Customer Success Marketing & Data—The Recipe for Success Your Business Needs

A chat with Peter Meleska, CEO of Conversific

If you keep a close eye on your sales targets, a specific figure likely comes to mind when you read the question, “what is your lead conversion rate?” Maybe it's 0.05% or 1.2%. Either way, it's a vital piece of data. 

But do you often consider your re-conversion rate? Or your re-re-conversion rate? Or your re-re-re-conversion rate? 

Repeat customers are precious — they make larger purchases, refer other customers, and leave reviews and testimonials that impress new leads. Winning repeat customers is easiest when you have high-quality marketing data guiding your sales processes. 

However, many brands struggle to track this data and use it effectively. 

To tackle this challenge head-on, Mediaberry had the pleasure of chatting with Peter Meleska, the CEO of Conversific. We talked about all things customer success marketing and data, and in this article, I'm going to share Peter's top insights with you. 

So, without further ado, let's jump in! 

The power of data-driven decision-making

“Data-driven decision-making” (DDMM) isn't a buzzword (buzzphrase?). Instead, it's the methodical process of using quantifiable metrics and facts to say “yes” to decisions supporting your goals and “no” to actions that could lead you astray. 

When we say “quantifiable metrics,” we mean metrics backed up with numerical data. For example, “15% of website visitors click the “shop” button” is a quantifiable metric, while ” some website visitors press ‘shop’ sometimes” is not. 

Making decisions based on data is highly effective because you can use data to predict the outcome of your decisions. Then, once you make the decision, you can see its impact in real-time. 

Being able to predict how your decisions will work has serious power. Research on 728 brands shows that only 40% of top firms rely on “gut feelings,” compared to 70% of industry laggers. 

Numbers also offer truth free from bias. They don't cloud your decision-making with your coworker's opinions, your friend's hot takes, or your own fears. As Peter says…

“You can't really argue with numbers.” 

Data-driven decision-making looks different in every organization, but it generally follows four steps:

  • Step 1. Determine the decision you need to make. For example, “should we prioritize Facebook or Instagram in 2022?” 
  • Step 2. Choose the right data point to guide your decision. In this example, you might look at engagement on Facebook and Instagram in 2020 and 2021.
  • Step 3. Gather your data and analyze it.
  • Step 4. Draw Business Intelligence (BI) Insights from your data and make your decision. BI insights are nuggets of information that make or break a decision. For example, when choosing between Instagram and Facebook, one BI insight might be that your Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is 3.5% higher on Facebook than on Instagram. 

The roadblocks to using data

Data-based decisions reduce bias, lead to smarter choices, and are favored by industry leaders. So why don't more organizations use data for every decision? 

Many companies simply don't know how to use data in their decision-making. They may track the right metrics, but they don't regularly check data when making strategy, marketing, or management decisions. 

Some entrepreneurs and CEOs don't have data backgrounds and naturally work without data. During our chat, Peter provided his own perspective on this. He says: 

“I think I had a natural aversion to getting really into the data and the systems and the spreadsheets and the reports. Because I was like, oh, but I just want to get out, you know, doing like the people facing roles.” 

Alternatively, many entrepreneurs are hyper-focused on developing a strong offering, customer experience, pricing model, and profitable business. This hyper-focus can definitely drive you to success, but it can also make you blind to things that aren't right in front of you (like the power of data!).

Of course, some entrepreneurs and organizations do understand how to use data. But they don't use it well. 

Maybe they don't employ anyone with robust data analysis skills, or they can't find reliable analysis software that integrates with their systems. 

Alternatively, maybe they are tracking the wrong metrics. If you search for “marketing metrics” on Google, you will get 263,000,000 results — some of which list 70+ metrics to adopt. That's an intimidating amount of ground to cover. 

What is customer success marketing?

Customer success marketing (which Peter calls “customer success” for short) focuses on helping customers achieve their goals and objectives long term, rather than simply closing the sale now. The aim here is to retain the customer and nurture a win-win relationship. 

Here's how Peter describes it: 

“The purpose of customer success is to make sure that your customers achieve their own desired outcomes through their interactions with your company.” 

That might sound like customer service to you, but they are really quite different. 

Customer service addresses customers' problems, questions, and challenges after they interrupt their experience. Customer success marketing provides ongoing support throughout the customer's sales journey.

In a real-life context, this means handling complaints, live chatting, and social media messaging are customer service activities. Building a knowledge base, producing educational resources, and holding events are customer success marketing activities. 

Peter traces the roots of customer success practices back to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) businesses looking to reduce customer churn. However, he says it's a mindset that brands in every niche can adopt today.

“The theory is that if you make your customer successful, then you are going to be successful, and your business is going to be successful.” 

Peter also brought up another critical insight we wanted to share before diving deeper into customer success: the question, “whose goal is it?” 

He says many brands decide customers' success goals for them. For example, an infographic company might use the goal “customers want downloadable PNG infographics in monochromatic colors.” 

But this isn't how customers think about their goals. Instead, they might say, “we need a diagram for our homepage,” or “we need a graph that doesn't look boring.” 

Prioritizing the customer's goal is key in the art of customer success. Otherwise, you're only chasing your own tail. 

The impact of customer success marketing

Adopting customer success marketing makes you customer-centric. As in, the customer's needs, wants, and desires are your brand's primary focus. 

Peter uses an interesting analogy to describe how customer success looks (plus its impact).

In his analogy, a driver helps a customer get from City A to City B by 10:00 am. The driver = customer success marketing, and the car = product/service.

The customer's end goal is arriving in City B, but meeting this goal requires achieving several small milestones — leaving City A, entering the highway, holding speed, not running out of gas, and making the right driving maneuvers. 

Though these goals relate to the customer, the driver has control over them. So, ultimately, the driver controls whether the passenger meets the goal.

But the goal isn't the ultimate marker of success.

Peter says there are two critical parts to customer success: the outcome (i.e., meeting the goal) and the experience. If the driver cut off other drivers, swerved frequently, and made the passenger motion sick, the customer wouldn't consider the drive “successful” (even if they arrived on time). 

As Peter's analogy makes clear, the impact of customer success goes beyond goals. When the driver offered the perfect taxi experience, they:

  • Humanized their brand and made a real connection with the customer 
  • Provided an experience the customer may tell others about 
  • Separated themselves from other taxis
  • Incentivized the customer to use the same taxi service again 

Data + customer success marketing = the perfect recipe 

Customer success marketing may have started in a SaaS context, but it applies to every organization today. As Peter says, 

“Everyone's in the people business.”

Similarly, everyone is in the data business, and how you use that data matters. When you combine a data-based decision-making approach with customer success marketing, you get the recipe for satisfied customers. 

To help you craft this recipe, we'll share five insights.

Use data to see your service/product through the customer's eyes 

Brand owners and CEOs will always see their products and services differently from customers, but that doesn't mean you can't see what they see. 

Some data allows you to put yourself in the customers' shoes and experience your brand through them. Try these metrics:

  • Average Resolution Time (ART) = the average amount of time between when a customer first speaks to customer service about the issue and the resolution
  • First Contact Resolution (FCR) = how often an issue is fixed in a customer's first interaction with customer service 
  • Trial-to-Paid Conversion Rate = the rate at which free trial users purchase your paid plans (specific to software-based businesses)

Then, apply them to real life. If your ART is 43 minutes, for example, call customer service and spend 43 minutes trying to fix a common problem. Or, try your own free trial and ask yourself, “would I really pay for the free version?” 

You'll never know your own business better, and your customers will succeed because of it. 

Talk to your customers through surveys and quizzes

When discussing data, we tend to just stick to the hard numbers. But you don't need to (and, in fact, you shouldn't). Collecting qualitative feedback through surveys and quizzes can tell you how customers think, feel, and act concerning your offering. 

Have you ever stopped buying from a brand because it sponsored a radio ad that annoyed you or because you didn't like the way its software looked? Likely yes — as customers consider feelings when making purchasing decisions (even irrational ones). 

You don't need to produce long, academic questionnaires to get meaningful answers. Instead, try these questions:

  • Do you follow (brand) on social media? Why, or why not?
  • What do you like about (brand)?
  • What would you change about (brand)?
  • What do (brand)'s competitors do better?
  • Why did you choose (brand) over other options?

Peter also recommends using surveys and quizzes to get your Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS is one of the best indicators of customers' satisfaction with you. 

The NPS asks customers, “how likely are you to recommend our brand to others,” and asks them to select a number 1 — 10. Once you've collected this data, you sort people into detractors, passives, and promoters based on their score:

  • Detractors = 0 — 6
  • Passives = 7 — 8
  • Promoters = 9 — 10

Then, subtract the percentage of detractors from promoters to get your NPS. 

Source: TrustCruit

NPS measures loyalty to your brand, but you can also use the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) if you want to test people's loyalty to your offering. CSAT asks customers, “how satisfied with (offering) are you,” and offers them five potential Likert-style responses:

  1. Very unsatisfied
  2. Unsatisfied
  3. Neutral
  4. Satisfied
  5. Very Satisfied 

Turn this raw data into CSAT with this formula:

Number of Satisfied Customers / Number of Survey Responses X 100

Follow the buyer journey 

The term “buyer journey” is often thrown around in marketing circles. And for a good reason. Your buyer journey describes how leads interact with your sales funnel, including which marketing channels they engage with and when. 

Buyers' journeys aren't an industry-standard thing. Every brand (and customer!) has a unique journey influenced by different channels — so you can't borrow someone else's!

For proof of this, let's look at a study of Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing professionals from the United States. The study asked participants which channels generated leads best. 

The top three answers were email (50%), Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and marketing (43%), content marketing (34%). But other tactics proved effective for some brands. 10% said “influencer marketing,” 13% said “telemarketing,” and 9% said “print.” 

Source: Statista

Depending on their industries, some of these brands may have won leads through print that aren't online. Subjective buyer journeys account for that and help you make decisions based on YOUR customers.

In our chat with Peter, he touched on another significant thing to use alongside your buyer journey: heat mapping. 

Heat mapping is a visualization technique that uses color to show trends. For example, a heat map of a website homepage would show red shading over areas many people click and blue over areas few people click. 

Heat mapping shows you visually how people interact with your marketing channels — something that's key in optimizing them.

Incorporate a multi-channel approach to customer marketing 

Of course, the marketing channels that ultimately bring someone into the sales funnel aren't always the channels that keep them there and make them satisfied post-purchase. 

A study of 167 marketing professionals asked them to rank which channels move people through the sales funnel. Here's what they said:

All of these channels can work well on their own, but you shouldn't put all of your leads into one basket. 

A multi-channel approach (that is, an approach that uses multiple marketing and sales channels) allows you to reach a diverse base of consumers in their natural internet habitats. 

Blog-savvy professionals? Check. Instagram lovers? Check. Brand app users? Also, check. 

Starting a multi-channel approach may seem like juggling fire, but it's easy with smart planning and data backing you up. 

Effective multi-channel strategies present similar content across different platforms — so you can produce good content and simply adapt it for each medium with tech tools.

The content you publish should also be data-based. Use successful Call-to-Actions (CTAs) from previous campaigns, keywords that you researched thoroughly, and data on ideal publishing times to produce material that performs well. 

Peter also encourages brand owners to conduct A/B testing and use surveys and quizzes when measuring the impact of each channel. Watch what works and what doesn't, and plan your content accordingly. 

Automate at the high-impact points 

Data doesn't just show you which marketing channels are most effective. It can also help you prioritize high-touch, medium-touch, and low-touch parts of your sales journey. 

Though it may seem helpful to ask salespeople to interact with leads engaging with material at the top of your sales funnel, you may waste resources as many of these leads won't convert. 

Instead, Peter recommends automating these low-touch parts. You could use materials that don't require human interaction, chatbots, or content marketing, for example. 

Then, when you reach the point that leads are likely to convert, have a customer success manager call them, give them presentations, answer questions, and wow them with a personalized approach. 

It's a “very expensive way of doing customer service, but of course, it's the best way. And if you can afford it, go for it.” 

Peter also touches on the importance of choosing your automation carefully (and based on data). If you automate broken or inefficient processes or low-converting marketing channels, you won't get anywhere (at least, not anywhere good). 

Note: we don't have time today to dive into the depths of marketing automation, but if you're curious, please read “Marketing Automation Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide.”

The role of the customer lifecycle in customer success 

Like we mentioned in “what is customer success marketing,” customer success doesn't stop after the customer presses “buy now.” Instead, successful customers stay that way throughout their lifecycle. 

The customer lifecycle (sometimes called the “customer wheel”) covers five stages:

  • Reach = when a customer finds your brand through outbound or inbound marketing techniques
  • Acquisition = when the customer makes contact with your marketing channels and salespeople
  • Conversion = when the customer makes their initial purchase
  • Retention = when the customer changes their opinion of your brand based on their post-purchase experience (this change could be positive, neutral, or negative). This is the stage where you target them with exclusive perks, referral discounts, and high-quality customer support.
  • Loyalty = when the customer makes additional purchases and becomes loyal

So, how do you use the customer lifecycle for customer success? Here are our top four tips:

1. Know and justify your different segments 

We don't need to tell you that customers aren't a monolith. Customers have unique motivations, goals, and backgrounds that influence their interactions with you. However, you can group customers by segment to understand them.

Like goals, segments are brand specific and you'll need to justify them carefully with data. Here are some data points to consider:

  • Age 
  • Motivation
  • Income
  • Location
  • Job 

In our chat, Peter also emphasized that you need to think of segments for EACH lifecycle stage. Customers who desire a deal will act differently in the “reach” and “retention” stages. Therefore, your approach should be different for each stage, too. 

2. Create a customer journey map for each one 

Once you've defined your segments, you need to map the average customer journey for each segment. 

Consider the marketing channels and touchpoints that appeal to each segment and why. Some segments will find sales calls engaging, while others will prioritize social media (currently, 57% of consumers follow brands on social media). Understanding why is crucial. 

It might be helpful to sit down with members of each segment and ask them to describe their sales journey step-by-step. During this chat, you might want to use an alternative version of the customer lifecycle that reframes it through the customer's eyes. 

This lifecycle uses the stages: onboarding, success planning, adoption, and maintaining product/service health (this last stage combines “retention” and “loyalty.”) 

3. Execute a personalized customer success strategy 

With your segment data in hand, you're ready to adapt your strategy to your customer segments. Here's a list of ways we suggest adapting your materials:

  • Build blog posts with a specific audience in mind 
  • Create specific landing pages for email and social media campaigns 
  • Create email marketing campaigns for each segment. Consider using reputable email marketing agencies to help you achieve your KPIs.
  • Run competitions and deals for each segment (with a segment-personalized prize)
  • Change the visuals, tone, and promotional strategies for the segment 
  • Design segment-specific CTAs 

We also recommend you read “Digital Marketing Trends and Strategies for Startups in 2022” for the latest creative marketing ideas.

Now, you don't need to focus on successful customers exclusively (and, in fact, you shouldn't). Your brand is not suitable for some leads, but they can still help you succeed if you create a personalized experience for them.

Plan how you will offboard unsuited leads, so they leave with a positive impression. Happy leads may refer customers, make positive posts about you, or later return as customers. 

4. Incorporate customer feedback into the culture

Finally, get serious about customer feedback and incorporate it into any brand, sales, or marketing changes. 

Ask for feedback from every customer and read their responses regularly. Don't keep them to yourself, either. Make customer feedback public inside your brand. Salespeople, marketers, and operations-centric employees should all know how customers feel. 

There are many ways to do this — set up a Slack channel, create an office feedback board, build a collage, or share feedback on a note in your enterprise system. Be creative!

And, of course, make a habit of using feedback to look at your brand through customers' eyes. 

During our chat with Peter, we shared one of our favorite stories about customer feedback: the story of Howard Schultz visiting Starbucks stores himself to see why customers weren't happy. 

Interestingly, it wasn't the first time he took it upon himself to conduct customer experience research. 

In 1983, Schultz first visited an espresso bar in Milan and realized that there was serious opportunity in the idea. However, his superiors didn't want to change Starbucks' direction without more research. 

To truly understand how espresso bars operated, Schultz visited 500 in Milan during 1985. As a result, he learned what made customers love them — the aroma of the coffee, the atmosphere, the style, etc. 

Schultz brought that insight back to the United States and turned it into the Starbucks you know today. 

Schultz never forgot the value of customer feedback. In the book The Excellence Dividend by Tom Peters, Schultz recounts visiting 25 Starbucks shops weekly as CEO. 

Build your customer success plan today! 

Customer success's value lies in its ability to transform your sales funnel and bring happy customers back time and time again. Don't underestimate its importance.

The best way to build customer success into your business is with a data-based plan. How will you adapt your marketing materials to each customer segment? How will you use technology to optimize onboarding? How will you use data to your advantage?

Consider these questions carefully and act. 

We'd like to give a huge shout-out to Peter for chatting with us and to the Conversific team for building a robust BI tool perfect for Shopify store owners, marketers, brands, and agencies. If you're interested in getting free insights for your business, click here

Or, if you'd like to learn more about growing your marketing with relationship-based link-building, reach out to us at Mediaberry.

Michael Rarick is the CEO and Director of Sales at MediaBerry. His mission is to help SaaS companies grow their market share through white hat, relationship-based SEO. Connect with Michael below!

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