In good times or bad, the right Customer Success Manager (CSM) can solve problems and deliver great value for customers. But that’s only if they are empowered in the right way. For any company leveraging a customer-led growth strategy, that means positioning CSMs as strategic advisors for clients.
Aaron Woods, the Director of Strategic & Federal CS at LaunchDarkly, shared his team’s journey towards establishing CLG and the significant role scaling is playing in it.
Product-Led Growth (PLG) *and* Customer-Led Growth (CLG)
Let’s get one thing clear: There is no “versus” between PLG and CLG.
“CLG works alongside PLG. It’s not an either-or; you can operate both programs at once,” said Aaron.
And he should know, as that’s exactly what’s happening at LaunchDarkly today.
During the early days at LaunchDarkly, PLG was in the driver's seat. It helped them get the buy-in from users, and growth was happening all within the product. This is typical during the early stages of a startup. Aaron went on to say that it was “hard to justify a true Customer Success team at a 30-person small startup. We were very focused on landing smaller customers at a rapid pace. The risk and investment made it difficult to justify the reward. It’s high effort, and it’s expensive!” Today, PLG plays a massive role in LaunchDarkly’s Self-Serve products.
If done right, PLG is used as a foundational path to CLG because, through data, it helps uncover patterns and actions that drive outcomes like product adoption and recurring revenue.
There’s nothing wrong with those outcomes, and some companies have decided that PLG is enough. However, the critical outcome PLG can’t generate is strategic account growth.
That’s where Customer-Led Growth steps in.
With a CLG approach, the goal isn’t always getting immediate results via revenue, Aaron said. Instead, it’s about delivering value and building trust. Why? Because if you focus on driving value today, you’ll build deeper trust, and you’ll have a higher propensity to earn more business with your customers over time.
At LaunchDarkly, CLG is important because it’s how they engage their customers, build proficiency within their user base, and give them reasons to continue adopting the tool. Their CSMs are positioned to strategically lead all of these outcomes in a way that’s tailored to each account.
Automation and CLG
To elevate their CSMs to execute on this level, they first needed to focus on one very important thing: automation.
Automation is a hot topic in customer success right now, and it doesn’t take much to see why: The tech layoffs followed by the theme of “do more with less” have been a big contributing factor to its popularity.
If you’re also ready to scale or automate, Aaron recommends starting simple. “Look at your CSMs day-to-day and identify what is happening every single day on their accounts. What are the things your CSMs are doing that aren’t making an impact for the customer?”
On your list should be things like:
- Viewing or updating data in multiple places
- Creating reports
- Enabling themselves on the product
“Three or four years ago, these were actions a CSM needed to do regularly to retain an account, and these actions don’t necessarily require critical thinking,” said Aaron. “These actions are happening across all accounts, and we have to figure out how to reduce the cognitive burden of getting to an answer or next step.”
The automation of these and other rudimentary tasks unlocks your CSMs to be more efficient with their time and be more strategic with their customers.
A central data hub: Instead of logging into different systems to view and update data, give them a centralized tool that allows them to capture data–leave it to your tech stack to update asynchronously.
Easy report creation: Build actionable reports that centralize critical data in seconds, allowing CSMs to quickly execute specific actions.
Creating a product expert: CSMs should be product experts. Enable them to drive consultative conversations with their customers and arm them with viewpoints to exhibit what “great” looks like for the customer. This will allow your CSMs to truly start uncovering the unique ROI for each account, capturing success stories, and setting up the outcomes. “That’s a truly strategic focus”, Aaron explained, “these are the items that are incredibly difficult to reproduce at scale.”
How LaunchDarkly reoriented its CSM team
Scaling doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s a company-wide effort. To kick things off, the LaunchDarkly team has been focused on automating their customer Onboarding process because they believe in setting a strong foundation for each and every LaunchDarkly member via their scaled offerings.
While they’re building this out using the help of teams like learning & enablement and developer relations to generate content, they’re also working closely with sales on change management. The story here differs from the original narrative we hear in CS:
“Customer Success starts when the deal closes.”
Most recently, LaunchDarkly introduced the “Success Program”, a foundational element that drives value for customers at every tier. The Success Program is a scaled offering that is focused on increasing the proficiency of all LaunchDarkly members (users of the platform) via an automated, multi-channel engagement strategy. This new resource, coupled with LaunchDarkly’s increased focus to clearly articulate the customer’s onboarding path before they buy, demands that sellers be enabled on how to position the program as well as how and when to engage additional resources such as CSMs or Professional Services to complete the plan.
Ultimately, what’s important here is that all teams are aligned on not only their contributions to “scaling” CS but also the impact it has on their respective teams.
One significant move towards CLG that the LaunchDarkly team made as they were forming Customer Success was bringing together all revenue-generating teams under one department. That means that the entire department is aligned on a consistent and clear set of goals instead of having different goals across different parts of the business.
What’s next for the LaunchDarkly team
The LaunchDarkly team will continue scaling their efforts to position their CSMs as critical thinkers on specific accounts.
With Catalyst, they’re working on giving their CSMs the power to personalize customer engagements through email automation and leveraging playbooks and tasks to capture revenue-generating actions so they can measure, correlate, and report on the impact of their team.
Want to learn more about Catalyst? Book a demo.