The Software as a Service (SaaS) market is growing fast. The market is expected to grow from $225.6 billion in 2020 to $272.49 billion by the end of 2021.
If you have a SaaS business, it’s key to stay on people’s minds. One way to do this is to grow your online community. Over time, your fans and followers can provide priceless brand awareness and loyalty, but they can also help provide solutions to specific problems.
Read on to learn more about the advantages of online community building for your SaaS venture.
What Are The Advantages For Your SaaS Business From Building A Thriving Online Community?
1. Tap Into Changing Customer Purchasing Behavior
With so much information available these days, it’s more common for people to research before purchasing a product or service. For this research, they most often turn to the internet. They read product reviews, seek recommendations from like-minded users, and catch up on the businesses in which they’re interested.
Where better to do this than via an online community that’s already familiar with your brand?
2. Optimize Your CAC
There are several ways to decrease your customer acquisition cost (CAC). One of them is to build an online community.
If your community contributes content with a positive sentiment, it says a lot about your brand. As a result, potential customers are more likely to purchase your product or service.
The more content and engagement within your community, the higher your search engine rankings are also likely to be. In addition, using community-generated content means less money spent on expensive content and advertising.
Potential customers are more likely to find your business, sign up, and stay for the value your products, services, and online community add to their lives.
3. Beat Your Competitors
Your SaaS business can stand out from the crowd if you have a flourishing online community. Potential customers will easily find your business and its services, and they’ll have access to customer testimonials and reviews. All of this leads to increased trust in your business.
Once new or potential customers also form part of your community, they’re more likely to remain loyal to your business. Well done on beating your competitors.
4. Integrate and Streamline Departments and Processes
→ Customer Services & Peer Help
Most customers don’t enjoy having to call customer support helplines. However, with an online community, they can find answers themselves. For example, an online chatbot is often more efficient for your business and less frustrating for customers.
If your online community platform contains documentation and articles about your business and products, it becomes a wealth of knowledge for other customers. Customers also tend to help each other if they get stuck, saving your business time and money.
As a bonus, people are more likely to be satisfied with the customer service you provide – with little effort on your part.
Having an online community can be helpful in the different stages of the sales journey. For example, using a Q&A can help potential customers make more informed decisions in the pre-sales phase. They’re then more likely to make a purchase.
5. Capitalize on New Acquisition Channels
User-generated content created through discussion forums can be used for posts, Q&As, videos, and articles shared via your community platform. If prospective customers search for answers to their problems, the chances are high that they’ll stumble upon the answers provided by your online community.
If you include customer-created content on your community platform, prospective customers are more likely to trust and buy your product or service. In addition, new customers will feel more secure that there’s a community to support them if problems arise.
6. Drive Better Retention Rates and Revenue
Communities keep your customers engaged and allow them to form a stronger relationship with your business. For example, networking within an online community increases engagement with your brand and helps you stay in front of someone’s mind.
When customers like and share posts, add questions to forums, and reply to each others’ posts and queries, they’re more likely to stay loyal to your brand. Ultimately, this could lead to higher revenue.
7. Improve Your Digital Customer Experience
Building a community online can create a centralized space where your customers can connect with you and other loyal customers. Here they can find support, advice, learn best practices, and give feedback on your SaaS products and services.
In this way, your online community can become a hub for a streamlined customer experience.
8. Enjoy Stronger Relationships and Customer Loyalty
Customers who are active in online communities often form friendships and build relationships with the business. If they find value in engaging with others and with your brand, they’re more likely to become loyal fans.
9. Nurture Your Brand Ambassadors
Customers who already love a brand tend to enjoy talking about it. An online community will give them a space to share their stories and pass on their knowledge.
You can acknowledge the value they’re adding by highlighting their contributions and perhaps even rewarding them. This will further inspire them to keep promoting your business.
10. Tap Into Social Listening
Social listening is the process of tapping into social media channels to find out what others are saying about your brand. Social listening can help your business answer questions such as: What are my business’ strong or weak points? How do I compare with my competitors? Are customers satisfied with my product or service?
Answering these questions can become easy when you have a dedicated online community. You no longer have to create polls and send them via email, hoping for enough responses. Instead, you can get feedback straight from your online community.
11. Benefit from Better Product Innovation
The customers who form part of your online community can give immediate feedback on your SaaS products and services. They’re likely to use your product or service often and may be able to guide you in terms of what needs improvement.
Your community can also be involved in developing new products or services, either actively or passively. For example, you can keep track of the most popular user requests or ask what your community would like to change.
You can even use some of your most loyal customers to beta test new features. When you make changes, let the community know, as this builds loyalty.
12. Start Conversations
Customers that form part of an online community will naturally have conversations. Apart from using online communities for social listening, your SaaS business can also use this platform to start relevant and meaningful conversations about your brand.
You can engage customers on industry-specific issues. And instead of only reacting when your brand is tagged, you can be the conversation starter. Remember to always use conversations to your advantage.
Deciding Between Free or Owned Community Platforms
Social media platforms are free. Owned community platforms, in turn, usually require some investment from your business. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Free Platforms: Pros and Cons
Free platforms include social networking websites such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. These platforms are free to use and have many benefits. For example, they come with a large pre-existing audience of users who spend a lot of time on these platforms.
However, you don’t entirely own these communities. The rules of the specific platforms bind you. Furthermore, the community consists of users who aren’t on the platform for a common purpose. Therefore, it can be challenging to reach and engage with your precise target audience.
Owned Community Platforms: Pros and Cons
Owned community forums have many benefits of social media platforms with the added advantage that the brand owns it. These forums can offer you flexibility and control over what you share. As a result, you can control your branding and message more efficiently.
Other advantages include that you don’t have to compete with competitors on the same platform, as with social media. You can also create specific features for your community platform. Gamification and custom design are just a few of the possibilities.
On the other hand, an owned community platform can be challenging because you have to build a community from scratch. You’ll have to put in some effort to promote and grow your platform.
14 Working Tips for Building the Most Effective Online Community for SaaS Businesses
1. Determine Your ‘Why’
Before you even begin building an online community, you need to be clear on your business’s purpose.
It’s critical to understand what you’re trying to achieve and where you’re headed. If you believe strongly in your product and service, you can easily convey this passion to your customers. On the other hand, if you haven’t determined your ‘why’ yet, your community may be unconvinced that you’re the best brand for their needs.
It’s also important to ask yourself why you want to create an online community for your SaaS business. Make sure your intentions are clear before you start planning and building your community platform.
2. Define Your Community
Who do you want your community to consist of? Look at your customer profiles, determine your brand personas (if you haven’t done so already), and work on ways to reach your target audience. Enlist the help of a social media or Google marketer, if need be.
3. Get Internal Buy-In
Your team needs to buy into the idea of the online community and participate in it. Some or all of your employees will need to understand that they’ll need to commit time and resources to grow and maintain the community.
Communication needs to be clear, and collaboration between departments is essential. For example, your customer care team will have to know how to respond to specific queries and when to escalate concerns to the management team.
4. Set up SMART KPIs
Set up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your community platform based on the SMART criteria. Your KPIs must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and have a clear Time frame. Plus, they must all relate directly to your organizational goals.
Think carefully about what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to do it. For example, how many community members would you like to have by the end of the year? Or how many leads should come from your community platform?
5. Keep Roles and Tasks Clearly Defined
Online community management includes many different tasks and roles. Think carefully about these roles. For example, who will be in charge of moderating comments? Who will manage the content posted to the platform? Who will facilitate engagement?
Ensure that everyone involved is clear on what they need to do and how regularly they should check-in. Defining the roles clearly will help with accountability. It will also streamline the process of managing the community.
6. Start With a Focused Goal
Spend time working out what your goals are. These will link directly to the purpose of your business – your ‘why.’
Goals relevant to SaaS companies that can be addressed by online community management include customer support, customer acquisition, customer retention and loyalty, research and development, and brand advocacy.
7. Choose a Platform
As discussed above, you can decide between a free or owned platform. An owned platform will take more development, time, and resources but will allow for more freedom.
Another option is to use a combination of platforms, such as an owned platform and a social media platform. This will all depend on your business’s needs, how much capacity you have, and your customers. Do your research to figure out what’s best for you.
8. Create a Community Launch Plan
Don’t make the mistake of trying to launch your online community too quickly. A staggered launch approach is more effective. Here’s how this can work:
Before launching your SaaS online community, make sure your team is familiar with the platform and software. They may need training and possibly a demo. Keep the community private while this is happening.
At this stage, you should also consider categories, reviewing the sign-up process (if there is one), and deciding which features to use. Be sure to test everything properly.
→ Soft Launch
A soft launch is there to prepare your community for the full launch. First, populate your platform with great content that will create discussions. Then, your team can start conversations.
Arrange for an internal soft launch. This launch is for trusted people, colleagues, and friends to try the platform. They can then provide feedback on their experiences.
The next phase will be the public soft launch, which should be limited to a general but select audience. You can look to trusted customers for this or perhaps call for testers via your newsletter. This soft launch will help to identify and fix any further problems. In addition, it will become clear what’s still needed before the platform goes entirely live.
The goals here are to make sure the team is comfortable with the platform and that your business receives good feedback before the official launch.
→ Promoting Your Community
Once the soft launch is complete, it’s time to promote your new community platform to your greater target audience. Use your website, emails, social media platforms, and sales teams to promote the new community.
Partnering with influencers can also help to get the word out. Also, using rewards systems when people invite others could expand the network effectively.
9. Don’t Forget To Moderate
Online communities revolve around members expressing themselves, but there still needs to be controls on what they can and cannot post. You don’t want people to attack each other unnecessarily.
Create community and content guidelines that lay out the content policies and the rules of engagement. Then, use common sense in enforcing these, based on the value that posts are adding.
10. On-Board New Members
It’s worth ensuring that every new member of a community goes through a mini onboarding process. When they join, welcome them, point them to the community guidelines, and give them a sense of the culture of the community. There are various ways in which to do this. Some examples include commenting or sharing welcome videos and guided tours.
11. Integrate the Community with Your Product and Processes
It can be valuable to integrate your community with your actual product. For example, community discussions can become support tickets that enable you to troubleshoot problems. In addition, you may be able to allow for comments made inside your software to be posted in the community.
12. Promote Healthy Engagement
Organic content created by members of your community is valuable and healthy engagement comes from building authentic connections with members. Chat to community members as if they’re friends and reward them, where possible.
13. Create Brand Advocates
Brand advocates and influencers are an asset for any business. These people are loyal customers who support and promote your brand without much encouragement. They’ve had positive experiences with your product and service and are happy to share them.
Where do you find these people? They’re most likely to be your super-users – those guys who comment frequently and ask lots of questions. These people have a wealth of knowledge and experience with your product or service and can help other new members. So, cherish them by rewarding them in some or another way.
14. Aim for Quality Members
In the early stages of community recruitment, look for people likely to love and use your SaaS community platform. These folks could be existing customers, friends of your business, and thought leaders in your industry.
After this, hold virtual or real-life events that add value to your potential members’ lives. These events should attract quality members who are interested in your business or industry. You may need to follow up these meetings with personalized emails or texts to get them to join the community. Over time, your community will grow more organically.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Online Communities for SaaS Businesses
With most SaaS customers spending significant amounts of time online, harnessing the power of online communities can be highly rewarding for SaaS businesses. The benefits of building an online community for your business are numerous. Online communities can take some time and resources to set up, but once they’re thriving, they’re invaluable for the growth of your business.