Organizations spend significant resources nurturing the post-sale client relationship. There are dedicated success teams, support services, and portals to ensure the relationship starts off smoothly.
However, most sales and marketing teams don’t have the infrastructure to provide an exceptional experience and buying journey that wins clients. What if companies put the same level of attention toward building a prospective customer’s experience before a deal closes?
This topic—sometimes called customer experience (CX) marketing, or account-based experience (ABX)—connects the right customers, channels, and messages together at the right time. ABX and the customer experience have historically been the responsibility of marketing teams. But, creating an integrated buying journey is a complex process that involves the entire C-Suite.
Below, we break down customer experience marketing so you can better understand the current state and where gaps may become an opportunity. Then, we show you how to build a digital customer experience strategy that engages your target audience, builds customer loyalty, and drives funnel growth.
Understand the State of Customer Experience Marketing in 2023
CMOs in today’s market face major challenges to connect to consumers. They deal with unpredictable digital buying behavior, struggles with sales and marketing integration, and an uncertain economy. The C-Suite must focus its go-to-market strategies on creating valuable, long-term customer relationships, building brand awareness, and meeting internal cross-functional goals.
One customer experience challenge is that there’s more competition than ever. Traditional strategies that once built relationships quickly and effectively—like email marketing or inside sales— are now touchpoints lost in the shuffle.
According to Statista, there are an estimated 213 million companies globally. That’s almost twice as many as there were 20 years ago. While there are more companies in the mix, the average lifespan of a company has decreased. Brands that are here for the long-term need to connect with their customers more frequently, and in immersive ways, to break through the noise.
Data also shows that the focus on the post-sale customer experience is waning. Shoppers feel unengaged further down the funnel. According to Forrester, U.S. companies have lost their passion for the customer experience that was built during the pandemic.
Forrester predicts that one in five CX programs will disappear altogether this year. Due to inflation, organizations with dedicated CX teams expect to pay more in 2023 to maintain the same level of customer experience as in previous years. Even if your team is on track to maintain your existing CX program, putting all your eggs in the post-close experience basket isn’t enough. For customer relationships to last, you need customer loyalty throughout the buying journey.
A Review of Customer Experience Philosophy
Customer experience (CX) is the impression your customers have of your brand throughout the buyer’s journey. This impacts their view of your brand and your bottom line metrics including revenue. Customer experience is equally influenced by your products and your customer-facing teams. For example, customers are impressed by the quality or performance of products, as well as the amount of time and consideration people at your company use when helping the customer find the perfect solution.
When we talk about advancing the buyer’s journey, there are clear ties to how account-based marketing (ABM) processes can help. ABM includes selecting a group of accounts where there’s mutual value and crafting messaging that speaks directly to their pain points.
A recent addition to the ABM philosophy is the account-based experience (ABX). ABX builds on ABM by incorporating customer experience, inbound digital marketing, and account-based targeting.
You may also be familiar with customer journey orchestration—a set of recommendations to respond to signals during the individual customer lifecycle. It ties into customer journey management, which looks at broader customer segments. Both strategies allow marketing teams to work cross-functionally, build a holistic view of customer behavior, and deliver content that meets their specific pain points.
ABX, ABM, and customer journey orchestration are similar because they are all processes that you pilot. It’s a slow process of creating strategy, integrating sales and marketing teams, testing your methodology, and analyzing data to make small incremental changes.
Strategies for Nailing Your Holistic Digital Customer Experience
Some offline touchpoints, like gifting, can be impactful in building customer relationships. However, more than half of meaningful brand experiences happen on digital channels. Here, we outline how to create a top-notch digital customer experience.
1. Take a Holistic View of Customers and Their Changing Needs
According to Accenture, 72% of consumers say external factors like inflation, climate change, and social movements impact their lives more than in the past. Another 61% of consumers say their priorities constantly change based on what’s happening in the world.
As a result, brands should think of their customers in a multi-dimensional way. This life-centric approach eliminates the idea that brands know everything about their customers. Instead, it provides a holistic approach to customers’ changing preferences based on their own personal life events.
When we account for the nuances of decision-making in our customer experience, it also gives sales and marketing more flexibility. Understanding how your product or service adds value to your customers makes it much easier to provide the resources and tools they need. You affirm their own buying decisions.
One example of affirming your audience’s buying decisions is creating marketing collateral and digital media tailored to specific pain points. Your outreach should continuously support their needs and provide specific solutions. Some customers may be new to your industry and not have a solution in mind, so they’ll appreciate educational pieces. Others, however, may have clearly defined needs and will seek solution-specific messaging that drives them deeper toward a decision.
2. Guide Personalization with Customer-Directed Engagement
There are many online and offline channels where customers have the potential to engage with your brand. Your team must drive and measure those first interactions. In a Gartner survey, 52% of B2B buyers said they felt improved buying commitment after a meaningful customer experience.
Personalization is key to generating this interaction. However, customer trends are leaning toward privacy-first personalization and a cookieless future. As a result, the best way to offer personalization is through cookieless tracking and customer-directed engagement models.
One first-party data solution for personalization is people-based marketing (PBM). PBM streamlines an individual’s data from offline and online sources into one persistent (long-lasting) ID. Brands can recognize this ID no matter the marketing channel, browser, or device. PBM gives brands and marketers a more complete picture of who their customers are and how to advertise to them. With it, you can deliver more relevant messages that increase your conversion rates.
Additionally, AI and machine learning tools like chatbots and virtual customer assistants can drive customer engagement. PBM and AI, combined with the self-learning resources mentioned above, help to build connections and push customers deeper into the sales funnel.
3. Integrate Sales and Marketing to Streamline Brand Interaction
Sales and marketing integration is crucial for two aspects of customer engagement: messaging and touchpoints.
Here’s an example: is your inside sales team making personal outreach with one message, and your marketing team sharing an entirely different message to those same prospects? Or, are you bombarding customers with outreach for one week, and then ghosting them for months?
This lack of alignment is not only confusing for your customer but also limits your internal ability to measure what messaging and campaign structure performs best.
Research shows that to integrate sales and marketing teams, and improve customer experience, you need these elements:
- Positive senior management attitude toward collaboration of sales and marketing
- Reduction of interdepartmental conflict
- Communication improvement
- Establishing an organization of learning
- Establishing effective marketing intelligence systems
These steps are easier said than done. Working with a digital marketing partner focused on ABM and ABX marketing services can help streamline execution.
4. Create Value Propositions that Communicate Personal and Functional Brand Benefits
Agreeing on value proposition messaging is a time-consuming task for any leadership team. The value proposition is a statement of the brand’s functional, self-expressive, and emotional benefits that provide value to the target customer. Brands must understand that every interaction with a person or other business elicits emotions that influence future outcomes. This includes whether to buy, love, return, or refer.
With an uncertain economy or social issues, brands need flexible value propositions that cater to changing customer emotions. Research from the Association of National Advertisers pinpoints that customer engagement with a brand’s personal versus functional benefits may change based on a variety of life factors. For example, during recessionary periods, consumers focus on getting value for their dollar. Brands need to incentivize the average consumer to care less about emotional benefits and more about functional ones.
As a solution, Gartner recommends CMOs optimize their digital marketing budgets by advertising personal and functional brand benefits. According to their survey of nearly 2,000 consumers, societal benefits – although a bonus – have minimal influence on buying decisions. CMOs with the highest levels of success used value propositions that combined highly personal and highly functional benefits.
5. Use an Omni-Channel Approach
The buying journey isn’t linear. Consumers may see a dynamic search ad, then a connected TV ad. They may see seven or more touchpoints before wanting to learn more. People use multiple channels, like search engines, social media, and customer reviews to research a product before they buy. It’s why brands need multichannel marketing.
With an omnichannel CX strategy, customers interact with your brand more efficiently. Brands should use a combination of hyper-focused marketing placements across paid, owned, and earned media channels. You can focus on driving reach, brand awareness, and market penetration with your target audience.
6. Create a Continuous Feedback Loop with Current Customers
Customer pain points and expectations constantly evolve. Brands need tools to effectively measure these changing preferences and inform future decisions. For current customers, nurturing a culture of continuous feedback is one option to understand how to tailor the buying journey over time. Some organizations use customer satisfaction scores or Net Promoter Scores to generate customer feedback. Then, they use the data to influence messaging for accounts still in the funnel.
Building a holistic digital customer experience is a big undertaking, but you have help.
Goodway Group’s digital marketing teams are experts in audience research, campaign strategy, marketing segmentation, multi-channel attribution, data, and analytics to level up your customer journey.
Our teams execute ABM and ABX programs with tailored messaging and design across all channels. We ensure your brand appears where and when your audience is most likely to engage. Contact us to learn how Goodway can help your sales and marketing teams improve the customer experience, integrate cross-functionally, and drive ROI.