• We often see the terms “customer marketing” and “customer experience” used interchangeably
  • This post clarifies the two terms and draws a line in the sand about their usage
  • Customer experience is about strategy, while customer marketing is about using the toolkit of marketing to support goals

As a SiriusDecisions analyst, I cover customer experience. I get questions about all areas of the topic, and more often than not, the terms “customer marketing” and “customer experience” are used interchangeably. I am writing this post in an attempt to clarify the two terms and draw a line in the sand about their usage.

First, customer experience: This is the umbrella definition of what customers actually experience when they interact with an organization, along with the function put into place to support it. A critical responsibility of the function is to drive understanding about and improve how customers interact with a company, its products, services, systems, processes and people. Customer experience sets strategy with programs and teams that work cross-functionally with company executives and functional/regional leaders. Its purpose is to improve customer engagement throughout the customer lifecycle by focusing on customer-centric business practices. Interlock with the product and sales organizations is critical, since customers’ expectations are often set during the pre-sale experience. Although customer experience tends to focus primarily on the post-sale portion of the journey, it should be aligned to the buyer’s journey and the customer marketing team – the former because that’s where customer expectations are set, and the latter because that’s where customer engagement, loyalty and expansion are nurtured. Customer experience responsibilities include:

  • Strategy – understands and illustrates customer experience opportunities and goals
  • Insights – gathers, interprets and coordinates resources for customer insights
  • Coordination – aligns functions that impact customer experience to leverage insights and deliver on goals
  • Measurement – sets goals and tracks the impact of customer experience investment
  • Communication – informs all functions of insights, strategy, goals and impact
  • Customer success management – does post-sale account management focused on retention and value attainment

 Customer marketing is a component of customer experience delivery that generally reports into marketing, but it must have a strong connection to customer experience to ensure maximum impact. The customer marketing team focuses on nurturing and growing customer engagement and loyalty. Its activities are primarily communications-related programs that use both online and offline tactics. Customer marketing responsibilities include:

  • Customer communities
  • Customer advisory boards
  • Executive sponsorship programs
  • Customer advocacy programs, including content development, traditional references and awards

In most cases, the leader of the customer marketing function reports into marketing, with a dotted line to the customer experience function, to maintain alignment. Customer experience is about strategy, while customer marketing is about using the toolkit of marketing to support goals and customer needs within that strategy.

Do you see this kind of alignment in your world? Can we continue moving forward in how we interact with our customers with blurry lines and squishy definitions? Or is it no big deal? I’d love to hear your thoughts.