Digital marketers must own the customer lifecycle

Marketers have traditionally been focused on the front-end of the customer relationship -- things like brand awareness and lead generation. But in today’s digital world, marketers can't simply hand over that relationship to the sales department.

customer experience
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Today's tech-driven marketers might as well be called customer-experience stewards. Those who deliver valuable interactions at various stops along the customer lifecycle stand to help their companies win in the digital world, according to findings from a survey of 750 business-to-business (B2B) companies conducted jointly by Gleanster Research and marketing automation software vendor Act-On.

"Customer lifecycle engagement could actually be referred to as marketing lifecycle engagement, given the fact that marketing is the only function to consistently be involved in all stages of the customer journey," the study says.

Marketers have traditionally been focused on the front-end of the customer lifecycle, specifically, brand awareness and lead generation. Their job was to fill the funnel for sales people to convert into revenue. Customer service departments handled post-sale interactions. The Gleanster-Act-On survey reflected this: Eight out of 10 B2B firms generate 60 percent of revenue from new customers, 30 percent from existing ones.

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But today, marketers are the tip of the spear when it comes to nearly every customer interaction. That's because interactions happen digitally, and marketers are the owners of the digital relationship. Marketers can't simply hand over the digital relationship; they must guide the customer throughout the entire lifecycle.

Of course, this is uncharted waters for marketers.

Taking a Holistic View of Customers

It's no surprise, the study found, that average performers spend more time and budget on front-end awareness and acquisition activities, such as volume of leads generated and the number of inquiries generated. That's where they feel safest. The real reason, though, is that the companies they work for are probably still measuring marketing performance mostly by acquisition efforts.

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In contrast, top performers and the companies they work for take a more holistic view of the customer. Their metrics for success are response rates, sales accepted leads and sales qualified leads, not merely lead generation. In other words, they're more likely to map out marketing objectives using metrics that relate to revenue.

Top performing marketers are also busy working on the post-sale portion of the customer lifecycle. They're investing 52 percent of the marketing budget on customer retention and expansion, whereas average performers allocate 44 percent, the survey found.

Paradigm Shift Delivers Jolting Blow

Digital marketing's new role as customer-experience steward who uses customer data and technology to manage the customer lifecycle is nothing short of a paradigm shift. Such a jolt is bound to have myriad challenges, both technically and operationally.

The Gleanster-Act-On survey listed some of these challenges in order of severity: Access to existing customer data, marketing alignment with sales, fragmented marketing systems, limitations with current technologies, internal skills and expertise, not collecting the right customer data, and inefficient processes.

As the survey shows, marketers, especially average performers, still have a long way to go.

"There is a massive misalignment of efforts and objectives at average B2B midsize firms," the report concludes.

This story, "Digital marketers must own the customer lifecycle " was originally published by CIO.

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