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Despite the finding that marketers within mid-sized business-to-business (B2B) organisations are currently in the ideal position to better orchestrate the whole Customer Experience, most are simply not doing so, according to a study from Act-On and Gleanster Research. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

The research surveyed marketing professionals in 750 companies to understand how marketers perceive their role and carry out their responsibilities in the context of the entire customer lifecycle.

The study looked at the allocation of marketing resources and budget, application of tactics, and the results obtained at each stage of the customer relationship: awareness, acquisition, retention, and expansion, to gauge a company's effectiveness at managing the end-to-end customer lifecycle.

Marketers overwhelmingly feel that the world is shifting inexorably to a customer-centric focus in which companies must address the customer relationship as an end-to-end engagement continuum. However, in most companies no department is accountable for the stewardship of the entire customer relationship - although 62% of respondents felt that marketers are best positioned to orchestrate the overall experience.

The study uncovered a clear natural division between respondents. Companies that beat revenue targets in their last fiscal year, have over 90% of their customers satisfied with their product or service and consider themselves effective at managing the entire customer lifecycle distinguished themselves significantly from the rest of the pack. These companies represent two percent of the respondents and are considered the Top Performers while the remaining 98% are considered the Average Performers.

Top Performers spent more time and resources on retention initiatives, and, as a result, saw an equal split of revenue between new and existing customers. In comparison, average performers spent a majority of their effort and resources on acquisition initiatives, generating 70% of revenues from new customers and only 30% of revenue from their existing customer base. Top Performers also employ a different strategy from Average Performers. They are almost twice as likely to tie marketing objectives to milestones along the entire lifecycle, spend 41% more time on customer communication and employ techniques like segmentation and personalisation.

"Too many B2B organisations treat the customer lifecycle as a series of handoffs between departments: marketing to sales to service," explained Ian Michiels, principal for Gleanster Research. "Marketing is the only function positioned to engage customers across the entire spectrum of customer relationship management and it's no surprise that the most successful firms take this approach."

The results also showed that Top Performers approach the customer lifecycle holistically, and were 20% more likely to use marketing automation technologies than average performers. This is no surprise, as automation allows organisations to apply business rules to prospect and customer communication across all channels and treat it as part of an engagement continuum, instead of as disjointed and episodic events.

"With the rapidly expanding Internet of Things (IoT), companies need to deliver a real-time, unified customer experience across all communication channels. Marketers at all companies can profit by employing the strategy and tactics of the Top Performers," concluded Michiels. "Bottom line, the survey data revealed most B2B firms care about the customer experience, but nobody (marketing, sales, or service) really manages or owns it. It's time we re-think the concept of CRM - and it's time for marketing to step up to own and orchestrate it."