As a technology (and product company) chief executive, I am often asked, “How do you balance the budgetary tradeoff between taking care of your current customers and growing your business?” That challenge manifests itself for many product companies in the question, “How much should we spend on taking care of our current customers versus spending on innovation to fuel growth?” This can be a challenging question, but it doesn’t have to be.
In our business, our customers are everything. Everything we choose to do (and choose not to do) starts with considering the customer. Every decision is made through a customer lens. At the risk of oversimplifying, it really is that simple.
We are knee-deep in our 2015 planning process. When we kicked off the process, we started by updating a simple, one-page strategic plan. In one page we outline the objectives, key initiatives, and metrics we will use to track success. At the top of the plan is a single strategic objective for the year. From that single objective our plan flows. The second line on the page is a description of the culture we need to deliver on that objective – people first (with the right team in place any objective is achievable). The third line is our mission – why do we exist? For what purpose have we gathered this amazing team? The fourth line is a definition of the market we serve. The fifth line is a brief description of our core messaging.
That is the top of the single-page plan. Why does this matter? Why not just jump into actions and metrics? The top half of the plan rallies the company around a common goal, reminds us of who we are, who we serve, and why we serve them. It sets us up to structure the right plan for our team. And, it allows us to answer questions like “How much should we spend on current customer success versus chasing growth with developers?”
The top of our one-page plan looks like this:
Objective: Grow our base of raving Salesfusion fans, our team, and our technology.
- Our people are our most important asset, followed by our customers and our technology.
- As such, we are committed to doing the right thing for our people, our customers, and our technology.
- Our people are smart, inquisitive, driven, eager, and focused on our customers’ success.
- Company success flows from customer success. Personal success flows from company success.
Mission: We exist to help marketing and sales teams deliver more revenue together.
Market: B2B companies in the SMB space
- The best performing marketing and sales teams (as measured in revenue results) cite tight marketing and sales alignment as a core reason for their performance.
- The best way to tightly align marketing and sales teams is to tightly align the systems those teams live in every day – the marketing automation platform (MAP) and the sales automation platform (CRM).
- Salesfusion is the marketing automation platform that most tightly integrates (aligns) with a company’s CRM.
- Customers choose Salesfusion because we have the best team and technology solution for aligning marketing and sales teams.
- Customers stay with Salesfusion because our service and product UX are unmatched.
From here we build our plan by team: marketing, sales, services, and product. Each team outlines their team objective (in support of the company objective), their team priorities (again in support of the company objective), and the three to five key activities that will drive success against those priorities.
For product, like every other area of our business, we take our cue from our customers. We know that successful customers breed raving fans. Product planning starts with the question, “What do our customers need to be successful?” We don’t wrestle with a ratio of how much to spend on our base of customers versus building for new customers. We focus on delivering for our current customers while listening carefully to our prospects and our market. We know our market. Our new customers look a lot like our base. We are confident that making our current customers successful is the key to growing our business. There is not a tradeoff here. There is only an order of priority. Raving fans tell others about their experience far faster and more effectively than we ever could.
By focusing on a single objective (to grow our raving fan base), we deliver innovation for our current base and maximize our potential to grow. As such, we focus our marketing efforts as much on our base of customers as we do on new customers. Like each team in our company, we start our marketing plan with a focus on growing a base of raving fans. For marketing this starts with a simple mission: “attract and retain the right customers with the right message and promise.”
Marketing teams sit at the hub of enabling this kind of customer-focused approach to planning and innovation. Marketing can lead this process by developing and consistently delivering the right message to your customers. Further, marketing should set engagement goals and track their progress by including customer engagement in their metrics. Key metrics to incorporate into the plan should include measurement of net promoter score, nurture engagement (for example engagement with a customer newsletter), customer training, event attendance, etc. The only mistake that marketers can make here is not focusing on customer marketing enough.
Image via Shutterstock.
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