‘CSM & Product’ Is the New ‘Sales & Marketing’
If you take a look at my LinkedIn page (and scroll way, way down), you’ll see exactly where my career took a left turn. (No, not Chipshot.com—you scrolled too far!)
I started my professional career as a product manager. Well, I tried to start my career by doing a Master’s in Computer Science in college, which taught me I wasn’t smart enough to be a developer, but maybe I could hang with them. Over the years, I moved up from Product Manager to “Manager of Product Management” (still a bizarre title to me!) and so on.
That was my career trajectory, and I couldn’t have been happier. It checked all the boxes for me—strategic thinking, working collaboratively, creativity, working with sales, and above all a total focus on giving the customer a great experience. Not to mention lots of PowerPoint!
When I left the world of product management to become a CEO, Customer Success was barely a gleam in my colleague Dan Steinman’s eye! But when I look back on it, I can see how it was preparing me for this crazy world of CS, and how the skills I honed in PM are so complementary to my job today.
For the last six years, we’ve been on a mission here at Gainsight to spread the word about Customer Success as the only way to drive sustainable growth in subscription businesses. Obviously, you can’t have a business without a product (and therefore a Product Management Team), and likewise, you can’t maintain a customer base without Customer Success.
The Customer Success Movement in 3 Acts
In the first act of our story, we tried to shine a light on the Customer Success Management (CSM) organization. We evangelized the value of a CSM team, we educated tens of thousands of people in the tricks of the trade, and built a worldwide network to help plug the right leaders into the right roles—all of which has led to CSM being recognized by LinkedIn as one of the top emerging professions in the U.S.
However, pretty soon it became clear: a lot of companies were building out a small, siloed CSM team to “own” Customer Success, but weren’t able to scale. We knew Customer Success needed to be bigger than any one team (as we say at Gainsight, CS > CSM). It’s a priority that needs to be woven into the fabric of the entire company—every department, every team. And the reason why is simple: to the customer, you’re all one company. The client doesn’t need to understand the differences between Sales and Support and Service and CSM and Marketing. Therefore your customer interactions need to be just as seamless. And so the second act of the Gainsight story was taking Customer Success out of that siloed CSM role and taking it across the company.
But as I spoke to people in the Customer Success community—as well as the CEOs of thousands of subscription businesses—I heard time and time again that one organization was missing from the conversation: Product. That resonated, because, as an ex-Product Manager, I saw how organically the two disciplines fit together. And in the “Age of the Customer” more than ever, most customers’ primary interaction with their vendors aren’t necessarily through their people, but rather through their products.
That’s why for our third act—simpatico to the third act of the Customer Success movement, we’re so fired up to announce that Gainsight has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Aptrinsic, the first product-led growth platform. You can read more about the acquisition here.
Nick Mehta and Aptrinsic CEO Mickey Alon
The New Sales and Marketing
Here’s some conventional wisdom that’s at least as old as the mercantile system: if you want to achieve growth, invest in Sales and Marketing; acquire new customers. And in today’s economy, according to Gartner, 57 percent of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier. With that being the case, it was inevitable that Sales and Marketing platforms (think Salesforce and ExactTarget, Oracle and Eloqua, and so on) would come together to optimize growth through new customer acquisition.
It made a ton of sense. Sales teams wanted to understand prospect behavior, scale their engagements via marketing nurture, and influence marketing priorities. Marketing was interested in driving lead volume, learning from prospects, and iterating on campaigns quickly.
But in the Age of the Customer, CS teams have joined the ranks of Sales and Marketing in driving business growth by focusing on customer retention—more specifically, impact to net retention as a function of growth. However, for all of us who are building digital products and services, so many invaluable customer insights and personalized engagements are happening within the product itself. The analogy of Sales and Marketing alignment extends now to Customer Success and Product teams, who together are on the hook to deliver experiences and outcomes to both keep and grow customers.
The same consolidation of Sales and Marketing platforms has yet to happen with Customer Success and Product technology—until now. We’re convinced that by partnering with Aptrinsic, we can usher in a new era of growth for subscription businesses with Customer Success and Product teams at its heart.
Gainsight’s New Capabilities
So what can you do with Gainsight and Aptrinsic? Our goal was to enable Customer Success and Product teams to work more closely together, as well as rally the rest of the company around the mission of driving Customer Success. In tandem, these two toolsets will give you the ability to fully leverage the product channel to generate even more powerful customer insights and actions. Here are just a few examples I would have loved back in my PM days:
- Analyze the behavior of users in your product in terms of feature adoption, navigation, and retention.
- Guide users to onboard and use new features through in-app engagements.
- Solicit feedback from users in the product.
From both a CS and a PM perspective, we want you to be able to drive great outcomes and experiences whether inside or outside the product, whether delivered through automated digital outreach or human interactions (or a mix of both). And now, Gainsight is the only solution that enables companies to take full advantage of the shift to both digital and subscription, by providing Customer Success and Product teams everything they need to drive growth.
To fill you in on all the details, I filmed a video with Aptrinsic CEO Mickey Alon and our very own Chief Operating Officer, Allison Pickens.
You can also learn more by checking out the following:
My career started as a Product Manager and then evolved to Customer Success. Today, it’s come full circle. All I need to do now is figure out how to integrate quantum physics and the Pittsburgh Steelers into this industry, and I’ll be “living my best life,” as the kids say!
We’re fired up to partner with the Product and Customer Success communities on the future of subscription growth, and we hope you are too!