In my last post, I outlined the new alignment issue within modern B2B organizations: marketing vs the customer success team. It’s a real problem as it can result in a poor customer experience and organizational inefficiencies.
I happen to have worked with companies that have done an exceptional job at bridging the gap between marketing and customer success and wanted to share what I’ve learned. Was it always a perfect, kumbaya relationship? No and I never expected it to be. When you have really smart people with lots of great ideas, there will always be some conflict and that’s healthy. What you can do is recognize this alignment issue and put processes in place to maximize their output for the benefit of the customer and mitigate issues.
Here are my tips to creating a better relationship between marketing & customer success:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Both teams need to be more transparent on what they are working on. This can start with marketing sending the customer success team regular updates on campaigns targeted at customers. This should include the campaign dates, goals, content/call to action, design samples and the results. Representatives from each team should do lunch and learns or present at each other’s team meetings. I would also recommend setting up a weekly or bi-weekly meeting between marketing and customer success. Typically, it’s the customer marketing manager and a member of the customer success team. Here are the joint responsibilities for these meetings:
a. Marketing: Update the customer success team on customer campaigns being deployed. Make sure they understand why they are running them and the impact they will have. Ask the customer success team what type of materials or content could help them. Marketing should also solicit assistance from the customer success team to help boost the success of customer campaigns.
b. Customer Success: Update marketing about recent customer successes and provide insight on challenges that customers face. Customer success should ask marketing how they can help out marketing. This could include promoting an upcoming event or contributing to a blog post on a relevant topic.
I would even recommend that CS and marketing get together in person as part of quarterly “kick off” meetings. Nothing resolves conflict and improves communication better than in person meetings. Consider a team event where each member gets to know each other better. Eliminate any passive aggressiveness or internal politics that may exist. Remember, it’s your customers and ultimately your business that will suffer if internal squabbles persist.
- Set up common metrics and make these transparent and visible.This will take some executive input but it’s worth it. Listen up CMOs and CCOs. Here are a few ideas to consider:
a. Marketing: Part of how marketing is measured should be on retention or net-MRR (total revenue generated vs total revenue lost on a certain period). If you have a customer marketing team in place (which you should), it only makes sense to be measured based on these metrics.
b. Customer Success: Include a metric such as the number of referencable clients or a metric around advocate activities that your customers perform. When customers are referencable and/or performing advocate activities, they will be in a position to further marketing’s goals by providing content for case studies & videos as well as provide easy access to customers for sales references, press & analyst interviews and speaking opportunities. Sales loves these types of metrics as well because it demonstrates how focused customer success is on helping attain new customers.
- Support each other. This is part of having common metrics and open communication. If the marketing team needs more attendees to a webinar, CS should assist by promoting the webinar to customers and getting them to share it on their social networks. This can easily be done by CS by adding a link to their email signature that asks customers to register and share the webinar. If CS needs some design work for a project they are working on, marketing should step up and assist.
- Shadow each other and work together on projects. If the two teams better understand what each has to go through in a day, they can better empathize with the different needs that each department has. For example, have marketers sit on customer calls or go on client visits with a customer success manager. Don’t restrict this to the “happy customers”.
The customer success team can help marketing execute campaigns or participate at events.Having joint projects is also a great idea. For a recent award ceremony project run by marketing, we had the customer success team create personalized videos that congratulated the winners. These joint projects build bonds and foster a more productive working environment.
- Implement a joint program to recognize your best customers. One of the biggest fears of a customer success manager is the feeling that their best customers are being neglected as their loudest customers are taking up their time. Creating a customer recognition program or what we call an advocate marketing program can provide an amazing experience for your customers while assisting with marketing goals such as case studies, testimonials and online reviews.With both marketing and customer success working in unison, an advocate marketing program can be an integral part of your sales and marketing efforts and marketing and customer success become organizational BFFs.
These types of programs provide a systemized way of recognizing your top customers – they make your customers feel special and increase customer loyalty. From a customer success perspective, this has an added benefit of increasing customer satisfaction and retention. It also can alleviate some of the tedious administrative tasks required in customer success such as identifying referencable customers, pairing up like minded customers, generating referrals and asking for customer speakers for events.From a marketing perspective, these programs provide the necessary inputs for their content marketing, sales enablement and demand generation efforts. It’s a win win situation. Marketing will need customer success to help identify potential advocates and customer success can use this program to recognize and perk their customers to help build deeper relationships.
As an example, I had a customer that I visited recently that was late to our meeting. I could see she was distraught when she arrived and had a broken Iphone screen. After the meeting, I asked our customer marketing manager to send her a gift card at the Apple store to help her fix her phone. I felt bad for her and knew her phone was vital to her function. She was ecstatic that we had been this thoughtful and looked forward to developing a deeper relationship with our company. This was a great example of building customers for life and a marketing and customer success team that are fully aligned.
As a final tip, I would suggest that you start small. Start with improving the communications between the two teams. Look for people that are receptive to these types of meetings – it’s typically those that are the high performers. You can even focus on a specific segment if your company is aligned this way. In addition, this doesn’t have to be just customer success and marketing. This can include other departments such as professional services, sales and support. However, if there are two many people, you can run into challenges.
The importance of the customer has never been more paramount that it is today. The reality is that resources to support the customer are scarce. If you couple this with the services expectation that customers have, you need an organization that is working together to provide the best experience possible. For this reason, customer success and marketing need to be fully aligned to maximize their effectiveness.
What have you done in your organization to facilitate to bring these teams closer together?