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B2B Content for Customer Retention Tells a Different Story

I'm starting to see customer retention, up sell and cross sell getting a bit more attention from B2B marketers these days. From account-based marketing programs to targeted microsites and nurturing programs, marketers are finally looking to increase the value of their existing customer portfolios. And I like where they're looking.

The challenge is that customer marketing is a very different animal than net new logo marketing. We can't just show up at renewal time and get them to sign off. Customer retention is no slam dunk.

A few reasons why:

  • Their status quo is different
  • They have a relationship with you
  • Their expectations are higher

In light of the points made above, let's take a look at how content strategy must shift to engage existing customers.

A New Status Quo

Your customer's existing situation is different (It had better be) because they've purchased the solution to their original problem. Therefore, everything you said to them prior to that purchase (your lead gen and nurturing content) is now redundant.

Consider that the problem-to-solution story has changed. Now that the original problem has been solved, what comes next that your product and company can help them resolve to add more business value?

The only time there's an overlay with new buyer content strategies is when the target is a line of business or department that may not be familiar with your company. But I still contend that a referral/reference strategy is a core component to consider. In fact, I'd suggest using a case study - or several - about the value you've already helped them to accomplish internally.

The buying process for retention, up or cross sell will look somethinng like:

Use and Rely Upon: After purchase, your content should help them embrace the new solution and address issues such as user adoption, reporting, and other things they need to know to get the value you originally promised.

Gain More Value: Once the customer is using and relying upon the original solution, your goal is to help them find even more value than you promised. This could mean introducing new ideas that take them from their new status quo to a position of higher value - often by purchasing enhancements or additional solutions.

Keep the sales pitch subtle. This is about thought leadership, education and expertise. Then cement that with case studies that focus on what your customers have achieved beyond solving the original problem.

Renewal or Expansion: Given your goal, this is the late stage of the buying or renewal process. This is when marketers really need to focus on creating the content that account managers need to convince customers to stay and continue to put faith into the value of your company.

Talk to your account managers and really probe to understand what they're hearing from existing customers. Ask them questions such as:

  • Who are they trying to get to for an expansion deal?
  • What new lines of business are they trying to get to?
  • What problems might existing customers be having with the product they purchased that could keep them from renewing?
  • What's next in their customer's strategic plan?
  • What successes are their customers most proud of? (Is it what you thought?)

The Customer Relationship

One thing to consider is how to segment customers not only based on what opportunities their new situations present, but by how much attention they get from their account managers. Often, for economical reasons, only the best/biggest accounts get a lot of attention. It's marketing's job to help the customers with limited account manager relationships feel the love. And that means creating content programs that they find valuable.

In fact, retaining customers is getting more competitive in line with the speed of change to the business landscape. Remember that to someone else, they are a new logo. Just as you try to become the replacement vendor for those using your competitor's solutions, well, so do they go after your customers. Losing sight of that reality can be costly.

Higher Expectations

Many buyers say that a key factor in their decision to do business with a company rested, in part, on the value of the content and unbiased information provided during their buying process. Why wouldn't the same be true of their renewal process? But, based on that previous buying process, their expectations are high. They expect evolution from what was a stellar engagement process during buying to a better one now that they're customers.

And, they should. Given the fact that markets change quickly and solutions evolve much faster, there will always be a new story to tell. The marketers who tell it first and best, putting an insightful spin on how their customers can reap even more value, will be the ones who help their company win more business.

Providing value to our customers does not stop with purchase. The story just changes. It's up to us to help them connect the dots to find more value and new approaches to reaching their business objectives.

How are you evolving the story you're telling to your customers?

 

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More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.