6 Steps to On Boarding Software-as-a-Service Customers

Customer Engagement Funnel

It is more critical than ever to make sure customers get started and find value during the first days, weeks and months after signing up for your SaaS service. Customers sign up long before they start paying you and only if they see value, month in month out, they will (continue to) pay you. This means that in addition to a sales funnel, successful SaaS companies now also use and track a customer engagement funnel (see picture).

Customer Engagement Funnel

There are six steps to successfully on boarding a new SaaS customer:

1. Sign Up: provide self service sign up

Take all friction out of the sign up flow. Ask for as little information as necessary to setup an account. As long as you can track usage and prioritize prospects later on, you can keep the top of the funnel wide.

2. Activation: provide clear instructions

Provide clear instructions to get your new signups up and running as soon as possible.

3. Active Use: include ample examples

Usually active accounts are only 35% of monthly sign ups. To move the needle on active users, demonstrate immediate value. Make sure that you include default settings and, if necessary, some demo data. Also include examples of how others have been successful with your product.

4. Paid Use: personalize customer engagement

Free to paid conversion is difficult to achieve. The key is to personalize your communications with the user at this moment. You should know what features they have tried and target your sales pitch. With the right message delivered at the right time, you can increase free to paid conversion by 37% or more.

5. Renewal: check in with the user often

The key to high renewal rates is to predict which customers might be unhappy and to pro actively engage these users. If you know that a customer hasn’t logged in recently you might e-mail or call. If you see they are not using certain features, perhaps they need a helping hand.

6. Expansion: increase lifetime value

If customers are happy, you may have the opportunity to sell them more. It should be possible to achieve negative churn: this means that the total revenues derived from your existing customer base is growing over time through a combination of high renewal rates and expanding existing customers.

3 Outright Strategies to Improve SaaS Customer Success

Outright Image

Totango is now (also) located in Mountain View, CA! Having a new Totango home in California is great and allows me to meet many cutting edge businesses with free trial or freemium business models while here. Today I caught up with Laura Messerschmitt, VP Marketing at Outright. Outright helps small businesses to organize their finances. Over 100,000 users worldwide are tracking the health of their businesses with Outright. Outright is a free service, with a premium product available for a monthly fee. The sales model for Outright is entirely customer driven: the sales process is self-service (zero-touch selling).

What struck me most about Outright is it’s commitment to customer success. Making existing customers successful is the highest priority for the company. In my blog on “customer engagement is key for SaaS” I have written about the importance of increasing customer lifetime value and preventing churn in SaaS business models.

Here are a couple of things Outright is doing to align it’s entire company with it’s customer success (and thus customer lifetime value):

1. Define a customer engagement funnel

Key to customer success is realizing that not all customers are created equal. When a visitor to your website first signs up to your service, you have not yet won a new customer. In fact, a large percentage of sign-ups may never activate the service. I discussed this phenomena in my blog on “3 ways to do cohort analysis on SaaS churn“. In the case of Outright, they have explicitly modeled the different stages in what you might call the “customer engagement funnel”:

Stage 1: Sign-up, user has registered
Stage 2: Activation, in the case of Outright has started using the product
Stage 3: Use, in the case of Outright has continued to use the product over time

While you can get a lot more fancy with this and define further actions and life cycle stages (including those that include up selling and expansion opportunities), just recognizing the difference between a sign-up, an activated user and a truly active user is a huge step in the right direction.

2. Make customer success metrics central to the business

You cannot manage what you cannot measure so the next step for Outright was to develop a dashboard that shows sign-ups, activated users and active users and the conversion ratio between each of these stages. Outright is looking at this on a daily, weekly and monthly basis via cohort analysis to see how the service value which is delivering customers is improving over time. If you want your company to be customer driven, you have to give everybody in the company access to these metrics . Only if you make the customer success metrics central to all your management meetings, will the entire team be laser focused on improving customer success.

3. A customer driven organization chart

The most innovative thing Outright has done is to align their entire organization chart with the different stages in the customer engagement funnel. There is a dedicated team, including product managers, developers and designers, focused on improving the product for those users who have just started using the product. The focus is on making it easier and easier for these customers to help themselves and get more value out of the product. Automated e-mails are sent with helpful tips to help customers along the way. Then there is a separate team, also with its own product managers, developers and designers to improve the value in the service for those customers who are already active.

Thanks so much to Laura for sharing. I am looking forward to check in with Outright again in a couple of months to see how their customer driven organization chart has impacted the key conversion metrics of their customer engagement funnel.