Business owners rely on a lot of metrics to evaluate whether their business is growing or taking a toll down the hill. Monthly active users, month-by-month growth rate, user retention rate and what not?
But at the end of the day, what matters is how your overall revenue is fairing against the cost of acquiring customers.
Eric Ries, the pioneer of Lean Startup movement, coined a term for all these secondary metrics — Vanity metrics. If you are not filling in your pockets by the end of the day; the number of active users, number of leads and other Vanity metrics can serve as a false pretense of growth.
(If you have not read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, I would highly recommend you do so, especially if you are running a startup or managing a team)
I am not saying that these metrics should not be tracked and be optimized by your team’s effort. Tracking and optimizing these metrics is absolutely necessary. But they should be aligned with the end goal of your business — revenue.
Suppose your user base is growing 100% month on month, the right question to ask would be how much revenue do this 100% month on month growth is bringing.
What matters is how you optimize your efforts which in turn will help you grow your revenue, eventually growing the overall business. With more revenue, you can push back money in to accelerate your marketing efforts, hire quality engineers and sustain an accountable growth.
Marketing, sales and customer support are integral pathways which weave path for revenue growth.
A modern marketer is accountable for revenue(which is primarily a sales metric) and a modern sales guy has to be market and technology aware. Similarly, the support team should have basic qualities of tech, marketing, and sales. Though usually far seated; marketing, sales, and support need to work together for the greater good of the business.
A strong alignment of these three parts will help you formulate and act upon your end goals more clearly. In the end, the revenue growth will happen if you keep prospects aware of your platform (Marketing), make them customers (Sales) and retain them to keep on adding revenue (Support).
Marketing and Sales Coordination
“The new reality is that sales and marketing are continuously and increasingly integrated. Marketing needs to know more about sales, sales needs to know more about marketing, and we all need to know more about our customers.”
Jill Rowley, Chief Growth Officer, Marketo
Marketing and sales are the customer-facing sides of your business. Marketing brings in potential customers which sales team can turn in to paying customers. It is an utmost necessity that these teams collaborate to meet end goals of the company — the revenue target.
The marketing team present the company to the outside world and are responsible for building the desired perception of your brand or product. How they do it, is not the topic of this post.
The job is to get leads which salespeople can then convert into customers. In a lot of business vertical, and especially SaaS, a good chunk of leads coming in are junk. The number increases more if your business runs on a freemium model. Hence, it is important for the marketing team to bring quality leads so that your sales teams do not waste precious time on engaging with the wrong ones.
This is done through lead scoring. There are majorly two types of lead that marketing qualifies:
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
An MQL is a lead which is nurtured by the marketing team to make it ready for human interaction. The basic criteria for a lead to be qualified as MQL are to match the demographics, job/role description, business type, company size of your ideal customer persona.
Sales Qualified Leads(SQL)
An SQL is a lead which is ready for human interaction and is passed on to the sales team. Marketing team generally uses drip email campaigns to convert an MQL to SQL. As per your website navigation and business type, you can decide a par score for MQL to be considered as SQL.
Please note that, before putting efforts in building a framework for lead scoring, you need to decide whether you actually need lead scoring or not. A great article about this decision making can be found here.
On the other hand, the sales team needs to give feedback to marketing on the quality of leads. Sales team should find trends and hypothesis about the quality of leads.
The sales team needs to answer question such which leads converted fast and are high paying? They belong to which demographic, company size or product use case?
Our sales peers at Applozic constantly collate this data to give feedback to the marketing team. Based on the data provided by the sales team, the marketing team can optimize their efforts to bring in similar quality leads and build a better user persona to target effectively.
These activities can lower the cost of customer acquisition by concentrating on getting leads which have a higher chance of conversion.
Depending on the sales team’s feedback marketing team can improve a number of things such as messaging, content strategy, landing pages, use cases etc. The feedback can even help in bringing ideas for product roadmap if a sufficient number of customers are asking for a similar feature.
This is a virtuous circle of sales-marketing coordination, which becomes more efficient with every iteration.
Sales and Support Coordination
Sales and support team have to often work very closely for customer success and service. In many small teams, where there is no dedicated support team, it often drops down to sales (or marketing) to handle customer support.
As quality customer support can be the prime reason for customer retention, it is important to have sales and support team to collaborate for making it better.
Bonus: If you are looking for an intelligent customer support software for improving your customer support efficiency, we can help.
Once a deal is closed and the customer starts paying, sales team should clearly lay out what kind of support is been promised to the customer. The best way to do it is to make tiered support programs that resonate with your pricing plans.
The sales team should clearly handover the customer to support team with the designated level of support promised. This helps support team to optimize their efforts accordingly.
Sales and support coordination is also required while the customer is integrating your product into theirs. This is a major uphold in SaaS sales cycles.
Multiple sales calls, delayed integration and unsatisfied trial might result in longer sales cycles. Which in-turn can hamper the revenue goals. The best way is to have the sales and support team collaborate efficiently to help the customer make most out of the product during the trial period.
The support team can be a medium for sales team to upsell or cross-sell the product to customers. If a customer is overall happy with your product or services (This can be done by evaluating Net Promoter Score(NPS) of each customer), the support team can pitch in ideas to customers about additional features and upgradable plans.
Marketing and Support Coordination
Marketing and support teams, at times, are regarded as miles apart with less frequent interaction. Since major marketing involvement happens at the first touchpoint of the customer and the support team comes in when they already have been using the product for some time. Believe me, a good coordination of the two will help in making both their jobs easier.
Marketing can help build an efficient self-serve content bundle to take the load off the customer support. The customer support team can collate the data such as what kind of technical and generic issues customers are facing and what is the frequency of each such question. The marketing team can then act upon the aforementioned data.
The marketing team can include repetitive tech queries received by customer support teams in their documentation or product use instructions page. They can make self-help, support articles, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). This will help in reducing the workload on customer support team so that they can efficiently invest their time in handling more complex queries.
Also, once a prospect becomes a customer, the customer support team becomes the point of contact. Hence, they can easily collect information such as feedback on the product and feature requirements.
The customer support teams can thus forward this data to marketing and product teams to work upon.
Customer support teams help in referral marketing as well. As mentioned, support team becomes the point of contact for customers, they can essentially help in getting more customer through existing customer’s referral.
The customer support team can help the marketing team in defining the NPS for each customer and marketing team can ask this customer to refer the product to their network depending upon the NPS of that particular customer.
Three is the charm!
Efficiently aligning your marketing, sales, and support can help your company tremendously. You can always find more ways for these teams to collaborate depending on your business model.
The ideas of collaboration might be different for a SaaS business in comparison with a social media application or an on-demand services company.
But in the end, it boils down to a impeccable coordination between marketing, sales, and support teams.
These collaborations should be done keeping the end goal in mind, which is the revenue you get. I just got off a call with a leading entrepreneur who told me if we are not meeting our revenue goals perpetually, we should shut down the company. Harsh, but true.
There are companies who are excellent in marketing, there are the ones with charming salespeople who make you believe in their product and the ones with fall-in-love customer support. But the winning ones are where these three teams perform really well together. Have you heard them saying jack of all trades and master of none?
This doesn’t mean being brilliant in any aspect of the business is not beneficial for you. It certainly is. But, for the home run, you need to make sure that all the three customer-facing team collaborate exceptionally.
How to facilitate these collaborations?
For handling collaboration between teams, you need to put efforts in making a transparent framework which is easily understood by all the stakeholders involved.
You can use a number of tools to facilitate these collaborations. For marketing and sales collaboration and lead scoring, we use ActiveCampaign (a marketing automation tool) and Pipedrive(a sales CRM).
We use our own product for customer support — Kommunicate which handles our support team’s collaboration with sales and marketing team. Using Kommunicate, the support team can make FAQs to facilitate a self-serve platform.
Also, the marketing team can see customer queries and understand if there is a need for change in product messaging or positioning.
Similarly, using Kommunicate, the sales team can collaborate with support teams to assist customers in during trial and integration period to reduce the length of sales cycle and fasten the onboarding process.
Some would argue to build their own systems from ground zero. I would certainly not recommend this.
Putting efforts in building these tools might hamper the progress of your own product. SaaS businesses are thriving miraculously because they help businesses reduce workload in building tools to support their main business.
You may choose a number of tools which help you achieve these effective collaborations. In the end, it matters the most to have marketing, sales and support teams collaborating efficiently with each other for the end goal of the company — revenue growth.