Goal: Loyalty, referral and advocacy. Activate and engaged customers to share content and answer community questions. Over time, they become ‘brand ambassadors’ whilst, at the same time, reducing the emphasis on customer support resources.
User Cohorts: Applicable to all user cohorts
In an increasingly competitive landscape, users are constantly being bombarded with offers across various channels, especially across ads and email. The temptation for users to be drawn to potential new solutions is always there, and all it takes is a great offer for customers to potentially churn or simply ‘quit’.
Plus, you also have to remember and consider that competitor solutions to yours have SDRs and business development representatives who are actively looking and reaching out for users that you have. If you’re in a competitive SaaS vertical, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
While your product has to be good and satisfies the users’ needs/wants, you have to look into building ‘defensibility’ strategies - that is, strategies and initiatives that make it hard for competitors to replicate.
Providing support and building a community of like-minded customers/users that can help each other out is a great strategy for building defensibility.
Why community-led initiatives are a key retention strategy your company needs to invest in
Users love to hear from other users who are trying to achieve the same goal - your customers are your best advocators for the solution you’re providing.
Users want to hear from other others who may have gone through a similar problem and want to hear from their experience.
Having a thriving and engaging community can help reduce the burden and reliance on customer support - in many ways, your community members are like customer support team members (without being on the books).
Community members naturally become brand advocates and reliable sources of content that relates to your service offering, which is great for non-active users and users who haven’t upgraded to a paid plan.
There are many other benefits, but you can see some of the core reasons why.
I personally believe in the new age of generative AI, building active and engaged communities for SaaS companies will help companies stand out whilst also achieving multiple growth objectives across acquisition and retention.
What are some great examples of SaaS companies with communities?
One of my favorite tools as a growth marketer is Airtable, and they have a great community hub that is fairly active.
They have a community portal setup, which includes user submission of questions, a list of upcoming events, various categories of sections for visitors to dive further into, and more.
What I really like about it is the fact they’ve got a “Top Solution Authors” section. Great for browsers to see that there are real people who are moderating and contributing, while also ensuring these contributors get the recognition they deserve.
If you’re running a community, community moderators/admins should be a core part of your strategy. This is a great example reference that you can save and monitor over time.
Whilst the Airtable community strategy is a custom-built solution, if you’re looking for a cheaper and accessible solution that doesn’t break the bank, you can use no-code tools, such as Notion.
In fact, Notion uses its own product to display various links and resources within its community.
Recommended Reading: we curated the top SaaS communities to be part of. Many of them operate really well, and there’s a lot to learn from each of them when it comes to community strategy.
Mistakes to avoid (and recommendations) when running communities
Don’t neglect your community or only post one piece of content per week.
To make a community work and thrive, you need to set the precedence and cadence of content.
When you post certain types of content (3rd party articles, polls, etc.), then many users will then start to follow.
Not providing adequate internal resources - the reality is you do need a resource who’s responsible for driving the community discussion and engagement, but if you’re a smaller SaaS, you don’t need to invest much time to develop something amazing. Even just a few hours a week from a marketer in the team can go a long way.
Pick the right platform to facilitate your community that makes sense for your business size.
Under 2000 users/community members - Whilst I love some of the community-focused platforms and tools that exist on the market, the reality is for many SaaS brands with less than 2000 users, you need to make joining a community, like your onboarding, frictionless. Particularly if you’re in the early growth stages of your business as you’re limited on resources already. Focus on platforms that you know many of your users will spend time on, such as Slack or Facebook Groups.
More than 2000+ users/community members - If you’re in a fast-growth/scaling phase and you have a really strong customer base, then I certainly recommend looking into dedicated community-based platforms such as Circle or Mighty Networks, where they provide a great experience and awesome features for large communities. Plus, they also have great integrations and analytics capabilities, whereas Slack and Facebook groups are quite limited in what you can do.
To make a community work, speaking from experience, having built and ran one myself, as well as what I’ve seen other top brands do, they focus on doing these experiments and tactics for community growth.
Seed content daily.
If you’re wanting to build a community, you need to seed good content regularly. To be honest, that means at least sharing a piece of content or running some sort of engagement post (like a poll or community question) to spark conversation daily.
Test and share various media content and formats, where you can measure what types of content perform well over time.
That includes sharing various content related to your brand and various content types. For example:
Setting up simple polls (great for engagement).
Share blog content and other helpful resources.
Develop lead magnet content (such as cheat sheets, lead magnets, etc.) for people to download and use.
Share topical news that is related and ‘hot’ - this typically goes well with community members wanting to share their opinion.
You can even share 3rd-party content and publications that can spark discussion.
Extract content for re-engagement/reactivation email flows - remember, your existing users are your greatest advocates.
For less engaged users, add content from the community into non-active user journeys and flows. This can be great to highlight to less active users that real people are sharing their experiences within the given area you serve in, alongside how the software solution to helping them with their goals.
Run AMA’s with ‘influencers’ or thought leaders within the space.
AMA’s perform really well for a few SaaS communities I’m a part of. Great for reminding your audience that you’re providing amazing value and your product is affiliated with and used by other industry thought leaders (reinforces trust and credibility).
Recruit and work with community admins/moderators
A big thing I’ve seen work well with communities, especially with what the likes of Reddit and Indie Hackers have done, is to ensure there are moderators to ensure people behave in the community, as well as share high-quality content. Moderators can actually be your customers, and you could even incentivise these users, such as access to priority features or potential discounts (or even a free month off their paid plan).
Bonus thought: If you currently don’t have a community, but you have the resources to invest, you could potentially consider an acquisition of a community. Building from scratch can take time, so if you’re looking for a faster path, acquiring could be a viable option. For example, Stripe acquired Indie Hackers, where Stripe saw the right user demographic to continually support the ecosystem and ensure they stay top of mind when it comes to creators and entrepreneurs building businesses.
Final thoughts on retention
To conclude this series, you can see the passion I have for retention marketing for SaaS and why I think it matters more than ever for companies, given the current economic climate, increased competition, and the new wave of generative AI which will have repercussions and affects on organic search, social, and other key channels.
As I’ve stated, there are hundreds of other strategies that you can test and implement for your SaaS business, but these six key areas are strategies that I believe you should be focusing on in today’s fast-changing landscape to give you a strong edge over your competitors. And don’t forget to bookmark the Retention & Revenue Series pageention-and-revenue-series/, which includes every strategy discussed in this series.
Dan Siepen is a growth marketer from Sydney with over 8+ years of experience across SaaS and eCommerce/DTC. He’s obsessed with all things SaaS marketing, working with some of Australia’s (and overseas) fastest-growing (and very exciting) startups. Plus, he loves and enjoys mentoring startups/entrepreneurs, as well as knowledge sharing across the ever-changing/fast-moving landscape of growth marketing. Make sure to check out his site for awesome growth marketing resources (they’re really great)."