Growing your SaaS business with online communities

Updated on by Hayley Brown

SaaS companies have and continue to rapidly grow. They have become an integral part of varying industries business operations. With this large expansion and mass adoption SaaS companies need to continually drive product innovation and growth. 

One way to achieve this is through close collaboration with customers in the form of an online community. We take a look at how SaaS companies create communities for their users to share knowledge and onboard.

Online communities can grow your SaaS business

A SaaS community platform can be seen as a competitive edge in the SaaS market today. In many ways it can also be considered a necessity. Not only do they provide benefits to the customer but also they give insight into some of the challenges organisations face. From product innovation to customer retention. 

Online communities can come in many shapes and sizes, and are either private/branded or public environments. Typically for customers or enthusiasts to communicate and share experiences. From question and answer forums, feedback, general conversation and tutorials. In recent years they have become powerful solutions for business problems, such as onboarding, churn, and high customer support costs. 

In regards to online communities helping to grow your SaaS business, in a private/branded SaaS community those who have access are either invited or existing customers. They help growth through the interactions of customers and your brand. Answering their questions, forming relationships, and giving them what they need to use the product. Thus increases customer retention and reduces churn.

On the other hand a public community can have a much broader focus, and they can allow for self promotion within the group rules. Networking and conversations with SaaS industry members provides an opportunity for your SaaS brand awareness to grow. As a result of communication in a public community it could lead the customer to joining the private/branded environment, as part of the onboarding process and beyond. 

Building and benefits of a private SaaS community

There are numerous benefits to building your own private SaaS community for your customers. To not only them but you as well. Before building your community it is important to understand what the aim of it is. Whether it is improving customer retention, growing your subscriber base, increasing subscriber engagement, or collaborating with your customers.

In understanding your aim the community can be built and designed to engage with your appropriate audience. 

A SaaS community platform provides direct communication with your customers. It allows for relationships to be built outside of the sales process. With customers increasing their connections to the brand via discussion forums, talking with fellow consumers, asking questions, writing feedback and ultimately helping to create a knowledge base.

This knowledge base is a central hub providing support, advice, best practices and feedback meaning customers can self-serve and reduce helpdesk tickets or support. Thus helping to create a seamless customer experience. 

In building an online community and forging relationships with customers it can lead to customer retention, and customer success through high satisfaction.

Communities are drivers of product innovation, especially branded communities. They allow SaaS companies to take advantage of common customer challenges, needs and product improvement suggestions. 

In collaborating with your customers, and informing them of how they have helped develop the product or service they love, they are highly likely to want to talk about it. Happy customers can become your top referral sources. The SaaS community gives them the platform to do so, and thus helping drive engagement across the entire customer lifecycle.

Driving engagement with online communities 

Building an online SaaS community also requires engagement from it’s users. This can be encouraged in a number of ways. Using engaging content that has strong visual, and educational assets can help drive subscriber engagement. This could be in the form of video tutorials, images and diagrams, it could also be from user generated content. 

Private/branded communities are often filled with existing customers or specific invitees who are primary users of the SaaS product. They would then appreciate the online community to be integrated with existing support systems. They can then raise a question and it is automatically directed to the appropriate channel.

Another way to help drive subscriber engagement is through personalisation. Whereby a curated feed of content relevant to the individual customer is shown upon logging into the community. As well as the ability to search the knowledge base for easy access to conversations, tips and answers to their queries.

Within these communities incentives such as gamification, which encourages users to achieve goals with reward badges, whether they’ve completed a tutorial course, asked a question, or answered a fellow user’s query. To help drive subscriber engagement and form a helpful customer success community. 

Driving Engagement within SaaS Communities

The role of ‘customer success’ in the customer onboarding process

Customer onboarding is an important process in the early stages of product adoption. It is the starting point for setting up customers for success, building relationships, retaining customers and reducing churn.

To boost customer success early is to design a seamless onboarding process for your customers. The onboarding process can vary from company to company. They are usually made up of a series of emails, demos, virtual training sessions, and articles or videos inside your SaaS community platform. 

This is where your new customers can find resources for getting started, have conversations with fellow product users, and read through questions and answers about the product. Therefore your onboarding process can be complimented by your online SaaS community. 

The onboarding process may one day be contactless. An online SaaS community platform will be able to seamlessly educate new customers on how to use the product with the wealth of knowledge available from a customer success community. 

Strong online community options 

As previously mentioned SaaS online communities can either be private/branded or public. There are a range of software or social media platforms that can provide an environment for communities to gather and exchange experiences. 

Examples include:

  • Forums
  • Slack Channels
  • Telegram Channels
  • Branded Sub-Reddits
  • Facebook/LinkedIn Groups

These online communities can help provide a curated product specific experience, or provide a platform for industries to discuss trends and network.

Avatar for Hayley Brown

Hayley Brown

With several years experience in the digital marketing space after graduating from Sussex University, Hayley has gone on to work in the retail and education industries. In 2020 she joined the Cyclr team and is working alongside Daniel in the Marketing Department.