95% Agree: Customer Experience Is Key to Unlocking Growth

The challenge of sustained top-line growth is not a unique phenomenon of the 21st and 20th centuries. Revenue growth has been top of mind for every business since the dawn of trading over 150,000 years ago. What sets today apart from the 1900s is the increasing pace of change in customer preferences, economic cycles, product lifecycles, business models, and modes of communication.  Accelerating change is fueled by growing volumes, transparency, and accessibility to information. For most of the 20th century, personal relationships were the foundation of B2B business. Information flows were slower, not as robust, and often available only to organizational leaders. Contrast that to today, where a college intern can access almost as much data as a company CEO. And have about as much influence, albeit in different circles. Today, information velocity and volume coupled with global business volatility shines a spotlight on outdated business practices. One practice in today’s spotlight is how companies plan and manage their go-to-market strategies. Done well, top-line growth from new and repeat business is healthy. Yet, 78 percent of the 2,400+ sales and marketing professionals polled in LeanData’s 2019 State of Revenue Operations Study said that consistent revenue growth is a challenge for their B2B organizations. The underlying reasons unpack like a Russian stacking doll – sales and marketing misalignment, siloed data and teams, sales productivity and turnover, low campaign conversion, customer churn, and employee frustration. Ironically, part of the solution is the very catalyst that surfaced the problem – data. With ubiquitous access to information, B2B buying teams took control of their journeys over a decade ago. No longer relying on vendors or traditional influencers for data, advice, and access to experts, buying teams often know more about solutions, how they compare, and ROI than a vendor’s sales and marketing teams. And yet, thousands polled in LeanData’s survey said data was the least-aligned area in their organizations’ revenue engine. If growth is a challenge, what is the solution? Almost universally, those polled said fixing B2B’s broken buyer journey is critical for revenue growth. Organizations are being forced, often kicking and screaming, to compete on customer experience instead of the traditional 4Ps of price, product, promotion, and place. Ninety-five percent of study respondents responded that delivering consistent and seamless customer experience across the entire customer lifecycle is a critical competitive differentiator and revenue driver. 2020 is the era of customer experience. Successfully competing on customer experiences requires data. That means tearing down silos and aligning sales, marketing, and customer service/success data and processes to deliver customer expectations, and then institutionalize new practices with technology like RevOps. Alongside industry analyst firm SiriusDecisions, LeanData helped coin the term “RevOps” or Revenue Operations for a new go-to-market structure — which unites the disparate operations teams supporting sales, marketing, and customer success into one holistic function singularly focused on how to increase growth and performance across the entire revenue chain. While LeanData and industry analysts talk in the language of “conversion of prospects into customers and maximize customer lifetime value,” RevOps is a mechanism to align organizations outward to the customer based on a single source of truth (data) and clear interaction ownership, cross-functionally. One study respondent described their internal alignment results as, “Today we plan from lead to end-of-customer lifecycle and are factoring in those numbers towards our growth. In the past, under a pre-RevOps mindset, this simply did not occur.” Eighty-four percent of study respondents agreed that sales, marketing, and customer success share ownership for revenue growth. Having advised over a hundred B2B C-Suites and marketers, I’m not surprised that 40 percent of the same respondents said these functions aren’t optimally aligned within their organization to maximize revenue-growth potential. Data inaccuracy, lack of detailed customer knowledge, absence of a common shared language, and incomplete customer micro-moment mapping to business processes coupled with internal power struggles are common barriers. The study found that within the over 2,400 respondents, the least-aligned aspect is data with the lowest average score of 5.7 out of 10. Other significant adoption challenges include culture, resources, organizational complexity, organizational maturity, and leadership support. In my many North American and European change management initiatives - success comes down to people. Unless people see a personal benefit, long-term change will be fleeting. My advice is to understand, without judgment, what is in each team member’s heart and mind. What is their motivation for change? Every person is different. As RevOps gains momentum in the wake of many failed prior approaches to silo-busting and getting everyone to stay on the same page, keep these five steps in mind as you plan your implementation:

  1. Widely and repeatedly socialize a well-articulated RevOps vision that gives each team member a clear understanding of the real meaning their work has.
  2. Widely share detailed customer journey maps that show aligned business process flows to help employees understand who does what, when, and why.
  3. Implement accountability to reinforce commitment across all levels of the organization.
  4. Transparently share metrics to help team members understand cause and effect.
  5. Have a milestone-based plan and encourage team members to share suggestions, ideas, and feedback.
The more people feel heard, involved, and part of the process, the greater the impact your RevOps will have on revenue and customers. First published in Medium

Do You Understand Your Customer?

Customer Experience (CX) is a proven path to sustained growth and profitability. It makes sense – give customers and buying teams what they value, when and in the format they want it. Yet, operationalizing this simple concept continues to vex organizations. While adoption has been slow, we’re finally heralding in the year of Customer Experience. We’re at a critical point in the evolution of customer experience. CGS’ annual report “A Look Ahead: Business Process Outsourcing Trends in 2020”, found that companies of all sizes have as their top 2020 priorities improving customer experience and cost-effective operations. Organizations realize the time for talk is over, and they need to ‘walk the walk.’ A prime catalyst is that prospects are quick to discern brands that do not compete on customer experience. Those brands are eliminated early on in purchase and renewal cycles. At the core of CX adoption are two issues. The first is that customer experience requires a mind shift from viewing it as a tactic to embracing the discipline as a business strategy that touches every corner of the organization. The second is gaining an actionable, current “outside-in” understanding of the customer – the “hows” and “whys” of their actions and expectations. The study found five trends prevalent across company sizes and over 30 industries:
  • Focus on customers and costs
  • Harden data security
  • Strengthen in-house customer care and technical support core competencies
  • Manage IT infrastructure change
  • Shift technology investments
At heart is a growing focus to understand customers and the experiences they value. Companies are figuring out that customers reward brands that engage them on their terms. That means understanding how various types of customers define value along with when, how, and why they want brands to interact with them. As I’ve written about for a decade, the customer owns defining the journey, not the brand. It is the brand’s responsibility to align their strategy, people, process, and technologies to the customer’s expectations. Do that, and sustained growth is yours. While it might seem counter-intuitive, business process outsourcing plays a more significant role in customer experience than just cost savings. The study found that 48 percent of companies, of all sizes, have as their top strategic outsourcing the goal to ‘provide better customer experience.’ That goal cascades down the organization and is reflected in the objectives of departments that use outsourcing. For example, the primary goal of customer service and operations departments is to provide a better customer experience. For Finance, it is process standardization to improve efficiency and consistent delivery. IT departments rely on outsourcers to help them stay current on technology to meet business goals. While every company’s needs are different, BPO providers bring expertise and resources essential to leveraging automation in customer interactions, hardening customer data security and compliance, and CX best practices from other industries. Technologies like chatbots, virtual assistants, RPA, analytics, immersive training, real-time automated coaching, and artificial intelligence are table stakes for successful CX. Yet the technology choices available can be overwhelming. What sounds good on paper or in a demo can, in reality, be challenging to integrate into a company’s enterprise ecosystem. Knowing when and how to fit new technologies into your customer engagement strategy is one area where BPO can make a big difference. The experience of serving multiple clients across numerous industries enables BPO vendors to lead as well as teach best practices on how to satisfy customers and meet business goals. Just as customers expect more from the brands they do business with, so too are companies demanding more from their BPO partners. As CX continues to top the list of strategic imperatives, companies are increasingly looking to their outsourcing partners for help beyond traditional services by filling an internal resource or skill gaps. Over 50 percent of study respondents said they look to their BPO partners for help in customer experience transformation, customer journey mapping, and implementing new supporting systems. Selecting the right BPO partner is more than finding the right capabilities match – it’s about establishing a trusted, long-term relationship. At stake is the future of the customer – and your business. The study found that companies are evaluating outsourcing partners based on how they align with the company’s vision, goals, and culture. That is in addition to a demonstrable track record of delivering ROI in the form of improved efficiencies and lower costs. Evaluating how outsourcers manage their own business is increasingly part of the selection process. How do they onboard new employees, conduct training, enforce business policies, communicate internally, and govern their business are just a few due diligence areas. Relationship ‘fit’ cannot be overstated – it is a significant determining factor in the success of the outsourcing partnership and the results realized, especially when it comes to CX goals. The key to realizing the top and bottom-line benefits of customer experience is to align your culture, strategy, and processes outward to customer journeys then institutionalize new practices, processes, and behaviors with automation technology. While some brands still stubbornly perceive customer experience as a tactic, a marketing campaign, or a new label for the customer support function, increasingly companies embrace it as a mindset, a business strategy, and discipline that the entire organization must master. It all starts by understanding your customers, through their eyes, in detail. BPO outsourcers can be valuable, trusted partners to gaining and operationalizing that understanding so you can use customer experience as a brand differentiator.

Content Is Dead and We Killed It

Content is the lubricant of customer engagement. Buyers are attracted to brands with content that enables them to make a more informed decision. Valuable content keeps them coming back. Or so the story goes. The reality is we are all sick of content. Brands are burned out from producing rivers and oceans of content. Customers are fatigued by the barrage of irrelevant and often low-quality content. In fact, according to the Economist Group, 71% of buyers/readers said they were turned off by content that seemed like a sales pitch. And CMI & MarketingProfs found “only 54% of B2B marketers are using content to 'delight' and build loyalty with existing clients/customers.”

3 Causes of Content Burnout

Three things contribute to the demise of content: Inside-out content strategy, a plethora of channels and content-centric lead generation. Most content is developed from the inside-out. Various internal teams each believe the customer "needs" to have this or that information. The CTO has a white paper they are passionate about, product marketing insists on a data sheet, the CEO wants a blog, and the list go on. What starts out as a genuine desire to communicate differentiated value turns into a political football — it’s easier to just create the content and get on with life. Lost along the way is meeting the buyers’ needs. Second is the overwhelming number of channels and their constantly evolving efficacy. Determining which channel and format for each asset and for which audience is enough to give you a migraine. Sure, omnichannel marketing is the remedy, yet stitching the systems together is hard and having the necessary clean, complete data is even harder. The third uses content as the tip of the spear. Buyers are looking for more in the moment, contextually relevant ways to learn about brands. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers.

What Is the Buyer Trying to Accomplish?

In the thousand-plus journey interviews we’ve conducted, buyers and customers want information that helps them achieve specific tasks. They are unwilling to settle for content that misses the mark. As a result, buying teams increasingly rely on word of mouth, independent third parties/influencers, industry forums and peers to get the information they need. You can start to fix the content challenge by asking a question — what is the buyer trying to accomplish at each micro-moment? Answering that question requires outside-in insights best obtained by interviewing customers and prospects. Keep in mind it’s not about your content but everyone’s content they look for. By broadening the inquiry, you’ll quickly learn if your brand is their ‘go-to’ resource or if that honor goes to someone else. A manufacturing organization mailed out high-quality product catalogs to customers and prospects on an annual basis. We learned from journey interviews that 90% of those catalogs went directly into recycling upon receipt. Customers didn’t want anyone’s catalogs and some thought it made the manufacturer appear old school and out of touch. It’s easier to search and order online. Another client developed YouTube product videos to promote their products. We discovered companies were actually using them as employee training videos without buying the product. According to Sitecore, the true cost of content that misses the mark is poor customer experience, missed revenue opportunities, lost internal productivity and inability to scale. Ironically, companies tend to kick the can down the road. The result is a mountain of assets that aren’t inventoried, are out of date, and in channels that have been forgotten about long ago.

How to Turn Your Content Strategy Around

Here are four quick steps to turn your content back into powerful customer enablers:
  1. Conduct a content gap analysis between your outside-in journey map and current marketing/sales processes to identify what content buying teams are looking for but not finding from you.
  2. Delete content that is not sought by members of the buying team. Same thing for content channels. If buying teams do not use a channel(s), drop it. (This is a good project to outsource.) Don’t fall into the FOMO trap of being everywhere with everything.
  3. Develop persona/micro-moment level content strategy that clearly defines how each asset satisfies the buyers’ objectives, the preferred channel and how to measure success. (Detailed journey maps make this step a breeze).
  4. Repurpose existing valuable content that is in the wrong format. For example, buyers might be looking for statistics or listicles instead of long-form text. There are sophisticated tools available, like SDL’s Content Assistant that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to parse existing content into preferred formats, from tweets to blurbs.
“Where do buyers go to learn about new products and research vendors? Social media. What’s the fuel for social media? Content. So a poorly thought out or executed content strategy can turn off buyers on your products, services, and brand … at the very beginning of the customer journey,” said Carter Hostelley, CEO of Leadtail, a B2B social media agency. Once your content strategy is back on track, keep it aligned to the ever-evolving buyer needs. That means more than just updating your journey maps annually. Look to machine learning platforms for help in tagging assets with metadata to better organize content and AI to automatically assemble new content tuned for specific customers and journey steps. There will never be a world without content. It will look different from today and be delivered in new ways but the content is what informs, inspires and incentivizes. Successful brands will move away from thinking about content as individual assets to managing content as pools of multi-use information elements that buyers have identified as valuable. Those brands that use journey maps to assemble and align information elements to enable buyers to achieve micro-moment target outcomes will win customer preference. First published in CMSWIRE.

Using Customer Journeys to Supercharge RevOps

Revenue Operations or RevOps as it is more commonly referred to is, at its core, a business strategy on how to operationalize customer alignment. RevOps combines analytics, marketing and sales operations data and functions into one group (formal and not) to plan, manage and measure go-to-market activities. It’s about understanding, codifying and consistently aligning people, processes and technologies to meet customer needs and wants.  Not just net new revenue but renewals, account expansion, and up-and cross-sales as well.

What Success Looks Like?

As with anything new it helps to understand what results can be for your organization before starting down the road.  RevOps is as much about process change as it is about technology and culture. Guideposts help determine if your implementation is heading in the right direction:
  • Meet revenue growth and customer retention goals.
  • Grow faster and more profitably than your direct competitors.
  • Maintain a single, complete and accurate account view that all teams use.
  • Align Marketing, Sales, Customer Success and all Ops teams with each other and to customers.
RevOps doesn’t require a whole new set of dashboards or special metrics. It’s about bringing together the whole story being told by existing metrics - what’s working, where the gaps are and trend lines over time. From our work, our target benchmarks for clients are 20 percent increase in revenue and 40 percent increase in ROIM.  Sirius Decisions suggests targets of twelve to fifteen percent faster growth and over 30 percent increase in profitability compared to your competitors. The most often overlooked key to RevOps success is customer journeys. Learn More: RevOps Is the Life Jacket If You’re Drowning in MarTech

How Journey Maps Supercharge RevOps?

According to Forrester Research, “one of the biggest challenges for Ops teams is to identify, interpret and respond effectively to buyer signals.” Imagine if you knew ahead of time what buying teams do with your competitors? What influencers they trust? Why and when they turn to their peer networks for advice? Journey maps deliver these insights. If RevOps is the backbone enabling organizations to meet their revenue targets; journey maps are the “Google Maps” to buyer signals with turn-by-turn directions. A journey map is a way to uncover and act on how a buying team goes about addressing a business issue or opportunity – and what they expect from the brands they engage with. What touchpoints have (or not) they engaged with you on and what your next best action should be. The most accurate journey maps – and predictors of buyer behavior - are developed through qualitative interviews. It’s not just about what buying teams do but also how they feel at each step along the way. Including emotions is what turns your journey maps into the decoder ring that supercharge RevOps. By having a detailed understanding of customer journeys you gain the visibility needed to assess where each account is in their journey. The maps also provide a blueprint for your sales and marketing strategy and how to align all customer touching teams so you can deliver a consistent, seamless experience; next best actions; and accurately measure weighted attribution. Learn More: Driving Faster B2B Purchases through Sales and Customer Alignment

Four Steps to Supercharge your RevOps

There are four steps that any organization can take to supercharge their RevOps:
  1. Focus on key micro-moments and decisions
  2. Align internal workflows to journey steps
  3. Anchor campaigns, content and CTAs to journey maps
  4. Implement journey-based lead scoring and prioritization
The first step is to identify those micro-moments that matter the most to each buying team persona because ‘not every interaction in a journey is of equal importance or weight’. Google coined the phrase micro-moment and defines them as “intent-driven moments of decision-making and preference-shaping that occur throughout the entire consumer journey”. Focus on those micro-moments where emotion is high (fear, uncertainty, confusion, hesitation) and where the outcome has a significant consequence (real or perceived) to the decision success and/or persona’s reputation/career. For each micro-moment, define the pro- or re-action your brand should take that enables the buyer to achieve their desired outcome. Who (role) in your organization owns that action, how it will be delivered, measured and what is the ‘next best action’. The second step is to align internal workflows to journey steps. Begin by documenting and redefining workflows, processes, and data to mirror the journey maps (yes, it is very possible and it works).  Quarterly refine processes based on changes to journeys and identified opportunities to deliver more differentiated and value-based interactions. The process flows along with the journey maps should be part of your organization’s standard onboarding program that every employee and contractor attends. The benefit is better internal coordination between customer touching teams and external consistency in messaging and experience. The third step is to anchor campaigns and calls-to-action (CTAs) to journey milestone decision points. There are three hallmarks of journey-based campaigns: Sequence integrated campaign elements across omni-channels to mirror journey steps which increases lead velocity; Align CTAs and content to journey milestone decision points which can increase conversion by 100 percent; and Tune messaging to the target segment and buyers’ roles which increases relevance. Aligning content and CTAs to what buyers have said they specifically look for at decision points is critical because 80 percent of buyers say that word-of-mouth is the most trusted channel. After that they seek user generated content, analyst reports and 3rd party reviews. Cluttering campaigns with content that buyers don’t value or seek not only reduces conversion but also your brand’s relevance in the eyes of buyers. Learn More: Marketing Operations Has a Pivotal Role in Customer Experience The three steps to anchor campaigns to journey milestone decision points. 1. For each journey stage identify the top one or two decision points that buyers must address before they can proceed to the next journey step. Often the buying team is not the decision-maker and the decision point is a micro-moment. 2. Identify the specific high value content, irrespective of source, that buyers seek or need to successfully address/resolve the decision point.  Define their preferred channels you can use to engage buyers who are at these decision points. 3. Structure integrated campaigns to mirror specific journey steps and tie CTAs to milestone decision points.  Be sure to hyper-personalized every interaction. The fourth step is to base lead scoring, prioritization and tracking on the journey stages and milestone decision points. By attaching CTAs and metrics to milestone decision points, the RevOps team is able to more accurately measure the opportunity – how qualified it is and where is the account in the journey. Prioritize leads based on the number of journey steps completed (sequence of steps is less important here), the velocity through the journey and the engagement level between the buying team members and your brand. Automation, especially artificial intelligence (AI), CDP, RevOps and revenue cycle applications can really help with this step. Technology enables everyone to work off a common set of data and shifts the focus to effectively engaging with each sales opportunity.

The ROI of Supercharging RevOps

According to Sirius Decisions, less than 20 percent of organizations report they have a RevOps function. Organizations with RevOps grow revenue three times faster than peers that do not. The ROI we’ve helped clients realize is, on average:
  • 100 percent increase in campaign results
  • 40 percent increase in marketing ROI
  • 30 percent increase in pipeline opportunities
  • 20 increase in revenue
RevOps is a huge opportunity for you to be a superstar by building a competitive advantage for your brand. The time to act is now because in 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. RevOps is a linchpin to an effective customer experience strategy and the growth that results.   First published in MartechAdvisor