As the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of G2, one of the premier software marketplace and review sites on the web, I have a unique insight into the importance of customer-led growth for brands.

We at G2 have a significant user base, with 60 million software buyers visiting our site annually, leaving over one and a half million reviews for software products across 2000 categories. G2 has evolved into an essential destination for anyone looking to discover, review or evaluate software based on authentic feedback from peers.

You could say, we know the power of being customer-focused.

In this article, I'm going to share my insights on taking a customer-led growth approach as a CMO to boost revenue growth.

Understanding Customer-Led Growth

In the current market, peer recommendations heavily influence both B2B and B2C marketing. Personally, I have a strategy for assessing reviews when shopping on platforms like Amazon, and this consumer behavior is not different in our professional lives. Customer-led growth, a concept some might be unfamiliar with, builds on this consumer behavior.

The Role of the Customer in Growth Strategies

Customer-led growth, which applies to both B2B and B2C businesses, hinges on leading with the voice of your customer, shaping everything from product development to marketing strategies. Unlike product-led growth, this strategy starts with the customer's perspective, rather than the organization's or product's perspective. The challenge lies in effectively implementing this strategy across the organization.

The Impact of a Customer-Led Approach on Organizations

When an organization places the customer first, this approach permeates through all departments, from marketing to sales, product teams, and customer success. One of the significant benefits of this strategy is it leads to better products, marketing experiences, and sales experiences. Furthermore, by continuously meeting customers' needs and addressing their feedback, a brand can capture more interest and revenue, retain customers for longer, and achieve sustainable growth.

The Goal of Customer-Led Growth

The goal of customer-led growth is not solely about generating leads or demand, but building long-lasting connections with customers. To achieve this, organizations must have processes in place to tap into the voice of their customers regularly. For instance, G2 provides a platform where CEOs from large enterprise software companies can frequently review real-time customer feedback.

Incorporating Customer Voice in Real-Time

An essential first step is to define a process for understanding the customer's voice regularly, not just during annual focus groups. By capturing real-time feedback and sharing these insights in a manner beneficial to the entire organization, a brand can set the stage for customer-led growth.

Real-Time Engagement with Customers

The concept of incorporating the voice of the customer in real-time, however, can be challenging. Often, it forces organizations to reevaluate their preconceptions about their business or products. By regularly engaging with customers, a brand can avoid surprising revelations and iteratively adapt to their needs and preferences.

As a CMO, it's about seeing these moments of change not as daunting but as opportunities. By finding where we might have gotten it wrong, we can listen better and get it right, and this is the beauty of customer-led growth.

Leveraging Positive Customer Feedback

In times of success, when we're getting all these five-star reviews and great feedback, it's not a time to rest. It's essential to capitalize on these moments of appreciation. Oftentimes, businesses view the customer journey as a funnel that starts with awareness and ends with conversion or an upsell.

But the true potential lies in advocacy that leads to word of mouth. This turns our customers into our best marketing channels, bringing more people to the top of the funnel.

Incorporating Customer Feedback into Marketing and Sales Strategies

One of the most effective ways to utilize good reviews and feedback is by incorporating them into our marketing and sales strategies. For instance, say our company has the advantage of quick implementation time, and we've received great feedback on G2 about this. We can use this feedback to validate our claims in our sales or marketing pitches, making our customers' voices heard.

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Engaging Customers beyond Case Studies

However, leveraging good feedback goes beyond just case studies. While they are indeed valuable, there's so much more we can do to foster customer-led growth. We can elevate our customers, turning them into co-marketing partners or thought leaders. Given that 67% of B2B buyers make decisions before they ever talk to sales, it's crucial to engage these customers early and educate them about our offerings.

This can be done by co-marketing with customers, putting them on stages, inviting them to contribute to our blog or publication, and elevating their voices in channels where our customers spend their time.

Sharing Authentic Customer Stories

It's not about creating a perfectly polished case study but about sharing authentic stories of our customers' experiences with us. Elevating certain customers can also create a sense of competition and desire for success among our other customers, effectively aiding in customer retention.

Building Customer Communities for Growth

Moreover, building customer communities can serve multiple objectives. Businesses like Airtable and Miro have done this successfully by creating platforms where customers can share use cases and learn from each other.

However, creating these communities shouldn't be forced. A community should provide a value exchange for everyone involved and, if done well, it can serve as the ultimate competitive moat. And it's important to remember that a Slack channel alone does not make a community. It's only a part of the overall community strategy, not the entirety of it.

Measuring Success in a Customer-Led Growth Approach

I find it very crucial to discuss the nuts and bolts of customer-led growth, particularly how we measure the success of such an approach. Numerous research conducted by top consulting companies and user experience agencies strongly suggest that incorporating customer feedback into your business strategies typically results in growth across all key performance indicators (KPIs). This could be revenue, product adoption, or any metric that your business uses regularly.

Importance of Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Service

One of the most valuable metrics, in my opinion, is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Tracking NPS over time provides a robust feedback loop and offers quick insights into how well your efforts are resonating with your customers. Customer reviews also serve as an invaluable source of feedback. At G2, for example, we ask for NPS as part of our review process. By examining reviews, we can understand our performance across different areas of the customer experience, from customer service to product implementation. This data can help identify where we excel and where there's room for improvement.

The importance of Customer Lifetime Value

In addition to metrics like NPS and customer reviews, another key measure of success with a customer-led growth approach is customer lifetime value (CLV). By truly prioritizing the customer's voice and experience, we build stronger, longer-lasting relationships that translate to higher CLV.

When we listen intently to feedback, address pain points promptly, and continually enhance the customer experience, it increases satisfaction and loyalty. Delighted customers are much more likely to stick with your brand for years, purchase additional products and upgrades over time, and become vocal advocates singing your praises.

Maximizing CLV means minimizing churn and nurturing customers to climb up the value ladder with you. The community building tactics discussed earlier play a big role here as engaged communities foster sticky, recurring revenue streams. Customers vested in your ecosystem are less tempted by competitors.

Furthermore, the advocacy and word-of-mouth unlocked through stellar customer experience reduces your customer acquisition costs for new logos. With a customer-led model, you earn compounding returns as your existing fans organically bring in new buyers primed to be your next lucrative, long-tenured accounts.

So while metrics like NPS are critical real-time signals of customer sentiment, taken in totality with data like retention rates, upsell metrics, and acquisition costs, customer lifetime value is perhaps the most powerful measure of whether your customer-led approach is paying dividends. Obsess over CLV, and sustainable, profitable growth will follow.

Implementing a Customer-Led Approach across the Organization

Now, implementing a customer-led approach isn't exclusive to the marketing department; it's a company-wide undertaking that requires collaboration across all customer-facing departments. As a Chief Marketing Officer, you ideally want to align with every functional stakeholder across the business – from the customer success team to the product design team. However, the key is not to try to do everything at once. Identify the areas of the business where there's the most opportunity and start there.

Ensuring Consistent Customer Experience

Consistency is indeed crucial. An inconsistent customer experience, such as an excellent sales experience followed by a poor onboarding process, can erode trust in the relationship. The tone, approach, and expectations should feel similar across the board. This consistency fosters a healthier, long-term relationship with the customer.

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Final advice

When it comes to implementing a customer-led approach, I firmly believe that it can be beneficial regardless of the stage of business growth. Even tiny startups can take a customer-led growth approach. They have the advantage of speed, and by obsessing over customer feedback, they can avoid wasting time developing products or services that don't meet customer needs.

Looking forward, I foresee real-time feedback becoming a standard for most organizations. I anticipate an increased interest in software marketplaces and review sites to capture customer feedback and identify the right customers. Given the move towards a cookieless future, using signals such as intent data can present a massive opportunity for marketers. It offers a more accurate way to target customers based on their actual interest rather than demographic assumptions.

I believe we'll see more organizations starting to leverage intent data to better understand and reach their audiences. In this new privacy-first world, customer-led growth will undoubtedly continue to be a crucial strategy for brands.

What are your thoughts on a customer-led approach to growth? Would it change how you operate as CMO? Join the conversation on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel to share your thoughts and insights with a global network of CMOs.