Selling a SaaS product is HARD. I know – I’ve been there – both as a buyer and a seller.
Consumers are spoiled by having so many choices, and getting noticed among the competition is really tough. Even if you get someone to visit your site and try out your product, the battle has only just begun.
You still have to turn them into a paying customer, and after that, you have to keep them.
If you’re running a SaaS business today, you need to be doing everything you can to nurture your leads – both before and after they convert.
So, answer me this:
What happens when a new lead is generated for your business?
- Do they receive a single email thanking them for their interest and letting them know that if they want any more information, here’s when you’re available?
- Do they get added to an email list and drip campaign that sends a series of automated messages designed to nurture them and move them along the sales funnel until they become a customer?
- Or, are they offered the help of their own personal concierge?
If you’ve answered one or two, you’re missing a trick: concierge onboarding is an invaluable tool for SaaS businesses. It can increase your conversions and reduce your churn rate.
So let’s talk about it.
What is concierge onboarding?
To help understand concierge onboarding, let’s talk briefly about a concept you’re probably already familiar with: the concierge.
The concierge works “front of house” in a hotel. The goal of their role is simple: to make the guests’ stays as pleasant as possible.
This could mean offering a suggestion for a great local restaurant (it might entail actually making a reservation for said restaurant), booking a local tour, or arranging for champagne and flowers to be in the room when guests arrive.
It can be really hard work, but ultimately very rewarding.
A concierge in marketing is very similar. Their job is to attend to a customer’s or potential customer’s every need (within reason, of course).
Have a question about the product? Want to be walked through how to use something? Need to know quickly whether the product meets all of your needs?
Your concierge will be the one to help you.
So what’s concierge onboarding?
Concierge onboarding refers to the process of using a “concierge” to convert a potential customer or bring a new customer “into the fold,” ensuring that the customer is equipped with the knowledge and resources they need to maximize the value they get from the product (and increase the odds they will stick around for the long-term).
In both cases, concierge onboarding is a growth strategy that every SaaS company should try.
Let’s talk about why.
Personalizing your customer service works
We’re in the age of automation. In many ways, that’s really exciting. On the downside, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to complete an action or transaction the old-fashioned way: by talking to a real-life, fellow human being.
Sure, self-service tills and live chat facilities are convenient, but when it comes to offering great customer service, they’re never going to be able to compete with a voice or face-to-face conversation.
This goes to show that even though banking online or through an app is instantaneous and easy, a majority of customers are still after that personal touch.
This is why concierge onboarding works – it’s the ultimate form of personalized customer service.
“In a world where your competitors are only a click away, customer loyalty really is the new marketing. Today’s customers have access to an endless amount of information about your business, and research shows that they’re ready and willing to stop dating around and stick with companies who go above and beyond to create a fantastic customer experience.” Help Scout
It lets you uncover and address objections in a single interaction
How are you currently handling objections from potential customers?
Do you wait for them to complete a contact form or send you an email?
If you expect potential customers to be the ones to take action, you’re missing a trick.
There’s a good chance that by the time you respond to that email or contact form, your lead has changed their mind. Maybe they’ve lost the excitement they had about your product or found an alternative they like better.
Whatever it is, proactive onboarding could have helped you retain that lead and get them one step closer to becoming a paid customer.
What’s possibly more worrying is the fact that when forced to take the initiative, that potential customer might not do anything at all.
They might not tell you they have a question or concern, and without even giving you a chance to address what’s worrying them, they’re looking elsewhere.
It creates loyal customers
You don’t need a business or marketing degree to figure out that customers who don’t fully understand how to use your product are much more likely to leave than those that do.
Offering customers the help of a concierge encourages them to speak up when they need help getting started or want someone to show them how to use a particular feature of the product.
Sure, there are plenty of other ways you can help new customers come to grips with your product:
- Walk-through blog posts
- Video guides
- Live webinars
- Customer forums
And of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t offer these resources. Having them available does in fact form part of an effective onboarding strategy. But none of them are going to be as effective at educating customers and increasing brand loyalty as a one-on-one concierge service.
It gets you and your customers (and your potential customers) talking
Concierge onboarding forces you to talk to your customers and potential customers. This is essential for building genuine relationships that drive loyalty.
It’s also a great way to find out what’s wrong with your product, or, even if nothing’s “wrong,” what it’s missing or what your customers simply aren’t digging.
In fact, there is so much that talking to your customers can teach you.
“You get to learn two very important things (among other stuff): the hesitations and questions they had before buying/signing up, and what matters to them about the product.
The first bit helps you understand the friction in the buying process—so you can tweak the website copy and offer accordingly.
Concierge onboarding gives you a “way in” to do that.
It helps potential customers remember you
With so many SaaS products on the market, and many of them offering free trials, it’s really easy to sign up for a tool and then promptly forget about it. There just isn’t that commitment when all you’ve done to get access is enter your name and email address.
While you can’t stop this from happening in its entirety, you can certainly reduce the number of leads you never see or hear from again with concierge onboarding.
Each time you push for contact with your leads – whether it leads to a conversation or not – that’s a reminder to that lead that you’re there.
If you get to actually talk to your lead, even better. They’re certain to remember you now but better yet, you have a chance to find out why they’re interested in your product, uncover their objections, show them how things work, and get a chance to help them convert.
It increases conversions (and the rate at which you get them)
When all of the above perks come together, concierge onboarding achieves two key things: it helps more leads convert, more quickly, and reduces your churn rate.
Let’s talk about how to get a process implemented.
The first step to implementing concierge onboarding is to introduce yourself and the service you’re offering.
A common strategy here is to call the customer. I get why companies choose to do that. It gives you the best odds of achieving your initial objective – talking to them.
Unfortunately, actually getting through to someone on the phone is easier said than done. Your lead might be busy, or they might screen calls and choose not to pick up when they don’t recognize who’s calling.
Even if your lead does pick up, they might not be that thrilled by the prospect of talking to you. Just because they like your product doesn’t mean they want to talk to you on the phone – especially when the call is on your terms.
So what do you do instead?
You send an email.
But not any email.
It needs to be personalized, and it needs to feel handwritten (i.e. not templated – even though we all know it probably is). Let’s see two examples.
Here’s a template for a not-that-great onboarding email:
Hi [lead’s name],
Thanks for your interest in [product’s name]. Would you like to schedule a call with one of the team so we can talk you through [product names]’s key features and answer any questions you have?
Just let me know when’s good for you.
And a template for a better one:
Hi [lead’s name],
I’m [your name], [your job role] at [company name].
I’m really happy to see you decided to give [product’s name] a try! I found you on Twitter/LinkedIn/your website (edit as appropriate) and can see that you’re responsible for [lead’s job role]. When are you free for a quick call to talk about how [product name] can help you achieve your company’s goals?
Let me know when works for you 🙂
Another point to consider is the fact that while someone might be happy to talk to you, they might not necessarily be happy to talk to you on the phone.
Let’s talk about that for a minute.
Allow customers to choose how they talk to you
If it was up to me, I’d be talking to all my customers over the phone, all of the time. I think it’s important in relationship-building to be able to hear somebody’s voice, and short of meeting someone face-to-face (which is usually impractical), a phone conversation is the best way to build a genuine relationship with someone.
That said, I understand that not everyone feels the same way. Fear of talking on the phone (or “telephobia”) is a very real thing.
And, even when someone isn’t “scared” to talk on the phone, I totally get that it makes many people feel anxious and uncomfortable.
What’s more, even people who are confident on the phone might not be able to find a convenient time to talk to you.
This is why I think it’s important to give prospects and customers a choice of ways to contact you. For example, by:
- Live chat
- Google Hangouts
I would however, also say this: encourage your leads and customers to pick up the phone where possible. Explain that they will get quicker and possibly more accurate answers to their questions if you’re able to communicate in real-time. Just don’t push them into doing something they don’t want to do – as well-intentioned as you might be, you’ll probably find you have the opposite effect in terms of bringing a new customer on board or making a current customer more loyal.
Assign each lead or customer their own concierge
And ensure that, as much as possible, the same concierge stays with that same lead or customer for the duration of their time with your business.
This is critical if you want to offer that elusive “personalized service.”
It would be nice to think that when a potential or current customer has a question or concern, they’ll come and ask us about it directly, wouldn’t it?
Unfortunately, that rarely happens. You can’t rely on customers to speak up when they have a problem, so wherever possible, you need to be the one to start the conversation.
When I was using onboarding to help convert users for Content Marketer (now Mailshake) I implemented a pretty aggressive live chat strategy.
I used proactive pop-ups that repeatedly prompted users to talk to me if they were having any problems using the tool or wanted to know more about how it worked.
The result was an approximate 30% lift in conversions – from a 3% to a 4.5% conversion rate.
Qualify potential customers before offering full-fledged concierge onboarding
If you’ve ever worked in sales, you will understand the frustration of realizing you’ve spent way too much time talking to someone who, it turns out, was never going to buy.
The exact same logic applies here.
Concierge onboarding is a time-intensive process, which means time spent talking to people who just aren’t going to convert is something you really want to avoid.
That is why it’s so important to qualify leads before offering them their own personal concierge.
This is something I figured out while promoting Content Marketer.
Instead of offering to chat on the phone with every visitor to the site, I asked all of those same visitors to complete a short survey.
This helped me assess whether my product was a fit for each visitor’s needs, what I should talk to them about if they scheduled a call, and whether it was worth my while to offer them a more personalized onboarding service.
The results were pretty clear-cut.
About 50% of people couldn’t figure out how to use the product. These were people I could potentially convert if given the chance to walk them through the finer details.
The other 50% had unrealistic expectations. They were looking for a “silver bullet” – a content marketing tool that could achieve the impossible. It was fair to assume that converting this group would be difficult, to say the least, simply because I couldn’t provide what they wanted.
There’s a good chance that trying to onboard them would be an epic waste of my (and their) time.
Bonus tip: Ask for credit card details
Restrict free trials to leads that are happy to hand over card details. This will reduce the number of leads you’re getting, but those you do get will be more qualified and far more likely to convert.
For example, when I did this, the number of leads I was getting went from between 300 and 350 a month to between 75 and 100.
Did it worry me?
At the same time, we nearly doubled the number of paid customers we were converting each month. Not only were the leads we were working with more qualified, but the fact that we had far less leads to worry about meant we had more time to nurture each one properly.
Plan your calls
Never begin your first call with a lead or customer without knowing what you’re going to say. Always be prepared.
Follow up conversations may be different. Many of them will be off the cuff, and you’ll have to play it by ear.
As part of your preparation, I suggest:
- Researching your contact and their company
- Writing yourself a script
Don’t spend too long on this. Your script should be a guide, not gospel. You’re going to deviate from it – you can’t help that. Its primary purpose is to give you a starting point, and to prompt you if you get stuck for something to say.
Don’t get too deep into your research, either.
Whatever you do, some of the leads you schedule calls with will flake out. Is that rude? Sure. Is it annoying? Definitely. But that’s life, and it’s part and parcel of the onboarding and sales process.
People will let you down.
Instead of getting angry and upset that a lead you spent ages preparing to speak to has bailed, just don’t spend too much time researching them in the first place. Ideally, spend 10 minutes max learning about the person you’re going to speak to. You might want to check out:
- Their Twitter profile
- Their LinkedIn page
- Their company website
- Recent blog posts they’ve written (if any) for their website
It’s also well worth asking a couple of questions ahead of the call. Exactly what you ask will depend on the specifics of your product and your target audience, but questions you could ask include:
“What do you hope to achieve with [product name]?”
“What do you hope to achieve as a business in the next year?”
“Have you ever used a product like this before? Which one?”
(If yes) “Why are you considering using [product name] instead? What does your current or previous tool lack?”
Schedule follow up sessions
Or at least ensure your customer or lead knows the offer of follow up sessions is there.
Onboarding is an ongoing process. A single session might lead to a conversion, but it might not. If you’re talking to a qualified lead, taking the time to nurture them is well worth it.
After you wrap up a call, send them a friendly email that:
- Sums up the key takeaways (that FYI, you should be taking notes on)
- Details what they should be doing next
- Explains how they can contact you with further questions or if they want to arrange another one-on-one session
Set a reminder that if you don’t hear back within a certain number of days (5-7 is a good ballpark figure) you’ll send another quick email asking how everything’s going and if there’s anything you can do to help them further.
When it comes down to it, concierge onboarding is a really simple concept. It’s about offering leads and customers the ultimate personal service. It’s about being available to talk to them when they have questions and taking the time to walk them through their concerns. It can – and ideally should – also mean providing evergreen content that assists when or where you can’t, whether that’s because you’re off the clock or the customer or lead in question prefers a more indirect approach to onboarding.
Have you ever tried concierge onboarding? Or been assigned a concierge yourself? It’d be great if you could share how effective you found the process (from either side) in the comments below.