Mar 31, 2017 / by Bruce Kennedy

If you’re in marketing, you know the sales funnel well and you take pride in loading it with the leads your sales team needs to be successful. (If you’re in an agency, leads are just new business and customer service is your account team.)

I want to talk to you today about a topic that may turn you off of this post; customer service. Before you go (I’ll be watching our bounce rate) let me say I was in the same place as you. When I arrived at Social Media Marketing World (SMMW) last Wednesday, I was excited to learn how to generate more leads via social media. Yes, customer care is incredibly important but maybe you have a person or a whole team for that. You’re in PR, communications, social media or any other marketing function. As a marketer, you should focus on filling the top of the funnel and moving people through to conversion, right? There were three sessions at SMMW that fought to change my mind. I’d like to share them with you to see if they can change yours.

Jay Baer: How to Use Customer Service to Turn People Into Brand Advocates

This is where my journey to enlightenment started. I admittedly didn’t even look at the session topic when I wondered in to room 28ABCDE of the San Diego Convention center, I just say the speakers name and knew it would be one of the best sessions in a sea of great content.

When the most retweeted man in marketing says something, you listen. Here’s what Jay had to say.

Word of mouth has long been hailed as the holy grail of marketing. The crux of Jay’s session was that marketing and customer service can work together to create what he calls “involuntary word of mouth” by creating customer experiences so good, your customers can’t believe it and have to tell someone. We all experience this. The restaurant your friends have to try, the local mechanic they should trust, the customer service rep who actually fixed your problem.

Jay’s book and his company Convince & Convert argue that you can strategically create involuntary word of mouth by setting up talk triggers. These ‘talk triggers’ are essentially chances for you to surprise and delight customers and solve their problems in an unexpected way. They outline three ways to do this by doing the opposite of what we expect from customer service. We expect customer service to be slow, robotic and reactive. You can create these talk triggers by recognizing where your customers have or will have issues and being faster, more human and more reactive.

The takeaway: Marketing and customer service can work together to create talk triggers, proven to create word-of-mouth marketing.   

Joey Coleman: Turning Customers Into Life-Long Advocates in the First 100 Days (The 100 day rule).

As I walked into the keynote, live music blared a “hype team” of SMMW volunteers most have known I was running on 10% sleep and 35% coffee fumes. This was not the time to get me excited about costumer service but since Jay had planted the seed I was willing to hear Joey out. Early on, Joey said something that got my attention.


Joey likened what happens in most organizations to dating someone (a lead or new business), proposing to them, getting married and then handing them off to someone new on your wedding night. This is why most companies struggle to grow. They are working two to three times as hard to find new customers as they would have to in order to keep their existing ones.

Joey provided plenty of statistics that back this up but you don’t even need those numbers to prove this to your boss – you have your own. Ask yourself (or your boss) these three questions: What is your customer retention rate? What is you cost to acquire a new customer? Could you use “talk triggers” to fix your retention rate, while creating customer advocates, cheaper than your cost per acquiring a new customer?

This is the business case for customer service and marketing alignment. Even if the cost is the same, do you want a new customer or a new customer who is going to tell the world how great you are?

The takeaway: Make the business case for investing in your existing customers and creating customer advocates.

 Dennis Yu: How to Use Facebook Analytics to Make Better Business Decisions

While this session was not on customer service, it did have the image that tied this all together for me – the BowTie Funnel. (Pun shamelessly intended.)

Conversion is not the end of your funnel, it’s the middle.

Once leads make it to the middle, it may not feel like marketing anymore but if our goal is word-of-mouth marketing, stopping at the middle of the funnel is not good enough.

The takeaways:

  • Jay Baer taught us the tactics to create ‘talk triggers’ that guarantee word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Joey Coleman made the business case to align marketing and customer service.
  • Dennis Yu gave us a strategic framework to work within.

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About Bruce Kennedy

Bruce Kennedy is a social media manager at Cision, where he manages Cision's global brands. Previously, he worked in public relations in tech and entertainment, helping brands from early stage startups to household names like Red Bull, Disney on Ice, Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey, Techweek and more.Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.