Previously published on LinkedIn Oct 12, 2016

Recently I was in a meeting reviewing a contract involving data, technology and ecommerce enablement. To be simple, it was a subscription service (e.g. SaaS) and it involved multiple products. The pain point in the discussion was billing and contract renewal. You know, the customer wants one bill, one renewal date and one due date on the invoice. The provider – was only capable of delivering a different renewal experience, renewal date, invoice and due date for every product.

This is not uncommon, even among industry leaders like GoDaddy and many others…

Last Saturday, I received three separate renewal notices from GoDaddy. Three days earlier I received a single notice from GoDaddy listing ten separate domains…and two days before that an email containing my "October Account Summary" which of course only listed a few products that I subscribe to. Not counting order confirmation emails, I've received no less than 32 emails from GoDaddy this year.

Recognize the problem? You should…if you have multiple products or brands in your company and have responsibility for customer lifecycle marketing (or in the current parlance – the customer journey), the question of whether your company is product driven or customer driven is very fundamental.

Based on the emails I've received and saved, GoDaddy and others like them, are trying to embrace the practice of "householding". This is a practice I'm familiar with from my days in magazine publishing. For many consumer subscription magazines and consumer catalogs the idea of householding is a way to minimize cost and understand who lives in the house. You know, mom, dad, Joey, Billy and Sally. The household has two adults and three children. Sending one catalog or marketing one subscription to Sports Illustrated makes a lot of sense when marketing to a "household."

The obvious point in householding is that individual records must be linked together or aggregated into a single entity. By doing so the marketer gains a much clearer picture of what types of products to promote to that household and gains efficiencies in their operations.

In B2B marketing this becomes much more complex because it can involve organizations with many physical locations, legal entities, accounts payable locations, subsidiaries, brands, credit lines, etc. Corporate linkage often shows up in the conversation, financial professionals step in to manage credit risk and sales compensation plans step front and center in the discussion. It's not an easy place to embrace the wonders of customer lifecycle marketing, marketing automation, personalization, etc.

If your company, like GoDaddy is struggling with how to implement customer lifecycle marketing in a complex B2B environment, I would offer a couple of suggestions:

1) Create a clear definition of the customer. Is the customer defined by a product, or a subscription, by site, by contract, by billing location, etc. This definition is critical when constructing predictive models base on "customer value" or customer lifecycle marketing objectives. As you can see, it will be nearly impossible to create a useful or accurate customer experience if you don't have a clear definition of the "customer."

2) Focus on householding and the operational impacts this implies. If a customer wants a single bill or a single renewal or a single unified customer experience, my recommendation is that you give it to them. However, it will be very difficult to respond favorably if your systems are in conflict with your customer definition.

Depending on the size of your organization and the breadth of your product offerings, this may be a short discussion with easy enablement. Or it may be a multi-year effort to align your company with your customers. In this age of instant information and customer-centric rhetoric, I can only wish you the best of luck... and may the force be with you in creating a seamless, real-time, responsive, socially enabled, 360 degree view of the customer journey.