The SaaS industry has the fastest growth rate in history, and since 2014 its market size has more than doubled. Seems like SaaS companies have it made right now, but that kind of astronomical growth is a double-edged sword. Customers are more discerning than ever and the cost of acquiring them has skyrocketed, and that’s without taking into account the sheer amount of competition nipping at your heels, even if you’re seemingly the only viable solution out there.
So what’s the answer? Well, it’s not a quick fix by any means but it will ensure your customers are happy, well cared for, and sticking around for the long term, it’s called community-led growth.
In this article, we’ll be exploring:
- What constitutes a community
- The benefits of community growth
- How to get started on building a community
Let’s dive in, shall we?
What is community-led growth?
Community-led growth is a go-to-market strategy that relies on an engaged community of customers as a tool for acquiring new customers, retaining existing customers, and expanding your business reach.
When we talk about a community, we’re not just talking about a Facebook business page, we’re talking about an active, engaged community where potential members can access information quickly, chat about your solution, and offer each other advice.
Cough cough, to see what we mean, go check out ours. 😏👇
If you’re providing a great service, your community consists of a collection of people who believe in and support your brand, and you don’t have to have 1,000s of members either, a small community of 20+ engaged users is a great place to start.
The benefits of a SaaS community
Building a valuable community for your users mutually benefits you both, especially if you offer community members perks and incentives. Once you’ve established trust and built a rapport with your supporters the instantaneous feedback you’ll receive on a new update or feature is priceless, user surveys and feedback forms just won’t cut it in anymore.
So let’s take a look at some of the unique benefits of the community-led go-to-market model.
A lot of businesses point users to an open forum to get their questions answered; just look at Quora, it’s taken on a life of its own and consequently is now a brand of its own. People feel accomplished by being able to answer a query and in turn, the person who asked the question trusts that they’re getting an unbiased answer from an experienced user.
A lot of the time your community will do a better job than customer support, especially if they use your product day-to-day, as there's a higher chance they’ve encountered the same problem as the person looking for answers.
Testimonials and case studies are super powerful tools for acquiring new customers and having a community of advocates at your fingertips. If your community is engaged enough they’ll be happy to provide you with Trustpilot reviews or testimonials you can use on your landing pages.
With the right incentives and level of service, they’ll refer friends, peers, or co-workers to your product.
You could also make this a fun experience and ask people to record interesting and creative video tutorials, and offer a prize or bonus for the best one.
Existing customers are 70% more likely to buy something from you than a new customer.
With this statistic in mind, having an online community of happy members makes upselling and cross-selling so much easier. If a community member recommends a certain feature in their plan a customer on a lower-tier plan doesn’t have, you don’t even have to swoop in there to convince them to upgrade, your community of advocates are doing it for you.
Launching new features in the community that are only available on higher-tier plans is also a great way to see a spike in membership upgrades.
Nobody’s perfect and whatever kind of product or service you’re offering there’s always room for improvement. An online community is the perfect social listening tool for you to pinpoint exactly what it is your users want and need. What are your subscribers saying about the service? How do you compare with competitors, what are your weak points? Checking out your product through the eyes of the subscriber should give you a tonne of insight into what you could implement into your next release.
Have we piqued your interest about what it takes to build a community yet? Good, let’s take a look at the steps we’ve outlined below.
Using your community as a social listening tool doesn’t just improve your product, it helps you identify gaps in your content strategy. If you listen carefully your community is a goldmine of quality content ideas. You can take inspiration from the main topics you see cropping up and questions you see asked frequently. Asking members of the community to contribute is also a great way to strengthen your content and your relationships. If there’s a subject you’re not too sure about, ask an expert to take the reigns and write the piece, a lot of the time potential contributors are more than happy to help providing they have the time. This approach adds so much value to the community and allows for extended reach, as most contributors will want to share their piece with their networks.
How to build a brand community
Approach your early-stage recruitment as you would with early-stage sales: start with soft targets. You could write personalized emails to a select few existing customers, friends of your company or industry thought leaders you’ve had contact with previously. Manage expectations early on and let them know they’re the first core members and that you appreciate their support while you build this community around them.
Start small and attract your initial audience via their passion for their chosen career path, offer learning resources, blogs, tips, anything to ignite your user’s excitement for your solution. Assign a small budget to your community so you can offer incentives or rewards for referrals and testimonials. Regular content and engagement is the key to growth.
Set expectations early
For your community to grow your members need to know exactly what you expect from them.
- Are there any suggested activities?
- Do they have to engage regularly to stay in the community?
- Are they expected to participate in events or organized activities?
Lay some ground rules
Be clear about your communication housekeeping, when you join our Slack community you’re met with an in-app message clearly laying out our community rules.
- Point users to the appropriate channels for questions, general chat, introductions, etc
- Explain the appropriate way to engage with other members
- Explain the type of content members can and can’t post
- Are unsolicited DMs appropriate?
This point in the onboarding journey is a great opportunity to make members aware of other areas of your site early on, to help them get maximum value out of everything you offer.
What’s your brand’s goal? What do you hope to achieve by starting this community? Are you launching a new product? A new feature? Do you hope to hit a certain number of users? If you’re upfront with your members about your goals, they’re more inclined to help when they realize the extent of what their contribution means to you.
Your members should be at the center of everything you do! Celebrate them accordingly.
We love to shout about our members and share their accomplishments. Celebrate each milestone with something special, discounts, freebies, meetups for your founding 50/100/500 members. Shout out new community members at the end of each week, acknowledging and celebrating new members goes a long way in making people feel a part of something special.
The difference between a mailing list and a community is events. Can you fill a small space on or offline with people eager to converse and share best practices? The first few events are fairly nerve-wracking and it definitely pays to have some kind of host or facilitator to get the conversation flowing (especially if you’re hosting an online event). If people find value in these meetings, even if just friendly chit-chat after a long day of working remotely, they’re likely to bring some colleagues to the community with them next time.
So there we have it, community is a powerful tool when put front and center. Introduced early enough into the customer journey, it’s an acquisition channel, a product feedback forum, and a brand differentiator.
If you’d like to be a part of The Future of SaaS community, sign up to our free Slack community for discussions with peers, networking opportunities, ideas, and best practices.