The concept of the customer journey is all the rage these days. It seems like every SaaS business wants to structure their sales, marketing and customer success team around a “customer journey framework” as the ultimate display of alignment. But for the most part, sales and marketing operations professionals have been busy working to unite sales and marketing around a spiraling technology stack, causing us to neglect a fundamental piece of the puzzle: the customer.
We’ve done great work over the last 10 years to get marketing and sales on the same page, and now, as customers’ expectations elevate, is the time to focus on bringing customer success to the table. We need to shift the conversation from departmental operations and start talking about the concept of lifecycle operations. The buyer-to-customer journey needs to be one in the same and the flow of your data should reflect that. Our buyers should not feel the rocky transitions between each department and the reality is that most of us have not refined this path. But we must.
There is so much opportunity to let the past inform our direction here. Sales and marketing have made effective use of personalization at the lead and opportunity stages. Now we need to be relentless in carrying that momentum all the way through to customer advocacy. And besides, our customers expect us to deliver tailor-made experiences … after all, we personalized our messaging before they ever bought in the first place. With lifecycle nurturing, it’s on operations professionals to ensure that this commitment echoes through the way engage with our customers, integrate our systems, and optimize our workflows.
The beauty here is that great marketing starts with having in depth knowledge of our best customers. There are many ways organizations arrive at their ideal customer profile, but I think we can do even better. Account-based marketing tools identify top prospects with algorithms built to account for demographic and firmographic data of current customers. But what if we could incorporate user behavior into that equation? Having data on how users are successfully onboarded, behave in your product, and which features are most valuable to specific personas are the type of insights we require to excel in this prospect-to-advocate journey.
Emergence of Customer Success Operations
Here’s where I get most excited. In the post-conversion world of nurturing through the customer journey, we will find ourselves with the same needs that emerged from lead nurturing and sales funnel management. We are going to want all the user analytics, reports, and insights we can get our hands on as customers move through each stage of the customer journey. From there, companies will want to understand how to accelerate the velocity of that movement.
For example, similar to multi-touch attribution at the lead level, we will seek to understand what cluster of activities transpired with your power users versus what series of actions signal the making of a non-adopter. We will start to monitor and measure the customer growth funnel and talk about it in the same way we do the sales funnel. Here are some customer success operations questions I see us asking in the near future:
- How are you managing your customer growth pipeline?
- What are your customer growth funnel conversion ratios?
- What are best practices for customer growth pipeline management?
- How long should customers be in each stage of the journey?
- How can we work smarter around customer growth forecasting based on historical data trends?
This movement in our space is captivating and full of uncharted waters. The business impact an individual can have incorporating a lifecycle operations approach is invaluable. You should be passionate about this and you should be talking about it within your organization. My challenge to you – what can you do today to contribute to or prepare for this movement?
If you’d like to continue the conversation, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!