SaaS Community Building: The Secret to Long-Term Success

SaaS community building: How to build saas communities

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The adoption and growth of the SaaS industry is expanding rapidly.

Statistics show there are over 30,000 SaaS companies, and the number is growing. While that’s great news for the industry overall, it also means increased competition, higher customer acquisition costs, and smaller profit margins for individual businesses.

Customer retention strategies then become crucial to secure your market share. One such strategy is SaaS community building. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It is the creation and management of an online community around your brand.

In this article, you’ll learn how to create a sense of togetherness among your customers, which helps maintain a competitive edge, boost customer loyalty, and promote organic business growth.

Importance of SaaS Community Building

If you’re looking for a reason to start community building, here are three:

  • Customer loyalty: community building increases customer retention by keeping users engaged and providing valuable, relevant content.
  • User feedback: community questions and discussions offer relevant insight into customer behavior (how customers use your product), product issues, product ideas, and more.
  • Word-of-mouth marketing: engaged and loyal customers make the best brand advocates, generating high-quality leads through referrals. Moreover, referred customers are more loyal than non-referred customers, increasing your customer lifetime value (CLV) rates.

You may have the most robust solution in the market, but every SaaS marketing manager knows that customer experience determines long-term success. SaaS community building is an integral part of that experience.

How to Build Your SaaS Community

Turning your user base into a close-knit, loyal community is easier said than done. It takes time and resources to make it worthwhile. Let’s explore how you can achieve this.

1. Determine your goal

The first thing you need to do is define community goals. Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve and how customers would benefit from participating.

Your goals will determine what content you share, which customers will be members, and how the community will be run. For example, the brand should lead community discussions if the goal is customer engagement. If it is customer support, your role is reactionary.

Other common goals you may consider include,

  • Brand awareness
  • Knowledge/skills sharing
  • Networking
  • Mentorship

Check out Salesforce’s Trailblazer community page.

The community helps members learn relevant skills, network with peers, and share knowledge.

Setting goals early ensures you’re not wasting time and resources on objectives that don’t benefit the business or meet your customers’ needs.

2. Choose your platform

You can build your SaaS community on different channels – social media websites like Facebook, messaging apps like Slack, and dedicated community platforms like Reddit.

Ideally, the platform you choose is one your target audience is already using. These are usually social network sites like Facebook (for B2C businesses) and LinkedIn (for B2B companies).

But this isn’t the only factor.

Community engagement is an integral factor in choosing a platform for SaaS community building. For instance, Slack’s real-time communication model drives high engagement as users are already on the app for work-related purposes. Members receive answers to queries relatively quickly compared to other community platforms.

Another factor to consider is platform functionality. Free community sites like Facebook and Reddit limit ownership. You don’t have control over the look and feel of the community (weakening the brand experience). 

These platforms are also borrowed spaces, meaning you must comply with the terms of service and compete with paid content. If the site goes down, there’s nothing you can do.

The alternative is branded platforms, which allow you to customize your community space to your goals and needs. Since the community is hosted on your website, you can guarantee exclusivity and even monetize the online community with membership fees. 

If your web hosting service provider doesn’t offer community forum features, tools like Zendesk, InSided, or Vanilla Forums are available. 

3. Create an onboarding plan

Joining SaaS communities can be intimidating for new users. Member onboarding is an opportunity to foster a sense of belonging and instill community values from the get-go. You can do this with welcome emails, onboarding videos, or guided tours of your community.

When customers click the ‘Get Started’ CTA on HubSpot’s community landing page, they receive a comprehensive guide on how the community runs. Additionally, the brand welcomes new members with a short video from the community manager, fostering a sense of belonging and highlighting brand culture and values.

Whichever way you choose to onboard new community members, be sure your process includes the following:

  • Formal welcome to the group
  • Tutorial of community tools and resources
  • Calls to action for new members to introduce themselves in the group
  • Community Guidelines

Community guidelines are essential to maintaining an inclusive and cohesive environment. They should highlight community expectations and consequences in case of violations.

Source

Lattice is an HR Slack community. The community’s code of conduct outlines expected behaviors, including respectful language, no unsolicited marketing, confidentiality, and active participation. The guidelines include a legal disclaimer and the course of action for community violations.

Clear community guidelines and effective moderating practices prevent community platforms from becoming hostile spaces. They ensure productive conversations and maintain a positive and consistent community experience.

4. Launch the community

Think of your community as a welcome party. No one’s going to come if they don’t know about it. You must send out invitations detailing the what, where, and when. The same principle applies to SaaS community building. You have to let people know it exists.

You can create buzz for your community through social media, email marketing, blog posts, and webinars. Tell customers when the community goes live and how they’ll benefit from the community. 

Create a separate landing page to link to your social posts, email newsletters, and webinar notes. Landing pages also make your community visible online, driving traffic to your community.

Pipedrive launched its sales community through a blog post. It outlines the communities membership requirements, type of content, and participation rewards.

We’ve answered the what, where, and when, but there’s another question – who? Like any party, people like to know who’s attending.

Consider starting with a soft launch to iron out wrinkles before going public. Invite a small group of super users to test the platform. Ideally, these members should be vocal supporters and well-connected in your niche SaaS. These members can also serve as social proof.

5. Continue to promote your community

Continuously promote your community post-launch to increase membership and keep the community alive.

There are various SaaS marketing strategies you can use to promote your community. We’ve mentioned social media and email newsletters for the community launch. You can also share popular questions and encourage non-members to check the answers on the community platform.

You can promote the community to new customers during the product onboarding process. For existing customers, use customer service channels like chatbots. Also, advertise your community page on your website and blog posts.

Ahref promotes its private Facebook community on its homepage. You can also use banners and pop-ups.

Don’t shy away from paid advertising initiatives like PPC or social ads if your budget can manage it. These campaigns can be expensive, but they generate twice the traffic of SEO content. It’s an effective way to get traction for your community.

3 Tips to Make Your Online Community a Success

It’s not enough to get your SaaS community up and running. You also want it to be successful. Here are some tried and tested tips for creating a cohesive and engaged group.

1. Employ a community manager

Community managers and moderators are vital to an inclusive and safe online customer community. They welcome new members, facilitate engagement, monitor user-generated content, and enforce community guidelines.

Moderators can make or break your community. You must choose individuals that are proactive, passionate about your brand, knowledgeable about your SaaS niche, and have good interpersonal skills.

Community management is time-consuming and can’t effectively run on an ad-hoc basis. Engagement will be spotty, user experience inconsistent, and the community will struggle. Don’t scrimp on this. 

Allocate funds from your SaaS marketing budget for a dedicated community manager. If you hire externally, share your brand guidelines to ensure a consistent brand experience.

2. Create a community engagement strategy

A successful community is self-sustaining, i.e., the members engage with each other with minimal input from the brand. To get there, you must have an engagement strategy outlining community activities to keep members active.

One way to do this is by incentivizing member contributions with badges, reputation points, or expert status. The more members participate, the higher they rank.

Zapier has a leaderboard highlighting its top community users. The rank designates participation level, ranging from new to Zapier expert. You can also see which badge members have earned and reputational points.

Another community engagement idea includes the use of polls, quizzes, and challenges.

Interesting content like this Chronotype quiz posted in Atlassian’s community increases community participation and communication, driving engagement.

3. Make the community feel exclusive

Something interesting happens when you gatekeep entrance into your private community. People perceive exclusive content as being more valuable than free content.

By making your group invitation only, you create a FOMO (fear of missing out) effect, a powerful conversion tactic. People want what they can’t have and will do what it takes. 

Exclusivity is just as important in retaining members as it is in acquiring them. If you promise exclusive content, you must deliver exclusive content. Otherwise, there’s no real value in being part of an exclusive community. 

Examples of restricted content include early-bird access to events, one-on-one mentorship, or limited-access webinars and certification programs.

For example, Vidyard offers free access to its knowledge base, including the On-demand Vidyard Training. However, its master class videos on selling are gated.

SaaS Community Building FAQs

1. How do you build a SaaS Community?

You build a SaaS community in five steps: defining community goals, choosing a suitable platform, onboarding new members, and launching and promoting the community.

2. Why is building a community important for SaaS?

Building a community is important for SaaS because it improves customers’ experiences, leading to customer loyalty and retention.

Wrapping Up

The secret to long-term success is simple – a good customer experience. Yet, this is where some SaaS brands fail despite innovative and well-designed products. Creating meaningful customer interactions drives customer satisfaction. When customers are happy, they tend to be loyal.

SaaS online communities help foster a sense of belonging, improving customer retention. Turning a group of strangers into a thriving community takes time, but the rewards are worth the effort. When customers become engaged users, churn rates decrease. Other benefits include insight into customer behavior and free marketing through word-of-mouth.

We shared five steps to creating a SaaS community and three tips for making it successful. As you implement them, keep your customers in mind. After all, members are the principal part of every community.

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