We are thrilled to welcome Lawton Ursrey to our team at UserIQ as our first Customer Growth Architect. In this brand new role, Lawton will serve as key advisor to UserIQ clients, helping them plan for success and growth through customer journey blueprinting, instrumentation of customer growth solutions, and creating better results across functional teams.
Lawton joins us from Sage One, a cloud accounting and invoicing application for small businesses, where he created and led the initial product marketing. He also founded their customer success team. His experience in leadership, customer success, sales, support, and product marketing roles across a variety of industries gives him a unique perspective. One that understands which pathways are better than others, when it comes to customer growth.
We sat down with Lawton to find out more about his vision for customer growth architecting and the future of customer growth for SaaS organizations.
Q: What does customer growth mean to you?
A: Everything! The good news is that the fundamentals of customer growth are about the same as they ever were. It has simply been repackaged and attached to buzzwords like funnel hacking or growth hacking, etc., but at the end of the day, the fundamental approach is very similar. Part of that includes getting down the basics, like gaining executive buy-in, crystallizing goals, requirement setting, blueprinting a real plan, and forming cross-functional workstreams to put the work in market.
There is a growing list of what platforms can best execute on a customer growth plan—and that’s where a lot of exciting change is happening in the space. Some platforms have more utility than others in terms of what percentage of the growth plan they can fulfill. That’s why I ended up at UserIQ. It truly gives companies a new “superpower” to remove the guesswork from the organization. Plus, it can meet a large percentage of customer growth requirements.
Q: Where does Customer Growth Architecting fit in a company’s various departments and how does it help to facilitate alignment in an organization?
A: Companies and teams often just get out of tune. That’s the key concept here. If you ask leadership how important collaboration is to functional teams working on the same product they would say extremely important. But the truth is much different—people are almost working together. Their tune is off and helping teams find the right key is at the heart of what a Customer Growth Architect does.
How do teams get out of tune? To put it bluntly: bad leaders or, to be nice, leaders who are out of tune themselves in their leadership abilities. In their defense, it usually comes down to being spread too thin. Many leaders and their teams are so heads down in their mountain of work that they’re not effective in finding repeatable ways to engage in healthy collaboration that allows them to execute in motion together towards crystal clear goals. It does not just happen on its own, this calibration. Think about it – would a symphony sound great without a leader or the musicians getting together work in a unified manner? Unfortunately, what I find at larger companies is that most product teams only come together usually two or three times a year where there is actual ideation, roadblock removal, closing gaps on unanswered customer questions, design thinking, journey mapping, and forming of critical workstreams to execute together.
For the companies that do not have a “getting together” deficit, what I often find is that the format of their collaboration strikes the wrong chord. The most common format I see—and what I personally believe to be a terrible leadership quality—is the manager, director, or executive just “talking at” their team for a few hours. In many corporations they have geniuses right up under their nose, but a good leader has to be in place to recognize and help bring their talents to the main stage.
A Customer Growth Architect’s primary goal is to help organizations address this reality and to foster tuning from within, to make key selections in their team on who can best lead from each function, and to form a tribe of individuals to work as one. Providing them with my blueprint on the tactics to perform is the easy part. The hard part is the assembly of the team and on the other side of the blueprint, actually doing the real work and putting it in market.
So what does that all mean? Companies are screaming for a Customer Growth Architect who has experienced these shortfalls firsthand and can assist management in igniting a shift in how customer growth work is being delivered. Once this is fixed, I build the plan to follow.
It’s about getting people who typically are focused on one cross-section of the funnel to look in the same direction and start really collaborating. This healthy dialogue gives me, as the Customer Growth Architect, the information I need to help create a draft blueprint that they leverage to get executive buy-in, which is really important to making sure these initiatives do not “fizzle out”.
Magic happens when you bring someone in from the outside whose goal is to not provide the answer or talk at teams, but to help teams arrive at the answer themselves. In a sense, a Customer Growth Architect helps teams realize they never needed them in the first place and it helps their leaders realize how talented their team is and to get out of their way.
Q: Where do you see the future of customer growth headed in the next 2-3 years?
A: T1 – My personal hope is that we’ll see better alignment across functions brought together with a focus on eradicating guesswork across their team. Good onboarding and retention will remain elusive for the companies who let the cross-functional shortfalls I mentioned earlier go unaddressed.
T2 – People will be trusted less. Just kidding. Platforms like UserIQ will continue to gain more and more trust. The companies I speak with are increasingly frustrated by multiple departments struggling to produce the same number across their many systems. Platforms like UserIQ remove guesswork and make the path to impacting onboarding and retention much more visible and reliable.
T3 – I think we’ll see a continued upward trend in the volume of Customer Success Operations positions being offered and a change in leadership’s mindset on how massive of an impact these individuals can make to business goals. I see CS Ops somewhat like an “internal Customer Growth Architect” who understands the company’s complete ecosystem and can easily draw a line to revenue for management. Executing on an ideal customer journey across multiple systems and making them work together in an elegant, personal, and automated way is really difficult. So someone has to fully own that; they have to work across multiple departments to build their customer ecosystem. These individuals will be worth their weight in gold. Leadership giving these individuals a new form of authority across functions will also be a needed change in order to maximize the impact CS Ops will make.
T4 – We’ll see an upward trend in platforms like UserIQ employing machine learning to address some of the age-old challenges much better than before. Seeing leaps in our abilities to learn, predict, and adapt to the customer is very exciting for customer growth.
Q: What’s the first step for companies who are ready to start their customer growth strategy?
A: The first step, even before you bring in a Customer Growth Architect, is to bring together multiple leaders in various departments and, using the data you have, figure out the questions you cannot answer right now. Where are we lacking in metric visibility? What crucial questions can we not answer that keep us guessing as a team? From there, you’ll realize you have about three options:
- Do nothing and keep guessing.
- String together a few different overlapping solutions and try to figure out who is going to map a plan then manage all of those solutions and ensure each one ties back to your business goals.
- Consider UserIQ and have a conversation with me and we’ll figure out how to answer those questions and draw a straight line to predictable customer growth.
I’ve seen many companies string together multiple solutions and many of them are now feeling the pain of that. I’ve also seen companies do nothing year after year despite knowing their teams are guessing and do not have the tools they need to deliver a modern onboarding, retention, and expansion, and advocacy plan. “Falling behind” would be an understatement for these companies.