Aligning Marketing with Customer Success Initiatives
When customer success teams and marketing teams aren’t aligned, clients may feel forgotten. During the March TMA roundtable, Chief Customer Officer, Toyan Espeut and Chief Marketing Officer, Allison Breeding from Apptio, a software company empowering businesses to connect their tech investments to business outcomes, discussed how to align marketing efforts with customer success initiatives to grow relationships with existing customers.
Need for Change
After auditing its messaging, Apptio realized that they weren’t marketing to their existing customers. They were solely focused on obtaining new prospects and were inadvertently neglecting their installed base. Espeut and Breeding realized that they may have an opportunity to grow within existing customer contracts if they modified their business structure. By realigning their go-to-market function by combining their marketing, sales, and customer success departments into one collaborative effort, Espeut and Breeding increased the collaboration between their teams as they worked towards common outcomes.
While this new idea was a change to Apptio’s structure, it wasn’t contested. Espeut and Breeding were fully transparent about the need for this realignment and their plans for its execution. As CMO and CCO, Espeut and Breeding saw the value of uniting behind a shared set of goals and outcomes and worked to integrate their teams for this collective movement. This change would not only drive the synergy of product organization, but it would also alleviate some of the account managers’ routine tasks for continuously maintaining client engagement.
The initial implementation targeted simple adjustments to demonstrate the added value a collaborative team could bring. As leadership’s trust in the efforts increased, so did funding. Now, the teams view each department as an extension of one another, with matrixed alignments, cross-functional meetings, and open communication on facilitating collaboration. They have regular pipeline reviews and joint conversations about lead management and development.
When all functions are aligned, Apptio can think about the customer journey and experience from its inception, throughout prospecting, educating potential clients about their business values and proposition, and even onboarding an organization as a customer and deploying services.
“There’s a lot of energy and excitement around this shift and our customers are responding well to it because it naturally makes sense. It underscores our commitment to their success and thinking about supporting them along the different phases of their journey,” said Espeut. “It really allows for a much nicer customer experience,” added Breeding.
Ultimately, as clients mature with Apptio throughout the years, the questions and needs that they have are going to be very different from those of new customers. It’s important to tailor the messaging to educate the customer and ensure that they are getting maximum value in their engagement with products and services.
Implemented less than a quarter ago, this hierarchy change is still a work in progress, but Espeut and Breeding are hopeful for the plan’s expansion. While securing customer leads is still a key area of focus, the customer success team will also continue monitoring for signs that existing clients may be ready to expand with Apptio. This comes with a true understanding of a customer and their needs, which is currently a manual process, but the CCO/CMO duo is hoping to make it a more digital, automated process that will run alongside net new campaigns.
Hiring for this New Set-Up
However, not all organizations are set up like Apptio, so Breeding highlighted the importance of being intentional in bringing clarity on the roles and their responsibilities when pitching this collaborative transition. Espeut and Breeding worked to align jobs with specific objectives and priorities, tighten the coupling between the account managers and customer success managers, and underscore the strengths of existing employees, leaving little room for uncertainty internally and externally.
In order to optimize the current employee base, educational programs were implemented to bring people up to speed with the skills and knowledge they needed for their newly updated roles and responsibilities. In some cases, after strengths were assessed, employees were realigned to roles that were better suited for them. Apptio is now focused on brainstorming creative ways to source and invest in talent during this hot job market.
Maintaining customer satisfaction is critical because satisfied customers can become advocates, to both their own companies and to external audiences. By targeting installed base clients and pushing them towards additional success, there’s potential for them to become a reference, case study, or even a trusted advisor.
Apptio feels the difference. Now that the marketing, customer success, and sales goals overlap, all departments feel the heat together and understand they have partners alongside them to hit the aggressive growth targets. Sharing pipeline goals is also a game-changer, as everyone remains motivated working to achieve a common goal.
Advice for Others
If you’re looking to implement something similar in your organization but don’t know where to start, Espeut has some advice. If you work for a smaller company and don’t have a customer success team, join forces with your sales team or have one marketer focus on installed base campaigns instead of net new ones. Leverage tactics at a smaller scale, say one instead of ten initiatives, but make sure you are intentional in considering your audience and goals so that you are impacting the things you truly want.
Leadership may be reluctant to make changes to an organization, so Espeut suggests leading with “why we’re doing this and what is the outcome going to be.” Reminding people of your shared common goal and desire to put the customer first will make everyone more willing to adapt to the change. By focusing less on the individual, there is more opportunity to remind customers why your organization was relevant when they became a client, how you’re still helping them, and where you can take them in the future.
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