Your communication with your customer is the force multiplier that can unlock the full potential of your product. The advice, lessons, and encouragement you provide can guide your customer to achieve maximum return on their investment and drive growth that benefits both of you.
Engaging your stakeholders, whether they are high or low influence, can not only drive growth but also turn stakeholders into enthusiastic champions of your product. The following stakeholder engagement best practices are a great place to start:
- Build Key Relationships
- Use Data-Driven Communication
- Define and Standardize Engagement Plans
- Track and Analyze Your Engagements
- Proactively Take Action
The more meaningful communication you have with your customers, the better your relationship will be. That improved relationship will in turn have a direct impact on customer retention and opportunities for customer expansion.
The Stakeholder Engagement Framework
Not every stakeholder needs the same amount of attention, but every stakeholder does need some level of engagement. To get an idea of the type of engagement you should be providing, consider how your stakeholders fall into this customer stakeholder engagement framework:
- Low Influence, Low Expectation Stakeholders: For this segment, you will want to take a monitoring approach. Reach out with general, indirect automated digital communication such as emails about tips, webinars, and announcements on an as-needed basis.
- Low Influence, High Expectation Stakeholders: This segment is often made up of everyday users, and they should be kept informed with regular and frequent communications. Choose a general digital strategy that utilizes both direct and indirect contact that is responsive to these users’ needs and solves problems as they arise.
- High Influence, Low Expectation Stakeholders: These customers you will want to keep satisfied. Engaging these stakeholders will involve utilizing a more personalized digital strategy with a specific persona and outcomes for that persona. Direct contact should also be used, in conjunction with indirect communication such as personalized emails. You should be engaging this group 1-2 times per year.
- High Influence, High Expectation Stakeholders: This customer segment is the most time-intensive and will need to be managed closely, with communications going out on a quarterly basis. A personalized digital strategy should be used, along with outreach and frequent direct contact that offers just-in-time solutions to needs.
Segmenting stakeholders using this framework offers a way to better understand customer stakeholders’ expectations and needs by determining what outcome is most desirable for each type of stakeholder. Once a stakeholder’s needs and ideal outcomes are identified, the pathway to those outcomes will become more clear. However, every type of stakeholder can benefit from the following stakeholder engagement best practices:
1. Build Key Relationships
Your customer stakeholders can become powerful product advocates within their company and help to explain your shared goals and potentials among team members and the C-suite. Importantly, they can also help you map their company, introduce you to additional business units across the organization, and understand their organizational structure and business goals.
Once you have determined who these key customer stakeholders are, you need to understand what is important to them and when and how to engage them in the way that would be most valuable to them. It is critical to understand each stakeholder’s personal goal within their organization, and how your product can benefit them. This information will help you provide tailored messaging to stakeholders, and this valuable communication is key to building relationships. Ensure you record and share all your interactions with key stakeholders across your own team so that everyone is on the same page.
2. Use Data-Driven Communication
Every customer engagement takes place within the context of the customer experience. Your communication isn’t about building loyalty or establishing a friendship, you are trying to deliver value. As such, you need to know all you can about the customer’s current situation and proactively engage them with information that is relevant and beneficial.
Customer success metrics can reveal how a customer is using your product and the rate of value they are currently experiencing. Your engagements should either build on positive growth and prepare the customer for renewal and expansion or reinvigorate their need for your product and prevent potential churn. Customer data will tell if they are on the right track for success, and your follow-up actions should actively keep them on course. There should be a data-driven, goal-based reason behind every engagement and campaign you initiate.
3. Define and Standardize Engagement Plans
As you seek to add value with your engagements, you should be keenly aware of what type of stakeholder you are engaging and the regularity of high-touch conversation and low-touch correspondence being used. Understanding where each of your customer stakeholders falls into the engagement framework discussed earlier will make it easier to define the types of engagement that will bring the most value to each stakeholder. Ultimately, you will need to decide where customers fall on the continuum between only engagement that is personal and direct, and only engagement that is general and indirect.
No matter what stakeholder engagement plan you use, connect with your customers only when you have value to add, such as something relevant to share, a milestone to celebrate, or a new feature, training, or update that will improve the customer’s experience of your product.
4. Track and Analyze Your Engagements
Engaging with your stakeholders is not enough. You will want to continually measure success by using a scorecard that shows customer health and gives indicators of the success of customers and their engagement. Tracking stakeholder engagement can be used as a way to understand when there is an issue with a customer. Your manager may sign in more regularly, while the VP may only log in 1 time per week—this information can be used to turn an okay customer into a great customer.
It is important for each campaign to set specific goals, and for those goals to also be reflected on the scorecard. That way, you can monitor whether or not a campaign is progressing successfully. Did a campaign meet its goal of getting the customer to learn more about a new feature? If so, you can take that feedback and see how it affected the KPIs you are tracking for the adoption of the new feature.
The right customer success solution makes it possible to determine how engaged customers are, and with what communications, enabling you to constantly hone and iterate on previous success and learning.
5. Proactively Take Action
Once you have an accurate, live picture of your customer’s experience and have analyzed their engagement, you should be able to turn that information into practical action that anticipates the needs and preferences of your stakeholders.
In other words, it is important to have an eye on how engaged your stakeholders are, but it is equally important to be able and ready to act on that information. Set event-based triggers for automated or manual campaigns that notify your team when a customer may need a more personal follow-up if they are not engaging with the current communications. This allows your team to quickly launch pre-prepared materials to pursue expansion, prevent churn, or to take steps toward making your stakeholder into an advocate, for instance, by sending a Net Promoter Score campaign.
Stakeholder Engagement Best Practices That Work
The stakeholder engagement best practices outlined above can sharpen your stakeholder communication and ensure that stakeholders clearly see how your product is working for them. Fully engaging stakeholders is one of the best ways to create champions for your product who will broaden your reach both within your existing customer base and among your customers’ peer groups and colleagues.
Your customer success platform sets you up to follow these stakeholder engagement best practices by collecting customer data, bringing it into a central hub, suggesting practical, actionable next steps, and acting as a launchpad for customer communication that teaches and advises. Proactive, data-driven communication is a powerful competitive advantage in the business world that ultimately increases the chances that your customer will want to stay in business with you.
In these challenging times, you can’t afford to buy before you try. Get started for free today. Totango’s customer success platform equips you with the data you need to create informed, relevant, and effective customer engagements.