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Gainsight Acquires inSided: The Past, Present, and Future of Customer Success Is Community Image

Gainsight Acquires inSided: The Past, Present, and Future of Customer Success Is Community

By Nick Mehta

TL; DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): Gainsight acquired SaaS Community Software leader inSided! For the mundane version of this news, click here. And to see a video of Robin van Lieshout (CEO of inSided) and me sharing the news, with a bit of rapping embedded.

What comes to mind when you think of community? Maybe it’s connecting and networking with peers? Or perhaps you think of your neighborhood? If you’re a metaverse fan, community might mean saying “gm” to the virtual friends you are creating a DAO within the web3 world (did I do that right?). Well, community has a special meaning here at Gainsight.

Past: Customer Success Started as a Community

The word “community” captures how the Customer Success movement got started. To paraphrase Lin Manuel Miranda, it began as a “moment” and now it’s a “movement.” Back in 2013, when Gainsight was a 20-person company, we recognized that there was a new community of people without a “home.” “Customer Success Managers” were cropping up in dozens of SaaS companies, but they often felt isolated. In February 2013, our Chief Marketing Officer at the time, Anthony Kennada, and I said “we should throw a meetup for 50 or so CSMs.” I was thinking some boxed wine, grocery store cheese trays, and conversation. My backup plan was to invite my family if no one showed up. It turned out that 300 people attended the first Pulse conference in 2013 – and that was without my mom and dad! The energy of that Pulse event was electric. And the excitement around Pulse grows more and more each year.

Over time and much reflection, we’ve realized that the concept of community means a great deal to us internally and the Customer Success industry as a whole.

Community has always meant something much more personal to me. Let me channel some Brene Brown in a moment of vulnerability… and what’s more vulnerable than middle school? It feels like the concept was invented to induce childhood trauma. Despite my comfort with embarrassing myself in public now, as a kid I was very shy. I felt different and weird and definitely did not feel like I belonged. The result was I ate lunch alone pretty much every day through my childhood until I went to college. I truly hope your loneliness struggles weren’t nearly as bad as mine, but I’ve found that almost everyone I talk to can personally relate to my feelings of not fitting in. 

That’s why I believe that at the core of community is a deep yearning for all of us to feel connected. And in today’s world of COVID isolation, the need to feel connected is stronger than ever.

That personal backstory is why this journey with the Customer Success community has been so powerful for me. I finally feel like I fit in, and I know that I’m not alone in that sentiment.

In the nine years since we hosted the first Pulse conference, a lot has happened:

  • Customer Success went from an idea to a movement
  • The CSM profession went from a few hundred people to hundreds of thousands
  • Pulse audiences grew from 300 to 20,000
  • The venue grew from a small hotel ballroom to the iconic Moscone Center in San Francisco
  • Product leaders joined the Customer Success movement with the addition of PX to our product portfolio
  • Along the way, the community channeled our value of “Child-like Joy,” with rap songs, musical theater, parody videos, and more

And you know what? At every CS event that we hosted, from big to small, from high-end hotels to Holiday Inns, attendees would say the same thing on the way out:

I realize I’m not alone – other people are going through what I’m going through.

That is what community is all about.

Present: Community Is Exploding

Over the last nine years, we’ve realized how powerful community is as a force-multiplier for change. Countless companies have asked how we created Pulse and what they need to help them cultivate their own community. Many have also built virtual communities to complement their in-person events and made community a key pillar of their Customer Success strategy. We’ve seen this first-hand at Gainsight, with the launch of our own Gamechanger Community

Gartner reported that inquiry requests from clients to talk about B2B Customer Communities grew 233% from 2019 to 2020. In a recent survey of client Chief Customer Officers, we found that 81% of respondents had an online Customer Success community or planned to build one this year. And funding of startups like Commsor in the community-led growth space demonstrates accelerating interest in this area.

To meet this emerging trend for our clients, we are acquiring leading SaaS Community Software vendor inSided. We know inSided well since many of our clients – like Gong, Bizzabo, LinkedIn, Glint, and Hopin – use them today. Our own Gamechanger Community has been hosted on inSided for several years. Through that partnership, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Robin van Lieshout, CEO of inSided, and his talented team. We share a passion for Customer Success and human-first business. I am so excited to have nearly 70 talented inSiders becoming Gainsters. Read more about Robin’s view of the acquisition here.

Future: Community Is Key to Net Retention at Scale

In 2021, SaaS CEOs realized that one of the top metrics for creating shareholder value is Net Revenue Retention. Customer Success teams are often at the tip of the spear for this initiative. But the number one challenge Chief Customer Officers face is scaling their Net Retention initiatives across their portfolio of thousands of clients.

In research with our customers, online community came up over and over as one of the top strategies, along with journey orchestration and in-product guidance.

By connecting the teams in your company that work with clients (Sales and Customer Success), your digital products, and your clients themselves, we  are creating a customer journey that’s more integrated and effective than ever before. Imagine the possibilities:

  • Community-based Health Scoring: A client’s activity in the community being a key input to a company’s  customer health score
  • Product Feedback Capture: Combining upvoted product feedback from the community with CSM-curated input from top clients into an integrated and prioritized list for the Product team
  • Digital Customer Success: A digital-first customer journey encouraging clients to leverage the customer community
  • Customer Hub: A portal for you to share content (e.g., health scores, adoption data, Success Plans) and collaborate with your end clients

Community will finally enable Net Retention at scale.

Community is how Customer Success got started. And as all of you know, we are all just getting started in Customer Success. The future looks brighter than ever.

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