I caught up recently with an ex-customer from my time at Spredfast. She commented on how much she valued all of the extra curricular materials and activity that we provided to her while she’d been a customer and how much she missed it now that she’d moved on.
It struck me as an incredible lost opportunity; here’s an ex-customer, an evangelist and supporter of ours who, once she left our customer’s organisation, has been cast out into the proverbial SaaS darkness.
Naryanan Murthy the founder of Indian IT consulting giant Infosys made the oft quoted observation that “Our assets walk out of the door each evening. We have to make sure that they come back the next morning.”
The same is true of the teams and individuals that work at our customers’ and clients’ organisations. Although we fanatically track the adoption and usage of the software, it’s the humans users who ensure subscription renewal and are the source of advocacy for our products.
The relationships we develop with our customers are not actually with the corporate entity that pays the fees or software subscription, it’s with the individuals with whom we have our daily interactions. It seems remarkable to me that we don’t go to greater lengths to keep these individuals in the fold when they move jobs.
Logically it is highly likely these people are going to a similar, or even more senior role than the one they had when they were our nearest and dearest. It’s also highly likely that they are going to an organisation that’s using a competitor product. Sometimes there’s a case of preference drag; where the fangirl customer brings us along into a new organisation, but I have never seen an instance where that process is industrialised.
It seems to me that if you calculated the CAC (customer acquisition cost) of past customers against new prospects they’d be infinitely more cost effective (I am assuming here that your product isn’t a dog) and being used to whatever issues your product might have, once they re-sign their churn will be lower and the LTV (life time value) higher.
It wouldn’t be difficult or even expensive to simply do these three things;
- Keep them on the mailing list. If you must, you can exclude them from product sensitive info – if you’re that way inclined; my default is to overshare – typically it’s hard enough just to get them to pay attention, let alone share anything that’s sensitive.
- Invite them to all of the customer events; the annual conference, the xmas client drinks, whatever. God knows the sales guys will invite enough random so-called prospects who will never buy your software, so why not include people, who already know and love you?
- Promote alumni / customer networking; establish a facebook / Linkedin group, hold alumni networking breakfasts in that overly large broad room the VCs are always teasing you for and do drinks in decent pub twice a year.
There’s probably a similar case to be made for ex-employes, as long as they didn’t go to work for ‘those bastards’. And even if they did; what might they let slip after a few Pimms at the summer party?
Instead of thinking of past customers and employees as ex-spouses to be scorned and ignored, perhaps we should see them more as ex-flatmates; as long as they didn’t run off with the good set of cooking knives we should stay in touch and keep the flame of friendship alive.