Marketing to customers can be a tricky thing, if you don’t really know who you are talking to (which is not unusual among marketers, I’m afraid). You just don’t want screw it up, do you? That’s why I joined the Service User Group (SNUG) UK meeting in London 2 weeks ago.
The UK SNUG is chaired by the ServiceNow champion within one of our enterprise customers in the UK and aimed at bringing our customers together to share experience and best practices. For marketing, a user group conversation helps to understand how to successfully market to existing customers, that is: without interfering with their business or the sales process.
The best marketing
My conclusion after a full day of customer discussions and presentations: The best marketing is done by happy customers. Period. They ask, they answer. They share issues, they solve problems. They visit each other at work to have a closer look. They exchange telephone numbers. From that point of view, the sole goal of customer marketing is to put happy customers together in a room – and maybe sneak a handful of prospects in.
Woes of customer marketing
Customer marketing. Some marketers will shy away from it, weary of interfering with the account management process. Some sales reps will ask for their accounts to be excluded from broad communications and demand generation tactics (and then move to ask for account-specific newsletters and events, but then refuse to do any work to provide for any content, speakers or addressable contacts which in the end means the whole thing fails big and marketing gets the blame after all. AND NO, I AM NOT FRUSTRATED BY THIS AT ALL ! ! ! Hehe.)
Alignment! Alignment! Alignment!
In short, at the customer level, marketing and sales usually struggle hardest to align, compared to when it comes to finding prospects out there. There is a lot at stake.
So just to share a shortlist of do’s & don’ts I picked up along the way:
- Don’t think you understand the customer better than the sales team. There is no way. Usually, over time, you can know more about the product, the competition, the market, even the pricing and general customer insights based on customer satisfaction metrics for instance – but not individual customers. There is just no way. So you’ll have to partner with sales to understand what the customer marketing strategy should look like.
- In general, don’t mess with deals underway, or in flight, or in progress – whichever way they’re tagged, called, flagged. Suppress them from your marketing database and stay out of trouble.
- Segment communications to customers, so that the right value propositions and calls-to-action are positioned in the accounts. Commonly, you need to understand the product portfolio mapped against the customer lifecycle and understand the upsell path to get this right.
- Put a contact strategy in place including all communications, with a simple calendar per country on when outbound messages drop. Keep it updated and share it with the account teams. Give them a chance to influence it based on their sales plan’s milestones. Build trust that marketing is not a spamming center, but a sender of messages and calls-to-action relevant to their accounts, helping them grow their business and bonuses.
- Take into account who actually owns and manages the customer relationship. If you are talking to direct accounts, don’t refer to value added resellers and vice versa. Especially in larger companies, all kinds of awful things go wrong around this topic. If relationships are being managed by business partners, like value added resellers or service providers, enable them to grow their business. Don’t get in there yourself.
- Find ways of presenting the account teams and channel partners with actionable data on engagement. Visualize and interpret. There is so much data available these days on customer behavior that an average sales rep will not use in executing the account plans. Simple account-based dashboards can help them understand who is engaged in paid, owned and earned media, who is reviewing competitive content, who is sharing assets with colleagues, who is browsing and clicking, attending webinars, downloading whitepapers, conversing online.
- Join sales meetings to understand which accounts are not to be touched, where doors need to opened, upsell opportunities created. Come up with a concrete plan of action to help the sales team get in there. Marketing has a knowledge, skill and tool set that is very different from the sales arsenal – use it to get into the conversation and add value to the sales process.
- Move beyond the here and now by providing trend analyses on all levels. Generally, most sales kind of know today’s data snapshot of their accounts, or they have an adequate gut feeling of how things are looking. But only the really good ones follow the trend and try to get ahead of the game by extrapolating data. That’s where marketing can help. Show the dynamic of the customer database mapped against product portfolio, revenue, competitive pressure, available job roles, market trends et cetera, over time.
The best way of understanding how to support sales is for marketers to dig in and thoroughly understand the customer’s view of the world – their pains, aspirations, drivers, requirements, but also their point of view in working with the vendor. A user group meeting is a perfect place to go and get that insight.