3 Ways for B2B Marketers to Invest in Customer Retention



Posted: November 18, 2015 | Engagement Marketing

Marketing automation is a lot like investing—the smart money is in a long-term strategy. And just like investing, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the exciting day-to-day fluctuations while neglecting the long-term picture. For marketers, that often means focusing on highly visible activities like social media, email, event management, and web personalization while forgetting to plant the seeds for long-term lead nurturing.

Increase your wealth of customers
In both scenarios, you’re missing out on the potential to vastly increase your future wealth. For marketers, that wealth is customer retention. So, it’s time to put on your investment adviser hat and craft a portfolio of strategies (aka campaigns) that supplement each other and cover all of your bases to help pay those dividends in the future. And what are those dividends worth? Quite a lot. In fact, increasing customer retention rates by a mere 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%, according to Harvard Business Review.

Many prefer to think of retention in terms of reducing churn, but we encourage thinking about the glass as half-full. You have to constantly be out there winning your customers’ business over and over again each year, or someone else will. This means delivering consistent value, deepening relationships, and planning for the future. While you probably already have a customer success team who is wholly focused on this, they rarely have access to the types of marketing communications tools that the broader marketing team does, making this initiative the perfect opportunity for the two teams to collaborate for a common good.

Use marketing automation to deepen those relationships 
The beauty of marketing automation is that it’s consistent and personalized. It can listen and react to existing customers just the same way that it does to prospects. Just like your inbound sales team can’t be everywhere at once and needs your email marketing tools to track and engage with a broader range of people, so too does your customer account management team need help keeping tabs on all of your customers. The 80/20 rule is in full effect here—20% of your customers will take up 80% of their account managers’ time, often leaving fully deserving but less loud customers feeling neglected.

This is why you should engage them all equally using marketing automation! It never sleeps, never forgets to send an email, and knows what people want to hear. Clients will appreciate your well-timed pieces of thought leadership, product education, or workplace humor. And they’ll feel in control of this conversation as you learn their preferences. This is classic engagement marketing—marketing that listens and responds to customers at the right time, in the right place and with a relevant message—and it leaves people with a positive association of your company and keeps you top-of-mind, increasing your chances of retention.

Love the idea? Here’s how you can get started

3 Ways for Marketers to Invest in Customer Retention

1. Create customer welcome journeys: Retention begins on day-one, and good retention is part service and part experience. As the marketer, you can maximize the experience portion by frequently checking in, measuring engagement, and listening for inactivity. You can also listen for customers who are in trouble and spend a lot of time in your help forums. You goal during this period is to make sure that they’re taking full advantage of your service. While this varies by industry, if they are seeing value in the first 90 days, this will reflect well upon those internal champions who purchased your service and they are more likely to renew. Conversely, if your customer makes it through the first 90 days without getting the attention that they need (and deserve), you’re in a bad spot.

With a good marketing automation system, you’ll be able to create dynamic welcome journeys that segment your customers by their behaviors, demographics, and interests. Exceptional ones will also take into account a full view of the customer, including social media mentions and open support cases. This way, your program can see whether they are on-track or if they need help. Remember to keep your customers’ budget-holders up-to-date on your joint success. All of this helps your customer to understand your product better, see more value, and build a strong positive association with your brand.

Specific programs you can run:

  • Automated “Welcome” emails to new users and “Thank You” emails to buyers or decision-makers
  • 12-month welcome journey with “timeless” content that educates them on your product
  • Communications about your user groups, events, and community resources

 2. Craft long-term retention programs: This is where marketers have the opportunity to operate on longer timelines. Shockingly, few companies are thinking 2-5 years down the road with digital marketing, but a whole new part of the customers’ journey is just beginning when they sign on with you and you have the ability to help steward it. When you think about it, your retention team is up against your competitors’ aggressive and hungry sales teams—year after year—so the question is: how can you help them continually deliver value?

Make it a priority to create truly timeless content that doesn’t lose relevance with age so that it doesn’t need much updating and you don’t end up creating more work than you can handle. A good long-term retention program will be set up so that someone in the future can take up the reigns and update old content without reinventing the wheel.

Specific programs you can run:

  • Long-term 24-60 month nurturing programs
  • Proactive renewal campaigns
  • Focus on metrics that give you the whole story, like Customer Lifetime Value, not just early success metrics like “clicks”

 3. Stabilize employee turnover and account management support: Employee turnover is a major factor in customer churn, for both you and your customer. Your product’s end-users, executive sponsors, and your own account managers will all change roles over time and take that hard-won relationship, social capital, and loyalty with them. How can you tell if your organization needs help in this area? Ask your account management team if your customers ever tell them, “You’re my nth account manager in X years!” If so, marketing automation can help.

Get tactical and maintain good relationships through the transitions with automated introduction emails. Any marketing automation system worth its salt can send these personalized introductions so that they appear to be coming from the outgoing employee introducing the incoming one. You can also listen for new users calling in or signing up, and start them on their own “welcome” journey.

Now that you have a “transition” defense in place, consider being proactive by setting alerts to detect customers who may be in danger of churning and arm your account management team with marketing-approved email campaigns that they can add these “at-risk” accounts to.

Specific programs you can run:

  • Automatic introductions when account owners change
  • Triggered “inactivity” alerts for the customer success organization to identify at-risk customers
  • Email campaigns that account managers can activate

Invest in a long-term marketing retention strategy—it’s what great leaders do
In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins highlights eleven companies that saw cumulative stock returns of more than three times that of the market average. Pretty impressive. What did those companies share in common? They all had great leaders who had the foresight to put into place systems and processes that would outlast them.

A portfolio of marketing automation campaigns aimed at increasing retention is exactly this sort of system, and the marketer with the vision to set this up places themselves in the same ring as other great leaders before them. They are actively investing in their customer base to make solid investments that pay future dividends.

Put all of these pieces together and you’ve made your first heavy investment in your company’s long-term success. Now what are you waiting for? Set up a meeting with your customer success team to learn about their needs and get started!

How do you keep your customers hooked long-term? I’d love to hear about your techniques in the comments section below!


Chris Gillespie is a freelance writer and founder of content marketing agency Find A Way Media. He's a media, culture, tech (and lets be honest, coffee) afficionado who believes that improved communication makes for a better world, and whose company encourages everyone to pick the pen and have a voice.

Read Chris's Blogs

Show me the money! Build your wealth of customers with an effective customer retention strategy

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