Product-led Customer Success:
using your product to create more value
The high-touch/low-touch/tech-touch customer success model is antiquated.
Today, there are many strategies that allow companies to offer the same CS experience that was previously reserved for the highest value enterprise accounts.
Product-led Customer Success is evidently one of them.
In this case, the product becomes the source and vehicle for value creation.
Here is how.
Product-led growth was initially coined and described by SaaS expert VC firm OpenView as “the go-to-market strategy that relies on using your product as the main vehicle to acquire, activate, and retain customers.”
Does it work? Yes. With a median enterprise value (EV) 2x higher than the public SaaS index as a whole – as far as growth strategies go, product-led does seem to make wonders.
But why is that? As pointed out by product-led pioneer advocate Wes Bush in his seminal book “Product-led Growth: How to build a product that sells itself”, the increasing relevance of the approach is triggered by 3 market shifts impacting all SaaS:
⇒ Startups are much more expensive to grow (with customer acquisition costs on the rise)
⇒ Buyers now prefer to self-educate
⇒ Product experiences have become an essential part of the buying process.
Looking closely, these 3 shifts do indeed impact the most important stages of a SaaS life: Acquisition, Expansion, Retention. And build a strong case for people to see that SaaS magic actually happens in the product!
Thankfully, this reality has shed some light on many of today’s most successful organizations, providing us with a wide array of product-led success stories.
Product Usage analytics
The magic of SaaS happens in the product.
That’s where your customers leave the clues to finding out who they are, what they do and whether or not they’re satisfied – and where the teams should interact with them.
You need to understand your product usage at the deepest level before you can start using product-led strategies to drive positive business outcomes and, ultimately, identify your product’s biggest advocates and activate them.
From the moment it’s installed, Salesmachine collects usage data in real time.
You can enrich the process by sending data to Salesmachine from a wide range of sources thanks to powerful integrations with Segment, Intercom, Salesforce, HubSpot, PipeDrive, Stripe, Zendesk etc.
SaaS essential metrics
As with everything revolving around data, the quantity and quality of clues left behind by your customers are limitless. Thankfully, priorities and hierarchy prevails through a set of basic – yet essential – SaaS metrics.
Precisely, there are 4 categories of metrics – you ought to have at hand – and at any given moment – in order to answer 4 essential customer success questions.
Product metrics – what?
The heart and soul of SaaS companies.
Ultimately, what you are offering is a product. And what people are doing with it should be of great concern to you.
You can start with activity monitoring by day, week or month – at contact and account levels.
Then getting down to session lengths, feature usage and licence utilization.
Customer metrics – who?
No need for a lot of explanations for that one.
From launch to scale, measuring your success starts from very simple maths operations: adding and grouping.
Knowing the number of people using your solution (number of contacts), or companies (number of accounts) and how many are paying customers (number of paying customers).
Plain and simple. Yet, not having access to this live information will prevent you from discovering all the good stuff about your business.
Revenue metrics – how much?
Cash is king. And SaaS companies know it all too well. Recurring revenues are a blessing when it comes to optimizing cash-flow. Never before was there a revenue-model allowing for such predictivity.
Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), Average Revenue Per Account (ARPA), New Converted MRR, Net MRR… you’ve got everything at hand to know your financial situation by the penny.
Customer Success metrics – how?
At the end of the day, success will come if all the above metrics rise and rise… Simply put, it means more users, spending more time in your product and paying you more.
As such, success for you ultimately means success for them.
For that, you’d better keep a close eye to what symbolizes being successful with your product.
You’ll wanna use all the gathered information to come up with a clear indicator of your customers well being, both functionally and financially.
Start with Customer Health Distribution and Life-cycle Distribution.
Finally, one should not forget that these metrics also reflect the personnel, human relationship you keep with your customers. And, keeping this human relationship is fundamental if you want to achieve success with your customers.
The thing with product-led customer success is that you won’t be able to proactively reach out and make your customers successful if you don’t have a proper user journey, user onboarding, and feature adoption flows. Without these, you won’t be able to trigger different user behaviors and measure their overall satisfaction.
Remember that one of the main differentiators of product-led customer success is scalability. Without the user journey, how will you be able to know where exactly your customer feels stuck? And how can you apply this knowledge across the product?
The overall user journey(s), user onboarding, and feature adoption flows may differ from product to product, but some general rules apply to everyone. One key moment in your customer journey or user onboarding are particularly important:
The “aha” moment.
The first and main occasion when your user perceives the value of your product/feature – when he realizes what the product can do for him.
For the user to be activated and considered “adopted,” he needs to go through several “aha” moments and user activation points for every core feature. User onboarding and feature adoption campaigns are based on different behaviors and triggered by in-app experiences.
In other words, discard product tours. In-app experiences that are triggered by the users’ context or actions (such as trying to use some new feature) are the new way of onboarding users and adapting them to your features.
You can’t know how to help someone if he isn’t segmented at least by some factors, right? There are two different customer segmentation methodologies that work with product-led customer success (at Salesmachine, we’re using the both of them):
In-app user segmentation: segmenting your users by different in-app events, such as number of actions (campaigns created, sent, etc.) done in the last x days, weeks or months, the number of features activated, and so on.
Account-based user segmentation: segmenting your users based on account data (company size, premium clients, lifetime free, end-users behavior etc.)
Since you created a nice, helpful, and triggered user onboarding flow, different in-app events, user context, and user behaviors will tell you how to help them (if they need help at all).
For example, at Salesmachine, we pay close attention the following uses cases and create advanced segments accordingly:
Key accounts with a drop of usage of more than 20%
In Salesmachine, we created a ‘custom metric’ allowing us to know if a customer increased or decreased the use of a specific feature. For instance, we can uncover account per account if the number of tasks of each account’s end-users has increased or decreased over the last month.
- Create custom metrics keeping track of the variation of an event such as ‘task completed’ over the last month
- Create segment with event variation < -20%
Key accounts in which less than 50% of end-users are using key features
As it is very important to measure our customer’s usage depth, we set up a segment to answer the paramount question: how many users within an account use this very specific feature?
For instance, a customer company has a team of 10 people using Salesmachine on a regular basis – connecting daily. If only 5 team members are using a specific – yet important – Salesmachine feature, such as the Unified Inbox, it is very important for us to be aware of this usage information, in order to set actions into motion to increase Salesmachine usage depth.
Key accounts which did not reach a milestone after the first month of use
Customer onboarding process can be long, and worrisome – yet the goal is simple – making sure the new adopts the solution once trained.
At Salesmachine, we find that the best and most systematic way to stay on top of the post-onboarding phase is to create a feature adoption segment.
In our case, the event triggering this segment will be the non-building of automated Playbooks by the customer 1 month after the end of the onboarding process.
Of course, the next-step will be to create and set in motion specific actions regarding the segments we’ve created.
Personalized impact at scale
Product-led Customer Success is nothing if not the actions that you set in motion in order to achieve the satisfaction and ultimate success of your customers.
The granularity of your product usage analysis enables you to act with precision on your customer experience.
At Salesmachine, we believe in the reconciliation of personalization and scalability when it comes to the proactive actions of the customer success teams.
This is made possible by the combination of precise customer behavior analytics and powerful automated tools.
As seen above, the level of personalization of these automated actions is guaranteed by the precise behavior-based segmentation that our customers set-up in Salesmachine.
Depending on your customer profile, organization and process 2 types of automated tools are made available to increase your impact at scale.
Workflows and Playbooks.
Workflow automation is a sequence of autonomous actions which follows customers’ behavioral milestones. Once set up, workflows and campaigns do not necessitate human involvement.
These are typically used for product onboarding and educational content push. The automated campaigns will be sent to specific segments and aims at increasing product engagement for low adoption customers.
For the most medium and low-touch customers, Workflows can also be used to drive expansion and win-back strategies.
These are sequences of pre-defined tasks or communications systematically suggested after a compelling event.
At Salesmachine we use Playbooks for organizing the tasks and process of Customer Success Onboardings and upcoming Renewals.