According to LinkedIn, “customer marketing manager” was the third fastest growing job title in the United States in 2021. Not only that, but an Influitive study found that 98% of executives consider customer marketing to be either important or very important to their organization’s success.
Today, customer marketing is clearly in the mainstream.
The world is both more digital and customer-centric. Prospects are more in control of the buying process and are as informed as ever. They don’t want to hear what you’re saying through your ads, but rather, they want to know what you’re truly about.
These future customers want the unfiltered truth about your brand from your existing customers. They don’t want to be another number, but a valued stakeholder.
Brands that foster strong relationships with their customers thrive. They benefit from customer loyalty, cross-sells and upsells, and growth.
However, building a scaled and impactful customer marketing program doesn’t happen overnight.
In April, Influitive was the headline sponsor of the Customer Marketing Summit. During the event, we got a look at how organizations can build thriving customer marketing programs.
From some of the top customer marketers today (many of whom are Influitive customers), we learned how to build roadmaps for growth and avoid critical missteps at every stage.
Why Customer Marketing?
We live in an age where customers have more control than ever.
Gillian Farquhar, the Global Head of Customer Marketing at Qlik, noted, prospects across both B2B and B2C don’t want to be marketed or sold to. Rather, they want to steer the buying process by doing their own research and deciding based on factors that matter to them.
In her experience, Gillian found that customer marketing was the part of marketing that adapted the most to this trust-centric environment.
Brands can’t buy trust with ads. They need to demonstrate it with action and, above all, get their existing customers to advocate on their behalf. But achieving this requires a robust customer marketing program that cuts across multiple areas.
UserTesting’s VP of Customer Marketing and Influitive customer, Sterling Jackson, framed the issue really well, “Customer marketing has expanded to include a much broader set of programs to drive customer renewal, engagement and advocacy.”
You can catch the full recording of each seminar of the Customer Marketing Summit. It’s a comprehensive line-up that will help you launch and scale your program. But here’s a quick recap of the key points:
Key Takeaway #1: Bring Value to the Customer
Many organizations start their programs with the wrong question or framing – i.e. “What can WE get from our customers?” This isn’t the right way to treat customer marketing.
In a fireside chat, Influitive customers Jeni Asaba from Jamf and Jennifer Susinski from Taulia Inc. said that the right starting point is to ask yourself, “What can we GIVE to our customers?” In other words, think of yourself as if you’re working for your customers, not the other way around.
Think from the customer’s standpoint. Why should they engage with your customer marketing program? What are they – both organizationally and personally – getting from the experience?
Basically, what’s in it for them?
Empower the Customer
Look at ways to elevate the customer. They’re not just another number, but a relevant voice and valued stakeholder for your organization.
For example, get your executives to regularly speak with your customers. This gives customers a sense that you’re invested in them right from the top of your organization.
You should also create opportunities for your customers to engage with key people across your product/engineering, customer success and other teams. When they have feedback and input, they can convey it to real people. Not only does it nurture a human connection, but it also gets the customer to view your brand as a real partner.
Offer a Way to “Level Up”
Think outside the box. The customer experience isn’t just about the customer’s interaction with the product or even your company. You can – and should – add more layers to the experience.
Jeni Asaba discussed how she helped the customer with their brand amplification efforts. For example, Jeni spotlighted the customer on social media and shared their blog content. This created a new space for customers to build their employer and/or personal brands.
Likewise, Jen Susinski spoke about how she tuned Taulia’s community into a home for professional growth. She offered her customer advocates free Toastmaster sessions and other skill-building opportunities. Not only did her customer advocates grow, but they used their newly gained skills to promote Taulia in more impactful ways.
The point of this approach is to get beyond transactions and, instead, build deeper bonds. You want to resonate with your customers’ individual motivations, feelings and personalities.
When you build those bonds, your customers will reciprocate your support with brand loyalty and advocacy as well as open up new sales and growth opportunities for you.
Enhance the Product Experience
You can enhance the product experience by building ways for customers to get more out of their purchase. Jeni and Jen highlighted how they provided materials and programs to customers to help them better understand using the product.
Likewise, offering access to beta tests and sneak-peeks is a good way of providing customers with forward visibility. They can see where the product is heading in the near future as well as offer their feedback and suggestions.
Finally, you can also tailor your customer community into a resource. Your customers can use it as a self-service help center for their questions about the product. You can even encourage your internal team and customers to pack the community with best practices and thought leadership.
Key Takeaway #2: Get Internal Stakeholder Buy-In
You need internal stakeholders onboard to deliver a thriving customer marketing program. They comprise of both key decision-makers and solid support people.
Winning Over Other Teams
Jen Susinksi discussed how the key starting point is to tie the value of customer marketing to the goals of your organization and to each individual department.
Here’s a breakdown of what each department would like to see:
According to Outbound Engine, the success-rate of selling to an existing customer can be as high as 70%. Companies in the U.S. are leaving $137 billion on the table every year due to avoidable churn. On the other hand, increasing your customer retention rate by 5% can see profits increase by 25-95%.
You need to connect how customer marketing can support this type of revenue growth. Key points of focus could include customer retention, cross-sells and upsells, and referrals.
Currently, 89% of customer marketing work happens in the marketing team. While marketing will likely own customer marketing, it’s still worth understanding the immediate benefits.
Today, just as audiences have more control of the buying process, they also have more control of the content they consume. They don’t want ads and polished or hyped marketing messaging.
For marketing, getting into customer advocacy (or brand advocacy as a whole) is key to breaking through to skeptical audiences.
Customer marketers are the stewards of the post-sale customer journey. They get and keep your customers on the path to becoming advocates. In turn, advocacy drives brand awareness and credibility, lead generation and much more.
You can point towards the potential to generate more renewals plus cross-sells, upsells and referrals. But you can also connect the value of customer marketing in creating testimonials, customer stories and more bottom-of-funnel assets for prospects.
You need to establish a link between customer marketing and key customer success metrics. This can include NPS scores, churn rates, customer satisfaction scores, renewal rates, etc.
Customer marketers should collaborate with product management to capture the ‘Voice of the Customer’ (VOC) to shape the product roadmap’s priorities and product development.
Together, the two teams can collaborate on setting up customer advisory boards (CAB), user groups and meetups, design reviews and beta testing programs.
Finally, you also empower the customer’s voice when you close the ‘feedback loop’ by showing them how their input shaped the product.
Getting the Right Support
In addition to winning over internal stakeholders, you’ll also want to identify exactly what kind of support you need from each internal stakeholder.
Think about the data or insights you’ll need from each department to ensure your customer marketing program is on the right track. While it will take time, Kevin from Adobe showcased how you can build informative dashboards to measure your potential impact.
In terms of stakeholder support, you can look for champions in each department. These folks can help you nurture and manage a customer community, represent the customer’s voice in their department and much more.
However, as you start involving internal stakeholders, think about marketing to them too.
Charlotte Lilley, Head of Global Customer Marketing at Coupa Software, discussed how she used customer content to internal audiences. For example, she showcased the newest wins
and announced new customers.
Overall, the point here is to engage your internal stakeholders. The more engaged they are, the more impact you’ll see in your customer marketing program.
Key Takeaway #3: Respect the Customer’s Voice
The customer’s voice is incredibly valuable. When a customer advocates for your brand, the impact is powerful enough to reach skeptical audiences. It offers potent third-party validation.
Their voice also gives relevant and user-driven feedback about your products and services. It arms your product team with a solid bearing when they design the roadmap.
But as Influitive customer Cate Vanasse, the Director of Global Customer Marketing at Cisco Meraki, discussed, the customer’s voice is really easy to take for granted.
One mistake organizations make is failing to properly manage customer feedback. Oftentimes that feedback is siloed between different teams. In some situations, teams are asking similar or identical questions to customers. In turn, customers experience feedback fatigue.
You should treat the customer’s voice as a key stakeholder. Cate spoke about how she did it by building a ‘Voice of the Customer’ (VOC) team. The VOC team was composed of key members from each internal team to manage customer feedback.
The VOC helped eliminate overlap in the feedback each team was collecting. Collapsing the silos also unlocked a complete picture of what customers were saying to Cisco Meraki. It also helped Cate close the feedback loop.
Customer Marketing is the Winning Strategy
We now live in a buyer-controlled, customer-centric environment. They don’t want to be sold or marketed to. In fact, a study from LinkedIn found that 80% of the B2B buying process is done before the first sales call. Customers are in control – they’re at the center of your attention.
During the summit, Influitive CMO Dan Cote put it best:
“The world has changed. The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and has refocused everyone’s attention on the customer – and rightly so. Customer obsession has become the winning business model. If you’re claiming to be a customer-centric or customer-obsessed organization, then you cannot do that without investing in customer marketing.”
If you want a full picture of where customer marketing is going in 2022, then check out our latest State of Customer Marketing benchmark report here.
See how using Influitive will help you organize and grow your customer marketing program. Learn more.