Customer Marketing Should Care About Numbers

Marketing, as a whole, is more focused on measurement than ever before, and this is particular true for customer marketing and reference programs. CEOs are demanding that marketing be accountable for finding and cultivating prospective buyers, and technology is making attribution possible in ways that didn’t exist a decade ago.

Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey report found that “Analytics and insights continue their reign as the most strategically important capabilities, while Marketing Operations grows in strategic stature.” It’s all about the data.

So, what about customer marketing, which, more often than not, calls the marketing department home? Within our customer base, we see a wide range of commitment to measurement. When one of our customer contacts isn’t concerned about quantifying their program’s contributions relative to their organization’s growth, we worry. Their health status is automatically set to amber in the red/amber/green spectrum. Why?  Because. customer reference programs that don’t quantify impact faulted and die.

Here are the most common reasons we hear related to why metrics aren’t being defined and monitored by customer marketing managers, and why that’s  problematic.

“Leadership isn’t asking for any reports.”

A lack of interest in metrics generally indicates leadership doesn’t know how to measure the customer marketing program’s value, see its importance to achieving corporate goals, or it’s just not on their radar at the moment. It’s tempting to assume a customer reference program can fly under the radar forever. It can’t.

Experience tells us that when budget cuts are called for (pre-IPO, economy slowdowns), all programs come under scrutiny. There will be a swarm of report requests to help inform those decisions. If, as program manager, these reports are difficult or impossible to produce, your program is in jeopardy. The result: high contribution programs stay; low or unknown contribution programs go.

You probably know by now that a change in leadership can be a stressful time. When the customer reference program gets a new senior executive, either due to a transfer of the program to a different department or a change in the executive staff, there will be renewed scrutiny. To get a handle on your program, new executives will ask for data. Maybe the former executive was fine taking a leap of faith on the reason for your program’s existence. The new executive could be a “data head.” Uh-oh.

“I don’t have time.”

The trap here is believing that being extremely busy getting stuff done is enough proof of the customer reference program’s validity. Not so. If there’s no data to document the activities and results of your efforts, it’s as if they never happened. Sounds crazy, right? Who would cut a program so obviously busy? To executives, contributions aren’t legitimate unless they can be quantified, and there is a clear connection between program activity and corporate imperatives. Again, it is very, very difficult to piece together meaningful statistics from email, Slack, or Chatter correspondence over the past quarter or year. Not running regular reports and tying the results to company goals will sell yourself, and the customer reference program, short.

“I don’t know what’s really important to track or what to aim for.”

Think in terms of outcomes and corporate goal alignment. There are very few things that matter at the end of the day. Is your program helping to close business? Are the program membership and content library changing or growing to support company growth goals? Are the program’s assets helping to generate more demand (i.e., leads)?

“I’m not good at creating reports.”

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a business analyst-type resource at your disposal, you must consider this an essential skill set and develop it. Analysis is iterative. You start with a broad report. Then you’ll change the filter criteria, add data elements, remove data elements, group, and subtotal until you get the picture of the data you need. It is experimental and dynamic. You won’t want to have to wait on anyone else’s availability to get to report nirvana. If you use Salesforce, you’ll find a variety of Trailheads on the reporting topic, and they’re free!

“My program stats aren’t impressive, and I don’t want anyone to find out.”

This is not a sustainable position. Ultimately someone will ask for numbers. It’s a legitimate and reasonable request. If you’re tracking numeric goals early on, and they aren’t acceptable, then this is an opportunity to call in support. Customer reference programs are cross-departmental and interdependent by nature. If there is a failure in the ecosystem, all the parts need to be assessed and adjustments made. Here are a few examples of common issues and fixes:

  •  Is the population of customer advocates in your customer reference database too limited to support demand?
    Talk to the managers of the post-sales teams such as customer success and account management to encourage nominations.
  • Reference activity isn’t getting recorded anywhere, even though there’s a system?
    Talk to the managers of the sales team and explain the consequences of not following a process. Solicit their support to increase compliance.
  • New sales representatives and other users aren’t being educated about the program and systems available?
    Talk to the training leader about the onboarding curriculum, offer to lead the customer reference program track if necessary.
  • Having trouble getting much needed-system updates accomplished?
    Talk to the IT group responsible and explain how the lack of progress is impacting salespeople and other stakeholders.

You don’t want to be that marketer that can’t quantify their value. It’s a career-limiting attribute. Success begets success. When you have the numbers to show your program’s contributions, more resources follow. With more resources, the program grows and has an even greater impact. Want to read more on this topic? Here are some related posts:

The Sales Reference KPI

Customer Reference Program Measurement