Thursday, July 20, 2017

6 Ideas You Can Try Today to Boost Your SaaS Growth and Retention

Growing a wildly successful software as a service (SaaS) business is a game of numbers.

More new customers than canceling customers? You’ll grow.

If not, you’ll stagnate, and the competition will gobble up market share right in front of you.

At the same time, not every new idea for boosting growth and retention will be feasible with the resources you have.

Your product team is busy working on ideas to build a SaaS product that is 10x better than what’s on the market. Your engineering team is building next generation technology that will give a crucial edge of the competition.

It’s not always strategic to pull them off core functions to work on the latest growth idea.

So, while they are busy working on the product, there’s still room for low-cost, easy-to-implement techniques to improve the growth and retention of your SaaS product today.

Think of these ideas as low hanging fruit you can get started on today to see results in the coming months.

1. Call New Prospects Immediately When They Sign Up

This is an idea that I first heard from Steli Efti. He makes the bold claim that if you’re a B2B SaaS startup you need to be calling all your free trial signups within the first 5 minutes.

You might be thinking whether spending time on the phone is a good use of your team’s time. It’s definitively not scalable once you’re getting hundreds of new trials per day.

The benefit is that as an early stage company, every phone call is an opportunity for customer development. Because the person on the other side just went through your marketing funnel, you’ll get feedback on whether your website is performing well.

It can also act as an “early warning system” for poorly targeted ads. You’ll potentially save a lot of money if you realize that your AdWords are attracting the entirely wrong set of audience based on the conversions you’re having with new signups.

The downside is that you’ll have to add a phone number input to your form, which may reduce your sign up rate slightly. You can make it optional so people can self-select whether they want to hear from you via the phone or not.

In my experience, people are generally happy to hear to from you if you call within minutes of signing up to welcome to the service and let them know if they have any questions you’re happy to talk.

The insights you learn from these calls can be turned directly into hypotheses for experiments to run on your SaaS onboarding funnel. For example, you might find out that many of the signups are using a specific piece of legacy software, so you can adjust the funnel to highlight how easy it is to move over to your product.

2. Offer a Weekly Webinar

Some of the best, “stickiest” SaaS products will be become deeply woven into the fabric of your customers’ lives, saving them countless hours or helping them generate more revenue.

But it’s often hard for people to “see” the improvements your product will bring when they are looking at the empty state of your app after they’ve just signed up.

In Elements of User Onboarding, Samuel Hulick refers to this concept as helping your users envision their improvement.

Webinars are an opportunity to give them a glimpse of how your product will look in action after they’ve been fully onboarded.

Once they’ve seen with their own eyes how easy your product makes it to get a specific job done, they’ll have a reason for why they’re going through the hard process of trying something new and investing in learning your product.

At the same time, webinars can be operationally challenging. Live webinars, in particular, pose problems. You’ll need a soundproof studio with someone to keep an eye on the chat box while another person walks people through the product demo.

And then the problems start: the wifi is patchy, your product doesn’t respond as expected while live on air or your mic suddenly stops working.

It’s tough to stay calm on camera!

Therefore, Intercom took a hybrid approach to product demos. They showed pre-recorded demos interspersed with live Q&A and discussion.

They automated the part that could be automated, such as showing how to do a particular job in their app, while they kept that part that couldn’t be automated: live feedback from a product expert.

Personally, I was skeptical when I first heard of this “hybrid” approach, but I decided to give it a whirl.

For the first version, you can use something like Screenflow or Camtasia to quickly record your screen coupled with a decent mic such as the Samson Meteor Mic to get good audio.

I was worried that webinar attendees would be disappointed that the video wasn’t live. However, those fears turned out to be unfounded. In fact, because I could concentrate on the questions coming in via chat, I could give better answers to questions and quickly pull up the relevant documentation to send to them right there.

I’d particularly recommend this approach if you want to offer multiple webinars a week for different time zones.

3. Try Out a Win-Back Offer for Expired Trials

When you first launch your product, users may like your MVP product, but not pull the trigger on moving over to you, just yet. However, as you develop your product into a more fully featured solution, those initial prospects might just be ready to move over.

I’ve noticed that several SaaS providers send out “win back” emails to dormant trial accounts after a year, offering them another 30-day trial while highlighting what’s changed in the meantime.

Here’s an example from Front:

winback email

The great thing about this tactic is that it’s so easy to implement. You can manually pull a list of these accounts every month to start. If the tactic works well for you, you can move to an automated email.

4. Send a Summary of “What Happened This Week in Your SaaS” via Email

I first heard this idea put into words by Patrick McKenzie, a serial SaaS entrepreneur:


Many SaaS products work day in, day out on your behalf. For example, monitoring services such as StatusPage test your services every minute to make sure all services are operating as expected. Other examples include connecting services such as Zapier, which let you link up data from various services.

These services work for you in the background. In best case scenarios, you might not log into these products for months on end.

A monthly “report card” listing what the app did for you each month will clearly demonstrate the value you’re getting from that particular SaaS. In the next financial meetings when ongoing subscriptions are put under a magnifying glass, your customers will be able to defend their monthly subscription to your service to the accountants.

An even better approach is to put a dollar number to the value you provide, as Nickelled does:

summary email from seas company

Depending on what your application does, you can send out emails highlighting number of issues closed, number of conversions tracked or leads generated. The closer you can get to a metric that managers care deeply about, the better this tactic works.

5. Retarget SaaS Trials with Customer Success Content

Retargeting is a powerful way to reach out to your past visitors to get them to come back to visit your site. In fact, there’s nothing right now that can work as well as retargeting (for your non-identified users).

Often, SaaS companies use retargeting to get past visitors back to their site so they sign up.

But you can also use retargeting in a myriad of ways to drive better retention of users.

For instance, you can target people within your free trial period with an ad for your webinar. Facebook Lead adverts make it so easy to sign up to the webinar with pre-filled fields. Just two touches and you are signed up, even on a mobile device.

Facebook lead ad exampleMocked Up Example of a Facebook Lead Generation Ad

Alternatively, you can advertise customer success stories that highlight the type of value that people can expect to get from your product.

Once customers have activated and are paying customers, you can even take retargeting a step further and start targeting customers that look like they might be in danger of churning based on the data you see in Kissmetrics.

You can export a monthly segment of users that are danger of churning and target them with ads on more advanced features they are missing out on or strategies for getting more value from your product.

6. Offer a “Done for You” Data Onboarding Package

Depending on your SaaS, your customers may need to move a lot of data over to your app before they can get started. Particularly if you’re starting out, this roadblock may get in the way of many of your customers using your product.

Offering a “done for them” data onboarding package to new customers can be a way to smooth the path.

In many cases, this data will have to be moved over from one of your competitors. Other times you’ll be faced with a collection of excel sheets, CSV files, or SQL dumps. The result is that you’ll be faced with importing data from a myriad of different software, including custom in-house solutions.

This diversity of data sources makes it difficult to offer an entirely automated import flow that your customers can carry out themselves. Even importing something as “simple” as a CSV file can be fraught with issues, as Patrick McKenzie points out.

Typically, enterprise customers won’t bat an eyelid at paying for this service, whereas an upfront charge can be a barrier for many SMB customers.

Test Out New Ideas On a Regular Basis

Small improvements in your growth rates and churn rates can have a big impact on your bottom line. Each optimization in your funnel results in more customers using your product, more word-of-mouth referrals and higher customer lifetime value. The revenue this generates means you can invest more back into product development and growth, accelerating the growth loop.

Do you have some ideas on how to boost growth and cut churn? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author: Thomas Carney has worked for tech companies in Munich, Paris, and now Berlin. When not on a computer, he’s at CrossFit or trying to brew the perfect coffee with an Aeropress coffee maker. He writes about marketing for SaaS at

from The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

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5 Things Users Want to Know Sooner Rather Than Later

When I go to any website, I’m looking for something. I may want to buy a product, or find information, or browse random memes, but whatever it is, I have a goal in mind. That goal could even be subconscious, but it’s there. Human beings never do anything without a reason. Whether or not they know what that reason is, or can articulate it, is a whole different story.

Like most people, I go with the website that gives me what I want the fastest. That’s it. As a designer myself, my familiarity with things like design patterns and search engines gives me an edge in finding what I want. But sometimes, even I can’t find the darn “buy this” button for a good thirty seconds.

Why, then…would you ever hide the most commonly-looked-for bits of information from people?

Why, then…would you ever hide the most commonly-looked-for bits of information from people? Why would you make it difficult in any way for them to get what they want, especially when what they want is to give you their time, attention, or even money? If they have to look for this important info, that means it’s hidden, or may as well be.

Now, designers mostly don’t do this on purpose. But it happens. In the interest of helping users find what they need, and making you some money, here’s what users are looking for first and foremost, more or less in this order:

1. What Is It, and Sometimes Why Is It?

Okay, lots of users browse around with an idea of what they’re looking for. But sometimes, a user is going to land on, let’s say your product page, because a friend sent them a link and said, “Check this out, dude!” In those situations, you really want to have at least a bit of text that describes what the product is and does.

tell me, in simple non-industry jargon, what you do.

That’s an obvious example, perhaps. People always describe and show off their products, right? Well, things are often less clear with companies that sell services. I can’t count the number of times I’ve landed on a site that describes what they do purely in terms of benefits: “enrich your life”, “harder, better, faster, stronger”, etc.

That’s all well and good, but only after you actually tell me, in simple non-industry jargon, what you do.

2. How Much Does It Cost?

This is the obvious next step. Let’s say a website looks like it has what you need. It’s going to fill that gaping void in your life—probably—and you want it now. Well, you want it, but how much are they asking? A user should never have to go hunting for the cost of the product, service, or information.

Mind you, you should be making the cost clear, even if you’re not asking for money. Sites that offer stuff for free often try to hide the true cost of membership. Do you need their information? Their viewership alone? Their action in support of your cause? Make this information easy to find. Be up front, and people will respect you for that.

Obvious-yet-apparently-necessary corollary: Hidden fees will make them hate you.

How Do I Get Rid of It?

One thing users will also want to know, that kinda falls under the “cost”, is how long they’ve got to commit to this product or service. What is your policy on refunds, cancellations, or returns? You probably don’t want to put this information in your sales copy, unless you want to emphasize the idea that your product is a low-risk investment. In any case, it should be readily available. A link you find in the middle of the page, rather than somewhere in the footer.

3. How Good Is It?

After a user has assessed the cost of a thing, they want to know if it’s really going to be worth the money they’re shelling out. Obviously, you can throw some marketing copy up there, and try to convince them yourselves, but of course you’re going to say it’s great. You’re the one making it!

This is where social proof comes in. Testimonials are only the beginning. Be proactive and link to third party reviews. Link to your social media. Invite prospective customers to become of your online community before they’ve even bought your product.

4. Where Do I Get It?

Please just put a clearly labelled “Download” link at the top of the page or Github repository.

Okay, now they want to get the thing. Most commercial websites have figured out that calls to action need to be big, flashy, and obvious. Not all of them have figured it out, but most of them have by now. It’s typically older sites that remain somewhat confusing.

Where I have had a problem with hidden download buttons, since forever, is in the world of free software. That’s both freeware and proper open source projects. This is understandable, given that most of the people making these websites are volunteers, and most are somewhat new to web design.

If this describes you, I say: “Thank you for your contribution. Please just put a clearly labelled ‘Download’ link at the top of the page or Github repository.”

5. How Can I Talk to You Directly?

There are sites out there that kind of hide their contact info. Some do it from ignorance. Others do it out of a sincere desire to never talk to their customers—I get that, I really do; on top of the usual client problems, I’m a huge introvert, so I understand.

That said, you need channels for talking to humans. Even if it’s just a Twitter account, that information needs to be more or less front-and-center. Even if they never talk to you, users want to know they have the option of getting in touch with a human if something goes wrong.


The best designers remember that they are also users. They are consumers, just like everybody else, only they’re quite a bit more educated on web design patterns. If your product or service is bad, tricking people into buying it will mean they never trust you again. If you have a good product or service, then offering all necessary information right up front can only help you sell more of it.

And for the love of all that is good and decent, put that “Download” button somewhere I can see it.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don’t Interrupt Me! How to Engage Your Customers Without Annoying Them

Are you annoying your customers?

Probably so.

Inundating your audience with multiple messages at inconvenient times isn’t helpful. Therefore, it’s important to know when and how to engage with consumers.

“Marketing is your way of connecting with your customers as well as a way to convey your business’ personality and values – it’s an essential channel…Even companies with the best of intentions can often manage to annoy their target market,” writes Jennifer Warr, former engagement and awareness cell leader at Klood.

Let’s explore what you can do to market your brand without being a nuisance. Here are five strategies to stop your annoying behavior:

1. Prioritize Your Customers’ Needs

Customers are the primary asset of your company. If you don’t prioritize their needs, everything else falls apart.

This principle is especially true when engaging customers. People can easily recognize when your intentions aren’t authentic.

If you’re not focused on what matters to them, your brand comes off like a car salesman pushing the purchase of an unwanted product. Then, the customer reacts by ignoring your messages and possibly going to your competitors.

Start approaching the customer relationship with respect. As a trusted advisor, you want to communicate the most relevant information.

To avoid the common myths around customer needs, analyze your behavioral data, including website and email activity, to learn your customers’ habits, priorities, and desires. Their actions will help you identify how to craft the conversation.

what customers don't needImage Source

If your data shows that your customers love matching your blue T-shirts with green shorts, you could send a post-purchase email with a discount for the shorts. In this case, you’re not annoying your customers. You’re providing valuable content.

There’s no good reason to annoy your customers. Learn their needs to become a trusted resource, not a recurring burden.

2. Stay Away from Information Overload

It’s important to educate your customer. However, don’t overload your audience with too much information at once.

When people see lots of text, a couple of questions pop into their minds: How long will it take to read this? Is this even worth my time? These are the initial hurdles facing companies producing content.

To address the first question, you need to be mindful of the customer’s time. She’s juggling multiple tasks and wants you to get straight to the point.

For instance, when visitors land on your website, they should know immediately how your product benefits them. That means decluttering your website by removing the multiple pop-up screens and sidebars.

When arriving to Instapage’s site, it’s easy for consumers to figure out that this brand offers landing page software that increases conversion rates.

instapage guarantees to increase conversion rates

The second question is where some companies struggle. For any content to be worth your customer’s time, it must offer some type of instant value to the person. It should directly highlight their pain points or lead them to a specific solution.

Let’s say you’re writing a case study about how a customer achieved success with your product. It isn’t good enough to just talk about the outcome. The value in a case study comes from emphasizing the problem, the process, and the result.

Customer engagement is effective when you leave out the unnecessary information. Try producing straightforward content that offers a solution.

3. Convey Every Message Differently

As an experienced marketer, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the rule of seven. It’s the assumption that consumers need to see your offer at least seven times before taking action.

It’s not an exact science, but the rule gives you a foundation on how many times to engage with your customers.

What’s frightening is how companies implement this principle. For some companies, it’s sending the same email multiple times to a subscriber until the person clicks the link in the message. Or it’s copying and pasting the words in a blog post into a SlideShare.

Repeating the same message over and over isn’t useful. It becomes noise to the customer, and that noise becomes annoying.

Instead, every piece of content should not center around the sale. Here’s Susanna Tarrant, a digital marketing coordinator for Marketing Copilot, thoughts on the topic:

“Rather than trying to close the deal too early, you should create content filled with information for your audience. A useful content marketing strategy changes the conversation. It makes it about your customer and not about you or the sale.”

For example, if you’re planning a five-day email campaign, introduce your brand in Email #1, talk about the problem in Email #2, highlight a case study in Email #3, discuss the negative consequences of inaction in Email #4, and present your product solution in Email #5.

Every message doesn’t need to talk about your product. Craft your content around the customers’ needs and the sales journey.

4. Avoid Inconvenient Surprises

Somewhere between rewards and hidden fees, marketers got confused on what types of surprises customers desire. It’s becoming the norm to not tell consumers the whole truth until checkout.

This practice is not healthy for the brand-customer relationship. Hiding the fine print about upcharges or credit card fees only builds a barrier.

Your customer will have one more reason to not trust you. Plus, these unexpected markups can lead to more abandoned shopping carts, negatively affecting your sales.

customer surprises to avoidImage Source

But it doesn’t stop there. Other less known surprises include a 404 page to a critical resource, slow response times with customer support, and payment processing errors.

While your team may see these as minor glitches, your customers perceive them as another reason not to do business with you. Your customers want you to live up to your brand promise.

“Somewhere between best intentions and actual staffing, budgets, and IT limitations lies the real world of customer interactions. Don’t tell your customers you value them and then banish them to an automated system or place them on hold for 30 minutes while they wait for a rep,” states Samuel Greengard, contributing writer at

Unwanted surprises shouldn’t interrupt the customer experience. Work with your team to identify which ones annoy your target audience.

5. Engage in a Timely Manner

When you engage with customers is just as important as how you engage. The right message at the wrong time still equals an interruption to the recipient.

Most content splits into two categories: evergreen and seasonal. Evergreen content is information that continually remains relevant. Seasonal content is information with a finite endpoint.

You’ll notice lots of businesses posting evergreen content at random times with a mix of seasonal content, like newsjacking pieces. Their strategy is well-founded, but not necessarily results-driven.

The alternative is to send timely content that fits the customer’s current needs. An evergreen blog post isn’t timely if it doesn’t solve the present problem. A seasonal message doesn’t help the customer if he wants his year-round issues solved today.

To send timely content, you must understand your customers’ behaviors. You’re aware of what type of lead magnets they download, how many times they visit certain pages, and the purchasing history with your company.

Triggered email marketing campaigns are one solution to sending timely and relevant content to your audience. With automation and if-then logic, customers can receive messages based on their behaviors.

For example, if a customer doesn’t repurchase a product in 60 days, you can send a retention email. Kissmetrics Campaigns makes it easy to create these behavior-based messages.

Are you engaging with timely content, or just interrupting? Reevaluate when you communicate with your audience.

Stop Annoying, Start Engaging

It’s definitely possible to irk your customers with unfavorable marketing habits. Engagement is a better method for connecting with your audience.

Start by learning and prioritizing your customers’ needs. Deliver different messages based on the customer journey. Also, don’t surprise your customers with hidden charges.

Treat your customers well. Start engaging with them.

from The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

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5 Unbreakable Rules for UI Animation on the Web

Transitions are a powerful way to communicate a change in a user interface. They can be used in apps to help offload a lot of the cognitive work into the visual cortex: they help transport users between navigational contexts, explain changes in the arrangement of elements on a screen, and reinforce element hierarchy. Consequently they are an essential element of interaction design.

Successful animated transition possesses the following five characteristics:

1. Good UI Animation is Natural

State changes in UI often involve hard cuts by default, which can make them difficult to follow. In the real world, most things don’t just appear or disappear immediately. When something has two or more states, then changes between states will be much easier for users to understand if the transitions are animated instead of being instantaneous. Let’s look at an example below where the user selects an item in a list to zoom into its detailed view. During expansion, the small card moves in an arc towards its destination as it expands into a larger card. This movement is inspired by the real world forces.


2. Effective UI Animation is Staged

A well-staged animated transition guides your user’s attention and clarifies the change of states. This characteristic is directly related to the user focus and continuity. A good transition helps direct user’s focus to the right spot at the right time, it puts emphasis on the right elements depending on what the objective is. In the example below, the floating action button (FAB) transforms into header navigation elements comprised of three buttons. The first-time user cannot really predict an interaction that is about to happen, but a properly animated transition helps the user stay oriented and not feel that content has suddenly changed. This transition helps guide the user to the next step of an interaction.

3. The Best UI Animations Are Associative

Transitions should illustrate how elements are connected. Good transitions associate newly created surfaces to the element or action that creates them. The logic behind associative connection is to help the user comprehend the change that has just happened in the view’s layout and what has triggered the change.

Below you can see two examples of a layer transition. In the first example, the new layer appears far away from the touch point that triggered it, which breaks its relationship with the input method.


In the second example, the new layer appears right from the touch point. Thus tying the element to the point of touch.


Another example can be found in Mac OS which uses an animated transition when minimising a window. This animation connects the first state with the second state.

4. Popular UI Animation is Quick

If there’s only one principle of animation you care about it should definitely be timing. Timing is arguably one of the most important considerations when designing transitions. The animation should be quick and precise, with little or no lag time between the user’s initiating action and the beginning of the animation. Also, a user doesn’t have to wait for the animation to finish. In example below, slow animation creates unnecessary lag and lengthens the duration.



When elements move between states, the movement should be fast enough that it doesn’t cause any waiting, but slow enough that the transition can be understood. For an animation to effectively convey a cause-and-effect relationship between UI elements, the effect must begin within 0.1 seconds of the initial user action to maintain the feeling of direct manipulation. Try to keep animation duration at or under 300ms as fast transitions waste less of the users’ time. Test it with your users to see what is tolerable.

5. The Best UI Animation is Clear

It’s a common mistake to overload UIs with animations or to create too complex interactions. Too much change in a user interface can leave a user disoriented and it takes time to recover from. Remember that every motion on the screen attracts attention, so too much animation at the same time creates chaos.

Transitions should avoid doing too much at once because they can get confusing when multiple items need to move in different directions. Remember, less is more with regard to animation and transitions in particular. Anything that if removed would make a cleaner UI is almost certainly a good idea. When a surface changes shape and size, you have to maintain a clear path to the next view. Complex transitions should keep a single element visible. This helps keep the user oriented.

Transitions and Accessibility

Since transitions are about visual communication, they by default are not accessible by users with visual impairments. You should provide alternate content for this group of users.’s best practices for animation offers suggestions on when to provide alternate content for assistive technology.


When designing transitions, focus only on the practical things they do for the user. Whether your app or site is fun and playful or serious and straightforward, using meaningful transitions can help you provide a clear and quick cohesive experience.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Only Factor: The key to high-performing webpages

When potential customers click on a webpage, they ask themselves — either consciously or unconsciously — three important questions: Where am I? What can I do here? and Why should I be here? If you don’t answer all three within the first four to six inches of the page, you are losing customers — and you are losing revenue.

In this Quick Win Clinic episode, Flint McGlaughlin optimizes a webpage submitted by Issues Ink, a content marketing agency for agricultural companies. The page does a good job of answering two of the questions, but it fails to answer the most critical one — why should I be here? In other words, why should I consider you over anyone else? This is called the “Only” Factor.

Watch the video to learn how to avoid this pitfall and get the highest response rate.

from MarketingExperiments

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What a Baby Clothes Blog Can Teach You About a 991% YoY Growth Using Paid Acquisition

Spearmint LOVE started off as a baby clothes blog less than five years ago.

Founder Shari Lott had already built up a strong online presence with her popular mommy blog of a similar name, SpearmintBaby.

The premise was simple.

She’d feature and share products she thought other moms would like.

One day, in search of the perfect Swiss Cross blanket for her daughter’s room, she was inspired to expand her vision into a little ecommerce site.

Now, just four years later, it’s the only baby and children’s clothing online store that was picked to be a part of Facebook’s 2017 U.S. Small Business Council.

Shari had an excellent eye for design.

And it didn’t hurt that she also had an excellent husband, John Lott, who just so happened to previously run a $23B dollar hedge fund.

Together, they’ve masterminded a 991% YoY growth with a 33.8x return on Instagram ad spend, 47% decrease in cost per purchase, and an incredible $0.11 average cost per conversion.

Here’s how.

1. Multi-Channel Expansion

“Marketing” used to mean something.

Before PR and prior to advertising, it also meant Product, Pricing, and… Place.

That last one, known better by Distribution today, is about making products available for people where they already shop (roughly speaking). Practically speaking, that means convenience.

Spearmint LOVE went from two SKUs to over 5,000 SKUs in just three years.

When did Spearmint start hitting the big numbers? You guessed it– when they started to give customers more ways to buy.

“We feel really good about how we’re positioned in the market,” John said. “We’ve given our customers nearly every conceivable way to buy from us. They can do Buyable pins. They can buy on a Facebook page. They can buy on their mobile phone. They can use their computer. They can buy however they want to.”

spearmint ventures pinterest

But scaling to multiple channels takes some finesse and strategy.

Getting a handle on one channel can be difficult enough. Then adding more to the mix means extreme coordination and resource management. Spearmint had to evaluate its readiness for that kind of growth and make sure it was even the right time to scale.

Here are the four biggies to consider when you want to expand to multi-channels:

1. Do you have the manpower for customer service?

More channels means more sales means more questions from more customers. And more customers might even be coming from different timezones around the world.

A retooling of current customer service practices could be in order, like adding more people to the team, switching up or extending hours, retraining on the product and businesses, and even considering outsourcing the customer service operation.

2. Do you have enough inventory?

Remember those increased sales? That means you have to have enough inventory to cover them. And you have to get the delivery time under control, too.

You can stock and/or drop ship your inventory, but you need to make sure products are getting to the customer as quickly and efficiently as possible. Management of the product means keeping accurate tabs on counts, sources, and allocation.

3. Can you fulfill the orders?

Are you currently handling all fulfillment in-house? When expanding to multi-channels working with a fulfillment house might be the way to go to handle the increased orders.

4. Is your tech ready?

You’ve now got more channels, more customers, and more staff. That means you now need better software to communicate with everyone, manage inventory, and all your outsourced operations.

Figure out what you’re gonna need here: sorting and routing orders to and from multiple suppliers? Product ID coordination on all your channels? Proper integrations? Reporting?

And what’s your budget?

With some software, the price goes up with every additional SKU or number of processed orders.

So keep in mind you’re often going to be outlaying cost — for increased labor, inventory, promotion, and technology — before ever seeing a dime on these new sales.

2. Intimately understand your cost per acquisition

John came on board to work with his wife, Shari, in 2016.

It just so happens that his hedge fund expertise complements her design eye and customer-intel.

Being a numbers guy, he went straight for the data, and immediately started focusing on their cost of acquisition as the accelerator (or roadblock) to scale.

For him, this is where to build the company’s success. Driving down the cost of customer acquisition first buys you more time to focus on the other side of the equation: Increasing the lifetime value of each customer via upsells and cross-sells.

For Spearmint, less than $10 per customer is the goal. The closer they get to $5, the happier they are (more on that below).

John refers to this as the tip of the spear in understanding business success.

“We decided very early on that we weren’t going to raise any outside money at all,” John said. “I pay very close attention to what the self-funding growth rate of the company is. If I get customer acquisition costs right, then I’m making sure I’m doing the right thing from a cash perspective.”

The $5 platform for Spearmint? Facebook.

And how does he keep costs so low? John reportedly checks this metric

So on a daily basis he’s scrutinizing: What’s the cost of acquisition of the active campaigns?

Then he’ll switch gears on longer intervals to ask:

  • What’s the audience growth across channels? (Weekly)
  • What’s the aggregate return rate of customer acquisitions? (Monthly)

He takes all of this data to see if they are growing… if their growth has slowed… why either is happening… what’s causing it… etc, etc, etc.

In other words, they intimately understand the math behind each and every conversion.

They know when A/B tests are lying. They know when new customer data is ‘leaking’ outside of their funnel.

And if something’s not working? They’re not afraid to pivot.

3. Be prepared to change course

“Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.”

Sage advice from a wise old man.

mike tyson meme

See, scrutinizing data and reading every blog post imaginable is nice. But things will never play out like you think they will. Like, never ever.

So you gotta adapt.

In 2016, Spearmint LOVE’s revenue grew by 1,100%. Sounds impressive now, after the fact.

But hindsight’s 20/20 they say.

The picture wasn’t so rosy in the Spring of 2016. ROI kept dropping. Nobody could figure out why.

First, John assumed that their ad wasn’t fresh any more, and that Facebook’s algorithm meant it wasn’t being shown as much. Ad fatigue is a thing.

more ads fewer ctrImage Source

So they updated their ads, giving them new photos and copy. Still, the ROI didn’t budge. No sign of the up-and-to-the-right picture it is today.

About six months into freshening up the ads, the answer hit John while on a walk.

It wasn’t the ad at all. Rather, it was the audience.

They weren’t in the market for the same thing anymore.

It’s like this:

Six months after an ad goes live, Spearmint LOVE’s target audience (new moms), now have a baby/toddler/child that is six months older. They aren’t looking for that product anymore.

Babies, apparently, don’t stay babies forever.

So Spearmint LOVE now tailors its ads to the different stages of a mom shopper:

  • Pregnancy,
  • Birth,
  • 1st birthday, etc.

At every stage, shopping habits shift. And at every stage, Spearmint LOVE now has a different ad.

So it wasn’t the ad creative after all. It was the ad targeting that was influencing their ROI.

4. Targeting Ads, Then Targeting Even More

“What was happening was the people were changing,” John said.

“The mom who was buying that product was no longer in the same life stage. I had to adjust my custom audiences to be attentive.”

The ROI dropoff was simply a reality of Spearmint LOVE’s ever-changing audience and industry. To combat the problem, John realized they needed more dynamic ads to continue attracting their evolving audience.

This is where Facebook’s Custom Audiences come into play. You can group audiences based on their levels of product awareness and intent to buy based on a number of criteria, like:

  • Website visits
  • Product views
  • Page engagements
  • Video views
  • Products added to cart
  • And more

Facebook custom audience ad setting

Custom Audiences give an upclose view of customers by dividing them up into segments, and giving them the message that is right for them.

Depending on where the customer is in their buying journey (are they brand new, cold prospects? Or are they on fire and ready to buy?), you are looking at three different things here: (1) separate ads/offers for (2) separate groups of people in (3) separate groups of custom audiences.

Like this:

klientboost channel temperatureImage Source

Here’s how that looks as you go down the sales funnel.

Ice cold (top of the funnel)

You can’t do custom audiences for these newbies, but you can get to know them better to eventually place them into a group. And, you can’t start moving them through the funnel to get them into custom groups.

Entice them with an ad and get them to your website to learn more, for instance.

ecommerce advertising on FacebookImage Source

You can even create custom audiences based on Facebook engagement (if you don’t have a site that typically generates high-traffic). If a customer likes or comments, clicks on a CTA, or saves a post, they can be added to this list.

Lukewarm (middle of the funnel)

After making people more aware of the product through web visits and Facebook engagement, you can move them down the funnel into action territory.

This means, opting-in and handing over some of their contact info. Dangle a little lead magnet, why don’t ya?

lead magnet paid advertisement

Offer a “free course.” How about some actionable items for the customer to take to let them know just how useful the product is?

Each separate opt-in option has its own custom audience. You can break these down even further by what the opt-in service offers, or by simply creating a custom audience for each lead magnet.

Fire hot lava (bottom of the funnel)

The chilly customers are getting the new lead offers like the freebies. Once you have them converted, you can continue to engage them with additional email campaigns or webinars to get them primed to buy.

Now, you can combine Dynamic Product Ads to target customers who have viewed specific site pages or products with custom event combinations.

Make rules for your custom audiences that will allow for an additional set of options. What was the dollar amount of their abandoned shopping cart, for instance? Did they select hundreds of dollars worth of goods? That might be warrant its own audience group.

During Thanksgiving, for example, Spearmint Love focused on users who had been to the website in the last two months, but hadn’t made a buy. They took the ads right from the product catalog, showing users what they had already look at on the website, and nudging them to make the purchase with Dynamic Product ads.

onesie facebook ad

And this level of granularity allowed Spearmint LOVE to generate a 14.2x return on their ad spend.

5. Focus on Retaining Old Clients Rather Than Getting New Ones

Shari ran her Spearmint LOVE blog for three years to successful results, building the brand, and building her customers — before expanding into all of these multiple channels.

This blogging background also allowed Shair to connect with wholesalers and distributors to expand Spearmint’s inventory and product.

She used her photography skills to create high-quality pictures featuring her product and drawing in nearly half a million followers. Because she had been the voice behind the brand for so long, she was able to connect with customers in a way that matched what they were looking for.

“I sell a feeling in a photo –– and make it easy for every customer to make that photo her family reality,” Shari said. “I put up a photo of not just a shirt or shoes, but of an entire outfit. And moms will come back to the site and buy everything in that picture.”

Ok. Cool. But why is any of this soft, intangible crap worth mentioning?!

Because your existing customers — not your new ones — are the most profitable.

John put his previous financial expertise to good use by creating a vintage analysis of Spearmint’s customers to help the company identify any trends or potential success of additions to the brand. Spearmint uses this to evaluate their customers’ lifetime values in a fancy table like this:

cohort for ecommerce storeImage Source

The end goal is a cohort analysis, where they’re essentially:

  1. Tracking each customer using their order ID.
  2. Then separating them into groups, or cohorts, based on the month of their first purchase.
  3. From there, analyze how each cohort acts over time (i.e. What are the patterns of when they made their first purchase, and then their next purchase?).

“We know on average our typical customer will convert again in X months,” John said. “We can predict when that next order might be and we can time our marketing based upon those types of insights.”

You can use this information to target each cohort based on their buying habits and timelines. For Spearmint, this looks like a personalized shopping experience through “custom windows” that adapt based on the different behaviors of moms as they go through the stages of pregnancy through birth and beyond (see point #3 above).

  • Window 1 is the period of time that includes six months before the baby is born until six months after.
  • Then, Window 2 is for when the baby is 6-18 months old. Spending for moms remains high in this window, but not as high as in Window 1.
  • Window 3 captures 18-30 months, and
  • Window 4 is anything beyond 30 months. Each of these windows, or cohorts, gets their own engagement, ads, and interactions to match their interests at that time.

This is important because even a (relatively minor) customer retention rate bump of just 5%, you can increase your profits by 25% to 95%.

By shifting focus to current customers by just a teeny bit, you’re finding a bigger payoff long term. (Which then allows you to spend less on new customer acquisition as well.)

What’s more, online companies have to spend even more (20-40%) than brick and mortar stores. What’s that mean for online stores? They have to keep a customer around for longer just to get back their original ad spend.

Image Source

For Spearmint, this means they focus on keeping ad spend as low as possible.

“If you’re selling things at 25% margins, you’re going to need a higher return to make that make sense,” John said. “For us, we’re looking at ad spends where we’re getting at least $5 of revenue or more, preferably closer to the $10 mark for every dollar of ads spent.”

They put to use all of those tips we talked about: targeting, custom audiences, etc, and then they recoup their money spent on the ad buy.


It’s not every day a mommy blogger can turn her site into a business and find 991% YoY growth. In 2015, sales stood at $150,000. In 2016, that number skyrocketed to $1.5M.

Combining clever distribution (i.e. multiple channels) and capitalizing on social media engagement helped Spearmint LOVE to grow (its already sizable customer base) 38% YoY conversion.

Then with uber-targeted ads and custom audiences to meet the evolving needs of their customers, they pull in 94% of their total sales from Facebook and Instagram alone.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention.

Years ago, before all of this, Shari Lott was a mother then in need a blanket. And she just so happened to have found a booming company in the process.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

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