A Framework for Cross-Collaboration
One of the challenges Customer Success practitioners face is a framework for cross-functional collaboration with Sales, Marketing, and Support. While transition and escalation processes among Customer Success, Sales and Support is well defined, working with Marketing seems to be the least well defined.
Buyers (especially in the B2B space) are bypassing vendors to access the information, insights, and advice they need to make buying decisions. They are turning to more trusted sources of information, such as colleagues, peers, and online reviews at every stage of the purchase process. This is not an isolated trend, but rather indicative of an overall change in the way people buy – highlighting the need to augment current marketing strategies.
Challenges Without Alignment
Here are some typical scenarios that arise if CS and Marketing teams are not aligned.
- There is no formal process to request customers (event speaking, testimonials, media interviews, market research, etc.).
- There is no system in place to track which customers are willing to be advocates. If there isn’t a system of record to view past testimonials and feedback, you can’t effectively identify the right candidates.
- Since efforts aren’t coordinated between CS and Marketing, customers often will get contacted repetitively for similar requests that could otherwise have used bilaterally between teams
- Conflicting communication between CS and Marketing can occur if Marketing promotes campaigns about additional offerings that can be perceived as confusing, intrusive, non-engaging, and not conducive for renewals and upsells
A way to avoid these pitfalls is to follow my Four Step Framework, that maps the advocacy program around the customer’s journey, and makes it a part of your Customer Success playbook.
The 4 Step Framework
Surround buyers with social proof from your advocates to accelerate the sales process, such as referrals, proactive references, product reviews on third-party websites, and discussions on social networks and communities across the web.
Start sharing customer stories in their industry segment, and send your new new customers a welcome kit, complete with swag and educational resources based on your budget and industry.
Onboarding and Implementation
Celebrate the win together and start building their success story. Involve Marketing and see if you can interview them once the onboarding is complete.
Adoption and Expansion
You’ve nurtured your new advocates with smaller tasks, such as tweets, educational content, and questions. Now, it’s time to start introducing them to more valuable requests like becoming a customer referral themselves. Recognize newly engaged advocates that you see becoming active, and invite them to join your advocacy program. In addition, involve them in the development of new offerings, and see if they can be recruited as beta testers.
In short, you need to promote products in the way that is appealing to the customers you are trying to attract. The best way to learn about what attracts customers is to have an open dialogue between the Marketing and Customer Success teams, so that Marketing is kept abreast of the key issues in customers’ minds. Furthermore, working together with Marketing will help keep customers from getting frustrated by the dual messages they receive from both teams. A coordinated effort will lead to more efficacious strategy, and happier customers.
Protik Mukhopadhyay is a Managing Partner at Standav. Standav, Headquartered in Silicon Valley, CA is a leading Systems Integrator that delivers business and technology solutions focused in the CRM and Quote-to-Cash space. Protik advises clients on CRM Business Transformation initiatives (QTC, Analytics, Customer 360). Prior to that, he managed the west coast Customer Success team for PROS (NYSE-PRO). He has many years of experience in sales and marketing business transformation initiatives with previous positions at Apttus, NetApp, the Federal Reserve Bank and Brocade. Protik earned his Masters in Computer Science from University of Southern California and has also attended Executive courses at UC Berkeley.