How not to win friends (and customers) as a SaaS business

We’ve been giving Sodeco a try recently at ParentPaperwork, like most of these online tools there is a 14 day trial, after which you need to sign up for a subscription. At the end of the trial we decided not to subscribe, we were not really seeing a marked result, and we have a great deal of other social and content promotion work underway, so adding another tool to the list was only going to happen if we really could see value returned.

My problem arose when time came NOT to pay. A few days ago I received the usual prompt that my trial had ended and we needed to pay. Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.42.04 am

Notice the wording in the email. I’m presented with two options – either I can subscribe, or my account will be deactivated. I’m not a big fan of web sites having my personal information unless really necessary, so ‘deactivation’ doesn’t really fit the bill for me. And given I’m in the SaaS game I’m presuming that leaves me open to ongoing marketing approaches.

So I go to Socedo and login, thinking I must be able to locate an option to delete my account.

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Unfortunately not. After login a popup modal window opens presenting three subscription choices. I cannot close the modal, nor access my account information. I do not think this is acceptable, and I said so in an exchange with a Socedo support person. They deleted my account as I requested.

Socedo’s tactics are blatant, they are coming from the view that the best way to sell their product to a customer is to give the customer no choice. Companies need to recognise customers must be given choice – and one of those is not to purchase a product. Companies must also recognise that users must have the right to control their personal information. I will not do business with an online company that does not offer me the option to delete my account and the associated personal data they are holding.

I reckon Socedo would win many more friends with an option that says “Not Today Thanks”, if the customer selects this, then there’s a magic opportunity to re-orient the relationship into something that can still be ongoing. Perhaps “That’s fine, but we’d love to stay in touch, would you mind if we added you to our newsletter list. Oh, and would you mind telling us why you don’t want to subscribe at this time.”

One of our main challenges in SaaS (or indeed marketing any product) is understanding why a customer chooses not to purchase. If we are smart, we can see these customers as opportunities.


If Kim Kardashian’s baby with Kanye West is called North West I’d improve my search engine rankings

If Kim Kardashian's baby with Kanye West is called North West I'd improve my search engine rankings

My random thought for the day was, if I stuff my blog post title with lots of interesting words and terms, just how many people would turn up. Sadly (perhaps promisingly) I did then have to go and check several key facts:

  • How to spell Kim Kardashian
  • Who her boyfriend is today
  • The name of Kim Kardashian’s baby (who calls their child North West? All that pops into my head is North By North West, a really rather good film from the late 1950s directed by Alfred Hitchcock).

Finally I had a quick look at the Google Trends site which gives you an idea of what lots of people are searching for at the moment. Today it turns out the top of the hit parade is:

  • NFL
  • Julius Thomas (had to look him up as well)
  • Anthony Weiner (will that man never give up?)

Which means I probably should write something like how I went to watch an NFL game with Anthony Weiner and Julius Thomas scored a goal/basket/point. Yes, just realised Thomas plays basketball and the NFL is American Football, but hey, who cares when you’re just a search engine traffic moll.



Online media outlets seem to have thrown content quality out the window


A while back the idea of lists hit social media marketing – apparently people luuuurve lists of things, so the marketing ‘experts’ told us all to compile lists of ‘stuff’ for our blog posts, because this would generate lots of traffic.

I’ve been watching the next twist – extending the social engineering by publishing a list, promoting it on social media and insisting that number so and so is the ‘best’.

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Of course the most interesting one is not the first one you’ll see:

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There are 15 items, one per page, and so you’ll need to click through 15 to 5 before you find the mistake that is soooo common. The clue of course lies with all the ads on the page – 10 clicks means those ads have all been served 10 times, making the web site statistics look good and improving the chance a visitor will click an ad.

I’ll save you the bother, #5 was:

Creating a Facebook or Twitter account and expecting this to be enough is a common mistake. Social media efforts don’t drive themselves, and it’s not enough just to create a fan page without following through with creative content.

The blog publisher is not even creating the content, it’s all lifted from other places.

There was an interesting piece by Ryan Holiday on a few weeks ago, where he set out to illustrate the lows the blog publishing world has plumbed in order to boost page views.

Ryan demonstrates techniques commonly used by the major online media outlets to artificially increase their traffic, and concludes that online media today is a racket:

A racket where investors and media moguls make millions, where individual bloggers driven by pageview bonuses exaggerate and distort the news for their share of the bounty, where promoters using tactics like mine can generate massive publicity for free, and readers–having no idea that this is occurring–click away, think they are receiving “news.”

I vividly recall establishing our online news content company in 2000, and being told by the pundits of the day that nobody would pay for online content – advice we promptly disproved. Our customers *did* pay us to provide them with highly relevant, good quality content. They voted with their feet, and flocked to our web site.  We were successful because at the time we were pretty much the only media outlet providing our type of content to our audience.

There is a new reality today I think – there’s only so much news, and only so many potential customers, and an over-crowded publisher market. The maths don’t work.

The competition for eyeballs is so fierce, many online media outlets seem to have thrown any notion of content quality out the window as they chase a finite audience in competition with a million other media businesses.