tl;dr – This article is about “expand marketing” and offers strategies for keeping the customers you already have.
Does your marketing follow through? Or does it put all its work into getting the customer and then pass things off to customer service after the first sale?
We hope not. Because most of the profits you’ll get come from after the first sale. According to The Harvard Business Review, “increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.”
The real money in business is in the long-term relationships you’ll build with your clients. Their lifetime value. The referrals they can send. The products and services they’ll buy. Not just during the first sale, but in the years to come.
Expand marketing focuses on those later events. It’s what happens after the first sale. Expand marketing is related to retention and loyalty marketing, but retention and loyalty are traditionally just about keeping your existing customers. Expand marketing is more about growing your relationships with them.
Some of the best marketers have been prioritizing what comes after the sale for a while. In research we did with Econsultancy, it was this focus on retention that most separated the leaders in marketing from their mainstream peers. We’re guessing you’d like to join those leaders. So here are 10 ways to get there.
Get serious about your customer advocacy program and the customer experience it nurtures.
Customer experience is becoming the only brand differentiator that matters. It’s expected to matter even more than the price and product by 2020.
Having a customer advocacy program basically means that you’ve made a conscious commitment to improving your customers’ experience (aka “customer-centric marketing”).
Having someone in charge of customer advocacy. Preferably someone who’s well-known and well-respected throughout your company, and who has experience working across departments.
Having a dedicated budget for improving the customer experience. It’s all chatter until there’s money on the table. If your company is serious about a customer advocacy program, you need to have an actual, dedicated budget for it.
Having a documented customer advocacy strategy and plan. This is your company’s game plan for improving customer experience.
Executive support. Any time a new department or project sprouts up, it means you’re going to get in the way of peoples’ day-to-day work. But they’re already short on time and worried about their jobs (or at least their raises and bonuses). Your cute little project may get in the way of their goals. So you better have the blessing and backup from at least one powerful person. You’ll need that support along the way.
Having pre-defined metrics to measure success. Don’t get six months and tens of thousands of dollars into this without some way to show your results.
Ask for referrals.
Also known as “referral marketing,” this is when existing customers bring you new customers. It’s an ideal way to grow your business because referred customers tend to spend more and stay longer; in other words, they’re better-than-average customers.
The trick is how to ask your existing customers to refer you to these attractive strangers. And, surprisingly, it’s not so hard to do. You just have to ask.
You’ll tend to be more successful if you ask:
right after you’ve done something great for your existing client, or if they’re particularly happy about something that just happened; and
in a low-key way. So, say something like, “I’m so glad it worked out! Hey – if you know of someone that we might be good for, please do let them know. And tell them to tell me you sent them – I’ll make sure we’re extra good to them.”
This sort of ask often brings up the sticky issue of payment (either to your existing customer or to the new customer), usually in the form of a discount or throwing in some component of your service for free.
Discounts and freebies can work, but be careful. They tend to not work as well as you’d think they would. Really, the best referrals come simply because your team did an extra good job, and your client was genuinely pleased. So pleased they thought to mention your work to a friend or colleague.
So keep the referral channels open and make sure your clients know you welcome and encourage referrals. But if you’re tempted to start spending money on this, use that money instead on improving your products and services. That indirect route will actually get you more referrals in the long run.
Maximize cross-sells and upsells.
It’s marketing 101 – so you’re offering cross-sells and upsells, right?
If you missed marketing 101 (or it’s been so long you can’t remember), cross-sells are where you offer a similar complimentary item. For instance, say you buy a $50 hat, and the retailer offers you a pair of gloves. That’s a cross-sell.
If the retailer shows you a nicer and more expensive hat – and you buy it – that’s an upsell.
Do not overlook these simple but wildly effective tactics. They’ve been doubling revenues for marketers all the way back to printed catalogs, even all the way back to the days of mid-century advertising/marketing legend David Ogilvy.
You’ve heard of “buyer’s remorse,” right? It’s a real thing. So is its lesser condition, “buyer’s anxiety.”
When new customers come on board, they’re terrified they’ve made a bad decision. Their radar is up for signs of problems. If you can defuse that radar by giving them a strong onboarding experience, you’ll allay most of those fears.
Even a couple of good, reassuring experiences early on will make your new customers trust you a lot more. And that means they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt later on.
Onboarding programs also tend to encourage the use of your products or services. And as you know, if people buy but then don’t really use your stuff, when their budget cuts come around, your company will get cut first. Because they weren’t really using your stuff anyway.
Onboarding programs also work because they’re the ideal opportunity to train your new clients in how to best use your products or services. And the better they know how to work with you, the more likely they are to get good results. And the more results they get … well, the more likely they are to stick around, buy more stuff, and refer their friends. It’s the opposite of a vicious cycle – it’s a virtuous cycle.
Offer continuing education content and experiences.
What we know about our product and what our customers know about our product are not the same thing.
We may think our product is awesome because we can zoom through work in half the time, or we can do stuff our competitions’ tools could never do. But if our customers don’t know how to use our product like that, they’re out of luck. And eventually, we’ll be out of luck, too (when they leave).
So if you want your customers to stay, and to rock your products as you know they could be doing – please – give them the training to do that.
Don’t charge them for it. Don’t make it hard to access the training. Don’t worry if a competitor might sneak into a webinar once in a while. Give the information freely. Make it easy to understand, easy to apply, easy to access.
Bonus points if you actively reach out to your customers to get their feedback on what training they want you to create next (like via surveys).
And even more bonus points if you offer events and other fun stuff to make the learning even more fun. And easy … did I mention easy?
Dunno about you, but I can find a lot of things to do before I get around to cleaning a toilet. I might even fuss with my tax forms first.
So if your customers (even some of them) are that resistant to call a service rep, how likely do you think they are to ask for help?
And if they don’t ask for help, and something’s wrong or not working, how likely do you think they are to look into other options, including your competitors?
The way to fix this is, obviously, to make it much easier for people to get help.
So, offer things like:
An online help area that’s actually … you know … helpful.
A chatbox, preferably one that’s manned with smart, genuinely accommodating people at hours when your customers will need help. (Try to do better than 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., please).
A responsive social media/customer service team. More and more customer service is shifting to social media. You gotta be there.
We know all this customer support is expensive. Really good customer service people are treasures, and they need to be paid and rested and given the tools they require to do their work. And that’s just downright pricey.
So while you’re pondering how (or if) to pay for better customer service, consider this: How much more revenue could your company make if you reduced customer churn by even 10%? Or if you could get your existing customers to spend even 10% more with you? Would that fund even part of your customer service investments?
We’re calling this “the information age,” but in some ways, it’s also the opinion age. Now that everybody can post whatever (almost whatever) they want online, it’s possible for your customers to post things about you. About your company’s products, services, logo, events, and more.
They can also comment on your blog, or comment about you on third-party sites.
All this content is called “user-generated content.” It can be leveraged to create more sales, both from your existing customers and from new ones.
Consider a customer community.
Many companies manage online communities for their customers. This can be as simple as a private Facebook or LinkedIn group, or it could be as elaborate as a fully-staffed community forum on your website.
Some companies hire moderators; some don’t. Some of these communities are consciously created and managed by their focus company; others are created by customers, without company approval.
Some of these types of communities flourish and do great things for customer retention, and for product development, and for the company’s brand. Other communities launch and then fizzle.
That’s all a way of saying that online communities are a mixed bag. They’re tricky. And they’re not cheap. But some companies have had huge successes with this expand marketing tactic. Yours might too.
Use your data to build models of at-risk customers.
Marketers put a lot of focus on the buyer’s journey, and that’s good. But what if we put as much focus on saving customer relationships?
We’ve got the data for this already. We just need to build models that can predict when our existing customers are at risk.
It might be smart to build “churn profiles” as well. Not every customer becomes disengaged or leaves for the same reason.
Once you know where the risk points are, it’s time to take action. Test a few different intervention strategies. Would customer training help? Would an in-house visit from your product-optimization team make a difference? What if you just called your at-risk customer and asked them how things are going? It’s surprising how often a relationship can be saved with just a 10-minute phone call.
We all know about lead scoring – it’s a quantitative way to let salespeople know which leads they should call first, and a way for marketers to identify which leads need to be warmed up some more before a sales call.
But what about giving that same treatment to your existing customers? After all, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” as the saying goes. So, shouldn’t we all have customer scoring programs?
Conclusion on the Benefits of Expand Marketing
Let’s do a thought experiment.
Consider what would happen if you had to take an “acquisitions fast.” If your company had to shut down customer acquisitions for a period of time. Say a month. Or a year.
For most marketers, just the idea of that is enough to make your blood run cold. And, hey ‒ we get it. That’s why this is just a thought experiment.
But that kind of limitation could be a way to get really creative (and really active) in preserving and growing your existing customer relationships.
So take a deep breath. Get a pad of paper and a good pen. Imagine what you’d do to preserve revenue (and keep all your company staff employed) if you had no other source of revenue than your existing customers.
This may give you the sort of bold vision that could create a serious expand marketing program.
And, fortunately, once the thought experiment is done, you can still go back to doing customer acquisition, too.
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