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I’ve Seen the Future of Marketing and It’s Full-Funnel

Author Tim Kopp, CEO Category Account-Based Marketing

Marketing earned its seat at the executive table by partnering directly with sales and signing up to own a number. 15 years ago, with the birth of marketing automation, it was all about leads. Then, with the shift to marketing as a revenue-driver, it was opportunities, then pipeline. Those are all variations of the same theme: owning the top of the funnel.

The world is changing again, and rapidly. CEOs are now looking to CMOs in a whole new way. I’m convinced that CEOs will now be asking about customer engagement plans before demand gen plans. As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds and the landscape shifts, something very important is happening. An entirely new dialogue is emerging — and a good one! Retention is becoming the new acquisition.

Customer lifetime value (CLTV) is the new currency of marketing. And it’s about time. It’s not only what we’re doing to attract customers, but also what we’re doing to keep them engaged through the entire lifecycle. This is how it will play out:

Retention Is the New Acquisition

For the next year, at least, CMOs will be asked about customer engagement plans. How are you stabilizing current customers? How are you driving engagement and expansion within the existing customer base? Marketers will need to shift from an acquisition mindset to a lifetime value mindset, with the same emphasis (time and effort) placed on expansion as on top of the funnel. As retention becomes the new acquisition, customer-obsession will pulse through entire companies.

Expensive marketing programs will no longer fly as every dollar going out the door is going to be scrutinized. Marketers will have to flex their customer marketing muscle and double down on retention. Acquiring new customers also typically costs far more than retaining current ones. As much as 5x more, actually. And existing customers are more willing to be sold to, with the average selling success rate as high as 60-70%.

New leads won’t help you retain customers. Smart, data-driven customer marketing throughout the entire lifecycle will.

Helping Will Become the New Selling

More than ever, customers are looking for a trusted advisor and partner. Companies will have to meet customers where they are. This means checking in with no agenda, asking questions about their strategies, figuring out where they’re pivoting, and understanding their biggest hopes and fears. This means operating with a longer horizon and playing the long game.

Customers are looking for experts. They want someone always looking around corners. Expansion with current accounts will be one of the best ways to help while also driving growth. But this only happens when you build trust, earn credibility, and deliver on promises. Building community and credibility is important. Marketers should be arming sales teams with content and activations that are relevant to customer segments and not messaging to customers as a monolith. For example, we’ve now hosted several VIP workshops for our customers, which are consistently booking up as fast as we plan them. These workshops are all about addressing common challenges, helping each other out, and sharing best practices. No selling is involved. Sure, this may extend sales cycles, but will win in the long run.

A true partner means putting more skin in the game directly, too. Companies are seeking more flexibility with contracts and budgets. If a budget needs to be trimmed, work with them. Consider swapping features for others that more directly impact the bottom line. Truly understand your customers’ business objectives and be as flexible as possible on contract terms. Again, this is the time to play the long game, not the short game. Customers will remember how you respond.

Companies Will Double Down on Account-Based Marketing

A full-funnel approach, which prioritizes your current customers while still growing the top of the funnel, will win. Every marketing effort matters. If you aren’t already, now’s the time to double down on ABM. Seriously, there is no other way. You need to have the right account intelligence, and coordination to truly execute customer marketing at scale.

Leverage ABM principles to understand your customer segments and prioritize engagement with your highest-value and highest-risk accounts. Be upfront with business impact and how your organization is responding to this disruptive event. 1:1 personalized communication with each individual stakeholder goes a long way. Be attentive, reassuring, and a resource helping to move the needle for their business even when times are tough.

Though the biggest shift in marketing will be the shift to customer marketing, it’s still a growth function at the end of the day. Retention and acquisition aren’t mutually exclusive; they work together, just as brand drives demand. Similar to your customer funnel, ABM is highly effective in engaging across top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.

The marketing function is about to change forever. Organizations everywhere will have to double down on retention and engagement strategies if they want to rise above. Are you ready? Let’s do this together.

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