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Becoming Aberdeen’s VP of Client Success & CMO-in-Residence has given me valuable perspective into what makes customer success possible. As a content marketing services organization, our clients’ success is dictated by their ability to effectively utilize content in their marketing campaigns. Our team doesn’t go into deep content marketing or marketing automation consultation, but we do have three pillars that form Aberdeen’s approach to client success:

  1. Customer experience
  2. Project delivery
  3. Content marketing effectiveness

1. Customer experience is about the overall relationship between clients and the company. While we view this as everyone’s job, it’s the client success team that “owns” management in terms of reviewing end-to-end processes and capturing client feedback (we currently use an NPS model for feedback).

2. Project delivery is really about setting mutual expectations between Aberdeen and clients, and then meeting (and hopefully exceeding) those expectations through a professional, well-managed delivery process. For us, that means generating a mutually understood project scope and timeline, and traffic managing to achieve the desired outcome.

We don’t project manage bridge construction, but a deft hand is required to ensure we are honoring our promises as a vendor-agnostic, research-driven company, and all that comes with that in terms of research fidelity and independence. These tenants must coexist with the very understandable desires of clients for on-message content.

A big part of this has been putting a “cadence” in place to support our ContentAccess subscription clients (that’s the name of our content-as-a-service offering), from onboarding to quarterly updates, as well as a process to track back-end utilization and identify “value risk” among the subscribers.

3. The third and final pillar is that of content marketing effectiveness. We’re approaching this in two ways. One is via direct consultation during our delivery process. In other words, we work with clients to understand their marketing objectives for a content campaign and provide advice and council throughout the project. This is where the “CMO-in-Residence” perspective comes into play. Just as some VC firms employ entrepreneurs-in-residence to support their portfolio companies with best practices, that’s exactly what I’m available to do with our strategic clients. The second is through best practices training (for lack of a better word). This is delivered through a variety of channels and content, from quarterly webinars about how to get the most value from our content products, to guides and “look books” to help inspire clients to use our research-driven pieces to the greatest effect.

While it’s too early to share results in the form of revenue, renewal, and value metrics, the initial concept has been warmly received both internally and among clients. The metrics we’re tracking are pretty simple, client retention, service renewal rates, and year-over-year change in client value.

As a marketer who’s spent most of his career focused on new customer acquisitions, I’m a customer success newbie. But I can tell you from my initial experience that I’m not going back. The reason can be found in some of my research on content marketing, which is driven by the need to shape the vision and influence self-directed buyers in the “hidden sales cycle.” Well that hidden sales cycle is  created by customers (this is a version of the hourglass funnel or figure-eight customer lifecycle, if you’re familiar with those). I certainly won’t go so far as to say customer acquisition is dead or any such silliness, but I will argue that for many companies, particularly those with a SaaS model or a business highly dependent on repeat purchases, customer acquisition without a customer success strategy may be like bucket filling strategy that ignores a leaky bucket.

Moreover, fix the leaks and the bucket will fill even faster. And while dedicated client success positions are popping up all over the place, I won’t be surprised to see it become a core marketing function within the next five years, with natural alignment to product marketing, sales enablement, and, yes, content marketing. What better way to close a sale than to show your organization has a plan for your customers’ success?

I’m looking forward to being a part of the exciting evolution of customer success, and to closing the gap between this domain and traditional marketing.

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