A decade ago, SaaS businesses began to realize that they had a major problem.
They had significantly invested in customer acquisition to bring on new logos (almost at any cost), but they hadn’t put in an equal amount of investment into customer retention efforts. Products were increasingly complex, and customers were becoming frustrated, leading to low adoption and usage rates, which ultimately led to churn.
Customer success teams drive customer acquisition: here’s how
To help shift things around, companies developed an emerging group: customer success (CS) teams. Their initiative was to target at-risk accounts and help customers get more value from their products by employing a proactive engagement model.
Although customer success teams’ main goal is to drive customer retention, there are a number of ways their work can benefit sales and marketing in their customer acquisition efforts. Basically, customer success done well is a winning situation for everyone involved (CS, sales, marketing, and customers).
Here’s a look at five ways CS teams can help drive customer acquisition.
1. Identify customer referrals
Any sales rep will tell you that a referral lead is the holy grail of lead sources. They close faster than outbound cold call opportunities mainly because you are starting at a higher point of trust in the sales process. Also, you’ll likely face fewer price objections since it’s likely the customer gave the referral lead a ballpark range to expect upfront.
Satisfied and engaged clients will give you referrals, sometimes without you even asking, but it never hurts to have your customer success team put feelers out to see if there are any possible referral opportunities. If you have a stellar CS team, the upside here is endless as referrals from successful customers beget referrals to other potential successful customers.
2. Drive positive customer reviews
In a way, the purchasing process has flipped where buyers are now in more control than vendors who are doing the selling. Prospects don’t have to only rely on what the salesperson is telling them, but they can go to review sites to get a better understanding of the experiences real customers have had, both positive and negative.
A lot of times a prospect will do research to get an idea of who they will consider and who they won’t, before they even reach out to contact any vendors. That’s why user insights have become such an important component in B2B sales and marketing strategy, and Customer success managers are situated perfectly to help drive that review engine. They are closest to the customer and can initiate the ask for the public’s feedback, in the form of a customer review.
It should be noted that a low number of reviews can be almost as bad as a negative review, as it’s assumed if you had happy and successful customers, there would be reviews to show it. So, tap into your CS team to increase that review number.
One of the most dreaded questions a sales rep can receive in the buying process is: do you have any customer references I can talk to? References are often seen as a necessary evil as they can make the difference between a closed sale or a lost one.
Often times the main struggle is having a reference pool large enough to where you can fulfill reference requests as they come but not overuse the same customers to take the calls. You might also find it difficult to expand your reference diversity to be able to match up with different prospect criteria like location, company size, industry, products used, and so on.
No one is going to know better if a customer is referenceable or not, than their customer success manager. You should call on your CS team to surface new customers to ask to join your reference program to help grow your advocate community.
4. Generate more case studies
Case studies are an essential part in the customer acquisition process. They tell a story of a specific challenge or goal, and detail how your company partnered with the customer. They help connect the dots for prospects on use cases and also highlight the impact your product or service has provided.
As with most customer-generated content, the challenge resides in finding the right case study candidate. You not only need to identify a customer who has a good understanding of your product, but they have remarkable results to share, and they are the right role within the organization to provide the testimonial.
A common theme we’re finding here is that you should first go to your customer success team. You can ask them if they have any clients that fit the type of success story you are looking to showcase. You can then work with them to set up the introduction to the marketing team so they can start the case study interview and drafting process.
5. Optimize messaging for prospects
Having a clear definition of your ideal customer is one of the most important things you can do for your go-to-market strategy. Your ICP (ideal customer profile) dictates everything from the features and functionality of the products you build, to what makes up your service offering, to the words you use and the emotion you invoke or tap into in your marketing.
This is a whole company thing, but it’s particularly important for marketing and CS to agree on a definition, and actively revisit it.
Customer success teams know the customer better than anyone else. If your marketing/sales team is looking for a lift in conversions, set up some time with your CS team to have them review and critique your messaging and/or listen in on sales calls. They can give you feedback on if there is any disconnect with what active customers actually think and say vs. what you are communicating to prospects that may or may not be resonating.
All the customer acquisition tools listed above (referrals, reviews, references, and case studies) can seem daunting to surface and request, but don’t worry the process can be easily automated to help lessen the burden on your customer success team and also continuously drive hand raisers for each of these items.
If you have a customer success platform, you can set up automated plays to proactively engage with your customers at the right times to initiate the asks. For example, if you deploy an integrated net promoter score (NPS) survey in your CS platform you can them create a dynamic segment of respondents that gave you a promoter score (9-10) and then trigger an in-app request for them to also go ahead and share their experiences publicly by submitting a review for you on a customer review site.
Or possibly after your customer has renewed their subscription, if they have a great customer health score, you could trigger a task to remind you to reach out and ask your point of contact if they would be interested in sharing their year-one results in a published case study.
Another example of an automated play you could run is when you see a customer’s product usage has become consistent and they have adopted all of the sticky features, you can send them an automated message congratulating them on becoming a power user, and asking if they would like to join your customer reference program.
Lastly, if you are trying to generate more customer referrals you can help automate that process by tracking the customer journey, and after they have successfully completed their onboarding and training you could trigger an automated email directing them to a lead form where they can submit any customer referral leads they might have to bring other friends/colleagues onboard.
Customer acquisition and customer retention actually go hand in hand. Both sides of this equation are critically important for sustainable business growth, and ideally sales and customer success will collaborate together as a team to achieve both outcomes simultaneously.
So, if you want to be successful in both your customer acquisition and retention efforts, put your customers in the spotlight. Equip your customers to succeed, and they’ll go to work on your behalf!
Cori Pearce is the Director of Marketing at ChurnZero, a real-time customer success platform that helps SaaS and subscription businesses fight customer churn. Cori has previously worked at other marketing tech companies including WealthEngine, Cision, and Merkle Inc. When she’s not spending her time executing campaigns, she is reading up on what’s new in the MarTech world.