Doing whatever it takes to help the customer: where services fit in
As the founder, you have to do whatever it takes to get the customer live, seeing value quickly, and staying happy.
Nathan Barry, founder of convertkit ($20M+ ARR) said it really well in his thread. Highly recommend going through the full thread (linked above).
No matter who you're targeting, smb, mid-market or enterprise, at a certain point your product experience needs to be entirely self service.
But out of the gate, thats tough to pull off, since you want to generate revenue and get customer feedback as early as possible.
Plus, even if you are "100% self service", it's damn hard to get that experience right in a way that most users can achieve first value alone. Not easy. You will never activate 100% of your userbase.
On top of that, you are the expert. Even at just 10 customers live, or 50, or 100, you have seen what a successful configuration of the product looks like.
So your job is to make sure more customers can get set up to look like that.
I remember countless times literally logging into shopify accounts for Privy merchants, downloading the Privy app for them (with their permission), and building out campaigns inside Privy that I knew would drive revenue for them quickly, and demonstrate the value-add of the platform. I'd then make sure their PRivy account was integrated properly into mailchimp, or klaviyo or whoever they were using for email at the time.
I did that because I knew what worked for other merchants, and wanted to replicate that success for as many merchants as I could.
Doing this manual work, at no cost to the merchant, helped me understand exactly what we needed to build to reduce time to value for the next cohort of merchants onboarding to Privy.
Had I not done the dirty work, we would have had to rely purely on what we were hearing from existing users, even though they didn't "know" what to do with the product yet.
Building the same campaign types over and over again, helped me see which use cases drove value.
We then branded some of them like "cart savers" and marketed those use cases, and eventually turned them into "plays" that were "single click" in our product.
As a self serve product you should be at a minimum tracking a simple funnel:
New Accounts > Active account > Conversion to paid > Retention
That initial activation rate is tough. But so important. Thats where my free labor really helped us early on.
As we expanded into multiple products, this got much much harder. Are they trying to onboard product 1, product 2, product 3?
And again, we found ourselves in a spot where there would be tremendous benefit to just rolling up our sleeves and getting accounts set up.
The problem was at this point, we were past $5M ARR, larger team, established support and success teams that had their lanes. Support was focused on answering tickets, quickly. Success was focused on coaching and strategy, but not actually publishing campaigns, because that would be tough to pull off for a high volume business like ours.
Yet this is the perfect phase to take the type of "service I used to offer in the early days, and formalize it into paid onboarding services.
If you take the time to list out and price a onboarding package, and separately a managed service package, a few things happen:
- Sales can distinctly speak to the value of the customer success program (coaching and strategy) vs what is included in services for $.
- You can generate meaningful non-dilutive funding as customers buy the service. In today's world, all revenue matters, even though this is not MRR.
- You will chip away at the activation metric. These customers will be activated perfectly, which should lead to improved long term retention if you're confident in the value and setup playbook.
- The customer will realize value without having to lift a finger, which in many cases is an objection to closing.
- You'll learn exactly how to improve the product for self serve, by doing the work repeatedly.
On top of that, you may not realize what your support and CS team are doing every day, but the reality is so much of the best on those teams will be actually providing their book of business a service like this, so you might as well monetize it.
Or, if the price is listed, you can always use it as a negotiating lever to throw it in at no cost.