We talk to many software clients facing the challenge of smoothly moving to new software platforms without major customer losses. These software moves are usually prompted by the need to sunset an acquired product or replace a legacy product with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering.
What is the best way to migrate customers to the new offering? Here are 10 steps to plan a successful migration:
1. Get to know the customer base of the current offering before anything is implemented. Understand levels of usage, use cases and any integrated products. Recognize the costs invested in the current offering. If the offering is a long-standing product from an acquired company, loyal users may also feel an emotional connection to the product.
2. Segment the customer base by usage level and migration costs, or other dimensions as appropriate. Make a detailed list of each segment’s concerns.
3. For each segment, create a plan that takes into account customers’ concerns, costs and timeline. While your organization is not expected to pay for conversion, you should be aware of the costs involved.
4. Focus on the current offering’s biggest users first. Sometimes, a small portion of the customer base provides 80 percent of revenue. Contact those customers individually, in person or by phone, to communicate the migration plan and ask for feedback. Conducting this conversation via email is not recommended.
5. Create content that explains the advantages the new offering provides over the current version. Be honest about any shortfalls or features that are no longer available. If this is a SaaS move, describe the benefits of open software access, ready availability of new versions, and additional flexibility in features and perhaps cost.
6. Create content and programs that speak to current customers’ concerns. If customers worry that migration will be difficult, create reference stories from customers that have already migrated. If customers’ employees fear the change, bring in change management expertise to allay their fears.
7. Focus on customer marketing. Remember that when you discontinue an offering, customers entering the buying cycle can easily become your competitors’ customers. Don’t assume customers will move to your new offering. Make sure they know how much you appreciate the relationship and ensure they understand the value they receive by continuing with your organization and products.
8. Set an end-of-life date for the current product and the moving date for the new product. While early adopter, fast follower and early majority customers will likely move willingly, you may be left with many customers that need a trigger and a timeline. Set a timetable that gives them ample time to move. Make sure they understand the timetable and what should occur at each step in the process.
9. Enable sales to support the migration. Train sales on the differences between the new and old solution, including shortfalls. Find migration heroes on the sales team and have them help other reps move customers along. Make sure reps have references or case studies on clients that have switched, and that they understand any available operational migration tools.
10. Train front-line employees on the migration. Be sure they can easily answer questions on why the current offering is being discontinued and how to migrate to the new offering.
Companies that are most successful at product migrations deploy customer marketing initiatives consistently. They implement customer-focused onboarding and welcome programs, customer advocacy, customer communities, and meaningful usage information and tips. Ideally, through these initiatives, customers will already be aware of the value your organization brings – beyond specific product offerings.