Apr 14, 2022
🏔 Sean MacPherson: Alyce, VP of Customer Success & Experience
Play • 13 min

Meet Sean MacPherson, VP, Customer Success & Experience at Alyce. Lead with telling your customer stories. Customer-facing expertise. What will lead to the most impact for our customers? Ruthlessly prioritizing. The upsell flywheel. The scientific method. Constantly testing and iterating on things. Being comfortable with failure.

17 insights. 6 rapid-fire questions. Show transcript.

Here’s what Stuart Balcombe said about Sean:

Sean MacPherson over at Alyce. VP of Success there. Came from Drift. He has a really great perspective from a success point of view. What does it mean to build a go-to-market model that really makes customers successful? You probably talk to most people from early Drift days, but how do you tie your go-to-market motion with building a brand that is self-sustaining, and that is not just about the one-to-one things that you're doing, but actually rolls up into something much bigger? —Stuart Balcombe, Product Marketer at Arrows → Listen

What are 3 ways that your team converts your market into revenue?

  1. Customer-facing expertise. The first one is what I like to call a customer-facing expertise. So what that means is: being the expert on the challenge you are solving is key. In the past several years, the buying cycles have really changed. It's all about educating your customers, not only why you understand their challenges today, but how you will solve them in the future. With so many products out there, the switching costs are really low. So if you are helping your customers think about their challenges in the future, or if you aren't rather, they're looking elsewhere because software is a commodity at the end of the day, especially in growing markets.
  2. Customer-advocacy flywheels. Another way to look at this, even from a customer success angle, is customer-advocacy flywheels, as I like to call it. Advocacy in itself is such a key component to the success of everything: marketing, sales, and your customer efforts. Being able to tell those stories of success in the what, the how, and the why of their journey with your solution is such a powerful tool to leverage as any type of output. So whether it's like a traditional case study or more in a Slack group, like we've seen rising more and more today with the industry expert ones. So just being able to have more feet on the ground that aren't just your go-to-market folks.
  3. Lead with telling your customer stories. I would say the last one is it really does lead in this kind of like dovetailing into this is lead with telling your customer stories themselves. Everyone loves a story. One company I always look up to, one leader I always look up to is Bob Iger, who was at the helm of Disney for a long time. So everything they do, they do it with a purpose, an experience, and that's all wrapped up in a story. That’s because people love stories, and if you can take your customers on a journey throughout your funnel, they're going to be your biggest advocates over time, in terms of just your biggest customers, your biggest champions, your biggest folks on social, you name it, that story is going to resonate. I think that's really inspirational and into turning that market, or that network effect, into revenue.

What are 2 hard problems that you recently overcame?

Two big ones, just because they're really big ones, and I think everyone runs into these.

  1. Competitive markets. So we're in a newer space, in a newer market. So competitive markets, naturally they're challenging. It's so easy to build a product today. So as a market matures, you get so many competitors that are coming in that you have to really hone in on what you do and where are you going. We've had this struggle because companies come in with a fresh perspective of how to solve problems. You have to really focus on articulating why your vision, your product, and your experience, and what they should be investing in from the customer standpoint. And that's a big challenge as competitors are coming in fast and furious, especially challenging your sales, your sales narrative, or your market narrative, or even your customer narrative. Just being ahead of that, it's always a headwind.
  2. Turnover and the great resignation. I think the other one is, and this is a big one, like everyone has it, especially in the past couple of years, is turnover and the “great resignation.” I think again, everyone's having this challenge. And not only during the pandemic, but post-pandemic world. Specifically in my realm with customer success, it's exploded. Investors and companies are starting to really understand how these investments in customer success have long-term payoff in terms of lifetime value. So naturally it's created a lot of challenges in retaining talent. So we've had to really focus on why our company and our organization is one where it becomes a launch pad for careers in customer success. So we think about how are we investing in the careers of folks and how are we ensuring they have paths at our company? Or, they are getting the skills and expertise to take that on at a new company and grow in their careers because that's really where a lot of the narrative has started to change, pandemic and post-pandemic world.

What are 3 roadblocks that you are working on now?

  1. Growth at scale. Every company runs into this at different stages. So how are we continuing to scale without heavy investments, but still giving a world-class experience because that's at the core of our DNA? So it's a delicate balance of testing new methods, or appropriate experiences, to be able to help customers get value on their own or self-serve that value. So this takes time, especially in new markets like ours where we're flipping the script. So we are constantly testing and iterating on things. Some of these things will work. Others will fail, but it’s all in an effort to try and scale our business and put our customers in control versus us in control. So we want them to essentially get to value without us, and we want them to feel empowered to get there.
  2. Ruthlessly prioritizing. At our company, we want to do everything. Being in a market that's traditionally working with agencies, we tend to think of ourselves trying to do everything. And that's a trap that you can fall into. We definitely fall into it. But the end of the day, we have to be thoughtful about what we do and what will lead to the most impact for our customers. So we are constantly reviewing, removing noise, to ensure we are focused on those right things for our customers that align to our vision.
  3. The upsell flywheel. I've run into this roadblock at every company. It's what I like to call the upsell flywheel. We have an amazing customer success or value-led motion that leads to upsell. But we haven't necessarily codified that to understand, “What are the exact behaviors that lead to growth in our customers, specifically?” It's been a challenge at every company I’ve been with. The goal is, “How do you create an alert system that tells you when it's time to have an appropriate conversation about new features or upselling?” Not just kind of peppering them all the time. We're just embarking on that behavior-mapping journey right now to figure out, “What are those key moments?” So instead of going to our customers and saying, “This is...
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