How app for mission-critical processes drove customer retention for software company
Acquiring new customers—so-called "new net logos"—has been the prime directive in the B2B tech realm. From private equity to venture capital, from startup to IPO, value was based on the ability to add customers at an ever-increasing rate. When the pandemic struck, adding customers became increasingly challenging, except for essential sectors including security, cloud or remote work capabilities such as Zoom. Attention turned to existing customers, with retention being Job One and upselling the tactic for stability if not growth.
For Carlos Carvajal—who started at K2 Software as CMO in November 2019—the focus on customers began as a research exercise to identify new messaging. What K2 learned proved to be far more important as the pandemic took hold. Fortuitously, the business process-management and automation company was increasingly delivering software to help automate essential, mission-critical processes. Packaging this insight into a new product, K2 had a powerful story to tell existing customers. It drove engagement and revenue and preceded K2's acquisition by Nintex in October.
What was the first thing you did when you joined K2?
We needed to come up with a point of view. We have nearly 2,000 customers; we wanted to really analyze our customer base, do a segmentation analysis and just see where we have repeatable success. We noticed that we had more and more customers that were using us for what we called business critical or mission critical processes. We noticed that we could drive that harder and we had competitive differentiation around ROI. We nailed it down to mission critical defined as, just from a litmus test, would a C-suite executive care about this process if it failed? If I have an issue around customer service, customer acquisition, customer onboarding, things that touch the customer, those tend to get C-level visibility.
What happened next with message development?
We used a virtual event as a way to test whether we could actually drive interest and engagement on this topic related to case processes. That was at our K2 FastFWD virtual event in late April, which gave us an opportunity to really start working with product, building messaging, all the things around it, and use it as a test bed. It wasn't expensive to do the virtual format, so we could learn in a more controlled way. It worked exceptionally well. We blew out the numbers of our virtual event; we blew out the target as far as the attendees even for that session.
Did you uncover additional insights?
Yes. It was really interesting. One of our existing customers was trying to figure out a way to automate key processes that would impact their top line growth. They weren't looking at K2 for this until they attended the session at which we were testing the new messaging and they said, "Oh, you can help us with that?" That actually led to a seven-figure contract in under 90 days—which was incredible. That one data point early on really lit a fire—because leads are great, pipeline is better, revenue wins. And even within that, we had other prospects and customers who showed interest around this specific topic.
Did you do more testing?
We had a webcast session with 350 or so attendees which was a mix of customers and prospects, and we had a bunch of virtual sessions to see if this was something that they were going to come to us for. When we analyzed our customer base, we saw that people were doing what we call custom building of case-based solutions on our platform. The theory here was, if we could package this up more and provide it more preconfigured so that they don't have to do the heavy lifting, would they pay more for that so they could get to market faster and all the other benefits of having an application? It wasn't like we had zero evidence that customers needed this. What we didn't know is if they'd go in with the app-centric approach versus a platform-centric approach.
Is there a higher-level message that you came to market with?
We wanted to light a spark. We wanted to excite our customers, our employees, and of course, the market and prospects. Instead of rebranding, we launched a sub-brand: K2 Nexus. Nexus is about connecting things and bringing things together, which really ties to our core strength and competency. Customers and employees really rallied around the K2 Nexus sub-brand as part of this launch for this mission critical or strategic focus. Where we landed on the messaging side was with transformative automation at the top line because it ties back to the mission critical.
The second thing with K2 that we wanted to focus on is making it simpler. Not saying it’s easy to do transformative automation, but that’s where our product can really help. It can just simplify the process around driving these mission criticals and automating these processes. Simplifying transformative automation was really the top line with K2 Nexus.
How did you engage customers with the new messaging?
One of the things that we realized is the number of customers that were willing to tell their story. I was like, "Wow, we have great customers. They love K2. They're willing to tell their story and we should absolutely tap into that." Then we put another lens on it. We'll get as many of those as we can, but let's prioritize the ones that fit the mission critical profile so that we can reinforce this message in market. That's what we did. Even before the K2 Nexus sub-brand launch, we launched an excellence at work campaign to drive awareness on down.
We had great customers talk about how they actually use K2 to solve these mission critical problems that we wrapped into this campaign. That was a really great way to get the message out. Really strong response rates. Messaging through customers typically tends to drive a higher response, not just at the top of the funnel, but what we realized is the salespeople really rallied around it. Their active prospects, in-pipe opportunities, those kinds of things, they leveraged a lot of the campaign assets and materials directly with their prospects.
How did you get customers to share testimonials?
When the customer was seeing the type of work that was coming out, through the social media assets and then, especially the video testimonials, that's part of what we did. It was like, "Look, you can take this internally. You can actually champion your projects, your initiatives, and we're taking care of all of this for you. We just need some of your time and we need the permission to do it." Part of it was selling it back within the organization, and that worked really well for a lot of people trying to champion their different initiatives. We definitely put some paid media behind it. Paid search, paid social, and then we also just basically pushed across all social channels, amplified through our employee base as well to promote, you know, all the traditional tactics around that.