How to continue marketing successfully after the sale
It’s harder than you think to find definitive proof that retaining a customer is cheaper than acquiring one. The ratio many pundits lean upon is 6:1 in favor of retention, but we dare you to find that research. This statistic sounds correct to the experienced marketer ear, especially as they are watching sales teams grow and sales cycles extend (Gartner reports that it takes 14 months on average to complete the sale of enterprise software.)
One CMO who believes he’s figured out the math is Kevin Spurway of Appian, a platform for building enterprise software. Embracing what he calls “post-sale marketing,” Spurway has a team within the marketing department dedicated to driving “net-revenue retention,” a term favored by investors. In illustrated in our conversation, Spurway & Co. spends a lot of time getting to know its customers and, ultimately, celebrating the best ones with a unique gift, a customized sculpture made of Legos. Evidently, brick by brick, customer by customer, retention does pays off.
What’s one of the more unusual things you’ve done as CMO at Appian?
At Appian, we tend to deeply cultivate our customer relationships. Our customers are incredibly important to our overall organizational success, of course. But we've placed extra focus and attention on those customers on the marketing side of things. I think one of the most interesting things that I've done was to create a structure within the marketing department for a person who is entirely focused on post-sale marketing. So, marketing directly to our customer base and coordinating with other aspects of the Appian organization to create a customer experience that marketing impacts.
Can you talk more about post-sale marketing and what success looks like?
Well, we’ve got a fairly senior person in charge of and dedicated solely to post-sale marketing, and she’s built a great team of six people. As far as identifying what success looks like in our program, it's a little bit tricky for us to capture customer satisfaction metrics, though we do survey our customers at various points along the way. We actually just completed a buyer voice survey which gave us some interesting insight into how our customers think about us, and how they perceive our value in the organization. But the primary goal is to drive both renewals and new projects within customers and the way that we measure that as an organization is through net revenue retention, which is the Wall Street financial number—and we tend to have excellent net revenue retention.
How’d you go about conducting the customer voice survey?
We actually contracted with a third party to help us with an independent analysis of what our customers are thinking, and the intention here was to understand how they perceived Appian, what their thoughts were in terms of how we fit within their organization and their perception of our value and how we were differentiated. We wanted to understand how our message resonated with them, the positives and negatives of that. Having a third party do it also gave it a level of independence that enabled us to look at things differently, with a more studied perspective. It was also both quantitative and qualitative, which was crucial.
Any big revelations from the survey?
Sure. One of the things that that came across really strongly for us in the survey was that getting customers to like us really came down to our people. It's about the people that they engaged with through the initial process of purchasing the Appian solution; it's about the people that they worked with on the ground to actually implement a project, and on an ongoing basis, the people that they continue to engage with in Appian, and whether it's support, whether it's the people on the marketing side, with our global events et cetera, et cetera. It was all about the fact that the people experience of Appian is very good. I think that’s interesting for me, as that’s something that tends to get lost, too often marketing will focus very much on product and technology.
How did that affect your post-sale marketing approach?
Well, our efforts have to really build on this idea of creating connections with people. Our marketing organization is responsible for is celebrating the success of the customer, which is a great area to do that. So once that implementation is done, we do an event called a “Lego Go Live” where we actually, at a nice dinner event, award the customer with a customized Lego sculpture created by a master Lego builder that reflects some of the unique attributes or values or identity of that particular customer. And we turn this into an event. It's a good opportunity for the project team that's worked on that implementation to engage and bond with the customer. Sales gets involved in it. It’s a special aspect of how we develop that tight connection with our customer and celebrate their success.