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How to Build a Sticky SaaS Product

It’s Day 4 of Product Marketing Month. Today’s post examines churn, and accelerating your customer’s Time to Value. — Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner

What’s The Easiest Way to Make a Sticky Product?

Build a product and call it a Sticky Bar. Look over there >>

With that dad joke out of the way, I want to talk about some important SaaS metrics, that will help product marketers understand what is or isn’t sticky about the products you’re building. I’m also going to talk about how to find some clues in your data, and finally how we’ve been working on fixing our own stickiness problems at Unbounce.

What makes a SaaS product sticky?

In short, it’s a product that becomes part of someone’s daily routine. Something they can’t do as good or enjoyable a job without. It’s something they need. But even more than that, it’s something they love. And that love comes from two main places; either it’s a one-of-a-kind solution that’s simply awesome, or it’s a many-of-a-kind solution that includes a superior customer experience.

Unless you’re selling frying pans, having a product that isn’t sticky just means that you have a churn problem.

Why do people churn from a SaaS product?

There are many reasons why someone would decide to stop paying you money every month, and a great way to find out what they are is simply to ask. At Unbounce we have an in-app cancellation survey that gets seen by anyone who downgrades to free from a paid plan. It’s a single open-ended question: “What is your reason for downgrading?

On average, about 27% of people answer the question. Here’s a pie chart showing the breakdown of responses over a 6-month period.

There are some fascinating responses in there, but the one that stands out the most is the “Under-Utilized” (31.40%) category. This is the response you don’t want to hear. They were using it, and probably deriving value from it, but they weren’t using it enough to warrant an ongoing subscription.

We noticed that certain cohorts of customers were more likely to see fluctuating value from using landing pages. This could be due to an irregular number or timing of campaigns, so when there’s nothing going on, they cancel or downgrade their plan. They may come back again, many do, but the inconsistent behavior – known as flapping – can be a symptom of a product that isn’t fully sticky.

It could also be because they were not able to effectively calculate or realize the ROI of our solution properly, which can happen when customers are running campaigns not directly tied to paid spend. When there is money involved, it’s easier to calculate your returns, speeding up the time to value (TTV).

Increase Stickiness by Reducing Time to Value (TTV)

Time to Value (TTV) is the velocity of a customer seeing the value from your product – how long does it take them to get to those ah-ha moments that make them see the benefit?

It’s a great way to think from the customer’s perspective. The tough part is discovering what those ah-ha moments are. But when you do, product marketing has its mission.

When your TTV goes down, your stickiness and your LTV (Lifetime Value) goes up.

One of the ah-ha moments we’ve identified for Unbounce is when people get inside the builder, and they see how easy, yet how powerful and customizable it is. The problem is, they don’t get to see that until they slap down a credit card.

To amplify this, we just released a preview mode of our builder, designed specifically to help shorten the TTV.

You can check it out at preview.unbounce.com.

If you click the image, you’ll notice that upon arrival, you see a popup with a welcome message and a bit of contextual information about where you are and what you can do.

Speaking of popups, I’ve heard this question a lot in the past 6 months:

“Why did you choose popups and sticky bars as your next products?”

Why did we choose popups and sticky bars?

With the landing page product, we knew we’d solved the pain of customers increasing conversions for their paid traffic, but those same customers (and their teams) also need ways to optimize the organic traffic they already have.

Popups and sticky bars are both tools that have a short time to value, for three reasons:

  1. They are less complex than a landing page (to build and to understand)
  2. Most businesses get more traffic to their website than they do to their landing pages, so they’ll see conversions coming in more quickly
  3. After installing a single line of Javascript, you can place them anywhere on your site without technical help.

If you remember back to the chart at the beginning, 4.45% of canceling customers said they had “poor campaign performance”. This is important to note because getting something up and running quickly and easily is one thing, but being successful – especially as a marketer – is another thing altogether.

Which is why our job as product marketers doesn’t stop until the customer is being successful using your software.

The other way to increase product stickiness

I mentioned earlier about needing to provide a superior customer experience, especially in a crowded competitive landscape. You need to have a company people trust more than the competition, and trust comes from transparency, security, reliability, and just giving a human shit about your customers.

I love how Andy Raskin puts it in his recent post about “The greatest sales pitch I’ve seen all year, it’s Drift’s and it’s brilliant”:

Product differentiation, by itself, has become indefensible because today’s competitors can copy your better, faster, cheaper features virtually instantly. Now, the only thing they can’t replicate is the trust that customers feel for you and your team. Ultimately, that’s born not of a self-centered mission statement like “We want to be best-in-class X” or “to disrupt Y,” but of a culture whose beating heart is a strategic story that casts your customer as the world-changing hero.

How are you reducing your time to value (TTV)?

I’d love to know the techniques you’re using to discover your ah-ha moments, and what you’re doing to accelerate your customers’ access to them. Lemme know in the comments.

Cheers,
Oli Gardner

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"Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever."
~ Napoleon Bonaparte

About Henry Lake

Over 16 years of Internet Marketing experience with focus on list building. Enjoy sharing ideas with other marketers.

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