Monday, January 27, 2020

The Necessary Marketing Apprenticeship of Customer Success


This article was originally published at:

It is co-written by Peter Armaly and Steve Olenski

Marketing has been around forever. The ancient Greeks practiced it as did the Ming Dynasty Chinese in the 1400s. For something that’s been around for hundreds of years, you might think it shouldn’t be such a consistent target today of business leaders who question its value. Yet that’s where we are.

Does marketing deserve criticism that its tactics result in messaging that is crass, superficial, and (the worst sling of all) offering low ROI. Often, yes. Always, no.

There are times, and lots of examples, when marketing gets it right. In fact, studies have shown that marketing’s efforts around targeting based on personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend and can lift sales by 10% or more. However, there are also endless examples of marketing AND advertising doing great work from the customer’s point of view, that are not so obviously measured yet undeniably have impact.

Of course, we’re talking about storytelling. Hardly a new concept, and when done correctly can be extremely beneficial to the bottom line. And it’s something consumers want with over 9 in 10 saying they want brands to make ads that feel like a story.

Here’s just one example of brand storytelling at its finest. It comes from Edeka, one of the largest supermarket chains in Germany.


Efforts like these work because they offer up an idea rather than a product. They respect the intelligence of the viewer/listener instead of insulting it. They tell just enough of a story so that the person on the receiving end seeks to learn more, to dig into the topic a bit more instead of turning away or, even worse, to not even notice the piece in the first place.

The marketing profession is strengthening its skills in this area and if they are looking for a few more gigs to fill out their resumes, perhaps they can turn their attention to helping out someone in need… Customer Success.

Because storytelling is an area in which customer success needs to improve.

When you look at the above image, what do you see? Do you see some boring and antiseptic business graphic about a customer journey? Or when you close your eyes do you hear the layer of narrative that weaves through the various stages of that journey and that describes the customer’s hopes and dreams, the obstacles thrown into their path, the valiant assistance they receive along the way, the individual transformations that occur within the members of their team and that affect a greater organizational transformation (the only way companies can truly change), and the eventual arrival at their long-sought after destination? Yeah, that’s what we hear, too.

There’s a big story there and Customer Success needs to tell it

There’s no point in sugarcoating for customers the journey they must undertake when they choose to invest in a cloud-based business solution. We’ve been around the block so many times that we believe that no one is well-served by a strategy that relies on truth avoidance.

And the truth is, the journey is work for everyone. It’s called transformation for a very real reason. It means change. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a miserable experience. The final outcome all depends on how real each participant is with each other upfront and how strongly everyone believes in their own ability to fulfill their commitments.

The story even has heroes

If we go to the very beginning, the journey to value begins as a solitary act by the future customer. Let’s pause and think about that truism for a second. Every act of innovation in our universe starts with some lonely soul noodling on how to solve a challenge. And depending on their creativity, courage, and tenacity that thought process will germinate and take root. It will begin to grow with some exposure to the oxygen of other minds and to the sustenance provided by an environment of collaboration and healthy debate with friends and/or colleagues.

In the business world, eventually the collective minds of those thinkers advances the idea, consensus emerges, and the research effort expands to include software providers. And the journey towards value accelerates from there. Process structure, roles, tasks, and expected results take shape as time and money is invested into fulfilling the vision for how business success should look. 

But here’s the kicker. At a certain point where pre and post-sale meet, that teeter-totter gap in that picture, smart vendors know they need to accept responsibility for shifting from provider mode to key-enabling-partner mode, from collaborator to leader. At that point, someone needs to really help the customer accelerate towards value by overseeing their entire experience. Someone needs to step up. 

That someone is Customer Success.

Now, how’s that for a ripping yarn


Find out more about the digital marketing tools you need to use data to personalize and successfully engage with customers and clients by checking out Oracle CX Marketing. 



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