If you’ve actioned your learnings from our last post, you are starting to hold regular pipeline management meetings. You’ll soon appreciate how this meeting is one of the most important regular habits you can have to build and manage revenue.
It’s time to go one step further. Your work isn’t done once a lead becomes a customer. In this post we’ll focus on developing and documenting a streamlined process for customer onboarding.
It’s time to deliver on the value propositions you promised in your marketing materials.
While the specialization of “customer success” and the term “onboarding” are relatively new, the practice is rooted in a well known business rule: it’s easier to keep and grow existing customers than it is to get new ones.
As we’ve discussed at several points in the first two milestones of the #gxmxp Series, our initial goal will be to leverage referential conversations to build your initial pipeline and bring in your first revenue.
We do this because going out and getting unaffiliated revenue is difficult and requires a higher standard of credibility than word of mouth.
Referential revenue enables your startup business to build the credibility required to launch and scale cold customer acquisition.
All the work you have done up to this point has simply earned you the opportunity to deliver on the promises you made in the sales process. Now you have your one chance to deliver.
The goal of customer success is simple: create a process to ensure that the promises made during the sales process are met or exceeded once the solution goes live. Without a focused and intentional customer onboarding framework you’re not only putting the potential revenue with one customer at risk, you put the revenue potential of all the customers you could get from that customer at risk.
When founders begin to create a customer onboarding process they often start at the beginning. What should customers log into or use first? What should we help the customer setup? In reality, we want to start the customer onboarding process by asking the question, what does success look like?
Assuming the onboarding process goes well, what tangible items can you and your customer point to that will demonstrate that this transaction has been a success?
Businesses do not buy because of onboarding. Onboarding is the first, and most important, step for you to give your customers clear and tangible success metrics that will demonstrate the ROI of your solution. This should connect directly back to your value propositions.
Once you have a clear understanding of what a successful customer’s world looks like you are now in a position to reverse engineer how they got there and how you can help get them there.
The more hands-on you can be with your earliest customers the better. What guardrails can you set up to keep the progress moving forward? What consultative service can you be giving the users to ensure that they are working on the right use case?
Defining success in a tangible way will keep you grounded in real data and results. You won’t just be able to say, “Mr. or Mrs. Customer is happy with our product.” Remember, the future pipeline of your business is dependent on each of these engagements being successful.
You are in control of whether or not they reach those success targets. Whether your customer engagement is a free pilot, paid pilot, one-month engagement or annual contract, at some point there will be a data based discussion about how things went and if they should continue.
You don’t have to wait until the week before the meeting to start planning for it. Do it now to ensure the best results for you and your customers.
Now that we know what success looks like it’s time to start mapping out an initial onboarding hypothesis. But how and where do we start? The good news is, you already have the answers from the competitive analysis post!
Without any existing customers it’s difficult to come up with a solid onboarding strategy. You might think your solution or technology is totally unique but in most cases it is not the customers first rodeo. There are industry standard expectations and table stakes. Why waste cycles trying to learn for yourself when your competitors have learned for you?
If you did your competitive analysis phase correctly you should have either onboarded yourself to your competitors products or at least ask detailed questions about what that process was like. If you didn’t get that far, try to go back and attain that information. It will save you a lot of time and keep you from churning early customers.
Once you’ve collected your competitive onboarding data you’ll want to evaluate it to understand what parts felt standard, which were clunky and which you can improve upon. In addition, you’ll also want to spend some time thinking critically about patterns that emerge between your competitors and their onboarding processes.
It’s easy to point the finger and say they are doing something wrong. In reality, there are usually good economic reasons learned through years of customer onboarding that explain why the existing best practices are the way they are. Don’t be quick to dismiss but do be quick to ask why?
When creating this onboarding process, anytime that you identify something you need from the customer or that you need the customer to do, figure out how you can remove that burden for them.
Determine how you can make your product as turnkey as possible. How are you going to introduce the product to somebody? Are you just going to hand them the key or walk them through training? If you’re performing training, what does the customer need to learn during it and who should be leading it?
In previous phases, we talked about your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) from a buyer standpoint. Now it’s time to think about it from a user standpoint.
Let’s say your new customer has 10 potential users at their company. Don’t hand the keys to your product to all 10 users just yet. Work with the company to identify which user has the right early-adopter mindset to work with you and hit those success metrics. Find an early adopter who’s doing their job in a way that would benefit the most from your technology.
You don’t want to do all of this work to acquire revenue and then let your customers treat your technology in a way you never intended it to be treated. That’s going to create friction and the customer will think you didn’t deliver on your promise.
If the customer doesn’t use your technology the way that you want them to, it’s not their fault. It’s your fault for not controlling the onboarding and customer journey.
Once you’ve figured out the steps for your onboarding process, then determine who internally is responsible for executing those steps and if there’s any collateral or other resources you’ll need to make the process successful.
Know that when you start using your onboarding process, there’s going to be friction. Being hands-on lets you quickly collect feedback from the customer and iterate. You don’t want a huge blocker to keep them from seeing the value of your product.
Let early customers know that you’re intentionally looking for feedback on this process. Tell them you’re open to changing different variables of this to make it easier for the customer. But never ask customers how they would like you to engage with them because they don’t know. They don’t understand your success metrics or what goes into your product.
Onboarding timelines and expectations should be clearly communicated to the customer every step of the way. Do not do this over email. Talk through it with the customer so there aren’t any surprises. Tell them when each step will happen and who is responsible for it on your end and theirs.
As you get better at your onboarding and implementation process, it will reveal useful insights for people who are still in your opportunity pipeline. You can start showing them how you’ve been successful in implementing your technology with other people, which gives you more credibility.
Like everything else in the #gxmxp Series, document this process and feedback. Refer to your document regularly and update it as you change your onboarding. As you bring on customers, the pipeline management meeting we talked about in our last post should actually start with these current customers. Track them just like the leads in your CRM.
As you collect feedback, capture it in a way that enables you to easily action it. In our next post, we’ll share insights and best practices for implementing a valuable feedback process.