Four Sales and Marketing Pivots for Customer Lifecycle Stewardship – Accelerating “Converged Growth” B2B Go-to-Market Transformation

Spoiler alert:  The ‘classic’ B2B go-to-market organization and approach is fundamentally broken and out-of-date; moreover, trying to course correct by working on ‘sales and marketing alignment’ is inadequate and unattainable.  This is the topic I covered in my last piece, “Transforming Your Go-to-Market Team: Building a ‘Converged Growth’ B2B Organization.”

In my last piece, I also outlined a new strategy tack.  Amid the inefficiencies of this legacy model, our only recourse is to fundamentally re-think our entire go-to-market organization.  It is not an incremental adjustment.  It is a substantial change – fundamental transformation – into what we refer to at ANNUITAS as a “Converged Growth” B2B go-to-market organization.

This new organizational model represents a complete rethink of traditional B2B sales, marketing and customer service roles.  Instead of traditional, functional alignment (e.g., “field sales” or “online marketing”), these teams are organized around customer lifecycle stewardship.  Their functions are rationalized to the role they play in advancing pre-and post-sale customer journey, with combined teams of functional sales, marketing and customer service elements working together.  The objective for this new organization is to constantly maximize and expand customer lifetime value – by optimizing phases of the customer journey. “Unlike traditional silos, mapped to internal processes, [this model] is built back from a careful mapping of customers’ buying journeys across a range of predictable ‘jobs to be done’ …,” comments a recent HBR article.

What do we mean by Converged Growth? This re-constituted organization is Converged around both customer journey and a shared identity for its blended, customer-stage-aligned go-to-market teams.  Its core mission is to drive Growth — strategic, sustainable growth – not the ‘growth hacking’ mindset of the past.  Hence, Converged Growth – a model that brings a disciplined, system-based approach to B2B go-to-market and that helps eliminate the ‘random acts’ of sales and marketing that tend to proliferate in legacy B2B environments.

So how do we drive this transformation?  What is the organizational re-alignment that is required?  While my previous piece outlined the core Converged Growth model, below we outline the four key pivots that B2B sales and marketing organizations must make to better drive customer lifecycle stewardship.

#1 – Orient Around End-to-End Customer Lifecycle – Pre- and Post-Sale

Too often B2B organizations get caught up in the question of whether they need ‘more customers’ or need to ‘grow existing customers.’ This decision is not an either / or.  Converged Growth strategy encompasses the end-to-end customer journey – setting the stage to determine the proportion of investment and programs requisite at key customer lifecycle stages to maximize overall customer lifetime value.  Much like a stock portfolio, it becomes about the relative, proportional investments made in individual customer stages to maximize the whole lifecycle.

The ANNUITAS Converged Growth OS™ model breaks down this lifecycle into six major waypoints, driving two major arcs:

  • Pre-sale Arc – Engage to Convert: This is the movement from initial customer Engagement – i.e., aligning with customer pain points and engaging in live and automated dialogue and content – through to Conversion – i.e., to a Closed Won Opportunity.  The interphase is the multi-channel Nurturing that it takes to move from Engagement to Conversion – moving at the customer’s pace.

  • Post-sale Arc – Succeed to Grow: This is the movement that begins with initial customer Success – a critical step in the customer journey, after initial sale, and the step where the upstream dialogue gets validated.  Said differently, customers must experience ‘success’ with the purchased products/services, or else future growth is not possible.  This movement leads to eventual Growth of the customer relationship, adding additional products/services over time.  The interphase is the customer account Development – i.e., the live and virtual nurturing, education and advocacy with key account stakeholders – that it takes to move from Success to Growth.

 

A successful Converged Growth organization must do more than simply consider the end-to-end customer lifecycle.  A transformed go-to-market organization must literally define its team structure in terms of movement from Engagement to Conversion and from Success to Growth.  Meaning — as we will cover in the next section — building converged teams of marketers, sellers and customer service professionals that can work together to accomplish (and optimize) key customer lifecycle movements in a repeatable fashion.

#2 – Build Cross-Functional Go-to-Market Teams, Aligned For Customer Lifecycle Stage Stewardship

One of the greatest go-to-market barriers — and one of the greatest opportunities for fundamental transformation — is the persistence of legacy B2B identities of “marketing,” “sales” and “customer service.”  Success as a Converged Growth B2B go-to-market team requires combining capabilities that transcend these identities and that are recombined into blended, orchestrated teams that are positioned to tackle key customer lifecycle phases as a joint objective.

For example, a team working together in the immediate moment after a customer has deployed its new solution to drive customer Success — a team that might be composed of an account manager (sales), onboarding specialist (customer service), post-sale demand programs manager (marketing), customer success content specialist (marketing), customer community field events specialist (customer service) and post-sale growth operations analyst (sales).

This “Success” team is a truly blended unit — working together in an orchestrated fashion to share content with the customer, to check in on initial deployment, to troubleshoot problems and to engage the customer in user group events — all proactively to ensure that the customer achieves Success.  This sets the stage to better understand the customer’s ‘next’ pain point and to begin the path to Growth.

This is what it means to become a blended go-to-market organization.  This is what it means to break down the divisions of sales, marketing and customer service – re-combining different types of expertise for different stages.  Engagement, Nurturing, Conversion, Success, Development and Growth teams.

#3 – Make the Shift From Being ‘Data-Driven’ to Being (CLV) ‘Optimization Oriented’

The proliferation of sales and marketing systems – and the subsequent proliferation of customer activity data — has driven a pervasive B2B marketplace mantra around being data-driven.  Touting their data science chops and numerous KPI and OKR dashboards, many commercial leaders and their “rev ops” teams constantly mine the infinite abyss of meaning within their (very dirty) data.  Yet despite their efforts, they constantly fail to deliver insights or to achieve sustained optimization of their go-to-market operations.

The problem is two-fold:

  1. Wrong data.  The data we collect must be critical to optimizing a go-to-market ‘system.’  Too often, the data collected is just the available sales and marketing activity data – the wrong data – not specific points of closed-loop telemetry we need to optimize conversion and growth.  We are attempting to simply analyze the data that is available, not optimize the system.
  2. Wrong frame.  The data too often represents rear-view-mirror reporting on ‘random acts’ of sales and marketing that occurred once – rather than pointing to repeatable, optimizable programs.  Said differently, these teams are attempting to optimize past tactics – the wrong frame of analysis – rather than focusing on optimizing a live, perpetual demand system.

While it may be en vogue to be data-driven, the reality all too often is little more than ‘tail chasing.’  Go-to-market organizations instead should define a repeatable go-to-market process, collect data that is meaningful to waypoints along that process and optimize against outcomes.  For the customer, that outcome is critical path and solution success; for the go-to-market organization it is customer lifetime value as evidenced through Conversion and Growth.

#4 – Rationalize Demand Technology Stack Architecture Around a ‘Customer Data Value Chain’ Process

The legacy of siloed B2B go-to-market organizational theory is most visible in the seemingly un-ending growth of the sales and marketing technology marketplace.  Scott Brinker’s annual report on the Marketing Technology Landscape logged 9,932 solutions in March of 2022.

Rather than seamlessly working together, the bulk of these solutions largely represent the deepening of ‘functional islands’ amid B2B go-to-market teams – i.e., they have contributed to a Balkanization of sales and marketing organization and programs … leading to more ‘random acts’ and less-connected optimization.

A key element of success for Converged Growth organizations is their ability to construct a singular demand technology stack – a singular, converged sales and marketing technology architecture – that operates as a uniform system, rationalized around end-to-end customer lifecycle.  Too often the approach is one of attempting to merely ‘integrate’ numerous systems; however, simply integrating systems without a sense of the underlying go-to-market process it supports, merely leads to gridlock.

An integration-first approach also leads to ‘dirty data.’  The goal shouldn’t be to merely extract all data to a data warehouse or send it all to CRM – neither of these steps improves the quality or actionability of live data and these approaches often simply add back-end-work trying to clean up data to get a clear view.  Instead, the key is to embrace a Customer Data Value Chain approach.  Similar to the concept of a value chain in the production of goods and services, we should view meaningful customer data as something that we compose.

Upstream, early-stage interactions via relevant systems should establish a base layer of telemetry, and subsequent systems should add to this view – building a common POV on where a customer is in their buying process, how well this customer fits your ideal customer profile (ICP), how much intent and engagement the customer has and what content and channels they are finding valuable.  Data should be layered; telemetry should have common axes; customer insights should be actionable; and the customer record that winds up in CRM or in a data warehouse should be structured and meaningful – and shouldn’t require ‘clean-up.’

Building a unified demand technology stack architecture, rationalizing this architecture around customer lifecycle and underpinning this system with a Customer Data Value Chain has one additional benefit.  It helps rationalize the role of individual applications in the overall demand technology stack.  Converged Growth organizations are able to significantly reduce their spend on sales and marketing technology because they have a clear sense of systems that support their go-to-market critical path – and can rationalize applications that ‘don’t’ play a value-added role in these systems.

Transforming Your Go-to-Market Organization

How can you take the next step in your transformation towards a Converged Growth B2B go-to-market organization?

Here are several, key content pieces that address different elements of growth strategy and go-to-market transformation that will help you think through your approach:

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