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Does Your Marketing Need a Bigger Boat?
A few years ago I was looking for a laptop, and my key requirement was an HDMI port so I could connect my laptop to the hardware in clients’ conference rooms. The machine I selected ticked all the boxes on the product sheet, but when it arrived I found that the HDMI capabilities required an additional adapter. Not only did this cost extra, but now I had to take an adapter to every meeting. Had I known this in advance, I probably wouldn’t have bought it. Now as it happens, I kept the laptop, but every time I used the adapter with clients, I grumbled about my experience with it.
I had expected the product to suit my needs, due to the sales and marketing effort which I had engaged with. My expectations were not met and therefore I was an unhappy detractor. I’m certain the company lost on longer-term loyalty and the power of positive word-of-mouth for some short term gains.
Many B2B marketers have defined their role as new lead or demand generation. But they should think broader and be the strategic growth engine of the company, stoking the fires of sales with a “best fit” strategy and on-brand messaging, appealing to swathes of new long-term customers. Often this is not quite the case and the message can slide, promising more than you can actually deliver to bring a new client on board.
When your capabilities are oversold, it has repercussions across the whole company, drawing vital energy away from other clients to manage the ongoing account. So although you may have secured that customer and landed them, the ongoing effects of having a “bad fit” customer on board may be the equivalent of trying to reel in a thrashing 50lb fish onto a small boat, unwieldy and unmanageable and not what you had prepared for. The initial pleasure you felt at catching them has been tempered by the fact your whole crew is now trying to keep the boat from capsizing and trying to stop crew members from falling overboard. The other rods in the water are being neglected, losing the fish you needed and those you could manage. Eventually it will either break the line, sink your boat, or you’ll have to let it go, but either way it’s caused damage.
Your account teams are able to handle the customers who have expectations that are aligned with your company’s capabilities. The “front line” employees can provide the right assistance and guidance and ensure your customers are happy and unlikely to churn. The same cannot be said for those brought on board with misaligned expectations. Unhappy customers cost more to service, they are considerably more likely to call your customer support line, demand discounts, and take longer in the sales cycle. You need to look at what you are driving: are you driving Customer Success to build a long-term relationship with a customer which is going to pay off with an ongoing profit, or is the account likely to churn and cost more in maintenance before you will see a profit? By all means bring on new clients, but sell only what you can provide. Customers get irritated by not getting what they’ve been sold, and understandably so.
If you can’t deliver on it, don’t sell it.
Generating leads is a short-term mentality based on meeting sales targets for the month. But Marketing must be strategic and consider longer-term profitability. And not at the cost of monthly quotas.
The crucial element you should have at hand is the long term value of your customer accounts. The best way to define value is by looking at the amount of revenue you typically receive from the customer throughout their tenure. Understanding Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) is critical (and I suspect your Finance or Sales teams may already have this available). It is a crucial step because if the revenue you get from the customers in each tier is less than the cost of the onboarding and servicing of those accounts, then you need to take steps to fix the issues causing people to churn quickly.
It is vital that you, the Marketing organization, fully understand the message you’re putting out there. If your message is sending the wrong customers to you, chances are they’re going to be unhappy and churn. We’ve spoken about how strategic marketing is, and how capable marketing champions are at creating an advocate army, but with the wrong messaging out there that can also bring unnecessary detractors.
If you’re wondering how to ensure your pitch is right, start by asking those customers you already have:
- Are you happy with us? (or some version of this, including potentially the “Recommend” question)
- What did you experience?
- What did you expect?
- Why did you expect that?
Asking your customers these questions helps you to refine your message. It shows you what you’re doing well, and can turn up things you never realized were strengths. These questions also have the benefit of building relationships with existing customers which in itself can reduce churn. A marketer in a B2B firm needs to understand what’s working and not working with your customers through feedback.
As a parallel example, the common reaction to this may be to use a survey tool, but that may be only partly right. In actuality you’d need a solution which is specifically designed to handle your use-case, e.g. gathering feedback from strategic accounts in B2B. Your largest customer accounts certainly have a range of personnel involved: the decision makers, key influencers, project managers and so on. Can your survey solution handle those different personae; can it allow you to see the strength of individual account-relationships, or does it only work in the aggregate? B2B marketers may need a more robust and strategic system and TopBox can help to stratify and illuminate.
So be aware before you reel in that unexpected fish, it may look good on your wall but it may also sink your boat.
Learn more about Customer Lifetime Value and The Success Equation
Download the first three chapters of our B2B How-To Guide, Failure Sucks! (More for Your Customers, Than for You.) and put your own best practices in place.