Act-On: Powering the Customer Experience

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Marketing Automation

Marketing has never been more exciting, or challenging.

In these times of rapid change – from new technologies to smarter buyers – you can either rise to the occasion or miss out on the next great opportunity. With how quickly the modern sales cycle is changing, how does the CMO stay relevant?

That’s the proverbial ‘loaded question’, but for now, let’s focus on what can be done to build a high-performing, sustainable marketing department that balances brand awareness, demand generation and customer marketing.

Customer Experience. A Competitive Advantage?

Looking for a competitive advantage? Deliver a great customer experience.

A great customer experience will drive satisfied customers; and satisfied customers will build brand awareness for you. Not only is the competitive landscape continuously changing, but so is your buyer. They research products and services extensively, and purchase differently than even a few years ago. The Internet and social media have given the buyer the power to research many choices and options, evaluate your offering, and reject you as an option without even contacting you. Because this is the modern buyer’s experience, it is more vital than ever to make sure that your messaging is consistent across every touchpoint and every channel from their first brand contact to well beyond the sale.

“Sloppy Growth” is a result of not thinking about your customer

Too much focus on acquiring customers and not enough focus on delivering a great customer experience results in what is known as “sloppy growth.” “Sloppy growth” means a business prizes volume over value. This occurs when an organization places an emphasis on acquisition marketers who drive leads, build pipeline and get deals in the door, and measure their success solely on demand generation – not on a customer’s lifetime value.

At Act-On, we believe a well-functioning demand generation engine is critical for any business. But we also believe it is time to rethink marketing and broaden the scope of the data-driven marketer to include all stages of the customer’s journey. It’s important to not only focus on driving demand, but also on building your brand, and expanding your customer relationships

Stewart Rogers, director of marketing technology at VB Insight, shares a similar belief that we need to begin to rethink marketing beyond demand generation and counting leads in a pipeline.

With triple-digit, year-on-year growth in martech solutions, we have more technology available to us than ever before. Technology that helps us to understand the prospective customer in incredible detail,” he said. “And yet we use it to send crappy, generic messages that are the marketing equivalent of a horoscope.

So what would I optimize? The technology? No. I’d focus on having everyone act more like a human, and less like a marketer. Please utilize all the data and technology you have, but use it to talk to people the way you would if you had met them, got to know them, and connected with them. If you create an emotional experience for each member of your audience, you’ll see a massive return on marketing spend.

Simply put, marketers need to be thinking more about the lifetime value of a customer than just about the acquisition of the customer. The focus needs to be not just on getting people in the door –  though that definitely needs to happen – but also on making sure your customers are successful after they’ve passed through that door. That could mean how they are onboarded, or how they are successful using your product or service over time.

So how do you make sure that you are thinking about your customer’s long term needs and avoid the pitfalls of “sloppy growth” after the close of the deal?

We believe you can take all the use cases around demand generation and acquisition marketing that already exist within marketing automation and apply them directly to the other marketing disciplines, including building your brand, and expanding customer relationships.

By taking the time to do this, you will have customers creating long-term value for you (meaning they renew year after year), and in doing so, your new advocates will build your reputation as a stellar brand. As a result, your economics as a company, your efficiency numbers, all your SaaS metrics will become more valuable.

Do other CMO’s and marketers agree?

I recently did a webinar with a couple of former coworkers at ExactTarget, who are now CMOs at Yext and Four51. I asked them the big question all CMOs are regularly confronted with: ‘You’ve got a bucket of dollars, you’ve got resource and headcount you can allocate, and you’ve got a lot of priorities (typically, you have more priorities than you can do in a quarter or even a year)… So what do you focus on?’

By and large, these marketing leaders’ top three biggest areas of focus were:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Driving demand and feeding sales
  • Strengthening the customer experience

What this tells me, is that marketing leaders understand that taking this balanced, unified approach ensures you are delivering long-term value to your customers well beyond acquisition. As IDC Research Manager Gerry Murray points out, your audience will be able to see the value in this more balanced strategy.

“One fundamental way to rethink marketing is to replace the notion of making an offer with the idea of delivering value,” Murray said. “More than ever, we have the ability to customize information – and data-based insights to each of our contacts. These can be recommendations, tips and tricks, benchmarks, and best practices that deliver value over and above commercial products and services. It will be obvious to consumers which brands have adopted this new philosophy and which are still desperately spamming offers.”

A recent Act-On study shows that marketing leaders know this – 87 percent of marketing teams already dedicate at least half their staff time to functions other than demand generation. Contrary to popular opinion and the strong media focus, marketers are spreading their budget and resources into branding and customer marketing efforts, as well as demand gen. In fact, marketing leaders are increasingly more interested in seeing demand gen-style results from branding and customer marketing efforts.

Rethink [marketing automation]

Marketers need to fundamentally rethink marketing to make the most of the new technologies without losing focus on the brand and its promise. When you build and refine your unified strategy for the entire journey – from prospect to customer to renewing customer – you’ll want to make sure it’s scalable. That means automating everything you possibly can, and keeping a close watch on the numbers.

It could not be a better time to be a marketer. Yes, it’s more competitive and fast-paced as ever, but the opportunities are endless. When your efforts are balanced across all of the marketing functions – building your brand, driving demand and expanding your customer relationships – you will deliver the kind of uncommon results not possible by simply focusing on a single area of marketing. Uncommon results are good. It means you are doing the best work of your career.

Check out our eBook, “Rethink Marketing [Automation]:  Build Brand, Drive Demand, and Expand Your Customer Relationships,” for a deeper dive into the marketing automation use cases for brand, demand, and expand and how marketing automation can be employed to bring balance to your marketing.