Freshsales CRM partnered with Nichole Elizabeth (Community Growth, Zest | Moderator, Product Hunt) for a webinar on “Growth Channels to Acquire SaaS Customers” on April 10, 2018. In this webinar, Nichole talks about:
- Different growth channels to acquire SaaS customers
- Developing a compelling value proposition
- Identifying quick wins and long-term channels for growth
Growth channels to acquire SaaS customers: Webinar Transcript
Nivas R: Hello everyone, Thank you for joining us live for this webinar today. I’m Nivas Ravichandran, I take care of growth for Freshsales CRM at Freshworks. Freshworks is a hyper-growth SaaS company which is behind the products Freshdesk – Customer Support Software, Freshservice – IT Service Desk Software. We also have Freshsales which is a CRM Software, Freshchat, Freshteam, Freshmarketer, and Freshcaller.
This webinar is brought to you by Freshsales. Freshsales is an easy-to-use CRM product. We launched about a year-and-a-half ago and we have about 10,000+ customers from more than 50 countries.
So today’s webinar is about “Growth channels to acquire SaaS customers”. I am really excited about this topic. I know Nikki is a huge expert on this topic. So, we have Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré who leads community growth at Zest.is, she actually wears a lot of hats for different communities and products. She is a moderator on ProductHunt and GrowthHackers.com and she’s very active on a lot of these platforms.
So, in this particular webinar, Nichole will walk us through different channels on how to acquire customers and how to develop a compelling value proposition, also identify quick-wins and long-term channels for growth.
So, Thank you, Nichole, for joining us. I am really excited about learning from you over the next hour. Before we begin, I just want to let you know that this webinar he’s being recorded. So, if any of you are interested in listening to the webinar again, we will be providing you with the link to the recording and we will also be taking questions towards the end of the webinar.
Also, there is a Question and Answer portal on the platform, so you can just key in your questions and I’ll be happy to select them at the end for Nichole to answer. So, Nichole, the stage is all yours.
Set up a pre-marketing foundation (for retention)
Nichole: Yeah, thanks for having me. So before you even begin to consider acquisition, there’s a couple of things you really need to focus on and the first one being “identifying your ideal customers.” And actually, even established companies sometimes need to go back to defining their ideal customers and revisiting what that means. You also want to build your “Alpha user group and set the foundation for your community.” And that’s also going to include customer success efforts. You are going to want to gather qualitative data and develop a compelling value proposition and create language around that value proposition that helps support it.
Identify your ideal customers
So part of identifying your ideal customers is asking “Who are they?”. They’re going to be the people that are ready, willing, and able to work with you and your products. “Where do they hang out? what are their desired outcomes?” I’m sure a lot of you have heard from Lincoln Murphy, talking about when you’ve got a SaaS, sometimes your desired outcomes (most of the time) it lives outside the product.
So if you’ve got like a Facebook ads platform, it’s not creating ads on the platform, but it’s getting sales from those ads after they’ve been created, so that would be the desired outcome for example and you really have to understand their desired outcomes to understand how to communicate with them.
“What words do they use to describe their problems, what do they expect to get from you, what do they hope to get from you and your products?” And you’ve really got to define all of this before you try to acquire customers because you want to have a focus on retention. You don’t want to put all this time and effort into acquisition if you’re not going for the right customer. And if you don’t know the answers to these questions, you gather qualitative data.
Gather qualitative data
So, the best way to get qualitative data is to actually sit across from somebody and to have a one-to-one conversation with them and to consider bias and make sure you’re not having leading questions and make sure you have open-ended questions and that you could have a real conversation and build a real relationship with your ideal customers to truly understand what their desired outcomes are for your product and the kind of language that they’re using when it comes to your product.
And you can work through The Startup Owner’s Manual to get started with those. Steve Blank has these worksheets in the back of it that are very comprehensive. He uses them (I think) at Stanford, where he teaches this book and it’s just a really great resource and there’s also tools like Wootric and Typeform that you can use to gather customer feedback.
Create a compelling value proposition
So when you’re creating a compelling value proposition, that’s also going to be a lot of work. At least I recommend that it is, and it’s going to be a process that’s going to change your language a lot especially as your company grows. And for that, I recommend using Value Proposition Design book and really working through all the chapters in that book and deeply understanding who your ideal customers are and the language that they’re using. And while you’re walking through that book, you would want to talk to your ideal customers at the same time.
Traction & Growth Channels
Once you’ve got that foundation, that’s when we can talk about traction and growth channels and this is referenced a lot as the “The Bullseye Framework” in the book “Traction” where they have identified 19 different channels. I recommend checking out that book. The thing with the Bullseye Framework is that it’s all about being focused, it’s all about focusing on one or two or three channels that are really going to drive growth instead of focusing on 23 different channels and dividing up your attention and not really getting anywhere.
The Bullseye Framework
So that’s what Brian Balfour talks about, he used the Bullseye metaphor because you’re in for the bullseye of that one channel that’s really going to unlock growth. And to get started with that, you want to brainstorm at least one idea for each type of traction channel. And this is going to change over time because the way you might use Twitter right now, could be completely different than the way you decide to use it in a year depending on what’s working and what isn’t. You’re going to want to rank your ideas, prioritize them, test three channels, and focus on the most promising channel.
You probably hear this a lot too, but you really want to double down on that channel and not focus anymore on what isn’t working. And again that’s going to change over the years as your company changes and your ideal customer change, your language changes. So this isn’t a “start it and forget it” kind of process. Throughout the years as I have worked with different SaaS companies, I have come up with my own list of channels to test.
Quick-win Growth Channels
So I like to divide channels into quick-wins and long-term gains and that’s really based on the amount of effort or how quickly you going to see results from the channel. So for the quick-win ones, you know it’s easier to set up something like a Betalist. I actually haven’t ever used Betalist but I know it’s been good for some products to get out there. There’s now Product Hunt Ship which I would say those two are competitors and of course Product Hunt. You’ve got social media, contests, and giveaways.
So there is Wishpond which is pretty cool and we’ve got 10 different ways to do social media contests and competitions which is a great way to get other people to promote your product on your behalf especially when you’re just getting started and you haven’t gotten is the brand all those brand advocates just yet.
Quick win Growth Channels: Channels that don’t require 6+ months to get results.
- BetaList – A community of makers and early adopters showcasing their startups and exchanging feedback.
- Product Hunt Ship & Product Hunt
- Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat
- Contests, giveaways – Try Wishpond – there are 10 types of contests.
- Events – Launch parties, festivals, conferences – 32 examples of marketing using events.
- Introduce your product with an article on Medium – Examples: Welcome to Glitch and Introducing Yo Stories.
- Press / PR Campaigns:
Question: As a founder of an early stage state up, how do you find a marketer that is knowledgeable about SaaS and know how and has a research on customer/tech mindset?
Nichole: So, am probably biased but I would go to Vervoe and use them to access your candidates and so instead of sifting through all kind resumes, just have them take assessment tests and you can also hit up JobWorlds and places like GrowthHackers.com AngelList, CrunchBase might have some and you can find people that way.
Question: What are the places that we can list a startup or product?
Nichole: So a lot of people do a ProductHunt or AppSumo combination and I’ve seen that work really well with some of my clients, one of them gained 4000 customers from AppSumo after doing their ProductHunt campaign. So it just really depends on what kind of campaign you’re running on there.
You probably know Sampath in the SaaS Growth Hacks group and you can find him there, he is an expert on this. He’s got his own AppSumo group, you can join and he jumps on calls with you and help you out so much. So I highly recommend him for post-launch kind of stuff.
You can keep that post-launch vibe going with newsletters and events and building relationships online, creating content and all that of the other kind of long-term stuff and you can also launch again especially on a product that you’ve got a major feature that you have added. Like version two or three or four of your product, you can keep re-launching on there.
So events are also for meeting people in person and having conversations with them like I was just talking about earlier, you really want to get out of the building and talk to people in person and especially for a product that is extremely innovative, that people don’t even know did technology exist for yet.
It’s much better to get in front of them on in person to really explain that in depth than to just have them try to jump into doing a lot of reading about your product because it does take some time for people to understand what you are doing and how and why it is so different.
Anytime I help somebody launch a product, I have them write up an article on medium, some examples are The Glitch and Yo Stories. It’s just great to talk about what your product is, what your story is, why did you come with this idea, how do you see it helping people, how do you see it solving people’s pain points and where are you going to take it next, how does it differ from the competition, just anything that anybody might want to know about your product and your launch and the backstory, like the human story that went into the everything that you’re working on. You can put into that Medium article and that is a great resource to use in conjunction with your launch.
So, of course, there’s also press which I know in the beginning when you don’t have funding, it can be kind of difficult, you can just start with something like Help A Reporter Out and then Just Reach Out is awesome. I think it’s $180 a month or something like that, but they’ve created these pitch templates that are just awesome. So just check them out sometime.
Question: For B2B startups, does it make sense to rank on Product Hunt types of websites, as for most they won’t get signups from your ideal customer.
Nichole: So if you’re talking about directories, I really don’t spend a lot of time submitting to directories. A lot of them are link forms and I just don’t see them having this long-term benefits for SEO. I don’t use them myself, you might want to ask somebody who actually does, to see if they have been valuable to them but I haven’t heard of anyone having a lot of success with just getting in SaaS directories. Of course, you do want to be on ProductHunt, AngelList, Crunchbase, you know the major ones like that but for the smaller ones, I don’t spend time submitting to those. I’m not sure if that is the question
I don’t see a downside to being on ProductHunt. It’s awesome. Even if you got one or two people from there those people can introduce it to more people and so on and you can learn so much from just a few early adopters and yeah I would so just go for it, it’s definitely not a waste of time.
Question: How to follow-up with someone post event with their business card?
Nichole: So you went to an event and you’ve got their business card. I would just send a genuine email to them and mention that you have their card and don’t try to sell them something but try to get to know them and whether or not something comes out of that is how it’s going to go. But yeah, just a genuine email to them like it was awesome meeting you and if you ever want to chat sometime again, let’s catch up, Just check out what they’re working on and maybe talk about that but as long as you don’t try to do hard sell or something like that, I think you will be good.
Paid Growth Channels
- Paid campaigns:
- Google Adwords, The Yahoo! Bing Network
- Facebook & Instagram Ads
- LinkedIn Ads
- Pinterest Promoted Pins
- Quuu Promote
- Zest.is (free) & Zest Content Boost (paid)
- Taboola and/or Outbrain (for native advertising)
- Twitter Ads
- Snapchat Ads
- Appsumo & SaaS Invaders
- Quora Ads
- YouTube Advertising
- Sponsor newsletters – try Upstart
And then, of course, there’s paid campaigns and I’ll be honest with you, I am not an expert in paid, I haven’t done it in forever, I just use communities and relationship-building so much. So usually with paid, I have a different expert who works on that kind of stuff but you’ve got the usual Google AdWords, Yahoo BING Network, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quuu Promote.
Quuu Promote is a tool that you can submit your content to one at a time and it will get distributed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn by other Quuu users, so it’s like a two-way marketplace, where on one side you’ve got people paying to promote their content and on the other side you’ve got people who maybe they don’t have a lot of time to create content, so Quuu helps them do that. And they just released a new product but I haven’t checked it out yet but it might be worth checking out but it’s pretty cool for getting your content distributed on Twitter especially.
Nivas R: We did try out Quuu Promote at Freshsales recently, Daniel is a great guy, the only challenge which we were facing was we wanted to know who were the ones who were tweeting about a particular article, so what we did was, we actually added our Twitter handle so that whenever someone is tweeting it, we get notified and we were able to check. We actually were able to go and build a traction around it, so I think Quuu Promote is actually a pretty interesting platform.
Nichole: Yeah. So it’s somebody who’s sharing your content on Quuu instead of saying something like “thanks for the share.” Start a real conversation with them and you have no idea where that can go, they could become your next client or your next friend.
So there’s also Zest.is, where I’m leading the community group right now. Zest is so cool, we actually have several people review it before it goes up on the platform, but there’s no kind of voting or algorithm or any of that kind of stuff, it’s just, it if meets our guidelines, so it goes up. It looks like this and you can click on different text to have it filtered. It’s a lot of fun.
You can get a couple hundred clicks to your articles by getting them on Zest. We also have Zest Contest Boost, which is our paid general for boosting your content to get even more hundreds of clicks. If your content is accepted again, it has to go through a round of reviews before it gets accepted. So we do have a free and paid version, and if you have any questions about feel free to email me at Nichole@zest.is and I will be happy to help you out.
So you’ve also got Taboola or Outbrain for native advertising, Twitter ads, Snapchat ads, Appsumo, etc. Saas Invaders is also injunction with SaaS community. If any of you have used that, SaaS Invaders is by my good friend Trevor Hartfield. We can submit there, it’s kind of like Appsumo, and those deals get tweeted out, emailed out and there’s an add-on for people to be notified when they’re on your product page then there’s a deal. So we also have Quora, Youtube and you can sponsor Newsletters. And one tool that I know for doing that is called Upstart. I know sometimes when you’re subscribed to their newsletter you will see curated content and links that were created and sponsored, that’s pretty much what this is.
Long-term Growth Channels
So now, we into the long-term gains and they take more time to have an effect. I personally am all about building personal relationships. So everything that I do online is about building authentic relationships with people, getting to actually know who they are, having conversations with them that aren’t about my product or their product. You know, just like how are things going in general, talk about their pet or whatever it is. Just get to know them like a friend and there’s a lot of communities that people can join in building this kind of relationships, they are listed here.
Long-term gains (channels usually based on creating high-quality, relevant content)
- Build long-term relationships with communities
Startup Product Launches is one of my groups and what we try to do is to help people during pre-launch. So if you need help with your value proposition, your landing page, your language, any kind of help that you need well before leading up to launch, that’s where we really like to help people. We’re not really about just drop your product on the link and go.
I want to know you and what your product does and what you’re about and how we can truly help you because getting us to help you in a way that can really help you get you upturn on product time by just changing your value proposition and just the language you’re using is so much more authentic and real then just saying “Hey, Here is my card and page, maybe I’ll get a few upvotes.”
But if you got the right value proposition and the right landing page, you’ll get a lot more upvotes than if you didn’t and I see that so much, I see people that submit their products and landing page to me on my website and value proposition is poor and I have no idea what their product does. Like it’s something that comes up a lot, join our group if you need help with that.
There’s a copywriter club and I write about— The Copywriter Club quite a bit in my community newsletter that goes out on Sundays, because it is an example how to run an awesome Facebook community. It’s just so good, so if you’re a copywriter, definitely join that. There is a Humans Strike Back community by HotJar, it’s a brand new community, it’s all about H-H or human to human and putting people first. It’s really cool.
There are Traffic and Copy, We Optimize, Word Workers is one of Joanna Wiebe’s group, so there are all kinds of others group too. If you just go on Facebook, LinkedIn and you post to us, you’ll find all kinds of stuff.
Communities to distribute content
- Communities to distribute content, (but be an active member – it’s still about relationships)
- Start your own community (ex: ProdPad – “99% of our cancellations are coming from customers who weren’t part of our community.”)
- Submit your product to the App Store and/or Google Play
- SEO / Inbound Marketing
- Podcasts – Hailey Friedman wrote about this, and podcast advertising and interviews really are a great way to get in front of an educated, friendly audience.
- Email marketing / Newsletters
And of course, there is Viral Loops and building virality into product like the Dropbox example that comes up quite often.
You’ve got Medium which is a good platform for distributing your content, maybe after it’s been up on your site for a little while, maybe like a month later cross-post it on medium and some of my favorite Publications for doing that are The Mission, The Startup Grind, The Startup, ThinkGrowth, HackerNoon, etc..
But there’s also a list of Top Medium publications in general and some of them have hundreds of thousands of followers as you see right here on the side. So it’s just another channel to get in front of an audience that you might not already been tapped into.
We’ve also got Slack groups and I found that Slack groups are really good for getting other people to promote content. So in one of my Slack groups, we’ve got a channel called “please share this,” we share our Tweets and LinkedIn posts and Facebook posts in there and we go into each other’s post and help support each other.
To draw attention, we’ll retweet or heart react or whatever it is, to try to support each other as long as the tweet is actually something we would naturally retweet or like. It’s so valuable to have a Slack group like that. And there’s Slideshare which I don’t know, I had a conversation with Ross Simmons and he said it’s not working as much lately for him. So, am not sure how much time I would spend on that, but I’m still checking out.
And then integrations are such a great way to get in front of related audience, you know you can integrate with other tools like Intercom, Slack, Segment, and Zapier. Then you got newsletters, instead of just advertising on them, you can submit your content to the curators. An example of this is Mattermark Daily. They send out that curated content on a daily basis especially of what’s going on in Silicon Valley and venture-capital kind of stuff.
So if you write articles like that just email them, maybe you’ll make it in there and of course, social media and guest posting on sites like HubSpot and Moz and revamping and repurposing older content into infographics, podcast, short videos, whatever it is.
You can also do a version 2.0 of content. I wrote an article a while ago of like 40 newsletters for SaaS and I’m going to do our version too soon because it really needs to be updated. So there’s all kind of stuff that you can do with your older content. So that’s that.
Question: How do we get to be a part of your slack group?
Nichole: Just send me an email.
Question: I am based in Dubai and am searching for a company that can provide me with a list of emails for working in the Water Sector.
Nichole: I actually don’t know. I would go to the SaaS Hacks groups on Facebook and ask if anybody there knows of something that might be helpful.
Nivas R: I think I do agree with Ross that we have a bit of decline in the Slideshare traffic. We don’t spend effort in creating slide decks anymore or maybe we just create them as videos but if we do have like our webinar presentation I think we just upload that and this is still just another channel for us.
Nichole: True. LinkedIn is working on LinkedIn groups a lot this year, so I’m really excited to see where that goes. I have heard that content from the group is going to start showing on feeds, so am wondering how that’s going to have an impact on everything because right now we’re hanging out mostly in Facebook groups.
Nivas R: Another issue with the LinkedIn is that no notifications show up, even when there’s something relevant to your groups, so that’s why it’s really dormant with a lot of the LinkedIn groups.
Nichole: Also, I unsubscribed from the email groups because I felt like it was a spam. Like you would get an email for anything from anybody in the group and it was just very off-putting. So I do hope that they make these very necessary changes to see what might come about
Question: Any other recommendations apart from Mattermark for newsletters?
Nichole: Well, I will be sharing that article, I mentioned version 2 of 40 newsletters. You can search for the old version if you want, it’s on my website but I will be sharing an updated version with lots of new stuff that I have found especially in the product management realm
Question: How do you manage to be a part of multiple Slack groups because it does become a little overwhelming, how do you effectively consume and probably engage with your audience?
Nichole: I stay in really small groups, so there is a group of woman that’s less than 10 people and then there’s just another Slack team group that I’m in. Then my Slack group which only has a couple of hundred people. I tend to stay away from groups where there is thousands and thousands of people because I definitely can’t keep up
Nivas R: So Nichole what are you up to now apart from the SaaS Growth Playbook which you’re working on.
Nichole: Of course the SaaS Growth Playbook, growing Product Launch groups on Facebook and my newsletter which I started maybe seven weeks ago and every Sunday I email about community engagement growth. Anything around community. It’s been really fun, it took a long time to come up with a newsletter but I feel actually really happy about this one. I have a hard time not trying to do a lot of things. So right now, I’m just really trying to stay focused on just a few things so that I can see a lot of progress and I also do photography so that’s my hobby and yeah I just love photos.
Question: What would be the thing that Nichole would want us to do to help her?
Nichole: Thank you, I appreciate that. We’re trying to find press coverage right now so any help with intros for people from the press would be so helpful. We’re working on getting funding right now so we can do things like release a mobile app and stuff like that, so that’s the main thing I definitely need help with right now.
Question: Most of the channels you mentioned are online, can you recommend offline channels for acquiring SaaS customers.
Nichole: Yes, so earlier I mentioned how when you’ve got a really good innovative product that it’s a good idea to go offline and to go into meetups or just throw your own events and talk in front of people about what your product does because it’s much easier to communicate that in person than online when you’ve got something that’s so cutting edge that people don’t quite understand yet. And also going offline, I highly recommend in general because again I’m all about building relationships and whatever offline relationships that you will build will translate back into an online relationship. So it’s definitely something that I advocate for.
Question: I’m starting a new product launch and I need help with the content, what is a really good way to distribute content with too many social media and what is the right one to broadcast to many channels.
Question: Let’s say a team has just one person marketing team. What sort of result do you think the team will be able to see based on the things they do based on your presentation?
Nichole: So it depends who else is on the team, is there a customer success person also there, who else is there because if you have somebody customer success, for example, you can work together and gets a lot of these things done because much of the foundation for what I have talked about here is customer success.
So say that you’ve got a founder a product manager/developer and a marketing person, you’re definitely going to move slower than if you didn’t have more people on your team but it’s a matter of really again defining who your ideal customers is, having conversations with them and you getting your language as the same language that they’re speaking and you can cut down on the nonsense and just going back and have to redo things if you just talk to people
Nivas R: I think we have come to the end of the questions. Thank you so much, Nichole and all of you for joining us. If you have any questions about Freshsales, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.
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