Customer Success

Five Ways To Support Customer Success Now

By Trusted CMO

Whether a go-to-market motion is sales, marketing, or product-led, most growth models focus on one thing. General wisdom tells us to acquire customers and users as fast as possible, spending whatever necessary to get them.

I interviewed a handful of CS professionals about how they were faring. And I found something interesting: apparently, other than the core CS team, many startup teams haven’t prioritized customer success enough.

Don’t make the second “R” in ARR an afterthought

When business is less predictable, companies are now looking to extract as much value as possible from the customers they’ve won. Customer success teams are working overtime to support and retain customers-with fewer people to do the work. It’s a lot.

With SaaS, ensuring customer success and preventing churn is a priority that everyone should care about. Because product-led growth is more of an infinite loop than a funnel. But many companies, especially sales-led ones, focus their GTM efforts mostly on acquiring customers rather than keeping them. Case in point: in 2019 said it spent 1 million per month to acquire customers and also reported that 20% of them churned.

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Focus your GTM on customer success  

With customer success now carrying the leaky bucket of churn, they are assuming commercial roles, with sales and marketing scrambling to support them.  It’s time to reevaluate go-to-market (GTM) strategy and give

customer success a seat at the growth table.

According to Jake Sorofman (ex-Pendo, ex-MetaCS, ex-Gartner):

“Customer success should be integrated into the entire revenue

cycle, beginning with the value propositions crafted by the product marketing

team, to the deal crafted by the seller, to the implementation process and

onboarding experience, to the quarterly business review (QBR) and renewal itself.”

He goes on to say that implied benefits from the product are often the result of product (and product marketing) having an “outsized impact on the performance of a SaaS company by crafting value propositions that engage and convert.”

Too often, however, a product doesn’t do what sales says it does, or it goes unused because it’s too hard to use or is not used at all. This is what Sorofman aptly calls “the insidious downstream side effect of a compelling value proposition that’s disconnected from reality.”  When the acquisition team hasn’t thought about the customer long and hard enough and falls deeply in love with product potential-versus the reality-everyone loses.

Five areas where you can support customer success

Here are five ways to ensure customers buy, stay, and love your product.

#1: Expansion and market diversification

Good GTM strategy should consider growth and expansion opportunities that are natural fits with existing products and services. That’s where diversification and scenario planning come in.

Diversification is important for any business to protect itself from risk and ensure that it is not overly reliant on any one buyer or industry for its product offerings or services. Scenario planning helps a company anticipate what might happen in the future, so that it can prepare for those circumstances, whether they are good or bad.

Develop a strategy based on learnings gleaned from primary (interviews) and secondary (reviews, articles, industry research). Then build a tactical GTM team assigned with testing the market and reporting back the results of their experiments.  

#2: Handoff and onboarding

According to the CS pros I spoke with, handoff and onboarding are rough in general. Maybe sales promised something that won’t be built for another quarter or two. Or perhaps the person who signed the deal left the company or got fired. Or maybe the product is just too hard to use.

Andrew Marks of SuccessHACKER says companies are feeling the pain of having underinvested in customer success for years. To smooth the transition from buyer to customer, the GTM team needs a solid plan to bring this customer into the fold:

  • What was promised to this customer, and what are the customer’s expectations?
  • Where could things go wrong, or what are some anticipated challenges?
  • Who is the customer (a person or a team?), and how should you communicate with them?

Marks points out that companies need to fully understand the process of onboarding a customer and craft best practices accordingly. Look at key indicators. If the 100 customers that watched a product onboarding video also had 90% adoption, that the video should be required watching for all customers.

#3: Customer lifecycle marketing

Customer lifecycle marketers are the stewards of the customer experience. They study the customer journey-from beginning to renewal-and identify ways to drive awareness of new products and features, improve product adoption, and even generate referrals from existing customers through advocacy.

I think of them as the glue between product marketing and customer success. Camille Ricketts of Notion describes the goals well:

“Your happiest existing customers are going to want to support your success. Make them feel even more appreciated by aligning your interests with theirs, cross promoting their brands or products, etc. at the same time as you show your audience how your product has helped them.”

#4: Education and services

Some products require much more education and support for customers to realize the full potential of their investment. At Firstup, the platform itself was easy to learn, but customers required support to onboard employees and educate leadership. Sarang Bhatt of Wootric, has been helping some of his customers retool their products to serve new purposes. You should always have a proactive education team that reports repeated issues as they emerge. You may also discover some new revenue opportunities with value-added services or certifications.  

#5: Data transparency

To make all these efforts worthwhile, you need access to data that shows you where your customers are in their journey and whether they’ll proceed.

Sales and marketing typically have something like a closed loop inside HubSpot or with SFDC talking to Marketo and the reverse. Product adoption measurement platforms (Pendo, Amplitude) and CS platforms like Gainsight that measure customer success are not always part of the entire data picture. The reporting of the customer journey and ensuing success is therefore incomplete. How do you know what’s moving customers along or holding them back?

Worry about what you can do to support and keep your customers as much as you worry about your pipeline.

If you need help with planning, we can help.

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