Would you like to see a significant lift in revenue next year without having to hire any additional sales or marketing staff? It’s entirely possible. Word-of-mouth advertising in the digital age may not be 100% free — i.e., you will have to invest substantial time and effort up-front — but once you’ve got a system in place for grooming your customers to become brand advocates, the returns can be phenomenal, both for your bottom line and your company’s image.
While most B2B companies — particularly those in the enterprise-level software space — do an admirable job of onboarding new customers during the first six months after conversion, far too many businesses fall short on long-term, after-the-sale customer care. Checking in on a customer twice a year with a short voicemail, email or text is simply not enough anymore. Here’s how to turn your clients from just customers into brand advocates.
The New Marketing Hourglass
As noted by the Demand Generation guru, Gary DeAsi, the new marketing funnel is no longer a funnel; it’s an hourglass. In his post on the Customer Journey Marketer Blog, he explains that there are four additional stages of the customer lifecycle beyond the initial purchase, which make up the lower 40% of the marketing hourglass.
- Adoption (onboarding and implementation)
- Retention (satisfaction and success)
- Expansion (upsell, cross-sell)
- Advocacy (loyalty and evangelism)
Note that this model doesn’t just apply to digital marketing. By investing in your customers’ well being across ALL channels during the post-conversion stages, you can essentially take your customers by the hand and guide them down the path of brand ambassadorship.
What B2B Marketers Can Learn from Nonprofits
When it comes to grooming customers from adoption to advocacy, B2B marketers should take a tip from the world of nonprofits, in which long-term donor retention is the key to an organization’s survival. Savvy fundraisers know that a small 10% increase in donor retention can raise the lifetime value of a nonprofit’s donor database by 200%.
The growing popularity of peer-to-peer fundraising further illustrates the point: one loyal customer or donor has the power to drive literally hundreds of prospects to your door.
Would you be willing to devote just 10% more of your time and resources to after-sale customer care for a potential 200% return on investment?
A Necessary Shift in Mind-Set
Adopting a more long-term view of your customers and leading them on the journey from adoption to brand evangelism will likely require a mind-set shift for sales and marketing team members.
View customers as your partners, not as cash cows. In the old marketing funnel model, a salesperson would spend a lot of time learning about the prospect and his/her business needs. Once the prospect converted to customer status, the company’s role switched to largely a supportive one. Customers were assigned to a new account rep and rarely ever spoke with the original salesperson again.
With the new hourglass model, however, the focus is more on nurturing a long-term relationship, which means the original salesperson’s role will need to take on a broader, more extended sweep. In developing your post-purchase marketing plan, you will still need an account rep to handle day-to-day communications, but you’ll also need to find ways to insert the original salesperson back into your customer retention tactics and strategy. Your mind-set should be that your customer is now a partner sharing in the success of your business, just as you are sharing in theirs.
Speak TO your customers, not AT them. In your marketing collateral, you’ll need to adopt a voice change. There’s a big difference between “you marketing” and “we marketing.” “You marketing” — which features messaging that speaks directly to and empathizes with the customer — is far more effective than “we marketing,” which is basically a one-sided conversation extolling all the virtues of your products and services.
Ideally, in your marketing copy, the word “you” should appear twice as often as the words “us,” “we,” “I” or your company name. If you don’t have time to count word for word, you can use this handy online tool affectionately known in the nonprofit world as a “we-we” calculator.
Brand Advocacy Engagement Tools
In addition to changing your mind-set, extending your post-purchase communications strategy, and changing your marketing “voice,” you also need to create an environment that solicits customer engagement and loyalty, which can ultimately lead to brand evangelism.
There are a lot of things you can do to make it easier for a customer to want to jump on the brand ambassador bandwagon. At a minimum, you should offer lots of in-depth, helpful content that’s easy to share, comment on, and engage with, such as:
- YouTube Videos
- Social media posts
Always Be Courting
The old marketing funnel has changed, and along with it, the old sales mantra of “Always Be Closing” has changed as well. Instead, sales and marketing staff should “always be courting.” Just like a happy marriage, salespeople who want to develop a long-term customer lifecycle strategy need to make a conscious effort to always be in courtship mode — including engaging with customers on a regular basis, expressing gratitude for their loyalty, and demonstrating a genuine interest in their livelihood and success.
How do you plan to “keep the magic alive” in your long-term relationship with customers being groomed to become advocates? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.