Can Focusing on Customer Experience Unify Marketing and Sales Functions?

Paul Cole
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

​​What? In today’s digitally driven, non-sequential world, alignment should not be the ultimate goal.

So what? Research has shown that today’s buyer values—beyond  price and product functionality—are characterized by a universal interest in simplicity, emotional gratification and a frictionless experience.

Now what? Business leaders should be working to unify the entire prospect-to-customer lifecycle by moving from a functional or process view of marketing and sales to an experiential view. 

It’s an age-old question: How can two very different but inexorably linked functions, marketing and sales, become better aligned to deliver stronger business outcomes? 

In today’s digitally driven, non-sequential world, alignment should not be the ultimate goal. Instead, business leaders should be working to unify the entire prospect-to-customer lifecycle by moving from a functional or process view of marketing and sales to an experiential view. 

One of the unintended consequences of todays’ customer experience (CX) movement is that it has become largely synonymous with the post-sale servicing of the customer. Once marketing has done its job creating brand pull, filling the funnel with qualified leads and the salesforce accepts.

 At a minimum, research has shown that today’s buyer values—beyond  price and product functionality—are characterized by a universal interest in simplicity, emotional gratification and a frictionless experience.


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How can you go about internally unifying the strategy, practices, touchpoints, policies and metrics that ultimately influence the type of journey a (prospective) buyer will experience when discovering, researching, selecting, consuming and hopefully advocating your brand? Below are a few interventions:

1. Unifying the experience: Institute cross-functional governance. 

First, it is incumbent upon the front office functions (marketing, sales and service) to create a collaboration mechanism to devise, deploy and monitor the prospect to customer experience. This can take the form of a formal management position such as chief experience officer or chief customer officer, or creating a formal “Office of the Customer” with representatives of the business functions or informal steering committees.

2. Develop the story: Utilizing design thinking methodology, start by exploring and brainstorming answers to the following questions:

a. What does a day in the life of a typical buyer look like? Where do they go for information? What do they want to know? What motivates them and what do they value?

b. What words and phrases would we hope they would use to describe their journey to a friend?

c. Where across that journey can we best differentiate ourselves? 

3. Create the playbook: Based on the above, develop the elements of the plan including:

a. A buyer/user experience statement: This is distilling down the essence of what doing business with you should feel like and the emotions you want to evoke.

b. Buyer personas: Based on your market research inputs, create a narrative that describes characteristics of the ideal customer in terms of demographics, motivations, channel preferences, usage patterns and support requirements.

c. A journey map: For each persona, lay out ​the activities that correspond to that “day in the life,” along with the touchpoints, inputs and desired outcomes for each moment of truth.

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4. Engineer and actively monitor the experience: While a lot of creative thinking should go into the design, an equal amount of rigor should go into the engineering of a gratifying, simple and frictionless experience. 

This should include investment in a platform that enables you to:

a. Capture the voice of the customer on an event-driven basis, meaning soon after an interaction with the company, whether pre- or post-purchase.

b. Apply predictive analytics, and analyze the structured and unstructured information you collect to determine cause and effect of various actions and predict the impact of operational adjustments on your customer-perceived performance.

c. Add a customer KPI dashboard to your operational metrics. Whether you use a customer effort score, CSAT measure or the Net Promoter Score, track and publish these data across marketing, sales and service. 

d. Engage the customer. Rather than simply looking at aggregated customer scores, get into the weeds and use your intelligence to actively engage and close the loop with the customer when the system alerts you to a problem. 

Every product and service category holds out the promise and potential for winning the hearts and minds of buyers by delivering a superior experience. But to do so requires you to stand above the functional silos and design your operating system from the outside in. Only then can you become a true “experience maker” and reap the associated rewards. 

This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of Marketing News​.


Author Bio:

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Paul Cole
Paul Cole is a Los Angeles-based customer experience expert who leads customer engagement, sales and marketing strategies at CX software provider inQuba. 
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