Digital Customer Success w/ Dan Steinman

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This is a podcast episode titled, Digital Customer Success w/ Dan Steinman. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week Dan Steinman, Customer Success Evangelist at Gainsight, joins the show to discuss digital customer success.</p><p><br></p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: <a href="http://gaingrowretain.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">http://gaingrowretain.com/</a></p><p><br></p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaynathan/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaynathan/</a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreybreunsbach" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreybreunsbach</a></p>
Is Digital Customer Success Really Marketing?
03:20 MIN
Digital Customer Success: Content and Value Art
01:40 MIN
Customer Success: Sales or Marketing?
03:34 MIN
Producing Content That Will Impact Customers
02:15 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast.

Jeff: Welcome back to another episode of Gain Grow Retain. I've got Dan Steinman who is the Chief Evangelist for Gainsight and someone who has been around this industry for quite a bit of time. You've been at Gainsight for 10 years. I think your name is definitely synonymous with Nick's and with Gainsight's as you all have created this category. I know you're a published author. You're probably a multitude of things I could add to your resume here while we're talking but Dan, really excited for you to join us today. And it's taken us so long, but I'm glad we're here.

Dan Steinman: Yeah, I am too. I'm thrilled to be doing this. I love to talk about customer success. And in fact, you might have to interrupt and shut me up at some point, because once I get going I tend to get up on my soap box and keep going. So yeah, looking forward to the conversation.

Jeff: Awesome. Well, we like to start with a couple of softballs just to get to know you, maybe some normal kind of icebreakers that you might not always get. So, first one that I always like to hit people with is, what's your favorite fruit?

Dan Steinman: Oh my gosh. It's an interesting question Jeff I'm just thinking, I've done a lot of these and I often say to somebody, " I'll give you a 1, 000 dollars if you ask me a question I've never been asked before that has to do with customer success." But I've never been asked this question about fruit. I grew up in North Dakota and so we didn't have a lot of fruit, certainly not for sure, but having moved to California, my favorite fruit has become mangoes. There's nothing that tastes as good as a ripe mango.

Jeff: I'm with you. Yeah. Definitely, I'm big on the mangoes and strawberries. I make a smoothie pretty much every morning and it's got mango, strawberries, bananas. And so I'm pretty much one of those three at any given time is what I would probably answer. So I'm right there with you.

Dan Steinman: Yeah. I was very sheltered in North Dakota, I didn't even know what an avocado was. The first time I saw an avocado in California, I tried to cut it in half and it took me about 20 minutes to cut.

Jeff: Oh my gosh. That's a good story. Yeah. I love that. That's too funny. Well, the second question I've always liked to get out is currently you're living in California, it sounds like you've throughout your career have gotten to live some pretty fun places, gotten to explore quite a bit. So if you weren't living in California and you had to live kind of in one of the other places you've already lived, where would it be?

Dan Steinman: Wow. Yeah, I actually haven't lived in very many places. I've lived in a small town in North Dakota then to school in Fargo, then a few years in Rochester, Minnesota, and then I moved to Silicon Valley. So of all of those things, I guess I'd have to say to go somewhere else I'd go back probably and live in London because my wife and I lived in London for almost four years while we built out the Gainsight European operation. And that was just a blast. It was so much fun. I'd never been overseas for any extended length of time before and just really enjoyed that experience, Europeans and the business environment. And then of course, part of it may be as ego because Europe is a year and a half to two years behind when it comes to customer success. So they thought I knew everything, they just wanted the knowledge of Silicon Valley didn't really matter who you were. So it was more about, " Oh, you're from Silicon valley. You probably know everything about technology." And of course we don't, but I did know something about customer success. So it kind of played to my ego a little bit too.

Jeff: I like it. Yeah. And I know what you mean too. I feel like just throughout building the community I've gotten to meet so many people from other countries like Mexico. I've met people from Brazil, from India and said, just like you mentioned I think definitely there's just a great knowledge share and they're always yearning for I think what's kind of happening in America because typically we're kind of leading on the forefront. So I've definitely run into that a little bit. All right. Last question for you, and sometimes I think the most important, but are you an earbuds or like an over the ear kind of headphone? Where are you the Apple AirPods or are you the beats is basically the question at the end of the day. And this one I think is pretty big for you to nail.

Dan Steinman: Yeah. Well, if you look at me right now you'll realize it's neither of those but if I have to go with one of those, I'd go with the earbuds because of the over the years I've never found one that was really comfortable for me. I've tried really hard, but I have a pair and I don't ever put them on because they always I think they squeeze my head too hard or something-

Jeff: My wife got me the new AirPods for Christmas and I've used them so much, especially we've done a little bit of traveling recently and it's just the noise- canceling piece is really nice and they work with your phone so easily. I don't know, I'm getting really spoiled with that just being able to turn them on connect so easily.

Dan Steinman: Yeah. I get frustrated because they don't last nine hours on their batteries because I'm out walking, listening to podcasts, talking to people on the phone and two and a half hours later, it gives me that sound that says it's running out of battery and look, what's wrong with you? Just like our laptops and our phones and everything else, battery technology is the future of the world.

Jeff: Oh my gosh. Yeah, for sure. Trying to optimize it and trying to get as much into a little space as possible it's definitely, you can get paid a lot of money for that for sure. Well it's awesome to talk today because I think we're going to touch on a subject which, we've heard a lot about just recently. I think it's becoming part of the big conversation which is this idea of just digital customer success or scaled or tech touch. And it's starting to encompass maybe a couple of other disciplines outside of just your CSM team. Right? I think it's really starting to bring in questions like customer marketing, you might have customer community and self- service resources like your academy and kind of training or maybe even your knowledge base, that you have. And so I think there's starting to be this evolution where digital customer success is kind of going beyond just kind of serving up customers with emails and trying to create automated workflows and campaigns. You're starting to get into a lot of these other resources that live. And so I think for today's conversation would be really fun is just talking through some of the scenarios and situations that we've seen where companies have been successful. Kind of how they've organized their company or maybe metrics that are important to them, or even just starting to think about maybe some of the areas or missteps that we've seen people make in some of those situations. So when you think about this digital customer success world, or when you start thinking about how we've got a lot of these tools available to us now, is there anything kind of who have you kind of seen maybe start taking ownership of maybe the customer success technology landscape inside of an organization? And how are they starting to maybe get their hands on what technology is available to kind of piece together and start really creating a more comprehensive customer journey?

Dan Steinman: Yeah. It's such an important topic Jeff, because I think it's the most glaring aspect of customer success with regard to not having figured it out. And people ask me all the time who's who does this really well? And I know most of the players in the industry and my answer is nobody does this really well. There are companies doing it better than others. If you think about the companies with the really long tail, low value customers have to figure this out. So if you look at companies like Slack and Box as an example, they're probably further along in figuring it out, but this is really hard. How do you manage customers effectively without ever talking to them? That's basically the problems, right? That's really hard to do. It's hard enough to manage customers when we can sit in the room with them once a week, right? They're just pretty devils no matter what and they go their own way and that's why you need customer success. So there's a really, really important topic. And there's so many aspects to it. Like how do you do it? What's the technology that helps? How do you organize for it? And one of the things like when you think about what does it take to do digital customer success well? To me you have to think really hard about what are all the things we can do that are not one on one, right? Because the reason we need to do digital customer success is because we can't afford to do standard people to people customer success for customers who are paying us$ 49 a month, it's just it's not feasible. It's not what we want to do. We'd love to give every customer the white glove treatment and make every customer super happy, but we have to run businesses which means you can't spend more than you bring in. Which leads to that long tail has to be treated digitally so that it can be scalable from an expense standpoint. So then if you think about what are the things that we can do that are one to many? Email is obviously on that list. Now, email is also a tool that is evil in many people's minds because we all get way too many emails. So that's why this is really hard because yeah, you should use email and you can use email but man, you have to be really, really smart about it. And the way I think about using email effectively is you have to use email in a way that tells the customer we know exactly where they're at behaviorally and from a maturity standpoint. So for example, we can't send mass emails to customers saying, " Hey, you should really use this feature because it's great and other customers are using it." There's nothing wrong with that message. But most customers aren't going to read that email. But if I could send you an email, if I'm your CSM and I'd send you an email, it looks like it's coming from me even if it's automated. And it says, " Hey Jeff, one of the things we've talked about in the past was X, Y, Z. We just did a release that has something in it that I think would be really valuable to you, and I've noticed that you haven't used it. Please click here to find out how to start using that and click here to see a couple of testimonials of customers that are using that particular feature." Now you've kind of gone over that line a little bit, which says, I know you even though I'm not talking to you personally, I know you, I see where you're at from a standpoint of how much you're using our product, where you are behaviorally, et cetera. And I think that doesn't get everybody to read that email, but it advances the cause significantly over a mass email that somebody knows that every other customer got as well.

Jeff: Yeah, that's such a good point. I just wanted to jump in too because I think the other thing that you're starting to notice are that I've spent a lot of time. I actually took a... I find mentioned this like 20 times now, but I just took a writing course recently because I have gotten into this mindset where we have so many notifications that are coming just even as an individual myself, right? I've got text messages from friends, I've got emails coming, I've got in product notifications. There's so many, it's overload. And so I started to think quite a bit about how really the way to differentiate yourself in that is writing, crafting better content that's kind of more of a slippery slope. It kind of draws you in. It's not your standard, " Hey, here's this new feature." But it's maybe the subject line instead of saying new feature released it's" Hey, do you wanna accomplish this?" And it just changes slightly, but it's a way that's a little bit more inviting a little bit so. I love that point you mentioned because again, I think email has been around for so long and it's almost like we've kind of taken it for granted. It's always been there. It's always been consistent. And now though I think we need to get into this mindset of coaching teams as well to think, hey, how can you craft a really well- written email that's going to draw somebody in where it's not just a standard, I don't know one sentence, two sentence email, but it's something that an executive is going to want to open. And when they do, they get some value and then they want to follow up and talk with you. So I think that's such a good point that you mentioned though trying to craft a personalized, and even just that slight nuance, like you said, right? It's just changing a little bit. But even if I say, " Hey, we've talked about this before," or some reference about something that we've done, it invites that personalization and that's what people crave is saying, " Hey, you know me, you understand me."

Dan Steinman: Yeah, I think there's something to be learned for a customer success in many ways if we look at what's happened in the pre- sales world in the last 15 years. So what have we learned about prospects? How do we treat prospects differently today from years ago? The answer is in every possible way. 20 years ago, when I was at Marketo even 10 years ago we joked about the arts and crafts marketing versus digital intelligent marketing, right? It was kind of our way of demeaning those who weren't using marketing automation. But my point is if you look at what CRM plus marketing automation has accomplished with regard to prospects, we are in the process of trying to do the same thing with customers. And what I mean by that is we need to know and absorb so much more about where that customer or prospect is in their journey and who they are. Because for example, marketing automation has kind of two vectors. One is where are they in their journey towards buying? And who is this person? Is this is a CEO, or is this a marketing manager? And you send different content to the different people at different times in their prospect journey. And it's all about getting great content if you're running a marketing automation team, it's all about creating great content and then hitting the customer at the right time with the right content. Customer success, the digital part of customer success is just doing that for customers instead of prospects. Who is the customer we're reaching out to? What level are they? Where are they in their behavior? Where are they in their maturity journey? Et cetera. There's so many things about CRM plus marketing automation that are exactly what we're trying to do in customer success, starting with understanding where the customers are better and interacting with them in a more articulate, in a more intelligent way. And if we can do that, then I think we can get their attention. This has worked for the marketing automation world, it'll definitely work for customer success. We just have to figure it out, but it leads to another topic that we were going to touch on Jeff which is well, is digital customer success really just marketing? Because it sounds like it, and the answer is... Well, my answer is there's a lot of aspects of digital customer success that are really much more like marketing and are like what we would call standard customer success. And here's one of the mistakes, you asked me about mistakes. Here's one of mistakes I think companies make. We tier our customer success team, so we have a team that's for the enterprise customers and then we have a team that's for mid- market and then we have a team that's doing the SMB and/ or digital, right? And we think they're all customer success managers, and that's absolutely true. Their goal is the same, which is net retention or increase retention in some way. But if you take a digital customer success manager and put them in a room with an enterprise customer success manager, they have nothing to talk about, nothing, because one of them talks to his four customers every single day. The other one has 8, 000 customers and has never talked to a single one of them once. Two people have the same title and the same retention goal but they don't have the same job. And in fact I think one of the mistakes many companies make is they look at that kind of tiering of customer success managers as a career path. I think that's the right way to do it because they're very different skill sets. And I would argue somebody really good at digital customer success, if I have a really long tail of customers is probably significantly more valuable to my company than my best enterprise CSL, because we're doing something no one else in the world knows how to do. If I lose my best enterprise CSM, there are 8, 000 people that I know personally who could step in oh you're going to give me four customers and I need to get to know them really well and help them understand the value of my product. That's not very hard to do. I mean, I'm not saying it's simple, it's not easy, but there are a lot of people that could do that. There are no people who if I say, " Here's 10, 000 customers, here's our email function. Here's a couple of other things you can use, make sure our net retention is over 85%." There's like seven people in the world that have ever done that. So I think it's one of the mistakes we make thinking that, that customer success job is similar to the other ones. It's just for smaller customers. It's very, very different.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. Man, there's so many good things that you jotted in there that I want to touch on. So yeah going back to I think what you're originally were talking about a little bit, which was this idea that the person who is doing that type of work with the 10, 000 customers. I have thought about that so much recently because we're in this challenge right now where we're going to build out more of our digital customer success capabilities. And like you said, I think the reason why I feel like I've got a unique perspective on this and I would imagine you do too is because of marketing backgrounds. I actually was, working at a digital marketing and analytics for about 10 years before I jumped into customer success and kind of where we are now. And listening to your Marketo days, because I thought about it the same way where it's kind of like, " Hey, we have scores that we do right before while a customer's a prospect. We're kind of looking at things they're reading where they're building a score activities that they do yeah. Kind of lead and up and down and it kind of moves them along." And so I continue you think about the same thing on the customer lens, right? It shouldn't really change. It should just be that we serve up content that's a little different, it's a little bit more targeted to the product they own or the position that they're in. And so I continue to think about how can we do that, right? What are all the signals that we can get in? And then what are basically all the touch points that we want based off those signals? And I think that's where to your point I think where this maturity or maybe where I've seen it break down right now is just in the technology stack. I think it's just that we've thought a lot about the CRM and how we're making sure that we're at least tracking the key contacts at our accounts that we have ARR and that we have renewals. And so we've kind of covered the base there. And then as you're kind of getting that next layer you're starting to ask yourself, " Okay, well, what's this contact doing?" And then you're starting to realize, okay, well now I need my customer community to link back to my CRM to that contact record. I need my customer success platform to link back. I need emails to link back. And so you're starting to realize how complex the data piece becomes because that's really where you're getting all your signals from that can help build that maturity to say, " Okay, now we can actually start thinking a little bit more intimately about sequences or automation, or even just tagging certain customers with certain just tags that we know okay, in the future we want to send this type of content to them." So, I love those two points you made, which is I think it's really akin to marketing and how we're starting to think about engagement scores. And actually I've got one thing I needed to talk through here around that. And then the second piece, I think like you mentioned too, is the skill sets are starting to become very different as well because you're going through that same realm. I'm also thinking about how you're, you're really looking for a nucleus sort of a team when you start thinking about that digital customer success, right? You kind of want somebody that can be maybe a little bit more of a point person, to be in front of customers, maybe do videos and kind of webinars, they can lead that aspect. Then you're gonna want somebody who's a little bit more data- driven who could be behind the scenes looking for some of those signals and understanding, " Okay. Which ones are the right kind of triggers to pull?" Then you're looking for maybe a content writer or somebody who's thinking about how do you deliver content at scale? How can we write certain best practices or put together a PDFs or decks that we can send to customers? And so it's really starting to become kind of this amalgamation of those three roles as I've seen it recently. So I don't know if you think about the same thing as well. You start thinking about, how do you effectively serve that customer? And actually I would even argue too that whatever is happening in your digital customer success, it really should be scaling across all of your customers. It should actually impact all customers tier one, tier two, tier three, because anything that you're doing in that digital piece, it really should be able to tear up. The only difference is that you have a CSM that can now kind of layer on their enterprise relationship abilities. They can maybe tailor that content even a little bit more to be more specific. So, I'm not sure if you think the same way about some of those roles that we have.

Dan Steinman: Yeah. On that last point, which is really important to think, this is a universal truth about customer success, and that is anything you do for your smallest customers will have value for every other customer. The reverse is not true. Anything you do for your biggest customer does not necessarily apply to your smallest customer. Because we don't do quarterly business reviews with nine executives in the room for our$ 49 a month customers. We never will. But if you get digital customer success for your smallest customers, you will find an application for that capability with every other customer. Because think about it, every CSM in the world no matter whether they have one customer 10, 000 has some tedious email things they have to do. They have to do an agenda for the next meeting or do a follow- up or remind them of the release notes or whatever it might be. So we found this interesting at Gainsight, we built that email functionality specifically for our digital customer success team. When our enterprise teams saw it, they're like, " We want that. We only want one change. We don't want the emails to go directly to the customer, our customer. We want them to come to us so we can so we can do a little personalization on the top of it by the way, happy birthday Tracy and then turned that on." And we found that has tremendous value because every CSM is trying to figure out how to save some time so you can have a machine constructing intelligent valuable emails with good content. Then it doesn't matter if I'm an enterprise CSM. I want that I can take advantage of that and save some time by having a machine do something for me so that- everybody. The other thing we were touching on Jeff is those roles. As I said the digital customer success job is hard because it's much more encompassing and you can't fall back on relationship. It has to be all about content and value art. And then, one of the things that's good about it though is you can reuse a lot of the marketing content because what you're trying to do in many ways with the existing customer is just reinforce that they made a good decision to buy your product. Reinforce your brand, reinforce the quality of your product. And so a lot of things that marketing uses to say, " Hey, look at us, we got rated grade by G2 crowd or Gardener puts us in this quadrant or whatever." You can use those things for existing customers, because there's a nuance on the marketing to existing customers that a lot of people this and that is you're still creating demand, but in most cases you're creating demand for the product they already at own. But they have to buy it again from us. And then after that, they have to buy it again from us. Right? So it's fine to create demand for new products, but we can't lose sight of the fact that part of marketing/ digital customer success is creating a demand with customers for the product that they already own. We need to reinforce that we are the leaders and we do have the best product and we do have the best success stories, whatever those things are. And that's easy to lose sight of through marketing, likes to get out there shotgun and always be shooting to try to create demand for something new. This is a little bit of a nuance on that, but the same tools can be applied to it.

Jeff: Yeah. And I love that idea of just creating demand for a product that they already own, because I think the other thing that I've just noticed in my career so often is that you hope customers are getting onboarded and implemented right at the beginning. You're hoping they're retaining so much information. But the reality is they're probably retaining I don't know, 20, 30, 40% of what you're giving them at the beginning.

Dan Steinman: If you're lucky.

Jeff: So I do think as you were mentioning, like really as you're reinforcing the value and the great things that your company is doing and reinforcing the value of the product they purchase, you're also just trying to create demand for things that already exist that they just have forgotten about or maybe have slipped by. And so sometimes I think we get into a little bit of a bubble right. We're working inside of our company and so every day I'm looking at the product and I'm in it and so I know every little nuance, a little thing. And I did this when I joined Higher Logic. I'm listening to some of our great experts who have been here five, six years, and they're saying a little thing. And I was like, " Oh my gosh, we have to write that down and send to customers." And they're like, " What? That's so easy. We've been doing that for years." And I'm like, " Yeah, but 90% of our customers probably heard that once and then forgot about it or they haven't thought about that in years." And so those little nuggets I always I'm trying to think about how can I listen to those little nuggets and be like, oh my gosh, we need to pull that out and send it to customers, because that's where just to your point I love that concept of you're creating demand and that's how you're trying to reinforce adoption and drive certain things that you need the customer to do. But it's those little nuggets where you could. And even if you could personalize that a little bit and say, " Oh, I was listening to, Mark internally the other day, and Mark was mentioning this like, Hey Dan, did you know that you can do this? I even forgot myself." Or" Hey, we want to reinforce that." Those are a little ways I think you can just create demand is by mentioning those things that you think are common knowledge.

Dan Steinman: Yeah. You're just reinforcing the value of hiring new people who come without all of the jadedness that we get over time. Like, well, why would any customer want me to say that to them? Because we don't know it is the answer. We get to the point where we assume that customers know things they don't know. And you're right, if they absorb 10% of what we tell them in the first six weeks, we'd be really lucky. So yeah I think it's great to always be looking for those little nuggets of things that you could share with customers that maybe some of them have heard it before, but there's nothing wrong with reinforcing things that are valuable.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, and I think it goes to the other piece that you had mentioned earlier around this idea of trying to look at how it's synonymous to some of the marketing automation and some of the ways that we're treating prospects. I think one of the other things that we're starting to explore is just how can we kind of bucket certain pieces of content or certain types of content together? And then how can we go kind of measure where's Dan engaging? Is Dan really engaging with our peer to peer webinars or our community? Or is he much more opening emails and reading that kind of content? Or does he prefer white papers? We can download a PDF and read it. Those are the other little nuances that I think we're starting to see come through more because again, similar to marketing we need to understand those pieces in order to move somebody along a funnel. And you're trying to do the same thing on the customer marketing lens because you're saying, " Hey, what content is resonating with Dan so much? And how can I give him more or less of that? And then how can I tailor and personalize that experience and kind of keep that record up to date as we go?" And that's to your point as well. I think there's two things that come to mind, which is making sure you can kind of measure content across different buckets. And then also making sure that you're taking kind of one piece of content and then you're trying to figure out what are all the ways I can leverage that? Can I turn a white paper into a two sentence email? Can I take a white paper into a video? Can I put it on a community? Can I get a webinar around it? What are all the different ways that I can leverage one piece of content to maximize, Hey, we're really putting kind of an effort behind this?

Dan Steinman: Yeah. Again, it's so akin to marketing where in order to be successful with the prospect, you have to move them along that pipeline. And we don't necessarily think about that in customer success, but it's the same idea. We're moving people not along the pipeline, but along the spectrum of health score basically, right? Every time they come to an event, listen to one of our webinars, open an email, download whatever, they're potentially getting more healthy as a customer. They're becoming more loyal, which is really what a health score is trying to measure is loyalty. And so we need to be just as insightful and data anal as the marketing team is to figure out what are people consuming? And not only across the board, like this piece is being consumed by everybody, let's make sure we get it out there, but this person never comes to one of my webinars but opens every email. That's the kind of personalization, even though it doesn't change the nature of email. It's personalization to me, if you're feeding me things in the way that I want to get them as opposed to saying, "No, you should come to our user group meeting or you should come to community." And all those things are great, community is one of the most valuable things you can do in the digital customer success world, but that doesn't mean every customer wants to use that channel. So we need to feed them information in the channel and in the way that they want to consume it.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. I love that last point you just made too, and the channel that they want to consume it. I think sometimes we're often again, we're kind of looking at this from our lens of, hey, how can we just get the message out? And how can we kind of check the box in some cases? Hey, we did this. But really when you start looking at it, it's you're trying to deliver that personal experience and trying to figure out okay, what's the right channel, deliver the message for that person so that it resonates and they're actually going to read it, they're going to get the information? Which I think sometimes it goes missed. Well, we've danced around this a little bit. We've kind of talked about how it's really akin to marketing. So do you think in some of the organizations that you've seen, is it much more likely that you're starting to see customer marketing kind of live in that marketing world and they're dotted line into customer success? So they're trying to help drive gross and net retention for customer success and for the organization, but they're sitting in marketing and using the tools and the resources that they have available there to go kind of with the automated sequences, with the data, with the content. Is that how you're typically seeing it now?

Dan Steinman: Yeah. It's across the board as you can imagine Jeff. I think I love the organizations and talking about organizations, but one of the things I've realized over the years is that organizations on a PowerPoint slide always look perfect. In reality, they are never perfect because organizations are built around people. And in fact if you're a CEO, the way you organize basically is who do I trust? So a long time ago when customer success wasn't a thing and it was becoming a thing, every CEO had to decide, okay, do I need it? Yes, I do. Well, where do I put it? And they didn't hire a CCO. They said, who do I trust that's already here to manage this customer success? And in many cases it was sales, because sales was trying to do the renewals and they were getting handcuffed by customers who weren't adopting the product. So all of a sudden customer success brought up under sales in the long run. That's not a great place for it if that's where it goes. So marketing kind of functions in the same way. Customer marketing is a really, really interesting topic. I know if I was going back into an operational role as VP of customer success or CTO, I would ask the CEO in my interview process to give me three marketing people. Now you can either give me the customer marketing team or give me my own marketing people, because it's going to give me the retention number. And that retention number requires me to do a good job digitally of delivering content and value to customers through kind of traditional marketing channels like community and webinars and email, then I need people who can do that. And you have some of them already, they're working for your chief marketing officer. If you want to move them over to me great. If not, that's fine, but I need people to do that. Here's what I think is maybe the smartest way to look at this. What does customer marketing do? It sits under marketing, but what does it really do? And what I've found over the years is that there's two aspects to customer marketing. One is marketing that gives something to the customer and marketing that takes something from the customer. Boast of customer marketing is the latter. Why do we do customer market? Because we want references. We want referrals, we want case studies, we want people talking at our conferences, we want people doing webinars for us, right? Give me, give me, give me. And the audience for that kind of marketing is sales. Right? All of that stuff is being done for sales. That's natural for marketing because everything they do is for sales, right? But that doesn't do anything for the customer which is makes stop from the customer. And that's fine. That's really valuable, but we've got to earn the right to do that. And the way we earn the right to do that is we've got to do something for the customer. So I could argue that you should split customer marketing and leave the taking from the customer in the marketing organization and put the giving to the customer in the customer success organization, because giving to the customer is really customer success.

Jeff: Yeah. I love-

Dan Steinman: The value, driving the webinars that create value, driving behavioral based emails, those are customer success things, but their marketing tools. So the best person to do that is someone who's familiar with marketing but that we can give a kind of a customer success hat to. So I think we could split customer marketing into those two pieces and maybe think about it that way.

Jeff: Yeah. I love that point and actually it kind of reinforces the way that we're looking at it right now internally at Higher Logic. And I think back to your point though, the other thing and the other reason why I've kind of been on the fence of putting customer marketing, just like you said least part of it into the customer success org is you also get it closer to the customer in a way, right? You're getting it interacting with customer success managers with strategic services and implementation on a lot more regular basis where they can hear stories, they can hear things and they can just like you said, you're hoping that hey you're you're kind of being immersed in everything that a customer is going through right now. And you're seeing this a little bit more on a firsthand basis. You're involved in certain meetings are happening and then you can start listening for, oh my gosh, we had five implementations talk about how hard it was to do X, Y, and Z. We should create something that, how do we go make that easier or better? How do we go create something? Or hey, our customer success managers are saying it's really hard for a new feature we rolled out. Oh my gosh, let's go create a webinar and I can go get the right person involved. And so I think that's the other aspect that I've always advocated for is that you're really just... I mean at the end of the day I think everybody says, it shouldn't matter where they live in the organization and you're all one team and all that kind of stuff. But naturally the reason why you do that is because you're organizing the work around certain aspects and you're starting to look okay, this work is around the customer. And if I can get a marketing person around that and I can get them ideating and thinking about how to do those things at scale using that type of mindset, then that's where you're really going to get the full value of it. So I love that point that you just mentioned there a lot.

Dan Steinman: I think you're right Jeff. Organizations in theory could work and that smaller companies they tend to work no matter where people live because they're collaborative. As you get bigger, that's harder to do number one. Number two, it's not so much about who manages the team. It's who do they hang out with? Who do they interact with all day every day? So I want to take that marketing skill and immerse it in the middle of all my CSMs who are just thinking all day every day about how to give more value to the customer, how to get them to renew, how do we increase their loyalty? Et cetera, and through osmosis and hanging out with them they're going to get that mindset. And that's what you really need.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. And at the end of the day too I think what you're also hoping is then what happens in reverse as well is you now have a marketing person who's really building great connections with CSMs. And then they can sit there and say, " Hey, we're putting together a best practice guide around X, Y, and Z." And then you can get CSMs to say, " Hey, do we have any stories around that, that we can kind of put in there to make it a little bit more real?" Or, " Hey, can you take a look and let me know, is this the verbiage that a customer would respond to?" And so again, kind of like you were saying I think it works in reverse where now you've got a relationship where a customer success manager knows that you're building value for their customers. And they're much more willing to jump in and say, " Hey, let me help make this as best as possible because I know at the end of the day, it's really going to benefit me as a customer success manager when this goes out."

Dan Steinman: Yeah. In some ways it's kind of the same argument for where the renewals team should exist. And again, this one's a little trickier because there's quota- carrying people and you might want all of that to roll up to the CRO. But the reality is, an account manager who's responsible for renewals. They can be in the sales organization, but the people they're going to interact with all day every day are the CSMs. I'm not calling a customer about a renewal until I have a good sit down with the CSM who's going to tell me, are they going to beat me over the head? This a customer that we could raise prices on, whatever. Right? So some of this is not about organizationally who manages whom, but who should those people be hanging out with or who are they hanging out with more often than not?

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Well I know we're kind of getting towards the end of our time. And I think maybe one last question that I would love to hear if you thought about it or if you've seen quite a bit is just this idea of creating I don't know, I think of it as like a content engine. I think like you mentioned you've kind of got marketing and a lot of times you can repurpose that marketing content and really trying to figure out, okay how do I leverage it for our current customers? But I'm curious if you've seen any teams do it really well where you're kind of saying, " Hey, we've got these listening mechanisms kind of NPS or C- SAT, or what's happening on a customer community, or all these things that are happening." And so I'm curious if you've seen any teams do that well you're kind of, we're doing a lot of listening and now let's go produce kind of content that really can go impact customers. I don't know if you've seen anybody who's done that well, or have any examples, but that's just something I've thought about quite a bit as we were talking about customer leveraging.

Dan Steinman: Yeah. I think if you leave it to the CSMs, that's not going to get done because they're so busy just trying to manage their customers. But if you bring somebody in, it could be an ops person by the way, or it could be this kind of digital person. And when I hired that person at Gainsight, I said to them, " I want you to just spend time listening to the CSMs. And the minute you hear the same CSM do the same thing more than twice, or between CSMs, they start to have the same conversation more than a couple times, that's your job is to stop them from having to do that." So simple example in customer support customers call all the time because they forgot their password they can't log in. That's such a waste of time for a support person to spend time on the phone. That's why you create a frequently asked question. And even on the log in page you click here it says, if you can't log in, click here and we'll tell you how to. You're always looking for ways to stop the duplication of effort, because you know every CSM is having the same conversation with their customers all the time about this feature or that problem or whatever it might be. So, if you can get somebody outside of that world to focus on understanding that anything that's being duplicated is your job. How do you stop them from having to have that same conversation over and over and over? That stuff that should fall into the digital customer success things we should be sending an email or on the community or mentioning in our webinars or whatever instead of Joe and Harry and Tracy and Jill all having had the exact same conversation with each of their non- customers. It's just such an expensive thing. I think as managers of customer success people we have to tow this line which is the most expensive thing we do is one- on- one conversations with our customers. By the way, that is also the most valuable thing that we do. So we have to do that, but you got to think about, are we actually providing a lot of value in every one of those conversations? Are we using the skills and our people in the best possible way? And one of the ways to think about it is what are those things that are being duplicated and how can we automate them?

Jeff: Yeah. I love that. I've actually thought quite a bit recently as well, I'm going to go kind of take a really short survey to our customer facing teams and ask a couple of questions like, what are your customers concerned about recently? What are some of those topics? Can I just get some of that into one place where I can hear it? But I've been thinking a lot about what you just mentioned which is, can I even get them to list out like, Hey, what's the asset that you sent to customers the most over the last 30 days? Link me to what that is. Or what's an asset that you've had to build yourself over the last 30 days that you felt like was really valuable? Because I think just naturally as customer... I was a former customer success manager myself, and it's kind of survival for the fittest. I'm just, hey, if I can't find something or if it's not already created, I'm just going to go do it myself. And then I don't know, three months down the road you start realizing we all produce the same thing when we could have produced it once and leveraged it three times. And so how do we kind of bring all that and start collaborating a little bit more closely? And so creating a content team that's in the customer org and then trying to do some of these surveys are kind of two ways that I think we're trying to bring this up.

Dan Steinman: Yeah. Sometimes you have to brute force things. This sounds really crude, but one of the things you could do is have this person say, " Here's our top 10 CSMs, and here's the last 100 emails that each of them sent to their customers." I want to read through every single one of them and find the things that are duplicated or the things that the way that said the best by this one that we can transfer to the other ones, et cetera. I mean, you'd find a ton of duplications in that, including in the content that's being sent to them. Right?

Jeff: Yeah. That's such a good little idea too, right? Well, even just to get that person immersed in what's happening with the CSMs. Even just to get them like, " Hey what are the customers caring about? What's really happening at the front lines?" That's even just a great way. Like you said, I think sometimes we are trying to automate too much or we're trying to think oh, that's a little bit manual. But in some cases we have to go do some manual work every once in a while and that's okay. If it doesn't scale, that's fine. At least for right now, we still get the insights that are going to actually breed a lot of the scaling that we can do further down the road.

Dan Steinman: Yeah. Well the path to automation always goes through doing it manually first. Because that's the only way they're going to tell how painful and hard it is and if we did automate it'd be that much better, like just a quick anecdote at Gainsight. I always loved speaking with prospects who had tried to do Gainsight and Salesforce. Because I knew they couldn't do all of it. And they also figured out how hard some of the things are to do. And the more they tried to do it either manually or in some other tool that wasn't built for that purpose, the better prepared they were to actually buy Gainsight because they knew the pain, they knew where their data was, they knew the value that could come out of automating it and they were ready to do so. They were just prepared to buy technology to solve that problem that they had painfully solved manually.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. I love that quote you had that little blurb you just put in there, I mean for anything to be automated, you have to do it manually first. Because you can't even automate something you don't know. You don't know the points of automation if you haven't done it manually first. And that's actually I think something that people try and do a little too quickly is automated everything-

Dan Steinman: Well, as software vendors we all know this, right? If someone buys our product and isn't ready for it, all they're going to do is automate their mistakes and they're not going to accomplish anything. You have to have a real plan to implement software. Software doesn't magically solve any problems. You have to have a real plan to implement it in a way that it's going to be beneficial. And usually the best way to prepare for that is having tried to solve that problem in other ways.

Jeff: Yeah, definitely. Well, Dan I feel like you and I could keep talking for hours because it's just easy and natural and I think with your experience you've definitely seen a lot. So we'll have to try and find a time to get you back on here because I think we could probably find a couple other topics to go through-

Dan Steinman: Yeah I'd be happy to do it.

Jeff: But this is the moment of the hour where we'll let you get to do your plug. Where can people find more of you? Are you a LinkedIn fan? Are you a Twitter fan? Is it confined to Gainsight? But yeah, give the people what they want, which is where to find you.

Dan Steinman: Yeah. LinkedIn is probably best. I kind of avoid Twitter because it's a bit of a sensible to say it lightly. But LinkedIn is great. You can find me on LinkedIn. I'd love to connect with customer success people and if you want, at some point to have an individual conversation, then I'm always happy to do that. So, yeah. So, that's the best way to contact me. If you haven't bought our book, shame on you. If you want to buy it, then go buy it. It's pretty easy to find and Jeff's going to show you a copy of it. No, I thought you were reaching for it.

Jeff: I was trying to find it. It's in my room I think actually. It's not here at my desk, but I do have it.

Dan Steinman: It's underneath one of your dogs probably.

Jeff: Yeah, exactly. The three dogs in my office right now.

Dan Steinman: Anyway, you guys can find it. It's a bright blue cover. Anyway so yeah, those are a couple of things that I would suggest. I think the book has really held up over time and as a CSM you want to read the book not because it'll make you a better CSM, but it'll give you an idea of what your CEOs are thinking about because we wrote the book for the CEO. Here's the way to run a company that's customer obsessed and customer focused. That's really the theme of the book and to advance in your career it's always better to know what your managers and your CEOs are thinking I believe.

Jeff: I agree with that and I like it. I actually have read it twice now I think and the first time I read it was on my way to the Gainsight Pulse conference. So that was a number of years ago. I'm looking forward to the day that Pulse get back in person, here hopefully fairly soon. I know this year you all pulled off a nice digital version or actually it was hybrid version. It was digital and in- person, so I'm looking forward-

Dan Steinman: Yeah fingers crossed for next may because we miss having that mob of 8, 000 customers success people together. It's our family reunion every year so.

Jeff: Awesome. Yeah, for sure. Well awesome Dan, appreciate it. And we're gonna get you back on here soon and I'm excited for this one to come out. So we'll make sure and get you out there when we get it.

Dan Steinman: Sounds great. Thanks Jeff. Appreciate you inviting me on.

Jeff: Hey guys. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.

DESCRIPTION

This week Dan Steinman, Customer Success Evangelist at Gainsight, joins the show to discuss digital customer success.


If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: http://gaingrowretain.com/


This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...

Jay Nathan: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaynathan/

Jeff Breunsbach: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreybreunsbach

Today's Host

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Jeff Breunsbach

|Director of Customer Experience at Higher Logic
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Jay Nathan

|Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic

Today's Guests

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Dan Steinman

|Customer Success Evangelist, Gainsight