4 Crucial Stages Of SaaS Community Growth
If you’re a proud owner of an Apple device, you’ve probably been to an Apple support community at least once. These are groups where you can get help from other Apple users who may have encountered the problem that you now need help with.
But Apple support communities are more than peer-to-peer customer support groups. Users can also simply share their experiences, get recommendations, and know more about Apple devices.
But before this blog becomes more about Apple than SaaS, let me relate it to our real topic.
These groups are actually a good example of community growth. SaaS companies can really learn from what Apple does here.
In this article, we’ll be talking about SaaS communities and their different stages of growth.
Let’s dive right in.
Purpose Of SaaS Communities
What are SaaS communities, anyway?
Well, SaaS companies can create online “hangouts” for their customers to interact with each other. SaaS communities are basically groups of like-minded people who can share knowledge and experiences about a specific SaaS brand or category.
These types of communities help increase customer loyalty and have better chances of acquiring new leads.
These are some benefits you can get from growing a SaaS community:
- Customer support and loyalty-building
- High-quality lead generation
- More conversions
- Brand awareness
Customer Support And Loyalty-Building
SaaS communities are created to build customer loyalty. One key benefit of SaaS communities is that users can get help from other customers who also use your product.
Sure, they can still go to your knowledge base and other support channels. But communities offer personalized and, sometimes, faster help.
Users just need to post their questions on your SaaS community website or social media account and wait. There may be fellow users who have dealt with similar issues before.
This also builds trust and loyalty among your users.
Having a community that helps your users troubleshoot problems, maximize features, and just share experiences would lessen their reasons to leave.
This, in turn, will be a big step in reducing your churn rate.
High-Quality Lead Generation
SaaS communities can serve as a reliable pool of high-quality leads. SaaS companies can use communities for lead generation and gain quality referrals at the same time.
Here’s how it works:
Other community members who have benefitted from using your SaaS product are the ones who can encourage other SaaS users to also try it. Their posts and testimonies serve as social proof that would encourage potential customers to buy your product.
Since these referrals come from members of your SaaS community, they are more likely to use your SaaS tool for their needs.
This is easier than cold lead generation, where SaaS companies have no idea if potential customers would need their SaaS product in the first place.
What’s more, it’s also cheaper than the usual means of inbound lead generation. You wouldn’t need to spend a lot on marketing in order to acquire these leads. You only need your current community members to invite referrals into the group.
Speaking of generating leads, SaaS communities can also help you take them all the way to closing the deal.
Having a community for your SaaS product can help you improve your conversion rates.
Again, your current community members can serve as advocates for your product. They would be instrumental not just in bringing in referrals, but also in convincing them to buy your SaaS solution.
Specifically, their posts and testimonies can serve as social proof that would encourage potential customers to buy your product.
SaaS communities can also help you with lead nurturing.
For you to successfully nurture your lead, you need to provide valuable information and consistently communicate with them. A SaaS community or group can serve as that point of contact.
One of the best benefits SaaS companies can get from SaaS communities is brand awareness.
This comes as a by-product of building customer loyalty.
You see, when you have a successful SaaS community growth, your customers start to identify with your brand. You even develop a culture among your users.
Imagine something like Apple users. The brand has become part of their identity that they would defend it to death whenever users of other brands talk smack about it.
Like Apple users, your SaaS community members can be your brand advocates. They are sharing posts about your SaaS product with their social media followers, friends, and other connections.
And the best part is that they are doing it out of their own initiative and motivation.
You can’t buy this level of brand awareness through advertising or even sponsored posts. So having a community for your SaaS company is extremely beneficial in terms of gaining more exposure to people who would be interested in using it.
Stage #1: Planning, Creation, and Launching Your SaaS Community
Now, let’s talk about the different stages of SaaS community growth. First and foremost, you need to launch it.
But even before launch, there are a lot of things to consider. The whys, the whos, the hows.
Specifically, you need to establish at least four things as you launch your SaaS community:
- Which platform to use
- Community plan
Let’s talk about them in detail.
This is the big “why” in creating your group. What is your goal?
Is it lead generation? Brand awareness? Better customer retention? Increase in SaaS conversion rates? Is it all of the SaaS community benefits that we talked about earlier?
The objectives for the community will set the tone and direction for it. It will dictate which customers you would invite to join the community.
Your goals would also tell you what kind of key performance indicators (KPIs) you would need to monitor. Otherwise, there would be no way for you to measure the success of your SaaS community.
If you’re aiming for high-quality lead generation, you need to track referrals and lead scores. If you’re just aiming for engagement, you can monitor the likes, comments, and other forms of interaction.
Your objectives would also dictate which platform you are going to use for your SaaS community.
Speaking of which…
Which Platform To Use
There are many different platforms to choose from. Again, it depends on your goals and objectives. Which platforms would allow you to meet those goals?
It also depends on the people you are trying to invite to your community. Which platform would be the most accessible and engaging for them?
Here are a few examples of platforms that you can use for your SaaS community:
Forum in your own website
This is simply hosting your SaaS community on a page on your website. The members can have their discussions there and browse topics.
This can be a good choice if you prioritize your branding when it comes to the layout and the overall interface. Since it’s your website, you have all control when it comes to aesthetics.
The downside, however, is that it’s not as accessible as other platforms.
Sure, existing customers might find no problem with it, especially if the community site is linked to the SaaS solution itself. But it may be intimidating to newcomers and potential customers.
And of course, popular tech giants like Apple can do this.
They have already made their names in their industries. In fact, the official community pages are the ones that their users can trust the most.
However, SaaS startups and small businesses may not have that kind of reputation. Not yet, at least.
This is one of the most accessible platforms for a SaaS community. If you’re working with a B2C crowd, social media is one of the most practical platforms for reaching your target audience.
Specifically, you at least need a Facebook group. Company profile pages can work too. But a Facebook group will allow members to post on the timeline. With the group admin’s approval, of course.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to drop your company social media pages. Engaging with your customers and audiences on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages is still a good way to nurture relationships with them.
The biggest benefit of social media is its accessibility and intuitiveness. Almost everyone is using it. Almost everyone knows how to navigate a Facebook group.
What’s more, social media platforms notify users when you have posts and engagements. Whether it’s on a group or a page, they get notified when someone likes or comments on their posts.
Don’t forget the ease in making connections. Your community members can conveniently build connections and relationships with each other. All it takes is a simple click on the “Add Friend” or “Follow” button.
Because of these benefits, it can be easier to generate and nurture leads on this platform.
I’m talking about sites like Reddit and Quora. They’re not quite like social media pages. But it’s where a lot of people talk about common interests and topics.
On these sites, people sometimes ask for recommendations on what SaaS products are best for their particular pain points.
That’s where you can get in on the action and start a conversation with them.
Like social media, discussion sites can be awesome places to find new leads and nurture them. You have access to a curious audience who are actively looking for answers to their questions.
However, these platforms lack the personal connection that social media offers. Most of the time, the interaction between users only stays on a particular question or topic that they are discussing.
Other SaaS solutions
Nowadays, there are even SaaS solutions that enable you to launch and grow a community.
Some examples include Mighty Networks and Tribe. These SaaS products allow you to add a lot of functionality to your SaaS community. You can have activity feeds, gamification systems, and even search engine optimization (SEO) tools.
However, these are paid solutions. If you’re looking for something free, you might want to go for something like Discord.
In fact, Discord has been becoming increasingly popular since the pandemic broke out.
A lot of B2C users now use this. In fact, it started out as a social platform for gamers. But now, a lot of businesses are also jumping in and using this tool as their main communication platform. Inviting your customers to your server would only involve sending them a link to it.
What’s more, you can segment your Discord community into different channels, when it gets big enough. This would help you send targeted content and narrow down topics for discussions.
Before you launch a SaaS community, you first need to lay out a roadmap.
Here are some ideas you can add for your community:
Content: What kind of content are you going to provide to your community? Will you be sharing blog posts Infographics? Videos? What topics and niches would this content revolve around?
Promotion: How are you going to promote your SaaS brand through the community?
Recognition: What kind of perks can you offer to members? Will there be discounts? Gift cards? Bonuses?
Events: What kinds of online and offline events do you have in store for your SaaS community? This is important in keeping your members interested and involved.
Incentives: How are you going to encourage your users to join and participate in the SaaS community? Some SaaS businesses even gamify their communities, offering credits or spendable points as rewards.
You also need to think about the moderators. How will they help grow and nurture your SaaS community?
Sure, you still have the option of moderating the group yourself. People appreciate it when it’s the founder or CEO who is interacting with them.
But as your business and SaaS community grow, your responsibilities also increase. Eventually you won’t have the time and energy to moderate your community on your own.
You will have to hire and train a moderator for it.
Stage #2: Initial Growth of your SaaS Community
The initial growth is the early stage for your SaaS community. It’s not very well-known yet. There are only a few members. There isn’t a lot of content being posted on your group discussions.
But that’s okay because you just created your SaaS community. In fact, the members that you have are probably a few of your knowledgeable and loyal customers.
However, since there is no activity yet, the community may not be attractive to new people. So you still need to find ways to draw them in.
Here are some ways you can do that:
Welcome The First Members Personally
You should start off by personally welcoming the first members that join your SaaS community. Send them a private welcome message from you as the CEO or owner of the company.
This is also a good time to ask them what they need or expect from the community. Yes, you have your objectives. But it is also important to listen to your customers and serve their needs.
Generate LOTS of Content
Content drives traffic. And at the earlier stages of your SaaS community, you need to provide lots of it. Otherwise, the group will die an early death.
You can post links to blogs, infographics, or videos that would pique your members’ interest.
Ask for responses from them too. If they share their thoughts, make sure to reply immediately so that you can facilitate the conversation further.
If you do it right, the content would be so good that they would naturally share it with their friends and colleagues.
Promote Your Community Through Existing Channels
Since other people don’t know that the group exists yet, you can promote it through other channels as well. You can feature it in your newsletters, your website, or other content you publish.
If you have any SaaS ambassadors or reps in your team, give them a link to your SaaS community and ask them to join.
This way, you’ll already have a few members who can promote it and help you grow the initial stage.
Actively Search For Contributors
What would make a SaaS community look lively if it has many different names popping up to contribute content.
You can start with your own people. Have your own employees share their thoughts and even post content on the group.
Eventually, you can invite key people to provide guest posts. These can be industry experts, influencers, and other well-known people in your niche. They will contribute valuable content that your SaaS community loves.
What’s more, the familiar names would attract newcomers into the community.
Do What The Community Was Created To Do
Of course, you need to stick to your goals right off the bat.
You’re probably already doing that by generating content and getting more people into the group. But you need to implement other ways to reach that goal.
For example, let’s say one of your objectives is customer support. Don’t wait for someone to ask a question. Ask how they are doing with your SaaS solution.
Better yet, ask them specific questions about what they like or dislike about the SaaS tool’s UI or features.
And since there are not a lot of members to respond to questions yet, you and your moderation team will have to do it yourselves.
Stage #3: Relationship Formation
At this stage, your SaaS community is already a well-known group at least in your own customer base.
This means there are plenty of people joining and participating in the group. The posts range from product feedback to SaaS solution overall issues.
There’s also a nice flow of content where members can give quick responses or post their own insightful thoughts.
But when you look at it critically, these members might not be directly connected with each other yet. They don’t know the other members personally nor have they worked with them before.
Sure, there may be some that have made friends along the way. But it’s not the culture in your SaaS community yet.
So now, you need to connect them to one another and help them build both their relationship with you and their relationships with each other.
Here are some ways to help your SaaS community connect with each other:
Keep The Content Coming
At this stage of SaaS community growth, you wouldn’t be as dependent on self-generated content as in the early stages. At this point, there would be a steady flow of user-generated content.
Your SaaS community is now self-sufficient, to some degree.
But that doesn’t mean you should stop altogether. Keep the content coming in order to keep things interesting. But focus on facilitating conversations and discussions.
When users post content themselves, make sure to interact with it.
You can also organize events where your community members can come together.
These are a few types of events you can do:
- Q&A sessions
- Offline events where members can meet each other in person
Online events are relatively easy to organize because all it takes is a program, a speaker, and a video conferencing platform.
Offline meetups, however, can take more planning and organizing. They cost more too. But allowing your members to meet in person can really solidify their relationships with each other.
Topics for these events can be about your SaaS solution: how-tos, feature updates, all that stuff. Or it can be general trends in your niche. You can even invite industry experts to attract both existing community members and newcomers.
Involve Active Members
At this stage, you would also have members who post content more regularly than others. They regularly interact with others’ posts and comments as well.
These are the kind of people that you can involve yourself with. You can ask them to perform some moderation tasks, initiate discussions, and organize community activities.
And you can incentivize these involvements with rewards. You can give them gift cards, extra credits, or free temporary plan upgrades.
Stage #4: Maturity And Segmentation
Once your community grows and matures to a certain level, it’s time to break it down into smaller chunks.
The SaaS community is at this stage when you notice that the members are starting to become more specific about their SaaS needs.
You may also notice that your group is getting increasingly flooded with content and concerns that may not be relevant to a lot of other members.
At this point, segmentation is necessary to prevent information overload in your groups and keep all members engaged. It may also open new opportunities for personalized marketing efforts.
These segmentations can be based on the friendships and relationships formed within your community. Most probably, these connections were the products of shared interests, problems, and needs.
At this point, your SaaS company should try to engage these smaller segments much more specifically by giving them targeted content and solutions.
The platform that you are using for your community is also crucial for this stage. You would want to keep your community segmented but still united. Platforms like Discord and Slack enable you to have multiple channels in a single server.
Growing A Successful SaaS Community
Successfully launching and growing a SaaS community is no easy task. It takes a lot of strategies, planning, and consistent interaction.
If you do it right, you can build trust, loyalty, and even more sales for SaaS companies. If you have well-connected and loyal customers, they become your brand advocates and will help you get more customers.
For more tips on SaaS marketing, check out our blog here.