How to Adopt a Long-Game Approach to Your Customer Renewal Strategy
Sales teams understand that the customer’s perception of your product, which leads to a sale, is formed long before the actual negotiation. In fact, over 60% of the buying process is already underway before customers engage your business.
Unfortunately, they don't treat renewals the same way. SaaS companies commonly take renewals for granted by checking in with a customer only 90 days before the contract is about to expire and sending an invoice 30 days prior to renewal. By then, it’s already too late because the customer may have faced issues with your product that you aren’t aware of, and they may have already decided to churn.
You need to adopt a proactive approach to renewals by offering a high-touch customer experience right from day one with smooth onboarding, seamless handoffs, quick wins, and regular check-ins along the customer journey. This laser-like focus on the customer’s goals continually highlights the value they are getting from your product, setting the stage for no-brainer renewals.
Personalize your onboarding process to instantly engage customers
Eighty-five percent of executives agree that successful onboarding is the answer to creating loyal customers. It is the ideal opportunity to provide that first moment of value and ensure that customers are on their way to becoming proficient with your tool. The difference between effective onboarding and a product tour lies in helping customers experience the product, not just exposing them to it. This isn’t done by employing a one-size-fits-all procedure. You need to personalize the onboarding experience for each customer’s unique goals so that they are instantly hooked and excited about using it.
Personalized onboarding begins with getting to know who the users are, what they will be using your product for, and the problems they are hoping to solve with it. Customize the onboarding process for the user to lay a solid foundation for your renewal strategy:
- Send welcome emails and create a sense of familiarity by addressing new users by their first name.
- Give a reminder of the value they are about to achieve in just a few sentences. For example, at Coordinate, we send out a welcome email saying: “Welcome Andrea, you’re about to create your first project with our customer portal. This’ll help you collaborate with your customers in a shared space and lay out a clear path to achieving their goals. This 2-minute tour will guide you through the basics.”
- Personalize your follow-up and re-engagement emails based on the usage of each customer. Customers don't always know what they're missing. If they haven't properly set up the tool or haven't used a certain feature, they might think your software can only do a fraction of what it can actually do. So nudge users toward tasks and ask if they need additional guidance.
- Set up a 1:1 frequency that you can use to build a relationship with customers. When you have an established relationship, the renewal conversation becomes that much easier.
Ensure seamless handoffs between internal teams to maintain a tight focus on customer goals
Customer handoffs are turbulent for customers. If they feel like they're falling through the cracks during transitions between your teams, they'll consider canceling. So one of the best ways to ensure they continually renew is to make handoffs airtight. It is the single most important step to renewals because you’re not only handing off customer responsibility; you’re also passing on the customer goals and the original vision of success.
Your sales team has excelled at landing the right customers by showing them a vision of success with your product. You need to make sure that the achievement of those goals remains in tight focus as the customer moves through the pipeline, from sales and implementation to support and customer success (depending on how departments are organized at your company). Only then will renewals and expansions become a core process that’s woven into the customer lifecycle rather than a staccato conversation that feels more like a last-ditch attempt to sell.
In practice, though, SaaS companies are missing the mark in their renewal strategies because of choppy transitions, where the initial presentation on customer goals collects dust in a drawer (or worse, the sales rep’s head), and there’s no clear accountability. During messy handoffs, the engagement with key stakeholders declines, and customer success teams are left scrambling to reengage, often with a user who’s not the decision maker on renewals. Instead, secure your renewals by making handoffs seamless:
- Do a walkthrough with the customer on how your company handles transitions. This big picture view will give customers (and teams) a sense of timelines and the guidance they can expect to receive at each stage.
- Bring in customer success teams earlier in the process, either before closing the deal or shortly after, so that all teams are aligned on what the customer hopes to achieve with the product.
- Document the information gathered during sales meetings that’s related to goals, stakeholders, purchase decisions, and potential obstacles with the help of a project management tool that all teams can access. This decentralization of knowledge keeps key details handy and functions as a living, breathing work in progress.
- Hold internal handoff meetings (especially before customer calls) to go over the information collected and fill in any knowledge gaps.
Highlight product value early in the journey with quick wins
Your enterprise customers are keen to see value from their purchases. While you set eyes on helping them achieve their big goals a year down the line, pepper the customer journey with quick wins at intervals so that it builds momentum and helps the customer see immediate value. These bite-sized wins increase user engagement and become the building blocks to your renewal conversations with customers.
SaaS companies make the mistake of waiting too long to celebrate a customer win. Consequently, the customer may lose patience and not see enough value, even though your product may be building upon smaller goals to achieve the North Star that you pinpointed. This puts the customer at risk of churn when you could easily steer them toward achieving a quick win, confirm success, and celebrate by checking it off in a customer portal.
- Collaborate to build a customer roadmap and make room for a series of mini wins.
- Document the wins. This part is equally if not more important than celebrating them. The strength of your renewal strategy lies in the value your product has already brought the customer. When you confirm and document wins, you bring them in front of all the stakeholders and make renewals a breeze.
- Bring feedback into the process with a tool like Coordinate, which records a continuous stream of discussions about each goal. On a single page, you can see everything you've accomplished with that customer, all the value they've received, and a list of acknowledgments or feedback from anyone on their team.
Perform regular check-ins to maintain close contact with your high-value accounts
Your biggest accounts deserve — even expect — a white-glove customer experience. Their goals are constantly changing and evolving, and you need to be present to take stock of these shifts and keep your product useful to them. You can rely on automation with CRM tools for your smaller accounts, but your high-value accounts need a human touch.
Check-ins are much more than a customary “how are things going” call. They are opportunities in disguise for customer success managers to reaffirm your product value, offer additional guidance, and even introduce a complementary feature that may solve a specific problem for the customer. Doing this makes renewals a natural stepping stone. In fact, 69% of support leaders agree that “the strongest customer relationships are built through personalized support experiences.” Maximize your check-ins to make your customers feel supported and looked after:
- Reach out to struggling and silent customers and offer to alleviate their stress with quick solutions and additional expertise.
- Ensure that all stakeholders can view progress and recognize the value of your product. If one stakeholder leaves, you are at risk of churn unless the others can pick up where they left off. Involving all stakeholders mitigates the risk of churn because you don’t need to convince them all over again to approve the renewals.
Make your customer renewal strategy a two-way conversation with constant feedback
The success of your customer renewal strategy isn’t owned by one department. It’s a collective agreement to provide value and nurture customers to a point where they stick with you. When you seek constant feedback, you are able to improve your product based on customer experience and an analysis of their usage.