Getting Buy-in… to Buy.
Note: This article was originally published by Base Customer Marketing Development Manager Mikhael Gustin on his Linkedin profile. Follow him there (or here) for more super-insightful pieces from him.
To buy, you must sell. Whether it’s selling yourself or others, it’s a necessary ingredient to initiate change.
Let’s talk about customer marketers getting buy-in to thus, buy. This can apply to headcount, consulting, a platform, or really anything the budget can be applied to. To be direct, we’re going to talk about getting buy-in and building the business budget base for a platform to help support & scale your Customer Marketing & Advocacy (CMA) program.
You may not want to hear this, but there is no magic formula or plug & play way to get the budget you need. However, there are certain commonalities to organizing your approach, that many of the most successful CMA leaders constantly apply to secure the resources they need to make the business successful (keyword business), which equates to their success. Let’s break it down:
Tips from a Pro (Luis González):
- Procuring is a lifecycle, to be looked at as an infinity loop, not a single formula or event.
- Have an impact mindset… You have to want to get sh*t done.
- You might know the importance, but others likely do not. Use data & relationships to move the needle.
Economic downturns mean your purchases or budgetary asks will be more highly scrutinized by the powers that be. Make sure your case is strong, and leave your audience wanting more.
“Become the salesperson for your program clearly outlining how you can make customer-related processes more efficient, reaching end outcomes & higher outputs faster with what you’re proposing.”
One Foot in Front of the Other
If you win the lottery within your Customer Marketing role, you may be lucky enough to immediately procure a customer marketing tracking & automation platform to support the program.
In the case of the majority, you will have to fight. And fight hard you will.
Regardless, you’ll want to start with 3 things (inspired by Alison Bukowski, CCAP I):
(1) Take a Step Back: Understand the needs of the business and how CMA can support that (both from leadership & cross-functional perspective).
- What OKRs or specific leadership goals can you attach outputs to?
- Where do people want the customer voice and why?
- Where can you enable and coach to share why integrating the customer across the board is critical?
(2) Prove Program Value: You want to show your stakeholders that you’re delivering the value that they (and yourself) care about. When you don’t have a platform, much of this work will likely have been done manually and potentially limit your output, meaning less value for them in the end.
(3) Explore Automation Potential: Now that you’ve proven the undeniable value your program delivers, you need to understand how much more output (and the corresponding value of that output) can be achieved if the tactical or manual work is automated to make room for the more strategic and impactful activities.
KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) Execution Framework
When presenting your case, you want to keep it as simple and straight to the point as possible. There is a current state, a desired future state, and what’s required to progress between the two.
Steps to take + Things to consider:
- Start with the background – Why this will both benefit & set your company apart? Where do the challenges lie? What are you being asked to fulfill? What do you want to build with the support of a platform and what are your goals? Current State.
- All about those benefits and outcomes – It should be clear what you seek to gain, but where the buy-in happens is where you make others look good. Find the strategic goals, stay curious about what other teams care about, and align the benefit/activity from customer marketing for the teams that you will impact. Clearly map it. Customer programs have a TON of tangible and intangible benefits to offer to both your customer and your company.
- Articulate the investment – Your desired platform costs money, how much? Don’t forget about the resources needed to get it off the ground, how much time will they need to invest? What/who needs to be involved to continue its success? All variables should be considered and communicated.
- Reiterate the ROI – Why not be overly clear about the plethora of value your program will produce with the support of your platform of choice? List out what you hope to amplify for both the customer and company, especially things that tie back to revenue, brand, and cost savings/efficiencies. Most importantly, outline a plan of measuring and showcasing those metrics within a 3-6/9-12 month plan. Future State.
- Stick the landing, step by step – Create that business case. Review that business case. Submit that business case. Pitch that business case. Okay, I think I’ve said the word enough. Go have your demos with suitable vendors. Pitch to internal stakeholders. Demo the preferred solution(s) to those stakeholders to garner feedback. Make your recommendation. Then do the dang thing and enjoy the fruits of your labor if approved. Show that impact. Rinse & repeat.
Let’s See it in Action
(Scenario A): Customer Marketing & Advocacy is newer to your company, you have a ton of happy customers, and you know that if managed & scaled correctly, the program can have a ton of impact on the company’s success. *(keeping this one short*)
Customer Marketing identified two key OKRs that they can attach their efforts to in order to gain buy-in from high-influence stakeholders: a) Sales wants to increase deal size & closing efficiency, b) Customer Success wants to fight churn & improve executive engagement for more effective expansion conversations.
Challenges stand in their way: The Customer Marketing team is working bogged down by requests, tracking & engaging with customers totally manually, and have very little to no digital engagement programs in place to facilitate & scale their efforts.
Customer Marketing requires a CM&A automation platform to help identify, engage, and track all happy customers ready for advocacy so they can scale the program and impact company OKRs.
- More references, faster fulfillment.
- Multi-channel customer touchpoints to encourage engagement, opt-in to the program, and nurture relationships to drive retention rates higher.
- Automating the tactical everyday work for the customer marketer so they can achieve the strategic through building stronger relationships with the executive audiences (i.e. CABs).
- Much, much more.
- Platform Costs: ~$45k annually, with potential cost growth based on the success of adoption (an increase of users) and integration of additional programs to scale.
- Implementation Costs: included in subscription costs.
- Implementation Resources Needed: 4-8 hours of Sales/Revenue Ops for CRM integration, 1-2 hours of IT for various IT integration, and 1-3 hours of marketing/branding for design/content creation.
- Ongoing Resources Needed: Support from Executive team ad hoc support for ongoing success & adoption. Support from Sales team to identify/nominate deployed happy customers and leverage integration functionality within CRM. Support from Product team to collaborate with advocates for beta tests, focus groups, and product roadmap sessions.
Will prove in 3-6 months that:
- Deal size is increased when an advocate is involved as a customer reference, and the sales cycle is shortened by x amount of days.
- Retention will be higher across accounts with opted-in/active customer advocates vs. those that are not.
- Increase in engaged executives across accounts by involvement in programs like CABs & Global Peer-to-Peer premium networking.
After putting together the business case, customer marketing worked with vendors on personalized use cases & pricing. Then reviewed the business case, personalized solution, and pricing options with the team for feedback. Thus moving on to the budget & IT approval to kick off procurement on the road to their launch.
(Scenario B): Customer Marketing & Advocacy is heavily ingrained in the culture and success of your company and you’ve been tasked with more than you can handle manually.
Customer Marketing has predicted that there will likely be 400 expected reference/advocacy activities needed to complete in 2023, which will require about 1100 active advocates for the program to be safe. These activities could span anywhere from customer content, campaigns, press quotes, peer reviews, event speakers, etc. However, pure volume shortage and gaps in content & reference types (i.e. product type, location, etc.) have been identified and need to be filled.
Challenges stand in their way: Firstly, can’t measure activity & revenue influence to prove impact. Customer references are feeling overused and burnout. Teams are crossing wires when communicating to or asking customers for things. Sales is accessing references within their own ‘black market’, leading to info silos of customer references and a larger disconnect between sales & marketing. The list goes on.
Customer Marketing requires a CM&A automation platform to scale the program to effectively match the needs of the business.
- Better CX: effectively track advocate preferences and activities to avoid customer burnout and fatigue.
- Eliminate Silos: build stronger partnerships between marketing & sales by decreasing reference tracking Google Sheet silos, chaos, and duplication efforts.
- One-Stop Shop: provide company-wide visibility and access to the right advocate at the right time; ultimately, discouraging a black market of references.
- Scale Efforts: enable all stakeholders to participate in advocate management to boost efficiencies, track opportunity and conduct gap analysis.
(3) Investment (*Refer to Scenario A*)
- Will be able to measure results for the plethora of customer activities and how they impact revenue.
- Source more customer advocates faster and with less resource dedication to improve the volume of the pool and fill identified gaps.
- Encourage higher retention & expansion across customer accounts via advocacy engagement automation within the platform.
- Fewer customer complaints around “ask’s”, while the team is more efficient with their time in the process.
You know what to do.
Building a business case can seem daunting at first, and surely it can be a lot of work. But in the end, it’s an incredible exercise to learn how / prove to others that your program can make an even bigger impact than it does today if amplified. At the end of the day, it’s all about impact. Proving it, then improving it.
If you’re looking for some additional inspiration, I’ve created a templated business case guide you can access here.
Part of Mik’s job is to support practitioners by building a business case to procure a platform like ours. If you’d like some hands of support or even just answers to some top-of-mind questions, you connect with Mik on Linkedin. Always happy to help!