Have you ever consulted with a lead and, after hours of TLC, thought, “Gosh, I don’t think my product is going to work for them…”?
If so, you might’ve felt you were wasting both your time and theirs. It’s an often unpleasant feeling entering the sales process with an individual or account you’re almost sure won’t be a good match, even if you close.
We want to propose a more optimistic view on identifying a poor fit - and why it ultimately enriches your understanding of how your ideal persona user looks.
Even better, you don’t need any external help getting there. We’ll help you truly appreciate which type of customer works best for you as a pivotal CS task.
When looking at any potential customer, you should always predict their Success Potential and enjoy a deep understanding of their lifetime value.
These are broad-sounding goals, but reaching them is rather complicated.
Look at your Customer Success teams and managers as integral filters for your overall base. They can only get the most out of your users if they’re the ideal fit in the first place.
Let’s find out how to approach the customer journey with an insightful mindset and keep your customer base as success-friendly as possible.
What is customer fit, and is your product the right size?
Customer fit looks at the match between your product and a customer’s pain points and needs.
You’ll consider users whose demographics, firmographics, and professional requirements match your ICP and product offerings.
Customer fit is a reliable condition for the non-sequential selling process. These individuals who fit your framework have a higher chance of closing than those that don’t.
Landing a sale is a great start, but did you consider the long-term customer lifecycle, too? Is CS going to have the same appreciation of an account that sales was so enthusiastic about?
And even beyond the end-game, many sales leaders don’t consider customer fit’s potential as a CS resource, which contributes to your greater user persona construction.
The ongoing, never-ending customer focus
Modern SaaS usage has made appealing to your target customer a bit more complex and demanding.
The buying journey and product-led growth (PLG) have ushered in a new age of customer-focused selling. Modern users have specific needs and problems and limited money for new subscriptions.
Customer loyalty begins with ensuring that your product efficiently solves an individual’s or account’s problems.
That sounds straightforward on paper, but Customer feedback and sales call transcriptions are now religiously studied by everyone, from salespeople to business owners.
Direct customer contact needs to be upheld to ensure that your customer fit model is based on a functional customer interaction. You must stay on top of your customers’ needs and remain open to suggestions.
Let’s look at the example of Slack.
That time Slack dominated remote work communication
Torwad the end of 2015, Slack enjoyed more than one million daily active users. By May 2018, the messaging tool was populated by more than 8 million daily users.
Out of those 8 million, 3 million were paid users. Droves of people have transformed corners of their homes into fully-functioning offices, with Slack being pivotal to their digital office communication and workflow.
Let’s take a minute to appreciate Slack’s land and expand model, where a single sign-up often leads to whole teams (and even companies) being invited. The Success Potential of a single user is a seed that grows into enterprise-level decision trees.
If you think about it, Slack’s business model and customer fit are pretty broad. Which successful businesses don’t need some kind of remote communication today?
Your mold, on the other hand, might be a bit more niche. Knowing where you stand with customers often comes down to deciding whether your viable product can help them within their larger business environments.
It’s a yes or no question, and you and your customer must be completely sure you can work together happily. You shouldn’t take on a new account and hope you can develop your working dynamic at a later stage.
That being said, the parameters of this relationship aren’t static, regardless of the account and company size you’re targeting.
Success Potential is a dynamic phenomenon
Many of the moving parts in your product and business will get upgraded or even replaced.
Your Success Potential definition and customer fit will likely develop alongside your product and overall business. Especially in the case that:
- Your devs have reworked your product’s functionality according to customer satisfaction reports.
- Your company culture has been refined.
- Your delivery capacity has increased or decreased.
Your customers are also unpredictable, and accounts will experience similar company or market-related changes, like:
- Your direct contact in the account (like the product expert or champion) left the company.
- The business was acquired, or its culture’s core values changed.
- A pivot in business strategy made your product obsolete, or it reassigned dev resources.
Every business has back-office operations you might never hear a peep out of. And sometimes, the spark that brought you two together in the first place fades, and it’s just a natural drifting apart.
Before you write a churning customer a letter begging them to take you back, consider how toxic this relationship could turn.
The explicit and subtle damage that poor customer fit causes
Appreciating a potential customer’s long-term place with your company ensures that your customer base is loyal and in love with your product.
But your onboarding specialists might not appreciate the sometimes subtle but corrosive experience that letting the wrong type of guest into your clubhouse can cause.
Even if you have a high-contact system in place, it isn’t easy to catch and codify every honest response.
The obvious, immediate damage
Modern SaaS sales practices must have a company-wide focus. There really isn’t much value in selling to a customer that won’t provide much LTV.
Nothing irritates anyone more than a wasted purchase, and unhappy customers are bound to make your customer service team’s lives a living nightmare before unsubscribing. An inappropriate customer fit spikes your churn rate, and bitter buyers often make a fuss online when they feel you mislead them.
Which leads to angry typo-filled, one-star reviews on G2 and Capterra. Potential buyers that trust said angry exes are dissuaded from buying your product.
It’s a difficult-to-wipe digital stain on your good name.
Worst of all is the insidious damage unprofitable customer molds lead to. We’re talking about the SaaS equivalent of Let the Right One In.
The obscure, toxic damage
Now, bad-fit customers aren’t exactly vampires, but they’ll undoubtedly drain your productivity.
Have you heard of the Product Death Cycle? It’s a rather difficult-to-break loop that, as the dramatic name suggests, often leads to a total breakdown in company-wide productivity.
Like many SaaS-related catastrophes, the Product Death Cycle begins with churn. Someone high up notices that you’re bleeding profits and arranges an urgent meeting to plug the holes in your product.
Fingers are pointed, angry emojis are slung, and employees turn on mute, switch off their cameras, and sob into their hands.
Finally, the product development team is scapegoated. Of course, it was obviously our product that was at fault!
Before you know it, you’ve catapulted your entire company into the Product Death Cycle. You’re now trying to rectify churn by asking dissatisfied customers what’s wrong with your product and tailoring it to suit the absolute last group you shouldn’t have sold to in the first place.
The sad, bitter irony is that your product was probably fine as it was. You were trying to please the wrong people.
Your product is now sailing further and further from your ideal customer profile’s (ICP) needs toward the wrong consumer sample that will probably churn anyway.
Let’s use a simpler example.
The whiskey analogy
You run a national B2B whiskey distillery that sells to fine restaurants. Your award-winning scotch pairs exceptionally well with delectable cuts of steak, and the more carnivorous side of the industry makes up the meat of your customer base.
“Always carry a flagon of whisky in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.” – W.C. Fields
One day, a well-established and desirable, super-trendy restaurant approaches you. You try to learn everything about their offerings and customers.
It’s all exhilarating, but you can’t help but think, I’m not sure our whiskey goes with deconstructed mandarin orange salads, but we need to land this deal!
After a few weeks of negotiation, you happily close, and this new client’s patrons wash down their mandarins with your whiskey. Only they don’t like the combination, and they’re complaining.
The restaurant returns to you, saying your whiskey’s a bit on the smoky side for their guests’ palettes. You immediately rush out of your office, down into the distillery, and command the master brewer to make the whiskey more bitter.
This back-and-forth continues until your whiskey is a shadow of its former self. And while your mandarin moguls are happier, you’ve alienated your original customer base.
Your scotch was already a crowd-pleaser. Citrus fruits are too powerful to be paired with whiskey and completely mask its taste.
Now, unlike your high school counselor, we’re not saying you’re perfect as you are. Not every apparently well-suited customer means upsells, upsells, upsells.
But you spent too much time, money, and insights developing your corporate marketing plans and product. Your optimally researched persona shouldn’t suddenly pivot toward a debilitating customer exercise.
Success Potential hones your focus
It’s hard to resist the fear of missing out that comes with denying a potential customer access to your product.
Make sure not to fall into the FOMO trap, and don’t think you’re hampering your Total Addressable Market (TAM).
Stick to your guns
The TAM you initially established during your investment rounds should always be your ideal standard, which you should continue striving toward.
Still, the temptation to broaden your TAM is hard to ignore completely, so let’s address the two paths available to you:
- You can put Success Potential in the back seat and flatten the accelerator toward the TAM superhighway, using churn as fuel and igniting all your bad-fit customers. Ironically, your TAM will lower significantly, and your place in the market will become rather controversial.
- You can stick to your original, Success Potential-friendly TAM and work toward a broader one organically and sustainably as you develop your product and understand your segments’ needs better.
Using customer fit to establish high- and low-contact systems
Knowing when a customer needs a high-touch during onboarding or can be left to their own management skills can be tricky.
It’s a beautifully diverse onboarding experience overall, and you might end up with rather colorful customer segment criteria.
Large accounts generally rely on your Customer Success Manager to tailor a guide for your product. In contrast, more tech-savy customers are competent enough to be left to their own devices with the occasional touchpoint.
Your primary CS consideration is ensuring that each new customer touchpoint establishes their Success Potential rather than who’s paying what.
Many companies segment customers according to profitability, which we’d argue isn’t an absolute necessity.
You might be wasting your time and resources delivering a manicured high-touch package to every large account. Although perhaps rare, the “higher-paying, lower-touch customer segment” exists.
The more independent customer may not appreciate a CS rep breathing down their neck. Try to keep limited contact with customers like this and wait for them to ask you for help.
You want to see who needs what and how to give it to them to succeed without threatening their internal management team.
It is recommended to build tailored Success Potential models, but it always helps to follow some tried and tested CS guidelines.
Developing your Success Potential to be more inclusive requires a steady, collaborative, and uninterrupted workflow.
You’ll also have a robust customer segmentation device.
The six main types of Success Potential
According to Customer Success & Growth Consultant and Keynote Speaker, Lincoln Murphy, there are six indicators of Success Potential.
These are the mandatory features needed for CS. While you will have ensured that your product's fundamental features and utility meet your target market’s general needs, each customer has their definition of peak efficiency.
This is the technology and tech stack a customer needs to use your product. Many SaaS products are built on top of or integrate with Salesforce.
But If your product is something of a digital lone wolf, you can’t expect your customers to make a paradigm shift on your behalf.
A customer’s high purchase intent could quickly evaporate if they find your product is another individual tool adding to the scattered nature of many current workflows.
The skills and expertise a customer needs to use your product. If a customer doesn’t have the necessary coding aptitude to use your tool, they must either be willing to learn or pay someone to perform services like data enrichment for you.
You could also offer your customers training, but again, such an investment depends on a customer’s Success Potential.
Consumer purchase decisions often hinge on a customer’s available resources. Do they have the time, money, and capacity to become loyal and thriving members of your clientele?
It’s a sad reality that some accounts would love to make your product an inter-departmental mainstay but don’t have the resources needed.
Suppose your product’s subscription is too costly for a company, or they don’t have the specialized workforce or availability needed for onboarding and activation. In that case, you might not be the correct type of fit.
Does your company’s culture gel with the customers’ one? Are your beliefs and morals aligned?
Emotional factors are an essential consideration for product-led sales, and product champions need an effective service operation to maintain their social status in their team and company. It’s never a bad idea to be invested in the context of company culture.
The experience customer fit looks at the broader customer journey.
How adequately can you support the customer’s overall journey, from onboarding to CS Management? Lincoln Murphy's advice is to avoid taking on customers you can’t support throughout their lifecycle.
A lifetime-focused approach to customer fit almost secures an account’s maximum CLV and wards off churn. You’ll also improve your chances of pushing customers over the product-qualified lead (PQL) line.
How CS can stay up to date and collaborate with your other teams
Breyta allows you to create a dynamic Customer Fit score that simultaneously screens the wrong customers and pinpoints the ideal ones.
Our platform is designed to keep everyone up to date with the customer journey, from sign-ups to upgrade plans.
Given that customer fit’s end goal is to ensure CS can make the most out of good-fit customers, all your teams must have a single viewpoint on your customer relationships.
Much of the CRM data CS teams work with today is thin on product and usage data, meaning CSMs struggle to gain much-needed insights.
Your CS team needs to know the key individuals in each account, like the product champion and decision maker. They can also track your customers’ journeys with recent activity like “Talked to support” or “Signed up for Pro Plan.”
With this comprehensive overview and tracking, you can know exactly which types of customer fit work for you and which don’t. Now, you have a real-time and dynamic appreciation of your Success Potential.
How to make the six main Success Potential types actionable
These six Success Potential categories go deep, and many CS teams often find themselves at sea with customer ambiguity.
You might find that you spend a fair amount of detective work trying to confirm whether your product satisfies each category.
Breyta takes the guesswork out of your Success Potential investigation by providing a single source for all your relevant data sources. Let’s establish how we fit into each Success Potential type:
- Functional and technical fit: Find exactly which tools your customer currently uses and how yours fits into their overall tech stack.
- Competence and experience fit: You can learn much about your customer’s aptitude from their role in their company, as provided by emails and free trial signup forms.
- Resource and cultural fit: Know how much funding and estimated revenue a customer has available and, paired with company size, whether this customer has the resources needed to sign their company up wholesale.
Land a reliable Customer Fit score
With this qualifiable list of fits in hand, you can shortlist leads according to compatibility.
It’s now time to begin scoring leads. Establish exactly which accounts need more attention and qualify each with a comprehensive Customer Fit Score.
This fit rule can constantly update with new demo calls, surveys, and customer feedback. You can keep adding new data to Breyta to refine your Customer Fit Score to ensure you’re onboarding the most consistent new signups.
Turn Success Potential into Success Assurance
You can do your best to ensure good customer fit and maximize your success potential and still not hit all your CS KPIs, and that’s OK.
Don’t be discouraged when you don’t maximize your customers’ value, as these instances are always an excellent opportunity to revise your product and strategy and know who your actual customers are.
Beyond CS, these insights are relevant to everyone from your product developer to the senior marketing executive.
We think you win when you aren’t being dragged by bad-fit users and aren’t sullying your company’s core ethos and product’s key factors.
Most business founders only have so many valuable resources to spend on CS, especially if they’re simultaneously trying to land a glowing SaaS compensation plan.
CS’s levels of efficiency should also contribute to how well you understand your ICP. Nothing boosts customer engagement like having a common understanding and synchronicity of what you provide and what they need.
The most important thing is not to get trapped in the Product Death Cycle and ensure that your customers continue to be a business development asset rather than a liability.