Growth Checklists
SaaS Retention Marketing

18 Retention Marketing Strategies & Checklist for SaaS Startups (2024)

A detailed checklist of the best Retention Marketing Strategies for your startup presented in a digestible format.
by Dan Siepen
Created On:

Here are some of the top retention strategies & tactics to consider implementing int your product to improve retention. I will be adding more retention strategies soon. I hope you get value in the meantime 🙂

Onboarding Signup Flow

1. Make sure to nail your personalised onboarding flow

I created a resource focused on activation strategies which I highlighted the importance of personalised onboarding + strategies.

Ensure you have onboarding flows in place based on a variety of factors;

- User Behaviour
- User Titles/Roles
- User Segments

There are many others you can do.

2. Provide "checkpoints" and clear initial instructions of using the application in an engaging way

Guide users on key features of using your product as soon as they signup. You can use awesome tools such as Appcues or Userpilot (and there are many others) where you help users understand how they they can use your product as a solution to their problem.

The importance of having checkpoints/videos/instructions is due to achieving that "aha" moment which turns into a desired action. Focusing on that first desired action increases your chance that your user's know the value of your product, which in turn increases your retention rate in the long run.

3. Make sure to use videos to ensure their first experience is ideal for getting the most out of the application

Lots of SaaS products do use video as a general rule of thumb for marketing content, but from my experience I still feel video is under-utilised in the onboarding process or using video as educational content within the product.

You don't need to spend a lot of create amazing videos or fancy tools to display video. Use modals within the product where users can click and see a loom-based video of you explaining how a particular feature works. Cheap, simple + effective.

In-app engagement

4. Provide Resources such as content & video

Similar to what I just previously mentioned, video is powerful to quickly highlight key features + ensure your user understands.

A solid strategy which works and you do see with many of the top SaaS platforms is including an educational content library. Everything from how to use the product, webinars + other content. This helps users know they can access content and watch videos anytime.

5. Use "Progress" bars to gamify experience to provide users context on what they need to get the most value

Progress bars are a great way to show users key actions they should take to ensure they use the product to its full potential. However, it's important this is executed and tested continuously.

I've only seen a few products that nail it, with Mailchimp being one of them that comes to mind.

6. Use "in-app" notifications to announce new product features + what's coming up on the roadmap

I think in-app notifications are great for users. Lots of SaaS products I normally find do this well, using tools such as Intercom, Drift + others.

I like them personally as it does keep me updated on when features go live. When I do get them some are relevant and some aren't, but those announcements which aren't applicable don't bother me personally. Although, those that do notifications often does become annoying. I always recommend focusing on high-valued updates that applies to most users.

In addition to in-app notifications, I'm a big fan of public roadmaps. Really great for transparency and keeps me excited for future updates. I see a lot of startups now doing this which I think is a great strategy.

7. Use "Pop-ups"/Modals to show-off new features via video gifs or even for NPS scores to collect customer feedback

Definitely recommend using Modals to highlight new features or big announcements. Combine with video (recommend just a tool like Loom) and it becomes a powerful way to engage users.

Depending on the stage of your business, having the ability to segment modals + messaging based on user behaviour/actions makes it more personalised, which certainly helps with retention.

TIP: of course, this depends on the announcement or video, but try add some personality to these modals. Everyone loves a bit of personality than just generic announcements.

8. Develop a customer/product leaderboard - gamify people into developing content

I haven't come across many products but feel this can be really powerful for some products depending on their niches, particularly for those products that have UGC or community has the main USP of their product.

A great example of a product that uses leaderboard is StackOverflow. It makes sense with their product so focused on UGC. Users get ranked based on their contributions for quality content. You can view how they do this under "users".

Another great example of a product that uses gamification is Airbnb. In their Community Centre, they have a section for "Top Contributors" which takes into their account users based on amount of submissions, upvotes and comments. It's a smart strategy by Airbnb to give credit to those who help others. Clever for retention and also very clever for new users or hosts of Airbnb to hear from other user's experience.

Email Automation

9. New Users: Use Automated Transactional Email Marketing across multiple email marketing flows

Ensure to setup welcome, notification + nurturing emails based on user behaviours. Shares product feature guides, video + other content.

10. New users: Email High-valued content to highlight solution to the problem and high the product solves it

Ensure to setup welcome + nurturing emails based on user behaviours. Shares product feature guides, video + other content. Whilst we have talked about having in-app notifications, links to educational content, etc. - having automated emails based on event-triggers with content keeps users engaged.

11. New + Existing Users: Use gifs and video content within your email

Essentially all online products use email marketing automation. It's never been easier to setup key automation flows. However, what makes your product stand out? The actual email content.

Use video + gifs to get across your message faster. People are time poor and always have dense email inboxes, so focus not just optimsing your workflows, but your actual email content.

12. Existing Users: Have specific event-based/behaviour-triggered retention based email sequences (based on how they use the app)

What emails do you have currently setup for specific events based on user behaviour? Here are some ideas which may help worth implementing:

- Milestone emails
- Training/webinar emails
- Re-engage inactive users through "we miss you" or "what you have missed" emails
- Feature emails - make sure they're engaging
- Churn emails - find ways to make them stay
- Thank you emails - say thanks to top customers

13. New + Existing Users: Do product announcements in an engaging way

As mentioned above, it's important to do feature announcement emails, but make sure they're engaging. Many customers I feel never really nail announcement emails, especially in a way that's engaging. An easy way to optimise for engagement are gifs + videos.

Paid Media & Community

14. Build/Use Facebook Groups, Discord, Slack Groups or any other platforms to build community

Community is the MOAT for fast-scaling startups. Focus from day one building a community of your ideal users and potential customers. It's a great defensibility strategy, especially if you're competing in a specific niche that has a lot of competition, or even the likes of indirect competition. Once you have an engaging community, you accelerate your pathway to P/M fit if you're early stage and if you're in scaling/high growth phase, you increase your chances for better product retention.

15. Run Polls, Quizzes, Video Q&A's, Podcasts... whatever engaging content you can to keep your brand top of mind, engaging and showing authority

Rather than just purely sharing "listicle" based content or Ultimate guide type content, share other forms of content that engages audiences including polls, quizzes + more. Share these other forms of content across key channels from email, ads (retargeting especially), social media + others.

Other Key Factors + Considerations

16. Persuade users into Annual payments or even Quarterly Payments

A strategy to increase retention and also increase cashflow is highlighting to users (new or existing) annual or even quarterly plans

Locking in annual users ensures you have them for another 12 months and don't have to worry about them churning in the short term. Offer an incentive such as 2 months off if they choose 12 months to incentivise users to upgrade.

I haven't seen too many use cases for Quarterly plans until I came across a cool tool called Vocal Video. Pretty clever as it ensures users can give the product a decent chance to see the value from it rather than churn after 1 month.

17. Make sure to have numerous ways of highlighting to customers that you have a customer service team to answer questions or provide product support

Customer service = marketing. Simple.

This is a consideration that I feel many startups, at least I have come across, need to improve in. Making is easy for users to get in contact if they have issues with the product or want to ask questions.

Make sure to have destinations with the product that lead to the customer service team (or founders if early stage) through chat widgets, links to FAQ's, etc.

18. Share customer wins on your social channels or other channels

I think this strategy is under-utilised by lots of startups, especially if they're in the B2B space. Sharing customer wins is a great way to build customer trust and loyalty. It doesn't need to be an over-thought, just simply sharing wins on social media channels or through the email newsletter goes a long way.

👋 G'day everyone, Dan Siepen here from down under 🇦🇺🦘🐨. I'm an experienced growth marketer w/ 8+ years exp. across SaaS, B2B, DTC & eComm. Get to know more about me (check my homepage too) & if you want to connect, just reach out. 👇
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