The Success Gap: A HUGE Opportunity You Haven’t Considered

The Success Gap - A HUGE Opportunity You Haven’t ConsideredThere is often a gap between the functional completion of your product and the customer’s Desired Outcome.

I call this the Success Gap.

And this Success Gap that stands between what your product does and your customer’s Desired Outcome is a huge risk for you.

It’s also a huge opportunity if you bridge the gap for your customers.

This Success Gap also has another meaning… it’s the gap between what you think represents the customers’ successful use of your product and what they think equates to success.

As you’ll see, if you mark a customer as being successful just due to certain use patterns within the product – as far too many SaaS companies do – you could have a distorted view of how successful your customers actually are.

That just expands the risk potential within the Success Gap.

Let’s dig into this a bit more, shall we? We shall indeed.

The Success Gap occurs when your customer functionally completes the tasks necessary in your product to do the thing they want or need to do, but yet they could still fail to reach their desired outcome.


Fixing this requires that you acknowledge their “success” may be outside the scope of your product, which means thinking about your customers and not just your product… and then thinking about how you can help them achieve that desired outcome. The closer you can get to that, the better.

Examples of Success Gaps

Some examples I’ve seen first hand that come to mind are:

Email Marketing

The functional use of an email marketing product may be that they send an email to their list. Simple. And as a vendor, you could look at metrics like the number of emails sent and feel good knowing your customer is “active” and using your product.

But what if the email was garbage and didn’t help them achieve their Desired Outcome of making more sales? What could you do to help them achieve their Desired Outcome?

Teach them to write better emails so they can get more opens, reads, clicks, and ultimately more sales? Help them develop a cadence that engages their audience better?

Show them how to build a list of quality contacts that will want what they have to sell?

Yes… all of the above.

SaaS Flows - Success Gap-2

Ad Managers

A product that allows you to create and manage ads on Facebook. They go through the process of creating and publishing the ads… but what if the ads don’t produce results? Simple… Help them create better ads. Ideally, you can know how the ads perform by pulling in results from Facebook – or whatever the platform – but if not, ask the customer to rate the results and if they rate them low, provide a next step for them to improve.

Close the loop… if you know a customer is not achieving their Desired Outcome, either automatically or because the customer self-reports, don’t just let that stand… give them something to do, read, watch, or otherwise learn to improve the result next time.

The secret to this is to do that even if the results are good… say “Awesome. Let’s make sure you get such good results next time. Here’s a video…” or whatever.

Lead Capture

So they installed your lead capture widgets and now they’ve got the addresses, great… now what? While it might appear that someone is finding success with your lead capture system if their list is growing fast… if they’re not doing anything – or even worse – doing something that isn’t working – with those addresses, it’s not really success.

They probably want more customer, more sales, more interactions of some kind… and though the potential for that is there in their growing list, they’re not actually achieving that. You can help them do that by saying “you grew your list by 100 contacts this week… attend this webinar and learn 5 ways to get the most out of those new contacts.” or whatever.

Opportunity Knocks All Around

Even though all of the above examples are marketing apps, please know everything here applies across the board; my examples were just what were top of my mind when I wrote this.

The Success Gap can be present in horizontal and vertical apps, passive (like website monitoring, CDNs, etc.) and interactive SaaS, project or campaign-based solutions and those that are used in an ongoing fashion (CRM, HCM, ERP, etc.), etc.

You get the picture, right? I hope so because here’s a reality check for you…

They’ll Blame You!

If your customer doesn’t achieve their desired outcome, even if that outcome is beyond the scope of what your product does (but your product is being used to get them there), then if they don’t achieve it, they’re going to blame your product; they’re going to blame you.

They’re going to blame the tools that they use because nobody ever wants to take the blame themselves. It can’t be that their ads were poorly designed or targeted or that their emails weren’t designed to generate results. Doesn’t matter.

You’ve Got Two Choices…

All they know is they signed-up for your product, used your product, and didn’t achieve their Desired Outcome. That’s a real problem for you, even though it might not be logical.

You have two choices…

  1. Ignore this reality, focus on the functional use of your product and leave “success” up to your customers, knowing that some (many) won’t achieve that and will churn out, or…
  2. Accept this reality and mind the success gap by doing things to help your customers achieve their Desired Outcome. Training, Articles, Videos, Presentations, Courses, Tools, Consulting, Professional Services, etc.

In fact, a mix of free (do it yourself) and paid (done for you) may be exactly what you need to expand LTV both “organically” due to increased success reducing churn and increasing customer lifetime and whatever the opposite of organically is due to getting them to actually pay you more.

The Psychological Benefit of Bridging the Success Gap

There are also some really awesome psychological effects that happen when you offer to bridge the Success Gap by teaching someone how to get better results and achieve their Desired Outcome. First, though, remember, I’m not a trained psychologist; I just play one every day as I try to figure out why people do what they do.

So the first thing that happens is by offering to train them on how to get better results, you subtly put the onus on them for achieving their desired outcome. You’re sending the message that says “we’ll provide the tools and infrastructure for you, but to get the best results you’ll have to write better emails, design better ads, etc.” That is step one in getting them to stop blaming you for their lack of success.

The other thing that happens when you teach someone to be better at their job or to otherwise achieve their Desired Outcome is that they simply like and trust you more.

We often remember someone – or some company – that taught us something really important. This is why some companies have such a large army of advocates out there; because they elevate the people that comprise the companies who are their customers.

I know of several vendors who have customers that continue to be customers not because of the core technology product they provide but because of the customer-exclusive content they produce. In fact, I know of some situations where one vendor has kept some paying customers who outgrew their product, bought another vendor’s product, but still pay for the first product simply so they can continue to learn from that vendor.

While we want customers to be using our product and getting success from it, helping some of your customers achieve their Desired Outcome to the point where they outgrow your solution, but stick around to continue to learn from you… that’s not a bad scenario.

Ultimately the side effect of bridging the Success Gap for your customers is they stay longer, pay you more, and tell their peers. Not bad.

About Lincoln Murphy

I am a Customer Success Consultant focused on Customer Success-driven Growth. I wrote the Customer Success book which you can buy at Amazon. If you need help applying Customer Success-driven Growth principles in your company or would like me to speak at your event, please contact me. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.


  1. Lincoln, thanks for this post, it has been instrumental in re-purposing our startup. Analytics is another area with a success gap. Tools, consultants, and agencies churn out a nonstop flood of metrics yet businesses struggle to use them to improve performance. This article helped solidify my thinking on how we could add value and differentiate our SaaS in a crowded space.


  1. Convert with Customer Success | salesnerdo says:

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