In my guest post on CustomerThink I talked about the benefits of community building and how it helps SaaS companies get a few steps ahead of their competition. To get more practical, I recently interviewed over 10 SaaS companies and asked them 4 questions:
- Which platform(s) do you use to run your community?
- How long has your community been running?
- How does your community help your company grow?
- How do you measure the success of your community?
If you are still unsure about the value of community marketing or are just about to launch yours, keep reading.
SaaS Community Marketing: 13 stories from software companies
Announcing new features, increasing customer satisfaction and retention are among the top functions of an online community.
#1 Matej Kukucka, Head of Marketing at LiveAgent (Help desk software) says:
“We run our community on Facebook because it’s where most of the SaaS communities are being hosted. We have been running our community for more than a year now.
Our community is the best way for us to inform our customers about upcoming updates and new features. We don’t necessarily think it affects our sales, but it definitely impacts overall customer satisfaction.
We measure the success of our community by the direct feedback to our posts. All we are are our satisfied customers and we tend to post mostly new features, which we feel will be beneficial for our users.
All-in-all, the community is the best way to keep users on top of the updates, and it certainly reduces the churn rate.”
Your online community may become your first destination for interviewing company representatives, turning those answers into articles, and improving your organic rankings.
#2 Joshua Wood, CEO and Founder at Bloc (SaaS platform for the hospitality industry) says:
“I run the Bloc community using Tribe. The community has been running for over a year now. We use the platform for our user base and advertisers to discuss almost everything regarding our software.
We also encourage our users to complete surveys that we can use for SEO purposes.
For example, we ask people an array of questions on ‘restaurant marketing’ and then use the answers and data to write data-driven articles. These are always very easy to get published by journalists and bloggers.”
From networking to having discussions and acquiring customers, your community marketing efforts may produce various benefits in one place.
#3 Laura Grandi-Hill, Event Marketing Manager at Airbase (Spend management software) says:
“Our community, Off the Ledger runs on Slack. It has been running since November of 2019 and now has a membership of over 1,500!
It’s a finance and accounting community that helps Airbase grow by giving us a steady pipeline of guest bloggers and webinar speakers (which has included finance leaders from SeatGeek, Uber and more).
Also, the various 1:1 networking, topic roundtables and other programs we run for the community help raise awareness of Airbase. We have found that prospects are much more likely to convert to a paying customer if they’re also a community member.
Since our community lives in Slack, our #1 measure of success is member participation in the online discussions. We expect several member posts/answers per day in our main channels.
Also, we look for a steady increase in membership numbers (both organic and member-invited), and overall participation in our various community programs.
Overall, it has proven to be a valuable resource for the community members. As we continue to work remotely, often employees are losing that human touch or personal development. With Off the Ledger, we are creating a valuable resource that both engages and informs our community.”
Your community members will become your product contributors by helping develop new features and improving the existing ones.
#4 Jessica Traupe, Senior Marketing Manager at Zammad (Helpdesk or issue tracking system) says:
The Open Source project around our code started in 2014 and has been growing ever since. We have received over 2.6k GitHub stars and seen thousands of fixes.
Our community members regularly contribute to our product by providing translations, fixing bugs, supplying workarounds or even laying the foundation for new features.
Amazingly, our community works very independently. Of course, our team is involved to an extent, and we have an external part-time moderator for support. But mostly our members help each other, and it works like a charm. We have 2592 community members now (and counting)”.
Here’s another example of how important community feedback is.
#5 Sebastian Schaeffer, CTO at dofollow.io (B2B PR SaaS) says:
“Our community is primarily on Facebook and Linkedin and it has been live for over a year.
We use both of our communities to spur conversation and get some of the many thoughtful and experienced people, including many in our target market, discuss the application. We actively encourage criticism so that we get feedback that helps us make meaningful changes to the product and constantly improve user experience.
For example, before releasing/starting to develop a new feature, we run it by our community first. A simple post asking ‘is this something that would make running your business easier?’ or ‘would this improve your experience with the software?’ is often enough for us to decide whether we should invest money in development or not.
Community success is a function of how many new beta testers we get regularly. If we can convince 3-4 new users to use the software each week and add their thoughts to our pool of users and commentators, then we are happy with how our community operates”.
Community marketing helps you reduce customer support queries and increase trust towards your product.
#6 Bryan Clayton, CEO at GreenPal (Online freelancing platform for landscapers) says:
“About three months ago we shifted all of the user support and community engagement for our lawn maintenance vendors over to a dedicated private Facebook group.
The thinking behind this was to create an ongoing central knowledge base where vendors can share information on how to grow their business on the GreenPal platform, and also a way for my co-founders and I could engage the community in a scalable way.
This has been a huge success for growing the GreenPal sense of community among our vendor base. And in most cases, our team doesn’t have to handle support requests anymore because other members help each other out now in the closed Facebook group.
Another side benefit is new vendors see the success of establishmed ones and it inspires them to stay engaged with the GreenPal platform and grow their business on top of GreenPal”.
The main purpose of an online community isn’t always customer support or user feedback. Sometimes it’s a place for people with similar interests to ask questions and discuss trends.
#7 Datis Mohsenipour, Director of Marketing at HeyOrca (Social media calendar tool) says:
“Our Life in Social Community runs on a Facebook Group. The community has been running for over 2 years now!
Our community is focused on social media managers and agency professionals.
It’s primarily built for people to have discussions about social media marketing and client management strategies, and to help each other troubleshoot any issues they may be experiencing. The social media-related issues are broad and not necessarily related to our tool.
We use the community from time to time to promote our services. But the focus of the community is for members to help one another out.
We also leverage polls and discussions in the community to help influence the content we are creating and other marketing efforts.
There are a few key ways we measure success in our community:
- Number of new discussions started by group members
- Volume of overall engagement
- Membership growth”
Where will new trends be discussed and how will bugs be fixed if not with the help of your community?
#8 Grant Polachek, Head of Marketing and Branding at Squadhelp (Naming platform) says:
“Currently, our community spans from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our own Forum section on our site. Our community has been running for roughly 9 years and continues to grow daily.
Our primary platform where we actively interact with our community is Twitter. User engagement is a primary growth source for our page, and many people will post their domain sales connecting with Squadhelp. This helps drive their own domain but also increases Squadhelp’s visibility throughout the platform.
Our community forum is also a popular platform because it actively allows members to communicate and interact with each other in real-time. Not only does this section help with troubleshooting, it allows users to share current trends and habits within the market.
Success within our community growth is largely measured by follower increases, engagement numbers, and consumer satisfaction with our services.
Keeping up with market and community trends has helped the company experience exponential growth, even through the pandemic.”
What’s the most essential thing for an early-stage startup? Of course, “real feedback from users”.
#9 Gonçalo Martins Ribeiro, CEO at Ydata (Development platform for data quality) says:
“Our community was founded in January 2021 and runs on Slack.
Real feedback from users is the most important information for an early-stage startup. Also, when developing an innovative product and creating a new category, it is needed to focus on the early adopters that usually are the ones looking for the niche communities.
Number of GitHub stars, number of members in Slack, number of downloads on the open-source repository, activity in the Slack channel are our top metrics to measure success”.
Providing expertise, giving value to customers, and ultimately acquiring new users: here’s how community building online can work.
#10 Andrew Cabasso, Head of Customer Success at Postaga (Marketing platform) says:
“Our community has been running on a Facebook group for almost 1 year. The Facebook community helps in a ton of different ways. It helps us share new features with our users. It also helps us get a lot of feedback at once related to our products.
Also, the community has helped us find new customers (some of our members have stumbled across our group even though they were not familiar with our product, or they were referred by friends).
Mainly though, the community has helped us provide more value to our customers. Aside from using the community just for our benefit, we also post relevant content regularly and facilitate networking in our space that has been tremendously helpful for community members.
For example, we regularly provide expert advice to our community members asking questions related to our industry, or provide them with feedback to help them get better results with their marketing efforts.
My main metric for success is engagement. If people are engaged with our content, interact with our posts, commenting, replying, and reacting, then I see that they are getting value out of it. If posts are getting no comments or reactions, then our efforts are not helping”.
Here’s one more company that uses its community for multiple purposes, from announcing new features, to sharing knowledge, and collecting user feedback.
#11 Olek Potrykus, Head of Customer Success at Tidio (Live chat, chatbots, and email marketing solutions) says:
“We’ve got a Facebook group that has been running for almost 3 years now, we started it in September 2018.
Community marketing provides a safe and friendly space for our product users to connect and share knowledge about bots, automation opportunities, and live chats.
Our support team is always present in the group, ready to answer any questions our users may have. We share all our product updates there and encourage users to share their ideas on how to make the product better.
What’s more, we also post our blog content to the community, which raises a lot of fruitful discussions and provides us with unique feedback on what topics our users are most interested in. All in all, our community is a great environment for knowledge sharing, additional customer support, and mutual growth.
Currently, all our community metrics are in the test mode, and we are not measuring the activity there. Soon enough we are planning to start measuring the number of interactions that our users have there that would otherwise create a support ticket.
This could highlight the potential of further growing the community and guide us towards a more clear understanding of users’ communication preferences.”
#12 Lilia Stoyanov, CEO at Transformify (Freelance management system)
“An online community helps us build relationships between Transformify and our customers directly. The major platforms where we have an online community is our own blog, Facebook Group, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Reddit.
Being involved and engaged in the community is not only beneficial for Transformify but for its surrounding communities as well. It helps us create a positive outlook for our company in the community, and at the same time our employees also enjoy their time with the company and are more loyal. For instance, if a customer is in-between two businesses that offer the same Freelance Management System, they are more likely to choose Transformify.
Besides improving your reputation and increasing awareness for your business, being involved provides great benefits to the community as well.
We measure the success of our community by the engagement and the responses of our customers. There must be a deep understanding of the importance of building and maintaining a digital community in this era.”
Last but not least, this is a classical example of a community where users ask questions, help each other, provide feedback.
#13 Petra Odak, CMO at Better Proposals (Online proposal software)
“Our biggest community is on Facebook, where we have a group for our users, followers and fans. We’ve had the group since 2017.
The group is super useful because we have users asking questions about the product, other users helping them, some of them sharing best practices, tips and tricks and so on. We use the feedback from this group to make our product better and to give our customers a space to ask questions and discuss.
We measure the success of the community by the number of new discussions and comments, as well as new signups that we get from there.”
Every SaaS company has its unique community and its special approach to growing it. No matter what goals you pursue with your community, it’s an asset that no one can steal or copy.