Product Marketing
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July 8, 2020

How To Use Soft Signals To Qualify Your Users

By Aggelos Mouzakitis

Can our sales team forecast what our customers need based on simple signals of behaviour? The answer is almost certainly yes. In this article, we are going to explore specific cases where simple actions might prove to be more important than we thought, driving actions to prevent churn.


To dive into these cases, I wanted to speak with veteran digital marketer Elad Levy, the co-founder and Head of Growth at Fixel. Elad Levy has over 9 years of experience in web analytics, working with major local and international brands in software, retail, banking, network television, and other industries. With a wide breadth of experience, Elad was well-equipped to discuss this topic with us.


Elad Levy considers himself to be a technical marketer with a keen eye for code. Elad’s company, Fixel, has been around for several years now. Fixel provides a solution for engagement-based segmentation for advertisers, allowing them to easily understand which users are of high-value on their website. “It’s been a fun ride so far”, Elad told me.


I recently had a discussion with Elad where he mentioned specific signals that come from users when they are new to your SaaS product. Elad describes it as being a very basic concept that happens in B2B marketing. I was very keen to find out more about the concept of soft signals and how SaaS companies can apply them to their new product for their target markets before the product launch.



The Concept Of Using Soft Signals For SaaS Products


We all know the marketing automation platforms that SaaS companies use for marketing plans, such as Marketo and HubSpot. The basic notion of these marketing automation platforms is that you can track end-user engagement and you are able to see the specific actions that they have taken. “It’s a classic marketing practice. But at the end of the day, there are tons of different things that you can track”, Elad told us.


“As marketers, beyond these marketing automation or advertising platforms, we are oftentimes slumped with data points to analyze. The same logic applies when we are trying to understand our SaaS product. We have the structured actions. We know that a person signed up. We know that they’ve started some sort of funnel, maybe even installed our new product”.


Elad continued, “When we’re looking at user experience, the process is never linear. You’re expecting someone to go through point A to B to C, but it’s a spaghetti mess. You’re often not able to pick up on these signals and you’re not able to see all these moments of frustration and all these moments of back-and-forth that make up the user experience”.


To be able to accurately understand a new market’s experience with your new product, you need to be able to track implicit signals and create a roadmap to act on their frustrations as fast as you can. Ultimately, this is what you are trying to achieve, to boost customer retention and reduce the rate of churn.


“We are trying to understand who these users are that have been expressing certain levels of engagement and delving into the underlying reasons that are causing this engagement. From there, it’s about really trying to drive that insight and turn it into some sort of scale of automation”, Elad said.


Time-Based Vs. Event-Based Flow


Elad describes the process of taking this concept and adapting it to their SaaS products as being “very natural for us”. He expanded on this more, “What have tried to create these kinds of workflows and logics within our product”.


This is an example of how Elad and his team began onboarding and engaging with users. Elad regards the above as being the “standard, off-the-shelf solution for SaaS products out there”. In other words, it’s the typical structure that you would expect for this type of product.


“As they near the end of their 30-day trial, we send out all these different messages to actually get them to convert at the end of the 30-days. This is the standard flow that we started with at that point in time. Being a young, bootstrapped startup this made sense for us. Over time, this wasn’t sufficient and we wanted to be able to react to what the user does and be proactive as well to what they don’t do”, Elad explained.


To accomplish this, Elad and his team took a different approach and moved from a time-based flow to an event-based flow. As Elad told us, “We’re really trying to understand what they’re doing and what we want them to achieve. Ultimately, we want our customers to activate their segments and that takes a few actions. If they sign up and don’t move to segment creation, they’d be within a specific trip and all of our messaging would be trying to push them in that direction”. 


This event-based flow is designed to enable SaaS teams to act on scale and drive new users down. It also helps you to understand where customers sit within your funnel. No matter who comes in to look at a specific lead, using this event-based flow, they will be able to identify and understand exactly where they have fallen off. This will enable you to assess how much they know about the value proposition of your product.


Elad and his team eventually hit a roadblock with this event-based flow. “What we’ve seen is that our product ultimately is able to bring values that they need to be able to understand. Not every user is going to be able to instantly see the value proposition of a new product. Aside from trying to adjust all of our messaging and onboarding flow itself for the platform, we really tried to understand how we can pick up on these little implicit actions”, Elad explained.


The Engagement-Based Flow


Elad and his team came up with an engagement-based flow which is slowly being rolled out into their platform. They are using this to get very specific insights on users. “In a nutshell, our platform, the Fixel product itself looks at a certain website and looks at users that are coming by the website and tries to understand which users are highly-engaged within that platform”, Elad told us.


He continued, “If I’m looking at an e-commerce website, then these people are most likely going to be more prone to converting. There are, therefore, the high-value users that you want to reach out to. If we’re looking at our website and we’re looking at identified users within a specific funnel and they’re heavily engaging with the product, we can see that they’re digging deep into the product and that there is some interaction happening here”.


“Sometimes we see people that are frantically going through the documentation of the product. We see that they’re hitting some wall. In that case, our support team will go and see where they’ve been through the documentation website and try to reach out and help them with these specific things that they’re stuck on”, Elad shared with us.


By taking this approach, you are able to micro-analyze specific users and their pains. This can enable your customer success team to provide potential customers with plenty of value without exhausting your resources. The last use case is about trying to understand the users that are engaging with the main website.


“As a startup, we have a bit of a split personality. We have several go-to markets (GTM), we have the self-service SaaS model and we have the enterprise B2B model, so we want to know that our prospect has been highly engaged within our website. Trying to collect all these different pages and different actions within HubSpot, or other marketing automation platforms, is really something that is tedious and difficult to manage easily”, Elad explained.


“By creating these engagement scores and being able to understand that we, for instance, have three highly-engaged users coming from that specific prospect company, we’re able to act on these companies and create a more efficient ABM process. These are the things that we’re really trying to do by looking at these implicit signals that are happening on the website”, Elad continued.


There are so many signals that you could be tracking on your website to gain a sense of user experience. From the time on the site and the number of pages viewed to the scrolling and the clicks. A variety of different implied actions are happening upon every visit and you should be picking these up at scale and converting them into a simple score or label.


Even if you’re not using a tool like Fixel, you will still be able to pick up on specific signals on your website. For instance, on your main site, you will be able to see who is engaged with your pricing page or those that are scrolling through your ‘About’ page to learn more about your SaaS company. These are the people that you want to be speaking to.


These are signals that you can pick that are implied and can really drive insight on the specific needs of the potential customers. The soft actions are the things that tell us the bigger and better story of how potential customers are feeling and ways in which we could potentially help them in the journey towards customer acquisition.


Final Thoughts


It was quite refreshing to hear about a concept that exists outside of the current hyper around the product-led approach – where founders have to do everything through the product. The approach described by Elad still allows businesses to be product-led, even with a steep learning curve, whilst also adding the human factor and customer success into the equation.


We hope you enjoyed reading about how you can use soft signals to qualify your users. You can now explore the potential for having an engagement-based flow in your business model, GTM strategy, marketing strategy and sales strategy.

Aggelos Mouzakitis

Aggelos is the founder and Growth Product Manager of Growth Sandwich. He is among the first Customer-led experts in the world, leveraging advanced, Jobs-to-be-done customer research to orchestrate and guide Growth for B2B SaaS companies. A- and B- series SaaS are hiring him to organise, design and execute programs that infuse the whole company with qualitative data, empathy and the necessary knowledge to address any growth dilemma. In the last 4 years, he has worked with more than 100 SaaS companies and trained literally, thousands through my physical and online courses.