The average annual growth rate of SaaS is nearly 30%, which only means one thing: more players joining the game. So, as competition is starting to heat up, shifting your focus from paid channels to more sustainable user acquisition strategies like community-building is essential.
Companies with dedicated community teams have experienced a 22% growth since 2020, and as we enter 2024, it's clear that community building will continue to play an important role in the success of SaaS businesses.
But let's be honest: building a community is not an easy task. It requires time, effort, and a clear strategy to engage and retain users. However, with the right tactics, you can create a strong and loyal community around your SaaS product.
Here are 6 best community-building tactics to help grow your SaaS in 2024:
1. Join Dark Social Communities
Joining dark social platforms like Quora forums, Slack channels, Facebook groups, Subreddits, or Discord channels related to your industry is one of the effective tactics you can implement when trying to grow your SaaS community.
These communities are often formed around specific topics or interests, and members tend to be highly engaged and passionate about the subject. They provide a unique opportunity to connect with potential users in a more personal and targeted way.
Quora forums allow you to participate in discussions related to your SaaS niche, engage with users seeking solutions, share your expertise, or subtly introduce your product when it adds value to the conversation.
Slack channels are another platform that allows real-time interactions with professionals and enthusiasts. By joining relevant channels, SaaS companies can contribute to meaningful discussions and establish themselves as a go-to solution for certain problems. As a result, you can build relationships with potential customers and even generate some leads.
Facebook groups are particularly useful for creating a sense of community among like-minded individuals. By being an active member and sharing your expertise without being overly promotional, you'll naturally attract users interested in your SaaS. Over time, this can lead to a loyal customer base and positive word-of-mouth marketing.
Subreddits offer a diverse user base and are an excellent way for SaaS companies to show off their product. By participating in conversations, sharing valuable content, and answering questions, you can establish yourself as an authority in your niche and gain the trust of potential users.
Finally, you can also join relevant Discord communities or create your own server to interact with their target audience. Discord is a great platform for providing customer support or hosting live events such as webinars or Q&A sessions. SaaS companies can leverage Discord's features to engage with their audience in a more personal and interactive way, which can lead to increased brand awareness and customer loyalty.
In dark social communities, authenticity is key. Build relationships, offer value, and let the community discover the benefits of your SaaS organically. This approach can lead to strong word-of-mouth recommendations, making your community not only bigger but also more engaged and loyal.
2. Build a Dedicated Community Place
When trying to build and grow your community, building a dedicated community place for your customers is a step that can’t be missed. Take Gong, Apollo, or Meta Data, for example. These are some of the companies that understand the importance of creating a centralized space specifically where their users can connect and collaborate with each other, but it’s also a place where they access valuable resources in the form of podcasts, courses, or specific guides.
Here are a few things you can implement when building your community place:
Create Forums and Discussion Spaces
Establishing forums where users can discuss challenges, share insights, and seek advice. This not only fosters a sense of community but also provides valuable feedback for the SaaS company itself. This interactive space allows users to connect with each other, creating a collaborative environment that enhances the overall user experience. Gong is a great example of community building.
Source: Gong community
Build a Resource Library
Building a centralized resource library is another effective strategy. This hub can house a wealth of information, including tutorials, podcasts, case studies, and downloadable assets. Offering valuable resources not only helps users maximize the utility of the SaaS product but also positions the company as an authority in its niche. For inspiration, have a look at Metadata’s resource library.
Source: Metadata.io resource library
Have Your Own Academy
Some SaaS companies take community-building a step further by offering free courses and training programs. These educational initiatives not only empower users to make the most of the software but also contribute to their professional development. By providing continuous learning opportunities, solidify your position as a partner in the success of your users. This is another Gong example:
Source: Gong academy
Offer Exclusive Access
Just as in external communities, creating a sense of exclusivity within the dedicated community space is crucial. SaaS companies can offer exclusive access to new features, beta testing programs, or live events, making users feel valued and privileged. This not only strengthens the bond between the company and its users but also encourages active participation and engagement within the community.
Providing a dedicated community space is like providing a virtual home for users for knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and mutual support. By crafting valuable content and creating a sense of belonging, you’ll enhance user satisfaction, encourage retention, and contribute to the organic growth of your community.
3. Embrace UGC Content and Turn Customers Into Brand Ambassadors
User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool for community building - it's authentic and relatable and comes directly from your users, making it a powerful endorsement for your SaaS. Encouraging UGC not only increases engagement but also turns your customers into brand ambassadors.
For instance, remember how Dropbox, a popular file hosting service, launched a UGC campaign in 2012 named "Dropbox Space Race." This initiative encouraged university students worldwide to compete in getting as many sign-ups as possible for their school. The more sign-ups, the more free storage space. This clever campaign led to millions of sign-ups, with students effectively becoming brand ambassadors for Dropbox in their universities.
Source: Dave Gerhardt
Another great, more recent example is Slack. They have an extensive collection of customer testimonials and case studies where their users share their experiences, the problems they faced, and how Slack helped overcome those challenges. This type of UGC establishes a strong connection with prospective users and reinforces the community's trust in the product.
But how do you encourage UGC? Here are a few tactics to consider:
Create a dedicated hashtag for your product and encourage users to share their experiences using it. You can even offer incentives, like discounts or freebies, for those who use the hashtag.
Offer special privileges or incentives such as exclusive access to new features, early beta testing opportunities, or even personalized shout-outs to users who actively engage with your product.
Host contests or challenges related to your product, where users can submit their content and vote on the best entries. This not only encourages UGC but also creates a sense of community among your customers.
Use social media platforms to facilitate discussions and interactions between your customers. This will foster a sense of community and encourage users to share their experiences with others.
Encourage and showcase user-generated reviews and testimonials on your website, social media channels, and other marketing materials. This builds trust among potential customers and shows the positive impact your product has had on real users.
Finally, always engage with your community by responding to comments, thanking them for their contributions, and actively seeking their feedback.
In essence, by embracing UGC and turning customers into brand ambassadors, you create a community that actively contributes to the growth of your SaaS business. This approach not only strengthens your online presence but also builds a loyal customer base that feels a genuine connection with your brand.
4. Solve a Problem Without Selling
Following on everything we said above, when trying to build your community, instead of approaching potential users with a sales pitch, you have to focus on being a problem solver. Everything else should come second.
Remember the Resource Library, Academy, etc. ? Exactly, that’s what we mean by “solving problems”.
Your community is a place for users to find solutions, connect with others, and share their experiences. Providing relevant resources, offering support, and being transparent about your product’s limitations are the best ways to establish credibility and trust within the community. This will ultimately attract more users and drive customer retention.
Foster an environment of collaboration and feedback and make people feel comfortable enough to seek answers, share insights, and assist each other in overcoming obstacles. This will create a sense of belonging and ownership within the community, making users feel invested in your SaaS and more likely to stay for the long term.
Remember, the goal is not just to sell a product but to become an integral part of the community, providing continuous value and establishing your SaaS as a trusted ally in overcoming challenges.
5. Engage With Early Adopters
The most powerful advocates for your SaaS are those who have trusted your brand from the very beginning. Early adopters form the backbone of your SaaS success, often becoming your first vocal supporters and the community you should prioritize.
They typically have three traits in common:
They know they have a problem that needs solving.
They have a clear understanding of what that problem is.
They're actively looking for a solution.
To engage with early adopters and build your community around them, you first need to learn how to identify them. While they are not a uniform group, they generally share some common traits.
Let's take a look at a few ways to identify and engage with early adopters:
Join Early Adopter Channels
Platforms like Indie Hackers, Angellist, Hackernews, and Product Hunt are great places to find early adopters for your SaaS product. These platforms have a community of users who are actively looking for new products and are eager to try them out.
Once you join these platforms, promote your company by creating a pitch that includes creative videos, product photos, helpful links, and special offers. The key is to focus on the pain points that your product solves and how it can benefit early adopters.
If you're just starting out, offering limited but free advanced services can be an excellent way to attract your first clients. This will help you gain traction and gather feedback from your early adopter community that you can use to improve your product.
Show Off Your SaaS on Crowdfunding Platforms
When customers can’t find what they need, they turn to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Usually, the crowd that visits these platforms are early adopters who are looking for new and innovative products to try out and support.
By creating campaigns on these platforms, you can show off your SaaS and gain exposure to a community of early adopters who are willing to invest in new ideas. Make sure your campaign has a compelling story, showcases the benefits of your product, and offers attractive incentives for early adopters who back your project.
Even if your crowdfunding campaign does not reach its financial goal, you can still gain a valuable asset - a list of individuals interested in your product. You can use this list to reach out to potential customers directly, provide them with updates, gather feedback, and continue building your community.
Create a Sense of Exclusivity
Another great tactic that will help you attract early adopters is to create a sense of exclusivity around your product. People are naturally drawn to exclusive or limited things, and this can work in your favor when trying to create a buzz and build a community of early adopters.
To create a sense of exclusivity, you can offer pre-launch access to your product or features to a select group of individuals who meet specific criteria. This could include industry experts, influencers, or loyal customers. Offer limited-edition releases, invitation-only beta testing programs, or pre-order opportunities and encourage early adoption.
In a nutshell, making people feel special is a powerful marketing tool that can help you build a community, generate excitement, and attract early adopters to your SaaS.
6. Find the Right Platform for Engagement
In 2024, you can't build a thriving community without a solid online presence. But with so many social media platforms and communication tools available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your SaaS company.
The key is, as always, to understand your target audience and their preferred ways of engaging. Are they mostly active on Twitter or LinkedIn? Do they prefer real-time interactions through chat groups or discussion forums?
Each community has its unique dynamics, and understanding them will help you determine the best platform for engagement. Additionally, consider the features and capabilities of each platform, such as moderation tools, analytics, and customization options.
Whether it's niche forums, industry-specific Slack channels, Facebook groups, or trending platforms like Discord, choosing the right platform allows you to connect with your audience in a way that feels natural to them.
Tailor your approach to the preferred communication style and platform of your community members, and you'll see increased engagement and stronger relationships. Humans are social creatures, so make sure your platform of choice fosters that sense of connection and community.
Community is the heart of any business. When managed effectively, it helps with customer acquisition, support, and success, enhances retention rates, and offers valuable product insights. It is the driving force behind any business, keeping the rest of the team on track.
Creating a successful customer community for your SaaS product is an ongoing process that requires dedication, strategy, and a deep understanding of your audience. By defining the purpose of your community, selecting the right platform, creating engaging content, fostering engagement, and continuously improving based on user feedback, you can create a thriving customer community that not only supports your customers but also contributes to the growth and success of your SaaS product.
Remember that a well-cultivated community is a valuable asset that can set your SaaS product apart in a crowded market. Support that is easily accessible to your users will eventually lead to better retention, less churn, and a great overall customer experience.