We’ve heard for years about the importance of aligning sales and marketing. I briefly wrote about this a few months ago when discussing the ownership of lead generation. I highlighted the importance of alignment and how it really should be a “duh” sort of response. An extended version of how to align revenue teams was also discussed a few years ago, which is the essence of my belief system and how I work with clients. You can find that blog here. But what about aligning marketing and customer success?
These two teams and leaders should be closer to each other than salsa dancers: in constant lockstep, harmoniously moving about together as one, and completely supporting each other throughout every step. Now that I’ve set that vision in motion, we’ll talk about a few reasons why it’s important and how to get them all aligned.
Why is aligning marketing and customer success important?
The clear answer is that both need to have their eyes on the buyer. These two teams must be closest to the buyer, even more so than sales teams. Customer success is the frontline and should know everything about the customers being served. They know things like how the customer was onboarded, how they are using the product/service, how the customer’s business is being impacted, what the team members are saying about the product/service, etc.
If they don’t, make that change first and get them tracking this valuable insight! This is the epitome of everything that marketing needs to go find buyers like that. Exactly like that! A company may have a vision of serving certain personas or business types, but build the engine first and then tweak it to make it go faster.
Just like an assembly line, customer success works with customers, builds them into champions, then hands that off to marketing to go find customers with similar problems and associated solutions you can provide.
This is the essential building block for revenue acceleration. Every engagement I’ve had with clients starts with questions like “Who are your buyers? Why do they buy? Why do they repeat buy? What problems are you solving for them? Show me the money (customer data, testimonials, feedback, case studies, etc)!”
Often there is a disconnect between the current customers a company has and the delusions of grandeur of serving a different customer segment. Start with the building blocks of who you’re serving, go find customers just like that, and then expand onward and upward.
How to get marketing and customer success aligned
Ok, now for the hard part…the work! AKA execution.
Step 1: Internal Meetings
Let’s get them talking at regular intervals. Leadership meetings are a start, but really get a solid weekly 1:1 cadence between the CS and marketing leaders. Just the two of them, with a brief agenda talking about what’s going on in each of their respective worlds. What marketing campaigns are coming out? Webinars? Email campaigns? Social posts, etc?
If marketing initiatives and messaging aren’t aligning with how you’re helping customers, that’s a clear sign of opportunity.
Be willing to change the marketing game and take cues from CS. Marketing should also have some insight into what CS is doing. What are customers asking about/for? How difficult or easy is onboarding? Are there certain elements that need more time and attention from CS? What is happening during business reviews with customers? What is the CS team saying?
These are great starting points to get each leader entrenched in the other’s world.
The next important internal meeting is inviting each leader to the other’s team meetings. Marketing should have a presence in regular CS team meetings and vice versa. Mostly to observe, but also to share what’s happening in each department over the next week or month. Simply listening to team meetings gives great insight into the tactical world of each team. Now, I’m not saying that every meeting CS or Marketing has needs representation. But if you have a weekly marketing meeting with the group, invite the CS leaders, and vice versa. You’ll be amazed at how information flows, ideas generate, and actions quickly start to align!
Step 2: External meetings
Customer success inevitably talks to customers, right? Invite marketing to those meetings! Again, not every single one, but open the doors. The best meeting to have marketing join? Customer onboarding call! This is the customer’s first experience with your product/service…what better time for marketing to witness the foundation of being a customer. Take notes, actively listen, and jot down takeaways to bring to the next CS meeting (either 1:1 with the CS leader or with the team). The path to customer retention starts with onboarding and the more effective you are with onboarding, the quicker the time to value becomes. If marketing is in tune with that, their messaging becomes crispier and more relevant to prospective buyers.
The next best meeting for marketing to attend is the Quarterly Business Review (QBR). A great tip I just recently saw from Jeff Breunsbach on LinkedIn is to offer to lead a 25-minute exercise during the customer’s next operational meeting. Don’t go out of your way to schedule a dedicated QBR with the customer, make yourself a part of your customer’s team, and lead with value. Bring marketing to that meeting so they can witness firsthand customer feedback. Here’s a link to his post.
One great meeting for customer success to be part of is any meeting with an external marketing agency or PR agency. Let them hear the creative process as people bounce ideas off each other. Your CS leader will help to eliminate “fluff” and get to real talking points when messaging is created and modified.
Step 3: Information exchange and action item building
Now that marketing and customer success are all up in each other’s business, you must disseminate that into actionable change. These actions live in an ever-changing document controlled by marketing, customer success, and either the CRO or CEO.
Bring this feedback to life and put it on paper (digital paper…like Excel, Asana/Monday.com/Trello, or whatever tool is used to track items and progress). Words on paper become a compelling accountability metric, especially when shared with a small group. Get in the habit of listing the items, but also make sure to prioritize them. Create short-term goals so each task doesn’t seem like a long daunting one. Make it easy to read, easy to complete, and start building a completion process toward productive change.
There you have it; the best formula for aligning marketing and customer success. Ok, not the best formula, but a formula. Start small and collect some wins. Build momentum and challenge everyone to get granular about your buyer and how you can help your buyer be better. Information is everywhere and is easy to come across. The hard part is putting it into action to invoke productive change.
Ed Porter | Fractional Chief Revenue Officer