Should Marketers Drive the Customer Experience?

One recent report explores why marketers are in an ideal position to take charge of the customer relationship.
Customer Experience

Despite constant debate, no one department has yet to claim responsibility for the customer experience. But, as lifecycle stages begin to blur, companies are increasingly aware of the need to assign leadership if their acquisition and retention efforts are to remain effective and profitable.

Act-On Software's recent "Rethinking the Role of Marketing in B2B Customer Engagement" report aims to rectify this very problem by proposing two questions: Do marketers need to rethink their role in the context of the customer lifecycle? Should marketers be the new managers of the customer relationship? Conducted in partnership with Gleanster Research, the survey polled 750 mid-size B2B marketers to learn how the most successful organizations approach customer lifecycle engagement. By analyzing allocation of marketing resources and budget at each stage of the customer relationship-awareness, acquisition, retention, and expansion-researchers explored the major challenges marketers currently face, the main differences between top and average performers, and why marketers are best suited to orchestrate the overall customer experience.

The following statistics demonstrate how current marketing behaviors and perceptions hinder progress, thereby highlighting why marketers must reevaluate their approach to customer lifecycle management:

  • Marketers typically define CRM as a strategy to interact with customers (57 percent) or a process for monitoring and analyzing data (45 percent). Only 34 percent of respondents consider CRM to be a department that manages the relationship between a company and its customers.
  • Overall, access to existing customer information (95 percent), marketing alignment with sales (90 percent), and fragmented marketing systems (83 percent) are the primary challenges causing respondents to struggle with their current marketing objectives.
  • While average performers measure acquisition based upon the volume of leads (83 percent) and number of inquiries generated (73 percent), top performers opt to measure response rates (93 percent), sales accepted leads (88 percent), and sales qualified leads (87 percent).
  • Top performers prefer to focus their time on nurturing awareness (28 percent) and their money on expanding reach (30 percent), while average performers choose to focus time on acquisition efforts (34 percent) and money cultivating awareness (28 percent).
  • With regard to technology, top performers typically focus on social media platforms (75 percent), email marketing (71 percent), and marketing automation (69 percent) to support their customer acquisition efforts. Subsequently they focus on CRM (99 percent), email marketing (68 percent), marketing automation (50 percent), and Web analytics (48 percent) to reach their customer retention goals.
  • When it comes to personalization, top performers prefer to personalize messaging according to stages throughout the customer lifecycle (75 percent) and adjust messaging based upon prospect behavior (75 percent). Average performers, on the other hand, choose to focus on segmentation with purchase history data (45 percent).

Key takeaway: Though top performers exhibit great potential for driving accountability across the entire customer lifecycle, this group of leaders only accounts for 2 percent of those marketers surveyed. Thus, while the marketing department may be poised to command customer engagement, few have yet to take the lead and seize the opportunity to drive the customer experience. "Marketing is the only function to engage customers across the entire spectrum of customer relationship management," says Ian Michiels, principal at Gleanster Research. "Bottom line, the survey data reveals most B2B firms care about the customer experience, but nobody-marketing, sales, or service-really manages or owns it. It might be time we re-think the concept of CRM and separate it from a sales-centric perspective. The most successful firms empower and compensate marketers for maximizing the revenue opportunity from lead to money to satisfied customer." Ultimately, one department must claim ownership of the customer lifecycle, or it'll remain fragmented and ineffective.