MarTech360 Interview With Hunter Montgomery, Chief Marketing Officer, ChurnZero

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“By operationalizing Customer Success, businesses can provide more consistent customer experiences. CS, more broadly, ensures that marketers can glean greater value from these experiences in addition to the product itself – so, technology is only part of this.”

Hi, Hunter, can you walk us through your professional journey so far?

I’ve worked in B2B software marketing, with a focus on SaaS, for more than 25 years, and much has changed. I’ve held executive and upper management roles at Higher Logic, Vocus (now Cision), and Verizon. These experiences taught me what it takes to build and lead high-performing marketing teams, whether it’s at a fast-growing startup or a Fortune 500 company. 

Tell us about your role at ChurnZero.

I am currently the chief marketing officer at ChurnZero. I oversee a team of 15  marketers and am responsible for the overall marketing strategy, including demand generation, positioning and messaging, public relations, branding, advertising, events and partnerships. 

How does ChurnZero improve customer outcomes and fight customer churn?

Customer churn is inevitable, and it always has been. But in today’s subscription-based world, its risk is ubiquitous. The subscription model triggered a seismic shift in the vendor-customer relationship. Customers now have more options and more control than ever before. On top of this, they have a near-zero tolerance for generic service, much less under delivering. Because of that, the post-sale experience and retention are no longer second to sales and growth. They’re how businesses get higher valuations and become a market leader.

ChurnZero helps businesses keep customers and keep growing in two ways: through our powerful Customer Success platform and through our consultative approach. Our platform helps subscription businesses succeed at scale. For a business to grow, it needs to increase its efficiency, grow its revenue, and deliver the best possible customer experiences. This is how you set yourself apart from the competition in a meaningful way, and a tenet we live by. Customer Success teams use ChurnZero’s features—like real-time data, automation, and in-app communications, to name a few—to support and drive value for their customers.

The industry is still growing. Many Customer Success leaders and teams are implementing purpose-built technology, like ChurnZero, for the first time. Having a trusted partner to guide you through those unknowns and firsts, whether it’s setting up platform configurations or sharing a best practice related to measuring performance, is huge—it’s everything, really. Being our customers’ champion means a lot to us and is also our differentiator. We take great pride in that.

Also Read: MarTech360 Interview With Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer, Mediaocean

Why is customer success so important and how does it help companies in understanding customer experience?

By operationalizing Customer Success, businesses can provide more consistent customer experiences. CS, more broadly, ensures that marketers can glean greater value from these experiences in addition to the product itself – so, technology is only part of this. Yes, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms also aim to improve customer experiences. However, these tools are designed for pre-sales and sales pipelines; they aren’t equipped to manage the entire customer lifecycle, especially post-sale. 

Enter Customer Success Platforms (CSPs). These tools are able to pull critical customer metrics  – like usage data – directly from the product and can seamlessly integrate this data into existing marketing tech stacks. In turn, marketers are able to gain a better understanding of how a customer is using their product (i.e., what is working well, what isn’t working well, and overall customer health scores, etc.). With this information, marketing teams can develop more relevant targeted customer campaigns because they are in tune with that customer’s behaviors.

For example, customer data may show that an organization isn’t fully utilizing a tool dedicated to mapping the customer journey. With this insight, marketing teams can create a targeted campaign for that company – and others whose data show a lack of use with this tool – inviting them to a customer webinar that has achieved significant outcomes with the Journey tool.

Why is customer success the best kept secret for marketing?

As marketers, we spend a lot of time trying to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes. While this empathic strategy has good intentions, it also has its flaws. Most of us have never done our customers’ jobs. As much as we try to imagine what it’s like to be them, we don’t know. 

Yes, we’ve experienced many of the same emotions as them, whether it’s anxiety from a missed deadline or annoyance from a manual task. But the specific context surrounding those feelings matters, and as marketers, it’s our job to get those details right. So, how do we fill our gaps in perspective? We improvise. We imagine what we’d do. 

Don’t get me wrong. Empathy is essential to marketing. But it needs to be informed, not imagined. We must ask ourselves, “what can we do to educate ourselves on the customers better?” I’m sure you already know what I’m going to say: talk to them. Of course, this takes time and effort: finding customers, scheduling interviews, and so on. For most marketers already planning their subsequent five campaigns before their current one has even ended, this means taking time away from generating leads. With ever-increasing performance goals, we tend to value execution over exploration. But that’s a discussion for another time.

CSPs provide a wealth of information to which a marketing organization has historically never had access. The old model put the onus on marketing teams to know what they don’t know about the customer and then ask for that information (or, more likely, not). Marketers can use CSPs to get direct insight into customer activity and health, eliminating communication breakdowns and blind spots between teams. They can also use product feedback and usage data to surface customer pain points, wins, and trends. This, in turn, allows them to better articulate product capabilities and benefits and shape content strategies. If you want to resonate deeply with your audience, you need to stress the small stuff—down to mirroring the language they use. 

Additionally, marketers can use CSPs to sharpen their customer profiles by accessing a comprehensive set of data points, such as the attributes shared among your most and least successful customers. With this information, they can easily source case study candidates by creating a segment of customers with specific traits like industry, tenure, high usage of a particular feature, positive health score and NPS, and more. They can also use these criteria to find customers primed for expansion opportunities and personalize outreach.

What is the role of data visualization in customer success, and do you think it is essential for CS teams?

Data visualization helps leaders make better decisions faster. At a quick glance, your CEO wants to know, at an aggregate level, where churn risks, outliers, and trends exist across the customer base and where the growth opportunities lie. 

Executives covet concision and are switching contexts all day long, which can be draining. The more you simplify your message with easy-to-understand data visualizes, the more attention and trust you’ll get in return. This is true of any team, but especially Customer Success, as the gatekeeper of critical customer insights that affect the company’s health.

Does customer success contribute to the bottom line growth of a business?

Absolutely. It’s cheaper to keep your existing customers than it is to obtain new ones, especially in a downturn when competition and acquisition cost spike. Today, companies cannot afford to lose their current customers. In addition, recouping your customer acquisition costs burns one to two years of subscription revenue. Therefore, businesses must focus on customer retention by way of Customer Success if they want to grow.

Considering the Past, Present and the Future, how would you define the evolution of customer success?

In the past, customer success has been equated with customer satisfaction and driving “soft” metrics like engagement. However, business leaders have realized that CS teams are capable of so much more than that – they’re true revenue drivers. 

We’ve seen this reflected in the growing prominence and contribution of CS leaders within the organization. In fact, ChurnZero’s recent Customer Success Leadership Survey found that 63.3% of respondents stated their CS teams are growing, with 51.9% reporting increases in budget. Furthermore, the survey found that half of all CS teams own renewals, a sign of their increasing influence. 

In the future, the number of CS teams who own revenue in some capacity will continue to grow at an accelerated clip. I also believe that the chief customer officer role will become the most direct path to claiming the CEO title. As more businesses seek to gain a competitive edge through customer experience, the executives who know the customer and their experience best will hold power.  

How, according to you, has the MarTech landscape evolved and will evolve in the coming years?

The MarTech landscape has exploded over the last decade. There are nearly 10,000 marketing tools worldwide, many of which are point solutions, according to Scott Brinker’s latest survey. Marketing teams are flooding their tech stacks. Employees are getting overwhelmed and distracted by the number of tools at their disposal—translating into low usage and wasted budget.

From my experience, marketing teams buy software before diagnosing the root cause of their problems. Most of the time, our most significant issues stem from flawed processes or strategies. Technology won’t fix that. So before purchasing another software, be honest about whether you’re looking for the next magic bullet. 

 My other piece of advice: consolidate your tech stack as much as possible by removing redundancies and unused tools. Don’t let the sunk-cost fallacy weigh your team down. Abandon what doesn’t work, and don’t look back. 

Do businesses need a result driven marketing strategy? And how does it make a difference or create an impact?

A results-driven approach is table stakes for any marketing organization. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) should not dictate your every decision. But you need to show how you’re contributing to direct sales. When we neglect performance, we lose focus of our desired end goal. We start to cherry-pick projects of interest over what converts. We pump out emails and content with no real directive other than to fill a calendar. We uphold process for the sake of process while ignoring how the industry is changing around us. Marketing teams need to be agile. You don’t know what will work until you try it. The faster you put your work out there, the quicker you learn, iterate, and reach the result you’re after. 

Why is customer retention rate important for a business to be successful and how does ChurnZero help in customer retention?

The rate at which you retain customers is essential for a few reasons. First, it compounds your NRR growth over time—and higher NRR leads to higher valuations. The valuation of a subscription company with a high NRR is double that of a company with an average NRR, according to research from Software Equity Group. Second, businesses with a leaky bucket cannot scale. Expansion revenue is how you achieve market-leading NRR, and you can only upsell or cross-sell a customer if you can retain them. Third, a focus on retention nurtures customer advocates. Today’s buyers are bypassing traditional sources for product research. They’re relying less on search and company websites and more on third-party review sites, community forums, their network, and social media to compile their shortlist of vendors. You need advocates in these channels, leaving genuine endorsements for your business. Lastly, advocates have a legitimate desire to improve your product, so they tend to provide more thoughtful and constructive feedback that leads to meaningful product enhancements. 

ChurnZero helps Customer Success teams increase retention in several ways, one being to spot potential churn risks early. CS teams use ChurnZero to create health scores that measure customers’ likelihood to churn or expand based on dynamic factors like login frequency, product usage, journey status, and CSM engagement. Teams can trigger multi-channel campaigns consisting of emails, internal tasks, in-app messages, and alerts based on changes in scores, so they always have a proactive plan of action at the ready.

As A results-driven marketing expert, how can marketing teams start using customer success data to improve their planning and execution?

Start looking at the data and see what matters most to customers. From there, build your targeted efforts and work closely with CS teams to ensure that they are aligned with customers’ current experiences – positive interactions or the areas where they may have pain points. Furthermore, talk with support teams to understand the challenges customers are facing. The more you know about current customers, the easier it will be to attract them to marketing campaigns.

Thanks, Hunter!

Hunter Montgomery is a highly accomplished global marketing executive with over 25 years of experience in the management and leadership of marketing and business operations. In his role as Chief Marketing Officer of ChurnZero, Hunter is responsible for overall marketing strategy and provides direction in positioning and messaging, demand generation, branding, public relations and partnerships. Prior to ChurnZero Hunter was the Chief Marketing Officer at Higher Logic where he was a member of the original management team that lead the company from under $10 million in annual revenue to over $60 million. Prior to Higher Logic Hunter was the vice president of Marketing at Vocus, Inc. where he was responsible for planning and budgeting, sales and marketing alignment, analytics and reporting, data governance and strategy, marketing systems, and campaign marketing.

ChurnZero is a recognized leader in Customer Success dedicated to helping subscription businesses succeed at scale. ChurnZero’s Customer Success software is uniquely designed to integrate with CRM systems and tightly into an application or service. Our best-in-class app tools, automation, dashboards and reporting help you drive strategic customer conversations, boost productivity and scale effectively.

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