All posts by bradtaylor11

How Machine Learning Will Force Marketing to Evolve (Whether We Like it or Not)

Promotion was easy in the 1960s.

Advertise on one of THREE networks. The one local newspaper. Maybe one of the few radio shows.

Things have changed a bit since then.

We’re talking thousands of channels. Multiple devices. A never-ending Long Tail.

Not to mention, technological disruption that (a) erodes, (b) replaces, or (c) reverses most of the current best practices every 6-12 months.

That makes a marketer’s role… complicated.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Cause the machines, they are a-comin’.

And sh!t ain’t ever gonna be the same.

A Brief History of Machine Learning in Marketing

“RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query”, according to senior research scientist at Google, Greg Corrado.

It’s an artificial intelligence engine that uses pattern matching at scale to process millions of search queries daily. And with an 80% accuracy rating, it outperforms engineers by a wide margin.

There’s no wonder that it’s taking over the search giant then.

Part of that success comes from the ability to literally guess – based on millions of datapoints in fractions of a second – the searcher’s intent behind a few random keystrokes.

In other words, it learns and adapts. Better and faster than any team of humans is able.

Cue the apocalypse.

Google’s been working on this for half a decade though, fine-tuning and perfecting the approach. The savviest SEO’s have even seen this coming since the beginning, tipped off by Google’s patent filings a few years back.

However, Google’s adventures in machine learning isn’t an isolated event.

Facebook has also been using machine learning to enhance a user’s newsfeed to help increase consumption and time on site. It’s behind their ‘facial recognition tool’ that has a 98% accuracy when sensing who to tag in an image.

Machine learning also guides the way Netflix tailors content to you. And determining which email gets marked as spam or not (which is easy to remember with a mnemonic device like Spamalot).

But what is it exactly? And how does it work?

Don’t ask me. Instead, Tommy Levi, the Director of Data Science at Unbounce (who just so happens to also possess a PhD in Theoretical Physics), had this to say in The Split (yes, I’m quoting Unbounce who’s quoting Tommy Levi… how’s that for some journalism?!):

“You can think of machine learning as using a computer or mathematics to make predictions or see patterns in data. At the end of the day, you’re really just trying to either predict something or see patterns, and then you’re just using the fact that a computer is really fast at calculating.”

This is one of the first big steps towards the practical application of artificial intelligence. But this time being used to help separate people from their pocketbooks. (Which is undoubtedly one of the great use-cases scientists had in mind for the promise of AI).

And sure. There are probably ethical concerns somewhere here. Like preying on the poor saps with drug, alcohol or gambling addiction (because machines haven’t mastered political correctness just yet).

But let’s not concern ourselves with that heavy stuff. (Honestly, read The Split for a more detailed – and responsible – overview of the drawbacks of this advancement.)

Instead, let’s focus on where this is going.

Why does it matter for marketers? And how is it going to revolutionize our profession?

Why Machine Learning Matters

Teaching spam filters which stuff to let in your inbox is table stakes. No big deal.

Recognizing faces is fun. But playtime’s over.

Providing more accurate search results? Useful. Although primarily for Google.

What about us? How will this impact marketers?

The epiphany you were looking for comes in the form of the Conversion Equation, introduced recently by Oli Gardner at this year’s Unbounce Call to Action conference.

And it presents the most compelling example (that I’m aware of) in how machine learning will transform the role of marketers forever.

The ambitious goal: to create a standardized equation that predicts ways to improve conversions on your website.

For example:

  • Moving your CTA down to this point in the page will result in a 4.5% conversion lift.
  • The most interaction on this page happens around line 23, so place a video here.
  • It will tell you, finally, what elements to A/B test (and which to ignore).

It delivers this through a combination of over 50-sub equations that blend (a) heuristic analysis, (b) rapid experiments, (c) conversion research and data, (d) video conversion and engagement data, (e) academic studies, and (f) tools and frameworks from the industry’s best and brightest.

For example, the ‘Page Clarity’ sub-equation illustrates how machine learning is used to assess the following factors in real-time:

  • Distraction: Are there too many conflicting CTAs on a page?
  • Expectation: Does the information on this page match what the user’s expecting to see?
  • Readability: Is this page easy to understand, or riddled with jargon?
  • Visual Identification: Does this page use good principles from data-driven design to help people subconsciously understand what to do on this page?
  • Immediacy: Can the visitor quickly and easily understand what to do on this page?
  • Specificity: Is the language explicit, or hard to comprehend?
  • Hyperbole: Are you telling the visitor that you’re good, or showing it?

The Clarity principle can help provide concrete, clear and specific instructions to improving the performance of a landing page. And it’s just one tiny slice with 49 other options.

Here’s what that means for our profession.

What Machine Learning Means for Marketers

Only about 1 out of 8 A/B tests deliver anything of note.

That means most are gonna fail. Which means you gotta do a bunch of them to see results.

Google alone ran more than 7000 tests in one year. And that was back in 2011! Ancient, primitive times compared to today.

They even tested 50 shades of blue for their CTAs (which sounds like a best-selling, geeky satire in the making).

Does your company have the bandwidth to match that volume? Do you, personally?

Most likely not. You probably have enough trouble getting one test off the ground each month.

54% of marketers say they don’t work to improve conversions more because of a lack of resources (with lack of budget coming close behind at 35%), according to MarketingCharts.

The most difficult part of being a marketer today isn’t the tactics. It’s not figuring out what page elements to test. Here’s 71 of them. It’s not even how to do it. Here’s how.

All that stuff is out there.

No, what’s hard is knowing what to test on your website in the first place. And why.

That’s where machine learning, and developments like the Conversion Equation come in. They provide predictable analysis, specific to your website based on rapid-fire pattern matching, that suggests what to test and why.

There ain’t no maps for that. No 5,000 word Skyscrapers with 200 upvotes on Inbound.org.

Instead, it typically requires a reliance on creative analysis and years of experience. Human-based pattern matching that only comes with seeing multiple different use cases across again and again and again.

That means a few things.

On the downside, machine learning will probably mean greater unemployment (or the PC label: ‘displacement’) and/or consolidation as the industry matures. Competitive margins – currently measured by a marketer’s ingenuity or experience – will diminish.

However on the plus side, machine learning will hopefully, mercifully, remove a lot of the guesswork (and political barriers) for the best data-driven marketers to do what they’re good at: delivering action based on hypothesizing and iterating.

Stringing together small wins at each little step of the customer journey to deliver significant ROI increases every step of the way.

Conclusion

Machine learning is one of the biggest (and most promising) developments that will affect the way marketing evolves over the next few decades.

The initial, nascent steps are already influencing the platforms we use on a daily basis.

The near future offers unparalleled advancement in the way we deliver results for companies and clients.

And the combination of these developments will undoubtedly shake up the way marketers, well, market.

Machine learning may have a few drawbacks. There are very real ethical concerns, as well as the high probability of taking work away from lower-level marketers.

However it’s inevitable.

It’s going to remove a lot of the grunt work, manual labor and frustration we deal with on a daily basis. And it’s got the potential to raise the influence of marketers worldwide.

That is, unless these machines don’t kill us first.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.

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Online Marketing News: Facebook Livestream Ads, Native Video on LinkedIn, & Ad-Blocking Myths Busted

Marketing News Video Marketing Infographic

The smart and talented Tiffani Allen will return for next week’s roundup. While we wait, let’s dive into what’s been happening in the news this week.

The Future of Social Video: A Brief Look into What’s Next [Infographic]

Video. Is there anything it can’t do? First it kills the radio star, and now it’s taking over social media. According to research from Adobe, over half of marketers say video content has the best ROI. If you’re feeling left behind, don’t worry: one out of four marketers and small business owners feel they’re not up to speed on video marketing. Check out the full infographic for a breakdown of video marketing by social media platform. Hubspot

This Week’s TopRank Marketing News Video Roundup

Instagram Takes a Page from Snapchat, and Takes Aim at It, Too

If your only problem with Instagram is that it isn’t Snapchat, rejoice! Instagram just introduced a new feature called Stories, collections of photos and videos (with added enhancements like stickers and drawing functionality) that, once published, will disappear after 24 hours. Sound familiar? Facebook-owned Instagram is clearly taking a shot at the platform’s biggest rival. Do the kids these days need two disappearing-picture platforms? Time will tell. New York Times

Your LinkedIn Feed Is Coming to Life with Videos from LinkedIn Influencers

LinkedIn may be late to the native video party, but they’re coming at it from an intriguing new angle. They’re not launching the product to the whole subscriber base and waiting to see what people do with it. Only a select few LinkedIn Influencers will have access to native video (at least for now), and they will be using it for a specific purpose. Influencers will be posting 30-second videos answering questions from their followers, via an app that collects questions and does the recording. LinkedIn

Facebook is Testing Mid-roll Video Ads in Facebook Live

We knew it was coming: Facebook has settled on a way to monetize their live streams. Instead of pre-roll ads, though, they’re focused on adding 15-second ads mid-stream, when already-invested viewers will be less likely to bail. The wrinkle right now is none of the ad money goes to the content producer. Facebook pockets all the loot, although they do pay popular livestreamers directly for their content. AdvertisingAge

Twitter Awards to Highlight Top Marketing Efforts

If your brand has been sufficiently rocking it on Twitter, you might want to submit your campaign for the first annual #TwitterAwards. Categories include #Live, #Impact, #Creativity, #Scale, #Customer, and #Growth. Twitter’s VP of Global Brand and Creative Strategy says winners “may receive a coveted award perfect for mantels or glass cases.” Then again, they may not. #IGuessWeWillWaitAndSee. SocialTimes

Does the IAB’s First Ad-Blocking Study Provide “The Missing Stat?”

The one thing most marketers want to know about ad blockers is, “what can we do to make people not use them?” This study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) may be able to answer that question. In their study, 20% of participants used to have ad blockers but turned them off, either because the publisher asked them to in order to view content, or because the ad blocker itself blocked content they wanted to see. Marketing Land

Snapchat Launches ‘Geostickers’ for More Location-Activated Customization

In surprising news, Snapchat did not announce a new Instagram clone this week. Instead, they added new stickers that can only be used in a certain location, much like their popular Geofilters. The catch for users is they must have location enabled on their phones to use the new features, which will make it easier to serve relevant, location-based ads in the future. Social Media Today

What marketing news stories caught your attention this week?

Tiffani will be back next week with more marketing news. Have something to share? Tweet her @Tiffani_Allen, or tell the whole team @toprank.

Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client. 


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B2B and Content Personalization: Where We Are, Where We’re Heading

For B2C businesses, content personalization is a no-brainer. Customers love the fact that something has been recommended just for them.  But what about businesses that market to other businesses? Do they get the same value out of personalized content?  A recent study from Seismic and Demand Metric took a closer look at just how effective personalized content is to B2B customers. What they found may surprise you.

How Well Does Personalized Content Perform?

For B2B businesses, personalized content is a vital part of the overall strategy, meeting stated objectives in nearly half of all cases. A little over a third of respondents reported that their personalized content performed neither well nor poorly, showing that custom tailored content still has a way to go in order to be convincing to the customer.

The good news is that over 60% of the businesses surveyed have adopted a content personalization strategy and for those that have, the effectiveness is resoundingly high:

content-effectiveness

So with that being the case, why isn’t everyone on board?  The survey also looked at the main contributing factors and found that a lack of resources, technology and data were cited more often than not.

not-personalizing-content

Is There a Content Personalization “Sweet Spot”?

So far, not much of this is news. Regular Kissmetrics readers will know that personalized content marketing is important in any strategy and that concerns like wading through collected data and turning that into action are par for the course.

But this report did hit on an important point that hasn’t often been covered accurately in the content marketing business – how much personalization is too much?

howmuchcontentispersonalized

Notice here that it’s not the amount of personalization that directly correlates to effectiveness. Those companies who personalize 80+% don’t meet their stated objectives as well as those who only personalize between 21-40%.

But before you wipe the sweat away over not having to personalize everything, the question then becomes:

Which content should I personalize for best results?

Obviously, the answer to this question will vary depending on your target audience and business goals. Only by testing and monitoring the results can you find out which personalized content resonates best with your particular audience.

In order to find the answers as to how effective the personalized content was, and how that content was categorized, DemandMetric organized content into different categories:

  • Segment specific – personalized by industry vertical or segment criteria
  • Persona specific – personalized for specific buyer types
  • Stage specific – personalized for a stage of the buying process
  • Account specific – personalized for a specific prospect organization
  • Lead specific – personalized for an individual lead

The report showcases varying levels of usage of different types of content, with segment and persona specific content personalization in use more than the others.  Of course, some companies spread their personalization efforts across many different specific areas simultaneously.  And of those organizations that reported their personalization efforts were highly effective, specific segments they focused on generated results like these:

segmentperformance

Which Content Personalization Strategies Were More Sustainable?

Over a quarter of B2B companies surveyed with regard to the actual process they used in personalizing content did so entirely manually. Over half of the companies profiled preferred a mix of manual and automatic content personalization.

Here again we cycle back to technology being a major factor why B2B companies haven’t introduced personalization on the scale they’d like to. It’s not for a lack of technology, but rather a lack of understanding on how to use the tools that are available.

And even if you know how to leverage personalization tools, there’s still the issue of bringing together all possible personalization options (targeting specific devices, or using CRM data) to create some kind of cohesive, personalized piece.

As you can see, it’s far easier for these companies to use existing content than other methods. But just because it’s easier doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s also worth noting that when it came to meeting their goals and objectives, the companies surveyed reported that geo-targeting and lead-demographic targeting were the most effective, yet they were used less than half the time.

All of these findings circle back around to resources available to put them into practice. Manual content personalization just isn’t sustainable long-term. More and more companies are looking at automated content personalization solutions as a way to help ease the burden of a lack of resources, but even automated solutions are in their infancy, and it’s entirely possible we could look back on this post in a few years and marvel at how far we’ve come.

How Do You Measure Personalized Content Effectiveness?

This was another big question that the report tried to answer. Even if you’ve got perfectly personalized content and an eager audience, how do you know it’s working?

Like with the type of content itself, participants segmented their content effectiveness into several categories, including:

  • Consumption – measuring content views, downloads or similar actions
  • Engagement – measuring session duration, conversion rate or content sharing
  • Financial – measuring ROI, lead and sales opportunities

content-effectiveness2

And of course, there were those who threw their hands up in despair and either didn’t measure or used another method.  These metrics also don’t intercross – a high level of consumption doesn’t always translate into a high ROI.

What’s Next for B2B Content Personalization?

The effectiveness of personalization is clear.  But as with all new technology and strategy initiatives, its effect on ROI is not.  More and more B2B organizations are embracing personalization as a whole, and the more they can automate the process intelligently, the better.

There’s still work to be done on leveraging all the data available, but more and more companies are discovering the benefits and embracing personalization wholeheartedly.  Sure, we’re in that awkward “crawl-before-you-walk” stage, but like all online marketing technologies, it only gets better with time.

You can read the full report from Demand Metric and Seismic here.

Has your B2B organization used personalized content effectively? Do you have methods in place to measure how well it performs? Or are you overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data out there needed to customize content to your audience’s tastes?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today! Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!

Value Force: How to win on value proposition and not just price

A recent question we received is a fairly common concern we hear from readers  customers only care about price – what do I do? So we’ve decided to answer it here on the MarketingExperiments Blog, since the answer might help you as well. And if you have a question you’d like answered on the blog, let us know.

Thanks for the outstanding workshop on value proposition. I agree that value propositions are the core to growth for any brand but the challenge I have is marketing products in a highly commoditized and fragmented category (olive oil).  Price is such a dominant element of the value proposition that it’s difficult to compete unless you’re competitive on price, which is a no-win strategy. How have you seen other brands effectively create and market a value proposition that did not rely strongly on price? ”

– Brian

 

First, let me start by defining terms, which might help. Price is not an element of the value proposition. Price is part of the cost force of the buying decision.

For every purchase customers make, they weigh the cost against the value. If the cost is too high, they will not purchase. So, essentially, a company that does not have a strong enough value force (Vf) must reduce the cost force (Cf) to get the sale.

All that stands between you and the Barbarians at the gate is a good story

As Brian mentions, it is very difficult to succeed by selling on price alone. Mostly because you will be undercut. If you’re a retailer, you probably cannot sell cheaper than Wal-Mart and Amazon and still be profitable. And there are many overseas manufacturers who can undercut your price if your product becomes commoditized.

Much like the Roman Empire eventually lost its focus and was overtaken by the Barbarian tribes, these threats are always looming in the distance, waiting to strike when they see an opportunity. And your only protection is the value your product offers and the story you tell through your marketing to communicate that value.

As Marc Lobliner, CMO, Tigerfitness.com, told me, “Differentiate yourself on something no one can compete with. Not price. Someone will always be willing to make less money than you.”

So if you can’t decrease the cost force to get more conversions, you must increase the value force. This is where the value proposition comes in.

 

Wine is just old, expensive grape juice with a really good story

The value force is made up of appeal (I want this) and exclusivity (I can only get this from you).

So your first job is to create value in your product – appealing elements that have some level of exclusivity for your product. And then your next job is to tell that story well.

The questioner asked for effective examples of this. I think a good example that relates to olive oil is the wine industry.

Wine could be a commodity product. After all, it is just old grape juice. And you can buy wine at a low price point. For example, Charles Shaw is sold at Trader Joe’s for only a few dollars, earning it the nickname “Two Buck Chuck.”

However, you can also buy a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 for $14,000.

Really, Charles Shaw and Screaming Eagle are not that different if you take the labels off the bottle. To a neophyte, they’re both mostly just aged, crushed up grapes with alcohol.

However, Screaming Eagle Winery and Vineyards has created an appealing, exclusive product for its ideal customer by producing small quantities of wines that have received 99 and 100 points from noted wine critic Robert Parker.

And that story is told well. In this case, because the value of the product is so strong, the story is coming less from the marketing and more from third parties. Listen to how wine critic Robert Parker makes the bottle sing, turning old grapes into a covetable $14,000 product: “The inky/purple-colored, seamless 2012 possesses an extraordinary set of aromatics consisting of pure blackcurrant liqueur, licorice, acacia flowers, graphite and a subtle hint of new oak.”

 

Building and communicating value

Robert Louis Stevenson said that “wine is bottled poetry.”

But olive oil is bottled poetry, too. And so is printer ink. And ketchup. Your job is to create that poetry and then write the poem through your marketing.

Let’s go back to olive oil. How can you increase the value force? How can you improve the value proposition?

Well, I did a quick search on Google Shopping for “olive oil,” and I can get a 25.5-ounce bottle of Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil for $7.96 in a plastic bottle.

But if I search for “organic olive oil,” a 25.4-ounce bottle of Bionaturae Extra Virgin Olive Oil is $21 and comes in a glass bottle.

Aside from glass being a more appealing bottle than plastic, one of the reasons Bionaturae is able to charge three times more is simply because it is a USDA certified organic product. Organic increases the value force (for the ideal customer) because it taps into value that is appealing to the customer, such as  the product is healthier or that it aligns with their values because synthetic chemicals were not used to grow the olives.

So the organic certification clearly adds some appeal but not much in the way of exclusivity. While organic olive oil is somewhat more exclusive than just plain olive oil, there are many brands of USDA certified organic olive oil. So let’s take a trip further up the price ladder.

One of the most expensive bottles of organic olive oil on the first page of my Google Shopping results is Minerva Olive Oil, which is $58 for 16.9 fluid ounces of olive oil. Like the Bionaturae, it has some of the same appeal because it is made from “100% organic olives that are pesticide and additive free.”

When I got to the Minerva Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil landing page, additional elements of appeal are communicated. For example, it won a superior taste award.

But there are elements of exclusivity, as well. For example, it “arrives at your table after being thoroughly tested at Minerva laboratory, one of the 7 worldwide accredited laboratories by the International Olive Council.”

As you can see, I’m not just talking about marketing. And I’m certainly not talking about spin, hype or endless promotions. I’m talking about the creation of and then clear communication of value. This is why some wines sell for two bucks while other wine sells for $14,000 – and why some customers will pay $7.96 for olive oil, while others will pay $58.

 

How to uncommoditize your products

Sure, it’s not a word, but I say if products can be commoditized, you should be able to uncommoditize them as well. If you’ve decided that your business strategy is not to compete on price, here are a few ideas to help you build that value proposition.

Step #1. Identify the ideal customer

Some people will never spend $58, or even $21, for a bottle of olive oil. They’ll spend $7.96 every single time.

And that’s fine. However, it doesn’t mean you have to compete on price.

You can identify customers that are willing to spend a little or a lot more for your product than the base price and understand what they value.

Step #2. Identify the value your product already offers

Fingers crossed here – but your product already offers some value to the world. It may just be a base level of value that corresponds to the commoditized price for that product.

Or, you may be offering additional value that you aren’t communicating. For example, many customers now place a significant value on how their food is produced. If you’re producing olive oil grown by family farmers in California from olive trees planted 100 years ago but you’re not communicating it to your customers, there may be hidden value that you can reveal with your marketing to increase the value force to your customers.

Step #3. Identify the value your product could offer

Again, increasing the price of your product takes more than marketing. You must increase the tangible and intangible value of your product and then increase the perception of that value with your marketing.

For example, let’s say you discover that your ideal customer is worried about inferior quality olive oil being passed off as extra virgin olive oil. You could contract with a third-party service, perhaps a local university, to run tests and certify that your olive oil is the real deal.

This is combining the tangible value your product already had (you’ve always been selling the good stuff) with intangible value (the third-party verification) to create greater perceived value and a stronger value force.

Step #4: Turn actual value into perceived value

The actual value of your product has no value force until your customers perceive it. And this is where your marketing comes in.

Create content marketing that tells the story of the farmers growing the olives for your oil. Use a third-party seal to show that your olive oil is the good stuff. Use your marketing to help customers clearly understand the value of your product.

And then  and only then  can you increase the price.

 

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, @DanielBurstein.

 

You might also like

Value Proposition Development online course [From MECLABS, parent research organization of MarketingExperiments]

Content Marketing: How a farm justifies premium pricing [From MarketingSherpa Blog]

Marketing Strategy: What is your “Only Factor”? [From MarketingSherpa Blog]

MarketingExperiments Research Directory

Consumer Marketing: All that stands between you and Walmart is a good story


Why Every SaaS Employee Is A Part of Customer Success

Customer success is a necessity.

For your SaaS business to survive, your team must focus on solving the consumer’s problem.

Lincoln Murphy, founder of Sixteen Ventures, defines it even better: “Customer success is when your customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company.”

So, how are you serving your customer? What keeps them satisfied with your solution?

Customer success isn’t a lonely department. It should be engrained in every employee’s position. Work with your entire team to fully engage your customers and to add more value at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Let’s explore your team’s role within customer success.

It Takes A Village

Justification is one hurdle associated with customer success. Senior management may have doubts about allocating specific resources for this function.

The question is usually the same: Is this worth the expense?

Despite reluctance, the answer is yes.

At the 2015 Gainsight Pulse conference, Jason Lemkin noted that “customer success is where 90% of the revenue is.” Therefore, it’s important to stress the power of customer success to your team.

Think of customer success as a long-term strategy. It should focus on how every team member can help customers accomplish their goals.

The image below depicts how Mike McKee of Rapid7 structures his customer success team. It shows how the company “sells a contract, deploys its software, engenders adoption and expands accounts.”

customer-success-team-structure

Sarah Brown, a growth marketer at ServiceRocket, suggests investing early in customer success:

“There’s no such thing as too early for starting to define a Customer Success model – in fact, it’s smart to think about it as soon as you do a customer acquisition model. This may start as: “How do we do great customer onboarding, promote adoption, and deliver value in the first 30-60-90 days?” and then scale into a full-blown Customer Success program over time.”

Avoid pinning customer success to one particular person. Prepare a strategy today and get everyone to take part in the customer’s journey.

Before the Sale

In this new era of shopping, customers have more information at their fingertips. They surf the web diligently and compare prices at their leisure.

To stand out from the competition, start engaging your prospects with value. That translates to offering product benefits and prices upfront.

People want to know now. Sometimes, they don’t want to wait for a phone call from a sales rep, which will only waste their time with a long sales pitch. Instead, nurture your leads.

MarketingSherpa reports that “businesses that nurture their leads experience a 45% increase in lead generation ROI when compared with businesses that don’t.”

Prepare content that will entice prospects to learn more. For example, you may want to try creating a 60-second explainer video or hosting a webinar.

“By dripping your sales team with new marketing content that they can use to help sell your product, you can position marketing as a valuable resource to sales,” writes Jenna Hanington, Senior Content Strategist at Pardot.

“This includes content like data sheets, new eBooks, competitive one-sheeters, and even educational videos that provide selling tips from other sales reps.”

In a blog post, Steli Efti of Close.io dissects the Hubspot’s email drip campaign. Here’s the first email he received after signing up for their free trial:

close-hubspot-email

The key is to understand that lead nurturing shouldn’t be a sales or marketing goal. Think about how everyone’s core skills can transform prospects into customers.

Onboarding Engagement

Most SaaS companies fall short in the onboarding process. They don’t realize that once the sale is complete nurturing doesn’t stop.

It’s up to your team to ensure that customers accomplish their intended goals. Because if they don’t, customers will see not see the value in keeping your service.

Meet with your marketing, sales, and product teams to create a specific approach. An integrated plan will provide a clear perspective on everyone’s role.

Guy Marion, CMO of AutopilotHQ, states, “By mapping these processes into the onboarding nurture journey, vendors can codify their best practices, help more customers get started ‘the right way’, and enjoy improved user satisfaction and fewer support inquiries from new customers. Satisfied customers produce higher lifetime values…”

Begin by welcoming your new customer into your brand’s culture. Create videos introducing them to your team. Let users know who will be helping them achieve success.

Furthermore, send tailored emails to your users based on their behaviors, because no two customers are alike.

Studies reveal that “trigger emails have a 152% higher open rate compared to traditional email.” These emails appeal to your users and keep them engaged.

Set easy milestones for your customer. What do you want them to accomplish on the first day? What about the second week?

There should be a natural progression toward the goal. And the customer should know the timeline. Process Street offers its users milestones in the form of lessons via in-app messaging.

process-street-milestone-email

Use onboarding as a tool to gain valuable insight on how to improve the customer experience. Ask users questions and gauge their satisfaction.

If you’re using Kissmetrics, you can also use the Funnel Report to optimize your onboarding process.

Retention Maintenance

Research reveals, “companies with a dedicated customer success team see a 24% lower churn rate than companies without customer success.”

In other words: If you make customer success a priority, your SaaS will experience growth.

To retain more customers, build quality relationships with your customer base. And this doesn’t mean, sending emails to them when you need something.

Des Traynor, co-founder Intercom, agrees:

“Trying to be cute and saying ‘We miss you, please log in’ doesn’t work. You have to motivate a user to log in. There are often some features that will bring customers back, or prevent them from switching. By offering churning customers a glimpse of what’s coming down the line, you can excite them about future releases.”

Similar to the pre-sale process, offer your current customers undeniable value. Have they set new goals? How can your team help?

When you understand their objectives, then you will have a foundation to build a solid retention strategy. Team meetings should focus on providing more value, not increasing logins.

Identify your brand advocates. These customers love your products.

Enlist these users into a special referral program. Give them discounts for signing up new customers or cool swag bags for spreading the word about your services.

For instance, Evernote offers their customers premium services for referrals.

invite-friends-evernote

Retention is all about relationships. How will each team member build a better relationship with your customers?

Training Necessary

Customer success is still a fairly new concept for SaaS companies.

The best way to approach it is by educating your employees. Plus, according to the Workplace Research Foundation, “increasing employee engagement investments by 10% can increase profits by $2,400 per employee, per year.”

Recommend blog posts covering the topic to your team. Suggest webinars that will expand their knowledge about the subject.

You can also offer specialized in-house training to your team. That way, your employees know what customer success looks like for your particular organization. Trainings should provide real-world examples and scenarios on how to approach different situations.

“Know your ideal customer. Communicate with your ideal customer. Understand what that customer wants, and track whether or not they’re getting it. Then, help them get more of it,” says Nichole Elizabeth DeMere, a SaaS consultant and customer success evangelist.

In the end, your team should understand the value of customer success and its purpose.

Customer Success At Every Level

How your SaaS approaches customer success matters. Everyone in your company plays an integral part in ensuring that consumers achieve their desired outcomes.

Entice prospects with content that captures their attention. Help your customers exceed their expectations. And improve your services by encouraging customer feedback.

Customer success-a team effort.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.