Aligning Your Customer Success and Marketing Teams

By Madison Taylor
July 27, 2020
business meeting introduction by shaking hands

There’s an old story that P.T. Barnum, one of history’s greatest showmen, used to get annoyed that people lingered too long at his exhibits. To hurry them along and make room for new customers, he placed signs reading “this way to the egress.” Thinking that an “egress” was some sort of exotic animal, customers would eagerly follow the signs, only to find themselves back on the street.

Barnum was an all-time great marketer, but his job ended once people bought a ticket, so he didn’t care how annoyed they got at being tricked like this. You don’t have that luxury. More than ever before, customers are able to communicate with each other, with other potential customers, and with the world.

That’s why the handoff between marketing — the team that gets people in the door — and customer success — the team that keeps them happy once they’re in — has to be seamless. Why is this handoff so important? Keep reading.

Your Existing Customers Are Your Best Resource

The customers you already have are your single most important resource for a couple of reasons. First is simple cost. Depending on your company and your industry, retaining an existing customer is between five and 25 times cheaper than attracting a new one — and increasing customer retention by a mere 5 percent can increase profits by almost double.

It’s counterintuitive, but it means that from a financial perspective, you should be dedicating a substantial amount more time and energy to keeping your existing customers happy than you do to getting new customers in the door.

Which brings us to our next point: happy customers will do your marketing for you. Today’s consumers are more research-conscious than ever before — they won’t buy almost anything without asking their friends, family, or peers. They read reviews from other users. They look for testimonials on your website. And what’s more, they trust their fellow customers more than they trust you. All told, customer retention is one of the best customer acquisition tools you have.

Consistency Before and After the Sale

The other reason that marketing and customer success teams need to be aligned comes down to keeping your promises. Regardless of how a new customer comes on board, they’ve been enticed by certain features or experiences that your messaging told them about. Your product is easy to use! It scales well to large companies! It’ll save them time and money!

If they sign up for the product and it doesn’t do all the things they thought it would, they’ll cut and run, and they won’t be happy about it. They might even tell people that you’re making false promises, which is worse than if you’d never landed the lead at all. If your CS and marketing teams are on the same page, they can ensure that you don’t promise anything you can’t back up. Here’s how to get started.

Measure Marketing by Customer Success

In the old way of thinking, marketing was a pure numbers game. If you’re bringing in tons of leads, some of them are sure to convert into happy customers, and your marketing has been a success. The problem with focusing on quantity is that quality tends to fall by the wayside. If you land 100 customers, but 85 of them never spend another dime, you’re missing out on a lot of customer lifetime value that you could have held onto with more careful consideration.

That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with demand — as the old saying goes, quantity has a quality all its own — but it shouldn’t be the only thing you care about. Instead, focus on some more customer-success-oriented goals:

  • Adoption: find your best repeat customers and look into the way they’re using the product, then look for new users who are using it the same way. That’s a good indicator that they’ll stick around.
  • Churn and renewal: this is especially useful in SaaS and subscription-based fields. Take a look at who’s renewing and who’s letting their account expire, and try to find patterns. You might be able to predict churn before it happens.
  • Usage: which features are people using and which ones are they ignoring? Are they using the new features you’re marketing?
  • Onboarding: are people struggling to learn how to use the product? Can you improve the education process to get them up and running faster?
  • Expansion: which customers in the past have been most receptive to cross-selling and upselling? Look for those same characteristics in new customers.

This new approach to marketing metrics has to happen all the way from the top down. If your CMO is demanding more and more leads, your marketing teams won’t be able to focus on the metrics that matter.

Create a Customer Marketing Team

A few years ago, a famous YouTuber set up a dummy shopper to buy a new computer. Once it arrived, she called customer support to simulate a problem with the machine in order to see how they would talk her through fixing it over the phone.

Customer support referred her to sales, since it was a new machine and still under warranty. Sales referred her back to customer support, since the machine had a technical issue. After two hours on the phone for what should have been a 5-minute fix, a helpful salesman broke the script and simply told her what to do.

That can’t happen at your company. Roles and responsibilities are going to blend together in service of the broader goal of keeping customers happy, and that blend starts with a customer marketing team.

Their main goal will be to combine the traditional roles of customer success and marketing. While your marketing team focuses on generating leads, the customer marketing team will focus more on outcomes:

  • Finding the patterns that most closely predict repeat customers, cross-sells, and upsells
  • Transitioning customers from closed-won to successful adopters
  • Creating intuitive, helpful, informative onboarding and educational resources
  • Owning all customer communications to ensure that they’re helpful and on-brand
  • Building referral programs and review strategies to turn existing customers into active promoters

Enable Your Customers to Succeed

Remember, your customers are your best resource. You might have the best product and smartest employees in the world, and none of it matters if you can’t keep customers around. To that end, your biggest investment should be in making sure that your customers are getting the most out of your product. The more features they use and the better they understand the product, the more likely they are to work it into their daily lives and recommend it to their friends. You get more loyal customers and they get a product that genuinely solves their problems — it’s a win-win.