It should perhaps come as no surprise that a conference organised by independent software vendors (ISVs) is both open and collaborative, given the medium in which they work. Nevertheless, attending The Small Business Web Summit is a refreshing experience. All sessions are interactive, and there’s plenty of networking and sharing of ideas. As a result, you come away with a clear sense of what the hot topics are among ISVs right now but also an understanding of how they might tackle them.
In an industry that’s evolving as I write, many of the challenges they’re facing don’t yet have a clear and agreed solution. Instead there was plenty of discussion and sharing of experiences. For example, a number of ISVs talked about the use of APIs and whether they’re a benefit or just another set of stakeholders to manage. Another hot topic was global expansion – obviously a great opportunity, but it brings with it the added complication of localisation, which I’ll come back to shortly.
To nurture… or not
A stand out theme that ran through the whole summit, however, was that of onboarding customers, and I can sum up the agreed approach in one word: nurturing. Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact, delivered an interesting piece demonstrating how it’s helped to grow their business. And there was general consensus that the way you sell to and educate small businesses on using cloud services is vital to adoption and usage.
There was some nervousness among smaller ISVs about investing heavily in the onboarding cycle without proof that it would improve LTV and customer advocacy. But most felt it was a risk they’d have to take. As the day went on and the topic kept coming back into focus, a number of interesting points emerged.
Steps towards adoption and usage
- Let’s start with winning new customers. The best way to grow your base is through word of mouth. People are only going to talk about your product if the existing experience is a good one and, obviously, support and nurturing is key to that. So start with the customers you already have. As a number of ISVs agreed, building a stable SaaS business depends on building a strong base of loyal advocates.
- It’s also easier to hold on to existing customers than acquire new ones, which presents another compelling reason for investing in their experience.
- When new customers do sign up, they’re most likely to engage with your product within the first 0-20 days. So that’s when to spend time and money on them.
- Provide support when and where customers need it, not where you think it works. That could be on the phone and through online chat, but you could also build contextual support into the experience with videos, articles and other kinds of help.
- Localisation is a must-have if companies in different countries are going to feel looked after. Differences in culture, language and working practices mean they’ll appreciate the types of touch and support that have been adapted to reflect their way of doing things.
As with any issue that’s the topic of much discussion, we’ll have to see how far ISVs make nurture part of the onboarding process. It’s a question that I’ll continue to follow with interest.
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