriate. You can also experiment with A/B tests to see which format converts in more requests to join your groups or webinars.
Run targeted ads
Consider dedicating some budget to running a Facebook campaign or spend on ads on other channels where you can reach your target prospects. With ads, you can achieve initial traction with your groups, webinars, and courses gain more reach to get the ball rolling.
Building a community around your SaaS helps to not only convert prospective leads into users, but also with onboarding those already acquired. The community initiatives you are offering to your customers and potential prospects can outweigh the product offer of your competition and help you stand out on the crowded SaaS market.
No matter what means to an end you are going to choose – launching and promoting Slack or Facebook groups, certification programs, or conducting product webinars – this effort will help reduce churn and increase your MRR over time.