Customer Success

Why Customer Success Begins with Marketing

Customer frustration is the most common cause of customer churn. Customers have too many options to forever wed themselves to your product, especially if it doesn’t work easily or intuitively. In order to reduce churn and build a happy customer base, customer success is critical for the modern business.

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Customer success often takes up where sales and marketing leave off, ensuring that the customer knows how to use the product to their best advantage. They also take on the daunting task of deepening and broadening the customer’s engagement with tools. A great customer success team and strategy can turn users into advocates. Customer success teams can’t do this alone, however. Although CS supports those final steps in the buyer’s journey that are crucial for business growth, the seeds for customer success are planted much earlier, by the marketing department.

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Use Personas and Narratives for Success

Any marketing department worth its salt has spent time researching and building buyer personas and writing customer narratives. These documents give marketers — and by extension, the sales and customer success teams — guidelines on the types of content, tone, and questions the departments should use to move customers down the funnel.

Personas and narratives strive to understand the buyer’s needs, but also reach buyers where they are, rather than where we (sales, marketing, customer success teams) want them to be.

Strategizing for customer success from the beginning of the buyer’s journey requires a sea change for many companies, because it requires focusing on the needs and pain points of the buyer, rather than the awesome features of your product. It requires that all departments really learn about their customers, rather than relying simply on their knowledge of the product.

Implement a Buyer-First Strategy

Why should customer success and marketing work together? It works out better for everyone. Retooling your strategy to a buyer-first mindset gives teams the freedom to address the needs of the best potential customers, rather than fitting the square peg of the existing product into the round hole of customer needs.

A side benefit of implementing a buyer-first strategy is that your team doesn’t have to spend so much time combatting the anti-sales mindset so common with buyers. Millennials hate being sold to and actively avoid brands that come off as sales-focused. This means traditional, flashy sales language like “What if I told you…” doesn’t work; it makes buyers run away. Customers are smarter and less susceptible to advertising, but these same customers still have needs. Understanding those needs and providing a solution or education will bring in customers faster than chasing them with your sales propositions.

A buyer-first strategy requires marketing, sales, and customer success to sit in a (real or virtual) room together to discuss ideal customers and outline a strategy needed to acquire and retain that ideal customer.

When you implement your strategy, you might not see churn go down immediately, but that’s okay, because your customer base is losing non-ideal customers. These customers would leave eventually anyway. Keep your focus on the greater goal: ideal customers who purchase, engage deeply, and advocate. This will eventually result in a drastic reduction in churn when your customer base fills up with ideal customers rather than good-for-now-fits. Of course, in the B2B world, the “ideal customer profile” is closely associated with account-based marketing strategies.

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The Power of Reduced Churn

Reduced churn is a common customer success metric, but in a buyer-first model, churn belongs to all departments. If marketing and sales target the ideal customer and don’t spend as many resources going after close-fit customers, churn will go down on its own.

When all departments set a goal for churn reduction, it benefits everyone, not just customer success:

  1. Customers stay longer and use more tools. This means marketers don’t have to find as many new MQLs for sales because return revenue remains high.
  2. The company gets less bad press through word of mouth and customer reviews to fight. At the same time the product gets and direct referrals.
  3. Marketers can focus on net-new customers, rather than the problems of winning folks back to the brand.

Collaboration for Multi-Team Success

It also helps if all three of your buyer and customer-facing teams work from the same technology and share a single version of the truth — in most cases, that means a CRM platform integrated with marketing automation software. But there’s more to customer success than technology.

Customer success departments can and should inform marketing on specific strategies of customer experience. The CS team holds a lot of knowledge about pain points, the types of customers that end up churning quickly, and the types of customers that make the best advocate candidates. Collaborating on these points and incorporating them into the persona and narrative will set expectations for the types of buyers that marketing should target.

Once marketing starts targeting those buyers and funneling them through product discovery toward the sales funnel, the department can really speak from a position of authority that knows the buyer’s needs.

Start Tracking Metrics Now

Ready to start using customer success metrics to inform your product needs? Begin by setting up a dashboard to track your most important metrics over time. Forbes suggests 7 different customer success metrics to track, but the most important are:

  • Customer Retention Cost: how much you spend to keep customers coming back year over year. This should include onboarding, support, and technical updates.
  • Net Promoter Score: What percentage of your customers promote your brand to others? Gather this information from actual users via surveys or interviews.
  • Customer Engagement Rate: This metric should be different for every product, but how often and how deeply do your customers engage with your product? Are they spending all day in your CRM, or do they check in once a day and move on? Watching this metric over time can signal bigger issues before the churn actually happens.

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Start tracking surface-level metrics immediately to gain a view of your current customer satisfaction. Churn, expansion revenue, and contract renewal rates show how your current customers contribute to your revenue, and don’t require surveys or interviews to track. Build in more complex numbers as you gather more data, and mine your help desk software and CRM tools for data that indicates your business objectives.

Get Connected with Customer Success Practitioners

The customer success industry is teeming with professionals and practitioners who successfully incorporate CS in their organizations. Here’s a list of #FlipMyFunnel CS practitioners to connect with on Twitter:

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Tamara Scott. Tamara is a writer and analyst for TechnologyAdvice, a research company that connects buyers and sellers of business technology. She writes about marketing, sales, customer service, and other B2B verticals.

Connect with Tamara on Twitter and LinkedIn.