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Make Users Feel Like One-in-a-Million at Every Stage of the Funnel Your product might be great for anybody, but to grow your business you need to prove it with personalized attention.

By Walter Chen Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Businesses are in the habit of turning real people, with names, interests, and pet peeves into "users," "visits," and "cohorts," breaking them down into data points that we plug into equations.

To get the metrics we need, it's necessary, to a degree. But we also know it's not how people want to be treated. Everyone is unique, and wants to be treated that way. No one summed it up like Dale Carnegie when he said "remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language."

Every business owner knows this. Yet so much of what we do runs counter to how we build successful relationships with people in everyday life.

At every stage of the customer acquisition funnel -- the process that takes people from hearing about your product all the way (hopefully) to becoming loyal users -- there are points when treating customers as individuals can mean the difference between keeping and losing them.

Related: Five Ways to Show Customers You Care

If you can make people feel like you're treating them as an individual at these stages of the funnel, they're going to keep using your product, and you'll build a foundation for serious growth.

Figure out what really makes people tick

Let's imagine you're developing an easy to use CRM for small businesses. You know your product will work great for anyone—they just need to see it. So you plan a Facebook ads campaign to send your brilliant idea to people who identify as small business owners. You're at the first stage of your funnel, acquisition, and the future is looking bright.

You might be right about your product, but you're wrong about your strategy. Maybe your CRM is perfect for both Jill's Gluten-Free Vegan Bakery in Los Angeles and Rob's Civil War Curio Shop in Nashville, but you can bet your customer acquisition campaign isn't.

Every one of your potential users has many different social identities, and "small business owner" is just one of them. Create a Facebook ads campaign that appeals to this single identity, and your product won't appeal to anyone. While you can't make 100 percent unique ads for Jill and Rob, you can create buyer personas that they'll instinctively relate to. Personas are imaginary but fully realized people with real identities that share a worldview with the people you're trying to reach.

To find those shared identities, you need to drill down and relentlessly A/B test new images, try out new language, and experiment. Even if you're totally new to marketing, AdEspresso makes it easy to continuously test and refine your marketing campaigns until potential customers feel like you're speaking directly to them from their Facebook newsfeed.

Related: A Satisfied Customer Is the Best Possible Way to Network

Show your value with intuitive onboarding

After tons of planning, beta testing and carefully targeted ads, you've managed to build a steady stream of interested people who click through your ads to your landing page. You've gotten them into your funnel, but there's no guarantee they'll stay there. You need to activate users if you're ever going to get them to actually try your product.

Maybe your ads really resonated with Shruti, and now she's curious about how your CRM can help her manage all the people flocking to her brand new lifestyle and workout studio, KarmaTricycle. But she doesn't have time for an unintuitive landing page. You need to get her using your SaaS fast, or she's gone.

The sooner people can use your product, the sooner you'll trigger an "A-ha!" moment. With a tool like Appcues, you can set up engaging full screen takeovers to immediately engage users, and add seamless tooltips to call their attention to the most important features, making it easy for users to start trying out your product. The sooner users can customize their experience, the sooner they'll see just how great your product really is.

Beat churn with amazing support

Your marketing campaign is bringing in all sorts of new customers, and your onboarding is getting them to sign up. But most of them are churning out within a month or two. Trying to figure out why, you take a look at your help desk inbox, and almost spit out your coffee.

A support request from Tom in New York got a generic response and no follow up. A question from new user Susie in Las Vegas got lost in the shuffle. And a request from a VP at Bob's Big Box, your biggest client, is waiting on an answer as you speak.

Retention is possibly the most challenging part of your funnel, and a big reason is that companies fail to provide exceptional customer support. When someone has a problem with your service, it's on their mind right at that instant. If you can provide remarkable support right then and there, you're going to show customers that you understand how important their time is. If you can't, you'll lose them.

Related: 5-Star Customer Service Should Hurt a Little

An all-in-one help support service like Help Scout will make it easy for your support team to provide amazing customer service experiences right at the moment your users need them. If user problems get solved as soon as they crop up, they'll be inclined to stick around knowing that you're always trying to make their experience better.

Show long time users you care

Your SaaS startup passed through the heady days of beta testing, waded through the worst of the churn, and made it to a place where you can start really thinking long term. You've reached the revenue stage of the funnel, where growing the size of existing users plans is as important as signing up new people in the first place.

That's when you realize that the team at Rocco's Rocking Web Design have been around and using your app for almost as long as you have. They've outlasted bugs and faithfully downloaded the newest versions of your product. Best of all, you're growing together—as their team grows, they're adding more product users, and steadily bumping up your revenue.

Whether it's a birthday or a new job, when the people close to you hit a big milestone, you want to celebrate. You should do the same for users who've made your app a regular part of their lives.

Make it easy to reach out to your best users--the people who are really passionate about your service and make it a regular part of their own businesses--with a tool like that tracks how often people use your app and makes it easy to send your best users customized messages. Send them a personalized note at big anniversaries, or when they upgrade their account, to show you're as happy about their success as they are.

Make customers feel like you're invested in their success, and they'll continue to rely on your product or service as they grow. It's a win win.

Turn users into your best sales reps

You've done something truly impressive—you took strangers who'd never heard of your product, showed them its value, got them to sign up, and kept them from losing interest or moving to a competitor. Your small startup now has customers who don't just use your product, they can't imagine working without it.

You've reached the referral stage of the funnel, where all your efforts really pay off and instead of working to win over your customers, they're going to do the work of winning over people for you.

You showed Jill and Rob, Shruti and Rocco that you care about their success, and now they feel the same. But you can't guarantee they'll use their personal influence to spread the word about your product. To do that, you need to go personal too. Using a customer referral platform like Extole will let you customize referrals down to the individualized share codes and unique rewards that reflect the things your loyal customers actually want. If you appeal to loyal users in a unique way, you're going to set the stage for a whole new round of new, dedicated customers.

Start personal, grow personal

If you can remember that people want to feel like you're paying unique attention to them at every stage of the customer acquisition process, you're going to stand out from competition. As a small startup, the ability to tailor your product is one of the biggest advantages you'll have over big, established competition—you're much more invested in each user, and you'll take much more time to get to know them and their needs.

As new people come on, they'll know that a core part of their job, whether it's in design or sales or customer support, is about taking the time to understand user needs and build a product to support them. Get into the habit of providing exceptional, individual service from the beginning, and it will stay with your company no matter how fast or how large you grow.

Walter Chen

CEO & Co-founder, iDoneThis

Walter Chen is the founder and CEO of iDoneThis, the easiest way to share and celebrate what you get done at work, every day. Learn the science behind how done lists help you work smarter in our free eBook: The Busy Person's Guide to the Done List. Follow him on twitter @smalter.

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