"We're cancelling our contract."
Before Six Bricks, I ran the consulting team at a consulting firm, LeadMD, which specializes in Salesforce.com and Marketo, CRM and marketing automation technologies, respectively. Companies churn off of Salesforce.com, but not like they do from Marketo. Marketing automation, in general, has a real user adoption problem. Marketing TECHNOLOGY, even more generally, struggles with churn.
A couple of reasons, but, in this post, we focus on the role executive sponsors play in churn and how executive training can get you back on track. Know that the day your executive sponsor signs that annual contract, you’re about t-minus 10 months away from hearing them say, “We aren’t seeing the return we expected.” Well, that is if they’re still there.
So, what gives? Why is that CMO or VP amped on your product, they're totally bought in, and then all-of-a-sudden, when you haven’t talked to them for almost a year, they’ve forgotten how awesome that dream you sold them is? How dare they!
It's probably customer success's fault.
Well, yes and, of course, no.
- It is kind of customer success’s fault. Most customer success teams focus on a day-to-day, end user contact, getting them up-to-speed on the product features. In the meantime, they aren’t aggressively maintaining a relationship with fickle executives. Note: It seems like no one invests enough in customer success, but that’s a rant for another day.
- Lower-level marketers suck at “selling” internally. Marketing software leaves it up to the feet-on-the-street marketers to communicate to their boss, who turns around to communicate to their boss, only to potentially have that boss go a rung higher to the decision-maker and check-signer. Even if you do have ONE person in that mix who can communicate well, you’ve got at least two who don't. And, once the communication is slightly broken, you’re likely to be in a position where the marketing executive feels like they aren’t getting what they want and it’s someone’s fault. The people don’t want to be fired, and therefore don’t admit what they need, like training or increased head count. It’s way easier to blame the software. So, they do, and then YOU get fired.
- Most marketing executives don’t understand current marketing strategies and concepts. The majority of executive marketers are executives because they’ve been around a long time. That means they've cut their teeth on traditional marketing tactics. Although some things never go out of style, like the right message to the right audience, and some things come back into style, like direct mail--most things are just plain new, like basically everything on this huge, effing infographic.
Executives love to say things are “too in the weeds” for them. And although things probably look mighty fine from up there in that tower, it means that their knowledge around the core concepts that now drive, especially digital marketing, has atrophied.
- Marketing executives are busy. Just ask them, they’ll tell you. They have multiple direct reports, across many marketing functions. They have a ton of vendors (product and service) to manage. They have internal, cross-functional teams to navigate. I’m giving the role a hard time, but it’s a hard job and they’re pulled in many directions. Likely the last thing they're planning to do is engage with you on their own. These aren't people eager to go hang around your community or “university” waiting to become part of the family. How can your one little piece of their large pie be worthy of taking up some of their valuable time?
The Resolution - Executive Training
Ok, you have a few cards stacked against you to keep an executive sponsor engaged, but not all is lost. It IS possible to keep this group engaged, but you have to cater to what they need.
So, what are those things?
- Truly helpful, opinionated education. I’ve consulted a lot of executives (not just in marketing) and I’m a bit of what old men like to refer to as a straight shooter. Pew! Pew! They loved me, because I have opinions about what they should and also what they definitely should NOT do. SaaS companies don’t start with education for executive sponsors, most never focus on educating high-level executives. For example, Marketo could benefit tremendously by creating a “How to create a data driven team” course. And then, creating an exclusive executive round table at their roadshows or annual summit to discuss lessons learned from that course and featuring graduate experiences regarding the transformations their teams have seen. Shameless plug: Six Bricks already does this. Know an interested executive? Have them sign up here: https://www.sixbricks.com/build-data-driven-team/
- Engage them with their peers. CMOs have questions too. If we want to save our careers and add a tremendous amount of value, we need to work together. Create communities or provide access to communities, through smart partnerships, to CMOs.
- Train your next executive sponsor - Train them instead of waiting for one of their employees to bring you to them. What if Marketo had CMOs currently using Eloqua take their “How to create a data driven team” course from the suggestion above? And what if, after engaging with various CMOs using Marketo, who gush about their reporting, they go directly to Marketo for a quote? The same training that keeps people from churning could be generating customers. IF it’s hosted on an open platform with access to a bunch of marketers, instead of held tightly within the constraints of having a software contract. I.E. SaaS technologies should SHARE their knowledge, for free.
It’s probably not surprising that our solution to your executive disengagement is curriculum and training, because we’re an education company. But the whole reason we started Six Bricks was to expand the massive impact a great training program, at every level, can provide. It’s not even that hard. You can join our revolution below!