What is customer marketing?

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B2B marketers are focusing more and more on making sure their customers are successful after they’ve signed the contract and started using your product or service.

This renewed attention helps in a couple of ways. First, successful customers are happy customers, and they are more likely to renew with you. The second reason is that successful, happy customers are also great advocates for your brand.

“Your best salespeople aren’t on your payroll,” said Jill Rowley, speaker, startup advisor and social selling evangelist, on the Rethink Podcast. “They’re your customers who are willing to advocate for your brand, your company, your solution, your people.”

It’s where the worlds of customer marketing and customer success collide. At Act-On, we see this falling in the Expand (retention) phase of marketing, joining Brand (awareness) and Demand (acquisition). All three phases are important, and they feed into the success of the others.

As a view into how some people think of marketing, Act-On is releasing a series of videos styled in the “Big Short” style, using metaphors to humorously explain Brand, Demand and Expand and how marketing automation can help marketers adapt to the ever-changing buyer’s journey.

In the Expand video, we discuss the importance of customer marketing, or what the video describes as sustainable marketing … dude.

In recent years, there has been a shift in B2B marketing from looking at customer marketing as an activity to leverage customers to supporting lead generation activity through case studies, reference calls and so forth. And while that is necessary, today’s modern marketer is recognizing the importance of ensuring their customers’ success so that they are more likely to renew with you, more likely to speak at your event and more likely to tell their peers about you.

“A lot of companies still see customer marketing as supplying references to the sales team when they need it; for getting customers to be quoted in a press release; for getting customers to get up on stage at your annual conference; or to speak to an analyst,” said Stephen Schleifer, Act-On’s senior director of customer marketing.

“That is just the tip of the iceberg with customer marketing. There is a lot of untapped potential most organizations are not realizing by being able to engage with their customer base way beyond those kind[s] of very lead gen and pre-sales types of activities, including online communities, customer advisory boards, advocacy programs, product adoption, upsell campaigns and events.”

Research from Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, inventor of the net promoter score, which was published in the Harvard Business Review, has found that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than keeping a current customer. And increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 percent to 95 percent.

“I love this quote from the Forrester Research in the B2B Loyalty the B2C Way report,” said Schleifer. “They say, ‘It’s time to expand the focus of B2B engagement to the entire customer relationship, including loyalty and retention, which are not traditional priorities for B2B marketers.’”

And in this world of tweets and Facebook live streams, it’s critical to recognize the importance of your customers as ambassadors for your brand when they are talking with their peers.

“Being able to get customers to validate a lot more of what you’re doing is very, very important,” Schleifer said. “You’re really kind of approaching it from we’re successful as a company because we’ve been able to help our customers be successful. The more successful they are using the platform, the more it’s able to deliver on their business objectives, then the stickier it becomes to them as a must-need business tool, and the more they’re going to say, ‘Hey, I’m realizing value and this technology platform is a big part of that.’”

By using a marketing automation workspace like Act-On, marketers are able to grow their customer relationships after the sell in a number of ways, from automating the customer onboarding process through nurture emails to sending emails about product adoption, new features or training opportunities. You can score and measure their engagement with you, whether they are attending a training webinar, opening your nurture emails or sharing your social posts.

By leveraging your marketing automation, CRM and ERP data, you can also better understand when a customer is ready for an upsell or cross-sell. You can use your marketing automation to deploy surveys to gauge their satisfaction and get feedback on your products. From here, you can identify prospective brand advocates.

“There are lot of ways we’re focused on making sure we are engaging with the customer after that contract has been signed, but before that renewal process starts. We’re working on targeting communications and programs based upon where a customer is at in their product use and adoption lifecycle — it’s a highly personalized approach. We want to make sure customers are continuing to adopt, use, and see value,” Schleifer said. “We want our customers to get the most value out of their investment that they can.”

About The Author

Act-On Software is a marketing automation company delivering innovation that empowers marketers to do the best work of their careers. Act-On offers the only integrated workspace to address the needs of the CMO and the entire marketing department, from awareness and acquisition, through retention and loyalty. With Act-On, marketers can deliver more personalized customer experiences, drive better business outcomes, and maximize CLV.


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