Unless you keep customers interested in your product, they’ll have no qualms about canceling their subscription and moving on to the next best thing on the market.
And once they leave, they’ll take their money with them, which was the money you were counting on to become the recurring monthly revenue that would keep your business alive.
Hence, customer engagement is vital for SaaS business profitability.
According to Baremetrics, SaaS startups have a payback period of 5 to 12 months. In other words, it takes almost a year for the profits you receive from a customer to exceed the cost of acquiring that same customer.
So how do you engage customers to use your product, at least for long enough to see a positive return?
We have five tips to ensure your customers stay happy and engaged.
Use Video for Product Education
Video is one of the best forms of media to capture the attention of your customers.
Watching videos is fast, fun, and easy, and they can be used for different purposes on different channels: from bite-sized social media snippets to longer YouTube tutorials or product demos.
Furthermore, users love videos. As many as 69% of participants in a Wyzowl survey said they prefer to watch a short video when learning about a new product or service. Therefore, videos are the ultimate tool for SaaS businesses to educate their audience on the product.
A good example of a SaaS company fully leveraging the power of video is Canva, one of the most popular graphic design platforms.
Canva’s tagline is “Empowering the world to design.”
Therefore, all of Canva’s video content aims to help users succeed with the platform by educating them on how to design stunning graphics on their own.
So, for instance, there is a Design School section on Canva’s website with various video courses, webinars, and live events.
source: Canva Design School
Furthermore, Canva uses its YouTube channel to show customers how to easily create designs for nearly everything they can think of.
The videos are lively, positive, and colorful, which perfectly reinforces Canva’s brand.
Some of Canva’s videos are longer overviews for beginners, detailing all aspects of using the platform. On the other hand, some are less than a minute long and highlight lesser-known tips, tricks, or tools.
Canva knows its audience well and understands that a more prolific designer doesn’t require extensive A-Z tutorials like a new user.
Moreover, to help users find what they need quickly, videos are organized into playlists that appeal to specific segments of the audience, such as Instagram users, businesses, or educators, and there’s also a playlist of tutorials in Spanish.
To make things more interesting, Canva recently launched a series called Pimp My Design, where Canva’s community education lead Ronny Hermosa provides feedback and improvement tips on user-submitted designs.
Judging by the comments, users love the series:
That’s because the videos are helpful, educational, and authentic, which creates an emotional connection better than any other format could.
And speaking of emotional connection—check out the types of videos Canva posts on their Facebook page.
This short video belongs to Canva’s Design Stories series. The series presents inspiring stories of real people, while also highlighting how Canva designs contributed to the success of a business, cause, or mission.
Evidently, Canva excels at bringing the product closer to its customers.
Videos like the one above keep users entertained and inspired, while simultaneously teaching them how to use the design tool. Additionally, this strategy helps Canva build a loyal community around the brand.
Take some tips from Canva and see how you can spruce up your product education videos.
Also, remember that your users’ skills and needs change over time, so the more you can personalize your videos to different customer segments, the more you eliminate the chances that users will get bored and leave.
Make the Best Possible First Impression
If you’re a SaaS business, the onboarding stage is when you set the foundation for a long and successful partnership with your customer.
Your customer engagement efforts should therefore start as soon as the user converts, so they can be nudged further down the funnel—to purchase, activate, and regularly renew their subscription.
As the very first step, you need to engage new customers, so they commit to your SaaS product for longer than a free trial period.
Users need to see the value immediately in order to decide it’s worth signing up and, ultimately, paying for your service.
Check out how Duolingo, a language learning app, implements an Aha! Moment early on:
The new user has successfully reached a goal (their first in-app translation). Their success is celebrated with a badge, and a prompt to repeat it:
It is then that Duolingo asks the user to sign up:
Duolingo puts the outcome first, so it hooks the user within minutes of downloading the app. As a result, the user is engaged: they’ve seen how the app works, and they’ve already achieved progress.
Have you noticed how Duolingo uses frequent prompts to encourage users to practice daily?
This is an excellent strategy to drive habitual use and continuous engagement with the app—in other words, it boosts its “stickiness”.
As Paul Schmidt, senior consultant at SmartBugMedia puts it:
Therefore, the majority of your onboarding process should aim to demonstrate why the product should be an essential part of your user’s daily workflow, and reinforce the message.
We’ve already mentioned how videos drive user engagement, which is also an irreplaceable part of the onboarding experience.
While the Duolingo app is rather straightforward in its scope, a more complex software will necessitate a walkthrough.
Remember that an onboarding video is not a marketing video: it doesn’t need to show what your product can do, but how to do something.
Here’s an example of a walkthrough video for Miro, Knowmium’s whiteboard and collaboration software:
The video includes a screencast as well as guidance and commentary on Miro’s functions, features, and settings. Also, the video sections are timestamped, so users can quickly refer to the part of the walkthrough they need at any time.
The benefit of a video walkthrough is that a user can see the steps, participate and click along, even pause and replay parts of the walkthrough if necessary.
Such easy navigation ensures users understand the product quickly, which boosts the overall onboarding success and customer satisfaction.
However, you want the engagement to be consistent.
Therefore, instead of packing all product info into an hour-long video, implement tooltips in the form of pop-up notifications or bite-sized tutorials as the user progresses through the software and reaches new features.
Such a proactive approach can also be achieved through chatbots or live chat support during the software onboarding. Make it easy for the customer to reach out if they need help with a certain feature.
Here’s how Airtable does it.
The quick onboarding sequence reminds the user that the help button is always available, and that it’s where users can either reach out through a chat or find relevant resources and tutorials.
At the onboarding stage, your users are highly motivated and engaged. After all, they’ve chosen your SaaS product in good faith that it will solve a problem they have. Your job is to keep that enthusiasm burning.
Collect Customer Feedback (and Act On It!)
Customers want to share their opinions about your service or product—as many as 89% of them say so. Providing channels for users to share feedback makes them feel valued and appreciated.
For example, surveys and questionnaires are common channels for SaaS companies to gauge the opinion of their users. However, if done poorly, they can bore your customers, which is the exact opposite of what you wish to achieve.
Let’s see how you can make feedback collection more enjoyable and engaging, so both you and your customers can benefit from it.
Microsurveys are excellent for several reasons. First, it only takes users a couple of seconds to complete a survey like the one below:
Second, you can use such surveys to ask targeted questions on specific events or pages in real time. For instance, use them on the checkout page if a visitor wants to abandon their cart:
And lastly, asking for feedback frequently but in smaller chunks engages the customer consistently, without overwhelming them.
Through micro surveys, sharing feedback becomes a habit for the user, and you show customer care every step of the way.
Customers often leave longer surveys unfinished because the questions don’t resonate with them.
For instance, you can’t ask a freemium user how they’d rate features that are only accessible to paying customers. Such questions instantly signal to users that you have no idea about their needs or habits.
Consequently, answers to such questions (if any) hold little value to you either, so proper segmentation will be the key to leveraging feedback. The more personalized the questions feel, the more inclined your users will be to answer them.
To empower users to provide more valuable information, make sure to include open-ended questions. Let users describe their experience in their own words instead of shoeboxing all the information they give you into pre-set answers.
So, once you have the feedback from your customers, what do you do with it?
Always acknowledge the feedback, but try to go beyond an automated “Thank you for your feedback” email template.
For instance, if you can resolve some smaller issues immediately by calling the user, do it.
This is your chance to create a stronger bond, as 83% of customers say they feel more loyalty to brands that respond and resolve their complaints.
Can you spot themes or trends in their feedback, such as several users complaining about the same features?
Your product development team needs to know about it. Whether you decide to slash the feature, replace it, or work on improving it, let your customers know you’re aware of the issue.
This matters because 53% of shoppers believe their feedback doesn’t reach the person or department who can act on it, according to Microsoft’s research.
Proving you’re not part of that bleak statistic sets you apart and positively impacts your customers’ experience.
Creating a feedback loop like the one above keeps your users invested in your product. When your customers don’t feel like mere numbers, but instead as valued partners in co-creating your SaaS product, they’ll engage more and provide better feedback.
That’s the ultimate win-win situation for everyone involved.
Gamify Your Product Experience
Even if your SaaS product does its job exceptionally well, sometimes people will need incentives to use it more regularly. This is especially true of SaaS products that help users with what they consider tedious tasks.
For some users, that can be working out; for others, organizing their finances or budgeting.
Before they see the full value of your product for resolving such tasks, you’ll need to nudge users to utilize it regularly.
And turning this process into a fun game is an excellent way to do so.
Nearly every step of your customer’s journey can be gamified. For instance, you can show a progress bar on registration forms, so users feel more motivated to complete all steps.
Moving on, onboarding lends itself to gamification perfectly. There is a lot of information that your new user needs to take in at this stage, and you want it to be valuable and enjoyable. That way, you facilitate their success.
Salesforce has mapped out the entire onboarding journey and turned it into an epic adventure called Trailhead.
Just look at the map below:
This incredible journey takes a user through different courses where they learn all about using Salesforce and other valuable business skills.
Along the way, the user earns badges and points, compelling them to complete the trail and become a true trailblazer.
Users can then share their achievements with the Trailblazer community, which adds a layer of competitiveness to the experience. Additionally, proof of achievement in the form of a Trailblazer profile looks incredibly appealing to potential employees as well.
Even if you don’t have the resources to conquer new lands like Salesforce, you can gamify the user experience in other ways.
For example, you can attribute points and rewards to encourage regular interactions.
Here’s a karma point system by Todoist, a task management app:
Users receive karma points for updating or completing tasks. It’s a fun way to motivate users to use the app because who doesn’t want to be a productivity Grand Master?
However, Todoist’s system has an interesting twist: you can lose karma points if, for instance, some tasks are more than four days overdue.
This keeps the user on their toes and ultimately improves their productivity in real life too.
Instead of points and badges, some products motivate users with scores.
For example, if you use Grammarly to proofread your writing, your score increases the more you improve your text:
Loyalty programs and referral rewards are also popular gamification methods to engage users. The user can collect points, for example, by inviting 5 new users to try the product and receive a reward when a new user subscribes.
The main purpose of adding gamification to your SaaS product experience is to motivate customers to use and interact with your product.
You need to provide milestones and goals for the user to work towards, so they experience the satisfaction of completing tasks.
To define these goals for every stage of your customer’s journey, you need to know your users well to understand what motivates them. Start small and test your ideas so that your games don’t distract the user instead of helping them.
Share New Features With Your Users
Your product’s users go through different growth stages in their lives and businesses. They add new team members, or expand the scope of their business. At some point, they might require some new features or updates to existing ones, to better serve their own customers.
To consistently provide value and keep users engaged, your product needs to keep up with their needs.
However, designing and implementing new features is only half of the work; your users can’t benefit from the new feature unless you properly announce it.
Whenever you update your product, you need to let your users know about it. Here’s an example of a recent feature beta release by BuzzStream:
There are several ways this email helps the user see the value from this update quickly.
First, the email is personalized. It addresses the user by their name, and it clearly targets a user who has used the product and its import feature before.
Second, it immediately lists the benefits of the new feature, so the user can see exactly how the update will make their daily work easier.
Lastly, it guides the user toward setting up and using the feature. The email contains instructions and a video that creates a mini onboarding experience.
Why is it important to educate the user on the new feature?
As humans, we’re resistant to change. So, whenever you make changes to your SaaS product, your user might be anxious about tampering with the settings and features that have served them just fine so far.
Therefore, show your users how easy it is to get started with it so they can adopt the new feature as soon as possible.
Speaking of timing, consider that the BuzzStream announcement above was sent via email. However, by the time the user actually needs the software, they might forget about the update.
So, the next time a user logs into their BuzzStream account, they will see the feature announcement in the form of an in-app message.
Such a message provides context and reminds the user that there’s a new feature to check out.
To sum up, here are some best practices we can glean from BuzzStream’s example:
- Segment audiences to determine which users can most benefit from the update
- Personalize the announcement.
- Make it easy for the user to implement it.
- Announce the update on channels that make the most sense for the user.
- Keep announcements short and to the point, so they don’t disrupt a user’s daily workflow.
- Don’t bombard users with too many updates, but focus on the most important ones for specific user segments.
Another thing to note is that BuzzStream is asking for feedback on a beta version.
Throughout the announcement, Stephen from BuzzStream encourages users to reach out and share their feedback, and the in-app message has a convenient reply button to do so.
This is an important strategy to keep loyal users engaged. Who knows your SaaS product better than the users who have used it regularly over a long time?
If you give your “power users” a chance to test out new things and offer suggestions for improvement, you’re effectively tying them to your product even further.
Introducing new features boosts loyalty, engagement, and profit as well.
According to ProfitWell, for healthy SaaS business growth, at least 30% of your income should come from expansion.
Upselling a new feature to an existing customer is more cost-effective than acquiring a completely new user, so it’s a good idea to make it a part of your strategy.
Keeping your SaaS product users engaged is no easy feat, but it’s not impossible. There are opportunities to engage your users every step of the way and make them stay with you longer.
Create interesting videos to educate your users and make sure you onboard them well so they can truly succeed with your product. Make the user experience even more fun by implementing some gamification elements when you see that engagement is dropping off.
Lastly, gather feedback regularly, and use it to improve old and introduce new features.
Showing your users that you can follow them and grow with them is the best way to create strong and lasting bonds.