Building a Center of Excellence for Customer Engagement — Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two-part posting on how to create and organize a center of excellence (CoE) for demand generation and customer engagement. In this post, we will discuss the inputs and outputs to the CoE and what driving for excellence means, in practice.

This is Part 2 of a two-part posting on how to create and organize a center of excellence (CoE) for demand generation and customer engagement. In Part 1, we highlighted that one must define the capabilities that will exist within the CoE and talked generally about the people involved. In this post, we will discuss the inputs and outputs to the CoE and what driving for excellence means, in practice.

CoE Inputs and Outputs

So let’s say you’ve decided to create a Customer Engagement CoE, within marketing, and they will drive all your inbound and outbound campaigns, engaging with prospects and customers. You already concluded which capabilities you will need in the team in order to execute.

Next, you need to consider the inputs and outputs to this organization very carefully. Why? Imagine a baker is determined to be excellent, the best in the county. They are going to master the best cates around. They will test different ingredients, ovens, temperatures, cooking times, blending methods etc., all to arrive at the perfect cake. If the ingredients were to change in composition every week, would that stymie the baker’s attempts to achieve excellence? Of course. So for our customer engagement team, if there is no defined process for submitting campaign requests, or offers, or personas, or buying journey maps, or campaign and event calendars, or communications cadence and governance rules, they will not be able to hone their results. They will do their best to manage the chaos, but don’t expect them to achieve continuous improvement.

The outputs will, of course, depend on the capabilities you put in the CoE. Let’s assume for a moment you put the email platform power users, the inbound power users, the SEM/SEO, social media, and event managers all in here. The obvious output is, of course, great customer engagement and MQLs/SQLs. The other outputs include:

  • Content requirements to the content group
  • Content engagement results to the content group
  • A campaign calendar
  • MQL/SQL results, broken down by product and region
  • Technology, process, data, and reporting requirements to the marketing operations team

Driving for Excellence

So what does it mean to drive for excellence? We could just put a demand generation team together instead of creating a CoE, so what’s the difference?

Putting a team of people together, all driving for a common business outcome, does not make them a CoE. Creating a managed services team does not make it a CoE. The CoE label is earned if you direct them as follows:

  1. There is an expectation of excellence from this team. They will have precisely defined outcomes and goals. These will be measured and reviewed regularly.
  2. They will have a maniacal pursuit of excellence in the delivery of their outcomes. A strong QA ethic. And if the inputs do not conform to the defined process and expectation, the task is not accepted. For example, a campaign brief or blueprint is submitted with missing details, perhaps missing copy or assets, it is rejected. Nothing is allowed to interfere with the precise operation of a customer engagement machine that is being fine-tuned for perfection.
  3. There is a burning need for continuous improvement. There is experimentation and multivariate testing. The best practices are carefully documented and rigidly followed. There is continuous education for all team members. They are to become the elites in the industry.
  4. The team is empowered to task some measured risks, to embrace innovation, and to operate in an agile fashion.

Conclusion

It is likely that a new team will not become a CoE overnight. It may take months to define the inputs and outputs and the processes behind them, so that the quality becomes consistent. It may take time to find people who are passionate about continuous improvement and open to experimentation. New ways of rewarding performance may be required. But the extra investment in creating a CoE, instead of just forming a group, will be returned in much higher-than-average results.

How to Build a Center of Excellence for Customer Engagement — Part I

This is Part 1 of a two-part posting on how to create and organize a center of excellence for demand generation and customer engagement. Different definitions for a center of excellence, or CoE, have circulated for some time.

This is Part 1 of a two-part posting on how to create and organize a center of excellence for demand generation and customer engagement.

Different definitions for a center of excellence, or CoE, have circulated for some time:

  • In academia, where the phrase was coined, CoEs are sometimes called a “competency center” or “capability center.” A CoE brings together people from different disciplines and provides shared facilities/resources.
  • Business CoEs are sometimes defined as a team that leads others in the organization in a particular area of expertise; whether that be technology, skill or discipline — providing leadership, best practices, research, support and/or training.
  • Additionally, if leaders don’t define “excellence” with KPIs and output metrics, then it’s not a Marketing Center of Excellence, it’s just a skilled group.

Gartner defines a CoE as “a physical or virtual center of knowledge, concentrating existing expertise and resources in a discipline or capability to attain and sustain world-class performance and value.” Gartner then proceeds to state that this breaks down into four elements. Let me paraphrase those here:

  1. CoEs need to focus on a tight scope, defined around a specific capability
  2. Define the location of the CoE (physical vs. virtual)
  3. CoEs should optimize and leverage resources internal to the organization, not external vendors or agencies
  4. Have a focus on pushing beyond standard performance norms. (i.e., Drive toward excellence in the chosen capabilities.)

This is a good list, but it feels a little incomplete. We need to further differentiate a CoE from a simple organization chart department, or managed services group, or council. What are the characteristics of a Revenue Marketing CoE?

  1. The Revenue Marketing CoE is based on a set of related capabilities. What is a capability? “A capability is a unique bundling of skills, knowledge, and resources that facilitate the execution of business processes, and are what ultimately contribute to sustainable competitive advantage and superior performance.” (Day, 1994, opens as a PDF).
  2. The CoE has a clearly defined mission and charter
  3. The CoE has a defined structure and borders — i.e., what are the inputs and the outputs. And related to this, there needs to be a definition for how the broader organization interoperates with the CoE
  4. The CoE is chartered to drive for continuous improvement and curation of best practices; thereby, achieving excellence
  5. The CoE has a significant impact on the competiveness of the organization, and a strong ROI

Capabilities

Let’s start with the capabilities, what should be in the Customer Engagement CoE, and remember — just because you move a capability in here, doesn’t mean that it can’t also exist outside the CoE … content creation, for example. To build a CoE for customer engagement, you will benefit from the following set of capabilities, at a minimum:

  • Demand management
  • Program management
  • Campaign management (inbound and outbound)
  • Best practices management
  • Customer journey and persona management
  • Operational outcome reporting
  • Customer experience management

There are other capabilities that could optionally be added:

  • Campaign content operations
  • Marketing technology operations (i.e., the folks who build inbound and outbound campaigns)
  • Data analysis and analytics/reporting

So, at a minimum, you might have job titles like these in the COE:

  1. Demand Generation Managers; AKA, program/campaign strategists
  2. Power users for all channels (email, social, paid media, events, etc.)
  3. Customer data tzar, possibly also good for reporting analysis and segmentation
  4. Content creative and copy writing
  5. Content strategist
  6. Inbound admin/guru and MAP/CRM admin/guru, especially for config and reporting
  7. Campaign Managers; AKA, project managers for campaign design/execution
  8. Traffic managers for handling all the asset production and workflows

You may choose to implement a customer engagement CoE that extends beyond the walls of marketing and, in doing so, needs to include representatives from sales and support. When you consider that a focus on customer experience is a company-wide mandate and cannot be executed by marketing alone, then creating a customer engagement CoE that can serve the broader organization makes sense.

Hopefully, this discussion on capabilities in the CoE got you thinking, and you are asking yourself:

“Whoa, would I put content/creative types in there?”

“Would I put social, paid media folks in there?”

“ Would I put the campaign strategists/designers in there? I mean, what if I have field marketing?”

“Jeez, Kevin, keep it simple. Why not simply make a CoE out of the Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) power users, put them in HQ, call them a CoE, stick it under Marketing Ops and call it good?”

Not so fast. Is the latter really a CoE? Do they represent one or more capabilities in the way we defined capabilities above? No. Are they in one location, yes. Can they strive for excellence in building, sure. But they cannot measure their results based on the business outcomes, because so much is out of their control: the quality of the design, the offers, the data, the metrics. So, they make it on three of the four Gartner criteria, but fail on No. 1. Do they represent one or more capabilities? You could argue that this is semantics and that “MAP usage” is a capability. Not so fast (again). Remember Day’s definition of a capability?

“A unique bundling of skills, knowledge, and resources that facilitate the execution of business processes…”

Does building a campaign all by itself rise to the level of “facilitates execution of a business process”? No. Nor will it “contribute to a sustainable competitive advantage.” But it is part of the customer engagement process where we can hope to gain competitive advantage. And now we get to the crux of the discussion: We cannot determine if a CoE is right for our organization until we have agreement on what the required capabilities might be.

A COE is the right way to organize a team and, thereby, increase marketing effectiveness, when these conditions exist relative to the capabilities and people:

  • Capabilities:
    • Specific Revenue Marketing capabilities can be provided by a small or modest-sized group
    • Grouping these capabilities and the individuals together will be synergistic
    • The returned value to the organization in driving to excellence in these capabilities is high
  • People:
    • A modest-sized group of specialists, who may be skilled in completely different areas, and all share common goals or business outcomes for their skills, can be grouped together under one leader.
    • This group can be united as one and manically pursue excellence in the delivery of those business outcomes.
    • The team is empowered, embraces innovation, has a bias for action, and operates in an agile fashion

There are, of course, other criteria to consider before electing to invest more and create a CoE, instead of simply organizing as a group. They include a detailed specification of the CoE inputs and outputs, what driving for excellence actually means in practice, and having a well-defined mission and charter. All this and more will come next month in Part 2 of this blog post.

How B2B CMOs Can Give Panicked Salespeople Answers Instead of Discounts

Seasoned CMOs have all experienced it. A downturn in business happens, the sales team is flailing and not hitting their numbers, and the sales EVP comes to the CMO and asks for one or more items.

Seasoned CMOs have all experienced it. A downturn in business happens, the sales team is flailing and not hitting their numbers, and the sales EVP comes to the CMO and asks for one or more items.

  • Some immediate lead generation campaigns offering specific discounts, or new discounted product bundles or free service offers to serve as door openers
  • Inexpensive customer upgrades or similar offers at a lower than normal prices
  • Mega-incentive offers for referrals or partner-sourced deals

The right response to these drop-everything-else-and-focus-on-these requests is “No … but … ”

Before we review the counter-offers to the sales VP, let’s quickly review why immediately saying “yes” is a bad idea.

Why ‘Yes’ Is a Bad Idea

If your customer value proposition rests heavily on product leadership, you will do your brand, and all future average selling price (ASP) values, a terrible disservice if you suddenly decide to offer discounts or temporary product and service bundles at lower prices.

You will be assuring the market that you are not in fact a product leader and your value proposition is more about prices. You open the door to being compared to the inferior product that owns the low-price part of the market.

There is nothing wrong with Wal-Mart’s “Save Money. Live Better.” Or its older slogan “Always Low Prices.” If that represents your primary value proposition and you have designed your firm to operate that way profitably, carry on. However, if you designed your firm to focus on product leadership, attempting to switch strategy to meet a short-term sales shortfall will fail in the long run.

In the short term, it might stimulate some deals to come in sooner at lower margins than they would have later. In the long term, you will have undermined your brand attributions and you’ll be forced to discount more often.

The same logic applies to firms whose value proposition rests heavily on customer intimacy. If you switch value propositions in a crunch, people will question your commitment. Four Seasons’ slogan “Experience Four Seasons” is never threatened by surprise discounts because hotel occupancy is low.  Nordstrom Inc. created the sub-brand “Nordstrom Rack” to address this issue: “Nordstrom Rack is the off-price retail division of Nordstrom Inc.”

Discounting a price is a sales tactic, not a marketing tactic. In B2B, it is best used in one-to-one settings with clients. When you ask marketing to broadcast it to many prospects, it becomes a strategy. Be ready.

A second major issue to saying “yes” to the sales team for these requests is that it leads them to believe that it will result in enough good deals to see you through the downturn. If, for the past three years, you have been trying to educate Sales on the idea that the buyer is in control of the buying journey, and we need to plan and nurture a pipeline of early opportunities, why would you suddenly capitulate, set aside nurturing campaigns in mid-flight, and launch a Hail Mary campaign? Don’t say “yes” to appease the sales team, if you know it will damage the business.

Why ‘No, But’ Is the Right Answer

So how do you respond? First, take the customer perspective. What is causing the downturn? Is it industrywide, or just your firm? Is it the economy? Is it in multiple regions and affecting multiple product lines? What are the customers telling you by delaying their purchases? Or are they simply buying elsewhere? In the event it is a downturn experienced by you and your competitors, there are things you can do to stimulate sales.

Assuming the customers are still buying something and simply not spending at the same level as usual, the new value proposition to the customers in the downturn must be based on why their shrinking budget is best allocated to your products and services in the downturn — that the benefits you bring will help them more in the downturn and stimulate the topline of their business more than anything else. It somehow readies them for the economic recovery and will help them outpace their competitors when the recovery starts.

Perhaps their reduction in spending is tied to their business slowing down, in which case they may have plenty of staff bandwidth to handle change, re-tool and learn new skills. This could be the perfect time to implement new products, services and processes.

Marketing does more than help the sales team sell more. We help prospects and customers buy more. We take the sales request to help them sell more and turn it into the question: “In these circumstances, how can I message customers to help them buy more?”

“No … but … ” can mean “I really don’t want to support a campaign that simply offers discounts, as that will cost us in the long run. But how about we run a campaign that highlights why our products and services have an even stronger value proposition in an economic downturn and list the benefits thereof?”

There are other times when the business is best served by demand generation marketing saying “no … but … ” For instance, when Sales wants to expand into a new market or go down market with no research or planning to determine if that is a good idea. In that case, a great CMO response is, “No, we really shouldn’t launch demand generation efforts for that market yet, but what we can do is some market research and competitive research and determine if we should put a focus there, how much it will cost to break in, do we have suitable products and services, and will it impact our current positioning and messaging, etc.”

So, under what circumstances have you said “no … but … ” to Sales? How did that work out for you?

1 Big Pitfall to Successful Demand Generation Digital Transformation

As marketing leaders, we sometimes inadvertently lead our teams astray. When we delegate the outcomes we want, and simultaneously drive a sense of urgency, our teams may skip important steps in their drive to achieve the outcomes.

As marketing leaders, we sometimes inadvertently lead our teams astray. When we delegate the outcomes we want, and simultaneously drive a sense of urgency, our teams may skip important steps in their drive to achieve the outcomes. Here is a classic example we see all too frequently with clients.

The Scenario

We start with the desired outcomes, of course. In demand generation, this is usually marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) or sales-qualified leads (SQLs), bookings and revenue. If this desired outcome was somehow unexpected, then a sense of urgency invariably accompanies it. So, in turn, we light a fire under our teams to quickly get some leads in the door, generate MQLs and SQLs ASAP.

The Result and the 1 Big Pitfall

We need to generate leads and MQLs? Let’s create a campaign! Yay! Design it this week, build it next week, QA and launch the end of the week, and leads will start pouring in subsequent to that. Oh, dear. If only it were that easy. Going straight from “we need MQLs” to “let’s create a campaign” means going from Step 1 to Step 8 and skipping six important steps.

  1. Generate new MQLs and SQLs
  2. Create a campaign!

Here are the six intervening steps you will want to ensure your team takes if you are to have successful demand generation campaigns and succeed in your digital transformation.

Preventing the Pitfall

Step 2. What Buying Stage Transition Are We Targeting?

Once we understand the outcome desired in Step 1, we must determine what customer buying journey stage we are targeting. Are we moving people from unaware to aware, or from aware to consideration, etc. If you haven’t defined the customer buying journey, stop and define at least one.

Step 3. What Persona Are We Targeting?

Don’t have any defined personas? Stop and define at least one. Having a clear picture of who you are targeting is a critical step to successfully achieving your outcome. Now that you have the persona selected, the team gets to review what channels the persona prefers, and the content preferences. Step 2 and Step 3 are interchangeable. I.e., there will be occasions where you perceive your funnel conversion rate from one stage to another is low, and you make the buying journey stage decision first. There will be other times where you recognize your funnel volume is low on a particular persona, and you make the persona decision first and the buying journey stage decision second. Regardless, you need to take both steps.

Step 4. What Problem Does Your Persona Have at This Stage?

The next question to answer, now that you have selected the target persona, and the current buying journey stage, is what problem do the members of it have at this stage that can be solved with your content?

For example, if you are targeting the Aware stage, and want to move them to Consideration, what information or education will trigger the buyers to sit up, realize they have been ignoring a pain in their sides that is curable, or that they have an opportunity to do something they have not done before, and they need to finally take action? The ideal content you send is most likely NOT product-centric. It will be customer-centric and it will have the buyer‘s challenge or the opportunity as the primary theme. It will be very narrowly focused around that theme.

We are looking for the trigger that will move this persona one step forward in the buying journey. We are not trying to move them all of the way to “closed won” with a single piece of content, or a single campaign.

Step 5. What Message or Content Addresses That Challenge or Opportunity?

Okay, we have the target persona, the buying journey stage they are in, the trigger we feel will tip them forward into the next stage in the buying journey. So now the question is, what content do we have that directly addresses this issue? Ignore the medium it is in for now, as repackaging it may not be hard. Focus on which Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can or have already produced in terms of educational pieces of content that will be most effective in engaging the targets and moving them forward.

Step 6. What Is the Appropriate Medium for the Information?

All too often, we have clients ask us: “What is the hottest medium to use these days — video, white papers, webinars, slide shares, infographics, what?”

This is totally the wrong question! The answer depends on the message itself, and the persona and, to some extent, the buying stage they are in.

For example, if your target persona is a technical influencer, and uses a smartphone frequently to read email on the commuter train in the morning, sending a white paper would be silly, but a 2-minute video could work great … depending on the message you are trying to send. And the medium may also depend on the channels we pick in Step 7. Because more and more campaigns are becoming multichannel, it is likely you will end up choosing multiple media for the message, to match the multiple channels you use to engage the targets.

Step 7. What Combination of Channels Will We Use to Communicate That Content?

Next, we have to determine which channels will work for this persona. It is a good idea to use more than one channel to convey the same message to the same individuals. The results will simply be better, and the level of effort is not significantly more.

Some firms erroneously believe that paid media ads are only for top-of-funnel, new-lead acquisition. This is not true.

For instance, you can upload a list of email addresses into Facebook, or LinkedIn, match them against their data to create your new target list, and then do nurturing campaigns through those channels very economically only to your existing leads.

Step 8: Put It All Together

Now you are finally ready for Step 8. Let’s design a campaign based on all of the decisions made in Steps 2-7.  Now the cynics among you will say, “Hey, steps 2-7 are really part of basic campaign design, how can people be skipping them?”

The Pitfall You Just Avoided

Well, many firms don’t have defined personas and buying journey maps and here is what happens:

Step 1. CMO: We need more MQLs, urgently

Step 8. Team: Let’s design a campaign

  • An Email campaign, right? Blast everyone who is not a customer in our database, right?
  • 4 touches, check
  • 2 weeks apart, check
  • What offers can we put in there, a case study, an infographic, a research report and the last email is the call to action — “request a demo.” Check
  • Great, code up that campaign, we can get this out in under two weeks. Yay.
  • Count all the MQLs.

Conclusion

So, the message is this. If you urgently discover you need more MQLs, update your resume, not your campaign calendar. If you want to be successful in digital transformation, become more customer-centric, and approach customer engagement from the buyer perspective:

Think about what information they need first. Secondly, determine what content contains that information and then lastly, what channels and campaigns can convey that information to the recipients. And understand that one campaign does not produce a meaningful flow of MQLs or SQLs. Nurturing is a process, it requires commitment and it must be sustained over a longer period of time

The Cost Marketing Pays When Sales Misuses the CRM

Bad things happen when sales reps ignore all of the insights their organization’s marketers place in the CRM system. From management not being able to discern how pipeline strength correlates to sales activity to them simply focusing on closed deals, erasing CRM’s impact on the sales cycle has consequences.

Bad things happen when sales reps ignore all of the insights their organization’s marketers place in the CRM system. From management not being able to discern how pipeline strength correlates to sales activity to them simply focusing on closed deals, erasing CRM’s impact on the sales cycle has consequences. In this post, we will explore why CRM misuse occurs, what the consequences are and what marketers can do about this issue.

First, a CRM Tale of Woe

Many years ago, I worked for a firm with more than $100 million in annual revenue. There, the worldwide sales VP refused to review the pipeline and sales forecast from the CRM system in the weekly sales call with his regional management. Instead, he had Excel spreadsheets his staff maintained for him. I urged him to use the beautiful reports and graphs in the CRM system, to no avail.

He didn’t believe the data. It’s a catch-22.

The problem with leaders not using the system and positioning the data as the single source of truth is that it forgives the teams from having to enter data into the system, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The result is sales reps don’t add opportunities until the leads were much more advanced, at Stage 5 or 6, and thus avoided any management scrutiny over their nascent deals. Sales management gave them kudos for bringing in bluebirds (unanticipated deals), and the reps got the data in the system just in time to ensure they get their commissions.

Consequences of Underutilizing the CRM

The outcomes for marketers and organizations of management allowing sales reps to largely operate outside the CRM are:

  1. No visibility into the early sales pipeline.
  2. Management focuses entirely on the incipient closed deals.
  3. Marketing cannot differentiate between contacts who are in a purchase cycle from those who are window-shopping.
  4. Sales management cannot connect sales activity to pipeline strength.
  5. Marketing operations does not get feedback on successful campaigns until late in the buyer journey.
  6. Sales reps use the system largely to ensure they get commissions
  7. Sales reps might put activity (calls, meetings, tasks) in the CRM to ensure they drive a perception that they are busy, but might still not add opportunities until the last moment, and otherwise don’t use the system.
  8. Sales reps fail to take advantage of all of the recorded digital interactions prospects have had and are dutifully reporting the lead/contact record.

Running a business effectively requires the earliest visibility possible into the sales pipeline. It enables sales management to quickly see if new reps are working out, marketing analytics can pinpoint which programs are sourcing the best leads, what campaigns are moving leads along the funnel, which products are hot, which regions are soft, which reps need more training, etc. So, allowing the reps to not use the CRM until opportunities are well-advanced has many downsides.

The CRM system is the basis for tracking and enabling sales workflows in the same way a marketing automation platform enables marketing workflows. Prospects have workflows, too, as part of their buyer journey.

These three workflows are interconnected. Prospects interact with marketing content and online properties. Sales interacts with prospects via email and telephone calls. And marketing can interact with the sales workflow by providing visibility to the prospects’ digital interactions and helping move prospects along their buyer journey. Marketing does this by varying how they market to prospects based on their opportunity stage, for instance.

If CRM is lightly used by sales reps, they break the connection of these three workflows, and run the risk of marketing and sales looking uncoordinated in their communications to prospects and lowering productivity of both organizations, resulting in poor customer experiences.

Steps to get Sales Reps Fully Utilizing CRM

  1. Ensure they understand the value to them (WIIFM)
  2. Add more value to the CRM system. For example:
    • Enrich the contact/account data
    • Add plugins, like LinkedIn
    • Route new leads only through CRM
    • Enable sales reps to opt “not-ready” prospects into specific nurturing campaigns
    • Enable salespeople to send trackable emails through the CRM
    • Provide beautiful HTML trackable email templates for specific content
  3. Get sales management to agree that ALL pipeline reviews at all levels of sales management will be conducted using CRM reports, not Excel or another tool.
  4. Create reports that highlight the biggest users and the biggest non-users of the system
  5. Create reports on most recent and least recent contact/account updates by owner

Conclusion

When marketing and sales coordinate on communications with prospects and customers, magic can happen. When sales breaks that chain of communication by failing to fully utilize the CRM system, they isolate marketing from pipeline generation success metrics and ignore the digital body language of the people they are most hoping to impress — prospective customers.

Is Speed Dating a Viable Marketing Strategy During Digital Transformation?

Embarking on a digital transformation can be compared to adopting a speed dating strategy. You might “meet” a whole lot of prospects a whole lot faster, but if your behavior is product-centric instead of customer-centric, you’ll simply succeed in inoculating a lot more people to your charms a lot faster.

Imagine you have a friend who has had no luck at dating. Instead of looking into the reasons why they’ve had bad luck and changing their behavior, they tell you they’re going to start speed dating. Twenty dates a night! Surely they’ll have some luck! But the same behavior, 20 times faster, means 20 times the same results — even in marketing strategy. Embarking on a digital transformation can be compared to adopting a speed dating strategy.

You might “meet” a whole lot of prospects a whole lot faster, but if your behavior is product-centric instead of customer-centric, you’ll simply succeed in inoculating a lot more people to your charms a lot faster.

A marketing digital transformation requires deploying, adopting, and coordinating the technologies and programs to enable you to communicate digital content over digital channels with your customers and prospects. The behavior change that must go hand-in-hand with digital transformation is that of becoming customer-centric in how you engage, and the content with which you engage.

Why Customer Experience Drives Success

Take Uber and Lyft, for example. Cars with drivers still take you from A to B in exchange for money. So it’s the same service as regular taxis, right? Wrong. If all Lyft or Uber did was enable you to digitally order up a cab with your smartphone, it really wouldn’t have changed the customer experience. But Lyft and Uber disrupted the transportation industry by changing the ordering, the visual tracking of the vehicle, the payment, the tipping and the rating of the drivers. They changed the entire customer experience, and ultimately bankrupted the Yellow Cab Company. These weren’t direct outcomes of a digital transformation; they were the outcomes of building a business that put customer experience first. Digital transformation was a means to that end.

The point is that we need to embark on a digital transformation and decide the aspects of it we wish to prioritize, based on the customer experience we want to achieve and the behaviors of our company we therefore need to support. And if you thought deploying digital technology was hard, try changing behaviors!

Pop Quiz: Are You Customer or Product-Centric?

How do you know if your customer-perceived behavior is customer-centric or product-centric? Here’s the pop quiz:

  1. Is your website organized primarily by product/services/solutions?
  2. Does your site include more pictures of products or satisfied customers?
  3. Does your 1-800 number ring through to a phone tree or a human being?
  4. Can the service rep see your entire customer record while on the phone?
  5. Do you have a preference center?
  6. Do you segment your communications based on where people are in their buying journey?
  7. Do you use personas for segmentation?
  8. Do you plan and develop content based on personas and prospect information needs at each stage of the customer buying journey?
  9. Can your sales development reps (SDRs) and sales reps see all of the digital interactions prospects have had with your company?
  10. Does marketing have a defined role in the onboarding of new customers?
  11. Do you identify and treat loyal customers differently?
  12. Do you have reports and dashboards that measure marketing performance after the close, including onboarding, adoption, value delivery, loyalty and advocacy?
  13. Do you have an executive responsible for customer experience?
  14. Do you measure the quality of customer experiences other than by revenue?

This list should make it clear that getting to great customer experiences is much more complicated than fiddling with GUIs. It is a company-wide initiative, where marketing has a leading role. Marketing’s job is to help customers and prospects buy more by delivering great customer experiences in all stages of the buying journey.

WARNING: There will be plenty of resistance to this behavior change.

Embrace Customer Intimacy

Twenty years ago, I spoke with the CIO of one of the largest video store chains in NA. I asked him why they didn’t cut a deal with the USPS to allow customers to return the videos for free via mail, because they had sturdy plastic cases with the store address on them. His response was that a majority of their profit came from “late returns,” so they didn’t want to change it. I shared with him that a profitability model predicated on a bad customer experience would not end well. Today, all 6,000 stores are closed.

So don’t be one of those firms that thinks deploying a marketing automation platform or email platform empowers you to spam 100,000 people with one click. Don’t dream that if you build a product- centric website “they will come.” Don’t inject yourself into social media conversations with self-promoting materials. Don’t believe that marketing technologies are narrowly focused lead generation.

Instead, decide what improvements you can make to the customer experience this year, and plan changes to your behaviors in marketing, sales, support, operations and finance. That will drive the digital transformation requirements and priorities and prove that blindly deploying martech will not lead to better dates.

Read more about operationalizing the customer experience.

Top 8 Traits of the Best Marketing Operations Teams

In this increasingly digital world that’s creating an increasingly digital — and complex — work environment, expectations for marketing operations have never been higher. As your ops team works hard to make sure the entire marketing department runs smoothly, stays aligned and has the data they need to be successful, your leadership can help them develop the confidence they need in their roles.

Earlier this week I participated in a Target Marketing webinar with two talented marketing ops guys from Workfront (Jeff Cullimore and Brandon Jensen). The topic covered what traits to hire for and cultivate in a great marketing ops team. In this increasingly digital world that’s creating an increasingly digital — and complex — work environment, expectations for marketing operations have never been higher.

As your ops team works hard to make sure the entire marketing department runs smoothly, stays aligned, and has the data they need to be successful, your leadership can help them develop the confidence they need in their roles. Brandon, Jeff and I discussed these top eight traits of the most valuable marketing operations teams:

8. Driven to Be Efficient and Effective

Do you have a colleague who is forever trying to optimize their drive to work or to the airport, obsessed with getting feedback and improving results? That is a great trait to have in marketing operations because let’s face it, their job is to make the rest of marketing more productive in everything they do. They will help you drive documented processes across marketing, measure the effectiveness of those processes, look for leaks, and adopt agile marketing principles. They understand that new technology is supposed to help drive up productivity, scale operations and enable new capabilities. They don’t become enamored with the latest shiny object. When you interview people and want to see if they have this trait, ask them about a process they have optimized.

7. Innovative

Marketing ops thrives on innovativeness. This is how you will outsmart your competitor’s marketing department. Being innovative goes hand in hand with risk taking, so create an environment where it is safe to experiment, take risks, and explore new ways of doing things. Ask your job candidates what risks they’ve taken professionally and how they innovated.

6. Always in the Know

In his book, “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell discusses three primary roles that every firm needs: a maven, a connector (aka networker), and a salesperson. He missed one, but I’ll get to that later. Having someone with networking skills is very useful in marketing ops. Let’s face it, management simply cannot be aware of all the goings on in marketing, sales and IT. Having folks who are plugged into initiatives and have an organizational awareness of their surroundings, helps ensure marketing ops stays relevant. Being in the know also applies to this next trait.

5. Tech Curious

I don’t want to call them geeks, but we all rely on our geek friends to steer us straight on tech purchases. Marketing ops needs at least one geek to sort through the 7000+ marketing technologies and select the right ones to help the organization grow. If you are hiring someone into the MarTech strategist role, test their knowledge and passion for the technology. What conferences have they attended? What would they recommend for you having reviewed your website? What tools did they eliminate in their last role?

4. Strategic

Marketing operations must maintain a strategic perspective. They have to remain focused on the outcomes marketing is driving for, they must be customer-focused and knowledgeable of how optimal customer experiences can be achieved. Testing for this trait involves seeing if the candidate is capable of critical thinking. Give them a test, and see if they can tease out the situation, the complications, and arrive at a critical question that sums up the situation or test.

3. Highly Communicative

No brainer, right? Marketing ops serves the entire marketing organization, and customers, and in many cases the sales organization. Being good listeners, with the ability to solicit and understand their disparate requirements is table stakes to work in marketing operations. Testing for this trait in an interview is easy. Explain the marketing objectives to them, and then ask them to play it back to you. I.e. see how well they listened.

2. Analytical

One of the primary functions of many marketing ops teams is that of reporting and analytics. You want someone who knows marketing KPIs, and who can help show the influence of marketing on the sales results. This trait goes beyond simply finding someone good at Excel or the use of a BI system. You need to find someone who can extract meaningful insights from data. Test for this by showing them some reports, data and charts, and ask they what insights they can glean form it. Do they understand that reports aren’t for ego stroking, they are created to help the business make better decisions?

1. Highly Collaborative

The final trait is that of being a great connector, someone who can help eliminate silos in organizations, in functions, in technology, and even in data stores. This person will not tolerate functions operating as silos and is a constant bridge builder. The bridges can be defined in processes or technology integrations. The point is that they understand the importance of marketing ops function holistically and that working together yields synergies. They are driven to achieve a shared set of goals.

Earlier I mentioned that Malcolm Gladwell missed one role in his startup triad. He shared that at their core firms had a maven, a connector, and a salesperson. The role he missed is that of the operations guru. This is the person who directs the firm on how to produce the products and services you sell. The maven cannot do this. The connector and salesperson cannot do it. You need an operations guru. And if you are in marketing…you need marketing operations gurus.

Learn more about the DNA of a strategic Marketing Operations leader.

Does Your MarTech Stack Support Your Customer Experience Goals?

Your CEO has finally caught the customer experience fever and embraced it as the new competitive battleground! She is empowering all functions to propose 2019 budgets that induce the organizational transformation from product-centric to customer-centric. As CMO, where do you start? How do you operationalize the customer experience?

Your CEO has finally caught the customer experience fever and embraced customer experience as the new competitive battleground. As a result, she is empowering all functions to propose 2019 budgets that induce the organizational transformation from product-centric to customer-centric. As CMO you are naturally elated, but where do you start? How do you operationalize the customer experience? There will be changes required in people, process, content, technology/data and metrics/KPIs. In this post we will focus on just one of these: your data and MarTech stack.

Assuming you have bold plans for how you are going to improve and enrich the customer experience as they interact with marketing, the challenge quickly becomes, “Do we have a marketing technology stack capable of supporting the types of customer engagement we want to drive?” What new platforms and tools will you need to integrate? What systems will you replace? What new data integrations will be required? Below are three questions you can discuss with your Marketing Operations (MO) team to elucidate the technology requirements for improving the customer experience.

Question 1. How Do You Measure Customer Engagement With Marketing Content?

While the question seems simple enough, getting insightful answers is not. Marketers generally accept the premise that increasing engagement of customers with our content means they value it, that the experience is good, and that this will influence customers to buy more. From the customer’s perspective, having a good experience with my content means:

  1. It was easy to find.
  2. It was in a format I prefer.
  3. It was easy to digest.
  4. It provided the insights and answers I was seeking.
  5. It left me wanting more and pointed me in the right direction.

The possible answers to question 1 are:

  1. We just look at web analytics and see which pages and content get the most traffic.
  2. We use landing pages for all assets and record visits against the customer profile in our Marketing Automation Platform (MAP).
  3. We’ve integrated video and audio streaming services into our MAP and update customer profiles based on how much of the asset they consumed (think Sprout, YouTube, Wistia).
  4. We have embedded links in our content that drive customers to the next relevant piece and we measure the usage of these links (think Pathfactory).
  5. We use a content marketing platform to increase engagement and encourage “bingeing” of content (think Uberflip).
  6. We bring our content to the social platforms and blog, but drive the consumption back to the platforms where we can record engagement (and track where they came from using UTM parameters)
  7. All of the above

Question 2. Is Your Marketing Technology Stack Set Up to Support a Holistic Lead Management Process?

Does it mirror the customer journey map? Does it support tracking new customer acquisition and returning customers?

Many organizations originally set up a lead management process from the seller perspective, with it using the typical stages of new, engaged, MQL, SQL, Opportunity attached and Closed Won. Guess what, this is not customer-centric. The customer relationship does not end with “closed won.” A customer-centric approach will encourage and enable your sales and marketing teams to improve the customer experience at each stage of their buying journey. Imagine overhauling this process in the MarTech stack so that the stages are: unaware, aware, consideration, evaluation, decision, onboarding, adopting, value realization, loyalty and advocacy. Knowing what stage the buyer is in enables marketing and sales to precisely target them with the right content at the right time. The possible answers to Question 2 are:

  1. We have not implemented a lead management process in our MAP/CRM systems.
  2. We have the basic lead life cycle model defined, but the stage changes are manual.
  3. We have automated the lead management process stage changes from new to closed won.
  4. We have implemented in the technology a holistic customer lifecycle, based on the buyer journey, that includes new customer acquisition stages and existing customer expansion stages.

Question 3. Does Marketing Have the Data to Engage With Customers on Behalf of Sales, Operations and Customer Support?

Does it have that data at the appropriate stages in the buyer journey and with the right content for that stage?

Marketing has mastered the communications channels, owns all the digital properties and social channels, and creates all the engaging content for all buying journey stages. It is moving beyond just being the organization that helps sales find new customers. Marketing has the ability to be the customer communications service to the entire company, and in so doing becomes the organization most in the spotlight for providing great customer experience. So if marketing is going to communicate with new customers in the days and weeks after their purchase, or when contracts are up for renewal, or for customer support surveys, or reward loyalty, is the data available to them to automate this? The possible answers to Question 3 are:

  1. Marketing and sales systems do not have a bi-directional flow of data.
  2. Marketing and sales platforms are integrated, and marketing can see exactly where buyers are in their buying journey with sales.
  3. Marketing can see what customers bought, how often they buy, and when, and automate direct communications on multiple channels with customers as a result.
  4. Marketing can see customer support and operations interactions with customers, can see support contract dates and pertinent fields, and can automate communications to customers on behalf of these organizations.

Becoming customer-centric and driving great customer experiences is a whole-firm initiative and cannot be driven by any one function alone. Marketing plays a pivotal role because they own and are masters of so much of the communications technology, but it has to be integrated to enable marketing to offer communications as a service to sales, operations and support.

If your goal in 2019 is to improve customer experiences, and your answers to the three questions above are in the I, or II range, it is definitely time to review your MarTech stack, and the integrations it supports. Don’t be complacent. Determine now what it will take in the 2019 budget to enable you to lead on this important initiative and make customer-centricity a reality in the coming year.

A Strategy for Successful Leadership of the Website Team

Does your website team try to dazzle you with reams of reports and statistics weekly, so much so that you cannot tell if the website is actually improving in performance? Should you care? If you demand they structure their reports every week as I describe below, the result will be a focused team and an ever-improving website.

Does your website team try to dazzle you with reams of reports and statistics weekly, so much so that you cannot tell if the website is actually improving in performance? Should you care? If you look at SQLs by source, there is a good chance that the website is the best source of SQLs. So, yes, you should care. If you demand they structure their reports every week as I describe below, the result will be a focused team and an ever-improving website.

First, establish and educate on the actual goals of the website. Let’s exclude eCommerce websites because they represent an entirely different set of goals, actions and reports. The goals of your website might include the following:

  • Generate high quality net new leads for the business
  • Provide ongoing education for leads and customers already in the funnel
  • Reinforce brand attributes and brand loyalty
  • Increase brand awareness and advance all thought leadership initiatives

Pretty simple right? So, do you measure your website based on these goals? Yeah, that’s not that simple. The website must do several things to meet these goals.

  1. Attract new visitors and have a plan for how to gain returning visitors
  2. Get more of the visitors to read more than one page (move bouncers to browsers)
  3. Get more of the visitors to engage with the downloadable content (move browsers to downloaders)
  4. Get more of the visitors to fill in a form (move downloaders to converters)

Here are the 5 reporting slides I suggest you ask to see either weekly or monthly that will summarize your website performance as it relates to the goals you set for it.

1. Organic Attract

Measure and report on the trend for weekly visitors and especially new visitors. Give the team a target goal each quarter for new visitors per month. To tune up the website to hit this goal they will have to:

  1. Clean up the website errors that cause poor ranking with the search engines
  2. Identify which keywords should be targeted, and improve the visibility of keywords which are bringing the best browsers, downloaders and converters
  3. Add content which addresses the topics and answers the questions being queried on the search engines, and optimize those blog pages and other web content
  4. Add AMP capability for all pages – i.e. make it more mobile friendly (Google indexes mobile first now)
  5. Move to SSL for all pages and sub-domains
  6. Gain authority with quality backlinks to good performing content from websites with high authority
  7. Reduce page load times to less than 3 seconds by compressing images, reducing scripts, etc.
  8. Identify which channels are driving the best potential new MQLs and SQLs, and focus more resources there

Your weekly one slide “Attract” report should highlight the visitor trend week over week, the hottest entrance pages for attracting new visitors and specify which actions from the list above are planned for this week. The report should also highlight how many of the returning visitors are from existing customers.

2. Bounce to Browse

So you have a great blog that brings in 50% of the traffic, but do they just read that one page and then bounce (exit the website) or are you drawing them deeper into your website? Your team should report weekly on the average duration and page views trend for visitors and what they are doing to improve the numbers.

  1. Add CTAs (calls to action) to all the top performing entrance pages immediately
  2. Consider adding tools like Uberflip or PathFactory
  3. Leverage tools like Crazy Egg to see where visitors are clicking and scrolling and how they are interacting

The one slide report should specify what actions they are taking this week to increase visit duration and the number of pages viewed.

3. Browsers to Downloaders

One of your goals is to provide education to people in the funnel, so you cannot expect to put all content behind gates (forms). A large percentage of your website content will need to be ungated (freemium vs. premium content). Each week your team should report on what percentage of visitors downloaded content and which content was best at driving engagement. What actions are they taking to improve the numbers?

  1. Where is the content placed? Is it in CTAs on all the appropriate pages?
  2. Which content is hot, and can you link to it from more places?

4. Conversions

How good is the website at capturing new leads and getting existing leads and customers to engage with premium content? Each week the one slide report should highlight all the form fills by asset or form type, highlight how many were new leads and share form completion rates by form/asset. The actions pursued each week include:

  1. Fine tune form questions and leverage progressive profiling
  2. Place links to premium content in more hot locations on the website
  3. Add more premium content to the website
  4. Retire older premium content or move to freemium status

The team should have a weekly goal for number of new leads they want to hit.

5. Paid search and paid media summary

Paid campaigns do attraction and conversion all in one, so it is appropriate we report on it separately from the items above. But one slide is all a CMO needs, not reams of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and other paid media reports. The one slide should include what campaigns you are running by offer and channel, new leads produced, how much you are spending and the ultimate cost per new lead. It would also be good to report on lead quality (cost per MQL and SQL). The actions for the team weekly include:

  1. What new tests or campaigns they are going to try
  2. What campaigns have run their course or need modification
  3. What budget shifts will happen to improve portfolio results

Do you have a similar website performance five slide or less weekly report? If so, please share.

Next time, learn how the inbound group fits in with the demand generation team in a revenue marketing organization.

5 Marketing Capabilities for Customer-Centric Digital Transformation

A couple of months ago we discussed what marketing capabilities are needed for a digital transformation. Let’s now address the additional capabilities required to transform a traditional marketing organization into a modern revenue marketing machine.

A couple of months ago we discussed what marketing capabilities are needed for a digital transformation. We narrowed the scope of the answer to just technology-related capabilities. Let’s now address the additional capabilities required to transform a traditional marketing organization into a modern revenue marketing machine.

“A capability is a unique bundling of skills, knowledge, and resources that facilitate the execution of business processes, and are what ultimately contribute to sustainable competitive advantage and superior performance.” (Day, 1994).

5 Core Customer-Related Capabilities Marketing Must Acquire:

  1. Buying Journey Management is the capability that maximizes the sales and marketing activity with its buyers at all stages of their buying lifecycle, resulting in stronger customer relationships, increased revenues, profit and competitive advantage. This buying journey repeats itself with every purchasing decision. This capability is not simply about defining the buying journey; it is about aligning your content and marketing activities so they align with where the buyers are in their journey. Have you defined your customer journey? Have you mapped your content to the journey?
  2. Content Operations is a capability that supports the production, collection, management, publishing and measurement of customer or prospect-oriented information in any form or medium. Marketing manages content to support successful execution and optimization of multi-channel programs and campaigns. Content operations is a factory that collects requirements from demand generation, product marketing, and sales. They publish a production calendar. They are experts at content curation and understanding the best media for each message by segment.
  3. Customer Engagement is the capability that maximizes the relationships between sales/marketing and prospects/customers through the stages of the customer lifecycle. Too many firms simply pour out blog posts, newsletters, and promotional emails without actually measuring the level of engagement they are driving with each touch. Achieving a high level of engagement with your content and offers requires deep understanding of what messages and content works with which persona in which part of their buying journey, through what channel, and in what medium. The expectation is good engagement produces good conversion rates in your funnel. How good is your team at engaging prospects? Do you measure it?
  4. Customer Knowledge Management is a cross-functional capability for collecting, organizing, sharing and gaining insight from market and customer information, which drives stronger customer relationships and results in increased revenue, profit and competitive advantage. Back in the day, when direct mail was king and email was a novelty, we said the success of a campaign was 60% predicated on the quality of the data, 20% on the quality of the offer, and 20% on the quality of the packaging. We may have shifted the bulk of our campaign communications to digital channels, but the rule still applies. If your customer data quality is poor, don’t expect campaign miracles. Your customer data is an expensive asset that you have acquired. It depreciates at 2.1% per month (source Marketing Sherpa). Effective management of your customer data is a core capability in digital marketing success.
  5. Persona Management is the capability that develops, manages and optimizes semi-fictional characters to represent the different customer types that might use a company’s products or services. Personas need to go beyond job titles in B2B, because otherwise you are simply describing a segment. Modern marketing technologies enable us to gather, assess and adapt to people’s behaviors. Good personas therefore reflect the person’s goals, needs and decision-making behavior. Persona management means you recognize that personas are not static and need constant updating and refinement.

Delivering on each of these capabilities requires certain skills, knowledge and experience. You can outsource some of these capabilities to agencies or train your internal team to fulfill them.

4 Steps to Digital Transformation by Customer Capability Acquisition

  1. Assign someone to be your data czar, even if it is only part of their role. Have them create data quality dashboards.
  2. Define one or more customer journeys with the help of sales and map your content to the journey stages. What are the gaps? Build a plan to eliminate the content gaps. Create a content calendar. Now start planning your engagement based on the journey stages.
  3. Start measuring customer engagement with your content, events, offers, ads and all digital properties. What content is driving more engagement or minimal engagement?
  4. Finally, define personas, map the content to the personas, and start to collect data on your prospects so you can learn their persona and start to improve how you communicate with them!

Customer experience is the new competitive battleground. Shift to greater customer centricity in 2019 by investing now in the five marketing capabilities described above.