“Why should my Customer Success (CS) teams think marketing?”
That's a question I often hear from CS leaders. My short answer is that CS must evolve with the customer experience, and the experience is more digital and personal than ever before. Marketing wrote the book on digital and personalized engagement (with prospects), so “thinking marketing” for CS leaders is an approach for scalable personal engagement. But there’s a much deeper rationale I’d like to share.
A few years back (or more recently for some companies), CS was predominantly support-driven. However, CS has evolved, and now adoption and onboarding are in play alongside the pillars of satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. For some companies, CS kind of ends there.
For others, CS is taking on more revenue-related activities, like upsell and expansion, or marketing-related activities like advocacy—be it reviews, event speakers, advisory councils, success stories, and more.
This domain is still forming, and whatever works for SaaS companies may not fit other markets. B2B might work differently than B2C. Responsibilities will shift and so will KPIs.
However, across the board I see three elements of sustainable success: Engagement, Growth, and Advocacy. To win in all three I believe Marketing, Sales, and CS need to build meaningful bridges of streamlined customer data flow and actions. Let me explain why.
Customer Success vs. Customer Marketing
CS teams are not marketers, but they can empower smarter customer marketing. They have a good hunch as to who might be relevant for expansion. They know of use cases that succeeded and can be a success story for others. They can point out good technical references as well as leadership advocates that reference a managerial perspective. They might even have a good idea as to who is the best person within the customer organization to support an expansion campaign.
On the flip side, CSMs would benefit from having marketing-driven insights. They would love to know what content customer X is reading or if they're a contributor in the customer community. They can leverage success stories by industry, country, and use case to get the customer excited about the specific outcomes of full adoption. The health score could indicate if a customer is engaged in various touch points such as community or online content, even if they haven’t visited the product for two weeks.
The customer experience is dynamic across the lifecycle, and measuring their true health score is not an easy task. Yes, CS platforms like Gainsight provide a holistic health score, yet wouldn’t it be great to add to that score aspects such as user-specific individual utilization, social engagement, acts of advocacy, and content interests?
How to Align Customer Success and Marketing
To bridge the gap, CS and Marketing can:
- Maintain a digital relationship with each customer/product-user and build loyalty mechanisms within the customer journey. It will increase satisfaction and reduce churn, and it can also help indicate when something goes wrong.
- Leverage a customer community, if one exists, for advocacy (while acknowledging their contribution) without adding to the CSM overload.
- Create a mechanism for CSMs to ask for advocacy after a positive customer interaction and streamline advocacy input for marketing utilization.
- Know when a user is intrested in content regarding a new feature and automatically initiate an upsell campaign or call.
Structured bridges can prevent some collisions. How many times has Marketing asked for a C-level speaker with a specific use case from a well-known brand? And bam—you’re on a collision course (one of many collision-asks). CS doesn't necessarily touch or nurture these contacts, and even if they did, why should the executive participate? However, with a structured bridge, you would tag those leaders on day one, nurture them from Marketing and CS, and streamline the ask after getting a CS platform “approval” for healthy accounts only.
YES, Customer Success teams need to align with Marketing in a way that streamlines individual users and customer base loyalty, growth, and advocacy. Marketing data can add depth to the customer score, campaigns and touchpoints add insight to customer engagement, and automation, such as Crowdvocate, builds relationships and activation at scale. Most importantly, the customer experience can be improved, and LTV can be increased when this Marketing and CS bridge comes to life.
Move away from the “who owns the customer” conversation and go build those bridges.
Three Tips For Building Bridges
To get started I recommend the following:
- Map out all the customer digital touchpoints.
- Set with Marketing all the process and think of sub-activities that can be automated.
- Align on KPIs—not CS KPIs or Marketing KPIs—rather your company's Customer Engagement Marketing KPIs
You’re also welcome to contact me—my grandfather built bridges, it runs in the family. 😊