Aligning support and marketing: an idea so obvious no one thinks of it

By Chris Bucholtz

I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed sometimes. I admit that. Every time I step on the cat’s food bowl and scatter kibble everywhere, and every time I smack my shin into the glass-topped coffee table I am reminded of my intellectual limitations. (I do hate that coffee table.)

Here, however, I can hold my own for the most part. I know a lot about CRM and what I don’t know I can find out about quickly. As a result, there aren’t that many ideas that I miss

So when someone points out something that should be obvious, it’s kind of a shock. Not like the shock you get from banging your shin on an accursed glass coffee table – a more painful one.

That’s what I felt hearing Gartner’s Michael Maoz explain how vital it is to align your marketing and support organizations at his talk at the Customer 360 Event in March. As the words tumbled out of Michael’s mouth, I felt like standing up and yelling, “Duh!!!” – not because what he was saying was known by many already, but because it should have been realized by more people earlier.

It’s a drop-dead obvious point. We talk about CRM being a three-legged stool with sales, marketing and support as the three legs. We also talk at great length about the need for sales and marketing to achieve greater alignment. But why are we so fixated on that relationship? I know it’s because sales and marketing attract people who are talkative and charismatic, and because their failure to play nice results in easily-tracked failure to realize potential revenue. But doesn’t a failure to align marketing and support do the same thing?

Granted, that’s somewhat hidden revenue. The loss of potential recurring revenue or return customers is harder to track than total sales numbers. But Michael was right: marketing attracts customers and entices them to buy; support keeps those customers happy and leads them back to marketing and efforts to upsell, sell renewals or otherwise keep customers. It makes perfect sense to have these two groups working from the same playbook.

The most basic reasons are obvious – like, you don’t want to market to customers while they’re in the throes of a service debacle. That’s wasted effort. However, there are other, proactive things service and marketing can do together. For example, service can be on the lookout for customer factors – product requests, calls about expendable products, equipment nearing the end of lifecycles, etc. – and feed them back to marketing. Marketing can use its reach to turn good service into a selling point. Just as with sales and marketing, the metrics may be different but the goals should remain the same: grow revenue by creating satisfied customers.

The benefits seem so obvious when spelled out – and alignment between legs of the CRM stool seems so self-evident – but you rarely hear calls for support and marketing to get on the same page. But it makes sense – all parts of the organization that interact with customers need to share data, to recognize when other parts are better able to collect actionable data, and to act when data from multiple parts of the organization indicate that circumstances are right. (Michael also argues that IT needs a seat at this… seat, to strain a metaphor. He’s right – IT puts all of this together – but that is an argument for another blog post.)

Michael’s session resonated for another reason: support is gaining in importance with CRM users as the value of customer retention becomes better appreciated and as the impact of good support seeps beyond the walls of the call center. It shouldn’t be long until there’s a call for better alignment between support and sales. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. But the metaphor of the three-legged stool still holds – aligning the legs incorrectly will cause the CRM stool to flop over just as surely as leaving one out will.