Why B2B brands must focus on orchestrating meaningful customer engagement

Driving demand in B2B is no longer enough. To achieve growth, look across the full spectrum of the customer lifecycle.

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About 12 years ago, I met with a client and spoke about their approach to customer acquisition. There were whiteboard diagrams, initiatives posted to the wall and discussions about the strategy. Not far into the meeting, a director said, “If we focused solely on marketing to our customers, we would overachieve on our objectives.”

He continued, “If we simply were able to renew 10% of our customer base, we would drive $40 million in incremental revenue this year.” He had done his homework and got the attention of everyone in the room.

Data disaster

While he was right in his analysis, the biggest obstacle to focusing on the customer base was the state of their customer data. To put it nicely, and by their admission, it was disastrous. However, his point was well taken. They could focus on new customer acquisition, which is essential, but they had a more significant opportunity if they focused their marketing efforts on their current customer base.

And this is where I see many marketers struggle — engaging customers across the full customer lifecycle. So often, when I speak with CMOs, they focus on demand generation solely in the context of new customer acquisition.

What they are missing is maximizing customer lifetime value (CLV) which can only be done if you build the relationship at every stage of the customer journey and continue to nurture that relationship after the initial purchase. (Note: Engaging customers throughout the entirety of their lifecycle actually begins before they buy anything.)

Defining the customer lifecycle 

Much has been written about the customer lifecycle, and many marketers have documented the various stages that are a part of that lifecycle. I use my own (represented by the image below) with clients.

Customer Lifecycle

To engage, nurture, convert, retain and grow your customers, there has to be a concentrated effort at every stage, which requires a unification of marketing, sales and customer success/support. 

Orchestrating the customer journey 

I have spent a lot of time working with clients to develop and implement their customer journey orchestration approaches. (I prefer the term “journey” over “lifecycle.” Lifecycles indicate that there is an end, which is not something you want for your customers.) Whenever I talk with a prospect or client about orchestrating the journey, they immediately discuss the technology.

I am a big fan of technology, but it is not a strategy and will not get you any closer to end-to-end customer engagement. Technology’s role is to enable your orchestration strategy — that’s it. You should not invest in any more technology until your customer journey engagement strategy is defined. 

So if customer journey orchestration is not a set of technology, what is it? Here’s the definition I use: 

  • “Customer journey orchestration is a carefully defined strategy that delivers meaningful customer engagement at every stage of the customer journey. This strategy is then enabled by technology.”

Dig deeper: Customer journey orchestration: What it is and why marketers should care

This time with feeling

The keyword in my definition above is “meaningful.” In B2B, it is often easy to lose sight of the fact that we do not market, sell and support accounts. We work with people, and people want a great experience at every stage of their journey. We demand this in our consumer lives, and that human desire for a great experience does not disappear just because it is in a B2B context. 

Organizations must understand what customers want to feel and experience at each stage. This becomes all the more challenging in B2B, where you typically have multiple roles engaged at various parts of the journey, all with different perspectives, motivations and behaviors. This is why marketing should lead the way in developing buyer insights to inform the strategy for every stage of the customer journey. 

These insights should include personality traits and an understanding of what customers expect and desire from the brands they engage with. How do you collect these insights?

  • Talk to your customers and ask them. If this is not a continual practice in your organization, I highly recommend you make it one. 
  • Sales and customer success have a treasure trove of insights that they can share to help shape your strategy. 
  • Research into the industries in which your customers operate will provide additional information. Keep in mind that this is not a one-time exercise, it is a continual process.

Making the case for full lifecycle (meaningful) engagement 

One thing I often hear from executives is how to justify the cost of full journey engagement. The first step is changing the language from cost to investment. And the investment in delivering meaningful engagement will certainly pay off. A Harvard Business Review study revealed the following for both transaction-based and subscription-based businesses: 

  • Transaction-based: Customers with the best past experiences spend 140% more than those with the poorest past experiences.
  • Subscription-based: Customers with the best past experiences have a 74% chance of remaining a member for at least another year; customers with the worst experiences have a 43% chance of being a member one year later. In fact, those who gave the highest CX scores were likely to remain members for another six years.

This significant ROI proves engaging and delivering a world-class experience at every stage of the journey is now a bigger competitive advantage than price or product. 

To begin this process, start with: 

  • Mapping out the full customer journey (use the graphic above if needed).
  • Identifying the customer roles that are active at each stage.
  • Defining the experience they expect.
  • Aligning their expectations to the roles in your organization responsible for the delivery of that engagement and experience. 
  • Identifying technologies that will be needed to enable the engagement strategy. 

In 2015, I wrote a book titled “Driving Demand.” While plenty from the book still applies, I realize that it is not enough for organizations to simply drive demand for their product or services. To achieve growth, they must look across the full spectrum of their customer lifecycle and drive meaningful engagement. This is when organizations win and have customers that become advocates.

Next month, I will write more about the challenge of retention and how organizations can improve retention by focusing on a key segment of the journey. 


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

Carlos Hidalgo
Carlos Hidalgo is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Exhaust, a data-driven AI-enabled consultancy that helps B2B and B2C clients experience sustainable growth by aligning marketing, sales, and customer success to deliver meaningful engagement to their customers at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Over the course of his 29-year career, Carlos has worked with organizations of all sizes in delivering growth strategies, leading change management initiatives, developing human-centered corporate cultures, and advising executives on how to maximize their organization's growth. Carlos is the author of Driving Demand, which is ranked as a top 5 marketing book of all time by Book Authority and also The UnAmerican Dream, which was released in 2019. Additionally, Carlos is an international keynote speaker and TEDx speaker. Carlos has won numerous awards and has been named to some of the most prestigious leadership lists in the industry.

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