Marketing is the new Customer Success superpower
Let me start somewhere a little unexpected.
You’ve probably heard that Denmark is consistently one of the happiest countries in the world. I think that when most people hear that news, they think of happiness in terms of joy or euphoria — picturing Danes frolicking in meadows or petting dogs.
But…that’s not what the research actually points to. Danes aren’t more joyful than anyone else. Instead, they’ve got two things going for them: (1) more realistic baseline expectations, and (2) fewer intensely negative experiences. This is mostly a cultural thing, apparently; Scandinavians are happier than the rest of us because they tend to have more reasonable expectations. I saw that mentality in action during the seven years I spent working with Ericsson, a giant of global telecommunications and a leader in customer success.
Here’s why this matters: you don’t need joyful customers, you need customers with accurate expectations. That’s what a happy customer is — someone who gets what they expect, and for whom nothing goes dramatically wrong. And the good news here is that, while you can’t reliably produce ecstatic, over-the-top positive experiences for customers, you can reliably manage their expectations and deliver solid, satisfying, services that meet those expectations. (Or, ideally, slightly exceed them).
The name for that kind of expectation management is customer success marketing.
From Funnel to Flywheel
This part isn’t new. The traditional marketing funnel is outdated for all but the most straightforward brick-and-mortar retailers. Customer relationships no longer end with a purchase, and even post-purchase interactions like support and testimonials are now just small pieces of a much larger, longer-lasting process of building loyalty, engagement, and value.
HubSpot conceptualizes modern marketing as a flywheel. The key insight here is that marketing, sales, and customer success — attraction, engagement, and delight — form a circle, with marketing focused more on existing customer relationships (and associated traffic, referrals, reputation, and engagement) than on traditional lead-generation techniques.
The simplest consequence of this shift in company-client relationships is that customers need to be retained using marketing techniques that were formerly reserved for customer attraction.
But it goes much deeper than that. Most companies now operate in a world where the most important sale isn’t the initial purchase, but the second month of subscription fees, and the third, and the fifteenth, and the fiftieth. At the same time, brand advocates have become the most important source of inbound marketing. Both of those factors help explain why customer success is now essential for growth, but they’re also why high-quality, high-efficacy marketing is itself critical to how customer success operates.
Let’s look at some details.
What’s Involved in Customer Success Marketing?
Everyone has their own take on what customer success marketing is, but as I see it, there are three essential functions.
First, there’s advocacy. Customer success marketing is the modern equivalent of good old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM). This is the team that’ll be setting up sales reference calls, generating case studies, managing online reviews, and handling advocacy platforms. Studies tell us that these activities have several big benefits:
- Transfer perceived status from highly reputable customers.
- Show off an award or success on some selection criteria.
- Demonstrate solutions or services in a concrete, credible way.
- Showcase past achievements and current expertise.
The second big piece of customer success marketing is content creation. Your customer success managers are going to need to send out product updates, launch onboarding programs, and perform other tasks that require new interfaces, ad and email copy, and so on. You shouldn’t have relationship managers handling those jobs when there are context experts sitting over in marketing, waiting to do them better.
Those same content experts should also handle the development of post-sales assets like tutorials, video explainers, and client guides. There’s some science backing up this point, too, with surveys of bank customers showing that active communication is the best predictor of success in relationship marketing.
Finally, but not to be ignored: a strong customer success marketing team can also help create a community. They might put together a customer award, as ChurnZero has recently done, and should certainly be organizing customer panels, networking events, and high-participation webinars.
Benefits and Outcomes
In my experience, integrating marketing functions and expertise into the day-to-day business of customer success improves every CS-linked outcome, across the board. There’s the expectations-management I was talking about at the beginning of the piece, helping to set clear standards for what counts as a win. Then there’s brand evangelism and the power of flywheel-based marketing.
Your CSMs will have better, sharper tools in their toolkit; your marketing spend will be producing real results rather than sinking resources into over-saturated, low-engagement audiences. You’ll be able to capitalize on latent potential user bases like free trial users, unpaid subscribers, and newsletter recipients.
Marketing is really just a piece of what makes the engine of customer success keep ticking, but it’s a critical one. And for most of us, it’s an area that rewards immediate attention, integrating existing teams and coordinating existing efforts.
I’d love to hear what approaches you’re taking with your own customer success marketing!