Author: Mounir Hilal, President, Valsoft Corporation
In the dynamic world of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), the pursuit of vertical market software companies is not merely about acquiring assets; it’s about securing the future of those companies.
Valsoft specializes in acquiring such businesses, and in our recent foray into the industry, we’ve uncovered a valuable lesson that is crucial for long-term success: expansion and churn are two sides of the same coin, and investing in customer success is the key to keeping that coin forever in your favor.
For Valsoft, part of our investment philosophy centers around investing in our people to create value through their successes. Our commitment to success doesn’t end with the acquisition. We partner with existing management and provide ongoing support, including marketing, best practice sharing, and growth opportunities. With Valsoft, we are dedicated to maximizing synergies, and helping our companies drive organic growth to reach long-term goals.
As we explore ways to drive organic growth for vertical market software companies, we must focus on the pivotal role that customer success plays in business strategy. That discussion involves exploring the four pillars of customer success – Adoption, Retention, Expansion, and Advocacy – as the building blocks to ensure prosperity and that customers remain the strongest allies.
Let’s take a closer look at these pillars:
Adoption: The First Building Block
Adoption is the foundational pillar of customer success. For vertical market software companies, it means ensuring that clients effectively implement and utilize your products. This is not just about a successful onboarding process; it’s about understanding the unique needs and challenges of each client and tailoring solutions to meet those requirements. By fostering a sense of partnership with customers from the very beginning, you set the stage for a successful long-term relationship.
Retention: Keeping the Flame Alive
The second pillar, retention, is where the value of a customer success strategy truly shines. Keeping clients onboard and satisfied is a key factor in the equation. It’s not just about preventing churn; it’s about consistently delivering value and ensuring that solutions continue to meet clients’ evolving needs. This is an ongoing effort that requires a proactive approach to client communication, support, and product enhancements.
Expansion: The Logical Progression
While acquisition inherently implies expansion, it’s not enough to rest on your laurels. The third pillar, expansion, involves taking existing customer relationships to the next level. We look for opportunities to upsell, cross-sell, and introduce complementary products or services that can further benefit clients. By strategically expanding within the existing customer base, you not only increase revenue but also deepen client relationships, making them more resilient to competitive pressures.
Advocacy: Turning Clients into Allies
The final pillar, advocacy, is a culmination of the customer success strategy. When clients become advocates, they not only provide invaluable referrals and testimonials, but they also strengthen your position in the market. Advocacy is the result of consistent satisfaction and a shared vision of success. By delivering on promises and creating a positive impact, you turn them into powerful allies who support growth and help navigate the challenges.
The Synergy of the Four Pillars
These four pillars of customer success are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. A successful adoption process leads to higher retention rates, which, in turn, paves the way for expansion opportunities. As clients expand their usage of solutions, they become more likely to advocate for your brand. It’s a virtuous cycle that fuels organic growth and makes expansion and churn two sides of the same coin.
Investing in customer success is not just a choice; it’s a strategic imperative.
The success of our acquired companies is not determined solely by the assets we acquire but by our ability to nurture and expand those assets through effective customer success strategies. The real currency is not just the software itself, but the relationships and success stories we build with customers. By prioritizing Adoption, Retention, Expansion, and Advocacy, we ensure that our businesses thrive.
About the Author
Mounir Hilal, President, Valsoft Corporation
Mounir has over 25 years of experience in Enterprise Software M&A, investment and capital allocation. Prior to joining Valsoft, he served as Executive Vice-President, General Manager and Chief Customer Officer at Upland Software, where he completed more than 30 software acquisitions. Before Upland, he was a Partner and Senior Vice President of Global Services at Tenrox and played a pivotal role in the company’s acquisition by Upland in 2012. Mounir holds an Executive MBA in finance from Queen’s University and a B. Eng in Computer Engineering from McGill University.