Proven Models to Increase Customer Engagement
As the name suggest, SaaS businesses are successful with an engaged subscriber base. Commonly referred as “retention rate” is a percentage calculation of how many customers does a SaaS business retain over time.
As customer engagement is the key to success for every SaaS business, working on customer engagement, onboarding, and retention rate are the key elements for an engaged customer base.
This article will outline what is a customer engagement model, key metrics to measure it, stages of customer engagement, customer engagement models to use for your SaaS marketing, and more.
What is a customer engagement model?
A customer engagement model is an outlined process to use while approaching your SaaS users. Some SaaS businesses think of it only as a post-sale process, but we like to think of it starting from pre-sale as every touchpoint you have with your potential customers matters for your business.
Similar to a marketing funnel, you can think of customer engagement in three different stages: pre-sale, post-sale onboarding, and product adoption.
Each step requires different strategies.
For example, at pre-sale stage, you need think of your social media, PPC reporting, SEO, and demand generation strategies.
At post-sale onboarding stage, you need to effectively onboard your customers and learn how they learned about you with a survey tool.
At product adoption stage, you need to continously teach how to make the best out of your tool so that your customers can adopt all features.
Depending on your product’s price, complexity, and industry you may have a few more stages too- especially if your sales cycle is longer than usual.
Key Metrics to measure customer engagement
If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.
That’s especially true for customer engagement as it will be extremely hard to manually track user interactions without key customer engagement metrics to track and an analytics tool at your fingertips.
Conversion rate is the single most important metric for your website, but don’t think of it as solely requesting a demo or signing up for a free trial. It’s much more than that.
Micro-conversions are actually more important than conversion rate as they indicate what your customers tend to do before actually signing up for a free trial or requesting a demo.
A few micro-conversion examples:
- Downloading an eBook
- Signing up for your newsletter
- Viewing your pricing page or Calendly page
Although the definition of conversion rate differentiates based on your campaign, use case, and goals, calculation never changes.
It’s the total number of conversions/total visitors or sessions in the given timeframe.
If 200 out of 1000 visitors viewed your pricing this month, your conversion rate this month will be 20%.
Pages per Session
Pages per session is the number of pages a visitor visits per session on your website.
Pages per session is important as it indicates whether visitors find it easy to navigate on your website, if your internal linking structure is good enough, and whether they are engaging with your content.
You can check out our documentation to learn about other web analytics metrics!
Net promoter score
Net promoter score is an evaluation of how likely is a customer to recommend your product to one of their friends.
You can ask this on a demo or you can use a survey tool to create NPS surveys and start getting responses.
You need to keep track of your overall net promoter score and talk with the users who have given you a low score to understand what’s wrong with their experiences.
Other than that, you can check out their sessions to find out the differences between their sessions and sessions of users who have given you a high score on the survey.
You can check out our free survey tool to create an NPS survey and analyze sessions.
Similar to pages per session metrics, session duration helps you understand how engaged your customers are with your website or product.
You can measure session duration both for your website and product.
If your visitors’ average session duration decreases over time, you need to understand why. A few reasons why that might happen:
- A UX issue
- A bug on your website (404 or a JS error)
- Wrong target audience
- Misleading advertisement
Lifetime value is a metric to understand on average how much your customers are paying for your businesses.
If a customer stays 18 months as a subscriber and pays $100 each month, their lifetime value will be 1800 for your SaaS.
Lifetime value is integral for a good marketing and product marketing strategy.
If one of your blog posts bring the highest quality leads based on lifetime value, then you should write more of that blog post.
It could be because of the post’s audience, your distribution strategy, or the quality of content. After understanding the reason, you can adjust your marketing strategy for that.
Lifetime value is also important for product marketing as you product marketers need to understand the reasons for customer churn.
If customers who signed up from a specific Facebook ad are not adopting features and ending up churning, you need to understand why and iterate your product marketing strategy.
In order to effectively use lifetime value, you need a tool that connects your product engagement metrics with marketing metrics like HockeyStack.
Churn rate is the percentage of customers who ended their subscriptions per month. If your churn rate is increasing, then you probably have a problem with one of these:
- Ad persona
- Feature adoption
To decrease churn, you need to understand which marketing source brings the churned customers, why they are churning, and which part of the strategy you need to change.
You can measure user activity with a few different methods. You can measure the number of features used on your SaaS app per week per user, pageviews, pageviews per session, session duration, and more.
User activity is a leading indicator of how likely a customer is to churn or recommend your product to a friend.
Number of features used is a critical metric that you need to keep track of. Measuring the number of features an account used per week will give you actionable insights on what to do.
If they are not using the key features of your app, their customer success manager can send them an email to schedule a demo, you can send them guides, use an onboarding tool to set up guides & checklists, and more.
Stages of Customer Engagement
An effective marketing, SEO reports, demand generation, and customer engagement management process starts with a thorough understanding of the customer stages.
There are three stages of a regular marketing funnel, but I will outline 5 customer engagement stages here so that you will have a good starting point. You can choose the stages that are relevant for your SaaS business’s customer engagement process.
At this stage of the funnel, your prospective user doesn’t know anything about your product, brand position, or even the solution your SaaS is solving.
Generating demand with captivating content and the distribution of that content is integral at this stage. Your role is to make your prospective customers be aware of your brand & the solution you are solving.
As they became aware of your SaaS, they will visit your website. When they visit your website, it has to be relevant to them. That’s why you need to focus your distribution only to your ICP.
If you distribute your content to people who may be irrelevant for your offering, it might cause a high bounce rate & waste of time.
If you are solving a problem for SaaS marketing teams, then you need to create content that solves their problem, creates awareness, and leads them to your product.
While distributing your content, you need to find out where they are hanging out and distribute your content there.
Discovery stage, as the name implies, means that your prospective customers are starting to know your your SaaS and the problem it solves.
Discovery stage starts with the first website visit and ends with a discovery call.
At this phase, you might begin collecting their information via newsletter signups, discovery call form, etc.
You can then use this information to craft your unique pitch for them to use during the discovery call.
During this call, you need to ask specific questions and let them talk about their business and the issues they are facing.
Image via /“>Medium
According to Gong, during a good discovery call that ends with conversion sales person speaks for 45% of the time and the prospect speaks for the 55% of the time.
Asking good questions and crafting a unique pitch is the key.
After the discovery call, consideration stage begins. Depending on your company, after the discovery call your prospects might have a second meeting with an account executive.
In this meeting, an account executive shows the actual product to the prospect and follows up with them until the actual sale.
During the discovery call and the second call, prospect considers the product and its alternatives to find out which would be the perfect-fit for them.
If everything goes smooth, the prospect converts into a paying customer at the conversion stage.
A good onboarding (maybe with an account manager or customer success manager) would make this stage much easier and smooth.
During conversion stage, prospect will have the highest amount of questions regarding the product’s features, so an incredible onboarding email sequence that highlights the features is a must.
On top of that, guides inside the product makes everyone’s lives easier.
At this stage of the customer engagement process, prospect starts using the product actively. This is the stage that makes it clear whether the prospect will churn or be a loyal user.
Product marketing teams should be proactively measure product adoption and engagement to ensure the prospect will engage with the product and be a loyal user.
On top of quantitative data, qualitative data sources, such as NPS surveys, are a must at this stage of the process.
Choosing the Right Customer Engagement Model
To work on your customer engagement and create your product’s fans, you need to choose the right customer engagement model for your SaaS.
There are different models, such as high-touch, low-touch, and hybrid, and you need to choose the one that’s right for your SaaS.
To choose the right one, you should consider the price of your SaaS, average contract value, target customers, and resources.
Generally, high-touch models require a lot of steps & resources, so you don’t need one if your product is relatively cheap.
Customer onboarding is the nurturing process that helps the users get acquantied with the features & use-cases of a product.
A good onboarding experience should teach customers about the features of the product, how/when they should use a certain feature, and the brand’s position.
There are onboarding-based customer engagement models that you can choose:
- High touch
- Low touch
A high touch onboarding model has a lot of touchpoints with the customer. These interactions are resource-intensive, and that’s why you should avoid it if you are going after a low contract price.
A high touch onboarding usually starts with a personal demo, onboarding, online or in-person training, and weekly check-ins with a dedicated customer success manager.
Advantages of the approach:
- Ability to create unique experiences
- Ability to tailor onboarding based on needs & company
- Easy to make customers engaged & loyal to the brand
- Ensures users are ready to use the product
- Allows to deepen relationships
Disadvantages of the approach:
- Customers may demand personal attention even after the onboarding
- Requires a lot of resource & time
- Requires good employee training
A low touch onboarding model has fewer touchpoints with the customer and they are usually automated.
A low touch onboarding process usually starts with an automated onboarding email that highlights the benefits of the product and continues with an automated onboarding email sequence.
It makes sense for lower priced & less complex products.
A good help center with video guides, on-demand support, and documentation makes low touch onboarding more successful.
You need to know that even if you choose low touch onboarding model, you should still measure its success.
You can measure success with the following metrics:
- Email open rate
- Email success rate
- Week over week engagement rate
- Features used
Retention models cover the time after onboarding. Its goal is to make customers loyal, retain them for longer, and expand their accounts.
Strong customer retention is important because it costs five times less than acquiring a new customer.
On top of that, retained customers tend to expand their accounts, meaning they move to a higher plan and increase their contract value.
A good retention model should simply keep track of account health, customer’s happiness, NPS score, and features that are being used.
CSM, customer success manager, is the person in charge of customers’ happiness & success using the product.
A CSM driven retention model allows the brand to have 1-1 human interaction with the customer, but it’s resource-intensive.
A customer success manager usually onboards the customer and check them weekly to answer possible questions, tell more about the product, and have more touchpoints.
CSM-driven retention model is great for high-ticket low-volume products or bigger accounts.
- More human
- Deeper relationship
- Best for high contract values
CSM-driven retention model disadvantages:
- Requires a lot of time & resource
- Requires excellent communication skills
Similar to low touch onboarding model, automated retention model uses automated email sequences written by the customer success team.
Automated retention model nurtures customers with automated email sequences, guides, product announcement banners, hotspots, checklists, and videos.
Customer success team can keep track of account health with metrics, such as open/reply rates, guide completion, video views, and checklist completions.
A hybrid model combines different elements of the models that I covered above. Most companies use hybrid models to combine retention models with CSM-driven models, and adopt a high touch model for bigger accounts.
Different hybrid models include:
- High Touch Onboarding / High Touch Post Onboarding
- High Touch Onboarding / Low Touch Post Onboarding
- Low Touch Onboarding / High Touch Post Onboarding
- Low Touch Onboarding / Low Touch Post Onboarding
Choosing a good customer retention model and adopting a retention-first approach is integral for SaaS growth as retaining a customer costs 5x less than acquiring new one.
SaaS brands should focus on customer engagement and marketing teams should cooperate with product marketing teams using a tool like HockeyStack.