As a result of the digital age, the line between sales and marketing has been dissolving for some time. Today’s customer base is more informed and empowered than ever before. Companies are paying more attention to how their marketing decisions affect those consumers at every stage of the buying process (not just in stand-alone sales or marketing pillars). What we’ve got now is smarketing—a blend of sales and marketing–that focuses on big-picture influence over the ever-important customer experience—and it’s all about the business of growing business.
Let’s take a closer look at what smarketing is and examine why customer engagement plays such a large role in doing it effectively. That will allow us to examine where “smarketing” fits in the realm of the new customer journey and talk about some tips that might help you develop or fine-tune your own “smarketing strategies.”
What is Smarketing?
Start by asking a couple of questions: Does marketing own brand management? Are customer relationships only a focus for those on the sales team? Do retail operations and merchandising take sole responsibility for the in-store experience?
The answers should be no, no and no. Especially today, where there are myriad opportunities for consumers to interact with your brand. The sum of those interactions, not any one of them alone, comprises the entirety of a customer experience. Smart leaders are focused on breaking down the individual sales and marketing silos that have existed for decades and rebuilding one cohesive, consumer-centric approach—or experience–that is the heart of smarketing.
Customer Engagement: The Key to Effective Smarketing
Customer engagement isn’t just a sales thing, and it isn’t just a marketing thing, either. It’s actually both, and it’s arguably the most important brick in the road to profitability in the long term. Savvy brand leaders know this, and they work to nail customer engagement.
It’s true that sales and marketing have always individually and intrinsically been customer-focused, but why are we now leaning so heavily on customer experience? It’s because the customers’ experiences—all those touch points that work to determine how engaged, how satisfied, and how valued they feel during their interaction with your company—look completely different now than they did a decade (or even a few years) ago.
Today’s consumer has an incredible number of opportunities to interface with your brand that didn’t previously exist: Social media channels, forums, websites, online review sites, and blogs, to name just a few. These customers behave differently, too—they do more research and ask more questions, they’re connected to one another, trust and rely on peer reviews and opinions over brand advertising messages, and they’re more empowered because of the information at their fingertips.
So what does it all mean? Sales and marketing today aren’t just about the products and services your company seeks to sell. For the average price-comparing, tech savvy, review-reading, social media-connected consumer, it’s become difficult to separate them at all. Smarketing creates the experience, and the experience propels the brand.
The Customer Journey, Smarketing-Style
Move over, four-pronged traditional customer lifecycle. You undoubtedly know that the lifecycle of today’s digital customer is far more varied and intertwined than ever before—you wouldn’t be in this business if you didn’t. But take a moment to check out Figure 1 below and get a visual on just how that lifecycle has evolved.
Figure 1: Source: TCS
The case for smarketing is strengthened by the successes of brands that embrace and cater to the digital customer lifecycle showcased in the graphic above. Why? Buyers control most of their purchasing journey, and successful marketing triggers their interest and nurtures them along the way to a sale. This isn’t news, but consider that today’s consumers choose whether or not to follow your company on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, watch your tutorials, sit through your product demos, or download your app. And they are neither expecting nor do they desire a sales pitch—they’re expecting additional value from your company. That’s where smarketing comes in, bolstering customer engagement and providing that extra value.
Another important piece of the smarketing equation is understanding that the need to stay connected to and add value to your customers doesn’t end with the sale. In fact, post sale relationship building and nurturing not only leads to satisfied customers, it leads to repeat purchases and, equally as important, brand advocates. Want to see it in even simpler terms? Take a look at Figure 2 below, and notice how smarketing done right plays a role in every step in the customer journey—both before and after the sale.
Figure 2: The Customer Journey. Source: Percolate
Tips to Start Smarketing
Hopefully if you weren’t already thinking about this, and about the importance of creating great customer experiences, you are now. Here are some tips to help you get started developing your smarketing strategies:
- Design a customer engagement strategy that focuses on all the ways people interact with your brand, before, during, and after the sale. Think about how can you improve every one of those experiences. This step goes beyond communication and should also focus on your product or service—your bread and butter.
- After you’ve got a strategy, ensure you have the organizational capabilities to carry it out. You may need to rethink customer care, change reporting structures, and reallocate some responsibilities. (Example: PepsiCo, in true smarketing style, has a Chief Digital Officer—a move that built an entire vertical around digital strategy—who reports directly to the head of marketing.)
- Make sure the lead executives and department managers are on board. Part of the smarketing concepts appeal is the ability to transition with relative ease to multiple points within a company, but this streamlining won’t happen if leadership isn’t on board and oversight isn’t in place.
How does your company view sales and marketing? Are they still stand-alone departments, or have you merged their functions and incorporated implications of that into larger strategic decisions? If you’ve witnessed the line start to dissolve, how has your company adapted? What challenges have you faced along the way? Are there strategies you’d recommend to shape (and capitalize on) positive customer experiences? I believe a key barrier to maximizing engagement isn’t the concept of smarketing—it’s the restructuring of organizational systems and attitudes that doing it well requires. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
This post was first published on LinkedIn on 4/12/2016.
Vincent Brissot is the Head of Channel Marketing & Operations at HP. With some 14 years of experience in channel enablement, business development, and marketing, he has a comprehensive understanding of and expertise in the IT industry related to hardware, services, and software. Vincent has worked in multiple countries, in regional and worldwide roles across Enterprise and SMB market segments. You can follow Vincent on Twitter @VincentBrissot and also find him on LinkedIn.