Have an upsell strategy
If you have a SaaS, you ideally have monthly and annual pricing. If you just have monthly pricing, add annual prices. Annual pricing changes the game: All your revenue comes upfront + decreases churn.
The upsell strategy is very simple:
When someone signs up for your SaaS monthly plan, They click 'Buy' and pay on a month-to-month basis.
After they buy the monthly, they should get a pop-up like:
"Pay Annually And Get a 15% Discount!"
This annual upsell sounds small, but if you're doing big numbers? This upsell can add $100,000s or millions of dollars of extra revenue. And you also decrease churn! It's a win-win situation.
If they click no?
You already got the payment for a month, you don't lose anything to try a simple upsell offer.
The first thing your SaaS buyers do when they want out: They click 'Cancel'... Don't let them go that easy.
In an ethical and respectful way, of course.
When SaaS members click 'Cancel', remind them:
"You'll lose all your data, all your saved lists, and searches. There's a lot of stuff you have in there."
Down-sell a 'hibernation plan' for a low fee to save all their data. This way, you don't get user churn.
You do get revenue churn but lose fewer users. And if they really want to cancel?
The flow asks them, "why are you canceling?" It presents options to help them with whatever problems have.
The last step is to offer a discount. If it works, great. If it doesn't?
They clearly aren't your ideal customer. They weren't going to be with you long-term anyways.
Understand churn and how to lower it
Your SaaS must be a core part of someone's business/personal life.
Preferably your SaaS plays a DAILY role in your buyers' lives. Churn is gonna be low if your customers use it every day.
There are two types of SaaS for a business:
Solves a 'need'
Solves a 'want'
Imagine money got tight:
Which are they going to cancel first?
Their Netflix subscription or their internet service?
To have low churn, Build a SaaS they can't live without. And structure your pricing to that.
The more they use your SaaS, the more they pay. As they grow their business, so do you.
And they will gladly pay for it. They're growing because of you.
The only reasons they will cancel: They go out of business or go to a competitor.
Align team incentives around retention
Almost every department within every SaaS company measures success differently.
Sales teams are responsible for revenue figures, marketing tracks the qualified leads and product tracks the delivery and sprint points thus creating the division and not leading to a coherent strategy
David Cancel, founder and CEO of Drift, shared a simple solution in design your internal metrics for every department to incentivize customer retention. This one change, he argued, could help SaaS companies dramatically improve their retention rates.
What does that look like in practice?
For sales teams: Limit by geographical area or industry vertical the number of prospects each salesperson is responsible for, and modify commission structures so sales teams receive some percentage only after customers stick around. This keeps sales staff from running through leads too quickly. For marketing teams: Focus on lead quality over volume. Instead of tracking the number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs), try tracking the number of sales-qualified leads (SQLs) as a success metric. Also, integrate more closely with sales by embedding business development reps on the marketing team to better qualify leads. For product teams: Make sure product managers have direct and open access to speak with customers. Without direct feedback, product improvements will be haphazard and, ultimately, won’t help retain customers. Align the NPS score to product.
Make onboarding your top priority
Onboarding is important for SaaS firms as this sets up the customer for success.
, head of product and analytics at Reforge, spoke about the : Week 1 retention: Can you get your users to use your product more than once? Mid-term retention (weeks 2-4): Can you establish any pattern of usage? Long-term retention (weeks 4+): How does your product become an indispensable tool?
Most companies put more effort into improving long-term retention—but it turns out that improving early retention through better onboarding cascades into the rest of your customer life cycle, creating ongoing retention gains.
Dan’s efforts to improve the onboarding experience at HubSpot’s now-defunct Sidekick product drove up first-week retention nearly 15%. What’s more interesting, though, is that those effects continued indefinitely. At week 12, those initial improvements had boosted retention from roughly 15% to over 25%—an improvement of over 60%.
So how can you improve your onboarding and see similar results in your own SaaS? : Know your customers. Understand the , and frame your onboarding around achieving that success. Identify your aha moment, and get users there fast. Map out and benchmark the user journey. Design a path to guide them through key features that help them achieve their goal. Continue educating users even after onboarding. Provide tips, training, and education so customers get the most out of the product.
Engage with customers to help them succeed
According to Lincoln Murphy of Sixteen Ventures, , even though the definition is fairly straightforward:
"Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company."
The key emphasis here is interactions with your company, as Murphy explains:
"Rather than saying 'with your product,' the focus is on all of the interactions your customer has with your company; starting at the earliest touch points of marketing and sales, moving through closing and onboarding, and continuing through their entire lifecycle with you."
Ongoing feedback and engagement with customers are key to combating customer churn—and with the sheer number of engagement and interaction tools on the market today, it’s easy to get started.
First, make sure you’re communicating with customers across multiple channels. In-app notifications target customers when they're actually receiving value and don't require switching programs, catching them in the right place at the right time. Phone calls are especially important for retaining large-ACV, enterprise-level customers. And can be used very close to a customers' contract expiration date to drive immediate attention. Next, work to give customers a personalized experience. Companies who go the extra mile by offering a remarkable experience reap the benefits—according to customer experience adviser Esteban Kolsky, with six or more people. Take email service provider ConvertKit, for example. By (over 50 videos each day), the company was able to reduce their churn rate nearly 15% in only a month.
Finally, invite your customers to provide feedback. Customer success managers and support team members have a direct line into how their customers are using the product and what’s keeping them from reaching their goals, making them the ideal channels for collecting and managing product feedback. This feedback can help you gain a better understanding of your users’ needs and how you could improve your product and service to best meet those needs.
If you’re just getting started, sending out a simple net promoter score (NPS) survey is a great way to start tracking customer satisfaction, but it won’t provide a lot of useful qualitative feedback. Make sure you to close the feedback loop.
Deliver exceptional customer support
Customer expectations are higher than ever, and poor service costs businesses massive profits. A 2018 report from NewVoiceMedia estimated that in lost business. Of course, when one customer submits a lot of tickets, it could be a sign that they’re engaging closely with your product. But if those tickets take a long time to close—or worse, many of them end up unresolved—that’s a strong sign the
The best ways to combat churn with exceptional customer service? Be proactive. Look for patterns that might indicate customers are having trouble—recurring support tickets for the same problem, or customers having lots of tickets that remain unresolved. For every ticket, see if there’s an opportunity to proactively monitor for that kind of problem in the future, and either prevent it from happening in the first place or address it more quickly.
Building trust with customers through great support is crucial, especially when inevitably occur. After experiencing an outage earlier this year, Cloudflare managed the situation well, quickly publishing a :
Their post explained in great detail what went wrong, what they’d already done to fix it, and how they were being proactive about preventing it in the future, no doubt helping to retain many customers who might otherwise have churned.
Stellar support brings side benefits for your business as well—besides providing more personalized support, strong customer relationships give you more opportunities you’ll create for upsells and cross-sells. Ian Landsman gives an example of using customer support as an upsell opportunity over on :
"Customer B is frustrated, and a bit overwhelmed. He thought he was paying for something already, and it turns out that’s not what he bought. What B needs is on a higher cost tier — but now is not the time to have a salesy and promotional tone.
B didn’t call you wanting to pay more. In fact, he doesn’t feel what he’s paying for right now is valuable. Consider what you can offer him to make him feel heard, and make him feel accommodated.
Hi B, we’re sorry to hear about your concerns. We do offer that feature on our Premium level plan, which also includes… We understand you weren’t expecting to upgrade today. Would you like to try our premium features free for 30 days? We wouldn’t expect any commitment to that plan at this time.”
Reduce Product Outages
If your product is critical for a business and going down repeatedly, then you can use technique to reduce the risk and product outage
This technique helps in identifying which instances to focus first in product development to reduce the risk of the platform from going down. This can take 2-3 months in implementation and can increase your uptime to 99.99%
Optimize your pricing to promote retention
to balance value with profit can have a huge effect on your company’s success, from sales and marketing to retention and profitability. Even though most companies only ever on their pricing strategy, your pricing gives you a number of levers you can pull to improve retention. First, don’t give discounts. Offering a hefty discount on your base prices might juice your numbers up front, but the benefits are short-lived. Discounting can , and discounted customers have of those who pay full price.
The problem? Discounts don’t create loyalty; instead, loyalty needs to be earned through providing an excellent product and service that customers can't get anywhere else. And the best way to do that is to raise your prices.
Charging more automatically increases the perceived value of your product, boosting the chances your customers will remain loyal to your company. Raising prices also lets you allocate more resources to customer success, giving customers a better experience and further increasing the likelihood of them sticking around for the long term.
Know your metrics and choose the right tools
You can’t improve what you aren’t measuring. Without a clear idea of where your retention rate stands right now and how you’re progressing toward your churn reduction goals, you might end up making poor decisions that could kill your progress and stifle your growth.
Tools and metrics can’t fix your churn problem, but they can take care of a lot of heavy lifting for you:
Tools like and make it easy to measure customer satisfaction. takes the grunt work out of measuring revenue and retention. and let you keep in touch with customers and collect qualitative feedback. and give you two different approaches for eliminating involuntary churn.
While tools like these make it easy to start tracking metrics, you also need to know how to pull insights out of the raw data.
First, make sure you’re . User churn is helpful in understanding how well your positioning, customer success, and pricing are working for your business, but MRR retention lets you know whether your company is truly sustainable.
Say you have 100 customers, and 7 of them churn within the same month—that would be a 93% user retention rate. If those customers are all on your highest plan, though, that could end up being a much higher percentage of your revenue. If you only look at the user churn rate, you might assume you’re doing great—while meanwhile, you’re leaking revenue at a prodigious rate.
It’s also helpful to break down customer retention by cohort. A cohort is simply a group of users who share the same sign-up date. Breaking down your customer base by cohort can help you understand when customers are at the highest risk of churn. Here’s an :
Rows indicate the timeline and the number of customers you acquired in each period, and the columns indicate the amount of time that’s elapsed since that cohort signed up.
Understanding when users are most likely to churn can help answer questions around what they’re struggling with. For example, if you send out a one-month educational onboarding sequence via and notice that churn is highest after the first month, it might mean you need more product education to help combat that increase in churn.
Set Customer Expectations
One of the major reasons for churn is user expectations not being met. This happens when the user is promised something which the product is not able to deliver on.
It is essential to be very clear in your messaging about how you add value for your users. Tell them exactly what they get when they sign up. Besides that is is a good practice to slightly underpromise on the perceived value add and overdeliver, which leads to customers being delighted. Even if you don’t practice this, remember that the vice versa, overpromising value and under delivering on it is a recipe for disaster.
Give them the “A-Ha” Moment
The “A-Ha” moment is the moment the customer starts seeing the value your service adds. From the moment a user signs up, the user experience should be targeted towards getting them to this moment as soon and as smoothly as possible. For this, focus on optimizing your onboarding. Send out instructional content initially to get users acquainted with the service and its features. If your service is more complex, it makes sense to offer free training to the users – people interested in your product will want to learn how it works, and by training them you’re guiding them to the “aha” moment.
Highlight your Value Proposition
Your value proposition is what makes your product unique. A good value proposition is simple, tells the users the concrete results they will get, and can be read and understood in about 5 seconds. It also avoids hype words and business jargon. Clarity is the key.
Constant delivery on the value proposition is a must. It is what your users signed up for, and it is what will get them to stay. It is also a good practice to remind them about your value proposition from time to time.
Showing them what they’re gaining will encourage them to continue their subscription.
The biggest benefit of long-term customers and forming relationships with them is also one of the best customer retention strategies. Users turn into long-term customers as they see the value you provide.
Upselling is a win-win, users get better services, and you get more revenue. It also has a two-fold effect. You are now tackling multiple pain points for the user, so your relationship deepens. With higher billing amounts, the user commitment increases, making them more likely to stick around longer.
Send Targeted Tips For Increased Engagement
You can set up automated emails which get triggered when the user performs a specific action to engage them further. For example, if the user completes designing a sales page, you can send them an email saying, “Congratulations on setting up your first page. Here is how to get the best out of your sales pages”, and direct them to a blog or an informative video.
For example, in this case, you could tell them how pairing your sales page with an exit pop-up can help, and direct them to the pop-up designer in your app. Help like this adds value to the customers’ efforts and makes them stay.
Maintain a Regular Interaction Schedule
Imagine subscribing to a service and hearing from them only when money is getting withdrawn from your bank account. Not pleasant, right? Via your interactions, you have to make the user mindful of the value you provide so they don’t end up associating you with the feeling of losing money for nothing.
This is why maintaining regular customer interaction is crucial for retention. Even if you don’t if you’re not regularly sending content heavy emails, call them once in a while just to say “hi” or see how they are doing with the product. It shows the users that you care beyond the money - you actually want to help them achieve their goals.
Keep Adding Upgrades and Releasing New Versions
This is another way to let users know that you’re working to help them achieve their goals. Invite constructive feedback on your product (more about this later), and keep improving your product via upgrades and new features.
As users see more value over time, customer retention rates will keep increasing. Churn also occurs sometimes due to boredom –as users interact with a similar platform over time, it may result in decreased perceived value and lesser engagement consequently. Releasing new versions will help fight that.
Avoid Surveys on Service Tickets
Feedback on the customer service resolution experience can be a great way to optimize your process, but it can also annoy the user in unwanted ways. Put yourself in the users’ shoes. You faced an issue and went through the trouble of getting it resolved. Thankfully, (assuming) the resolution process was smooth. But now the team keeps on pestering you to give feedback on your experience. It’s the same as the annoying reporter asking a crash victim questions about their rescue as soon as they’re saved. The key to getting them to talk is the time and place.
Feedback From The Right Places
Ask for feedback in places where you need to make users feel a sense of being in power. So you could try placing a link on your pricing page, or when you send out your monthly newsletter etc. Make sure it is visually appealing and inviting for users to actually give their feedback.
Make Users Part of a Community
Building a support community around your brand is a great idea. It has benefits for both the user and the company. By getting to interact with other users and you, the users will get a feeling of belonging. That’s where you move from a formal to a personal relationship for them. Interacting with your users at a grassroots level is also a source of invaluable feedback. Moz’s feature request forum is a great example of a mix of these concepts. It allows users to ask for features they’d like to see, where either other users or the company representatives can reply.
Let’s be clear – if someone wants to leave, never make it hard for them to do it. This approach which works in real life holds true for SaaS as well. Make your cancellation policy super simple to avoid breakouts on social media by grumpy users. People mostly leave for a reason, and here you can leverage exit surveys to gain enormous insight into things you are doing wrong. This will help you increase retention for future users.
Use interactive walkthroughs, not product tours
How many times have you been excited to try a new product, started a free trial, and then been that you never wanted to touch it again?
The classic problem with traditional product tours like this is that they show all users the same generic features in the same generic order each time. There’s no personalization to the user’s individual needs or use case.
In other words, it’s a top-down tour where the user has to follow along and obey passively.
Newsflash: no-one learns like this. That’s why mainstream education sucks, by the way.
Traditional product tours just destroy , crippling your SaaS business before it’s even had a chance to get off the ground.
By contrast, an interactive walkthrough is more like a two-way conversation. The user is directed to the specific features that are most useful to their specific use case, based on the information the customer shares in-app.
This strategy works best when you only show the user the specific features they need to use in order to activate. If you do any more than that in your walkthrough, you risk causing churn by overwhelming the user with too much at once.
Social sharing app Kontentino created their interactive walkthrough using Userpilot. After collecting some initial data about the user in a welcome screen, they elegantly point them towards the two main features the user needs to activate: connecting their social media account (see above) and making their first post.
The result? Kontentino increased their user activation by 10% within one month of installing Userpilot. That’s a lot of users who didn’t churn in the first few days. You can read a full case study about .
Gamify the customer experience
There are certain product experiences that have a tendency to just suck you in.
Online games are the perfect example of this. There’s a natural human tendency to want to play, and so the time just flies by.
Intelligent companies are aware of the human tendency towards play, and exploit it in their SaaS so that the user feels like they’re playing a game when they’re using the product.
One example of an area you can use this is in your .
Rather than collect initial user data through a dry survey, why not have users choose from a variety of preset avatars? It will feel like the beginning of an MMO game!
Other common gamification elements include:
Points – especially combined with leaderboards Setting users missions or quests Playful rivalry between groups of users
Back in 2009, a lot of Foursquare’s initial user retention was down to gamification. Whenever a user visited a new place on Foursquare, they received points, with the possibility of becoming the “Mayor” of a given location if they visited it for a certain length of time.
Naturally, everyone wanted to be the mayor, and so users kept using Foursquare over and over in a frenzy. And retention went through the roof.
Reduce product friction (most of the time)
Nobody wants to use a product that makes you fill in endless forms with loads of pointless fields. The Internet has reduced our attention span and made us lazy!
To retain more customers, consider removing as many unnecessary roadblocks from your experience flows as possible, especially your .
Here are some specific roadblocks you could get rid of:
Lazy Registration: if it’s possible to wait until after a user has registered to get a piece of data that you need to personalize their experience, then do so. Don’t burden them in the sign-up flow longer than you need to. Third party registration:No-one likes creating a new account – we have so many already. So if you can get users to sign up for your app through a third party like Google or Facebook, you will stop a percentage of users from rage-quitting. Minimize sign-up fields:Self-explanatory. Would you want to fill out a form that has 65 fields? Use Autofill:Have phone fields autofill with dashes and date fields autofill with slashes. Any time you can save the user will translate into higher retention.
If you want an example of what a frictionless sign-up form should look like, look no further than Airtable:
Super simple, no more fields needed than necessary. And note the nice third-party registration via Google at the bottom for the laziest customers (including yours truly).
Fill empty states
Have you ever tried to start a portrait, a picture, or an extended piece of writing? The worst moment is when you stare at the blank piece of paper and feel this overwhelming sense of lacking inspiration.
It’s much more motivating once you have a few sketches or paragraphs. Even if your first effort is poor, it’s always easier to edit than it is to create.
You can make the same argument for SaaS businesses.
The empty dashboards that often greet users when they start using a new product or a new feature are really rather depressing. There’s nothing going on there, so the activation energy required to create something from scratch seems overwhelming.
If a user is on a platform like this, it’s sometimes easier to quit the platform completely than to start using it from scratch.
The way to solve this problem is to create templates, case studies and placeholder data, and include them in your product to show users what they could potentially do.
Marketing automation tool Autopilot used this strategy and shared it with Userpilot in a talk at our .
Build ludic loops
This retention strategy is in a bit of a moral grey zone, so use it at your peril!
The term ludic loop was coined by NYU professor to describe the process of repetitively chasing a reward that always seems just out of reach. Schüll originally observed ludic loops in the world of gambling and slot machines, but the concept is just as relevant for SaaS businesses.
The four components of a ludic loop are:
In other words, if you can design a product that a customer can use when alone with their device, that instantly offers a psychological reward that varies each time, and that experience can be never-ending, you’ve created a ludic loop.
This is basically a recipe for addiction by design. World of Warcraft and slot machines all follow this same model.
If you want an example of a software product that has retained users through a ludic loop, look no further than Facebook. How many of us have spent hours using the endless scroll feature? It’s a ludic loop because:
You can use it on your own with your device You never know quite what you’re going to see when you scroll (variable rewards) There’s a superficial feeling of pleasure when you see pictures of your friends, cat videos, or other content you’re interested in And the scrolling can be done ad infinitum if you’re going to use this strategy, so please ensure that you’re encouraging your customers to use something that’s actually going to make their lives better! .
If you’re like most product managers and think that onboarding users only happens in their first few days of using your product, the term might seem a little self-contradictory.
Isn’t onboarding over once the user understands their way around the product?
According to the Oxford Languages Dictionary, onboarding in the sense of products is defined as “familiarizing a new customer or client with one’s products or services.”