When my twin sister and I first founded Allocadia, we were the only ones selling and so we talked to our customers, day in and day out. This closeness to our customers helped us build and grow our business. As our company has grown, and we’ve brought on team members, this closeness to our customers has been, of course, unrealistic to maintain in order to scale. But, choosing to scale and creating and hiring customer-facing roles, doesn’t have to mean we lose touch with our customers.
As co-founders, Katherine and I know we shouldn’t go too long without speaking to a customer nor should anyone on the team, no matter what the role. It’s especially important for leaders in marketing to never go too long without getting to know customers: to talk to them, engage them, and form relationships with them. You can become a better marketer when you understand their perspective — why they chose you, and what their challenges are. This can help you develop better messaging, positioning, and campaigns for them. Not only that, but having relationships with customers can also help you play a more valuable role in the company, and increase your credibility as a marketer. As an ex-marketer in a global technology company, I know first hand, however, how hard it can be for marketers to stay close to customers (I only became close to customers when I ran the customer reference program, and immediately saw the huge benefit it provided). So marketers, here are ways you can get closer to your customers:
- Create a culture of customers: As a marketing leader, you need to facilitate, support and encourage a culture of customers in marketing. Talk about the importance of this, and initiate programs to create this in your company. (In a previous blog, I discussed how marketing leaders should look for opportunities to shine to become a CMO. This could be one!). At Allocadia, we do things a little different than you may expect to stay customer-focused. For example, we don’t have a formal Sales Engineer team that works with customers during the sales process. We put this focus in Customer Success, to ensure continuity and success are built right from the start. You can also make customer-engagement part of the marketing on-boarding process: all new hires should be required to sit in on customer calls or set-ups or answer customer phone calls.
- Listen in: One of the easiest ways to connect with your customers is to regularly sit in on customer calls. There are many roles in a company that talk to customers all day, such as sales, support, customer success, as well as some in marketing such as customer reference and demand-gen teams. Ask sales if your marketing team can sit on sales demos or attend customer webinars. Nothing beats hearing directly from customers, and if you’re like me, you’ll feel you’re where you should be when you’re talking to customers.
- Participate: If you’re a CMO or marketing leader, volunteer to jump on a call with a customer. When your company signs a big new customer, set up a “get to know you” call. Or run a demo with a prospect every once in a while: there’s no better way to work on a sales presentation! During the sales pipeline, offer to engage with influencers and other key people at the prospective company. Not only will this help you, but you’ll gain credibility with both the customer and your sales team, who will see this as great sales support. Sometimes I choose a customer to dig in with, and do demos. It’s a great way to stay in touch.
- Seek them out: Seek out customers and meet them face-to-face. One of the easiest ways to see large amounts of customers at once is to attend a tradeshow. Create a customer meet-up or dinner at a tradeshow where a lot of your customers and prospects will be. Be sure when travelling to visit customer offices whenever possible. If you’re a marketer who doesn’t travel for your work, then leverage the opportunities when customers visit your location and bring them around to meet people in your office.
Never underestimate the importance of making customers the center of your company’s culture. A countless number of the world’s leading organizations make customers-centric culture their leading priority. I’d love to hear your thoughts on customer-centric cultures and any tips you have on keeping engaged with your customers. Comment here or connect with me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter.
As CEO of Allocadia, I’ve had to learn to lead in a rapidly growing, fast-moving market. And as marketers building Allocadia, we have learned a lot about selling to CMOs: their needs and challenges, and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead in this new Marketing 2.0 world. This Leading in Change: CEO Blog Series is intended to help inspire CMOs and marketing operations to lead and build data-driven marketing organizations.