There’s an age-old question that has plagued marketers, salespeople, and account managers alike for decades: “At what point in a customer’s journey does marketing’s role end?” More bluntly, “When is it no longer marketing’s problem?” There is no right or wrong answer to this question and it will depend a lot on the size and structure of your organization, but I do believe there are some general takeaways that can be gathered by diving further into the issue. Let’s start by taking a look at the stages of a typical customer journey:
- Awareness – Making the prospect aware of your organization’s existence and the products/services you offer
- Consideration – Helping the prospect understand how you can make their life easier/better more effectively and/or affordably than your competition
- Conversion – Guiding the prospect to the point that they are willing to pay you for your offering
- Loyalty – Keeping the customer happy (i.e. ensuring they don’t want to leave or “churn”)
- Advocacy – Providing such a positive customer experience that the customer organically becomes an advocate for your brand (i.e. they generate new business for you by telling friends and family)
Note: This is very over-simplified and there are many opinions as to what a true customer journey looks like.
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So, where does marketing’s role in this journey start and stop? A traditional way of thinking would be to say that marketing is in charge of steps 1 and 2 (awareness and consideration), then marketing passes it along to sales for step 3 (conversion), who finally passes it along to account management to tackle steps 4 and 5 (loyalty and advocacy). This system implements a series of handoffs between departments with very little overlap between them. Is this approach objectively wrong? Absolutely not! It may drive consistent, reliable results for an organization. That said, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon.
Back to our original question of “At what point in a customer’s journey does marketing’s role end?”, an increasingly popular answer would be: “Never”. Proponents of this way of thinking would argue that marketing needs to play at least a minimal role in every stage of the customer journey. This may be the last thing a salesperson or account manager wants to hear, and I understand why. Every department and individual has their specific processes, and the last thing they want is someone with an entirely different job function coming in to tell them how to do their job. After all, what do marketers know about account management or sales? And this is a fair point! Marketers are certainly not the single source of knowledge for all functions at an organization, but they can be very effective in providing support and insights to other departments during certain stages of the customer journey.
By acting as a source of support and insight, marketing can help their sales and account management colleagues achieve reduced churn and higher lifetime value (LTV) without throwing a wrench in existing processes. While these ideas require a good deal of openness and collaboration among departments, they can be incredibly powerful when executed properly.
One area in which marketing can provide a great deal of support to both salespeople and account managers is content. Whether it’s a 30-second explainer video or a full ebook, a piece of educational content that provides true insight and value to the reader can be the last piece of the puzzle that’s needed to convert a prospect or avoid a potential conflict with an existing customer. But how will marketing know what content to produce? It’s simple: just ask!
By meeting with the sales and account management teams on at least a monthly basis, marketing can get a feel for what kinds of questions or concerns are arising most when sales and account managers are speaking with prospects and clients. For example, maybe the account management team indicates that their clients are becoming increasingly frustrated with a change to Outlook’s layout as the result of a recent update. Sure, the account managers could continue to field these frustrated calls/emails one-by-one and put out the fires as they come up, but what if they could avoid the frustration altogether? A well-produced piece of content could do just that. Imagine how impressed your customers would be if they received a proactive email from their account manager that included a downloadable guide to help them navigate the new Outlook layout changes.
By regularly speaking with the account management and sales teams to learn more about the most common questions and frustrations among customers and prospects, marketing can produce supporting content to help prevent those issues in the first place. This saves your team a great deal of time because they don’t have to put out the same fires over and over, while also keeping prospects and customers happy.
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In my opinion, nothing is more valuable to an organization than customer feedback. Speaking to new customers, existing customers, lost opportunities, churned accounts, etc. can provide insights that you simply can’t get anywhere else. That said, developing these sorts of feedback campaigns can take a lot of time and manpower that the account management and sales teams simply don’t have. That’s where marketing can help.
With the support of designers and content writers, the marketing team can develop a simple feedback survey for each use case, create an email to send it out to the relevant audience, then share the results with the relevant team(s).
The insights derived from these simple feedback campaigns can provide your organization with the power to reduce churn and improve LTV essentially overnight. Simply put, there is no other way to get this kind of information because it is so specific to your organization. You can make educated guesses as to what would be found in these feedback surveys, but you’ll never know for sure until you send them. Feedback surveys should be a core function of your marketing department for this very reason.
This one is a bit more simple than the first two, but it’s arguably the most important. Can you remember the last time a company reached out to you specifically to show their appreciation and thank you for being a customer? It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it sticks with us. By collaborating with the account management team, marketing can develop a series of campaigns to show appreciation to customers. These can be campaigns that launch as soon as a new customer is onboarded, when the customer hits a milestone (ex: 1st anniversary of becoming a customer), after a major project is completed, and more. The opportunities for appreciation campaigns are seemingly limitless, but they are always worth it.
You may think that customers typically leave an organization because of issues with pricing or service, but that’s not always the case. In fact, a study from the Rockefeller Group indicates that more than 80% of customers leave simply because they don’t feel like they are cared about or valued as a customer. Through the use of appreciation campaigns, marketing can help support the account managers in making sure that no customer ever feels unappreciated.
And there you have it! Three easy ways that marketing can support the account management and sales teams to reduce churn and increase customer LTV. Have you tried any of these suggestions? Did they work? Are you planning to give them a shot? Let’s connect on LinkedIn and discuss.