Open Letter to B2B CMOs: What You’re Not But Could Be Doing About Customer Experience
- The SiriusDecisions 2015 B2B Buyer Study showed that customer experience is the biggest driver of purchase decisions
- It’s bigger than “fit of the product for my needs” and bigger than price as a driver
- If marketing wants to improve its pipeline and revenue contribution, there are two clear options
Note: Now that we’re in the throes of planning season, which brings with it the promise of allocating marketing people, funds and technology to the areas most likely to drive growth, I’d like to call attention to two major areas that may not be at the top of the CMO’s list – but should be. And there’s data to prove why. Please feel free to use these as talking points for your own budget negotiations.
When more than 1,000 B2B buyers speak, it pays to listen to the direction they give us. The SiriusDecisions 2015 B2B Buyer Study showed that customer experience is the biggest driver of purchase decisions. It’s bigger than “fit of the product for my needs” and bigger than price as a driver. Customer experience can be direct, as in what I actually experience with your company. Or it can be indirect, as in what I hear and read from others who have worked with your company. Both can be positively supported by marketing, but in many cases they are not. This is a significant opportunity.
If marketing wants to improve its pipeline and revenue contribution, there are two clear options. What they currently lack is the right level of funding or people to execute in the right way; however, in this budget season, all that could change. Here are the two options and why they deserve your support.
1. Create a Customer Marketing Function
The first is a strategic, coordinated customer marketing function that contributes to the overall customer experience in ways other functions within marketing cannot. A customer marketing function supports activities related to post-sale customer engagement, retention, loyalty and advocacy. Marketing’s toolkit is perfect for supporting the customer lifecycle in a meaningful and cost-effective way. This includes elements such as onboarding, customer engagement nurture, customer communications, advisory boards, online and offline community engagement, advocacy engagement, events, content support (that’s not about selling, of course) and more. A customer marketing function takes uncoordinated, ad hoc and under-resourced customer marketing efforts and makes sense of them in the context of the customer lifecycle. This brings better experience quality, but also greater efficiency and ability to share the feedback that comes through these channels. CMOs can do this by putting a customer marketing function in place that is similar to a demand center, only its focus is on post-sale engagement, retention and advocacy. All of these actions should be aligned with other elements of customer experience delivery from other functions so they are complementary and not confusing to customers.
A word of caution: The customer marketing center supports demand creation by delivering a better customer experience and more advocates, not by generating leads. That means it must be measured on something other than lead volume (there are plenty of credible options). If demand creation from cross- and upsell must be part of customer marketing, make sure selling and non-selling customer marketing activities are measured for the right contributions. If every action designed to engage a customer and help them get value from what they have must generate a lead, you’re missing the point about what really creates demand.
2. Invest to Make Customer Advocacy a Strategic Advantage
The second area that requires investment is customer advocacy. While direct customer experience is the biggest driver of purchase decisions, indirect customer experience is also critical, and it’s something marketing can impact right away. The use of customer advocacy, evidence and customer-advocacy-based content in the buyer’s journey is much lower than it should be. If we know that customer experience is the biggest driver of purchase decisions, marketing must take a more strategic view of leveraging the voice of the customer in its outreach to buyers (and customers). We have a big miss if we know that advocacy and customer-evidence based content is what buyers want and trust the most but we don’t feature it prominently in our campaigns. CMOs need to ensure that the voice of the customer plays a much bigger role in supporting the buyer’s journey or risk capping marketing’s impact. Right now, customer advocacy teams in many companies are under-resourced and under-funded compared to their critical importance in the marketing supply chain.
In 2015, SiriusDecisions conducted the Study on Customer Advocacy and Engagement in partnership with the Center for Customer Engagement.
Results from the study shows that 83 percent of B2B companies said references are “critical” or “valuable” to the sales cycle. These same companies reported investing on average less than 10 percent of marketing program dollars on these areas. This has not changed since we asked the same question in 2013. Now, for 2016, it’s time to wise up and fund what matters. It will be worth every penny