Analyzing your customer accounts

Lindsey Perez wrote this on May 02

Learning how to most effectively analyze your customer accounts is essential to understanding their needs and priorities and how you can best meet them. Getting to know your customers and the factors that drive their success as a company can help you to develop the most effective success plans.

Analyzing your customer accounts takes time. And, as with many things, the analysis may differ depending on the client. The first thing to consider is your goal. To what end are you analyzing them?

At a high level, the primary reason to analyze your customers is to understand what they need and whether you are meeting, or can help them with, their needs. Analyzing them also helps you determine where they fall in your portfolio of customers and whether their current position in your portfolio is changing or should change.

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Some specific questions you might hope to answer by way of your analysis: Has the customer successfully onboarded? Can they purchase more from us? What other problems might we be able to help them solve? Are they a good candidate for engaging in some sort of advocacy on our behalf? Are they at risk of churning; and, if so, should we let them?

Often the scope of your analysis will rely heavily on where the customer is in their journey with you. The goals you have and, therefore, the questions you want answered and measured will vary greatly for a customer who is in the onboarding phase of their journey with you versus a customer who is in the nurturing phase.

Additionally, the relationship stage will also play a role. The most extensive analysis will be reserved for your Interconnected and Collaborative relationships (and, more specifically, your core key and strategic accounts); but it is also important to analyze your Exploratory and Basic relationships on a periodic basis to see if there is evidence that a further investment of time and energy into them would move them to the next stage.

For best results, efforts to answer the below questions should be made along the entire journey with the customer. From the time an organization is a lead, to the discovery phase of the sales process, and on through their onboarding, adoption, and ongoing nurturing. There are a few reasons for this: 1) it’s much more natural to uncover much of this information in bits and pieces through normal conversation, rather than all at once, 2) some of the information will be more pertinent topics at different parts of the journey, and 3) the customer’s needs may/will change over time. In order for this to be a reality, there must be a shared framework and strong alignment throughout the organization, particularly between marketing, sales, and account management or customer success. Of course, having a system like Synap helps for this sort of thing, but even a shared Google doc is a good start.

Though the depth of the analysis may differ, there are some standard categories of analysis you can apply across the board. Keep in mind that most of these questions can be answered or measured in various ways and may even vary from segment to segment. 

What to analyze

Without further ado, here are our suggestions for the areas of focus and related questions to explore when analyzing your customer accounts to help you understand them and their needs:

Market Analysis

  • Who are their customers?
  • How many customers do they have?
  • What is the overall size of the market? How many customers could they have?
  • What do their customers need?
  • What forces play a major role in their market?
  • How much do their customers spend with them?
  • What else are their customers spending money on?

Industry Analysis

  • What products and services do they provide?
  • What are the key forces that impact their industry?
  • Who are their competitors? And other related companies?
  • Is the market underserved or saturated?
  • How are they differentiated from their competitors?
  • What are the customer's strategic opportunities?

Selection Criteria Analysis

  • Why did they buy from you?
  • What factors did they consider when making the decision to invest in your offering?
  • What was/is most important to them?
  • What problems were/are they trying to solve?
  • What else have they spent money on?

Core Objectives Analysis

  • What are their current objectives?
  • What did they set out to accomplish by purchasing your offering (e.g. minimize expenses, expand to a new market, make a profit, etc)?
  • Have they met their stated objectives?
  • Are they getting what they wanted from your offering?
  • How much value are they getting from the relationship?
  • How concretely can/have you demonstrated this?
  • Do you have a solid notion of their upcoming objectives?

Reporting Analysis

  • For organizations that report to the SEC, what can you learn from their 10-Qs or 10-Ks?
  • For startups, what can you find on AngelList about their funding?
  • For nonprofits, what do their 990s tell you?
  • For any customer, what can you find in their own press releases or other announcements?
    • Following your customers (and their competitors) on social media and in the news can also provide helpful information on this front.

Value Proposition Analysis

  • Why did/does this customer choose to go with you over other alternatives?
  • How do you provide value that others don't?

Buying Profile Analysis

  • What did/does this customer care about when making purchsing decisions?

SWOT Analysis

  • What went well recently and why? In other words, what are your strengths in terms of the account?
  • What did not go as well recently and why? In other words, what are your weaknesses in terms of the account?
  • What are the external forces that could pose challenges or opportunities related to your relationship with the client?

If using the above framework of analyzing your accounts, the first three of the categories should probably be analyzed for all accounts, whereas the other five most likely will only make sense for your key accounts and those few others that you suspect may/should be on-the-move from one relationship stage to another.

For example, let’s say you’ve identified a customer account that has been in the collaborative stage for some time and, in your measurement of the return on that customer, you see their profitability is going down. The above in-depth analysis could help you determine whether you should try to guide that relationship into the basic quadrant or the interconnected quadrant.

How to go about it

As mentioned in the beginning, there are various ways to gather this information. Some common methods to try are:

  • Online research
    • Public records, social media, news searches, market databases
  • Surveys
    • Transactional and periodic surveys
  • Regular business reviews
    • Strategic quarterly or semi-annual meetings with executives from both your organization and the customer
  • Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs
    • Whether you conduct these internally or employ a consultant, honest feedback from your customers is essential
  • Review of your company's communications with the customer
    • Support inquiries
    • Email conversations
    • Meeting and call notes

No matter how you go about your analysis, the important thing is to have a well-defined framework and well-defined goals for your analysis. We believe examining the above categories of information in detail will help you better understand your customers, which, in turn, will allow you to uncover potential new value for the relationships. 

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Just as with measuring customer profitability, the effort to ask the right questions, organize and analyze the data, and strategically manage your accounts pays off for you and your customers.

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