Are you in marketing? Have you recently found yourself being asked to contribute to keeping churn levels low? Or are you in a customer services or support role? Are you finding yourself asked to focus more on keeping the brand personality through customer success programs and promoting real customer value, rather than just one-dimensional, snapshot CSAT scores?
We’re seeing these crossovers happening more and more frequently. A lot of people talk about marketing and after-sales as if we’re still living in the 20th century — and the internet never happened.
I’m here to tell you that those days are well and truly over.
Have a think for a second: What is “marketing”? I‘m not going to try to find the best possible definition, but, very broadly, most people would agree it’s something to do with telling your target market that you exist — and reminding them when they forget. And, of course, that you’re great and you can make their life better.
I carefully didn’t say “telling your customers,” because back in the old days marketing would stop when someone became a customer. Well, that’s gone out of fashion for three very good reasons:
- Your customers are your biggest source of future revenue — whether you sell shoes, phones, planes, or software. Your existing customers are statistically more likely to buy from you than anyone else.
- Many of them are on subscription. You can now subscribe to software, razors, phones, cars, and even car tires. That means that every year, or every month, or in fact every minute, you can get fired and your future revenue will disappear. Sam Walton’s quote has never been more true: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
- In the modern, hyperconnected world, your target audience will trust their peers more than they trust you. So turning customers into advocates has become a key goal for marketing teams everywhere. As Scott Cook has said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is — it is what consumers tell each other it is.”
The move to subscription or other recurring revenue models is a seismic trend for marketing. I say “seismic” because that moment when marketing can pack up and go home, their job well done, just disappeared. There’s no single moment of sale anymore.
One case in point: Adobe currently has millions of trial users of their software. Suddenly, the role of after-sales — focused on a great customer experience (user, experience, customer success, and satisfaction) — is now right in the middle of the critical path to the company’s future revenue.
After-sales, aka customer support or customer care, has changed beyond all recognition in the age of the internet. The subscription age has led to a complete lack of commitment between consumers and brands. Michael Brenner has cited a survey showing that 73% of people surveyed wouldn’t care if the brands they use disappeared from their life. This trend has led in turn to a heightened focus on the customer experience and established brands being threatened by startups who excel at CX. New banking apps like Simple and Number26 are suddenly making life uncomfortable for established banks, whose offerings are increasingly irrelevant for (young) new potential customers.
So customer experience is driving the business. Jim Stengel’s famous book on company growth showed that companies that had an “ability to connect” outperformed others by almost 400%. All kinds of companies are now looking at their customers’ journeys as they interact with the brand. As marketing became a numbers game, the numbers showed a very clear and surprising, even terrifying, fact: Prospects are reading after-sales content! It turns out that all content is marketing content, hence the slogan: “Everyone works for marketing.”
One major problem here is that the different teams creating this content are often collecting tons of data on what their customers are doing, but are setting themselves different goals. In almost every industry, the data very clearly shows that marketing and after-sales are inextricably linked, and that both are largely fueled by content.
What does all of this mean for you? Well, a great start would be to have a conversation about shared goals with your colleagues across the company who create customer-facing content. Marketing, sales, and after-sales have all become one “thing” — driven by the need to deliver great customer experiences, from first contact to last. Ultimately, the end-to-end success of the company is everyone’s problem.