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"Increase Sales by 15% With Customer Experience Ft. Todd Hockenberry of Top Line Results" (Inbound Success Ep. 84)

"Increase Sales by 15% With Customer Experience Ft. Todd Hockenberry of Top Line Results" (Inbound Success Ep. 84) Blog Feature

April 1st, 2019 min read

How can you increase your sales by 15% in one year just by communicating more with current customers?

Todd Hockenberry
Todd Hockenberry

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, I'm joined by Todd Hockenberry, who is the CEO of Top Line Results and co-author of the book Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company's Future Using Inbound

Todd is an expert in helping companies increase revenue and sales by improving the customer experience, and in this week's episode, he shares why simply improving communication with your current customers can increase sales by, on average, 15% - all within just one year.

This week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with special guests including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel.
Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code "SUCCESS". 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with Todd include:

  • Top Line Results helps B2B, and particularly industrial and manufacturing, companies adopt inbound principles.
  • Customer experience is a discipline of marketing applied after the sale, and very few marketers or businesses get it right.
  • Great customer experience starts by getting in the heads of your customers and understanding how they view your company, product or service.
  • Harvard Business Review did a study and asked customers how long they wanted customer service people to be empathetic, and the answer was seven seconds. They want to hear "I'm sorry" within the first seven seconds, and after that, they don't want you to apologize anymore. 
  • Customer service can actually increase customer loyalty in the long run by fixing problems.
  • If you've got good systems, CRM, and a good centralized view of the customer, along with people that are focused on that, that are paying attention to the customers after the sale, you can drive a lot more revenue just by being there and by being helpful and extending that thinking of inbound all the way through the lifecycle.
  • One company that does customer experience very well is Fatt Merchant. They do it by building a customer-first culture in which someone from marketing participates in every single meeting that the company has and serves as the voice of the customer.
  • One reason that many companies fail to deliver exceptional customer experience is that their marketing departments are measured solely by the number of leads they generate and not by any metrics relating to the post-sale experience.
  • Todd says that over the ten years he's worked with clients on customer experience he sees, on average, a 15% increase in sales just by focusing on improving the experience of current customers.
  • One of the keys to delivering great customer experience is having someone who owns it.
  • You also need a good tech stack, including a CRM and marketing automation platform, that can provide your team with a "centralized view of the customer."

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn what you need to do to ensure your company is delivering a top-notch customer experience.



Transcript

Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I'm your host Kathleen Booth, and today my guest is Todd Hockenberry who is the owner of Top Line Results and the coauthor of Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company's Future Using Inbound. That's available in just about every book store I've been to as well as on Amazon.

Welcome, Todd.

Todd Hockenberry (Guest): Thanks for having me, Kathleen. It is definitely my privilege to be on the Inbound Success show, and anything I do with IMPACT is always a lot of fun.

Todd Hockenberry and Kathleen Booth
Todd and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Oh, well we love working with you too. It's a love fest today on the podcast.

Todd: Oh yeah.

Kathleen: You know, I've obviously had an opportunity to get to know you, but I would love for you to talk a little bit more about yourself, your background, your company, and your book so that my listeners can learn a little bit more about who you are and what you do.

About Todd Hockenberry and Top Line Results

Todd: Sure. Top Line Results was founded almost 10 years ago. A couple weeks it'll be 10 years.

My wife and I founded Top Line Results because I got fired, I lost my job, and I decided I was sick of working for other people and I was going to go do it myself.

So what we focused on for really the last 10 years is helping B2B and particularly industrial and manufacturing companies adopt what we're talking about as inbound principles.

And I had come across inbound principles probably about early 2000s, actually I was working at a turnaround. A company was dead and buried and we were trying to turn it around, but I didn't have a big budget, so I was doing early SEO content creation in vertical niche industrial markets when nobody else was doing it, and we saw tons of success.

So I kind of started doing inbound before it was called inbound, so when I saw it and I ran across HubSpot, it just was natural to jump in.

So when we started our business, that's what we started to do. We started to teach industrial and manufacturing and B2B companies how to use content, how to optimize it, how to create campaigns around content, how to connect with modern buyers using digital platforms. And that's really what we've built our business on.

So we've been very focused on our target persona, which is kind of the, I would say the 15 to $100 million industrial manufacturing companies. We've gone a little bigger than that lately, but we really are consultants now and advisors and coaches on these issues.

We're small. It's my wife and I and my daughter, and so we're not a delivery agency as much anymore. We just don't have the bandwidth to do it, so we really focus on teaching, and coaching, advising, and consulting with people on how to do these things.

Kathleen: Oh, I feel like you and I could do an entire separate podcast on family businesses-

Todd: Oh yeah.

Kathleen: Because I had an agency for 11 years before I joined IMPACT and I started it with my husband, so we worked together for 11 years, and we actually got married when we started the company, so we had never been married and not worked together, and I, to this day, always say to people that my proudest accomplishment in life is that I didn't get divorced in the 11 years that I worked with my husband.

Todd: Congratulations. I would say the question I get asked a lot is, people look at me and say, "How can you work with your wife?" And I say, "Really, it's the other way around. How could she work with me?"

But the answer is that we are different in terms of the skillset we bring. We have different personalities, and when we're in her world, which is more technical and detailed, she's the boss, and when we're in my world, which is more kind of the strategy and sales and marketing side, then I'm the boss, so it works. We don't play in each other's sandbox, so that's what keeps us going.

Kathleen: You know what? That's exactly what worked for my husband and I. That and also our offices were never right next to each other.

When we had our office space, we had about 13 people in the agency, so we were in an office suite. His was on the opposite end of the suite from mine, so we tried to be as physically far apart as possible and also not have any overlapping responsibilities.

Todd: Got you.

Kathleen: So there's something to that.

Todd: My wife and I share an office, but I'm out of it a lot, so I think I give her some quiet time she needs.

Kathleen: That is a good thing. Interesting.

Well as I said, that could be an entirely other episode, but for this episode, I was actually really excited to talk with you because, like you, I've been in this digital marketing, inbound marketing space for a long time, and one of the things I've noticed is that it's definitely an echo chamber, and a lot of us spend the bulk of our time if not all of our time focusing on how are we going to turn strangers into customers?

And many of us started as HubSpot partners, and there's that whole "attract, convert, close" cycle, and we're so focused on that that we forget that a big piece of marketing is customer marketing, and that you really have to look at the whole lifecycle of the customer experience and the whole business because most businesses do have repeat business. They have customers that come back. Or they're SaaS, where you want them to just stay with you and prevent churn.

And I think as marketers, we do ourselves a really big disservice by ignoring the post-sale period, so I am so excited because I get to pick your brain on this topic of what happens after you make the sale, because this is very much what you covered partially in your book and you've talked about a lot. So I don't even know where to start.

Customer Experience & Inbound Marketing

Todd: Well first of all, I think you're absolutely right. I think you nailed it.

Inbound clearly started out as a way to attract, right? That was the beginning. And while that's still important, it's gotten a lot harder. There's a lot more content out there. It's more difficult to just throw a whole bunch of content out there and see the kind of success you're looking for.

There were two ways I discovered inbound success, and I love the name of your show because I think there are two ways to think about that. It's about using inbound marketing or inbound tools to be successful, but inbound success to me is about what happens after the sale.

And you'll see a lot more books and a lot more talk about customer success being a job, and you see these functions, it really came out of the SaaS world, and I learned this from HubSpot.

When I was working with Dan Tyre to write the book, we interviewed a bunch of HubSpot people, and one of the sharpest people I met was Mike Redbord who ran customer success for HubSpot. And they talked me through the process where they would understand essentially everything that was going on with that client well before renewal time came up.

So this was a complex ... because it's software, they had a lot of data and they could automate a lot of this. But the reality is what I discovered was that it was a discipline of marketing applied after the sale, which most people didn't think of.

I go to client where they're, say, an industrial company, and I'll ask them, "Well, how do you communicate with your customers?" And I'm not kidding, I've actually had customers tell me this. They'll say, "We don't know where all of our equipment is. We don't even know who they are." So how could you possibly market to them if you don't know who they are?

So the gap, I think in a lot of companies, between what they could be doing and what they should be doing is huge, and I think it's a huge opportunity to grow your business.

And if you go back to the old cliches, it costs seven times more to get a new customer than it does to keep one. This is what we're talking about. Use everything you know about marketing inbound and apply it to your customers after the sale.

So you asked me where to start, you said you didn't know where to start. I think I know where to start. This is where I would have started and what I teach my clients to do to start.

Start with your mindset. You've got to get your mind right around this and realize that the way you're viewed is not the way ... The way you think you're viewed or the way you want to be viewed, your positioning, right? That's in the mind of your customer. It's not in the mind of your marketing team or in the mind of your sales team. It's in the mind of your customer.

So you've got to get out of your house, get out of your company, and go there, talk to your customers and understand how you're perceived.

I'm an old sales manager. I used to run sales teams, and I used to just lose my mind when I would hear from a customer and they would say, "Oh, we just bought one of those. We didn't know you did that."

Kathleen: Yeah.

Todd: Oh, I hated that because that's just being lazy. And I would say to most companies that I run across that other than the SaaS companies who seem to really get this because they want to produce churn, and that's a natural, right? You've got to get that recurring revenue. Or anybody that's in that recurring revenue model, they kind of get this.

But if you're selling, say, capital equipment like a lot of my clients do, their next sale may be three years down the road, right? And that's important, but it's an easy sale to get if you just do your marketing between the sale and the next one.

And it starts with that mindset where you've got to put yourself outside of your own world and put yourself in their world and understand what's going on from their perspective.

And ultimately, this is all about adding value all the way through the life of the company or the life of the relationship. Everybody has customer service departments, right? But I still see a lot of people, and I think a lot of customer service companies and leaders think of their customer service as, "Well, if something's broken, then help them fix it."

And it's the opposite. That's a reactive mode. It's really about today, it's like, "Keep me happy as your customer. Keep me satisfied. Keep me on track. Make sure I achieve my goals. Make sure the promises you made to me in your marketing and sales process I actually achieve those goals. Hit that ROI."

And I've been reading about this and studying it a lot, and it's interesting because we hear a lot about empathy and we hear a lot about customer service and after the sale being about empathy, but Harvard Business Review did a study and they asked customers how long they wanted customer service people to be empathetic, and the answer was seven seconds.

So after seven seconds, they don't want to hear, "I'm sorry." They don't want you to apologize anymore. They want you to do what?

Kathleen: Fix it.

Todd: They want you to fix the problem. Solve the problem. Exactly. That's all they care about.

And if you look at other studies, you can see that customer service can actually increase loyalty in the long run by fixing problems, not shuffling them around to seven people, not getting an answering machine, getting a real person, being able to get connected via email or chat or after hours, right?

These things, you build a system. And those are all inbound things, right? They're all ways to communicate and connect and share content and be helpful, and if you really absorb this mentally, that this is what you're there for after the sale, then you can build a system that'll take care of those customers in a way that's just fundamentally different than they're going to see most other places.

And we all have to realize that everybody's expectations today are like Facebook or Amazon. Amazon's probably a better example. You want that kind of level of service. Or Zappos or these retail companies.

And if you don't give that to them as a B2B company or an agency, whatever you are, I think you're going to be at a big disadvantage.

And again, the goal is to be in front of them being helpful with the right information at the right time. And again, if you've got good systems, CRM, a good centralized view of the customer, you've got people that are focused on that, that are paying attention to the customers after the sale, again, you can drive a lot more revenue just by being there and by being helpful and extending that thinking of inbound all the way through the lifecycle.

Kathleen: I love that you talked about it being a mindset or a culture, and you mentioned the name of the podcast, which is interesting.

So it's called the Inbound Success Podcast. It's not called the Inbound Marketing Success Podcast, and there's a reason for that, and that is that to me, inbound is not really about marketing. It's a mindset.

We actually have ... at IMPACT, we wrote the Inbound Manifesto last year, which, if you tweet me and ask for a copy, maybe I'll send it to you.

But we describe it as being a mindset and a culture and an attitude, and it doesn't have anything to do with marketing. It has to do with a belief that if you are helpful and authentic and trustworthy and honest, that that will come back to you in spades in the form of business, in the form of other good things.

It's sort of a "pay it forward" mentality, and you can apply that to marketing, you can apply that to customer service, you can apply it to really anything.

But what I think is interesting is that you touched on something that I really believe, which is that yes, we as marketers tend to neglect this stage in the customer lifecycle. I think it's because in many cases, the way we're measured by the organizations in which we work is fundamentally flawed.

A lot of marketers are measured based on how many leads are you delivering to the sales team? So if you're just going to measure your marketing team on the number of leads they're delivering, why would they care about what happens after the sale? There's no incentive there.

Now, I say that. I mean, a really great marketer will advocate to have a role post-sale, but I think the incentive system is off.

So I know I have people who listen to this podcast who are marketers, but I also have people who are business owners, and I think for business owners almost even more so than the marketers, it's important for it to start at the top with the belief that marketing isn't just to deliver leads. Yes, that is an important part of the job, but you've got to measure success on more than that. It has to factor in what happens after the close.

Todd: I couldn't agree with everything you said more. You're absolutely spot on as far as I can tell and in what I believe.

And a couple things. One, how many of your business owners out there have their marketing sales and service people sitting in a room together working on anything together ever? Most of them are separate departments with ... I've got one client that has those three different departments and they all have three different systems to manage the data with the customers. They don't talk to one another.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Todd: They don't have any idea what's going on. And it's a big, successful company. So it's pretty common. So that goes back to that mindset and that belief, these people. That it's all a continuum. It's one connected thing and they're not separate departments because as far as your customers are concerned, they could care less about your departments, your bureaucracy, your processes, your rules. They don't care. They don't care.

They want help. They want problems solved, they want to move forward, they're busy just like you are, and they don't care. They don't want to deal with your nonsense if that's what you're giving them.

But let's go back to the beginning. That's why we wrote the book, what you talked about, your Inbound Manifesto, which is great by the way. I've seen it, and the idea that these are beliefs and principles, that the idea that modern buyers want to be helped first. That doing the right thing is helping them regardless of the short term economic interest in front of you. Treating people like human beings, right?

You're not marketing to a demographic. You're talking to another person. I tell business owners all the time, I say, "Shop yourself. Look at your own marketing. Would you want that to be the way you're treated?"

Kathleen: Right, and oh, by the way, all the things you just said about being helpful, treating people like humans, that will never go out of style. There's never going to be a technological advancement or a trend that makes us say, "Well, we shouldn't be helpful and we certainly shouldn't treat these people like humans."

Todd: It's not new.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Todd: It's not new. My daughter's in college and she's reading Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People. It's the same stuff.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Todd: That was from the '30s. It's not new. It's just the way human beings want to react to each other. But we've been throwing all this technology and all these tools at ourselves and we think that's the answer, and it's not.

Success is us. It's being human and connecting with other people and helping them solve their problems. If your technology amplifies that, helps it, great. But it's not a substitute. It just is not.

Now, if you're talking about transactional sales, I would say that Amazon is a real thing and in terms of, say, basic shopping, if I never step foot in a store again for the rest of my life, I'm happy.

But if I'm buying, say, I was going to say a car, but that's not even good because my wife would buy a car online. But for a lot of sales, for professional service, any kind of complex sale, you're still talking about people and that's not going to go away.

Kathleen: Well and even if you take Amazon, there are elements there that speak to what you're talking about. Helpfulness. This is why Amazon created Prime and eliminated shipping for a lot of things if you became a Prime member because they realized that that was a pain point for people, and there are elements in Amazon's business model that are purely about helping people and having a better experience as the customer.

Todd: Sure. And the personalization and the specific recommendations are awesome.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Todd: But this is why we wrote the book. This is why Dan and I wrote Inbound Organization, it's because we wanted to take these ideas of inbound, and Dan's a senior HubSpot guy, I think he was the sixth employee, he's been around forever, so I've been doing this for 10 plus years, so we've been around this idea for a long time and have a lot of experience with companies that have done it well and not done it well.

And we want to take these ideas and tell people essentially that these ideas aren't marketing anymore, and they're not even sales anymore. It's just your business, and we need to get back to these foundational principles and apply them across your entire business.

We talk about legal departments being inbound and we talk about accounting and finance being inbound, think about every time you work with a potential ... somebody you bought from, and they made it hard to pay you, right?

Kathleen: Ugh. The worst.

Todd: How crazy is that? Making it hard to pay you. Or legal departments that just, if you go through this complex sales process and the legal departments throw up a bunch of red flags. Everybody sees them as like the terms of use. You just click the button. Nobody reads them.

How bad is that? I mean, come on, lawyers. Can't you do better than that? Can't you somehow boil that down into a paragraph of real stuff that you've surfaced the garbage and don't try to feel like you're putting on over on me? That's starting to apply inbound to your entire business.

And don't even get me started on IT departments and how bad they are being inbound. Don't even get me started.

Kathleen: Yeah. You know, one little anecdote. When you were talking earlier about how customers don't care about your processes and all that stuff, they just want things to be fixed, all I could think about was actually IT, and I worked at this job about 15 years ago, and I'll never forget.

We had this IT guy who was just the nicest guy as a person, but every time there was an IT problem and I would go to him and be like, "There's this problem." He would launch into a five minute long diatribe about why Microsoft, their business model made it so that these things happened, and I just remember sitting there, in my head I'm going, "La, la, la, la, la. I don't care. Fix it for me."

And that's exactly I think what's happening most of the time.

What Does Best In Class Customer Experience Look Like?

Kathleen: So assuming that I'm a business and I have this mindset and I believe, but I really want to do this right and tackle the post-sale stage and give my customers a great experience, can you talk a little bit about what that looks like? And let's zoom in from the hundred thousand foot view way, way down to, like, what are some companies actually doing to nail this?

Todd: That's a great question, Kathleen. There's a great story in our book about something called Fatt Merchant, F-A-T-T Merchant, and that's their website, fattmerchant.com.

If you're into payment processing, they're digital, online, amazing company. It's a startup here in Orlando. The lady who runs it, Suneera Madhani is an amazing person and just building a great company that has a culture that's just ... and you would recognize it, right? You walked into their office, it would feel like being in the IMPACT offices. Just totally absorbed in inbound.

Their motto is 'The best damn experience', and it's on their walls, it's in every room. And everybody in the company's goal is to create the best experience for their customers possible.

Their competition, there are some online competitors, but there's a lot of old line financial firms, so they're competing with these big, old time firms. And they're doing this by ... the way they do it culturally is they have a marketing person in every meeting in the company. It doesn't matter what department it is, there's a marketing person in there and they represent the customer. And they advocate and make sure that the best interests of the customer are being accounted for and that everybody in that room is solving for the customer regardless of what it is, whether it's a financial meeting, a product development meeting. Doesn't matter. They're bringing the customer in there and making it a real thing.

Again, that gets the mindset and saying that, "This experience is our promise and that our practice internally and culture is we're going to live by that and nobody's going to be exempt from making sure that every decision we make is going to be in the best interest of the customer."

Kathleen: That's really interesting, but I have to admit that the prospect of having ... I have a marketing team. I have seven people on my team, and the prospect of having to put one of them in every single meeting in the company is terrifying because then I would think, "When will we ever get our work done?"

So I'm curious, operationally, how do you make that happen? You need to have [crosstalk] marketing team.

Todd: You need to have less meetings. Well, again, I'm not sure that's exactly how everybody should do it. Certainly the point is ...

I think a couple other things. I think business owners need to elevate the marketing function to a higher level in most organizations. I mean, again, in my world, we're dealing with traditional companies, marketing is kind of a back water, all those guys to the trade shows, or they outsource the website stuff to people like Impact, right? It's back water. They are not looked at as production, or engineering, or design as kind of running the show. And a lot of business owners come from that background.

What I see, and it's going to take time, I see more and more business owners are going to come out of the marketing disciplines and the sales side and they're going to just know this stuff in their bones because I think the reason that'll happen is that the idea of this customer experience, and the customer journey, and customer success, being a competitive advantage and really one of the few ways companies are going to be able to differentiate moving forward, that will necessitate more leadership in companies coming from that discipline, whereas in a lot of technical fields, product superiority was what won the day.

So engineers, designers, developers ran the companies.

Today, I mean, tell me you can't find an alternative to anything. Tell me you can't find 15 alternatives to anything in five seconds. Ask Siri, ask Echo, whatever. Look on your phone, do a search. You're going to find a million alternatives.

So product isn't the winner anymore as much as it used to be, and in many cases ... and again, if you think about overseas competition, again, product doesn't win anymore, so the experience and the relationships, these marketing and sales-related things become more and more important all the time to basically build differentiation. And companies won't be able to win on product features anymore.

So I think the shift in leadership which will bring the mindset will help, but for you old time, you engineers and you product folks who have been around and done this and you're going to becoming from a technical side, I think it's a mindset, it's eating some humble pie and saying, "I don't necessarily know what's best for our customer all the time."

Sometimes our marketing people who are out in the field talking to those customers, and watching their behavior, and seeing what works and what doesn't work, they have something to say too.

So leaders need to elevate those people that really understand the experience and are seeing your customers to a higher level and to a more prominent place in the organization because again, engineering can engineer something awesome, you can build it wonderfully, but if the customer service people or the after the sale process ruins the experience, they're not coming back.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Todd: They don't care. They'll go find somebody else.

Kathleen: Yeah. So what are some specific things that you've seen companies do, marketers do within companies to improve that customer experience?

Todd: Yeah. It starts with understanding the persona and really digging in and doing basic blocking and tackling, interviewing to understand the persona, map the buyer journey, and then do your thing. Build content that matches that journey. Think of your customer in terms of persona.

Again, you can connect the dots. If they had this problem and they bought this solution, then they have these commonalities with other customers. Create great content for them. When's the last time an inbound marketer sat down and said, "I'm going to create an amazing video for my customers."? Or, "I'm going to create an amazing Ebook or an amazing tool for my customers."?

Kathleen: Now, when you say content for customers, are you thinking content that helps them use the product? Because when I hear that, I think, "Oh, there's plenty of companies that have ongoing tutorials and things that help you get better use of their product." Or are you thinking about content that addresses other pain points?

Todd: Yeah, I think you've got to think like a business owner. Think in business problems. The people that are buying your products or services, you should know their range of business problems that they have, and you should know how to extend the solution you sold into the next ones, the next sale. Think about the next sale.

So create content that helps position you as the person or the company to come back to to solve that problem and extend the trust they gave you. They're basically buying from you, so they're saying, "I trust you." So therefore, you need to extend that.

Again, I think things like training and product usage things are table stakes when it comes to this. You've got to have that. I'm talking about basically saying ...

I'll give you a great example. The example we're talking about right now is a good one. How many inbound marketing agencies out there today offer a customer success program for their customers? Do you go to the leaders and the owners of your customers and say, "I can help you keep, retain, upsell, cross-sell, and extend your relationships with existing customers, and here's how I'm going to do it."?

I haven't seen too many that do it. Most of them are still, "Hey, generate some leads. Get me more people to my website. Get me some top of the funnel stuff. Convert people so I've got more sales qualified leads."

But how many walk in and say, "We can do all this stuff and we can help you grow your business with your existing customer base."? I do. I do. But I don't think a lot of other people do.

Kathleen: So when you work with clients to do that, can you talk a little bit about some of the strategies that you advise them to use or give some examples of ... I would actually be really interested in, do you have any examples of where you've put that kind of a program in place and it's really generated measurable results?

Todd: Yeah, I've got one client that we've worked with for a number of years, and they had a series of dealers where they sold some direct, but they also sold a lot through this dealer network, essentially just think of it as a distribution network. Well, they were frustrated because they had some dealers that were doing well and some dealers that weren't. It's kind of, you get a normal distribution of dealers, right?

So what we did is we created a dealer health check system for them where we went through and we talked to the dealers and we looked at the behavior and the characteristics of the dealers that were successful. We created basically a check, they could create a score for these dealers so they could see which ones were successful and which ones weren't.

Todd: Some of the obvious things were how much are they selling, how often are they buying, basic numbers like that. But we also included things like are they following the blog? Do they open emails? Are they consuming the content that we're creating that should be educating them about the opportunities and products and the customers?

And then we also dug into CRM. How many communications were going back and forth between the sales people and these distributors and dealers?

So we created this, basically we took all this data that we had and all the information and we created this health check system so it would show our client salespeople which ones were doing great, so then they wanted to keep pushing them and extend that, which ones were at risk, and which ones were really failing.

So instead of guessing or wasting time, they were able to come up with a plan to use, again, some automated content as well as personal outreach to help those ones that were kind of in the middle, that's what we focused on. Getting the ones that were kind of in the middle that were doing okay but had some issues, move them up.

And they've seen probably ... the latest I heard was probably about 15 to 20% increase in sales for that channel since they've started this, and it was about a year ago.

So that is kind of combining things like CRM, content, sales teams. Putting it all together in a way that can give you a picture of what's going on, again, after the sale.

So that was just one example. I've got lots of examples where companies have gone in and really, they don't do any marketing to their customers. Their after the sale marketing is basically, "Well, when the phone rings, we'll answer it." And I saw story after story where people just started a basic email campaign, just a really basic email campaign, like, "Here's what we're doing. Here's our new products." And all of a sudden, the phone rings, they get new orders. That's very common.

I would say on average when we do that, we would see 10 to 15% improvement in sales just working with your existing customers. Not adding new ones, just applying these ideas to an existing customer base.

I would say on average over the last 10 years of doing this that it would be 10 to 15% average increase of sales in the first year.

Kathleen: Wow. Just by starting to reach out more.

Todd: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Just paying attention to your customers, being intentional about it, using what you know about them to create content that would be interesting. If they bought this, then they might be interested in this.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Todd: If they bought this to solve this problem, then they also have this problem, so therefore, let's talk about that. I don't think it's all that complicated, I think it's just taking what you already knew about inbound marketing and inbound sales and just moving to the after the sale piece.

Kathleen: It very much reminds me of how a lot of SaaS companies, software companies, have the concept of a product qualified lead. You talked about looking at engagement data and stuff, and I interviewed somebody several episodes ago about this, and in the SaaS world, they have, as you've pointed out with HubSpot, they have this wealth of data on how much people are in the product, how they're using it, and they can surface areas where maybe things aren't going so smoothly.

But the best SaaS companies, especially the ones that are going from premium or free trial to paid versions, look really closely at that during that period to then try to upsell their customers, and I think that other industries and companies don't do nearly as good of a job at that, and I think we can all learn a lot from the concept of a product qualified lead.

So we have people that are "already engaging with our product", and that product could be something that they purchased from us, like a thing, an actual tangible thing, or it could be a service.

Like IMPACT, we're a marketing agency, how are people interacting with our service? What are the telltale signs that they're product qualified? Meaning they might be qualified to purchase something additional or to engage at a different level with us? Most companies fail abjectly at doing that.

Todd: Sure. And if you're in the software business, a product qualified lead, if you have a popup that says, "We have this ad on." Right? And if you click it to get more information, there's some automated things, and if you sell equipment or even if you sell professional services, things like that, you don't have that kind of built in thing, so you have to create that.

You have to create that product qualification, and you may know that if somebody's asking for accessories or follow on parts or upsells, you may have a good sense of it, but you should also know. You should know pathways for people.

I had an example where a client has a piece of equipment, it was a pump. Really basic stuff, it was a pump. But they were selling it to contractors, and very quickly we found that by buying this one product to do this one job, it allowed them to do another job that they could also do.

So instead of just pitching the pump on the special occasions, it was a business development opportunity. So anybody that bought that pump, we started to create content to share with their customers about how they could grow their business. If you have this to do this job, you can also do this job, so here's a way you can help grow your business.

And again, that's adding value with, again, content, what you know. You have to kind of create that product qualified lead and it's out there. And I've seen it in every product I've ever been around in terms of selling. From very high end capital equipment to working with my clients with software. Metal roofs. You name it. It doesn't matter. There's always something new and there's always something down the road you can help somebody with.

If nothing else, create raving fans. Get them talking about you. Get reviews and ratings, get them to give you referrals. If nothing else, you can get that.

Structuring Your Company For Customer Experience

Kathleen: I imagine that this has some implications for organizational structure because if you are bringing a new customer onboard, and if it's not a totally transactional business.

In other words, if you have some kind of an ongoing business relationship with that customer, then I imagine if all of a sudden your marketing department is getting involved in marketing to that customer post-sale, you have to make sure that from the customer's standpoint it feels like the right hand is talking to the left, and they don't have this disjointed experience.

So for example, if they have ... in our company, you'll have an account representative who deals with you on a day-to-day basis for your marketing, but then we have a sales team, and we have a customer satisfaction person, and then we have our marketing team.

So how do you structure the company internally so that from the customer's standpoint it feels like a seamless experience and everybody understands what the touch points are and you're not competing with 10 different emails from different departments in the company?

Todd: I would say obviously there's a range of answers for that depending on where our companies are today.

So let's take a company that's not really doing this right now, and then we'll come back to your example of IMPACT.

If you aren't really focused on ... if you have that traditional customer service department and that's your after sale focus, look at your expense reports. How much are you spending on sales? How much are you spending on marketing? Compare that to how much you're spending on customer service and after the sale work. Look at your hours, or if you can do it, figure out the resources you're applying across the buyer journey. The whole customer lifetime.

Look at where your resources are going. And I bet you a significant portion if not 10 times more of your money is spent on generating new business than it is to keep old business or existing business. And everybody knows the cliché, I've said it once already. Seven times more to get a new customer than it is to keep another one.

So if you're smart, you would flip that around. You would spend more on after sale managing your customers than you sell on front end stuff.

Now, I'm not naïve enough to think that's going to happen any time soon, but the reality is, you should be moving resources towards keeping your customers happy, customer success after the sale. So if you're not doing this well, you need to look at that and start allocating resources that direction.

I think if you've already got a structure like the one you just described there, Kathleen, about IMPACT is not an uncommon one. I think the key I've seen there is that somebody owns the process. Somebody owns that customer and is responsible for making sure all those pieces are connected.

So if you've got an account manager, their job is to work day-to-day with that client and deliver what you've promised, right? So it's hard for them necessarily to step back and think about the next step in the future. That's probably your sales team or it could be your customer satisfaction team.

And again, I don't know how you're coordinated, but somebody has to own that customer for the life of that customer. Somebody has to be looking at the entire thing and saying, "Okay, here's what's next."

And I see chief revenue officers, which may fit that bill. I see more titles around that that are showing up, and I would hope that that's the goal, to get to a place where somebody internally owns that relationship top to bottom or owns all of the relationships top to bottom and then is coordinating elements to deliver the right value at the right time at the right place. They can't be walled off from one another, whatever that looks like.

You've got to have communication back and forth. And a lot of people that have worked with HubSpot, you'll see this, you use HubSpot, right? You'll see emails coming out six months before your renewal is due and you'll get a phone call from an internal person that's asked about how you're doing. They may stutter, they're going to see if you're doing well or not, right?

And if you're a partner, you're going to hear the same thing. "How's it going with these accounts? The renewals are coming up. What do you want to do? Let's work together." Somebody's owning that. I think that's the key thing. If somebody owns that outcome, the outcome being the ongoing relationship, then I think you're going to win.

Kathleen: It certainly seems also that you would need to have the right tech stack in place because you can have somebody own it, but unless all of your different players have really good visibility into what have the communications and the touch points been, then it could get very messy, very quickly.

Todd: It's actually impossible if you don't.

Kathleen: Yeah. So having a good CRM, and then I would think, I'm sure you and I would preach the same thing, having a marketing system, a marketing automation system that is fully integrated with your CRM so that the sales people can see what marketing is doing, the marketing people can see what sales is doing, and your customer success people obviously bridge all of it.

Todd: Exactly.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Todd: We would call that a "centralized view of the customer," where everybody can see it and know what's going on.

And again, it sounds so basic, it sounds easy. The problem is a lot of companies I deal with have been around a while so they've got a lot of legacy systems. Those IT guys have been there since the '90s and they're used to servers and buy in software and they don't like the cloud. They've got all kind of biases, right? And they don't want ... they want these walls and they don't want information to get out and get shared because they're afraid of getting hacked, or losing it, or all these concerns. And they're legitimate, but there's answers.

And if you don't have that centralized view of the customer, I would say, talking to the leaders of companies, I would put that right there at the top of your strategic initiatives. And if you don't have it, it makes it that much harder to deliver a great experience, which is the ultimate differentiation moving forward.

Kathleen: Yeah. If you don't have a good customer list. I love that you said that at the beginning because it's true. It is so true. It sounds crazy, but I'm not going to name names, but I know a lot of companies that people might be very surprised to hear can't produce a list of their customers.

Todd: I had a client a couple years ago that sold equipment that started at $250 thousand and went to well over a million dollars, and when I asked that question, "How good is your customer list?" They said, "We're not sure where all of our equipment is."

Kathleen: Yeah.

Todd: They didn't know where it was. I guess I was stunned. It's common, so again, that centralized view of the customer, it needs to be at the top of the list for leaders and owners. It sounds so basic and so rudimentary, but it's not. It's the beginning.

You talk about the tech stack, that database is your business, and if you don't have it, then you can't build on it, then you can't build that experience. Or if you do, it's all over the map. One person may do it well, and over here it's not done well. Or this department does it well and this department doesn't because there's no connectivity.

What's The Impact On The Bottom Line?

Kathleen: Absolutely. So it's interesting as we're talking and I'm thinking about this whole conversation, the biggest takeaway to me seems to be that if all you do is get a good handle on who your customers are and start initiating regular contact with them, you have a good chance at increasing your sales by 10 to 15% within a year.

Todd: Yeah. I mean, we would tell people follow up on your quotes, make sure you stay in front ... the basics. It's just, don't neglect those things. Those are relatively easy to do and just do those basic blocking and tackling. You're not going to go backwards if you do that.

Number one, you're going to surface issues if you're talking to people and you're communicating with them, you're going to surface potential issues earlier and you're going to be able to deal with those.

You're going to find new opportunities. If your sales team and marketing team are using content well, you're going to open up new opportunities and you're going to do something most companies aren't doing.

So you're going to create differentiation right there in the after sale experience. So again, I think it's one of the easiest ways to grow your business without upsetting the apple cart or making a gigantic investment.

Kathleen: Yeah. Agreed. So interesting. We could talk for hours about this.

Todd: Sure could.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: But we don't have hours. So a couple of questions before we wind things up.

My regular listeners know I always like to ask people, company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Todd: Well, there's a bunch.

I mentioned FattMerchant. FattMerchant.com, it's a shameless plug for them if you need financial, payment processing services, they're awesome.

Another company that was in our book is called Cerasis, C-E-R-A-S-I-S, and that's Cerasis.com. They're in the fleet management and shipping world. They compete with people like FedEx and UPS and they're amazing. They've created this amazing ecosystem and community around their business in a very traditional world where they're connecting people that are trucking companies with people who need to ship things. They are a wonderful example of it.

And there's lots of individuals out there that are doing it well. On my podcast, it's called The Industrial Executive, I just interviewed Justin Champion, who is one of the inbound guys who runs the academy. In terms of a practitioner and teacher of inbound and inbound marketing, he's right up there at the top of the list.

He wrote a book called Inbound Content, and he's just come out with a new blog strategy class and a video marketing class that I think are amazing.

Kathleen: I love him. He's been a guest on one of our podcasts here at IMPACT. He's great.

Todd: Yeah, big fan of Justin. And of course, IMPACT. You guys are at the top of the heap when it comes to agencies in the inbound world. You've been around it for a long time and I still read your blog all the time, and all the vlogs, so I'm still paying attention to what you guys are saying because I'm always learning from you.

Kathleen: Well that is high praise coming from you, so thank you for that. If somebody is listening and they want to learn more about this whole topic or get in touch with you or if they want to buy your book, can you rattle off a few different ways that folks can get in touch with you online?

How To Connect With Todd

Todd: Sure. I'm easy to find. Todd Hockenberry. @ToddHockenberry is Twitter, LinkedIn. Happy to connect with people on LinkedIn, just search for my name.

The book, InboundOrganization.com is our website for the book. Tons of info there, you can connect with all of our social accounts there.

We've got a really cool thing on that website. It's InboundOrganization.com, no spaces. It's an assessment. You can take a 33-question assessment to see where you are in terms of your adoption of the inbound ideas across your entire organization. So it's free, you just fill it out and we'll send you the results, and it's been very interesting seeing the hundreds of people that have done it to kind of see where people are doing well and where they aren't. The answers are pretty insightful and a lot of the people that we know do it really get a lot of good feedback, so check that out.

You can find me just Top Line Results or Todd Hockenberry, I'm all over the internet, and I would love to connect with you and answer questions and help you in any way I can.

Kathleen: Love it. And I will put all those links in the show notes. And I'm assuming if they want your book, they can just go onto Amazon and get it there.

Todd: Yeah. Amazon's great and a lot of Barnes & Nobles carry it, and a variety of other places you buy books. Inbound Organization. Check it out.

You Know What To Do Next...

Kathleen: Great. Well thank you so much, Todd. This has been fun, and I'm now inspired to take a closer look at how we're communicating with our customers at IMPACT.

If you're listening and you enjoyed what you heard today or you learned something, take a minute, go to Apple Podcasts, and leave a review. It makes a big difference for a podcast like this one. It helps us get in front of more people, and I would be so personally grateful if you could do that today.

And if you know somebody who is doing really great inbound marketing work, tweet me @WorkMommyWork because I would love for them to be my next guest.

Thanks again, Todd. It was great chatting with you.

Todd: Thanks for having me. It was my pleasure to be on Inbound Success, Kathleen, and I wish you lots of inbound success.

Kathleen: Thanks.

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