Community-Led Growth: How To Turn Your Customers Into Loyal Advocates
What does it take to grow a SaaS business?
Traditionally, acquiring more customers and growing a SaaS company is a job for the marketing and sales teams.
After all, it takes a marketing team to build brand awareness.
And if you’re selling a B2B SaaS solution, it’s your sales team that talks to the executives and decision-makers until they close the deal.
But trends in the SaaS market have been changing recently. The power to buy SaaS solutions no longer falls exclusively on the C-level executives and decision-makers.
Today, even end-users take the initiative to buy SaaS solutions.
Sure, they might still use project management or customer relationship management (CRM) tools provided by their company. But they still actively look for additional SaaS tools that can make them better at their jobs.
What’s more, the pandemic has brought businesses online. Remote work was almost the only way to go. Companies became more dependent on SaaS solutions.
As a result, more end-users now see the value in buying their own SaaS products. But they don’t do it the same way their bosses do. They would rather do their own research than talk to a sales team.
And when they have decided on which SaaS products to buy, they are even willing to pay for them out of their own pockets. In fact, end-user spending on public cloud services is forecasted to reach $482 billion this year.
That’s why more and more SaaS businesses are now adopting new growth models that are targeted towards end-users rather than executives.
These growth models include community-led growth and product-led growth,
What Is Community-Led Growth?
Community-led growth is a growth model where your SaaS community drives the growth of your business. This group can be composed of your customers and employees.
The idea behind this growth strategy is simple. By bringing your user base together into a community, you can foster a high level of brand loyalty that will be the main driver in acquiring and retaining your customers.
But that’s a lot easier said than done. Building that kind of brand loyalty among your users is a tall order.
So how do you do it?
Notice that, towards the end of the intro section, I also mentioned product-led growth. That’s because community-led growth works hand in hand with it.
Product-led growth is a growth model where the product is the main driver of the business’ growth. Instead of focusing your resources on a sales team, you pour it out into developing your product. And you design it precisely based on your target market’s specific needs.
With a high-quality SaaS product and a solid product-market fit, you won’t even need a sales team to sell it.
Through free trials and freemium models, your target audience will quickly see your SaaS product’s value and buy it. Even better, they would even share it with their friends and colleagues.
In other words, the product will sell itself.
But where does community-led growth fit in all of this?
The Relationship Between Community-Led Growth And Product-Led Growth
In a nutshell, community-led growth amplifies product-led growth.
Once you successfully acquire customers, you can build an online community with them.
By giving your users a sense of belonging and ownership over the product, you build brand loyalty. You invite them to be a part of something big.
And when they feel like they are part of something, they are more likely to stick with your SaaS product and tell their friends about it.
As a result, the customer journey looks more like a cycle rather than a linear funnel.
This is also called a flywheel model.
The Flywheel Model
The Flywheel Model is a business growth model that is based on a mechanical device called a flywheel.
Basically, starting this device requires a lot of energy. You need to apply force in order for it to start rotating. But when it gains enough momentum, it keeps moving on its own.
That’s what we want our user base to feel like. At first, it may take a lot of effort and resources to get them excited about your product. But once they are, it’s much easier to keep them engaged and coming back for more.
Because of that, you can also view your buyer’s journey as sort of a flywheel instead of a linear funnel.
Imagine your customer starting out in the awareness stage.
They are still trying to learn all they can about their pain points. So they read content about it until they encounter your SaaS product.
Then in the consideration and decision stages, they compare different SaaS solutions and then decide to buy yours.
But the buyer’s journey doesn’t end there. Through your SaaS community, you build their loyalty to your brand. When they become avid users, they also become brand advocates and bring referrals into the fold.
And that new referral starts their own buyer’s journey. It comes full circle.
Benefits Of Community-Led Growth
Now that we know a little bit more about community-led growth, let’s take a look at some of the benefits it has to offer.
These benefits include:
- Community-led product development
- Community support
- Customer acquisition
- Increased company valuation
- Thought leadership
Let’s talk about these benefits one by one.
Community-Led Product Development
The heart and soul of product-led growth is making sure that your SaaS solution offers exactly what your target market needs.
And even as you further develop your SaaS solution, you can use your community to make sure that every update exactly fits their demands.
One of the main benefits of community-led growth is that it enables you to develop your product based on feedback from your users.
This type of customer feedback is invaluable because it comes directly from the people who are actually using your product.
You can’t get better insights than that.
What’s more, a setup like this will make them immensely feel that they are a part of the product development process. They will feel like they are part of the team, and they will be more likely to stick with your product in the long run.
One of the main reasons why users leave a SaaS product is because they feel that they are alone when they’re struggling with something.
They might not be able to find an answer to their question. Or maybe they can’t find help in troubleshooting an issue with your SaaS product.
This is where your community comes in.
By providing support to one another, your users will feel like they aren’t fighting their battles alone. They will have a place where they can ask questions and get help.
But the kind of support that a SaaS community brings is not just limited to troubleshooting problems. It can also include giving advice, sharing best practices, and even just moral support.
In other words, your online community can also be a potent organic channel for customer success.
And this is one of the most important benefits of community-led growth. Having a group that can fill customer success roles leads to increased customer loyalty and reduced customer churn.
We have already touched a bit on this benefit. But let me explain it in more detail.
Community-led growth can help you attract new customers in many ways.
One of those is generating awareness for your product.
If you have successful community-led growth, your customers will be more than happy to share your content with their friends and other connections.
They will become your advocates and help you reach more people.
Community-led growth can also help you gain credibility.
When people see that you have a thriving community, they will be more likely to believe in the value of your product.
And finally, a strong community can act as a powerful referral machine. Your happy customers will be more than willing to refer their friends to your SaaS product.
All of these are excellent ways to attract new customers.
Increased Company Valuation
One of the main benefits of having an online community is that it increases the value of your SaaS company.
Because a SaaS community is an asset that can’t be duplicated. It’s organic and it’s unique to your business.
No other SaaS company has the same community as you do.
What’s more, a thriving community is a sign of a healthy and successful SaaS business. It shows that you are doing something right and that people are drawn to your product.
This increases the attractiveness of your company to investors.
A community-led growth model can also help you establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Having this community that already trusts your SaaS brand means you have an audience that is more than willing to listen to you.
By sharing your thoughts and insights on various topics, you can educate and inform your community members.
Being a thought leader lets your customers and followers see your point of view about your industry. It helps them understand your perspective on solving the persistent problems in your niche.
Not only does this help them learn more about your industry, but it also helps them see what you stand for and why you created your SaaS product.
This establishes you as an authority in your field. It also makes you the go-to person when it comes to SaaS solutions in your industry.
How To Build Community-Led Growth
With all these concepts and benefits of community-led growth, how do you actually build it?
Here are a few pointers you can follow:
- Pick a platform for your community
- Provide lots of high-quality content
- Consistently interact with your community members
Pick a Platform for Your Community
The first step in building a SaaS community is to pick the right platform for it.
There are many different platforms to choose from, but the most popular ones include Facebook groups, Slack, Discord, and Reddit.
Facebook has almost 3 billion active users and it’s a great social network for building communities.
One great thing about this platform is that your customers use it every day.
What’s more, since almost everyone uses Facebook, your members can seamlessly add new people to your Facebook group.
Slack And Discord
These are chat apps that have been recently gaining a lot of popularity. With them, you can create channels for different topics. This is a great way to engage your community members and encourage contribution.
Just a fun fact. Slack itself has a product-led growth model. And now, it’s being used for amplifying product-led growth through community-led growth.
How cool is that?
This platform is a social news aggregator with over 430 million active users. It’s a great medium for building communities because it allows you to create your own forum, called a subreddit.
Once your customers join your subreddit, your members can submit content, vote on other people’s posts, and comment on them.
This gives your community members a voice and lets them contribute to the conversation.
While all these platforms have their own benefits, you need to choose the one that best suits your customers.
Provide Lots of High-Quality Content
The second thing you need to do to build a strong community is to consistently provide high-quality content. You need to do this in order to start conversations with your members.
This content can be in the form of blog posts, graphics, podcasts, videos, e-books, and webinars.
Running a SaaS blog site is a great way to share your thoughts and insights on various topics. It’s also the most common form of content marketing.
Of course, that would entail that you have a separate platform where you can publish your articles.
When you write a blog post and post it on your online community, make sure that it’s relevant to your target audience and that it provides value.
When it comes to using images in content marketing, SaaS businesses usually create infographics. After all, they are a great way to visually explain concepts and processes.
Infographics can simplify complex ideas. They can also help your customers understand your product better.
But community-led growth isn’t just about your product. It’s more importantly about your customers and your relationship with them.
And that, my friend, is why you also need memes in your community. Especially if you’re using Reddit or Discord.
Funny memes bring a fun and light atmosphere to your online community. And that kind of atmosphere can really build your relationship with your community members.
Podcasts are an engaging way to communicate with your customers.
What’s more, they can still listen even when they are too busy (or too lazy) to read. They can do it while driving, doing their housework, or even going for a walk.
Plus, you can sometimes invite industry leaders as guests on your podcast. This would help you attract more people to your community.
This content type is another great way to connect with your community members.
And most of the time, it’s more engaging than plain old text or podcasts. After all, it appeals both to the sense of sight and sound.
Just like with podcasts, you can invite industry leaders to speak in your videos. That would attract more members to watch it.
What’s more, if it’s you who is speaking in the video, it has a personal touch to it. Your community members can actually see you talking to them.
And that personal touch can build your relationship with them and foster loyalty.
Writing an e-book is perfect for producing long-form content. You can do it to go in-depth about a particular topic.
Plus, you can give it away for free to your community members.
Even better, offer it as a reward for a certain action, like sharing your content or inviting new people to the group. This would help you attract more people and encourage contribution among your current members.
Another way to foster community-led growth is to hold events and webinars. This would help you connect with your group members on a more personal level.
Plus, it would give them a chance to learn more about your SaaS solution. They can ask questions and get to know the people behind the product.
You can also use this opportunity to announce new features or changes to your product. This would help keep your community members in the loop.
Just make sure that you announce these events and webinars well in advance. This would give them time to prepare and block their schedules.
Consistently Interact With Your Community Members
In order for a community to grow, it needs to be active.
Community-led growth is not just about you and your product. It’s also about your customers and their relationship with you.
That’s why you need to constantly interact with your members.
Just posting content is not enough. In fact, your content is just a means to start conversations with them.
So when you provide informative content, you should always ask them what they think about it. From there, you can facilitate the interaction.
This would show that you’re genuinely interested in them and their thoughts.
What’s more, always being there to answer their questions shows that you care about them. Remember that this group could also serve as a place for peer-to-peer support.
If no one hasn’t responded to a support question yet, you need to swoop in and save the day. And when someone does provide a good answer to others’ questions, be sure to acknowledge and thank them for their response.
This would make them feel valued as customers and as a part of the community.
Here’s the thing: Note that you need to do these things consistently.
Building community-led growth is not a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing process that you need to nurture. You can’t afford to drop the ball. Or else, disappointed customers might leave and all your effort would be for nothing.
That’s why a community manager or moderator is also a good investment for community-led growth. They can help keep the conversations going and ensure that everyone feels engaged.
Final Thoughts About Community-Led Growth
Community-led growth is a great way to grow your SaaS business. Some even say that it’s the future of SaaS businesses.
Being a part of a community fosters loyalty and builds relationships with your customers. Plus, it helps them feel engaged and valued. All of these benefits can help encourage them to stick around and even become advocates for your SaaS solution.
You wouldn’t need a sales team to sell your product because your customers are doing it for you.
But community-led growth doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an ongoing process that you need to nurture. So make sure that you are constantly interacting with your members and providing valuable content to them.
So, to answer the question we posed at the very start of this blog post:
What does it take to grow a SaaS business?
It takes a community.
For more guides and strategies in growing your SaaS business, visit our SaaS marketing blog here.