Compared to traditional B2B software companies, many SaaS companies have a B2B2C model. Their end customers are individuals in an organization who behave like consumers. As a result, champions, individuals who love a product and promote it enthusiastically, are the key to SaaS product adoption and monetization.
But how do we identify potential champions and lead them to the right path? In this article, I will discuss a few thoughts.
For a user to become an advocate and undergo the challenging tasks to get sponsorships from stakeholders, first and foremost, the product needs to help the user in meaningful ways. The product may enable users to complete something impossible in the past, do things with a fraction of costs, or have joyful experiences from gamified designs. The benefits are measurable, and users become sticky to the product over time.
It takes extensive research and customer interviews to understand customer personas. Here, I want to discuss the topic from a data analytics perspective.
A champion’s love for a product can be seen in various ways. For example, they are likely to have used a free version of the product for some time; they may attend webinars or other marketing events multiple times; they may even talk about a product on social media. The more we know how users interact with a product at each touchpoint, the easier we can identify champions. Common touchpoints include marketing channels, sales processes, and in-app behaviors. In practice, the challenge is less about collecting or analyzing the data, but more about being aware that data from many dimensions exist and connecting the dots (To learn more about the topic, check out my last article Connect the dots in data strategy).
Many mouth-of-word recommendations happen unmeasured. However, SaaS companies can be innovative in encouraging sharing behavior and collecting data. Examples include giving users credits or discounts when they share the product; or unlocking some paid features when they achieve a certain degree of sharing.
Distinguished from B2C SaaS products, B2B products have to pass a series of security checks and instrumentation in customer organizations. Some cases require multiple champions across different seniorities. Proper support for champions from the SaaS product team is necessary.
One thing to note is that champions don’t look the same for all products. While a company tries to understand champions, there will be a lot of hypotheses. It’s fundamental for a company to test hypotheses before taking action on a large scale.
SaaS product teams need to build the right experience and support. Users who love a product want to talk about it and showcase how they use it. A SaaS company can support this and better drive the engagement by building the community platform.
The next question is how to get the product to go viral. Is it sharing? If so, is it convenient for champions to share the product and easy for recipients to save the results and go back at any time? Is it collaboration? If so, can users communicate and push things forward within the product? Is it a turnkey solution provided by numerous templates? If so, are users awarded for contributing knowledge?
Regardless of the mechanism, a positive feedback loop that champions are encouraged to promote the product is fundamental. Once other users come to the product, are there features to keep them around, or do they have to turn to other products mid-way to achieve what they need? Champions’ product promotion won’t be successful without the mechanism and product features in place.
However, even with the right product or pricing, a potential champion may shy away if they have to navigate a complicated process to instrument the product. Two factors determine the complexity of a customer organization’s internal processes: the organization policy and the product. Large organizations typically have strict procedures to onboard new software. In such cases, a SaaS company can help its champions to prepare demos and other materials for internal review, but there’s not much it can do beyond that.
As for the product, the more self-served it is, the better. I’ve seen many SaaS products target business users and claim to require no engineering assistance. However, their instrumentation is so complicated and requires regular maintenance by engineers. As such, champions with more seniority or multiple champions are often required, making it challenging for wider adoption and sales.