Jul 21, 2016

Read Time 7 min

Putting the marketing in customer success, the power of cohort analysis, engaging executives early to drive success


Fighting Churn Newsletter

On the other end of the marketing funnel… is another funnel. If marketing and sales drive the marketing funnel, you could make the argument that the other end is driven by the customer success team or by customer success marketing. The tactics involved to move customers from ‘unknown lead’ to ‘active user’ have corresponding tactics on the other end of the funnel to move customers from ‘active user’, to ‘advocate’.


Taking this one step further, if having a strategy and key performance indicators are essential for the sales marketing funnel, the same can be said for the success end of the funnel. And fortunately, when it comes to putting the “marketing” in “customer success”, most of the work is already happening as part of the process. What’s more likely (and more realistic) is that customer success marketing grows out of customer success. We take the questions and problems we have as a team and use marketing best practices to solve those problems, while achieving our goals of turning customers into advocates.

In real life, the tactics feel familiar to what we’re all used to. The only thing that might change is how we use them, and how they help us meet our objectives:

  • For the New Customer – New customers need to know they made the right decision. At this stage, our objectives might be inspiring customers to want to use the product. Onboarding calls and emails are designed to teach the basics to get these customers up and running as soon as possible and establish value right away. At this stage, tailoring the message is key; applying a generic onboarding process for every customer is a missed opportunity. Giving new customers the information they need for the account or subscription they’ve purchased is more likely to turn a customer into an advocate: at this stage, you’re putting them on the path to know what they need to be an expert. That way, when they’re ready to upgrade, they have a clear understanding of the difference between what they bought and what the next level is.
  • For the Active Customer – Support; it’s not at one specific stage, it runs up and down the funnel and it’s an essential part of customer success. It’s also a touchpoint where you can get feedback, information that will be essential in the later stages of the funnel. Depending on how you do things at your company, support might be involved at every stage or at the stages that take place after a lead becomes a customer. It’s also where most of the content is created and used as part of the customer success process, which means it’s where you can have the most fun. Going beyond providing clear and accurate answers to basic questions, content at this stage can inspire users to want to learn more about your platform and empower them to take real ownership. In two words, at this stage you want to: blow minds. Here’s where you have the chance to show what your platform and app is really capable of.
  • For the Renewing Customer – In a perfect world, when renewal time comes around, we’d all have ESP and know what’s going to happen. Even though what we might hear back from customers may come as a surprise, there’s still an opportunity at this stage to tailor messages, even if we’ve heard nothing from the customer in months or (gulp) a year. For help, using the next stage of customer success marketing can provide insight. Knowing whether or not a customer is likely to advocate for your company and services can help your team determine if they’re likely to renew. A snapshot of your customer interactions over the last quarter and/or year (whatever makes the most sense) will help you figure out where on the scale of engagement and advocacy, and will help you tailor what you say – and how you say – to each of your customers.
  • For the Potential Advocate – Advocacy is another stage in the funnel where your team has the opportunity to get creative with creating content. At this stage, you might re-engage the marketing teams to help boost your relationship-building efforts with this group. Either way, once you know who your advocates are, and have established ways of communicating with them part of your job becomes making it easier for those advocates to vouch for you.

The power of cohort analysis

Most startups get it by now—churn is bad. Retention hacking is the new growth hacking—it doesn’t matter how many customers your startup acquires if none of them stick around. There are quite a few helpful tactics that many PMs use to boost their retention, such as improving their user onboarding or increasing accessibility. But to get directly at reducing churn, you’d need to diagnose your product’s specific problems and make adjustments.

The good news is that if you’re willing to take a dive into the numbers, you can find out exactly why users stop using your app. The key to this is cohort analysis – grouping your users based on their actions to understand what compels them to stick around for the long haul. Then you’ll be able to make informed product decisions that will reduce churn and drastically increase revenue.

To find out why your users stop using your app, you have to answer the three W’s of user retention:

  • who is and isn’t engaging with your app
  • when (and if) they churn
  • why they lose interest

You can only do this by segmenting your users into groups—or cohorts—based on a particular trait. You can segment your users into two types of cohorts:

  • Acquisition cohorts: groups divided based on when they signed up for your app
  • Behavioral cohorts: groups divided based on their behaviors and actions in your app

Acquisition cohorts help you determine the who and the when, but behavioral cohorts enable you to dive into the why.

Once you have your cohorts defined, then you can start to dig into when users drop off, what your sticky features are and what combination of behaviors keep your users engaged with your app. Check out the full read to learn more about how to tackle these challenges.

Not sure where to start with your cohorts? Maybe you don’t even have access to the necessary data? Never fear – this is ChurnZero’s area of expertise! We make it easy to track what your customers are doing (in real time!) and reveal patterns in their usage that result in happy customers or that result in churn. Want to learn more? We’d be happy to show you our Customer Success software.  

Engaging executives early to drive success and value

Oftentimes, we see that sales teams sell to their champion(s) and other decision maker committee members. But what happens at the end of the sales cycle when the executive is brought in for final approval? Has your sales team been integrating the executive(s) since day one, ensuring they understand the product or service and that they, personally, see the value and the return for their dollar? If executives are brought into the sales cycle too late, they may fail to see the value of your product or solution – especially if it won’t affect the bottom line in the near-term.

What does that mean for the CSM and the renewal?

Even though the initial sale likely doesn’t involve the CSM (unless it’s a very strategic deal), it’s crucial to him or her for the executives to be bought in and to see the value firsthand from the start. Otherwise, months later when the CSM is working on an upsell or renewal, executive buy-in may become an issue. So how should the sales team integrate the executives during the initial sales cycle?

Here are 3 key ways to engage executives early on:

  • Learn their metrics and KPIs – In order to integrate the executive sponsor into the sales process, it’s important for the sales rep to first understand – before anything else – what he or she cares most about. What are the metrics they think about and report on weekly, quarterly, and yearly? What metrics are imperative to their teams? What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the top level of the business, and how do they currently measure those KPIs? What happens if they don’t reach their goals, or their metrics are off? The sales rep must ask specific questions of stakeholders and executives in order to understand how these metrics play out across not only the department, but the business as a whole.
  • Determine dashboards and insights they need – How does the executive currently track his or her performance metrics? It’s one thing to understand metrics and KPIs, but how do these translate into their daily role? How can your product or service help them better present metrics to the C-Level and to the Board? While your sales team is seeking solutions for the needs of the end users and direct contacts, ensure that the executive conversation is part of the process. Integrating the needs of the executive into the sales process is key, including elements such as specific dashboards to help him or her measure department and company performance, insights in the form of visualized data or tracking, and information that he or she can use on a regular basis for executive and Board meetings to present data from your product or service that’s relevant to the business.
  • Help them see the value in entirety – Rarely is a product or service positioned as a one-off tool. Rather, today’s SaaS companies and services companies often use solution selling to help solve multiple problems or streamline processes across an entire department or even an entire company. But the executive viewpoint into these solutions is critical. The executive needs to fully understand how your product or service will add value, not just in a “feature” sort of way, which can be easily replaced over time, but rather impact the bottom line or create value in terms of time savings, cost savings, or streamlined processes. It’s imperative that your sales team involves the executives in these value conversations from the start, and that they don’t see your product or service as a “feature” or even a “tool”, but rather a solution to add significant value over time.

Word to the Wise

This week’s wisdom gives us a peek into the secrets of Ari Klein, the head of Customer Success at DocSend. Klein builds customer success programs that tow growth and product strategy in their wake; indeed, one of his most passionate beliefs is the customer success team needs to work very closely with the product team. In his experience, this kind of collaboration strengthens the entire disciple of customer success – but it also very seldom happens.


We highly recommend checking out the full read; Klein talks about many interesting topics including opportunity spotting, personalized messaging at scale and customer success content that not only solves problems but does so in a way people talk about for months. It’s a CSM pro dream.


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