Engaging with Your Customer: How 2 Achieve Customer Success
At the core of any successful startup is a strong understanding of its customers. Throughout this semester’s #How2Tuesdays series, we’ve heard from experts that many startups fail because they never truly put themselves in their customers’ shoes to design a problem-solving product. So how can founders go above and beyond to serve their customers? Earlier this month, the Blank Center welcomed Jesse Bardo, Director of Startup Evangelism for Silicon Valley Bank, for How 2 Achieve Customer Success. Drawing from his experiences founding and growing Evertrue, as well as his work with SVB, Jesse offered us some practical advice for B2B customer success. Here are our favorite insights:
“Building great stuff, but don’t have great customers.” Through his work for Silicon Valley Bank, Jesse works closely with Boston-area founders as they grow their ventures. He told us that while he sees many entrepreneurs building innovative products and services, not all of them have found great customers. This presents a problem because, without honing in on who your customers are, you will likely end up using resources to develop a product which doesn’t exactly meet their needs and therefore doesn’t sell. To avoid this fate, Jesse recommends making a sincere effort to get to know your customer. This involves spending time with different people you think could use the product in order to better understand their needs. Jesse noted that, in B2B relationships, the person buying your product or service might not be the person ultimately using it, so it’s important to understand how you can satisfy the needs of both.
“How can we help you?” Customer success was at the forefront of Jesse’s efforts as he built Evertrue, the innovative software which helps college advancement officers engage with alumni. Conceived in the years when Facebook and LinkedIn were gaining traction with young professionals, EverTrue was originally designed as a social networking platform for connecting with alumni from your alma mater. Upon analyzing the early adopters of their technology, the Evertrue team found that advancement officers were getting the most use out of what they had built, using it to connect with potential donors. This led Evertrue to have more conversations with advancement officers about their needs, allowing the venture to successfully pivot and tailor the product specifically towards this segment.
Customer Success as a Differentiator: Among the many priorities for startups, just how important is customer success? For Jesse and the EverTrue team, focusing on customer success made a huge difference when the venture was securing funding. At the time, Jesse believed EverTrue was not technologically advanced compared to many of their peers in the prestigious TechStars accelerator. But interest in groundbreaking technology is only one factor in the thought-process of potential investors, who also communicate extensively with a venture’s clients before investing. EverTrue’s clientele of advancement officers answered glowingly when asked about how the venture had worked with them to solve problems, which helped EverTrue secure $5 million in venture financing from Bain Capital. Jesse and his team’s dedication to diving into their early clients’ problems had paid off. The exact methods for achieving customer success will be different for each company. In Jesse’s case, this even included filming a “Reunion Crashers” spoof video for his clients. But all ventures have the opportunity to build strong relationships with their customers by listening and engaging with them to solve problems.
We hope you enjoyed these customer success insights from Jesse’s talk. On Tuesday, December 3rd at 5pm, we’ll be welcoming Craig Dubitsky, founder of Hello Products and Babson Entrepreneur in Residence for How to Make a Product, our last How 2 Tuesday of the semester! Register for the event at https://h2opps.eventbrite.com.