Most B2B marketers are primarily focused on customer acquisition. This is no surprise since the core function of marketing is to support sales in lead-to-revenue conversion. Unfortunately, many marketers heavily focus on acquisition to the detriment of retention. A strong customer acquisition strategy must be augmented by an effective, customer-centric retention strategy to sustain long-term growth. Without this dual focus, your marketing team will have to battle poor customer reviews, negative word-of-mouth and an increasingly damaged reputation. This can significantly impact marketing’s ability to drive future revenue. Thus, marketing has a concrete stake in the effective development and deployment of its company’s retention strategy.
Customer retention isn’t a single event that happens at contract renewal. It’s an ongoing process that starts at the point of purchase. It encompasses the customer’s experience between the first and subsequent purchase engagements. While retention is directly measured by renewals or repurchases, it’s influenced by the ongoing interaction between you and your customers.
A customer retention strategy will look and operate differently across organizations. However, there are some core concepts that can and should be applied during the development process.
- Talk to your customers. Your most valued customers should know they’re valued. You can communicate this in a variety of ways, but one of the most often overlooked strategies is physically talking to them. Pick up the phone or schedule in-person meetings. Sit in on support calls. Tell them you value their opinion and want to build solutions to their problems. Ask them what they need to be more effective using your product or service, as well as their overall experience as your customer. You’ll capture important insights about the customer experience, but you’ll also build stronger relationships with key customers.
- Make it easy to capture ongoing feedback. Include survey links in employee email signatures, automated phone surveys that capture input after a support engagement or even a forum on your website. There are a variety of possibilities thanks to the integration of marketing automation and CRM. Make sure you offer several options for your customers to provide feedback and analyze the data regularly.
- Build a cross-functional customer advocacy team. High customer satisfaction is driven by a customer-centric culture, so collaboration across departments is critical for success. Create a cross-functional customer advocacy team to analyze customer feedback, identify opportunities for improvement and optimize processes. This will ensure buy-in from each department and consistency in your execution.
- Remind customers why they chose you. Marketers have begun to recognize the value of lead nurturing, but most haven’t extended the concept to their existing customers. If you understand your customers’ post-purchase experience, you can develop content to improve that experience. Provide white papers, industry research, hot topic webinars or other resources that address their challenges. This is also an opportunity for you to reinforce the usefulness of your product or service. Meaningful content can go a long way to build relationships that go beyond a purchase transaction.
- Continue to measure and refine. Outline clear objectives and make sure you’re moving towards them. Start with a baseline and measure your effectiveness over time. You’ll quickly find ways to optimize your retention strategy through process refinement. This will ensure your efforts aren’t wasted and resources are efficiently allocated.
If you incorporate these 5 components in your retention strategy, you’ll be able to minimize negative customer experiences. However, you won’t be able to eliminate them entirely. Someone will inevitably express their dissatisfaction with your company, service or product. Make sure you have a solid foundation of customer-centric retention programs in place to handle these circumstances. After all, whether you keep a dissatisfied customer is often based on how you react to their negative experience, not the experience itself.
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