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!
Where 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.