Let's face it. We probably should have called it "lead-to-loyalty" instead of "lead-to-revenue." (Lead-to-revenue still sounds better . . . at least we're not talking about the funnel . . .)

What I am talking about is automating marketing — what Forrester calls the integrated set of goals, processes, and metrics that shape marketing practices from lead-generation-to-revenue events.

We see business-to-business (B2B) CMOs from companies large and small ramping up technology, processes, and new marketing skills to get their teams to better focus marketing activity on customer engagement and to measure their departments against revenue performance.

But here's the kicker; managing leads to revenue shouldn't end with a signed contract but should continue across the entire customer life cyle. It's about turning leads into long-term loyal customers. After all, a revenue event is a revenue event; it doesn't matter if it happens from engaging with a prospect or with an existing customer.

Customer marketing is nothing new. We talk about it using terms like retention, loyalty, churn reduction, cross-sell, upsell, repeat purchase rates, and wallet share. What's missing is a stronger focus on how to use technology, data/analytics, and content to create useful, business-relevant customer communications. In research Forrester conducted with ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing last year, we found that, out of 174 marketing execs from B2B firms with budget authority who participated in this survey, only 20 said they report on marketing's contribution to customer retention/loyalty on their marketing dashboard. And only nine of those carry this through on their executive-level reports. That's less than 5%!

Many credit Fred Reichheld, the father of the Net Promoter Score now with Bain &Company, with the research that shows how it is six to seven times more costly to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one — and that boosting customer retention rates by as little as 5% can increase profitability by 25% or more. Despite similar findings elsewhere, marketers still overlook current customers when setting 2014 marketing plans. 

But not all of them.

In a fireside-chat broadcast last month with Atri Chatterji, CMO at Act-On, he and I talked about how they are starting to use nurturing to educate current customers by developing curricula and content plans that match the post-purchase journey. You can check out the slides or replay our conversation to learn more.  

More recently, I spoke with Neil Cohen, vice president of sales and marketing at Visage Mobile, and learned how the company used Marketo to create a customer communication program that starts with onboarding and can run for as long as two years, dropping best practices, helpful hints, usage reports, and "did you know?" information along the way to build long-term loyalty. In the age of the customer, this broader use of marketing automation to manage the "L2Loyalty" process will become essential as only those firms that learn how to obsess over their customers will win competitive advantage.

If you would like to hear more about what Neil, Atri's clients, and other lead-to-revenue-marketing (L2RM) professionals are doing, join me this coming Wednesday, January 22, for my webinar on "Fund Your L2RM Business Case With A Focus On People And Process" when I'll share more details. In the meantime, I'd like to hear about your new approaches for customer marketing and how it's helping to move B2B marketing from advertising cost center to top-notch lead generator and steward of long-term customer relationships (subscription required).