7 community growth tips and examples for SaaS

7 community growth tips and examples for SaaS

We curated the best expert tips on how to grow your SaaS community. Let’s go!
Note: SaaSwrites is a curated growth marketing hub and resource built to help SaaS founders grow their products. We sincerely thank all our experts for their constant value addition to this world.
Updated: 05/11/2022

1. Build Word of Mouth

When they were ready to start building a community, they started with word of mouth. Drafted an email pitching the concept. It went out to everyone they knew, asking them to share it with anyone who would be interested. This got them maybe a few dozen signups.

2. Fake it till you make it

With only a handful of members, they needed to make the community feel more active. So they faked it till they made it. The team created multiple accounts and posted using different fake names. This created the sense of more activity and encouraged new members to join in.
Later, they learned that the founders of Reddit did the same thing early on. Sometimes the solution to the "chicken and the egg" problem of building community is to create the illusion of more chickens (or eggs.)

3. Grow your Community with Craigslist

After tapping out their networks and WOM, they had to look elsewhere for growth. So the team unbundled the most dominant community platform of the mid-2000's. Yep, Craigslist.
Posted in Craigslist forums for big sports cities promoting B/R as a place for fans to write about their teams.
Posting on Craiglist iss free. Their success rate improved as they iterated on copy, cadence, and communication tactics. Craigslist netted them 100's of first users.

4. Do Blogger outreach

Taking the lessons learned from CL, they decided to bundle up the still-nascent sports blogosphere.
Using Google, blogrolls and Technorati, they manually built a database of every active sports blog they could find.
Then the team emailed bloggers and pitched them on joining B/R. Blogger outreach started with individual emails until they learned what worked best.
Then they automated the process while still making it feel personal. Recruiting bloggers was hit or miss. Some preferred blogging solo. But a few hundred gave it a shot.
They kept growing. In the early days, every new user got white-glove onboarding. One of the co-founders served as head of community and personally introduced each new member to B/R.
We got to know early users incredibly well. Sometimes too well.

5. Explore Paid marketing

So the team took a flier (literally) on a new social network for college students that was still figuring out their business model: Facebook.
They had just introduced "Facebook Flyers", their first ad product. They were all text ads on the sidebar of the home page, targeted first by college and (soon after) interest. And since FB was new, they were super cheap.
The team targeted FB Flyers to big sports schools, using the messaging and onboarding tactics they had refined in our earlier efforts. The results were huge. Thousands of new signups. But like most paid marketing, quality was lower. Still, paid social helped them really scale.
  1. You are your first user.
  1. Look where your users already are. Bundle. Unbundle. Test new channels.
  1. Be shameless about growth. If it works, it works. No judgement.
  1. Treat your early users like celebrities. They will repay you 1,000x.

6. Grow your SaaS community with Flywheels

If you start a community, be prepared to amplify other people’s voices over yours.
To build community:
  • find your people
  • study your people
  • take notes
  • talk to your people
  • take notes
  • repeat quite a few times
The how then becomes much easier to answer.

Strategic community flywheels

These are higher level, designed as an overview. They guide us and help us make decisions. They help us stick to our community principles. Like anything in life, they should evolve over time.

Tactical community flywheels

These dive into the daily operations. We have the opportunity to be experimental and reactionary. They drill down deep, often to deep many levels, with guidance from the strategic community flywheels.

Say no to the Community Funnel of Hope

Flywheels work better as each piece of the flywheel is connected. If one fails, the whole thing falls apart. It forces you to build upon things that work, rather than throwing things into the community funnel of hope.

Your community idea is great, it's probably not much without a flywheel

Interconnected processes are what helps grows communities. Without this, you probably don't have a community. Refined community flywheels are arguably more important than your community vision. People like to think that communities just magically grow. The reality is that they don't. There are many 'boring processes' happening behind the scenes that most people don't see.

Create flywheels for visualization and reference

But break each part down into lists and sub-lists of what works and what doesn't work. Of what you do and don't do. Don't randomly build upon new ideas. Build upon what you know works.

Strategic community flywheels are great

But they start from tactical ones. In the early days be tactical. Try things and see what works. Do what works. Do what feels good. Ditch everything else.

Tactical Community Flywheels are more powerful with meaning

Tactics are meaningless without a vision. Make sure everything you do inches you towards the goals you are trying to achieve.
Understand that community journeys are at the heart of everything. It's not about engagement, it's about the community journey. It becomes meaningless if you can't help people get to where they want to be.
Engagement is nothing, or even worse, it can be negative if it doesn't help your community achieve what they need to achieve.

Community activities > Engagement

What can you do, create, or co-create that will help people get to where they need to be? This is community design — create experiences that help people get to where they want to be. Experiences = many different community activities.

Feedback is everywhere

No response is feedback.
Energy is feedback.
Participation is feedback.
Look for it, improve your flywheels, and co-create.

7. Community growth comes from Repeatability

When we think about community and the seduction (or pressure) for growth, how can we create mental models to help us tackle this? One thing that we can do is to build in growth with repeatability over scalability. What I feel this means in practice is that perhaps to achieve scale, first you need to find what is repeatable. What does repeatability mean in a community context?
Great communities thrive on repeatability:
  • rituals
  • culture
  • gatherings
  • expectation setting
When we come together to create community, we create things that are repeatable.
Repeatability creates a rhythm.
Rhythm creates growth.
Repeatability shows what people want.

Repeatability requires experimentation

Finding the things that are repeatable doesn't happen overnight. The willingness to be creative. To try things out. To tune in to what is working, or not. We must be willing to define and defend our decisions of when to continue with something or to ditch it when it doesn't feel repeatable enough.

The frequency of repeatability varies too.

It could be daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. Understanding how frequent things need to be is key. Meetups work well as a monthly thing, a conference on the other hand is well suited for an annual event.

What works is repeatable

We need to focus in on what works and repeat that. Time and time again. Iterating and growing. And with community intention. It doesn't mean that it has to be a huge success, it is more the case that we need to look for the things that do work. We focus on the positives, the successes and amplify those.

Repeatability creates flywheels.

Traction is the modern-day equivalent of a gold rush. We all want traction. It's exciting. It makes things happen. It brings us success.

Communities live or die on traction, as do businesses.

Repeatability creates traction. Traction leads to flywheels. Flywheels lead to growth.

Repeatability is boring

People don't talk about it because it's grunt work. It's the ops. It's behind the scenes of how things work. Flywheels and traction are so much more exciting to talk about.

Repeatability is the foundation, the seeds, the roots.

It's the saying hello to everyone. It's the showing up at events. It's the conversation, after conversation, after conversation. It's the admin data input.

You can create repeatability.

By doing the work. Showing up. Having the conversations. Building relationships and trust. Much of a community builder's work is finding that rhythm and flow. It's hard to get there, but once you are there it can feel all so good.

You can look for repeatability too

Ask questions like:
  • Who is showing up on a regular basis?
  • Do conversations get comments?
  • Do you get regular feedback?
  • What recurring themes do you notice?
There's no point scaling until you have that repeatability.