I guess we can blame it on the distractions of the 2016 presidential campaign, but somehow the end of Q1 approaches and with it the realization that some of our best intentions may have not yet been started. Two ideas that should have made the list were proffered by SiriusDecisions Vice President and Group Director of Data-Driven Marketing, Megan Heuer. In September 2015, right in the middle budgeting season, she posted an open letter to B2B CMOs (a worthwhile read) in which she strongly recommended the creation of a customer marketing function and investments to make customer advocacy a strategic advantage. I couldn’t agree more!

She references the SiriusDecisions 2015 B-to-B Buyer Study of more than 1,000 buyers to make the point that customer experience is the single biggest driver of purchase decisions and that indirect experience; that gleaned from the opinions of others often plays a key role. To increase marketing’s contribution to pipeline and sales, she recommends, requires funding the often non-existent or significantly under-funded areas of post sales customer participation and advocacy. Heuer’s explanation is right on,

A customer marketing function takes uncoordinated, ad hoc and under-resourced customer marketing efforts and makes sense of them in the context of the customer lifecycle. This brings better experience quality, but also greater efficiency and ability to share the feedback that comes through these channels.”

And, to those of us who have been advocating this for some time, her point on the importance of the voice of the customer is a welcome addition,

“We have a big miss if we know that advocacy and customer-evidence based content is what buyers want and trust the most but we don’t feature it prominently in our campaigns. CMOs need to ensure that the voice of the customer plays a much bigger role in supporting the buyer’s journey or risk capping marketing’s impact.”

And she adds the evidence with the survey results,

“83 percent of b-to-b companies said references are “critical” or “valuable” to the sales cycle. These same companies reported investing on average less than 10 percent of marketing program dollars on these areas.”

So why the apparent disconnect? Lack of ease of attribution is one likely reason. While customer referrals sometimes drive leads, customer references and other customer created content don’t do that as readily. That said, when sales teams have easy access to well packaged “customer-evidence based content” in video, one-sheeters, white papers, customer presentations and other formats, it’s greater credibility (over vendor stated content) can help overcome objections and drive sales. We need to try to control some of this content ourselves – at least through careful selection and editing, rather than depend on customer reviews in social media and review sites alone, where the comments are often negative.

So, what’s on your list for Q2? Heuer’s points deserve some serious consideration.