In “Part 1: Engage Customers and Sell More with CEM,” we shared highlights from our conversation with SiriusDecisions research director Bob Peterson on what customer engagement management (CEM) is and the benefits it delivers. After reading the article, you’ll doubtless agree that the promise of CEM sounds wonderful—at least in the abstract. But how can you turn it into reality?
Fear not: embracing CEM needn’t strain your resources, and you can build the necessary tools and capabilities over time. The five strategies below will enhance your results.
1. When it comes to your customers, be like GPS. Successful B2B organizations continually track where customers are on their lifecycle journey and tailor how they engage accordingly. By keeping customers at the center, you can accurately recalculate when they make unexpected moves. “This is very dynamic, so it’s not a one and done,” Bob says. “You need to understand that customer accounts are complex, and that contacts within the accounts have different needs that change continually. And every time they enter a new buying cycle with another product or service, it impacts their journey and what your engagement with them needs to look like.”
2. Think windows, not walls. “Pockets of customer information exist all over B2B organizations, so we really encourage sellers to take the walls down that exist between functional departments,” Bob says. “It sounds easier than it probably is, but that’s where it starts.” These tactics will help:
- Stamp out turf-protecting. Sure, it’s human nature to guard the information you own. But in today’s market, that’s a luxury you can’t afford. By making a conscious commitment to internal openness—and creating a culture that supports it—you can help teams find ways to reach across the aisle. “Ownership is okay, but there’s got to be transparency with the people empowered to act on shared information in the customer’s behalf,” Bob notes.
- Assess and align. Take steps to ensure that responsibilities and ownership line up with the customer experience. “Start by conducting a mapping exercise that identifies who owns what at each stage of the customer lifecycle,” Bob suggests. “Then ask: ‘Does that make sense from the customer’s perspective? Is there a way we can improve that experience? How can we work together to share the right data across functions?’” Your map can serve as a framework to support customer retention, growth, loyalty, and other key goals.
3. Measure your success. Determine success metrics up front so you can benchmark and track CEM effectiveness over time. Consider the following:
- Account profiles. “Assessing the completeness of customer profiles is a very tactical way to know whether you’re achieving engagement; that’s a key place to begin,” Bob says. “For example, do you have all the customer insights you need? Is this information kept current? How many customers are opted in? How do your customers prefer to engage with you? What strategies are known to drive greater customer engagement? Is there a coordinated method for communicating with your customers?”
- Response rates. In a single location, collect and analyze the percentages of your customers’ responses and/or participation in areas like:
- Marketing and sales outreach, email campaigns
- Customer satisfaction surveys, net promoter activities
- Internal communities
4. Invest in the right technologies. “A surprising number of B2B organizations don’t have some of the basic blocking and tackling technology they need to gain and share customer insights,” Bob notes. But if you’re one of them, don’t worry: you can start small and grow as you go. “There’s a natural progression we see within our customers when they’re striving to a) have a central repository for customer insights, and b) measure how, how much, and how many customers are consuming the content they put out there.” A typical evolution might look like this:
- Manual methods. “Anything is better than nothing, and if you start manually or use spreadsheets, that provides more insights than not collecting the information at all,” Bob says.
- Salesforce automation/CRM tools (described above).
- Marketing automation platforms. This includes solutions like Marketo that help you market more effectively on multiple digital channels (e.g., email, social media, websites) by automating high-touch, repetitive manual processes.
- Online customer communities. “Communities can be a fascinating and rich source of customer engagement insights,” Bob says. “The more robust ones allow management of all sorts of different customer activities, including user group events, advisory board management, the online community itself, or multiple communities.” Though communities are often driven by customer support, marketing groups should have access as well.
- Customer intelligence management. By providing a single view of all information about your customers and their behavior—captured from both internal and external sources—customer intelligence platforms enable you to take your CEM initiative to a much deeper level.
- Customer evidence platforms. These solutions help you rapidly build your advocacy assets. “One example of company in this space is TechValidate,” Bob says. “The software pushes out a simple questionnaire to the customer, with responses in an anonymous or a named format, that asks, ‘Are you willing to go on record and say good things about us?’ And they’re finding that a lot of customers say yes.”
- Customer advocacy platforms. “Customer advocacy is really exploding right now; it’s one of the ways your investment in customer engagement bears fruit,” Bob notes. Traditional reference management technologies that automate advocacy identification and activation (such as Point of Reference, Boulder Logic, and RO Innovation) can streamline much of the advocacy process. Additional technologies draw users in through gamification and other fun activities; these platforms (such as Influitive and Amplifinity) make it easy for your known customer advocates to not only engage with each other, but also introduce prospects and customers into your community. “They also help engage the sales force—which has the greatest level of intimacy with the customer—to become better at sourcing potential advocates, and help advocacy marketers more effectively manage the usage of those assets,” Bob says.
5. Keep an eye on the culture. “B2B marketers need to be savvy about understanding cultural nuances to ensure they can drive customer engagement without getting themselves in trouble,” Bob notes. “Different regions view engagement through very different lenses.” Tap your in-market sales reps and field marketing resources—who have the most direct insights into local mores and sensitivities—to determine the pace and cadence of how you engage, or which materials should be localized.
Embrace the future
“Organizations that choose to ignore the power and impact of customer engagement are placing their customer relationships at risk, because competitors will be doing it. And there’s a very strong correlation between an engaged customer and a loyal customer,” Bob points out. What’s more, loyal customers are much more likely not just to stay with your company, but to buy more from you and ultimately become your advocates. “Progressive B2B organizations really have no choice but to invest in customer engagement. The world now is so connected, and there’s so much information out there, that not being engaged is kind of a dinosaur approach.”
And we all know what happened to them.