How Content & Support Helps Us Turn Users into Product AmbassadorsAugust 04, 2015
Picture this: It's 9 AM in beautiful Québec City. I'm sitting at my desk, attentively scanning the latest Snipcart mentions on Tweetdeck.
Then I come across a tweet that goes something like:
Hey, anyone used Snipcart for e-commerce with [insert CMS platform]? Is it any good?
Glad to see someone's actively looking into our product, I poke our lead dev Charles on Slack with the tweet link and tell him I'll take care of replying to that one. As I finish my social media monitoring tour and scroll back to the aforementioned tweet, I realize someone has already done my job. Another user has already replied to the tweet, praising our product and even offering help.
I used a generic tweet example because this scenario actually happened many times since we launched (also because I've lost track of a few of those tweets along the way). The users who were willing to praise our product publicly, answer questions and even offer some of their time to help with Snipcart's integration are what we call product ambassadors. For any early-stage startup, vocal, active users are worth a whole, huge lot, for obvious reasons.
We've already discussed how we drive business results using our blog. The boost content gave us in search engine rankings and product adoption can be measured in hard numbers. A quantitative win if you will. But content isn't solely about numbers; it's also about relationships. So today, we're going to discuss how we've used content and support to build relationships with users and witnessed some of them turn into product ambassadors.
Making sure content isn't just about US
Without users, a SaaS startup such as ours is bound to fail rapidly. When we started our content efforts almost two years ago, we tried to remember this simple insight as much as possible. We decided to give out a significant portion of blog real estate to our active users, in various ways. Here's what we did (and still do):
Showcasing user integrations and interviews
This is what we like to call "giving back some love". Developers spend time and energy integrating Snipcart into existing or brand new websites. In return, we feature a Snipcart merchant and developer every month on the blog. Of course these features inspire potential and active users. But they do something even better: they show our customers we do not only value their dollars, but also the actual work they accomplish with our product. These features and interviews aren't just simple blog posts; they're hand-crafted, personalized thank you notes we give our customers.
The more the merrier: Bringing CMS communities onboard
We're lucky enough to have a product that's technology-independent: in other words, a solution that can be plugged into any CMS. Considering the heavy amount of CMS out there, this creates many opportunities for us to connect with different developer communities.
Usually, developers who specialize in one given CMS have very strong ties to that platform. Like a special relationship if you will. They invest time, money and energy in those platforms, whether it's for themselves or clients. What we did is show them we also cared about the platforms they cared about. Here's one scenario that happened more than once already:
One of our developers notices e-commerce integration needs or Snipcart mentions in a CMS-specific forum. We hop on the forum, answer a few questions and participate in the general discussion. A few tickets, tweets or emails related to the specifics of our product are sent our way. We answer them all. Soon after, we close the loop by taking things directly on our blog: we craft relevant, useful content that can help the majority of the CMS community in question with their e-commerce projects.
Featuring targeted use cases for CMS communities shows the developers we care about their specific work realities, challenges, and tools. It has even led some users to develop Snipcart plugins on their own for their preferred CMS, or to host live demos showing how to integrate Snipcart.
In other words, this has led developers to go from users to ambassadors. We like to believe this win-win relationship is at the core of the phenomenon. We even took the time to organize and host a live Hangout Snipcart integration demo by one of our most vocal users. It was a fun, inspiring collaborative experience for us.
Tackling user-suggested subjects on the blog
This approach is a bit similar to the one we just covered in the previous point. However, it's scope isn't limited to CMS-specific content. For us, it's just a way of acknowledging good ideas and solving real problems our active or potential users face. Whether the subject is suggested via UserVoice, email, Twitter or comments doesn't matter. What matters is if the subject might touch more than one of our users. When it does, we put our heads down for a little while and craft posts that can help our users. To give you an idea, the following articles were all spawned by user suggestions:
- How to Sell Snipcart to Non-Technical Users
- Develop a Snipcart Powered Website Locally Using ngrok
- Customizing Your E-Commerce Thank You Page
- How to Add Custom HTML to Snipcart
Again, doing this just proves you care about what your users care about. It shows you're willing to put some time and efforts into helping them and others. We also like to believe it gives them a good reason to talk positively about your business.
Go beyond content: Support
As you may have noticed in the previous sections, most of the relationship-building with future product ambassadors happens way before we publish anything on our blog. One of the crucial communication points in that process is without a doubt the support part, whether it's via email or UserVoice.
The key takeaway here is: Don't maintain relationships on the public sphere only (blog, forums, Twitter, etc.). Behind the closed doors of private messages, you still have to be awesome, engaged and empathic. And since this means of communication is more intimate, it allows for stronger and faster relationship-building.
I've seen many personalized support efforts generate very positive marketing results for us. Especially when we went out of our way to facilitate our users' lives.
Many times, our lead developer Charles exchanged numerous emails and code snippets with users. He helped them directly with their e-commerce project in one way or another: whether it was by shipping a useful mini feature or pointing out problematic lines of code. Yes, it was time-consuming. But we've always considered it as A) a must-do thing when people give you their money for something you've built, and B) an investment in our relationships with users and their potential as ambassadors.
If you treat support the way it should be treated, you get this:
Many modern startups mostly deal with online acquisition channels. Unlike classic brick and mortar businesses, they're not entertaining real-life relationships with their customers. Company-customers interactions are mostly web-based. Now we know it's harder to create meaningful relationships over the Internet than IRL. That's why you need to have more than cold web pages and a support email address to offer to your users.
At Snipcart, we now know for a fact that content and support are two sure-fire ways to connect with your users. When done right, it'll help turn them naturally into product ambassadors. And product ambassadors, who organically spread the good news about your startup, are worth way more than any paid advertising campaign. Like it or not, but word-of-mouth is still the best marketing tool out there.
So go ahead. Connect in more meaningful ways with your users, and watch the magic happen.
Got any thoughts to add to the piece regarding content, support and product ambassadors? Any question, feedback? Hit the comments or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you enjoyed the post, please, take a second to share it on Twitter.