The Marketing Department of the Future is Your Customer Base

The Harvard Business Review published interesting insights based on conversations with CEOs who were looking for sustainable growth in their companies. Whereas pressure on these CEOs is greater than ever and marketing departments and product R&D teams are feeling the brunt, the secret to sustainable growth might not lie in those on your company payroll. Instead, companies that are attracting buyers in the modern digital world are successfully inspiring their customers to sell for them. We’ve all heard the statistics relating to how it’s cheaper to up-sell customers you have than find new ones — or that customer referrals offer a lower CPA (cost per acquisition). But are we really structuring our businesses to take advantage of this? In today’s digital world, not only can we, but it’s imperative that we do for survival.

Today’s hyper-connected buyers (both B2B and B2C) trust one source of information above all others — their peers. So who are peers to buyers in your market? Your customers. So you need to be developing strategies to engage and inspire your customer base to tell others about their experience with your brand.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a few steps:

(1) Customers as an extension of your sales team: Those customers who are most loyal are most likely to say something good about your brand. You can uncover these customers through survey instruments such as Net Promoter Scores (NPS), online reputation monitoring efforts, researching your CRM database for referrals, or reviewing your sales transaction records. Make it easy for these customers to post reviews, recommendations, or share comments within their online spheres of interest (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook friends, etc.).

Studies have documented that offers extended by your customer advocates to their colleagues have higher conversion rates that offers extended by brands directly to buyers. Customer advocates who also provide routine reviews raised average scores from 3.5 out of 5.0, to 4.5 out of 5.0. This can have a big impact on creating that tipping point to influence others to buy from your brand.

(2) Customers as an extension of your R&D team: One challenge for most brands is the separation of their product marketing and R&D teams from actual customers. Sure, brands can obtain snapshot insights via focus groups and surveys, but real-time insight requires effort.  Companies who want to “get it right” with new product or service launches are tapping into the collective intellect of their customer base. Rather than guessing at what customers want, asking them can be powerful.

Here’s how to get started:

(1) Get intentional about learning what customers want: Meaningful engagement with customers to understand what they truly value. By isolating what customers truly value, brands can focus investment in those areas to achieve a superior ROI than spreading their investment across too many dimensions such as cost, convenience, quality, service, speed, breadth of products, etc. Instead of being “a mile wide and inch deep,” think about being “a mile deep and inch wide” with regards to focusing on deliver on the expectations of specific customer segments (personas).

(2) Focus marketing innovation on customer evangelism: Marketing has become so complex in terms of technology platforms and data overload that it can cause brands to lose focus on what is really valuable. While marketing automation, nurturing algorithms, cookie tracking, and a myriad of other behavioral tactics can be useful, the real sales accelerator may lie in focusing on a single theme of customer advocacy (turning customers into evangelists).  Instead of developing a “social media strategy,” the appropriate goal is to develop a “customer advocacy strategy.”  In other words, why not let your customers become an extension of your sales force?  By identifying “VIP” customers, making them feel special (Customer Advisory Panels, product evaluators, etc.) you can unleash a hidden revenue source as these customers can generated 10X the referral revenue and profit of what they could buy on their own.

Are you leveraging loyal customers?  Would you like to increase sales and profits by leveraging your customer base?

If not, maybe you should be. We are here to help.

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