The Role of Customer Marketing in Crisis Communications

April 30, 2024
The role of customer marketing in crisis communications

On a Friday morning in July 2018, the employees of Crimson Hexagon woke up to this front-page story in the print and digital editions of the WSJ. Not the best headline and after the story was published, Twitter also turned off their data firehose of tweets. Crimson had to mobilize immediately as the Cambridge Analytica revelations happened just three months earlier.

Is your company ready to respond?

This blog is about the role of customer marketing in crisis communications. The executive team and corporate communications should have a crisis communications plan of action. If not, it is probably not the role of customer marketing to be the catalyst for it. On the other hand, it would be a good idea to let the executive who oversees customer marketing know about your plan. It will show forward thinking and you may need their help to put a plan into place.

On that day, the Crimson Hexagon executives reached out to the top customers, and it was left to customer success to communicate with the rest. We had to move fast as the story was also being picked up by lots of media channels. The plan was to send an email to every customer on Monday afternoon with a follow-up call within the next 10 days, along with a commitment to update customers as soon as we learned more.

Things were moving quickly and there was not enough time to enable each CSM. There were three customer success directors and we, along with the CSM assigned to the account and potentially the Account Manager, would be on each call. Some customers reached out to their CSM, and we were able to schedule their calls quickly. Most, we had to reach out to. Spoiler alert: We met our customer communication goals and feedback from customers was highly appreciative, as their executives were asking them for updates and guidance.

How did we pull it off?

It all starts with the customer contact database. We already had a Main Point of Contact (MPOC) field in Salesforce and had tasked the CSM’s to have at least one person identified for each account and keep it updated. The MPOC is the person at the account who knows us, and we can contact them on matters related to the business relationship. Often, the MPOC was the contract signer (unless it was someone in procurement), but they could have left the company, especially with multi-year contracts. The MPOC could also be the platform admin or another executive. Tech touch accounts supported by a digital CSM are challenging as the relationship is meant to be minimal. Renewal time is a good opportunity to update those MPOC’s.

Action item: Assuming you have a field in your CRM that could be a proxy for MPOC, ask the CRM team to potentially re-name it. If not, it might be a bigger lift to create it. This is where the executive in charge of your department comes in to make the case. It would be super helpful to have a last updated field so you can run a report that identifies those that have not been reviewed/updated in the past 6-12 months.

The impact.

As you can imagine, this was an existential crisis. We had to let go of a large account based in China and two companies fired us, it slowed new business and had the potential to impact end of year renewals. The situation was resolved within 45 days when Facebook and Twitter turned their data firehose back on, but with conditions. By the end of the year, Crimson Hexagon was purchased by its top competitor.

This is a guest blog by Irwin Hipsman, member of the Advocacy Mavens Coalition.

The Advocacy Mavens Coalition is an association of open for contracting customer-led professionals, each with extensive industry experience. We’re experts in building advocacy and community programs, designing experiences, running advisory boards, creating content, managing and migrating platforms, and more.

Our members are experienced advocacy marketing strategists, community and customer success managers, educators, designers, video producers, analysts, and technical consultants. Whatever your program goals, this coalition has you covered!

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