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By Donna Weber, author of Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions

Congratulations! You closed another new deal. You ring the bell, everyone cheers, and you pop open the champagne. It’s time to celebrate, right? Not necessarily. 

Just because you acquire a new logo doesn’t mean you are rolling in profits. All that new revenue sales teams work so hard to acquire gets eroded when customers aren’t immediately engaged and onboarded. Until you master onboarding new customers at scale, your customers and your teams suffer, and both will eventually leave. 

Do You Have A Tsunami Of New Customers Coming At You? 

Now, that’s a great problem to have. You invested in sales and marketing and now there’s a wave of new customers heading your way. The white-glove treatment that worked so well (and that customers love) is now holding you back. What got you here won’t get you to the next level because customer-facing teams can’t keep up with the demand. Your backlog grows and you can’t keep throwing bodies at new accounts coming at you. New customers end up frustrated and disillusioned, not delighted. That’s no way to start a new relationship.

Are You Suffering From Special Snowflake Syndrome?

When you treat every new customer as a “special snowflake,” you end up in trouble—fast. All that new revenue that sales and marketing teams worked so hard to acquire gets eaten up by endless hours of handling customers with special care. Customers pause and cancel their payments when implementations take too long. You face eroding margins, frustrated customers, exhausted employees, and increased churn—from both customers and your employees.

A company with whom I worked suffered from the special snowflake syndrome. This medical practice software startup was doubling its revenue year over year. Unfortunately, all that special snowflake treatment cost them upwards of half a million dollars last year. Delayed deployments and customer cancellations ate into their bookings numbers. Plus, they couldn’t recognize revenue until the customer system went live. Customers quickly became frustrated, overwhelmed, and disengaged. 

Why You Need To Scale 

Remember that wave of new customers coming at you? The investment to bring in new bookings means current approaches only work when you add more people to manage the waves of new customers. But then you can’t scale.

Scaling is the ability for a business to grow revenues faster than expenses. When you don’t figure out the scale opportunity, everyone suffers. Customers experience delays in resolving issues. The loudest customers get all the attention, while others hear crickets. The backlog grows, and internal teams are overwhelmed and exhausted. Your growth is now limiting you. That’s why it’s time to scale. Here are four ways to start scaling and driving your company’s growth. 

1. Deploy The 80/20 Rule

Rather than treating every new customer with special care, explore a foundational journey that fits 80% of customers. One way to do this is to learn from your best accounts. Interview these accounts, learn their best practices and codify them for all accounts. Then, make those special use cases the exception, not the rule.

That’s exactly what I did when I worked at an analytics company. The perception was that every customer was unique. I challenged this impression, learned from our best customers, and built a proactive and prescriptive process to quickly deliver customer value. That process turned into the Orchestrated Onboarding™ framework, which I currently use with high-growth companies today to transform new customers into loyal champions. 

2. Sell To Your Ideal Customers 

Rather than closing any account possible and then struggling to make your product fit, explore defining an ideal customer profile (ICP).  An ICP is a description of the type of company that would realize the move value from your product. Once you define the ICP, then leverage the 80/20 rule, defined above, to build a systemized way to drive those customers to value quickly. And then stick to it. 

3. Enable customers with a one-to-many approach

When it comes to customer enablement, there’s a huge opportunity to profit from the useful approach mastered by the professionals in Customer Education. Effective training is designed to be a one-to-many approach. Courses are developed for repeatable delivery, provided by many instructors, and attended by multitudes of customers. Once self-paced courses—or tech-touch—enter the picture, the reach scales exponentially, with little to no cost for each additional person enabled. 

Rather than each Customer Success Manager (CSM) or Onboarding Specialist rolling up their sleeves to onboard and enable each new account, create offerings that are repeatable, role-based, and hands-on. 

  • Repeatable content. Dedicate resources to design and develop repeatable content that enables customers along their lifecycle. A benefit of this approach is that customers receive a consistent experience, so the success of the learning is not dependent on the particular person assigned to them. 
  • Hands-on. What most CSMs call training is not actually training. A high-level product overview and demonstration as part of onboarding doesn’t provide the effect it should. A more effective approach is to provide hands-on, interactive training that is specific to the work people do in your product. Interactive courses are especially important, because when customers retain what they learn, they no longer lean on your teams for training.
  • Role-based. Rather than “drinking from a fire hose” to learn the whole product at once, people take the specific courses designed for their unique roles, at the appropriate points in their customer journey. A best practice is to modularize learning and to provide just-in time enablement.

4. Deliver digital guidance

Many teams stuck in ad-hoc hell expect technology to put out their fires and make their lives easier. But in reality, it usually makes things worse. Applying new software systems on top of ineffective or nonexistent processes only creates more challenges for you and your teams.

When you have these processes in place, tech-driven in-product guidance, learning management systems, marketing automation, and customer success platforms can make scaling a reality. The right technology—at the right time—allows you to dramatically increase the volume of customers you can engage without adding an exponential amount of costs and resources. What’s critical is to deliver the right content to the right user at key moments in their journey with your product.   

Here’s an example: I worked with a content security platform company that built an onboarding email campaign with training videos. Customers’ emails were based on what users accomplished, or not, within the company’s product. We found that customers who read more emails and watched the prescribed videos dove into the product further and filed 10 percent fewer support tickets. And the tickets they did file asked more complex questions because they already knew the basics. This digital engagement quickly drove customers to value, reduced the costs of supporting customers, and allowed the company to scale.

The Takeaway

While all your customers are special in their own ways, this doesn’t mean you need to approach each one exclusively. Design a journey that all customers can follow on their own, or at least during the beginning of their time with you. Supply customers with the best practices to reach their goals as they use your product. Deliver the appropriate type of engagement to get customers to value. Then explore how technology will enable you to deliver your customer journey at scale.

DONNA WEBER is the world’s leading expert in customer onboarding. For more than two decades, she’s helped high-growth startups and established enterprises create customers for life. Her new book is Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions. Learn more at donnaweber.com.