Thursday, August 29, 2013

Marketing Must Lead the "Customer Experience" in B2B - Thoughts from #Inbound13

Is all this talk of "Customer Experience" within B2B Tech fluff?

This is the question I asked Hubspot's two cofounders Darmesh Shah and Brian Halligan after their keynote speech at Hubspot's annual Inbound Conference. Their answers added to the momentum I have been observing and hearing. Yes, they felt Customer Experience, or whatever your organization names it, is massively important and is here to stay.

At Hubspot their shift to a Customer Experience Company, or an Inbound Company as they call it (for a great detailed overview on this read @thesaleslions recent blog post), is just another signal that providing and mapping a full Customer Experience will be an important part of the future of B2B companies. I believe marketing has an opportunity set the path to success.

Below are some areas I see patterns around "Customer Experience" as it continues grow in B2B Tech:
  • Marketing > Sales > Services: This is a trio that the HubSpot executives spoke about and it's also something that we have consistently seen from salesforce.com and Marc Benioff. These are the 3 key areas of interaction with the customer and like it or not, one can't live without the other.
  •  Continued rise of Vice President of Customer Experience and the Chief Customer Officer: My colleague Rich Vancil blogged on this topic a few weeks ago. The title and role are still undefined, but where I see some patterns is sales, services, and marketing (yes those three again), rolling into one person. This person owns these areas and assures the departments are working seamlessly together. Sometimes product or the channel/partner org reports to this person, but sales, services, and marketing are always present.
  •  Technology is Making the Customer Experience Possible: At IDC we have seen digital everything continue to grow, and on the marketing side, see leading companies aggressively investing in all things digital. The more conversations I have, the more I hear about context, personalization, and data. While these topics are not new, the difference is advanced technologies are now available. These technologies provide the opportunity for companies truly wanting to focus on the full customer experience to be exceptional in execution.   

Why Marketing is in position to be a leader with Customer Experience:

Marketing is the first touch point for each customer, each relationship, and each person a company encounters. With around 50% of the purchasing process complete before a buyer even engages, this leaves a huge opportunity for marketing to set the stage for what will be a long and (mutually) fruitful relationship. Not only is that first touch and experience important, but marketing's job is also to identify and label each prospect so they are placed in the correct persona.  This ultimately will send prospects down the path that will provide them with the most value and the best customer experience.

Without marketing's knowledge of the prospect, sales is blind as there would be minimal context and more challenges in providing the best solution for prospects. In turn, even when deals get closed, service teams would be starting at a huge disadvantage with minimal information on the type of account they are now managing.


Marketing sets the expectations for the customer, Marketing provides the playbook for sales and services, Marketing must take the lead in the Customer Experience.

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