Let’s get one thing straight: a half-hearted, ad-hoc customer expansion strategy is a fast track to lost revenue.
Success in customer expansion doesn’t just come by chance. It requires clear ownership, a solid but malleable process, and the silo-free collaboration of your revenue teams.
Aligning your revenue teams is arguably one of the most critical pieces of expansion.
Without defined roles, a clear understanding of stakeholders and goals, and a centralized approach to documentation and communication, your teams waste resources and lose momentum—leaving your customers frustrated and money on the table.
This article outlines both high-level and detailed strategies for account expansion rooted in collaboration, clarity, and calculated action.
By consistently operationalizing these approaches as you scale, you position your teams to foster sustainable growth and solidify customer relationships for the long haul—maximizing customer expansion opportunities to boost your bottom line.
What is customer expansion?
Customer expansion refers to growing revenue within existing customer accounts through user expansion, usage growth, upselling, or cross-selling.
As a growth strategy, it can be applied to almost any business model, but it’s especially relevant to product-led growth (PLG) in SaaS, where product adoption and user engagement drive growth.
Why is customer expansion a hot-button topic right now?
It’s harder to win new customers in the current business climate. Competition is increasingly intense, and companies are doing more with less—making that initial “yes” hard to get because you haven’t proven the value of your product.
Tapping into your current customer base with customer expansion is one way to promote more sustainable growth because your customers already know the value of what you have to offer.
And while it might be tempting to think expansion rests solely on the shoulders of your Customer Success (CS) team, it's far from a one-team show.
A successful expansion strategy hinges on the collaboration of cross-functional revenue teams—Sales, CS, Marketing, and Product—to thrive.
By aligning these teams on the front end, you can capitalize on the potential for revenue growth within existing customer accounts on the back end.
Types of customer expansion
There are four types of customer expansion: User, seat, and license growth, usage growth, upselling and upgrades, and cross-selling and add-ons.
1. User, seat, and license growth
User, seat, and license growth is expanding access, permissions, and accounts—usually within a software or service subscription. This happens when a customer increases the number of employees who can use a particular software platform or service.
Example: Slack provides a variety of user-based pricing plans tailored for individual users, small teams, larger businesses, and enterprises. These tiers offer increased pricing, security features, and customer support. (It’s worth noting that Slack’s pricing model is based on active users.)
2. Usage growth
Usage growth is an increase in how much a company or team uses your product—leading to cost changes.
Example: Chili Piper has a per-user monthly fee and a 'platform fee' defined by the number of inbound leads a company generates on their website. This flexible pricing structure allows smaller businesses with limited leads to benefit while those with larger lead volumes pay a higher platform fee.
3. Upselling and upgrades
Upselling and upgrades offer improved value or advanced features within a product or service.
Example: HubSpot offers two plans catering to different budgets and needs. Professional is for smaller businesses with fewer than 2,000 contacts and a budget under $10k. Evolving demands, larger budgets, and increased contacts trigger the upsell to Enterprise.
4. Cross-selling and add-ons
Cross-selling and add-ons are offerings like different services or products that complement a customer's primary purchase.
Example: Lattice has a handful of different products with separate subscriptions. They can expand accounts by encouraging customers to add new products to their subscriptions or by selling bundles.
Customer expansion strategies
Leveraging the right customer expansion strategies to drive revenue goes beyond "knowing your customer" or delivering a great product or service. It involves a comprehensive approach—continuously iterating and adapting to ensure sustainable revenue growth.
Effective customer expansion hinges on ownership, relationships, anticipating customer needs, and nurturing those touchpoints that make your product or service indispensable.
Get clear on who owns expansion
The key to successful customer expansion lies at the intersection of Sales and CS. But before you start to foster collaboration, you need to understand who owns it in the first place.
Start by getting clear on:
- Ownership through metrics: What metrics are you tracking to identify expansion potential (customer satisfaction, usage, feedback, etc.)?
- Ownership through incentives: Which teams (or individuals) have specific expansion-related incentives or compensation?
- Ownership through KPIs: Who is accountable for meeting and improving specific expansion KPIs?
Keep in mind ownership doesn't exist in isolation, either. In PLG, clarity of ownership also means aligning with your Product team on what actually makes a product-qualified lead (PQL).
Defining a PQL ensures accountability, fosters collaboration, and maintains consistency and efficiency in identifying and nurturing leads demonstrating purchase intent.
With that information, your teams can collaborate and streamline the path for these leads to become active and engaged users of additional product features or services.
Align Sales and CS
Once you've clarified ownership through metrics, incentives, and KPIs, then it’s time to foster collaboration.
A partnership rather than a handoff, the Sales collaboration with CS creates one cohesive team and sets the relationship up for success—ensuring customers receive consistent messaging and support, improving the satisfaction and customer retention that leads to expansion.
To align Sales and CS:
- Clarify goals and contacts during the sales process. When each team knows the right stakeholders and understands goals—whether they’re specific KPIs, other metrics, or overarching objectives—it mitigates confusion, redundancy, and missed opportunities.
- Document contact information and objectives in an organized, centralized location like a Dock Digital Sales Room. The systematic availability of accurate details ensures better alignment and communication—allowing each team to connect with the right people to achieve the right goals during every step of the sales process and beyond for a more seamless (and successful) customer experience.
- Introduce CS early to offer tangible insight into your onboarding process. Involving CS during the sales process fosters a more informed transition between Sales and CS—minimizing overlap, reducing potential friction, and setting clear expectations for the customer about what comes after the close.
- Stay up-to-date on evolving customer needs and feedback. While Sales primarily focuses on customer acquisition and initial engagement, both teams should actively collaborate on expansion opportunities by continuously sharing insights, conducting joint account reviews, and maintaining clear and open communication lines.
- Jointly track expansion KPIs like adoption rates, usage patterns, and increased engagement. These can signal a customer is ready for targeted expansion.
💡Read more: For more cross-functional collaboration tips, check out our Guide to Sales Collaboration.
Create a lifecycle roadmap
A lifecycle roadmap plots a customer's journey with your product or service. From awareness and acquisition through engagement and usage to loyalty or churn, it's a comprehensive look at the touchpoints with your brand to inform more strategic decisions.
1. Master identification of expansion opportunities
- Compile feedback: Engage with customers frequently, asking for feedback on features they'd love to see or areas where they believe your product or service could add more value.
- Track usage analytics: Monitor which features of your product or service are most and least used— highlighting potential areas for upselling or cross-selling.
- Conduct Customer Success check-ins: Regular meetings with clients will uncover needs, goals, and pain points that have evolved since the initial sale.
2. Detect churn risks
- Track engagement decline: Metrics like login frequency, feature usage, or response rates may signal a lack of interest or a potential move toward another product or solution.
- Assess support trends: A surge in support tickets or escalating customer feedback can signal emerging pain and frustration—potentially driving churn.
- Observe renewal patterns: Document renewals consistently. Delays in contract renewals or shifts in purchasing behavior can indicate churn risks.
💡Tip: Simplify renewals—any pricing model or billing structure—with Dock Order Forms without using clunky tools or templates.
3. Measure account health
- Monitor utilization rate to get ahead of renewals. Understanding how frequently and extensively a customer uses your product can offer insight into how prime they are for expansion.
In “Building Success Programs” on the Grow and Tell Podcast, Brittany Soinski of Loom highlights the key to successfully implementing utilization rate is to set a specific goal for what “good” looks like and monitor those customers who fall into that “good” category for expansion opportunities.
- Analyze net promoter score (NPS) Trends: An upward trajectory in NPS often signifies increasing customer satisfaction, potentially forecasting opportunities for growth and expansion.
Beyond just relying on the score, analyze and take action. Gather additional feedback (using open-ended questions or more focused surveys) to understand the reasons behind the scores.
- Assess customer health score: Derived from KPIs like engagement levels, NPS, support ticket volume, and other metrics, this score offers a holistic snapshot of account vitality and potential areas of intervention or expansion.
Healthy accounts with a high score are prime expansion opportunities.
- Track renewal rates: Monitoring the cadence and consistency of renewals can provide insights into account health. Renewals reflect the willingness of customers to continue using your product or service and directly indicate satisfaction and their perceived value.
A satisfied customer who continues to renew is more likely to purchase additional products or services or upgrade their current package.
Identify moments that matter
Moments that matter are key moments in the customer journey or experience. They’re moments of inflection, when things change, when churn is averted, or when the mundane or even good are made great.
These moments can range anywhere from large milestones like product updates that require user adaptation to micro-interactions like feature upgrades and customer support, and they’re based on your very specific ICP.
Identify the moments that matter to your current customers. And then? Deliver a better experience during them—in turn, fueling an ongoing growth loop.
The Operating Model for Recurring Revenue by Jacco J. van der Kooij highlights that in recurring revenue models, it's essential to consistently deliver value across Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success. In essence, compound growth is achieved through satisfying existing customers.
The more positive the experiences and impact, the better the chances of customer expansion and increased business. This growth loop feeds on satisfied customers who are more likely to explore additional offerings and refer others—driving expansion.
Land and expand
Getting a yes is much easier if you have a solid foundation. Your customers already know, like, and trust you. Your product solves a pain, fills a need, and delivers value. And you can leverage this for sustainable growth.
The idea behind ‘land and expand’ is to start small, get your foot in the door, and steadily expand your offerings.
Demonstrate value with a sales proof of concept, where potential customers can see the benefits of your product. A sales POC reduces the perceived risk from the customer's side, with a chance to "test-drive" your solution.
After successfully delivering on a POC, expanding the relationship (and, subsequently, the revenue) becomes a smoother process.
Conduct quarterly business reviews (QBRs) and use the insights and action items from the meeting to strategically align your offering and expansion efforts with your customer's goals and expectations for the upcoming quarter.
💡 Tip: Use the Dock Quarterly Business Review Template to provide detailed performance data so customers can see how your product or service adds value, send decision-makers everything they need to understand how your product fits into their business, and more.
Diversify product lines that complement one another. Once customers see success with one product, deliver additional products that will enhance the overall experience or solve other relevant pain points.
Incentivize multiproduct use with discounts or bundled deals. Incentives encourage expanded usage. Increasing loyalty to your brand becomes easier when investing in your product or service is made financially attractive.
Integrate benefits seamlessly by ensuring your products can be easily paired with one another immediately. A seamless connection (with minimal friction points and enhanced efficiency) between different tools or services can drive customers to expand.
Onboarding is pivotal in driving adoption—rather than just a single step, it's the catalyst for eventual expansion.
Onboarding sets the foundation for a positive, productive, rewarding customer journey, instilling confidence, fostering trust, and solidifying the value prop of your offering from the beginning.
Each new customer has unique needs. Tailor the onboarding process accordingly by addressing their specific challenges and goals. A more personalized approach ensures solutions resonate deeply with what each customer actually wants and needs
For example, your training sessions should be based on specific goals, team size, project complexity, and any tools that are already in place.
With a Dock onboarding workspace, these details can be stored and passed from Sales to customer success managers, facilitating a smooth transition of customer-specific information and requirements.
This enables CS to create a highly personalized onboarding experience that aligns with each customer's unique needs.
Engage company leaders
A top-down sales and onboarding approach can significantly influence the broader team's adoption. Collaboration with leadership:
- aligns your product's benefits with their strategic goals and objectives, creating a unified direction for implementation and usage.
- amplifies the message of your product's value with early-on support that makes change management more seamless.
- offers clear insight into internal dynamics that may present roadblocks or resistance, enabling proactive solutions to mitigate challenges.
Empower with resources
Give your customer a comprehensive center of onboarding resources like implementation checklists, walkthroughs, tutorial videos, and FAQs.
Housing resources in one central location like an onboarding workspace provides customers with easy access to what they need when they need it without friction—promoting self-sufficiency.
Giving customers a mix of hands-on guidance and self-serve resources also caters to different learning preferences, ensuring all users feel supported and equipped to implement your solution.
Create pathways for customers to provide feedback during and after onboarding. This iterative approach allows continuous onboarding process refinement based on use-case experiences and evolving needs.
Build expansion into your pricing model
At its core, expansion is about recognizing and monetizing value drivers that matter most to your customers.
Subscription pricing allows customers to use your product or service at a fixed price point—paying on a recurring basis.
To navigate expansion, first, you need to define what it means for your org and then integrate it into your pricing model.
1. Is it increasing the number of users?
For example, a tiered pricing model where 'Basic' caters to single users, 'Team' for small teams, and 'Enterprise' for larger organizations with unlimited users. (Basic Plan: 1-10 users, Advanced Plan: 11-50 users, Enterprise Plan: 50+ users, etc.)
2. What about the range of features or the extent of product usage?
In this case, a freemium model where 'Basic' is free with limited features, 'Premium' or ‘Plus’ offers more advanced, additional features, and 'Pro' offers the complete feature set with priority support.
3. Are there multiple pricing tiers, each offering a different value prop?
Here, customers adhere to one price for 'Bronze' or core functions, followed by 'Silver' for advanced features, and 'Gold' for the full suite of tools (and possibly dedicated support).
4. How do you handle overages or increased usage?
Usage-based pricing—when customers with only one or two seats are charged more when their product usage exceeds a certain limit—ensures they only pay for what they use. And while this is cost-effective for your customer, as their reliance on your product grows, this reliance impacts your bottom line.
Clarifying these questions and incorporating expansion into your pricing model isn't just about a Sales or Customer Success team; it ultimately guides additional revenue teams—like Marketing and Product—to create targeted and aligned strategies to capture and maximize customer value.
Expand more customer accounts with Dock
Acquiring customers isn't enough. The real key to increasing revenue lies in expanding your relationships with existing clients, upselling, and cross-selling effectively.
By leveraging Dock, your team can:
- Create digital sales rooms that capture your customers’ goals and stakeholders
- Centralize and tailor the onboarding process so customers have the right resources from the very beginning of the relationship.
- Offer deal transparency—motivating customers to consider higher-tier services or products.
You can create your first 5 Dock workspaces for free.