How to Grow by Marketing to Customers
With many ScaleUps prioritizing customer retention and growth in 2023, marketers must deepen the impact of their customer marketing program.
Engaging customers is good for business, as they can be a company’s most efficient source of growth. GTM teams can generate additional revenue from customers for as little as 1/10th the cost of new business. It takes less time, effort, budget, and companies typically win customer opportunities at a higher rate.
When new business demand wanes or customer churn increases, ScaleUps must respond by changing how they market throughout the revenue cycle. But, in our mid-2022 survey, only 11.1% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) reported feeling “very well prepared” amidst increasing macroeconomic uncertainty. Meanwhile, 87.3% were experiencing softening demand.
CMOs’ uneasiness might, in part, stem from their comparative lack of engagement with customers after the deal is won. Throughout recent boom years, most CMOs have focused on generating new business. As a result, they’re ill-positioned to retain and expand business from existing customers.
From Insight’s Budgeting & Planning survey of ScaleUp companies, we know that customer marketing has received the least investment out of the seven key marketing functions. By comparison, the typical ScaleUp adds a CSM for every 19 enterprise and 34 mid-market customers. Additionally, just 1 in 5 account-based marketers say customer expansion is in their remit.
To mitigate softening demand and diversify a business’s revenue mix, marketers must help expand customers. Doing so will supplement near-term deficits in growth and improve marketing’s efficiency over the long term.
“It’s a team effort. Marketing must play a role in driving growth throughout the revenue cycle. They connect sales with new buyers and help close deals. After the sale, marketing partners with customer success to deepen our relationships with our existing customers, driving product adoption and expanding across divisions or territories within a single account.”
-Tal Kain, CEO of Velocity
How? By collaborating with their peers in sales and customer success to do the following:
- Forecast addressable customer revenue
- Set objectives, goals, and KPIs
- Develop a post-sale strategy
- Resource and integrate post-sale teams
- Execute a joint tactical playbook
- Operationalize a unified “go-to-customer” process
Forecast addressable customer revenue
Why it matters: Know the size and types of opportunities within your customer base to decide where to focus and how much to invest. Consider how investments in customer retention and expansion impact your firm’s “Rule of 40” performance (e.g., X% growth rate + Y% profit margin = 40%).
Analyze your current opportunity mix:
- How quickly and efficiently do you generate profit?
- What changes could you impart on your opportunity mix by investing in post-sale marketing
- How might your changes to your opportunity mix impact how efficiently you generate profit?
Based on your forecast, scope your post-sale marketing initiative:
- Pilot. If the size of the opportunity seems modest or uncertain, plan a narrowly scoped, but representative, pilot. You might focus on improving one or two post-sale outcomes by deploying a small tactical play in a limited customer segment.
- Sprints. If the opportunity is significant and certain, introduce customer marketing elements in waves, evaluating their impact along the way.
You’ll likely need to make tradeoffs, prioritizing which investments you make within your opportunity mix.
“As a startup company, your rapid-growth strategy for Year 3 should have a lot more customer opportunities than Years 1 and 2.”
-Kerry Cunningham, Senior Principal of Product Marketing, 6sense, and co-author of The Demand Unit Waterfall™
Set objectives, goals, and KPIs
Why it matters: GTM teams must align on goals and how they measure their progress toward said goals.
Once you’ve forecasted the ideal opportunity mix, define your objectives to focus your post-sale program plan. You could:
- Accelerate time-to-value.
- Improve product adoption and/or drive more utilization.
- Upsell to more and/or higher price tiers.
- Cross-sell the same buyers to additional products.
- Cross-sell new buyers within a customer account.
- Secure renewals, reduce churn, and/or prevent downgrades.
Once you’ve homed in the changes you seek to impart on the customer lifecycle, determine which KPIs best measure those changes and set goals for each KPI.
You can use benchmarks to help you set goals. But the benchmarks aren’t your goal, they’re a conversation starter. Consider variables, such as growth stage, expansion motion, and customer characteristics.
Develop a strategy
Why it matters: Businesses must focus on just a few key ways they can provide value to customers–beyond the product itself–and a few key ways in which they can enable staff to deliver on said customer value.
- Brainstorm all the levers you could employ to create value.
- Prioritize those levers which create the most value. Pick no more than a few.
Once your go-to-customer strategy is set, refine your customer marketing strategy. Develop customer ICPs, personas, and buyer journey models. Then use those models as a basis for your post-sale messaging strategy.
Customers can be different than buyers in several ways:
- Marketers should clarify the differences between pre- and post-sale customer profiles.
- They must get to know which personas emerge once the buyer has purchased a product.
- They must understand their customer’s journey.
With these insights in hand, marketers can develop messages that motivate a customer to move through the post-sale cycle.
Resource and integrate post-sale teams
Why it matters: Resource your post-sale team well enough to deliver value to the customer, without burdening post-sale efficiency. Hire the right people and place them into the right structure.
Start first by identifying who in your company already owns each part of the customer journey (e.g., Customer Success Manager, Account Manager). Then, consider which marketers might be best suited to partner with them:
- What capabilities do I need?
- Given my targets, how will I resource the team? Which hires must I prioritize?
- How will I balance in-house and outsourced talent?
- How will I structure my staff?
Your opportunity mix offers clues, as does the functional scope of other GTM teams. Though the marketing team could outsource some of the work, it’s best done by in-house staff who have the skills and business acumen to engage precious customer points of contact.
Execute a joint tactical playbook
Why it matters: GTM teams can employ a nearly endless array of tactics. So, they must draw on their go-to-customer strategy to determine which tactics to execute. The delivery must be well-orchestrated if the message is to have its intended effect. The right tactics, at the right time, with the right people.
Like a sports team might coordinate its offensive players against the defense, a GTM team executes a post-sale play oriented to a target customer’s traits and the business’s objectives.
- Based on your objectives and strategy, which plays will you run?
- How do those plays suit your customer ICP, personas, and journey?
Based on your answers, create a playbook in partnership with cross-functional GTM teams.
Operationalize a unified “go-to-customer” process
Why it matters: Ensure customer-facing stakeholders know what, when, where, and how to support the customer.
“Our marketing team is partnering with customer success to offer additional value to our customers. We host product release webinars for customers, where they learn how early adopters are putting to work new software capabilities. We’ve found our customers respond better to learning from their peers — and are more likely to ask for a demo — versus a marketing email alone.”
– Jamie Walker, EVP Marketing at Keyfactor
Build boosters and remove blockers to ultimately create value for employees, suppliers, and customers.
- Incentives. Evaluate your performance-based pay to ensure incentives align to customer outcomes and KPIs.
- Recognition. Revise your internal communication and meeting cadences to celebrate customer wins.
- Technology. Evaluate your tech stack to determine if you have the right tools, configured to meet the requirements of customer engagement. If you don’t, procure new tools and/or change the configuration of your existing ones.
- Vendors. Evaluate the capabilities you have on-staff, the capabilities you need, and the gap between. Outsourcing might be the most efficient way to fill these gaps.
- Enablement. Seek out ineffective elements of your cross-functional customer operations. Then, develop a “learning agenda” that addresses those elements via an enablement program.
- Documentation and monitoring. Evaluate your operational performance. Then, define essential processes and monitor their performance.
- Report. Brainstorm the key questions post-sale staff must answer for themselves. Then, consider which metrics they’ll need to answer those questions and how best to present the metrics in a self-service dashboard or report. Finally, decide which systems to use for reporting.
- Automate and outsource. Audit your processes and procedures for opportunities to outsource and automate.
- Fun and relationships. Foster an engaging culture for your post-sale staff and create avenues by which they can build relationships with your customers.
For many businesses, customers represent a compelling source of efficient growth. This growth results from strategically creating value for customers, as well as for employees, suppliers, and partners.
GTM teams can carefully craft tactical plays, executed by way of tightly coordinated go-to-market operations, to deliver an excellent customer experience. In doing so, they’ll earn their customer’s loyalty and advocacy, generating better margins for the business.
Examples in practice
To illustrate the strategies outlined above, let’s use an imaginary drone data analytics company to show how these principles work in practice.
Forecasting addressable customer revenue
A drone data analytics company offers software modules that each process three different types of aerial images: photographs, infrared, and thermal.
- Most customers start by purchasing the photography module.
- The software provider licenses the modules on an annual subscription and charges a small fee for each image processed.
- Infrared costs more than photographs; thermal is the most expensive.
Here’s how they might evaluate their opportunity mix:
- Increase Utilization: Photography. The marketing team forecasts that it would cost $0.05 per image to drive more photograph processing (i.e., increase utilization). But they earn just $0.01 in revenue for each image processed.
- Cross-sell Infrared to the same buyers. They expect that marketing the cross-sale of the infrared module would cost $2,500 per sale, but earn the business $10,000 ARR.
- Cross-sell Thermal to different buyers within existing customer accounts. Supporting cross-sales of the thermal module would likely cost $5,000 per sale, but earn the business $20,000 ARR.
So, the marketing team will prioritize support for the thermal module, since it has the best dollar-cost return ratio, followed by infrared (if they have budget leftover). They won’t help drive more photographic image processing, since they forecast a net negative outcome.
Set objectives, goals, and KPIs
KPIs (Output Metrics)
1. Cross-sell thermal modules to 50 new buyers within customer accounts.
2. Cross-sell infrared module to 100 existing buyers within customer accounts.
Key Results (Input Metrics)
1a. Generate 100 cross-sale opportunities
1b. Improve win rates for thermal cross-sales from 35% to 50%
2a. Generate 135 cross-sale opportunities
Develop a strategy
• Community. Create an “advanced imagery” community, where pro users of infrared and thermal imagery can share best practices with novices.
• Training. Develop an “advanced imagery training program” to help photo users learn how to use infrared and thermal imagery.
• Discounts. Offer “existing customer” discounts for infrared and thermal modules.
Staff, Vendors, and Suppliers Value
• Incentives. Offer a spiff/bonus to relevant GTM staff for attaining net new cross-sale goals.
• Training. Direct all GTM staff to take the same “advanced imagery training program” we offer to customers.
• Data-based targeting. Develop a predictive data model to identify prime cross-sale targets.
Resource and integrate post-sale teams
The drone company will hire:
• Community Marketing Manager
• Learning & Development Content Marketing Manager
• Product Marketing Manager, Infrared and Thermal Sensors
• Customer community event production
• Technical copywriting
• Training content design
Execute a joint tactical playbook
Here is an example of how a customer marketing playbook could look for our drone company.