How SmileBack increased trial-to-paid conversions and became industry leaders
SmileBack is a customer feedback platform that helps MSPs deliver better customer experiences and boost retention with CSAT and NPS data.
When serving a niche audience that's difficult to qualify, SEO opportunities are scarce. Your content and messaging must serve users on the channels and communities where they’re most active.
We reached these users with helpful content that empowered them to use the platform to its full potential. Here's how we helped SmileBack boost acquisition, product adoption, and retention leading up to their ConnectWise acquisition in 2021.
- Increased conversion rate of trial-to-paid users from 38% to 47% in 12 months
- Newsletter open rate avg. 36% (highest 45%) and avg. CTR of 3% (highest 5%)
SmileBack is a CSAT and NPS platform for MSPs. Founded in 2017, they help a niche audience of IT service providers collect and act on customer feedback to improve customer satisfaction, boost retention, and collect more social proof through Google Reviews.
Thanks to the specific nature of its audience and offering, SmileBack gained impressive amounts of traction shortly after launching.
In order to reach its next growth milestone, they needed to maximize awareness in the MSP space while generating more trial users and converting them into paid subscribers.
How Grizzle helped
During the discovery phase, it immediately became apparent that the SEO opportunity was limited. While we could create content that ranks for various customer success terms, qualified MSP customers made up only a tiny fraction of the traffic potential.
In order to achieve user acquisition goals, we needed to reverse engineer where SmileBack’s audience was most active. Our objective was simple: find out where MSPs go for new information and create content they cared about.
Here’s how we developed SmileBack’s organic growth and editorial strategy:
Deep ICP research and content strategy development
The first step to any strategic activity is fully understanding our audience. In this case, we set out to deeply embed ourselves into SmileBack’s ICP of MSP leaders.
Doing so would not only help us understand their customer feedback goals, but the day-to-day challenges they face as IT service operators.
The strategic process is split into three phases:
- Data-driven research: Identify and analyze the publications, blogs, and influencers that MSPs follow to uncover macro trends. Audience intelligence tools allow us to get a complete picture of the market.
- Qualitative research: Customer development and subject matter expert interviews allow us to add context to our research and truly understand the challenges that MSPs face.
- Strategy development: Use our research and understanding of SmileBack’s product to produce a product-led organic growth roadmap, complete with a distribution strategy and editorial calendar full of topics.
Through this process, we found a handful of industry experts that we could collaborate with to make our content stronger while tapping into an existing audience for amplification efforts. Our entire content distribution was community-led, repurposing content for social and other channels while cementing SmileBack’s team as thought leaders in the space.
Most importantly, it helped us fully understand the inner workings of the MSP business model, the language of their buyers, and their motivations and challenges.
I’ve worked with a lot of agencies in the past, and most rush into the project without properly getting to know our market and our business. Grizzle’s research process got these pieces right, getting to know the ins-and-outs of our product, industry, and audience at a granular level.
- Andrew Wallace, Managing Director
The insights generated from customer interviews helped us make improvements to SmileBack’s messaging, landing pages, and product page copy. We leveraged voice-of-customer insights to elevate the most important elements of SmileBack’s value proposition.
Establishing thought leadership through content, newsletters, and social media
With a strategy and editorial calendar defined, we set out to produce high-quality content that adds value to SmileBack’s audience while accelerating the user journey.
Specifically, we crafted in-depth blog content that helps MSPs solve their biggest customer retention and marketing challenges. This included strategic and actionable guides for achieving their goals and jobs-to-be-done (JTBD):
To amplify reach and awareness, these topics are repurposed into social content across employee accounts and company profiles:
When I first saw Grizzle’s LinkedIn content, I was admittedly skeptical. “Is anyone actually going to read this?” Needless to say, they’ve been our best performing social posts to date.
- Andrew Wallace, Managing Director
Finally, we launched an email marketing program that leveraged:
- Newsletters: Building an owned audience, we helped SmileBack transform email into a media asset that MSPs are excited to open and read.
- Campaigns: Email copy and sequences to promote blog content, webinars, and product releases.
- User Journey: Audit and map new user journeys for trial, post-trial, and paying users. Workflows were created based on customer segments and user behavior within the product at critical milestones. For example, prompting the user to set up their first CSAT survey vs. sharing content that highlights its benefits.
Reducing time-to-value with product marketing content
For PLG companies, getting to value as quickly as possible is key for user activation. SmileBack has a dedicated customer success team to guide leads through specific use cases, but this comes with limited scalability.
To reduce time-to-value and get more users to the “aha!” moment, we produced two types of product marketing content:
- Use cases: Show MSPs how to use their CSAT and NPS data to improve quarterly business reviews, team performance, processes, and more.
- Prescriptive guides: Produce technical, step-by-step instructions accompanied by copy-and-paste templates (e.g. survey emails).
The latter was produced after dozens of conversations with SmileBack users who expressed a common sticking point: setting up surveys and email templates. So, we did it for them by packaging it up in step-by-step articles:
These guides are delivered by email and in-app messages (via Intercom) based on specific user behavior, giving them the content they need right when they need it.
SmileBack’s trial-to-paid conversion rate increased from 38% to 47% in 12 months. Open rates for newsletters averaged 36% (highest 45%) and CTR averaged 3% (highest 5%), and engagement metrics have seen a lift across the entire user journey.