In the simplest terms, a budget is a spending plan based on company revenue and expenses. For a leader, a budget is a critical tool that helps you secure the funding and support you need to execute your plan. Budgets serve as a plan to help companies forecast revenue vs. spend, understand the human and technology requirements, and calculate important metrics like customer acquisition costs, customer lifetime value, and net revenue retention. Budgets are a required part of running a responsible business and you should understand how to create and leverage a budget to your advantage.
Budgeting for customer success (CS) enablement, processes, and systems to scale is often a last-minute exercise or determined in Finance without much customer success leadership input. This story is common if you talk to leaders in customer success being tasked with building the team’s first budget. Often, important considerations like team development, cost of hiring, customer success platforms, integrations, and more are overlooked until there is an urgency to get something on paper due to a critical upcoming event – like raising money, acquisition, going public, or change in leadership. In short, a CS budget can be reactively created, which isn’t the right way.
As a leader, you can’t afford to skip the budgeting and forecasting process. Planning for what your department will need to be successful is an opportunity missed often due to a lack of authority to own a budget for CS. This lack of ownership leads to tension between Customer Success, Operations, and Finance and a jealous paradigm between Sales and Customer Success – why does the Sales team have a monthly budget for drinks and offsites and a yearly gold club event and CS gets, well, often not even a bonus? It’s time as leaders to start requesting ownership over a budget and showing expected outcomes that will lead to team efficiency, better customer experience, and revenue growth. A great way to take control is by proactively starting the conversation early with your boss or the CFO; share a proposed budget to help educate these important stakeholders on what your department needs and why.
Once you secure a budget, you need to manage it. Budgets should be kept up to date and reviewed at least quarterly.
Here are some common questions to ask yourself quarterly and annually
- Are we operating within our budget or not?
- Where did we go over budget and why?
- What didn’t we anticipate?
- What do we need to request for the next quarter/year as a result?
- How do the budget changes impact the bottom line and can we make up for it elsewhere?
Here is a tactical budget you can download to get you started with owning the budget for your customer-facing team. No one knows what the customer team needs better than the customer team. By planning ahead, you will be proactively guiding your team and customers instead of reacting when it is often too late to fix an issue. Invite your head of operations and finance and work on a budgeting plan that helps the company grow through customer success enablement.