Why B2B Marketing Needs Customer Experience Experts

Would you take on two C-Suite roles at once? Mika Yamamoto of F5 Networks would—and she did, taking the lead as both CMO and CXO for the application services company. Why did she do it? To drive simplicity across the organization, of course. Under both titles, Yamamoto boils everything F5 does down to one question: does this activity remove friction or add delight for the customer?

With this unique perspective, Yamamoto offers innovative solutions to problems that many B2B businesses may face via a customer experience lens. And you don’t need to necessarily throw away traditional approaches to measurement. Instead, figure out what to prioritize in terms of which metrics actually matter to be a truly effective marketer.

Not sure what to do with your NPS findings? Try a point-in-time Customer Effort Score to measure the effectiveness of your product or service instead. Are the rest of the c-suite members not really interested in marketing-influenced pipeline? Speak their language instead—turn their focus to marketing-sourced pipeline and save influenced metrics for the internal team. For more of her insights, check out the highlights from her recent interview below.

Why should a CMO consider taking on the CXO role too?

Every individual function will have an idea of what simple looks like, so the advantage to having a function that looks at customer experience across the board is that it lets you see the benefits and tradeoffs of investing in one area versus another. Often, when you solve something in your individual function, it ultimately causes a roadblock down the way, so unless we look end-to-end, we may be inadvertently causing more harm than good. Also, all companies, regardless of their profit margins, have finite resources—time, people, and money—so you should do fewer things, better. That’s a notion of simplicity, doing fewer things better lends to simpler ways and focus.

What’s your strategy when it comes to engaging B2B customers?

Our role is to make things simpler for people and in doing so, provide delight. Even if we’re talking about a B2B instance of engaging with a customer, human beings are at the other end of those products who are inspired by the simplicity of an application or its heartfelt message. It has been something that I’ve driven a lot of in former roles, saying, “Let’s boil this down, look end-to-end, and think about how we’re complicating things or adding delight.” The flip side is you’re complicating things and making people sad.

What’s the best way to measure customer satisfaction?

Customer Effort Score is a point-in-time score that’s a very simple way to get more engagement and feedback. If you take a step back as a B2B company, you want more of your customers to tell you how they feel. Surveys are onerous, but if you can make it simple and meaningful—during or after moments that matter—you can gauge a general sentiment. In the case of NPS, a 200-point scoring mechanism that takes a long time to administer to very small sample sizes is great for certain things, but a Customer Effort Score during moments that matter allows you to get a very quick pulse of how your customers feel in the moment, then dive in and actually improve those moments in a very agile fashion.

What internal changes did you make?

We’ve decided to have a finite set of metrics where everyone is beholden to five key objectives or goals. Every single person on the team, contractors included, have sub-goals that ladder up to the broader goals. You typically see B2B organizations, especially ones that have been around for 15-20 years, take a very traditional stance on marketing: you at marketing help with pictures, fonts, and logos, you don’t add value from a business standpoint, so show me the numbers. Building trust is required to make sure that the opportunities we create are opportunities at the business. We have metrics that show how we brought this opportunity in, how it closed, and its value.

Has this helped align sales and marketing teams?

I would rather lay claim to three things than 3.1 million things, and I want to be able to say that if we hadn’t existed, they wouldn’t have been delivered. That is true incremental value. That’s where we’re placing a lot of our emphasis: on the marketing sourced pipe and the shared number for opportunity create. There’s recognition in the company that the influenced component from a marketing standpoint does add value, but we’re not going to put that on a financial metric. We drive that as marketers, but we really focus on the marketing sourced pipe, making sure that if it’s created and handed over to sales that something’s going to be done with it in a timely manner.

How do you test new sales initiatives?

It seems counterintuitive, but we’ve got a coalition of the willing working on a certain initiative right now. We’re testing this theory where, if we use data with 14 sellers to more effectively predict where they should focus their accounts, then they will close deals faster and those deals will be bigger. When you start to see, as a seller, other people around you that are, just like you, retiring quota faster, getting to club faster, and closing bigger deals, that becomes a massive motivator to be interested in what they’re doing. That’s an instance where we could have forced everybody to drive these data-driven approaches or taken 14 people to do it among hundreds and I think, in the end, we’ll end up seeing bigger impact and bigger uptake of these approaches by having started small and going big.

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