Learnings from being a startup starting out with Large Enterprise customers.
If you’ve ever worked with new technologies either at a tech company or as a customer purchasing tech, you’ll know it can be a challenging and often painful experience.
At Seenit, like many other startups we have a very broad range of customers, from smaller companies with a workforce of less than 1000 all the way to huge multinationals with over 75,000 employees globally. Many startups bandy around the term “enterprise-ready” but what does this actually mean when it comes to onboarding?
Recently the Customer Success team at Seenit have been working with 2 “enterprise” customers with over 200,000 employees between them. So what makes them different to other customers when it comes to onboarding?
A few things.
Organisations this size often have a number of different stakeholders, each with their own objectives and understandings of what your product can do. Their IT infrastructure is much more complex and with that comes more requirement for security and integration capability. They use so many different technologies, each with their own benefits, and challenges, and are often trying to get multiple technologies adopted at the same time. They’re also often based across different regions, countries, and continents. With this comes the challenge of support for different timezones.
There’s a lot that you need to think about before you can start to call yourself “enterprise-ready”. However, if you’re willing to put in the time to create the right materials, processes, and take the time to try to understand these complex businesses, the reward of success is huge and the pressure you’re put under acts as a fast-track to continue delivering for organisations at this level.
It’s fair to say we’ve had some ups and downs over the past few months keeping these customers on track and eventually to a place where we can confidently move them from “onboarding” to “up and running”, or in our case from “film school” to “indie director”. But as with any challenge, there are a lot of learnings along the way.
Here are some of the key learnings we’ve picked up:
Find your champion
One of the most crucial things is that you have a dedicated customer ‘champion’. This person fully stands behind the decision to buy your technology and will promote it to anyone that’s asking. They’ll even go a step further and defend your technology whenever you have any hiccups (which in the world of tech can be pretty much inevitable).
The relationship you build with them is crucial. Be honest and act with integrity, do what you say you will, and let them know if you don’t have an answer to anything. They know you’re a startup so won’t have all the answers straight away but as long as you’re upfront about this and are working behind the scenes to eventually have the answers, you’ll build respect.
This person also has a lot to do. They will need to become an expert with your platform themselves and promote best practice to the rest of their business. And they’ll also need to act as an ambassador for your technology getting you in front of the right people and convincing the rest of their business to care about you and your platform.
Offer a menu of options
This may seem fairly obvious but a lot of startup SaaS businesses will try to squeeze everyone through a one size fits all onboarding flow without giving enough thought to the different needs of individual customers.
I’m not saying there’s no value in creating a standardised onboarding process. You know your product better than the customer especially when they’ve only just bought it, and you should by all means be recommending a process for onboarding. However, if your customers range from 100 employees to 100,000, you’re going to want to think about the differences in their needs and also scalability for your team.
Something we’ve done: We have our standard onboarding flow that works well with small teams but for larger teams, with different levels of knowledge and split across various geographies, we have designed an “onboarding accelerator” workshop. The workshop can be split over 1 or 2 days and involves bringing together all stakeholders and platform users in to a room to dedicate time to learning how to use Seenit. Everyone has the chance to learn, ask questions, and get their hands on the platform. The idea being that they’ll have a fuller understanding of what Seenit is in a shorter amount of time and they’ll have ideas on how they can use the platform themselves.
Avoid one-offs, think about scale
When you’re a startup with a small, time-poor team, the last thing you need to be doing is repeating work. When you’re thinking about the best ways to onboard a large Enterprise customer, make sure that with everything you do you make it scalable.
If you find yourself running the same training session multiple times, think about launching a webinar. If you notice you’re having strategy calls with every single user of your platform, research a ‘train the trainer’ approach and get your champion to help with the heavy lifting. If you realise that adoption is slow because of a lack of understanding of your platform, develop resources and materials that the end users can access on their own time at their own pace. And if you’re receiving similar product feature requests, why not streamline your communications with your product team to ensure you can prioritise and provide your customers with timely and proactive updates (although this point probably warrants its own blog post).
Something we’ve done: We’ve recently launched the ‘Seenit School’. The objective of the School is for it to be a one-stop shop for everything our customers need, whenever they want. There are articles there that users can access, there are downloadable materials that customers can throw in to their internal channels and communications, and there are regular live webinars that anyone can join and share with their teams.
Get everyone along for the ride
At Seenit we have 4 ‘teams’ - Engineering, Product, Sales, and Customer Success. While Customer Success is defined as a team, we’re also on a journey to adopt the Customer Success mindset across every team (if you’re not sure what any of this means, search Linkedin for anything by Lincoln Murphy, Dan Steinman, or even our very own Dan Farley’s who wrote this blog a few weeks back). The aim is for the success of Seenit’s customers to become everyone’s responsibility and central to everything we do.
Never is this more important than with Large Enterprise customers. They will challenge everything you do from the way the product works, to how integrated you are with other tech they use, to how much support, both strategic and technical, you offer. You need your other teams support to make sure you provide a consistently positive experience.
Something we’ve done: The Customer Success team have set up weekly syncs with the Sales and Product teams so we have a regular slot to make sure the customer is prioritised from the moment we start speaking and throughout their time working with us. We also join the product sprint meetings so we understand what the product team are working on and that the priority customer requests are factored in as well.
In summary, onboarding at the Large Enterprise level is tough and if you’re in Customer Success at a startup like me, each customer will present its own challenges. If you’re lucky, you’ll start out with customers who are willing to go on the journey with you, if you’re less lucky with the customer you may find yourself up a certain creek without a certain instrument. If you stick with it and you’re able to get this right, the reward is huge and once you’ve got through the first few, you’ll find yourself in a much better position to have lots more success with companies this size in the future.