Customer Marketing: Reaching Beyond References
Quick. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “customer marketing”?
According to Bo Bandy, Senior Marketing Manager at ReadyTalk, for many companies, the unfortunate answer is: “References.”
While she agrees that reference programs are an important component of customer marketing, Bo believes that companies not willing to look beyond the reference horizon are missing out on the full range of value that comes with customer marketing.
“There’s so much more opportunity for a customer marketer to engage with customers and build a very strong advocacy program,” she says.
What else is there?
According to Influitive’s recent Customer Marketing Benchmark Research report conducted by Demand Metric, in addition to customer reference programs, companies are engaging in a variety of customer marketing efforts, including:
- customer events
- cross sell and upsell programs
- customer referral programs
- customer advocacy programs
- renewal campaigns
While customer reference programs are one of the top three customer marketing activities used by companies surveyed, the study shows that companies engaging in other customer marketing efforts – namely customer referral programs, customer satisfaction programs, and renewal campaigns – are seeing a higher impact on revenue.
Customer marketing and strategy at ReadyTalk
For Bo and ReadyTalk, successful customer marketing begins with strategy. Responsible for customer onboarding, growth and retention, Bo notes that customer marketing and their advocacy program, the Summit Club, has contributed to both new and existing revenue, as well as brand awareness.
She emphasizes that companies should approach customer marketing in the same strategic manner as they do demand generation, and that both should have an equal seat at the marketing table.
“There is a case to be made that customer marketing is just as important as demand gen, if not more,” says Bo. “Once you have a customer, it’s easier and cheaper to keep them than to acquire new ones.” According to Bain & Company, it costs 6-7X more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.
She adds that, with this strategic role, comes the responsibility of showing a return on customer marketing efforts. “You shouldn’t spend money on what you can’t measure.”
Measuring success: More than just reference counts
Because customer marketing has had such a positive impact on a variety of both tactical and strategic measures at ReadyTalk, Bo admits that she is frustrated when people want to measure success solely by the number of references gained.
“We do measure on the number of references,” she explains. “But we try to take it a step further, showing how references helped close deals equivalent to ‘this’ amount of money.”
ReadyTalk also makes use of metrics from customer events, including the number of people who attended, as well as the effects of this attendance on product usage and churn.
“We’re not doing it perfectly,” says Bo. “It’s a very sticky science experiment that we’re just playing with.”
Changing perceptions around customer marketing
Bo believes that, in order for people begin thinking about customer marketing as a strategic player, companies must first properly define the role. She notes that she’s seen “too many” job listings for customer marketers that focus on reference programs, and not on the strategic nature of the role.
According to Bo, in a perfect world, job descriptions for customer marketers would include the following:
- Ability to strategically and thoughtfully develop customer campaigns that have an impact on recurring revenue or other meaningful measurements
- Capability to build programs that include a variety of customer marketing tactics, including case studies, references and referrals
- Ability to work closely with other teams, including customer success or account management teams
- Talent for connecting with customers and creating strong relationships that lead to advocacy
Bo also notes that this shift in thinking will take some education. She advises talking to marketing peers to help them understand what a customer marketer can bring to the team.
“It’s a cultural shift for companies,” she concluded. “They have to value their customers and see the value that growing those relationships can bring.”