In the ever-evolving landscape of B2B sales and marketing, the "dark funnel" has emerged as a critical concept that's altering how we understand customer engagement and retention. The term refers to the unattributed touchpoints and influences that lead up to a customer's decision to engage, purchase, or renew. These may include word-of-mouth recommendations, competitor research, peer reviews, and other undocumented interactions.
While it's called "dark" because it's not illuminated by traditional tracking and analytics, this data carries valuable insights that can greatly empower customer success teams—when leveraged correctly. Let's delve into how customer success managers (CSMs) can use this opaque information to bolster engagement and drive renewals.
Before diving into strategies, it's imperative to grasp what dark funnel data is and why it’s been so elusive. This data encompasses all the anonymous interactions that prospects and customers have en route to a decision. This can be discussions on private social media groups, forums, direct messages, offline conversations, or even the contemplative moments that remain locked in the customer's mind.
Every customer is on a unique journey, laced with numerous "dark" interactions that don't leave a digital footprint—at least not one that's easily tracked. This absence of explicit data trails has posed a significant challenge for organizations that wish to understand and predict customer behavior more accurately.
However, when properly illuminated, this information is invaluable. It can reveal what influences customer satisfaction, loyalty, and their propensity to renew, which is the heartland where customer success teams operate.
1. Harness the Power of Conversational Intelligence: CSMs can use conversational intelligence tools to monitor and analyze customer calls, meetings, and emails. This provides insights into which topics, features, or concerns are consistently being brought up, even if they aren't directly tied to a logged activity in a CRM. These tools can offer a glimpse into the 'dark' aspects of the customer journey.
2. Deploy Advanced Attribution Techniques: To shine a light into the dark funnel, sophisticated attribution models that go beyond the typical first-touch and last-touch can be useful. Marketers may traditionally rely on these models, but customer success teams can also gain insights from them. Multi-touch attribution, for instance, helps uncover how different touchpoints contribute to a customer's decision to renew.
3. Analyze Product Usage Data Intelligently: Often, the way a customer interacts with a product can reveal more about their sentiments than they communicate. Using product analytics, CSMs can spot patterns or usage signals that indicate a client's engagement level. Although attributing these activities to renewal decisions might not be straightforward, they can act as vital indicators in the dark funnel.
4. Listen to Indirect Feedback Channels: Indirect feedback such as social media chatter, forum discussions, or survey responses on third-party sites can offer essential insights into customer sentiment and market reputation. These unstructured data sources can be tapped using social listening and sentiment analysis tools.
5. Leverage AI for Predictive Analysis: Tools like Aomni offer the advantage of artificial intelligence in stitching together disparate data points to predict customer behavior. By correlating dark funnel activities with customer sentiment, these platforms can forecast renewal probabilities and suggest targeted engagement strategies.
6. Engage in Customer Advocacy Programs: Customers often share their experiences with peers in spaces that are not visible to vendors—these are powerful dark funnel influencers. Encouraging your happy customers to advocate for you through case studies, reviews, or testimonials can help tap into the dark funnel network effect.
7. Implement Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Tactics: While typically a marketing function, customer success teams can align with marketing on ABM strategies. These involve personalized engagements that fit into the 'dark' realm of customer experience due to their highly tailored nature. CSMs can contribute valuable frontline insights to refine ABM initiatives.
8. Refine Journey Mapping with Predictive Analytics: Customer journey mapping can be enriched with predictive analytics to include likely pathways through the dark funnel. By projecting potential customer trajectories, CSMs can proactively intervene with retention strategies at critical junctures.
9. Track and Act on Customer Health Scores: CSMs should embrace comprehensive customer health scores that factor in both visible and inferred indicators of a customer's engagement level. Holistic health scores can signal when to engage proactively to nurture the relationship before renewal conversations ensue.
10. Cultivate a Data-Inclusive Culture: To truly benefit from dark funnel insights, organizations must foster a culture that appreciates data's depth and potential. Encourage teams, especially CSMs, to integrate data-backed observations into their standard workflows.
In conclusion, it’s crucial for customer success teams to navigate the dark funnel adeptly, recognizing its potent influence on customer engagement and renewals. With the right combination of tools, strategies, and a data-driven mindset, CSMs can unearth and capitalize on the insights hidden within it to foster stronger, enduring customer relationships.
Leveraging dark funnel data effectively necessitates a shift from simply firefighting at the point of renewal to proactively nurturing accounts based on deep, insight-driven engagement. In the longer term, this will not only boost renewals but can also transform customer success into a powerful engine of growth through upsells and advocacy.
For those ready to embark on this journey, Aomni provides an AI-powered platform that makes navigating the dark funnel more intuitive, offering real-time insights and action plans that put customer success teams in the driver's seat of engagement and renewals.