Having a balanced business model is the end all be all for every company. A strong sales team doesn’t do any good if your business can’t retain its customers. Customer retention doesn’t do any good if the cost to retain customers outweighs the revenue they generate back to your business.
Customer success is a complex challenge to solve. The required investment of time, energy and resources to set up a successful customer can drain a business while it figures out what it takes to make them stick. Ultimately, the only way a company can be successful is if the cost to acquire and retain a customer is largely outweighed by the monetization that customer will return to your business (about 3-5x that cost).
Unhealthy business model
Healthy business model
So in general, we want to find a way to decrease our costs to acquire customers, and for the customers that we do acquire, we want to make sure they stick around and aren’t too expensive to keep.
So how do we do this? The best way to cut down costs of a process that requires employee time is to identify where you can replace that time with content and tools. Doing this allows your teams to operate more efficiently and lets your customers learn and engage at their own pace.
To understand this further, we’ll break down each step of the customer success journey and identify where we can swap employee resources for content.
1. Customer Development
This is ultimately the foundation for building your customer success strategy, so as you can imagine, it’s pretty important. Create personas to understand who your buyers are. Are they a c-level executive? A director? Are they someone who forges their own path? Depending on your business size, you’ll have a varying number of these personas. The main point of this exercise is to draw out similarities of buyers and group them together. This will help you segment your marketing efforts to them later on. The important thing is that all these personas should be a perfect fit with your product, service support and even company culture.
While content shouldn’t directly impact this exercise or replace the employee time spent, you should take a look at the engagement your typical buyers have with your content and if that has any affect on their relationship with your brand. For example, NewsCred found that customers who engaged with our content had a 41% higher renewal rate, were 33% more likely to be upsold and had a 24% higher monthly recurring revenue rate.
2. Customer Acquisition
Most buyer journeys start with a simple Google search. What better way for a prospect to find your brand by being the top answer for their search? The way to do this cost effectively isn’t by buying AdWords. The way to do this is by creating great content that earns the top search result position.
The second part of this step is to focus on acquiring the right customers. If you don’t acquire customers that fit your offering, not only will you have a harder time retaining them, but they’ll have a harder time using your products and services. Do both parties a favor and focus on the customers who fit your use case. This is where a lot of companies take a wrong turn. They want to close the deal so they’ll promise things the company doesn’t deliver or future sell features that don’t exist. The way content can get you out of this predicament is when you do create bottom-funnel content, such as whitepapers and case studies, stay true to your company’s offering.
3. Customer Onboarding
The onboarding stage is the first time post-sale when a customer starts using your product. This stage is probably the biggest opportunity for content to do some heavy lifting. After a few onboarding experiences, you should be able to anticipate the needs and questions of your customers. Create a destination that make finding these answers easy for your customers. NewsCred, for example, has a “Supportal” with helpful tips on how to use the software, product update announcements and answers to other frequently asked questions. This not only shows the customer that they’re not alone (if a company has already created an asset that answers their question, they’ll probably assume the question has been asked before) and it frees up your employees’ time to focus on other work. Additionally, because your customers have the answers to their questions at their fingertips, they’re empowered and more likely to ramp up faster.
4. Initial Engagement + Functional Support
This is perhaps the most critical phase for a customer’s success. It’s first time the customer takes the training wheels off and should have sufficient knowledge to use the product. The key to this stage is the seamless handoff from implementation to account management. Since the seeds of churn are usually planted early, this is where any false-selling will likely surface.
While heavy attention is required for clients at this stage, content should still be leveraged as much as possible. Monitor the client’s usage and success and proactively reach out with helpful information. For NewsCred, if we see a client’s login frequency drop, we may reach out with an article about the importance of publishing on a consistent basis. If another customer voices frustration about a complicated workflow, we may share workflow best practices. Account managers can also send a personal invite to upcoming webinars and share other online tutorials. The key to this stage is to be proactive and let the client know you’re proactively working to be there to help.
5. Ongoing Engagement + Retention
Once a customer is up and running and finding success, it’s important to let them know they’re not forgotten. Keep them engaged with a mix of content for different stages of the buyer funnel. Just because someone is a customer, doesn’t mean the only things they want to read are whitepapers and case studies. Hopefully your customers at this stage will be engaged with your content enough to be subscribed to your newsletter, which should reflect this mix of content.
(For more information on each of these elements and others, check out Lincoln Murphy’s Definitive Guide to Customer Success. It’s well worth the read!)