The Power Of Customer Success In Driving Advocacy For Your Organization

February 29, 2016

In today’s subscription-fueled business economy, maintaining strong relationships with your customers is mission-critical. You can no longer close a sale and immediately move to the next. Now is the time to build relationships with your customers that can lead to increased revenue and advocacy for your company.

As the customer success evangelist at Gainsight, I’ve helped 300+ SaaS companies optimize their customer experiences. It’s kind of amazing that I travel around the world, speaking to thousands of people about why they should care about their customers.

1. Challenge

I'm often asked, "If customer success is so important then why isn't it something that companies just know how to do?"

Traditionally, we've lived in a sales-driven economy. In the past, when companies made a sale, they immediately moved onto the next sale. If a customer signed a three-year contract, you didn't have care about improving their experience until they were close to renewal.

However, the move to subscription-based revenue models has changed the game. Today, companies have to prove their value to customers on an ongoing basis. If your customers aren't achieving their goals, they won't stick around for very long.

Simply put; No Customer Success = No Your Success.

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2. Approach

Customer success is when your customers achieve their desired outcomes through every interaction with your company – not just by using your product. For example, customers move towards their goals whenever they speak with your support team, attend your events, join your advocate program, and follow you on social media.

In every stage of the relationship, your company should usher your customers closer to their desired outcomes. This close relationship between you and the customer is the key to reducing churn, boosting advocacy, and growing your business in a tightening economy.

If your customers aren't achieving their goals, they won't stick with you very long, they won't purchase new products from you, and they certainly won't advocate for you. And trust me, you want your customers as your biggest advocates. You want your customers performing company reviews, giving referrals, engaging with you on social media, and championing your brand in the marketplace.

By implementing an effective customer success strategy, you decrease the friction between you and your customer when it comes to asking for acts of advocacy.

Ask for advocacy at the right time.

Instead of sending out random requests for advocacy, ask when it makes the most sense for your customer.

Many companies go about customer success in a haphazard manner – randomly asking for referrals and references. Since these asks aren't integrated within the customer experience, customers don't normally see the value in responding. If marketers don't get results they need it's easy to think that advocacy doesn't work.

Ask for advocacy when it makes sense for your customer Share it!Tweet it!

Customer success is about knowing your customer's success milestones. What wins can you celebrate- such as when they finish setting up your product or see cost savings from it. Many of these milestones will have a logical advocacy ask that goes along with them. For example, when they get their first win, ask them to write a product review. When they reach a bigger milestone, ask for a bigger act of advocacy – such as sending you a referral.

The size of your ask should align with how much your customers are succeeding and how strong of a relationship you have with them. You wouldn't ask a new customer for a review if they haven't had enough time to use your product. However, if they tell you that they like the product, then that's the time to ask. I know that emotionally, my customer who has just had a big win with my product is happy, and this is the best time to ask for advocacy.

Knowing the right time, having the right message, and asking the right person can shoot your advocacy response rate through the roof.

Get customers to agree to advocacy early on.

Don't try to "hide" advocacy from their customers. Set an expectation, from the beginning, that your relationship is mutually beneficial. Let customers know that you will do everything you can to help them achieve their goals but you also will ask them to help you reach yours.

If you are honest from the beginning, customers are more likely to advocate for you. The companies who do this, have seen their advocacy go through the roof – some now have response rates of almost 100%.

Adopt the right customer success management.

Operating a world class customer success program is cross functional within your organization. You need the right team to implement your process, but you need a process. You should have a team in place that's able to track your customers' success milestones and follow up with them to celebrate a win they've had. You'll also need tools that help you make customer success and advocacy a central part of your business. These tools should go beyond tracking names in a CRM system.

Software, such as Gainsight, tracks the milestones your customer can look forward to as they progress to their desired outcome and alert you when a milestone is achieved. Other tools, such as Influitive, help you to execute the advocacy ask that goes along with this milestone, like participating in a case study or writing a product review. These tools allow you to operationalize all aspects of customer success, including advocacy.

Customer success is true customer relationship management Share it!Tweet it!

Think of customer success as true customer relationship management. Your tools should help you engage, support, and track customers as they reach their desired outcome with your product.

3. Recommendations

The ability to grow revenue from your existing customer base is a fantastic benefit of advocacy. Advocacy tied to success milestones creates a super powerful combination for your customer success program and impacts your business as a whole.

As you help your customers achieve their desired outcomes, your customer will in turn advocate for you, when the time comes. Remind your customers that it's a mutually beneficial relationship.

Satisfied customers are great for business.

We know that satisfied customers are usually happy to perform reference activities. Not only are they likely to buy additional products but they also refer new customers to you. These referrals also tend to stay longer, spend more, and be happier than customers who find you via other channels. According to Deloitte, customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.

The value of your advocates compounds over time. Your sales go up while your customer acquisition costs go down. Plus, your company's value will increase. Your value is based on numbers related to customer success, such as churn rate and net revenue retained. When you focus on customer success, these numbers will move in the right direction, and your investors will take notice.

Happy customers equal happy employees.

Your sales teams are working hard to build relationships with prospects and convert them into satisfied customers. Working at a company where hard-earned customers are lost, faster than they're gained, hurts morale especially if the churn is preventable. Top-tier employees want to work with happy long-term customers, and build relationships with them over time.

When you focus on customer success, you retain dedicated customers as well as employees who value the relationship they have with each other and not just your company.

Customer success plus advocacy create the perfect synergy for your organization. It's a happy marriage. They impact every aspect of your business - from product development to sales. When you invest in both customer success and advocacy, you can build long-term, profitable customer relationships. If you want to do business with your customer more than one time then you need to invest in customer success.

Join me and other customer-obsessed minds in marketing and customer success at Advocamp in San Francisco on March 7-9.

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  • Lincoln Murphy
    Customer Success Evangelist at Gainsight

Lincoln Murphy is the founder of Sixteen Ventures and Customer Success Evangelist at Gainsight. Using Customer Success to drive growth across the entire customer lifecycle, Lincoln helps companies retain their customers longer, get those customers to use and pay more over time, and turn those customers into advocates.