How To Use Automated Emails To Onboard Low-Value SaaS Signups, Profitably

There’s SaaS, and then there’s Enterprise SaaS.

Charging annual contracts upfront. Big setup fees. Big multi-seat license fees. If you’re charging the big bucks for your SaaS offering, then by design, you probably have big bucks for your customer onboarding program.

A dedicated account manager, multiple Webex’s between your engineers and theirs, maybe even an onsite visit from the VP of Customer Success. You can spend the big money to ensure that one account is going to be successful and have the best experience possible because, after all, this is big tickets. Big game. Big wins.

But what happens if you’re selling a product for $9.99 per month?

You can’t assign a dedicated account manager. You can’t afford to have a call with every signup. You definitely can’t afford to go and have coffee with their CEO!

Some might dismiss you a tiny startup. You need to get into the enterprise game to make any significant money. It’s small tickets. Small game.

But what if you have 100,000 of those customers paying you $9.99 per month?

That’s the situation for a lot of companies such as Buffer, Sendgrid, Mailchimp, Basecamp… They make a huge portion of their business from low value, zero touch accounts. And they’ve still grown to millions in dollars of revenue each year.

Sure, they have enterprise arms as well. But they manage to profitably sell and deliver their product for only a few bucks a month. How are they doing this, while still creating a high conversion onboarding experience, for hundreds of thousands of accounts?

The trick is they’re using clever email automation. Here’s how to introduce the same tactics to your SaaS company.

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What Customer Success Managers Can Learn From A Barber Shop

Today was the day I had my monthly hair cut. Being a rather traditional guy, I got to a pretty traditional barbers. I get a hair cut by the same barber each time, someone who can only be described as a “man’s man”. During the 45 minutes, I’m surrounded by “manly” barbers discussing “manly” things.

I’ve done this every month, on roughly the same day every month, at exactly same barber shop, for the last 2 years (which is since I moved into this area).

It was during my cut today that I started observing, I mean really observing, why I’ve come back to this place every time, for the last 2 years. There’s 4 other hair stylists/barbers within a 5 minute walk, but I choose this one.

During my deep contemplation, while a man with hands the size of a viking was deftly and efficiently cutting away at my barnet, I started to see the underlying fabric of the place. The reasons I come back here each time. Why I’ve become a loyal and happy customer.

I’m fully aware that the business model and challenges of a barber shop do not accurately map onto the challenges of a SaaS software company (startup or enterprise). I’m talking about repeat customers vs. subscribing customers.

But I did see a lot of amazing lessons in something so simple and honest as my local barber shop, and I wanted to see if we could use them to inspire our approach to customer success management.

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SaaS: How We Automated Free Trial Extensions To Increase Paid Conversions By 33%

At Trak.io, we’re extremely passionate and confident of our purpose as a startup. We know what we want to do in this industry: we want to make other SaaS companies more successful.

But the exact way that we execute that purpose has been a very fluid process since we started work on our very first prototype in May 2013. Like many Lean Startups, our product needs to be able to adapt and evolve as we search for our own product-market fit.

And that means getting constant feedback from customers and potential customers.

“Would you sign up for this? Would you use that every day? Would you pay for this?”

You can ask potential customers these sorts of questions in interviews all day long, but the ultimate validator comes when they’re actually faced with that credit card form.

As the saying goes, “Pay up or shut up”.

We’d already validated our original purpose with a $29 Beta queue jump and $499 “Launch Partner” deal. But our product had changed considerably in the last few months, both in target customer and price point, and in some cases we were asking users to pay upwards of $299 per month.

Now here’s the honest truth: since we launched our public Beta, users were getting to the end of their free trial (after installing our tracking code) and then….. nothing. They weren’t paying. Our conversion rate sucked!

Something had gone wrong. Had we misunderstood our customer conversations? Had we been arrogant to assume these companies would actually ditch their existing customer analytics and put their faith in us? All of our feedback in emails and conversations had been great, everyone had told us they loved the product!

We were spinning and didn’t know what was wrong.

We needed to get very specific feedback. We already knew people were using the product from our own data tracking. But asking “Would you pay for this?” hadn’t translated into conversions. We needed to ask a different question to a different segment of our users.

“Why did you not pay, after using the product successfully during your free trial?”

This post is an explanation of how we segmented our onboarding users, and then how we implemented a super simple, very scaleable tactic to filter out our most engaged users and find out why they weren’t ready to start a paid subscription.

By the end of this process, we were receiving 27% more feedback, and increased our paid conversion rate by 33%!

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SaaS Onboarding: Do You Really Know What The “Aha!” Moment Is For Your Product?

You’re part of a team who have built something truly amazing. This product revolutionises the lives of football coaches world-wide. Or enhances the post-op care experience for all elderly patients. Or perhaps it sheds 64% from the average software product development process.

Your app is quite simply, amazing. Google/Facebook/Yahoo should start writing a check straight away – they’re going to want to own this product. Absolute painkiller, no vitamins here.

But then the reality hits. Your 9,573 free trials last quarter only converted to 47 paying customers (0.5% conversion rate). What the hell? Are they crazy?! This product will change their lives, save their time and make them money. Why aren’t they paying to become subscribers?

Chances are, it’s because they never got around to using your product. Because your SaaS onboarding experience was totally wrong.

Continue reading SaaS Onboarding: Do You Really Know What The “Aha!” Moment Is For Your Product?

What Does “Customer Success” Mean For SaaS Startups?

Customer Success, if you haven’t heard, is a pretty big deal for SaaS companies. It’s a recently adopted term to encompass a new function within recurring revenue businesses. Unlike Growth Hacking however, everyone is taking Customer Success very, very seriously!

Because customer success, or the failure to implement it, is already costing SaaS startups millions of dollars in revenue.

Customer Success is the recurring revenue business’ answer to churn. A newly discovered weapon against a problem that had previously being accepted as a fact of SaaS life. Just as the sun rises and sets every day, so must 2.5% of all customers churn every month. That’s just the reality of subscription business models, right?

Well not anymore. Customer Success is here to kick churn’s ass!

In this post, I’ll discuss:

  • An introduction to Customer Success as a basic concept
  • What functions does Customer Success cover?
  • An introduction to the important metrics of Customer Success

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A Beginners Introduction To Metrics & Analytics For Data-Driven Growth

Cover-Idea-LatestThe following is an excerpt from my book on growth for SaaS companies, “Growth Pirate! An Entrepreneurs Guide To Achieving Data-Driven Growth In Your Startup”

This excerpt is part of the introduction chapter that sets the foundation knowledge for the rest of the book to build upon. I’d recommend this post before diving into any other analytics articles as it’s a perfect primer for more advanced concepts and techniques.

In this post, you’ll cover:

  • Working with Metrics effectively
  • What makes a good metric
  • Actionable vs. vanity metrics: How to spot the difference
  • How to avoid Analysis Paralysis
  • Segmentation and cohorts explained
  • A/B Testing

Working With Metrics

Before we can explore how to use a startup metrics framework like Pirate Metrics effectively, we should cover some ground on the fundamentals of measuring data and turning this into useful information. 

Working with analytics and metrics is a dangerous game, and it’s far too easy to drown under data, or allow a metric to walk your team off of a cliff.

I’ve sat in meetings and heard Marketing Directors justify their marketing budget based on their increase in Twitter followers. And listened to a trade exhibition sales guys try to convince me that a $2,600 booth is a good buy because on average, “exhibitors receive 300 business cards in their fish bowls”.

If you don’t understand the basics, metrics can lie to you. Or worse, people can manipulate metrics to lie to you.

If we want Pirate Metrics to work for us, we need to know how to identify good metrics and how to place data into our daily work without doing more harm than good.

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This Is How We Got Coverage From The Next Web & Venture Beat

UPDATE (16th May 2014): Now includes response from Mike Butcher, Editor @ TechCrunch, after reading this post

We were lucky enough to have our public launch of Trak.io covered by The Next Web and Venture Beat. This brought a huge spike in traffic, credibility, newsletter subscribers, investor calls and most importantly: new signups!

This success wasn’t the result of a “shotgun strategy” of spamming hundreds of journalists! Instead I had a laser targeted approach, crafting a Press Release (yes, they aren’t dead) and working on getting covered by 3 big publications (of which I achieved 2 out of 3 – I’ll come to that later).

I wanted to get some of the “big guys” to cover us first, and then move onto smaller publications with that credibility in hand The whole process was far from perfect, and I learned a lot. I wanted to share as much as possible about the launch, including the exact press release, so that it might be useful for other early stage startups who are looking to get their launch covered by a major tech publication.

In this post, I’m sharing:

  • The exact Press Release I wrote and shared with journalists and the process I used to write it
  • The data to show how much impact an article in TNW and VB can have for your startup
  • The conversations I had with journalists
  • How we fucked up TechCrunch, and what Mike Butcher emailed me after reading this post
  • The mistakes I made during this PR launch and what I’d do differently next time

Continue reading This Is How We Got Coverage From The Next Web & Venture Beat