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Supercharge Your Pipeline

Trends & Insights Around Customer Success from INBOUND 2021

October 19, 2021

By Ale Melara

Customers have the power to influence buying decisions from those around them, and you have the power to influence your customers by delivering value and creating amazing experiences. When you deliver value and delight your customers with an amazing experience, it creates fans that later on turn into promoters of your brand. 

Our next INBOUND recap blog is all about keeping your clients happy with customer success strategies like creating customer voice content or designing inclusive digital content to build customer loyalty.

NOTE: Powerhouse Pass Attendees will have access to the INBOUND 2021 virtual event platform for 1 year from today to rewatch any session on-demand. 

SESSION 1. AMA: Keep Your Best Clients Happy

Click here to watch the on-demand recording of the session; note that you must have an INBOUND 2021 Powerhouse Pass to view.

Karl Sakas
Agency consultant, Sakas & Company
Session highlight from SmartBug Ali Wert

  • Stages of the agency/client relationship
    • Powerless
    • Overwhelmed
    • Confident
    • Value
  • Should all clients be saved?
    • No -- part ways with clients who don’t listen to your strategic guidance, etc.
  • 3 tips for improving retention
    • Warmth and competence (from the book The Human Brand)
      • Competence: you did the job
      • Warmth: you made the client feel special
    • Create a smooth client onboarding process
    • Provide insights into revenue attribution
  • Boundaries with clients
    • What need are they trying to meet? Maybe they need more proactive outreach or active listening
  • Keeping smaller clients engaged
    • Use 1-to-many outreach 
  • Recognize when clients are ready to switch to “maintenance mode”
  • Best clients:
    • Recognize your value, take your advice, they’re enjoyable to work with
    • The relationship needs to benefit both sides
  • Coaching junior account managers
    • Shadow the team members to see how they’re doing
    • Roleplay difficult conversations. Encourage these to happen in real-time, not over email.
  • Encouraging referrals
    • Reassure clients things won’t get worse, e.g. new client is going to another pod, not ours
    • Create a win-win referral → compensation/credit for referred clients
  • Letting clients go
    • Toxic clients need to go -- the revenue is not more important than your team’s happiness 
  • How to measure client satisfaction
    • NPS score
    • (Keep in mind that strong NPS doesn’t mean the client will stay)
  • How many projects can 1 PM handle?
    • Depends on how the roles are structured
    • 4-8 clients is a good starting point
  • Overpromised and under-delivered -- now what?
    • Very difficult. Just keep delivering good work to regain trust.
    • See sample scripts for how to handle. 

Session 2. Designing Inclusive Digital Content 

Click here to watch the on-demand recording of the session; note that you must have an INBOUND 2021 Powerhouse Pass to view.

Alisa Smith

Accessibility Evangelist, AudioEye
Session highlight by SmartBug Morgan Gale

  • Usability:
      • How simple it is for users to learn the basic tasks of the interface
      • If users can perform those tasks quickly
      • If users can recall performing those tasks after time away from the interface
      • Number of errors, the severity of errors, and recovery from errors in the interface
      • Whether the design satisfies users
  • Accessibility:
      • Perceive elements presented
      • Operate controls easily
      • Understand interface content
      • Robustly support various devices & Assistive Technologies
  • Inclusivity:
      • Recognize diversity in functional needs/abilities of individuals
      • Recognize diversity of personal needs/experiences
      • Consider diversity in functional abilities of technology (e.g. not all devices/internet connections can load images, etc.)
      • Practice empathy for all users who may want your information/products
  • What can I do?
      • Assess possible points of bias in your content & design practices
      • Use clear, simple, thoughtful language
      • Responsive designs that allow zoom & orientation changes
      • Structure documents using headings
      • Text alternatives for non-text elements (like images & forms)
      • Take advantage of freely available accessibility checkers
      • Color scheme assessment (contrast & distinction)
        • Color blindness affects 5-8% of men globally
    • Form design
      • Pronoun selection (include “prefer not to answer”)
      • If gender is relevant (e.g. healthcare), include both gender identity & biological sex
      • Date of birth:
        • Month = dropdown
        • Day = text entry
        • Year = text entry
    • Graphics should never contain critical information
      • If images include text, make sure it’s also in alt text
      • Page/email should be readable even if the user has images turned off
  • Resources:

Session 3. NPS Debate: Thriving or Dying?

Click here to watch the on-demand recording of the session; note that you must have an INBOUND 2021 Powerhouse Pass to view.

Heider Lasker, VP Customer Success - Bynder
Michelle Boornazian, Director Marketing - Noteable
Session highlight by SmartBug Hannah Shain

Pro NPS, Heidi - Bynder

  • Purchase behavior is clearly influenced by referrals and recommendations
  • NPS is simple by design
  • It’s quick and results in a high response rate (If you don’t have a high response rate, then that’s telling too)
  • It’s ONE business metric to rally around, builds a culture of customer success
  • It’s very important what you do with NPS results; use a playbook
    • Detractors indicate churn risk, 
    • 5% increase in retention can result in a high % of revenue growth
  • NPS measures loyalty, loyalty = advocacy
  • Get your promoters to tell your story, share reviews

Against NPS - Notable

  • Pause and consider what you really want to measure; it’s generic
  • What are your priorities for the next year? What do you want to know? Is it that “someone might recommend” your business?
    • Are you trying to reduce churn?
    • Increasing WOM
      • Get more specific & clear about what you’re asking
      • Instead, ask “how did they hear about you?” .. better understanding of where your revenue comes from
    • NPS doesn’t provide value to the customer

Session 4. Supercharge Your Inbound Marketing and Sales With Customer Voice Content

Click here to watch the on-demand recording of the session; note that you must have an INBOUND 2021 Powerhouse Pass to view.

Jeff Ernst
SlapFive, Co-Founder, CEO
Session highlight by SmartBug Ali Wert

Customer testimonials are a turn-off. They sound staged. Buyers want to hear customers answer their questions and objections.

Buyers want the majority of content to be the voice of the customer but it’s usually just a small fraction.

Audio and video are especially powerful.

  • #1 - Stop asking customers for testimonials, endorsements, and recommendations. Instead give them opportunities to share their knowledge, experience, and advice.
    • Everyone wants to sound smart, feel successful, and be heard.
  • #2 - Make the customer the hero of the story so it helps them build their reputation within your customer base and the industry
    • Make it about a person instead of a company 
  • #3 - Offer customers lots of choices in the types and levels of permission they give to use their stories
  • #4 - Strike at the magic moments in the customer relationship.

  • #5 - Have trusted contacts do the customer outreach 
    • Have outreach come from sales rep, CS manager, exec sponsor or professional services
  • #6 - Capture the golden nuggets of “spontaneous testimony” and turn them into reusable customer voice assets
    • “Love letters”
    • Survey results
  • #7 - Make it drop-dead simple
  • #8 - Don’t pay your customers or offer rewards BUT give your customer something totally unexpected


  • What if the client won’t let you use their name?
    • See if you can use the individual’s name without their company
    • If you have to, use it anonymously. Still powerful with audio.
  • What if the customer is no longer a customer?
    • If they left the company, follow where they went and reach out and ask if you can still use their story. Update to “former.”
  • SlapFive widget lets you embed customer testimonials
  • Use Zoom to capture the audio -- record the video/audio

Session 5. Creating CS and Sales Alignment in Scaling Companies

Phil McHugh

HubSpot, Director, Customer Success
Session highlight by SmartBug Sylvana Alvarez

Align metrics and incentives:

  • Start with the company’s North Star, from there, get head of Sales and CS to gather with the CEO to see how both teams can attribute to the North Star’s metric.
  • “What gets measured, gets done.”
  • Align metrics and incentives...and then reward them for it.
    • Top performers
    • Success stories
    • Tying rewards to improved shared metric
    • % of overperformance in revenue retention

Make it easy 

  • Create a shared system of record
  • When going at a fast pace it's easy to take the fastest route, but it’s not always the best approach
  • Get more information out of silos and into a shared workspace
  • Reduce the number of internal touchpoints (think of this as a mapping exercise)
  • Create teams/pods targeted to different aspects of the project

Facilitate exposure on both sides - tackle inaccurate perceptions, and encourage empathy

  • For example: Help a CSM understand how many leads a salesperson juggles
  • Job shadowing, attending kickoffs, monthly hot-desking, joining team meetings = all of these provide insights on how each team works
  • Enable teams to do whitespace planning together
  • Smaller number of teams running in the same direction, focusing on the same customers, using similar tools, and having a better understanding of what needs to be done

Session 6. From Delighting to Promoting

Click here to watch the on-demand recording of the session; note that you must have an INBOUND 2021 Powerhouse Pass to view.

Diana Zalaquett

Principal Channel Account Consultant, HubSpot
Session highlight from SmartBug Nicki Kamau

In Diana Zalaquett’s session on moving your customers from relationships that are delighted, to promoting your business, product, or service - she hit us with the hard numbers:

  • 1.6 trillion is lost each year due to poor customer service
  • BUT, you might not know, because: 43% of customers don’t leave feedback because they don’t think a business cares
  • Customers will spend 17% more for a good experience

Diana’s list of twelve steps to get promoters - AND where I see marketing fitting in.

1. Reach your target audience

Make sure your contacts are segmented in your database so you can be positive that you’re delighting your customers appropriately. It hurts to receive a “here’s X discount for the first time you buy!” email when you’ve been a long-time loyal customer. But what WOULD be exciting is a “thanks for being so loyal, here’s a gift for you” email. Get your target audience right so you can create these experiences.

2. Offer a convenient customer experience

Whether you build a chatbot on your website, a knowledge center, FAQs, or all three - you are creating convenience for your customers to be able to begin helping themselves at any time. 

3. Be consistent

If you have a policy your teams need to make sure it’s regulated. You’re a marketer, right? Is there some way you can turn a not-so-fun policy into something enjoyable? It might be a single sentence prompting the customer to contact you with a specific subject line if something goes wrong - and when you see that subject line in your inbox you send them something that delights: a discount, a gift card, something else entirely.

4. Refine products and services based on customer feedback

When people aren’t happy they talk - everywhere. Be sure to listen on social media, or wherever your customer hangs out on the web, and join in on the conversation if they’re providing feedback. Your business might not see a pain point your customers are experiencing.

5. Provide convenience when purchasing products

Pricing pages are a great place to start. This could ALSO be providing your customers with links to items that are frequently bought with their purchase. Use your smart content to cross-promote and create a more valuable experience for your customers.

6. Create digital personalization

Personalization tokens and smart content can really make your audience feel understood and heard. If you walked into a pet store with your dog and an associate immediately took you to the reptile food section you’d rightly feel unseen, and awkward. Imagine that same thing happening online.

7. Focus on simplicity and ease of use

If your website wasn’t built with UX in mind you might not have a site that’s intuitive and easy to navigate. This is truly a time for a collaboration between design, developers, marketers, and a UX expert to sit down and create a seamless and intuitive website experience from first visit to purchase.

8. Review the flexibility of your communication channels

Is your website optimized for mobile? Or desktop only? Really, the question that comes first is - how does your audience reach you, and is THAT avenue optimized?

9. Make use of automation and AI

I think this point she’s made is a little redundant. If you’re completing many of the steps above to their fullest potential you’re using automation and AI with tools like chatbots, workflows for cross-promotion, smart content, and personalization.

10. Be proactive

If appropriate for your brand, check in with your customers in a marketing kind of way. Send them an email asking how they’re liking X, and informing them about new offering Y. If they’re SUPER happy, ask them for a review!

11. Engage in social listening

Again, this goes back to listening for product feedback, but can ALSO be to engage with customers who are already delighted with your brand. Have fun with them on social media, and if you have the bandwidth to - create delightful surprises for those who are evangelists for you on social. Think things like filters, or stickers, or easter eggs.

12. Implement routine team training

Your employees should be the most knowledgeable about your services. While it’s not marketing’s role to do that, marketing can have a hand in setting up automation to remind team member’s when a training is due or to delight a fellow employee when they’ve reached a training milestone. Keeping employees trained and happy will fuel the flywheel and help keep customers and clients happy too.

If you didn't get a chance to attend ALL of the amazing sessions when they were presented live stay tuned for more INBOUND recap blogs where we'll be sharing more key takeaways on what WE learned at this year's conference.


Learn how to engage customers through the customer journey:

How to Create a Unified Customer Journey From Prospect to Renewal

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Topics: Customer Success, INBOUND