Todd Eby describes himself as an “anti-consultant.” The seasoned veteran in customer success — which he describes as everything that happens *after* you gain a client — launched SuccessHacker earlier this year to help small businesses achieve big results.
Not one to get lost in theory, Todd favors a practical approach, breaking down his recommendations into manageable milestones and charging based on results. We caught up with him to ask why having a solid business plan is a good idea and how anyone with a growing business can improve their chances of holding onto customers.
Name: Todd Eby
Started: February 2016
How did you create your awesome job?
I’ve been working in customer success for 24 years, most of which I spent building customer success organizations and implementing software for telecomms providers. While I found working with bigger companies interesting, it didn’t fulfill me in the same way as helping a small group of people who are thinking about customer success for the first time.
There’s a lot of evangelism that surrounds this industry and great deal of hype, but as I started to speak and write more about it, I found that people were looking to move beyond theory but were experiencing challenges with getting started. They understood the what and the why but were hungry for more help understanding the *how.*
I left a job with Zenefits to launch SuccessHacker with the dream of starting a next-generation community of customer success professionals who could help each other. These days, there are four pillars of this business: consulting, talent acquisition, the community and education. We work with small companies in the subscription-based software world. Success relies on renewals, so we help companies understand every aspect of their customers’ experience to help improve it.
Who was your very first client?
My first client was an early-stage bootstrapping startup based out of Seattle. As they started to gain traction in the market, they realized their approach to customer success wasn’t working. They came to me through a word-of-mouth recommendation and I helped them turn their vision into reality.
When did you know your business was going to work?
In the beginning my business partner, Andrew Marks, and I decided to set important income milestones. We laid out our pricing plan and set ourselves targets for what we thought we needed to earn every month.
After just a few months, it became clear that our business would go through periods of feast and famine and that we had to adjust our expectations. It took us until early July 2016 to see that we’d be able to make the company work and balance our earnings.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?
We were surprised to earn more than we thought we’d be able to in the first month and we became super excited! Unfortunately, we earned less in months two and three, so we had to learn to take the rough times with the good times.
How do you price your services?
We like to think of ourselves as the “anti-consultants.” We don’t charge based on time, but on results instead. Our target market is early-to-late stage pre-IPO tech companies, which don’t tend to have deep pockets.
Once we’ve given them a plan, we offer three different options of how to put it in place. We can do the work ourselves, take a coaching approach or give them minimal support while they put the wheels in motion. We use subscription pricing because it’s what our clients understand.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up at 5am and focus on creating educational content and managing our community. I also wear the marketing hat for the business, so I manage our social media and keep the website up to date, too.
We have so many irons in the fire here that tight organization is really essential. I have everything laid out in Asana to make sure I stay on track and follow a fairly rigid routine. I know that on Tuesdays, for example, I have to go into the community and achieve X, Y and Z. Rituals like this mean I can spend less time worrying about what needs to be done and more time being creative.
I’m on the job 7 days a week and look forward to the day when Saturday and Sunday no longer have to just be normal working days!
If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would do differently when starting your business?
We should have spent more time on our business plan. We took the 7 Day Startup approach and got the business into motion first, then worried about the business plan after.
In a lot of ways, what we did is like booking a trip to climb Mount Everest while sitting on a beach drinking cocktails. We had a great vision and goal, but didn’t map out our route, buy any mountain climbing gear or book a Sherpa. Having a clear plan with financial milestones would’ve helped us anticipate cash flow problems earlier and would’ve made conversations with my wife a whole lot easier!
What are your top tips for how a small business owner can improve customer retention?
Small businesses need to look at how they engage and get customers. How did the client become aware of the company? What do they expect from it? How can your business make their life better? Business owners need to know the answers to these questions.
Another thing small business owners have to remember to do is talk to their customers. They shouldn’t ever assume they’re doing a good job. It’s often the case that they’ll learn more from customers who have left, than from the ones who stay. Find out where you fell short of expectations and then fix it.
Finally, don’t assume that your business is going to be successful just because you’re able to acquire customers. If you can’t keep bringing them back, you’re more likely to fail. Small businesses can’t grow through acquisition without return.
What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
I want to know: How are other small business owners getting to the second round with their customers? Customer success is as relevant to software subscription services as it is to yoga studios, hair salons and construction companies, and it helps to share our experiences and learn what other people are doing successfully.
Share your own experiences below about how you've learned to bring back customers for a second visit or what you're currently working on right now!
Can't wait to hear your stories. :-)