In customer success management, there will always be a tension between treating each customer as special and unique in order to ensure their success, and serving all customers without exploding the CSM team budget. One way to strike a balance between these two poles is the collection, maintenance, and efficient utilization of customer segment intelligence.
Customer segment intelligence is the knowledge base of elements relevant to the sale and utilization of your product/service by companies within a target segment. These elements would likely include:
- Key “firmographic” attributes of companies in the segment (e.g., size, geography) that might influence purchase and adoption
- Market trends
- Decision-making structures and influence networks
- Typical needs and objectives related to your product/service
- Propensity for and approach to technology adoption
- Common objections to purchase
- Common obstacles to implementation/utilization
Equipped with this kind of intelligence, SaaS companies can develop segment-specific customer success programs and segment “playbooks” that will produce better results more efficiently. They achieve this by being adapted to align with the particular characteristics and meet the particular needs of companies in that segment. A “one-size-fits-all” onboarding program is almost always better than no onboarding program is likely to miss the mark for some customers. A custom implementation plan is highly effective but unscalable. A customer segment intelligence-based onboarding program strikes a balance between these extremes by delivering a template that applies to a group of customers, but is effective because it is built on the foundation of knowledge of the typical operational constraints on the companies’ ability to get quickly to value and capture quick wins.
As is the case with the aforementioned onboarding, most customer success initiatives benefit from segment intelligence. For example, it is much more effective and efficient to have a series of segment email templates for cross-selling and/or up-selling rather than each CSM writing new emails from scratch for every upsell/cross-sell opportunity and rather than using a single, generic “canned” email that fails to be compelling because it doesn’t speak to the specific segment needs. Similarly, understanding when breadth or depth of utilization should register either as a concern (too low) or an opportunity (very high) requires knowledge of the relevant segment-specific benchmarks rather than benchmarks based on the entire customer base, much of which may behave very differently than the customers in one specific segment.
Moreover, this intelligence delivers further operational efficiency gains by enabling lesser-tenured CSMs to ramp up and effectively help customers faster. Playbooks, templates, and diagnostics provide a foundation of proven tools and process that gives newer CSMs with good relationship-building skills the opportunity to succeed quickly.
In an upcoming blog, we will discuss best practices for gathering and distributing customer segment intelligence.
Sometimes marketing inspiration and confirmation of instincts comes from places you wouldn’t normally look. This recent blog post on getelastic.com is case in point: http://www.getelastic.com/the-easiest-way-to-increase-conversion-by-20/. On the face of it, this post would seem to be quite far afield from the world of customer retention in B2B software, or any of the other B2B industries in which EMI works for that matter. And indeed there isn’t much that links lip gloss and software; but there is a link in the approach to solving marketing challenges.
The getelastic blog post starts off with a research-based data point: ecommerce customers are 20% more likely to purchase a product that has at least one customer review. Then, based on that data point, it presents several reasonable ways to obtain that key *first* review. The ways to do this are only important if you’re interested in driving web purchases. What’s important outside that context – and especially in a B2B context like CSM strategy for SaaS – is the way in which marketing research and analytics have identified an operational measure which becomes the strategic focus. Increasing web sales is obviously the business goal, but it’s so broad and influenced by so many factors that it’s unwieldy as an operational focus. By isolating one key factor that has a significant impact on the objective, exploration and testing of tactical options becomes significantly easier. In mathematical terms, you solve for “reviews” because you know that it will drive conversions.
Take this approach out of the world of online sales of lip gloss and into the world of B2B software customer retention and it is still just as effective. Retention is impacted by a multitude of factors –satisfaction, perceived value, switching costs, depth and breadth of utilization – each of which can be affected by a set of strategies and tactics. To optimize retention, you must first sift through all the potential factors to identify those that actually have the greatest impact. Once you have effectively ranked the factors based on their likely impact, then you can develop retention marketing strategies – new communications approaches, new messaging, testing – that specifically and precisely aim to drive improvement in that factor.
Enterprise gamification — the application of social gaming theories and techniques in business environments — is taking off, with Gartner projecting that 70% of Fortune 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application by 2015. However, Upstream recently reported that, while 78% of marketers believe that customers are more likely to respond to game-based marketing, only 27% have actually deployed the strategy. Reasons for this disparity include a reluctance to embrace new technologies and processes, as well as the lack of a blueprint on how to create and roll out such programs.
However, we are now seeing a broad range of firms from many industries deploying gamified programs to educate customers, train staff, introduce new products or service, as well as building greater engagement with customers, prospects and employees. Some recent examples of gamification in action include:
- Health care benefits provider Aetna teamed up with Mindbloom to offer the premium Mindbloom Life Game to improve personal wellness for customers and employees.
- Extraco Bank of Texas used the Bonus Banking Game to promote benefits and improve conversion rates for a new checking account.
- GM’s Buick created a series of smartphone games to educate consumers on e-Assist, its fuel-saving technology.
- Verizon Wireless gamified its online entertainment and lifestyle portal, Verizon Insider, which resulted in significant increases in traffic on the site.
Based on EMI’s experience in developing and deployment gamification programs for our clients, here are a few best practices to guide your success:
- Clearly define your game objectives, or you’ll find it gets lost in chutes and ladders. Articulate your goals and make the desired changes in customer/employee engagement measurable. And don’t limit yourself to education…product testing, employee recruitment and customer acquisition can all be addressed with gamification.
- Remember the technology baseline and limits of your audience. User experience is key to success; if your audience is all mobile, test on the full spectrum of devices and keep the real estate and graphic limitations of smartphones and tablets in mind. If you’re targeting employee audiences in locations far and wide, download speeds can be a limiting factor.
- Make it fun, but not too easy. Everyone loves to win, but make it too easy and boredom will drive users away. Make winning too hard, and the game will also fail.
- Positive feedback is required. Who doesn’t like encouragement? Let players see their wins early and you’ll encourage longer sessions, more attention and greater learning.
- Mix up the rewards. Choose incentives based on the desired behavior changes and their value to you, and use “soft” rewards like badges and leaderboards to increase ROI. Of course, real incentives like miles, points or virtual currencies up the ante.
- Ensure that players understand the ultimate aim of the game. Players may view the knowledge or experience they gain from the game as additional incentive to play. For instance, if the ultimate purpose of your enterprise gamification program is to enhance customers’ financial literacy, players may be just as motivated to play by the education they will receive as they are by the points they earn along the way.
- Keep score on user engagement. Get feedback from users on their experience, and use it to improve future programs.