neon sign that reads "thank you"
PHOTO: Morvanic Lee

Let's face it: Fully engaged customers spend more and stay around longer. Therefore customer marketing is going to play an increasingly important role in how B2B companies do business in the near future. 

Customer marketing refers to any marketing activity or campaign directed at existing customers, specifically designed to drive retention, customer loyalty, advocacy, growth and community participation. And it's worth the investment. 

According to The Incite Group, 91 percent of B2B buyers are influenced by word-of-mouth when making buying decisions. When businesses anticipate and meet customer needs, they create brand evangelizing opportunities.

Why Aren't We Diving Into Customer Marketing?

What’s holding organizations back? It comes down to the investment required, both in sales and marketing, the lack of good measurement to prove it is worth the investment, and a misconception that customer marketing is just about renewals or repeat orders. Customer marketing bridges the gap between sales penetration, customer service and retention by building relationships, credibility and trust.

But customer marketing remains siloed within marketing, with little cross-collaboration between sales, account management, product and customer support. This collaboration is critical for customer marketing to succeed. Without it, customer marketing will never understand and deliver an end-to-end customer experience that is seamless, rewarding and empowering — or provide the tools and information customers need to make themselves "power" users and advocates for your brand.

Customer Marketing Today …

According to an Influitive report, The State of Customer Marketing 2017, those marketers pursuing customer marketing strategies are leveraging a mix of online and offline customer marketing tactics:

  • 62 percent use customer references and testimonials.
  • 45 percent hold customer user groups or other events.
  • 41 percent send out newsletters.
  • 37 percent use advocate marketing.

While somewhat effective, these purely outbound marketing tactics require little if no collaboration with other functions that interface directly with customers. Worse, they don’t differentiate for each stage of the customer journey and lifecyle — through reach, acquisition, conversion, retention and loyalty.

customer marketing activities

For example, in the retention stage, launching campaigns before customers might experience product features or changes that could change their feelings towards you is more effective. Likewise, campaign tactics can support an up-sell or cross-sell when there may be the potential for a particular feature or product enhancement that can create more value for a customer (in coordination with account management).

So how will we get there? It’s about understanding organizational functions and their role in supporting the customer lifecyle. It is up to customer marketing to develop the strategy and align the functions.

Related Article: Why You Can't Afford to Ignore Customer Marketing

Who Is Responsible?

Customer marketing is a cross collaboration within the organization itself. It involves product marketing, product management, account management and, of course, the customer marketing team itself. Similar to the research done for buyers, these groups will focus on how to create customer value and satisfaction based on their own intrinsic motivations.

responsible

Each function gathers their market, pipeline and product usage and satisfaction data/research, and customer marketing compiles this data to develop the go-to-customer strategy.

What’s a 'Go-to-Customer' Strategy?

Similar to a go-to-market strategy, customer marketing will need to develop a go-to-customer strategy that outlines how the organization (each function) will develop and measure customer facing tactics to reach customer penetration, revenue and profitability expectations. By gathering and analyzing the research from the cross-departmental teams, this strategy can become more than outbound campaigns, and target customers with a level of personalization that will drive customer usage, satisfaction and growth — which can be broken down between the following four activities: segment, engage, satisfy and grow.

go to customer strategy

Segment

Back to the customer lifecycle stages, customers must be segmented by stage of maturity and potentially by industry segment and/or role. The more segmentation, the more personalized and relevant the interactions will be. This is where the relationship building begins.

segment

Engage

Next, the campaign development begins. During the engage stage, you create a conversion/revenue goal (e.g., retention, up-sell, etc.) aligned with a campaign method (e.g. webinar, customer event, etc.) for every segment and stage of lifecycle identified.

engage

Grow

Based on your current customer revenue subscription tiers, these goals can vary significantly and will need to be tracked differently. Herein lies the lion share of the work. Evaluate your campaign tactics for their growth potential/ROI and then refined and/or eliminate as needed. I’ve seen enormous investments in customer events that yield very little in the way of measurable impact on revenue. 

And remember: marketers must not only evaluate its own resources, but that of each function.

grow

Satisfy

Ultimately, the path to customer revenue comes from overall satisfaction with your product. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the best way to measure campaign effectiveness because it measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company's products or services to others. More importantly, it can identify not only the potential promoters, but those who are "passives" and "detractors." When you measure NPS in every stage of the lifecycle, you can further identify campaign effectiveness.

satisfy

Related Article: How to Measure Customer Experience Beyond Net Promoter Score

How Will You Measure?

Align measurement with each customer segment and tactic, with specific benchmark measurement data so you can set realistic goals.

measurement

In addition to NPS, use more granular metrics for each segment such as some of the following:

  • Usage: Product Usage/Adoption, Conversions of Customer Marketing Campaigns.
  • Satisfaction: Customer Satisfaction.
  • Retention: Renewal Rate/Churn.
  • Growth: Acts of Advocacy, Customer Influenced Revenue via Referral, Up/Cross-Sell.

It Takes a Village to Deliver Effective Customer Marketing

Ultimately, customer marketing needs to mature beyond the marketing-only mindset to cross-functional tactics that are targeted to lifecycle stages. Get it right and the result will be an active community of customers who are motivated to advocate for your brand for their own personal reasons. We predict a less-siloed and more customer-centric strategic approach will happen within organizations who have been investing in customer marketing for the last several years because they have begun to measure the impact of their efforts and can demonstrate its revenue potential.

In doing so, these investments will yield customers who will participate with your brand in meaningful ways (e.g. events, webinars, educational meetups, customer stories, etc.) and will demonstrate a clear and demonstrable ROI. More significantly — you are empowering them to grow professionally within their companies and fields while simultaneously utilizing your product to better their bottom-line business results. And isn’t that worth the investment?