Why We Created a Slack Community for SaaS and Software Professionals

Katie Stephan
Katie Stephan • Sr. Content Strategist
September 15th, 2022
Estimated read time: 16 minutes, 17 seconds

In our first post about our online community, we mentioned launching the Global SaaS Leaders Slack group because we saw a need for the kind of software-and-SaaS-focused community we’d want to be a part of. That includes:

  • A global focus.
  • More established professionals and businesses (less students and early-stage startups).
  • Professional moderation.
  • Less focus on venture capital or funding rounds.
  • A truly supportive group, with no tolerance for disrespectful or unprofessional behavior.

That’s true: Elements such as a global business focus and experienced professional moderators (that’s me!) are what we like to have in an online forum.

That post touched on what’s in it for members, specifically as compared to other online groups.

But you might still be wondering, “But what’s in it for FastSpring?”

Valid question, and I’m going to answer it — because the reasons (plural) we have for investing in this initiative may not be as simple as the most cynical among us assume. 

As a business person yourself, you know how it works. Companies don’t just invest in new programs to benefit random business people on the internet; they do it because it serves their own business in some way. 

And yes, having a successful online community is a great way for FastSpring to expand its brand recognition and maybe even bring in some leads once in a while.

But marketing is only one of the reasons we’re doing this. And whether you’re a FastSpring customer or not, we first want members to benefit from the community, or it won’t succeed anyway.

In this post, we’ll go over some of the benefits of joining Global SaaS Leaders (GSL), and for transparency, I’ll explain what’s in it for us, too.

Whether you’re already in many software and SaaS communities or considering joining your first, we think you’ll love our Slack group’s focus on international SaaS and software businesses. The group is professionally moderated, there’s no cost, and you don’t need to be a FastSpring customer to apply. Read our FAQ or sign up here.

Our Guiding Principle: Our Software and SaaS Community Must Be Good for You in Order for It to Succeed

This is pretty self explanatory, but the bottom line is that if you don’t find our community a useful and energizing place to be, you won’t actually hang out there. 

So it’s key to its success — for you and for us — that we at FastSpring strive to make it a really cool group to be a part of. 

(And if we seem to be deviating from that in any way, or if you have ideas on how we can make it better, please let us know. More on that below.) 

What FastSpring Has to Gain From Hosting an Online Community 

There has to be something in this for FastSpring or we wouldn’t be doing it, right? 

Of course. But we want our goals to be forthright.

Here’s what we’d like to accomplish with this project. 

Learning What Matters to Your Business

One of the things our CEO David Nachman told me during a one-on-one about the purpose and direction of the community was that this community is an opportunity to lessen the transactional nature of our relationship with customers and other software and SaaS businesses

It’s a valid concern: We help facilitate literal transactions for online businesses, so it’s easy for all of us to fall into the rut of having a — well, transactional relationship. 

We provide a service; you make money; repeat on autopilot.

But allowing that pattern to continue can deprive us of the ability to improve our B2B business in a way that will directly help your business — and helping online businesses succeed is a priority for us.

This is of course true for our existing customers, but it’s also true for software companies that are considering using FastSpring. If you’re not sure if FastSpring is the right payment system and merchant of record (MOR) for your B2C and/or B2B SaaS company, we want to know what questions and concerns you have so we can take that into consideration as we continue building out our features and products.

And for those who have no interest in FastSpring, we still want to create a public brand for FastSpring of curiosity, helpfulness, and expertise (besides being known as a platform and MOR that helps businesses go farther, faster). 

To hear more about how David is hoping to get to know your business, check out his member interview video, in which I interviewed him as a member himself (skip to 3:13):

That’s also why we expanded our vision for this community to have an individual contributor, executive, entrepreneur, and founder membership base — because we know we can learn more about businesses (and serve them better) if we have a diverse layering of community members.

This mission of increasing the personalness of FastSpring’s relationship with businesses (and of course, the people who found or work for them) is also part of why we do things like interview our members. Besides improving how members can get to know each other, it also helps FastSpring get to know members and their current business concerns. 

Strengthening Customer Relationships

Learning more about your business is a great way for us to strengthen the relationship we have with you, whether you’re a customer or not. 

But our customer relationships can also be strengthened by giving members additional access to those of us at FastSpring.

FastSpring already offers a diverse, responsive support team for customers and their buyers, and we have customer success managers for some of our customers with particularly large or complex businesses. 

But we know most companies can always increase the ways they support customers and further strengthen those relationships. 

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, creating a ticket is the best way to get FastSpring support. That helps our support team properly route a request based on the type or urgency of the issue, and it helps us keep track of a business’s support needs over time. 

(That last part also helps us get a better, more comprehensive understanding of a business’s needs.)

That said, it might be helpful to occasionally reach out to FastSpring leaders directly, especially if someone has a business need that doesn’t necessarily involve a technical question about our platform. We have a diverse group of FastSpring experts in the community, not just end-user technical support specialists. 

Product managers, taxes and payments experts, customer operations pros, and even the occasional sales manager or two are in there and can answer related business questions. They may even be able to weigh in on what’s coming down the pipe for FastSpring’s platform. 

(Note: As we say in our sign-up page FAQs, this community is meant to be a comfortable space for its members to get to know each other and share knowledge resources, so unwanted solicitation is prohibited. Tony Markov and Todd Stellfox happen to be a sales team lead and a sales manager respectively, but they’re in the community because we recently featured them in our Pricing Strategies to Combat Stagflation live interview webinars with CPO Kurt Smith.) 

We want customers’ experiences with FastSpring to be the kind of positive experiences they’re telling their colleagues about, and we think making ourselves more available will increase those chances. And if you’re a customer who is not having that kind of experience with us yet, the community is also a channel where you can let us know that. 

Yes, Leads

This is the part of the post where we have to get really transparent. 

Yes, we’d love it if some of our members who aren’t already using FastSpring as a merchant of record would sign up for our services. 

Luckily for them, that isn’t our only goal for this community. 

Because we also have the goals of strengthening customer relationships and learning as much as we can about SaaS and software business’s needs:

  1. You can rest assured that signing up new customers is only a small part of our goals for this community, and we’re not going to solicit anyone who hasn’t expressed interest to us first.
  2. We have much better odds of selling FastSpring to new users if we’re nailing the first two goals we mentioned above, so we’re going to work a lot harder on achieving them. 

We know if community members see us taking care of customers and earnestly asking for feedback, they’ll be a lot more interested in FastSpring as a commerce platform and merchant of record — because they’ll be able to see the work we put in and the attention we give members firsthand. 

And, if you’ve considered FastSpring in the past, this might be a good place to start your relationship with us somewhat informally. Community members can connect with other customers, read conversations that take place between customers and FastSpring, and (remotely) get to know the people who make FastSpring the company it is. 

Obviously I’m biased, but I’m a pretty big fan of FastSpring. And I’m a pretty big fan of our international Slack community for SaaS and software professionals, Global SaaS Leaders. If you’d like to join in on the networking, knowledge sharing, and global business strategizing, please apply here

What You Have to Gain From Joining This Community

Above, I mentioned our first post about this initiative and hit the highlights of what it entailed. 

But while it focused on some of the features of the GSL community, it didn’t quite cover the actual benefits you gain from joining a community such as this one. 

While we have big plans for Global SaaS Leaders — and we’re continually working on community building — here are some of the benefits we already have to offer for software and SaaS founders, executives, entrepreneurs, marketers, engineers, developers, and many more.

Network With Software Professionals All Over the World

There’s a reason the first of our community guidelines is to “Be global.” We want this group to be composed of members from all over the world because that will greatly increase the value of this group to all members.

Whether you’re a SaaS marketer trying to improve your SEO by region, a people and culture director concerned with international onboarding and in-person meetups, or a SaaS founder looking for tips on selling into specific countries, having easy access to the people that an international community provides makes “going global” a lot easier.

So far, we have member representation from over 50 countries across 17 time zones.

Learn About New Markets You Want to Enter or Expand Within

A particular advantage to having a global network is being able to tap into it for advice when you’re working on breaking into new markets. 

You can post in the community asking for members from specific countries to help you out, or you can reach out to me, principal moderator, and I can reach out to applicable members on your behalf. 

You can also keep an eye on discussions in the community for prior questions relevant to the SaaS markets you’re working to expand into.

Or you can view our member profile videos, which we’re recording on a rolling basis with those who’d like to participate (like our example above with FastSpring CEO David Nachman). 

One of the questions we usually ask interviewees is, “What’s something people don’t understand about selling software in your country?” The goal of this question is to help you learn about the cultural or business differences that might affect how easy it is to sell software there.

Learn From SaaS Company Leaders and Experts

While our membership is spread across various roles and seniority levels, there are a lot of executives, SaaS founders, and department heads in Global SaaS Leaders who are happy to share their expertise with other members. 

Some members are software and SaaS founders who have multiple SaaS startups, some have worked for internationally recognizable companies, and some are entrepreneurs who have pivoted careers or industries and have a wide range of experience to help inform their advice.

Additionally, multiple FastSpring executives and leaders are also available, such as our Chief Executive Officer, our Global Tax Director, and our Vice President of Global Customer Operations. They’re present in the community because they want to help members however they can. 

For example, Chief Product Officer Kurt Smith loves to talk about pricing and growth and how software businesses can leverage one to increase the other. When a member recently asked the community how to best figure out and test pricing before changing their selling model, Kurt was all over it:

example of answer in the Slack community

(For more from Kurt on this topic, check out his standing-room only presentation on SaaS Pricing Strategies that Work: How to Design an Optimal Pricing Model at SaaStr Europa earlier in 2022.)

We love to answer questions like this, and we’re happy to provide a space where topics like this can be discussed among international peers.

Position Yourself as an Expert

If you’re already known as a SaaS industry influencer or expert, great! We’d love to have you contributing to the community while you continue to expand your personal and professional brand through knowledge sharing. 

Or, if you’re still working on creating your own brand in the first place, participating in a professional forum is a great way to do so. We don’t all have to be SaaS founders to be experts in our own areas, and actively sharing that knowledge with others establishes each of us as not only knowledgeable, but also approachable and magnanimous — and that’s a great public image to cultivate. 

Shape This Community as It Grows

We launched this software and SaaS community in March 2022, and it’s growing steadily. But because we want it to be an ideal place for you to virtually “hang out,” this space is still malleable and open to suggestions. 

For example, a member recently suggested we add a channel for a specific type of use case. 

We then turned that request into a poll asking all members to weigh in on what channels they’d like to see added to the Slack workspace:

example of poll to members in slack community

So whether you’d like to quietly vote on community updates or confidently suggest your own, we’re open to suggestions! 

If you’re interested in specific forum channels, service provider suggestions, LinkedIn and social media connection opportunities, a podcast, a facebook group, in-person meetups, webinars and templates, or just more software and SaaS growth hacks in general, we’d like to hear about it.

Voice Your Opinions

There are more ways for members to voice their opinions than just in relation to the community, though. One of the recent questions we had for members was to let us know what kind of benchmarking data and metrics they’d like to see FastSpring release. 

(An example of benchmarking data appears in our recent Recession-Proof Pricing report, in which we discuss pulling data from a sampling of 271 FastSpring customers and then analyzing that data to find out how those businesses were affected by raising — or not raising — their SaaS product prices over a set time period.)

Having these kinds of metrics can help software and SaaS industry businesses better form strategies to increase their ARR.

Since FastSpring wants to provide relevant and helpful data to growing and successful software and SaaS companies, we came to the community directly to ask what benchmarking data we should consider compiling next:

example of opinion question about benchmarking data

Some of the responses included retention rates in a specific industry, MRR growth in a specific industry, failed payments metrics (unintentional churn), churn and conversion rates across different regions.

Note that this poll was open to all members, regardless of their FastSpring customer status. 

As we mentioned above, knowing what really matters to software and SaaS businesses is important to FastSpring, and we want the Global SaaS Leaders community to be somewhere you can express what you really need to take your business to the next level. 

Use the Community to Learn More About FastSpring (If You’re Interested)

The poll above was posted in the FastSpring-specific channel of the community, which exists so discussions about FastSpring (as opposed to general business-related discussions) can be posted in that channel and kept out of the main feed. 

That’s because we don’t want members — especially members who aren’t FastSpring customers — to feel like we’re constantly promoting FastSpring. Because as we’ve mentioned already, a software and SaaS community has to be something you get value from in order for it to succeed, and we think being overly salesy would make this a place you don’t want to be. 

With that said, if you’re not a FastSpring customer but you’ve considered checking us out, joining GSL is a great way to find out more about the company, by viewing customer interactions with our leadership, seeing what kinds of questions and comments users have about the platform, and more. The FastSpring-specific channel is open to all members.

And if you have no interest in FastSpring? Feel free to leave the FastSpring-specific channel unread. There are plenty of other things for you to do in the community without seeing posts about a platform you have no interest in.

Join the Global SaaS Leaders Community

We’re really proud of the Global SaaS Leaders community already, and we’re proud to provide an international networking and discussion space with features such as live interview events, member intro videos, and diverse expert input.

As FastSpring continues to focus on community building, and as our membership grows, we plan to roll out more features. We’d like to facilitate more one-to-one networking connections, launch a podcast, host more real-time events, and have social media tie-ins down the road too.  

But if you join now, you can influence what it grows into, too. 

Whether you’re already in many online communities or considering joining your first, we think you’ll love our Slack group’s focus on international software and SaaS businesses. The group is professionally moderated, there’s no cost, and you don’t need to be a FastSpring customer to apply. Read our FAQ or apply here.

To maintain a high quality of membership, I’m personally reviewing all new member applications — there are no automations to let in spammers or bots. That’s why submitting your LinkedIn link is so important. Thanks for your patience as I review your application, and please feel free to email us if you have any questions before applying!

About FastSpring

FastSpring’s secure payment system has everything SaaS developers need to securely process global payments, collect and remit taxes, manage subscriptions, and much more. Plus our business model includes being a merchant of record that stays on top of always-changing global tax regulations — so you don’t have to. Sign up for a FastSpring account or request a demo to learn more.

Katie Stephan

Katie Stephan

Katie Stephan is the Senior Content Strategist at FastSpring. Besides her extensive marketing experience, she has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing and has served her local communities as a college writing instructor.

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