Driving Business Growth
It is no secret that we are in a period of economic uncertainty, and with that, many organizations have looked to cost-cutting measures as a means of preservation. Weekly I speak to CROs, CMOs, and executives who have had to cut personnel, themselves been cut, or had to dramatically reduce the budget in response to the economic uncertainty of our current time.
While this cost-cutting is understandable to a point, there is plenty of evidence that shows that those organizations that invest in key growth areas of their business during an economic downturn will not only survive the troubled waters but come out of the storm far ahead of their competitors.
Even in the best times, the path to growth begins with the right framework. That framework can only be built when marketing, product, sales, and customer success are unified around a common view of the customer. A recent LinkedIn post by our good friend Matt Heinz shows that this unification is a rarity in most organizations.
If B2B organizations are going to create a sustainable growth culture, they must first adopt a customer-first culture, which, if it is going to stick, has to be driven by the CEO. Beyond that, here are three other departments (beyond marketing) that have to be unified across the full spectrum of the customer journey to get to a high level of growth maturity.
I remember speaking to a VP of Sales about the customer journey and the various stages customers take from brand engagement, to initial purchase and beyond. Clearly, he was getting frustrated when he blurted out, “I do not give a damn about the customer journey; we will disrupt that journey and sell what they need.” It may not surprise you that he did not last long in that role.
Sales leaders must go beyond the insular, myopic view of selling that is still prevalent in many organizations and view their roles from a customer viewpoint. This means establishing the right process, and feedback loops, requiring vision into partner’s sales pipelines, and implementing the right systems that enable this vision.
It also means looking at your customer’s data to derive insights that will enable salespeople to sell better and serve the customers’ needs. This is more than just recording anecdotal feedback; it is using the practical application of AI and machine learning to uncover what is important to the individuals on the customer side.
This is the same data that is shared with product, marketing, and customer success, and by doing so, all groups can have a shared common view of their ideal customer.
Ever been a part of a product launch team? I have! It is fun, exhilarating, full of ideas, what ifs, and a dream of the immense value you will bring your customers. The anticipation of launch day keeps the energy high, and then you launch, and . . . your product lands like a lead balloon. (I have unfortunately been here as well)
Because the product was developed based on what the company wanted to sell, not what the customers needed.
Product development and go-to-market (GTM) like sales begin with knowing your customers and relying on customer data. What is your audience telling you by their actions, sentiment, challenges, etc.? What is customer support hearing from customers? What issues are sales trying to solve? Without this insight, without vision into your customers, the development product will be an exercise of guesswork.
It seems obvious to state that customer support is a key department in the delivery of growth. Still, I am continually amazed at how many companies treat customer support and success as an organizational silo.
Other than sales, customer success has the most interactions with the customer, and their data on customers is full of insights. Yet, in my thirty years of working with organizations, I have rarely seen a business that consistently taps into the goldmine of insight that sits in the customer success function.
Consistently mining the data from the customer support organization is one of the key sources of insight that can help you design a path toward sustainable growth; not to use it intelligently is to miss out on incredible value.
So, what’s next?
I could write far more on the need for marketing, sales, product and customer success to unify on a common view of the customer and the importance of doing so. However, blog posts are not supposed to be novels and to be blunt, if you do not see the value in it, then we need to have a whole other conversation.
If you are serious about unifying the organizations around a common view of the customer and their journey may I suggest the following:
- Assemble the heads of marketing, product, sales, and customer success and have them each describe the ideal customer. Note the similarities and the differences. This will identify where there is commonality and where there are differences – I am not saying either are right.
- Use the practical application of AI and machine learning to derive insights from your customer data. This used to take weeks if not months, and now can be produced in hours and days.
- Compare the AI and machine learning generated insights from your customer’s “digital exhaust” to what the four department leaders identified and note the commonalities and differences. This AI-led analysis can be updated quarterly, monthly, or even dynamically; it depends on what you need as a business.
- Schedule several customer interviews regularly as another input to your customer profiles and a great addition to the AI-generated insights.
- Use the insights to design your customer engagement and experience strategy that aligns with every stage of the customer journey.
- Analyze and continually optimize your strategy to ensure the best results and for continual growth.
Clearly there are a lot of steps in this process and you may need help. If you want to understand how to do this in your organization, put some time on my calendar, I would be happy to give you more insight that will help your business grow.