HomeBlog Customer Marketing: Have We Forgotten Our Manners?

Customer Marketing: Have We Forgotten Our Manners?

September 28, 2012 | By Megan Heuer

It seems we in b-to-b may have taken the concept of making marketing accountable for revenue a little too far. It’s not that I miss the “bad old days” when it was okay for marketing to not be accountable for any revenue outcome. But I see a disturbing trend: From measurement to social media to account-based marketing programs, marketers are pushed to focus almost exclusively on creating demand, at the expense of supporting customers.

It seems we in b-to-b may have taken the concept of making marketing accountable for revenue a little too far. It’s not that I miss the “bad old days” when it was okay for marketing to not be accountable for any revenue outcome. But I see a disturbing trend: From measurement to social media to account-based marketing programs, marketers are pushed to focus almost exclusively on creating demand, at the expense of supporting customers. Although customer marketing was named a top priority by CMOs in a recent SiriusDecisions study, there’s still a lot of work to be done. It may come down to this: We’ve forgotten our manners.

Allow me to explain. In our zeal to automate, scale and quantify marketing outcomes that lead directly to revenue, all the energy has gone toward optimizing our ability to engage buyers. While that has led to progress in making marketing more respected as a growth contributor, it’s also caused some important, non-demand-creation contributions to get sidelined. Not enough b-to-b marketing organizations are deploying systematic, relevant, non-selling content and interactions for existing customers to maintain engagement after the buying process is over. While the talk is about customer focus and insight, the action is all about what to sell. It’s like inviting someone for drinks, then expecting them to want to buy you dinner after you’ve spent hours talking about yourself.

It’s not hard to see how we got here. While marketing can do much to support the customer lifecycle, only some of it results in the direct connections to new leads and closed revenue that look great on executive dashboards. As a result, marketing organizations lose their appetite for playing a supporting role, because it’s harder to show financial results and defend investment. But the non-demand-creation elements that attract engaged, loyal customers are too valuable to ignore. If, after someone has bought from you, marketing has no obligation to engage the customer and develop the relationship with your brand, the company is missing out on a significant aspect of influence that can be delivered cost-effectively and consistently.

It’s time to develop a marketing plan to support the customer lifecycle, not just buying opportunities. SiriusDecisions data shows that, on average, customers respond to direct marketing outreach three times more than non-customers do. That’s often without dedicated customer messaging. Imagine how powerful relevant, non-selling messages could be that support customer engagement. Customers will think of you when they need to solve a problem. They’ll be less tempted by competitors, because you’ve been there all along and delivered value. More may advocate on your behalf – the most powerful marketing of all.

Retention, loyalty and advocacy are measurable outcomes of customer marketing that support revenue growth precisely because they’re not about selling. Invest in delivering non-selling value, and the financial results will follow. Many of the same smart approaches to persona development, content strategy and automated nurturing apply, but they need to support a different objective. Let’s try harder to remember our manners and make our customers feel at home. It’s worth it.

Megan Heuer

Megan Heuer is Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. With more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer.

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