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How to Build a Sticky SaaS Product

It’s Day 4 of Product Marketing Month. Today’s post examines churn, and accelerating your customer’s Time to Value. — Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner

What’s The Easiest Way to Make a Sticky Product?

Build a product and call it a Sticky Bar. Look over there >>

With that dad joke out of the way, I want to talk about some important SaaS metrics, that will help product marketers understand what is or isn’t sticky about the products you’re building. I’m also going to talk about how to find some clues in your data, and finally how we’ve been working on fixing our own stickiness problems at Unbounce.

What makes a SaaS product sticky?

In short, it’s a product that becomes part of someone’s daily routine. Something they can’t do as good or enjoyable a job without. It’s something they need. But even more than that, it’s something they love. And that love comes from two main places; either it’s a one-of-a-kind solution that’s simply awesome, or it’s a many-of-a-kind solution that includes a superior customer experience.

Unless you’re selling frying pans, having a product that isn’t sticky just means that you have a churn problem.

Why do people churn from a SaaS product?

There are many reasons why someone would decide to stop paying you money every month, and a great way to find out what they are is simply to ask. At Unbounce we have an in-app cancellation survey that gets seen by anyone who downgrades to free from a paid plan. It’s a single open-ended question: “What is your reason for downgrading?

On average, about 27% of people answer the question. Here’s a pie chart showing the breakdown of responses over a 6-month period.

There are some fascinating responses in there, but the one that stands out the most is the “Under-Utilized” (31.40%) category. This is the response you don’t want to hear. They were using it, and probably deriving value from it, but they weren’t using it enough to warrant an ongoing subscription.

We noticed that certain cohorts of customers were more likely to see fluctuating value from using landing pages. This could be due to an irregular number or timing of campaigns, so when there’s nothing going on, they cancel or downgrade their plan. They may come back again, many do, but the inconsistent behavior – known as flapping – can be a symptom of a product that isn’t fully sticky.

It could also be because they were not able to effectively calculate or realize the ROI of our solution properly, which can happen when customers are running campaigns not directly tied to paid spend. When there is money involved, it’s easier to calculate your returns, speeding up the time to value (TTV).

Increase Stickiness by Reducing Time to Value (TTV)

Time to Value (TTV) is the velocity of a customer seeing the value from your product – how long does it take them to get to those ah-ha moments that make them see the benefit?

It’s a great way to think from the customer’s perspective. The tough part is discovering what those ah-ha moments are. But when you do, product marketing has its mission.

When your TTV goes down, your stickiness and your LTV (Lifetime Value) goes up.

One of the ah-ha moments we’ve identified for Unbounce is when people get inside the builder, and they see how easy, yet how powerful and customizable it is. The problem is, they don’t get to see that until they slap down a credit card.

To amplify this, we just released a preview mode of our builder, designed specifically to help shorten the TTV.

You can check it out at preview.unbounce.com.

NOTE: The builder only works on desktop at this time.

If you click the image, you’ll notice that upon arrival, you see a popup with a welcome message and a bit of contextual information about where you are and what you can do.

Speaking of popups, I’ve heard this question a lot in the past 6 months:

“Why did you choose popups and sticky bars as your next products?”

Why did we choose popups and sticky bars?

With the landing page product, we knew we’d solved the pain of customers increasing conversions for their paid traffic, but those same customers (and their teams) also need ways to optimize the organic traffic they already have.

Popups and sticky bars are both tools that have a short time to value, for three reasons:

  1. They are less complex than a landing page (to build and to understand)
  2. Most businesses get more traffic to their website than they do to their landing pages, so they’ll see conversions coming in more quickly
  3. After installing a single line of Javascript, you can place them anywhere on your site without technical help.

If you remember back to the chart at the beginning, 4.45% of canceling customers said they had “poor campaign performance”. This is important to note because getting something up and running quickly and easily is one thing, but being successful – especially as a marketer – is another thing altogether.

Which is why our job as product marketers doesn’t stop until the customer is being successful using your software.

The other way to increase product stickiness

I mentioned earlier about needing to provide a superior customer experience, especially in a crowded competitive landscape. You need to have a company people trust more than the competition, and trust comes from transparency, security, reliability, and just giving a human shit about your customers.

I love how Andy Raskin puts it in his recent post about “The greatest sales pitch I’ve seen all year, it’s Drift’s and it’s brilliant”:

Product differentiation, by itself, has become indefensible because today’s competitors can copy your better, faster, cheaper features virtually instantly. Now, the only thing they can’t replicate is the trust that customers feel for you and your team. Ultimately, that’s born not of a self-centered mission statement like “We want to be best-in-class X” or “to disrupt Y,” but of a culture whose beating heart is a strategic story that casts your customer as the world-changing hero.

How are you reducing your time to value (TTV)?

I’d love to know the techniques you’re using to discover your ah-ha moments, and what you’re doing to accelerate your customers’ access to them. Lemme know in the comments.

Cheers,
Oli Gardner

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

Check Also

How A Best Answer Content Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results

Best Answer Content B2B Marketing

Best Answer Content B2B Marketing

For many B2B marketers content is a numbers game, especially as the number of channels for discovery and engagement grow right along with competition for attention.

We all know how the information overload story ends: buyers disconnect, they start to ignore marketing content and they lose trust in the brands trying so desperately to reach them.

Smart voices like Ann Handley in the B2B marketing industry have called for a focus on quality and even brevity over the hamster wheel of content mediocrity. Many have listened and yet many more B2B marketers are still fighting the uphill battle of creating uninspired blog post after blog post, ebooks, white papers, case studies and who knows how many social messages - and to what end?

Is your marketing about creating content or answers? Think about what your customers really want.

The failure to communicate by B2B marketers has numerous causes ranging from flawed thinking that more is better to content quality issues to what I like to call “invisible content syndrome”, or content without visibility to the buyer.

Answering buyer questions is nothing new. While best answer content is a topic we’ve been evangelizing at TopRank Marketing since our book Optimize was published 7 years ago and since, changes in voice search and what Google shows in search results has put Q and A content marketing into the SEO spotlight.

The new SEO is optimization for answers. Along those lines you can learn about AEO (Answer Engine Optimization) which focuses on voice search.  There’s also Google’s "People Also Ask” feature which now show up for 79% of search results according to Moz. The difference between optimizing content through AEO tactics or for PAA visibility with a best answer strategy is the difference between visibility on a single channel like Google and consistently visibility across channels for a specific topic.

Being the best answer is hard, but that's the price for being in the winner's circle of consistent top visibility. While it’s more difficult to achieve best answer authority on multiple channels than just Google, in this world of information overload, self-directed business customers are searching for useful, credible information they can use to educate, evaluate and make purchasing decisions.

If buyers don't see consistent, credible and engaging "best answer" content across channels from your brand, they'll begin to trust competitors who are.

B2B buyers are using Google but they are also asking their social networks, listening to influencers, seeing some ads, consulting with peers in forums, reading industry editorial, blogs, and a variety of offline information sources.

Successful B2B marketers understand their buyers preferences for information discovery, consumption and engagement. They use customer insight and understanding of intent to create best answer content that is easy to find in search, credible and a great user experience. They also create a cycle of optimization where ongoing performance analysis is used to refine and improve.

So how do B2B marketers create best answer content?

Josh Nite from our team has outlined a few good best answer content examples here. Let's also look at some of the characteristics of best answer web pages aka “power pages”.

Power Page Layout

1. Customer Insight - Whether it’s keyword research, CRM or conversion data from your web analytics, it’s important to step beyond your own intuition about what topics to focus on and rely on data.Consider what is it that your brand should be the best answer for and what customers are looking for that best represents your solution. Metrics that give you an indication of demand like keyword research and intent like analytics and conversion data can point you in the right direction as to what topics to validate.

2. Best Answer Topic(s) - The research and insights work should help you identify the general topic to focus on for best answer content. Then you can leverage answer research tools like BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer which pulls data from Q/A sites and forums to surface the actual questions being asked about those topics.

3. Hub and Spoke Publishing Model - I first outlined the idea of a hub with distribution channels back in 2010 and the idea has endured. At the center is a comprehensive treatment of your best answer topic. Today we call them “power pages”, more about them below. The spokes have evolved from simply being places to promote your hub content to also include other content representing variations of your main best answer topic.

accounting software hub and spoke content

15% of the daily queries used on Google have never been seen before, so it's important to surface the most important variations on your primary best answer topic. Those variations present a more comprehensive representation of your brand's dominance on the overall topic and also provide many repurposing and content promotion opportunities.

4. Power Page - The hub or Power Page provides specific and deep coverage of a Best Answer Topic in a way that appeals to search engines and buyers alike. Whether a buyer's intent is to understand the topic broadly or to start evaluating what specific solutions can mean for their problem, a Power Page provides an easily findable, deep and engaging explanation. Some common characteristics of the best performing Power Pages include:

  • Leverage keywords/topics in titles to inspire clicks
  • Include page features that increase engagement (interactive, visual)
  • Provide comprehensive content on specific topics: examples, research, models
  • Cover related topics as well

5. Distribution Channels - Power pages are often hosted on a company website or blog. But that’s not the only place buyers will look for your solution topics. It’s important to have an integrated content plan that incorporates owned, earned, paid and shared media.

Hub Spoke Promotion

Whether you partner with industry influencers and industry press to boost credibility or run paid search and social ads for ultra specific targeting, the best answer topic should be consistent across channels where buyers are looking - not just on search engines!

What it takes to be the best answer:

  • Specific, in demand topic
  • More valuable and useful than other sites
  • Credible
  • High quality
  • Engaging
  • Device friendly, accessible
  • Loads fast

By doing the homework of leveraging customer insight and validating with keyword research, you can then identify the actual questions buyers are asking about topics important to your solutions. Answering those questions through a hub and spoke content publishing model ensures a deep focus and coverage of variations on your topic across the channels where customers are seeking answers.

But that's not all. There are many ways to create even better Best Answer content experiences. Having industry experts help answer customer questions segmented by stage of the buying cycle creates and a more credible and targeted experience. In fact, showcasing industry experts in a brand context for best answer content that is more visual or interactive content can really set a B2B brand apart. Easy to find, credible content that’s also a great user experience is exactly what a Best Answer content strategy can do for B2B customers that are actively looking for solutions.

There’s a lot more to this topic and I will be digging in more deeply during an upcoming Webinar with BuzzSumo on January 23rd at 2pm EST.

B2B best answer marketing webinar
How A Best Answer Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results

This presentation will show you:

  • The modern content marketing integration model
  • How to use SEO question data to inform credible content and influencer selection
  • What "best answer" content looks like with examples from B2B companies

Check out the details here on the BuzzSumo site and I hope to see you there!

The post How A Best Answer Content Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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