Understand Customer Behavior in Your Trial Period

Tracy Kaufman Cloud9

Today I’m going to share another interview with Tracey Kaufman, VP of Customer Experience at cloud9.

Tracey was watching the Totango demo and then answered some questions about what she thinks of the application from a Customer Experience point of view.

Tracey believes that anyone who has trial period in the SaaS business or has the need, like herself, to understand users activities and prevent churn, would want to actively know what customers are doing in their application during that trial period.

It is very important to understand users behavior – especially at the trial period in order to proactively prioritize customers to refer to during that time. This way you could know who is potentially at risk because they’re not using the product or – the opposite – you can spot customers who are using the product well and you can use them as a reference or a case study.

 

Tracey especially likes the integration Totango has with salesforce and the fact that sales people are exposed to information that shows the level of customer engagement. This will allow them to determine the priority of their calls – for example they can first contact the users who are actually evaluating the service and try and move them up in the sales cycle.

To read the full transcription of the video, click here

 
 

Video Transcription:

Q: Hello, who am i speaking with here today?

A: Hi, my name is Tracey Kaufman, I’m the a VP of customer experience for cloud 9.

Q: Since we just went through the demo of Totango, can you give me your first reaction and who do you think should look at the Totango product and what’s cool about it?

A: So i think, actually, you know, certainly any one in the SaaS business who has recurring revenue or has trials, whereas anything to do where they need to understand the activities of their users and really try to chart from the time that you say OK, we’re going and we’re deploying and I’ve launched you, then what happens?

If you have a trial it’s absolutely critical to understand what is your leave conversion? Right who using this trial. Because what are you going to do? You’re going to call. You’re going to say, here you go, have this 30-day trial. And then you sit and you call them 30 days later so if you are a sales VP or a marketing VP and you actually want to know what happens, and you want to get a proactive look at some key trick so that you know when to call them or when to send off an email.

You know, if you’re like me and your running customer experience and you want to understand churn, and you want to understand who is potentially at risk because they’re not using the product or on the other side, obviously, people who are really using the product and gang busters and you can use them as a reference or case study think, you know, marketing, sales, customer experience, i mean, product, what part of the product you’re using. So i think it’s widespread usage, actually.

Q: That’s great. What do you think is the most sticky feature of the product?

A: So, i really love the fact that, of course you’ve got these great analytics and you’ve got people who are individuals in executive positions who love numbers. But what I think is the best thing you talked to me about, was how you’re actually going to put the information back in sales force and that way your sales reps can go in and figure out “Oh wow, I have this trial customer and I don’t know whether they’re using it, but wow now I can find out who’s actually using the product. So now I know I’m going to call them, because they’re going to be hot. Because I’ve got these ten people who’ve started and tried using my product and I can call them and now maybe move them down the sales cycle. I just think that’s great.

10 Tips for B2B Sales in the Subscription Economy

Subscribe

The subscription-based economy is thriving.  Netflix’s well-known model (and subsequent public relations mess in changing it), and the recent announcements from Google and Apple have set it in stone.

The subscription model, like many of the B2B sales models in the SaaS industry, is all about the customers – listen to your customers and have your service to comply and you’re on the right direction!

Here are 10 tips that can assist subscription based companies to get by in the industry:

1. Keep it simple

Ease of use is a key aspect of the subscription economy.  Subscribers want the one-stop shop, and their attention will not be kept easily.  Frustration, which might lead to churn, can be easily ensues if they can’t find what they want or need.

2. Customize to the consumer

Bob’s business is not the same as Mary’s.  Can you offer flexible payment options (weekly, monthly, annually)?  Family versus individual?  Basic versus premium?

3. Curate

More is better, but more can also be overwhelming.  Netflix’s popularity is in part because it offers customized selections based on its subscribers’ viewing history.  If the subscriber never, ever watches foreign language films, they don’t want to have to scroll through them to get to the good stuff.

4. Make it social

Can your subscribers see what others think of this product?  Can they easily share it through social media?  Social media has the power to sweep many others and help in distribute your message – and it’s free, so you might as well use in your business favor.

5. Offer continuing value

Make sure your offers will always consist of an added value. Can some ancillary information help your subscribers?  Partner with other companies that add value.  Also, what new thing can you offer?  Can you surprise them with how good it will be?

6. Keep it open

Remember what we said about the ancillary market?  Is your forum open enough to allow add-ons?  Don’t keep things so proprietary that spontaneous creation is stifled.  Think of Flickr, for example – would it help or hurt their business to team with a photo editing application?  It would help, of course, and they’ve allowed just that.

7. Give it away

If you still haven’t done so, consider  using a free-trial or freemium model for your product. Subscription economy is likely to be ruled by the free-to-join.  For example, you can make your overall platform free and have advertising, add-ons or premium offerings in order to make it profitable.  Think Facebook – free to join, but not likely to go broke anytime soon.

8. Don’t charge for that which was once free

How would you like to have nearly 9000 pages of complaints about your new pricing structure?  That’s what Netflix got for their announcement that they were nearly doubling their prices, removing services their subscribers had gotten used to having included, and offering no additional value in the exchange.  Calling it a great deal just added fuel to the fire.  (If you can’t give it free, keep it as low as possible!)

9. Keep the customer relationship as thy first priority

With the Netflix debacle, it’s not just about the pricing.  Their customers felt personally betrayed.  If you succeed in accomplishing a real relationship with your subscribers, where they recommend your service not for incentives but because they’re real fans, the worst thing you can do is spoil that relationship in a “money grab.”  Nurture your relationship.  Keep customers in mind as you consider changes.  Get feedback on proposed changes.  Don’t sell their information to spammers or let slimy advertisers in.  Business is more personal than ever.

10. Enjoy

Customers in the subscription economy are more savvy than ever.  They can tell if you honestly love your own offerings or if you’re just using sales tactics.  Let you enthusiasm shine through and it would be a win-win situation!

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.

Tools to Manage a Successful SaaS Business

Managing a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business isn’t trivial. Successful SaaS companies are able to deal with a high volume of leads and turn those into a high volume of loyal customers with fast response and turnaround time.

This is often referred to as the ‘sales and marketing machine’ – a highly optimized, massively scalable and controlled business operation that is capable of:

  • Generating, managing and nurturing leads;
  • Converting leads into paying customers at high conversion rates;
  • Ensuring customer success and preventing churn;
  • Continuously increasing the service value, differentiation and offerings.

In order to build a ‘sales and marketing machine,’ companies need to invest in the tools that will get them the business scalability that is required and reduce the learning curve.

Many startups begin with homegrown solutions using spreadsheets and databases (with a bit of integration glue in between). This is sufficient for small scale, but quickly becomes unwieldy as the organization grows. Luckily, there are excellent tools available for SaaS companies to leverage.

Many vendors have a “starter” package, so there is really no excuse not to start building your tool-chest sooner rather than later.

The Customer Life-Cycle

To best understand where the different categories of tools fit, it’s best to look at the various stages of the customer life-cycle, as they evolve from early prospects to mature customers.

At Totango, we use the following customer life-cycle terms:

  • Visitor – Anonymous user on the website
  • Lead – Person who has expressed some interest in the service. This can be anything from downloading a white paper to signing-up to a trial
  • Evaluating – A user (or company) who’s actively evaluating the service usually during a trial period or fermium
  • Onboarding – A paying customer in the initial usage period
  • Mature – A paying customer who has been loyal to the service beyond the initial usage period

With those definitions in mind, it’s easier to associate solutions and tools to help carry customers through every phase of their life-cycle.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

CRM is a common way to keep a reference of all customers’ life-cycle stages. CRM organizes all contacts’ information and account details in a single database, so it’s vital you select a tool that fits your needs and can grow with you.

Primary users
Specifically, your CRM software will be the main working software of your inside sales teams as they organize account work mainly during the sales life-cycle phases.

Select list of CRM solutions
Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, Highrise, or the ever promising Pipedrive

Web Analytics

Web analytics tools keep track of visitor activity on your website and various other marketing properties; this is where you keep track of your top-tier leads funnel, measure the initial success of marketing and advertising programs, and work to improve visitors’ experience with your products’ properties.

Primary users
Mainly the marketing team, though other users in the organization (product team, IT) will need to use it as well.

Select list of Web Analytics solutions
Google Analytics is the most commonly used tool. It’s immensely powerful, feature-rich and free. But there are other good tools your marketing team should look at, such as Clicky, WebTrends that provide additional useful views into vistiors’ actions.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation takes you beyond basic web-properties and aims to help you interact, build, and cultivate a relationship with leads, so they can ultimately be passed on to your sales team and “convert” to happy customers.

Primary users
This is your marketing team’s main toy!

Select list of Marketing Automation tools
Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua

Post Marketing

A post marketing (sales & customer success) solution stack for SaaS companies does not exist yet. Enabling the buying process (converting leads), ensuring customer success, and increasing service value, is something that I feel is needed and missing in the market, and this is what we’re building in Totango.

SaaS Dashboard

Having all the above tools in place enables marketing, sales and customer success teams to effectively do their jobs and be an integral part of the ‘sales and marketing machine’.

Having said that, it’s crucial to have a single business dashboard available to the executive teams that allows them monitor the business end-to-end.
The SaaS dashboard should include operational metrics, trends and key business performance indicators (KPI’s), which allow the business owners, get ‘the full picture’ of the business, identify bottlenecks and allow to teams to take appropriate actions.

Summary

The SaaS model presents an opportunity to run a predictable and high-volume business. The first step is to put the required business infrastructure in place in order to monitor, analyze and optimize the sales and marketing machine operation continuously.

In coming posts, I’ll discuss in further detail the actual attributes of the SaaS dashboard.

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The 2012 SaaS Free Trial, Freemium and Pricing Benchmark

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About Totango:

Totango analyzes in real time customer engagement and intention within SaaS applications to help you grow your business

 

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