Understanding your customer lifecycle: this is what you’re missing
Customer lifecycles are part of marketing 101. But in-house marketing teams get pulled in all directions and face a constant battle for budget and resources. So, it’s little wonder that even reasonably large brands have stages in their customer lifecycles that are underserved by their content marketing strategy.
When we take on a new client we often find that it’s the earlier stages of the customer lifecycle that have been neglected. Most websites we start working on do a decent enough job talking about what they sell. But they’re not always reaching out to potential customers further up the sales funnel when they’re still researching a problem and don’t know what solution they need.
But this post isn’t about that. We’ve put out plenty of content on top and mid-funnel content marketing tactics. In this post, we’re going to the other end of the customer lifecycle. We’ll share three actionable ideas for marketing to your existing customers with the goal of getting more value out of them. That’s more value both in terms of them spending more money themselves, but also starting to advocate for you and help you make more sales.
Idea #1: Educational content to establish your authority
A first principle of content marketing is that it should inform and educate your audience. Content that meets that criteria isn’t just for introducing your brand to new potential customers. It should also form part of your strategy for retaining existing customers.
Whatever space you operate in, just because someone has bought your product or service doesn’t mean the job of your marketing team is done. Far from it. New customers are in many ways the most risky of prospects. A bad experience early on can convince them never to buy from you again and might even lead to them sharing their negative experiences with others.
When someone makes a big purchase – and this applies to both B2C and B2B – it’s natural that they immediately worry that they made the wrong decision. This is called buyer’s remorse. Whether you just bought an expensive new outfit or committed to a 12-month software contract there’ll be a voice in your head telling you you’ve made a mistake.
Marketers need to fight back against that voice and shouldn’t leave it to their product or customer service teams. Providing new customers with exclusive content – either through email, web portals or private social media groups – can help build trust. Educating your customers can help them get more value from your product or service. And it can help you learn more about what questions they have and what information they need.
The content in this immediate post-sale stage of the customer lifecycle doesn’t need to be super-targeted. But it should be exclusive to customers. People who have paid you money should feel they are getting something your regular prospects aren’t, even if it’s just a matter of how it’s presented.
- Marketing should take responsibility for tackling buyer’s remorse and convincing new customers they’ve made the right choice.
- You should lead with educational content – rather than promotions or special offers – to build trust and help new customers get more value from your product or service.
- This educational content should feel exclusive, rather just part of the marketing you’re running for regular prospects.
Idea #2: Targeted drip campaigns based on customer behaviour
For content marketing to fulfil its potential it needs to be supported by some form of marketing automation. With marketing automation you can offer prospects and customers a more tailored experience. You can better understand what they want and what they need and adjust your content marketing strategy accordingly.
A lot of brands that spend money on marketing automation and content creation stop when they sign a new customer. The strategy is all about finding prospects and pushing them down the sales funnel until they buy.
But marketing automation and the right content can play a big role in building customer loyalty, value and advocacy. Similar to our first idea, you would want to make this content feel special and exclusive.
You don’t want an existing customer to find themselves auto-enrolled into a drip campaign because of some landing pages they visited. Chances are these drip campaigns will be heavily geared towards new prospects. They are likely to be more sales-oriented that you would ideally want for an existing customer. Going too hard on up-selling or, worse, trying to sell someone something they already bought – can be really damaging, especially for new customer relationships.
However, if you create exclusive content only for your customers you can still use marketing automation to tailor it to their specific needs. If you get that right, you can further strengthen the level of trust customers feel towards your brand. And by increasing their engagement with your content, learn more about what they like and don’t like.
- You should avoid dropping existing customers into regular drip campaigns
- Existing customers – especially newer ones – might not respond well to mis-targeted or “salesey” content
- Customer-only drip campaigns can help you learn more about what existing customers want and need from you
Idea #3: Earning the right to run promotions and exclusive offers
While hitting new customers with the hard sell is likely to backfire that doesn’t mean customers can’t or shouldn’t be sold to. True, there are some products that people don’t usually need more than one of. You just sold someone a house or a car. Chances are they won’t need another one just yet.
But your content marketing strategy should do two important things for you post-sale: first it should earn you the right to upsell or re-sell to your existing customers; and second it should help you put special offers and promotions in front of those customers at the right time.
Earning the right to sell comes from building trust. For that you need to be generous with content that provides free advice, tips and guidance. And you need to have a sophisticated enough marketing operation to get that content right. Even the very best piece of educational content can lose some or all of its value if it comes too late or too early.
When you’ve built that trust and shown that value, you then need your salesy content to meet the same criteria. First that it’s relevant and exclusive. Customers should feel that they’re getting offers that are targeted to them, based on their behaviour. Second that it arrives at the right time. Customers who watched a webinar on new product features, for example, are more likely to respond to an offer to upgrade now than in a month’s time.
- Existing customers can and should be sold to but you need to earn the right to do it
- Marketing automation and content creation can build a foundation of trust and help you learn more about your customers
- This in turn helps you make better-targeted, better-timed special offers and promotions that are more likely to lead to customer loyalty and advocacy