Customer Success is always evolving. From its high touch consulting roots to the digitally scaled models of today, there has always been one consistent trend:
Customer Success has too much to do!
As companies shift to a more customer-centric model in the hopes of “land and expand” and “customer-led growth”, it has become clear that if companies want to take advantage of the full benefits of Customer Success beyond just renewals, there needs to be more hands on deck. As such, we’ve seen Customer Success start to branch out into different specializations.
The first of these was CS Ops, which helped with scaling, process improvement, and technical integrations. But as the model moves towards more marketing based – tactics, the latest field to emerge has been Product Marketing.
What is Product Marketing
Because it’s so new, this tends to vary at every company. Product marketing emerged out of necessity from a blend of several roles that existed in the past.
Product marketing is a set of practices that help the company understand its customers, identify their needs and define a product strategy while increasing the adoption of new features.
- Advising on the go-to-market strategy
- Assessing product adoption
- Competitive analysis
- Sales enablement and sales training
- Pricing and packaging
- Product launch strategy
- Managing the company website
- Marketing communications (writing blog posts, creating marketing content, etc)
This is just a handful of the responsibilities Customer Marketing can be held responsible for.
Because it can vary so widely it’s important for Customer Success to align with Customer Marketing to understand its specific role and KPIs at the company. That way we can transmit the RIGHT information to each other.
What is Customer Success
Customer Success works with the customer to ensure their goals are being met. The Customer Success Manager (CSM) is responsible for onboarding and training new customers, monitoring their progress, and helping them measure their results.
It is a holistic role that goes beyond just product usage. The CSM owns the post sales life-cycle of the customer — from onboarding to renewal, expansion and advocacy.
The primary goal of Customer Success is to help customers get the most value out of the product or service possible.
The responsibilities of the Customer Success professional are varied, depending on the specific role. However, here is a list of things Customer Success professionals do:
- Onboarding – Helping customers implement the product and get up to speed using it
- Adoption – Driving usage of the product within an organization
- Renewals – Ensuring customers renew their subscriptions to products
- Growth – Encouraging customers to expand their usage of products and services offered by the company (up-sells/cross-sells).
- Advocacy – Finding product champions to give testimonials and referrals
Effective Customer Success teams help companies achieve one or more of the following goals:
- Increase renewal rates (lower churn)
- Increase up-sell rates (expansion revenue)
- Gaining social proof and additional clients through referrals
How do the two teams relate to each other?
Customer Success and Product Marketing are on the front lines of revenue, growth, and customer retention. And, at first glance, it seems like they should be natural allies: both are responsible for growing the business.
However, the two teams aren’t always aligned. The issue is that in many cases they’re set up to work in silos, with their own metrics and targets. Success is measured by metrics like NRR or churn reduction, while Product Marketing is measured on things like new feature launches and product usage.
In reality, these two teams should be working closely together to help customers achieve (and exceed) their goals. When they do, they’re able to drive even more value for your customers – and ultimately increase renewal rates, reduce churn and improve long-term growth.
How Customer Success can help Product Marketing
Product Marketing and Customer Success should work together. This is a no-brainer, but it doesn’t always happen. Probably because the job functions tend to vary so much, there aren’t consistent best practices. Here are some ways to collaborate:
1. Product releases
Product Marketing can keep Customer Success up-to-date on new feature releases so CSMs can train customers in how to use them. And Customer Success can tell Product Marketing which features are gaining the most traction.
Customer Success can help Product Marketing create the most effective 1:many programs by pointing out where customers need better enablement.
3. Product-market fit
It can be really hard for Product Marketing to figure out if a product is resonating with customers, especially early on as it’s trying to get product/market fit. By getting Product Marketing to listen in on calls with successful customers they can see what’s working for them — and might find a new angle for their messaging!
If you don’t already have them, create personas with both teams’ inputs so you have an accurate picture of who the customer is and what they care about. If the company already has personas created, Customer Success should validate them periodically to communicate any way that the customer base may have evolved.
5. Case studies
Sometimes a customer is a shining example of a use case marketing is looking to highlight. Customer Success can introduce these customers to the Product Marketing team to understand what success looks like in real-time and generate social proof.
How Product Marketing can help Customer Success
Product marketing is a critical bridge to help get Customer Success initiatives off the ground.
Here’s how Product Marketing can help Customer Success.
1. Share Voice of the Customer programs with product
Customer success is all about being a trusted advisor to your customers, and one of the best ways to do that is by providing them with the information they might not know. The unique insight that Product Marketing has into customer problems and needs provides them a great opportunity to help be that external voice for your customers.
This concept becomes even more important when you are dealing with a new product or feature. If your company is trying to educate customers on how to use the product, then the feedback from Product Marketing on real customer issues and needs will provide an outside perspective for Customer Success teams on what customers need to know about the product.
2. Sales Enablement
Sales isn’t just new logos anymore. Customer success teams are becoming an integral part of the selling process, and that means that they need access to all the information used by sales teams to push deals through. If we want existing customers to buy more, they need shiny marketing materials too!
3. Customer Enablement
Product marketing is often heavily involved in 1:many programs such as webinars. While Customer Success can be helpful in providing what topics they should cover, Product marketing is often much more adept at creating the slide decks. When Product Marketing creates 1:many programs, it takes a huge amount off a CSM’s plate.
As Customer Success becomes more digitally enabled, email sequences and templates are often crucial parts of the onboarding sequence, yet they are left up to Customer Success leaders with no training in copywriting. This can lead to some pretty clunky emails and poor adoption.
Given that poor onboarding is a leading cause of churn – it makes sense to use professional copywriters and marketers to craft such crucial communications.
The positive outcome for the customer
While it’s always good for a company when departments collaborate instead of working in silos;
The real winner here is the customer.
1. Clearer onboarding
With 1:many programs, in-product tours and polished email sequences, customers have a clear path to work towards their goals.
2. Industry Insights
Customers can learn more about industry trends as well as how others in their industry use the product. This can provide ideas for new use cases and benchmarking.
3. Better understanding of new features
With proper collaboration between marketing and Customer Success, new features can continuously add value rather than confuse the customer.
4. Influence on the product roadmap
When their voices are heard, customers can influence the product roadmap. This leads to a product they like even more! And with two voices echoing their feedback, it is much more likely to be considered by the product team.
The company gets more opportunities to tell stories about the business results customers have achieved with its product or service.
The positive outcome for the company
Regardless of how the roles are defined at a given organization, Customer Success and customer marketing will always be more successful if they collaborate.
By combining the inside knowledge of Customer Success with the enablement and product influence of Product Marketing, the product becomes increasingly more useful to the customer.
And when the customer wins, the company wins.