Everything in a well-oiled marketing and sales ‘machine’ has one goal: winning new business. Lead generation funnels, personas, marketing channels and campaigns, content, trade show participation…it all supports winning net new business.
But what is the role of marketing once the customer is won?
Customer service/support and advocacy teams, and account management shoulder the day-to-day activities of serving existing customers. The role of marketing, for most companies, involves keeping a focus on “hunting” activities that bring in new leads, and ultimately, new revenue.
If you sell only one product and its feature roadmap is minimal, the organizational structures and departments described above probably will work.
But if you sell multiple products, especially product platforms, and you regularly add new features and functionality, then marketing should be involved in the ongoing customer relationship. And it can have a positive impact across customer touch points and throughout the customer lifecycle beyond the ‘win’.
Let’s take a look at why. Let’s also consider some of the obstacles product sellers face, and a few suggested actions that a marketing team can take to make the ongoing customer relationship one that is successful and increasingly profitable.
Customer service is generally concerned with installing/implementing a customer’s solution, resolving issues, and getting product renewals. Period. Oh, some employees go above and beyond in customer relationships and service but at scale customer service isn’t well equipped to do the things that marketing teams typically do - or with the tools at marketing’s disposal - that promote the awareness and education that can lead to upsell opportunities.
It’s pretty rare that a single phone call or quick email will accomplish an upsell.
Staff turnover - both at the customer and at the product provider - can dramatically impact the relationship and service levels. From the provider’s perspective, customer service usually only knows a few people in the client organization and often at lower management levels. If the provider needs to continually ‘re-discover’ the organization because of turnover, it’s very difficult to pursue and win a renewal or upsell/cross-sell. The revolving door makes it difficult to discern among contacts who are the buyers and who are the influencers and results in the need to constantly re-learn the organization.
It also makes your marketing team infinitely more essential.
After all, who (typically) has the scaling tools in the business to accomplish awareness, education, influence and call-to-action at scale? Marketing!
The benefits to the business of a well developed (and funded) marketing department that engages beyond the sale are large and far-reaching. Here are a few examples:
- Extended total customer lifetime value.
- Expanded revenue per customer.
- Increased qualified leads via customer referrals.
- Better customer education and deeper customer adoption and use of the product features, leading to stickiness and potential for contract renewal.
Here is a partial list of potential marketing activities that can contribute to retention, product participation, and long-term customer value:
Awareness programs. A regular cadence of communications that increase awareness of product value, positively impact customer engagement with your products, boost knowledge of outcomes / benefits received from your relationship and your products, and offer exclusive customer insights and offers.
Monitoring/Scoring Product Participation. This treats product use like website use and gauges customer usage. What is the average log-in frequency? How long do users use reports, analytics, administration, or other functions? Has there been a prolonged period of disuse? What frequent support issues could potentially be “headed off” by awareness campaigns? Do you have specific CTA metrics for users? Marketing monitors its public website and uses metrics to manage the customer journey. Similar tools and/or techniques are available for use with software/SaaS products.
Exclusive specials only for Current Customers. Isn’t it frustrating when you see a great promotional offer for a product you love and you can’t participate because you’re a current customer? Sure! So why not turn that negative emotion around? Offer specials and discounts that ONLY existing customers can obtain. When you combine this with awareness programs, you’re building value and keeping interest in your communications.
Communicate Regularly. Companies need to commit to communications campaigns - something that often falls to the bottom of the priorities. Sending out just a single newsletter once a year won’t have a measurable impact. If a formal series of newsletters is too big an effort, trim down your efforts to a letter from the CEO once a month or a blog series sent via email around a chosen theme. Make a plan, commit the resources, and be consistent. Monitor the metrics and use the data as a case for a bigger investment in communications programs.
Easy Feedback Methods. If you’re communicating regularly with customers, make it super easy to get feedback. How about a one question yes/no survey that’s just one click? What about a live chat link built into communications? You can never engage with customers enough!
Internal Process to Escalate Feedback. Now that you’re collecting customer feedback you need to have process and accountability for addressing issues and communicating praise. I don’t see how this wouldn’t include participation by the head of the company in some way. When the CEO has visibility into customer feedback, all sorts of positive changes are possible.
Discover and Manage Your NPS. Net Promoter Score is the fundamental customer satisfaction question of “would you recommend our products/services to friends and family? (consumer)” or “would you recommend our products/services to colleagues? (business)”. In other words, will your customer risk their own personal reputation by recommending what you offer? If you don’t have a method to collect NPS you’re not doing your job. NPS is a leading indicator of future retention/attrition of clients.
Many companies monitor social media ratings and comments but that’s because it’s a public tally. The big question is: what do your customers say about you in private day-to-day conversations and how do they respond to friend and colleague requests for recommendations?
Recognize and Reward Referrals. Assuming you have your NPS “house in order,” you’re in prime position to get referrals of new business from your current customers. Make it easy to recognize their referral and/or reward them. Some companies will give one-time referral commissions. Money is nice but often it won’t go directly to the person who referred the business. Why not implement a “thank you basket” of personal items that can be easily ordered by appropriate team members? If that’s too much, how about a personal email or call from the CEO of the company? Shout outs on social media can also be great ways to publicly recognize great customer relationships.
How wide-reaching are your ongoing marketing efforts? If you’re only concerned with growth marketing, it’s highly likely your business is under-leveraging the tools, expertise and capabilities of your marketing department. Marketing can impact the customer interaction and journey well beyond winning the deal.
Customer relationships are a lifetime endeavor. Marketing has the right mindset and tools to help a business continue to foster and grow relationships, which ultimately expands business revenue.