April 29 2018
Part 5: Five Steps to Thriving in the Age of the Customer
Last October, I attended CEB's Sales & Marketing Summit in Las Vegas (which, I highly recommend BTW). After one of the break-out sessions, a VP of Sales Capability at Samsung made a statement that's really stuck with me. He said, "I get the ‘what.’ I even understand the ‘so what.’ I'm ready for the ‘what now.’" We have spent almost a month now looking at the findings from our Forrester study* on thriving in the age of the customer. We've learned that:
- Empowered customer make customer obsession essential in today's market.
- Customer obsession requires a reliance on marketing.
- Marketing-led companies consistently outperform peers on key metrics that matter.
That's all well and good, but as my friend from Samsung noted, what specifically should I do about it? Our study cited five key recommendations companies should follow. Those recommendations, along with some commentary from Bulldog's experience working with marketing-led, customer-obsessed clients, is recapped below:
- Become experts on what makes your customers succeed.
What makes your customers so exceptional? While the data to begin this search usually exists across the organization, it is often hard to distill within the silos of marketing, sales and customer service. You must overcome this hurdle.
Marketing should have solid first-party research to identify buying personas, key drivers and messaging, but there are often two problems with this approach alone: (1) it usually isn't comprehensive enough to incorporate the 5.4 average numbers of participants in today's buying decisions; and, (2) it is often too focused on the initial drivers of interest or purchase, and not refreshed by the entire customer experience, which is essential to creating lasting advocacy. Once you've overcome these two challenges, use the more complete picture and put your analytical minds to work refining your segmentation, how you personalize messages and how you communicate to clients throughout their lifecycle.
- Communicate your new customer understanding throughout your organization.
Now that you have a more comprehensive understanding of what makes customers love your firm, take the lead in making sure it is circulated broadly and used constantly to reinforce the company's commitment toward delighting them. Remember that profiles and models can only provide a partial view into your customers. Moving from understanding to obsession requires bringing the data to life with real-life programs and experiences, not just through the acquisition funnel, but through the entire lifecycle. Sharing your insights will not only create a constant self-sharpening effect, but it will ensure a holistic perspective for customer obsession.
Take the increasingly popular adoption of Account-Based Marketing. By fostering more of an ongoing collaborative effort between sales and marketing and incorporating actual customer service insight, companies can educate and inspire customers and prospects using their informed point of view, rather than a self-serving product or solution promotion. Only these types of organizations can accomplish the necessary level of understanding in a genuine way.
- Create on-demand content your buyers can't live without.
Start by asking yourself how much of your content talks about the buyer's problem rather than your company’s capabilities. My personal rule of thumb is that is should more closely align with the 57% of the buyer's journey that occurs before sales is engaged, but that is rarely the case. Part of the problem here is that normal, non-customer-obsessed marketing it too focused on the activities that occur right before the sales engagement begins. Meaning that it's too outbound focused on lead generation or lead nurturing and not focused enough on setting the table via the inbound channels that matter most to the buyers. Sure marketing automation platforms owe their genesis to email marketing and email certainly has a significant role to play in customer-obsessed communications, but the real power of a MAP lies in its ability to drive consistent communications across all channels and across the full lifecycle. Use your automation capabilities to do more than schedule emails along basic nurture tracks – talk to your clients and prospects where they are, based on what you're learning from them across all channels.
- Run marketing by the numbers.
And not just by the numbers but by the right numbers. To earn a seat at the executive table, Marketing has to know and report on its impact on the business – not the readiness and activity metrics so many of us are comfortable with. Don't get me wrong, those metrics are important to optimizing campaigns in the moment, but over the long haul, marketing-led companies are driving strategic engagement by knowing what drives output and impact metrics. Not just what causes prospects to become leads, but what drives the right opportunities into the funnel and what moves the needle on win rates, deal velocity and contract size. When you know and share this information, sales becomes your closest ally, the CFO stops talking about budget cuts and the CEO uses your data to talk to the board and outside investors.
Tackle the tough problems of cross-channel attribution, marketing's impact on cross-sale, retention and life-time value. Make the investment in dashboards and predictive models, and transparently share them across the organization. Do this knowing that the data won't always be perfect, but the insight driven will result in better alignment on customer obsession and better results for your company.
- Extend marketing's customer obsession across the entire life cycle.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: talk more about the customer and their problems and less about your company’s capabilities. Create content that celebrates your customer's success. And help them tell the story, focusing on the problems solved, not the solutions offered. In other words, create advocacy with a passion. Focus on creating lifelong interaction and engagement.
One of the best ways to do this is to lead in the creation of cross-functional customer success management teams. By creating marketing programs that extend beyond acquisition and focus on onboarding, leveraging best practices and creating cross-sell/upsell opportunities, you: (1) create more success for your customers; (2) create more content to communicate your commitment to the customers and the market in general; and (3) set your company apart from competitors. Then, the cycle repeats itself over and over.
So, what are you waiting for? We've shared the facts about what today's demanding customers demand. We've showed how marketing is critical to satisfying that demand. And, we've proven that marketing-led companies are winning in today’s age of the customer. The five recommendations listed above are real, tangible things you can do in the coming months to begin to transform your marketing efforts to lead your company to greater success. Sure it's hard, and there will be obstacles, but it’s a journey worth taking.
If you need some help, I know a great little agency in Austin who'd love to take the journey with you.
*Forrester, “Marketing-Led Organizations Survive and Thrive in The Age of The Customer,” October 2015.