The new responsibilities of customer marketing

Customer Marketers are no longer just librarians for reference management systems or event planners for user groups. They are being asked to expand into a much broader responsibility set in order to have a strategic impact on the customer journey. This evolution may not be a fit for existing Customer Marketers, but those with ambition will grow into highly strategic (and highly valued) position.

Here are the key areas that Customer Marketing is beginning to get involved in:

Engagement

Who engages with your customers throughout their journey?  Is the message consistent? Are we getting them what they need? Are both sides getting value out of every interaction? Customer Marketers will need to work to understand this and strategically craft those engagements so that customers are feeling 100% happy with your people and your product/service.

Cross Sell and Up Sell

Very few companies are doing well at this and strategic CEOs are realizing that Customer Marketing could play an important role. All of the engagements in the customer journey need to be architected so that opportunities for cross sell/up sell are raised or purposefully asked for during the journey. Customer Marketing will have a holistic view of this project and will therefore be able to bring to sales and client success the right process and technology to address this.

Referrals

Savvy Customer Marketers are realizing that their customers are more than willing to provide referrals if asked and appropriately recognized for their efforts. And because referrals directly impact the bottom line, this is often a great place for Customer Marketers to start.  Prove impact here and you’ll get resources to impact engagement more holistically. Lots of innovation has come around referral automation platforms that run referral programs at scale. Teaming up with Demand Generation and Sales will be a common occurrence as Customer Marketers see the direct impact on revenue. And a bonus, the high-end referral platforms can also be used for cross sell!

Advocacy

Customer Marketing has always played a role in references, but now technology is allowing for much more to be gained from customers. When specifically asked, they will review you on 3rd party sites, create content for you and yes, still provide sales references. But, instead of managing as a database, you manage as a community of advocates that you need to get the right content, right ask and right incentive at the right time. While not as high-impact as referrals, this will be an important area for

Recognition

Your customers go through a hell of a lot of work to buy your product.  They have to get dragged through a sales process (some can take over a year!). They have to then work through implementation and then are abruptly pushed out of the nest to see if they will fall or fly.  They deserve some recognition for this monumental accomplishment!  Customer Marketers are starting to get more purposeful about how to say thank you to customers in meaningful, yet inexpensive ways.  Some are sending gifts or hand written cards to new customers.  Others are recognizing advocacy or referrals with rewards and recognition.  Special achievements with product use are being awarded at user groups.  This is all a part of showing that you value your customers and is incredibly important.

Community

If you don’t yet have a user community, I guarantee that Customer Marketing will be looking to create one.  As they approach referrals and advocacy, they will naturally be developing communities of advocates (customers willing to do stuff in support of your brand).  This is going to be a big source of power for Customer Marketers as they will hold the keys to fulfilling the needs of Product Marketing, Sales and Demand Generation – all avenues for customer success.  For those who already have a user community, Customer Marketing will be looking to integrate and influence the community with increased engagement during the customer journey.  It is an excellent medium for giving value back to your customers while harvesting value from them in return.

 

There is much for Customer Marketing to tackle, but as you can see there is also a big impact to be made.  If you are a Customer Marketer working on any of these new areas or working on things I didn’t list, I’d love to hear your story!  Ping me on Twitter @TrishaWinter to continue the conversation.

 

What is brand advocacy?

 

4 marketing roadblocks to customer obsession

Originally published in CMO Essentials on May 15, 2015.

B2B marketing used to be a simpler proposition—conduct market research, agree on a creative and compelling message, and execute campaigns around that message. Today, marketing is responsible for targeted branding, messaging, ample and quality demand generation, event collateral, competitive positioning, ROI, digital and social awareness and more. We must be experts in more areas than ever before, and we must be willing to give up what previously worked well to try what might fail, in order to bring value to our organization.

Marketers must now be “specialized generalists” — generalists enough to understand the many channels and technologies available to them, but experts enough to be effective across channels – and deeply so within at least one of them—which means that marketers need to be master collaborators, as well. There isn’t a single element of the marketing mix that doesn’t contribute to the overall strategy and the results produced, and marketers must know a lot about all of these strategies in order to be effective and understand how their customers think, educate themselves and buy. Analysts and industry leaders are now rallying around this concept, labeling it “customer obsession.”

The question then becomes: Is it enough to make the collective decision with your marketing colleagues to be customer obsessed, and if so, what are the roadblocks B2B marketers face in achieving this customer obsession?

1. Limited access to our “characters”

Successful marketers know that telling a compelling story is paramount to their strategy. However, most marketers aren’t given the power to alter (or even be informed of, often times) the product roadmap, nor do we have the time to immerse ourselves in the sales process in order to truly understand the scope of what prospects want to know, and what kinds of challenges they face. So, we aren’t given full access to complexities faced by the central characters in our stories.

It is highly difficult for marketers to tell relevant, relatable stories if we can’t get inside the minds of our protagonists. The plot, the dénouement and the resulting resolution are all contingent on character. And let’s be honest. Stories that engage smart, adult readers shouldn’t be of the fairy tale variety.

2. Data takes time to analyze

Analyzing and measuring data is critical to understanding product-market fit, customer behavior, user-experience, retention, and the buyer’s journey. Aberdeen research, for example, found that 67% of marketers report using analytics for campaign development, and another 56% report using analytics to improve customer relationships.

Unfortunately, the most important metrics are often the hardest to measure, or at the very least, take the longest time to parse, optimize and improve. And to make matters more complicated, software suites that offer color-coded charts and real-time analytics often present a slew of additional challenges that marketers don’t have time to spot or configure in ways that make more business sense.

If you’re a B2B marketer with a sales cycle of 6 months +, measurement in these areas becomes even harder.  Open rates, number of followers, and traffic are all important, but marketers must be able to quantifiably connect their efforts to hard metrics, such as revenue and growth. If you launch a marketing initiative in January, but you can’t connect those efforts to sales until July or even December, it’s not easy to optimize or make the case to change your mix in the interim. And if you’re a newer company that sells high-value products or services to enterprise brands, this can take even longer due to less data and unique buying journeys.

3. Late onset marketing ADHD

Unless you’ve got a large staff of inbound marketers, outbound sales people and digital and social marketers driving and optimizing your campaigns, marketers have to be able to narrow their focus. And since the most successful marketers today are also voracious readers, trend spotters and self-teachers, narrowing your focus to what works and what’s relevant takes a lot of consistent research, blog-reading and self-educating.

We must avoid marketing ADHD by learning to focus on the right tools to drive the right results, which requires us to be savvy marketing consumers as well.

Today, B2B marketers should be passionately curious (but able to channel that curiosity effectively), ready to shift focus on a dime if the data dictates it, and willing to take risks to reap results.  That’s not always easy for marketers who previously relied on a signed-and-bound marketing plan to guide their efforts, or who aren’t willing to let go of more traditional way of doing things.

4. Not everyone orders the same dessert

If four in five B2B purchases involve multiple decision-makers, then I’ve got to be a marketing and sales patissier to appeal to all of them.  Without sitting in on sales calls all day, or having direct access to the decision makers to pick their brains, this is incredibly difficult. To further complicate matters, decision-makers move to new departments, organizations go through a total “reorg,” or the team recalibrates their lead-gen strategy. All these factors can result in a need for a totally new recipe.

Take all these ingredients, whisk them together and try to produce one perfectly set and torched creme brulee. Serve up the creme brulee, wait for it to be eaten, and monitor the faces of your consumers for their reactions. Tweak your recipe, adding a bit more or less creme this time, making sure to catalog every minuscule change you make to the recipe so that you can do some “if this then that” reasoning for the next iteration.

And if you discover, much to your horror, that creme brulee just isn’t satisfying your prospective consumers’ palates, consider a lemon soufflé or the more traditional apple pie.  Or try serving them right-to-left rather than the more preferred left-to-right.

These marketing challenges can be solved, albeit slowly. Unfortunately, these solutions aren’t downloadable and ready-to-implement in 24 hours. These solutions take humans to engineer, execute, manage and optimize. But if it’s true that marketers are as passionate, solution-oriented, creatively and strategically minded as they should be, then we are uniquely positioned to take it on.

The solution lies somewhere in the new marketing mindset, the data, the customers who produce that data, and the power and scalability of the products we use to become intimately acquainted with them. Marketers who build time into their plans to sit down and work with the data as a team rather than relying on software to digest and transform it for us, will make the cut and so too, will the products and services they sell.

What is brand advocacy?

 

 

Forrester Forum for Marketing Leaders: Customer obsessed marketing

I was honored to spend a few days in NYC at the Forrester Forum for Marketing Leaders.  The Forum’s theme, Connect, Engage, Deliver, explored the role of today’s marketers, and what they need to do in order to be successful in our changing marketing landscape.  The singular focus could be summarized quite succinctly: customer obsessed marketing is the key to winning. Understanding your customers and engaging them throughout the customer journey is critical to being successful.

Brands need to hyperadapt

James McQuivey, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst, explained why customer obsession is so important; we are now in the era of hyperadoption. It no longer takes years for late adopters to get on board because the costs and risks to buying that next new thing are very low.  That means that there are no fears standing in the way of late adopters.  We accept that one day we’ll own a smart watch.  On the flip side, with hyperadoption comes hyperabandonment.

This has the potential to result  in a frightening future for marketing where there is less connectedness to a brand.

TAKEAWAY: Forrester advises that in order to win, marketers need to continually add value for our customers, and engage them in meaningful ways.  Adding features to your products should be done in small bits and done as often as possible.

Pivot: Become obsessed with your customer

The session I found most valuable during the conference was called “Make the Pivot to Customer-Obsessed Marketing – At Scale” from VP and Principal Analyst Lori Wizdo. She stated, “It is our job as marketers to engineer the path for customers and engage them throughout that path.” The reality she shared with us is that:

  • 74% of the research of a B2B buying process happens online
  • <3% of buyers report that their first contact with a vendor was cold (email or call)
  • >10 channels influence buyers at each stage of the journey
  • 73% of marketers say their budget is fragmenting across channels

Outbound is no longer working. So what can we do about it? Wizdo recommended that marketers find a scalable approach to become buyer-centric and customer obsessed. Instead of a go-to-market strategy, we need a go-to-customer strategy.  To do this, she outlined 4 buyer archetypes that anyone can use to create a go-to-customer strategy and stay in tight alignment with sales.  The 4 buyers and the way that you would typically engage with them are listed here.

Four buyer archetypes for go-to-customer strategy

  • Procurer: Wants product benefits and differentiators.  Reach with: vendor website, social networks, online chat, partner website.
  • Transformer: Wants business challenge, trends, thought leadership. Reach with: Sales rep (in person), conferences peers, analysts, consultants.
  • Improver: Wants planning tools, models, budget implications. Reach with: vendor website, Communities, inside sales, vendor SME.
  • Reactor: Wants business solution, success stories, research data. Reach with: sales rep, analysts, consultants.

Forrester buyer archetypes

TAKEAWAY: Going to market has shifted and marketers need to “go-to-customer”.

Data is dough for today’s marketer

Underpinning customer obsession is, of course, data.  From the sessions to the tradeshow floor, everyone was focused on data as the driving force.  Google’s Director of Data & Management Platforms, Steve Yap, said on stage that he believes that “data is marketing’s currency”.  We are collecting and making sense of the data that drives marketing, but can also drive the business forward.  Where we are weak in our data collection is understanding the full lifecycle of the customer and how they engage.

TAKEAWAY: Demographics are just a small part of what marketers need to know about their customers.

Focus further than the funnel

In a session from Analyst Tina Moffet called “From Click Metrics to Customer Value Metrics: How Attribution Measurement will Evolve”, Moffet discussed the marketing performance measurement paradox.  While we have tools to measure parts of the customer journey, we need to be able to measure all customer interaction.  Forrester cautioned marketers that we can no longer focus just on the funnel.  The customer journey starts there with Discovery, Exploration and Buy.  But the customer journey continues with product Use, Ask (or support) and Advocacy. And hopefully the cycle continues with additional purchase.

  • Only 26% of marketers use attribution models to understand customer behaviors
  • 32% of CI pros plan to adopt customer journey analytics

Forrester customer journey

Moffet left us with the very true, (but exhausting) thought that you are never done building your customer journey measurement because the customer’s needs are always changing.

The most interesting concept from the conference that popped up in almost every presentation was the idea of customer advocacy.  Interesting, because while analysts discussed it as an important phase of the customer lifecycle, there wasn’t a single session about how to approach it.  In Wizdo’s session she stated that in the discover phase of the buying process, 21% of buyers engage with peers.  This was the highest influencer in the process.

In my individual discussions with analysts, they told me that they believe marketers are looking for pragmatic ways to increase customer engagement while leveraging them for advocacy and that referral marketing is a simple way to get started. Simple because referrals directly effect company revenue.  As marketers respond to the advice from Forrester to become more customer obsessed, it will be interesting to see what projects get tackled first on what will likely be a long road toward truly understanding and engaging on a meaningful level with our customers.

For now, I need to go figure out our buyer archetypes, build out the customer journey with clear ways to encourage engagement and advocacy, and figure out how to measure it all.

TAKEAWAY: Next time you want to throw in the towel, remember that becoming customer-obsessed is a marketer’s journey too; not just a destination.

Continue the conversation with Trisha on Twitter @TrishaWinter

What is brand advocacy?