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Customer research can be a great way to uncover how your users interact with your software, where they commonly have challenges, and which features they would like to see implemented. The key, though, is to ask the right questions in the right format so you get functional data you can actually interpret and act on.

As this article will point out, user data can help improve each key metric that SaaS companies always track: customer acquisition, retention and monetization. But first it’s important to create some filters through which you’ll interpret any data you receive. This will help keep you focused when barraged with all of the possibilities the data might reveal.

 

Prioritize That Data

We all have limited resources for product improvements, so it’s all about prioritization. Since we can’t implement every suggestion customers make, we must ask ourselves:

  • Will this change really boost engagement and not just shift some around?
  • Will this change drive incremental revenue?
  • Is this change useful for all of our customers?
  • Is this fundamentally new and not just a rehash of a competitor feature?
  • Does it fit your product vision?

If you can answer yes to each of these questions, you may have a worthy improvement to prioritize.

 

Customer Acquisition

Free trials are often useful in gaining new users, but what happens if they don’t continue once the trial is up? A detailed exit survey can help uncover why it is they left. The key is to focus questions on elements you can actually affect – those things that improve the user experience for newbies. And remember to keep it short and sweet to boost response rates.

 

Customer Retention

Once users have spent some time with your software, ask yourself which features are keeping them engaged, which ones they ignore and what bugs the heck out of them. Top priorities for your software should always be speed and reliability, but when it comes to planning new features, getting rid of old ones or improving user experience, it’s probably a good idea to analyze how people currently use your software.

You most likely shouldn’t be looking to competitors for feature planning. It’s better to plan for what’s next, not what the competition did yesterday. Focusing on your competitors will only give you tunnel vision, and cloud your ability to be truly innovating. This sort of tunnel vision can make it hard to tap into customer needs and create fierce competition on the market (what will differentiate your brand if all you do is copy?).

Instead, start by tracking user behaviors on your site. What features are used most? Where is the most time spent on site? Where do you see high drop-off rates anywhere? What’s being ignored? As a follow up, consider interviewing some of your top users to get a deeper sense of what has kept them coming back for more and what they’d like to see in the future. Consider hosting a user group that promotes open discussion about what your product does for it’s users, and what it lacks.

You can then take this data and filter it through your prioritization questions – Does it boost real engagement? Does it drive incremental revenue? Is it useful for all customers?

 

Ongoing Monetization

While it’s easy to track user activity and needs through customer feedback, determining how you can better monetize on your customer base requires more analysis. You could ask, “What would get you to give us more money for our software?” but uncovering truly good ideas may be hard. You may however, be able to uncover ideas for niche offerings or add-ons tailored to the needs of specific customers. You might find that there is a small subset of users who would be willing to pay for certain features.

Again, look to interviews with top-tier users: who is getting the most value out of your product, and what do they want next? Heavy users are often most engaged in your industry, and will have a vision for where it’s going and what features will be must-haves in the near future.

Consider exploring other niches as well. You might find that a subset of your users all come from the same industry, for example. Perhaps they have unique needs that could be served by additional services.

Lastly, you may have a feature that has a small but ardent following. Perhaps you could spin that off to focus on a simpler experience for the average user, but a more robust feature set for others who rely on them.

 

It’s All About Customers

Ultimately, this research is all about getting to know your users better. That way, you can continually improve your product in ways that grow your user base, keep users engaged longer and uncover opportunities for incremental revenue gains. Find out what makes your users happy, and get to work on boosting their happiness.

 

This article is part of the Kick SaaS Marketing Series by Room 214. The Kick SaaS Marketing Series looks at what strategic marketing means for Software as a Service companies. Signup to receive exclusive content including tips that will allow your company to increase customer CLV, reduce CAC, promote brand awareness, and maximize marketing ROI.

Michael Kwolek

Michael Kwolek

Michael crafts brand insights and marketing strategy, with particular expertise in natural products, startups and pop culture. He also holds an MBA from CU-Boulder and spends his downtime exploring music production, world cinema and street food.
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