Pietari Suvanto on Vainu and Customer Success

6 min read

CEO and Co-Founder of Vainu, Pietari Suvanto, sat down with us to talk about his company and customer success.

Vainu is a SaaS company that provides data-driven prospecting and lead generation insights for B2B companies. It started in Finland, in 2013, and has been growing at a rapid pace--going from only a couple of employees to now being over 80 (!) and growing quickly.

We wanted to talk to Pietari about this growth and success, and about how he feels customer success plays a part in that.

About Vainu

What inspired you and your co-founders to start Vainu?

It is Thomas, Mikko and I that started Vainu, and we have all known each other since elementary school age so we all know each other very well. And two of us worked together at Meltwater. I think the main inspiration was that we spent a lot of time in prospecting and finding good companies to contact, so we thought that there should be a smart way to solve this problem because everybody had the same problem. So we took on Thomas who is one of the best people in product and tech that I’ve ever seen so he of course came up with a cool solution for that. And off it went!

How was the start-up experience in the Nordic region? What do you find special about the region and what do you believe it has to offer startups?

I recently gave a speech about why Finland is one of the best places to start a company in the world, and I think that it applies for the whole Nordic region. And I think best reason why the Nordics is the best place to start a company is the access to the market, you can talk to the decision makers very easily compared to other parts of the world, and the flexibility to make decisions without much of a hassle is one of the best in the world. The adaptability and capability to understand new technologies, and people want to try new solutions. If you want to scale your business to a global business I think the Nordics is the best testing environment.

Over the past 2 years you have seen a tremendous amount of growth--growing from just a few employees to over 70, and expanding from the Nordics into the Netherlands and now the US - what do you attribute this growth to?

We were pretty lucky in getting to product market fit right in the very beginning so we haven’t had to iterate on the product very much since the beginning. Also, we all had experience in our past, with knowing about if you want to get the product out to the market fast what you need to do from the technological perspective, and what you need to do from the business perspective to get it out there. Customer Success at Vainu

In this podcast we love speaking about customers success - please help us understand how your focus on Customer Success has influenced your growth?

It definitely has. I think one thing that you can never take too seriously is the focus on clients and on customers, and that’s what we wanted to do from the very beginning. So appreciating our customers and clients has been in our DNA from the very beginning. Because when you have happy clients it’s not that the clients renew, but it’s also another external factor that they tell other people--other prospects--about our product. But I think something that is important is the internal pride--if people like our product, the company itself feels much better as well. It’s a way of living, you could say, for us.

When should a SaaS company start monitoring and measuring churn?

Churn, as soon as possible. But when looking at just how happy customers are I think straight away--from the very second the first client comes in I think it’s very important. As far as the churn aspects, I think straight away as well, but no later than the first year after you get the deal flow going.

What are some of the basic metrics that you need to put in place to understand churn?

Two aspects of it; I think the bigger aspect is the internal analytics of how our users engage with the product, understanding the usage funnels within the product because when you can find those patterns that correlate with the client that is like a gold mine. So you know where to focus. But then if you look at the monetary aspects, I think gross churn is very important and especially to understand the gross churn in terms of the different client segments and client sizes. Net churn is also important as well, but it is much easier to fix than the gross churn.

What are your thoughts around compensation models for Customer Success Managers? What are the do’s and don'ts?

It’s much harder to figure out than in the new business sales. We have tried out different models, and now what we have is that is based basically on gross churn--and that is not on a monthly basis, but on a past three month cumulative results. Then we have other aspects such as the NPS scores and things like this.

What do you think is the most effective way to reduce churn rate in a b2b company?

There are the easy ways, so just put a bit more focus on the clients. But it’s not usually the most efficient way because there are a lot of factors that affect churn. I think churn is mostly a product problem not a process problem, so to really reduce the churn is to build the product so that the users use it, and the product starts to be sort of a system of record for important processes. I think there is also a huge correlation between how much the client pays and what the churn rate is.

Any final thoughts / tips for everyone?

I think it’s just important to understand that the focus on making sure the clients are happy is very important because it sort of radiates to everything. Not only how your clients feel and how they talk about you outside your company, but also in the internal pride of the product and how your people talk about the product.

Listen to the full interview here

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