3 Essential Criteria for B2B Content Marketing to Existing Customers Customer Retention and Recurring Revenue Lessons from Experience

What are your goals for investing in base marketing? Is it customer retention? Recurring revenue? In thinking back on my projects, I made a list of 12 high-level objectives I’ve encountered, each with numerous variations. They fall into the four broad categories of customer equity.

Content marketing to existing B2B technology customers isn’t measured in leads generated for Sales. As a program that runs parallel to the sales effort, content marketing to the customer base must drive measurable customer value (equity) and leverage marketing assets. Here’s the quick-read guide to applying three essential criteria to achieve your goals.

1. Content marketing must drive existing customer equity

We talked about the four kinds of customer equity in “Where Content Marketing Works for B2B Customer Retention.” Customers are expensive to get and most of them are worth holding onto.

Because customer equity is so important, here’s a recap of the categories in brief:

  • Existing customers adopt our other products.
  • Satisfied customers bring in new customers by referral.
  • Long-term customers are a source of new product ideas.
  • Repeat business comes at a lower transaction cost per sale.

These four categories of customer equity give us a framework for justifying investments in marketing programs to keep customers. They all lead to the bottom line: New revenue, low-cost customer acquisition, competitive product introductions, and lower costs of sales.

Let’s take the first category – existing customers adopt our other products – and consider how content marketing can be used to increase customer value through recurring revenue.

As the incumbent vendor we have ways to nurture customers through a privileged channel that the competition doesn’t have. We have more than a lead, we have a relationship.

Content marketing programs can help customers make decisions about their upcoming needs. Our privileged access gives us the opportunity to shape customers’ product expectations in our favor.

It’s that straightforward. As customers adopt more of our products, we expand our footprint in each account and, of course, we want to measure the effect.

2. Content marketing must be measured

Whatever your content marketing strategy entails, it must be measured. Take it from a career marketing manager: If it’s not measured it won’t be budgeted for long, and if it’s not budgeted it is guaranteed not to succeed.

The question is not whether content marketing can help, but how to measure its effectiveness compared to alternatives. That is done by mapping objectives to trackable metrics.

I took my previous sample list of 12 goals and thought about what metrics apply to each one. It became clear that the ideal content marketing metrics at this stage of the buying cycle would have these two key qualities:

  • Metrics that measure program outcomes with a minimum of uncertainty.
  • Metrics that are easily compared to alternative marketing investments.

In reality we choose a set of metrics that collectively balance these qualities. Not only do we need to attribute outcomes to content marketing with some degree of certainty, we also need to quantify a metric that can be used to evaluate other programs.

Attribution was easy early in the buying cycle, when we could use Analytics to credit demand generation to a campaign. It got more complicated as we progressed toward the close, especially for enterprise software. Post-sale, the ultimate bottom line of any metric is customer equity. Put another way, translate customer equity into meaningful metrics that can be managed.

Google Analytics is a useful platform for many stages of content marketing, but the tail can sometimes wag the dog. Just because Google Analytics can give you a certain statistic on a segment or cohort, doesn’t mean that metric is important or even trackable in the context of customer retention. Metrics depend on having some tools in place. They don’t have to be elaborate or expensive.

Ideally we will be able to compare the performance of content marketing against what Marketing was doing before. That is, we should track as many future or legacy tactics as possible using the same metrics as we use to measure content marketing performance. In some cases, the return on other investments will improve as a result of customer base content marketing.

3. Content marketing should leverage marcom assets

Rarely must we start from scratch when creating content pieces for customer base programs. Any company with a reasonably sized library of content will want to reuse or repurpose existing content, rather than spending time and marketing communications budget on net new content creation.

When creating new gated content for prospects, consider giving existing customers advance access to it. Better yet, flip the sequence on its head: Create pillar pieces for your customer base and then repurpose those pieces for lead generation and lead nurturing. See whether that perspective changes how you think about content ideation.

At least do the usual: shorten, excerpt, reframe, and make spinoff pieces more relevant to users of your products.

The content marketing program that works for you will be very specific to your company’s goals. If you would like to talk about accomplishing your B2B marketing objectives, contact me and let’s see if it makes sense to work together.

Where Content Marketing Works for B2B Customer Retention Little-known ideas to justify and fine-tune content marketing to existing customers

customer retention concept image on P5group.com

Marketing plays an important role in customer retention – creating loyal, repeat customers, the best kind for almost any business. Sales and marketing have done the hard work of winning the customer. Now, if we do a good job of retaining that customer we can reap the benefits. That is where content marketing comes in.

Existing customers have four kinds of value

Customers are valuable and expensive. The benefits of customer retention are many. Existing customers have four kinds of value, or customer equity, that make them worth holding onto.

  • Existing customers are more likely to adopt our other products and services. They know the company and have established a trusting relationship.
  • Satisfied customers bring in new customers by referral, bypassing some of the more costly stages of lead generation and nurturing.
  • Long-term customers are an indispensable to product managers as a source of new product ideas and feature suggestions.
  • Repeat business comes at a lower transaction cost per sale, with shorter buying cycles, because we don’t have to spend money to walk them down a long, leaky pipeline from the beginning.

Not much is written about business-to-business content marketing strategy in the customer retention stage of the customer lifecycle. It’s not as easily outsourceable as demand gen, it’s not as sexy as digital marketing, and the availability of precise metrics is damning of poor execution.

But for marketers savvy enough to leverage content marketing to activate customer value, the rewards can be substantial. To be clear, I’m not talking about retaining web site visitors for longer web sessions, or retaining prospects until they close by reducing pipeline attrition. Those are unrelated topics. I am talking here about how to justify and fine-tune investments in content marketing to existing B2B customers.

Customer bases are porous

Losing an account to the competition is a costly but silent misfortune. B2B software customer churn rates of around 5% annually are painful but typical in the mid-market. SaaS customer attrition rates in the 20%-30% range annually are not unheard of.

When a customer goes elsewhere, a vendor must spend more to win a replacement customer – 5X, 7X, 10X more by many estimates – than it would have cost to keep an existing customer. Since we also would lose that customer’s referrals, every lost customer could represent one or more lost future customers. Ouch!

content marketing to retain customers concept imageWhere content marketing works to retain and grow B2B customers

Customer journeys don’t end when we close the sale and deliver the product or service. Instead the post-sale customer journey branches into two concurrent paths – a service path and a sales path.

  • On the service path, a company delivers ongoing customer care – onboarding, customer support, maintenance and the like. We typically measure the success of the relationship by surveying customer satisfaction, monitoring Net Promoter Scores, and investigating changes in customer attrition rates.
  • The sales path of the journey is the beginning of the customers’ next buying cycle. The customer becomes a lead. Not necessarily a lead for the incumbent vendor, because any customer could make their next purchase from a competitor. It’s too soon to tell, but not too soon to lose the sale.

That’s why, in well-run sales and marketing organizations, someone nurtures that lead. Content marketing is a process designed to generate and nurture leads. That makes it a good fit for the post-sale stage of the customer journey.

What about using content marketing in customer service? Content marketing can work there, too. For example, reaching out to product users with content about troubleshooting can reduce costs by avoiding trouble calls, or by directing customers to lower-cost self-service channels instead of to the call center.

If you would like to talk about content marketing in B2B customer retention, or how P5 Group can help with any aspect of B2B technology marketing, direct your call straight to my desk.

 

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