The tide appears to be turning. In recent times, CMOs focused on innovation and growth, yet now economic uncertainty and the financial climate are making marketers take a long hard look at themselves. And when they do that, they focus on two things: the customer and revenue.
As marketers, we exist for our customers. As a business, we exist for profit. The only way we can drive revenue is by having a solid customer proposition, something that people want to buy and ideally buy again and again.
In simple terms, this means focusing on what we do to engage our customers.
In December, we undertook our second piece of Digital Connections research, asking CMOs about their use of marketing technology. In some ways, the results weren’t massively surprising. Our data found a vast increase in CMOs putting growth as a major priority in 2023, compared to last year. When things get tough, CMOs look inwards and go back to the customer – focusing on what drives the revenue.
It’s quite timely, as we’ve seen overinvestment in technology over the last five years, with widescale underuse. This means questions are being asked and boards are seeking value.
Recently, we’ve seen many large enterprises across technology and finance shedding between 4-6% of their workforce. Inflation is crushing profits and organisations are tightening their ships – all the while, rethinking their approach to driving revenue and putting a new focus on the customer.
The old way: Leads at all costs
As a consultancy that works across B2B demand and marketing technology, supporting CMOs in driving revenue, we’re able to clearly see the challenge. When there’s a focus on growth, it’s all about leads – particularly for those organisations driven by quarterly targets and the eagle eye of investors.
The whole marketing org is focused on leads, often to the detriment of really engaging the customer on a level that resonates.
We see flaky personas, poor messaging focusing on the features and some benefits, high use of programmatic advertising to build top of funnel engagement (at an eye-watering cost) and leads that get lost in half baked nurture flows. That’s not even mentioning the experience with sales. There are so many budget leaks and efficiencies – all in the name of driving growth fast.
Looking inwards and taking a strategic perspective
When external conditions change, budgets get frozen at best, and slashed in most cases. You need to do more with what you have and deliver better results. This requires a rethink.
Marketers are looking for smarter ways to drive growth, have more meaningful interactions with customers and look at their own data to leverage insights that form the foundation of their strategies.
This tallies with our Digital Connections research, which saw the proportion of CMOs with growth and customer experience as their top two priorities jump from 10% to 30% and 5% to 21%, respectfully year on year. Meanwhile, martech integration, which topped last year’s priority list, dropped from 36% to 13% and innovation dropped from 34% to 17%.
Technology can help tell the story
While many marketers have invested in technology, they’re also sitting on a wealth of data that’s been building over the few years. By taking a look at the data, insights can be gleaned which can direct or finesse approaches into market.
Ironically, while many are taking a hard look at their tech stacks, the investment made is a gold mine for data that can inform future strategies.
Building a data-led approach
Marketing orgs can leverage their data to build a data-led planning approach which leads to more certainty and accuracy in terms of outcomes. Rather than focusing on best practice and gut feel, marketers are now able to have confidence in their approach because it’s backed by data.
For example, we’re working with a company at the moment that has aggressive growth targets, regardless of market conditions. To meet these longer term goals, they recognise they need to step-up their maturity and their approach.
They’re questioning everything from personas and content strategies, to conversion journeys and the role of brand. They’re going back to the customer – and the interactions their customers have had with them to find the optimal paths to revenue.
This is upending their thinking around brand, demand strategy, multichannel campaigns and most importantly how they talk to their customer. They’ve put the customer right at the heart – and are building their strategy around them.
Putting the customer first
If data is leading everything, then start with your own baselines. By understanding exactly where you sit, how much you know about the customer, how you’re leveraging your technology and your team’s structure, skills and competencies, you can build out a plan to move from A to B.
You’ll also uncover what’s missing and where you need to be, or where your knowledge, insights or data gaps are. You’ll be confident you’re focusing on the right things that will drive the most change (and impact).
Customer projects that drive strategic thinking
When the focus pulls back to the customer, there are several core areas that need deeper understanding. Whilst that tech that we’ve invested in so much is an enabler, if the strategy behind isn’t there, then it’s not that much use. These are the three steps we recommend:
1. Develop customer understanding
Ask yourself, how well do you know your customer (and prospects)? And do you really know how to communicate with them?
Research is critical to really get to grips with knowing more. There are always so many assumptions that get made – marketers projecting themselves and their own experiences onto their customer, but in reality, everyone’s experience is different. Only by research – both quantitative and qualitative – can you get some robust insights. Projections are a dangerous place.
2. Challenge your preconceptions
The same goes for preconceptions. Don’t allow assumptions to rule your strategy. You should only deal in facts. What you determine as your customer profile should be led by data points, so seek an evidence based approach.
- Do your own research and create your own knowledge base
- Look for third party ratification on audience behaviours through reliable data pools such as Global Web Index (GWI)
- Look within your own data – your CRM can provide you with much of the insight you need
3. Look into your technology for insights
The CRM is awash with customers. If you’ve been working with marketing automation platforms and a CRM system you hold a lot of insight on your customers already. Customer buying patterns, key sources, conversion journeys and insights into ‘who’ is doing the buying and what information they consume, are all there for the taking. By extracting it, analysing it and then building it into an insightful picture, you can really put the customer at the heart of your strategy.
For example, you can:
- Understand the full extent of the buying group and the behaviour patterns key buyers take – challenging your thoughts on ‘who is the buyer’
- Look at the conversion points and information consumption that led to a sale and then onwards to renewal
- Review propensity for upsell/cross sell and the key triggers that enabled increased revenue streams
- Build out a demand programme that’s focused on the channels that really deliver and aligned to your ideal customer profile
- Look at commonalities across people and accounts that challenges (or ratifies) your personas and ideal customer profile
All of these refocus thinking and sharpen strategy so your marketing budgets can go further – and with more confidence.
There are two things that the board finds it hard to argue against: cold hard revenue numbers and a strong data point. Let’s build a strategy that gives them both.