The success and value of a SaaS business directly correlate with the size of its userbase and the percentage of loyal customers and advocates. That’s why customer growth should be the ultimate and shared objective of every function from product management and development, to marketing and sales, to customer success and support. It’s the only metric that covers each stage of a customer’s experience and requires accountability from nearly every department.
The importance of customer growth is usually understood by both startups and larger organizations and it’s almost always an overarching goal, but companies often fail to implement it in practice due to a lack of alignment between departments. The blame goes to bad management practices, misaligned incentives, and adjacent-but-disconnected agendas. Silos grow as a result, and progressively prevent leaders from making collaboration across functions a reality.
Organizations need to devise a strategy and implement the right tactics to foster and maintain cross-departmental alignment even as obstacles present themselves. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for this to happen, here are some tried and tested best practices to encourage each team to play their part in aligning toward customer growth.
Communicate the benefits of cross-department alignment
It is worth emphasizing what various teams are able to do when working in tandem and highlight the benefits brought to the business. When individuals are shown the value from a business perspective as well as how it can improve their day-to-day job and the jobs of their colleagues and their customers, it helps them understand the benefits across the organization and get on board. They’ll see that cross-departmental alignment helps information flows more freely. Departments stop making as many assumptions about one another. Change happens faster. And everybody has a better picture of users and their needs. All of these are necessary ingredients to fueling customer growth and a healthier bottom line.
Make sure department heads are supportive
Projects with strong governance and the support of executive champions are four times more likely to succeed. That’s why getting buy-in from each department head is fundamental to promoting alignment within the rest of the organization. Those leaders have the natural authority to influence their teams by setting an example and showing their commitment to cross-department collaboration. But this should not be purely a top-down approach. Every team involved needs a clear understanding of how their role fits into the overall strategy. Holding monthly alignment meetings to discuss how each department or role can contribute to customer growth is a great way to bring everyone together and get them moving in the same direction.
Set specific goals for each team
It is essential to align incentives and set clear and measurable customer growth-focused goals within each department. These goals will, of course, differ across teams but they should also have a cross-functional nature to reinforce the importance of alignment and collaboration. For example, sales and product teams could have the mutual goal of identifying new product features which would support customer expansion. This brings together two teams who likely rarely spend face-to-face time and sets them on a course toward customer growth. It also makes product iterations more meaningful and shows how they tie to ROI potential.
Review and adjust goals regularly
Goals won’t be perfect from the start and shouldn’t be static. They will probably require improvement and should evolve alongside your business outcomes to ensure they remain relevant to the customer growth plan. For instance, teams might put more emphasis on adoption and retention for products that recently hit the market, and look at the percentage of users who have fully implemented the application into their work. As the customer base grows, teams can then pay more attention to supporting business development and prioritizing highest-potential accounts in expansion and advocacy efforts.
Designate a single source of truth to support alignment
Departments typically interact with users through different software and in different contexts. This means a lot of disparate data is generated. Rarely is it all brought together in a way that’s useful across departments. This leaves too much guesswork which is far from optimal to facilitating alignment and collaboration between teams in a way that is cohesive and sensible to the customer. A Customer Growth Platform™ is an excellent tool to deal with these limitations. It provides a standard set of metrics and data for everyone to look at and make decisions. And it is also highly adaptable to the requirements of any SaaS application and actionable for any department.
Contributing to customer growth is the responsibility of every department. But teams must be aligned to work effectively toward this shared objective. Best practices to make this a reality include clear communication, securing leadership buy-in, setting and regularly reviewing goals, and onboarding everyone on the same tool. One area we’re particularly focused on at UserIQ is the alignment between customer success and product teams. In working to better understand this relationship, we’ve launched the first Customer Success + Product Management Alignment Benchmarking Survey and we’d love your input. (You’ll receive a $5 Starbucks gift card for sharing your experience.)