May 22 2019
A New Take on Alignment: We Got It Wrong & You Probably Did Too
Everyone understands alignment, right? At Bulldog, “alignment” usually means developing a common set of lead definitions and SLAs that govern handoffs from Marketing to Sales, extending our marketing programs into sales enablement, and tighter integration of systems (usually MAP, CRM, Media and other third party data sources) so all stakeholders can rely on the same data (one point of truth).
But in their keynote presentation, Dana Therrien (Service Director) and Kerry Cunningham (Sr. Research Director) provided an interesting challenge to how we think about alignment.
In a nutshell, they described our approach as incomplete.
<record scratch…I sink into my chair a bit>
Their assertion is that to achieve all the benefits of alignment, organizations need to go beyond thinking just about the Demand and Pipeline waterfall stages and begin to focus on what happens post-sale:
- What does the onboarding experience look like?
- How do new customers initiate service?
- What do the best and most successful customers look like and why?
- Which of your customers are active advocates? Or on their way to becoming advocates?
- Who’s not an advocate? And why?
While it’s easy to get lost in the nuance, this is a really important pivot.
For the past three to five years, account-based marketing (“ABM”) has been the big thing. Everyone talks about it (although few do it well). Most of the trendy new technologies (intent, predictive, ad serving, AI) are positioned around it. Most of the learning sessions at conferences (including SiriusDecisions) reference it.
At the core, ABM is about creating relevancy; communicating with prospects based on what you know about them. There is no more powerful way for companies to tell their story and create relevancy than to do it through the experiences, words and images of their best customers. We live in a time where peer-to-peer influence trumps everything else. If content is king, then customer testimonials, case studies, references and reviews reign supreme.
To harness the power of your most successful clients and turn them into advocates, Client Success needs to be aligned with how you go to market and how you sell.
Yet, it’s usually conspicuously missing.
When we kick off new client engagements, we usually struggle to get our clients' sales leadership to the table. It’s even more rare to have a client success leader in the room. It’s almost always an afterthought. Now, I can’t help but think about the opportunity cost of not getting aligned with Customer Success from the get-go.
The team at SiriusDecisions demonstrated how and why aligned companies consistently grow faster and generate more profit than their competitors. Those organizations leverage their best customers to inform acquisition marketing strategies (buying journey insights, key messaging, and content strategies). They also look for insights to improve post-sale customer experiences; how brands create more powerful advocates.
Starting demand planning with Customer Success at the table feels kind of...obvious. But then again, the best ideas usually are.