The Gist

  • Brand advocacy importance. Customer marketing fuels brand advocacy, driving increased sales and strengthening brand reputation.
  • Investment synergy. Effective customer marketing programs require simultaneous investments in both customer experience and brand advocacy initiatives.
  • Organizational collaboration. Embedding customer marketing within the CX team ensures a more balanced and integrated approach, leading to better outcomes.

Customer marketing is underrated.

Its goal is brand advocacy and that is the result of all your investments in CX. Yet, it’s often marginalized or siloed at best and ignored at worst. Why do we guide customers through a journey and through value realization? So we can sell more to them — and engage them in marketing and selling to other customers.

Of course, we want our customers to be successful using our products so they attain their business goals but, as with most things in life, it helps to harness our selfish interests. We create advocates for our brand to sell more — by promoting our brand and reputation around customer-centricity and our ability to help customers achieve their business objectives.

And how is that done? By investing in customer experience (CX). The linkages are fundamental: There is no point in CX investment without brand advocacy, and it’s futile to pursue brand advocacy without CX investments.

First, What Is Customer Marketing?

An effective customer marketing capability has three crucial features:

  1. Supporting the organization’s marketing efforts with brand advocates who will execute activities (e.g., speaking, engagement in customer meetings, referral calls) and content (e.g., advertising, case studies, logos, videos, peer reviews).
  2. Supporting the organization’s sales efforts with brand advocates who will engage directly with prospects to discuss ease of doing business, value creation and why they are loyal to you.
  3. Proactively linking customer feedback/analytics, engagement, success programs and customer-centered change management to the development and harnessing of brand advocates.

Linking programs and brand advocacy is especially important because it galvanizes different parts of the organization around customer-centric behaviors, processes and results. It drives cross-functional collaboration in service of the customer experience.

It’s not complicated: The singular enabler for an impactful customer marketing program is a dedicated resource (an individual or a team) focused on working with your sales, engineering and marketing teams to identify ideal brand advocates and then orchestrate investments in those customers. Investing in a customer marketing function without parallel and tightly linked investments in programs that will facilitate customer success is a recipe for frustration and failure.

Related Article: Is Marketing Missing the Customer Experience Revenue Opportunity?

Learning Opportunities

Essential Customer Marketing Programs to Consider

  • Proactive Customer Care (often referred to as “White Glove” or “Top Flight” customer care) and Customer Success: Ideally, these programs target the most powerful brand advocates you could have so that those customers have the greatest likelihood of success and are naturally teed up for brand advocacy. Which brands, whether they are current or prospective customers, would make the biggest impact as advocates for your brand? This is where your focus should be.
  • Key Accounts: These are the customers who should receive the most attention and coordination across various resources in your organization. Naturally, we would expect that every single one of them would become top brand advocates. The return from investing in these customers comes in the form of protected and new revenue, as well as referrals through brand advocacy.
  • Executive Engagement and Sponsorship: Strong executive involvement and sponsorship in the most important customer relationships can make an enormous difference for those customers and for your business. The executives that you identify as sponsors will be especially motivated to do the hard work of sponsorship if they see that chief among the benefits of doing this is strong brand advocacy.

Related Article: Content for Every Stage: Maximizing Engagement in the Modern Customer Journey

Ownership and Organization for Customer Marketing

In research I did last year, I found that only 17% of customer marketing functions are managed by CX teams. Sixty-eight percent are owned by marketing. The rest can be found in sales and other lines of business. Despite this skew, I believe the obvious choice for ownership of customer marketing is your organization’s CX leader.

Obviously, other options do exist. If there is a strong relationship and collaborative atmosphere between the CX team and marketing, then you can make it work in marketing. But the easiest way to assure the right balance between CX investments and customer marketing outcomes is through a unified team under the CX umbrella.

As for the organizational structure and scale of the customer marketing function itself, there are any number of viable models. In start-up mode, one person can manage this — with a limited scope of brand advocacy targets and strong partnerships to service sales and marketing transactional references.

As the need develops for customer marketing programs to scale, the added investment can come in a number of forms. First, increase the size of the team from one to two or three (or multiples thereof, depending on your access to resources). Then look at a breakdown of specific roles:

Customer Marketing Responsibilities

Customer Marketing Roles

Sales & Marketing enablement

Establishing and refining product priorities and messages

Customer Engagement Managers

Customer facing: brand advocate recruitment, relationship management, engagement management, and fulfillment of brand advocacy (reference) needs

Customer Product Managers

Product facing: tracking of product adoption, referenceability at different points in the adoption lifecycle, and prioritization of brand advocacy needs (based on strategically important product attributes)

Customer Content Managers

Development and maintenance of customer marketing materials, including written, video, and advertising based on strategic, competitive product attributes

Customer Community Managers

Management of user groups, peer-to-peer networks, and other platforms, with a focus on strategic, competitive product attributes

CX Program Managers

Management of customer data, including account segmentation, and overall coordination across CX, Sales, Marketing, and Engineering/Product teams

So, What Next for Customer Marketing?

  1. Start small, focusing on just a few high-value advocates based on a few of the most strategically significant products and features. Resist the temptation to simply target your biggest spenders. Instead, look at the brands that will contribute most to the value of your brand as advocates. Some will be the big spenders and others will be smaller brands that punch above their weight in brand value.
  2. Place an emphasis on relationships with sales, marketing, and engineering/product, institutionalizing the linkages with those teams early and often. You simply can’t do this alone — and you need to make the wisdom of a strong partnership obvious and easy to sustain.
  3. Engage your whole company in identifying the most important products and features to promote through advocacy and the most valuable brand advocates to do so. Everyone will have an opinion and will value being heard. And you will be surprised at the level of consensus and buy-in achieved. This will give you an enormous head start in change management.
  4. Engage your executives in the recruitment of brand advocates. They will be your greatest resources and will give you the bullhorn you need to properly socialize the whole effort.

The beauty of customer marketing is that you can get real results with a nominal investment. A few thoughtful choices on CX and customer marketing investments will yield outcomes for your customers and your own organization — and will energize everyone involved.

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