With the holiday season upon us, we thought it would be appropriate to examine one of the more wholesome growth strategies for SaaS startups: community marketing.
Where public online spaces like social media platforms are more for attracting and engaging new customers, community marketing focuses more on creating dedicated, closed spaces for existing customers. There are numerous instances of communities organically forming around a product or brand, but it’s also possible for companies to lead this process and effectively drive people to come together in a meaningful way. This can look like a simple private Facebook group or Slack workspace that customers are invited to, or it can be a fully-fledged online forum like Squarespace Circle or InVision Community.
While community marketing can work for pretty much any industry, it’s especially impactful for SaaS as the internet makes the user experience going from online product to online community seamless and easy.
In this blog post, we’ll be diving into the 3 core benefits of community marketing strategy and 3 key things to keep in mind when implementing one for SaaS startups.
Benefits of SaaS Community Marketing
#1 Lower churn and leverage network effects
Aside from product quality and market fit, community marketing is one of the most effective ways you can keep churn rates low. Human beings are social creatures and crave a sense of belonging, so when there’s a place where your customers can interact and support each other, they are more likely to stick around. In fact, your customers can provide better reasons for others to stay than you probably ever could!
A community will allow customers to:
Share advice and help each other troubleshoot
Inspire others with projects/cases using your product
And depending on your product/service…
Collaborate together on projects
Find new business opportunities
In this way, having a community is a value-add for your customers. And the more people join, the better your product as a whole becomes. As a result, community marketing has a network effect, whereby customers are encouraged to spread the gospel of your startup because it becomes more valuable as usage increases.
#2 Monitor customer satisfaction and product feedback
An active community can be a valuable source of information and inspiration for your product development (and possibly even other departments). As your customers get talking amongst themselves, you’ll be able to get a better sense of overall customer satisfaction and find ways to improve your product.
For early-stage startups, this is a great a way to evaluate and maintain product-market fit, and for later-stage startups to improve on product quality and remain competitive in the market.
#3 Decrease your customer support burden
Customer support is a core component of any SaaS startup. But as your customer-base grows, it can become extremely costly to maintain the same quality of support. Just imagine servicing 1,000 users vs. 10,000 or 100,000 users.
With a supportive community at hand, you can encourage customers to answer questions for you and help lighten the load. You’ll also probably find that, because your customers use your product more often than you do, they’ll likely be more knowledgeable of your own product!
Tips for SaaS Community Marketing
When you only think of the end goal, trying to build a new community from the ground up seems like a daunting task. Here are some strategic and tactical tips to make sure your path isn’t more difficult than it has to be!
#1 Relentless focus on shared interests and goals
To ease this burden of building a new community, many managers fall into an early trap by trying to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Yet there’s a similarity between products and communities in one key way: something that speaks to everyone means speaking to no one. This means start small and focus relentlessly on the people that matter most to get the community growing. The healthy foundation of a new community is built on bringing together like-minded people with shared goals.
When you’re just starting out, finding your early community members is a qualitative endeavor – no huge number of community members will make up for a lack of shared interests and goals.
“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.”
– Jean Vanier
#2 Your community isn’t an audience
Don’t be fooled by the “marketing” in “community marketing” – the two require very different mindsets. Where the average marketer will focus on the community as an audience to be spoken at, great community builders will tend to think of the community as a group of collaborators to be spoken with. This distinction between the two removes the onus of driving engagement from the marketing team and puts shared responsibility on everyone in the community to help maintain healthy interactions. Regardless of the community’s shared interests and goals, a majority of the interactions should be happening between community members and not through community managers.
This could involve sending out weekly newsletters featuring topics and questions to invite community interaction, tagging or linking to other community members in discussions, or even giving the community the ability to host meetups.
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
– Coretta Scott King
#3 Give back to community leaders
If you’ve gotten to a point where you have a few extremely active community members, people constantly providing input and engaging others, you may think “Great, now I can just go hands off and let the community do its thing!” However, just because your customers have each other now for support, it doesn’t mean you can completely neglect them. Your users may (and should!) be benefiting from the community you’ve created, but it’s still worth taking the time to thank them for participating, especially community leaders.
That means your community managers should be chiming into discussions to show appreciation for users who answer questions or promote thoughtful discussion. Like Squarespace Circle and InVision Community, you should also consider having a dedicated space for featuring super active users and collaborators. Squarespace Circle also goes the extra step to providing additional perks for people who join, such as discounts, extended trial periods, access to beta tests etc.
Not only will the community notice and be more encouraged to participate, they will think better of you as a company and cement their brand loyalty.
“Good entrepreneurs are community builders, actively involved with their communities and dedicated to the community’s well being. If you’re dedicated to your community, it will be dedicated to you.”
– Robert Kiyosaki
While this strategy may not make sense for every startup, it’s definitely worth thinking about for your own business and customers. Curious to see how this could apply to your startup? Get in touch with us today at firstname.lastname@example.org!