Iron Mountain’s Blueprint For A Successful Customer Marketing Strategy

david coates headshotIn a previous blog post, David Coates, Director of Customer Marketing at Iron Mountain, explained the approach his company takes to customer marketing and how its customers and the company have benefited.

In this post, David outlines the organizational framework he uses to support his effective customer marketing strategy.

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Securing executive sponsorship for your customer marketing program

Within Iron Mountain, customer marketing started as disparate programs across the organization. David needed to formalize the function while at the same time building credibility across the company. His focus was gaining executive sponsorship and driving broader organizational engagement.

“When building intimate, high-profile customer programs, it’s important to align with the overall corporate strategy and then figure out the key influencers at a senior level who can sponsor your broader agenda,” says David.

David next needed to find his first executive sponsor. He recruited a Vice President who grasped the importance of formalizing Iron Mountain’s customer marketing strategy to support the business.

When that VP stepped down, David approached the line-of-business owner who had worked closely with this VP on customer marketing-related initiatives and believed that these programs would help to advance his agenda, too.

“Natural partners for customer marketing are thought leaders in the business who get the importance of customer-centricity. Their involvement is good for you and good for them,” explains David.

As an example, one of their executive sponsors attends two-day Customer Advisory Board meetings and participates in the monthly status calls on programs that come out of those meetings. This sponsor also goes to bat for David’s team when it runs into roadblocks internally, participates in the annual ARMA conference, speaks at customer lunches, and welcomes top customers at events and Iron Mountain executive briefings.

And perhaps most importantly, he ties customer marketing to his overall agenda. He gets to spend more time with influential customers, which provides him with leverage when lobbying the organization on future investments.

Building internal alliances and collaboration around customer marketing

After gaining executive sponsorship, the next step was identifying which internal functions were key to customer marketing success.

At Iron Mountain, the global solutions team is focused on launching products and services to drive new revenues and retention. David pitched this team on the level of engagement afforded through customer events, providing a unique platform for the solutions group to pinpoint top-of-mind issues with major customers.

According to David, internal collaboration and allies are paramount to success. Once he secures those relationships, he tracks success in terms of company goals. For instance, the head of the global solutions team identified the potential for a multi-million dollar pipeline during a Customer Advisory Board meeting.

According to the 2017 State of Customer Marketing Report, companies who track the revenue from their customer marketing programs are much more likely to be satisfied with the results, making this a crucial step.

David and his team track influence carefully so they can demonstrate the value of their initiative and secure future funding. “This type of tracking and reporting can help you move beyond constant justification for your program budget,” he explains. (See some of his dashboards here.)

In addition, David takes advantage of the fact that allies throughout the organization (including sales, customer success, product development and other lines of business) see a direct impact as a result of their involvement with customer marketing.

Specifically, he asks them to contribute funding to customer marketing activities. “It’s about positioning their participation as a win-win. We help them engage and build stronger relationships with key customers and they gather important insights that help drive their department agendas and priorities,” says David.

Listening to the voice of the customer

As David considers all the customer touch points across Iron Mountain and beyond, he realized it was important to incorporate the bi-annual Voice of the Customer survey as a key data set that influences their decision making process. This program strives to understand big issues driving both positive and negative customer experiences with Iron Mountain.

“Through this, we gain a mandate so we can improve the customer experience. By proactively addressing these issues, we drive customer loyalty and customer willingness to advocate on behalf of Iron Mountain,” says David.

This team also uses the data it gathers across the customer base to develop targeted programs and campaigns. For example, if they find that customers using a certain product are less loyal than other customers, they can identify possible reasons and then launch a campaign to address them.

Furthermore, when they notice a common issue across the customer base, they work with other parts of the marketing department to devise relevant messaging and tactics. For instance, if customers hadn’t realized Iron Mountain provides certain services, the team will create a communications strategy to increase awareness and differentiate itself. They also feed information to the product marketing team about how to position specific solutions.

Iron Mountain’s customer marketing lessons learned

  • Identify both internal and external mentors who can serve as sounding boards and provide guidance, especially when it feels as though you are making little or no progress.
  • Formalize customer marketing and the process that supports it, but be open to off-the-cuff ideas.
  • Look for ways to apply insights gleaned from a smaller subset of customers to your entire customer base.

In his next post, David describes the people and skills needed to succeed in customer marketing.

Helpful customer marketing assets:

This blog was originally published on July 21st, 2015 and was updated on February 22nd, 2017.