Customer Success 7 min read

How community can help you hit your retention and expansion goals

Remco de Vries • November 29, 2021

Retention, expansion, cross- and upsell: it’s on every Customer Success team’s mind. 

But there are simply too many factors at play when it comes to ensuring a customer continues to grow, especially if you, the CSM, want to be the one driving that growth.

Even with a CRM, CS CRM, or other types of tools offering tons of insights, you might not get the whole picture. That’s where community comes in to give you an on-the-ground, holistic view.

But where do you start? Let’s take a look.

What factors influence expansion opportunities?

The truth of the matter is: before you actually get to make a case to a customer, there's a whole range of internal and external factors to consider.

Internal factors to consider

Internal factors are pushing YOU—the CSM—to define expansion opportunities. These could be things like:

  1. Health scores and success plans: is the customer doing well?
  2. License utilization: are they already successfully using what they bought in the first place? Are they close to renewal?
  3. Internal expansion and revenue goals: are you hitting your goals, or are you behind on them?
  4. Product development: are there any features being released that you know will be a gamechanger for a customer?

External factors to consider

External factors at play could be any of the following:

  1. Budget: is there even any room to grow their investment or ARR?
  2. Value perception: do they see value in using your products? And if so, how much?
  3. Sales intention: how invested is the Sales team in expansion? Is it worth their time?
  4. Relationships: who’s your champion, and how deeply are you embedded in the organization?
  5. Customer Satisfaction: are they a happy customer?

All of these should be taken into account when relevant, before you can present a case to a customer to expand their existing usage of your products or services.

Sounds like a lot? It is, but it’s not impossible. To make sure you identify the right expansion opportunities at the right time, you need to create an expansion plan.

What’s an expansion plan?

An expansion plan is a structured way of identifying expansion opportunities. As you could take away from the above, there are quite a few variables involved, including some number crunching. 

First, you need a structured way to approach your data. But when it comes to data, remember: your CRM can only get you so far because it’s just one part of the picture— not a holistic view.

You don’t want to be that CSM that offers irrelevant features to customers or tries to pursue an expansion conversation when they’re not really open to it—leaving a mark on the relationship as a whole.

The limits of CRM data

Now, if you have taken anything from the factors listed above, it’s that you need data. And lots of it. However, you’ll often find that even with a CRM, CS CRM, or other types of tooling feeding you numerous insights, it’s still hard to determine if an account has the potential to grow. 

The reason for this is that most CRM-type data has a limited scope. It will only show you how the account is doing within defined constraints. Those constraints are the relationship as it’s defined from the start. Customer bought products X and Y, and is using them like Z. The account is healthy due to them doing well within those constraints, and the resulting health score will not easily show the potential for growth.

Thus, as a supplement, you’ll need community engagement data.

Community engagement data

Community is way more than customer engagement. It's a central data point to how you grow customer revenue – and we'll cover how in the rest of this article.

A customer community has many purposes for Customer Success teams. You can, for instance, use a community to increase customer self-service, add a one-to-many engagement layer to your communication or structure a Product Feedback & ideation process—AND close the loop. All very valuable.

A newer use case is to use a customer community as the centralized hub for your digital-led Customer Success strategy

As a CSM, your customer success CRM is your single source of truth. Your customers should also have a single platform to learn about all things that are your products and services, and meet other customers to boot!

Why? Simple, your customers expect to be able to do things themselves when it comes to adoption of your products and services. Community is customer-led growth.
Why not have a single location for all Customer Success content? Wouldn’t that be easier? We think so.

How community boosts your expansion strategy

By building a community and centralizing all of your customer success content, you gain many insights into the way your customers engage and what they’re interested in. 

In turn, these insights help you expand and can amplify your expansion plan with activities like:

  1. Peer-to-peer best practice sharing. A CSM telling your customers to adopt a feature is silver. A customer telling other customers they should be adopting a feature is GOLD. You’ll find that just giving customers a platform to share, will drive adoption and expansion without you even being involved in the conversation.

  2. Educational content at the right time (their time). Making sure you have educational content on your products, features and use-cases available on demand will enable customers to check them out at their own time. You’ll promote utilization and adoption, key indicators in any expansion plan, without you ‘pushing’ them for a decision. You’ll find customers are very willing to learn and improve.

  3. Special community content, like webinars. Enrich your digital strategy by hosting a monthly webinar to just explain the new features you have been releasing, or that new product customers have been waiting for. Customers that show up for that webinar are clearly interested! This is a clear, measurable sign of engagement and an indicator of a potential for expansion.

  4. Beta groups. While you’re building or releasing new features, a community enables you to create beta groups. Customers that are invited into these groups can help you test new features, and give feedback to increase the likelihood of adoption. But, as a nice side effect, they are thereby also already very invested themselves increasing the chance of them purchasing. 

It also helps with segmentation to identify groups of customers that have similar goals, success plans, needs, or use-cases. These could also be customers in a similar maturity stage, trying to solve a similar problem, or who are all coming up for renewal soon (i.e. within a quarter). By identifying and grouping customers, you can “check yourself” and make sure there’s an actual need or opportunity.

  1. Community feedback and ideation. By giving your customers a platform to give feedback, acting on that feedback, and potentially even releasing features and changes due to that feedback, you are setting up a flow of development that leads to way higher adoption rates. When customers are invested in giving feedback and investing in your product, it’s a leading indicator of potential expansion.

Final Thoughts

Your community isn’t just customer engagement, it's a central data point to how you grow customer revenue.

By giving customers a single source of truth for self-service, one-to-many engagement, 24/7 educational content, you set them up for success, growth, and overall satisfaction.

For all of these reasons, community facilitates customer-led growth to help you hit and exceed your expansion goals, while simultaneously providing tangible value to your customers. A win for all.

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By Remco de Vries

VP of Marketing at inSided. Passionate about pipeline. Connect on Linkedin

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