Six keys to driving early customer success


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One of the happiest, most satisfying times in most customer lifecycles is the moment they sign up, purchase and get started. It’s at this moment that anticipation and expectations are everything. It’s only natural, therefore, that actually getting started and experiencing the early stages of a product or service can create friction, intimidation, misunderstanding, misuse and, sometimes, frustration.

That’s why the early stages of a new customer relationship are by far the most important days and weeks you’ll have with them. They set the tone for the rest of your relationship, establish expectations and a baseline for the kind of company you’ll be and the partnership you’ll have with the customer. They also go a long way towards driving repeat purchases, renewals and referrals.

Across products, services and industries, here are six specific focus areas I’ve seen consistently work to drive greater early success and satisfaction from new customers.

1. Map the broader ecosystem of the customer, and customize content/training accordingly
Just like you map the buying ecosystem (to understand and drive messaging to different types of buyers at the same company), you need to map and operationalize a plan to train different levels of users. There may be a primary line-of-business user, for example, who is supported by someone in IT. The business user’s boss might not be in the product day-to-day, but needs to understand (and have reinforced) the capabilities and benefits/outcomes inherent in what the product does and can do.

Weight the depth and complexity of training and content tools for each user. The business user’s manager doesn’t need nearly the depth of training, for example. But if you understand the post-purchase primary and secondary users, you’re more likely to drive immediate and long-term support, engagement and results internally.

2. Train beyond the product
Of course, teach new customers how to use the product. But just as important, teach in context. Teach them why it’s important, and how to think about and do the jobs around your product better. The more your customer is able to do the rest of their job well, the more likely they’ll be able to customize and accelerate their use of your product or service to see success.

Many companies see this kind of training as a cost center. If it’s not related to the product, they say, it’s not our job to train it (at least not for free). But if you’re selling a marketing automation product and not teaching your customers how to be better marketers, you’re missing a huge opportunity to drive value, differentiate yourself from competitors, and increase your customers’ likelihood of success and renewals with your product in the first place.

3. Identify the 2-3 most important drivers of early success, and focus like crazy on them
New customers can easily get intimidated while ramping up on a new product. Most training programs exasperate the problem, pushing dozens of new tools, tasks and set-up functions at the customer all at the same time. But if you know your product well, or at least analyze the intersection between product usage and customer satisfaction/results, I bet you could identify just 2-3 things new customers should do first before anything else, that have the biggest impact on their understanding, satisfaction and results.

In the short term, it’s worth isolating these 2-3 things and ignoring most everything else. Focus on something that sets other benefits in motion, or that will serve as tangible validation to the customer that what you sold them works and can scale. Regardless of what you choose, make taking the first few steps easy for your customers by cutting through the distractions and clutter of everything else, and walking them by hand towards the right path.

4. Give lots of early love
This can be contextual or purely superficial. Hire the equivalent of a Walmart Greeter, someone with product and industry knowledge who calls every single new customer to welcome them to your product or service and ask if they have any questions. Send them a thank you note with a sticky featuring your customer service contact info for their monitor or cubicle wall. Or, have your top executives follow the new customer on Twitter and comment on some of their blog posts.

The best companies sustain their love of the customer over the length of their relationship, but it’s most important up front to demonstrate you’re not going to abandon the customer as soon as the contract ink is dry. This is a vulnerable time for most buyers. They’ve made a commitment, which has inherent risk, and they want signs to validate their decision. Related and superficial, make them feel good and back it up with products and services that deliver.

5. Leverage other customers as peer trainers and evangelists
Some of your existing, successful customers can serve as virtual members of your customer support and training staff. You could feature them on webinars and in videos describing their steps to early success. Peer-to-peer training, especially in visual/video formats, can be incredibly effective. Better yet, designate some of your interested customers as volunteer peer mentors, trainers and evangelists. Empower them to help customers via your discussion forums, and/or set up “office hours” for them to help other customers. This is a great way to make existing customers feel good, and to drive greater engagement and honesty among early customers who may be struggling.

6. Know and look for early warning signs
Your renewal push starts as soon as the contract is signed. Every step above is tacitly about that milestone as well. But there are explicit signs to watch for, and you probably already know what they are. No logins for a period of time. Few recorded campaigns or transactions or general activity. Fallen-off attendance at customer events and training programs. Whatever they are for your business, establish processes to actively watch for, highlight and respond to these trouble signs. Your response could start with some triggered emails, and eventually be followed up by a customer service or coaching call. And although some of these escalated steps might be operationally expensive, I bet if you do the math on the difference in churn (and increase in lifetime value) you’ll find that it’s worth the investment (or at least a test) and then some.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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