When Brendan Daly joined Wowza Media Systems, he knew that customers loved their software, but he didn’t know the specifics of how they used it or what got them so excited.
Daly and the Wowza team saw this as an issue — not only for developing user personas but also for targeting the organization’s product roadmap based on customer segments. So in 2020, Wowza’s leadership team led the charge to revamp the livestreaming video company’s operating methodology, focusing on understanding the customer above all else.
“The original business model was primarily focused on driving a self-service transaction through the web store,” Daly said. “This strategy was highly successful in establishing Wowza as a market leader, but left a key gap in our relationships with customers.”
Filling that gap has involved researching customer profiles, launching new customer success and experience teams, and developing feedback loops to better understand product-market gaps.
As a result, KPIs around customer retention and release deliveries have all significantly improved within the past year.
“Our definition of success is understanding what drives value for our customers and ensuring we are able to meet their business objectives,” Daly said.
What brought you to Wowza?
I joined Wowza in December of 2019 and the timing couldn’t have worked out better. I had worked at another Denver-based SaaS startup for more than six years and built and led multiple teams. At that point in my career, I was looking to accelerate growth through customer engagement at a company with exciting product-market fit.
Wowza had been an established leader in livestreaming video for nearly 15 years. Leadership was looking to transition the business from a self-service components vendor to a full-service solutions provider. As part of that transformation, they recently launched a professional services team. I was hired to launch the customer success team as our VP of customer success.
Tell me a little bit about the new operating methodology your team has been working on. Why now?
Wowza established and has maintained a leading product-market fit in live video since it was founded in 2005. The original business model was geared toward developer personas looking to create platform solutions for their end customers. The go-to-market model was focused on attracting those developers through documentation and trial experiences, then encouraging them to execute a self-service transaction through the web store. This strategy was highly successful in establishing Wowza as a market leader, but left a key gap with our relationships with our customers. We knew that customers loved our software, but we didn’t always know how they used it. While it was exciting to find out that a great new video platform was built on Wowza, we’d often only discover it months after they launched because they purchased using a non-business email account. As you can imagine, this made it difficult to continue to target our product roadmap for key customer segments. As new protocols became available, how would we know which ones to prioritize if we didn’t know our customers?
In 2020, we pivoted to focus ourselves as a customer relationship-focused organization. We launched new customer success and experience teams, a retention team, and invested in our direct sales team to provide a more consultative pitch. We built feedback loops across key departments to ensure we understood customer challenges, product-market gaps and the reasons why we won or lost business. We then codified our company purpose and brand promise and aligned KPIs across all levels of the organization to ensure consistent focus and performance.
What challenges have you faced in terms of roll out? How have you addressed them?
The timing of COVID-19 certainly didn’t help our transition to engage with customers more directly. We launched our first three onsite customer business reviews in February of 2020. We then had to suspend any onsite travel as a result of the pandemic. For the first several weeks of lockdowns, it was difficult for customers to set aside time to engage in remote business reviews. But as remote work became the new normal for so many of us, that changed. We’ve developed a successful cadence.
Outside of that, the biggest challenge has been bridging the data gap between the customers who bought during the self-service years and new customers we are onboarding with our customer-focused go-to-market strategy. We want to evaluate the business across several different cuts of data, which we gather for all new prospects or customers we are actively engaged with. We still need to augment that data for more than 30,000 historical customers. We’ve taken several creative approaches across our teams to retroactively tag account data wherever possible to improve our analysis.
Understanding our key customer segments and ideal customer profiles has allowed us to drive focus across all teams.’’
What effect has the new methodology had on business? What about on internal collaboration across departments?
To sum it up in one word: focus. Understanding our key customer segments and their jobs to be done has allowed us to drive focus across all teams. And the results are apparent. Our engineering cycle time, on-time release delivery, bookings forecast accuracy, customer retention and conversion KPIs have all improved significantly over the past year. When we have seemingly conflicting priorities across teams, we rely on our customer relationship heuristic to align on the right priority for our strategy.
How does your team define customer success? How has that definition changed or evolved over the past year?
For us, customer success evolved from scalability and uptime to truly understanding the customer’s “job to be done.” Five 9s of uptime and worldwide coverage are becoming table stakes for SaaS companies today. Just because the technology is reliable doesn’t mean it drives a positive business outcome for your customer. Customers are contacting us for livestreaming solutions to support a new product line, a large event or in order to update an existing solution. Our definition of success is understanding what drives value for our customers and ensuring we are able to meet their business objectives.