This article was written by Mikhael Gustin – Go here to find him on Campus or on LinkedIn
… or really during any economic climate and any point of the year, in fact.
An unsettling reality is sinking in. Customer Marketing & Community layoffs are abundant, budgets are being cut or frozen, and subsequently, open roles are being slashed. But wait, why? These C-Level leaders don’t see the big picture when it comes to Customer Marketing & Advocacy (CM&A)’s impact on revenue growth, retention/loyalty, and brand recognition & trust. That’s a shame because the inherent value of this blossoming discipline is the ability to tap deeply into your most engaged customer group to discover insights your brand requires to weather economic storms, and even pick up the pace during good times as well. Creating and maintaining these coveted and strategic relationships with customers is difficult and not something easily replaceable.
Gillian Farquhar put it beautifully this past week: “The closer you are to the customer, the more valuable you are to the business”.
This article is dedicated to discussing several major areas that will turn those weary C-Level leaders into cheerleaders of the CM&A program this quarter, next year, and hopefully far beyond that.
New Business Growth
Fellow Salespeople, the year’s coming to a close and all your year’s work is likely coming to a culmination. The economy has made it tough, but you all (and I… hopefully) shall prevail. Want to know what should be your secret sauce this year? Advocacy.
You know what helps close deals faster? Proof. Trust. Assurance.
The CM&A team has and can arm you with so much customer enthusiasm that you put the definition of those 3 deal-accelerating words on display. The more highly relevant customer references, customer stories, reviews, etc. that you can provide through your sales cycle, the more likely your prospect will feel comfortable to move forward with your service because during these times, risk rules all real estate inside a buyer’s heads.
Think of it this way: If you sell a SaaS product in a highly commoditized space, buyers are looking for differentiators between your service and others. This can be tough because sometimes the products looks deathly similar, and customer support promises sound about the same, but if you come to the table with more customer proof highly personalized to their use case, industry, and overall needs, who will they trust? The brand selling them or the proof in the pudding? Nowadays 86% of B2B buyers increasingly rely on peers when making a buying decision.
Let’s talk more numbers: at least 70% of the acquisition pipeline (new leads + existing opportunities) is impacted by customer marketing in some way or another (i.e. references, reviews, referrals, testimonials). At LEAST. Salespeople know the importance of pipeline. Do you know what helps proactively generate more? More customer marketing outputs!
Simple. Us salespeople always ask for more, more, more. It’s our turn to give. Fight for your CM&A team. They may help make your quarter, year, and career.
Existing Business: Retention, Loyalty, and Expansion
Naturally, during difficult times, acquisition efforts contract, and an emphasis on product and customer satisfaction ensue. On average, 60-80% of revenue for a SaaS company older than 3-5 years is recurring revenue on retained customers. That’s a lot. Everyone knows the old proverb that keeping a customer around outweighs finding a new one. The following study by Investp shows how much better it actually is: “existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more than new ones“. During tough times, we should double down on what we have.
Scaled CM&A programs have the ability to strategically influence customers at vital points of their post-sale customer lifecycle (i.e. onboarding, adoption, renewal, upsell). For example, Laura Ramos shares during Obsession that Uberflip leverages customer marketing tactics (i.e. case study ads & emails) to boost adoption, leading to a 30% increase in ARR at an important key global account. Accounts with engaged advocates have a tendency to have higher retention rates (i.e. Hubspot sees 50-55% higher retention rates) and upsell/expansion rates (i.e. 35% higher expansion on average) due to these types of customers doing what they do best, advocating. Customer Success, meet Customer Marketing.
I’m no mathematician but if you do some basic math, most of what I mentioned above leads to quite a bit of reliable, stable growth.
Brand Recognition & Trust
Trust & Reputation are two things that have superseded much of what a buyer cares about as a result of the pandemic and a now majorly virtual business world. During #obsession Amanda Malko supports this with one of her findings: “building trust is more essential, yet harder than ever“.
Reviews are a massive component of this concept. More, positive reviews lead to optimizations all over the growth funnel (more leads, more deals closing, more accounts sticking around, etc.). Similar effects exist around customer stories and advocates speaking positively in public (conferences, webinars, etc,), but also when most important: behind closed doors.
One of the biggest unsolved challenges is understanding and helping dictate what your customers are saying behind the scenes. The impact is huge. Wouldn’t you want to make sure you’re setting your brand up in the best position to be the centerpiece of an exciting conversation amongst prospective & current customers? I would.
To be a category leader, it doesn’t solely take the best product. It takes customer obsession (shout out to Amy Bills) and the above-and-beyond effort to develop your customers and ensure they are encouraged to become a natural ingredient of your brand itself; through reviews, product feedback, and how they represent it on a daily basis. Successful customers = successful brand.
To my C-Levels – Lean into your customer marketing team for what they do best and take it from teams like Hubspot & Alteryx who consistently prove and deliver tangible growth to the business (supported by some of the stats above and videos below).
To my CM&As – The proof is in the pudding. Get strategic with your efforts and link everything back to the KPIs that your leadership cares about, which will likely fall into the buckets mentioned above.
Luis González paints the ideal strategic relationship in his session below during the Q&A: “By working cross-functionally and quickly proving impact, we were brought into leadership calls so we understand off the bat what they need. I turn that around and show a willingness to help, but require an understanding of the depth of strategy involved so we can help fulfill their needs and help them reach their goals in return” (all abbreviated).
Sounds like everyone wins, so why not start winning together today?
Few resources to consider when pitching or understanding the impact of CM&A mentioned above: