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Mastering Customer Growth: 5 Core Principles for Tech Startups and Agencies

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“Efficient growth” is a 2024 theme on a constant loop.

We all want to do more with less and work smarter, not harder. Retaining customers increases customer lifetime value (CLTV). Research routinely tells us that keeping an existing customer is almost five times cheaper than acquiring a new one.

If you are a B2B tech startup or agency that is finding success with early sales and generating revenue with paid customers, let’s build on that momentum to continue to grow and retain your customers. 

When I’m working with clients, we focus on how to stop fighting fires and build efficient post-sales customer experiences and scalable processes. That supports customers who achieve their outcomes and predictable revenue. 

When starting from the ground up, I continue to return to these 5 guiding principles. 

  1. Voice of the Customer Feeds the Organization

  2. Advocacy Fuels Growth + Retention

  3. Health Scores Drive Focus

  4. Automation is Essential to Scale

  5. Learning Never Stops

There isn’t a required or sequential order to these principles - but when you follow this guidance you will see how the principles naturally build upon each other.

Let’s break them down together.

Voice of the Customer Feeds the Organization

Most companies start by solving a problem. Then as they grow, they forget what that problem was. They get bogged down by policies, hiring, and building extra features…while wondering why churn is up and growth is stagnant.

Often all it takes is refocus to the customer’s needs. 

Build processes to consistently get customer insights and distribute across GTM team, product, engineering, support, people, and IT. Without a focus on customers, teams veer off in different directions.

Realign everyone by regularly sharing customer insights and use them to set goals. 

Key Actions

Choose what works best for your organization for sharing. Ideas:

  • All Hands meetings

  • Slack

  • In-person customer interview

  • Meeting recordings

  • Roadmap/sprint planning sessions

Pick 1 or 2 of these approaches and build a system as you scale. Experiment with different formats. You will be surprised at how quickly other parts of your organization become experts in the customer!

Advocacy Fuels Growth + Retention

You are already sharing the voice of the customer internally - now let’s use that voice to build a customer advocacy program (Customer advocacy = customer promotion/recommendation for your brand, service, or product).

Consider what most people do before deciding to invest in a product or service: watch webinars, go through case studies, read reviews and testimonials. Let’s make sure your customers can do that too. 

Key Actions
  1. Underscore the why: advocacy provides tangible value proof for your GTM team to share customer outcomes. Be data-driven, set goals for advocacy metrics and incentivize requests to get everyone involved. 

  2. Make it easy for your team to ask. Develop a visual guide aligning advocacy types with the customer journey stages/use cases/customer outcomes. Role-play the ask!

  3. What's in it for me? Ensure customers see the direct benefits of showcasing their success. Advocacy elevates them within their professional community, expands their network, and positions them as subject matter experts. 

All of this means you’re powerfully using the voice of the customer to create a steady stream of advocacy content across the customer journey - supporting awareness, consideration, and loyalty. 

An added bonus is that advocacy conversations often lead to expansion and early renewal conversations!

Health Scores Drive Focus

Let’s build on the voice of the customer and advocacy by tapping into the goldmine of data that can help attract customers on repeat by creating a common language around customer data. 

Useful customer data doesn’t have to be complex. Use your founders, sales, marketing, support, and even non-customer facing roles - and look across systems - to brainstorm data points that can help us learn more about our customers.

Key Actions

Consider these common Health Score data inputs from companies I work with: 

  • Product usage

  • Engagement

  • CSM sentiment

  • Advocacy/outcomes

  • Expansion/upsell opportunities

Once you’ve identified what data is right for your business, you can use it to create your customer health score. The process of building a common language will generate many important conversations across the organization. 

Your team will be empowered to organize healthy and at-risk customers, taking specific actions on each. This simple score will define what success looks like, simplify reporting for your team/board, and align the team around the common language of successful customers.

Automation is Essential to Scale

We still need to do more with less. How can we get more efficient? 

Optimize your Go-to-Market (GTM) organization to automate low-value tasks, empowering your team to be Superhuman and focus on high-impact moments. 

Key Actions 

Consider how you can automate these GTM tasks using examples from my clients:

  1. Meeting tools for note-taking

  2. Templates/FAQ lists 

  3. Email tools to draft routine responses

  4. Dynamic customer health scores and risk alerts

  5. Set up communication workflows for renewals and engagement

Automations free up your Superhuman team for critical thinking and strategic planning around high-impact moments. The benefits are plenty: better risk mitigation, time for reusable content development, prioritized account planning, and more accurate forecasts. 

This results in leaner teams, enhanced efficiency, reduced employee burnout, increased customer engagement - and elevating Customer Success as a revenue center. 

Learning Never Stops

This is all happening as your tech startup or agency continues to grow rapidly. Often your team is learning about the product/service as it’s being developed.   

To keep up with these evolutions, my most successful clients establish a culture of continuous practice, testing, and feedback within their GTM teams. We collaborate to ensure that sales, marketing, and customer success are always learning together.

Key Actions
  1. Develop user-friendly learning tools for content creation, use cases, and sharing real world outcomes such as simple use case frameworks, video snippet library, and an outcome-based reference spreadsheet. 

  2. Activate your learning system by reviewing it against existing accounts, sharing with the product team, and keeping it engaging with quiz games, breakout discussions, and competitions.

  3. Review quarterly ensure internal enablement and customer materials are still accurate

Not only are your GTM teams growing with the product, the culture of continuous practice, testing, and feedback positively impacts your bottom line. 

That means deeper, more effective discovery, better qualification of prospects, more targeted onboarding focused around specific use cases/outcomes, and rapid identification of expansion opportunities. 

A Final Word

Efficient growth isn’t always easy.

However, activating these 5 Core Principles will allow your team to build a foundation using scalable processes to achieve predictable revenue and build customer lifetime value. 

About the Author

Kelly Olson, Fractional Chief Customer Officer

Kelly Olson

Fractional Chief Customer Officer

Kelly is a seasoned Fractional Chief Customer Officer and leader, known for pioneering customer success strategies in SaaS and agency settings, driving retention and growth with a strategic, empathetic approach honed over two decades.

Read Kelly’s bio

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