An online travel agency uses an array of digital marketing tools–Facebook ads, online commercials, HTML emails with vacation pictures highlighting positive customer reviews–to interest you in its amazing packages. You picture yourself on holiday, relaxing poolside with a pina colada, and a few clicks later, you’ve purchased the vacation getaway for your family of four and the agency has acquired a new customer.
The trip is booked, and you are three weeks away from the vacation. Then you receive an email from the company offering 20% off the exact same package. You call the customer service number explaining that you just purchased the trip and would like the price difference refunded to your credit card. The company agrees. and you’re pleased by the response, but the damage is done: A happy customer is now a confused and slightly annoyed one.
It’s amazing that a company can be so savvy in attracting a prospect’s attention and successfully making sales, but then drop the ball in marketing to the customer post-sale, treating one customer as if he or she is two different people.
But it happens all too often, thanks to a strategic mistake that continues to afflict many companies when they should know better in the advancing digital age: a disconnect between demand gen (connecting with the market to create awareness about your product) and long-term customer care and satisfaction (keeping them coming back for more).
The industry has talked an awful lot in recent years about marketing’s importance in generating awareness and leads, but we've said less about its value in the larger customer lifecycle--as a tool well-suited to retention efforts and well-equipped to drive revenue.
That’s right. Marketing automation shouldn’t be just for generating demand. The same principles and practices contained in demand gen marketing (segmenting, scoring, and nurturing) have just as much to offer customer marketing and will prove especially instrumental in B2B marketing as the subscription economy shifts focus and revenue toward post-sales and renewal initiatives.
Fact is, customer success–i.e. retention, increasing sales, low churn, and generally increasing happiness–is a concept people love to talk a lot about but that continues to take a back seat to customer acquisition in many marketing organizations.
So many companies have built elaborate demand-gen funnels to drive interest or inquiry into products or services, often using software tools that automate and refine the process. Which is great. But too many companies fail to recognize that the same capabilities and processes that are so helpful in demand gen are applicable to interactions across the customer journey.
With a better strategy and tools, the travel agency would have automatically handled its new customer differently–perhaps anticipating the buyer’s predictably negative reaction to the post-sale discount by offering a better deal on an additional purchase than what prospects could get.
Every company should be asking itself: Once a sale happens, is our model geared toward making sure customers are happy and successful over the long haul? Or more toward moving quickly on from that sale and hunting for the next one?
If the answer is the latter, you have a love-them-and-leave-them attitude that is out of step with the times.
Modern marketing doesn’t just spur awareness and interest and generate leads, it takes a holistic approach that applies what’s become common practice in demand gen–acting on customer data and signals in an automated and intelligent way--to the rest of the customer ecology.
Another mistake many companies make is confusing customer support with the application of marketing automation principles post-sale. I’ve even heard speakers at conferences say the head of support has become a new “steward of the brand.” That’s nonsense. The CMO has been and remains the steward of the brand, with the head of support as a partner. While strong customer service is essential should a customer encounter a problem, automated tools can allow you to anticipate and counteract problems before they happen–like pitching 20% off to a customer who just paid full price for the same vacation package.
Customer expectations have risen to the point that providing good support after a problem isn’t good enough. The key is to be proactive instead of reactive, automated instead of manual.
One of the things I love about the SaaS business model is that it’s purely based on customer success. You’re building an annuity of subscribing happy customers as opposed to the old way of merely persuading prospects to buy perpetual licenses. SaaS requires ongoing delight, and the same idea has taken root in other industries.
The bar is high, and new automated tools are necessary to process and take action on the countless signals that both prospects and existing customers put out.
Marketing automation is increasingly becoming that brain, connecting existing departments and transforming the customer lifecycle for anyone and everyone who interacts with the brand.
See what the Twitterverse is saying about customer experience: