SuccessHacking : Customer Success as Growth Hacking

SuccessHacking : Customer Success as Growth Hacking

CustomerSuccessChat Recap

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Successful SaaS companies are recognizing and leveraging the relationship between growthhacking and Customer Success. (Read our blog on the subject if you haven’t yet!). Hacking customer growth requires focusing on churn reduction and retention as much as acquisition. Increasing customer lifetime value (CLTV) through Customer Success has been shown to be the most reliable path to sustainable growth. But which tools and methods should fast-growing-software-companies (FGSC) employ for growthhacking Customer Success?

Our February #CustomerSuccessChat, the fifth in the series, explored these topics and more as we discussed #SuccessHacking: #Customer Success as #GrowthHacking. Our experts — Nichole DeMere, Tom Krackeler, Morgan Brown, Francois Mathieu — joined fellow Customer Success practitioners and enthusiasts from the field to discuss best practices in growthacking Customer Success. Here are the highlights.

Growth driven by customer success isn’t just about reducing churn--it’s also about increasing loyalty to drive additional upsell-cross-sell opportunities as well as leveraging Customer Advocacy. Successful customers consume more of your software and generate more revenue for your company across their lifecycle at a higher rate than acquisition-driven growth can account for alone (Note: if you missed it, explore upselling and cross-selling more in our recap of the Ins & Outs of Upselling #CustomerSuccessChat).

This also leads to internal advocacy and adoption and, as defined by SaaS expert/SaaStr mastermind Jason Lemkin, what’s known as “Second Order Revenue”. Successful customers also contribute to word of mouth (WOM) growth, when leveraged correctly. Experts suggested requesting testimonials and feedback from successful customers to get the most from their advocacy.

After the initial seats are sold, what’s the shortest path to driving adoption within your customer’s company? Tom suggested picking one department and “becoming essential,” and then finding a champion to lead to adoption by another department. Morgan suggested onboarding and mapping your team to their team as top tactics.

Other tips experts and participants mentioned for expanding your seats sold:

  • Determining how your software use case differs among different departments in terms of needs, goals and expectations.
  • Building internal allies/promoters within the customer to promote cross-departmental adoption.
  • Mapping your team to your customer’s team and nailing onboarding

We asked the experts to name their favorite retention-focused growth hacks. These included:

  • Nailing onboarding in product, via emails and in account management. (Morgan)
  • Focusing on retention from day one of a contract (or even sooner) (Francois and Tom)
  • Noticing when customers are achieving something cool within your app and proactively engaging them about it. (Tom)
  • Delivering amazing account management. (Nichole and Morgan)
  • Use an idea base to listen to and respond to customers (Shannon Kluczny)

Share your customer’s successes via social media (including badging), leveraging success calls to show clients value that they are missing, and create a culture of feedback early and often. Shannon Kluczny suggested a “Players Meeting” with all executives together to understand the vision. Francois said that “Retention starts on day one of a contract...There's no silver bullet, provide an awesome experience.” Tom added in another solid point, which is that retention may even start before day one during the sales process or free trial before close.

Can B2B SaaS apps really go viral? Yes, if you employ the right mindset and tactics. Depending on your company maturity/customer model, this could include Nichole’s suggestion of leveraging a freemium model and/or referral models. This is employed by companies like Dropbox who incentivize referrals through rewards to lower net CAC’s.

If you're looking to go viral as a b2b SaaS app, a top strategy is maximizing platform/API integrations and ‘powered by’ relationships which leverage co-branding to visibly position your software within other platforms. Morgan mentioned Salesforce, Google and Microsoft as “big player” platforms to get in on the ground floor of, but it’s also smart to integrate with peer-size companies. [Editor’s note: We proudly partner with Pipedrive, MindTouch, and New Relic (and more great companies soon!) at Frontleaf, and see great virality through these integrations! You should definitely check out their tools if you don’t already.] These are powerful ways to get in front of new target customers within your sweet spot.

Another viral strategy recommended by experts: leverage the heck out of your customer’s advocacy. Foster stellar customer advocates: reviews, referrals, and references and use tools like Influitive to manage. Morgan recommended externalizing customers’ use cases so it’s clear why anyone outside of the organization would want to use your product. Shannon Kluczny suggested aligning with marketing to leverage these use cases even further for a ‘viral effect’. Also very important: Make it easy for users to swap between organizations (a la Slack), and they’ll bring you along!
This sounded like a trick question, but we genuinely wanted to know: would a hack that created equal retention and churn percentages worth it? The verdict: It depends.

Nichole said it depended on the economics and lifecycle of the business, as long as net new revenue acquisition was the main goal. The maturity of the business made a difference, and businesses will typically pivot to focus on retention. As a business matures, it quickly becomes a lot more difficult to "outgrow" churn with new revenue, Nichole pointed out. Tom said without anything that, it wasn’t worth it. Lincoln Murphy agreed. The consensus was that only growthhacking that directly supports acquisition and retention is smart, or else a leaky bucket will happen.

If you’re taking shortcuts and netting “bad customers” or poor fit, you’ll end up wasting energy and resources that could have been spent growing the accounts of the right customers you already have. It’s essential to focus on internal marketing and upselling/cross-selling as much as any new acquisition customers. Morgan and others also pointed out in this hypothetical example that if the 20% of new customers are larger contracts, you may still be able to retain them and focus on them. Bottom line: If your external marketing/growthhacking turns off your current customer base, you’ll have a real churn problem on your hands.
We asked participants to share how human nature could be leveraged to help users get more from your software as a service. Experts’ suggestions:

  • Gamification of customer-customer cohort results, so customers could see what other customers are doing and want to rank higher in results.(Tom)
  • Focusing on peer recognition. Creating a MVP program like Salesforce--and make it cool to be a MVP! (Tom)
  • Add CSM photos to all correspondence (Brandon McLaughlin)
  • Use plain-text follow up emails to follow major marketing emails. (Brandon McLaughlin)
  • Segment your customers, by ARR (& ARR potential) so you know what level of "human" you can afford to provide) (Lincoln Murphy)
  • Add “help” CTA’s and “have you call us” CTA’s (as well as amazing self-serve resources!) (Nichole)

Tom mentioned laser-focus on shortening time to First Value, and delivering clear results and value before customers even become paid. He also suggested listening to Samuel Hulick on User Onboarding to make steps ‘natural’ and ‘human’. (Listen to our podcast with him if you haven’t yet!)

Nichole said to provide app walkthroughs, start the trial experience from a specific use case (ex/ “I want to grow email sales,” etc.). Morgan suggested reducing as much friction as possible, and putting the “aha” moments and value upfront as soon as possible. Everyone agreed that understanding the use case of your customer and framing the trial experience from the goal mindset of getting them to achieve value and ultimately convert is crucial. The trial isn’t just for them to poke around! Provide them with all of the tools they need to get value right away, including in-app help if needed, according to participant Aly Merritt.

Morgan also said that we should use language in our trials that speaks to the customer in their journey, and to Always Be Testing (ABT) to optimize the process. Francois reiterated that you’re optimizing for customers, not just free trials, and Lincoln Murphy insisted we stop calling free trial users “trialists,” but rather call them what they should be: prospects. Lincoln Murphy also said that many companies have the wrong mindset when it comes to free trials. Free trials are not for your prospect to “poke around,” and magically get some spontaneous experience; they must be designed and engineered to convert. Bonus points if you can show the ROI for your customers achieved during the trial.
Our experts shared some top growth hacks for customer success quarterly business review meetings:
  • Show customer how their results stack up vs. other companies like them (especially their competitors!). (Tom)
  • Annual NPS triggered 6 months from start date -- review with customers at the QBR. (Tom)
  • Help customer execs understand their users’ stats, how to improve, correlation between usage and results. (Tom)
  • NPS surveys that actually trigger responses (most people just look at aggregate data) (Nichole)
  • Do analysis of the things your best customers do and spend time figuring out how to get more customers to do them. (Morgan)
  • Show customers comparative and benchmark data (Morgan and Francois)
  • Show customers new products or features they might be interested in. (Shannon Kluczny)
  • Get their sign-off on new Desired Outcome and path they need to take to get there (including what they need to do). (Lincoln Murphy)
  • Join us for the next #CustomerSuccessChat on Tuesday, 3/17/2015 at 9a PT / 12p ET. The topic will be: Building Success: Product Roadmap & #CustomerSuccess.

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