Taking Customer Focus from Idealism to Reality
Keith Reinhard recently said in AdWeek, “People seek brands that help them survive and succeed. They want brands that will help them be loved and admired and that will, in some way, enrich or improve their lives.” Satya Nadella recently spoke about the underlying need for “people-centric IT”: As many companies make the decision to move to the cloud for the first time, purchasing CRMs and similar technology, they’re seeking a partner they can trust. No matter what type of tech company you are, at the end of the day, you need to be that trusted partner for your customers.
But how do you balance the areas of competing interest between what your company needs and what your client needs? And how do you weave a customer-focused strategy into the very fabric of how your organization operates?
- First, it starts with the right goals. In my experience at LinkedIn, I see us purposefully building our Marketing Solutions product stack to align with our “Members First” philosophy. Why? Our members’ productivity and success is mission number one, and if we learn their wants, needs, and how they get value from LinkedIn, then we can help align companies with members to add mutual value.
- Second, it’s driven by data. Data has become foundational for how we as organizations operate. Russ Glass, our Global Head of Product, co-authored a great book about the Rise of the Data-Driven, Customer Focused Business. In my recent client meetings, I have built on some of these poignant ideas, balancing that thinking with some direction for how we need to start putting it into practice.
It Only Works If You Use It: Putting Data into Action
How do we continue to evolve into data driven, customer-focused businesses? It all starts with a series of small, integrated steps in a few big, hairy, challenging areas.
Big, Hairy Challenge #1: Tailor vs. Dictate the Customer-Based Experience
- Define your key influencers (personas). All of them. This means going beyond the traditional decision-maker and putting yourself in your customer’s shoes to understand their needs. Why only focus on the IT Decision-Maker when the IT Committee is the new way of life? What about the Sales, Marketing, Operations, HR Leaders who depend on your technology to do their job? They have a seat at the table and need to know the power of your technology, too.
- Commit to your personas. It’s not enough to know who the influencers within the IT Committee are. Your budget is finite, so prioritize personas and start somewhere to ensure you are winning the most critical hearts and minds by adding value to their day.
- Create content that inspires, not just sells. Your customers are savvy, networked, and usually at least halfway through the sales process before they even speak directly to your sales team. Your business depends on your content strategy to open the market up to your technology.
- Relevance of messaging matters. Knowing who you’re targeting and what content they want is only half the battle. The second half is delivering sequential messaging based on who and where they are in their unique buying process.
- Ease of experience is paramount. This starts with an understanding that you need to be where the influencers are, not just in your own world. It means being careful when gating content to allow access to your opinions and nurturing customers who weren’t ready to give their contact info yet. It also means you should care about your website design to ensure it’s easy to find content that matters to them. (Remember that old adage, “If you love something, set it free, and it will come back to you.”)
Big, Hairy Challenge #2: Align Internal Teams to Your Customer’s Need, Not By Traditional Silos
- Know your areas of weakness. Is it brand awareness, perception, consideration, MQL vs. SQL or sales pipeline vs. revenue? Whatever it is, figure it out, pin it down, and own up to it. You’ll be better off in the long run, because when you know your weakness, you can fix it. Weakness is dynamic, though. It can and will change campaign to campaign and from month to month.
- It starts with strategy. Structure your planning around your target audiences and align your strategy to the full funnel by bringing together all the functional teams that own each aspect of the funnel (strategy, advertising, social, demand generation, events, analytics, marketing automation, e-commerce, etc).
- Map to your customer journey. Both outbound and inbound teams must coordinate with each other post-strategy to align activities to the customer path to market. Want an example of what this looks like? E-Commerce understands from advertising the expected inbound traffic to their website, and demand gen and e-commerce share campaign performance with advertising to align on best converting audiences.
- Integrate with sales. Are you planning demand gen that aligns to the resources and bandwidth your sales reps have? A new metric we love at LinkedIn is Sales Saturation. Lead gen is about helping the funnel but the leaky funnel is partially a result of sending a lot of leads to sales when they don’t actually have time or interest in the lead. Sales Saturation sets a quantifiable metric for how many leads each sales person can handle and tracks if you’re sending sales too many leads.
- Build a tech stack secondary. Your tech stack should support strategy first and independent initiatives second. This includes: Website personalization, CRM, Marketing Automation, Analytics (multi-touch attribution) and Database Management.
Big, Hairy Challenge #3: Measure KPIs that Matter vs. the Ones that Are Easiest to Get
Objective metrics are logically all the rage at the moment. But it’s important to get beyond historic, leading indicators that may be misleading you. What are some of these bad indicators that you should try and rework or stay away from altogether?
- Click-thru-rate (CTR). Can we get full-funnel tracking to see conversion from start to finish? The new reality should not be cost-per-click (CPC) or CTR on event registration media, for example, but tracking of event registration against actual attendees.
- Quantity of leads. For lead generation, do you know your “Sales Saturation” metric? As mentioned above, this is the point when your sales team cannot physically get to all the leads you are providing. Providing anything beyond that is a waste of your time and effort and no fault of their own.
As the world of B2B tech purchasing and marketing technology, itself, evolves, we need to ensure we’re continuing to evolve with it. Taking a practical, data-driven approach that puts your customers first is an actionable strategy to get there.
Want to know how content fits into the mix? Check out LinkedIn Tech’s latest infographic on How Quality Content is Driving the Tech Customer Journey.
Photo by player_pleasure