I am increasingly seeing B2B marketing leaders talk about “Customer Lifecycle Marketing” (CLM) which defines all the strategies that businesses use to attract clients, convert, retain, and leverage with the purpose to boost revenue and grow their brands.
I read this and then think to myself – is this not just ABM on steroids, and why is this now more important than ever? This has been coming for a while, and I think it is related to the shift in business models across almost all B2B sectors. Almost all technology companies I talk to, even hardware / device centric ones, are looking to sell ‘everything-as-a-service.’
We saw this with software moving from perpetual licenses to SaaS. This means the path to growth is not just generating ‘leads’ – winning a new logo is only the start of the journey. The real revenue growth comes from landing, expanding, retaining and growing clients.
We could learn something from our B2C friends here. Telcos and banks for instance have been dealing with this for years. They win you as a customer and then do their utmost to retain you, to upsell and cross sell to you by trying to deliver amazing customer experience. Customer “churn” is that number they monitor very closely. It’s a leading indicator for the whole shooting match. Remember when they started talking about multi-channel, single view of customer? That was marketing nirvana, and a large part of the ongoing digital transformation agenda in these industries is around transforming customer experience, and at scale.
The funny thing is that it is B2B companies providing the banks and telcos with the services and technologies to enable these transformations, yet if we don’t get better at doing it ourselves, then we’re in danger of being one of those hairdressers with messy hair.
So to get back to the original question – is CLM really just ABM ? Well for me the answer is yes and no. ABM, in the main, is still targeted at a single account or select group of accounts and typically must defend, must win or must grow accounts, and quite often, because it is associated with a discreet marketing program, has a finite lifetime. I often hear people say: ‘once we achieve X or Y, customer success can take over.’
At the last physical event I attended before lockdown I was talking to a senior exec from the B2B side of a highly successful telco provider. I asked him what the secret was to your amazing growth? Interestingly he explained that, aside from delivering really innovative solutions they are insanely passionate about, it was their approach of “making customers happy for life.” “Seriously it sounds a little obvious, maybe even corny,” he said. “But it is deep in our DNA. For instance, we train our sales people how to make customers happy and build deep relationships: it’s all very human.” I guess this is what CLM is. It has no start date or finish date, it’s not a program, it’s business as usual, and should be applied to all key customers on repeat.
In the B2B technology world I would say that ABM can, and does, play a key role in CLM, but it should be broader than just sales and marketing alignment. Instead, it could include customer success, engineering, professional services and so on. I guess the role for marketing leaders in the future could be to step up and be the orchestrator of this continuous convergence around the customer.
I also think organisations that have already been on the ABM journey have a head start in the race to effective CLM. They have had to become more customer centric in their approach to client engagement. They aim to align the organisation’s silos around client needs, and quite often they stop the barrage of emails being sent to customers from the corporate comms engine. CLM is the enterprise version of ABM, that goes beyond sales and marketing alignment.
I see this as the future, and marketers need to own this dialogue in the boardroom. CEOs often struggle to truly define marketing’s role beyond brand and lead generation. CLM gives us a much more strategic role to play, we need to step up and own it. I would say if you are doing ABM now, make a play for CLM.