The Road To Observability: How Monte Carlo Renewed 100% of Our Customers in 2021
Customer renewals say a lot about a company.
It speaks to growth, after all, happy customers often beget more happy customers. It speaks to the value customers are actually realizing from the product, and signals strong product-market fit.
Most of all, it speaks to the commitment and investment the company has made to ensure its customers are happy even after the contract is signed.
This is why I am proud to share that Monte Carlo renewed 100% of our customers in 2021, an impressive and unusual number for any company, let alone a startup. Not a single customer churned.
To put this number into context, a Bessemer Venture Partners benchmark report cites the median gross retention rate of SaaS companies is 85 to 90%.
When I was at Gainsight, a customer success software company, I never saw an instance where any of the hundreds of organizations I interacted with renewed 100% of their customers in a year.
At Monte Carlo, reaching 100% retention isn’t the result of one tactic. It’s the result of a customer obsessed philosophy, a great product, and an execution-focused culture.
Here’s how we laid the groundwork to do it.
Customer success is in our DNA
Early on at Monte Carlo, we went to great lengths to ensure a tight alignment across product, marketing, sales, and delivery, which would consistently translate to well-fit customers achieving long-term value.
I learned how critical this sort of alignment was during my time at Gainsight. We’d often say “customer success takes a village,” meaning it takes more than just customer success managers (CSMs) to execute successfully. It’s a collaborative effort across many functions to ensure customers reach positive business outcomes.
In an early startup, there may not even be CSMs yet. But those who are building and selling the product still must act in alignment to find the right buyers, convert them to customers, and ensure they meet their objectives.
When I joined Monte Carlo, we were pre-revenue and pre-launch. There wasn’t a sales or go-to-market team yet, so I spent the first several months focused on sales, sales engineering, and marketing.
It was an exciting time. Our philosophy became and remains:
- Help the right buyers find us. We leaned into the most common, visceral pains we saw data teams facing when it came to managing the trust and reliability of data. The incredible Molly Vorwerck amplified these with category-creating content for what we’d ultimately call data observability.
- Build a product, pitch, and demo that creates a strong emotional reaction. After demos, we gave the call a “jump out of your chair” score. It’s a subjective metric we invented to approximate the level of emotional energy shown when someone saw Monte Carlo for the first time.
If we weren’t consistently getting people to jump out of their chair (scores of 9 or 10 on this very scientific scale!), we either weren’t building the right things, showing it in the right way, or finding the right people.
- Make it real. We are enthusiastic when prospects launch a proof of concept (POC). Monte Carlo is easy to implement and leverages a lot of automation to deliver fast time-to-value. This means we can quickly translate the demo prospects saw to real experiences on their own data.
We also created an internal (crude!) metric we called “‘f— yeah!’ moments.” These were moments where we delivered such strong value, with so little effort, it would elicit impromptu, sometimes explicit exclamations from users. When we experienced these moments, it was validation for both the product and our success methodology.
- Get them to long-term value. People don’t learn to use an entire enterprise product in a day. We took a prescriptive approach to focus first on the basics, and then work users up to more advanced use cases.
Some customers like to do this with a series of hands-on, collaborative sessions. Others want to do it with documentation. Whatever their preference, we’d be sure to ask “are we focused on the right things?” and “what can we do better?” to ensure we were on track to deliver value.
- Iterate rapidly on the product. I have never worked with a product and engineering organization like Monte Carlo’s. The product team is an active part of the customer journey.
Even today, a third of my customer calls have someone from the product team in the room, and customers with large amounts of thoughtful feedback are often assigned a “Product Sponsor” from MC. This is a Product Manager who works closely with the customer to understand and synthesize their feedback to ensure Monte Carlo continues to help each customer achieve their goals.
Engineering delivers rock-solid functionality that is easy to use. I’ve even seen them deliver small features the same day they were requested by a customer. Who else does that?
We built a flywheel of feedback that ensured the messaging of our brand is aligned to the pitch, which is aligned to the demo, which is aligned to the POC, which is aligned to onboarding, which is aligned to long-term value delivery. And, we built a team that’s incredibly customer-centric and easy to work with.
It also created a customer journey that scaled as pre- and post-sales departments (marketing, sales, sales engineering, solutions architecture, support, customer success management) grew.
So to me, 100% renewals doesn’t just mean that I think our CSMs, solutions architects, and support folks are incredible (they are!).
It also means that if you’re excited by our content, you’re probably going to get excited talking to our team. It means that if our sales team wants to do a POC with you, it’s because they genuinely think you’re going to be successful.
And it means when we bring product or engineering experts into the room – which we do often – it’s because we genuinely want to act on your feedback. A 100% renewal rate wouldn’t be possible if we weren’t authentic about this.
In Monte Carlo fashion – don’t take my word for it. Hear it from our customers like Vimeo instead.