Are Your SaaS Application's Passionate Users Spreading the Word for You?

June 20, 2011

Are You Making It Easy for Them?

Crucial to the success of any new cloud-based applications’ launch is effective marketing—but how do you know it’s effective? This is an especially hard question to answer when marketing budgets are small and focused on limited channels, and it’s especially true when leveraging emerging channels such as social media, which relies so much on personal connections among key users. Tracking the effectiveness of existing users in recruiting new users is important to identifying potential markets and potential partners. It’s also essential to verify the level of interest in an application by tracking the percentage of conversions that result from beta invitations issued to users’ friends. Combined with data on users from other systems, it can also pinpoint where that interest lies, whether in specific industries, user groups, or geographic segments.

Because tracking the success of efforts to increase user adoption is so important, we're offering an additional service as part of the toolbelt that a Drupal-based site offers: BetaConnect, an additional service that helps facilitate measurement and makes it easier to market SaaS products and web applications. The premise is simple: your best advocates for your product are your existing users, none more so than your earliest beta users. Allowing these users to invite their friends to a private beta is the best way to market your new web application for several reasons:

  • Your existing users can attest how good your product is
  • Their friends and colleagues are more likely to try your product if they recommend it—early adopters are often asked for technology advice by their peers
  • You can limit your beta testers to your experienced users’ peer networks, so any bugs in early versions don’t circulate among public users
  • A good application can spread virally among users connected on social media

But making sure this word-of-mouth marketing works can be difficult if you don’t have measurement built in from the beginning. This is where our new solution for Drupal marketing websites comes in. It allows every existing user of your application to automatically generate invitation codes to your beta test. They can then share these codes with specific friends on Facebook, or invite people via email or Twitter. You can easily track which new signup came from which of your existing users’ social networks, since each invitation is unique, and is traceable to the person who generated it. This makes it easy to verify whether your social media and word of mouth marketing campaigns are working.

How BetaConnect works: 

  1. Ann likes SaaS product, visits company website, and sends personalized, trackable invitations to colleagues.
  2. Three of these friends sign up for the beta, and several of them, in turn, invite their connections.
  3. Company marketing tracks signups and who originated the invitations. They can respond to Ann by thanking her, inviting her to additional betas for advanced features, or inviting her to customer panels. Getting key influencers engaged and winning enterprise sales is the goal. 

The system also makes it a lot easier to manage betas:

  • No more setting up a placeholder webpage where people have to preregister, then you have to email invitations to new signups—your users can instantly invite their friends. Your processing time—and the wait time that can make potential users lose interest—is gone.
  • You can still control the number of beta users by simply shutting off the system when you have enough users.
  • You also control the kinds of testers you have, since they are all in your core group of testers’ social networks. This reduces the likelihood of having inexperienced users struggling with early, buggy versions that aren’t ready for public viewing.

Making it simple for your users to not just recommend your software, but share it with their friends is a crucial part of marketing. Personal recommendations are one of the single most trusted sources of information on what new products to try. A 2009 Nielsen study found that 90% of consumers trusted product recommendations from people they knew, and 70% trusted user reviews from strangers, while only about half trusted most forms of advertising at all. This is as true for B2B as it is for B2C: just as getting a consumer app to go viral involves users recommending it to their friends, so, too does increasing adoption of a B2B app involve reaching influential industry users for their feedback. Turning your marketing website into a personal recommendation engine changes the game for your marketing efforts. BetaConnect gives SaaS companies and web application developers unprecedented options for using word-of-mouth and social media marketing efficiently and with the built-in ability to measure the results. 

For more information, email barry@oho.com

 

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