Building A Strong Support Portfolio

rainbow of paints

We tend to think of support portfolios as being in need of additions: a new offering to match a new product or service, additional features to enhance existing offerings, premium offerings for large customers, special plans for certain verticals, or for partners–but willy-nilly additions can quickly result in chaos, with too many options and too little guidance for customers or salespeople to choose the right one. Here are five recommendations to help you build a strong portfolio.


Offer comprehensive plans [no silos]

I still see many vendors proposing support-only plans alongside customer success plans. Bad idea: instead, create merged plans that cover all (recurring) aspects of the customer journey. It’s ok to handle onboarding, one-shot professional services, or training separately, but package all recurring interactions together, regardless of internal silos.

Keep everything simple

Simplicity sells and simplicity makes it easier to deliver. Strive for simplicity in all aspects of your portfolio, top down:

  • Streamline the number of options. Even if you have a vast array of product lines and customers, aim to have no more than 6-7 options. Resist automatically creating a new offering for each new product: can you, instead, adapt the existing offerings to also cover the new product? If you are going through mergers, merge the offerings into a single portfolio. There will be some immediate pain but much benefits for the future.
  • Create each plan so they can be easily described in a short sentence. If you cannot do that, it will be hard to sell and hard to defend.
  • Use common-sense definitions for individual features. For instance, “Assigned CSM” should mean just that, that the customer has a single point of contact. “Dedicated CSM” implies that the CSM serves only that one customer. Use plain, everyday language with no jargon.

Differentiate the plans

Match each plan to a specific customer type. It could be a simple differentiation by size, or something more complex, depending on your customer base. In almost all cases you can use either a tiered portfolio or a tiered portfolio with options that apply only to certain tiers. If you cannot get to a simple overview, as shown below, with each box matching a customer type, try again!

portfolio options: tiered or tiered with optionsIf you do not already know your customers well, this could be a resource- and time-consuming step, with customer interviews and the creation of customer journeys. It’s a good investment.


Model everything

Run simulations, and pilots if needed, for all features of every plan. Get customer input, especially from your challenging customers. Vet your staffing and cost assumptions.

Plan the transition

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you already have plans and customers who are enrolled in the plans–so you must decide in advance how they will transition to the new portfolio. And you need to train internal players, too

  • It’s obviously easier to move a customer to a new plan if they will get more benefits for less money, so try to align the new features (including new SLAs) with the existing ones to minimize any downgrades.
  • For customers who will see price increases, pre-plan ramp-up accommodations to show you are a good partner, and save everyone a lot of time soothing upset customers.
  • Create case studies and hands-on practice for the sales team. Salespeople often find it difficult to sell support, so give them a simple way to determine what to offer to each customer. This step will be a lot easier if you did a good job of differentiating the offerings.
  • Train the Renewals team and the CSMs, who will be on the frontline with existing customers.
  • Train the support team, at a high level, so they can answer basic questions.

How do you keep your portfolio working for you? Tell us in the comments.

(And if you need help, contact us.)