The German proverb says, friendship is a plant we must often water. It’s the same way with modern relationships between buyers and brands. We’ve talked how a brand and a marketer’s work is not finished at purchase but must continue into the other stages of the buying cycle to ensure a strong customer experience across the buyer’s journey.
However, marketers often think of the last stage in the buying cycle, Loyalty, as one where they just ask for referrals, case studies, or even speaking slots at conferences from customers who are happy. Statistically, few companies are actually making the effort to create customer loyalty programs or otherwise invest in the post-purchase relationship. That is like taking oranges off the tree and not giving any water back in exchange. The tree is going to stop growing if you do that and there won’t be any more oranges.
For business relationships, water amounts to reciprocity. It means making sure that you are reaching out to your customers with just as much energy after they are using your product/service as you did before they bought it. Remember, in a real sense, the Loyalty stage is the start of a new buying cycle for on premise-based products and the way to ensure that cloud-based products and services get used and generate revenue.
Programs marketing to existing customers are different from marketing to people with whom you have no relationship. The expectations are greater on the customer’s side. On the marketer’s side, the goals are different, more about engagement than conversion. Some elements related to implementation get stretched beyond the Implementation Stage and some new elements get added to a customer outreach, all in an effort to be proactive and helpful, to make the customer feel that the purchase has been “worth it.”
I used to employ a customer-only website and send out invitations to monthly best-practices webinars hosted by support staff, implementation engineers, and even professional services consultants. However, you might just provide a ‘how-to” blog or a newsletter on product updates and interesting use cases. To get ideas for this sort of content (and even content for pre-Loyalty stage assets and tactics), consider using topics from customer FAQs and tickets.
You might even want to promote your customer-centricity and encourage more customer participation in your post-Purchase activities by showing how a customer issue was addressed by your brand, perhaps with a new product feature or maybe just a change to the user guide or even the start of a new educational program.
Can you build loyalty programs, such as VIP membership clubs, branded credit cards, punch cards where you get your 10th deli sandwich for free, or an invitation-only event series? It might sound strange but this stage is also one where your social media team can really help out. Some brands use social media to actually measure their loyalty programs or learn more about customers so they can reward them with better loyalty programs.
Other brands, use social media as a platform to execute the actual benefit. For example, in one organization I worked with, the social media and support team got together and used social media to supplement our live user groups with an online one. Then they moderated it and provided online support to people who needed help and I helped drive business partners to the site to participate and also moderate.
In another scenario, I used social media for engagement between customers who couldn’t travel to our user conferences or special interest groups so they could hear key presentations and ask questions. I set up a webinar but then ran a TweetChat at the same time so that customers could have a deeper level of engagement by accessing in-house experts online than just the “regular” webinar experience other participants got.
Some organizations, including ones I worked in, are so focused on ensuring loyalty – and its accompanying bump in revenue – that they hand the customer over to a dedicated “customer success” representative right after the sale. You often see customer success teams with organizations selling services, since that business model is so closely aligned to perceived value but this model is also super popular for cloud-based products as well as, since so much revenue is made based on usage and there is so much potential for future product development and sale.
It’s the customer success team member’s responsibility to lead the relationship between a specific customer and the brand and ensure any support issues were resolved quickly, help with usage or adoption issues, share future product/service roadmap plans, and also – key to the brand – act as the gateway to the customer when those references or case studies we talked about in the first paragraphs were needed and also secured customer feedback to help improve the products/services.
These organizations that created customer success teams also had marketing people specifically dedicated to marketing to existing customers with programs and events that were different from what “white space” colleagues were doing in their effort to capture new customers, who they would then hand over to the “installed base” marketers. The goal here was different from the customer success team in that our efforts were specifically designed to support cross-sell and upsell while we nurtured the relationship.
We did sometimes offer the existing customers the same content but it was a conscious decision and the emails and any other relevant elements were tailored to acknowledge we knew they were existing customers and this was a 1+1=3 sort of benefit to what they had already purchased. Similarly, we also worked closely with customer success, though the work here was often similar to the work I did in situations where I had a field sales force, for whom each email was customized (i.e., “for more info” was always tailored to the local representative’s contact details and the emails were sent in batches that “came from” that particular seller). In both cases, you have to be tightly coordinated so that it results in a positive customer experience, which is critical to paving the way for cross-sell and up-sell.
For that reason, programs that cross-sell/up-sell to existing customers require shared customer profiles within your marketing, customer success, sales, and support systems. This requires a level of interoperability of data beyond the basic customer relationship management software’s ability to coordinate all the communication channels buyers are exposed to. It means adding a module to show support tickets in process (so you’re not trying to up-sell to an unhappy client), large sales pitches in process (again, not a good time to send cross-sell/up-sell emails), and so on. It helps each member of the client-facing teams understand what else the client might be seeing and feeling and take that into account as the team maps out its own plan for each buyer.
It also allows the teams to be more tightly integrated for better revenue results to the brand. For instance, you can even offer free services (I used to use a free marketing health check with our professional services) that can both act as a value-add as well as a cross-sell/up-sell opportunity. Given many large marketing organizations have these teams completely separated from each other, working on these projects together really shows each group how valuable the others can be to their own efforts.
As with all other marketing, measure, test, and improve. Conduct an annual customer satisfaction survey to evaluate what your specific buyers and users find most useful and how they feel in general about your brand. Once you’ve set up basic measurements, consider using the net promoter score methodology to really fine-tune how well you’re achieving your Loyalty stage goals. Set up a way to get feedback between customer satisfaction surveys, such as an email address or online form. You can even send a note promoting that email address/URL in regular customer emails or a monthly newsletter asking for suggestions on what else customers might like to see.
Comments are welcome, especially examples of how your organization supports the Loyalty stage of the buying cycle