I love the game of tennis because it actually exercises my strategy muscle. I also love watching tennis matches and listening to the commentators because the say things that so often can be used anecdotally to demonstrate something about business.
So with spring in the air, I’m going to dust off one of those tennis thoughts and use it to explain why I believe you need to foster excellence in all your touchpoints with customers.
For one reason or another, I took up tennis later in life. As an adult recreational club player, the technician in me wanted to understand the game and play it well. I had played softball for eons, which actually gave me the eye-hand-ball coordination and made me accustomed to reacting to things coming at me fast. So I quickly adapted into the game. My strength was my fore-hand shot and return of serve. Something clicked in me that return of serve was like covering a base in the infield – the ball comes at you fast, you stop it and then redirect it to where it’s the most advantage. After a couple of years, I wanted to get better and I wanted to play at the inter-club league level. I found a great tennis coach, signed up for lessons and told him my goal.
His response was… okay, we’ll look at all your shots. We will make sure that they are all at a consistent level of quality. Then we’ll work on raising the bar.
It was a lesson that to really play at a certain level, even if you have a strength, you also need to not have a weakness in your overall game.
Pro tennis players, though they do have individual “weapons” they can rely on, also have a level of consistency with all shots. If you always moved around your back-hand, there would be a point in a time where you might face a player that was able to push you out to the side of the court and leave you over exposed on the forehand side. So to be better prepared to climb up the rankings table, they work on making sure that they don’t have weaknesses that can be used against them.
So why is that such an important lesson for business?
Because by focusing only on our strongest customer touchpoint, we risk under delivering on another.
Of course the one customer touchpoint that everyone usually focuses the most attention on is acquisition, in one form or another whether it is sales or marketing. It is critical to business to be concerned about getting customers. If you don’t have customers at all, then you aren’t in business. But if you can’t keep customers or grow your customer base, than you don’t stay in business either. Especially for companies that have business models that are based on repeat business – like a subscription SaaS Model.
The industry is looking at this more and more, with a focus on understanding your customer lifecycle and knowing your related metrics. Things like the ratio between customer acquisition costs and lifetime value.
If we only focus on acquisition, then we may acquire customers to only lose them later. We need to keep customers long enough to be profitable.
So let’s step back and look at some common touchpoints – Acquisition, Onboarding, Adoption, Retention, Advocacy, and Growth. Each of them can spawn a separate post or series of posts in itself, for now let’s just look at them from a high level.
Acquisition is the big one, the one that you must have or you don’t the others anyway. The goal is to get a customer, and the measurement is whether or not you achieve the sale. Acquisition is really broken down into smaller touchpoints that correlate to the buying process for the customer. As business people we need to understand what this is for our customer segments, and match our sales funnels and marketing activities to shorten the time it takes for the customer to buy.
Onboarding is about making sure the customer successfully engages from the outset. It is the point in time when you are most vulnerable to churn. The way to successful onboard people is to give them what they need to be successful with the product right from the start. It’s providing an early wow factor or demonstration of why their buying decision was right. It’s about good fulfillment processes, and great training or demonstrations.
Adoption is making sure the customer achieves value from the product. Okay, you have them on board, but are they continuing to use it. It’s about measuring usage and customer health. This can be largely about ongoing support and service to make sure that the customer continues to be engaged.
Retention is about keeping customers. And though it’s about avoiding churn, it’s also about making sure that the customer lifetime extends as long as possible. It’s having processes in place where you can react if the customer health metrics indicate a customer is at risk of leaving. It’s about making sure that renewals go smoothly. And your sales processes around upselling, cross-selling or rebates. It’s about Loyalty programs.
Advocacy occurs when our customers promote us to other customers. It’s looking at things like implementing an ongoing process improvement plan around your net promoter score – customer success. It’s also making sure that you look at ways to inspire or incentivize customer s to promote your product to other people. It may be about finding an enterprise champion for your product or service inside a company and working with them to achieve wider adoption in their company.
I’ve split out Growth separate from Advocacy, though they have the same goal of growing our customer base, growth is more than just customers bringing us more customers. It’s about building things into the product that promotes a viral effect – growth hacking. It is the things that we do to make sure that our business scales to match the growth. It’s about continuously building in value, and demonstrating this value to customers.
So that’s it – a customer lifecycle 101, in some ways. With the hope that this top level view gets you thinking about what you do in your business around all these touchpoints, and advocating a business goal to have a full all-round high performant “game” when it comes to engaging with customers.
Now back to the tennis: I did manage to improve my game and play some league tennis doubles. Of course, I never forgot my weapon. I continued to use my strong fore-hand ground stroke and to not be afraid of big servers. But it’s not the only part of my game.