Customer Success: 5 Effective SaaS Growth Strategies
What is customer success? For many marketers it stops at customer acquisition, which is really just the start of the whole strategy. For others, it is customer retention. But retention is not accurate and encompassing; you may be stuck with a lot of basic planholders, when what you want is to get more premium subscribers.
In reality, defining customer success isn’t that simple. It has a lot of moving parts that must work together, lest they end up in disarray. Customer success involves a lot of insights to help you frame the direction your business must take. Here are five of these fundamental SaaS growth strategies to help you get started.
1. Know your Customer
It may seem customers choose you when they decide to buy from you. Yes, but that’s only half of the picture. The truth is, you get to choose your buyers first. Then you focus your marketing on them to get their attention. Otherwise, you’ll end up with customers who whine a lot out of wrong expectations. This is why you need to develop an Ideal Customer Profile, people who are likely to respond to your offer with gusto because they see a solution, not a product with a tag price.
So who are these people, your Ideal Customers? They are:
- People whose problem you’re solving
- People who are right in the picture when you visualize your vision-mission
- People within your reach
“But the general market is much larger!”
Many business owners don’t like framing their Ideal Customer for fear of limiting their market. This fear, however, assumes that if you sell to a motley crowd, the crowd buys, which isn’t the case. Groups of people have different needs, situations, likes, priorities, perspectives… they simply differ from each other. Even groups of people within a group have varying differences. You need to focus on one group–at least one at a time–to hone your message on its specific needs or problems. Then that group listens. That’s the power of niche, you’re increasing the power of your messaging, not diluting it. In today’s multiple layers of subcategories, 10% percent of something is more than 0% of everything.
The Ideal Customer, says Lincoln Murphy, isn’t about personas. Rather, it is the general set of your personas. For example, if your Ideal Customer profile is startup small businesses in North America, you’ll have a range of personas, such as, the CEO, business owner, CFO, entry-level accountants, etc.
2. Manage Expectations
Closely tied to having an Ideal Customer Profile is the need to manage customer expectations. Success shouldn’t mean closing a sale; rather, it’s solving your customers’ problem. Customers don’t buy your product, they’re buying a solution and they have a desired outcome: solving their problem. The question is, what specific problems are you addressing?
If you don’t narrow down your product’s value proposition, customers with different levels of problems will expect different levels of solutions from your product. You’ll end up with a group of customers that your product isn’t targeting, who are frustrated and angry, and they’ll be telling your real customers about their wrong expectation.
So, how do you manage customer expectations? By being specific about your value propositions, of course. Don’t be an all-in-one deal to customers; pick your product’s best benefits–pricing? features? service?–and push these in your messages.
Side B of managing expectations
However, there’s a side B to managing expectations: your expectations. You don’t go all the way appeasing customers to the detriment of your revenues. Instead, align your customer expectations with your own. If one of your value propositions is 24/7 customer service to all plans, does that offer exist within your cost-benefit figures? Sometimes an offer can bleed you money; that’s okay if it’s a promotional gig, meaning, the cost is written against your marketing budget.
3. Help Customers Beyond Your Product’s Sphere
We keep reiterating that buyers don’t buy products, they buy solutions. Defining customer success, then, means that by using your product they should be solving their problem. Okay, you have a clear Ideal Customer and your value propositions are laser focused. Still, customers may end up unable to solve their problem. It isn’t your fault, maybe, but your customers’.
For example, your CRM software has features to help users generate powerful insights. From your customers’ perspective, the solution is the ability to use the generated insights to grow sales. Meanwhile, your perspective of the solution is your ability to deliver these CRM features and provide onboarding support. However, your customers may still end up frustrated if they don’t know how to leverage data analytics. It’s beyond your product, but know this: if they can’t use their analytics properly, they won’t need your product. So it’s to your interest to help them learn how to interpret analytics.
This is where having a content marketing strategy pays off. As a vendor that develops CRM software (in our example), you’re positioned as an expert in analytics. Share your knowledge by offering your customers topical how-to guides, webinars, whitepapers, etc. about analytics. The ROI to these efforts may not be immediate; rather, they should be at the middle of your lead funnel–helping existing users to get the most out of your product so they stay or upgrade.
4. Who is the User, Really?
It hurts, but you really don’t have that much users if you put “users” into the context of quality leads. Generally, users can span the gamut of definition–from free trial sign-ups, to people who opt out to those who upgrade. The user definition spills over to those who use your software for a month, a year, forever, to those who take a break and go back after a while, to those who don’t go back at all. Much of these “users” are garbage to your bottomline. So, it’s important to find out who among these “users” can be defined as real customers who bring money to the table in a way that result in actual profits for the company. This is important to help you follow the 80:20 rule in business: spend 80% of your time on the 20% of users who bring in 80% of the profits. You and your team only have 24 hours in a day and so much days in a year. Make each user you attend to count.
We don’t mean that you should forget about the other low-performing 80%. After all, they give you 20% of your profits, don’t they? But you need to automate the process of handling these users, so you’re free to focus on high-value customers. Another option is to outsource your non-core workflows if that should scale your ROI.
5. Go Beyond Lead Nurturing
It’s unfortunate that many marketers use CRM only to move leads through the sales cycle. Once the sales is closed so is the CRM. If this is your CRM strategy, not only are you running the risk of losing existing customers–because you’re too focused on finding leads–you also miss the opportunity of further growing the business with people who are already paying you actual money.
The best CRM software will let you nurture the relationship with your customers, not just with the data being churned out by customers. This means going beyond data and empathizing with the situation your customers are in. In our tip above, we talked about the importance of helping customers beyond your product’s sphere. That’s empathy, feeling for your customers’ predicament. In fact, customer relationship should be customer partnership because your customers’ business is your business. If they close shop you lose a customer; if they grow big, your business with them is likely to scale, too.
There’s no one-size-fits-all on how to conduct your CRM because businesses differ in size, industry, dynamics, etc. A small business may be hands-on for all customers, a scenario that’s impossible in a large enterprise setting. A SaaS vendor may have instant access to its clients via chat that a B2B heavy equipment contractor doesn’t. However, there are general CRM truths that apply to all businesses:
- Stay in touch with your customers – connect via LinkedIn, blog marketing, email marketing, webinars, etc. to get a feel of their current needs.
- Respond to complaints – not only are you de-escalating an impending crisis, but it’s your chance to push your value propositions to a listening customer.
- Be transparent, don’t over promise or hide imperfections – if you can’t meet the deadline, say so. If your software lacks a feature customers want, admit it and then tell them you’re working to address that part. Earn customers’ trust, not just their money.
- Build up your authority – customers may be swooned over by promises and pitches, but, ultimately, they want to work with experts not with sales. Share your knowledge about your category and customers will gravitate towards you.
How you define customer success is important so you can focus on actual metrics that help you to forecast real scenarios, not just assumptions. There are plenty of other insights on framing customer success, but these five SaaS growth strategies are fundamental to anchor your marketing on a solid ground.Category: B2B News, Hot Headline