FlipMyFunnel Roadshow: Living without leads

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The FlipMyFunnel Roadshow brought together B2B marketing and sales leaders to discuss changes in demand generation on Thursday, Feb. 25, in San Francisco. The concept of living without sales leads opened the event. In a morning slot, Monica Koedel, senior marketing manager, Cisco, and Megan Heuer, Vice President, SiriusDecisions, a B2B research and advisory firm, tackled what it takes to deliver customer marketing in a demand-driven world.

The main thrust of this event revolved around account-based marketing (ABM), of which customer marketing, or customer experience, is a subset and discussed in this fireside chat format. Or according to Heuer, in this context, ABM is about being there for the customer when there are no sales leads.

As in other research in 2015, SiriusDecisions surveyed 1,005 B2B decision makers, and 71 percent cited that the most significant factor in selecting a vendor was based on their direct or indirect customer experience. Main takeaway: B2B marketers and salespeople need a repeatable and consistent formula in order to treat customers well.

“Customer experience is everything that happens to the customer in relation to your company,” Heuer says. This includes the experience with the finance and billing departments.

Renewal and retention

A key differentiation that Heuer made during the presentation was that customer renewals and customer retention are separate concepts. A B2B renewal is simply a defined transaction where the customer has decided to continue to buy. Retention is the ongoing process of delivering value and engagement in the post-sales lifecycle. Or more simply, it’s everything a B2B company does after the customer says “yes,” as Heuer puts it. To establish a long-term relationship with the customer, B2B companies need a retention strategy.

Part of that strategy should include customer marketing, which supports the B2B charter, Heuer says. Customer marketing should support the customer manager, customer success team and customer advocacy. But where is the marketing help, Heuer asks. Because this process is not about finding customer leads the marketing help is not there, she says.

“Customer marketing is about helping these teams help customers find value in the product,” Heuer says.

Six months of Cisco customer success marketing

According to Koedel, Cisco launched its customer success marketing (CSM) function six months ago in September 2015. It seems that Cisco did this at least in part due to her perception that customer experience will overtake price as a buying decision criterion by 2020.

From a marketing standpoint, it used to be all about lead generation, according to Koedel. But now her group at Cisco is dedicated to the post-purchase customer journey, which is even more important in a subscription economy, she says.

At Cisco, Koedel’s team is focused on the digital customer experience. In that way, they ensure the customer experiences success, which leads to retention and drives up consumption.

When Koedel set up her team, there was no flip-my-funnel idea out there. What she did find was the SiriusDecisions Customer Lifecycle Framework, which she used to create a digital marketing ecosystem.

“I rewrote the SiriusDecisions framework for Cisco,” she says.

Koedel also asked questions about engaging the customer on delivery, what activities are going on and how to make it better for the customer. She needed to define the post-purchase lifecycle and had to research the customer perspective on this process.

“See what customers say, great and not so great,” Koedel says. “Map the customer journey yourself—it doesn’t have to take $2 million to $3 million (to have someone else do it).”

What if it’s not marketing’s party?

Sometimes, when mapping company and customer perspectives to the post-purchase lifecycle, marketing doesn’t get invited to the party. In those situations, Heuer advises marketing to crash the party.

“Your customers will thank you,” she says.

Hiring customer marketers

With customer marketing and the customer experience existing as very new concepts, hiring managers will not find many seasoned marketers in this area, according to Koedel. Traditionally, she says she looked for people who were smart, had a good work ethic and were trainable. However, those criteria don’t apply in this situation.

Now that the funnel has been flipped, she needs people expert in marketing automation. She needs people with new data experience.

NONE of this generates leads!

Even one quarter into the CSM rollout, Koedel says she was still asked about how many leads her new program was generating. She had to tell these other Cisco marketers emphatically: none, none, none!

“There are no new leads—these people have already adopted the product,” she says.

Instead, the CSM function at Cisco focuses on:

Shifting to a customer engagement score also exists as an area upon which B2B should concentrate, according to Heuer. In this context, customer marketers need to focus on nurturing the customer in the overall post-purchase lifecycle.

Outcomes

Koedel says outcomes for Cisco have been positive using a CSM model. Customers who experienced the Cisco CSM journey were 40 percent more likely to renew than those who had not. And product feature utilization increased significantly after Cisco CSMs talk to the customers, she says.

In addition, CSM leads to greater job satisfaction for her team. She compared the new function to more traditional outbound marketing roles where a lot of customer contact remains.

“It’s not super satisfying to be the ‘spammer’,” she says.

In comparison, CSM can almost be considered a “humanitarian mission,” in her opinion.

“If you’re helping the customer, it’s a nice journey to be on,” Heuer says.

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).