Norwest's Scott Beechuk on the fundamental role of customer success
Sep 28 2021
Thanks for listening/reading. A huge shoutout to Scott Beechuk for doing this podcast… wait a second that’s not right… This is supposed to be the intro… I think Ben, our Senior Producer, is trying to put me in the movie Tenet right now.
Honestly I’m still trying to figure out what the hell happened in Chris Nolan’s latest film. But back to the show—I think what Ben is trying to demonstrate here is the idea of putting the cart before the horse. If you aren’t familiar, we have a pretty big international audience. Putting the cart before the horse is an expression used to suggest something is done in the wrong order (i.e. I’m putting the end of the podcast before the intro).
In B2B SaaS, there’s plenty of folks who try to buck conventional norms and discover a solution before uncovering a problem. Anywhere you look you’ll find hucksters and charlatans looking to profit off of the very idea of “blockchain this” and “AI that”. While many are well-meaning and some are truly virtuous, it seems a bit silly to sell a fix without first discovering what’s broken.
No one is more familiar with this concept than Scott Beechuk, Partner at Norwest Venture Partners. He has founded multiple companies over his 20-year career as well as provided advisory and investing services to numerous start-ups. Scott has seen history repeat itself time and time again, so if you’re looking for wisdom to avoid putting the cart before the horse, listen to what Scott has to share.
Listen now 🎧
Here we summarize the main takeaways for you to implement or hand off to your team for implementation.
What is customer success ?
Customer success is the process of proactively helping customers achieve success with your product or service. It’s a methodology for thinking about product, pricing, and experience that’s customer focused and goal oriented.
Why is it important?
Customer success is one of the strongest foundations for growth in SaaS and subscriptions. While acquiring new customers is crucial, particularly for startups, integrating a customer success team from the beginning is just as crucial and will ensure you keep those customers long term.
Additionally, your customer success strategy can decrease customer acquisition costs (CAC) and increase lifetime value (LTV), both of which have a direct impact on your revenue and growth potential.
We need to build companies that are always thinking like customer success experts.”
Schedule a time to meet with your leadership team and customer success team, if you have one, to discuss your customer success and retention strategies.
What to do next quarter:
Implement a customer success team and/or strategy as soon as possible. The customer relationship is at the core of your business, so the earlier you implement a customer-centric strategy and/or model, the better, and the faster your business will grow. Here at ProfitWell, we know firsthand the importance of retention for growth—it’s what we do. So, needless to say, Scott’s input—and liking of the leaky bucket analogy—is well aligned with ours.
We also understand that for startups this can seem daunting or even overwhelming, so we’ve snagged three key but simple actions, directly from Scott, that you can use to start creating loyal customers from the get-go. You can also read Scott’s article in its entirety here.
Three keys to create loyal early users:
Invest early in building a Customer Success team then test like there’s no tomorrow (or like launch is tomorrow)
At least six months before product release, hire a leader and build a team that will spearhead your customer success efforts. Provide enough time to allow the team to utilize the software at an expert level, particularly from a user experience perspective, as well as familiarizing themselves with the customer onboarding process and what it takes for a user to obtain the most value from the product.
A State of the Connected Customer Report by Salesforce found that 59% of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to win their business. As a result, SaaS companies need to be targeting customers' specific needs from the beginning.
To augment the activities of your customer success team, engage in “hallway testing,” where people who have no understanding of your product are observed while navigating through it. Have your team take well-organized notes and fix anything confusing to users.
Equip your Product with User Engagement Analytics
Offering killer features that make you stand out in the marketplace is what early adopters frequently get excited about. What I get excited about is understanding how they are using these features since it’s the user/community who will truly be pushing the limits and capabilities of your product. By building in user engagement analytics technology, you will understand exactly what early customers are doing and what is going wrong so your customer success team can take action in real time, minimizing the loss of early users.
The reason why a lot of startups ignore this step is because these analytic features can be quite extensive (read: expensive). After all, analyzing the full dimensions of how a customer uses your product is a tall order. These measurements should include reporting and notification capabilities, as well as have the ability to capture and present data on such metrics as total visits, repeat visits, frequency of feature use and overall time spent in the application. It should also be, of course, logging errors. Even if you can’t invest in a full-featured third-party tool, at a minimum, you can always instrument your app by generating a basic log file that tracks this data.
Offer Thought Leadership on your Website
It turns out that excellent user experiences are not enough to build brand loyalty from the start. Customers will also look to your company as a thought leader in its space. Top SaaS companies invest in thought leadership to establish credibility, and most early users are experienced and savvy enough to align themselves with a community or company with whom they believe are leaders in their field and/or who understand the industry’s complexities. Putting a face and personality to the message is one of the best ways to promote trust and loyalty in your base. Make use of blogs and other pages on your main site where you can provide valuable content that is relevant to your business and customers.
Strong thought leadership also allows engagement with customers by fielding questions about online resources or answering on a company forum. For example, Bluecore, one of my portfolio companies, has a blog and a resources section on its website that offers everything from quick how-to guides to original research. This gives customers a sense of shared purpose with your mission. And the more involved customers are with your brand, the more likely they are to stay customers for the long term.
As competition for users grows fiercer every year, it’s important to remember that behind every account is a customer who really wants to find a great product that they can get behind. Early users are not only your biggest fans, they can be your best allies or your worst enemies. So, while growth hacking is still an important tactic for any SaaS startup, don't delay in investing in the right people, processes and tools to shepherd your earliest users and assess their experiences carefully. Devotion to customer success will pay off in robust sustainability and a strong foundation for growth.
Evaluate and ensure the output of your customer success efforts is delivering the desired outcome. As with any new strategy or process you implement, continuously assessing the outcome is key in order to make any necessary adjustments to further optimize your efforts. Your business will evolve and so should your strategies.
Who should own this?
Leadership and/or your customer success team.
Who's up next week?
Next week, Emeric Ernoult schools us on business development.
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This is a ProfitWell Recur production—the first media network dedicated entirely to the SaaS and subscription space.
By Patrick Campbell
Founder & CEO of ProfitWell, the software for helping subscription companies with their monetization and retention strategies, as well as providing free turnkey subscription financial metrics for over 20,000 companies. Prior to ProfitWell Patrick led Strategic Initiatives for Boston-based Gemvara and was an Economist at Google and the US Intelligence community.