Three things marketers must do to better serve customers in 2018

As we head into the new year, now is the time to solidify your goals for customer retention and advocacy. Contributor Matt Zilli discusses three key factors marketers need to be thinking about in 2018.

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The year 2018 will be the watershed year when savvy marketers move to expand their roles to encompass every aspect of the customer journey, end to end.

While 37 percent of marketing budgets are still spent on customer acquisition, according to the 2017-2018 Gartner CMO Spend Survey, 2018 will see marketers devoting increased amounts of time and resources to engaging with existing customers. In fact, current customers — always a core constituency — will soon be marketing’s primary audience, as CEOs, fearful of falling victim to disruption, look to invest in making the brand relationship more valuable.

Here’s why.

In the all-things-social world, customer sentiment now has the largest positive, or negative, effect on a brand. Their voices amplified by social platforms, existing customers are your most persuasive advocates or most damaging detractors. Combine that with the fact that it costs much more to acquire than to retain a customer, and it’s clear that nurturing existing customers delivers a significantly higher ROI on marketing spend.

Moreover, when dealing with existing customers, marketers usually have the advantage of direct lines of communication. Compared to cultivating prospects, it is — or should be — phenomenally easier to understand what’s happening with existing customers during each of their interactions with a brand. And because we can more easily listen, we can more easily anticipate needs, personalize experiences and increase brand value.

2018 will be rewarding, but not easy

Marketers will have to overcome several challenges when focusing more resources on existing customers. Chief among them is time. Most marketers operate at a breakneck pace, pursuing every opportunity to acquire new customers and possibly shortchanging existing customers.

How can we reimagine this without sacrificing our existing efforts? You have to plan now — not in January or February — to make this work in the new year, and you’ll most likely need to leverage technologies for scale, such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Another key challenge with amping up efforts to service customers is how to best measure impact. Yes, we know the ROI is there, but we need to express it in terms that a board of directors finds meaningful.

Remember, it was the ability to finally measure ROI and prove revenue that secured marketing a seat at the table in the first place. CMOs can’t afford to let this ability erode, and therefore, they must be prepared to quantify new goals around retention and advocacy.

Three marketing musts for 2018

Given all of this, here are three things marketers need to be thinking of as they go into 2018 — things that will help expand their vision of better serving their customers and their company’s shareholders.

1. Own all customer touch points

Marketers must be acutely aware of every touch point that impacts existing customers, even when they fall far outside the traditional marketing purview.

For example, many companies are trying to scale their interactions with the use of AI-powered bots that will help guide customers. In most companies, it is IT, or perhaps a customer account department, that drives this kind of project. If marketing doesn’t have a clear understanding of how this is impacting the customer experience, then it’s not stepping up to being the shepherd of the end-to-end customer experience.

2. Existing customers are worthy of your best everything

All of the things that are important to attracting new customers are just as important to retaining existing customers. AI, personalization, consistency of interactions and alignment of people in the company across the customer experience function are all critical components of retention.

Perhaps most important of all is constantly seeking and acting on feedback to not just increase sales but to also create the kind of loyalty and advocacy that help mold the perceptions of other existing customers and pull in new ones.

3. Find the metrics that matter most to the customer experience

Relying on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure customer loyalty is no longer enough. It’s too general and static a measure for today’s fast-moving customer environments. What’s necessary is to also understand the sentiment of each customer as an individual.

Again, the solution is to constantly seek feedback on how you are doing in meeting each individual’s increasing expectations through the lens of the customer experience. This can be accomplished as easily as presenting a simple emoji scale for customers to score their satisfaction with every interaction.

Thus armed, you can measure such things as ease of purchase, satisfaction with sales and service, the value of your content and so on. This data can then be combined with data on repurchase rates, number of advocates created and so on, to provide a more complete, accurate and timely picture of marketing effectiveness across the customer journey.

Seize the year

In 2018, the growing mandate to expand marketing’s role across the entire customer journey will be brought to bear for all marketers.

The preparations you make now toward owning every customer touch point, marshaling time-saving technologies and creating new success metrics will pay immense dividends far beyond the coming year. Good luck in the year ahead!

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Matt Zilli
Matt is Marketo’s chief customer officer, overseeing Customer Success and Global Enablement. He previously served as Marketo’s interim chief marketing officer and group vice president of Product and Solution Marketing. Before joining Marketo in 2013, Matt helped launch LineStream Technologies as the vice president of Marketing. Previously, he spent time at Texas Instruments and Rovi corporation, where he held positions in sales, marketing, business development, and product management. Matt holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Santa Clara University and an MBA from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

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