Why your customers’ second invoice is so important

In the SaaS industry, we have all come to realize that retention is just as important as acquisition. There is no point exerting lots of energy attracting new customers if you struggle to keep your existing customers happy and subscribing to your service.

Indeed, we have gone so far as to say that “customer retention is the new conversion,” and the data backs that claim up. For instance, Price Intelligently found that a 1% increase in conversion increases the bottom line by about 3.3% whereas increasing your retention rates by the same amount can increase the bottom line by up to 7%.

“In my role as an Account Executive, that bias towards acquisition is even more pronounced”

Acquisition metrics are the headline, major league metrics, and traditionally the measure of success most rewarded by businesses. As a result, it’s really easy to get blinkered by them – according to research by Invesp, 44% of companies admit they focus more on acquisition than retention.

In my role as an Account Executive, that bias towards the new is even more pronounced – my job is to work with emerging businesses and fast growing start-ups to get them set up on their Intercom free trial, show them the value in using our products and ensure they are set up for future success.

The value of the second invoice

This poses a potential problem – how do we ensure I don’t focus exclusively on acquisition and pay little attention to these new customers’ long-term success? How do we ensure that all the roles in the Sales team are aligned with the wider company focus on retention and providing lifetime value?

“I am incentivized to make sure customers have seen the full value of our offering”

In a closing role, and working as an AE in particular, a lot of emphasis is placed on acquisition metrics such as your conversion rate and time to close. However, as a new business rep, not as much attention is given to retention rates and ensuring your accounts don’t churn initially after their first invoice.

To ensure alignment with Intercom’s goals, the solution is simple – I am comped only if the companies I work with hit their second invoice. That means I am incentivized to make sure customers have seen the full value of our offering and not, say, simply forgotten to cancel their subscription.

Ongoing engagement with customers

That brings a few fresh challenges, however. Those of us working in the emerging and small business segment deal with high volume, high velocity transactional deals, and we are constantly looking to significantly speed up and simplify the sales cycle. For these smaller accounts, their upfront investment in our product is minimal, and it’s our job as sales people to make the product sticky for them by helping them see value, fast.

“We have begun experimenting with ways of automating this process”

In practice, this means I am in a sort of hybrid account executive and account manager position. But with the volume and velocity of deals we are working with, it is not scalable to perform manual check-ins on hundreds of accounts each day.

In an effort to ensure our customers achieve continued success using Intercom, we have begun experimenting with ways of automating this process.

We implemented a campaign with Intercom’s Messages’ product with a combination of both in-app messages and emails to keep engagement high with our customers post trial. Rather than communicating with these companies intensely from day 1 to 14 (during the free trial period) and sporadically there after, we began sending targeted messages all the way up to day 40.

Right message, right time

To get this engagement campaign off the ground we worked closely with our Customer Engagement team to build out a series of messages. The Customer Engagement team are experts in user onboarding in Intercom and we leaned on their expertise to see what sort of messages resonate best with our customers.

We then had to select the correct channels and corresponding data for these behavior-based messages. Using targeted custom data attributes, we built out a mixture of in-app messages and emails based on actions customers had taken in the product, prompting them to take specific actions that would unlock more value from the product. This might be to suggest they import existing user and lead data, or highlight how they can begin playing with Smart Campaigns.

Once built, the engagement campaign consisted of a combination of educational content, technical tips and tricks and sales upsell messaging.

Building better relationships

An engagement campaign such as this might not feel so engaging if the messages were coming from multiple different people at Intercom, so we needed to ensure these contacts would only receive messages from a single point of contact. To do this, we used criteria such as the following to make sure they entered the correct engagement campaign and exited any other onboarding campaigns in Intercom.

We believe that by having messages come from the same sender during a customer’s journey in Intercom we were able to build better, longer relationships. This guarantees not just consistency from the customer’s perspective, but also helps develop a sense of confidence and connection with their point of contact.

Changing habits for long-term success

We have been running the engagement campaign for three months (a full sales quarter) now and since then have seen a notable increase in customer retention in the small business segment. As an AE it is easy to say all is done when you close out an account. By shifting our focus from first to second invoice it has allowed us to think more in terms of the overall health of the business. The related engagement campaign has also heavily reduced the amount of time we spend manually checking in on our customers, and yet has helped us forge stronger connections with them.

Intercom works across every stage of the customer relationship, from acquiring leads to supporting customers. It makes sense, then, for us to use our own tool in this way, extending the relationship beyond the close and ensuring they’re set up for long-term success.

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