Post-Sale SaaS Strategy 1 (of 3): Conversion… Guiding Your Customers Onboard

Over the next three weeks, I’ll be guiding you step-by-step through 3 post-sale SaaS strategies.

Why three weeks?

To be honest, because each strategy contains a lot of valuable information. Seriously, a lot. (This article alone is just under 2,500 words.) But don’t be intimidated by its size.

My goal is simple: to equip you with the most practical and hands-on guide maximizing your customer Lifetime Value as possible.

To do that, on top of all the templates, instructions, and real-life examples you’re gonna get, at the end of every article, I’ll give you a “Things To Do Today …” checklist chalk full of the very next steps you should take to put these principles into action.

In fact, once the series is complete, I’ll be compiling the whole thing and releasing it as an ebook.

Reserve your ebook — along with awesome extras like a one-page, comprehensive action plan — for free by signing up here:

So, why should you focus on “post-sales” strategies, when most advice is for pre-sale?

Because maximizing the lifetime value of your existing customers is the most profitable and easiest source of revenue possible.

That’s a bold claim … and honestly goes against our natural entrepreneurial instincts: namely, pre-sales marketing.

However, the temptation to constantly “get more” on the front end — more new traffic, more new leads, more new conversions, and more new sales — isn’t just common, it can be costly to your business!

Want proof? If you haven’t already, check out the data-packed first post in this series: “Why You’re SaaS is Missing Out on the Most Profitable (and Easiest!) Source of Revenue Possible.”

Today I’m getting practical by focusing on Strategy 1: Conversion… Guiding Your Customers Post-Sale.

I call this the “Amusement Park Welcome.”

Here’s a map of the happiest place on earth: Disneyland.

As you can see, the map offers an overview of all the things you can do at Disneyland: all the rides, all the attractions, all the shows, all the food, all the games, all the shopping, and of course all the restrooms.

The question the “Amusement Park Welcome” begs is obvious: “Okay, but what do I do first?” (The answer is, of course, Space Mountain)

Too much good stuff can be overwhelming — in fact, it can be paralyzing.

Well, your SaaS customers feel the same way. Just like your pre-sale funnel, specificity is the key to conversion.

Of course, post-sale conversion isn’t about getting your customers to buy your product. That’s the whole point of “post-sale.”

Instead, it’s about guiding them into the very best features and benefits your SaaS has to offer: what I’m going to call the “right stuff.”

What’s Your “Right Stuff”?

The “right stuff” means two things:

  1. The right stuff for your customers.
  2. The right stuff for you.

The wonderful thing about having a truly valuable SaaS product is that those two “stuffs” can and should be the same.

The more your product benefits your customers, the more they’ll use it and bring their networks into it. You simply get to enjoy some nice growth-feedback loops.

Here’s a simple way to determine what that feature is your SaaS’ right stuff:

What single feature of your product leads to your customer’s number one benefit?

Going back to the amusement park metaphor, think Splash Mountain.

Guiding your customers “onboard” means leading them by the hand into your SaaS’s single most satisfying, delighting, joy-producing, money-saving, and revenue-producing feature.

Let’s break this down into three steps …

Step 1:

Start your onboarding process with the “right stuff.”

This sounds obvious, but the reality is very few SaaS creators have a clear and compelling idea of what their “right stuff” is. Instead, they’ve got a map to Disneyland: “Here’s all the amazing things our product does!”

It might look fun, but “all” those amazing things are confusing, distracting, and overwhelming to new users.

So you’ve got to start by answering the question for yourself: What exactly does my SaaS do better, faster, or more pleasurably than my competition?

A pointed way to settle this is by focusing on a single feature that connects your users to the most satisfaction, delight, joy, savings, and revenue.

The key here is singularity – the one feature — and specificity – the one benefit.

If you focus on more than “one,” not only does your message get diluted, but your customers get paralyzed.

First things first …

Take a few minutes to identify:

  1. Your own “right stuff,”
  2. The easiest way for your customers to access and use your “right stuff,” and
  3. Its real-world benefits (i.e., the emotional payoffs).

For example, Summit Evergreen specializes in creating “creating beautiful premium membership platforms” for delivering online info-product courses.

What’s their “right stuff”? Offering customers the ability to repurpose their existing content into high-value courses that can be continually sold without any technical expertise. Like they say on their features page: “Write Once. Sell Forever.”

And what’s the benefit for their customers? They can take their existing low-dollar ebook or blog posts and turn it into a high-dollar, 6-week online course, with only a modicum of effort.

Distilling that down, using Summit Evergreen allows people to increase profits on existing content.

Another example would be the massively successful Buffer whose “right stuff” is front and center on their homepage: “easiest way to publish on social media.”

In other words, Buffer takes the overwhelmingly complex landscape of social media and simplifies it … massively. On top of that, once you’re on board, they offer you one-click, Buffer-able “Suggestions” based on your posting habits to (again) make filling your queue simple and easy.

Buffer’s killer feature is delaying — “buffering” — posts and information that you find on the internet. The more things you add into Buffer, the more you tweet, the more you get followed. Thus it behooves Buffer to:

  1. Make it dead simple to add interesting content to Buffer for sending later.
  2. Provide great information directly to their customers, that they might like to buffer.

Step 2:

Build your onboarding process around them … by making itfrom you.

The principle behind Step 1 is simple and can be described in a single sentence:

The Onboarding Experience that benefits YOU the most is the onboarding experience that benefits your CUSTOMERS the most.

Kind of a reciprocity thing.

Now, while products are great … relationships are better.

What real people really want are other real people.

In fact, according Genesys Global’s Survey “The Cost of Poor Customer Service,” when asked “What goes into a happy customer experience?” 78% of customers responded “competent service reps” and 38% responded “personalization.”

In other words, people like people. Or rather, people like competent, personable people.

How does this apply to maximizing the lifetime value of your customers?

That’s right. If what customers want are people and relationships, the best thing you could ever give them is … you.

Here’s an even simpler way to say it:

Make the onboarding process about them … by making it from you.

This sounds simple, but whether you build this approach into an email campaign or make it part of your SaaS set-up and tutorials, you can start by just saying “Hi.”

Let your customers know, right from the beginning, that they didn’t buy a faceless product, that you aren’t a book they picked up on Amazon. Tell them from the very start that what they bought was a personal connection: a relationship.

Here’s how Buffer welcomes you to their service:

Just like Joel, talk directly to your customers. Never be afraid to simply say, “Hi Fran. I’m a real person who’s here to help. I just saw you started using my product. Let’s talk.”

Make that first connection with your users emotional and make it memorable.

Few people have done this as effectively as CD Baby president Derek Sivers. Here’s a copy of CD Baby’s actual confirmation email to new customers:

Dear Name,
Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.
Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved ‘Bon Voyage!’ to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Sunday, December 11th.
I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did.
Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year”. We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
Thank you once again,
Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby

Even more than creating an emotional and memorable customer experience, Silvers’ email went viral and eventually generated 20,000 citations online.

Two great examples of this sort of customer-marketing come from Wistia and (once again) Buffer.

Wistia is probably one of my favorite SaaS companies out there — they provide rock-solid video hosting for a variety of platforms and a slew of great features. Even better, their marketing is top notch. In addition to providing the “Down and Dirty Lighting Kit” guide, they (used to) have the bar-none best newsletter around.

Every week they would produce amazing video content on how to make better videos. They covered everything from lighting, to scripting, to capturing video on the iPhone, all the way to video SEO.

So why would they give away light kits, make all this content available for free, and generally provide all this great value?

The answer is simple: the more videos people make, and the better they are, the more people watch them, and the more they need Wistia to host them.

It all comes down to enabling your customers to get the most out of your product, because the more your customers use your product, the more a part of their life it becomes, and the harder it is to stop using it.

Remember: the more your customers succeed, the more you succeed.

Buffer takes a similar approach. How? That’s right … by providing genuinely top-notch articles on their blog and weekly newsletter, each with their own “Buffer” button.

In fact, the very first page after signing up offers users immediate suggestions to start sharing:

So how do you apply these same principles of personalization to your SaaS?

Find out what your customers consider a “success” from using your product, and then help them be successful easily and frequently. For instance:

  • Appointment Reminder’s users succeed every time an appoint is confirmed (or canceled ahead of time instead of turning into a no-show)
  • Twitter’s users succeed every time their tweets get retweeted or they get followed
  • FreshBooks’ users succeed every time they send out an invoice, and get paid.

Step 3:

Take your onboarding process to the next level with concierge service.

Live demos rock. Steve Jobs knew this, as does Costco, and so do the very best conference kiosks.

Showing always trumps telling. And first-hand experience leaves seeing, reading, and hearing in the dust.

There’s nothing like getting to test drive a SaaS product for yourself.

So why not take advantage of this truth and make it a part of your onboarding process itself?

Whether it’s in person or via Skype, walk your new customers through your SaaS one-on-one.

In other words, teach people how to use your product, with a real, live person leading the way.

Of course, you can scale up or down as demand dictates. Not everyone needs the same level of handholding. Try something as simple as “Email us if you want a free live demo” or “Every purchase comes with a complimentary Skype coaching session.”

Whatever you do, make yourself available.

Why? Because …

67% of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration they could not talk to a real person (American Express Survey).
75% of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent (Harris Interactive).

The key is letting your customers get in contact with you, not your SaaS “help” button, not your FAQ page, not even your “support” desk. You.

Be proactive. Don’t wait for them to wander in with problems.

Horror stories abound. But here’s one of my favorites.

Recently, my dad had to contact United Airlines. So he called the customer support hotline and was immediately forced to wait through two unskippable third party ads. Even worse, neither of the ads had anything to do with airlines or flying.

Can you imagine that? Customers are having a problem, and want to talk to you, but instead they have to suffer through advertisements … as if automated directories and phone trees weren’t bad enough.

So, how do you do “concierge” right?

A great example is Summit Evergreen who helped set up content and provided marketing advice for their early clients. Even now they still offer free data-migration and help set up new accounts.

Why? Because users who have a fully set up course are able to start selling and get students in right away. They’re able to immediately receive value from the platform, with only an hour of time from a concierge assistant.

This had a number of great benefits both for their customers, and for them.

Summit Evergreen’s customers get:

  • One-on-one support to turn their existing content into an online course.
  • Answers to questions they had about the platform.
  • A variety of updates, suggestions and additions to the platform to fit their specific needs.
  • Advice on positioning and marketing their course.

And Summit Evergreen gets:

  • Happy customers who enjoy their platform. As Ken Blanchard famously put it: “raving fans.”
  • To find out exactly what real customers wanted from their software as well as what they didn’t want, both of which saved them time and money.
  • Immediate and insightful feedback into what makes the platform great, and where it could use work.
  • One-on-one conversations with real customers, and a personal connection to them.

Things To Do Today …

Strategy 1 isn’t just about identifying your SaaS’s “right stuff,” it’s about building your entire onboarding process around your customers and above all making that process personal.

So …

Step 1:

Identify your Saas’s “right stuff” — the single best benefit that you provide to your users.

Step 2:

Create an onboarding process — start small, just 3 emails — that’s for them and from you.

Step 3:

Make that onboarding process personal by making it concierge. Send out an email to your new customers, or customers that haven’t been using your product, and offer to walk them through the software.

Not only will your customers thank you for it … even better, they’ll give you money.

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