An exciting thing happened at Easy Projects in 2018 – we achieved negative churn for the first time! This means simply that the number of users that signed up (from current customers) was greater than those who canceled in a given period. No small feat when you consider that this doesn’t include new users from brand new customers and logos.
It’s kind of the holy grail of operating a SaaS business because it’s a great proxy for a number of positive things, primarily how successful your customers are. Said differently, it means that our current customers were getting so much value from Easy Projects that they introduced us to their colleagues. From our perspective, it also means we have a great foundation to continue to grow Easy Projects in the future.
Now, this wasn’t a happy coincidence, in fact, it was one of only two strategic goals that I set for the department in 2018. At the close of 2017, there was definitely a trend in the right direction and I thought an aggressive goal would keep us hungry and focused in the new year – even if I was nervous about how feasible it was. Much of 2017 was about laying down the groundwork for success and it was time to execute.
So how did we do it?
There was a variety of contributing factors but I would highlight a few as being instrumental and most meaningful, namely:
Customer Success as an organizational goal
As I write this, the fundamental necessity of a strong Customer Success team for any SaaS company seems obvious. I sometimes forget and take for granted that not all organizations have come to understand the win-win nature of this approach between them and their customers. I am fortunate to be a part of a team that gets this and so the success of our customers is at the heart of every decision we make. It pervades every department and is our strongest unifying goal and principle. It’s one of those things that makes you feel good and makes the work you do more meaningful.
Start with Customer Success – AKA low gross churn
Churn happens because your customer doesn’t achieve the outcomes they purchased your product to provide – it’s that simple. If they aren’t succeeding then they will leave. You could even argue, and I do, that negative churn is a symptom of low gross churn. Why? If your customers are getting value from your product (a proxy for low gross churn) then it’s likely that they will purchase more from you (expansion sales leading to negative churn). Said differently, achieving negative churn isn’t about a special marketing or sales promotion – it’s fundamentally about helping your customers attain their goals.
The process: Path to Success
Being a project management software platform really helps when it comes to building a repeatable process to help customers achieve their goals. I am a keen proponent of “eating your own dog food” and we do at Easy Projects. All of our Customer Success processes and projects are run from Easy Projects. This means we’ve been able to structure and refine our Path to Success implementation packages to get to full adoption and ROI as quickly as possible.
This has been particularly instrumental in our success. It’s a simple concept that we’ve operationalized. We consider a successful customer onboard being the start and not the end of our journey with them. That’s why we proactively will stay in touch with our customers to make sure they are having ongoing success: being able to handle the inevitable change and challenges that will certainly come.
Creativity and openness
There is no one-size-fits-all project management platform out there. They all have relative strengths and weaknesses. It’s also true that there are often many ways to do the same thing, and people often have a strong preference for their way of doing something. It’s because of these truisms that I highlight the importance of creative problem solving and openness to solving hard problems. We sometimes get requests for functionality that either doesn’t exist in Easy Projects (yet!) or for the design of functionality to be different than it is. The easy answer to this type of query is that “it doesn’t work that way”. We’ve decided that this isn’t good enough and have gotten really good at designing clever hacks to achieve the functionality that our customers are asking for without having to customize Easy Projects for every customer.
Grit and persistence
Rolling out and adopting new software can be a very challenging exercise for any organization. It’s rare that everyone agrees that a new way of doing things is necessary and change is hard to manage. It’s because of this and other factors that software implementation projects often fail and companies revert to the old way of doing things, in spite of the many benefits of the new way. We recognize this and have seen it all. From this experience, we’ve learned that success requires a high level of grit and persistence on both sides for the implementation.
A great product that keeps getting better
This is a shout out to the Easy Projects technical team. It’s their unwavering dedication to continuously improving Easy Projects that drives the success of the rest of our organization. It’s obvious that achieving negative churn would be impossible without a great product. It’s less obvious just how much our customers recognize and reward our commitment to continuous improvement.
Finally, I would highlight our customer’s integral contribution to our success. We have the smartest, most innovative and yes, challenging, clients in the world. It’s a privilege to get to learn from them on a daily basis and I am excited for what promises to be an even better 2019!
A special thank you to our Member company Easy Projects and writer Steve Fenlon, Director of Customer Success at Easy projects for contributing this article.