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Over the last decade or so, we've seen marketing transform from a black box function that some executives and technical groups regarded with suspicion and misunderstanding, to one driven by an operational approach and predicated by metrics. Any reservations about the effectiveness of marketing have been quieted by now with the ability to show the influx of leads and results of actions that turn initial leads to qualified opportunities. The transformation has been mostly operational in nature, but it has advanced marketing and is a primary factor behind the evolution of the chief marketing officer to a position with a seat at the executive table.

A new era is rising which will revolutionize marketing again. This transformation will add greater precision to the content and focus of marketing. This new change works by systematically delivering valuable insight to customers. Its impact comes from going beyond focus groups, input or one-off evaluations to understanding the heart and mind of the customer.

The Need for a Deeper Customer Understanding

Superior marketing organizations today do know the customer at some level, but often at a superficial and transactional level. Transactional knowledge might include getting customer opinions on brand elements or product marketing materials and presentations. Customer playbooks are generally transactional, as they focus on certain elements, such as pain points, but lack a holistic understanding of customer situations, goals, impediments and other elements.

Customer Success teams are beginning to be structured and outfitted to support greater listening to customers. They are starting to understand customers more fully, beyond single issues or elements. A major component of this is a total understanding of what customers need to be successful. Instead of dwelling on a pain point or discerning what a customer prefers, having a more holistic understanding illuminates what it would take to make a customer successful on all levels.

A crucial set of inputs would identify trends and changes rather than a perception based on a single moment in time. Customer Success can uncover a rising perception or concern and convey it to marketing to help remedy any potential issues. Customer Success will be the first to notice when something changes or emerges, which allows organizations to proactively and systematically address the change. Webinars, newsletters, social media content, trade show messaging and content, and other tools can address these newly raised issues with precision and timeliness.

Related Article: Aligning Your Organization Around Customer Success

Context-Based Customer Marketing

Context is another thing that Customer Success can provide to marketing. Today’s transactional approach may correctly identify a pain point but fail to grasp its context. It is the difference between “Yes, this is a problem for me” and “This is a problem, but our bigger issue is this ...” or “This would be a great capability to have, but it must have reportable metrics/must be automated/must be possible without any formal training.”

Even customer case studies, while extremely valuable sales and marketing tools, generally fit the customer experience to the values or benefits that marketing wants to emphasize. This is fine, but may miss important elements that customers or prospective customers would be looking for from the company. The case study may communicate these product values but not address the true concerns or other requirements prospective customers may have. Often these case studies form the basis of other materials, so the deficiency is amplified through repetition in other collateral.

With greater precision delivered by Customer Success, marketing can produce work that can address shifts in perceptions or requirements early to prevent negative consequences or to boost the effectiveness of marketing to maintain the attention and interest of their audiences. Such precision could help the company outmaneuver competition, take advantage of new opportunities or shorten sales cycles by removing obstacles. Messages and content can keep in step with changing customer situations or views to retain the relevance and impact over time.

Related Article: Content Marketing Strategy: Context, Context, Context

The Way Forward

Marketing can work in concert with Customer Success to tune messages and monitor whether they still have the anticipated impact and value. Such mechanisms generally do not exist today for marketing, particularly on an ongoing basis. In essence, Customer Success can provide a complete input loop for marketing, starting with an informed, holistic understanding and ending with continual feedback for tuning and updating.

Marketing isn't broken by any means. But there is considerable upside in adding greater precision to what marketing puts out to customers and prospective customers. When marketing and customer success work together, marketing's ability to drive better results from what they do becomes greater and their communications become wiser and more efficient.