Question: What is one thing you can do to improve your sales effectiveness and the impact of marketing for your technology company?
Answer: Improve your customer delight.
But that’s easier said than done, and if you think that customer satisfaction is the same as customer delight, you’re missing the point. Look at it this way: as consumers, we are frequently satisfied with our purchases – but we are rarely delighted. Satisfaction is best defined as “your expectations have been met.” “Delighted” indicates that your expectations were exceeded.
Exceeding expectations is difficult because the bar is always going up – but there are huge benefits that accrue to the company that strives to exceed expectations more often than not.
- Improved brand reputation
- Ease of getting powerful customer references
- Referrals from customers
- Improved staff productivity
- Greater share of customer wallet from additional sales to current customers
We recently completed a consulting engagement with a technology company that asked us to help them improve the effectiveness of their sales and marketing efforts. As I discussed in my previous blog post, sales is a lagging indicator (of marketing and other company functional success), and nowhere have we seen that to be more true than in this engagement.
What became very clear, very quickly was that the impact marketing could have in generating leads, and the effectiveness of the sales team closing deals, would be dramatically improved by having the entire organization focus on customer delight.
Peeling back the layers on each of the bullet points above, we can further define true areas of impact and the benefit for sales, marketing, and the company as a whole.
Customer delight has a direct impact on improving your brand reputation, and your brand reputation improves your market position and affects how often your company or product is automatically short-listed as a company to be solicited for RFP.
Both your customer delight and brand reputation affect your market positioning. An improved brand reputation reduces your marketing costs by reducing the amount of money necessary to execute successful campaigns. The improved brand reputation also reduces the effort you need to expend to get your name in front of prospects and get their attention.
An improved brand reputation will increase your competitive wins – many times, it's the last “unknown” 2% that makes the difference for prospects in regards to choosing you and your product versus a competitor’s. A good brand reputation, one that your prospective customer recognizes and agrees with, can help move the decision in a competitive deal in your favor.
A good brand reputation also increases the quality of the employees that come through your recruitment process. Good employees want to work for companies that they perceive to be winners.
Customer delight will improve your success in acquiring customer references. Customer references are not people who are referring you to another customer (those are referrals). References are people who will to talk to others on your behalf, at your request. Customer references provide sales acceleration and help reduce sales cycle time. When your current customers can easily talk about you to prospective customers, the new customer acquisition process moves faster.
Delighted customers acting as references makes creating marketing content easier because you can get customer quotes and make case studies to provide proof of your results. Delighted customer references also improve the quality of marketing programs because they may be willing to participate in webinars and other marketing events.
Delighted customer references affect your ability to attract new channel partners as well. Having customers actively talk about you means that the partners working with those customers are going to hear about you. It's easier to attract referral partners, reselling partners, and third party development partners when they hear great things about you from a mutual customer.
Customer references also help your company participate in industry reviews. Many industry analysts and organizations require or request customer references as part of the review process. Without references available, participating in the review process can be challenging and may not yield the desired results.
Finally, delighted customer references help with staff recruitment. You may acquire new employees from your reference customers because when the reference customers’ employees are looking for a different role or a new position, they may look to your company as a place that they want work.
Customer delight impacts your ability to get customer referrals, which are even more important than customer references. Customer references are simply customers talking about you – customer referrals are delighted customers sending new customers to you. A happy customer tells a friend about you, or one of their staff goes to another prospect that could be working with you, etc. Customer delight will help increase your new sales revenue.
Customer delight through customer referrals allows you to get deeper industry penetration. Delighting customers in one vertical market space today will make it easier to ask those customers to refer you to others who aren’t technically competitors but who are in adjacent spaces. If you can get those referrals and industry penetration, you can also get established as the standard for the industry – your business can have the reputation of being the product to use.
Finally, customer delight, and the customer referrals it drives, means that you end up involved in fewer competitive sales opportunities. Referrals, by nature, tend to be less competitive because you’re introduced into the sales cycle with a level of trust that you can’t get if you market or solicit directly. Customer referrals will increase the speed of the sales cycle and make it less competitive – all because you made a customer happy.
Customer delight improves the overall productivity of your organization as well. Having happy customers who are willing to talk with you and participate in focus groups and advisory boards makes your product planning process easier. From a product marketing standpoint, you're able to get feedback about what’s working and what's not working, what features would are important, what upgrades need to be made, etc., ultimately allowing you to create a product that's more directly aligned with your ideal customer.
By delighting your customers, you can also delight your employees and improve their job satisfaction. They’ll know they're working for a company that cares about its customers and will feel good about coming to work every day. This benefits you as well as them, as high levels of employee satisfaction drive high levels of employee retention. People stay with companies that make them happy and where they feel appreciated not just by their employer, but also by the customers they work with.
Reduced Cost of Service
Would you like to reduce your costs of service as well? Again, the answer is customer delight. When you have happy customers, you’ll spend less time fighting fires and meeting with customers to prevent them from leaving, complaining, saying negative things about you on social media, etc. Being focused on customer delight at the front end reduces your downstream costs of service because you’re not spending as much time fixing problems after the fact.
Focusing on customer delight allows your staff to focus on your clients as opposed to internal decisions and politics. They have a clear direction and definition of what good work is: delighting customers. When they focus on that, the overall strategy becomes making everyday decisions based on “How do we move the company forward? How do we move our customers forward?”
The final area of focusing on improved customer delight is install-base sales. This may seem obvious, but if you have delighted customers, you can drive more add-on product revenues. Customers will buy more licenses or additional add-on products, increasing the breadth of products they have or the depth of the product within their organization.
Again, you'll have increased staff satisfaction. We talked about it from a productivity standpoint, but delighted customers are more pleasant to talk to, which means that the staff responsible for selling to existing customers – maintenance agreements, additional licenses, etc. – will be happy with their job because they won't be afraid of answering the phone.
In addition, your annual maintenance fees will increase, the maintenance renewal process will become less painful, customers will pay their bills on time, and you’ll spend less time doing accounts receivable.
Finally, customer delight will increase the installed-base sales of third-party products.
Yes, Leading Results is a marketing agency. We help our clients by taking over as their marketing department (in full or in part) and working for them to generate leads. So it may seem a bit off to expend so many words on customer delight (and if you search through past blog posts, you’ll find many more on customer satisfaction). But we are acting in our own self-interest.
If you have delighted customers, your sales and marketing efforts are more effective. I see the impact on our staff when we talk to an unhappy customer on behalf of our clients. I can only imagine the impact on the company itself if most clients are unhappy.
Customer delight doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t happen just because your product is good or great – it’s a cultural, intentional effort. So if you’d like to talk about your lead generation, customer delight, or have us do some work on your behalf so that you can understand your current state, drop us an email or pick up the phone. We’d love to connect.