Revenue First or Customer First? Which One Is It?

May 21 2019

Revenue First or Customer First? Which One Is It?

This year’s SiriusDecisions Summit left me soul searching. Two opposing philosophies were competing for mindshare–yet no one seemed to notice.

So much of the SiriusDecisions conference is about models and frameworks to achieve marketing attribution to company revenue growth goals (aka “revenue marketing”). And another, newer topic, is about customer experience and authenticity.

I’m not sure if these two ideas can co-exist.

  1. Revenue-First Marketing
    B2B marketers have fought hard to shed the “arts & crafts” perception. Recently, that’s meant performance data that tracks to the business bottom line. We can thank modern tech stack advancements, increased access to data and improved attribution models for that.

    Some have referred to this as “revenue marketing” –and some B2B marketers have been fixated on it. Revenue marketing is solely focused on solving a problem for the business. It’s about creating a predictable return on investment to affect the business’ bottom line. In effect, it’s about the business’ needs. On the surface, this sounds perfectly reasonable. After all, aren’t we all trying to scale our respective businesses?

    But when you take a closer look at the revenue marketing model, it fails to explicitly focus on the customer. And more specifically, the customer experience.

  1. Customer-First Marketing

    By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the main differentiator between competitors (Walker study). Overall, when it comes to B2B companies, this experience leaves much to be desired.

    “B2B customer-experience index ratings significantly lag behind those of retail customers. B2C companies typically score in the 65 to 85 percent range, while B2B companies average less than 50 percent. This gap will become even more apparent as B2B customer expectations rise.”  –McKinsey

    We all know that expectations related to customer experience are changing fast. Brands that fail to keep up with these increasing demands will fade into obsolescence.

    When you make revenue your singular focus, you forego the opportunity to align your marketing goals to your customers’ goals. Customers don’t care about your revenue.

    Putting your customer first means setting the business growth goals aside during the planning phase. The revenue goal isn’t where insights live. Your business wants maximum growth for the least amount of marketing budget. That’s true in every company. Instead, customer-first marketing asks what buyers need to solve their problem – and how marketing can help them at every turn. When marketing planning starts here, there are insights everywhere.


So I have to choose between delighting customers and ROI?


Not necessarily.

At the SiriusDecisions Summit this year, Cisco showcased how they’re hyper-focused on their own customer experience. To address these expectations, they’re marrying new AI-based predictive technologies with high-touch human interactions to result in a more personalized, hyper-targeted, and unified customer experience.

Here’s how that resulted in a better customer experience:

  • Cisco aggregated all their first and third-party customer data to develop a full profile of the customer–and predict why the customer is contacting Cisco in the first place. With these insights, they can talk about relevant solutions without needing to barrage the customer with a litany of uninformed questions. They’ve even evolved the chatbot function to move beyond the assumptive chatbot harassment we’ve all encountered upon landing on a page in favor of utilizing predictive engagement to evaluate when the best time is to engage the customer– with of course, a personalized discussion.
  • It’s not just chatbots though. Cisco has shifted their approach to how they measure the success of a customer service agent. Rather than a focus on minimizing the amount of time the agent spends with a customer, they’re now incentivizing agents to maximize the impact of the interaction by being completely customer-obsessed. In response, their approach has been rewarded with an 80 percent decrease in “ghost” chats i.e.. when the customer leaves the agent interaction.


Tangible Advice


As we continue to improve alignment between Marketing and Sales, the key is to get both camps focused on the customer. And, you can read more about this shift here.

Being customer-first isn’t just semantics. It’s about getting away from the short-sighted sale. It’s about deeply understanding customer needs and evolving your brand’s approach (Marketing, Sales, and Client Success) to serve them with a unified experience.

My challenge to B2B marketers: The next time you present a marketing case study, lead with the customer challenge, not your business challenge. Make the story about how you solved a customer or buyer problem–and how you correlate that to a tangible business impact.

Game on!

Ready to see just how exciting B2B can be?

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