Marketing and CS

Beyond Email: Ideas for Tech-Touch Customer Success

Bio - Kristen Final.png

By Kristen Hayer

hammerheads.png

I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how to approach a Tech-Touch or One-to-Many customer success program. Since then, a number of people have asked about how to tackle various touch-points. It seems like most companies are pretty reliant on email, but customers are getting tired of full inboxes (I don’t blame them!) Here are some alternatives to email for your One-to-Many customer success program.

Webinars

While you may have webinars in place right now, they are probably geared toward prospects rather than existing customers. Consider adding a series for your customers that includes product best practices, customer case studies or industry thought leadership.

Videos

Similar to webinars, videos create visual engagement, but they come across as more personal. Consider interviewing successful clients or providing product tips in a fun way. Get your most engaging CSMs to participate as hosts so that customers can get to know them.

Podcasts

If many of your customers have a long commute to work (NYC and SF, I'm looking at you!) podcasts are an excellent option to create engagement. Again, get some of your CSMs to serve as hosts, and have them interview industry thought leaders or talk about best practices.

Customer Forum

Leverage your power users by introducing a customer forum. This is a great choice for companies with an established customer base. Experienced users will help new customers get going and successfully using your solution with a little moderation from your team.

In-App Messaging

Your app is the perfect place to display messages that are tailored to your solution. If you know that customers run into snags in specific parts of your product, provide them with a walk-through or messaging at that point.

Surveys

Customer surveys can be related to touch-points or to actions in your solution, and can provide insight into both customer behavior and sentiment. Imbed surveys in your product, and at key touch-points in your customer lifecycle to see where you need to improve.

Events

Do you offer local events or an annual conference? Invite customers and get them involved in relationship-building activities like training or a dinner. Are there industry events your company is involved in? Those are a chance to not only gain prospects, but to engage clients.

Social Media

Consider the social media that best engages your customer base. LinkedIn and Twitter are obvious choices in the B2B space, but if your clients are on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, consider those as well. Posts can provide company info as well as links to case studies.

Clients enjoy hearing from companies through a variety of sources, and creativity counts. Your marketing team can provide ideas and help with content creation, so be sure to explore options with that group. Think beyond the email, and elevate your One-to-Many customer success program by incorporating some or all of these alternatives.

Need ideas as you’re designing your Tech-Touch Customer Success program? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that works with executives who are ready to build and grow a high-performing team. For information about our consulting services and training programs please visit TheSuccessLeague.io

6 Surefire Ways to Crush Customer Marketing

By Jeremy Gillespie

I think everyone agrees that customer marketing is important, but it always seems to take a backseat to other marketing activities like developing new prospects and brand-building. 

Why? 

Often, it's because understanding all of the touch points is daunting, and attributing ROI is difficult. It's tough to convince the VP of Marketing to carve out resources for customers when there are other activities that produce clear results.

That said, there are some basic milestones in the client's lifecycle where marketing can make a measurable difference. Here are 6 core areas where I believe every company should have customer marketing systems in place. 

1. Customer Onboarding

The most crucial time in the customer journey is the beginning, so plan to invest heavily in this phase across the board. From a marketing standpoint, ask yourself these 3 questions.

  1. What are the components of your solution that will set your customers up for success from the start? 
  2. Why should they care about those features? What's in it for them?
  3. What is the process the client must go through to get set up with these features? 

Customer marketing campaigns should clearly articulate the answers to these questions for new customers. 

2. Progress Check-ins

This involves a tight relationship between marketing and the CSM team to ensure that the groups aren't stepping on each other's toes. It’s easy to set up marketing automation to regularly check in with customers. The goal of customer marketing in this area is to keep an open but automated line of communication between the CSM and their customers so that they can focus on strategic and proactive activities. These touch points can also be leveraged to provide best practices and resources like blog posts and customer stories to clients.

3. Surveys

You have an opinion, I have an opinion, and so do your customers. Surveys are an often overlooked customer marketing tool, and a great way to help clients understand that their opinion matters. Use them to evaluate customer touch points, gather feedback on your product, and assess the effectiveness of your success team's efforts. NPS and other customer satisfaction surveys provide a data-driven method to measure customer delight. 

4. Product Updates

You should be providing customers with product updates on a regular basis. As a success team, part of your job is to make sure they’re fully aware of the new features and what’s to come. Often this is in the form of a monthly newsletter, and serves as a great way to get customers into beta programs and begin the up-sell process.

BONUS: Add a customer webinar to walk customers through major product updates. This is a simple way to teach clients to use high-value parts of your product. Later, you can repurpose the recordings on your blog and as on-demand webinars in your support center.

5. Expansion Opportunities

These campaigns explicitly drive more revenue for the business, and are pretty easy to link to a ROI metric. Up-sell campaigns should be automated, based on customer behavior, and take account health into consideration. To get started, break your customers into three groups for each product - disengaged, core uses, advanced users. Take a look at how your advanced users are engaging with your solution, outline the benefits they are seeing from your upgraded products, and market those to other users who haven't yet adopted them.

6. Re-engagement Campaigns

Leverage the work you just did on expansion opportunities, and focus on the disengaged customers you identified. Similar to your up-sell campaigns, outline features these customers aren’t using and build a program to help these users get the most out of the solution they have already purchased. This is another area where teaming up with your CSMs can produce terrific results (you email, they call).

Combined, these campaigns are the backbone of your customer marketing efforts. Of course, this is just a jumping off point. Hopefully the customer marketing work you do on these basic touch points will produce measurable results and inspire ideas for other programs across the customer journey.

We can help you plan your customer marketing touch points and crush it! The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that works with executives who are ready to build and scale a high performing success team. Visit our website for more information - TheSuccessLeague.io

Jeremy Gillespie - Jeremy is a growth-oriented marketing geek, technology enthusiast and customer evangelist. He loves using complex data to build creative retention solutions. By leveraging technology, Jeremy excels at creating scalable retention marketing programs. He serves as the Director of User Growth at Mixmax, holds a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and MBA from Point Park University.  Jeremy is a proud former Pittsburgher, but currently lives in San Francisco, CA.

 

Charging for Customer Success - 5 Considerations

By Kristen Hayer

Clients and colleagues often ask me, “Should we charge for Customer Success?”  It’s an issue that is starting to crop up more frequently in our field as companies look for the best way to incorporate customer success into various business models. 

I’ll admit it:  The idea of charging customers for customer success generally bothers me.  After all, isn’t helping customers find success with your product the right thing to do?  In my mind customer success already drives a significant portion of revenue for most companies in the form of renewals, repeat customers and expansion sales.  Charging for customer success can seem like a money grab, and that can be pretty distasteful to both customers and CSMs.

That said, I love finding new revenue streams for companies, and I believe that there are times when charging for customer success makes sense.  Here are a few things to consider as you’re making the decision about whether or not to charge.

Can Customers Use Your Product Without Help?

Many organizations use their customer success team to “fill the gap” when their product isn’t intuitive.  If this sounds familiar, charging for customer success is going to make already frustrated customers even more annoyed.  If, on the other hand, customers can use your product without help, you might find that there is a subset of customers who would be willing to pay for a little assistance.  The key here is choice:  A customer can choose to spend time working with the product on their own or to spend money having someone help them out.

Does Your Business Model Only Support Basic Services?

If your product is on the low-cost end of the spectrum, your business model may only support a one-to-many customer success model.  If that is the case, again you may find a subset of customers willing to pay for personal service like an assigned CSM.  In this situation the most important consideration is your brand.  Are you selling Nordstrom but delivering Target?  Offering optional paid services might help you stay aligned with your brand promise without breaking your business model.

Can You Provide Services Worth Charging For?

It’s fun to come up with ideas to make more money, but you have to be able to deliver what you’re selling.  If, like most companies, you have a customer success team that is stretched thin, think twice about offering paid services.  One of the nice things about including customer success with your product is that you have complete control over the resources you spend.  Once you start to charge, you are committed to whatever service level you sold.  Make sure you are able to provide something a client would be willing to buy.

Is Implementation Optional or Complex?

One area that customers often don’t mind spending money on is implementation.  If your customer success team handles implementation, you shouldn’t have a problem charging for this part of customer success.  A key factor here, again, is choice.  If customers could implement your solution on their own, but often choose not to, charging the customers who want help makes sense.  Ditto if your implementation process is complex and tailored to each client.

Is Training a Part of Your Success Offering?

If your product changes frequently, or your customers come and go, there may be an opportunity to charge for customer success.  In these cases training should be a big part of the customer success function.  Companies are generally comfortable with paying for training, as long as they see value in terms of faster on-boarding or better performance.  Companies like Salesforce have built massive lines of business out of their training programs.

Charging for customer success (or even just parts of it) is a decision that should receive the same consideration as any new product offering.  Make the time to really think about how this fits with your brand, business model, team and customer base before you move forward.  It’s always a good idea to start small and gauge the reaction of your customers before you roll out a program across your entire base.  With a little thought and care, however, you might just have a new revenue stream.

Still not sure if you should charge for Customer Success?  The Success League is a consulting firm that works with executives who want to unlock the retention and revenue a top performing customer success team will bring to their business.  www.TheSuccessLeague.io

Marketing Your Way to Customer Success

By Dana Hall

True customer success requires an educated and engaged customer base. However phenomenal your team, this goal shouldn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of customer success. As a marketer, I’m inclined to think that targeted and well-researched marketing content is the solution to most business woes, and this case is no exception. By incorporating marketing into your customer success strategy you can create advocates for your product and brand. So whether your success team runs its own campaigns, or you’re lucky enough to have a customer-focused marketing team, here are some tips for marketing your way to customer success.

Learn High-Value Behaviors

Learn the behavioral markings of an engaged customer. Successful customers often have notable behavioral patterns such as using a particular product feature, attending deep-dive webinars, or participating in your product’s community forum. By analyzing behaviors common to your best customers, you can create content focused on encouraging these desired actions in your less successful clients. Try designing an email campaign promoting key product features and high value webinars, road-mapping your customers to proven success.

Tweet this: Create happy customers by behavior mapping their way to engagement.

Define the Target Customer

Recent years have highlighted the relationship between sales and marketing. But sales alone, should not define the ideal lead for your marketing team. Sales is focused on closing high-value opportunities (or frankly any opportunity to meet quota!) They are not always focused on the future and recruiting the most successful long-term customer for your business.

While marketing and sales leaders meet regularly to define “Marketing Qualified Leads”, customer success must also get in the game. As you know, the easiest-to-close lead might be a resource-sapping squeaky wheel customer. Be sure that the customer success team becomes part of the conversation and establish your team as thought leaders on the target customer by creating regular reports and analysis of customer health and performance. While account managers and other members of your customer success team might be aware of these statistics, you must share them with others in your organization to earn a seat at the table.

Tweet this: Get involved and set your team up for success by making sure all new customers are the right fit for your business in the long run.

Open Lines of Communication

There is nothing worse than receiving a call from a customer about a webinar and having your CSM say, “What webinar? That’s probably a marketing thing.” In order to avoid confusion and embarrassment, the marketing and customer success teams should be aware of the promotions, campaigns, and snafus of each other's departments. A customer shouldn't need to know which department produced specific discount codes or webinars, therefore both teams should be knowledgeable on all customer-facing marketing.

Marketing campaigns should also be well-timed, and customer success can help in that area. I once ran a Valentine’s campaign featuring a call-to-action to “tell us why you love us” but unfortunately it was the week after a buggy product release. As you can imagine, most customers were not in a loving mood that week. If marketing and success had open communications this could have been avoided.

Tweet this: Demand transparency and open communication between marketing and customer success!

Set the Right Expectations

Customer success should also manage customer expectations by evaluating the promises of the marketing team. Marketers aren’t always the product experts they should be. To make sure marketing (and sales for that matter) isn’t over-promising, establish a content advisory board to make sure that product and service-related content is true, relevant, and helpful to the customer.

Tweet this: Don’t let sales and marketing set your team up for failure by over-promising to get the sale.

Any business will run better if departments work together and communicate clearly. The key is to establish this sort of environment without creating bottlenecks and roadblocks. It can take time to figure out, but a collaborative relationship is necessary for long-term growth and customer success.

Need ideas on how to incorporate retention marketing into your Customer Success efforts? The Success League is a consulting firm that works with executives who want to unlock the retention and revenue a top performing customer success team will bring to their business.  www.TheSuccessLeague.io

Dana Hall - Dana is a writer and marketer living in San Francisco. She specializes in B2B customer retention marketing and demand generation. She is also currently working on a book for young adults that may or may not ever be published. She received her BA from Brandeis University. You can reach out to her on twitter at @TheDanaHall.

Embracing the Noise - Renewals During the Holiday Season

By Amin Akbarpour

As we start the month of November, most of us start to get into holiday mode. Whether that means you’re making personal plans to see family and friends or dealing with the changes the holidays bring to your work schedule, everything gets flipped upside down during these next two months.

For most companies, Q4 is also the quarter where budgets are finalized for the following year. This makes it a critical quarter from a renewal and up-sell perspective. I’ve worked in a few different industries and have noticed that it is consistently difficult to get people’s attention this time of year. So, how do you combat this to ensure that you close the year out strong?

Learn Their Schedule

Is the holiday season absolute mayhem for some of your customers? Or is it the time of year when they take most of their vacation days? It’s important to understand how this season impacts your clients. Not just from an overall business perspective, but also in terms of their day-to-day goals. It’s going to be challenging to get all the right people in the room if you don’t know when they’ll be around and what their priorities will be.

Takeaway - Ask the right questions to understand what this time of year means for the power users, champions, and key decision makers. Don’t forget about Finance and/or Legal and make sure their approval processes are taken into consideration and included in your timeline. Speaking of time…

Start Early

I like to start connecting with clients about renewal conversations earlier rather than later, mostly because I’ve been blindsided by long vacations one too many times. How early depends on the type of deals and clients, but I typically like to bring this up in October. It’s still early enough that they aren’t engulfed with holiday tasks, but not so early that they don’t know what’s going to be on their plate over the next few months.

Takeaway - Set up the calls and meetings on the calendar ahead of time. Plan out an itinerary for those sessions so you and the client can be on the same page about what will be discussed, what you’re hoping to provide, and what you’d like to come away with. It’s a tough sell to book time during a busy quarter without a clear agenda and goals.

Create Urgency

You can do everything right: You can show the value you’ve brought to your client’s business over the past term and put together a great deal for them, but the quarter could still come and go with no deal signed. If there’s no sense of urgency on the client’s end, then the likelihood of something getting done before the next year is minimal. However, if you come in early and often, stay consistent with your message, and hit deadlines with your deliverables, then you’ll drastically increase your chances of getting something done before December 31.

Takeaway - Quantify your impact with metrics that your client cares about. If what you’re bringing to the table is significant, then it makes it that much easier to have your clients respond with a sense of urgency to your deadlines and requests. In addition, be transparent and direct. If you’re providing an offer that doesn’t extend past the quarter, be clear and upfront about that. Finally, don’t threaten or bully in hopes of getting things done. You’re trying to help the client understand the goals and the timelines that are required to help them achieve their goals.

Make the holiday season yours this time. Bank on the great relationships you’ve built, the value you’ve brought to the table, and the due diligence and planning you’ve done throughout the year. If you continue to stay detail oriented, plan accordingly, and keep a consistent level of urgency, you’ll be able to cap it all off with a real end of the year celebration.

The Success League is a consulting firm that works with customer success leaders who want to unlock the retention and revenue potential in their team. Unlike approaches that focus on soft skills, we partner with success teams to gather and present customer data in a way that allows them to advocate for customer needs and drive true change in their organization. www.TheSuccessLeague.io

Amin Akbarpour - Amin is a customer success coach and architect.  With relationship-building at the core of his practice, he molds teams by instilling the necessary principles to transform them into trusted advisors.  Understanding what's needed for organizational change, he translates theory and ideology into practice and habit.  Originally from Southern California, Amin is a University of San Francisco alum who is grateful to still be able to call San Francisco his home.