By Bob D'Mello - 27th March 2020
Customer acquisition is understandably at the heart of most sales and marketing business models. But if it costs from 5 to 25 times more to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones, is there an argument that content marketing is too focused on acquiring a customer and not enough on retention?
It can be seen in the structure of how we approach marketing, and the content we create. If we take the analogy of the marketing funnel, the focus can naturally fall on bringing in new leads and attempting to convert them into customers. It’s a tangible that can be easy to attribute. Once the acquisition has been made, the attention turns back to the top of the funnel.
But if the goal of content marketing is to give value at all stages of a customer’s relationship with a business, then customer retention should share a place at the heart of an enterprise’s content strategy.
A 2017 survey by Corporate Visions found that nearly half (42%) of companies that responded invested less than 10% of their marketing budgets in renewal and upsell / cross-sell efforts. The survey went on to reveal that ‘roughly half of these companies don’t involve marketing’ in the creation of renewal and retention messaging, compared with the 75% of marketing functions that contribute to demand and lead-gen. Does this betray the reality that, too often, there is a transactional nature to the relationship between business and customer? And why do the marketing functions of these businesses not see, or are not seen by the wider business, that they have a role to play in customer retention?
It seems that there not only needs to be more of a recognition of the importance of content that focuses on customer retention, but also a clearer demarcation of responsibility for retention messaging.
Whilst those findings highlighted tactical or organisational problems, perhaps the most telling insight from the survey is that 58% of respondents think that their messaging and content for acquisition need not differ from the messaging in a renewal or retention scenario. This approach could be keeping potential growth in existing customers locked away and undiscovered, whilst also contributing to customers walking away from the relationship altogether.
Now we know the importance and largely untapped potential of retention and renewal content, the question is: What does retention content look like?
Perhaps it’s easier to ask what this content should be doing? And one thing is certain. Keeping the customer conversation going with meaning and purpose is key.
Giving customers additional value increases the likelihood of retention, increases the likelihood of reactivation if the account is lying dormant or under-utilised and increases the likelihood of a solid and mutually beneficial client-customer relationship.
It’s important to make clear that ‘additional value’ isn’t just about updating the corporate blog once a month (although there is still a place for this tried and trusted method of content delivery). Identifying what ‘additional value’ looks like requires an understanding of your customers’ motivations, needs and visions of what success looks like with regard to your relationship. For example, where one business may find value in being consulted about their specific requirements as they familiarise themselves with a product, another business may gain more from getting industry insights. There is no sure-fire way of defining this without talking to your customers and getting to know them. And in getting to know them, customisation and personalisation of content becomes, whilst sometimes challenging to scale, a realistic option.
Furthermore, giving customers additional love is another way of nurturing a relationship to increase the likelihood of retention and renewal. Do something nice for your customers and that small gesture could have a big impact. More than just a handwritten ’thank you’ note, bespoke content can show a customer ‘we value you’. From a report on their industry challenges or a newsletter roundup to bespoke social assets, you can demonstrate your commitment to your customers in many ways without being intrusive or overbearing and without expecting anything immediate in return.
By showing existing customers additional love through content, a ‘frugal wow’ as Help Scout call it, you can avoid the costly and impersonal delights such as discounting, merch or other gratuities. Reminding customers that using your product is enjoyable and that they are appreciated can only have a positive effect.